Back in Canada

Returned to Canada last Friday to play guitar for a few events. Between the travel, rehearsals, personal practice, and very late evenings, the past four days have been an absolute blur.

I am totally exhausted at this point. But with some amazing memories.

The highlight was last night’s event with Paul Baloche.

Paul is one of the top singer-songwriters in the Christian music community. His songs have been used extensively in the church including “Open the Eyes of My Heart”, “Hosanna”, “Your Name”, “Today Is the Day”, and “Above All”.

He was touring in Canada for a few days and I had the opportunity to fly up from Florida to join him and support him on electric guitar.

Here we are in the green room just before last night’s event.

And here is a group shot with the band:

I’m not able to post the production video and songs on this website but someone did pass along a clip of the last part of one tune where I had an extended guitar solo. The smartphone angle is from the opposite side of the stage so you won’t see me clearly but I suspect you will hear the guitar.

Still rockin’ at 62. Never too old!

I fly back to Florida tomorrow and I am playing again this weekend in the States. Too tired to work through the next set of tunes today. That will happen Thursday and Friday.

Someone told me that you must retire to something as opposed to from something. So thankful that I can still play and serve.

The weather in Canada has been dreadfully cold with some pretty severe snowstorms. So thankful to be able to spend winters down south with the sun and warmth.

One RV and Home Free

Another keynote done. My friends at the Hitch House had me back again to speak at their fall event on Saturday. Six hours of driving for the two-hour segment. And probably close to three days of prep work. But I do enjoy the process of creating and delivering a presentation.

I’ve pulled a few of the slides from the deck (I had 76 slides in total).

Always start a presentation with a catchy image and title as it will set a great tone for your story. This was the title slide.

An audience wants to connect with the speaker at a personal level. I like to share a few personal details to let the audience know that we are all in this together — trying to live life as best we can.

Spoke at length about our decision to sell our home and to travel full-time in our motorcoach. This was our house. We lived in the country on 7 acres. We had about 5,200 square feet of living space and almost 2,000 square feet between the two garages. We went from all that space to about 450 square feet in our coach. Quite the change.

This was the senior executive team from my corporate life. I’m the guy in the suit on the far right. I held senior technology roles in several of Canada’s largest financial services company over the past 35 years. I spent the last ten years of my career as the Chief Information Officer for this company. And I started to sense that it was time to consider retirement.

It was this book, Younger Next Year, that made me think about retirement. Coincidently, I had just turned sixty.

I took this shot in the Great Smoky Mountains. Sink Falls. A waterfall with someone going over the edge. That sound, the sound of the waterfall, the sound of mortality, was far more present in my life back when I was working. It still is today.

Inspiration to retire came from a variety of sources including Nikki and Jason Wynne. This was their advice to me.

We had started looking at coaches way back. In 2006. I still have the brochure on the Newmar Dutch Star from that year. It took ten years before we finally got one. This was definitely a process for us and it did not happen overnight.

To get to one RV we had a decision framework with a few major considerations.

Money

How much were we prepared to spend on this lifestyle? Not just the initial purchase but for life on the road.

Lifestyle

Weekender? Vacationer? Part-time (extended)? Full-time? What lifestyle would we take on? That lifestyle will have an influence on what type of RV we might consider.

Type

Based on budget and desired lifestyle, the type of RV is another decision factor. We always wanted a Class A although I’ve often debated about jumping into a Prevost conversion.

Brand

Which brand should we buy? The RV industry is highly consolidated with three companies holding almost 90 percent of the market (Thor, Forest River and Winnebago). All of them build their products using parts from a small number of suppliers. There is not as much differentiation between the brands if buying new as some might argue. All RVs will have issues. It comes with the lifestyle.

I did point out that there has been quite a drop in inventory. The RV industry shipped 487,893 units in 2018. The forecast is for 344,790 units in 2019. That is a drop of over 140,000 units.

New or Used

We bought new. If we were to do this again, we would buy gently used but here are the pros and cons.

 

Floorplan

What floorplan will work for us during this stage of our retirement? We had a few non-negotiable items for our coach: Class A at least 40-feet in length and equipped with two washrooms and a king-size bed. This is the floorpan of our current coach.

There was a lot more content shared in the session. Lots of audience interaction and I really enjoyed the time. I closed with another quote from Younger Next Year. The rest of our life can be great. We think it is awesome right now!

 

In a couple of weeks we arrive to our site in Florida. Good friends, sun, warmth and palm trees. Life doesn’t get much better than this. I shared this item with the audience. Lorraine and Tabby enjoying an amazing sunset view from the front of our coach.

