Our children gasped and our friends were speechless when we sold our beautiful California house along with most of the furniture, put our treasures in storage, and set out to live internationally without a home base. At 72 and 67, we have been home free for two-and-a-half years, lived in nine countries, and we have never been healthier or happier! Buenos Aires, Argentina, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Paris, Florence, Istanbul, London, Dublin, Marrakech, Morocco, and California's Central Coast have been our temporary homes for anywhere from two weeks to three months at a time. We're living in Paris for three months this year. Berlin will be our home in August, while in September we will return to a favorite village in Britain, near Henry the VIII's Hampton Court Palace, outside London. Our repositioning cruise from Copenhagen will take us back to the United States in October, where we'll rent a place through the holidays. We have no home base, and all of our belongings are in a 10' by 15' storage unit in California.
We made our decision when we realized that we were just marking time by staying at home. We are two perfectly healthy people who love to travel, but we were trapped by our possessions and our family ties. Our time to experience the world in more than three-week vacation spurts was running out. In today's world, we can reasonably expect to live for at least another twenty years, and we realized that we wanted to make the most of it.
When people ask how we can afford such a lifestyle, we explain that our formula isn't calculus, it's just arithmetic. We traded the amount of money we were spending to maintain our California lifestyle for a new style -- on the road. When we calculated the mortgage, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities and all the rest required to maintain our permanent home, we saw immediately how that could be translated into an international life on the road, and we acted upon it.
Miraculously, our house sold in one day and my husband Tim became our self-taught personal travel agent. He was glued to the computer screen every day as he learned about repositioning cruises (cruise ship lines move their equipment twice a year from one part of the world to another and offer passengers exceptional deals for those voyages), apartments and houses for rent through vrbo.com (Vacation Rental by Owner) and homeaway.com, car rental deals, trains, planes, hotels and communications options.
In the meantime, we were both busy sorting decades of accumulated possessions and working through the myriad technical challenges of becoming home free. We lost sleep fretting over pressing issues like health insurance, banking arrangements, voting, taxes, mail, what to do with our darling dog, and how many pairs of shoes we'd need in Argentina! The ensuing chaos, coupled with a veiled undercurrent of disbelief and disapproval from some quarters made the process even more daunting. Our sense of humor and confidence in our new direction were tested almost daily, but we carried on and within four months we were ready to hit the road.
We were exhausted but exuberant as we left California, ambivalent about leaving our children and grandchildren, our friends, and the comfort of our home and familiar routines, but we soon learned that we had made the right choice! Our adventures, from an impromptu wine tasting with some of Portugal's best-known wine makers to being caught knee-deep in an Istanbul cloudburst, to the luxury of "wasting" a day simply wandering the streets of Paris without a goal, have expanded our world view and given us the self confidence to know that, even as senior citizens, we can still master almost any situation. Experience and cunning beat youth and enthusiasm every time!
We've even started a new career. Last year I was encouraged by an acquaintance to submit a story about our unusual retirement choice to The Wall Street Journal. The resulting article received unprecedented response and through that exposure I acquired a literary agent and publisher. My book, "Home Free," published by Sourcebooks, Inc., will appear April 1, 2014. Thousands of new friends read our website, Home Free Adventures, regularly, and many of them tell us that they are following our lead, finding ways to expand their horizons in their retirement. Home free living certainly isn't for everyone, but house trading, extended vacations, house sitting or even joining a new club in one's own neighborhood can have a positive effect for any older person. Encouraging other retirees to seek new experiences has been a surprising, rewarding development for these two home free travelers!
Happily, our friends and children, our doctors and our financial advisor have become our most enthusiastic supporters. They have seen how being home free has changed our outlook, our health, and our portfolio in a positive way. So far, all is well and we don't plan to stop until the wheels fall off!