Sell the house, toss the junk and travel
Five years ago, my wife and I — then in our 60s and recently retired — sold our home in Connecticut and embarked on a worldwide adventure as nomads.
To date, we have been to 36 countries on five continents. Our dream turned into a reality that has exceeded our wildest expectations. We did it. You can do it, too.
During our 45 years of marriage, we enjoyed traveling, adventure and romance. We shared a wanderlust that I inherited as a young boy from my grandfather, an intrepid traveler who was always planning his next trip, often one with his grandson in tow.
A dawning reality
How did we decide to sell our house and become residents of the world? It wasn’t a decision we arrived at quickly or easily.
First, we realized that our beautiful Connecticut home of more than 20 years would not be our last. It was perfect for a couple in their 60s — maybe even in their 70s, but not beyond.
Downsizing to a more manageable home would be smart, we realized, and sooner rather than later.
Then a newspaper headline captured our attention: “Sell the Home. Travel the World!” Intrigued, we saved it. We talked about it. We researched and read books about the idea.
We returned to it regularly and often for more than two years. Increasingly, it became not just a dream but a plan we could actually accomplish.
We were not rich, but we were comfortable, after working hard for more than 40 years, living modestly and wisely. Without the expenses of a mortgage, property taxes, insurance, maintenance and all the other costs of owning our own home, we figured we could travel well and often.
Finally, two significant events moved us to act: Our daughter and her family, who lived 10 minutes away, relocated to Southern California, where our son and his family lived. Shortly after, the last of our four parents, my mother, passed away.
Suddenly the bonds that tied us to Connecticut, where we met during high school, were loosened, freeing us to become nomads.
Get to know the locals
After years of one- or two-week vacations, we have discovered the delight of slow travel. We seek out low-cost rooms on Airbnb and stay for a month or two. Sometimes we stay in friends’ second homes.
We enjoy avoiding the tourist track and seeking out the locals — experiencing their traditions and culture; befriending them and learning about their lives.
We have had some eye-opening experiences, participating in a Buddhist celebration in Bali and a baby luau (a baby’s first birthday party) in Oahu.
By far, the best and most memorable moments have been with the people we have met, the friends we have made. Each encounter has brought wisdom and growth and enhanced our understanding of the world.
Social media has allowed us to remain in touch with some of those friends around the world. In Copenhagen, for instance, we shared a delicious plant-based dinner with David and Hara from Seoul. A year later we received a copy of their new book about their worldwide vegan adventure, which featured a photo of us. What a surprise!
Taking our time in each place
Our preference would be to spend at least a month in each location — time enough to make friends and really experience the community and culture deeply.
While we have spent as long as four months in a location, our slow travels continue to slow down even more (we are currently riding out the pandemic in Honolulu). The longer we continue this nomadic adventure, the longer and slower our travels grow.
The question we have answered more than any has been, “What place(s) have you enjoyed most?”
We have seen some incredible vistas and places: Angkor Wat at sunrise. A green flash after a Mexican sunset. A leopard lounging in Sri Lanka.
For me, the most enjoyable places were the Dolomites in the northern Italian Alps and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. For my wife, New Zealand and Norway stand out.
We are both “forest bathers” who enjoy the outdoors and all of nature’s magnificent creations, especially in Southeast Asia, Mexico, South America, Santa Barbara and Hawaii.
A new way of living: simply
Beyond the people, the experiences, the places and the adventure, we’ve discovered unanticipated benefits, pleasures and new values.
We had no idea how liberating it would be to jettison most of our 30+ years accumulation of “stuff”! (Well, maybe my wife knew, but it was a surprise to me!) For almost two years, we donated, sold and threw away a ton of belongings.
We still have way too much in storage, but we have a greater appreciation for how freeing it is to live with fewer possessions. At first you own your stuff, but then your stuff owns you!
Making our own rules
It has been exciting and challenging to create a whole new way of life. We established new mantras, new rules, new ways of living.
Among them: We would make it a point to get lost almost every day. That pledge led us to some astounding discoveries, events and places we would not otherwise have experienced.
Once, aimlessly exploring Parisian neighborhoods, we turned the corner to discover a band playing in a small city square, a memory we treasure.
We agreed that we would never turn down an invitation, whether it was a week at a friend’s house or a meal with a stranger.
We built in time for spontaneity, trying not to be too scripted in our travels. Had we not done so, we would not have found the Maldives. We would not have traveled to Cartagena and Santa Fe.
Our travels have changed our lives in innumerable ways and strengthened our love, romance and 52-year marriage.
They have made us more resilient, more compassionate, more courageous and smarter — and grown our hearts by six sizes!