To Travel Long or Travel Short? // The Start of Real Retirement Planning

If you missed Monday’s post and haven’t checked out the Mad Fientist podcast featuring me (!), head on over there and give it a listen. 

We’re still out on what has easily been one of the best trips of our lives (Best. Ski Trip. Ever. Plus… I heart Japan so much)… and what will probably be the last international trip that we can actually live tweet and live Instagram. Once we’re “out” later this year, we won’t share travel until after we’re back home because we don’t necessarily need the whole internet to know when we’re away from home. (Though we do often have housesitters, and always have neighbors watching the house… just in case any would-be burglars happen to be reading.)

But planning and going on this trip have cemented for us that we’re ready to start planning for the travel that will comprise the rest of our lives. (!!!) And something occurred to us as we’ve thought about that: This is the real retirement planning.

Deciding to save and figuring out how to allocate resources is super important, of course, but that’s just building the foundation of your retired life. Retirement itself is life, not money, and so retirement planning is really thinking about how we’ll live and what we’ll do, not continuing to count our pennies.

And it’s crazy awesome to realize that we’re now at that point, where we can actually think about this stuff in real, legit, we’re-actually-gonna-do-this-stuff terms. Which  means that it’s now time to confront some of those questions we’ve been wondering about for a while, like how many trips do we want to take each year? Should we do one big trip or multiple short trips? Should we try to cover as much ground as possible in a short time, a la Chris Guillebeau or The Resume Gap, or take our time and spread stuff out? There’s a lot to ponder, so let’s dive in.

OurNextLife.com // To Travel Long or Travel Short // The real retirement planning has begun! Now that we're close to our full ER date, we're diving into the travel planning, not just the money allocation.

Retirement Planning Is Life Planning

I’ve written this plenty of times before, but I’ll write it again: money is a tiny piece of early retirement or any retirement. Sure, money makes all of this possible, but saving for retirement is mostly a waiting game, and living in retirement is (we hope) about living our most stoked lives, not about looking at our accounts every day.

So while we still have some money stuff to figure out in more detail (namely how to structure our cash accounts in retirement and exactly what we want our withdrawal strategy to be), we’re consciously shifting into the more granular life planning.

Some of that stuff is easy in our case. We know we will buy midweek ski passes next year instead of the more expensive unrestricted ones we have now (so excited to stop being weekend warriors with the crowds!), and we know we’ll shift down to slower internet at home and cheaper cell plans.

But then it’s time to think about the bigger, more inspiring question: Where do we go first? 

Travel Planning with (Almost) No Restrictions

We’ve each separately taken one extended European backpacking trip in our lives, but other than that, we’ve never before been in the situation where the constraints of any trip were entirely up to us. Starting in January, we can take as long a trip as we want, to anywhere in the world, and we can even have no end date set if that’s what we feel like doing. And we can travel in off-seasons, when travel is cheaper, and have endless freedom to book based on award ticket availability.

Granted, our phase one retirement budget doesn’t allow for luxury travel (we’re saving that for phase two, after age 60), but we have bucketloads of United and Marriott miles, and we’re willing to travel to the cheapest parts of the world where our dollars will go far. So we’re looking at a travel future with essentially no restrictions, or certainly fewer than we’ve ever had before.

It’s discombobulating, actually, this lack of boundaries. You mean we could take a nine-week trip if we feel like it? Or even a four-month trip? Whaaaaaat?!?! Yeah yeah, I know that’s the whole point of early retirement, but thinking about it all in actual reality still doesn’t feel possible. It’s like this nice dream we’ve been playing along with, but never expected to come true. Except now it is.

Onsen in Niseko, Japan
Our pension’s onsen. We could spend an hour a day here indefinitely, no question.

Travel Long or Travel Short?

There are great examples out there of every kind of travel — from short trips to no-end-in-sight trips, and there clearly isn’t an objective right or wrong answer. Part of the fun of early retirement will be figuring out what kind of travel suits us best.

Though I’d love to think that I could live out of a backpack for an extended time (heck, I practically do that now for work!), I think the same feelings that make us want to have a permanent home base will make us want to touch back down at home more often than the perma-travelers out there.

Especially because of the food issue. As a gluten-free eater out of medical necessity, I’ve found Japan to be super tough, which was surprising at first. It seems like it would be easy with the lack of bread, right? But no, gluten is in everything. I learned the kanji symbol for wheat, and I am not joking that it is in every product in this picture except one. And it was not a short process to figure this out. And same with restaurants. Multiple places have said they cannot serve me at all. Womp womp. It’s tough not to feel a slight longing for home when this happens, and especially when there’s such a steep language barrier.

Onigiri (rice triangles) at the combini, all about $1 each

The Best Part of Travel

It might have something to do with having the best ski days of our lives, or with ending each day with a relaxing onsen, but we’ve noted multiple times how little we’ve thought about work on this trip. Or even about home. Or anything to do with our “real” life.

And I do think that’s a huge appeal of travel — it gets us out of our usual routines and forces us to be present in a completely different way.

We’ve found the same thing to be true in the backcountry. Get us out onto a mountain ridge where finding shelter is an actual life-or-death matter, and I’ll bet you anything there’s no way a work thought is popping into my head.

