Gives all new meaning to the term “homeless”.

This was an amazing, thoroughly enjoyable read and I wish I had
thought of it and saved up to do it. Maybe next lifetime unless I
win the lottery in this one. (right..)

Favorite quote from this article:

“We also enjoy the freedom of not being weighed down by our “things.”
Indeed, one of the benefits of living home-free is that people we meet
on the road are interested in us and could care less about our house,
our antiques, our art or other possessions. It’s a remarkably
forthright way to relate to others.”

October 22, 2012

The Let’s-Sell-Our-House- And-See-the-World Retirement

How one couple walked away from all they owned and are putting down
new roots— one country at a time.


I’m 70 years old. My husband, Tim, is 66. For most of our lives, each
of us lived and worked in California. Today, our home is wherever we
and our 30-inch suitcases are.

In short, we’re senior gypsies. In early 2011 we sold our house in
California and moved the few objects we wanted to keep into a
10-by-15-foot storage unit. Since then, we have lived in furnished
apartments and houses in Mexico, Argentina, Florida, Turkey, France,
Italy and England. In the next couple of months, we will live in
Ireland and Morocco before returning briefly to the U.S. for the

As I write this, we have settled into a darling one-bedroom apartment
a hundred yards from the River Thames, a 25-minute train ride from the
heart of London. We have a knack for moving in. Within a few minutes
of plunking down our belongings in new digs, we have made it our own:
The alarm clock is beside the bed; my favorite vegetable peeler and
instant-read thermometer are in the kitchen; and our laptop computers
are hooked up and humming. Together we begin learning how to make the
appliances cooperate.

Given all that, I suppose a better way to describe us is gypsies who
like to put down roots. At least for a month or two.

Why we’re doing this is simple: My husband and I—in a heart-to-heart
conversation during a trip to Mexico—realized that both of us are
happier when we’re on the road. We enjoy excellent health and share a
desire to see the world in bigger bites than a three-week vacation
allows. The notion of living like the locals in other countries
thrilled us, and after almost 18 months of living “home free,” we are
still delighted with our choice. Even a “cocooning” day is more
interesting in Paris or Istanbul.

How we’re doing this is more complicated. But we think our plan would
work for many retirees with a reasonably healthy nest egg. A budget on
the road—as in a stationary life—depends on how a person prioritizes
expenditures and what kind of lifestyle he or she wishes to pursue.
Someone who needs a large wardrobe or thrives on giving lavish dinner
parties wouldn’t find our life appealing. (Rented places seldom offer
much in the way of attractive dinnerware.)

We certainly have moments when we question our sanity. Being up to our
knees in water, completely lost in the middle of a torrential
rainstorm in Istanbul, or discovering that we have locked ourselves
out on a third-floor Paris balcony does give us pause.

But we’ve learned three things. First, coping with new situations and
making complicated travel plans even as we’re on the road keep us

Pay as They Go

Second, we aren’t alone. We meet fellow retirees on a regular basis,
some who are taking extended vacations, others who are leading a life
similar to ours, and some who have settled permanently overseas. A man
I met early on in our travels said to me, “There are a lot of us out
there who have figured it out.”

Third and most important, the rewards far outweigh the risks. The
moments when we glance out “our” living-room window at Florence’s
skyline or turn a corner in “our” neighborhood and see the tip of the
Eiffel Tower winking at us make the scary times worthwhile.

Taking the Plunge
Becoming international nomads sounded appealing, but we first had to
find a way to afford such a lifestyle. Serious number-crunching showed
that selling our home in California would allow us to live comfortably
almost anyplace in the world. Not having property taxes or a roof that
needs fixing can pay for a lot of train rides.
A few specifics about money. Our financial adviser sends us about
$6,000 a month, generated from investments. We also collect Social
Security and a small pension. We have a “slush fund” of about $20,000,
which allows us to make advance deposits—for housing, cruises,
flights, hotels and so forth—without affecting our cash flow.

We follow some simple strategies to keep our budget in line. Stays in
more expensive locations, like Paris or London, are balanced by living
in less pricey countries like Mexico, Turkey or Portugal. We dine out
several times a week but eat at home much of the time. I like to cook,
and food shopping is a great way to learn about a country. (Finding
baking soda in Buenos Aires isn’t nearly as simple as it sounds.)

People certainly could live on less than we do. Accommodations are a
good place to start; the cost of rentals overseas varies considerably
with size, season, location and amenities.

And when all else fails, walking and gawking are free everywhere.

Ocean of Opportunity
Although we have used airplanes, trains, buses, taxis, cars and
ferries, our favorite means of transportation is now trans-Atlantic
repositioning voyages.

When cruise lines move their ships seasonally, they offer big
discounts. Not many people can spare several weeks in the off-season
to cross the ocean. But it’s perfect for us because we not only reach
our destination, but we also are housed, fed and pampered for more
than two weeks each time. Traveling by ship, we arrive in sync with
local time and get a quick peek at interesting places that we probably
wouldn’t choose for an extended visit.

