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Old 08-30-17, 09:41 AM   #1
alias5000
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The work-life-cycle balance - how to find time for touring?

Hello everyone!
This is not a 'I have a problem, get me the solution'-thread. I'm hoping for your perspectives on this.

Man, I catch myself regularly waking up with dreams about starting a more serious tour. For me, that's 1-2 weeks to familiarize and then later realize my current dream of touring through the Rockies of British Columbia into Yukon and Alaska.

But then: I have a job (PhD'ing, busy, but at least short-term flexible), the need to rest from the job, and I have a life off the bike. Most of the time, I run out of time, after "work-life-." (...cycle is missing, at least the touring part of it).
This week, I could have gone for a 1 week tour I wanted to do for a while (my pride says: go to town XYZ, ~700km away), but it would have been pushing it, and I dearly need rest rather than planning. I will likely end up with a shorter spontaneous weekend thing, but that's something I do regularly.

In short: for short tours, I usually get caught in the need to plan the heck out of it, because the flexibility is so little - which kills the fun of it and collides with my need to get rest from work quietly in bed 24/7 or look after everything else in life (GF, household, friends, family, neglected house work,...).
For long tours, I don't know how to coordinate it with my job. Any option of running away for 1-3 months extra to already maxed vacation results in undesirable job related consequences. Current vacation is mostly spent on visiting both families, that both live thousand's of kilometers away. When do you guys do your long tours in your life?

A dreaming alias5000.
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Old 08-30-17, 09:44 AM   #2
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Try not get decrepit and live long enough to retire, with a pension.
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Old 08-30-17, 09:53 AM   #3
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I presume either when I've got a bit of vacation banked up, when I retire, or when I hit the lottery. Maybe if I ever have a gap between changing jobs.

I've been content with week long tours until then. I'd love to do a month or longer one someday, but like you it simply isn't in the cards right now. It isn't too difficult to take a week off, and have a good time, even if you have to add in travel time. There is no need to intricately plan it, even after intricately planning I generally toss out the plan after the first two hours on the road and play it by ear. No need to make it stressful, just go out and do it. If you really can't keep from stressing, maybe try an organized tour, where you routes, stops, and meals are already taken care of.

Can't speak to the rest of your off-work balances, though, those only you can juggle. Mine are working because the fiancee enjoys cycling as well, so I can sell her on bike trips.
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Old 08-30-17, 11:54 AM   #4
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You write PhDing. Typically better to invest your time into getting published.

Once your position will have been secured, you should have progressively more and more time that can be spent wherever. Maybe not 100% free, but location free.

And Fiestbob has a point. In the meantime, keep dreaming
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Old 08-30-17, 12:24 PM   #5
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I have been fortunate to have taken six long tours in the past 25 years including my current trip in progress from Alaska to Argentina. I believe what has helped is (1) being single - so no one else to coordinate (2) priorities and making tradeoffs to enable long tours and (3) some fortunate luck with companies and bosses I have worked with.

Back in 1992, I got a six-week vacation that I used to make a short intense cross-country trip from Astoria Oregon to Portland Maine. I was younger then and made some long high-mileage days and it was a wonderful trip.

A few months after my return, our group at work was shut down when work was consolidated into different geographical areas. We were assured there were other jobs available, though it was still a disruption as well as some uncertainty before things sorted out. In the middle of that time, I couldn't help but think back to my ride and think, "you can take my job and sense of self-worth I have attached to it - but you can't ever take away those experiences I had on my ride this past summer". I vowed to myself to take another trip in five years - since if the company could disrupt things, so could I.

Five years later, in 1997, I took my second big trip. This one was for three months and across Canada. I had approached the idea with my bosses at least 18 months before and they were supportive both of taking a long unpaid leave and also of using it as a chance to do a "rotation" from our offices in MA to the headquarters area in San Jose. Another great trip.

Three months after I finished the trip, the company shut down the MA offices. My rotation had become a one-way trip and I was now in CA instead. It was the dot-com era and I was in tech so it was an interesting place and time. However, I had a second reminder that you need to take these chances while you can (and for me while I am younger) so I vowed to work towards another long trip down the road.

In 2001, I took that next big trip. This time it was for a year leave of absence, the longest the company would allow. I again worked with my bosses more than a year in advance. I seemingly made some job tradeoffs... For example, I was told I would be the top candidate to lead our department of 45 people and would I postpone the trip to do this? I asked for an overnight and after some hard thinking declined but indicated I would do what I could to help the company. They came back and decided to offer me the position anyway - even though they knew I had plans for a leave ten months later.

