Top World Wonders

100 WondersMany people have asked us how we know and decide on where to go on our trips. Similar to my interests in countries, geographical features (such as mountains, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, caves …), and man-made structures (tallest building, longest bridge …) , I have always been interested in learning more about these world wonders. There are the original Seven Wonders of the World, and in 2007, the New7Wonders of the World Foundation (established by Canadian-Swiss Bernard Weber) announced the New 7 Wonders of the World. I was fascinated by these places, even as they announced the top 77 candidates, and the 21 finalists.  Later, I discovered many websites and blogs dedicated to give their opinions of the top world wonders, such as Hillman Wonders,  MinubeLonely Planet, Wanderlust, CNNLIFE,  and much more if you google “100 places to visit“.

It is impossible to get a consensus of the top 100 wonders of the world (and this list will continually change every few years as new natural wonders are discovered and new man-made structures are built).  An example of new wonders being added is shown on the Smithsonian’s Sept 2015 article “The 21st Century Life List: 25 Great New Places to See” which includes 5 places on yet completed.

So, we have used a combination of lists to develop a list of places we wish to visit.  Our “top world wonders” visited is now listed on a separate page by area, and we list further “wonders” that we would like to visit in our next chapter journeys.



The Start of our Downsizing

P1070642A major impetus for retirement considerations for most people is adult children moving away from the family home. Ours came exactly one year ago when it so happened that both of our children announced that they will be relocating elsewhere.

Our son, upon graduation from Oxford University’s MBA program, got a permanent job posting at an investment bank where he interned during the summer.  He was very excited about the new opportunities living across the pond. He got his work visa approved, and in no time, we are seeing him off to London, England at the airport.

Our daughter got fed up with the increasing long commute to VGH where she worked, and decided it was time to move out and rent a condo to share with her boyfriend.  With their good paying jobs and references, they had no problem getting a nice condo to rent in the heart of Olympic Village.  And in no time, we were helping her move her stuff out of our family house where we lived over 23 years.

With the knowledge that there will be only the two of us living in our large 3,600 square-foot, 3-level house, we contemplated about selling our house, moving to a condo, and changing our lifestyle.  We saw a “For Sale” sign in one of our neighborhood houses, and was surprised that it sold in less than a week.  We took the name and phone number of the listing real estate agent, and after the first interview where we talked about the pros and cons of downsizing and the crazy high prices of Vancouver real estate, we set in motion our decision to downsize.  And this is one of few reasons that the “Next Chapter Journeys” got started.


At 60, It is Time to Take “Carpe Diem” Seriously

An article published by Fred Vettese (Chief Actuary of Mornell Shepell) on the National Post yesterday talked about the high probability of a healthy 60-year old man suffering a critical illness or die before they turn 70.  As per the table below, the probability of this happening to a man between 50-60 years old is only 18%, but for a 60-70 year old, it climbs to 36%.  For 70-80 years old, it is 56%, and for 80-90 years old, it becomes 82%.

Risk of Illness or DeathThe critical illness may be life-threatening cancers, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or loss of independent existence.  So, even though that a healthy 60-year old man is expected to live to about 85, the disability-free life expectancy (DFLE) is a lot lower.  And supposedly, the number of unhealthy years is increasing, mostly due to the poor North American life style decisions that we are making.

This article should make us think about eating better, exercising regularly, and minimizing stress.  Furthermore, we should re-evaluate our retirement plans on the basis of our disability-free life expectancy rather than our total life expectancy.  If we think our DFLE is low, then perhaps retiring earlier and spending our money in our 60’s while we have our health should be a priority.  The article’s conclusion: “The words carp diem apply at any age, but never more so than when we turn 60.” is a good one.


How to Know When to Retire?

Floreana Island, Galapagos
Floreana Island, Galapagos

At times when I chat to my wife about how I can’t wait to retire so that we have more free time, play more badminton or do more traveling, she would say that I am wishing my life away.  She says we already have lots of free time, and that we play badminton 3 times a week, and we travel 3 to 4 times a year.