Forcing us to be present is exactly what meditation does, and I happen to believe that anything that forces us to be present can have many of the same benefits as true meditation. It’s my favorite part of rock climbing, that forced sense of focus and immediacy. And I think it’s why achieving a flow state feels so good. And travel can have this same effect.

Of course, we hope to need this forced presentness less in retirement, when our thoughts will no longer be so work-dominated, but even the most blissed out hippies among us can still benefit from confronting an unfamiliar reality right in front of our faces, instead of living inside our heads or on our phones.

Japan toilet slippers

Starting with Goldilocks

This two-week trip has been wonderful so far, but it has also been too short. It hasn’t remotely allowed us enough time to explore the nooks and crannies of the places we’ve been, or to engage enough with locals, and we’ve only included two places in our itinerary. So it feels like a good place to start our planning is thinking about two weeks or so in each place, enough time to have multiple unplanned days for open exploration without feeling like we’re wasting time. Smaller places might not need quite that much time, but bigger places might beg for more, so we’re thinking of that as the average.

Enjoying the traditional yukata (robes) in Japan
Definitely not enough time to kick it in our yukata (robes).
As for total trip length, we’re thinking we’ll start in the six-week range. Long enough to feel like a real trip, but not so long that we get home-sick or have to deal with extended periods when finding something to eat is hard or impossible. And not so long that we violate one of our core tenets of early retirement:

Part of the Point Is to Be Home

We purposely moved to the mountains — and specifically to our mountain town in our mountain range — because we love it there. And a big part of wanting to hurry up and retire early was to have as much time to enjoy our local area as possible. So being away for more than six weeks risks missing a whole season, which is not something we’re okay with. We don’t want to miss peak ski season or peak hiking/biking season, and the shoulder seasons in-between are the best in terms of smallest crowds, so we don’t want to miss those either.

In fact, plenty of the travel we plan will be less of the get-on-a-plane variety, and more of the get-a-backcountry-permit form. And a lot of that stuff will be in our own backyard, or with a few hours’ drive. It’s pretty incredible to think that, soon, we’ll be able to be out for multiple weeks so close to home without seeing anything or anyone from home. Whether it’s hiking a long trail or going out on an extended backcountry ski hut tour, we have plenty on our radar.

Where To Go First?

As I shared on the Mad Fientist podcast, we have had Iceland in our sights for a while, because the glaciers are receding rapidly there, and we don’t want to miss the chance to see them. We’d hoped to go while still working, because it’s expensive there, and easier to fit into our budget now than post-ER. But we picked Japan this year instead (another pricey destination), so will just have to suck it up and find a way to make Iceland work on a budget.

We’re also thinking about coming back to Japan to see the places we’re missing this trip (everywhere outside of Tokyo and a small part of Hokkaido), especially Kyoto, Mt. Fuji (you better believe we’re gonna climb that sexy beast of a mountain), and the Japanese Alps. I’m going to keep studying Japanese to be better prepared for our next trip here, whether that’s in a year or in 10.

We have a long list of places on our longer-term travel list, and we know that campervan travel around Europe and Central America and a backpack sojourn across Southeast Asia are on our semi-near term list, along with travel to the national parks of the U.S. and Canada. Plus, I’m pretty sure Maggie will never forgive us if we don’t get to Alaska soon. ;-)

Where Would You Go? And For How Long?

But we’re plenty open to suggestions, too. Where would you go first if you were on our timeline? What’s a place you’ve loved that’s not talked about as a great destination? Or where are you dying to go ASAP? And how long do you think you’d travel at a time ideally? Any aspiring permanent nomads out there? Or homebodies who can’t imagine going out for more than a few weeks? We’d love to hear how you guys are thinking about this stuff! Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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91 thoughts on “To Travel Long or Travel Short? // The Start of Real Retirement Planning

  1. You guys are always welcome to come up to Vancouver. Whistler has some pretty awesome skiing and Pemberton/Whistler/Squamish offer some pretty awesome backcountry skiing too. I’m a bit jealous that you got to shred some Hokkaido pow. That’s been one of the things on my to-do list – to ski in Hokkaido.

    One thing I’ve found weird in my few days in Japan is that it’s hard to find brown rice. We eat brown & wild rice at home so it has been strange to eat white rice in Japan. I can see how gluten free would be challenging here in Japan.

    1. Thanks for the offer! We may take you up on it one day! :-) We’ve skied Whistler before, but only the resort, and the whole time we were drooling over all the goodies out of bounds. We’ll definitely be back there. Squamish too. And yeah, make Hokkaido happen. It was exactly what we hoped it would be. Though, like you said, I didn’t see one grain of brown rice in two weeks and eating only white rice makes me sad. ;-)

  2. I think LegalNomads may have some info for long term travel w/ dietary requirements on her site?

    If we were ever to do another extended trip it would def be another RTW. Places we haven’t hit, like Ireland, Spain and Portugal, Hong Kong, Vancouver and the PNW, some of the Southeast … Galapagos would be a pricey dream too. And of course return to Italy and NYC!

    Iceland IS crazy expensive. Japan accommodation was pricey but everything else (food, transport) we found (at least as NZers) very reasonable.

    Definitely move slow and get the feel for a place, plus it’s cheaper… And remember to leave some ‘weekends’ for yourself, you need days off too even from travelling!