We are not married to any particular cruise line. Tim shops for the
best deal he can find that fits into our schedule, although we
sometimes schedule around the cruises. Prices vary. In May, our
Atlantic crossing—16 nights with an ocean-view room—cost about $2,500
for the two of us. That included all of our food, and a wine package
for me. Our return trip in November from Barcelona to Miami with the
same cruise line will cost about the same.

Our repositioning bookings extend into 2014 and form the base from
which the rest of our travels plans will grow. At the moment, we have
reservations for next year to live in Portugal, Spain, France,
Germany, the Netherlands and Russia. We are already confirmed for a
Paris apartment for June/July 2014.

In our experience, and are the most reliable
sources for short-term rentals. They offer a wide range of properties
to fit almost any budget, and because we usually stay at least a month
in each place, we can sometimes negotiate a slightly better deal.

Settling In
We have had the best luck renting properties whose owners live
locally. They offer information about transportation and shopping,
grant reasonable special requests and are usually quick to correct any
shortcomings. When I mentioned to our apartment owner in Paris that
the pots and pans were a bit tired, she appeared the very next day
with a new set of cookware and two wonderful stainless-steel frying

Of course, challenges await us at each destination. A partial list:
learning how to negotiate the grocery-store routine; using local
transportation; connecting to the Internet; getting decent haircuts;
operating heating and cooling systems; deciphering exotic DVD players.

Producing meals in an unfamiliar kitchen is often a particular
challenge; microwave instructions in French or Turkish can
considerably delay meal preparation, And every washer/dryer we
encounter presents a whole new group of mysterious settings.

So Far, So Wonderful
Connecting with people we would never have encountered in our regular
lives is the most thrilling part of our lifestyle.

In Paris, my favorite neighborhood cheese vendor chose a slice of Brie
that he guaranteed would melt perfectly at the precise time our guests
arrived, and it did; we met two brilliant young Serbian educators and
an internationally known Italian poet at a dinner party on a terrace
overlooking Florence; and the owner of a gorgeous 16th-century hotel
where we were staying in Kusadasi, Turkey, whiled away an afternoon
with me playing fast and furious backgammon. Such moments make the
uncomfortable times—like being stuck in a London traffic jam while
still learning to drive a stick-shift car on the left side—more than

We also enjoy the freedom of not being weighed down by our “things.”
Indeed, one of the benefits of living home-free is that people we meet
on the road are interested in us and could care less about our house,
our antiques, our art or other possessions. It’s a remarkably
forthright way to relate to others.

Most days we’re up by 8 a.m., and we read our newspapers online with
our coffee. If it’s a “tourist” day, we try to get out in the morning
before the crowds fill up the museum, historic site or event we’re
bound for. Sometimes we just attend to life with grocery or clothes
shopping, or catching up on our laundry and our reading.

Strolling along the Thames on the way to have a haircut turns a
mundane chore into an event, and many times we enjoy a chat with an
interesting stranger along the way. My husband devotes some time every
day to making travel plans for the future and writing a novel, and I
try to work regularly on my blog, Many
evenings we watch our favorite shows or a movie we’ve rented online,
and we usually stay up too late, just as we used to do at home.

Online Connection
Since we have eliminated homeownership, we have few bills to pay. We
use an online bill-paying service, and we buy almost everything by
credit card so we can rack up mileage rewards. One of our daughters
receives the mail, which has dwindled to almost nothing.

A good Internet connection is essential. Our computers link us with
family and friends, help us plan future travels, and are our source of
entertainment in places where movies and television in English are
elusive. Each of us has a laptop and an iPhone, and our Kindles house
our library and travel books.

We have Medicare and supplemental plans, and when we return to the
U.S., we see our doctors for annual checkups. We also have
international health insurance covering medical emergencies and
evacuations. The plan has a big deductible to help reduce our
overhead, since our experiences with health-care providers abroad have
been very positive. For instance, Tim awoke one morning in Mexico with
raging flu symptoms. A doctor was at his bedside within the hour,
administered an injection and gave us a prescription. He charged about
$50, and Tim recovered quickly.

Of course, we miss our family and friends terribly, but they have
forgiven us for leaving and welcome us enthusiastically when we rent a
house near them for a visit. Even our financial adviser has grudgingly
admitted that our plan is working well.

For us, giving up 2,500 square feet of gracious California living for
a 500-square-foot apartment in Paris or Istanbul is more than a fair
trade-off. In place of our heavy-duty gas stove, big-name pots and
pans and enormous refrigerator, we now find ourselves using
Barbie-size sinks, bar fridges and some pretty sketchy cookware. We
share bathrooms with one sink and watch movies on a 13-inch computer

At the same time, we enjoy lunches where the paté comes from heaven,
drives through the luscious French countryside where even the cows are
beautiful, and strolls along the Arno River in Italy for our
after-dinner exercise.

We don’t plan to quit until the wheels fall off.

Vintage suitcases art print×8-inch-photograph

* * *


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