Wednesday, June 12, 2024
HomeRetirementReader Story: How We Stay a Nomadic Life in Retirement

Reader Story: How We Stay a Nomadic Life in Retirement

I not too long ago made a name for readers to share their tales to complement posts by Darrow and me. First up is Margot who shares her and her husband Nick’s story.

Nomad travel notes

Their path to and thru retirement contains overcoming adversity of their private and monetary lives, difficult our notions about how a lot is “sufficient,” the facility of flexibility and creativity, and discovering the braveness to reside your greatest life in retirement.

(Disclosure/Editor’s Observe: This publish comprises numerous hyperlinks to assets Margot has discovered useful. One is NewRetirement, a longtime affiliate companion of the weblog. The entire different hyperlinks are included on your comfort. We don’t make any cash when you click on these hyperlinks, and the inclusion of hyperlinks to any of these websites doesn’t indicate that this website has vetted or endorsed them.)

Take it away Margot. . . .

What an honor to contribute a weblog on this website. The assets and recommendation have been so useful to me as we navigate life past work. 

We’re Margot and Nick, 70 and 75 respectively. We journey full-time. Folks name us nomads, vagabonds, wanderers, or “slowmads”—our most well-liked fashion is to remain in locations for 1-3 months at a time. We hope to proceed for not less than the following 5 years, good well being and attitudes permitting. 

All of our belongings are in a ten×10 storage shed in Washington state. Our medical doctors, dentists and digital mailbox are additionally there. We personal no actual property or pets. We’ve no grandchildren and our dad and mom have lengthy since handed. Every of us has one youngster and they’re on their very own on the ages of 32 and 38. Our knees are nonetheless good. 

We’ve about $750,000 in financial savings and investments. I took my Social Safety alone work file this month. With the help of plans created through NewRetirement and Schwab, we are going to spend to our guesstimated earthly ends. That is additionally referred to as Die With Zero (the title of a really fascinating e book by Invoice Perkins). The youngsters can be alright.

The place did the vagabond dream originate?

It began in 2006 when Nick and I had been matched up through It’s Simply Lunch (a courting service) in Orlando, Florida. From the get-go we talked about touring—the locations we nonetheless wished to expertise. 

Nick had lived in Parma, Italy as a youngster and hitchhiked Europe in his 20s. I had grown up on navy bases world wide…. And, then, we began watching Home Hunters Worldwide on HGTV and the goals began to gel. On the time we had been 58 and 53. 

Nick was laid off from his communications place in 2010 on the age of 62. He was a graphic designer and author—it was not his first downsizing rodeo. 

So he determined to hold it up and take Social Safety early. He discovered a excessive deductible Blue Cross/Blue Protect coverage till Medicare kicked in. A small share of a household enterprise plus Social Safety stored him afloat.

Associated: When to Take Social Safety

Nick’s divorce and lay-offs had taken their monetary toll on his financial savings. In 2010, he moved into my very underwater and extremely mortgaged Orlando space dwelling (because of a 2006 divorce, exorbitant dwelling appraisal and the following 2008 housing disaster). It was a paycheck to paycheck life.

What Kicked Us Into Excessive Gear? 

Life turned on a dime in 2011. Nick proposed; I used to be supplied a job throughout the nation at decrease pay BUT it got here with a home.


We obtained married on a seashore in St. Thomas. We drove cross-country from Orlando to California. I persuaded the financial institution to permit me to do a short-sale of my Florida dwelling. And stopped paying the mortgage, citing hardship as my wage was lowered by ⅓ on the new job. I stored up all utility, pest, and garden upkeep for the Florida property.

Almost 9 months later, every week BEFORE the home’s foreclosures hit a Tampa court docket, the short-sale settled. $180K of debt flew off my shoulders and, because of federal laws, was not taxed as earnings. And a pleasant household obtained a terrific, well-maintained home at a worth under what I had paid for it in 2001.

Residing With Most cancers (X2)

Then a hammer fell—at his Medicare examination in 2013, Nick’s PSA was 147. A tumor on his backbone translated to Stage 4 (terminal) prostate most cancers. Solely 28% of males along with his analysis survived for five years. We had been nonetheless newlyweds.  

A buddy suggested us to have a look at the illness by means of a top quality of life lens. Nothing like most cancers to stir the Stay Your Life Stay Your Life perspective! So we began dipping into my 401K and took 3-5 week holidays, because of my understanding bosses, to lots of the locations we’d dreamed about our first few years collectively. 

After 4 years, I began to joke he’d higher die or we might go broke. However, rattling, he simply stored on residing. Miraculously, stripping his physique of testosterone through drug remedy paused the most cancers’s development. And we stored draining our financial savings. However we knew then (and nonetheless know now) that the medicine might cease working at any time. 