    I started following some RTW blogs about 4-5 years ago before starting to plan our own and it’s interesting to see how many have settled down now to make a home base SOMEWHERE or other.

    1. The Legal Nomads Japanese gluten-free sheet was my go-to resource on the trip. ;-) And that’s cool to know you’d do another RTW trip instead of just focusing on a region. That sounds exhausting to me, but I’ll be happy to see your pictures and hear your stories! :-) And yeah, it’s so true that tons of “permanent nomads” do seem to have settled down.

  3. Oh, for sure you need to come to Boston. Like the glaciers, Fluffster’s time on this earth is limited (and he’s determined to make it count and get all the attention) ;)

    We’re also excited about the prospect of more, extended travel in retirement. For us, probably a month or two at a time in a given destination, give or take a few months, at least for the first year or so. πŸ˜ƒ We currently rent, and we’d probably sell a bunch of stuff and/or move things to storage and/or sublet.

    One thing I’m thinking about is timing/celebrations, especially with Fergus’ family. One of these years I’m going to make sure I get the full Chinese New Year experience!

    1. Oh, not to worry. We’ll come to Boston. :-) I have this urge to go to Nantucket, and I’ve never been north of Massachusetts and need to knock off some states up there. So you’re squarely on the list. :-) And good call to think about timing your travel around major celebrations!

  4. I think 6 weeks would be about the max for us. Not sure I could go longer.

    We are set on Ireland, Australia, and are always game for beachside by clear blue water!

    Glad the trip was a great time and you were able to put work out of mind!

    1. +1 for Ireland and Australia.

      I like natural beauty, but can only take so much before I get numb to it. I’d expect Iceland to be overwhelming in that regard. I like people and history with some natural beauty thrown in from time to time…

      1. That’s so interesting! I feel the same way you feel about nature about architecture, cathedrals, churches, etc. I can only take so much, and then I become blind to it. But the nature? Bring it on in endless waves! ;-)

    2. I’d urge you to add some non-English speaking countries to your list — it’s good to challenge ourselves in that way, and learning new languages keeps our brains young! :-)

  5. LOVED your Mad Fientist podcast (listened to it last night!), and SOOO excited by your post. This IS what FIRE is all about. In some ways intimidating, but oh, so exciting!!

    We’ll FIRE in June 2018, and are leaning toward extended travel, then extended home stays. We’ll start with 5th Wheel North American travel for year 1, then consider cashing in some of our 1 Million Delta Miles for an international trip (New Zealand, most likely) in 2019 (Having 3 dogs complicates that one).

    Looking forward to where life leads you, and also finding out WHO YOU REALLY ARE!! Smiles.

    1. BTW, seeing your comment about thinking how you’ll manage your cash accounts in FIRE. We’ve decided to use Personal Capital 360, it let’s you set up sub-categories. We’ve already set them up, and are funding them now for our “Bucket 1” cash. We’ll set up automatic transfers from our “Paycheck Category” to our checking account, based on a 3.5% withdrawal rate we’ll calculate at the start of year 1. Then, forget about it, and live life. Revisit at the start of year 2, and adjust accordingly. We’ve also set up a “Contingency Fund” to cover one-off, but expected, expenses (e.g., maintenance).

      Food for thought….hope it helps as you finalize your plan!

      1. Good input! Thank you! We’re hoping to stick with USAA, so working with them to figure out our best options, and then deciding how often to sell shares and fund those accounts. Fun times! :-)

    2. Thank you! So glad you enjoyed it! :-) Your travel plans in ER sound wonderful, though I hope your million miles can take you farther than one trip! ;-) And the big unveiling of who we are will happen as soon as we give notice at work. It will be here before we know it. (!!!)

  6. Love the pictures and tidbits of your Japan trip! That’s definitely on my family’s list.

    Regarding my own travel plans … well, we’ve been here in Cuenca, Ecuador since January and plan to say for a year or so:) We agreed with your assessment that living out of the back back or traveling from place to place was not as appealing. We like to put down roots a bit and get to know our area. This is especially valid for us because our kids were a top priority in our planning, and we’ve enrolled them in school where they can make connections with our kids their age and learn spanish (it’s ALL in spanish for them).

    You’ve probably heard of it, but I have really enjoyed the book Vagabonding by Rolph Potts over the years. I resonate with the simple, slow philosophy of travel that he espouses. Don’t worry about checking things off the list, just follow your nose and your passions and take it slowly so you can absorb what’s around you. He also quotes Thoreau, Whitman, and Muir a lot, who all inspire me and my own life/travel philosophy.

    Good luck with your own life/retirement planning. So many possibilities is overwhelming at first, but wonderfully creative in the end.

    1. Thanks! Japan was amazing, and I hope you guys can get there at some point! But your Ecuador trip sounds amazing, too! What a cool thing you’re doing for your kids, giving them the experience of attending school abroad — that will be something amazing they will always carry with them. And yeah, we can’t help but see some of the sights in a place, but we’re much more interested in the random wandering that lets you accidentally find adventure or witness something magical. That’s so much better for absorbing the true essence of a place!

