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Retire at 65? How About 40, but just for one year

(Courtesy of Jim Luetkemeyer)

It's been one-year since ABC7 News introduced you to a DC couple who did what most of us only dream of: They quit perfectly good jobs, packed-up their home, and dove head-first into an adventure they'd hatched over a whimsical conversation with friends.

I recently caught up with them as they returned from their "One-Year Retirement."

"It was amazing," Jim Luetkemeyer said. "It was phenomenal. Everything we wanted it to be. It really was an amazing trip."

The trip was one that he and his wife Megan decided they wanted to experience before life had a chance to pull any punches.

They did it by using part of the money they'd saved for a house, agreeing to delay their actual retirement, and by finding the courage to walk away.

"Being able to let go of things that, you know, especially in Washington, we think are very important for careers and our jobs. They are important. But there are other things that are important too," Jim said.

They traveled light.

One backpack each.

Jim and Megan visited 33-countries, took more than 75 planes and trains, and stopped in roughly 130 cities over 365 days.

His favorite stop: Japan.

Hers: Ireland.

And while much of the planning was done ahead, there was more to do on the road than they anticipated.

"I think one of my biggest surprises was just the amount of decision fatigue we had," Megan said. "We were always planning the next stop, what we wanted to do, where we wanted to stay and what part of town to stay."

The couple originally budgeted $330 a day for everything but picked up some money-saving tips as they traveled.

One of the biggest they say: using Airbnb, which helped bring costs down to $250 a day.

"We splurged on a few things," said Jim, "and we're glad we did because it's one of those wonderful lifetime experiences."

The couple took Spanish classes in Argentina, cooking lessons in Italy and a hike to an Incan citadel, high in the Andes mountains of Peru.

"We did a five-day trek as part of our trip to Machu Picchu in Peru and so that was a five-day hike with porters and a guide to take you over what's called the San Calte Pass, we went up 15,000 feet," said Jim.

There was no room for souvenirs, but they did manage to bring back a patch from every country they visited, and a more grounded sense of life after flying around the world.

"I think we learned a lot," Megan said. "I definitely learned a lot about myself. I'm definitely more flexible with things. We just sort of slowed down and took time to talk with people and we learned a lot through that."

The couple admits, making a decision like this isn't for everybody, but there are ways to reap some of the same rewards.

"There are other decisions you can make in life that also are similar but aren't a trip around the world," Jim said. "You can make a decision to get outside of your comfort zone in a lot of different ways, and that is interacting with people who aren't just like you. They have different experiences; they have different paths that you can learn from."

Megan's back at work at a DC hospital and Jim's working independently as a consultant.

They both say they wouldn't change a thing about the trip, but if they're lucky enough to do it again, they'd visit 40 places instead of 120 and stay longer at each.

For travel tips from Jim and Megan and links to their video journals, click here. Their blog is here. And their YouTube page is here.

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