Key Three for a traveling retirement: you must have the desire to do it.
“When a man decides to do something, he must go all the way but he must take responsibility for what he does. No matter what he does, he must know first why he is doing it, and then he must proceed with his actions without having doubts or remorse about them.” – Don Juan from Journey to Ixtlan
So, why do you want a traveling retirement? I have a friend that retired to travel at the age of 52. I asked today why she decided on this lifestyle. She replied, “I wanted to see a beautiful frog no bigger than my little fingernail. I wanted to see a lizard run across the top of water. I wanted to have a metallic blue butterfly lead me down a jungle trail.”
I know exactly what she means. I’ve followed that blue butterfly through the jungle myself. In addition, I wanted to see all the things I have read about all my life — the Mayan ruins, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China — but it didn’t take long to learn those things are just settings for thousands of other little things that take place in and around them. The big things are destinations: they may be beautiful, they may be awe inspiring, but, in the end though, destinations are only reasons for taking a trip. It is the trip itself, the things you see and experience while on it, that is real life.
Even when I am sitting still in one location for a while, as I am now to let my funds build up, I am on a trip. The trip may be as subtle as a walk to the zocalo (the center of a Mexican town) or it may be down to the tienda (little local store) but there are always things that catch my attention. It could just be out to my little yard where, believe it or not, I saw a three foot long lizard a few days ago. Sure, I want to see and experience the big things in travel, if for no other reason than just being able to say I saw them, but it is the little things that happen each day that seem to please me the most.
One thing I try very hard to do is to always be going towards something or someplace. I don’t ever want to get caught up in the trap of traveling to get away from a place or circumstance. I’ve heard this type of travel referred to as taking the “Geographic Cure.” Been there, done that, didn’t even get a t-shirt. What I found was that no matter where I go, there I am. If I started a trip with trouble, it kept pace and was there right with me when I arrived.
I’m not saying that if you don’t like your present circumstances and/or place of abode you shouldn’t leave them or do everything in your power to change them. What I am saying is don’t jump out of the frying pan into the fire. Have a plan. Have realistic expectations. Learn all you can about where you are going and why you are leaving where you are. Go because you want what is “over there,” not because you don’t want what is “here.”
In my case, I found that living in the United States, the amount of income I have coming in was just not sufficient to live as I wanted. Oddly enough, I like eating more than once a day. I like being able to get medical attention when I need it without making a beggar of myself. However, I didn’t just pack my bag and run for Mexico. I studied. I learned. I talked to people who were living the kind of traveling life I was thinking of for myself. In other words, I did my homework. Only then did I make a decision and set everything in motion that got me where I am right now: in Mexico, in bed, on a beautiful sunny day, writing this article, trying to beat my deadline lol.
Throughout these articles, I have tried very hard not to be persuasive. I have tried to tell it like it is. This being the case, I feel it is only right that I mention one other thing: traveling can be hard on your body when you are at or near my age. I am 64 years old and in pretty good shape but traveling long distances on a bus or airplane hurts me. Carrying a backpack slung on one shoulder hurts me. On my trip to Australia, for the first time in my life, I checked my bag so I wouldn’t have to mess with it between planes.
One last thing: the only point of view I have is my own. I have made my own decisions to live as I do for my own reasons. I accept the consequences. Everyone must do the same. I can’t foresee the future. I don’t know what will happen when I am eighty (if I am that lucky) and I have one more steep hill to climb. I don’t know, but I accept that it will hurt. Nothing is without some pain. What I do know is that, for me, seeing that three foot long lizard in my yard and following that metallic blue butterfly down that jungle trail is better than all the ibuprofen in the world. Whatever path you choose to take, I hope there is a butterfly to show you the way.
— Gar, the Senior Vagabond
Read the other articles in the Senior Vagabond series.