Your dream is to retire early and travel the world, or maybe you have a serious plan in place but you’re looking for some inspiration to actually do it. We hope we can help in both cases.
We give examples of how we did it – and how we continue to do it today! Our real world experience can offer you suggested guidelines on how you can make dreams to retire early and travel the world a reality.
We are not financial advisors, and we don’t give investment advice. We simply hope this page encourages people to truly understand their spending, saving, and investment decisions.
This is an independent website. We aren’t trying to sell you anything. We don’t work with sponsors or affiliates.
Now, let’s get to the good stuff!
- How to retire early and travel the world
How to retire early and travel the world
First, we lived below our means and we didn’t waste money on needless things. Our spending was frugal – not extravagant. Yet we weren’t cheap, either.
We saved, we invested. The magic of compounding and a long bull market multiplied Theo’s holdings; he began investing at the dawn of his career.
Theo is a talented, shrewd shopper. He always found the best deals from groceries to gifts. Today he finds the best prices in town – in foreign countries!
We own a modest home in the USA. It is a comfortable, efficient, rehabbed property in Cleveland, Ohio. Theo paid it off years ago, and it’s now rented long-term, netting us about $800 a month in passive income.
To give you a specific example of living below our means, Ellen spent 24% of net income on rent in Cleveland for many years – not 35% of gross income, which is the formula most Americans use. Bonus: Cleveland is a low cost-of-living city.
We each chose not to have children. (But we know many early retired couples who do!)
No ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ We did not buy or lease new cars every few years like most Americans. In fact, today we don’t own any cars! We slow travel the world mostly by trains and buses, and fly only when absolutely necessary.
Other minimalist examples: we didn’t buy expensive jewelry, expensive clothing, or home decor. Our credit card balance finance charges were minimal, and we avoided late fees.
That’s how we were able to retire early and travel the world.
There are many more examples of intentional choices that led to our early retirement. We could write a book. Maybe one day we will. For now, we are having too much fun traveling the world!
Now let’s hit overviews on budgets and health care in foreign countries.
Our travel budget
What we spend each month varies on where we are in the world. Places like Mexico or Thailand cost less than Italy or Montenegro.
Our budget goal in developing countries is to keep monthly expenses under $2,000. Accounting for the $800 monthly net rental income, that means we need less than $1,200 per month from our savings.
Some months we exceed the budget. Thankfully, we have that flexibility. However, $2,000 outflow is the goal.
We were able to retire early and travel the world because we don’t stay at five-star resorts or eat at white-tablecloth restaurants. Instead, we have comfortable living accommodations in exotic places, delicious food in foreign countries, and experience incredible sites on Earth because we still live within our means now that we are retired.
This lifestyle would not have been possible if we had stayed in the U.S.
We are open about our $2,000 per month budget and frequently share real-world examples. In the second half of 2023, we expected Europe would cost up to 50% more to maintain our lifestyle. But we happily were able to stay within 2k per month because of intensive, and experienced efforts at finding affordable housing. (Read more on that on our sweet summer deals post.)
Post-COVID budget slow travel examples:
- 1 month in Bucharest, Romania, 2023
- Living in Varna, Bulgaria, for one month, 2023
- Slow travel in India, 2022
- 1 month in Rishikesh, 2023
- Living in Penang, Malaysia – example ONE, 2022; example TWO, 2019
- 1 month stay in Bangkok, 2022
- Hua Hin cost of living for one month, 2022
- Comfortable, cheap Airbnb in Hua Hin, Thailand, 2022
- First year of post-pandemic travel in Asia
- 2022 spending
- 125K for 4 years of world travel
- 2017 spending
- 2016 spending
- 2015 spending
Examples of pre-COVID travels:
- How to travel cheap 1 month in Southeast Asia
- Cheap month-long stay in Bali: $1.5k for 2 people
- 3 months in Europe: what it cost
- 1 month in Lisbon: what it cost
- What it cost to live in Chiang Mai, Thailand for 1 month
- Life in Kotor, Montenegro: what 1 month cost
How to retire early and travel the world and not worry (too much) about health care
We pay out of pocket for medical care. We know that option sounds scary to most Americans. However, our experience proves quality health care exists at reasonable prices around the world, even in emergencies.
We should write a book solely about our health care as early retired budget slow travelers, but that feels like too much work. After all — we’re retired!
However, we did create a free health care guide. No gimmicks, no signups, no downloads, no charges.
We share this to help other travelers and would-be travelers. In fact, we maintain this website for pleasure — not for profit. You’ll notice there are no ads here, and we don’t ever work with sponsors or affiliates.
Our free guide to health care while traveling without insurance offers many examples of real world needs we have encountered since 2015.
2 big expenditure examples:
- Ellen’s double mastectomy in Croatia: total cost was around $10,000 for everything related to the early-stage diagnosis in 2018
- mammogram, biopsy, pathology reports, surgery, recovery in a private room, oncologist opinion
- Ellen’s broken wrist in Thailand that was reset in Malaysia: total cost was around $2,200 in 2022
6 Mundane examples:
- Eyeglasses in Mexico, Spain, Philippines, India (2016 to 2023)
- Dental work in Malaysia in 2019, and again in 2022
- Ear, nose, throat specialist in the Philippines (2020)
- Oncologist & gynecologist examples from Malaysia (2022)
- Root canal in India (2023)
- Podiatrist in Turkey (2023)
We have a ton more examples of health care experiences overseas — including an itemized hospital bill from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where many expats go for medical needs.
Free global health care guide
To illustrate how to retire early and travel the world without travel health insurance, we have a free global health care guide. No gimmicks, no email collection, no downloads like other travel sites.
We share this freely simply because we want to.
The guide has suggestions on how to find doctors and hospitals, how to buy prescriptions, how to read test results in foreign countries, and more — all without travel health insurance. However, the principles can also be applied to budget slow travelers with insurance.
How to stick to your budget
Additionally, we write about money-related topics on this website as they relate to how to retire early and travel the world — on a budget.
Here are direct links to topics we cover as they relate to budget slow travel:
- How to effectively plan a budget slow travel itinerary
- Proof on onward travel (a big one – read this if you are serious and really want to retire early and travel the world!)
- The best way to pack to avoid airline fees
- Tricks to find crazy low airfare and Airbnb deals (2023)
- How to cross borders on visa runs
- Find good – and cheap – street food
- Best to find apartments as a budget slow traveler
- How to buy prescription drugs overseas
- How to connect with other people in this lifestyle
- Why renting is better than buying for travelers like us
And there’s more — all in addition to other articles on this site about how to stretch your money at destinations around the world.
With some planning and determination, it’s totally possible to retire early and travel the world — without spending a ton of money.
You got this
We hope our website will give you ideas about how to live this budget slow travel lifestyle. Take some time to explore this site for additional money-saving tips based on our real world experience.
You can also contact us anytime. We always respond to reader email as soon as we can.
One more resource for you: we have a Facebook group with thousands of like-minded, retired (or nearly retired) world travelers. If we don’t have the answer, someone there probably will.
A budget slow travel lifestyle in early retirement — or retirement at any age — is possible!
Thanks for reading, “How to retire early and travel the world.”
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