A Roving Retirement on $3,366 a Month

Eighteen months ago, my husband Don and I pulled the trigger on our roving retirement with great enthusiasm. We were off to experience the world! Our goal was to go beyond the tourist attractions and really get to know the local culture and customs of the places we visited. With a budget of $3,366 per month, including transportation, our challenge was how we could go everywhere we wanted to go and see everything we wanted to see without breaking the bank. Enter three strategies…

1. Take It Slow

Taking it slow has been a great money saver. Rather than spend a short time hopping around to several locations, we’ve enjoyed favourable long-term apartment rates with Airbnb and through local real estate agents by agreeing to longer stays (typically six to nine months).

Our rent—including electricity, water, Pay TV and internet—averages $1,145 per month. We pick a city with a good network of affordable, short- and long-distance transportation alternatives and settle in. Quito in Ecuador, Cusco in Peru and Malaga in Spain are a few examples. This gives us the opportunity to experience the local vibe, make friends and visit nearby sites (some favourites are the Otavalo market in Ecuador, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley in Peru and Spain’s Costa del Sol).

Enjoy million-dollar views—without the price tag—on Spain’s Costa del Sol.

But what to do if we want to venture further or experience more remote areas? Here’s where our second strategy kicks in…

2. Housesit

From the comfort of our apartment, we arrange short-term housesits, which are accessible by bus or train, in villages, towns or the countryside near places we want to visit. These multi-day to multi-week sits are ideal as lodging is free in exchange for caring for the owners’ pets and/or gardens while they are away.

We take public transport from the city we’re living in to our destination, often for $20 or less. The trip is exciting in itself, as we enjoy varied terrains en-route to our destination. We travel light, leaving most of our belongings behind in our apartment. Except for the bus/train ride, there is no incremental living cost.

Housesitting means “living like the locals”. It means meeting the neighbours who are curious about us and invite us in for a cup of coffee, a meal or to a family fiesta; visiting small villages, farms and other curiosities that are off the beaten path; experiencing the great outdoors while hiking, with pets in tow, on historic trails that remain in use today.

One such hike we recently took was along the “acequia” system in southern Spain that was built by the Moors in 800 AD; today it remains the primary irrigation system for farms in the stunning, mountainous Alpujarra region of Andalusia. Talk about living history.

What if we want to dive even deeper into a facet of local life? This is where strategy three delivers…

3. Volunteer

This is our latest strategy and we are hooked! From our apartment, we check out nearby volunteer opportunities that put us at the heart of the action. Volunteer experiences that afford a chance to get involved in local culture abound.

While in Quito, we helped teach English to local school children. We forged a friendship with the Ecuadorian teacher we assisted and, as a bonus, improved our Spanish—as well as having great fun with the children.

We planted orchids and harvested yucca in the Ecuadorian rainforest while staying for two weeks on a preserve run by native Quechuans. We performed our work as the Quechuans have done for hundreds of years, with a simple machete and ample respect for the land. Meals and accommodation were free in exchange for our labour. Our only cost was transportation to the preserve, about $20 each by bus, which was more than covered by the free meals we enjoyed over our two-week stay.

For both of these Ecuadorian volunteer experiences, we made our arrangements through a fundacion (foundation) in Quito. There are many of these throughout Latin America, linking wannabe volunteers with exciting, unique opportunities.

We’re in love with our roaming retirement and enjoy it even more using these strategies that enrich our experiences beyond expectation. Next, we’re moving to an apartment in San Sebastian, Spain, for six months. We’ve already booked a weeklong housesit just over the Pyrenees near Bordeaux, France. While there, we’ll be sure to explore the vineyards of this renowned wine region… Cheers to our roving retirement.

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