As we get older our goals in life often change. What we wanted and predicted for our future at 16 is perhaps far different from the actual reality of living at 50.
Our lives had been generally predictable in the sense that we had been mentally timetabled to ‘fit in’ to society. We got up, we went to work, we ate at regular mealtimes, then slept, ready for the same again the next day! This was not a bad thing, just reality.
Some of our friends loved the regimented organised lifestyle but others hated living by the clock, just working hard to live comfortably.
As Eric and I neared our retirement age our thoughts and conversations often wandered to all things new. A new life, a new country, early retirement and challenging changes, we were ready! We wanted all that and wanted it SOON!!
The question was: Could we afford to retire early?
A VERY important question everyone should ask themselves. It is essential to do the maths, double check every financial outgoing you have against your total income and earnings. Devise a basic spreadsheet and estimate what your expenses might be in the future. Then ask yourself the same question again.
Fortunately, our sums added up so we made the brave exciting decision to retire early to Hungary, located in central Europe. Moving from city suburbia in England to exquisitely beautiful rural Hungary was quite a dramatic change! Nearly 3 years later we do not regret our momentous move overseas.
If you are lucky enough to be able to retire early, you have a lot going for you. I sat down at my computer and thought of all the good reasons why we are enjoying living overseas so much. I wanted to share my thoughts with you to see if you agreed with my experiences?
I have compiled a list, in no particular order that are applicable to our family here in Hungary. Although you will see that most of them are generic and apply to any country that you choose to live in. So here goes:
TOP 16 ADVANTAGES OF TAKING EARLY RETIREMENT and MOVING OVERSEAS
We don’t have to work anymore
A pretty obvious advantage, I think you would agree, is that you no longer have to clock in and out of work everyday. Now retired, there is nothing nicer than waking up early in the morning to the sound of the dawn chorus, then drinking a leisurely cup of coffee on the verandah and chatting with my husband Eric. No time pressures whatsoever. Of course there are no rules in retirement, if you retire early and want to try a different career, earn a little money, you have plenty of years ahead of you to do this.
We can sleep when we want
This is an EXCELLENT advantage for us. It doesn’t matter what age you are having a short siesta in the afternoons or whenever you want is perfectly acceptable even good for you. Revitalise and rest your system for later on. Spain for example do this as part of their lifestyle, during the hottest hours of the Spanish day siestas are very common. Hungary gets hot during the long summers so we often take a ‘nap’ during the afternoon. Waking up in the morning when we want is wonderful, puts us in a good mood for the rest of the day.
There are no restrictions only those you make yourself.
We slowed down our way of life
Leaving our busy lives behind in England meant that being thrust into near isolation in rural Hungary was quite hard in the beginning. Everything in England was monitored by the clock. Our routines were the same everyday, the clock guided us. Here in Hungary we tend to listen to the environment to tell the time. The dawn chorus waking in the early morning, the chickens announcing they have laid their eggs, the church bell chiming daily at 12 noon, a sign it is lunchtime across Hungary. The ice cream van ‘singing’ down the village streets meaning it’s 3 pm, the dogs barking at 7.00 pm as it’s their dinner time and finally the pesky mosquitoes coming out after sundown, meaning it’s time to retreat inside from the verandah. Frequently I wonder what day it is, as the days and weekends seem to merge into each other. I cannot risk getting too relaxed and easy going over the days of the week as I need to remember when to put the wheelie bin out with the rubbish!
We have become frugal and thrifty
We have never wasted money in the past and I had always considered my housekeeping skills, over the years as good enough to make sure our cupboards were always full. Moving to Hungary in the middle of nowhere with limited access to shops has meant we have become much more aware of costs and how to achieve little short cuts. We have learnt how and where to buy in bulk, how to preserve fruit and veggies, how to grow a productive garden, and cooking from scratch on a regular basis. All these little things give us a more cost effective lifestyle and it’s great to learn new skills. We both cook so take lots of pleasure using our own home-grown produce. It is so satisfying and cost efficient and almost a challenge to reduce the supermarket spend each shop. A worthy sensible advantage of retiring and moving abroad.
