Most people have some ideas about what they want to do when they retire. They dream of traveling the world, following their passions, or making the world a better place.

The other day I was checking my retirement accounts and the little calculator said I’m on track to retire in ten years.

It made me realize that I can’t imagine how my life would change if I was retired. In fact, my life looks a lot more like the life of a retiree than someone in their mid-30s.

Traveling the world

Lots of people dream of traveling…one day. I’ve never been content to wait for the right time to come, I’ve set up my life so that I can do what’s really important to me.

When I was young and broke, I traveled around Western Europe and the US by CouchSurfing. I absolutely fell in love with the experience of traveling as part of the sharing economy. It’s about so much more than saving money.

These days I still CouchSurf, but most of the time I’m house sitting through Trusted House Sitters. Most of the other full-time house sitters are retired.

By house sitting full-time, I can travel the world for less money than I’d spend staying at home.

Following my passion

People talk about how once they retire they’ll start their own business, they’ll work as a consultant for clients they like, they’ll finally write that book, they’ll master home improvement skills.

That’s already how I spend my time. When I’m not exploring a new city, I’m writing a book. Or working on interesting consulting projects. Or tinkering on DIY projects on my latest home (or with my dad).

The thing is, you don’t “discover” your passions. You develop them.

You don't discover your passions, you develop them Click To Tweet

I love learning new things. The things I make time to learn are also things that further my career or improve my life in some way. The more I learn about something, the more likely I am to develop a passion for it. Even if I don’t have enough of an interest to become a cross border accountant or immigration consultant, I’m fascinated enough by them to have written guides on both topics.

Making the world a better place

Not everyone wants to lay around on the beach when they retire. It’s probably a smart move, because many people derive a lot of their sense of purpose from their career.

It’s a pretty popular idea that once people don’t need their high-paying jobs, they’ll trade their suits for a career in the nonprofit world. People dream of doing something that really matters. Something that will make the world a better place. Or, better yet, somewhere they have the freedom to decide what they do.

Maybe it’s a blessing that I’ve never had a well-paying job, because I learned pretty early on that I didn’t need one. That gave me the freedom to choose work that I found interesting and meaningful.

I ended up at a tiny nonprofit where I work directly with the people we serve. I answer to our founder, but she trusts me to make all the day-to-day decisions on my own. There’s no micromanaging here. When we’re making big strategy decisions it’s through heartfelt discussions in an environment of mutual respect.

I occasionally get offers from other organizations. Some of them have offered me quite a bit more than my current salary. None of them have offered me enough money to even seriously consider leaving, because none of them have offered me the environment along with the numbers.

You choose how you live your life

Most people reading travel blogs are in incredibly privileged positions. It’s easy to forget in the shuffle of every day life, but we get to choose what our lives are like. We can’t control racism, sexism, classism, and other major systems of inequality that control our world. There is no way to opt out of systems of oppression. But we do get to decide if we buy the most house we can afford, fill it with nice things, put a quality car (or two) in the driveway, and have kids.

By deciding what’s important to me and building a life around that, I don’t have to wait until retirement to live the life I want.