  7. Man, reading this is just thrilling! Nothing much more exciting than dreaming about travel! We’re somewhat homebodies as well, so I think in general 2-4 weeks would be a great length of trip for us. But since we’ll be in the education field for ten more years or so, we hope to use a few of those summers to spend a month or two in one dream locale! That would be awesome as you get a chance to connect with locals, save money on lodgings, etc. I can hardly believe you guys are so dang close to pulling the trigger! Hope this trip refreshes you for this final homestretch of only ten months! Holy cow😎

    1. I am definitely coming back from the trip feeling like the remaining work months are manageable, which is a great feeling! And given how exhausting the travel itself is when you’re talking about long haul flights, I’d definitely recommend going for longer than two weeks at a time if you can. Even three weeks would feel much longer and give you time to get totally past the jetlag!

  8. It must be a strange (but nice!) feeling to focus on the money part so long and then make the switch to the actual “life” planning part of early retirement. After your Japan trip that would be so exciting! The feeling we get from mind-blowing trips reinvigorates us and at the same time reminds us that there’s still so much more to learn & see about the world.

    After seeing you & Tim Ferriss go to Japan, that makes us want to go! For us though, we have planned extended travel to more Latin-American countries to immerse ourselves a little more with Spanish (& salsa dancing), up North to Quebec, and many places in the U.S. like the strip of California. I’m also trying to convince Mrs. Saturday for some Asian travel because we love the food. We’ll see!

    1. I don’t know if we’ve just hit some number of hours of thinking about the money stuff so we now feel like we no longer have to, but it does feel like it’s truly on autopilot at this point. I update our tracker once a month, but that’s about it. It almost feels weird to write a “money blog” given how little I now think about it! Hahaha. And yeah, definitely put Japan on your list. It was phenomenal.

  9. Loved your podcast with Mad Fientist. Very inspiring! LOVE LOVE LOVE Iceland! My husband and I went there in November 2015 for 4 days and it wasn’t enough time for me to see and photograph everything I wanted so I went back this past October. I was shocked at how much the glacier had receded in just 1 year. Hurry up and get over there! :-) Both times I went we booked through Groupon (Gate 1 travel). You can sign up for their emails. Unbelievable prices especially for Iceland. It’s around $700 per person for flight and 3 nights hotel from either Boston or NYC. And no, I don’t work for them. Just love passing on good deals. The second time I went I added on extra days and only had to pay for the hotel, nothing extra for the flights. I also rented a car (so much nicer than the tours) and for the 6 days it was only around $125. BTW, we lived in Northern Japan for 4 years (thanks to the military) and the skiing is awesome!

  10. So exciting. Oh I can’t wait till we round the corner into that last year and can start all the plotting and planning.

    We don’t plan to live out of our backpacks. In the absence of Toddler BITA I think the plan would have been 3-ish months in a big place, a week in a small one, maybe 6 months of traveling in the year and 6 months at home. Given that she is a reality though, and we need to take her education into account, we are thinking of establishing a ‘home base’ in a place for a year or two and then exploring the country (say India or Europe) from that base. This means that we can enroll Toddler BITA in a local school and use her school holidays and weekends for ‘local’ travel. This will probably work ok while she is in elementary school, maybe part way through middle school, after which we will need to find a more permanent base till she makes it to college.

    1. I love that you’re thinking about how you can still travel and see the world with your daughter instead of thinking of her as something holding you back. There are schools everywhere, and what a gift to her that will be to grow up in some different places, having friends of many nationalities and ethnicities. I’m sort of jealous of future her! ;-)

  11. We just returned from a very ski focused trip to Hokkaido as well. It was wonderful to only focus on skiing, eating, sleeping, soaking, and spending time with friends, and nothing else.

    I just read Grand Adventures, and found it inspirational for thinking about crafting interesting trips.

  12. My longest trip was Australia and Thailand for a month. That was enough time. I was looking to come home after that. I do wish I could have saw New Zealand and more of Australia, but I’ll save that for the second trip.

    I think the 6 weeks thing may depend more on where you are going and what you are doing. The great thing is that you get to figure it out for yourself.

    1. Yeah, I suspect you’re right that the length that feels right will depend on what we’re doing. Six weeks of switching hostels/hotels every couple days sounds exhausting, but six weeks of relaxed-pace travel in places with lots to do sounds lovely.

  13. My longest trip to date was a month in Australia. I think I’d love to camper van around Australia for maybe 2 months in retirement. I’ve seen pretty much everything you can in one little area (the surrounding areas of Melbourne), but similar to your Europe and central America plan I’d like to see more off the beaten path. We are also discussing 6 months in Europe as a backpacking trip. Frankly we’ll favor longer trips in retirement as we want to more feel like we live that place then we are just visiting. In the mean time we’re probably 3 -4 years out from a 1 month cross US trip. The age of kids is the primary determinant for us.

    1. I really do think the off-the-beaten-path stuff is where you really get to know a country, so I love that you’re aiming for more of that. And I bet your one-month USA roadtrip will feel way too short. It’s a big country with so much to see! :-)

  14. On my list is the Via Dinarica, which is Eastern Europe’s answer to the Pacific Crest Trail. There are also some longer hikes in the Dolomites in northern Italy, and you just have to look at the pictures of those mountains to want to get up and go.