We can shop when it’s convenient for us
Oh what a pleasure it is to shop when it is convenient for us. Living a working existence in England meant we had to shop on Saturday’s along with hoards of other people. Now shopping is actually a pleasure, a leisurely affair where I can stop and examine items I want to buy without a voice in my ear telling me to “hurry up”! We have the privilege of shopping during quiet periods on weekdays. The queues at the checkouts do not appear as daunting as they did in England. I feel no frustration at having to wait in line, perhaps it’s because I have lots of time now we are retired. *note: at the time of writing shopping restrictions had just been lifted in Hungary as the Covid19 pandemic was easing.
Reading becomes a daily activity
I am an avid reader of books, always have been. Eric however prefers to read news headlines on his PC. His regular ritual first thing in the morning, a nice way to catch up on world news. Since arriving in Hungary and adjusting to the changing seasons I have come to realise I read more extensively in the cold winter months. I read about 2 books a month. Sadly, I left most of my hard copy books back in England (they are in safe hands being looked after by my daughter) so have started developing a bookcase here in Hungary. I have a small selection of Hungarian recipe books, books of Hungarian poetry, travel books about Hungary, the shelves are filling up. My main reading is done on my beloved Kindle, one I have had for years and has never let me down. The “To Be Read” list is very long, full of books that took my fancy at some time or other. I read my Kindle before I go to bed, it’s a lovely way to end the day. Retirement has made me explore different reading topics I would not normally entertain. Research for this blog, for example and reading about the history of the country we have adopted as our home is extremely interesting. I would not have had the time in England to indulge in so much reading.
Our friends circle changed
Making new friends can be difficult particularly when you retire abroad. We had to make a REAL effort to put ourselves out there in the community. Both of us wanted to get involved in village life and enjoy the cultural events throughout the year. We became quite visible and known in the village as “that English family”. We have integrated well know by sight by most of the villagers. They always have a cheery wave for us. Our village has less that 300 residents, some of the homes are holiday homes owned by Hungarians in Budapest. They spend summer in the village or even come down just for weekends throughout the year. Two other English couples also have holiday homes in the village, we are the only permanent residents here. Another stream of new friendships has come from one of the Facebook groups I belongs too. A group of predominantly English expats living around Lake Balaton who frequently meet up and socialise. They are also an excellent support network full of advice and guidance.
Holiday whenever WE want
Another GREAT advantage of retiring early is that you can if you want, see the world, indulge in some new experiences, explore areas of the world you had only dreamed of. We use Hungary as our base, and explore out and about whenever we can. We are in located in central Europe with 7 exciting countries to visit bordering our lands. Austria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Ukraine and Slovakia. A 5 hour drive away has taken us to the beautiful country of Croatia. We had an excellent time, ate plenty fresh fish and photographed the stunning scenery. Our horizons have been broadened by moving here. Researching holidays and booking them is way cheaper when done out of season. You have the benefits of quiet streets and easily accessible tourist attractions. The holiday season lasts through until October so Autumn is a great time to travel around here in Hungary.
Gardening becomes fun
We had a garden in England, a very beautiful one and I often miss tending to it. Thankfully we bought a property here with land, actually way too much for just 2 of us to manage. Not put off I was determined to get our garden up and manageable and with a goal of producing some fruit and vegetables this year. We are learning how to garden in a new country, the soil is different and the climate is too. The first year we had moderate success with a few things but had a glut of sweet corn and tomatoes. The second year due to health reasons the garden was abandoned and became very overgrown. This year I am delighted to say our garden is coming on very well and we hope to have bumper crops. We are experimenting with different ways of growing things and our knowledge base is improving dramatically. We certainly appreciate eating our homegrown produce and love looking after our little patch of paradise.
Exercise for Health
I did not realise how little exercise I did in England. Practically none. We had a car and used it. Moving to Hungary has made me walk more and become generally much more active. I actually love walking with my camera and get out every day with it. As the garden is huge I spend time walking up and down visiting different areas and spots. I started tracking my step count and was surprised to find I was walking between 6,000 and 7,000 steps a day. We own a boisterous husky dog who loves to chase up and down our garden, she enjoys it most anytime I run…..! I’m getting better at running!! Can’t be a bad thing. We have also noticed we are sleeping so much better here in the countryside. Perhaps spending so much time outside and the additional exercise is a good sleep aid for us. Certainly the air is so much cleaner and fresher than in England, it’s very noticeable.
