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A New Life in 90 Days

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Creedence Clearwater Revival blasts Proud Mary in the background – that’s Internet radio for you, all music, anytime.

I pick each thing up, wondering if I still need it. A stapler? Probably not. Photos of my niece? Definitely. A file on integrated intergovernmental negotiation processes? No way!

And then there are the boxes I haven’t unpacked from my last job move in 2007. Sigh.

According to the esteemed Holmes and Rahe stress scale, retirement is a traumatic pivot in life, less traumatic than losing a family member or going through divorce but more traumatic than pregnancy or the death of a close friend (no way am I going to believe that, whatever the experts say).

Still, I feel I should worry.

No paycheque at the end of next month (the pension cheque is small enough to warrant little more than a raised eyebrow – and it’s not coming for at least four months, I’m told). No daily office routine and water cooler chitchat. No Friday leftovers in the cafeteria. And there’s that big elephant in the room: I’m now a senior citizen, bus discounts and all.

I prod and poke myself emotionally, looking for fear and anxiety, terror even. But no. Either it’s not there, or I’ve managed a layer of denial as thick as a cheesecake.

Instead of all that apprehension, I’m finding something I didn’t expect: anticipation.

I have plans and my future feels as wide open as that of a 20-year-old. First, I’m taking a major break for a month by leaving for Sri Lanka less than 36 hours after retirement. A radical break.

And when I come back my wish list has already taken on gargantuan proportions, littered with such items as ramping up certain all-too-dormant skills, finding writing work, finishing the renovation of my dilapidated farmhouse in France, writing a book about my days as a foreign correspondent, and yes, that one inevitable concession to retirement, trading in my car for a campervan.

Because when you live in the heart of Europe, have two dogs and write about travel, a self-contained pet-friendly hotel that moves from place to place starts to make sense.


These two lovely boys need a bit of room to move around

And because every major project deserves its own hashtag, here’s how I’m going to work it: #newlifein90days

Beginning now, I’m going take baby steps towards a new life. My journey will be both external and internal, because I need to chart the next few steps, think them through, and generally prepare for this new chunk of life I don’t have a script for yet. I might not follow the script, but like all good Taureans I need to have one.

WIFI permitting, each day for the next 90 days I’ll post a picture to Facebook with the hashtag #anewlifein90days, through which I’ll document how I’m fashioning this thing called retirement. I’m assuming that by the time three months have passed, I’ll have a relatively clear idea of my path (***silently crosses fingers***) so if you’re near retirement or wondering what it’s like, please follow along! My way probably won’t be your way but we can learn from one another.

Being optimistic about it all doesn’t mean I don’t have fears.

  • Money of course. The salary may stop but the mortgage doesn’t. So instead of waiting for abundance (hard, cold cash) to fall from the sky into my bank account each month, I’ll have to go out and find it. I’ve cut expenses significantly, I have no loans (beyond my house), and I need to lose weight anyway.
  • Health is my second big concern. I’ve suffered from high blood pressure and I can’t seem to lose the weight I need to (I find it impossibly hard to say NO to good food). My three weeks of ayurveda treatment in Sri Lanka could help kickstart this.
  • I’m a social person and accustomed to seeing many people on a daily basis. I wonder if I’ll become a crabby old lady typing away in my loft…
  • What happens to my brain if I don’t have everyday work exchanges? Will it shrivel up and disappear?
  • I’ve heard that if you withdraw from the world, your world starts to shrink – your vision narrows, your ambitions dwindle, your expectations diminish. Well, I have no intention of withdrawing. Much the contrary.

The anticipation, on the other hand, feels stronger than the fears. 

I’m becoming a full-time travel blogger and writer and will spend the bulk of my creativity on putting words together about the world. This is something I had to squeeze into my time off but no more. At least I can become a bit more prolific.

Of course there’s the travel itself, which I need in order to satisfy those crumbs of wanderlust I can’t seem to brush off my blouse. I need to travel almost as much as I need to eat so Patagonia, Central Asia, Ecuador, the Yukon, Norway, Finland, Namibia, Botswana, here I come. And why not Mexico, Cuba, the USA (the bit between the coasts), Poland, Turkey, Iran (if it doesn’t get embroiled in a religious war), Japan, the Philippines, Myanmar… never mind, just put every country in the world on this list. If I’ve been there, I’d like to return. If I haven’t, it’s time I went.

