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Living Internationally: How to Enjoy a Roving Retirement

Lisbon, Portugal

Advances in technology have opened up the world. Planes, trains and the Internet are all getting faster and—if you know where to look—you can embrace these changes and make your dream of exploring dozens of overseas destinations come true.

You can cruise to Europe for up to 70% off standard prices if you know how…you can use a host of websites to organize low-cost, luxurious accommodation for a few months—enough time to try a place on for size—before moving on to the next… You can sit on a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean sipping wine in April, and kick back on a beach in English-speaking Belize in May…

Right now, living internationally is more affordable than ever before. In fact, done right, it’ll cost you less than it would to stay home.

Just ask Yvonne and Michael Bauche who lived in countries all over Central America for months at a time and found their monthly expenses half of what they spent at home in Canada.

Yvonne and Michael aren’t alone. Eager for adventure, aware of the opportunities overseas, and unwilling to “settle down” just yet, broad-minded retirees (and younger folks, too) are making the world their playground.

No matter their age or background, these gadabouts all have certain things in common: They want to step out of the rat race early, make the most of their time, meet new people, learn new things…and savor life in exotic surrounds.

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Many of the expats living this globetrotting lifestyle are on a long-term search for the perfect retirement locale. They aren’t in a hurry, or on a schedule. They throw the net wide, visiting dozens of countries and many places within each. They gradually narrow down the contenders to those few locales that have really captured their hearts, while hitting everything on their bucket lists along the way.

You can do the same. Spend two months in Paris, six weeks in Portugal, then try Latin America. Start with the beaches of Belize, move south to the mountains of Ecuador. Create your own extended “colonial-home tour”…three months in the immaculately preserved town of Granada, Nicaragua, followed by a stint among the restored shophouses and art galleries of George Town, Malaysia. (Costs in either place are less than $1,300 a month for a couple, including rent.)

Beyond the adventure, the true beauty of this way of life is the flexibility. A roving retirement like this can be as fast- or slow-paced as you like. Having discovered an enchanting Italian hilltop town, you can linger. If a place appeals, stay longer…if not, move on. And as your first year on the road rolls into your next you’ll have learned where you feel most at home. Instead of two months on your favorite Thai island this time you might decide to spend four… and so on…all the time savoring the best the world has to offer you…

Managing Your Finances

Could you really afford to take off to Europe, South America or Asia? At first glance, your balance sheet may not look so promising. But consider: If you rent your house out (or sell it), if you unload your cars and your furniture…you’ll create a pot of cash you may not have considered at first. The money you raise from a yard sale could keep you in a luxury condo in Panama City for a couple of months, or on the road across Europe longer than you think.

Plus, you’ll cut costs from your budget at the same time. Take Lynne and Tim Martin, who have lived in nine countries—including France three times—since 2011, when they sold their comfortable California house, put a few small treasures in storage, and kissed their daughters and grandchildren goodbye.

“Being home-free and traveling costs us no more than a stationary California lifestyle. We have no home maintenance, taxes, or tenants to worry about, yet we continue to draw exactly the same stipend from our portfolio as we did before. Even additional expenses, such as international health insurance and annual trips to see our family and friends, do not tip the budget scale,” says Lynne.

For Lynne and Tim, globetrotting doesn’t mean sacrificing the good things in life. On the contrary, you can indulge in a lot more of them. But it does require a different attitude toward budgeting.

“Since we live on the road, we cannot budget our expenses as we would staying in one place,” says Lynne. “Therefore, we try to balance the yearly plan by choosing less expensive countries for part of the year. For instance, five weeks in inexpensive Portugal helped us afford to spend three months in Paris, which is a much more expensive location. Eating many meals at home also helps keep our balance sheet healthy. And by planning our itinerary far in advance we can factor in all the costs with some online research, such as transport and accommodation.”

How to Travel

When it comes to getting from one place to another, there are all sorts of ways to keep costs to a minimum. Often these tricks and tips will shape how you plan your trip. In Asia, the frequency of cheap flights might mean making your nest near a good airport and traveling regularly from there makes the most sense. In Europe, car rental could prove more economical than rail or flights, not to mention more flexible, allowing you to visit places off-the-beaten track.

Saving significantly doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice comfort or style. Michael and Virginia Zullo are just two of those who have learned the secret of repositioning cruises. “We found out that cruise lines repositioned their ships at the end of one season—moving them to another location for the next season,” says Michael. “They sell off the cabins for these legs of the voyage very cheaply and, if you’re in the right place at the right time, you can get a bargain. We traveled from the U.S. to Europe for a third-off normal prices. One of the big benefits of these cruises is that, not only do you get the transportation, but all your living expenses are covered.”

One bit of advice though, says Michael, “Never take the shore excursions that the cruise ships offer. You can do it yourself for about a quarter of the price.”

When it comes to flying, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer variety of websites you can book through…and the number of ways you can save. But perhaps the easiest way to get the best deal is by carefully planning when you book your flight.

The price of a flight can fluctuate daily, or even hourly. Airline ticket prices—like all prices—are based on demand, not value. To get the best deals you just need to buy your ticket when no one else is buying theirs—that’s when demand is lowest. By booking early in the morning or late at night, especially late on Wednesdays and Saturdays you will often save money.

And when you travel also comes into play. Early morning and red-eye flights are the cheapest flights on most routes, but it’s probably not worth saving $30 to lose a whole night’s sleep. Prices peak at the beginning and end of business hours, so try booking a flight around midday, when business travel is less popular. The time of year also matters. When you can, avoid school vacations and public holidays.

