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The Keys for Retiring to Travel | The Senior Vagabond Series

Dump it all and GO! Dump it all! The house, the car, the furniture, and all those clothes you have in the closet that you never wear. If you want to go then do it. Dump it all and just GO! Six months ago, I sold my house, my truck, my furniture, and everything else [...]

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Gar Williams, the Senior Vagabond

Dump it all and GO! Dump it all! The house, the car, the furniture, and all those clothes you have in the closet that you never wear. If you want to go then do it. Dump it all and just GO!

Six months ago, I sold my house, my truck, my furniture, and everything else I couldn’t get into one 46 liter Osprey backpack. I packed up that backpack and set out to see the world. Now, months later, I’ve been to six countries and traveled roughly 30,000 miles. I don’t plan on ever stopping short of that ultimate stop we all must make. I’m sixty-four years old, retired, and finally doing what I want to do.

I just returned from Australia and I’m in the USA at the moment. In a couple more weeks, I will head down to Catemaco, Mexico. It is a nice place to live for a while. It is ten miles from the Caribbean, and the price of living is just right. That is the city I consider my “base.” I do have an address in the US but that is just a convenient place where my mail is sent. I collect it every six months when I pass through.

Actually, my “home” is wherever my backpack happens to be. I don’t have a domicile in Catamaco – yet. Maybe I will soon. Maybe I won’t. I just pretty much do whatever I want to do and stay wherever I want to stay.

How is it that I am so free? I’m not independently wealthy – not exactly anyway – and I’m not a bum. Again, not exactly. Exactly how I live, what I do, where I go, and how I pay for it is what this Senior Vagabond series is all about.

So, first the biggie – how do I pay for my travel and expenses. I am a retired man, age 64, in reasonable health. I don’t have a lot of money in the bank. I do have some that is earmarked for “medical emergencies.” That is my “health insurance.” It costs me no premiums and even provides me with a little income in interest. The money is in a USA bank where it is reasonably safe. At least as safe as the current government of the US — but I don’t want to get into that or politics here, so enough said about that. The money is not much but I think it will cover me if I have something catastrophic occur, assuming I am in the right country when it happens. More about this later in the series.

I got this money the old fashion way: I worked for it, saving it over many years. Also, when I really retired to traveling, I sold my home which, in this economy, only netted me a few thousand. I also sold my truck and banked that money. Other than the small amount of interest I get on my savings, my other sources of income are a small social security check and a much smaller retirement check.

The words “small” and “much smaller” when speaking of my income streams are only accurate when I am in the USA or some other relatively expensive country. That is the first key to my freedom: I spend as little time as possible in countries that are “relatively expensive” and as much time as possible in countries that are “less expensive,” where I can stretch my money much farther.

The second key is fixed expenses: I don’t have any. The only exception to this is a small check I send to my aging mother every month. I have no debt, and don’t owe anybody anything.

So, I am traveling, seeing the world, doing what I want to do, going where I want to go pretty much on my social security check. There is no reason why you can’t do the same. If you want to. And that is the third key: you’ve got to want to.

Future articles in this series will deal more with the specifics of these three keys: 1.) A small income stream, 2.) A small or non-existent stream of fixed expenses, and 3.) The desire to travel. I will also be talking about the specifics of where my money goes. More importantly, I will talk about where my money doesn’t go.

Until the next time – and a word of caution – just remember what John Wayne said:

“I think a man ought to do what he wants to do – as long as he’s willing to accept the consequences.”

Any “advice” or “information” offered in my writing comes with the same provisio.

— Gar, the Senior Vagabond

Read the other articles in the Senior Vagabond series.


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Filed under: Perpetual Travel, Senior Travel, Senior Vagabond

About the Author:

Gar Williams liquidated his former life, sold all his possessions that wouldn’t fit into a 46 liter backpack, and left it all behind at age 63. He is now traveling the world, and, in his words, is finally doing what he wants to do. Gar stops by at VagabondJourney.com from time to time to offer his wisdom and advice on the Senior Vagabond series. has written 65 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Gar Williams is currently in: Ecuador

17 comments… add one

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  • mike crosby May 16, 2012, 12:01 am

    Thanks Gar, I looked forward to reading your articles.

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    • Gar May 16, 2012, 2:40 am

      Hi Mike, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy the series and I hope it inspires some old(er) folks to get out there and see the world. Being in that group myself, I know it isn’t as easy for some of us as it is for the younger set.

      I hope to deal with some of the differences and solutions. And, if the only way to deal with something is to pop an ibuprofen and go on about your business then I plan on just telling it like it is. (Something like the pain caused by slinging a 25 pound pack onto a shoulder and running as fast as you can in the Houston Airport when you’ve got bursitis would fall into that category.)

      We old(er) folks have some definite advantages though and I hope to write about some of those too.

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  • Eva Hamori May 16, 2012, 3:02 am

    Always great to read your work! SO glad you are travelling around doing it your own way. A true inspiration to us.
    I hope to do the same thing when we retire, but I don’t think we can wait that long. Life is short, and for us seeing the world now is also important, to show the kids why the world is so special. Living on less, stretching the dollar, maybe a little passive income, and voila!

    Link Reply
    • Gar May 16, 2012, 5:57 am

      Hello Eva,

      I think seeing the world when a person is young is the right way to go if it is at all possible. For me it just wasn’t. Mostly, it wasn’t because I really couldn’t imagine myself doing it. Reading travel blogs like yours and Wade’s helped me get out of that box and out into the world. Glad to see you are still enjoying France.

