“Pretirement” is retirement rethought and has become something of a trend, particularly with Millennials who don’t expect they’ll ever want to or, in some cases, be able to retire.
The idea behind pretirement is that work takes a back seat for a little while to do the things many people typically put off until they’ve retired. It’s allowing their dreams to take the driver’s seat for awhile.
This might mean taking almost an entire year off, as it did for Cheyenne couple Scott and Tiffany Sink, or it might involve working part-time instead of full-time and using some savings to help make ends meet.
But really, pretirement is any combination of reduced 9-to-5 that helps a person realize their biggest life ambitions before they’re too old to enjoy them.
“We actually don’t ever expect to retire,” Tiffany told Cowboy State Daily. “Which is kind of a funny thing to say. But I love working. And we would much rather do some of our adventures right now to make sure that (they happen), because it’s not a guarantee later in life, right? So, we’re making sure that we do it all, and that we continue to do things as we age.”
That doesn’t mean their so-called retirement years might not look different, she added.
“But even if we do end up in some state of retirement, we will still probably be very involved with activities like a lot of retired people,” she said. “But I just don’t ever anticipate just like sitting down and retiring.”
Traveling Is Their Jam
Travel is the thing that ultimately brought Scott and Tiffany together for their happily ever after.
“Our whole relationship was kind of built off of it,” Tiffany said. “Even our third date was this week-long road trip around southeast Utah. And it was in March, and we didn’t know at the time that was probably not the best time to plan a road trip.”
After surviving multiple snowstorms — and still having an amazing time together — the couple decided they probably should just get married.
Since then, the couple has been everywhere together: all 50 states, all 155 national forests, a state park and a waterfall in every state.
You name it, they’ve probably been there, done that, and have a T-shirt to prove it. They’ve climbed 11,115-foot Lester Pass in the Wind River Range, they’ve sunk ankle deep in the brown mud of the El Toro National Recreation Trail, and they’ve gone winter camping in January at Rocky Mountain National Park with nothing but snow all around.
They’ve enjoyed the vanilla scent of pines in southern California at the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, and there have been countless other wild and free moments that have populated their blog — and now three books that they’ve published through Amazon.
“Travel is definitely the glue of our relationship,” Tiffany said. “We prioritize it over pretty much everything except for work, because we have to pay for the travel.”
The Big ‘Pretirement’ Road Trip
In 2016, 10 years after the couple married, Tiffany and Scott decided they would take 10 months off to celebrate with a goal of visiting a national park and a state park in all 50 states.
This was before pretirement as such had become a trendy thing.
“The only references to it were to money planning before you retired,” Tiffany said.
But that wasn’t what Tiffany and Scott were thinking of when they used the word to describe what they had in mind. For them it was a whole new mindset of having one’s retirement adventures now, before ill health or old age could stop them from doing the things they imagined.
The couple took a Toyota Sienna they’d converted into a sleeping van for their big road trip so they could save money on hotel stays and still go everywhere they wanted. They also took along a stuffed bunny named Wondon, which has his own personal blogspot.
“Scott is an amazing planner, and he had every single day of those 10 months planned,” Tiffany said. “And we did every single thing, except one day that we had planned, which was actually a fly-out in Alaska. The weather was too bad, so that never happened. But everything else was pretty dead-on to planning.”
There were, of course, funny stories along the way, and many memories made.
One they still laugh about is the time a raccoon, or maybe it was a mouse, seemed to have gotten stuck in the engine compartment of the van.
“We kept getting woken up over and over again, and you could hear something scratching in the engine,” Tiffany said.
Moving The Cheese
That same strange scratching sound happened again more recently, and this time it really was a mouse — which appeared right on top of where they were sleeping, freaking out the couple and the mouse.
Fortunately, no one got bit, and even the mouse wasn’t hurt. It was just chased back outside.
There was also the time a dirty license plate got them pulled over in a national park in California by a particularly suspicious ranger, and the time a park ranger in Rocky Mountain National Forest in Colorado just couldn’t fathom why the couple were camping there in January.
“We were sitting down at a picnic table eating breakfast, and it’s like 13 degrees,” Scott recalled, laughing.
“Yeah, super cold,” Tiffany added. “And we’d had a fire in the fire pit the night before, but we were in a legitimate campground, and it was literally just a fire pit.”
The officer walked up to the couple with her hand on her gun, though, checking everything out all along the way.
“She was, like, over-the-top suspicious of us,” Tiffany said. “And then immediately following that, they closed the campground to all winter camping for everyone forever more. So, we kind of figure that our very threatening existence there shut down the park.”
The Road Goes Ever On
Since that time, Tiffany has gone back to her Wyoming job as a performance improvement analyst at a Cheyenne medical facility, and Scott has been blogging and writing about the couple’s many adventures across Wyoming and the United States.
They’ve returned to all 50 states, keeping up the pretirement road trips, and they’ve just released their third book, “50 States of Great: Road Trip Guide to America,” which details all of their best tips and advice, as well as lots of off-the-beaten-path adventures. The book can be found in 307 Made stores as well as online at Amazon.
Their new travel vehicle, meanwhile, has changed just slightly. They’re no longer using a van, which is more readily spotted as an overnight camper, but are instead in complete stealth mode with a Kia Niro they’ve converted into a surprisingly comfortable sleeper.
“I just remember the look on the face of the guy, I think he had the dealership, when the very first thing we did when we were going to buy it was just make sure — I’m 6 foot 3 — that I can fit in there,” Scott said.
When buying the vehicle, the couple asked the salesman to push the seats all the way forward, and then Scott climbed into the back to see if he could lay all the way down.
“I bet that was probably the most unusual test drive he’s ever had,” Scott said.
After that, the couple actually drove it, and then brought it home to convert.
Not Humpty Dumpty
The conversion wasn’t actually the big chore the couple thought it was going to be.
“Grand total, I think it was probably only like 12 hours work in a couple of months,” Scott said. “We spent more time thinking about it than actually putting it together.”
The first step was taking out the back seats, which Scott found were just held in place with a couple of bolts.
After that, they measured and cut out from wooden pallets an enclosure to both protect their hybrid car’s battery, as well as create a flat surface to lay their sleeping bags on.
The windows they’ve covered in custom blackout curtains using a roll of windshield reflective polyester cloth, so it would have some stiffness, which they then covered with black flannel sheets. They also created custom mosquito coverings for their windows, for hot nights where they absolutely need to open all the windows to sleep.
A little shelf down toward their feet, so they can stand a few things up, and a storage space under the sleeping area, completed the conversion.
“We can pretty much park anywhere, in a hotel parking lot or rest area, and a lot of times people will have no idea there’s anyone able to sleep in that tiny, little car,” Scott said.
That makes it the perfect vehicle for their ongoing pretirement journey through life, which the couple is determined to fill with one over-the-top road trip after another.
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.