3 Tips To Improve Your Retirement

I kept my promise.

Over the past two weeks, we took a vacation and I promised I wouldn’t be active on my blog while I was gone.

I’m proud to report that I never touched my blog while traveling.  I only opened my computer once in the past two weeks to catch up on a few emails. 

Ah…the luxury of retirement.

My mind, however, never stops. 

As we were traveling, I thought about what I was learning from the experience, and how you could apply the lessons to improve your retirement.

Today, 3 Tips to improve your retirement based on what I learned on our most recent vacation.

Today, 3 Tips to Improve your retirement, based on what I learned from our recent vacation. Share on X

how to improve your retirement

3 Tips To Improve Your Retirement

We intentionally did a “different” kind of vacation this year.  In the process, we learned some things that may help you improve your retirement. As I mentioned in “We’re Going On Vacation!”, this vacation had:

  • No Dogs
  • No RV
  • No Family

 Instead, it was a more intimate getaway, with just my wife and I staying in unique AirBnB’s during a Mid-Atlantic loop.

The major locations we visited were:

  • Williamsburg
  • Maryland’s East Coast
  • Washington DC area 
  • Shenandoah National Park
  • Cumberland Gap

Along the way, I learned some things.  Boiled down, here are 3 Tips To Improve Your Retirement:


1) Pursue Serendipity

With no dogs in tow, we were free to travel serendipitously (my favorite word), defined as:

We left our agenda open, with no plans beyond the Airbnb locations we had booked in advance.  If something looked interesting, we pursued it.  For most of the trip, we decided the night before what we were going to see the following day.  Serendipity.

In DC, for example, we planned a visit with my aging Uncle who is fading.  It was the primary reason for our trip, and we’ll never regret spending the afternoon with Uncle Bill in his assisted living facility.  For the second day, we had no agenda.

The night before our “free day” I read a chapter about the battle of Fredericksburg in the Civil War book I’m currently reading (Gods and Generals, highly recommended).  It was the worst defeat of the Union Army in the entire war, a truly gruesome battle.  Realizing Fredericksburg was only a short detour, we decided to tour the battlefield.

Imagine my surprise when we toured the infamous “sunken road” section of the battlefield and I had a Deja Vu moment, realizing I had been there as a ~10-year-old with my Dad!  It was a special moment and brought back a flood of memories of touring Civil War battlefields with my Dad during my childhood.

“Making fortunate discoveries by accident.”


  

The Lesson:  To improve your retirement, give yourself the freedom to follow your curiosity.  It can (and will) lead serendipitously to places you never imagined.  It’s a proven method for finding Purpose in your retirement.  On this trip, it also brought back some wonderful memories of traveling with my Dad.

Bonus Tip:  Be a lifelong learner, and read as many books as possible.  If you read about a place that interests you, plan a visit.  We booked an AirBnB in Cumberland Gap based on my reading of Blood and Treasure, a story about Daniel Boone’s adventures.  It made the place come alive during our visit and made our hike over Cumberland Gap an almost mystical experience.  I read about Colonial Williamsburg before our trip.  We visited Yorktown, where we won the Revolutionary War, a battle I’d read about in Victory at Yorktown.  Finally, I read about Fredericksburg and made a serendipitous decision to visit.  All visits were far more enjoyable having read about them before visiting.


2) Savor Boredom

We planned 6 days at a remote waterfront cottage on Chesapeake Bay in Eastern Maryland.  By design, we wanted something in a quiet part of the coast, far from towns, restaurants, and shopping.  We wanted time to relax and felt this would be the perfect way to enjoy some “forced relaxation” in the middle of our trip.

After a few days of relaxing in our remote location, we got restless.  There’s only so much reading you can do in a day.  There wasn’t a great place to walk, and we grew tired of the short “out and back” walk on our country road. A cold front came through and it became too cold and windy to kayak. The sunsets were amazing, but they lasted only a few minutes each day.