A chance to own our first dog
We were unable to own a dog in England, our garden was not big enough and at the time we owned chickens. Our son (13 at the time) had been asking for a dog for sometime. We promised him, when we moved to Hungary we would get a dog. And we did! A beautiful husky puppy named Haley. We had to learn how to look after this gorgeous puppy and how to teach her good behaviour and habits. She was quite challenging and disobedient at the beginning but we are finally making good progress in the behaviour department. Our garden is perfect for Haley to tear around and burn off her continuous energy. We all wanted a dog and we have become very close to her. I can’t imagine life without her now, she is part of the family and fits in very well with our retirement lifestyle.
Eat when we are hungry
How relaxing it is now to be able to eat whenever we want too. England required structured meal times, three times a day always by the clock. That was normal and worked. When we had young children, routine was important. Now meal times are dependent on when we are hungry, not when the clock tells us it’s time to eat. Our son for example gets his own breakfast when he is hungry whilst we sit outside having our first coffee of the day. We sometimes have a brunch around 11.am and a meal around 3 and fruit in the evening.
I’m finally writing my memoirs
At long last I have got time to do something I have wanted to do for years….15 years to be exact. I took some online writing courses to improve my writing skills with the aim of finally writing my long awaited memoir. I have now started it, enthusiastically writing my experiences. It’s great to read and enjoy my journals again reminiscing about the past, describing funny memories with Eric. My memoir describes the events leading up to meeting Eric in Canada and the subsequent adventures we got up too there. My aim is to complete the book before the end of the year so am working on it diligently. I am considering self-publishing and have investigated various marketing and publishing options. It’s good to be doing something like this, it stimulates my brain and gives me satisfaction when I have completed another chapter. Eric is very supportive of my project and encourages me all the time. He obviously has a vested interest and is so good at helping me relive the events that I maybe did not accurately record at the time.
Learn a new language he said!
Easier said than done. I have never been very good at foreign languages. I have a smattering of French and Spanish and now a little Hungarian. I cannot believe how hard it is too learn. Only today I wrote a Hungarian word that had 17 letters in it! Added to that certain letters sound different for example the letter S is pronounced SH. Eric is the master of foreign languages and can boast 9 different ones. His Hungarian is at conversation level and can quite easily get by. I, on the other hand rely heavily on Eric to translate for me as I am struggling to retain anything in my memory. It’s a hard slog. I watch a little Hungarian TV for practise. I watch Hungarian movies with English subtitles, that helps a lot. I have multiple language apps on my phone. My best way to learn I have found is to listen to Hungarian people chatting with each other, I pick up words that way. But my progress is painfully slow. If you like languages and have the ability to learn your new chosen language then retirement days are the perfect time for learning.
Learning and adjusting to a new culture
Every country has cultural differences and it really was worth reading up about them before we made the move to Hungary. Countries do have different rules and obviously it was in our best interests to find them out as quickly as possible. I researched on the internet and successfully revealed what we needed to know about customs and traditions. Sometimes things that you consider ‘normal’ are not accepted elsewhere. A good example in Hungary: There is zero alcohol tolerance when driving a vehicle….unlike England. The police enforce it ridgely and frequently spot check and breathalyse drivers. Still on alcohol, it is extremely rude to refuse a shot of Palinka (fruit brandy) in a Hungarians home, it is considered bad manners and disrespectful to the host. We duly noted this and have not insulted anyone yet!! I love the different village festivals that happen throughout the year, in particular the harvest festival procession that walks the length of the village with singing workers dressed in traditional costume celebrating the harvesting of the wheat crop.
Rekindled our marriage
I wondered how we would deal with early retirement and moving overseas to live in Hungary. We had bucketloads of stress and many setbacks during our lengthy preparations in England until our actual moving day. Thankfully, once here we overcame most hurdles and settled into a more comfortable, easy lifestyle. In the beginning we had to learn everything from scratch, just paying a bill was challenging or going to the supermarket struggling to read food labels in Hungarian. Eventually we got the hang of how things worked. We were fortunate to have a willing translator when we needed, she was very helpful. All the little niggling issues certainly put a strain on our relationship. We finally overcame things together by pooling our knowledge to solve a problem. This meant we communicated far more than we had ever done in England and managed to amicably sort issues out. We had time to sit and talk to each other, laugh at silly jokes and truly appreciate our surroundings and each other’s company. Those first challenging days have brought us closer together so for us, retiring early and moving abroad was and still is, the best thing we ever did.
Have you any thoughts on your own retirement. How has it affected your everyday life? I would love to hear in the comments.