  15. I have been seriously drooling over your Instagram photos over the past couple of weeks. Yup, you just took my dream vacation! I would love to do some slow travel once we retire but travelling, especially booking things and trying to find the best deal, is always so stressful! Will you by chance do a follow up post with your costs for this trip? I am super curious of how much it costs as I do hope to make this trip for my 40th b-day in a couple of years.

    1. Haha — now you just need to make it your dream-come-true vacation too! :-) It was completely awesome, and you should totally do it. I likely won’t post about the costs, but email me if you want the breakdown. ;-)

  16. Sitting here at age 70, I urge you to take the longer trips first. I am glad we did our European trips…3 of them, when younger. I have IBS, so am limited to what I can eat, and nothing with milk either. Hard to do during a long trip. Interspersed with our long trips, we have been to 52 US National Parks. Now we take one week trips in the States, sometimes using a friend’s time-share week. We enjoy staying in one place now and exploring in depth.

    1. That’s great advice, and we’ll likely follow it! And I feel your pain on the food challenges when traveling, especially in countries where it’s hard to communicate what you need. That is why I travel with tons of food in my backpack, just in case. ;-)

  17. There’s a big puddle of drool on my desk from all your pictures. So jealous!

    My travels depend on the cat and future family. I can tell you what I want to do right now, but I’m pretty sure that will change based on what living beings are around me at the time. I love my kitty and I sadly can’t take him everywhere with me. He’s only two so he’ll be around for a long time! (hopefully).

    1. I hope you cleaned up that drool! And don’t let the fact that you have a cat you love or that your life circumstances could change stop you from dreaming big dreams! ;-)

  18. Hi there!

    Our longest trip has been campervaning around New Zealand for 9 weeks with our newborn and still felt short.

    We are FI right now but will call it quits before the end of the year. Our travel plans involve buying a van and converting it to a campervan, exploring the British Isles for the first year, move on to Europe after that and then the world is our oyster. We have a flat in London and we’re thinking of spending at least four months a year here as we love our city.

    1. I love that plan! We’ve thought about doing something very similar on this side of the pond, but then we realize there’s still too much we want to see in Asia, Europe, Africa, etc., that we couldn’t reach by campervan (without a costly ocean crossing, or maybe without buying a new van on each continent). But I think in Europe it’s much more feasible, and you can link up to so much of the world from there. Cheers!

  19. Loved hearing you on Mad FIentist (it was totally worth bumping the episode to the top of my playlist :))
    I’m also in awe that you took the time to blog while on your vacation! So many bloggers write posts ahead of time & schedule the post, but I’m loving the “live” vacation post/pics this time!
    I’m not a big international traveler (I studied abroad one summer in college, but that was it), so I’d have to say Alaska and Hawaii! The opportunities to hike mountains in both places look incredible- and so vastly different! I’ll be drooling over your pictures when you do make it up to AK :D

    1. Glad it was worth it! Haha. And I wish I’d had time to preload posts before the trip, but work was too nutty and it didn’t happen. Fortunately I had time to write, so it worked out in the end. :-) And I promise we’ll share pictures when we make it up to Alaska!

  20. My favorite trips have been to Thailand, Australia, Slovenia, hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail, and Puerto Rico. Let me know if you want tips or recommendations!
    Next up will be Alaska.
    We typically go for 2-3 weeks, which is enough time to really feel gone but not enough for friends and family to forget about you.
    We just got back from 2.5 weeks in New Zealand, and a few hours after landing I had to find my nieces for some long-awaited hugs. I feel like if we leave for 6 months at a time, they’ll be totally different people by the time we get back and I don’t want to miss all the fun!
    In any given year, we typically spend 2-3 weeks traveling internationally, 2-3 weeks on a road trip to national parks, 1 week x 2 visiting my husband’s family in Kansas, and 3-4 other shorter trips to visit friends or see new cities. One trip per month is just about right.

    1. I love that you’ve figured out the travel rhythm that works for you. It’s hilarious because compared to my current work travel schedule, one trip a month sounds like nothing, but of course that’s still plenty! I’m so interested to know what kind of a rhythm ends up feeling right for us, but I suppose we’ll figure it out as we go along!

  21. We’re planning a trip out west to a number of National Parks in the fall (if I don’t keep working…more on that soon!) We really want to head to Germany after that. My father grew up there and I have cousins who have invited us to visit. It would be awesome to get to know the other side of my family! I love your point about enjoying home too. We will have two homes for awhile and over time, I think we’ll end up with just one and then more travel. Where the kids end up will matter too – but that’s a few years away. Excited to follow all of your adventures!

    1. You guys have some big plans in the works! How wonderful! Let me know as your national park trip gets closer… you might end up near our neck of the woods. ;-) And yeah, don’t forget to enjoy home, especially if you know one of your homes won’t be yours forever!

  22. So I did 6 weeks in 2012 for Australia and New Zealand and that was by far the longest. I maybe could have kept knowing if not for the stress of what the rest of my career was going to look like and when I was going to be able to replenish my investments back to where they were before I took off to the other side of the world.

    Now that I have more $$$ (and, as of yesterday, time) at my disposal, I’m finding that maybe I’m not actually wanting to do nomadic travel for a year or several months at a time thing. Like most things in life for me, the anticipation always seems to be a lot bigger than the actual thing.