Sunset: The highlight of our days at the remote cottage.

We got bored.

Before this trip, I don’t recall a single day that I’ve been bored in retirement.  By design, we’re busy people and we love our active lives.  It was a strange experience being bored, but I learned something in the process.

Boredom is invigorating.

I struggled with which adjective to use in the previous sentence and settled on invigorating.  Invigorating is defined as having an enlivening or stimulating effect, and while that sounds like an oxymoron, it perfectly describes the transition my wife and I went through while experiencing boredom.

On our fifth day at the cottage, we noticed a transition. We were learning how to settle into the new reality, and we felt ourselves becoming more comfortable with our sedentary experience.  We accepted it as a challenge and decided to embrace the rare opportunity. It takes time to learn how to relax, and we enjoyed the experience.  We learned to appreciate the new pace, while also gaining newfound appreciation for our busy lives at home.  We gained empathy for those who suffer from boredom and were thankful it was a temporary situation that allowed us to reflect and learn.  

We left the cottage invigorated.

“An enlivening or stimulating effect.”

The Lesson:  If you live a busy life, find a way to experience boredom for a while.  Make it an experiment and challenge yourself to learn from the experience.   Conversely, if you’re frequently bored, get involved in more things.  Pack a week full of activities.  Make it an experiment and challenge yourself to learn from the experience. Finding a way to experience different “flows” in life is invigorating and, if done correctly, will improve your retirement.  A stimulating effect, indeed.

PS: Ironically, I read the following in Sahil Bloom’s Curiosity Chronicle after I wrote the above section (It’s a great daily email, btw, I encourage you to have a look – 700k subscribers!):

Stop allowing constant stimulation and start embracing boredom.

We really need to normalize boredom. Some of your most creative moments come during periods of boredom. In the shower, on a walk, at a dinner by yourself. You’re bored, your mind wanders, your thoughts mingle. Bam! Creative insight strikes. Schedule boredom into your weeks.


3) Embrace Change

This year, my wife and I decided to change the way we “do” vacation.  One of the luxuries of retirement is the freedom to structure things however you choose, so make a choice.

If life is becoming routine, find a way to mix it up.

Our vacations are precious to us, but they were starting to become routine.  For several years, we had made the same trek back to visit family in our RV.  We enjoyed the trips but felt it was time to try something new.

We intentionally made a change, and we enjoyed the experience.

We learned more from this vacation than we have in any of our recent vacations.  We learned to embrace boredom, a change from our normal pace of life. We enjoyed the freedom to travel serendipitously without the dogs, but we also learned we miss the dogs when we’re gone for a couple of weeks. So, for our October trip, we’re taking the RV and the dogs, but we’re going to a new part of the country that interests us.  We’re heading to the Ozarks and looking forward to our 2024 adventure in the RV (stay tuned for details).  We’re also taking our daughter and granddaughter on a Disney Cruise this summer.  Family matters, and we’re finding ways to celebrate our time with family in a special way.

We’re embracing change.

The Lesson:  The subject of change is a fascinating one.  Often, it can’t be avoided.  Life has a tendency to throw a lot of curveballs, and it’s best to have a mindset of embracing change (there’s a reason I listed it as #7 in my list of Ten Commandments For Retirement).  Other times, life becomes routine, and forcing some change to your routine can improve your retirement.  Experiment with implementing change into your life.  Life is more interesting that way.


Conclusion

I love the freedom that retirement provides.

  • Freedom to experiment. 
  • Freedom to change things up. 
  • Freedom to create experiences you can learn from.

Our recent vacation was a great experience.  We saw some interesting parts of the country, and we toured some fascinating areas of historical significance.

More importantly, we learned a few things in the process.  We learned these…

3 Tips to Improve Your Retirement

  1. Pursue Serendipity
  2. Savor Boredom
  3. Embrace Change

Sure, we learned these things on vacation.  However, I’m convinced they can improve your retirement if you find a way to apply them in your life.

