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.
This is a logical, reasonable ‘pep talk’ on how you can travel the world in retirement, just like 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 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.
- I don’t have enough money
- I have kids
- I’m worried about health care
- I might miss my extended family
- 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.
“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?
If you can answer these questions, you have a pretty good start on 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. Lifestyle choices we made included:
- 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.
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.
But we do budget travel in early retirement, so we 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.
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.
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.
You share our dream, but you still have doubts.
“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.
“I’m worried about health care.”
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 can easily be done. 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’ve had quality care abroad so far. 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 posts since 2015 about our medical care as we travel the world in retirement, click here.
Again, without getting political, who knows what Washington will try next with the U.S. health care system. The point is: nothing in life is guaranteed, including quality health care in America for average people like us.
Staying healthy enough to not need medical care is key.
Let’s now hit the final two points.
“I might miss my family.”
Yep. You might. I do. I miss my sister somethin’ awful sometimes. But guess what? We talk on video or audio chat, we text, we can plan to visit each other.
Why complicate it? 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.
“What about my life’s purpose?”
My counter: is your life’s purpose the daily routine you are living now?
What if you find your life’s purpose outside a traditional job? Imagine that you find it as you travel the world in retirement.
The longer I’m away from from life inside the U.S., the more I’m astounded by it. Life is not supposed to be full of fear. I know my life isn’t supposed to be about how many material goods I can buy, how big my house is, or what new car I can lease. What about your life? Is it supposed to be about those things?
Since we have a ton of free time, we get to construct how we are fulfilled.
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, and learn about another culture through observation. Or perhaps some free time is spent 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 use our free time to volunteer at a refugee camp in Greece, or to help care for elephants in Northern Thailand.
Or, maybe we want to be lazy on a random weekday and lay around a pool all day, reading and writing…
…like we are doing today.
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 travel the world in retirement.
We know life is now – not later.
This is why early retired budget travel appeals to people like us, and to people like you.
You don’t need to be a gazillionaire; this can be done with or without kids, you can make better lifestyle choices to stay healthy; family visits can be arranged; and best of all — you might find a higher purpose when you have enough free time to just be.
The choices are yours.
- What we spent in four years of world travel
- Lunch with international celebrities! The Kaderlis!
- Budget breakdown: What it cost to live 1 month in Montenegro
- Living expenses: What it cost to live 1 month in Lisbon, Portugal
- The real cost to retire to Chiang Mai, Thailand
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