Welcome to 2022! It’s a relief to turn the page on 2021 and finally look forward to some exciting prospects and new adventures. While I have some specific milestones, the timeline remains unclear due to the continued COVID pandemic.

We are now in a significant surge with the US reporting several days of 500,000+ new cases. The new omicron virus variant is highly contagious but fortunately not as dangerous as the previous delta variant, which took a heavy toll last year. New studies indicate that omicron doesn’t infect the lungs, so hospitalizations are not expected to rise in proportion to the infection rate. This week South Africa (where omicron was first detected) reported that new infections are on the decline, so researchers in the US are expecting a similar fast climb (and fall) of infections with the peak hitting in the next 1-2 weeks.

Of course this has thrown my company’s return to office plans into question. We were expected to be on site starting January 10, but shortly before our December break they announced that this had “softened” in light of omicron and that we should follow the guidance of our managers. And since my boss was on vacation, I haven’t received any update. But I would be surprised if this date still holds given the rapid spread, and if for some reason it remains firm I’ll give immediate notice since I don’t plan to return to San Diego. And even if I were planning to relocate to San Diego and continue working, I wouldn’t be comfortable right now staying in AirBnBs, apartment hunting, furniture shopping, etc. and this would be an excessive ask from my company.

So I expect that as soon as I return to work on Monday this will be clarified and my exit timeline will be clearer. I personally want to work remotely until the end of March so I can max out my 401(k) for the year and potentially receive a healthy bonus to be paid on March 18. I’ll know what the exact figure is when our company announces Q4 2021 earnings in early February, and indications from our CFO is that it will be a very good quarter which means a 100-150% payout if the target goals are met or exceeded.

Paul continues to be frustrated with my uncertain retirement date but he is also quite patient. We can’t travel much now anyway due to travel restrictions and we’re tied down with the San Miguel house renovations for at least the next two months. To me there are two gating factors: 1) when my manager expects me to return to the office (at which point I’ll give two weeks notice), and 2) what the bonus payout is since 5.0-7.5% of my annual salary as a “parting gift” would be most welcome (we’re spending a lot on the house now so the extra income would help ease cash flow for me). But in my mind I won’t work past April 1. That for me is the ideal date, and now only three months away.

I’m very excited for the upcoming Camino de Santiago and I’m actively planning for this. There are a lot of details and decisions to be made (a topic for another day) but I’m focusing on a mid-April departure to Spain to enjoy Semana Santa somewhere then start the walk shortly after Easter. This gives us plenty of time (7 full weeks) to complete the pilgrimage comfortably and be in the United Kingdom for our June 11 longboat rental in Wales. I don’t want to rush the Camino but I’m also mindful of the weather since this is fairly early in the season for northern Spain. I don’t think the weather will be too cold (highs average 15-17° C) and it’ll put us slightly ahead of the crowds which really swell in May.

So I see the Camino as my anchor, the official start of my retirement. That word still sounds funny — I still prefer the more indefinite “post-professional career” or even “between opportunities” which essentially means unemployed, which I will be. Yes, laughable but I’m not entirely comfortable with the term “retirement”. Semantics aside, the truth is I’m super excited about this next phase in my life, and I feel mostly emotionally prepared and comfortable with my financial foundation.

The next three months will go very quickly, of that I am sure. But it will be a mentally stressful time for me and I approach this weighty transition and the emotional tests that await. I’ll use my remaining time while working remotely to prepare myself for this juncture — I have long lists of ideas and plans and goals that continue to excite and motivate me.

So time to look forward with eagerness and anticipation. It’s the New Year — may 2022 be filled with health, adventure and of course new and renewed friendships.

Celebrating the UK New Year (i.e. 7 PM Eastern) so we can go to bed at a reasonable hour!

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