Like all retired lawyers, I like to research new activities and to make sure I know as much as possible before starting.

But as you learn from years of legal experience, there is a gap between knowing the law and practising law.

Even after watching the videos, reading the books, and going over the tour brochures, certain hiking knowledge gaps still leap out and capture the beginning hiker. After doing my first Juan de Fuca three-day overnight hike quickly followed by a seven-day overnight hike on the West Coast Trail, I distilled the five major ones. Seasoned hikers likely assume these to be common knowledge, but one should never underestimate the naivete of the beginner.

1. Even a slightly slanted tenting site provides challenges. I found a nice level spot with just a gentle slope. Putting my head slightly uphill would be like resting on the couch I thought. However, my polyester sleeping bag resting on a vinyl mattress in combination with tossing and turning, sent me slowly and gently into the downhill side of my tent. Trying to squirm uphill proved difficult.

2. Calculating the number of required meals when hiking with your adult children requires higher algebra. Each freeze-dried pack provided two servings. So over three days, three people, three meals a day should mean 27 meals and 14 packages should do it. But adult children require 2.5 servings per meal. So now I find that over three days, two people needing 2.5 meals per meal, one person (older) one meal per meal, at three meals a day means finding a 12-year-old to calculate the result for me.

3. Calories are not the only thing to count. I realized that I packed three days of food, but that means almost seven days’ worth of the industry recommended amount of sodium. If it weren’t for some of these industry factions lobbying the government to advocate 2,300 mg per day, I am sure we consumed 13 days’ worth of the various health organizations recommended level of sodium instead.

4. Carefully consider how to purify water. I took the easy route and just used sterilization tablets. No more than one per bottle. But everyone we encountered used filter systems instead. When I eventually got home, I pulled up the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on the chemical used. I normally read these MSDS documents when I was working in health and safety, and we wanted to know how to deal with hazardous liquids. The water sterilization tablets had an extensive 11-page MSDS. Much longer than the ones telling us how to interact with cleaning agents. They all had warnings about overingestion. Going the filter route next time.

5. Lay out all your clothing for the morning in your dry bag. I thought I did this, but I needed to include making sure my technical shirt was not inside out and leaving the tags on, so I knew how to tell my technical shirt was backwards. Walking outside of your tent like this causes issues. I know that all hikers help one another when the need arises. Unless it looks particularly hilarious, then you are on your own.

A Stranger in a Strange Lotus Land

After retiring to Victoria, I felt like a stranger in a strange lotus land.

The great retirement began during the pandemic and continues. Incorporating new ideas and behaviours can wreak havoc on anyone’s existing living paradigm. But eventually, we all get accustomed to what we become accustomed.

My wife and I lived in Winnipeg for the past 45 years. I spent a few of my impressionable years in Victoria, so I dreamed of returning someday after retiring.

When the opportunity came, we managed to uproot ourselves and buy a place just outside Victoria.

When you only vacation here, you fail to notice the substantial legislative, bylaw and behavioural differences from your own hometown. We notice the differences now that we live here full time.

Yellow curbs designate no-parking areas. There might be the occasional no-parking sign, but you must remember to look down and not up. In Winnipeg, you need no-parking signs. The curbs remain constantly covered. Sometimes it’s snow, other times it’s floodwaters. 

In Victoria, the wildlife saunters around adorably. The Bambi-sized deer seem half the size of a Winnipeg urban deer. Even the raccoons seem adorable. We see the occasional one on our morning and evening walks. Once a raccoon sees us, they generally show proper manners and slowly back into the bushes. If you see a Winnipeg raccoon, they attend to approach you more menacingly. I throw my wallet at it and back up into the bush to avoid any confrontation.

In Victoria, raccoon trapping requires a proper licence, and you can only relocate them within one kilometre. A Winnipeg raccoon would get home before I would.

Of course, the flowers in Victoria remain beyond comparison. We only arrived in late June, but the blossoms on the trees amazed us. We eagerly await the early spring when the initial flowers begin to bloom as early as February! This seems old hat and simply “the way things are” in Victoria. However, in Winnipeg, if I see flowers blooming outside in February, I remain in the house. I think of killer flowers like Day of the Triffids, or for the younger folks, Little Shop of Horrors. Both movies appear somewhat scary, but for completely different reasons.

Our Victoria house surprises us somewhat. The windows are only double paned. In Winnipeg the windows are triple paned. Only the patio screen doors are single paned in order to keep out the mosquitoes. Only the foolhardy use plastic screens. The non-risk takers use metal screens.

Our only complaint involves closet and storage space in our home. Our two puffy Canada Goose jackets, good to 40 below with the wind chill, take the space of up to eight normal Victoria winter jackets.

