One week, I’m racing round work, one meeting after another, 55 emails to answer before lunchtime – not that there’s much time to stop for a lunchbreak – and people bombarding me with endless questions.
The next week – nothing. No meetings, no frantic emails, no demands at all.
The long and scary silence of retirement has struck.
And it’s so scary and so quiet I’ve been doing my damnedest to fill my inbox with other work to stave off that awful realisation that nobody is indispensable, not even me. Followed by the next realization – it’s way too soon to retire, even if I have got a Gold Card and $500 fortnightly pension coming in.
But what about that three-month camping trip we promised ourselves, my Third-Age buddy and I. How can you stay on the road for three months and hire yourself out to work on little projects here and there?
Like many my age, I’m betwixt and between, not ready to be fully retired, and therefore not fully free to come and go as I please.
That’s because I still crave a sense of belonging, of being useful and being needed, of fancying myself indispensable. Pulling me the other way is the desire for freedom, to just up sticks and see the rest of the country, as well as run through a bucket list of world wonders I want to see before my joints are too ricketty to clamber up and down and around them.
We did up sticks for a week or two here and there – a trip to the West Coast until the rain came down, a trip up scary Highway 7 to the golden sands of Totaranui, a long weekend camping on the Peninsula. But then it was rush, rush, rush back home to be useful again, to see the inbox start to fill up and to feel needed.
Others my age and even younger seem pretty relaxed about hitting the road and not coming home for months, for years even. In my short bursts of travel I saw dozens of New Zealand Motor Caravanning Association (NZMCA) logos on the road and at campsites. With 71,000 members and millions of dollars’ worth of off-road camping areas in the Association’s possession, there must be thousands of them on the go at any one time, slowly making their way down the South Island and up again, enjoying the freedom of the road less travelled. My Third-Age buddy calls it the Old People’s Caravan Club. The Aussies call the growing hordes of motor-homers Grey Nomads.
Motor-caravanning, or “Movanning”, is a recreational lifestyle, NZMCA says, where members explore the ‘real’ New Zealand at their leisure. Their philosophy is freedom – “to stop off wherever interest is piqued by local attractions without the hassle of advance booking and rigid scheduling” – taking the time to have a look at those off-road sights and pleasures that I’m always in too much of a hurry to stop for.
What is it, this pull back to busy-ness. Is it the money? Certainly it helps augment the pension. But it’s not the money. It’s the fear of that long and scary silence when one day everyone wants whatever it is you can offer and the next day, you’re forgotten.
How long does it take before the easy, peaceful feeling is sufficient succor to stay on the road and chill out? I don’t have the answer yet – I’m too busy trying to get my inbox back up to 55 emails before lunchtime. I want to prove I really am indispensable. (592)