Never stop learning.

Your Turn:  As a lifelong learner, do you seek to learn things from all of your experiences?  What tips have you learned that can help others improve their retirements?  Let’s chat in the comments…

40 comments

  1. Thank you Fritz for sharing these 3 Tips. It’s like you gave me permission to not always having to be productive even sitting at my kitchen table for a few minutes in the middle of a Saturday. We are not retired yet and I will re read these tips many times so I can change my thinking. The self imposed pressure to always be busy and productive just causes much anxiety -to not waste time. Embracing the boredom- a new concept for me. Thank you!

  2. Our cabin is in the Ozarks, Fritz, so we are frequently in the area. However, that’s a big region, so you may be hundreds of miles away during your trip. Maybe not even in the same state. But if you get near the Buffalo National River you’ll be in our neighborhood, and please let me know. We are good local guides!

    1. We’re in NWA and love our slice of the Ozarks. Found Hwy 14 from Allison to Harriet and then north to be the prettiest drive yet. Agree that it’s a large area but the abundance of outdoor adventures is superb. Enjoy!

    2. I’ll likely make a post with a map like I did for our recent vacation, keep an eye out for it. It’d be nice to meet you if we’re nearby.

  3. New subscriber. Enjoying your blog. Sounds like you had a wonderful vacation. I’ve found that giving myself an opportunity to just “be” brings a feeling of peace and calm to life. We are called human “beings” and not human “doings”, right?

    1. Not only a new subscriber, but obviously a philosopher as well. Human “beings,” indeed.

  4. “Serendipity Now!!” Fritz remember this quote from Frank Costanza, played by Jerry Stiller, on Seinfeld? Well after six years of my retirement, my wife will finally join me in retirement in three months. No more careful and rigid planning for fun. My retirement will greatly improve with my wife by my side all the way and, of course, using your well advised three tips.

    1. I’m one of the few people on the planet that didn’t watch Seinfeld, so I’m afraid your quote is lost on me. I do like the quote, though. Congrats on having your wife join you in retirement shortly, life’s going to be a lot easier when you’re both retired together. Enjoy!

    2. Actually,, the phase was “Serenity Now!”. It was in an episode of the last season (1997) of Seinfeld. An instructional tape advises Frank Costanza to say it when he gets upset to keep his blood pressure down.

  5. Fritz,
    I’m glad that you are back and enjoyed a great vacation. I leave this morning on my first great retirement travel. Road trip to Seattle via a southern route then north through eastern California to visit as many parks as possible. Family gathering in Seattle followed by an Alaskan cruise. Montane for fly fishing then Colorado to visit family. Two months total. I am excited yet apprehensive as this will be a solo trip after my wife passed last year. To all, enjoy today and always count your blessings as we all have many more than we think. I hope that this trip will allow me to examine my life from a distance and plan a new future.
    Your blog gives me a great view into your retired life and the comments provide a window into others. A great perspective on retirement and life,. Thank you for what you provide.
    Your neighbor in Blairsville.

    1. From the North Georgia mountains to the PNW, exactly the same trip we took in our RV in 2019 (without the Alaska cruise). Enjoy your time on the road, I hope it helps you discover your new future. Sorry about the loss of your wife, I can’t imagine going through that. Happy travels, neighbor!

      PS – Here’s the link to the write-up on our PNW travels:
      https://www.theretirementmanifesto.com/taking-an-rv-trip-across-america-with-4-dogs/

  6. Great article Fritz! Can not overemphasize the importance of learning something new each and every day. Doesn’t take a vacation to go explore one’s local area by hiking/walking and taking “time” to contemplate life while outdoors. Some say one can feel closer to our Creator by hiking up a “14er” in the Rockies. I know I felt it…. and I hiked it when 55. A time I will never forget!

    The Ozarks cover a huge area, like Steveark stated above. We live just 2.5 hours north of the Lake of the Ozarks in MO. Less crowded on the western end, away from Camdenton. Enjoy your camping, October is a wonderful time of weather in KC MO!

