Updated: May 24, 2019
Beautiful sunsets, the occasional wildife sighting, and the ocean water lightly rocking you to sleep. This is the life that Josephine Britton Reish retired to. Jo, as we call her, taught spanish for over 30 years so it makes perfect sense for her and her husband to sail throughout Mexico. She is a beautiful human being with an amazing outlook on life and she just so happens to me my mother-in-law. When One Millions Apples was in the beginning stages of creation Jo was extremely helpful with ideas and perspective. There was no question that she would have to be the first guest on the podcast and blog.
To listen to her entire episode click here: On the Sail - Life After Teaching
Let's set sail with Jo!
What made you want to go into education?
Well, I was a teacher of Spanish for 32 years and what inspired me was my mom, she was a UCLA Grad, 1945 to 49, something like that. She was my inspiration, very professional, very happy, very satisfied. We would go to her football games. The huskies was the mascot, so we loved her life and I just assumed since I saw her degrees on the wall that's what we do. So basically I just followed right into her footsteps. She was always so satisfied, inspired and passionate and it was very contagious.
Can you walk us through the evolution of your career from starting, to completing your masters program, up to retirement?
Oh Great! My sister talked me into going into elementary education and I had already spent two years in Madrid getting a master's degree in literature, which I loved because I wanted to be a college professor. Like my mom family happened, I had my son. So elementary education on the bilingual level was what I was kind of talked into. And so I started at the elementary level. I went to USC to get a teaching credential. I stayed in Los Angeles for two years, moved to Costa Mesa and taught at Santa Ana Unified and then finally ended in San Clemente, California working for Capistrano Unified, which was my favorite. So I went from kindergarten teacher to elementary school to high school. So I've seen it all.
You really have! And not to mention you've seen a lot more than that, which we'll get into in just a moment. When you were at Capistrano what did you teach? Since I know a lot about you I recall many times that you would go out of your way to do things for students. Please tell us about your love and passion for working at the high school.
Well at the high school I started teaching Spanish 1 and since they knew I had my degree in literature, they kind of kept moving me up. So I did teach the advanced placement Spanish language and the advanced placement Spanish literature, which was my favorite, but also, Breanna, I got involved in the avid program, which is from San Diego. It's advancement via individual determination. That is where I worked with Hispanic students and other underrepresented students at the college level. We got them directly to the four year university by giving them study skills, just by giving them the roadmap to get to the university because our Hispanic population, many of which they didn't benefit. My mom was a little bit unusual to get to the university. So if parents didn't go to the university, how were kids supposed to know how to do it? So that was so much fun for me. And bottom line, we had our Hispanic students study Spanish at the highest level and they got into the advanced levels of Spanish, not only language and literature and they got their AP credit.
It's not automatic that a Spanish speaking person is going to get an A in Spanish. Just the same way that you weren't guaranteed an A in English because you’re English speaking. So some people kind of didn't understand, well why are they studying Spanish? Well, why are we studying English? So anyway, the kids became perfectly bilingual and it's interesting, two days ago I got an email from a former student, she had spent her birthday in Costa Rica and this is a young gal who came from a family of nine siblings. They lived in a one bedroom apartment and we were able to help most of the kids in the family get a college education. So that was very, very rewarding.
Jo, do you mind letting the cat out of the bag and giving us the big reveal of what you are doing right now?
My husband and I are sailing through Mexico right now. We are in Baja in La Paz and it was funny because I was thinking years ago, what am I going to do during retirement? And I've always had the travel bug. I traveled with girlfriends when I was 20 years old through Europe and I kind of thought, well I know how to sail. How about if my husband and I buy a sailboat and we have that as our transportation, slash hotel, slash restaurant and just navigate to Mexico, which obviously like you said, having the language has been wonderful. We left in 2013 and now it's 2019 so we have enjoyed the Mexican waters.
Well it's very nice because we've been able to still enjoy your presence. It's been really fun because you go back and forth, you're able to drive back and forth sometimes and you still see family and then you leave. So for those reading, she's not gone all the time. How many months out of the year would you say that you go sailing?
I would say five to six months we're sailing and then six to seven we're at home. So to your point, it's just the best of both worlds to have a house and then to be able to leave that house. We have a friend staying with us now who's going to Grad School, to be a teacher teacher. He's our resident landlord and he's taking care of our house and we are down here so it's a flip flop and it's wonderful.
Are you able to come back and receive medical care in the states, are you able to go back and forth?
Yeah, I have had medical issues as you know, Breanna, cancer three times. So you know I have my six month checkup, then the teeth to get straightened and cleaned and you know, things like that. So we're back and forth and we get all of our little shots, and definitely a lot of grandkid time, that's for sure. We love having you guys around.
What is your favorite part of sailing?
For me it’s contrasts because we trade off staying in a marina, which most people know what a marina is like, the boats are parked probably six to eight feet next to each other, but you plug in and you've got your electricity and your WiFi and all the conveniences of home. However, on the other hand you can go island hopping and there's nothing like Mexico where you're one of the few boats in the anchorage, you're floating and your little island has its water and electricity and all that. So I like the contrast of being by ourselves on the water in a bay where are able to take our little dog for a walk to do his duty and be in the marina.
When we are island hopping, we don't have communication, there is no cell service. We do have a satellite phone for emergency phone calls and that's wonderful. But you miss family, miss keeping in touch. So I like the contrast.
