In 2016, InternationalLiving.com will send the winner of its “World’s Best Job” competition to one or more of the destinations rated as the best retirement havens in the world. The winner will explore at least one overseas haven and report on the experience. The prize includes a round-trip flight plus $5,000 in spending money. “We’re looking for an American or Canadian with a sense of adventure, a willingness to try new things, and a belief that instead of settling for an ordinary retirement at home or the lingering drudgery of a 9-5 life…other, better options might exist overseas.
So, what’s happened to me in the past year since becoming a travel writer? Well, I’ve received the services of a butler…enjoyed a helicopter thrill ride…and called a best-selling author “neighbor.” Before travel writing, I thought these things only happened to people in the movies. Now, my dream-come-true is happening as we speak.
I’m sitting on the beach in Hopkins Village in Belize—mimosa in hand—staring out over the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea trying to find the exact point where the clear blue sky meets the water. This friendly village is the heart of the Garifuna culture in Belize and my home for the next couple of days. There isn’t much on my to-do list…sunning, swimming, and a Garifuna drumming lesson with a local drummer.
Someone once asked me the most ridiculous thing I ever did as a travel writer. The list is long—very long—but the notion that I could communicate in Chinese was pretty ridiculous. The day’s plan was to explore the 1,000-year-old town of Yangmei, not far from Nanning. It sounded fascinating—a place of temples, lotus ponds, and architecture dating back to the Ming dynasty. The hotel in Nanning arranged a taxi to get me there and back, so it didn’t matter that I’d left the phrase book in my room.
Donna McNichol says that moving to Cuenca, Ecuador, has been a grand adventure. But the truth is, the move to Ecuador is just the latest in a series of adventures… “After being widowed at age 58,” Donna says, “I spent part of a year traveling the U.S. on my motorcycle, covering 42 states and riding 27,000 miles alone. In another two years I sold everything I owned, bought a used Class C motorhome and started traveling full-time.”
“ What I love the most about Paris is every day brings an opportunity to see and do something new. It stimulates the brain. Every street you haven’t traveled down before leaves you room for discovery and learning,” says Texas native Leah Walker. Leah funds her life through freelance writing, blogging, and running social media promotions for hotels, restaurants, tour companies, and destinations—as well as beauty and fashion businesses—on her website.
Each morning, my boyfriend, Sean, and I sleep in until about 9 a.m.—we rarely set an alarm. More often than not, we wake up to the bustling of the coffee shop next door. We each order a cup of fresh-brewed coffee and a breakfast of fresh scrambled eggs and gallo pinto (typical Costa Rican rice and beans).
Every day, I take a break from work around 1 p.m. I grab the leash, shoo the dogs out the door, pop in my headphones, and spend 45 minutes listening to NPR as I walk through the park. Some days I stop for a taco on the way home. I often pause to chat with my neighbors. I live in Mexico City, famed for its chaotic sidewalks, ruthless traffic, and millions of inhabitants. But as a freelancer in a cozy neighborhood just outside of the Centro Historico, I barely notice the hustle and bustle as I take my time.
Whenever I check my emails I feel the excitement of a kid opening presents on his birthday. That’s because I’m a travel writer. Today I got an email from a magazine editor stating I’d be receiving an $800 check for an article I wrote for his glossy publication. But what’s really satisfying are the thrills and adventures that lead up to paydays like this.
I’m a real sucker for pastries. I can’t resist the melt-in-the mouth, flaky pastry of a fresh croissant or better still, a pain au chocolat with its bonus hit of dark, sweet goodness in the center. Of course, eating baked goods prepared by a top patisserie chef while sitting in a glittering salon—and knowing that this is just one stop on a three-day gastronomic odyssey—makes it taste all the more delicious.
Wandering is our specialty. Since my husband, Chris, and I left the States at the start of 2013 with not much of a plan and a whole load of ambition, we have resided in seven homes and explored countless destinations in the two countries—Costa Rica and Nicaragua. During our travels we have rescued hatchling sea turtles from hungry birds…observed the most achingly beautiful sunset from a Pacific beach…and encouraged a sloth as he crept between trees…
For 10 years before my husband Mark and I left Chicago, I was working 24/7. As the owner of a wholesale women’s clothing business, my career left me little time to actually enjoy life. So, Mark and I made the massive decision to leave the U.S. 18 months ago. We did it because we needed to slow down and enjoy life now. We sold it all; furniture, cars, clothes, businesses and stuffed the rest into two suitcases. Then we moved halfway across the world, to a country that we had only visited for a total of 17 days. Our destination: Penang, Malaysia.
