It’s been a couple of months since my first update on what life is like, and I wanted to make a few notes for myself about what changed, and what hasn’t.
We took a couple of quick vacations. I was scheduled for jury duty starting June 29th, and the county didn’t cancel that until 3 days before. Suddenly facing 2 open weeks on my calendar, we hopped in the car and drove up to Malibu for a week, and then flew down to Cabo for a week. We were very careful about social distancing and isolation: we basically wanted to sit on empty beaches by ourselves for a while, while we still could. Helmut got some vigorous exercise, too. We wanted to get that stuff out of our system because California had started to open up, but we both had a feeling that…
California businesses opened, but locked back down again. Indoor services like hair salons and restaurants opened up briefly, but quickly closed back down again. Some restaurants are open for take-out and outdoor service. We’ve been limiting our visits outside, though, because…
A lot of people still aren’t using masks. There’s no mask enforcement happening outdoors. Folks walk around in groups and “exercise” with their masks dangling from their hands or wrapped around their arms or just not present at all. Folks get into elevators with strangers without masks on, and they talk and cough. <sigh>
Grocery stores mostly have everything back in stock. Everything’s fine except disinfecting things like Clorox wipes: even the off-brand ones haven’t been available since the pandemic started.
It’s starting to sink in that this is really long term. In my emergency consulting business, I talk to 1-2 new clients per week. In the beginning of all this, they thought they’d be back in their offices by the end of the year. These days, more of them say that they’re going to be working from home permanently now, and closing their offices for good. I think 5-10 years from now, we’ll be back to tech people working in cubes – a lot of managers really love “watching” people “work”, and I use both of those terms in air quotes for sure.
It’ll probably be at least 2 years before I can get vaccinated. There’s no approved working vaccine yet, but every now and then, I’ll see a news story like this pop up talking about how politicians are just barely starting to lay out plans about how a vaccine would be distributed. There’s a lot of debate about how the order should go, but…let’s be real, I should probably be among the last people who will vaccinated. I’m not a first responder, an essential worker, elderly, doing child care, or anything like that. If we had a working vaccine tomorrow and they were cranking out tens of million doses per country per year, I still probably wouldn’t be able to get it for years. I’ve given up on the thought of shaking someone’s hand or having a meeting without masks for a long, long time.
My friends are starting to move out of urban areas. For a lot of folks, it doesn’t make sense to pay big-city rent premiums when none of the big-city attractions (night life, restaurants, museums, shopping) are available, and big-city dwellings are so space-constrained. Our lease is up around the end of this year, but we’re still not sure what we’re going to do next. We love high-rises, we don’t need more space (this floor plan is completely perfect for us), and we love the building, the view, and San Diego. However, we keep thinking about a tiny California beachfront town or a Colorado ski town.
I probably won’t travel for work for 2 years. In my last update, I wrote that I didn’t know when I’m going to travel for work again, but that I was aiming to go a year without any work travel. Well, I’ve now decided that I’m not going to travel for work again until I’m vaccinated. It just isn’t worth the health risk, not when I see so many people going without masks. SQL Server performance tuning shouldn’t be like Deadliest Catch: I shouldn’t be risking my health in order to provide that service. (This also means we’re more flexible about picking remote locations: I don’t need to live near a major airport for a couple years.)
I probably won’t travel for conferences for 2 years either. Let’s say there was an in-person conference tomorrow, and we could guarantee that everyone would wear masks and social distance. (Laughable, given how irresponsible people are being right now, but let’s dream.) Now, how does the hallway networking track work? How can we congregate and have protracted discussions with groups? Especially in tight hallways where everyone’s trying to do the same thing, plus get between sessions? How will the sponsor floor at conferences work, when they rely on packing people in and talking to lots of people at once?
Plus, a big part of the classic conference experience is dinner with friends, talking over a crowded table or in a bar, and… that can’t happen safely either with masks and physical distancing. I’m just not okay with hopping into a dinner with 10-15 people who have all just been through airports, then taking our masks off and eating and having close conversations. It would be completely irresponsible, especially for someone like me with asthma.
The in-person conferences we know and love are just not gonna happen for a couple of years.
If all I can do is go from one room to another, staying 6′ away from others, listen to the speaker, and then move on to the next room…I don’t see the value in traveling for that, and certainly not worth the risk of dealing with airports and coughing travelers.
This has changed my practical retirement timeline. I don’t see retirement as a finish line where I drop the mic and walk away. I think of it as “practical retirement” – a sliding switch where I gradually transition my work toward more passive income, not doing any scheduled client engagements or live online classes, only making passive income from recorded training sales and software-as-a-service sales. I’ve been gradually enabling that, scaling back the work that requires me to be in front of a computer at a specific date/time. If I can work whenever I want to, from wherever I want, and not have anything at all on my calendar, to me, that’s retirement.
So now I’m asking myself, “Could I practically retire without ever traveling for work again?” No, that’s not a heartbreaking way of expressing, “Oh, woe is me, the world may not ever get back to the way it was before I have to retire.” It’s the opposite: I might be able to shift gears into the digital nomad lifestyle in the next few years because the world has adapted to the way I wanna live, not the other way around. That’s a nice silver lining in the dark cloud.