The 2001 trip was around Australia and a few other places. By now the pattern was set and had a rough idea to take another big trip "in five years", though I wasn't quite sure where I would ride. I approached my work in this fashion and when I had career discussions I would both mention my gratitude at having taken previous leaves as well as a long-term indefinite idea that I might do this again.

As the time approached, I took another leave in 2007. This time for 10 months and a chance to ride across Europe and Asia.

In 2009 after 23 years with the company, I left and went to work elsewhere. I was fortunate to again land with a company with a reasonable personal leave policy as well as to find bosses where we had a lot of mutual respect. They were supportive when I asked for a six-month leave for a 2013 trip across Africa. By now the pattern had been set of working hard for four or five years and then taking a more extended leave.

In June 2016, I started my current trip. For the first time, I did this by quitting my job rather than taking leave. This was mostly because my expected 18-month time frame was longer than made sense for either myself or the company. I did everything I could to leave things in good order and will now see in a few months where I land again for work. I'll check first with the company I worked for last and otherwise follow other leads.

Have I made some priority choices to enable my touring? Sure. For example, I made sure to live below my means so that I can save enough for those travel periods when I am not earning money. I made some choices at work that enabled my touring. As an example, if I had wanted to climb higher up the organizational ladder to manage increasingly large and complex organizations - then these career interruptions would not have helped. However, I've also realized that middle-management is a different career choice and one I am not as passionate about as working with smaller groups and close to the technical problems. I've also kept some other parts of my life simple in not accumulating too many possessions, not owning an automobile since 2001 and buying less house than I can afford.

I've also been fortunate in the bosses and companies I have worked. In particular, being able to establish a reputation as a valuable employee while also having them willing to work to enable me to take some extended leaves and then return to the same organization. It wasn't necessarily to the same position, but that is also good because it gives a chance to learn new areas and people and put in a lot of energy.

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Old 08-30-17, 12:37 PM   #6
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I figure if I can retire healthy enough, I might get some longer tours in. As it is, a week here and there and weekend trips are the best I can do. Mostly I attach my "tours" on to other events. For a few years, I vacationed with friends and family on the coast, and I would start my vacation 3 or 4 days early and bike there. Twice yearly there's a music festival that I bike to. It's only a day there and a day back, but I have left a day or two early and taken a more indirect route. I camp with the same group of people at the same campground every year, and I've been working a bike trip into that as well. Sometimes I fly in west of camp and bike in. This year I flew in north of camp, biked in, and biked for another week after until I got to the train station where I got my ride home.

With a full-time job, it can be tricky. With a significant other who does not tour, it can be tricky, too. Fortunately my wife does like to bike, just not camp, so next month we will take a multi-day bike trip while staying at hotels or B&Bs. Also fortunately for me, my wife has been at her job much less time than I have been at mine, so I have more vacation time available. Even so, she's not thrilled if I'm gone for more than a week. Don't know what that means for a really long tour. I guess when I'm retired I can perhaps do a cross country trip in stages, 3 or 4 weeks at a time. You don't quite get into the leisurely, I'll-get-there-when-I-get-there attitude when traveling shorter trips, which is unfortunate, but the alternative is to not have a job, or relationships that keep me centered in one place. Not things I'm willing to give up.
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Old 08-30-17, 12:43 PM   #7
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When do you guys do your long tours in your life?
i dont.



Job, household obligations, 1st and 5th graders, wife...all that means no long tours for me.
I do a 1 week 'tour' thats a big traveling circus across my state each year, RAGBRAI. If I didnt do that, i could dedicate the week to a new tour location each year.
Being one who has a decent amount of personal time off from work(not like teachers in the summer, but decent), I still find the rest of my time is taken up with a big family vacation, then random days here and there thru the year.

As a result, I do a lot of 2-4 day trips either alone, with a friend, or with my family/a kid. Weekend or extended weekend trips a few times a year scratch the itch enough for now.


Long extended tours arent in the cards for many people due to chosen priorities and obligations. Its like bicycle commuting to work- not realistic for many due to priorities and obligations.




As for needing rest...aint no rest for the wicked.
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Old 08-30-17, 12:56 PM   #8
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They were supportive when I asked for a six-month leave for a 2013 trip across Africa.
Total in-thread tangent- what was your route and what do you remember most?
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Old 08-30-17, 12:57 PM   #9
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PhD'ing
That was really the only time I have ever had for extensive bike touring. Enjoy it while it lasts.
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Old 08-30-17, 01:00 PM   #10
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It's fun if that's what you really like. The next town is good enough for me.
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Old 08-30-17, 01:14 PM   #11
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I would be one of those who says don't wait until everything is perfect for doing a tour because chances are, that time will never really come. You may finish school and then getting a career will be priority. Then a house with the attendant increased debt. Oops, someone just got pregnant.. and another etc... If you (in a general sense, not you specifically) always focus on your outward responsibilities and do not see personal dreams/goals as one of them they probably won't happen. No one else will make them a priority.