This summer, I got an email from a stranger offering me a free stay in a gorgeous French countryside cottage. I was welcome anytime, the kind and excited woman told me, and so was my world-traveling dog, Luna. Her cottage, which was spacious and beautifully appointed, was in the Loire Valley—a part of France known for its castles and sweeping landscapes. A well-traveled friend of mine told me it was the perfect place for leisurely bike rides and warm croissants. Similarly, a month or so later, a restaurant in Italy reached out. They would love to have me come for dinner and they wanted to know if I was planning a trip to Bolzano—the intriguing Italian-German part of northern Italy—anytime soon. A few weeks after that, another restaurant, this time in my favorite European capital—Paris—sent me a fancy invitation to a VIP tasting event.
Five years ago, I was the lead copywriter and content strategist at an advertising agency in Denver, Colorado…coming in as early as 7 a.m. and leaving sometimes as late as 9 p.m.—and rarely ever got a real break. Now, I’m sitting in a sunny top-floor apartment in the Swiss Alps, writing this to you. I can see a waterfall from my window and, only a few steps from my door, I could be on a hiking trail that leads to a Swiss ski town or a 360-degree panorama of the mountains. All because I am a travel writer.
My next trip is Las Vegas. No complaints—I’m one of those sinners who enjoys Sin City. The trip is for an International Living conference where I’ll speak on Italy and its sweet life. I’m not wearing my travel-writing hat for this conference, but I’ve visited Italy so many times—at least 20—I’ve gained a great insight into places unknown to the tourist hordes.
My sister was shocked at the $2,000 she’d been quoted. But for a year’s worth of monthly housecleaning in Ohio, apparently that’s the going rate. While she recovered from her sticker shock, I did a bit of quick math.
Mexico City is like a large European city with a tropical jungle twist. It’s also one of the largest cities in the world, but you wouldn’t know it from the cool, calm atmosphere that presides over the Roma Norte neighborhood where I am staying for a few nights. My life has a travel writer takes me to great places like this all the time. I’ve explored the bohemian cafes of Prague…the seductive beaches of Portugal…a seaside village in Turkey…and the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires.
Around the world, tour operators, hotels, cruise lines, and resorts are fighting for your vacation dollars. They have to pay big bucks to buy ads in magazines and online…and they do so. But some “good press” can be invaluable to their campaign as well. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico is a case in point. It’s long been a destination for expat retirees and visitors from Mexico City and around the country.
I’m a writer. And in the age of the Internet, that’s a great thing to be. I didn’t plan it that way, of course. In my case it was just dumb luck. After a dozen years as an undergrad searching for something to hold my interest long enough to actually get a degree, I stumbled on journalism.
Here are a lot of reasons why you should try your hand at travel writing. It’s Fun! You can relax by the pool at a beautiful seaside resort and call it work, and then eat out at a 5-star restaurant and call it research. You get paid to do things you’d gladly pay for yourself. Publications will cover many travel expenses, and hotels and restaurants typically will roll out the red carpet for travel writers.
Every time I open a travel magazine I flip past the first pages of advertisements, pass the index and the editor’s notes, and head straight to the contributors’ page. This is the page with the list and photos of the writers contributing to the issue at hand. As long as I have been devouring travel magazines I have wondered about the lives of the travel writers. Who sent them over?
Not everyone looks forward to getting up and going to work. But I’m not complaining. The most difficult task I need to tackle today is to finish packing a suitcase. So I’m having a very leisurely breakfast before heading to the airport for a flight to Barcelona, one of the world’s most electrifying cities. Even though I’ve done it countless times before, I’m really looking forward to…
A symphony of monks chanted as we sat kneeling on the grass. I held the wire rim of my enormous cylindrical paper lantern and waited for the cue. Finally, in one synchronized movement, a sea of hands—belonging to individuals from countless countries and cultures—let go.
Although my wife, Suzan Haskins, and I write a lot about retiring overseas, we’re not officially retired. We write for a living, and even after we do reach official retirement age, I’d be very surprised if we didn’t continue our work writing, editing, and traveling. We know more and more folks in the same situation. They have no intention of retiring in the traditional sense and will probably work at something well past any official retirement marker or milestone they may pass.
I pull back the curtains, feel the crisp refreshing air, and look out over the waterfront at the colorful buildings of this Art Nouveau town…excited about the “work” day ahead. I’m in picturesque Ålesund, Norway. This jewel-like coastal town is the gateway to Norway’s spectacular Geiranger Fjord making it the perfect base from which to explore the region—and that’s my job for the day.
