Checking Out of the Rat Race to Travel the World

With cries of “you’re too young to retire” still ringing in our ears, we handed over the house keys and flew away from Vancouver, Canada, in search of a new life.

Sixteen months and 22 countries later, we are still enjoying our lifestyle as happy vagabonds.

Our adventure is also a mission to explore the world in search of the perfect retirement location.

Two years ago we were both on the corporate treadmill—my husband Michael as a consulting engineer for some of the largest oil and gas companies in the world, and I running my own business.

While dealing with the challenges of an ever-increasing workload, a dear friend died. It was then that we realized that we had to find the “off” switch for the treadmill.

Making the decision to change our lives was not easy for us. It is, however, one we don’t regret. With a lifetime goal of visiting 100 countries, this was the perfect opportunity to see all the places on our wish list and look for our ideal home.

Getting off the treadmill meant surviving without the regular monthly income. It seemed daunting at first, but you’ll likely find—as we did—that even if you’re not wealthy, you do have assets to use. For instance, our mortgage-free home in a desirable area in the suburbs generates a regular monthly rental income.

After doing the math, it became apparent that this crazy plan could succeed and, at the same time, we could keep the security of a home to return to if we decided to.

After six months of organizing and planning, we had reworked our lives.

To the glee, shock, envy and horror of family and friends, we then headed to Europe! A long-overdue wish to visit the countries skirting the Mediterranean made this area a logical first choice to explore.

As anyone who has been to Europe knows, it is hard to travel inexpensively there, unless of course you are willing to stay at backpacker hostels and eat two-minute noodles. This might be fine for those still in their twenties. But we wanted more comfort, so we used the extra cash we’d raised from selling our “stuff” to subsidize the European portion of our adventure.

Even with this extra cushion, we kept our eyes open for ways we could trim our travel and accommodation expenses.

That includes a fun and easy way to get accommodation in Europe for free—housesitting. My favorite sojourn there was the 15th-century farmhouse in Tuscany, complete with dogs, cats and chickens. The highlight was the swimming pool, perfectly situated for taking in the panoramic views of rolling hills and valleys.

We estimate that, by housesitting, we’ve saved over $19,000 in accommodation costs and tasted lifestyles of which some people only dream.

Staying in homes or apartments also keeps your food costs reasonable. Instead of eating out every day, cooking for yourself is cheaper, healthier and enlightening, especially when you are willing to find out what the weird green spiky thing is.

Our living and working costs in Canada were over $4,000 a month. Surprisingly, visiting and exploring Europe cost less. Our total spending averaged $3,400 a month and our costs while traveling, exploring and playing in Central America have been just over $2,000 per month.

Point is: Not only can you retire overseas for less but you can also explore for less.

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