    God speed to you and Jackie. What is one thing you discovered about your bride you did not realize while vacationing Fritz?

    Any updates on Fido for Freedom would be welcomed young man. Steve

    1. Hmmm…one thing I learned about my bride? That’s a tough one. After 36 years together, there’s not much we don’t know about each other. I’ll go with this: She’s got an “Eagle Eye,” as she spotted an eagle flying far overhead, which we watched until it landed in a tree a few cottages down from ours. We found the Eagle’s nest, and enjoyed watching the bird on the perch several times during our walks.

      As for Freedom For Fido, we’re still cranking away. We started our 131st fence build this morning, and have our big annual fundraiser coming up in early June. It keeps us busy, rewarding work.

  7. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about retirement. I loved your thoughts about Serendipity. I had a similar experience recently. After retiring, I decided that I wanted to visit all of the states I haven’t yet visited. Arkansas was one of them and when I saw that the total eclipse was passing through Little Rock, I decided to go on the spur of the moment. That is the freedom that retirement offers.

    I also made it up to the Ozarks and passed through Fayetteville and Bentonville. I hope you and your wife enjoy your visit there.

    1. Mitch, I like your retirement goal of visiting the unvisited states. I’m proud to say I’ve been to all 50 (and 34 countries), hope you join me soon on the list of folks who have visited every state. Happy travels!

  8. Fritz,

    Enjoyed your vacation blog. Side note: The Battle of Cold Harbor, right outside of Richmond, Virginia, may have been more one-sided, “alas for poor humanity.” The Battle of Cold Harbor was also a grizzly preview of World War I with entrenchments you can still see today. A sobering period In our nation’s history.

    Thank you for all you do. I value your blog and your insights, it is mandatory reading with my wife and me.

    Regards,

    Erik

    1. Mandatory reading! I could ask for no greater honor. We’ll have to catch Cold Harbor if we ever get up that way again, it’s amazing how many battlefields there are in a one hour radius of Richmond. Sobering period, indeed.

  9. Thanks for report out Fritz. Some people embrace change and some people abhor it. I love the thought of just go and see what happens. That is tougher for the planners among us that are more comfortable with an hour by hour itinerary. Seriously, what do us retirees have to lose by embracing the thought of just get out there and see what the day brings. Love it and I think we’re going to take you up on it. We recently helped one of our sons move to Florida, and I booked us a condo on the beach with no itinerary. Just enjoy the beach ! We were exploring a bit before our condo was ready, and happened on a 2nd hand furniture store near an upscale area, and we dropped in. Never done it before and we found the coolest lamps, bar stools, book shelves, etc for his new apt. It appears you could have done more research on hiking opportunities near your stay (we love the All Trails app) since you guys are walkers. Also condolences on the passing of your pup.

    1. “Love it and I think we’re going to take you up on it.”

      It sounds like you already did, and have the souvenirs to prove it! BTW, I like the All Trails app, as well. We didn’t hike as much on this trip, though that is a favorite pastime while RV’ing in the State Parks with the pups. Thanks for your condolences, it’s been a tough 6 months (had to say goodbye to 3 of our dogs in the past 6 months, it’s been a hard year).

  10. Good choices for places to visit on a road trip vacation. A fair number of people in the Washington area have beach homes/retirement type places on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Great beach vibes but as you noted, not as much to see and do. We’re looking at retiring either in Williamsburg (where our son is in college) or Fredericksburg (where our daughter graduated last year. The university president’s house is just behind the Sunken Road you depicted). Both terrific college towns with extensive history close by.

    1. Christopher, I may have seen your son when I took a run through the William & Mary campus while we were in town. Historic college, I enjoyed my jog through the campus. Small world re Fredericksburg, I think I know the house of which you speak (very prominent, on the top of the hill?). Either choice would be excellent, we enjoyed our time in both.

