3 reasons to rent in retirement and travel the world

rent in retirement

Last Updated on June 8, 2023 by Ellen

As global slow travelers, we want to rent in retirement rather than buy property in any given country. There are specific reasons we chose this “vagabond” lifestyle — and we are far from alone.

To be sure, this “home free” lifestyle is not for everyone. Humans have a nesting streak that seems embedded into our psyche. But there are some of us who are called to travel and roam, and those of us who feel renting is a superior lifestyle choice — especially in early retirement.

3 reasons retirees rent in retirement instead of buy

We want to see the world

We want to travel the world in retirement, not sit anchored to a house. For us, as early retirees, this is key. We built this early retirement plan to travel while we were still young enough — and healthy enough — to actually travel.

Most studies show the number one thing people want to do when they retire is to travel. In fact, 67 percent of women say they want an active retirement filled with travel. And yet, that dream is hardly realized.

If we retire to one location overseas, as most people do, we might get away a few times a year on trips.

a house for sale on corfu island, greece

But if we keep moving around every month or two or three, we get to live in totally new environments all the time.

I can hardly believe some of what we’ve done since 2015! We have lived near volcanoes, on beaches, in Mayan villages and Guatemalan towns without Caucasians, on and near pristine beaches, in high-rises, in the mountains, around caves, in European cities, near a refugee camp (to volunteer), with elephants, on a ‘floating house’ — and more!

I will take all of those places instead of a beach condo in Playa del Carmen. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — it’s just not our style.

We don’t want ownership risks

That beach condo in Playa del Carmen looks good to many retirees who are adventurous enough to live abroad in a later chapter of life. More power to them!

But with that property — in a foreign country — comes expense, responsibility, and certain risk. Any foreign ownership is risky for expats to a degree, no matter how great the country seems.

Some people might counter that our “vagabond” lifestyle is more risky, but we don’t think so.

If taxes go up, we can easily move. Say a water line project digs up the road in front of our place, we can split. When bad neighbors move in next door, we can rent somewhere else. And if a foreign government changes ownership rules, we are not affected.

True, we do own a mortgage-free rental property back home, but we hired a management company to handle most of the work involved with upkeep and tenant issues. In our case, our long-term tenant pays the rent, and we pay that rent to our temporary landlord in Croatia, or Mexico, or Greece, or Thailand…

examples of rentals in retirement: Sahara Desert camp, Malacca City, Malaysia, floating house in Vietnam, and a garden terrace pictured in Albania.

Ownership means spending other money besides taxes. We would rather visit museums in Rome or experience a Komodo dragon fight — not stick around to make sure a leaky pipe is fixed, or a new roof is properly replaced. There is no excitement for us in condo or association fees, but we do get excited about diving or snorkeling or some other active adventure in our early retirement.

We want flexibility — and freedom

While home ownership gives stability, we want the flexibility. We want the freedom — to say, “Hey, let’s go see Nusa Penida since we are so close,” or, “How about a hike up a volcano, since we are near it?” Or even, “Let’s go sleep in the Sahara Desert.” We have that freedom if we rent in retirement.

Anchored to a house or condo, it’s likely our travel time wouldn’t be as flexible and open. As renters, we are entirely free to make decisions on where we want to live — and when.

Since we are open minded, and flexible, we can live on or near a beach in foreign countries for way less than we could in the U.S.

My old San Diego apartment was a great deal — for San Diego. And yet, that Mission Beach apartment cost more than what we currently spend in an average month overseas for everything: $2,000.

As I write this, we are paying $340 a month for rent on Negros Island in the Philippines. Our last rental was on the water on Bohol Island for $650 – pictured below. (A video tour is at the bottom of this post.)

a typical house for rent in retirement on bohol island in the philippines right on the water

With rentals at those prices, we have extra money, and thus extra freedom, to decide how we want to spend our time.

Life only gets shorter…

Retirement is built around the idea that you can spend your time however you want. For us, our time is more valuable than a big house. Our adventurous experiences fill us with happiness. At this point in my life, I can’t get excited about how a new couch will look with the new paint job in the living room.

Here’s what excites me: exploring the new city or country we move to, and experiencing Earth’s landscapes and the people’s cultures.

I’m reminded of a quote I came across a few years ago.

When I buy something, when you buy something, you’re not paying money for it. You’re paying for the hours of your life you had to spend earning that money. The difference is that life is one thing that money can’t buy. Life only gets shorter. And it is pitiful to waste one’s life and freedom that way.

Jose Mujica, former president of Uruguay

As early retiree renters, we’re set up to enjoy a variety of experiences around the planet. And that was always our plan.

We hope these three reasons to rent in retirement give you pause, and help you make decisions about how you want to spend your time – and your money.

Thanks for reading, “3 reasons to rent in retirement and travel the world.”

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And here is that video tour of our Airbnb rental on Bohol Island in the Philippines.

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