Congratulations! You’re retired.
Are you going to sit on your couch all day? Are you going to start watching soap operas?
Of course you’re not. You didn’t get to this point in your life by sitting still and letting life happen to you. You went out and earned your place. You learned what you needed to know to succeed. You have earned the right to relax and enjoy life.
You were driven and passionate about your career. However, all that drive and passion you have was focused into your career. Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you’re not going to still have that drive and passion. It hasn’t just disappeared.
Where are you going to use it now? Letting all that dedication and experience vanish from the world would be a waste. But, where are you going to put them to use? Are they useful on the golf course? Are they valuable with a fishing rod in your hand? Don’t get me wrong. I love those pursuits. There is no way they will replace the vigor and the excitement that you got from doing your work, being a part of something, creating something, or making something.
We all have heard the statistics that many people don’t fare well in retirement. They get depressed, they get sick, and many die soon after retirement. One important factor in healthy living in retirement is to remain busy. Not just staying busy with hobbies, but by keeping your mind active and your heart involved in important causes. Many people become more involved in their church for those very reasons. What I want to talk to you about is how you can plan that in another form of activity.
Most people talk about the desire to travel when they retire. However, imagine travelling to another country and standing in front of a building that has tremendous historical significance. It’s great for a moment!
Then you take pictures of it, and you move on.
Now, I am a huge history buff. I’m one of those people that want to go visit those places. I want to see where history was made. But, going to a place and standing in a physical location to look at a building or even a work of art only satisfies the desire to travel and experience this world for a brief moment. We are human beings. As soon as our desire for something is satisfied, want more. We become dissatisfied and a new need arises. I have always wanted to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I know that an hour after I have witnessed it, I will be ready to move on to Egypt to view the pyramids!
This is why I want to talk about what I call off the map adventures. I call them off the map, because the beauty and joy that are the purpose of your travel are based in the places that you go. A person’s heart is not a location listed on a map. This adventure is where you go to interact with the people that live in a distant location. This travel destination is where you go learn about people and their culture.
You go to use your experience and skill to help people overcome obstacles with the goal being to enrich their lives and make their situation better. Whether you go to volunteer to help a community or a group of people and help them improve their lives. Quality of life is not found on a map.
Those are found in the hearts and minds of people.
International volunteer programs include work such as Amazonian jungle conservation, Eco-Agriculture Conservation, Construction and Renovation, Special Needs Care for children, Turtle and other Marine Conservation, Healthcare, Business Development, Assisting after Natural Disasters, Public Health Awareness, ant the Preservation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
I am not retired yet, but my sister is. She and her husband have gone on adventures just like these. They went to Nigeria as part of a medical team that donated their time, training and experience to provide medical treatment to people who couldn’t afford the kind of care.
She remembers incredibly poor infrastructure and filth. There was overwhelming traffic and inefficiency. However, a motorcycle escort had the power to make its way through to congestion much easier than most people in the country. She says she saw dead people along the road but they were warned not to stop, or risk becoming the owner of the situation.
Yet, the feelings she holds in her heart are for the people they were able to help. The joy and gratitude of the patients and their caregivers caused all the other frustrations and worries fade into the shadows. The brightness of the smiles and the warmth of the hugs became the spring that melts the snows and brings forth the burst of blooms.
Even though I was not able to experience this myself, I’m very proud of my sister for taking part in such a worthy cause. When I am able to retire, I will follow my sister into the practice of volunteer travel.
Perhaps you are not ready to fly off to Nigeria and deal with a vastly different world. You could still help the lives of other people and experience the warmth of an appreciative people without ever leaving your own country. One such place is very close to my childhood home within the great state of Montana.
There are impoverished communities located on Native American Reservations. You might be shocked to learn that living conditions are very much like those in other developing nations. Volunteer and experience life with the Blackfeet Nation. In the shadows of Glacier National Park, you will learn about the history and culture of the Blackfeet while providing genuine and appreciated service.
These trips will fill your heart and will engage your mind. They will leave a lasting impression for years to come. Not just for you, but also for the generations following you. You want to have a fantastic retirement? In my opinion, this is the way to really change how you think and feel about your retirement. You may feel that your retirement years are more rewarding than your years in your career.
Do you remember when you were toiling away at your job and were dog tired? You thought ahead to the vacation that you were planning in order to get away from that day-to-day drudgery. Those thoughts got you excited for the future. Don’t let retirement become the same drudgery. Give yourself something to look forward to. Give yourself a cause to be excited about.
I would recommend starting with a web search into volunteer opportunity tracking services like Go Eco and VolunteerForever. You will find hundreds of volunteer ideas and dozens of companies that offer these programs.
Plan a volunteer vacation for yourself. Make it an off the map adventure and look forward to your retirement years.
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