We had fun for a couple of days this past week hosting Lynne, a former colleague of Ted’s, and her husband John, as they travelled through South Carolina on their way back to Canada after their winter sojourn in central Florida.
Lynne and John have been living “our” dream for over 5 years already, travelling around the world with no permanent home base.
They kindly agreed to let us pick their brains and learn from their experiences to date, in return for a couple of nights’ stay and dinner. We definitely got the better end of that deal…. thanks Lynne!!
Here’s what we learned (or in some cases had confirmed by their experiences):
1. Follow your dreams. Don’t pay attention to those who say you’re crazy (in our case, for selling our house, because “you can’t just travel all the time”). If you can afford it and it enriches your life, do it.
2. Be true to yourselves. You don’t “have to” see what tourist guides consider the must-do sights. Focus on what you love doing and find it wherever you go. For Lynne and John that includes golf, theme parks and roller coasters (brave souls!). For us, it’s largely music and history. But John’s advice is if you find yourself in Rome, go to the coliseum !!
3. You need to plan, even a bit obsessively: documentation renewals, travel insurance, prescription renewals, longer-term accommodations, luggage allowances, etc. You can grab a hotel room on the fly, but not a passport…. and you don’t want your drivers license or health insurance to expire while you’re away!
4. You also need to be flexible. Stuff happens. A couple of years ago Lynne and John were in a motorcycle accident that necessitated a return to Canada and major surgery on Lynne’s leg, followed by time in a wheelchair and extensive physio, but they rolled with the punches and got back on the road after she’d healed. Much less catastrophically, this winter the accommodation we had pre-planned in Mexico got cancelled when the owners sold the property; we simply regrouped and found a new destination.
5. Health is a priority. To that end, being physically active, whether walking outdoors or using the equipment in a resort gym, really helps, but making sure to see the doctor, dentist, eye doctor etc. when we’re back in Canada each year just makes sense.
6. Safety is important too. It pays to check the online list of Canadian travel advisories. In a foreign country, know where the Canadian consulate is located. We’re getting too “mature” (okay, old) to be taking silly risks. It’s not “uncool” to avoid sketchy parts of town, especially after dark, or not go places with strangers – it’s just common sense. We have kids and grandkids who depend on us, so it’s responsible on our part to keep them apprised of where we are by regular contact (even if it’s just Facebook), and let them know where our legal documents are, for that matter. We hope they won’t need to access them, but it makes no sense to keep them in the dark should an unexpected need arise.
7. We can probably downsize even more if we try. Lynne and John did 4 months in Europe with just a carryon and a backpack each. Plus, the paperwork we’re still hanging onto in a file cabinet at our son’s house needs to be scanned and then shredded. (John shared his great shredding alternative: soaking paperwork to degrade the ink and then squeezing out the excess water and throwing it away to decompose.)
8. Pre-pay when you can to lock in costs. Costs of food and accommodations can vary wildly from country to country and from year to year. We have a budget, so splurging in one location means economizing elsewhere. To that end: collect points, join the hotel rewards program, sign up for restaurant discounts, get the grocery store loyalty card, use coupons, take the seniors’ discount, and order the early bird special. Let the small economies subsidize the special experiences.
9. Monitor your financial health. Keep track of expenses, and pay off credit card balances promptly. It’s smart to have room on your credit limit for unforeseen emergencies.
…and MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL: this adventure only works with the one you love beside you. It is both a test of, and a testimonial to, a great partnership.