Not that she would get bored after retirement, but she feels that she still enjoys her work at the office, the social interactions with her co-workers, the recognition she gets from doing a good job, and the vibrant atmosphere of working downtown. I guess I cannot argue with that.  I feel the same most times at work, but there are times when I day-dream about spending more time outdoors (especially during sunny days), more badminton (to improve after entering a competition), or more travels (when I look at my travel wish lists).

When receiving a paycheque is no longer the prime motive for working, then one must decide whether the time spent at the office is better off in spending on pursing our passions. Perhaps your major passion is work, then there is no need to think about retirement.  To most people though, it is a trade-off of how best to spend the remaining time we have on this earth.

I just finished watching a TED talk about “Want to be happy? Be grateful” by Brother David Steindl-Rast. He talks about how every moment given to us is a “gift”.  He says: “By experiencing, by becoming aware that every moment is a given moment, as we say. It’s a gift. You haven’t earned it. You haven’t brought it about in any way. You have no way of assuring that there will be another moment given to you, and yet, that’s the most valuable thing that can ever be given to us, this moment, with all the opportunity that it contains. If we didn’t have this present moment, we wouldn’t have any opportunity to do anything or experience anything, and this moment is a gift. It’s a given moment, as we say.”

So, it is probably time to retire when your job is no longer bringing you happiness, or if you think pursuing something else will bring you more happiness.  Is spending 8 to 9 hours a day at the office the best use of our given moments?

Travelers Century Club

Tim, Patti, Michael, Mahmood, Lana, Tom & CaroleFor some travelers, keeping a list of places visited and a “bucket list” is a way to keep memories of trips taken and a way to keep track of places that they want to visit next.

I have always like to make lists.  When I was young, one of my favorite book to read was the Guiness Book of World Records. I would read about the world’s highest mountain, the longest river, the biggest city, etc.  When I started to travel, I love taking photos so that I have a record of where I’ve been.  After many trips, I created a spreadsheet of all the trips I have taken with the dates, locations, and any special or prominent sights seen. Eventually, the list got bigger, and I would get excited that I could add a new country to this spreadsheet.

Soon, collecting countries became one of my hobbies or passions.  30 countries turned into 50, and then soon it was 60 and 70 countries.  I discovered the Travelers Century Club (TCC) online, and I desperately wanted to join this exclusive club for people who has been to 100 countries (by their definition).

Last year, there was a new Western Canada area coordinator, and he was super friendly in our email correspondences.  He invited me to a chapter meeting being held in Vancouver, and I met some very interesting travelers.  It was fun and educational to meet these travelers to hear about their travel stories from far away places.

I have now reached my goal of 100 TCC countries, and I was happy to have attended my 3rd meeting this past weekend at the River Rock Casino lounge.

Maintaining Healthy Relations with Adult Children

P1000342Another issue to consider during our retirement planning process is method to maintain healthy relationships with our two adult children.  It seems like yesterday that they were dependent on us to feed them, cloth them and to provide an education for them.  But now that they are in their mid- to late-20’s, they are both out of our family household and are beginning to build their own “nests”.  One of them is living in London, England, and the other in a condo in Olympic Village, Vancouver.

We skype with our son about once a month, and this is great for keeping everyone informed with what’s happening at each locale.  He is quite interested in what is keeping us busy away from work, and we talk about our upcoming travels and our short term and long term goals.  His girlfriend just moved across the pond to be with him, so it will be interesting to see how they accommodate each other.

Our daughter comes to visit us about once every 2 weeks.  This summer, she came once a week to get help from me on a special project. She is quite busy herself with her shift work, playing on 2 soccer teams, and now working on this special project that she does not want me to say until it is finished.

This last weekend, we decided to visit her for a change.  We walked to Chinatown together for lunch, then to Broadway and Cambie corridors for some shopping.  It was a nice sunny day, with Christmas shopping almost at full swing.  I think everyone had a great time together.  It is nice to have these healthy relations with our adult children as they continue to grow on their own, and we can provide whatever guidance we may have.

