When my parents announced they were going to spend a year in Mexico, I was thrilled. Then they announced they were going to spend that year in Cabo San Lucas, and I was confused. I couldn’t picture my parents entering wet T-shirt contests and doing body shots while the ubiquitous bass thumped through the streets of the spring break mecca.
Of course, that wasn’t exactly their vision, either.
I’ve spent the last year testing the limits of my liver, my bank account and my boss’ patience, going to Cabo whenever possible. My parents have not turned into spring break tourists but rather retirement tour guides.
I’m pretty sure “retirement” is just how humans were meant to live. And my year as a retirement tourist was revelatory.
As a retirement tourist, I was able to go to bed at 10:30, when my body naturally tells me it’s time, instead of answering emails and checking Facebook until midnight. I subsequently woke up with the sun and the crow of the neighborhood rooster. Since I’m not actually retired, I still had to do work, but my office was al fresco. It’s much easier to deal with a stressful work situation when you’re looking out onto the Sea of Cortez and enjoying your daily plateful of fresh fruit.
In retirement, you get to take a hike, followed by a swim, followed by a cocktail, followed by a nap. Within a day, you start to feel the tension leaving your shoulders. You unclench your jaw, and you can actually feel the stress you didn’t know you were carrying leave your body.
So why don’t we allow ourselves a week of retirement more often? Why do we buy into the idea that we are only meant to indulge in these things when we reach a certain age? That our 30s and 40s have to be a grind, raising kids and working nonstop? That we can’t, or shouldn’t, spend money on something that breathes life into us?
Every time I was tempted to have another Cabo weekend, there were a million reasons I shouldn’t go. There were work deadlines and homework assignments. There was the stress of leaving behind my house and my dogs. Sometimes it seemed like it took all my mental energy just to get everything ready and get to the airport. But once I was there, it restored me in ways I can’t describe. And it fortified me to face all the daily stresses of real life upon my return home.
We shouldn’t wait until retirement to allow ourselves to enjoy the world around us. We shouldn’t wait until we have more money, or the kids are older, or life is less stressful. We should seek out opportunities to gorge on fresh fruit for breakfast, spend a day hiking in the sun and swim on a deserted beach at midnight, just drunk enough to forget about that scene from “Jaws.”
We should take that last-minute, super-cheap flight or head to the mountains for the weekend or just take a day off of work to see an afternoon movie.
We need to stop treating this middle stage of life like the means to an end and instead allow ourselves to just retire every once in a while.
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