I sometimes wonder if the way we word concepts has to do with the way we feel about them or the way others make that concept look like. Take ‘falling in love’ for example. What part of the process suggests that one “falls” into love? Similarly, was “retiring” coined because most people that reached that stage of life were tired?
For many that may be true but for Barbie and Ken that term should be “reenergizing”! Barbie & Ken – no, not what you are thinking. Barbara and Ken are the incredibly warm and hospitable AirBnB hosts I stayed with in Oregon over this past Thanksgiving break. And before the next question pops up in your head, yes, these are their real names.
For most of us the most lasting memories of a trip are pictures we take or souvenirs we bring back but for me it’s often interactions I have with people I meet. Barbie & Ken have certainly left a lasting impression on me. They are a couple rounding up on retirement from their jobs in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Military intelligence respectively with a beautiful house in Oregon where they have been hosting AirBnB guests for the past couple of years. Money is not the motivation. They do it because they like meeting new people and – more importantly – they are practicing and preparing for a beautiful “Reenergizement” in Sicily, Italy in 2020!
About 10 years ago Ken coincidentally happened to sit next to someone on a bus who was in the process of leaving the US to go back to his home country. That idea caught on to him and he came home excitedly to tell Barbie all he had learnt from the stranger on the bus. Their conversation led Barbie to research how hard it would be for her to apply for an Italian citizenship given both sides of her family were originally from Italy. After some digging around she found out she needed to procure some paperwork about her grandparents’ status as Italian citizens, their birth certificates, etc. to become Italian herself. Diligent as she is she traced back her family tree, met with her second cousins in Sicily and found everything she needed to finally become a citizen and also bestow that privilege upon her husband and son. On their visits to Sicily, Ken and Barbie fell in love with a little town by the beach and decided this is where they want to retire – no! scratch that – reenergize! They found a large property with a recently renovated, spacious house on it and bought that from the previous brother-sister duo owning it as part of an inheritance. It’s on an expansive land with parts of it containing old aqueducts built by the Greek, which Ken is eager to explore.
Now I should tell you that beyond having their day jobs both Ken & Barbie are people of multiple talents. Ken started his career being a gemstone dealer (yeah! speak of this being a small world for those of you who know my family history) then became a machine engineer, then an automobile engineer, taught himself programming, followed by a job in the US Military intelligence. He basically already lived five average people’s lifetimes in his one life and now he’s gearing up for his next adventure. Similarly, Barbie has some amazing life stories too, which I won’t share that many of because she may publish a book about it soon. Suffice to say she is the type of go-getter that appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal with a chicken under both her arms because she fought for a change in a city ordinance that now allows people in the City of Salem to keep hen in the backyard.
For their Golden Years these two have planned to proverbially live the life in Sicily running an AirBnB out of their newly acquired property and making it a place not only for people to stay but have full experiences. Barbie, an extraordinary cook, is planning to run Italian cooking classes. You should see her self-made giant binder of recipes, all neatly printed with step-by-step pictures and filed away by categories of food. I thought I was organized until I saw Barbie’s binder and learnt that she has a 100+ week plan in a spreadsheet leading up to their day of departure to Siciliy in 2020. I am still in awe!
While Barbie will be delighting her guests with authentic cooking classes and is going to teach English to locals, Ken’s geek mind is already planning how to run the entire property on self-built solar systems and irrigation power plants. He is going to teach local kids practical engineering. People who are apprehensive of immigrants should look at these two who are going to change the face of that little town for the better!
I got a little sneak peak of Barbie’s cooking classes when she taught me how to make fresh pasta from scratch one morning:
We are all given this one life. To a large extent, with some variance, we are all equipped with the same start capital of a body and a brain. There is no blueprint of what each one of us is supposed to make of our lives. We are the architects left with ample of room to construct the following 70-80 years of our existence. How we spend our working years is a choice within constrains but it’s completely up to us if we work towards a reTIREment or a reENERGIZEment.
Thank you Barbie & Ken for showing me what living it up really means!