The truth is, I’m beyond excited.

Life has treated me with great generosity.

I’m immensely grateful for the loving and reinforcing upbringing which led me to jobs some people would pay to have, as a political journalist and foreign correspondent, as a public health and development aid practitioner, and even as an entrepreneur with my own communications firm for a while.

And I’m deeply appreciative of that most elusive yet valuable of gifts: the gift of choice. I may still have to earn a living but I can choose to write about issues near to my heart – the rights of women and girls, public health, human rights, the environment… and the world around me.

Of course I’m apprehensive! Facing the unknown does that. But I’m more excited than scared.

Who knows how I’ll feel 90 days from now but today, I’m good.

Extremely good.

#anewlifein90days – won’t you walk with me for a while?


  1. Christine on May 31, 2015 at 11:06 am

    Life is such a great adventure, and surely, it is even more fantastic when you spend it roaming the world, admiring it, tasting it with eyes, mouth, and feet…Money? Just a detail. It just comes when you ask the universe, and we need so little, really.
    If you want to exchange travel stories while scraping old plaster, sanding beams, or rediscovering your garden, we can’t be too far from each other. We too are remodeling my grandparent’s kitchen, installing old “carrelage”, sanding the staircase…Talk about inner travels…Now, that is an adventure!

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on June 6, 2015 at 5:17 pm

      I think my inner and outer travels are finally on a collision course… over the years I’ve changed so much because of travel and I’m on a new path now, trying to make sense of that change, and writing is a big part of that search. Where are you?? Definitely in the same country 🙂

  2. Sheila Archer on May 31, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Wishing you all the best!!!!!!!

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on June 6, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      Thank you Sheila – always a pleasure to read you on my blog!

  3. Ursula on June 2, 2015 at 9:40 am


    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, fears and challenges in this wonderful article. As a woman in nearly the same situation, I see a lot of points in common.

    Your writing is really inspiring. I love the fact that you stay optimistic and excited.
    Looking forward to walk with you on your #anewlifein90days

    All the best for the next 90 days and for the days afterwards,

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on June 6, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      So nice to hear that from you, Ursula! It’s all an exploration, isn’t it… 🙂

      • Ursula on June 6, 2015 at 5:23 pm

        Oh yes it is. I am really excited to follow your #anewlifein90days. If I look at your posts, I am quite convinced that you will feel wonderful after the first 90 days…:-)

  4. sutapa Basu on June 2, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    Of course, I will. No I am eager to join you actually. You write so evocatively, Leyla.

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on June 6, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      Thank you for such a lovely compliment, Sutapa!

  5. Luci on June 2, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Hi Leyla
    I’m Sri Lankan but left those shores as a baby. Am sure you’ll have a whale of a time. English is widely spoken and the welcome’s warm – all the very best to you and look forward to reading all about it.

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on June 6, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      Oh Luci, you are so right about the warm welcome, it’s such a wonderful part of my experience here so far!

  6. Roghi on June 2, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    I loved this post and thanks for sharing that , keep going dear friend.

  7. Maureen on June 2, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    I loved your blog and look forward to it every month.
    I retired 2 1/2 years ago. It is a shock that you don’t have a steady income, but after several months with living on social security you adjust to what you have and realize you don’t need much to live on.
    I also have a mortgage, but I put away money every month so I can take a months vacation every other year. I will going to India in sept (2016). If you have any info on where to stay in new Dehli?
    I think you will love retirement! I smile every morning and grateful for this time of my life. Life does get better and I appreciate it even more then in the past!

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on June 6, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      Oh yes, the shock to the system of a disappeared paycheque! I do have a modest pension but it won’t kick in for months… still, living within my means is a challenge and I love challenges 🙂 As for Delhi, I’m sorry but I’ve actually never been to India! One travel blogger who specializes in India is Maryellen Ward of breathedreamgo.com – have a look at her blog, she’s an India expert and you’ll find all sorts of goodies there.

