Newfound Freedom

By Tawny Maya McCray

April 27, 2020 6 min read

Being retired allows people the freedom to do the things they've always wanted to do but never had the time to do. It's a time to start checking things off their bucket list. Some finally take that trip they've long been dreaming of. Others take up a new hobby or resume an old one they have time for again. Take inspiration from these retirees' stories to see how you or your loved ones can seize the day during retirement.

Keith and Jenn Russell set off on an 18-month RV trip after they retired.

"We saw around 38 states, which in our travels over time brought our total to 48," they said in an email. "Maybe one day we'll finish up Wyoming and North Dakota to make 50." Their favorite stops on the trip included the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Napa, California.

Like most of the country, the Russells are currently quarantined at their home due to the coronavirus. They say the RV trip served as preparation for this unprecedented time.

"Our 18 months in 500 square feet being together 24/7, after leaving our 5500-square-foot home, two crazy busy careers and attending the sports and such of our five kids, was hard as an adjustment, but it was ideal training for this coronavirus quarantine," they said.

Keith Russell, 63, who's originally from the U.K., retired in 2018 from his job as a pharmaceutical research and development executive. Jenn Russell, 50, retired the same year from her career as a school principal. They look forward to continuing their travels one day and have some big destinations in mind.

"We want to go to Australia and New Zealand, and eventually Bali and South Africa are on our long-term bucket list," they said.

To keep active at home, they walk five to seven miles a day with their dog, Xena, lift weights and do aerobic exercise every other day. Retirement also provides more time for their hobbies. Keith is a musician who plays, records and produces music; Jenn enjoys gardening, interior decoration and video editing. The couple has a YouTube channel, EmptyNestNomads, where they post videos of their music and travels.

Helen Copeland, 72, said she and her husband, Dane, 73, recently checked a huge trip off their bucket list. Since she was a child, her dad had wanted to take her and her mom down the Rhine River in Germany, where he grew up. But her mom died before they got the chance.

"So, my husband, for our 50th wedding anniversary, took me on that river cruise down the Rhine river," she recalled of their trip last year. "It was beautiful."

Their next trip will be to Yellowstone National Park, by way of train.

"I've always wanted to travel by train and there's a train trip starting in Arizona that goes through a few National Parks, like Bryce Canyon, on the way to Yellowstone," she said.

Copeland, a former school teacher who is now semiretired and works at her leisure, teaching teachers at National University, said she and Dane are always up for a new adventure.

"We look forward to doing things that we've always wanted to do," Copeland said. "We're always ready to go on another adventure to another place."

Lynn Eldred, 66, has a list of many trips she'd like to take, but she has another name for these experiences instead of "bucket list."

"The term 'bucket list' comes from the idea that these are the things you want to do before you kick the bucket. Who wants to think that way?" she said. "I want to focus on a more fun vision of my retirement -- hence, my Adventure List."

Eldred is planning a trip to Ireland with her sister and brother-in-law for once her sister retires.

"We plan to make a stop in Ballingarry in County Tipperary, where our people are from," Eldred said. "My sister lives in a small Wisconsin town and has never been to Europe."

The three of them took a trip to the Central Coast of California last year and had "a glorious time."

Eldred, who retired in 2014 after working for the county of San Diego for 29 years, has also taken up learning an instrument she's always wanted to learn -- piano -- and has gone back to an activity she has long enjoyed -- baking.

"My grandmother was an amazing baker and she's been my inspiration," she said. "Some of my fondest memories are of going to her house in Stockbridge, Wisconsin, and eating warm rolls and other baked goods right out of the oven."

Eldred started baking bread and pies in college and fell in love with it.

"Plus, any hot guy was putty in my hands if I walked into a party with something warm and home baked," she said.

As she got older and had kids and a profession, baking had to take a back seat. But upon retirement, she enrolled in professional bakeshop classes at a local community college and earned a professional bakeshop certification after two semesters. Her baking skills have come in handy for making wild birthday cakes requested by her two grandsons, as well as cakes for her friends' birthdays, and for baby and wedding showers.

"My baking has become a new gift I can give to those I care about and love," she said.

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