    Nevertheless, I have 28 nights in Albuquerque and 30 nights in Cedar City and all the short stays to get to and from those places and I’m excited because I’ve never spent that long consecutively in a single place outside of my state. I view it more as short term living than traveling, though I will certainly get my sight seeing in.

    l like that I won’t feel rushed, and that normal life goes on, just this morning I scheduled a dental cleaning in ABQ because i’ll be due when I’m there. I’m not leaving my life…I’m just taking my life with me.

    I guess, for me, for now, extended travel is going to be a pretty cool plan B. If I don’t get hired for one of the jobs that I’ve been targeting, then there’s always somewhere new to explore until I do, but the longer it takes, the more the confidence takes a hit.

    We’ll just have to wait and see.

    You should totally to to Iceland, it’s amazing there. And you can get pretty cheap flights but the planes are small.

    1. So exciting that you’re really doing it! I like your month-in-a-place vision instead of constantly moving from place to place. What made you select those spots? And it will be interesting what you learn in the process, and if you decide that you like the nomadic life or crave the routine of home.

      1. In both cases, it was mostly that the price was right vs nearby alternatives. Santa Fe collects sales tax for airbnb, ABQ doesn’t. :D Cedar City because it’s within an hour or two of both Zion and Bryce Canyon. I was going to do Kanab but there’s just not that much lodging there. Plus, Cedar City has a lot more services, being a college town.

  23. We are totally planning for some slow travel when we reach FI. I would highly recommend heading to Ecuador and Portugal. They are not talked about nearly as much as they should be. We absolutely loved it there and would return in a heart beat for as long as we possibly could. My list for where I want to go (that I haven’t already been to) is lengthy. But toping my list is Nepal, Norway and New Zealand, while Mr. Wow really wants to go to Russia and China. Maybe as soon as next year??

    1. What a great list of countries you guys are looking at! And thanks for the Ecuador and Portugal recs! I know we’ll hit both of those, for sure. We’re eager to go to Nepal, too — several of the Himalaya trekking circuits have been calling to us for quite a few years. ;-)

  24. Well, I would like to have a long-term travel experience in my lifetime. Something like 6 months through South-America for example, from the Galapagos islands all the way down to Antarctica, with Aconcagua, Machu Pichu, and the Amazonian rainforest also thrown in. This would be a one-off though since I really like living in my current location and I would really miss my dogs.

    1. I love that idea, of doing one long trip. And your itinerary sounds pretty amazing — especially Aconcagua (you know you’re talking to mountain geeks here — we have no illusions that we’ll knock off the seven summits, but we wouldn’t mind checking off three or four of them). ;-)

  25. I would go back to Japan, and spend a few months there instead of the 10 days I was there 15 years ago. I would want to explore many different cities and towns without feeling rushed. Whenever I read about a tour, I’m always thinking how I want to visit that city, and this one, and that place – basically, I’ll take one of everything please. Taking a few months to travel would also allow for plenty of downtime and exploration of interesting things off the beaten path.

    1. Great minds think alike. :-) We’re already dying to go back to Japan. We feel like we barely scratched the surface, though we got enough of it to know we love it there. And yeah, slow travel sounds sooo much nicer than what most of us are forced to do with limited vacation while working! Can’t wait until we have that luxury.

  26. Hope it goes without saying that if you are in the UK (and we are home) or in a European country we are in, then it would be fun to meet up. Just a couple of thoughts on the length of trips. Longer trips put you in a different mindset than short ‘holidays’ and it is a way of life that we love. We quickly settled in to our year long trip and slowed down our pace and had the space to just be and enjoy the small stuff. This was a great experience but we decided we don’t want to be away for that long again, we missed friends and family too much really. We have had lots of four week trips over the years and this is a good length of time to feel that you have space to explore, relax and get to understand the feel of a place but we do think that a bit longer would be better and also more economically viable and so we are looking at two to three month long trips which we hope will be long enough for immersion in to the travelling psyche. Crossing to Europe on ferries is a big chunk of the cost of our holidays and so it doesn’t make sense to pay this for just a two week holiday. We still like to get away for our shorter trips in the UK. What we want is for a trip to be long enough so that we don’t feel sad about coming home (we find this feeling creeps up on us in the last four or five days of a four week trip and the hassles of life at home start to return, meaning you only have 3 weeks of being completely away). When we were away for the year we really looked forward to coming home!

    1. We’d love to meet up! Let’s make it happen one day. :-) And I absolutely see all of what you’re talking about. Every type of trip has its own pros and cons, and you’re right that the vacation equivalent of “Sunday blues” is a real problem on shorter trips. I wonder if we’ll still feel that as acutely when we’re not thinking about having to come back to work? (Something we’ll find out!) I do think we’ll miss friends and our dogs, and I’ll miss being able to cook in my own kitchen, if we’re away for a super long time, but this is all stuff we’ll learn as we go!

  27. I love that you guys are not depriving yourselves of travel now. I really believe it’s those experiences that make us interesting people. I struggle with finding the balance of saving for retirement or future goals, and living a life full of experiences now. Luckily, my husband and I are outdoorsy people, and many things in the backcountry are free or cheap. I like your idea of having phases to your retirement travel. I hope we can go on some baller trips later in retirement, as well (think Antarctica with Nat Geo or the Galapagos).

