Doug Nordman is a reader and often leaves comments on Satisfying Retirement. Also, he has his own blog, The-Military-Guide.com, providing information and insight to military members, both past and present.
Last month's post, Retirement Done Differently, promoted a comment from Doug that led to my request for him to tell me more about a retirement lifestyle that may attract you: slow travel. Even though his usual focus is on military matters, this guest post contains plenty of information and suggestions for us civilians (does my 6 years in the Army Reserves count?). The idea of staying in a location long enough to adapt to the pace of life and deeply explore the area certainly appeals to me.
Maybe you, too!
My spouse and I are a dual-military couple: I retired from the submarine force in 2002 and she retired from the Navy Reserve in 2008. (We reached our financial independence by 1999 on a high savings rate.) We've lived on Oahu since 1989. Our daughter (born & raised here) started her own Navy career in 2014.
We love the islands and our Pacific Rim culture, yet we still enjoy seeing the world. Every flight from Hawaii is at least 2500 miles, so we try to spend extra time at our destination(s) and fewer hours in the air.
We lived my first 12 years of retirement with our daughter's school schedules, and our breaks only allowed for a few weeks of the typical holiday vacations and college visits. During our empty-nester years, however, we've discovered slow travel. At every destination we live like locals for months.
When you're working a career (or raising a family), you only have a couple weeks for your annual trip. Everyone else in America is also vacationing at the same time, and the travel industry fully exploits the crowd. You're usually visiting a resort, and your lodging might not even include a kitchen. (Your corporate host wants you to buy their resort food.) You barely have the time to learn your transportation options and you pay full retail prices to get around. When you add it all up you're living like a two-week millionaire.
It's still pretty good! You can control these outrageous expenses by travel hacking with rewards programs, credit-card points, and discounts. However your time is your most valuable resource, and just as you really get started on your vacation you have to return home.
Slow travel replaces the entire traditional vacation with your new lifestyle.
Instead of traveling during summers or holiday peaks, you visit during the rest of the year. Airfares are cheaper and the crowds are gone. You'll use AirBnB or Booking.com to find long-term rentals with a kitchen. You can try your own cooking from the farmer's markets and still eat out. You can rent a car, but you can also figure out the public transportation systems.
You live like a local, and you're enjoying day trips to local attractions. Now your travel depends more on your passport & visa than on your budget. It's a staycation in a different country.
In early 2015 my spouse and I cashed in our frequent-flyer miles to visit Spain. (As military retirees we've also traveled on Space A flights, but that's a whole different blog post.) Our daughter was stationed in Rota (free lodging!) but monthly apartments are plentiful-- and at a huge discount to hotels.
The only travel limit that made us head home was our 90-day visa.
|Gilbraltor viewed from Spain|
We enjoyed ourselves so much on that first visit that we returned in the fall for another 60 days. We spent nearly half the year in Spain, yet our budget barely noticed the difference.
The following year we visited Europe with friends for a couple of months. They wanted to start the trip with a cruise, and it was a huge contrast with our slow travel. We all had fun but my spouse and I felt as though we were rushing from one place to the next on a multi-country scavenger hunt.
After the cruise we rented a villa in an Italian hill town. While our friends buzzed around the countryside in their rental vehicle, we walked all over the town and surrounding hills (with occasional buses and taxis). We could have easily spent months exploring Cortona, Orvieto, or Padua. We didn't miss the crowds (and tourist prices) of Venice or Rome one bit.
The cruise cost enough to be a rare fantasy trip. However our slow travel through those hill towns was very inexpensive.
We've also lived like this in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Dallas, Seattle, Norfolk, and Charleston. In the next few years we're tackling Japan and Australia.
After that? Well, we're not as hardcore as Billy & Akaisha Kaderli at RetireEarlyLifestyle.com. But we're tempted to try a few months with TrustedHousesitters like Heather & Volkan.
Travel while you still can. Slow travel helps us appreciate it even more.
Doug Nordman is the author of "The Military Guide To Financial Independence and Retirement" and blogs at The-Military-Guide.com.