How I Embraced Retirement: A Journey of Discovery in the Andes Mountains of Peru

October 14, 2015 by  
Filed under Careers, Quests, Travel

Yanajanca PassSteve and I with a view from the Yanajanca Pass (15, 100 ft.)

I retired at the end of last year after 38 years as a sales and marketing professional. I also turned 60. Looking for a fitting challenge to engross me during my free time, I decided to go on a trek in Peru. My supportive spouse, Steve, and I booked an eight-day trek in the Cordillera Blanca section of the Andes—the Alpamayo base camp trek.

Prior to my retirement, my role as Business Development Manager for an IBM Business Partner entailed creating programs to drive an integrated sales and marketing strategy (fancy terms to populate my LinkedIN profile!). In plain words, I worked out of my home office, participated in numerous conference calls, managed projects, and pursued completed action items.

In my last two years, I reported to a micromanaging executive. In self-defense, I bought My Way or the Highway, by Harry E. Chambers, to learn how to survive that management style. Having had 38 years’ experience, I decided that, at this stage of my career, I couldn’t sacrifice independent thought and action. And so, with mixed emotions, I chose to retire. It felt good; this was exactly the right time for me to take back control of my fundamental nature.

Training for the Trek
To train for the trek, I needed to recover the energy and enthusiasm I had known and carried into my work. Starting in January, I became a Fitbit fanatic and religiously did my 10,000 steps a day with the help of my Black Lab, Chelsea. We took daily hikes in local nature preserves and sanctuaries in Westchester County, New York. Sometimes I was tempted to attach the Fitbit to Chelsea’s collar to goose my stats!

Periodically we spent three to six hours on the Appalachian Trail/Long Trail in Vermont, reaching some of the major summits of the Green Mountains, including Stratton Mountain. Also, we did yoga classes once or twice a week to help with balance and general core work. The benefits of controlled breathing and relaxation techniques also contributed positively to the cerebral aspects of our trekking efforts.

Two weeks prior to the trip, we flew to Colorado for a long weekend of high-altitude training. With friends, we did some hikes near Breckenridge, including a couple of “Fourteeners” (Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks, of which there are 53). We also rented bikes and rode from Breckenridge to Copper Mountain and back (33 miles). In spite of the mild change in elevation that this involved, we huffed and puffed our way as if we were in the Alps on the Tour de France.

The Trek

New friends at Jancapampa Camp siteMeeting new friends at Jancapampa Camp site.

In August, we flew to Lima for our big undertaking. The first hurdle was a 10-hour bus ride to Huaraz. From this city, we spent a couple of days acclimatizing by doing some local hikes. The next challenge was a four-hour drive that included a steep (and narrow) mountain road with 37 switchbacks. This drive was not for the faint of heart. (Or the weak of stomach!)

The eight-day trek is not quite in league with Cheryl Strayed’s Wild backpacking escapade. We were supported by a private guide, cook, two donkey drivers, and eight donkeys. In addition to our tents, there was a dining tent and a toilet tent. However, NO SHOWERS for a week. Steve and I were thrown into an intimate closeness (grossness?) that we had not known in 30-plus years of marriage.

We met our team in Vaquería, where our equipment was loaded onto donkeys. We were introduced with our Spanish names, “Esteban” and “Susana.” In addition to Spanish, our crew all spoke Quechua, the language indigenous to the Andes and other parts of Peru and Bolivia. Our English-speaking guide, Heimer, patiently answered all of our queries about local flora and fauna, as well as gave us Spanish lessons.

A typical day would start at 6:20 a.m., when Heimer would wake us and bring tea, followed by hot water for washing hands and face. Next, we would repack our dry bags with our sleeping and hiking gear for the donkeys to carry. Breakfast at 7; then we were on the trail at 7:30. We carried day backpacks containing purified water, snacks, cameras, extra clothes, and rain gear. Hiking poles were an essential part of our equipment.

The daily hike would vary in distance and duration, but we usually made it to our next campsite by 4, including rest breaks and lunch stop. At camp, we again got hot water for a sponge bath. Once, Steve mistakenly grabbed a dispenser bottle and washed himself with hand sanitizer!  We had afternoon tea and snacks in the dining tent and relaxed and read books until dinner at 6:30. Sunset was at 6:30, but the sun had fallen behind the mountains much earlier, so the light faded rapidly and temperatures dropped into the 30s. After dinner, we were ready to collapse in our tents to fall asleep by 8!

Next Page: Did I experience any discomfort? Yes.

‘Retire’? Is That Even a Word, Barbara Walters?

April 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Careers, Media, Newsmakers

abc_barbara_walters_thg_130128_wgLast week, we asked readers “Do you remember the first time you saw Lily Tomlin?”  Now we have an opportunity to ask the same question about  another WVFC icon: Barbara Walters, who is 83 and is planning to retire next year. Do you remember her as a news anchor? A presidential debate moderator? A foreign correspondent, flying to a foreign capital to lure secrets out of some dictator (Fidel Castro, Muammar Ghaddafi) distracted by her smile? Or is it a newer memory, from the 20 years she’s been ruling a room with The View?

It’s been 50 years since a young news assistant named Barbara Walters first stepped in front of the camera. The list of “firsts” in any Walters discussion goes on and on. First woman to co-anchor The Today Show, to do the same in network news, to serve as sole producer for her own interview program for ABC News (while still serving as reporter and correspondent). And one of her “gotcha” interviews, with Monica Lewinsky in 1999, made a still-unmatched record for the highest ratings of any TV news interview.