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  • regina May 16, 2012, 4:00 am

    You could be me- except I’m a woman, younger, married and European. Ha! But I am getting ready to dump it all too. Job, apartment and all stuff will be gone by December 31. 2012.
    I’m really looking forward to hearing how you experience perpetual travel- the good- and the ….less good! I don’t know how you travel- notice you move pretty fast though- at 30’000 miles in 6 months…. my/our travel style- probably knock a zero- or two? off that number.
    Andy Graham at hobotraveler.com has been traveling like this for almost 2 decades. He has a lot to say about buying property………
    Take care.

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    • Gar May 16, 2012, 6:06 am

      Thanks for reading Regina. I do read Andy. His site along with Wade’s was a big inspiration to me. After reading them for a while, it finally dawned on me that I could do the same thing too. So I did. 🙂

      As for all the mileage, I am just about exhausted now because I did 20K of it in the last four weeks. Normally, I spent at least a month where ever I go. There are several good reasons for that and I will be covering them soon in another article.

      It is really great to hear from you and to know other people are living their dream of traveling.

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  • Jeanne @soultravelers3 May 16, 2012, 5:53 am

    Good one! We retired early before 50 and have been traveling the world non-stop ever since, 44 countries on 5 continents so far on just $23/day per person.

    I wonder why more people don’t do this , don’t you? BEST decision we ever made!! You really can’t beat the freedom and all the adventures keeps one young.

    We were inspired by the Terhorsts who retired at 35 and are perpetual travelers still going strong 30 some years later..now in their 60’s.

    We have a bit of a twist on it though, as we had a wonderful late-in-life child, so we uniquely retire AND educate her as we roam and we love all the time we have together.

    Happy travels..it only gets better as time goes on!!

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  • Gar May 16, 2012, 6:11 am

    Great! I hope to learn a lot from people like yourself who have been doing this for a while. I’ll check out your website. I always do my best to learn from other people’s experiences. Sometimes that’s easier on the body than learning it first hand. 🙂

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    • DaNuck May 17, 2012, 2:23 pm

      Hi Gar,
      Thanks for the write-up. I vary much enjoyed it.
      Really looking forward to more. Am interested on just how much your travels are costing per month???
      I am real close to “Dumping it all” and doing the same as you.
      So I will be fallowing your travels real close.
      All the best, Steve

      Link Reply
      • Gar May 18, 2012, 12:48 am

        Hi Steve,

        It is difficult to answer your question, “Am interested on just how much your travels are costing per month???” All my expenses now are “travel expenses”. I don’t want to get too philosophical (well, I would love to but philosophy requires beer) but I feel everyone’s expenses are travel expenses. Just living is a trip and everyone is headed for the same eventual destination. The thing is, some people have more interesting stops along the way. I feel that people who travel as a way of life are in the group with more interesting stops.

        Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking people who retire and choose to have a permanent residence and take their trips through books, TV, or just mowing the lawn and talking over the fence to the same neighbors all the time. I’m not knocking it for them but it is not right for me. In any case, all their expenses – mortgage, car payment, property taxes, etc, whether they think of it this way or not are “travel expenses.” It is just that they have fewer stops along the way to where we all are going.

        I’m not trying to side-step your question either. I know what you really mean. In a future article, I will give more solid money details about the way I have chosen to “retire.”


        Link Reply
  • hafeez Malik May 21, 2012, 8:47 pm

    I was impressed by your decision to “Dump it all and Go”. I am glad you are enjoying your travel.

    I am traveling since I was hardly twenty. But my progress has been very slow. First, I could travel only when I can get annual leave from my previous office, a development bank, and in summer holidays now when I am semi-retired and teaching in universities. Secondly, I had family to care for and, so, extended travel was not advisable. Thirdly, like European or American, I cannot go to ten countries in a row as I need visa for each and every country and that too issued from the concerned embassy / consulate in my own country.

    Nevertheless, I have been to nearly 70 countries and am still continuing to make it 100.

    I want to read all your articles.

    Link Reply
    • Gar May 28, 2012, 5:12 pm


      Thanks for reading. I assure you though, I can’t go to ten countries in a row either. I travel on a small monthly income so stuff like that is usually out of my price range. For me to travel as I do, I usually go very slowly. When I get somewhere I usually have to stay in one place long enough to save up funds to buy another ticket. More about that in a later article.

      — Gar

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  • Robert D'Avanzo May 27, 2012, 6:35 pm

    Thanks for your article! I had the choice to continue at my job in New York till the full retirement age or leave early and get less money. Less money meant I would not be able to stay in the New York City area, where housing costs are high. And you don’t get very much for what you pay, either. I picked leaving early. Ok, I don’t have a car, I don’t have cable TV. But I have a full stomach, travel the world and no boss telling me to what to do. I would do the same thing all over again in a minute.

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    • Gar May 28, 2012, 5:16 pm

      Way to go Robert. I did the early retirement thing myself but wasted several years trying to live a conventional retirement. I finally got tired of living in a little bitty town with people with little bitty minds. I also got tired of eating ramien noodles. So here I am in Mexico. The sun is shining, the beer is cold, and I eat well. I really don’t understand why more people don’t do the same.

      — Gar

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  • Darcy August 26, 2012, 11:53 am

    Very interesting article. I look forward to reading more.
    Wade, what a great idea about the Senior Vagabond section!

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    • Gar August 30, 2012, 11:11 am

      Hi Darcy,

      Thanks for the encouragement. Due to various reasons, I haven’t written anything in a few months but hope to do some new articles in the near future.

      — Gar

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      • Wade Shepard August 31, 2012, 8:58 pm

        Excellent! We’ll be looking forward to it.

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