Sourcing Short-Term Homes

“We use Vrbo.com and Homeaway.com for lodging, because they offer an enormous range of accommodation worldwide,” says Lynne Martin. “We’ve always found their properties reliable. They are available in a wide range of prices in almost every country. We rely on former renters’ reviews to form our opinions. And in places where it makes sense, we look for off-season bargains, when owners are willing to come down in price.”

Folks who rent out their second homes are most likely to bargain with you when it comes to off-season deals. So if you’re not finding the affordable short-term rental you’re looking for, read well into the details about a property to divine whether it’s used as a vacation rental (as opposed to being the owner’s primary residence). If it is, they may assume very low returns in the off-season and be quite happy to negotiate with you to have any income coming in at all.

Another option? Pay no rent at all. Yvonne and Michael Bauche rely mainly on house sitting to get around. This growing trend sees homeowners worldwide use sites like Housecarers.com and Trustedhousesitters.com to find someone to live in their home, and perhaps take care of their pets or plants while they are away. Owners gain security and the comfort of knowing somebody will be on hand if anything should go wrong. And in return for minding the home, you get a unique travel experience, become locals in a new part of the world, and meet people you never would have otherwise. There are even luxury offerings. For $10 a year you can join Luxuryhousesitting.com.

How to Live Low Cost

Once you’ve arrived and have a roof over your head, that’s when the fun really begins. The secret to daily savings is simple: Live like a local. If you treat your three months in Provence, France, or Ecuador’s highlands like a vacation, it’s going to cost you accordingly. So avoid restaurants in tourist areas with English on the menus. They’ll cost more (and, often, are not as nice).

Instead, seek out local markets and stores. This isn’t a hardship, in fact it is part of the fun and often makes for a richer experience. “We’re always on the lookout for local fairs, flea markets and farmers’ markets,” says Lynne Martin. “Not only do we find great bargains, but we get a chance to absorb the real flavor of a country. We’ll ask people we meet along the way to guide us to grocery stores where they shop, so instead of seeking out places to buy familiar American foods, which are always much more expensive, we try to learn to cook like the locals. It’s more fun and a challenge, too!”

The same goes for staying in touch. “We buy pay-per-use disposable phones in each country we visit, because it’s much more cost-effective than U.S. phone plans,” says Lynne. IL Editor, Eoin Bassett, renting short-term in Panama, says a local cell phone cost him just $20. And when it comes to staying in touch with the folks back home and sharing your adventures, Skype, Facebook and email are all free with an Internet connection.

In European cities, public transport is easy and inexpensive. Metro and underground services, 24-hour buses, bike-rental plans—even city car-share schemes—give you lots of options. In Latin America, taxi travel is cheap, but consider car rental if you’re in town for more than a few weeks as it might be more economical.

Where to Go?

Armed with a strategy for good-value living, your next order of business is to figure out where you want to go. A lot depends on how you choose to travel and to source your accommodation. Take your wish list of destinations, choose a country or region, and begin exploring your options. Don’t rule out a place because you assume it’s expensive…chances are high that—using the strategies we’ve laid out here—you can do it more affordably than you may think.

There is no one “right” way to plan a “moveable retirement.” Yvonne and Michael Bauche found their European adventure grew organically as they arranged different house sits. “Apart from arranging a vehicle in advance, we kept everything as flexible as we could,” says Yvonne. “The plan for Central America was start in Belize and work south to Panama. Internet access is crucial for researching and planning as we travel.

“How do we plan our next move? We pick an area such as Central America and research places that we have heard about from International Living, travel guides or fellow travelers and expats. Then we choose our starting point and general direction of travel, visiting as many of the places on our list as we can. If we like what we see and feel, we spend more time there.”

Others approach planning in a long-term way. Lynne and Tim Martin like to plan far ahead so as to arrange the best deals and budget accordingly.

However you approach the planning, there’s no question that spending extended time in different places is more than just a wonderful adventure, it’s the ideal way to research a potentially permanent retirement home. When you shop at the local markets, take note of prices, explore neighborhoods on foot or using local transport…you get a much more realistic sense for a place than you ever could breezing through as a tourist. This way, you say hello to the neighbors, meet local expats and pick their brains, look at notice boards, talk to real estate agents, and generally get curious about everything…in short, you pretend you live there fulltime.

Then ask yourself how you feel. Do you feel safe and comfortable, do you like the area, the food, and the people? Is there anything that you do not like or something that irritates you to a degree that you couldn’t tolerate it over the long-haul?

Yvonne puts it well when she says, “We weigh all the pros and cons, but ultimately it is how we feel that weighs our decision as to whether this could be the place for our ideal abode.”

Keep in mind: Internationalizing your life needn’t be an all-or-nothing endeavor. Take six months or a year and let your wanderlust lead you. Maybe you’ll find the destination of your dreams. Or maybe you’ll simply have the time of your life. Either way, go. The world is full of opportunity and the promise of adventure and you needn’t spend millions to capitalize on either.

International Living Daily Postcards

Each day we uncover some of the most desirable–and cheapest–retirement havens on earth. In International Living‘s free daily postcards, you’ll learn about retirement, property, travel and lifestyle opportunities from around the world.

You can sign up for free in the box below and we will also send you a free bonus report on The World’s Top Ten Retirement Havens. (We value your privacy. You can unsubscribe at any time.)

Enter your email address below


 

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