  11. As someone who’s been anchored down for three decades plus with unrelenting responsibilities and “to-do” lists, I look forward to taking a more freestyle approach to a trip in the not so distant future such as what you’ve done. When I was in my 20s I enjoyed a couple of trips where when I got the urge to get out of town, I packed lightly, filled the tank, and pointed the van or motorcycle either north or south as my impulse dictated. Those were the days.

    1. “Those were the days.”

      And they can be again! Best of luck for breaking that 30-year anchor, hope your wheels are rolling freely again soon.

  12. Fritz~ Thank you for sharing your trip, your experiences and your advice. I lived for 3 years in the Cumberland Gap, when I was coaching basketball at Lincoln Memorial University. Did you check out the Lincoln Museum? It’s a beautiful place of the country. I love that you share the advice for current retired people that may be struggling with retirement and people that are choosing retirement. Love the idea of being spontaneous in your travels and sometimes a off day or slow down can be so productive in thought during a timeout. Thanks for sharing your advice. “The Journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” Lao Tzu. ENJOY THOSE STEPS EVERYDAY!!!!

    1. LMU! Wow, that’s a small world. Unfortunately, we were only in Cumberland Gap for the last night of our trip, so didn’t have time to explore beyond hiking the Gap. Too bad, I’m a Lincoln fan and would have loved to have spent some time in the museum. The good news: it’s only 3.5 hours from our home, so may have to head up there again with the RV to spend more time. We enjoyed the short time we spent there, and I hear there’s a great Lincoln museum in the area that I should visit….wink.

  13. Thanks for sharing these helpful tips. We are traveling from San Francisco to Cape Cod in our campervan, leaving at the end of May. After spending a week there with four other couples, we will find our way back to the west coast over three weeks, with no specific plan or route yet, just a general direction. We love serendipity, and we are keeping our options open… just like 50 years ago when hitchhiking from Boston to the west coast. As the saying goes, the journey is the reward!

    1. Wow, that’s a long trip in a campervan! Enjoy wherever that serendipity leads you…

  14. I’m glad you guys enjoyed your vacation Fritz. Wish we could’ve caught up while you were in the Commonwealth. The Shenandoah Valley is amazing isn’t it? So much U.S. history and rolling beauty all in one area. You likely drove within 30 minutes of our farm on your way through the valley. …Maybe next time I can buy you one of our incredible local brews! The valley is full of fantastic wineries and breweries. (Note: Many of which allow RV overnight stays for free with a small purchase, if you happen to RV this way in the future.)

    Vacations without plans are the absolute best! We are on our first trip without our golden retriever “Jack” for the first time this week (We are currently driving to KS to visit our daughter). We lost Jack last week after 14 1/2 years of having the best fur-boy we’ve ever known. So I’ll let you know how a “dogless” vacation feels in a few weeks. It still feels a little lost without him so far…but we are stopping a lot less!

    Enjoy your refreshed time back at the “grind” this week! (Laughing…because we both know how great retirement really is!) 😉

    1. Thom, you’re blessed to live in the Shenandoah Valley, we really enjoyed the area and the many beautiful farms we saw in the valley. You’re a lucky man, indeed!

      Sorry to hear about Jack. We lost a dog this week, as well (our 3rd in 6 months). It’s been difficult, to say the least. “Lost without him,” indeed. We do have a new puppy in the house, and it looks like we’ll be a 2 dog household for the foreseeable future.

  15. Thank you for your wonderful (and helpful) thoughts. You guys are so good on this ‘retirement’ deal. I retired at age 63 (did not plan on it) as someone offered a deal on my business that I could not ignore. After my 3 yrs retirement I entered back into the insurance industry part time. I’m enjoying my insurance career very part time but it has provide money to not dip into our retirement accounts. One thing I’ve learned is things happen out of our control (always of course). We have spent lots of our time helping take care of my wife’s aging father who lives in an assisted living home. We take him to doctors all the time and make sure he is ok. This has prevented much travel but we are glad to help him Once he passes (probably sooner than later at age 97) we will be free to travel some. Despite being tied down we are loving this season of life.