I had the unfortunate yet teachable experience of having a father who always talked about what he was going to do one day.. when he retired. One day, one day. He would get me kinda excited by some of the prospects like buying an RV and traveling N.A. then he became ill for a number of years and died before retirement. It was a valuable lesson in not putting stuff off for the magical perfect moment. I currently work as a rehab asst. and see early onset Dementia, Parkinson's, Huntington's, MS etc... and am willing to bet not one of our residents said "that's what I want to do in retirement".

There are two ways (probably more) to approach the idea. One is to decide to do a bigger goal and set a date about 1 year or so in advance. Talk early with employers about taking all holidays, LOA's and even a sabbatical. If the job is good and you are good at conveying your need they will agree. I did this more than a year ago (talked to employer) giving them about 9 months lead time. It caused them to actually hire a casual replacement for my position (which they didn't have before) and worked out really well because I wound up doing an awareness campaign around my ride and the company got on board with it. Now I'm even heading up our new therapeutic cycling program and am asked often when I am doing another ride. People sometimes like to live vicariously through our dreams if we chase them because a lot of others don't.

That was something I learned last year as people kept trying to give me money. I had thought others would be reluctant to donate (as from my own perspective I am always budgeting) so I did not raise funds on my ride but so many people kept asking how they could give. It was an eye opener. They were actually eager and I think it was partly because it was a way they too could be involved in something more inspiring than the usual 9-5. Co workers read my blog out to residents and one even printed off the pages and made a huge map in the hallway where she pasted them and tracked my progress. We really don't know how others will react to our dreams once we start trying to put them into play in earnest.

If the company balks then you know that is a company you don't want to work for long term as they will not meet your needs in that area. Even an employment relationship is a two way street. If you have to make a change you can have a little faith (in whatever you believe) that you will land on your feet afterward. The courage for a bike tour sometimes comes into play before the tour even begins but I believe the universe gives us what we want if we want it bad enough and are willing to commit to making it happen. We just need to start planting flags and saying "damn it.. I'm doing this"!

The other option is to cut your big dream into smaller more achievable chunks. Sometimes doing something smaller now sets us up for something bigger down the road. I had done a number of smaller tours over the years and really wanted to do a cross Canada tour but couldn't swing the time/financess (three kids and a mortgage). I felt time running out so I finally did a western Canada tour instead. That worked out well and had the effect of getting my wife more on board as she saw the positive response surrounding the awareness campaign and that I would actually do the work needed to pull it off and not just talk.

Now the door is open for either the eastern half or a faster entire crossing. She even said she would follow me in a camper van if I did it as another campaign (we'll see about that!). To that end she just ok'd my buying an endurance bike more suitable to the purpose so I can work on my distance riding via randonneuring.

That's another point. If one cannot do the big thing now you can always do something that will lead towards it or improve your chances of success. Atm that is distance training for me as I want to try to do a faster/longer crossing next time but it could be learning how to wrench on ones bike effectively, accumulating the gear needed, becoming adept at just getting out and touring without fuss, learning a language/culture etc... Last spring/summer I did a whole thing with some other riders wherein I would drive out to the mountains and ride passes as training rides. One of those riders just did his first 200km ride in 8:55 last weekend so now he's kicking my butt!

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Old 08-30-17, 01:19 PM   #12
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Old 08-30-17, 01:36 PM   #13
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A Ph.D. is a job ticket (if you're in a good area, at least!). Finish that first.


Start with shorter tour(s). Plan with your gf to do a week with families, a week at Christmas, and the other week go touring. It's relaxing, at least mentally, and let's face it, there's not a lot of Ph.D.s in manual labor. Let that be your time off.


If you're not married or expecting when you've got the parchment, that might be a good time to take a few months off for a long tour. After you've got a spouse, potentially children, a mortgage, and a job, it'll be a while before you can take a lot of time away from all the above. (Teachers have more time off, but often less pay to carry them through the summer, especially when just starting a career.)


