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Different Models of the "Good Life" in Retirement

Part I: the Bark Park model.

Some people think that doing their homework about retirement consists of talking to investment "advisers" or reading glossie rags about "America's Top Ten Undiscovered Retirement Dream Towns." Or perhaps one half of the soon-to-be-retired couple has fallen under the evil sway of the cant of travel blog escapism. I'd like to suggest a faster and more effective approach to your homework: regardless of your pet situation, find a nice bench at the local "bark park." Just sit there and observe and think about the Big Picture.

Isn't it obvious that you are watching dogs enjoying the 'good life?' There is nothing subtle about a happy dog. Should the situation be that different for another species of social animals, such as homo sapiens? Oh certainly, homo sapiens is long past its hunter-gather lifestyle. 

First our animal species adopted the dreary routines of settled, neolithic agriculture. The donkey model has gone through a drastic change during the last couple generations, as we coalesced into giant metropolitan areas. Now our model is that of an over-regulated and over-populated termite colony. Who knows what the next upward leap in evolution will bring us to. (Amoeba, perhaps?) But none of this has changed the hardware and firmware of the human brain or body.

Why did I even include 'in Retirement' in the title of this post? Can't stick-and-brick-bound rat-racers also live the Good Life? They can to some extent at least, but their lives are constrained by a thousand and one "necessities."

A retiree could certainly live the Good Life in a pile of sticks-and-bricks: hobbies such as gardening, community organizations, etc. That's what I first thought about. I abandoned the idea up because I admitted that I was a home-improvement junkie. Also, for many people, it is financially burdensome to have most of their nest egg tied up in a pile of 2 X 4s that generates no income. In fact, the heap generates negative income in the form of property taxes and repairs, even if you are wise enough to resist the addiction of home improvement.

Furthermore, most places in North America only have two months of decent weather per year. So your good life in sticks-and-bricks must take place indoors. Now think again of the bark park.

For the rest of this series I'll restrict the discussion to different models of the Traveling good life...


For my concept of decent weather, I have found it to be more like five months split three in spring and two in the fall. However that is but a small detail on the overall picture.
XXXXX said…
You could extend the happy dog to include that same dog in snow, rain, wind, etc. and he would still be happy. I believe that's the crucial difference here. We people analyze and logic ourselves into a tizzy, looking for the perfect this or that or at least better than now or what we have. We have this capacity to compare and contrast constantly and there is a point when it might do more harm than good. Actually, I think what is going on is another example of human being's innate desire to seek maximum return with minimum input.
In retirement, we get to choose more of our own path. But even in a 9 to 5, one can learn to be happy with the wind, the rain, the snow present in one's life. There are plenty of canine's out there (sled dogs, herding dogs who actually herd, watch dogs, service dogs, police dogs, etc) who could teach us a lesson or two about loving and glorying in one's 9 to 5 job. If one's happiness depends on constant sunshine and blue skies, then the source of their happiness is external and he/she will ultimately be defeated for surely a bad weather day will come.
We would all be wise to strive to be more like the family dog.
Unknown said…
Weather is not the issue for me: I can adapt. Sticks and bricks (small rental apartment for me) is a place to sleep and live when not exploring, learning or hiking. For me that is when time passes the quickest -- the living in the moment. Kind of like dogs at the "bark park".
Well, Boonie, the beauty of it all is you don't have to wait until you're old to retire if you hit the road, as your living costs become very low (assuming you're frugal). And if you don't like the dogs in one Bark Park, you can relocate to one you do like.
You are too easy to please, Barney. (grin)
Yes, people can be happy despite non-ideal conditions, but that's another issue. Today we are talking about what you can do to stack the odds in favor of your own happiness, regarding its intensity or frequency.

I too was arguing against over-analyzing happiness -- your second sentence. Staring at the dogs in a dog park and seeing the similarities between them and us, seems like a good way to avoid over-analysis.
Weather. It's so predictable how newbie or incipient retirees (and their "selection" software) emphasize the Weather, even though the vast majority of people are indoorsmen -- they always have been, and always will be.

How can this oddity be explained? Maybe "perfect weather" becomes a symbol of the American Dream, and they insist on availing themselves of it now. I think the symbol matters more than the reality.