|Ready to Answer Questions about being Senior Nomads|
When we left Seattle in July 2013 to begin our Senior Nomad adventures many friends
and family suggested we start a blog. We'd never written a blog before but it
sounded like a great way to share our adventures with those closest to us. We hadn't expected anyone outside family and friends to read it. You can
probably tell, because Debbie's stories are like sending breezy personal
letters home. So we were a bit unprepared after the New York Times ran the story
about us (picked-up by many other newspapers and websites)
that resulted in so many new people finding us. And of course there were lots of
most popular queries came from people who dream about trying to do what we are
doing in some way or the other. Here are the top 10 questions we were asked:
- How much does it
cost you every month? Do you have a budget?
- How can you stay
in Europe for more than 180 days at a time?
- What do you do
for Medical Insurance both in Europe and back home?
- How do you pay
your bills and keep up with mail back home while you are gone?
- How do you pack for
such a long trip? What did you bring besides your pillows?
- How do you get
from place to place?
- What apps or
websites do you use to for travel planning?
- How far out in
front do you book your travel and apartments on Airbnb?
- What do you do
about cell phones - especially calling friends and family.
- How do you avoid
foreign currency transaction fees and ATM fees?
I'm going to start with "The Budget Question". Cost seems to
be the biggest hurdle for those who want to try long-term travel as a way to
rethink retirement. In future posts, I'll answer more of the questions
in between Debbie's travel stories and my occasional "football" post.
Ongoing Expenses Back home
- We reduced our monthly expenses as much as possible by renting our house for a year, selling one of our cars and our beloved sailboat. We donated many of our things to charity, or gave them to friends and family. Whatever was left, we put in a small storage unit in Seattle. So now, our monthly expenses are down to our health
and life insurance premiums, our storage unit, and a monthly post office
Place to Sleep - This is our
single biggest line item each month. As we said in the New York Times
story we spend $90/night using Airbnb. We work hard to find the right
balance between what we want and what we can afford. In expensive
like London, Paris, Oslo and Stockholm we spent more, but we make
that in Bosnia, Morocco, Greece and Turkey.
|Our Daily Journal for tracking our adventures and expenses|
|Door to our first Airbnb apartment in Amsterdam|
- This comes in two parts. 1) Travel from the
Europe. If you come and go often this could be a significant
line item. But if you travel for a year then it is just a matter of round-trip airfare to wherever you start your journey and back home. 2) Travel between
cities. We generally stay from
7-10 days in each city so we are on the road 3-4 times per month.
We use a mix of transportation: planes, trains, buses and
ferries depending on the situation. Flying in Europe on the most
routes can be really cheap but extra fees like baggage weight and
selection can add-up. Super fast inter-city trains can be
expensive; we've found local
trains are very affordable. Another option is taking a bus. Besides being affordable, it is a great way to see a lot of countryside. We love going by bus whenever that's an option if the journey is less than 5 hours.
are in a city, we walk as much as we can and then use the public
metro systems. We've only rented a car twice in 20 months. Taxi's
are a luxury and we only used them when it makes sense.
|One of the many luxury buses we rode in Lithuania|
Insurance - When we visited Europe in the past as tourists, we never purchased travel
insurance or medical insurance. However, to obtain our one year French
visas to allow access to the Schengen zone (more on that in the next
blog), medical coverage in Europe was required. I'm not sure we would have
purchased it otherwise, but now we have it. Like any other health
insurance one can trade-off the amount of coverage vs. deductibles and of
course premiums are impacted by age. We got our coverage through an online
company called Insuremytrip.com but there are lots of options on the web.
|Waiting for the city bus on the Island of Rhodes|
Food - This category
is the quintessential "how long is a piece of string" question.
Only you know if you want to eat in restaurants most of the time, and what that expense
might look like. Debbie loves to explore the local markets and cooking is something
she really enjoys so we eat most of our meals at home. Breakfast is almost
always at the table while planning the day. Lunch is split between packing
a picnic and grabbing local street food (always delicious) on the go. Of
course we eat out on occasion to get a flavor for the local
cuisine and to give Debbie a break from cooking and me from doing the dishes.
|Ice cream must be in one of the food groups|
|Debbie shopping in Stockholm outdoor market for fresh mushrooms|
|Debbie enjoying a recent lunch in Greece because who wants to cook an octopus at home?|
and Education - This
is another bucket that only you can decide how to fill. We are not on
vacation, so we don't feel obligated to hit every tourist attraction and museum in the guide books. We know what we like and plan accordingly. Free walking tours (just tip the guide at the end), are one of our favorite activities. Debbie is always on the lookout for a good cooking class and I've got my eyes out for sporting events especially football matches. We both love to read, explore our neighborhood and the city by foot and then at the end of the day we are home for dinner followed by one of our favorite games: Scrabble, backgammon, cribbage or dominoes. Of course we also try and find free or affordable concerts in local churches or small venues.
|Couldn't miss the Louvre! Cultural experiences of any kind are a bargain.|
|Debbie taking a cooking class in Marrakesh, Morocco|
Daily Living -
category covers everything not included above. Most are not
significant by themselves but they add up day after day. Just
comfortable on the road seems to constantly require top-ups of
a person needs: socks, soap, makeup, toothpaste, shampoo, band-aids,
detergent and/or laundromats if your house does not have a washing
machine, e-books for the Kindle, apps, the occasional English
snacks, cookies (that's a category all by itself), haircuts,
flowers and candles for the apartment, cooking ingredients (must
have spices and olive oil) and every now and again a jigsaw
puzzle - which we leave behind for our host.
|Saving money - our host in Dublin's barbershop gave me a free haircut|
these categories will help you start your own budget. Six months before we left Seattle, I created budget that projected monthly spending with low, medium and high
columns. Three months later I revised it. Upwards of course. Now looking back
after 20 months on the road we're probably running 10% over projections but Debbie and I are in agreement. It has been 100% worth it.
|Most apartments have a washer, but still have to buy laundry detergent some times|
suspect that when you sit down and start crafting your own budget you too will find a
sweet spot. I think you can reinvent your retirement and be fiscally responsible
at the same time. You may need to make adjustments along the way, and not do
everything on your wish list but that's half the fun.
|My favorite entertainment expense - football matches. Here I am in Athens with our host Vaselli.|
you for joining us and we wish you safe travels where ever you go. Next
time: How we've stayed in Europe for more than 180 days at a time.