My Retirement Plan: New and Authentic Life Experiences

Lynn Lotkowictz in Cuba executing her retirement plan

Lynn Lotkowictz in Cuba with other volunteers. Photo: Global Volunteers

The following personal retirement plan article is excerpted from Healthy Aging Magazine. To continue reading this article and more like it, subscribe to Healthy Aging Magazine, the lifestyle magazine that is all about following your passion and what you can do rather than what you can’t.

By Lynn Lotkowictz

About two years ago, at age 63, I realized it was time to create a meaningful retirement plan. My 30-plus-year, very rewarding career in sales and management was winding down. My pension was set, so I was lucky that I had flexibility.

Retire? But to what? I don’t play golf, crochet, play bridge, or enjoy any of those interests that my friends do. I adore my grandson and family, but they are 1,200 miles away, so a weekend four or five times a year is the best I can do.

Travel, the outdoors, healthy endeavors, and children are my passions. In 2013, I started to work on a plan for the next phase of life. The goal was for it be meaningful and rewarding.

Volunteer Travel Started As Way to Travel with Purpose

I surfed the internet, looking for travel ideas, cost-effective options, and different ways that volunteering would be mutually beneficial with my interests, skills, and passions. My good friend bought me a book on volunteer travel. In my free time I read, analyzed, and sifted through websites, books, and talked with colleagues and friends.

I narrowed down the volunteer organizations to those that had places I’d like to go and involved my interest in helping young people. I called each group, asked lots of questions and—most importantly—asked for the email addresses of people who had traveled with them. That, I thought, would be the best way to learn about the pluses and minuses of a program.

Lynn Lotkowictz volunteering in Greece

Lynn Lotkowictz volunteering in Greece

During my last two years of full-time employment, I traveled to Crete, Greece with Global Volunteers (GV)—a non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The trip was wonderful. I worked with the MORFOSI Foreign Language School, an after-school program that helps students practice conversational English. The location was breathtaking. The students were energetic and genuinely interested in learning. There was ample free time to enjoy museums, archeological sites, and traditional dining. I worked with a team of volunteers who had similar goals and interests, so I also made friends.

After I returned from my second trip in 2015, even more enthusiastic than the first, I decided to look into some options to enhance my skills. Since many GV service programs center around working with students on their English, I researched courses that could give me some tips and new skills.

There are some courses on Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) online, and Eckerd College—here in town—offers a four-week day program through Via Lingua that provides you with the qualifications to teach English as a second language in some countries.

I’m not planning to move to China or anywhere else, but I think it would be useful to pick up some solid tips on teaching English as a second language. The more I learn, the bigger the impact I can have on the students I teach.

Lynn Lotkowictz’s volunteer team in Cuba

Repeat Performance Has Value

My third trip with Global Volunteers Crete program was in October 2016, and it was my best experience to date. Why? After three trips to the same island, I could get around comfortably now that I was familiar with the local bus service. I knew the best spots for an espresso, spanakopita (spinach pie), and a cool beachside drink.

The students remembered me, and their warmth was exhilarating. It was a joy to watch them mature from year to year and improve their skills. When I was leaving this past year, they hugged me and said, “We hope to see you next year.” By going back to the same program, I’m building meaningful relationships. I stay in touch with a handful of the students all year-round via social media. I’ve made friends with the teacher and her family and am invited for coffee on the weekend with her friends.

My very generous boss wanted to throw me a retirement party. I suggested he instead make a donation on my behalf to Global Volunteers for future trips, and he did!

In January 2017, I participated in Global Volunteers Havana, Cuba service program. It was an amazing and authentic life experience!

I’m happy to report I’m executing my retirement plan successfully.

Lynn Lotkowictz lives in St. Petersburg, Florida with her husband, Bill, who is an entertainer. She retired from her position in media sales/marketing and sales management for Florida Trend magazine, a monthly statewide business publication. She is passionate about family, authentic travel, health, and fitness.
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