Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
I’ve decided to retire early. At the ripe age of 34, with only 2 days until my next birthday, I have defiantly reset the retirement age from 65 to 35. It feels good.
Though I have found some gray hairs recently, I don’t have nearly enough to qualify to live in Hawaiian Beaches on the coast of Big Island, Hawaii. Most of the people who are my neighbors are retired, just wanting an affordable way to live in Hawaii near the ocean. Each day, I wake up sipping Ka’u coffee after carefully grinding the beans and pressing the magical elixir in my french press. The whistle of my tea pot signals the beginning of this ritual which celebrates my slow mornings. No more rushing through the streets of NYC with a fast cup of Joe that I spill on the subway. Instead, I stare at the waves from my front lanai and whisper sweet nothings to my coffee.
So how did this happen? A 35 year old guy living the good life in Hawaii? No, I wasn’t one of the original founders of Facebook or Google. I didn’t sell some weird little company to them for an obscene amount of money. I have no trust fund. What happened is that I have built up a successful private practice as a Healer over the past 8 years. Many of my clients now work with me by phone or travel to Hawaii for a personal healing retreat. In short, I offer my clients a piece of what I have found in my own life.
By saying I’m retiring early, I don’t mean to make it sound as if I have stopped working all together. Nor do I think everybody stops working when they retire. I remember visiting a friend’s grandparents in Wisconsin a few years back. We stayed in a custom made, spacious house on several acres of forest and farmland. Vibrant and busy, the two retired school teachers watched the grand kids, tended to a ¼ acre vegetable garden, cleaned house, made lunch, and clipped trees that were part of a forestry stewardship program. I was winded just trying to keep up with these retirees.
While the grandpa drove me out in his all terrain vehicle to survey his land, I asked him, “How do you like retirement?” He shared, “I like it just fine. In fact, some days, I am busier than when I was working full time as a teacher and raising kids.” I laughed and asked him, “what good is being retired if you are still so busy?” He replied, “The difference is that I get to choose what I do each day. Nobody tells me what to do anymore. If I don’t feel like picking vegetables, then I don’t. That pure liberty is what retirement is all about for me.”
That conversation has floated through my mind often over the past few years. Who decided 65 was the magic year of retirement? Social Security? I wasn’t going to wait to be independently wealthy to live the life I have always dreamed of living. And I wasn’t waiting until I was 65 years either. So 8 years ago, I started my new career as a traveling Healer. People began inviting me to come to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Fe, and later, Hawaii, to come share the intuitive healing work that made me a trusted name among my clients. Armed with a massage table, psychic sight, soothing hands, and a sense of humor, I worked on doctors, lawyers, teachers, mothers, and celebrities. It too work, a lot of work. But it was fun. It was my heartfelt choice. My desire to travel met my passion for sharing the inspiring work of an uncanny form of self discovery. My life would never be the same.
7 Years ago, I quit my day job at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as a Research Associate, forfeiting my plans to go to med school. At the time I was deathly afraid to tell my family that I was no longer going to be a doctor. After all, I was the pride of the family and they had high hopes for me. They got over it. Many of them still ask me “what do you for a living again?”
4 Years ago, I had to face my fears of leaving NY, an experience that felt like I was pulling myself off a spiderweb. My whole life was there. So many of my friends and family were there. NY comforted me because it brought the world to me. Even with so many cultures and new ideas at my fingertips, Something inside of me needed to go and meet the world in new ways. I still miss NY pizza. I’m still glad that I never moved back.
2 Years ago I moved to Oahu, which lead to an even slower pace of life on Big Island, Hawaii. I still travel to major cities to work with people and teach, but it’s at a much more liveable pace than my when I started the foundation of my practice in my 20′s. The mix of city stimulus when traveling with the slow nurture of nature suits me well. I like falling off the map when the job is done, only to get the itch to travel again.
3 hours ago, I saw a long time client in my new home office. So many clients have shared on the phone that they could hear the ocean in the background. She was the first one to experience the fresh cut tropical flowers and ocean waves in-person. New tones of teal, browns, and hardwoods created a fresh, soothing décor to the healing room. The new colors signaled a new chapter in my life. Before the session, my client walked by the ocean to clear her head. It helped her slow down enough to recognize the new chapter in her own life. It meant letting go of the old ways of worry and dread. It meant embracing that she was in a new place, a place worth celebrating. At the end of the session, her genuinely smiling face showed that she was ready for her dreams to come true. Sharing my wisdom and inspiration had helped her to find encouragement and renewed courage in her own choices. Helping her brought me immense joy. When you are living the life you truly want, that’s pure liberty. That’s early retirement. Join the movement.
An hour ago, I paid my bills online, then took a nap in the middle of the day. The early bird special is looking really good at the local Hawaiian eatery. I guess I really am retired after all. Hungry?
Please send your friend requests to G. Kamana Hunter FaceBook page http://www.facebook.com/people/G-Kamana-Hunter/669812856 and join me for a Hawaiian early bird dinner sometime.