Needing only a small jacket, I make regular trips out to the market. The seafood counters engross me like rides at Disney World. I saw three people working behind this one fish counter of a store I frequent. You see the same number of people behind the red meat counter in Winnipeg.

I dreamt of coming back to Victoria to delve more deeply into the delectable range of seafood I saw here previously. The freshest sockeye salmon enticingly laid out on the ice. The tanks of Dungeness crabs complement the selection along with the rock fish. A bit of almond flour and sautéed in coconut oil became my favourite. I used to enjoy the ambiguous Basa fillets in Winnipeg. This tender type of whitefish always comes frozen. A bit of investigation revealed it to be a type of Vietnam catfish. I subsequently reverted to the pricier pickerel in Winnipeg.

The Dungeness crab established itself as a perennial favourite in Victoria. Apparently, a casual crabber told me that the best months to go crabbing would be the months with an ‘r’ in them. I told him that it must be great to be a pirate. You know, someone asks,

“Hey captain, going crabbing this summer?”

“You bet matey, ARRRgust is my favourite month.”

(This might be an old joke on the island, but since I spontaneously came up with it, I am claiming the trademark.)

Victoria recycles amazingly well. I know this by the size of the garbage bins only emptied every two weeks. I could fit a Victoria garbage and recycling bin into a single Winnipeg garbage bin which is still emptied once a week. As you can imagine, Winnipeg accesses a great deal of land outside the city limits, so space does not appear to be an issue.

Of course, the gardens remain our absolute favourite. People spend hours tending to the grass and flowers. This is understandable since you can see both during the entire year. In Winnipeg, both remain covered by snow for six months and the mosquitoes take up occupancy the other six months.

But in Victoria, bylaws provide that watering can only take place twice a week in order to ration water. In Winnipeg, we seem to spend most of our budget trying to get rid of water from the city and all of the farmers’ fields.

Retirement means not only embracing the major changes, but the little things as well. I can slowly feel the Victoria retirement ethos encompassing me. I am here to stay.

Gary G

Retirement Untethered: National Burnout Vacation; Can Retirement be Better?

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Clark Griswold:
Despite all the little problems it’s fun isn’t it?

Ellen:
No. But with every new day there’s fresh hope.

National Lampoon’s Vacation

 

Like many people, you may have gone on vacation, or perhaps you plan to go on vacation.  So, what constitutes a vacation? And would retirement be one extended vacation? Webster’s defines vacation as a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation, a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended, a period of exemption from work granted to an employee, a respite or a time of respite from something.

So, did this actually happen? Did you totally go off the grid for that period of time when you had a choice? Probability suggests you checked your email, perhaps late at night or first thing in the morning before the family woke. A little quality time with your iPad perhaps.

 

Why do people go on vacation? Chance of pace? To get away from it all? Family pressure? To de-stress? Perhaps test what retirement might feel like?

 

Perhaps you hope that this de-stress hormone lasts for at least as long as the vacation itself. Or that you can you store the de-stress hormone up as easily as the extra weight you may have put on from the extra consumption of alcohol, fats, carbohydrates that you would have otherwise avoided.

 

In a 2018 American Psychological Association survey of more than 1500 US workers, two-thirds of the respondents said that the mental benefits of vacation disappeared within a few days. So the vacation calmness disappears far before the weight loss does.

 

The reasons for increased après-vacation stress can be obvious. The workload undoubtedly accumulated in your absence, things moved on during your gallivanting. Now you must move double time to catch up and all of that stress filled time you spent before the vacation appears not to have been enough to keep you ahead.

 

If you feel stressed before the vacation, and even more stressed after the vacation, then one starts to wonder about the efficacy of going on vacation in the first place.

 

This becomes a good time to talk about burnout. In the 2015 edition of Acta Psychopathologica, work-related stress occurs when the demands of the work environment exceed the employees’ ability to cope. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5 states that disorders precipitated by specific stressful and potentially traumatic events in the workplaces are included in a new diagnostic category, “Trauma and Stress-related Disorders”. Mind you, this abstract was dealing with the police in Italy.

 

If you sprain your ankle playing tennis for the first time since forever during your vacation, you likely know RICE, rest ice, compression and elevation. The same RICE can identify burnout with Regret, Inefficacy, Cynicism and Exhaustion.
Over 40% of California lawyers would do something different if they had to do it over again. This constitutes a high level of regret. Lack of actualization can lead to a feeling of inefficacy, and difficult as it may seem, burnout indicates even higher levels of cynicism that what you normally have. Exhaustion likely originated during articling and never dissipated.

