The cottage was exactly as he imagined it to be. It was a cozy wooden one-bedroom cabin situated in the middle of a wood and surrounded by many lakes. It had no electricity, internet or cell phone connections. It was isolated and disconnected from the outside world just as he wanted it to be! The nearest town was at least 30 miles away and it was approximately a three-hour drive from his home. This is how Alan Thomas wanted to celebrate his retirement!
He has never been at this part of the country before, but this place was highly recommended by few of his friends who frequently used it as an escape venue to unload some of their emotional and physical packages whether caused by their personal or professional lives!
Alan spent the last 40 years of his life in the audit profession, internal and external. He was an audit partner with a leading accounting firm and he served as the Chief Audit Executive (CAE) for several national organizations. He enjoyed his career very much, but after all these years of professional skepticism, risk assessments, auditing, and struggling to meet & exceed stakeholders’ and clients’ expectations, he was ready for a new phase in his life. One that does not involve any of the above in any shape or form! He felt the profession was taking its toll on him at different levels. He simply wanted to leave it behind him!
He was hoping to spend most of his time at the cottage watching the wildlife and enjoying nature. He thought about camping instead of the cabin, but he concluded he is not equipped to live in a tent for a couple of weeks. He had plans to catch up on a long overdue reading list of novels written by his favourite authors. He also wanted to spend time reflecting on his life and his plans for retirement. He is still in his early sixties, an age that is confusing his body and mind! His mind is telling him he is still young and full of energy, while his body is sending him reminders to slow down and accept the fact that he is no longer young! Obviously, there is a disconnect between the mind and the body, he is eager to have them reach a compromise! He is not in any rush to start new projects or start to develop travel plans, although he was leaning towards spending time volunteering at various charities. Mentoring was also on his to-do list, but for now, he just wanted a long break and the peace of mind!
Mary, his wife of 37 years, was not too excited about the cottage life. She really was hoping to spend some quality time with him to compensate for the old times. He worked hard and travelled a lot, he hardly had time to spend with her or with their two children. But, wildlife and outdoor activities were not her things, partly for health reasons. Nevertheless, they agreed she will spend the last few days with him at the cottage! She thought that was a good compromise and it would give him much needed few days of freedom and personal space!
The truth is that she also needed some “alone time” to reflect on the new phase of their lives. Now that Alan is retired, there will be changes in their daily routines! He will probably be spending a lot of time around the house doing little things. How would he keep himself busy? Would his attitude and/or perspective on life change? While their marriage was not perfect, it was peaceful and respectful. like other married couples, they had the normal ups and downs in the relationship. She was hoping there will be no dramatic change in the relationship.
Alan arrived at the cottage around noon on a beautiful Saturday in July. He unpacked the little stuff he brought with him, consisting mainly of some clothes & personal toiletry, canned food, fresh fruits, and mineral water. The cottage was equipped with a small gas stove. It was more than enough for him, he only needs it to make coffee and maybe for small cooking adventures. He planned to make a weekly quick visit to the town near the cottage to replenish his stock when needed. He also brought with him a first aid kit, insect repellent, flashlight, and matches. He resisted the suggestion of his friends to bring with him some sort of a protection tool such as a gun or a hunting rifle. He settled on a Swiss army knife! He is a peaceful, non-confrontational person and he intends to keep it this way!
He fixed himself a tuna sandwich and ate it on the porch while admiring the nature around him. He made coffee and enjoyed it while walking around the cottage to get familiar with his surroundings. He spent a couple of hours walking around and counting his steps. He needed to lose some weight and planned to do a minimum of 10,000 steps daily. He was happy he had achieved this goal on the first day of his retreat.
Since there was no electricity in the cottage except for an emergency generator, he decided to return to the cottage and read a book before the darkness falls. He has brought with him a collection of books including the “Rogue Lawyer” by John Grisham. The first Grisham novel he read was “The Firm”, he loved it and became a loyal fan of the author ever since.
He sat on the rocking chair on the porch and started to turn the pages of the “rogue lawyer”. Before reading the first sentence, he smiled to himself and thought sarcastically that he should write a novel and call it “Rogue Auditor”! No, it won’t be about him! He was a disciplined professional all his life. He certainly has met or heard of some rogue auditors during his long career, he could use their stories to inspire a novel if he decides to become an author. He never wrote any literature before other than technical articles and white papers. He laughed and quickly shrugged off the idea of becoming an author of a fiction. He simply did not think he is capable of doing so.
Dinner was simple, he managed to prepare spaghetti and salad. He took his time eating while thinking how creative he needs to be in preparing daily food in the absence of a refrigerator and a microwave. Fresh meat and other fast perishable foods were out of the question. Would he survive the whole two weeks without a steak or grilled chicken? If he gets too desperate for real food, he would consider breaking the self-imposed promise of isolation and make a trip to a diner in the nearby town. For now, he feels strong and confident in his ability to survive the urge of fine dining. What tomorrow brings is another story!
It was still a little early for bedtime, although the sky started to get dark. There was not much he could do without electricity, no television, no internet, and no lights to continue reading. He regretted not bringing a battery-operated radio with him. At least, he could listen to some music. He decided to lie down on the bed and let his imagination soar. It did not soar long enough as he fell asleep in no time. After all, his body was right. He is getting old!