‘Travel the world in retirement’ pep talk

Many people say their dream is to travel the world in retirement before they are too old or sick to fully enjoy it.

We had that dream, too. We made it a reality when we added two words: budget travel in early retirement.

Living the lifestyle since 2015, we now call this ‘budget slow travel‘. By slow we mean exploring a region and taking our time.

For example, three months in Vietnam, or, the pandemic in the Philippines (we were there when the world locked down and decided to wait it out there).

a sign on a beach reads, "If not now, when?" and refers to travel the world in retirement

This is a logical, reasonable ‘pep talk’ on how you can travel the world in retirement, just like us Earth Vagabonds.

When Tedly and I took our first trip to Mexico together in 2002, I told him on the plane ride back to Cleveland, Ohio, I wished we could do nothing on a beach every day, just like we had done in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum on that ten-day getaway from the daily grind. I even cried about it – I wanted and longed for that dream life that much.

On return trips to Mexico, and trips to Panama, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, we explored ways to “live” on a budget during our seven to 10 days off. Instead of all-inclusive resorts, we sought out mom-and-pop hotels with small kitchen areas, or studio apartments.

The money we saved was astounding. We spent just a few hundred dollars to live in a tropical climate, in an exotic environment. We knew we could cut down our expenses even more if we tried this lifestyle full time.

This pep talk is for people who have researched, planned, and saved, but still have doubts.

It is a commitment. Once the stuff is all sold and the slow travel starts, it’s a whole new life. In our case, it’s a dream life.

5 common reasons people say they cannot travel the world in retirement

There are five common reasons or concerns I hear from family, friends, blog readers, strangers, and vacationers we meet on our travels about why they “can’t” quit their jobs and travel the world.

  1. I don’t have enough money
  2. I have kids
  3. I’m worried about health care
  4. I might miss my extended family
  5. What about my life’s purpose outside a traditional job?

For each of these five fears, I will offer a counter-point with the type of positive thinking that helped us become comfortable with our radically different lifestyle of early retirement budget travel.

1. I don’t have enough money

How much is enough? How much do you need?

What is your actual net worth?

How much do you spend now on your current lifestyle?

Do you track your expenses on a daily basis?

Answer these questions. If you know how to reign in your spending, and if you know how much cheaper life can be outside of the U.S.A., you’re closer than you think to the ‘magic number.’

And, your answers might reveal you’re on a pretty good start to negating the most common reason we hear from people about why they can’t quit the rat race and travel the world in retirement.

It took years of planning with some sacrifices to get to where we are today. Some lifestyle choices we personally made:

  • no kids (although children are not a deal breaker, more on that in the next point)
  • no new or leased cars all the time
  • continuous saving
  • living below our means for many years

We did not live extravagantly then, nor do we live ‘high on the hog’ now. We didn’t hit the lottery or inherit a cent.

Yet today, we have an extremely comfortable life in early retirement outside the U.S. No fancy, five-star hotels, no frequent flights. But we are extremely comfortable and we enjoy our budget slow travel lifestyle!

So, really – how much money is enough to travel the world in retirement?

Our budget is around $2,000 a month, give or take, depending where in the world we live. (Find links to our budget breakdowns here.) And that’s for two people!

We see a lot of blog writers who say they retired early abroad for $1,500 a month or less. We could spend only that amount if we settled in somewhere for a full year or more, like traditional retirees often do.

In fact, during the pandemic, we were in the Philippines. Our living expenses without any travel were so low we were able to sponsor various community projects and help people who lost income with no tourism.

But we do budget slow travel in early retirement, so we went back on the move every month or so.

Distance transportation is an expense stationary retirees don’t have. We also pay more for short-term rental lodging than a year’s lease would cost in another country. But that’s all OK – the costs are manageable outside the USA.

A boat named "Vagabundo" is beached in Mexico, as we travel the world in retirement.

Ask yourself this: if you have financially prepared – or are preparing – for early retirement, and you sold everything right now, would your nest egg allow for spending $1,500 to $2,000 a month until you can collect social security and/or money from retirement accounts?

Because that’s all it takes– less than 2K a month — in developing, exotic, awesome countries like the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Guatemala, and others. If you want to budget slow travel in Europe, you’re looking at higher costs, of course.

If you don’t have that amount to live on before the traditional retirement age, but you still want to retire early, you have to get serious about reining in your spending, increasing savings, and/or creating other income.

Own a property? Rent it. Have a computer? Work online. There are income streams you can create – but again – this is not a ‘how to’ piece on wealth accumulation.

This is a pep talk for people who are serious about budget travel in early retirement. It’s for people who have already taken financial steps – or are taking them right now.

Related: The first 4 early retirement steps to take right now

You share our dream, but you still have doubts.

