Could you travel full-time?

Map

About twenty years ago, when we were about to embark on a major remodel of our house, my husband asked an interesting question: do we want to continue on our path to spend many thousands of dollars adding a master suite and several hundred square feet of living space, or should we instead spend the money traveling around the world?

We had spent months of searching before we finally found the home we bought. It was in a great neighborhood and had a wonderful view, but it was definitely a fixer-upper. When we purchased the house two years prior, we did so with the intention of tearing most of it down and starting over. When my husband asked his somewhat facetious question, I didn’t hesitate long before answering that I wanted to continue with the construction.

Looking back at that decision, I’m glad we chose that path. I love our house and our neighborhood and I don’t regret spending the last twenty years enjoying our life here, but I thought about my husband’s question recently as I was reading one of the several travel blogs I follow. The decision we made twenty years ago was the right one for us at that time. But, now that we are retired, I wonder if we could make a different choice. Could we lock up our house—or maybe rent it out long-term—and start to travel the world full-time? Is that a lifestyle we could embrace and thrive in?

Michael and Debbie Campbell have been travelling the world since July, 2013. They rented out their home and took off with the intention of being gone for 12 months. Almost three years later, they are still on their journey, mostly staying in Airbnbs. You can read a summary of their adventures in their April 18th Senior Nomads in Europe post.

Tim and Joanne Joseph sold their house in 2013 and have been traveling almost non-stop since then. Their wonderfully engaging blog, A Note from Abroad, (About page) often makes me want to jump on a plane and go.

Lisa Dorenfest is following her dream of circumnavigating the globe on a sailboat. Her journal of the multi-year “sailbatical” she has taken is captivating and her photography is stunning. Currently somewhere near Australia, Lisa will take you along with her One Ocean at a Time (Introduction Page).

I think it takes a certain type of person to make a commitment to living a life of continuous travel. As attractive as it might sound, most of us enjoy the comforts of home too much to be on the road (or seas) full-time. We yearn to see different places and have new experiences but, when we return to the familiar we are refreshed and rejuvenated.

The beauty of retirement is that we can stretch out our travels as much as our comfort and budget allows. My husband and I love to take short trips lasting several days to a week or so. We’ve also taken a few longer trips which have been wonderful, but traveling for three or four weeks at a time is about our limit. After a while, we want to go home and decompress.

But, who knows; one of these days we just may find the perfect house sitters or tenants, and we’ll hand over the house keys for a year or more. The time to do that is now, when we both are healthy and relatively courageous (gulp). At some point it will be too late; we will start to experience aches and pains significant enough to keep us close to home and/or we might feel less sure of our abilities to deal with stressful situations. When that happens, will I be satisfied with the life we chose or will I regret the path not taken?

48 thoughts on “Could you travel full-time?”

  1. Never have regrets! I will say that for many years my husband and I would ask ourselves if we wanted new furniture or travel, new drapes or travel, new car or travel. And every year for twenty years the answer was travel. We were of course still working so it was a week or two at a time, but often twice a year. We chose to buy memories rather than things. And now that I’m not healthy enough to really travel, we are so glad we chose to do it all along. So doesn’t have to be all or nothing!

    1. I don’t think we could travel full-time either. But I do think spending more time “on the road” is in our future. The idea of doing a home exchange is intriguing so we could really get to know the area we are temporarily living. You are so right about choosing memories over things; furniture, drapes and cars get old and outdated, hopefully our memories remain fresh.

  2. Janis, a great question. I would like to travel more, but still have our home base. There was a trend a few years ago about people selling their homes and working as traveling roadies for amusement parks. Their kids thought they were crazy, but there were lawyers and executives doing this. Keith

  3. This has been an attraction for us, too! Like you, we added on to the master for a variety of reasons, mainly the house had one bath, and was just too small. Our mortgage us low so we can still save for that larger travel trailer once hubby retires in 6-8 years. Our idea is to take long vacation ( I mean months) and drive to all the windsurf and SUP locations in North America. We’ll always have our home base in Sacramento 🙂 I’m going to check out those links!

    1. I also like the idea of traveling months with your “home” on wheels. There is so much to see in North America you’d never need to get on a plane. I, like you, prefer to have a home base to return to – I’d be afraid that if we sold our home, we’d never be able to afford to live in this area again.