We are all jealous sitting here at home, in the office, and at the grocery and here comes a text from Jo with insanely gorgeous photos of your dog running on the beach. You have a dog that sails with you, one of your first mates is a dog. Can you tell us about him and how that works?
We got him as a puppy and we knew that would probably be important to start him off as a a small dog. I think most dogs are adaptable like that. We see many of our dockmates that have even bigger dogs. So, for us he's been perfect. He's small, he knows how to chill and nap and then he will run himself on the beach and things. So he just adapts very well. And I think most dogs do.
Well, speaking of adapting, how have you adapted to living on a boat and having a minimalist lifestyle? So how have you done that and do you miss anything?
The shift has not been hard because you love what you do and you love the freedom of being on this boat in this limited space. I have my little cubby and of course my husband Terry gets most of the boat for all of his tools and equipment. In fact, right now he has the boat torn apart. Every cupboard is open. He's got his tools because everything in a boat, just like a motor home, has its compartment. So that's when I kind of like to take a walk and things, but it doesn't really bother me because I guess I know I'm going home soon.
You know what I miss the most? Not being able to have people experience what we're experiencing with us. I wish I could transport you guys. Not all the time, because sometimes there's a lot of downtime and we've had a few emergencies and things, a fuel tank breaking and things. But that's what I miss the most, is being able to have people come with us and spend time with us.
For them, it's airfare and we don't know when we're going to be at a certain place. Planning ahead is almost impossible, that is the frustrating thing. I guess my only outlet is to keep in touch and send pictures, but I just really wish people could come and visit.
You guys are in some of the most beautiful places, It looks amazing. We've been to a couple of these little places here and there, so we know that you're having the best time. It sounds glorious, but like you just said, there is still work involved.
It seems like every other day something breaks, you know. But that's what he's there for and for me as a wife to have been able to talk him into doing this, he's a very project oriented guy. He knows electricity, plumbing, motors, and this and that. I knew he would love this. Sometimes he gets overwhelmed and he does have all the pressure on him because I'm this little butterfly, I just know he'll always fix it. I know things won't be awful, they'll be okay tomorrow, that he shoulders the stress most of the time. So that just is what it is. But he still loves it.
Your son is now an educator, which is pretty cool. Are you helping him navigate the process of working through that, working through papers, curriculum?
Absolutely! In fact, it's very funny because we are so busy as teachers, we don't have time to do a lot of the planning that would make our lives easier. That's what I've been able to do for him. I've been able to create these notebooks with every single exam reduced 82%. So I've been able to give him a lot of equipment, notebooks and know-how to fast track him to be efficient and not an 18-hour a day educator.
He's very lucky to have you and it's cool that even from as far away as you are, you can still keep in touch and still help him through that process, if nothing else, provide emotional support. It must be fun to talk shop with your kid as well.
We've gone from mother son relationship to colleagues on the educational level and sharing ideas and running situations by each other and things. So, that's been really fun.
How Fun! You get to retire, but then you get to dip your toe in the pond a little bit and still keep up, right?
That is exactly right Breanna and it’s been a joy because I have time, which I never had enough time during my three decades of teaching. You just didn't, you didn't have time to do it all.
To wrap everything up, I would love to ask if you can give a little bit of advice to everyone that's reading. For those starting a career, mid career, retirement, any little tidbits that you want to throw out.
Well, thinking about it, I would probably say organization and management because that's kind of what I've been able to share with my son, this organization and most of us during the teaching years of our life, beginning, middle, end, and we've had mentors that help us through that. I think if I were to bottom line it, that's what it would be. Organization management. And then also just be a nice and fun as a teacher. Sometimes I think we get so overwhelmed by testing and by all the pressures that we have to perform. Sometimes we're not our finest and our nicest. Try to relieve the stress somehow with something for mental health, whether it's going to the gym across the street or gathering with friends.
I've always had girlfriends on campus, 12 of us used to play Bunko together once a month. Oh my gosh, it was always very uplifted. Lastly to not hang out with the Debbie downers to hang out more with the fun teachers because there really is a lot that can bring us down.
You are one of the most optimistic people that I know. And, and when I was asking you if you would do this podcast, it was so cute. You said, well, I don't know if people are going to be so into sailing because they might get sea sick. I think the point is that it's not about the exact activity that you're doing, it's the fact that you're optimistic. You're getting out there, you're thinking outside of the box, you’re doing something unique, you're just going with it, and you literally live day to day.
Right, what a person needs to do is find out what that passion is. I remember having a conversation with myself, well, what are you going to do during retirement? Well, I don't know. I asked myself, what was the funnest time of my life? Then I reflected back and it was when I was 21 years old with my two girlfriends, we had completed two years of college, moved home, saved money, and spent five months in Europe. We lived in a car, you know, that was our transportation and hotel and restaurant. I kind of wanted to duplicate that. I think looking back on what was the funnest time, and for some people maybe the funniest time was gardening, maybe sometimes it was just a walk in the mountains. So we just have to find out what we love, that gives us satisfaction. For many it’s being with their grandkids, you know? I know I have a lot of girlfriends, that's what they do, they love being grandma and we do as well.
Update since the interview was recorded:
Jo & Terry made it to San Jose Del Cabo and sent a text to us to invite us down for a visit. It just so happened that the kids were on spring break that week so we took them up on it. We were able to experience their sailboat life for 3 wonderful days. Eating dinners on the boat, dingy rides to the beach, a little snorkling and ending the day taking a shower in the marina. I can now tell you first hand they live a unique & beautiful life.
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