Since she announced her retirement last week, journalists of every generation have cropped up to honor what an ABC News colleague called “literally one of the greatest people in the history of the business.” “I’m tempted to say that I really can’t imagine Barbara retiring,” Dan Rather told The Daily Beast. “Her whole life has been a triumph of the will.”

What Walters really means by retiring, of course, is retiring from The View: She’ll still produce her own specials, and no doubt corner a few more world leaders. Women journalists have tried to emulate Walters’s tireless work ethic, and have yearned  for the personal gifts that made her such a longed-for interviewer. She’s one of the main reasons why political figures skip The View at their peril; and those who do visit have yielded often-unexpected results

In the coming year, we’ll no doubt hear many more encomiums like that of fellow veteran Connie Chung in the MSNBC tribute below, and more stories about what makes Walters feel so irreplaceable. As the goodbyes and tribute shows roll out, we’ll keep an ear open to how Walters plans to use the “retirement,” once she’s free of that punishing weekly schedule. Something almost entirely new is about to be created. And Walters will probably teach us what reinvention means.


                                Connie Chung lauds Barbara Walters’ s storied career.


Fostering Healthy Relationships with Adult Children: An Expert Weighs In

February 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Family & Friends, Humor

In my previous post, I wrote about my changing relationships with my adult children. As my son Ben, a 28-year old musician, observed in a recent email, “As we have come to understand that boundaries are different than they once were, we’ve tacitly accepted it but also had moments here and there where it has become clear that a specific boundary is different than it once was.”

And it’s in those “moments” that we parents often struggle. Should we remain silent? Should we speak up? And if we speak up, what do we say, and how do we say it?

Looking for answers, I called up Dr. Ruth Nemzoff, author of Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children. As you can imagine from her title, Nemzoff advocates speaking up—but with a few caveats. Here are her suggestions:

Lay the groundwork for adult conversations. One way to do that, says Nemzoff, is by sharing some of your daily dilemmas before your child leaves the nest. Annoyed at your boss, for example? Share the story.

“Often parents feel they have to be perfect in their children’s eyes or they don’t want to bother them, but children learn a great deal from our mistakes and our struggles,” says Nemzoff. “So learning that you were miffed at your boss today is an interesting thing because you stayed at the job even though you were miffed. How did you handle it? Did you blow up? Or did you talk to him or her a few days later?”

She also suggests soliciting their advice when appropriate. “Say, for example, you have a noisy coworker.  They know about that. They face it every day in the cafeteria at school.”

Invite them into solutions. Chats about real-life problem-solving can set the stage for later conversations. For example, if your college freshman, home for a holiday break, bristled over rules set in high school, Nemzoff suggests making a pre-emptive phone call before he returns in the spring.

“Think about the rough spots and then talk about them on the phone,” she says. “Perhaps a rough spot was when you asked, ‘What time are you coming home?’ You can acknowledge that at college no one’s asking that, but explain that as his mother, you can’t just turn it off. Perhaps instead you can ask, ‘At what time should I start to worry?’”

“You have to be flexible, but so does he,” Nemzoff adds. “He has to understand that things have changed for you, too, and that you may not be as available as you were when he lived at home full-time.”

Choose your battles. As much as parents don’t want to feel silenced, they can opt to not say anything. “Being silenced by someone else is very different from deciding to be silent,” says Nemzoff. If your adult child’s behavior isn’t harming anyone, then perhaps you should remain silent and save your advice for another time, she suggests. Nemzoff also recommends couching the advice you do give as just one perspective, suggesting that your children seek other opinions as well.

Use the same communication skills you employ with others.  As with anyone, timing, tone, and environment all matter when initiating an important conversation with your adult child. You wouldn’t ask your boss for a raise after making a big mistake, any more than you would loudly demand a raise in a public place.


“We fantasize that we can say anything we want to our kids, but the truth is, we never could,” Nemzoff says.  “When I’m babysitting my grandson I don’t tell him that we are going to the circus while I’m putting him in bed. He’d never get to sleep!”

Maintaining open communications with our children is endlessly challenging, but ultimately rewarding. And, as Ben notes, always evolving.

“Gradually coming to see your parents as equals, or at least equally human, is a big one. While the first 18 to 22 years of my life were spent as the focus of care and attention while I faced various transitions, I now find myself somewhat stable, while my parents are wrestling with major changes to the life that they’ve had over the last 30 years. Seeing this has led me to understand our relationship as being co-equal in certain ways. For example, as a freelancer in a creative field undergoing major changes due to the Internet, I can trade ideas and commiserate with my mom’s journey as a writer.”

In addition to Nemzoff’s book, I also recommend this essay by writer Dominique Browning, which contains valuable tips for planning a vacation with adult children. In retrospect, if my husband and I had followed Browning’s first rule, “Turn it over to a younger power,” our Paris trip would have gone much more smoothly.


Video Pick: Have You Talked to Your Spouse About Retirement?

Do you know when/if you’ll retire? Where you’ll live? What you’ll need? Of couples in midlife, nearly half haven’t even started having that conversation, according to a new study, talked to Kathleen Murphy, of Fidelity Investments, about that study and what that conversation could ultimately look like. (After you watch the video, you might want to check in with WVFC’s own retirement-planning guru. Jacqueline Darien.)