A number of firms insist upon employees taking vacation. The firm’s rationale could range from an actual concern for employee health or for the ever expanding health benefit costs. If an employee leaves as a result of stress, there comes the extensive cost of locating, rehiring and training new staff. Far better to maintain the mental health of the existing staff.

In addition to vacations, employers should be considering breaks during the work cycle. Standing up and getting that wilted salad to eat in front of the computer does not cut it. An employee requires greater dedicated time to mental breaks along with physical activity on a regular basis. The same APA study found that staff became far more productive and content with their position when employers cared about employee’s mental health.

 

 

#retirement

 

Retirement Untethered: Devil’s Playground

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After travelling out of the country, we self-isolated. This is sort of like retirement. Twice the husband and half the income. So of course I organized the pantry.

An idle mind is the devil’s play ground. I thought about organizing items according to ability to open them. Perhaps cardboard on one level, bags on another and cans on a different another. Using mind-mapping, I decided on three levels. The first level would be food regardless of packing material. Salmon and pasta. The next level would be stuff you put on food. Tomato sauces, panko crumbs. The top level would be stuff you put on food, but probably shouldn’t. Things like syrup and jams.

Fortunately, my wife only laughed. Retirement looks positive!

 

Retirement Untethered: Practice

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I had a good chance to see what retirement might look like when we were sequestered for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Covid-19 requires serious action. But, admittedly, there are the occasional lighter aspects.

After a British Columbia board meeting, my wife and I decided to fly over to Phoenix to see some friends just for a few days. Of course, after we arrived then the talk about shutting the border came up, so he headed home. I’ve always used the hand sanitizers at airports, but now they seem to be set at jumbo ejection discharge. I struggled to wipe it all over my hands. With all the foam still covering my palms and back of my hands, I felt I couldn’t walk away from the hand station since I am sure everyone would be askance as  to whether foaming at the cuticles was a new symptom. I resorted to cleaning up to my elbows.

 

 

Retirement Untethered: The first step

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1.  Alice in Wonderland

Time to be existential

 

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” – Mark Twain

 

If you just recently came back from your vacation, you likely addressed the greatest of all existential questions. When can I retire?

 

Not that we all hate work, but some of us long for something more. Or perhaps just something different.

 

But what does retirement mean? Is this simply stopping work? Most of us stop work while we sleep. Some of us may dream of work, but that requires greater psychotherapy than what we have time for right now.

 

Retirement becomes a transition from one phase to another phase of life. Some consider retirement a transition into leisure, which requires its own definition.

 

Robert Stebbins, a sociologist, wrote a number of books including The Idea of Leisure, First Principles. He describes leisure as an uncoerced, contextually framed activity engaged in during free time, which people want to do and, using their abilities and resources, actually do in either a satisfying or a fulfilling way. Although this seems to suck all of the fun out of it, He suggests taking four different ways to achieve this type of leisure.

 

Firstly, a person requires a good balance of activities. Constant leisure may be a difficult thing to achieve. One must include any number of things one does not want to do. Call them duties.

 

Secondly, leisure also requires positive continuous improvement. Sitting on a beach with an unending supply of tiny umbrella drinks sounds pleasant, and it likely could be for the first hour. Or two. But he suggests continuously improving oneself, even though this sounds exhausting

 

Thirdly and fourthly, he suggests positive relationships and positive interaction with the community. We are better overall interacting with the rest of society. After all, we are all in this together, and no one is getting out of here alive anyway.

 

Retirement then involves leisure hopefully, but it involves much more.

 

 

 

 

Retirement Untethered: Crisis nudge

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That’s still a long list

 

Never let a good crisis go to waste.
—Winston Churchill

Churchill recognized the basis of good change management. If you needed to get something done but couldn’t under normal circumstances, then a good old-fashioned crisis usually allows you to get the changes you want.

 

Following a new path requires some serious change management thinking. Setting some small achievable goals, getting some quick wins, obtaining buy in from the top amongst others. Getting buy in usually means your significant other. But having a bit of urgency always helps the change management process.

 

Nearing, or entering retirement the sense of urgency should become more apparent. The ride of your life is starting to enter the end game, so it’s time to up your game for what is ahead. This is not the end of times, but you can start to see it from here.

 

That seems a bit morbid, but the time to change what your future might look like begins now. Now is the time to seize what the future can actually look like.

 

 

 

#retirement #motivation #inspiration

Retirement Untethered: List#10 The future

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10. Envision the future since shit happens when you are busy making other plans. Trying to maximize your happiness/contentment/bliss (HCB) requires planning. Although enlightenment requires serendipity, all other forms of actualization can require a bit of planning. You should not expect that going off to the deck with a cup of coffee and the morning paper is going to maximize your HCB. Maximizing your mini umbrella collection will not cut it after a while.

 

#retirement #motivation

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