Volunteering plays a big role in many retirements across many types of volunteer organizations. Today’s guest, David Jarmul, shares his experiences volunteering abroad with his wife with the Peace Corps in his sixties. David’s new book, Not Exactly Retired, tells the inspiring story of a couple who steered off the main highway of the American Dream to reinvent themselves. They left their home to wander around the United States and Nepal and then serve as Peace Corps volunteers in Moldova, in Eastern Europe. Not Exactly Retired is a book for anyone seeking inspiration about how they, too, might pursue adventure, serve others, and embrace the next phase of their lives. This book is a shining example of why volunteering is important – and why it can be a unique way of reinvention in early retirement.
We discuss with David:
David joins me from North Carolina.
David Jarmul is a writer and world traveler whose blog has been read in more than 100 countries. He was the head of news and communications at Duke University for many years and held senior communications positions at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Academy of Sciences. An honors graduate of Brown University and past president of the D.C. Science Writers Association, he has also worked as an editor for an international development organization, a writer for the Voice of America, and a reporter for a business newspaper. His previous books are Headline News, Science Views and Plain Talk: Clear Communication for International Development. David has traveled throughout the world and in all 50 U.S. states. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal, where he met his wife, Champa, and with her in Moldova, Eastern Europe. They live in Durham, N.C.
On Identity and Retirement
“I began to redefine my identity. It took me months to change my LinkedIn profile and to let go and stop thinking of myself as the former this or the former that, and to embrace my new role as a Peace Corps volunteer – and also as a blogger. So, that was good. More broadly, I felt like being a Peace Corps volunteer really helped me to be flexible to this. Can I step into a place where the resources are much less than we have in America. In many ways it’s a simpler life. And to realize that what really matters in life is, is not necessarily what we obsess about here in America.”
On Volunteering Abroad in His Sixties
“I was serving in my sixties this time, which many people listening to this might think, ‘Wow, that must be pretty tough.’ But actually I thought it was easier to be a volunteer in my sixties than it was in my twenties. Particularly since I was serving with my wife. I wasn’t lonely. I always had my best friend there. And with the people who ran the community where we were – the mayor and the head of the school and the library and so forth – they were the same age as us. And so we became friends. So we would trade photos of our grandkids and we could talk to each other as peers. And it was a very different kind of relationship. And we really enjoyed it. ”
On How Not-for Profit Organizations Can Leverage Retirees Better
“…Non-profit groups look to older volunteers often as a way to handle tasks that don’t necessarily use their skills all that appropriately. And I think there’s a real opportunity within the non-profit world, and more broadly in American society, to take advantage of our cohort. And to think more strategically about the skills they can bring. People have great backgrounds, whether it’s in HR or with computer technology or management and just [overall] communication skills. So it’s sort of in all kinds of areas [with experienced people] who are eager to be of service. And I sometimes feel like nonprofits don’t quite know what to make of them. So I’ve been actually working with others here in North Carolina to see if we can address that. But it’s a need and it’s an opportunity that I think extends much more broadly across the country.”
Advice on Volunteering in Retirement
“I’m imagining somebody, Joe, who’s listening to this right now who thinks, ‘Oh, that’s kind of fun, but I could never do that.’ And my answer to them is: Yes, you can. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be the Peace Corps. Everybody has their own dream, has their own bliss. And for us it was doing that for somebody else. That may be something entirely different for you. My argument to people is not, ‘Hey, you need to join the Peace Corps’. It’s: Take control of your life.’ It’s: ‘Be deliberate about where you’re going. And another way to say that is: Don’t drift. I have friends and I’m guessing you may too, who are dear friends and wonderful people, but I get the feeling that they’re just doing what they’re doing because they can’t think of something else to do. They don’t necessarily enjoy it all that much anymore.”
Order Not Exactly Retired
Read David Jarmul’s Blog
Watch a Short Video on their Moldova experience (1 minute, 41 seconds)
We hope this podcast episode finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe during these challenging times. Stay well.