Stepping Back

I was recently chatting to someone who has a plan.

He is retiring at aged 50 and going off to live in the wilds of Canada. He’s Canadian so it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds, but the really scary part is that he is deliberately going to be “off-grid”. He’s a self-confessed geek so this is quite a step and, when he told me all this I suggested that it was some form of backlash against the grip of technology, a deliberate swipe at the lifestyle we all find ourselves living in modern society.

“But of course it is” he grinned.

I harbour a similar desire, namely to retire aged 50, but as yet have no plan to get there. It’s unlikely to happen and as such will remain a dream but, it is something I’m now thinking about. If I did retire early, what would I do? Where would I go?

The idea of living remotely appeals to Louise and I, even if it isn’t that far removed from civilisation. Being off-grid, no internet, limited phone access, is another deal entirely but given that I do so enjoy snatched moments of solitude, an afternoon lost in a book, a stroll round the park, it is worth considering.

Personal space is something for which we all hunt, something we aim to manufacture by donning headphones and blocking out the rest of the world. Regardless of where we are, the message remains the same and annoyance comes from those that don’t even realise that is the aim. It’s not just about listening to music, it’s about creating a place that only belongs to me. It’s most significant when wandering city streets to your own soundtrack, the reverie snapped by Big Issue sellers and small women with big umbrellas. Elsewhere this method of isolation can be more reliable yet the one place where I could be assured of true solitude would be at home and I rarely, if ever, use headphones there.

Perhaps true solitude is only possible when you are in the middle of nowhere, for any manufactured space bears the scars and remnants of modern day living. At home the phone demands an answer, walking down the street you are considerate of others as you navigate the myriad of shoppers and so forth, even lying in the park on a summer day is fraught with stray dogs and misplaced footballs.

I treasure quiet moments. Snippets of a day to pause and reflect before returning to the headlong plunge of life. Some people enjoy the helter skelter existence we seem to have these days. The incredible rush of even the most basic day is at times a sad indictment of our society, at others a thrilling embracing of being alive. Recharging our batteries is reserved for sleep, yet surely there needs to be more, surely we must pause more often to gather ourselves before the next onslaught?

Those that retain the ability to stepback have a skill to envy. One simple step creates the space I crave yet can so rarely find.

I need to learn to step back now and again.


  1. Blue Witch said:

    Off grid doesn’t mean no electricity and no power-dependent items! *shakes head in amazement* Try for enlightenment.

    And perhaps those donning headphones to find their own space might like to be more considerate of those sitting nearby (and in some cases not so nearby) who also have rights and probably don’t want someone else’s choice of music leaking into their world. Similarly those driving through rural areas with their music blaring loudly.

    Hearing aids. Growth area of the future I tell you.

    If you want to retire at 50, don’t try to pay for it by conventional methods – you can’t trust the government not to change some rules to prevent you from so doing. Many years ago Mr BW set up private pension funds to allow him to do just that. He set his retirement date to 50 and paid contributions to ensure it was a possibility (crippling in the early days). 2 or 3 years ago the powers that be decided that they would unilaterally change the rules so he was not allowed to take the funds at 50. That is, funds that are nothing to do with them. He now has to work to 55 before he can touch his own independently invested and managed retirement funds. Bitter, moi? Yes, very. But it won’t stop us achieving that plan, because there are always other Value methods to ends (including renewable energy) 🙂

    November 30, 2007
  2. Ian's Mum said:

    I saw the wilds of canada this year. It is beautiful but we cannot imagine such remoteness(?) I am 61 and still working that is how I can see canada. At the moment I think they are up to their oxters in snow and it will be like that until april. However Banff, Calgary and Vancouver are amazing and they all have internet cafes. If you can retire at 50 go for it but you will have to pile lots of cash into your pension and life is for living now. I attended my friends funeral yesterday and I am glad to say they travelled the world and enjoyed life while they could. Maybe I should retire now and spend the children’s inheritance? More to life than money!

    November 30, 2007
  3. Peggy said:

    If you want to see what being off-grid is like, why don’t you and Louise come down for the weekend. We barely have tv reception and we only got touch tone dialing a few years ago.

    November 30, 2007
  4. Neil said:

    Gordon… go see “Into The Wild”, now showing at all good cinemas. And some rubbish ones also.

    December 1, 2007

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