Redefining Retirement: Going Wild

Redefining Retirement

A popular answer when asking a new retiree what they plan to do with their time is “travel.” But Kathy Konopasek has taken the concept of traveling when retired to a whole new level.

Kathy Konopasek meets some lionsAfter a 30-year career with CPS where she took on many roles—teacher, librarian, assistant principal, principal—Kathy was saddened at the thought of retiring and found herself in tears when signing her retirement paperwork in Winter 2016. She immediately signed up to substitute teach in order to ease the transition out of working full-time, and a winter trip to Mexico with a fellow CPS retiree certainly helped to ease the pain, too!

An avid traveler when she was in college and teaching abroad in her early career, Kathy has always been an explorer, but the time commitment required for the CPS leadership roles she eventually took on made extensive travel a bit trickier. Bitten by the travel bug once again following her Mexico getaway, Kathy decided to make her next adventure a big one, and went to South Africa and Zimbabwe for 19 days.

Kathy Konopasek and elephantDescribed as “a trip of a lifetime,” Kathy got to immerse herself in a completely different culture and was particularly fascinated by the free-roaming wildlife that surrounded her. Openly encouraged by her tour guides to both observe and participate in Africa’s wildness, she got to ride on and feed a 4-ton elephant and rub the backs of lions (and she has the photos to prove it!). She also got to visit the home of Nelson Mandela, which she describes as an honor and a humbling experience.

Back in Illinois for the time being, Kathy continues to substitute teach, has become a member of the Retired Teachers Association of Chicago (RTAC), regularly takes yoga and stretching classes, volunteers at her local park, and is thinking about her future travels. A return trip to China is being considered, as well as a first-time visit to South America, and as winter creeps in, another jaunt to Mexico seems very appealing.

But for now Kathy is happy to enjoy the still-vivid memories of her time in Africa, letting them last as long as possible.


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