Touring with the last child to graduate college the summer after they finish has some benefits. Mortgage will be reduced or paid off, no more college bills to look forward to, and with luck you've accumulated some leave and spare cash.
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Old 08-30-17, 02:12 PM   #14
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for short tours, I usually get caught in the need to plan the heck out of it, because the flexibility is so little - which kills the fun of it
Only you can change that mindset. In my mid-30s I took two years off from the working world and ended up logging about 10K touring miles. Went back to work in 2001 and have been here every since. Side from long weekend trips, I only take 1 to 2 week tours, so I have to structure them. I don't mind one bit. Better than sitting at home dreaming about being out there.
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Old 08-30-17, 02:18 PM   #15
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6 weeks is the longest I've been on tour, with two four week trips, and several more 2 and 3 week trips. I've always had to fit it around work, and am now working 3 weeks on/off which gives a degree of freedom, but not as much as you'd think. Currently family issues and long deferred yard maintenance are keeping me close to home, for the next 8-12 months. My youngest daughter will be 18 in 18 months, my rough plan is to then quit my current job and do short term work, allowing long breaks where I can travel by bicycle to places I idly think about whilst browsing places like CGOAB.
There's no magic solution, something needs to give to fit travel into an otherwise normal life. If you travel when young, the chance to have a family or to buy a home may need to be deferred. Sometimes it's just a matter of making your choice, and (for big commitments) sticking with it, and planning what you'll do after.
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Old 08-30-17, 03:17 PM   #16
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And also realizing that taking a break in your life is not really that big of a deal. Considering that most will work from say 20 - 65 that's 45 years. Taking a month or two (or six) in between all those years isn't being particularly selfish or irresponsible. But.. if you allow it, people and circumstances will dictate that you can't even spare one week for yourself.

Not minimizing the reality of life but it can be a bit ego fulfilling to set oneself up in a way that everybody depends on your being there aka: "They can't do without me". Came as a bit of a shock that everyone did just fine when I was away
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Old 08-30-17, 03:55 PM   #17
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Total in-thread tangent- what was your route and what do you remember most?
Africa I did as a supported ride with TDA who took the following route:
After the TDA ride finished, I spent another six weeks cycling in the USA on a round-about route from Portland OR to Fort Collins, CO.

Other long trips I did self-supported.

Related to the topic at hand, there were ~50 riders doing the ride end-to-end including two Americans. There were more of other nationalities including more individually from Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, etc. I think the non-US skew reflected both different national assessments of the security situation (e.g. Egypt in the news) as well as somewhat different perspectives on taking such a trip (e.g. views of longer leaves from work).

Of the folks on the ride, it was biased slightly more towards those either in their late 20s or late 50s/early 60s and fewer in the 30s/40s. One had to have the right combination of time and money for this as a supported ride.

How did these mostly non-US folks get the time for a such a ride? A few had retired. Some quit their jobs. Some had a leave. Some were between positions - it was really a mix.

As far as what I most remembered - it was a combination of (1) the novelty/difference of some regions, e.g. Ethiopia or areas north of the equator (2) intensity/challenge of doing this as a supported ride (3) reactions of locals particularly children as we passed through areas.
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Old 08-30-17, 04:25 PM   #18
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2012: 2700 miles
2013: 1700 miles
2014: 5400 miles
2015: 8500 miles at age 42

How. I don't keep up with the Joneses. Don't even try. They can have their failed lifestyle. I don't play game where the end result is rigged against me.

Instead I remember why I moved to NH and not MA, VT or out west somewhere. If I don't have to spend the money...I don't have to make the money. So far this year, as of the end of July(after spending just over $1800 in july, $900 for property taxes), I've spend just under $3100 for the year. My target by the end of the year is to keep expenses, everything included under $4000, possibly even under $3700. Heck if I didn't my house and have generally 1300-1500 a year in expenses, between taxes, insurance and ele/heating I could travel the country year round and only spend around $2000 a year. Again, if you don't spend the money, you don't have to make the money. Start looking at the garbage you have in your house that you don't truly need. Cellphone(just 20 years ago hardly anyone had a cellphone), TV(haven't had one in my house since before the 2008 Summer Olympics), internet access(go free wifi), car(haven't had one since 2010 and I don't live in a city(shortest errand to run would be going to the library to get online...11 miles roundtrip). I cut my expenses by 50% the first year I gave up driving. Sure it made job less available, but then again I didn't need the same kind of job because I didn't have the same kind of expenses.

Right now is the proper time to do a trip. Anytime. I still remember the email my mom sent me a year or so ago. It was about my former childhood doctor. Quite literally, he retired and dropped over dead the next day, Don't wait until tomorrow to do what you can do today, tomorrow may never come.

One major thing to think about...

If your boss walk up to you tomorrow and told you from now on you had to work for free, would you continue to work there?

Less say you entire industry followed suit, would you continue to work in the same industry or would you change occupations altogether?

