We Sold Our House to Roam the World

My husband Tim and I are living proof that older people can learn plenty of new tricks. And our errors have been almost as much fun as our home runs. In 2011, we sold our comfortable California house, dumped the furniture, put our small treasures, art, and clothes in storage, and kissed our four daughters and seven grandchildren goodbye.

At ages 67 and 72, respectively, we became senior nomads. We had taken stock of our lives and realized that we were happier on the road than anywhere else—and that becoming home-free would give us the flexibility we needed to experience life in other cultures. Since then, we’ve lived in nine countries, and we have no plans to stop until the wheels fall off!

Highlights include living like a local in Paris, France, a month in a Georgian mansion overlooking the Irish Sea, and living by the River Thames, just blocks from Henry VIII’s palace at Hampton Court. These were dream experiences that could never have happened if we’d kept to our old lives.

We often travel in Old-World style, too. Cruise lines move their fleets seasonally and charge much less to passengers who can travel off-season. Since we’re home-free and flexible, having a nice room, all of our meals provided, and arriving at our destination without jet lag are enormous pluses.

But, I hear you ask, how exactly can we afford it? Here’s how: We have no home maintenance, taxes, or tenants to worry about, yet we continue to draw exactly the same stipend from our portfolio that we did before we changed our lifestyle. Even additional expenses, such as international health insurance and annual trips to see our family and friends, do not tip the budget scale. Bottom line: Being home-free and traveling costs us no more than a stationary California lifestyle. But for us it’s more challenging and rewarding.

Each place we’ve been has presented particular challenges. But we have learned how to orient ourselves quickly so we can begin enjoying our new home as soon as we arrive.

For instance, experience has taught us to hire a car to take us from the airport to our apartment when we reach a new country. It’s worth the extra expense. After a long day of travel, when we’re tired of other people’s fussy children, impertinent flight attendants, delayed flights, and all the other joys of travel, the sight of a guy waving a sign that says “Martin” really cheers us up. We know that this man will whisk us expertly to our new digs with a minimum of fuss.

Although we are wowed by the glorious sights, the history, exotic new foods, and the excitement of exploring new places, Tim and I agree that our new friends are the best part of our home-free life. Perfect strangers have extended themselves to help us, and their kindness, curiosity, and generosity have changed us in a fundamental way. We ourselves are kinder and more generous as a result of our experiences in the world.

The Turkish hotel-owner who presented me with a backgammon board one day after I’d watched him and his friend playing… the couple who lived next door in Ireland who invited us often to their magnificent apartment for cocktails and gossip…the charming German women who shared their wine as we watched a performance of Aida in Verona, Italy‘s third-century Roman arena…these are just a few of the encounters that have given us a more global view of our fellow humans.

Living on the road has made us more patient, relaxed, and able to laugh at ourselves. We travel lighter than we did, find it easier to shrug off inconveniences, and we’re even healthier and happier than we were when we started.

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