One of the extreme early retirement questions I can’t answer personally is what to spend all that time on. I’ve only been out of the career race for 2+ years. That’s not a lot of time, so I haven’t had a good answer for this question other than a bunch of plans and intentions. However, here’s a guest post from AspiringYogini who retired at 36 following the principles of YMOYL and who has been financially independent for 10 years by now.

It took me 10 years of working and I have been financially independent for 10 years last month (I retired at 36 years of age).

For the first six months after I “retired”, I traveled in my car with one of my dogs all along the eastern US. I spent several months visiting with friends and relatives in South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Maine and then spent some time in Nova Scotia. I spent time being a nanny to my two young cousins and worked as a cook to make ahead a whole freezer full of meals for my aunt who is always on a diet and needs portions allotments to stay on track. I returned to Florida where I live because it was getting cold and because I wanted to start attending a master gardener course that was being held near my house in January.

Once home, I met a whole group of wonderful people who were as crazy about growing plants as I was. These master gardeners are still to this day great sources of information, plants and inspiration and we all have a wonderful time together. Many were retired like me, but some actually ran farms and small enterprises. There is much to be learned from commercial growers that you can tweak for the home garden or self-sufficient farm.

One year after I retired my DH and I started hosting foreign exchange students. Most of our students have been from Europe and more from Germany than anywhere else. We remain quite close to several of these kids and really enjoy hearing about what they are doing with their lives as they go off to finish school or go to work. At the time I first started hosting kids, I did find some part-time work (usually 2-3 half days each week) where I earned more money that what I needed to live on. Since I already had an income stream, I just added money I made to my investments. To me, the hours were so little that it didn’t seem like it was really serious employment, and this made it fun.

I studied for 3 years to become a homeopath. I did this part-time in Florida and traded for my lodging in a city 2 hours away and the tuition was cheap compared to “higher education”. I decided that I really didn’t want to enter this profession and just used homeopathy to treat family and friends as well as dogs, cats and ducks living with us.

I also went back to the university and spent 3 years working part-time to get a Masters in Public Health. I enjoyed doing this while still keeping up with my part-time work, my garden, my family and our students visiting from abroad. Taking only 2 courses each semester makes it very affordable and I believe I absorbed more information than if I would have been a traditional, full-time student. During this time (and as part of my field work) I spent several months in Costa Rica studying the health care system and researching nutrition and farmers’ markets in CR with a group of anthropologists. Using anthropology as a filter for understanding the health professions was extremely enlightening to me. Also, learning how little people lived on in an “advanced” developing nation was very humbling and made me think that I took too many years working to get to retirement. There the cost of living is much lower and people have much smaller homes, often no car and extended families live, work and share resources much like I and other ERE enthusiasts do.

For the last two years I have been teaching introductory public health courses at a local college. At first I taught several at one of the local campuses, but then started teaching some online courses. These courses have become more popular so that for the last 3 semesters I have taught entirely online. I enjoy interacting with students online and would like to develop a few new courses in the area of global health. I work at doing this an average of 2 hours daily and then I get breaks which allow me to travel back to Central America. Because the worse times for me in my garden are December, January, June and July, these are the months that I do volunteer work in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. There are lots of opportunities to do this and the costs are not great if you do the research yourself rather than paying big bucks to an organization.

Here is more detail about how my days (on an average at home day) go by now:

Taking courses in Spanish or studying Spanish 2 hours
Working in my garden or working with the animals 2 hours
Cooking, preparing meals, house chores, shopping 2 hours
Reading (I read 2-4 books each week) 2 hours Exercising (yoga, dance, walking, biking) 2 hours
Schoolwork online (live courses at least double this) 2 hours
Time with husband, family or friends 3 hours Sleeping, bathing, eating, & internet 9 hours

I also tutor at a local girls’ camp one day each week helping prepare kids for the GED (or high school equivalence exam). The girls I work with have been in the foster care system or have been convicted of crimes or both and they live in the woods. I go to belly dancing once weekly with a group of women. There I am in the middle of the group (I’m 46) with some as old as 86 and some in their 20’s. Also my husband and I attend ballroom dancing one night each week for 2-3 hours where we have a nice group of friends. We bike on the weekends and take a linear trail (old railroad track) to several small towns where we can do some grocery shopping or eat a rare meal at a restaurant.

I spend very little time worrying about money anymore. I followed YMOYL as a single gal to become FI and figured I needed $24K/yr and had at least $500K and a paid off house at that time. However, marriage did change some things and I am lucky to be married to a frugal guy who still enjoys working (and will be FI in 4 years). I used some of my stash to buy another home (different city) and contributed my income from rent on my first home but I never needed the originally planned $24K/yr since we can both live here for that much even in lean years (so effectively I live off of $12K which happens to be what I make as a part-time instructor now). I haven’t needed to live off of my investments and so I reinvest all dividends and still contribute to a Roth IRA every year.

I live and work at a leisurely pace which gives me the peace that I didn’t have before FI. If my part-time work went away, I wouldn’t have a problem getting by. I look forward to planning some travel with my DH (in an RV!) when he retires (with a pension) in 4 years.