Embracing Voluntary Exile in Retirement as a Journey to Freedom and Self-Discovery
For the second time in my life, I have chosen to leave everything behind and set out on a new journey. This decision led me to ponder my reasons. There was no external compulsion, perhaps just a lingering sense of boredom. As a retiree, surrounded by friends and leading a comfortable life, why the need to leave?
My first response was this overwhelming desire for freedom. Free from ties, I had the freedom to think, love, and act as I wished. It’s a complex feeling to explain in a society where the norm is to be in a couple, and the ultimate happiness seems to be living as a pair. Few of my friends understood this need for space, especially at my age – 70. My story, like that of many retirees who choose exile, challenges conventional narratives about ageing.
Traditionally, retirement is seen as a time of withdrawal and decline. However, with the arrival of baby boomers to retirement age, this life stage has transformed into a period of growth, exploration, and active engagement with the world. Many retirees travel, influencing how societies view their elderly.
But it also raises fundamental questions about what life is.
The experiences of these travellers remind us that life is a dynamic, continuous flow. Being alive means constantly building oneself. Life doesn’t stop with retirement; it continues, guided by our individual DNA.
Being alive also means evolving and transmitting the genetic information inherited, while adapting it to our context. These expatriates demonstrate remarkable vitality, driven by an inner impulse to break free from limits and confront the unknown.
This energy responds to two essential needs: (a) the imperative of evolution and (b) the search for a purpose. It manifests itself in a dynamic of self-discovery and discovery of others.
Moreover, life has a capacity for regeneration.
Expatriation initiates a retrospective journey, where one rediscovers their family and cultural history. This journey is not just spatial but also temporal, expressing a quest for (re)connection with our ancestors. Through my exile, I sought to relive the history of my pioneering and exiled ancestors. This immersion in the historical and cultural context fosters a unique historical awareness, merging personal history with broader cultural narratives. This dual navigation has profound psychological implications, leading to a sense of fulfilment and existential grounding, but also to dissonances when idealized ancestral stories confront contemporary cultural and societal realities.
In conclusion, while retirement is traditionally seen as a marker of old age in the West, this perception is changing. Retirement is now the beginning of a richer life, a time to realize long-postponed dreams or to express a personality long restrained. Through their travels and encounters, these adventurers redefine cultural norms, paving the way for a more inclusive society.