A lot of 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.
I’m the kind of person who likes things done as soon as possible – especially when it comes to my pleasure and enjoyment. When my now-husband Tedly and I took our first trip to Mexico together in 2002, I told him on the plane ride home 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.
In a few weeks, I will mark two years of budget travel in early retirement. These years have been amazing and I know I made the right choice. Tedly’s two-year mark happens in December. He hasn’t looked back, either.
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. The reasons they give are: 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?
This pep talk is for people who have researched, planned, and saved, but still have some doubts about making a commitment to really living this dream. Because it is a commitment. Once the stuff is sold and the travel starts – it’s a whole new life.
For each of those 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 retire early to travel.
It took years of planning with some sacrifices to get to where we are today. Lifestyle choices we made included: not having kids (although having children is not a deal breaker for this kind of lifestyle – more on that in the next point); not buying or leasing new 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 is enough? Our budget for 2017 is $24,000, or about $2,000 per month.
We see a lot of blog writers who say they retired early abroad for $1,500 a month or less. We could surely spend only that amount, especially 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 really 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 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 – because they share our dream, but they still have doubts.
We previously shared more about our finances this year. Read about our 2017 budget here for more detail on where our money goes.
“I have kids.”
Congratulations! I hope you find parenthood to be a satisfying journey.
We never wanted kids. For me personally, being a mother was never on my ‘to do’ list in life. Sure, I saved a lot of money over the years by not having children. However, there are many early retirees and early retiree planners who do have children, so I know it is possible to save money and have the joy of kids to boot.
Here is where I have to offer you help from others – because I have no direct experience in this realm of saving money with kids in the house.
I check in on other early retirement blogs from time to time, and some of them are by early retirement enthusiasts who have children. Check out those blogs 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.
Sometimes, it can take a bit of bravery, I will admit. 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, and we have every reason to think that should some unimaginable health issue arise, we will be able to secure great medical care with no problem outside the United States between now and the time when we reach the age to qualify for Medicare. That age is a long way off, so we take care of our bodies now.
We lead an active lifestyle, we exercise, and we make (mostly) healthy food choices. If you’re not the picture of health right now – don’t despair. I wasn’t healthy for many years. I abused substances, including sugar, cigarettes and alcohol. But the body is a miraculous thing and it will recover if you take care of business. So now, in middle-age, that’s exactly what I do. If you are serious about budget travel in early retirement before age slows down your body, it’s not too late. I’m proof of that.
Accidents happen, and regular checkups are needed. So far, our health care experiences abroad include dental cleanings, mammograms, eye exams and new glasses, skin cancer screenings, an emergency room visit, even a surgical procedure.
Health care was personally one of my own biggest fears prior to taking the leap of faith to live this unconventional lifestyle. I’m happy to report: most of our experiences have been great. My surgical procedure was just okay, but I learned a lot from it and the takeaways can be applied to many different kinds of potential medical services in foreign countries that we likely will need before Medicare kicks in.
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.
So, I can sit in the U.S. and stay with a job that gives me health care “just in case”, or I can travel the world and enjoy myself, while I pay out-of-pocket for any quality health care that’s needed in whatever country I’m in. For example, it cost $628 for my surgical procedure at a private Mexican hospital clinic with no foreign health insurance. That’s way less than most deductibles in the U.S.!
Staying healthy enough to not need medical care is key.
On the topics of health care and money, I could write books based on our experiences so far – and we’ve only been at this two years so far. I won’t get into health insurance options and costs, because it could all change soon anyway. In this blog entry, I simply wanted to demonstrate to those people who have early retirement budget travel doubts on health care, that it’s possible – and common – to get quality care abroad at a minimum price.
Let’s now hit the final two points.
“I might miss my family.”
Yep. Ya might. I do. I miss my sister somethin’ awful sometimes. But guess what? She’s coming to visit! She and my brother-in-law are taking a vacation during a month we are renting a two-bedroom apartment, so they will stay with us and we’ll get to live together for a week.
I don’t really have much else to counter with this statement, because to me, it seems like a cop out. I hear it more often from older retirees with grandchildren. But, we’ve met a lot of people on our travels, including grandparents. Their solution is simple – just like mine: visit your family, or invite family to visit you.
Why complicate it? Are you living your life for you, or your extended family?
Also, you can keep in touch with their daily lives through an amazing thing called technology. Budget-minded methods we use – without a monthly phone bill – can be found here.
“What about my life’s purpose?”
My counter: Is your life’s purpose the daily drudgery you are living now? What if you find your life’s purpose outside a traditional job? What if you find it in early retirement budget travel?
I don’t mean to put anyone down. Really. I understand this worry, deeply. I wonder myself sometimes about ‘my purpose.’ The philosophical trails to this question are long and winding, but I try not to get all twisted up about it. I reel it back in with a measure of simplicity: what have I done today to help someone else? And I try to keep it as simple as that.
I might buy a thread bracelet from a kid at double – or triple – his asking price, or I might even buy him food. I might give a few coins or bigger bills to a beggar. I might offer my seat on a local bus to a woman carrying a baby on her back. I might write a blog post that can help a reader know more about a location. I can always get involved in a charity effort – worthwhile causes are everywhere on Earth. Just because I’m retired from a traditional job doesn’t mean I’ve fallen into an abyss.
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. It’s not supposed to be about how much you can buy and how much you can acquire, or staying in a job so you can keep reasonable health insurance. I don’t believe life is about being better than or greater than – or less than. I do believe life should be the true pursuit of happiness – whatever that is for each individual, as long as it doesn’t hurt or harm anyone else. In this way, I’m kind of a libertarian.
Here is the problem: most Americans have no idea what makes them happy, so they haven’t the faintest idea on their life’s pursuit. Working in a job that demands way more than 40 hours a week, when you don’t totally love the work, is not the road on which to find signs about the meaning of your life.
After a couple of years to clear my head from the crazy high-stress job that was once part of my “normal” life, I know exactly what makes me happy: freedom – true freedom, and time – free time.
Since we have a ton of free time, we get to construct how we are fulfilled. For now, sometimes that can be 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 has invited us into her home, and she spends an afternoon and evening with me to show me 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. Perhaps we want to jump into the sea with all kinds of creatures to dive or snorkel, or maybe free time finds my spouse at a surf lesson – since he has the free time and he’s young enough and fit enough to give it a try. Or, maybe I want to be lazy on a random weekday and lay around and read or write all day – like today.
Those examples – and others – are possible because I’m not shackled by fear. Sure, there is some risk with this lifestyle, but it’s a highly calculated risk. We planned for this, and now that I’ve done it for a couple of years, I am proof positive it’s entirely possible.
No matter what the day’s agenda looks like, each day is highly pleasurable and enjoyable because it’s my time, my freedom. It’s all my choice. You have the same choice if you have planned and saved for early retirement.
If you’re like me, you’ll want free time and true freedom now, not later. We live this life one time. This is why early retirement budget travel appeals to people like us, and to people like you.
You don’t need to be a gazillionaire; you can do this with or without kids, you can make better lifestyle choices to stay healthy; you can arrange visits with family; you might find a higher purpose to it all when you’re out of the so-called rat race and you have free time to just be.
The choices are yours.