And, after a couple of hours, the session was done. I slept well that night.

No Hut

Two years without a hut. We still get puzzled looks from some people when we let them know that we are currently home free. Home ownership is so deeply embedded in the Canadian culture that it almost goes without saying that, in Canada, a house is a wonderful investment. We always looked at housing as a place to live. Whenever I took the time to include all of the costs associated with owning a house, we never experienced a compelling return. Our houses did appreciate but overall there wasn’t much of a profit to be had when selling. Especially when moving on to the next house.

As we debated our plans for retirement, we knew that owning a house in the country was not what we wanted. What we did know is that we wanted to be south during the harsh Canadian winters. We did not want to own two houses, one in Canada and one in the southern United States. We wanted the freedom to move around.

That was part of our reason to buy a coach. We could have a wonderful condo on wheels for our travels stateside and downsize into a smaller property somewhere in Canada.

But then we asked ourselves why would we buy a house in Canada in our early retirement years if we were only going to live in it for, at best, 2 or 3 months of the year? Could we live out of our coach year round?

The short answer is yes, we can and yes, we did.

We do not miss owning a house. We currently rent an apartment. Our youngest son lives in it. And, after whatever period of time, when we decide to come off the road, we will find someplace nice for the latter part of our retirement.

We do not know what that looks like just yet. We will tackle that transition whenever it comes along.

Two years and I haven’t thought much about the house we sold. A distant memory from a different time.

I did take a look back on some of our photos of the house when I was prepping this post.

It was a nice place. We used it for a period of time and then the house went on to someone else. Eventually every house, like the many other things that we buy in life, will go to someone else.

Except my guitar collection.

Those guitars I will take with me when I leave for heaven.

2018 Dutch Star For Sale

Life is difficult. That is how M. Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Travelled, begins. I read that book shortly after it was published way back in 1978.

Peck wrote that life was never meant to be easy. Our journey in life is fundamentally a series of problems to solve or to ignore. And to solve life’s problems requires discipline: delaying gratification, assuming responsibility, being honest and being balanced.

I first learned the truth about life being difficult at 16 years of age. That is when my father died. That was a hard lesson and it has had a lasting impact on my life.

Which makes this post a difficult one to write.

We made friends with a wonderful couple during our time at Myakka River Motorcoach Resort. The last time we saw this couple was January 1st, 2019. They were continuing their travels in their beautiful Newmar Dutch Star. They had pulled their coach up to the clubhouse area to hook up their toad. I grabbed a few shots before they left.

Lorraine and I went over to say good-bye. Not for long, mind you. We were planning to connect with them in February during our travels. We were both going to be in Alabama at the same time.

A final shot of their coach just before they left the resort.

They were just like us. Keen to live life on the road and to experience a different set of adventures during retirement.

Things didn’t work out for us to connect in Alabama. But that was okay. They were returning to Myakka later this year and we would see them then. We would stay connected through this website and through calls and emails and texts.

Death showed up.

Unexpectedly.

Only a few short months after they left Myakka.

He was gone.

She was left behind.

I still can’t believe it.

She is not able to continue the lifestyle with this coach on her own. And it is for sale. All of the details on this stunning 2018 Dutch Star 4369 can be found on Steinbring’s website. This couple took such great care of their motorhome. If you are in the market for a Dutch Star don’t hesitate. Give Lee at Steinbring a call and you will get an exceptional coach at a great price. Steinbring’s phone number is (320)-834-6333.

When she wrote me to let me know about what had happened, she said the following:

It goes without saying, but it is good to follow your dreams. There are serious curves in the road, but as you know, you still have to get out there.

I Am Content

I am content. Three words that have eluded me for most of my adult life. Always driven. Focused. Disciplined. Ambitious.

I might have used different words. Insecure. Scared. And, perhaps most unfortunate, never satisfied.

Ambition is not necessarily a bad thing if the motivation is pure.

I remember having this conversation with my old boss many years back. She was the CIO for a large insurance company and she told me that one day I would have her chair. She did say a few things that have stayed with me over the past thirty years.

“Why anyone would want my job is beyond me. Why do you want the job?”

No one had ever asked me that question before. I always thought that if I climbed high enough on the corporate ladder that I would achieve something of significance. I had rarely thought about the why.

Guess what? There really isn’t anything all that significant to be found in climbing the corporate ladder. Whatever is significant will not come from your spot on an organization chart. Yes, there is a financial reward, and rightly so given the stress and pressure and other demands on your life. It is a trap to confuse a level of career success with significance.

Perhaps my biggest challenge coming into retirement is learning to live those three words: I am content.

I plan to give it my best shot.