  4. No regrets. Whatever decision we all make, as long as we have a choice and make it ourselves, there’s no room for regret, because no answer is a perfect one. I love this topic, and love reading the travel blogs. We have considered doing the full-time travel also. I think you are absolutely right that health concerns will eventually come more into play, and at that point, everyone’s choices are limited. I think full-time travel actually slows the pace of the travel itself, and that is nice. So far, we like coming home, and our dog likes us coming home, also. Fun topic.

    1. Conventional wisdom says that we only regret what we didn’t do, not what we did. But, you’re right, whatever decision one makes has both positives and negatives. All we can do is make the best decision for our situation… at that time. As tempting as living a life of full-time travel, I think I’d miss my “nest.”

  5. I am from NYC and Craig is from
    MA. We could never afford a house in either place without working crazy hours, sitting in traffic forever and never traveling. We picked lots of travel, lots of time together and even working together at several jobs. It meant renting and buying a smaller condo in FL when we were there, but I have zero regrets when I see what stress others we know are under! That is why we want lots of land and a tiny cabin to settle in.

    1. I think the two of you have a great plan and I look forward to reading about its unfolding. It’s so nice that your mate is on the same path with you. I’m not sure about the “lots of land” (too much upkeep), but I love the idea of a tiny cabin.

  6. When I read the title of this post, my first thought was “no way….she has got to be kidding!” After reading your full post, and the comments, it really is dependent on so many factors. My husband and I have just returned to Canada after living overseas for 14 years. During that time, both of us traveled extensively both for work and for leisure–so much so we sometimes felt that we lived on an airplane. We now LOVE being close to family, having our own home again and readapting to Canadian life. We saw our first grandchild on the day of his birth, this past August, and our second grandchild is on the way. We have no regrets about living overseas, or for doing all the travel that we did. But for us, at least for now, there is no place like home!
    Donna
    http://www.retirementreflections.com

    1. It is good to be in the position to be able to make different decisions for different life stages. It would have been hard for you to be overseas when your grandchildren we being born so your timing was perfect! But, how wonderful that you traveled when you did… and I’m sure you have lots of travel in your future too!

  7. This gives me something to think about since H will be retiring at the end of the month. I’m such a homebody and we still have one in college. It may have to wait a few years, but definitely while we are still able. ~Elle

    1. So much will change when your husband retires (good for him!), and it can take awhile to adjust. There is nothing wrong with being a homebody as long as it is satisfying. I am one too, although I like to take off now and then… and I always return glad that I went, but happy to be home.

  8. If you’re seriously thinking about this, don’t wait too long. Shortly after retiring, my husband and I spent a year teaching English in Japan and traveling throughout southeast Asia during our breaks. We were fortunate to have a young couple live in and care for our house during our absence. After being back home for awhile, we packed our suitcases again and spent a semester teaching in China. That time, we simply locked up the house and left the keys with a friend who checked the house and watered the plants from time to time. Almost immediately after returning home again, I was diagnosed with an incurable cancer. Though I’m doing well, being away from home for extended periods of time is no longer a possibility for us. How thankful I am that we seized the opportunity when we had it!

    1. Yours is a great (and sad) example of taking advantage of opportunities when you can. Change can happen so quickly and can come from any direction. If we were to go away for an extended period of time, we’d want to have someone responsible staying at our house because you never know what could happen. For example, we’ve had a few leaks but, since we were here, they were stopped quickly. If the house had been empty, or only checked now and then, who knows what damage could have occurred (to say nothing of the water bill). I’m glad that you are doing well and that you seized the opportunity to make wonderful memories of your adventures in Asia.

  9. The thought of constant travel makes me gag so house decisions are easy for me. I need the nest to decompress. People talk about travel as making memories but I make them living at home every day. I once spent a week in Hawaii and travelled vagabond style all the island (I was very young). I loved it. If I could afford it, I would relocate there but to spend a lot of time I’d have to consider it home. In the meantime I will enjoy wherever I am even if it’s home.

    1. And, what would your cats do without you? You’ve created such a nice “nest” that I can understand why you wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time away. Hawaii is lovely, but it is expensive! I did the same thing (traveling through several of the islands) when I was young. It was a great experience, but it required a certain youthful bravery and low standards for accommodations.

      1. When you are young it doesn’t matter. I didn’t spend much time in the hotels. Yes, there is the cat thing too. We have friends who have taken off with their pets (dogs who are better travelers) in an RV.

