Tag Archives: semi-retirement

Outdoors in the Midwest – Cuivre River State Park, Missouri – or having time to do what you love

There are nature people and there are people who don’t do nature.  Though I don’t understand the people who don’t do nature, I will forgive them if they want to skip this post, because it is all about my love for nature. 

One of the absolutely best parts of being semi-retired (or fully retired, though I wouldn’t know by first hand experience) is the chance to pursue interests that I wouldn’t otherwise have much time for. Nature/natural history/outdoor and active travel is one of mine.  We don’t live near the mountains or the oceans or large National Parks so we fill this interest on vacations and in less dramatic ways by volunteering with nature organizations and visiting state parks and other more modest but equally delightful outdoor locations. 

This past weekend our Master Naturalist group met for a state conference at Cuivre River State Park in Missouri.  I had never visited this state park on the Eastern side of the state.  In a state with some great state parks, this is one of the best.  Though the park is North of the Missouri River it has a landscape more like the Ozark Hills.  I took mini-classes on insect interactions with plants, invasive diseases and insects that threaten some of our most gorgeous forest trees, and big river ecosystems.  We camped in the state park, popped corn over the campfire with friends, and met lots of other nature nerds.  

October is usually one of the best months in this part of the country.  It is cool enough that mosquitoes and humidity are not a problem but usually warm enough to be comfortable.  The leaves are changing colors.  It could have been cold and rainy.  But it wasn’t.  It was perfect! 

We joined this organization four years ago and I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned.  And how much there is to learn. 

What are we encouraged to do in order to stay healthy and happy as we age?  Exercising, learning new things, and building social networks.  How lucky I am to have an avocation that fills all three.  Exercise doesn’t feel like a chore when you are trooping through the woods looking for interesting mushrooms.  Learning about birds from avid bird watchers is a hoot – especially if it involves owls.  And sharing interests is a great way to make new friends.

What else? – dancing to a blue grass band in the open air – even convincing Bill to join me, walking around camp in the moonlight, the constellation Orion in the early morning, getting to learn from experts who love sharing… 

What passions are you exploring in your retirement?  What new things have you learned?  How do you share it?


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How much did that frugal vacation actually cost?

Because we enjoy travel, it is one of the big ticket but flexible items on our semi-retired budget.  This year we decided to keep our annual spring trip costs down and still had a great time.  To check that this was truly a frugal vacation here’s the cost breakdown.

Grotto 7 Hollows Trail Jean Petit State park Ark. March 2010For this trip, we chose to skip the air fare and rental car and take a driving vacation.  We also camped two of the five nights of the trip.  A driving and camping vacation is fairly inexpensive.  How much did our Arkansas vacation cost?  Here are my calculations.

  •  Two nights camping (in Queen Wilhelmena State Park and Petit Jean State Park) at $18 per night:  $36
  •  One night at the Queen Wilhelmena Lodge:  $70
  •  Two nights in motels (a clean Super 8 outside of Little Rock, where we visited the Clinton Museum and had fried catfish at the Flying Fish, and a motel in Springfield MO on our way home):  $150 ($48 in Bayfield and $90 in Springfield)
  • Gas (We spent $120 for gas but included a stop at Bill’s folks, whom we visit almost every week):  $100
  • Entrance fees to the Clinton Museum ($7 for adults, $5 for seniors):  $12
  • Eating out (we bought two meals a day – eating trail food from home for lunch on our hikes, and breakfasts at the two motels).  We spent about $55 per day for food for 6 days adding up to $330 but I subtracted what we would have spent at home for groceries and eating out so I’d estimate we spent $230 more than we would have at home:  $230
  • Gift for the neighbor who cares for our cat:  $26
  • Total out of pocket cost was $624.

But there are some overhead costs, as well.  Camping equipment isn’t free, even if campgrounds are inexpensive. 