Imagine living in Europe, Africa, or Australia and earning a living while traveling around and discovering the continent. Sounds too good to be true? Well this is exactly what I have been doing for about six years now. I started off in Africa because I had always wanted to go on a safari but could never afford it.
There is no time clock but you work 24-7… No cubicle but you must have a computer… Your commute occasionally takes 10 to 12 hours, and sometimes it takes days off your calendar. You must be fluent in hand gestures and you better have a strong stomach and a good memory.
“Wait, what? Don’t move to Argentina, you can’t speak any Spanish!” Everyone reacted the same way when I announced I was moving. My Spanish education consisted of one class I took for a few months when I was 11 years old.
Like many, I have said that someday I would like to write a book. The idea remained just that for years. There was never enough time to squeeze anything else into an already hectic schedule, making it easy to keep on postponing. As
soon as I made way for a new freer lifestyle, I decided to see if I could be a writer.
“Follies are the only things that one never regrets,” said Oscar Wilde. Agreed. But travel writers needn’t look far to find excuses for their follies. After all, writers have a reputation for eccentricity. Whatever bizarre situation you find yourself in—and if any awkward questions arise—you can always blame it on the job. Why were you buying contraband from gypsies in the Czech woods? (“It’s my job.”) How come you spent half the night in a Berlin anarchist squat? (“It’s my job.”)
Earlier this month, I spent a long weekend watching birds and Monarch butterflies. I took part in a few hikes, went on a boat tour, and attended a few lectures—all centered around birds. Being close to hundreds of birds and thousands of butterflies was a thrill…but also how I make a living. Being around animals and interviewing experts about animals is joyful. Then sitting down to write about my findings allows me to relive the experience all over again.
It’s a weekday morning in the early fall and I’m standing on a mountaintop in the Swiss Alps. I’ve been hiking all morning, passing through tiny villages with dark-roofed homes and small chapels whose bells sing out every hour to remind us of the precise time. I’ve walked through fields of wildflowers that overlook snow-capped peaks and past a dozen waterfalls both small and large. And for the past hour I’ve been navigating thin pathways that wind across a barren high-altitude landscape dotted with leftover snow.
It’s possible to pursue your hobby and bring in some cash before and during retirement. These hobbies can help you to fund your life as a retiree overseas. If you’re dreaming of an apartment in Paris…a beach house in Ecuador…a farmhouse in Italy…and the only thing holding you back is lack of capital…then read on. Your interests can turn into a career that you love…
Since writing was something that I’d always loved, it seemed reasonable that it could become my ticket to traveling the world. I spent a couple of months researching the best way to get started on this new career, and then submitted my first story about Costa Rica to International Living. You can’t even imagine how excited I was when they agreed to publish it!
My wife Suzan and I used to get dressed to go to work. No, really. Although we’re writers and have been for most of our professional lives now, there was a time when we’d have to put on the nylons and skirts and ties and slacks and sit in offices for hours on end. Flash back about 15 years. The clients we wrote for had Big Offices where they did Important Stuff that we would turn into brochures…
After the London house was sold, the Bryson clan moved north to rural Yorkshire and a new life. Bill’s modest goal was to earn a decent living by writing articles and books. He produced several titles on the English language, but it was his books of travel essays (like Notes from a Small Island and I’m a Stranger Here Myself) that began earning him a following and lively book sales. Today, his legions of fans eagerly await his next book without knowing what a debt of gratitude they owe to his wife.
For us, the daily grind in the States had begun to require too much work for too little reward. Expenses were rising and both my wife and I had reached a level of dissatisfaction with our careers. It was time for a major change. It was time to slow down, work less, and enjoy more of life! This would not happen by accident. We made a plan. After some months of research, Ecuador emerged as the location for our next chapter. Having spent many years in Alaska…
This has been quite a year. It started in January with a weekend in West Virginia riding all-terrain vehicles on the Hatfield & McCoy Trails…hand-feeding black bears…and dancing to bluegrass music. In February I drove a reindeer sleigh through a winter wonderland in Roros, Norway. I kept myself warm by sampling aquavit along the newly developed Aquavit Trail around Trondheim.
My wife and fellow writer Suzan Haskins and I moved abroad 12 years ago…and took our work right along with us. We were writers back home, and our job now is to write about the places expats go and the things they do when they move overseas. And since we’re expats ourselves, we’ve always had a special interest in the ways other expats earn a living abroad as well.
Did you ever want to go abroad but weren’t able to fund it? That doesn’t mean that your trip is doomed to never happen. Imagine instead getting paid to travel the world. It is possible to fund your trip and even make a profit by writing about your adventures.