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Retirement on the road

Local author's book gives advice on traveling, volunteering in golden yeas

For more and more Americans, the promise of retirement no longer means a carefree time to focus on oneself and doing all the things that were once put off. Returning to work is often a very real possibility.

That was the situation Barbara Traynor faced about five years ago, when she was reaching retirement age after 45 years of working as an administrative assistant. She found herself worrying about how to make ends meet on a fixed incomefar from the freedom retirement is supposed to provide.

That's when her friends, who own an RV, told her about Sheldon Jackson College in Alaska, which provides room and board to volunteers who work full time at the school. It's an idea that appealed to her itch for travel.

I thought, all I have to do is get there," she said.

And she got there in her car, driving across the country and up into Alaska. She gave her employer a 6-month notice of her retirement, reduced her belongings and sold her condominium in Connecticut. Then she took a yearlong, 8,000-mile trip that wound through the Rockies, along the Pacific coast and back east.

"I was homeless for a year," she said.

That was in 2005, and since then Traynor has seen much of the country on a fixed income, volunteering for worthy causes, meeting interesting people and hiking, canoeing and kayaking in some of the most nature-rich landscapes in the country.

Besides spending time in Alaska, she's worked at a wildlife refuge in central Florida, the agricultural learning center Heifer Ranch in Arkansas and points in between.

Lots of times she's used the skills she built professionally, serving as a receptionist. Other times, she gardens.

"You use the skills you use in work, or hobby or something new altogether," Traynor said.

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