There Are No Do-Overs for Retirement

Two and a half years ago, my husband Tim and I came to a decision. We realized that, if we were lucky, we had about a third of our lives ahead of us… and we didn’t want to spend them repeating ourselves in a lovely house, watching the years slip away.

Four months after we’d reached that conclusion, we sold the house, dispersed the furniture, put our treasures in storage, kissed our grown children goodbye and hit the road.

Right now, we live in Paris, where we have an apartment in the 14th Arrondissement, a real French neighborhood—not one overrun with tourists.

Already, it truly feels like home to us, and we can hardly believe that six of our 12 weeks in residence have evaporated.

Soon we will do it all over again in our new home, Berlin.

That’s because Tim and I are senior nomads. We live an international home-free life without a permanent base, experiencing the world one country at a time. We love almost every minute of it. And, after living in nine countries in two years, we are healthier, happier, and more relaxed than we have been in decades.

People ask us what kind of philosophy allows such an unusual lifestyle. How we can cope with not having an anchor…the uncertainty of being overseas most of the year…and the challenge of learning how to live in new places all the time. We answer by quoting our friend who spends his life tethered to a walker as he battles Parkinson’s disease: Postpone nothing.

Gerry and his wife, Lorraine, still travel the world in spite of his disability, and they have become our role models, our inspiration in the moments when we are tired, discouraged or homesick for a permanent life.

Living in rented apartments or small houses a month or two at a time in countries far away from friends and family is not a life for everyone, but it works for us.

And it’s not the only way to see the world on your own terms. Some people we’ve met trade their houses with people in foreign countries. Others rent their places and take off, leaving a home base to which they can return. Many have sold their property and have made satisfying full-time lives in new countries.

One woman, whom we met at a party the other night, divides her year between Florida and Paris. She has tiny apartments in each city and she and her dog travel happily between the two, enjoying two completely different lifestyles.

Others, who are more financially endowed, take two or three long, luxurious trips somewhere in the world each year, returning home long enough to repack, regroup and reconnect with their children and grandchildren.

We’ve met many people who travel full-time in the U.S. in RVs…and others who do the same in Europe or South America.

These people tell us they want to be free of their old patterns…and to try new things while they still have the health and vitality to enjoy it.

What do they all have in common? The deep understanding that their lives are not eternal…that no one gets a do-over…and that the time for older people to see and do the things that really move them is now. They’ve reared and educated their children, completed their work cycle, and no longer have frail parents who need their attention, so they feel justified in taking some time to realize their own dreams.

Every one of them we meet is happy to tell us stories of their adventures, give advice about cities and countries they have found particularly interesting or welcoming, and we notice a sparkle and zest for life in all of these pioneers of the new longevity.

The notion of seniors casting off the bonds of tradition and breaking the predictable mold seems to be gathering steam…and we anticipate a groundswell of older people spreading out into the world carrying the message: Postpone nothing!

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