  10. It sounds like you definitely made the right decision for yourselves all those years ago. I love to go places (foreign travel not so much these days), but I suspect the longest I could comfortably go away would probably be three weeks at the most. I am a slave to my routines and I like familiarity too much. I always say THAT’S why I never became a rock star. 🙂

    1. Foreign travel isn’t what it used to be, that’s for sure. I think three to four weeks is just about our limit too, but the idea of extended travel has its appeal. We’ll see. I’m glad you cleared up the question about your non-rock star status… it makes so much sense now!

  11. I have a good friend who has traveled extensively for both work and leisure for years. She is always some place that is not her “home base” – I think Sri Lanka at the moment! I have never understood how she can live that way, so I guess that says a lot about me. I like to travel a bit, but I really like being in my own home as well. I hope to do some of my “which for trips” over the next few years, maybe even the cross-country road trip of 4-5 weeks. But still coming home. I guess we all need to know what works for us.

    1. I do think it takes a special type of person to feel comfortable being on the road for a long, long time. I bet your friend has some great stories! My husband and I took a three-week road trip last year and it was fabulous! I know you are interested in Route 66 – we traveled on it from St. Louis to Flagstaff and recommend the trip highly!

  12. Great question! We are just finishing up a 3-week road trip. Although I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, I look forward to sleeping in my own bed tomorrow night. Plus I eat too much and don’t get enough exercise on these trips. I think for us a balance is good. We enjoy our home and community, but we also like the flexibility to travel. Thanks for the tips on the travel blogs you follow. I’m going to check them out. For full-time travelers, I always wonder things like how do they get their regular teeth cleaning, how do they handle finances, and where do they stash their STUFF? (Which questions may just demonstrate why I’m not cut out for it )

    1. Oh, yeah… that eating and not exercising thing. And the stuff thing too. I have to think that full-time travelers are not “stuff” people by nature. I believe both the Senior Nomads and the Notes from Abroad blogs have posts that answer questions like you asked since many people wonder the same things. I hope you post about your trip! I love road trips… we often decide to take longer and drive to a destination rather than get there fast by flying. A planned trip by air to the Midwest to see relatives last year turned into an amazing three-week road trip.

  13. Traveling full time would be easier without a home, yard and family. I wonder how my flowers are doing and I miss little Charlie. I’ll be more than ready to get on a plane later this week and return home.

  14. No, I don’t think I could travel full-time. We do have plans to travel quite a bit in our early retirement – leaving for Japan in July. I like to be able to come home after a couple weeks of living out of a suitcase. Maybe if we had an RV or something like that it would work for longer.

  15. Such a thought-provoking question. I’m too much of a homebody, and my hubby even more so, to travel for any length of time. About two weeks is our limit. It sounds like you made the right choice ~ for yourselves ~ back then, Janis.

    1. We definitely made the right choice then, and we probably won’t make the decision to travel full-time now. We often make the “as long as we are going there” choice, though. As in: As long as we are going there, we might as well stay a little longer and see more. It’s nice to have the flexibility to adjust the length of travel – a choice not available when we were working.

      1. Yes, that’s the sweet thing about retirement ~ choice. Not feeling driven to rush through anything, especially travel, is a luxury.

  16. Thank you so much Janis for featuring me along with Michael, Debbie, Tim and Joanne in this post. I had to chuckle at Tim and Joanne’s list of ‘travel lessons learned in 2015’. Three of them really rang true for me

    1) Travel is not only exhilarating, it can also be exhausting
    2) Staying in one place longer allowed us a better/deeper experience
    3) There are a LOT of beautiful places right in our own backyard (in the USA and Canada that is) that we want to see

    I think that you have a marvelous lifestyle. In my opinion, one only has regrets when they are desperately drawn to live one way buy chose to live another way out of fear. Certainly not you. Should you ever decide to hire house sitters, you might want to consider my (former) sailor friends turned house sitters..Liesbet and Mark at http://www.roamingabout.com/.

    Sorry for my delay in responding…I received your comment on my blog (as well as a notification from ‘Mention’) about this post but lost internet connectivity shortly thereafter for a week.

    1. There are so many lifestyles that I’d like to try out. We ran into some friends at Costco today who just got back from spending several months at their second home in Mexico… wouldn’t that be fun to try??!! We have friends who save up their money over several months and then travel to exotic places on their bicycles… how great is that??!! You on a sailing ship, others traveling from Airbnb to Airbnb. We’ll probably continue the way we have for a while now, travel here and there, but also enjoy spending time in our home. I don’t think I’ll regret our choice at all as long as we find fun things to do, experiences to have and people to meet. I’ll check out the link you sent!

      1. I do have to admit that before I started this whole sailing journey, my favorite vacation was a staycation! I loved having the free time when not working to get to explore my own backyard. Chicago first and later NYC. My staycation rule was that I had to go out and explore, not stay at home and do a bunch of chores – they could wait until I completed my ‘staycation’. I am looking forward to many staycations in my future when I am done with this sailing adventure…as well as a few trips to National Parks out west and some more time in the Canadian Rockies.

  17. I would say go, go, go! Especially if you are retired! First without renting out your house, just in case you want to return after two months. Just go a little bit longer each time and stretch your comfort zone. You might like the idea of an “indefinite” journey, but the chance of coming back any time…

    I have been traveling full-time since 2003 (in campers and on a sailboat), with backpacking trips before that, and, although I somewhat enjoy the fact of being on a tight budget and being able to do all this, I do envy people with money who could travel full time, staying in nice places (once in a while) like an AirBnb, catching planes and picking their destinations based on curiosity and desire.

    My husband and I actually stopped the moving continuously last year for a semi-settled break. We are now house and pet sitting (hoping to move out west by the winter – hint, hint), mostly to enjoy the comforts of a home. I can imagine how at ease you feel each time you come home after a trip. It must feel great! That will be hard to give up. I never had a home to come back to after traveling, but it has its advantages. Renting your house or “hiring” a house sitter might be a good option if/when you decide to take off long term.

    I’m so glad you brought up Lisa. She is living her dream, while being on the look out for a temporary job to fill the cruising kitty. We have met many full time RVers and cruisers who are retired, sold (or rent) their home and travel comfortably with the wind or on the road.

    Very exciting plans. Enjoy implementing them!!

    1. Although the idea of full-time travel is intriguing, I really wonder if we could do it. We will probably continue to take both short and long trips for awhile… but who knows? It sounds like you’ve had a great time doing a little bit (or a lot) of everything. I love that you are now house sitting full time – what a great idea and a nice way to spend an extended period of time in one location.

  18. As you can see, I’m way behind on my reading. But I am fully prepared to answer the question. After two trips this year–one to Asia for a month, and one to the Baltic for two weeks, I can honestly say that at this stage of my life, traveling full time is definitely not for me.
    At one time I had fantasized about either putting everything in storage and selling the house or locking up the most significant items and renting the house, while we traveled for as long as we desired. My husband convinced me of the folly of that, and I’m glad he did. I need to come home to our nest to recharge our batteries. That is especially important when one gets sick or injured on the road (and for both trips i returned with an awful cold that put me under for over a week. )
    It was fun having the fantasy, but I’m glad that was all it was.

    1. I have to agree. I love traveling but I also like nesting in my home. Our last trip took us away for a full month. We had a great time, but I was so happy when our cab delivered us home from the airport. It’s fabulous when two people with the urge to travel full time find each other and are able to fulfill their joint fantasy. As far as my husband and I are concerned, some travel and a large dose of home-sweet-home is the right combination for us.

  19. We were so flattered to be mentioned in your blog. We have now been traveling almost non-stop for the past three years. Was it the right choice for us? Well, at the time, it certainly was. We have seen amazing places, had unbelievable experiences, learned some life lessons and made some friends along the way that we often stay in contact with. I would do it again in a heartbeat. BUT…I am now starting to crave some “home” time. Since we sold our home back on 2013, that becomes more of a challenge. Lucky for us we have a tiny cabin in the San Bernardino mountains, about 2 hours drive from Los Angeles. For now this is allowing me to have my cake and eat it too so to speak as we will have a full two months between our last trip and when we head out again. We have yet to book any trips for 2017, but there will probably be a couple of ocean cruises, another river cruise, a few road trips and a return trip to our beloved Guatemala at the very least. I guess we will be slowing down in stages 🙂

    1. You two are such an inspiration! Although full-time travel may be more than we want to do right now, we are discovering that staying away for longer periods of time (and for longer stays in each area) offers us just the right balance of travel and nesting at home. I look forward to reading about your next adventures. Guatemala is definitely on my list!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s