When you’re retired, you have the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want, and do whatever you want when you get there. I’ve been retired three years now, and I haven’t been able to summon the impromptu travel mentality very often. Why is that?
To begin with, I usually define travel as exotic, foreign destinations: Paris, Barcelona, Rosolini. All of those places have great cuisine, scenery and history. And it takes a lot of advance planning – not to mention expense – to get there.
And even when we think of more mundane destinations, we have to move a lot of stuff already on our calendars: doctor appointments, dinner parties, bridge lessons. Something on Monday evening, Tuesday morning, Wednesday afternoon, and weekend social events. We don’t protect 4-day spaces in our calendar in order to make spur-of-the-moment hotel reservations in a city or town we haven’t visited.
In addition, I haven’t kicked the weekend habit. For 40+ years, I lived in anticipation of Fridays. In retired life, Tuesdays are the new Fridays, just not as crowded. Retirees can fly or drive somewhere Tuesday morning, and come back Friday. TGIT! But breaking a 40-year habit is tough.
Whether the destination is Barcelona or Pittsburgh, it just requires planning ahead. So, we recently planned a weekend trip to Pittsburgh to watch the Cubs play at PNC Park. Carole, a native Pittsburghian, hasn’t been to PNC Park, which opened 18 years ago.
Retirement is about new experiences.
For starters, we booked a downtown Pittsburgh hotel. Because we knew we’d be rocking & rolling until 8 or even 9 o’clock, we wanted to be downtown where the action was. (And close to an emergency room.) We planned a Sunday trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s revolutionary Fallingwater house, 90 minutes south of the city, where a mountain stream runs through the living room. And since we hadn’t seen my brother and his partner recently, we came back through Cleveland, booking a beautiful downtown Cleveland hotel. (I didn’t know Cleveland had a downtown.)
New experiences from our quasi-spontaneous Pittsburgh trip:
- Saw two Cubs games on the road; great seats, at half the Wrigley price for great seats; won 1, lost 1.
- Discovered excellent restaurant (Bar Marco) in Pittsburgh’s Strip district, the famous ethnic produce area; our first time in a non-tipping restaurant.
- Drove around Carole’s old neighborhood, grade school and high school; heard new old stories.
- Saw Fallingwater, plus Kentuck Knob, an FLW Usonian house close by.
- Found another great restaurant discovery in Cleveland (Lola Bistro), owned by a well-known (to Carole, anyway) chef.
- Had a long, leisurely visit with my brother and unofficial brother-in-law; and got a free breakfast out of it.
It was a delightful weekend trip.
So… what have I learned?
Pittsburgh and Cleveland are not Paris or Barcelona or Rosolini. (We already knew that.) Neither is as known for cuisine as those European destinations. But traveling to two cities, including a home town, purely as tourists– with no funeral, reunion or wedding agendas – was a new experience for both of us.
And why could we do all of that in one extended weekend?
Because we’re retired.
I was so excited, I wrote a song. Actually, Leonard Bernstein helped me a few years ago by writing the music to West Side Story. I just relyricked one of the songs:
When you’re retired,
You’re retired all the way,
From your first pension check
To your weekend vacay.
When you’re retired,
You are totally free,
To just doze in a chair
Or be wild and carefree.
You’ll never be bored, you’ll never be dejected.
When something comes up, something unexpected,
Your time’s protected!
You are retired for the rest of your days,
Which you never forget ‘til they cart you away.
When you’re retired… you … stay… retired!!