  8. Corina on June 2, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    An exciting new chapter, Leyla. Congratulations! I’m not there yet but getting close. I enjoyed reading this post and can relate, however I put health as my first concern. Money second as I worry that I don’t even own a car or house. Yikes. Well enjoy your retirement, the Ayuveda Retreat in Sri lanka sounds wonderful and I look forward to hearing all about it. I could really do with a few weeks retreat like that…so keep us posted. Enjoy!

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on June 6, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      I think of health too, Corina – something I never used to think of before. I’ve just winged along assuming I’d always be healthy, and guess what? That’s not the case… so I’m hoping this retreat will help me get on the path to sorting two particular health problems I have. As for money, ditto – it’s a huge concern and retirement only means I won’t be working full-time in one place, but I’ll certainly have to find all sorts of work!

  9. Renata on June 2, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    Congratulations on your retirement! I wish you the best in your new adventures and look forward to reading about them.

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on June 6, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Thanks Renata! Writing about things is the only way I can make sense of them… if they stay in my head I just pick and choose the thoughts that I like… so be ready for good and bad 😉

  10. Jenni on June 3, 2015 at 12:04 am

    Go girl, what an inspiration you are. I myself have just hit the retirement stage and have lots of ideas but am so full of fear. To many what if’s instead of what the heck!!!!!
    I will certainly be following your journey. 🙂

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on June 6, 2015 at 5:01 pm

      Hah – I’m equally full of fears! I do try to ignore them… but they creep up. I figure if I deal with one fear at a time, it’ll be manageable…

  11. Bronwyn Zuidland on June 3, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Hi Leyla, I always enjoy reading your blog and I found this one on retirement particularly interesting. I live in Australia, and would like to travel extensively when I retire in a few years time. My plan is to go carefree, travel light, solo, cheap and cheerful with only the first week of accommodation booked .. a real adventure. I look forward to your travel tales and inspiration. Have a great holiday.
    Cheers Bronwyn

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on June 6, 2015 at 4:59 pm

      That’s a wonderful plan, Bronwyn! Booking early accommodations is a smart thing – gives you time to get acclimatized to your new surroundings and get your feet solidly on the ground. Great stuff!

  12. Kristina on June 3, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    Wonder how you can travel with the responsibilities of dog care and managing a couple of homes. Not just the cost but the hassle of a leaky roof, lawn, repairs. There are nomads out there but they seem to get rid of pets and have children scattered around the world where they can have a base of operation to fall back on for logistics, medical care, etc.
    My husband and I were seriously thinking about the option of “nomading” it. If I were single, it would be easier as I would able to go where I want to without needing to negotiate with my spouse. The company is good but I find that when I travel alone, I can call the shots. Also is much easier to connect with other people.
    Will you be staying out of the country for most of the time or making shorter term forays?

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on June 6, 2015 at 4:57 pm

      It’s not like that at all, Kristina. I don’t travel full-time anymore – I gave that up when I ‘settled down’, or got a house, at least. I now travel occasionally, for a few weeks or months. I have a partner at home and that helps, or when we travel together it’s for much shorter periods so we can deal with the pets, house and so on. Solo travel does have plenty of advantages – I did it for years and still do (I’m in Sri Lanka for a month right now on my own). But like life, it’s good to have variety 🙂

  13. Anita @ No Particular Place To Go on June 7, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Congratulations about this new chapter in your already interesting and amazing life that you share so generously with your readers! I retired early 3 years ago and we began traveling full time. Sometimes it’s a bit like jumping without a parachute but it’s the best decision we’ve ever made. Enjoy and I’ll be looking forward to more of your great stories!

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on June 10, 2015 at 2:56 am

      I’ve just discovered your blog, Anita, and you are certainly making the best of it! Thank you for your kind words – over on Facebook I’m documenting my first 90 days of retirement so I can rrack the changes… It’s all very daunting!

  14. Halina Goldstein on June 9, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    WOW. So exciting and so inspiring!!

