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Bicycling around the country was a dream Jim and I shared. We asked ourselves, “Was now the time for us to realize our dream? Could we afford to retire and travel for an indeterminate amount of time by living with less?”
Jim and I were living in semi-rural Idaho in 2008 when our retirement nest egg was flushed away by the economic crash. Jobs were scarce – especially for us Baby Boomers in our early 60s – and, like millions of Americans, we faced a financial crisis.
Bicycling around the country was a dream Jim and I shared. We asked ourselves, “Was now the time for us to realize our dream? Could we afford to retire and travel for an indeterminate amount of time by living with less?” “Why not,” we answered. What did we have to lose?
In June 2010, we set out on a journey that would forever change our lives. Each laden with 50 pounds (23 kilograms) of camping gear and panniers, we pedaled across the country and down the East Coast. Together, we discovered that riding gave us a sense of freedom and intense joy. Our journey taught us how to live simply.
What we have since dubbed “our big adventure” encouraged us to make the leap to car-free living. Our travels showed us that urban areas, as opposed to the suburbs or rural environments, make it much easier to live without a car. With this in mind we decided to settle down in Denver, CO. Our new neighborhood provides easy access to bike routes that connect us to work, play, and health care facilities. We learned the importance of planning our routes in advance and making shopping lists to keep us focused on necessities. By riding for most trips we have discovered hidden parks and local shops that we surely would have missed by car.
It feels good to ride a bicycle. We enjoy using our muscles daily – important especially as we age. Bicycling helps us stay flexible, balanced, and energized. Jim and I sleep well and stay stronger and trimmer. Jim works at home and uses his bike for local errands and fitness rides. I stay fit and happy by commuting 18 miles (29 kilometers) round trip each day to my office job. As an unexpected bonus, young people are very impressed with us.
Without the burden of a car, we feel that our quality of life has been enhanced. The cost of maintaining our bicycles is nominal compared to owning a car. Now we can occasionally splurge on dinners, go out on dates, and attend cultural events. Living out of our panniers for more than a year on the road taught us that we could thrive on less of everything and still live comfortably.
We believe that it is never too late to introduce, or reintroduce, a bicycle into your life. Many seniors, including us at first, think that they could never adopt a car-free lifestyle. We suggest you try it because bicycling is fun and can revive the kid in you.
Sharon Guenther is a watercolor artist and writer and has penned and painted natural history subjects for more than 20 years. JimandSharonsbigadventure.com