    1. Couldn’t agree more! Travel makes people more interesting, and also more open-minded, more curious and more empathetic. All so important! And yeah, there’s no magic formula for how much to spend on travel now vs. how much to save, but it’s good you enjoy the free/cheap outdoorsy stuff! And yeah, we’d love to do the Galapagos trip in phase 2, too! And Antartica… if there’s still any ice there by then!

  28. A ski trip in Japan is on our long term list! Congrats on making it happen! The short/long trip discussion goes on in our household as well! We’ve been all over the board – travel for a whole year in our new camping trailer and rent out the house, or only do shorter stints like 4-8 weeks in our trailer in various new towns to see if the grass is greener elsewhere? We love our town, but would love to know if it’s equivalent is somewhere else (without the religious overtone we have here). We like the idea of a base town for friends and down time. Maybe we’ll do the shorter trips to see how we like long term trailer living. From the trips we’ve been on so far (in the 4 months we’ve owned it), I can tell you I don’t want to go home after a nice week. I think right now it will just depend on if we our old doggie is still with us when ER comes for us. Right now we don’t travel together somewhere without her. My bucket list trip is a refugio to refugio hiking/running trip in the Italian Dolomites where you don’t need anything put your bedding and clothes and the high alpine refuigios have all your food/drink. Would be nice to get that checked off while still having incomes, but then again can’t leave the old puppykins in others’ care right now.

    1. Do it! Japan was amazing. Even if you happen to hit bad luck on the snow while you’re there, there’s still so much to love… gorgeous scenery, wonderful people, amazing food, culture shock in the best ways possible, etc. And speaking of your refugio hike dream, you can do the same thing at the national parks in Hokkaido, Japan, so maybe add that to your list as well. ;-)

  29. Looks like you had a fun trip in Japan! That onigiri photo made me hungry!

    Sorry to hear about your gluten challenges.

    I like the idea of slow travel, but in reality most of us are going to be limited to 90 days (in most countries) due to entry permits/visas for travel.

    To me, that doesn’t really sound like a lot of time to really explore a whole country. I wish I could live abroad for 6 months or more a year and skip the bad weather seasons in my area.

    1. I recently learned that some countries (including Japan) offer longer tourist visas if you can prove you have large savings and won’t need to mooch off of their services. In Japan it’s 12 months for “wealthy tourists” and we’re exploring where else this might be an option. And though some countries limit you to 90 days out of a year, many don’t, so staying longer is just a matter of making a quick visa run to whatever country is next door to restart your 90-day clock.

  30. Free room and board on Vancouver Island when you come, although you will only need a night or two as we will be heading out on a multi day trek to summit the Golden Hinde. Then after that trip I travel down your way and it’s turn to guide. Now that we have each had our North American visits we can plan that Patagonia Trek :) See how much it starts to snowball…..it’s gonna be a blast.

  31. Great plans ahead! It is probably agood idea to visit areas that our bound to disappear due to climate change.

    The strongest part is that you involve the mountains where you live in your plans. makes total sense to me. You moved there for a reason, honour that reason in retirement.

    Our first big summer holiday in years will be slow travel. Rather than covering the whole of Croatia in 2 weeks, we picked 2 cities a whopping 50 km apart. That gives us 2 different starting points for our exploration.

    1. Yes, you’re so right — we don’t want to miss out on the mountains where we live! And your summer holiday plan sounds great — you’ll really have time to relax and soak it all in instead of rushing through a million different sites.

  32. Long time reader, new blogger here.

    ” it gets us out of our usual routines and forces us to be present in a completely different way.” This right here is what i think matters the most. For me, as someone filled with routines that i enjoy, i find that after a long trip of even just over a week i am already looking forward to coming back home. I miss my routines. Specifically, i miss training on my bike and all my favorite running routes. But still, that feeling of getting out of that routine is so wonderful. Kind of like, waking up and looking around with a new set of eyes.

    1. Thanks for chiming in — and for reading for so long! We all have different levels of attachment to our routines. I think I’m less of a routine person, but I want to know where my next few meals are coming from, and when I don’t know that, I get a little anxious. So that’s my big travel hang-up, while yours is wanting to get back to your workouts. I’m sure you know this, but more and more cities are publishing running routes for tourists — do you consult those when you travel, to bring some of your routine with you?

      1. I do use those and agree that if you are in the right spot for travel it can enhance your routine and not take away. I have great memories of running along beaches or trails while in a new spot. What i would be excited to do is travel somewhere that i could actually settle in a bit. My wife and I are envisioning retirement where we rent a house for a month and pretend we live there. I did some work in Huntington Beach California in the off season once and was able to rent a condo for really cheap two blocks from the pier and beach. Your new flexibility could allow you to get some really awesome deals by not having to follow the crowd. i.e. off peak.

        1. Those beach and trail runs sound dreamy! And yeah, we’ve thought the same thing — if we can travel off-peak, we can hunt down the deals that others don’t have the flexibility to take advantage of! Same for being able to get long-term rates offered by some extended stay hotels or campgrounds.