    One remark though: As a solo soul I have certainly withdrawn from the world in many ways, but it does not mean that it started to shrink. It just means that it has expanded in another dimension. 😉 Life and the world is what we make it!

    Remember the song? “To everything turn, turn, turn, there is a season turn, turn, turn”…

    Thanks again for your wonderful inspiration, Leyla!

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on June 10, 2015 at 2:53 am

      You’re absolutely right, there is a season – it’s transitioning that’s the challenge for me…

  15. Ronnie Wexler on June 11, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    I retired April 24 of this year, and wow, it’s………interesting. I took several months to determine if it was right, it was like a switch went off and suddenly I wanted to retire. I NEVER thought I’d retire because I loved my work so very much, but it changed one day. I waited to see if the switch would turn back on, but it never did. So as they say, it’s a transition, one from all the people and interactions and accolades, to quiet retreat. Thank goodness for family and friends and faith, the 3 F’s, maybe I’ve coined a new phrase.

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on June 13, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      Sadly I’ll never be able to completely ‘retire’ (actually that’s not sad at all! 😉 and I’ll continue working – just freelancing, not in a full-time job. In some ways this is easier (more freedom) and in others harder (more work, less money) but it’s certainly a major transition. It hasn’t really kicked in yet though…

  16. Jan on June 19, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    It’s the word retirement that is misleading. It gives the impression we sit around doing nothing or playing golf all day. I started a small creative business when I ‘retired’ almost two years ago, at age 60, because I saw no guarantee that I’d have health if I waited and I wanted to experiment more with my life. You need much less money in retirement. Listen, but don’t necessarily follow the experts, listen to your gut and you will be fine. You have many interests so you have many opportunities to broaden your horizons and make money if you want. ‘Retirement’ is so much fun you will wonder how you ever had time to work!

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on June 21, 2015 at 8:11 am

      I do plan on making it the best part of life yet! I’m going to write more, have fun with my blog and website, continue working in development as a consultant, finish my house, enjoy not commuting, and change my week. It will no longer start on a Monday but on a Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday will be my new weekends. In France nothing is open Sundays so Saturdays are mayhem – no more. I now have the freedom to, among so many things, reinvent my week.

  17. Izy Berry - The Wrong Way Home on June 24, 2015 at 7:48 am

    Congratulations and good luck with your projects from now on! Your dogs are great! Should bring them with you to a trip somewhere.

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on June 24, 2015 at 8:17 am

      LOL – I keep trying but they’re stronger than I am when they smell food! But I’m planning on getting a campervan: instant dog transport 🙂

  18. Julia Mihalyi on July 14, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    Hi Leyla, I’ve been reading your newsletter with great interest and now see that you are in France! It’s great to find another American woman over here – and with dogs. I’ve just relocated to the Dordogne area and will be looking for house-sitter / pet-sitter exchanges so that I can travel during February while Beau hangs out warm and happy by the fire. I’ll be follow your blog and wishing you and your beautiful dogs all the best — Julia

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on July 15, 2015 at 2:59 pm

      Thanks Julia – France is full of North Americans! (I’m Canadian although my brother and his family live in the US so you never know! 🙂 I don’t think you’ll have any trouble finding a housesitter… I mean, the Dordogne… how lucky can a traveler get?

  19. Cynthia Dettman on September 27, 2015 at 5:08 am

    Just discovered your wonderful web site and blog. We are fellow travelers in spirit! I retired 5 years ago, but continued to work very part time which tethered me to my home in Portland, Or. But…. ha! I am now teaching online on the road in my camper van, writing, and having an amazing journey! This feels like real retirement- I’m working on articles for magazines, heading to India in November for continued research for a novel, and teaching part-time, but it’s so great to be on the road again! And yes, solo travel is a truly spiritual experience. Would love to get your comment on my rather new blog, Voyage to the Present. Will enjoy following you! Cynthia Dettman

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on September 27, 2015 at 3:51 pm

      Thanks for dropping by, Cynthia – and all the best in your new travels in retirement! Your blog is very attractive, simple and fetching and allows the writing to come through, which is in the end what most of us writers want 🙂 Congratulations and well done!

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