Something Dan said in his last blog post caught my attention, and I’d like to explore it further here. His exact comment was: “Would you like to lock up and travel more?”
It is old news that baby boomers are retiring in droves. And it is no surprise that, after a lifetime slaving away for “the man”, most of them are ready to enjoy life. One of the most frequently expressed intentions among this group is the wish to travel.
I have been on the road a fair amount over the past two years, and have met lots of retired folks who are doing just that. It is interesting to see the approaches they have chosen to create their new lifestyles. One thing most of these approaches have in common is that the primary residence is downsized. Sometimes a snowbird destination is added, sometimes only a smaller abode to facilitate lengthy absences, but in every case life becomes simpler and more carefree.
Julie and Mike are nearing retirement from their busy careers in Chicago. They have purchased a condo in a beach resort community on Ambergris Caye in Belize and plan to spend six months a year there, returning to Chicago for the rest of the year. They intend to sell the large family home as soon as they achieve empty-nest-hood and purchase a small place that can easily and securely be left for extended periods of time. They plan to offer their resort condo as a short-term holiday rental when they are not using it, providing some additional cash flow to their retirement income.
Carolyn, a retired schoolteacher from Michigan, is also currently living in a condo in Belize. She and her husband decided that what they most wanted to do with their retirement was see the world, traveling as much as time and budget would allow. They realized that they needed to maintain a “base of operations” as she calls it, a place to stop off and do laundry plus a spot to keep the stuff they wanted to keep. It needed to have an airport with good connections to launch their journeys and have better weather than they were accustomed to (especially during the winter). After jettisoning the big home and several glorious years in Belize, they couldn’t be happier with their lifestyle choice: locking the condo door and leaving without a care in the world, whether to go “home” to see grandchildren, or for a long gallivant around Europe.
We met Herman and Ida while traveling through Columbia, on a walking tour of Medellin. They had what many (well I anyway) would consider the perfect lifestyle. They maintain two residences, both of them lock-and-leave-and-fugeddaboutit condos, one in New York City and the other in Fort Lauderdale. Herb estimates that they spend about four months a year in each. The other four months are devoted to travel. They start with a general idea of where they want to explore, but the day-to-day itinerary is flexible. Like it here? Let’s stay a couple more days. Heard about an awesome event elsewhere, or a friend in town? Let’s head on over. Footloose and fancy free, they make it up as they go along, ruled by serendipity.
April and Peg, two adventurous ladies we met in Panama, retired a couple of years ago, unloaded their home and most of their stuff, bought an RV, loaded up the cats and dogs and took off to see the United States. They figure they made it to the majority of them over the course of their travels, which spanned the better part of a year. Being the immediately likable people they are, they made friends everywhere they went. When we met them, they were in the process of selling their home-on-wheels and building a permanent residence in a beachfront community in Veraguas. Although thrilled with their new view overlooking the ocean, it didn’t escape their notice that they could live on a much smaller, retirement-pension-sized, budget in Panama and still enjoy a very good quality of life.
Although I haven’t personally met any of them, I have read tales of permanent nomads, people who sell their homes and the bulk of their possessions to take up life on the road, like latter day backpack-toting hippies. These travelers find that, with no expenses for a house, yard, car, orthodontist, and so on, they can stretch their dollars very far indeed. Many of them have this lifestyle down to an art form. They balance their stays in more expensive locales (think Paris) with time in really inexpensive ones (think Thailand or the Philippines). This may be a bit extreme for most of us, but I admire the heck out of them.
It has been said that those who use their money to buy experiences are happier than those who use their money to buy things. Retirees are clearly embracing that philosophy with both arms. What might your own retirement look like? Downsizing to a lock-and-leave townhouse or condo could be just the ticket to a fun and carefree lifestyle as a world traveler, or even simply packing the RV and heading off to explore the hinterlands. Owning a smaller and simpler home might even provide the needed funds to purchase a condo in a location you’ve always wanted to spend time, be it the beach, the mountains, or even overseas. Give us a call…we can help.
Photo credits (From Flickr via Creative Commons License):
“At Last” (empty nest picture) by jimmy brown
Other photos by Linda Humphrey