Retirement stories: Going back to her roots


When Virginia Laurinaitis retired from her role as an International Marketing Coordinator at Swinburne University, spending more time in two beloved places—her homeland of Lithuania and her garden in Melbourne—were at the top of her Bucket List.


I was born in Lithuania and left in 1991, just before the Soviet Union collapsed. When I came to Australia, I began working at Swinburne and during my four weeks’ holiday every year I tried to go to Europe. I didn’t travel within Europe, I just stayed in Lithuania with my family.

When I met Tony, life opened up very nicely to us. Tony was into cycling already and we bought my first bike. Now we have three bikes—in America, one in Lithuania and one in Australia. 

Now that we’re retired, we got to Europe every year. Tony does all the planning, but we talk about which country we’re going to explore quite a lot in advance, sometimes three years in advance. Two years ago we spent eight months overseas, last year six months, and this year we’re going for five months. And a big part of the holiday is cycling.

When I started to cycle say five years ago, I only could cycle probably 15km a day, but now I can do easily 60 or 80. You learn little by little, you learn you cannot stop while you’re going up a hill because it’s difficult to start again. So you just keep steady, concentrating, and not rushing, just cycling, cycling and enjoying the beautiful scenery around you. You’re living in the moment by being in nature.

Gardening is another way of living together with nature. When we were working, we didn’t have enough time to enjoy nature because we were spending so much time in an office. Now that I’m retired, I have so much time to enjoy my garden.

I spend probably about half my day in the garden even though we live in a unit and our garden is small. Sometimes I have my breakfast around lunchtime because I spend my morning looking at my flowers, cutting old blossoms, looking at what can be pruned, or making sure the plants are watered.

Sometimes I’m philosophical, and think that while we live quite long lives, plants and blossoms can only live one season but their beauty can give so much enjoyment to others.

I sometimes get inspiration for my garden from things I see overseas. In Europe they fill hanging baskets with geraniums because they don’t require much water. And they’re everywhere—along canals in France, on bridges and in the towns and villages.

I noticed that geraniums blossom more in Europe, and I said, “How come in Europe they’re blooming so much?” I learnt about their different requirements. For example geraniums need a lot of potassium. And it appears they are fertilising the geraniums with potassium quite often—maybe every second week.

Somebody said another time that plants like singing—and maybe it’s true! I have a mother-in-law’s tongue plant in my house and I never saw it blooming. It started to bloom … there are two beautiful blossoms and they give a very strong aroma in the evening. I think it’s because I love them, I talk to them!