30 ways to avoid boredom in retirement (early or otherwise)

The reaction we often get from friends when talking about our goal to retire early is the question “won’t you be bored?” A frequent topic among folks pursuing early retirement is the why of early retirement. For us, the question is why not? We like nice things and expensive toys as much as the Joneses (maybe more–you already know our dirty car secret and have I told you yet how badly I want a boat?). But more than any of those things, I don’t want my lifestyle to chain me to a job. I’ve always enjoyed paid employment more when it feels like a choice, rather than an indefinite term of indentured servitude to keep the repo man away. When Mr. Vine and I realized how quickly we could pare down our expenses in 2008, we realized a previously unknown level of financial peace. Despite the fact that we could pay our bills and live an acceptable lifestyle, Mr. Vine went back to work when he was able. But it was our choice.

Folks who are losing weight sometimes say “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Our feelings on financial independence are similar. Nothing we can buy will give us as much long term satisfaction as the ability to escape the rat race. I realize we’ve come to that conclusion after living extravagantly for our first decade together, after completing our education, and after acquiring many trappings of success. It is tempting to look back and wish we’d made a bigger effort ten years ago, but then again those experiences informed today’s decisions. It’s easy to give up something we’ve already tried (more or less–we’ve bought enough stuff to know it’s not a formula for happiness). When the temptation to buy strikes, I always try to think about how it will affect our savings. Those little $10 decisions can add up.

That’s a roundabout way of saying: Mr. Vine and I want to keep our options open. Having a fully funded nest egg means we can continue working or retire early. At this point, we expect to retire early because why not? But, there’s no reason we have to give up our careers if we come up with a non-monetary why we want to continue.

Back to the initial question we are often asked: won’t you be bored? The funny thing is that “won’t you be bored” is not the response to someone who plans to retire at a traditional age, like 65. Why is that? Do we lose our capacity for boredom as we age? Or is it simply that we anticipate less years of life and therefore less time to exhaust our “bucket lists” and thus less boredom potential? That’s depressing! What are the odds of carefully predicting one’s death date and running out of interesting things to do on the exact same day? In reality, it seems like death frequently comes too soon. And when it doesn’t, poor health and old age might have deteriorated our quality of life to the point that death is a welcome end. The truth is that we all have a finite lifespan, but we don’t know where the end is. That’s the reason we want to fund our nest egg as soon as possible: to give us an optimal range of choices when our ability to fully enjoy ourselves has good odds.

The answer is no, we won’t be bored. First, because we believe boredom is a choice. Maybe it’s those long ago memories of mom putting us to work on summer vacation if we uttered the dreaded phrase “I’m bored.” Rather, boredom as a negative emotion is a choice.After working since our teenage years, the idea of boredom sounds vaguely appealing. I’d like to know what boredom, without any attached guilt for some uncompleted task actually feels like. I’ve enjoyed a couple of liminal periods where my responsibilities were low. Once, a few weeks during the summer before I started grad school. The second time during my first winter break of grad school. Those leisurely days of setting up holiday decorations or badly installing a couple of ceiling fans or sitting on the couch with my cat while reading a book were heavenly. I didn’t feel bored for a moment. Now those days serve as a sort of north star for early retirement.

Secondly, we don’t work for the specific purpose of entertaining ourselves or even as something to do to occupy our time. Every morning when I’m getting ready to head to the office, I have to shut off the list of all the things I could do if I stayed home. Instead, I turn the focus on the tasks to accomplish for my career that day. Early retirement will give us the luxury of indulging that other list, the list of all the things we could do if we no longer needed a regular paycheck to sustain our lifestyles. We do realize that full time work has a lot of nice benefits–like making us feel productive, social interaction, and occupying our time. But we’re preparing now to fill those needs in other ways.

Because of this knowledge, we continually curate a list of why we want to retire early. All of the ways we might fill our days when we’re no longer exchanging our time for money. Some might call this a bucket list. But I don’t like the connotation even if I do like the idea. The concept of a lifelong list of projects to inspire me and help give meaning to my days, like this list, is appealing. 

So here goes. You’ll notice that many of our goals are travel related. Even though we travel now, probably more than average, we have work schedules to accommodate and limited vacation time. A lot of the items on this list are things we do now, but want to do more, or more slowly. We aren’t deliberately putting anything off because we believe life is for living and today is all we have.

  1. Nomadic lifestyle in the US (mobile homebase like a van or a tent or a boat)
  2. Daily exercise
  3. Complete 10,000 steps every day
  4. Read 100 books a year
  5. Maintain a tidy and fresh living space
  6. More homemade bread
  7. More cooking in general!
  8. Enjoy the perfect weather days (whether that means cross country skiing in winter, or visiting the beach in the summer)
  9. Taking advantage of happy hour or lunch specials
  10. Free/cheap things to do that happen during business hours (e.g. a book reading at a local coffee shop)
  11. Retire our Monday through Friday wake up alarm
  12. Slow travel (spending a month in places where we now visit for a week, or a long weekend)
  13. Shop at the farmers market (and ride our bicycles to get there)
  14. Escape cold, dark Midwestern winters
  15. Drive to Alaska and spend a whole summer there
  16. Complete a visit to all 50 states (you can track our progress here)
  17. Spend a summer living on a boat
  18. Spend a year chasing the best beaches
  19. Spend a month in Paris
  20. Go on a world cruise
  21. Write every day
  22. Be full time cat parents
  23. Practice yoga every day
  24. Max out tourist visas in Mexico, Japan, and Europe
  25. While we’re there, get conversational in the language like Japanese or Spanish
  26. Stay in an overwater bungalow
  27. Complete visits to all 7 continents (we have yet to visit: Antarctica, Africa, Australia, and South America)
  28. Visit all the countries in Europe (you can track our country count here)
  29. Grow a proper patio garden
  30. Start a vlog to share our adventures


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *