For me, it happened often. The sign for a county Vietnam War Memorial – a war I fought in! – that I raced past for 20 years. The driveway into an overgrown lot where a small abandoned church beckoned. The turnoff to a wildlife preserve I had never seen. And yet, each time the momentum of life – career, family, travel – always overran my best intentions to check it out.
When I finally retired at 69, I decided: no more. If something piques my curiosity, I’m going after it. And over the past year, I’ve done just that, exploring:
- The War Memorial, where I found a stunning, outsized granite knife reaching to the sky, reflecting different colors as the sun moved around it. Beautiful, somber, contemplative, it encouraged me to sit and remember my fallen brothers.
- The little church, well, the front door was open and I walked in. Wind and rain had broken through the windows and punished the interior. One religious furnishing remained: a blond oak altar table, engraved with the words: “This do in remembrance of me.” It pained me to see that it would not survive. At home, I tracked down the owners of the property (no longer the church) and sent them a letter. Would they allow me to buy the table? The owner not only said yes, but had it delivered to my home as a gift.
- The wildlife preserve, which turned out to be magical. With trails winding through field and forest and wetlands, the turkeys, geese and birds were abundant. I came across some hikers, holding their palms out, and, astonishingly, birds alighted and ate seed from their hands. “You want to try?” a young man asked. “Yes,” I said. The tickling of their claws, their very lightness of being, was delightful.
I wished I’d done these and other such things much earlier. But I was glad it wasn’t too late.
Tips for taking the road never taken:
- Turn off your GPS and roam.
- If a roadside sign or a distant hill intrigues you, go there.
- Let your instincts tell you when you’ve “arrived.”
- Get out of your car and savor what you’ve found.
A native of Omaha, NE, Paul Critchlow experienced success early by winning a football scholarship to the University of Nebraska. After graduating, he served in the U.S. Army, becoming a decorated Vietnam combat veteran. After a 30+ year career in journalism, government and finance, Paul retired in 2015. This summer he joined Pfizer as a 70 year-old “Senior Intern," seeing it as another chance to contribute, learn and grow. Learn more about Paul’s experience here.