    1. “One thing I’ve learned is things happen out of our control…”

      You’re spot on, Barry. Kudo’s for taking care of your aging father-in-law, we did the same for my wife’s mother. It’s time you’ll never regret spending, and as you say you’ll be free to travel soon. 97 is impressive, thanks for making the sacrifice to care for him. And, for keeping a positive attitude and “loving this season on life.”

  16. Great article Fritz, as always.

    My wife and I are leaving for The Ozarks, (Branson, MO) on May 18th. We will be spending 10 days on this, our second of 5 trips scheduled for this year. I retired January 5th. Our first big trip was to “The Villages,” in Florida. We spent 10 days there in April. I loved it and I would move there in a minute, but the bride of 50 years…not so much. We plan to go back later in the year, for a 4-6 week stay, to evaluate it one more time.

    While in MO, I am going to take a day trip over to Pawhuska, OK, the home of The Pioneer Woman, from Food Network Fame. We may do an overnight in a local B&B. My wife is a big fan of her TV show and I actually met her late one evening, about 4 years ago, waiting on a flight at the Atlanta Airport, and she was kind enough to allow meet get a selfie with her.

    We use to travel with our Cat “Buddy,” but we found a wonderfully who comes by the house once a day when we’re gone and feeds him and plays with him for a few minutes. She also feeds the “back porch gang,” which includes raccoons, opossums, and 2-3 feline regulars, depending on who shows up. We love watching them on our back porch Ring Camera.

    I remember the two Movies on Gettysburg, including God’s and Generals. I visited Gettysburg twice when I was living in PA in the 2009-2015, and also visited Valley Forge a number of times. Like you, having read about the battles and the areas made the history come to life for me.

    Congrats on visiting your Uncle. We had the privilege of having my step dad live with us after my mom passed away on 2010. He was with us for 6 years, but his last year, after a strike, he was in Assisted Living/Memory Care. Some our best memories are vacations with him. He went anywhere and everywhere with us. He moved Las Vegas and The Smokey Mountains, in TN. He and my wife also went on a couple of trips without me, since I was still working. One of the best tripos they took was to Roswell, NM to attend a conference where a number of well known authors were giving talks and showing movies. My dad was a believer in extra terrestrials . He believes that he saw a space ship of some kind in the early sixties, as he was driving from CA to his duty station in TX. Being a professional soldier for 26 years, and having served in military intelligence, he was convinced that it was what he saw. My mom was with him and she saw it too.
    They had a great time.

    Continued health, wealth and happiness Fritz.

  17. The boredom thing is huge and I agree, it can be uncomfortable or even irritating at first but then I find my mind coming to life. I’ve dreamt up some great trips, projects and activities when bored. I now find that I need boredom and more importantly quiet and solitude from time to time to reset my brain from the frenetic pace of 2024 life.

  18. My neighbor says we are not around much since we retired. That is the nicest comment!! I think they are getting tired of watching the house? We are gone over 6 months a year now and not all at one time.

  19. Great article Fritz…..and perfectly timed! We’ve been RVing for the last four years, but I’m a planner and always know every place we’re staying and visiting before we leave home. However, next week we’re leaving for a 3 week trip through WV, KY, TN and VA….and we haven’t planned past the second day! I really don’t know why we decided to try serendipity this time around! I’m sure everything will be fine, but I’m feeling a bit anxious about the “unknown”.

  20. Another great article. Well written, descriptive and analytical. You make me think differently and help me overcome preconceived notions of what retirement might be like. Thank you. Now, if I can convince my wife she won’t lose purpose in retirement, we’ll be good to go.

  21. Good read!!! We got away from the house for 5 days to attend a wedding only a few hours away. You have to take yourself out of your daily area!! There is always that area in the garage that you need to finish. Get out and switch gears.

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