2. I have kids

Congratulations! We hope you find parenthood to be a satisfying journey.

We never wanted kids. However, there are many early retirees and early retiree planners who do have children. We’ve met many. And so we know it is possible to save money and have the joy of children to boot.

I have no direct experience of saving money with kids in the house — but I know of resources that might help you.

Check out some early retirement blogs with useful information on saving with kids here. That link also has great blogs by people without children, and Millennials who see the wisdom of financial freedom.

3. I’m worried about health care

Valid concern. I should know! I’ve been diagnosed with cancer abroad! Not to mention other more common health issues like Chikungunya (mosquito virus), worms, broken bones.

But guess what? I’m still here to cheer you on!

Health care outside the USA is often excellent — and affordable. Americans are conditioned to think otherwise. Don’t be enslaved to a lie.

Are you relatively healthy? If not, are you able to take control of your lifestyle choices and become healthy?

If you are healthy, or if you have manageable health issues, you can easily find health care solutions in countries outside the U.S.

Let’s face it – medical tourism is a reality because Americans can get the same level of care abroad for a significantly lower price.

Yes, it can take a bit of courage to trust a foreign doctor, dentist, hospital, or clinic. But it becomes easier with time and experience.

That cancer diagnosis? I ended up having a double mastectomy abroad – in Croatia! I had excellent care by a wonderful, respected doctor.

We are conditioned as Americans to think we have the best medical care in the world, and we do – if we can easily pay for it, or if we have great insurance – like our lawmakers have, for example.

Look, without getting political, I’ll just say we Earth Vagbonds (husband Theo, too) have had quality care abroad since 2015.

Everything from dental care, to prescription eyeglasses, to cancer surgery and follow-up treatment. The rest of the world survives just fine on other health care systems – Americans are duped into not believing that. We could write a book one day on our health care experiences abroad, and perhaps we might.

To read some posts about our medical care as we travel the world in retirement, click here.

A beach sign reads, "make dreams come true"

Nothing in life is guaranteed, including our health – no matter where in the world we happen to be.

There are two keys to this health care issue. First, stay healthy enough to not need medical care in the first place, and second, be open to accept help when you do need medical care abroad.

Let’s now hit the final two points.

4. I might miss my family

Yep. You might. I do. I miss my sister somethin’ awful sometimes. But we talk on video or audio chat, we text, we can plan to visit each other. (It’s not the same, I admit…)

Why complicate this? Are you living your life for you, or your family?

I hear this reason not to travel more often from older retirees with grandchildren.

That said, we’ve met a lot of people, including grandparents, who are decided to travel the world in retirement anyway because they are living their lives as they want.

Their solution: visit your family, or invite family to visit you.

5. What about my life’s purpose?

My questions: is your life’s purpose the daily routine you are living now? Are you happy right now?

Only you can answer these questions.

Some of us budget slow travelers find purpose in life when we’re out here, like when we volunteer to help refugees in Greece, or feed garbage pickers in Mexico, or bring water and electric service to an indigenous tribe in the Philippines — in a pandemic!

Anything can happen out here. For real. And much of it can be life changing!

Know why? Because life is what you make it. And we believe: Life is Now. That’s why we budget slow travel now – in early retirement.

Aside from life-changing volunteer efforts, we also relax – a lot!

We get to chose how we spend our time.

That might mean a casual museum visit to learn something new.

Or a sit in a park to watch locals live their lives to learn a little bit about another culture through observation.

Or perhaps we spend time with a Maya woman who invited us into her home, to demonstrate the old, traditional way to make tortillas and beans.

Maybe we feel adventurous and want to take a long hike on an overnight camping trip for a front row seat to an active volcano in Guatemala.

Perhaps we want to jump into the Caribbean Sea with all kinds of creatures to dive or snorkel.

Or, maybe we want to spend some time to help care for elephants in Northern Thailand.

The choices are ours.

Those examples – and so many others – are possible because we aren’t shackled by fear. Sure, there is some risk with this lifestyle, but it’s a highly calculated risk.

We planned for this, and we’ve been at it since 2015. Our example is proof positive it’s entirely possible to budget slow travel the world in early retirement.

Most likely, you are still worried about the money.

We are not financial advisors, but we have put an opinion piece together on whether or not you really need a million dollars to retire early and travel the world. Read that here.

So that’s it. That’s my pep talk. I offer it to you not to brag about how we live, but to show you a different way to approach ‘living vicariously’ through others.

You can do this, if you want to.

The choices are all yours.

Thanks for reading, “‘Travel the world in retirement’ pep talk.”

This is an updated version that was originally posted on July 26, 2017.

🙂

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A happy man stands on a rocky shore is happy to travel the world in retirement.

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