John and Angie Hood traveled to Europe together for the first time to celebrate 35 years of marriage and John’s pending retirement. The couple celebrated their anniversary on January 14, and John retired from Northrop Grumman after 36 and a half years on January 17, 2020.

“Careful planning, saving and deferring gratification through the years made this trip possible,” Angie said. “John will be a young retiree at age 60. He says he’s not really retiring, he is just not worrying about his paycheck, and because of financial planning, this is possible.”

In June 2019, they spent two weeks in Ireland and Northern Ireland tracing down John’s Hood family roots — a trip he had dreamed of taking for years. Their favorite part of the trip was the people. They were able to meet some of John’s distant cousins who own a dairy farm and worship at Clough Presbyterian Church, which is more than 450 years old, and where John’s family were members. The Hoods describe the Irish people as “warm and welcoming.” They made friends with a couple in County Down — a pastor and his wife who were from another Clough Presbyterian Church.

“Six months before our trip, I realized my Internet pen pal for Clough Presbyterian was from another Clough!” Angie said. “They took us to the manse, the parsonage, on our way north from Dublin, and we attended their church several times. We even went to a church picnic on the east coast of Northern Ireland with them. John also attended two different Masonic Lodges — one in Clough and one in Ballymena — and the people there were fantastic to us.”

“We are looking forward to having more free time to do the things that we are passionate about,” Angie said. “I will still be teaching English and journalism classes part time, as long as it continues to give me joy, and John wants to finally do some ‘fun engineering’ in entertainment, that he felt he couldn’t gamble on doing while we were raising a family. Who knows, maybe he will become a rock band engineer, planning and designing the rock band stages, or inventing better ways to do audio.”

In the future, the Hoods hope to go on more trips to explore their family heritage, and they would love to return to Northern Ireland, maybe for a month rather than just a week or two. After decades of careful retirement planning, they are glad for the opportunities to travel and enjoy their second half.