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We Retired Early And Moved Into A Trailer — What We Learned After Our First Year

Photo: Dirk Jan Verkuil / Shutterstock
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Because I am retired, I rarely know the date. Hell, even getting the day of the week right is often a challenge for me.

So, when my wife asked if I knew what day it was one morning, my mind began to race.

I sorted through my mental Rolodex of important dates. Our wedding anniversary? No. The anniversary of our first kiss? No. Someone’s birthday? No. And then I realized it as she said the date out loud, it was the first anniversary of our retirement! I can’t believe it’s been a year.

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We retired on Friday, June 4th, 2021, and left the following Monday for a weeklong camping trip on the Oregon coast in our new teardrop trailer.

Leaving on a Monday was intentional and added a tangible exclamation point to the fact that we didn’t have to get up and go to work.

It was weird to be untethered from work, but we both relished it. Once we returned from our trip the summer became a flurry of activity as we readied our home to go on the market and began selling most of our possessions.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Retiring early meant getting creative with our expenses. After countless meetings with our financial planner, we created a plan and started putting pieces into place. Our strategy called for us to essentially liquidate our current life and move into our 21-foot teardrop trailer for two to five years.

We wanted to travel, chase the sunshine, and visit friends and family we hadn’t seen since the pandemic, so living in a travel trailer felt thrilling.

We spent the summer selling furniture and sprucing up our landscaping before putting our home on the market at the beginning of August. Once our home sold, we moved the belongings we wanted to keep into a storage facility and settled into our tiny new home on wheels.

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This first year flew by quickly. Time is strange that way. The older we get, the faster it seems to move. While the first few weeks in the trailer turned out to be more difficult than we’d idealistically anticipated, we navigated through it.

On more than one occasion we wondered if we’d made a big mistake, but in the end, we felt empowered by every challenge we overcame, and after getting used to it for a month, we were ready to hit the road.

We’ve covered a lot of ground this past year, traveling coast to coast twice and visiting some spectacular spots along the way. We have cherished exploring National Parks and visiting places on our bucket list. We’ve greatly enjoyed playing tourist during the week while others are hard at work, and we’ve appreciated the diverse beauty this country has to offer.

We’ve also felt energized by learning new things and problem-solving issues we’ve never dealt with before. There was a steep learning curve as neither of us had previously owned an RV or towed anything behind a truck. My wife has enjoyed planning our routes and finding unique camping destinations and we have loved meeting people along the way.

Living in such a small space isn’t without its frustrations.

While this is a simpler life, many tasks are more logistically complex. For instance, making my morning espresso with a manual machine requires several extra steps as compared to using my high-end home machine. And storing everything we need in either the trailer or the bed of our truck is like playing a game of Tetris.

Time takes on a unique meaning in retirement.

No longer are we in a rush and it’s a rare occasion when I know the day of the week. Having worked in a high-pressure job with lots of meetings and responsibilities, I’m so grateful to be living life at a relaxed pace. But the thing that I appreciate most is the brain space that retirement offers. Having so few responsibilities has freed up my fun and creative side.

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Surprisingly, it has taken the better part of a year for me to feel fully rested.

 I enjoyed my career immensely and thought maybe I would miss it. I wondered if I would have an identity crisis because my career was so much a part of who I was but I’m happy to report that I moved on without feeling like I left a part of myself behind. I relish being able to explore different aspects of my personality and interests and answer the question, “what’s next for me?”.

Financially, this journey has been somewhat of a roller coaster.

The market was exploding when we decided to retire early, and it excited us to see how well our money was doing.

Then, the current economic unrest developed, and our investments took a nosedive.

It’s been interesting to walk through that emotionally and to learn to trust our decision and not give in to fear or doomsday thinking. The market is a long game, and we trust it will rebound, as it’s done in the past. And if it doesn’t, we will create a new plan and continue to flourish just like we are now.

Retirement has many lessons to teach if we are willing to listen.

The greatest lesson is perhaps understanding that our value comes not from what we do but rather from who we are. That is a lesson best learned earlier in life and one that will undoubtedly enhance your retirement experience once you believe it to be true.

All in all, I am ecstatic that our first year of retirement was a resounding success. I’m jazzed that we have taken a path less traveled and are forging a life most would consider wildly alternative. I’m thankful for our tiny home and for the ability to travel and live untethered. Cheers to the start of year two. Who knows what’s in store for us down the road?

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Kim Kelly she/her, calls the Pacific Northwest home when she isn’t traveling with her wife in their 21-foot teardrop trailer. She is a writer, speaker, and espresso enthusiast who writes about authenticity, retirement, relationships, and life on the road.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.