More stories to read about travel, transformation and early retirement at WeSaidGoTravel!
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April 25, 2012 | 4:17 pm
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Hello friends and family,
I have arrived in Kandahar, after a long week in Kabul. The military base called KAF that I am on is huge, like a mini-city. There are approximately 35,000 people here. It is quite dusty and loud because of all the aircraft that come and go all day and throughout the night. I haven’t moved into my room yet, but I should in a few days. As for now I am staying in a barrack style housing, that I am sharing with one other guy. I have a couple of days of orientation, meeting people I will be working with, then I start my job.
I am on a Mobile Outreach Support Team which means I will be traveling around the province supporting and advising the District Support Teams (DSTs) with any projects they are implementing. The projects include working with the local Mayors, Governors, Ministry Officials and tribal elders to set up Rule of Law & Governance, helping to establish the justice and court system (maybe law school after this?), Health, Education, Infrastructure and Agriculture and Economic Development, helping farmers put value added on their products and getting them to market or for export. I am also integrating myself with the military, I admire their structure and discipline, I think it helps me. I work long hours, 7 days a week 10 hour days, except Fridays are a half day. I’ve already been told to start planning my first Regional Rest Break for the end of May, I am looking forward to it.
The base is also known as Camp Cupcake because of all amenities it has. There is an area to hangout at called the Boardwalk, it’s got TGI Fridays, KFC and other places to eat as well as other shops to buy just about anything you want. The Boardwalk is made of wood, raised and covered, it does feel like you’re at the beach, well almost. It circles a soccer field, beach volleyball courts and an outdoor hockey ring for the Canadians. This is a NATO base, so there are troops from many countries here. I hear every Saturday there is a bazaar where we can buy local goods and crafts. The base is dry, which my liver will appreciate, although I have had a couple of nonalcoholic beers at some of the restaurants.
More information and news at www.wesaidgotravel.com
April 18, 2012 | 9:59 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
I blame my wanderlust on my first love—my grandfather. He was the one that got me hooked on National Geographic by having a full magazine collection in his basement that I’d pour over every summer vacation, launching a full-blown childhood dream of becoming a travel writer. And then my parents clinched it by allowing me to tag along with them to Europe when I was an impressionable ten years old, and I’ve never been the same since…nor have I wanted to be.
For the next two decades after that first taste of international travel, I’d aimlessly create lists of countries that I just knew I’d visit as soon as I became a jet setting grown up. But I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that this list sadly gathered dust in my drawer as life’s realities—college, career, relationships—took first priority. Sure, there was that brief study-abroad stint in Buenos Aires, and the occasional tropical vacation. But when it came to becoming a bestselling travel writer, I filed that dream away on a shelf.
I did hold true to my roots though and studied non-fiction creative prose at Penn (class of ’04) and pursued a career in magazine journalism, and at one point I thought I was getting closer to my goal when I landed a job at a national travel magazine in New York. Score! Now I’d get my chance to sip cocktails with foreign correspondents and interview mysterious sources in exotic locales—not. As I reported from my desk about African safaris and the Great Pyramids of Giza without ever checking off either item from my bucket list, I felt empty inside, and worse…like a fraud.
That did it. I handed in my articles to my editor, pulled out my dusty list of countries back home, and started scheming about how I could take a year off to experience the same adventures that I only wrote about. I adopted a budget for the first time in my life, found a roommate, and scrimped and saved for more than a year until I stumbled across a simple but brilliant way to travel. It’s a form of voluntourism called work exchange, which trades the sweat of your brow—rather than the money from your pocketbook—for room and board with locals abroad. Wait…that meant that my trip suddenly got cheaper! So I immediately bought a one-way ticket to Sierra Leone via Morocco, gave notice at my travel magazine, let my adorable apartment go, and stuffed all my goods in storage. There was no turning back now.
Starting on January 1, 2011, I took my first step off a plane and into a solo round-the-world adventure that included 19 countries on six continents. My work exchange led me to teach HIV/AIDS orphans in Kenya, become a desert guide with the Bedouin tribe in Jordan, teach English to Tibetan Buddhist nuns in Nepal, mend fences on an aboriginal cattle station in Australia, shuck oysters on a black-pearl farm in French Polynesia, save baby sea turtles in Guatemala, teach music to Roma (gypsy) children in Romania, and herd a thousand sheep as a nomadic shepherd in Austria. Oh, and I can now finally say that I’ve been on an African safari and have also stood in the shadow of pyramids…
I returned to the States just a few months ago on January 1, 2012—exactly one year after I left—and I’ve been trying to find the right words to describe my last year to friends and loved ones. “Life changing” seems too anticlimactic. When I look up other superlatives in the thesaurus, I get more of the same. All I can say is that you need to throw caution to the wind and launch your own grand adventure to understand the inspiring journey that I experienced.
Oh, and what about my dream of becoming a bestselling travel writer? Well, now that I’m represented by a bona fide literary agent, I can say that my prospects are definitely looking up for the first time in my career.