Exploring the world as a roving retiree
Eager to hit the road, Roxanne and David Draves decided to retire early.
Ten years ago, Roxanne gave up her real estate appraisal work, and David left his job doing lift maintenance for a ski area. They rented out their house in Carbondale, Colo., which they later sold, and bought a motor home.
Since then, they’ve been crisscrossing the U.S., working on 43 Habitat for Humanity building projects in 19 states, watching the Daytona 500 and a Space Shuttle launch in Florida, following Revolutionary and Civil War trails up the east coast, and helping their daughter build a home in Montana.
Roxanne, 63, and David, 69, have no intention of settling down. “Every place has something beautiful to it, and it’s such a joy to meet new people,” Roxanne said. “It’s hard to sit still for too long.”
Technology makes it easier
A growing number of retirees agree. The rise of technology that makes it cheap and easy to stay connected anywhere in the world, home-sharing sites that offer low-cost accommodations, and longer life spans promising many active years in retirement are all inspiring a generation of retirees to make travel a lifestyle rather than an occasional splurge.
Some, like the Draveses, find new purpose in far-flung volunteer projects, while others pursue second-act careers as travel bloggers or photographers, or simply tick some boxes on their bucket list. And many find they’re spending less money than they did as homeowners.
“You can do this on a shoestring — or do it on a private jet,” said David Kuenzi, a financial planner in Madison, Wis., whose clients include many expatriate Americans.
Some things to consider
It’s not all nomadic nirvana. You’ll need to plan carefully to stay within your budget, and constantly research new destinations and accommodations.
Before making a full-scale commitment, and certainly before selling your house, “take several months off and give it a try,” said Lynne Martin, a globe-trotting retiree and author of Home Sweet Anywhere (Sourcebooks, $15).
Use websites such as NomadList.com and Numbeo.com to research costs of living before deciding on a destination.
To save on travel costs, consider basing yourself in a region — such as Europe — where there’s cutthroat budget airline competition, said Kathleen Peddicord, publisher of website www.liveandinvestoverseas.com.
Or take “repositioning” cruises — discounted one-way voyages offered when cruise lines are relocating ships.
Overseas is more complex
If you’re traveling overseas, extra homework is required. You may need additional health coverage. Medicare typically won’t cover you outside the U.S.
Review each country’s visa rules on the U.S. Department of State website so that you don’t overstay your welcome. And research the country’s residence rules to ensure you won’t become subject to taxation there.
If you stay in Italy for more than 183 days in a year, for example, your worldwide income will be subject to Italian tax, Kuenzi said. And remember that U.S. citizens must always file U.S. tax returns, no matter how long they live abroad.
But those nagging details can’t dampen the pleasures of life on the road, roving retirees say. And though you may be far from loved ones, you’re likely to develop many close bonds as you go.
The Draveses say they’ve formed many friendships working with Habitat for Humanity’s RV Care-A-Vanners — a group of about 6,000 volunteers, mostly retirees, who travel the U.S. and Canada in their motor homes building houses.
About half are full-time RVers, and they tend to team up with the same volunteers on many different building sites, said Habitat spokesperson Bryan Thomas.
“We couldn’t give it up,” said Roxanne Draves. Her husband finishes her thought: “It would be like abandoning your family.”
© The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.