Early Retirement Month One: Copenhagen, Cat-sitting, and Creativity

One thing I didn’t expect after quitting my job was for time to keep rolling along as usual. Shouldn’t taking back eight hours of my day that used to belong to some company make my days feel longer? Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work that way.

I realized today it has been TWO MONTHS since I stopped working somehow. It’s time to give an update! I’ll start with my first month in retirement. What happened? How did I spend my first blissful mornings with no alarms, no early routines, no meetings where I weigh in if we are really doing scrum or not?

September was my first month post-work. I covered my first week in detail, writing about heading to a nearby city in the Netherlands, spending it working out with friends and taking long walks to soak in the canals of Utrecht. After that, I booked a last minute ticket to go to Copenhagen. In a fit of spontaneity and in an effort to go to Scandanavia before the winter, I hastily booked the ticket on Wednesday to leave two days later. I’ll start there with the recount of my first month in retirement.

Captivated by Copenhagen

I’ve solo-travelled multiple times before this, but it’s been a while. Back when I studied abroad I got accustomed to staying in hostels, but more recently I’ve been spoiled by Airbnbs. I went back to my roots and stayed in a hostel right next to the main castle attraction downtown for just €35/night. By night I slept in a dorm room with 7 other people, but by day I lived it up! I ate at food stalls, hopped on a boat with new friends, and rented a bike to explore the city.

For a weekend with forecasted rain, I got extra lucky with sun and blue skies. The city reminded me a lot of Amsterdam, with similar bike infrastructure and locals who seamlessly switch to English. I loved the copper blue statues, from the famous mermaid on the sea to the nearby Gefion statue.

I put together a short reel with some of the highlights of monuments and videos I took along the way:

I love visiting European cities where you can see so much just by walking around! My feet were sore by the end, but I managed to cram in most of the famous sites in just a couple days.

Cat-sitting around Amsterdam

When I got home, I picked up two cat sitting gigs that together paid for the entire Copenhagen trip. I spent my days biking around the city to get to each house, played with the cats, and read on their respective couches. I also visited my friend who adopted the two cats that I fostered back in December to see how they were doing.

The last week of September was all about enjoying Amsterdam. I hit up restaurants I’d been meaning to eat at since I moved here, including finding the best tacos in town — good Mexican food is notoriously difficult to find in a lot of Europe.

Getting Creative and Last-Minute Tourist Things

I went for a walk every day at Vondelpark, and then finished a painting of the city. This is exactly how I imagined retirement would be. Long walks. Reading. Painting.

I have been asked more than a few times now how I plan on spending my time to avoid getting bored in retirement. It’s still early, but so far my days have been so much more interesting and fulfilling than they ever were at work. I wondered if having friends who were still working would make the days lonely somehow, with no one to spend time with. However, my experience in the first month was non-stop spending time with people.

I wanted to say goodbye, since the plan is to move at the end of October, so I met up with folks seemingly every day! I got coffee with former coworkers in the mornings, lunch with freelancers, and drinks with couples I met at Pride.

Aside from the new friends I made in Amsterdam, I also wanted to see my handful of friends who migrated to the Netherlands before me, paving the way and providing the original inspiration. One asked if there were any touristy things I hadn’t done yet. With that in mind, we went up to the A’dam Lookout, where you can go on a swing that dangles you over the city, and visited the Oedipus Brewery in Noord (North Amsterdam).

The other two, a couple, came over for some drinks and Thai food. They offered to buy my finished painting which was both extremely generous and wildly exciting. Despite the first sale going to a friend and not a stranger, I’m pretty sure this makes me a professional artist. By the way, I have essentially no experience painting. I just found a canvas and paints for sale at Action, the Dutch version of a dollar-store-where-things-are-cheap-but-not-actually-a-dollar and had some time to give it a try.

The finished product – dabbling with oil painting

Am I actually replacing a typical 9-to-5 career with oddball jobs like cat sitting and painting? Perhaps. Does this negate retirement? I don’t think so. The point of financial independence is that you get the choice of whether you work or not, on your own terms. Also, this hardly stacks up to my software engineer salary. Anyway, I’m too busy having a good time to worry about semantics now.

Tune in for the second month of retirement, and maybe I’ll get caught up to today. Spoiler alert: I’m currently writing this post next to a pool in Indonesia! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

How about you?

What’s an oddball job you’ve done?

What was your most spontaneous trip?

How was your month?

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8 Comments

  1. I LOVE hearing your updates! Having formerly lived in Copenhagen, this brought a huge smile. There were some hidden Mexican restaurants so you’ll have to go back to check those out but agree that in general, it is very tough to find great ones in Europe.

    Today was a typical cold day in the corporate world, and receiving your updated post was a breath of fresh air! A great reminder why I am working so hard to become FI – I love the spontaneity. Meanwhile, I’ll make mulled wine and continue reading The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. Can’t wait to read your book review on this!

    Stay safe and I look forward to hearing about your Indonesia trip. 🙂

    1. I’m glad to hear it! The spontaneity is a huge plus. And thank you for reminding me about the review… I had forgotten I planned to write a review. Up next is a post featuring Indonesia!

  2. I love hearing the updates and can’t wait to hear more about your time in SE Asia! I also love the idea of having small, fun, odd jobs to help cover the costs of “extras” in retirement (travel, a yarn budget, art supplies…). I’m very impressed with your beautiful painting!!! I hope we might see more from different landscapes.

    I recently took a month off of work to go on a mindfulness retreat/service work trip in central Vietnam (3 weeks) and visit a monastery in Thailand (1 week). It was amazing, and hot. The final week of the trip was spent at a very, very lovely and relaxing place, the Thai Plum Village International Meditation Center.

    It was wonderful to be away and challenging coming back to work. I didn’t want to let go of the calm I had cultivated and did not enjoy picking back up the stress of my job. But I couldn’t remain super relaxed and still be as effective. Re-adjustment inevitably occurred.

    Enjoy Bali and I also look forward to hearing more about your experiences!

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