Two years ago we decided to stop working and begin the next phase of our life; full time travel.
After a lifetime of working this wasn’t an easy decision but it was the right decision for us. As the old adage goes –
“When you have enough and have had enough it’s time to quit.”
Life is a journey and we had come to a fork in the road and it was time to take the less traveled path. That ‘less traveled’ path for us turned out to be much more travel. Not the ‘annual cruise’ or the ‘two or three weeks a year’ type of travel, which may be our choice later in life, but for now, while we still had our health and mobility, full-time travel checked all the boxes.
In the months leading up to our decision we did a great deal of research. We asked a lot of questions of ourselves and of others. What did we want to accomplish? What had others done? What can be gained, learned, experienced? What are the pitfalls that can be identified?
During our investigations we found numerous travel blogs and vlogs but none that really addressed our situation. There are Facebook posts from other retired people traveling but it was rare that our more pressing questions had an answer. This is evident by the many people that ask us how we do what we do.
That made us think of the “Incognito Bar” (the banner photo for this blog) that we learned about in Wroclaw, Poland. The door going downstairs to the entrance of the bar is well hidden in the back of a restaurant. If you didn’t know somebody that knew about the door you would never have known there was a wonderful little bar there. It’s what we call being “in the know”. Not a secret but not generally available information either.
So, during these difficult times, while we cannot travel, we thought it would be a perfect time to share some of things we have learned along the way which may help you make your choices.
Everybody is different.
Some people we approached were quite comfortable with a daily routine – but that didn’t appeal to us. Some liked the security a certain lifestyle gives them, but in that regard we are a little more independent. Some people travel with just the basic necessities but that’s not us either. So, it was no surprise that, just like the tapestry that is our life, our choices for retirement were going to be different.
The Importance of Setting Goals
Retirement, at any age, is a big commitment and with any big commitment the need to set goals is critical. If you don’t know where you are going, you will certainly never get there.
As we started down this path we learned that the first five years of retirement are the most critical. Apparently, the first five years sets the tone for all the years that follow. It is also in the first five years that mistakes may be made that can ultimately affect your health and your wealth. Setting goals helps measure your progress, keeping yourself on track and hopefully out of trouble. So what goals did we set?
Our first goal was to get healthier. Sitting at a desk every day for years had taken its toll and it was time to rectify that. In contrast walking the great cities of the world is without a doubt a great way to have fun and get exercise at the same time. (Spoiler alert: Today we walk between 3 to 5 miles a day, sometimes more, and feel great.) Good! Goal one set!
Goal two was to ensure our retirement would be engaging, mentally stimulating and invigorating. We wanted to make sure we had a compelling reason to get up and out of bed each and every day and it seems scholars agreed with us.
A recent study in the U.K. revealed that not only do artistic and cultural activities make life more enjoyable, but also prolong our lives.
We love art and had visited many of the museums and art galleries in our area so where else could we go to find new experiences? Luckily Europe offered the exact culturally rich environment we were looking for. Goal two. Done!
For us, those were two of the most important goals to set. Without mental and physical well being the rest doesn’t matter much.
That puts financial goals near the top – just not at the top. On our list, setting financial goals comes in at number three.
Here again everyone is different. How you want to spend your money is up to you but our advice is to not let uncertainty be the driving force when making your financial decisions or cause you to delay your retirement for too long. None of our friends have outlived their savings but a few never got to spend them either. Sitting here in the midst of the pandemic is proof that the future is uncertain. We are very glad we made the decisions we did when we did.
Our fourth goal was to travel differently than we had in the past. We wanted to rewrite not just a new chapter but the whole book. We wanted to travel slowly.
Time was the limiting factor in the past. In the few vacation days we used to have we could visit the most important museums and galleries but we missed so many treasures. That was better than not traveling at all but now was the time to do things differently. We no longer wanted to be just a part of the audience, we wanted to be involved in the play. Never an actor, we know that, but perhaps a backstage pass?
What we are saying is that you can experience Spain, for example, in a few days but you can’t understand Spain until you understand the history of the country. What is the Alhambra Decree and who were the joint Catholic Monarchs of Spain? (Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon) Why was a certain person memorialized? Why does a bomb hang in the aisle of a church? The same can be said for France, Hungary, Greece, Italy and so on.
Slow travel gives us the opportunity to experience what is different and we have the time to understand why it is different. This is the richest part of what we now do but more on that later.
With our fourth goal we are saying that we were done with “fast food”; now was our time to experience the “Menu Dégustation”.
So, with these goals in mind (and a stack of lesser goals), our adventures began. How we reduced a walk-in closet full of clothes to just two pieces of luggage sounds like a good topic for our next blog.
Cheers from these travelers,
Ted and Julia