Selling all your worldly belongings and living on the road is not typically something we associate with retirement. It’s supposed to be what you do when you’re 20-something, not 70-something. Old people are supposed to take guided tours or travel with elderhostel.
Lynne Martin’s new book “Home Sweet Anywhere: How We Sold Our House, Created a New Life, and Saw the World” has fueled a movement of retirees who emphatically do not want to age in place, but would much rather age on the road.
Having sold their house and all their belongings, with only two suitcases, two computers and a serious case of wanderlust to their names, retirees Lynne and Tim Martin have spent the past three years on the road, living in countries ranging from Argentina to Mexico, Portugal, France and Turkey. They rent apartments for a few months at a time wherever they go, becoming temporary locals.
Blogging on the Huffington Post, Martin has discussed the “home free movement”; according to her, readers of Lynne’s book, as well as the couple’s blog, Homefree Adventures, have been inspired to follow their example. Many have written to them with questions about everything from medical insurance to packing. The Martins answer readers’ questions whenever they have Internet access.
We spoke with Lynne Martin by phone and asked her how they do it.
Tell us how you got started.
I was about to turn 70 and I said to Tim, “We have this nice life with a pretty house, we’re near grandchildren and children and we’re both healthy, but we’re happiest when we’re on the road and not just on a two week vacation. I don’t just want to travel, I want to live in different places, in real neighborhoods, be a temporary local wherever I go.”
How long do you think you can keep it up?
We’ll do it until we can’t. At this point we’re both healthy, we don’t take any medications, we don’t have high blood pressure; so until our health or the stock market crashes, we’ll keep going. Eventually we’ll go home to California and squat near our children, but we’ll never have another 2200 square foot house.
This is not an easy way to live. What’s the secret of your success?
We don’t sweat the small stuff, like the time we got locked out of our apartment in Buenos Aires and were stuck on a hot balcony for hours with no food or water. We’re patient. Whatever happens, we tell each other, this is temporary, this too shall pass. We try to find something positive in the situation. Unexpected stuff happens at home too, but on the road you have to be more flexible.
The other part is learning to cocoon. Because we don’t go home like vacationers, I don’t have a bed, a closet, anywhere to go hide, so we hide as we go. This summer we’re going back to an apartment in Paris we’ve stayed in before, so that’s home. We’ll take a few days and not go out at all.
A lot of people say they want to “age in place.” We’re guessing you’re not a big fan of the idea…
I can’t imagine anything more debilitating. I think that consistency and being in the same place is highly overrated.
How do your kids feel about your foot loose and fancy free lifestyle?
The good news is, the kids are coming to see us.
I think that the world for older people is changing because of our better health. We’re developing new ways to live and new ways of relating to family. Our grandchildren get more than granny on the porch. They get to talk to this granny about what it’s like to be in Marrakesh. We have two little girls coming to Paris this summer. Talk about bonding. If they want to know something, they know who to ask. One of the teens wanted to know what it was like in Berlin. They don’t know anyone who’s been there but me.
What’s on your bucket list? And are there countries you do you not want to visit?
We don’t go where they shoot guns or where they treat women badly. We don’t go to Arab countries, and I wasn’t thrilled with the way women are treated in Morocco, where they’re wrapped up but not as much.
The countries on our bucket list are Southeast Asia, Vietnam, Laos, Australia, French Polynesia, New Zealand, South America.
Who can do this? Tell us how you manage it financially.
Here’s the thing: We translated our overhead into a travel budget. We are fortunate people, but we are far from wealthy. We have a small portfolio. What we did do is take the money from selling our house and added it to the portfolio, so we don’t use principal. Most people’s wealth is in their house, so if you take that money and put it to work instead, it generates the investment money we’re living on. Depending on the market, you’ll have more or less.
What are your travel tips? How can other people replicate your way of life?
Decide where it is you want to go and go for a long time – you can’t afford to be flitting around. Stay there for a good long while.
Use Homeaway.com or VRBO.com [Vacation Rental by Owner]. You can rent twice the room for half the cost. You’ll have a kitchen, bedroom and living room, and be in a neighborhood, not downtown. These are not squats – they’re well kept, fully furnished vacation rentals available anywhere in the world. We rented a Home Away place on Wall St. Renting a smaller place, like a studio, will cut overhead.
Cook at home. If we go out to eat, it’s usually lunch, which is cheaper than dinner. For dinner we have salad or soup, something cheap.
Take repositioning cruises. They’re much cheaper than regular cruises. They go at a time of year when younger people are in school, but they have all the same perks as a regular cruise for half the money. You arrive with no jet leg. They go everywhere and are ideal for retired people. Check out www.repositioningcruise.com
Stick to cheaper countries. We try for balance. We’ll choose Paris and then Portugal, London then Turkey. If we go to Ecuador it will counterbalance New York. We need two bedrooms because I’m a writer and I need a room where I can close the door, so our expenses are higher than other couples’.
To stay connected, use USA2Me.com. They scan your mail. If it looks urgent they open it and send you the contents.
Have you been anywhere you could imagine settling ?
I doubt we’d settle outside the U.S. When in the States we gravitate to California; our docs and kids are there. If anywhere else, it would be have to be Paris.
What does aging with attitude mean to you?
Postpone nothing. That’s our motto. We repeat it every time we see how fragile life is, like when we got hung up in tidal flood in Istanbul or when a tree fell down as we were leaving Portugal, crushing cars on other side of the road about two inches from our car.