Do you really love the work...or do you love the money it provides?

Again...

if you don't spend the money, you don't have to make the money.

There so much crap in your life that you don't truly need, you want it. Get rid of it and give your life back to you and then you will have ample time for bike touring or anything else in life.
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Old 08-30-17, 04:48 PM   #19
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Read this blog.

I retired at age 40 and started a long-distance hiking and bike touring career. That's been twenty years now and the time has flown.
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Old 08-30-17, 05:25 PM   #20
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IN-MY-TWENTIES I hiked, traveled, and toured.
THEN I took 28 year sidetrack, raising kids & doing a career
GOT-BACK into touring in my mid-fifties --> added 17,550 touring miles to lifetime-total...so far.
NOW at 64 I'm looking forward to MORE touring & life-adventures.

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Old 08-30-17, 07:56 PM   #21
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Part of what I like about working is I'm contributing to making the world a better place. Sure, I work primarily for the money, but I want to do more in life than just travel. Touring is a nice break, and I hope someday to do some longer tours, but I like my career and working with others.
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Old 08-30-17, 09:42 PM   #22
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Part of what I like about working is I'm contributing to making the world a better place.

Any job which contributes to the overall economy makes the world a better place, be it washing cars, cooking burgers, or teaching physics. The secret to making the world a better place is simply to be as successful as you are capable of being. Your work benefits others from the goods and services you provide, and the money you earn and spend provides income to other workers.

When I moved to Japan I taught at university for a couple of years. In all of my life I have never had a less stressful job, or more free time. I wasn't as much interested in the work as I was the people I worked with, most of whom had a PhD, or were graduate students. Though I no longer teach, I still spend most of my social time with these people.

But I got married, had a child, and began running my own company. Between my wife, daughter, and business, I have precious little free time for anything. I have to squeeze rides in when I can, and long tours are hard to manage.

Next month I am going on a one-month tour, and I have had to move mountains in order to find the time. My wife is a banker, and works long hours, my daughter goes to an international school. I have to hire a nanny to pick her up and watch her until my wife comes home, I have to arrange for the flight, hotels, equipment, and other things. As my business has only a couple of employees (who will be on holiday in Europe while I am gone), I have to all but close up shop while I am gone, which causes a significant decrease in revenue. The cost of my tour will end up being more than what we spend on our annual family vacation.

When my daughter becomes older, and when my business gets to the point I can have others to run things for me, I should have more time to travel and tour.
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Old 08-30-17, 11:12 PM   #23
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If I didn't have a small child when I was "PhDing", I would have done many long tours at that time. Alas, raising an infant with both of us working and going to grad school without using any day-care meant that I was lucky to ride at all, and all of it was transportational in nature.

That said, the OP mentions traveling to relatives for vacations. Why not ride? Just before my child was conceived, we rode 1000 miles to my grand-parents' golden anniversary (and then continued on for another 2500 miles). My parents and in-laws only lived 100 miles away, but we often rode to their houses or to meet them on the coast. We also rode to visit my grandma and uncle (and then rode on to Yosemite, which was reasonably close). Touring as transportation can be just as fun as touring as an adventure, imo.

Also, when you're gone riding, there is no housework piling up since you're not making any messes. Okay, weeds, but they grow no matter if you're there or not.
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Old 08-31-17, 04:33 AM   #24
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This is precisely why I've "retired" twice already.

I "retired" in 2004 when I quit my job, gave up my apartment, sold/tossed/gave away about half my stuff and moved the rest into storage 2 provinces over. I then caught a plane to Australia with my bicycle and a few basic things and spent the next 3 months cycling around Australia with a friend.

When I returned from that trip, I started university and graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor of Education.

Rowan and I "retired" in 2012 when we quit our jobs, gave up our rental house, and put everything into storage. We then caught a plane to Hong Kong and began an 8-month trip around the world with our bicycles and a few basic things.

While we would like to get into the position of retiring and travelling one day, we know it doesn't always happen that way ... so we decided to get some good travelling in while we were still young enough to enjoy it.
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Old 08-31-17, 05:45 AM   #25
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Never....never ...tell yourself that you will fulfil all of your touring dreams when you will retire but until then will just carry on working.

It has been my experience that many of those who did so found that retirement brought some health problem that denied them their long-held dreams of cycle-touring and that brought much bitterness. So many of my friends have experienced this dreadful disappointment so I would urge everyone to make it happen and not delay it to a future time.
I was fortunate enough to work in education so each year would spend a couple on months in France on tour....now retired, in bad health and old I miss this terribly as it's an experience which is life-enhancing.
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