For her 60th birthday, Rayma Halloran learned how to make pasta in the land of its birth – deep in the heart of Italy.
In a rented villa, side-by-side with several friends and instructed by a non-English-speaking Italian nonna, they spent hours rolling and kneading and cutting the floury dough, fortified by plenty of wine from nearby Tuscan vineyards and a mutual love of adventure.
“We didn’t know Italian and could only communicate with her by hand signals,” recalls Rayma, now 66, from her home in the foothills of the Verdugo Mountains in Glendale. “But we did it! And we laughed and laughed for hours.”
Rayma has plans for similar cuisine-infused journeys when she retires, later this year, after 46 years of nursing. With her two daughters raised and pursuing their own lives – Alexandra is in her third year of medical school and Darby just earned a master’s degree in education – Rayma has a long list of future escapades waiting on her to-do list.
Photos by Sean Hazen
“I have a lot of goals when I retire. I want to declutter my home and live a simpler life. Join a community garden. And get involved with the Red Cross to use my nursing expertise whenever we have a big disaster,” she says matter-of-factly. “Oh, and I love animals and want to train rescue dogs.”
And that doesn’t even include anticipated journeys back to her two favorite cities – Paris and Rome – as well as first-time treks to Greece, Ireland, Spain and any other destination where history, culture and breathtaking scenery are well-complemented by mouthwatering cuisine.
Food and fun
So much for the adage that soon-to-be retirees slow down! Actually, Rayma has done very little slowing down since she moved to California, from her native Indiana, at age 30. Between her nursing career, raising two children and volunteer work at the elementary school PTA and with the National Charity League, she recalls being exhausted all the time.
“I often look back and wonder how I did it all,” Rayma says, with pride. “I was very, very busy and very tired.”
While she can’t claim to have the energy she once had, her current pace doesn’t leave her much time for twiddling her thumbs. Fueled by her in-depth research on travel and food blogs, she has planned and taken journeys spanning the U.S. and globe. One recent trek took her and a companion to Vietnam and Cambodia. They visited the burial site of Ho Chi Minh, immersed themselves in Southeast Asian culture, enjoyed delectable curry-infused dishes. And – not surprisingly – they enrolled in a cooking class.
Earlier this year, she embarked on a relaxing cruise up the Seine River, from Paris to Normandy; and spent a week in a beach house on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Rayma and friends have a return visit to Mexico planned for November. This time they’ll visit the central highlands and the quaint colonial-era city of San Miguel de Allende – where 350 restaurants await them.
“When kids and a mortgage happened, you don’t really travel as much,” Rayma explains. “Now that I have the empty nest and a little bit more money, I’m excited to be traveling more.”
While frequent travel paused during her child-rearing years, Rayma has always had wanderlust. In the 1970s, she visited Russia and several Scandinavian countries, and made her initial treks to France and Germany. “I’ve always been curious, excited and enthusiastic about learning about other cultures,” she observes. “I like seeing how other people live. And, of course, trying their food.”
Biking and baking
Still, some of her favorite trips are much closer to home. An avid cyclist, Rayma regularly peddles 25 miles along a bike trail that mirrors the Pacific Coast Highway between Malibu and Redondo Beach. Longer journeys, with groups of fellow bikers, take her on a scenic pathway from Oceanside south to Encinitas.
“That’s a great trip, because you can pretty much see the ocean the whole way. It’s very fun and relaxing and beautiful. And I can justify the calories for lunch afterwards!
Fine dining is important to Rayma at home, too. At least once a month, she’ll host varied groups of friends for a meal she prepares at her home. Often, she’ll dip into her arsenal of recipes and techniques learned from her devotion to The Great British Baking Show and her frequent travels, such as a recent, seafood-centric sojourn to the secluded Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard.
With her nursing career winding down, Rayma expects to travel, cook, ride, garden, and volunteer even more frequently. From her previous experience as a home health nurse, she has seen first-hand that isolation can be detrimental to seniors.
“I think it’s important, before you retire, to think about the kind of activities that would make you happy,” she exudes. “And then go and do them! Life doesn’t stop when you retire.”
In fact, for Rayma, it appears to be just beginning.