Prepare for Aging Bodies

IMG_1767When we were young, we always thought that we will stay forever young, and we would never imagine ourselves getting aching bodies, losing muscle mass, getting tired after some chores.  But slowly, we are realizing that unless we take good care of our bodies, they will go into decline as we age. We get injuries more frequently now after our badminton games, our muscles get tight, and our backs ache if we don’t get a good night sleep.

One day while we were getting some treatment on a possible pinch nerve in our arms with a physiotherapist, we noticed that we can book a half-hour consultation with a kinesiologist.  In this consultation session, we learned that while getting treatment from massage therapists and physiotherapists are good for tired muscles or injuries, we can prevent these symptons by working with a kinesiologist to strengthen our core.  The kinesiologist explained to us that a strong core is needed to keep us in good shape as we age, minimize injuries to our back, neck and shoulders (which causes pinched nerves), as well as help us improve on our badminton games.  We booked a one-hour session between the two of us, and it was fun and educational, as we learned to exercise our abdominal, lat, back, and the muscles around the pelvis.  Strong core muscles also improve our postures, so that we don’t slough as we age.  We wish that we had started this training earlier.

Financial Independence

Uzbekistani Soms
Uzbekistani Soms

Another issue to consider when contemplating retirement is whether you have enough money to fund the many years of no pay cheque.  We have read many financial articles in the Globe & Mail and financial blogs to understand how to do a rough financial plan.  It really helped though that my wife and I are good savers and investors, and we have made our savings grow over time through investing in real estate and financial assets such as stocks and bonds.  And we are also very fortunate to work in companies that have defined-benefit pension plans.  We have always maximized our RRSP contributions right at the start, so even though we may not have worked 35 years for the same company with the defined-benefit pension plan, our RRSP’s have the equivalent annuity amount to give us a combined 70% of our best 5-years of annual income as our pension income (what most people refer to as maximum pension).   So, when we have achieved this, do we want to keep working any longer?  We have a healthy networth that we think we have enough, but is it really enough?  How much is enough? That is the question that it is difficult to answer.  We hope that over this next 12 months, we can confidently say we have enough, and pull the trigger to submit our retirement notices to our employers.


Find Your Passion

One of the key issues to address when one is approaching retirement is finding a new (or confirming an existing) passion to pass your time.  After all, you will gain at least 50 hours a week not needing to commute and to work for a pay cheque.
For me, mIMG_7385.1y passion may be a split between traveling, hiking, or playing badminton.  I have always like traveling ever since I went to San Francisco with my brother back when I was in junior high school and when my wife and I went on a 5-week backpacking trip around Europe shortly after our university graduation.  And during our weekends when we started working, we developed a liking to anything outdoors, such as hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and the ocassional canoeing or kayaking.  I picked up badminton when my two children started to play competitively when they were around 8.  Five years ago, my wife picked up this sport as well, and now we are playing 3 to 4 times a week and entering various tournaments.  We might be hooked because we did well in our first Provincial and National 55+ Championships.
This weekend, we played in a church team tournament, helping our friends win their 3rd title of their annual tournament of various ministries within the church.  This year, there were 14 teams, and our team came first!

One Year Countdown

Sunset in Fira
Sunset in Fira

Ever since watching the movie the “Bucket List”, I have always wondered what it feels like to countdown your days (or the minutes in the movie) until you leave your office for the last time.

So here I am, roughly one year before I walk out of my office for the last time.  I had calculated to the exact date that I can retire and start to collect my company pension without any penalty and to maximize my vacation payouts.
It is interesting how our perspective change over time though, as many years ago, I thought I would retire as soon as I turn 55 (the first date that I can receive my company pension, albeit with a huge penalty).
Month after month, year after year, we just keep trotting to our daily routine, and really not acting on our big dreams and goals.  We read many other blogs on retirements, lifestyle changes, travels, etc, but it is so easy to just keep doing what we are good at.  Inertia, as we learned in our early Physics class, is not easy to move.
Hopefully, with this blog, we will write down some of our feelings as we journey towards a new chapter in our lives with confidence.