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Figuring Out What's Next

When my friend Lowry was 87 years old, she was walking down a street in Glendale, California, where she’d lived for more than 20 years. As she passed a neighborhood travel agency (obviously this was long before the Internet), she noticed a young man standing in front of the agency window, looking in. He was carrying a backpack and wearing hiking boots. Lowry, who had taught business school for 57 years and then helped care for grandchildren, took that as a sign that it was time to make a change. She packed up her stuff and moved to Northern California to stay with my parents, who were 20 years younger than she, but retired themselves. Although they’d invited her to come, they soon departed themselves, to Apia, Western Samoa, where they did a two-year stint with the Peace Corps. Lowry ended up living with me and my partner and used our house as a base for some of her own adventures—among them a Greyhound bus trip across the United States and a journey to Bangkok to celebrate her 88th birthday.

I was 35 at the time, deeply involved in the world of work, not thinking at all about getting older, retiring, or what I might like to do in my Second Act. Let’s face it: I was barely managing my first. Lowry lived to be 98, but now, when I am 64, I wish she were still around, so I could talk to her about getting older, about adventure, about identity after work, and about how we create this next iteration of our lives.

So I’m asking others, including some of my own insights and adventures, and playing it by ear. This blog is created to keep a record of it and perhaps even to be that backpacker at the travel agency for you.

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