“I made it to the bonus territory,” Geoffrey Prior said. At 57, he had lived longer than his own father and he knew he wanted to do something special with the extra time he had.
Geoff was ready to make a change in his life and decided he needed to transition from his busy lifestyle traveling around the world as an IT executive. He took a job where he worked from home and started to wind down. Then Geoff got hit hard with sciatica and he began to wonder, “Is it too late?” Too late to have the type of retirement he dreamed of filled with hiking, biking and traveling.
He steeled his resolve to get healthy and knew then it was time to retire. In 2019, at the age of 59, he and his wife decided they had sufficient money so he could retire. There was still a question of health care. Geoff said they decided to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act. “I’m loving it,” Geoff said. He admits that initially there were bureaucratic hassles, but now he says, “it’s the best health care I’ve ever had.”
Beginning His Dream Retirement
Geoff knew he wanted to make travel a priority in retirement. As an IT executive, he had spent much of his life traveling around the world for work. He knew his retirement travel would be totally different since he wouldn’t have the finances for planes and hotels, but his priority was more to just see new places.
So, he bought a travel van, not the VW Campervan of our youth. Instead, it was a 2019 Travato Campervan with a bathroom, shower, refrigerator, stove and two beds. His first trip was a 72-day trip across the country that was a high school graduation present for his son.
Because his own father died when he was 12, he never had experiences like that with him, so spending time with his son was important. They started down south in the Smokey Mountains and then travelled west through St. Louis, Kansas then up to Lake Superior, Rochester and Cape Cod. Along the way they took biking trips on “Rails to Trails”. Geoff said, “Miraculously, we got along great”.
This first trip only made him want more and he began planning trips every year. The next summer during 2020 he went on a 3-month trip during which he spent much of his time alone. This trip was difficult because of COVID. Even as a self-described introvert, the lack of interaction with others, even as simple as going into a diner and eating with other people around him, was a challenge. But Geoff said he was always “comfortable with himself” and he spent time exploring and taking pictures.
His five-month 2021 adventure was a little easier and his wife, who lost her job during COVID, was able to join him for part of the trip as well as his son for another part. They traveled in his van visiting Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington and Arizona. As the summer drew to a close, not yet full of travel, Geoff headed north on his own to visit Glacier, Banff, Jasper, the Tetons, and Yellowstone National Parks.
A New Hobby/Business is Born
An additional benefit of his traveling retirement has been starting a side business, GRP Imagery, where he sells the photos he takes while traveling.
Geoff had been taking pictures for years of the family vacations and important events. But something changed when he started taking pictures to document his travels. He started sharing them on Facebook and Instagram and received great feedback from his family and friends. Then he decided to upgrade to a Sony a7iii full-frame camera and an assortment of lenses.
“I realized they (his pictures) were as good as any picture I had seen on the internet,” Geoff said. In fact, they are so good, he has started entering them in contests and winning! His first win was a photo he entered through the Glacier National Park Conservancy Photo Contest.
The photo was an example of Astro-Landscape Photography. This is a type of photography Geoff specializes in. It is exactly what it sounds like, shooting a landscape with the Milky Way in the background. To get these pictures he needs to wake up early and take photos between 2-4 a.m. or stay up late and shoot after 10 p.m. To get the perfect picture he takes multiple pictures. 10-15 and stacks them.
He also selected as a category winner in the Stewardship Network 2021 Nature Photo Contest for his picture of a goat. “I take full advantage of serendipitous moments,” Geoff said. The day he took the goat picture, he wasn’t taking pictures of animals, but a goat jumped down right in front of him and another awarding winning picture was born.
One of his favorite photo stories is about his trip down the Oregon Coast. He describes capturing a sunset at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
It was so beautiful that he stayed there much longer than he should have and wasn’t sure where he was going to sleep. Luckily, there was a Walmart nearby and he “Wally-Docked”, which means taking your camper and sleeping in a Walmart parking lot. Not only does Walmart allow this, but also you can “Cracker-Dock” at Cracker Barrel.
He was able to stay so close to the lighthouse that he got up in the morning to take sunrise photos as well.
Life At Home
Geoff has 1,000s of photographs and spends hours processing when he’s home. He is also taking classes that can help enhance his career. “I took Adobe Illustrator through CCBC online,” Geoff said. CCBC has a program where people over 60 can take classes tuition-free.
This class will help him with his photography business. “I love having the opportunity to explore new things,” Geoff said.
He considers himself a “rookie retiree” who’s still learning how to manage his time, especially when he is home. He’s been considering getting a part-time job, but doesn’t want it to interfere with his ability travel.
Right now, he’s preparing for his road trip to Alaska (which has been on his bucket list for years), entering more contests and selling his photography through GRP Imagery.
Geoff’s advice for other individuals considering retirement. “Don’t wait until it’s too late.” He said he has never regretted his decision to retire early.