We used:

  • a tent (13 years old, about $150 at the time, similar tent full price now would be $300),
  • two sleeping bags (also 13 years old, currently would cost about $120 each but we’ve used these about 10 to 20 days a year for the past 13 years and will use them for years to come)
  • two camping pads – probably spent $60 for both of these and they are possibly older than the other equipment.
  • Two camp cots bought on sale, about $30 each
  • A cooler – inexpensive, multipurpose, used many times for many things over about 20 years.  Can’t count anything on this. 

We’ve spent about $570 on the equipment and assuming it gets used 50 nights over its lifetime, the cost per use would be $11.40.  We camped 2 nights so add $23 to our costs.

For the car – how do you calculate the cost?  IRS mileage reimbursement rates?  We drive an 8 year old Pontiac Vibe that we bought new.  It has required little maintenance and we’d have it even if we weren’t taking this vacation.  Still, long vacations – about 1200 miles, this time, result in wear and tear on the vehicle, which means we’ll have to replace it or provide maintenance sooner than we would otherwise.  I’m putting this cost at $200 and may try to calculate it out more precisely later.  $200 

So, I’m adding $223 of overhead to our actual out of pocket expenses for this trip. 

Total:  $847 for a six day, five night trip for two.  But for purposes of our 2010 budget, we spent $624.  The overhead costs were (or will be) spent in other years.  We bought most of the camping equipment years ago and we won’t be replacing the car or, hopefully, incurring any additional maintenance costs this year.

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Welcome to Our Own Time – a blog about retirement

Welcome to  Our Own Time – a blog about retirement:  planning for it, easing into it, dealing with the challenges and the opportunities of life with a reduced or no paycheck. 

This is the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. We’ve been seeing a lot of iconic pictures of hairy young people dancing naked in the mud.  With our antiestablishment past, you’d think this generation would  have lots of creative things to say about the next stage of life.  I’ve been looking for a blog that addresses my questions about retirement, gives some inspiration – and is at least a little smart about the whole thing.  If you’ve found a great blog about retirement please share it with us.   

Until then, I’m starting this blog as a place to explore questions about the second half century.  I don’t have the answers but I’ll spend some time researching various topics and hopefully finding some people who want to share their own sollutions.   

Kayaking in the Apostle Islands

Just a little bit about myself.   I’m fifty-six years old, female, and voluntarily working less than a forty hour week.  I work in the same non-profit where I once held a department head position. That choice led to more adjustments than I expected.  I didn’t think I had much influence or that I’d mind loosing what influence I had.  I was wrong.    

 My husband is eight years older than me.  You can do the math.  He does a lot of math at his full time job – teaching High School students. He works pretty hard during the school year but has summers off.  He has also cut back from the hours that he worked a few years ago.  He no longer teaches summer school and has reduced the amount of “extra duty” (working at evening and weekend school events) that he’s willing to do.   He’s almost to Medicare age and hoping to keep working as long as it is fun.  Yes – he likes teaching public school teens.  We’re still active enough to bicycle and kayak but do all of these things at a slower pace than we once did. 


I have a lot of questions for potential readers.  Are you expecting to live on less money than you did before retirement?  If you are retired, how is the money holding up?  Do you plan to stay in the same town or move elsewhere?  How is that going?  Did you and your spouse retire at the same time?  How did the retirement affect your interactions?  Any adventurers out there who joined the Peace Corps, took up mural painting, or raising organic vegetables?  What are the pitfalls and the successes?  What do you do with your time? 

Ah, there’s the word I decided needs to be in the title of this blog – time.  After all that is why we retire, isn’t it?  To be able to do those things we didn’t have time for when we worked full time.  To rekindle old passions – art, nature, car racing… We want to spend more time with friends and family – to play with those grandchildren.  What about all of those books we planned to read when we got the time?

Or maybe you haven’t chosen to retire.  Health or layoffs have sent you home before you wanted to and you are trying to find ways to fill that time productively, perhaps with less money than you hoped for.      

Whew!  That’s a lot of ground to cover.  I hope to focus on specific topics in future posts.  I hope that you’ll join in the discussion.


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