  33. You’re WAY over-thinking this. Leisure travel does not need to be approached the way you approach your consulting jobs. Just buy a ticket somewhere and have fun. Maybe even wait to get the return ticket. Make a hotel reservation for the first two nights and then figure things out as you go.

    Also, there’s NO reason to let food limitations affect your travel. I have multiple friends with celiac disease and other food limitations who travel everywhere. Check out the blog legal nomad to read about her travels with celiac disease. She’s also make gluten free guides for certain countries. I spent a summer in Japan, and I would literally be fine eating plain steamed rice and some plain fruit and veg for every meal if it meant seeing the country.

    1. Since you called me an over-thinker (guilty as charged), then you know that I wouldn’t jet to a country with non-Roman text without doing my homework on how to communicate my gluten-free needs. Obviously I had the Legal Nomads Japanese GF card with me and used it plenty — but some countries are just much harder than others, and Japan is one of them. If you can live on rice, then great, but having only refined starch is tough on my blood sugar (= grumpiness) and those vegetables were nowhere to be found. I loved every minute of the trip, but it’s hard for people without food challenges to understand how deeply frustrating and helpless this stuff can feel.

  34. This is a great topic and one we are thinking a lot about as we start to brainstorm what long term retirement looks for us – long or short term travel? Or maybe long-ish term travel to transition into retirement?

    I was diagnosed celiac about a year and a half ago, and it definitely impacts how I think about travel now. I’m not sure how much i would enjoy travel if it was too difficult to find food on a regular basis, but slow travel would at least give you more time to figure it out…. I realize that this is not a topic that you really explore in the blog on a regular basis but i’m interested in how you deal with it as a part of your long term plans.

    1. High five, my fellow traveling celiac! Super fun, ain’t it? ;-) I’ve continually been pleasantly surprised by how accommodating people are most places in the world, assuming that you can correctly communicate your needs, but there are ever-improving resources to help with that. So don’t let CD stop you from living out your travel dreams! The short answer for how I think about it for long-term travel is the same as how I think about it now with lots of short-term work travel: Try hard to minimize restaurant food. For work travel, I do my darnedest in most places to book a hotel room with a kitchen or at least a fridge, and I grocery shop for my meals as much as possible. Same deal when traveling abroad, though when work isn’t paying, it’s more about Airbnb than hotels. You probably already know the Legal Nomads site, which has lots of great tips for traveling with CD, including some in-language resources that were super helpful on our Japan trip. But I have been known to book hotels based on proximity to natural foods stores, or to bring obscene quantities of food with me while traveling. Every place you might travel is different, of course, but it’s what we have to do!

  35. Since you both are interested in staying in one place for around two weeks, would you ever consider something like WWOOFing? I’ve always been curious about it but would only be a WWOOFer at a farm/location where I could learn something I was already interested in (like cheese making, woodworking, etc.).

    1. We have definitely looked into WWOOFing! Most of the opportunities we’ve seen have required a longer commitment, but it’s definitely something we’ll consider when the time comes, though maybe a few years down the road after we’ve gotten the urgent travel bug out of our systems. In our early years, I can’t imagine spending our travel time working so much when we could be out exploring! ;-)

  36. If you’re open to new experiences and generally a happy person, I really think you’ll enjoy traveling just about anywhere. Our destination choices so far have been guided partially by our goal to spend time with our friends and families — hence the many months seeing people all over North America and building our itinerary around multiple weddings, as well as our trip to Turkey, which was hardly even on our radar until our friends invited us to join their vacation. Among destinations of equal interest level, we’ve let cost be the prioritizing factor. We would just as happily be exploring Australia or Western Europe right now, but SE Asia and Mexico are just as fun and interesting to us at a fraction of the price. I figure it’s better to front-load the cheap travel for the sake of sequence of returns risk and save more expensive destinations for later. With regard to baller trips, I agree with the recommendations above for the Galapagos Islands (possibly the coolest few days of travel I’ve ever done), and I’d also nominate the Amazon (I flew from Lima to Iquitos, Peru, and stayed somewhere north of there on the river). I’m not sure I’ll ever publicly disclose how much I spent on that trip — eek!

    1. You make a super good point about front-loading the cheaper travel for SOR reasons… I hadn’t thought of that before. Though all the more reason to book some sweet trips on miles while I still have status and can stretch those miles farther! ;-) And if it makes you feel better, we have a few of those trips where we’ll never publicly disclose the cost either!

  37. I want to go to Iceland and Ireland so bad!

    When I studied abroad in a place I’d wanted to go for 10 years, I found that I started missing things at about the 3.5 month mark. That was many years ago and I’m a different person now, but I wonder if that amount of time still feels right. I have some family oversees and they have a spare room, if I had an extended trip I would homebase with them in their beautiful house.

    1. Ireland is on our list, too, though we didn’t mention it here. That’s a super interesting observation that 3.5 months was your limit at one point. So curious to know what it will end up being for us, because you know we intend to find out. :-)

        1. You’ve got me thinking more about how this might vary by style of travel. Like Mr. ONL traveled for five months at one point and didn’t really miss things, but he was also constantly on the move. Longest I’ve ever traveled is six weeks, so I have never bumped up against that threshold!

        2. I was on a program and studying at the university. Would probably have been very different if I wasn’t and also if I had money to travel in-country.

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