Discover Clever Strategies for Downshifting

After close to 25 years in public education, I took the plunge and retired two years ago at the age of 49. Since then, I have been enjoying a well-earned rest and some great overseas travel.

I took a short-term contract in Vienna and spent six months living in the Austrian capital while taking trips to Slovakia, Italy, and Spain. My wife, Patti, and I enjoyed concerts at the Musikverein…touring the Hofburg Palace…visiting the local vineyards where wonderful Zweigelt red wine is produced…and of course sampling the world famous Sacher Torte chocolate cake at its birthplace, the Hotel Sacher.

Boat trips on the Danube were a regular event and an inexpensive two-hour flight took us to Barcelona, Spain where we met friends who were on vacation there.

Weekend travels took us many places, including Mozart’s birthplace, Salzburg, where we enjoyed amazing mountain views from Hohensalzburg Castle, and ate at St. Peter’s Stiftskeller, a restaurant dating back to 803 AD.

Another trip took us to Florence, Italy where we toured the Uffizi Gallery, saw Michelangelo’s David, and took a guided wine tour in Tuscany. A side trip to Cinque Terre for the day was a feast or the senses—the sights of the houses and shops built right into the cliffs, the sounds of the pounding waves on the rugged coastline, and lunch at Ristorante Belforte where we had the grilled octopus, in which you could still taste the sea salt.

My European travels, combined with an early-career experience teaching English in Japan as well as some recent holiday travel to the Caribbean, have solidified my desire to live overseas and see the world.

So I’m shortly heading off to the Dominican Republic for another short contract, with a view to settling there.

Given that I retired earlier than usual, I need to continue working in some manner. Short-term contracts are good but I am still far away from being able to access my still-maturing investments and Social Security benefits. So, knowing that I have valuable skills, knowledge, and experiences upon which to draw, I have also begun freelancing as a self-employed education consultant.

I have acquired a few clients with whom I work regularly. The internet has allowed me to meet and work with people from all over the world—Europe, the Pacific Rim, United States, and Canada.

I set my own hours, providing writing, proofing, and concept consulting services to my clients. On occasion, these jobs even lead to further work that neither the client nor I envisioned when we first started to work together. The rewards have been wonderful; I am building a client base, and have some money coming in, while at the same time I am pursuing my beloved recreational activities of hiking, cycling, kayaking…it’s a win-win.

Here’s my two-pronged strategy: In the shorter term, I will take advantage of the contract opportunity in the Dominican Republic…but during this time, I will continue to build my freelancing with my valued clients in order to keep that income stream open.

Once I leave full-time education work for good, my established freelancing business will fund my life further, wherever I end up.

Right now, I am looking forward to immersing myself in the Dominican culture—the food, the warm weather, the varied landscapes and geographic areas, the recreational activities, and the Spanish language are all calling out to me.


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