After which, a second hammer fell in 2019. I used to be recognized with Stage 2B breast most cancers. I scheduled skilled duties round my therapies. Doing radiation at 7 am was chosen so I might put in a full-day’s work. I took a complete of three sick days once I had surgical procedure. Looking back, what was I pondering?

One thing wanted to vary. The stress and 60 hour+ weeks couldn’t presumably be good for me. I used to be working extra and having fun with it much less. (BTW, I had a lumpectomy and radiation and there’s no present proof of illness, thank goodness).

The Change or Die Level 

In Might, 2020, I hit an expert and private wall. I used to be working my tail off addressing the challenges COVID created for my group. There have been deep and rancorous divisions of opinion about the very best methods to handle the enterprise.  

I figured that I used to be being paid for my mind. However my recommendation and work had been falling on deaf ears. Why was I nonetheless working?

Can I Retire?

I didn’t suppose I had sufficient cash to cease working. All my retired pals—those with company jobs or jobs with pensions had $1.5-$2M saved. All of the calculators mentioned I needed to have 10-20 instances my earnings. I wasn’t anyplace near that.  

I had solely began maxing out my 401K once I obtained my first 6-figure job in 2001. My divorce had taken a monetary toll on me.  And we had spent a ton on journey, pondering Nick’s dying was imminent. We had run up bank card debt. My 401K sat at $350,000, and I had $80,000 in financial savings—hardly sufficient to reside on. My solely alternative seemed to be dying at my desk.

A Tragedy…. and a Blessing?

However destiny and tragedy had intervened. My youthful brother—a Sort I diabetic—died in his sleep on the age of 63. He was at all times taking part in his blood sugars near the bone and he by no means revealed a coronary heart situation to me or our different brother. His two wives had been within the rear-view mirror and he had no kids. He additionally had 14 acres and a paid-off home.  

The actual property market was a scorching one and my surviving brother is a realtor. Inside 18 months, we bought the home and 4 extra tons. Now, each journey begins with a toast to my late brother.  

Might 8, 2020 was a very troublesome day at work. I walked the 9 steps from my workplace to our (connected) home and informed my husband I had written my employers to barter a separation settlement. It was time for me to personal the minutes and hours of my days. I used to be performed with deadlines and pleasing others. The purple ball got here off my nostril.

Nick was thrilled—he had seen how discouraged I used to be. No extra Crabby Appleton. We opened a bottle of champagne and began to determine how we might afford to reside for 3 years earlier than I took Social Safety. We crunched numbers and made lists of nations.

A Monetary (and Private) Reboot

Because of the sale of household property and 12 months for the inventory market, we paid off all our money owed and invested the remainder. We now owned no actual property.  

Travel Calendar

I ran the numbers once more. If we stored annual bills between 75-100K, our nest egg of $750K would—barring some unseemly tragedy— final us a lifetime. We preserve a 2-3 12 months money bucket (in a T-bill ladder) and don’t plan to the touch investments till 2025.

I’ve a handful of speculative shares in a Roth IRA that my late tech-geek brother really helpful which will but repay (e.g. JOBY, IONQ, LVWR). This rocky market fascinates however doesn’t scare me. 

Between Might and August of 2020, we bought, donated and tossed most of our stuff and relocated to Washington, a tax-free state. I culled belongings and paintings by imagining what I wished to be surrounded by in my 80s after we quiet down. The storage unit is sort of a second-hand retailer the place I need to purchase all the things in it! 

A buddy suggested me once I give up to do completely nothing for the primary 6 months. What did I need to say YES to? We sat in a waterfront cottage and turned our goals of worldwide journey into 5 years of plans.

Hitting the Highway

We spent two months every in Honolulu and Croatia and three months on Lake Como in 2021.


In 2022 we slept in 57 beds—a month every in Vienna, Paris, Germany and Andorra, a month-long road-trip by means of western Canada and one other road-trip from Maine to South Carolina to see family and pals. We’ve taken 5 post-COVID cruises with 12 extra booked by means of 2025.

We flew to Bonaire in February for a month, then jumped to Aruba earlier than a 21-day trans-Atlantic cruise to Barcelona the place we are actually. We’ll head to a seashore home close to Valencia for one more month earlier than heading to England, Norway and Scotland.

2024’s plan is Sydney, Auckland, Perth, Bali and a world cruise.

2025 would be the 12 months of South America:  Lima, Cuenca, Santiago, Montevideo and Sao Paolo after which Lisbon, Tenerife, Isla de La Palma, Funchal and Porto are within the consideration set.  

We combine 6-8 weeks of pet-sitting yearly to offset the rising costs of short-term leases. We each have had pets our whole lives and we miss the cuddles.

Pet sitting

By way of, we’ve had  2-3 week sits in Vancouver, B.C., Washington State and England. We’ve 5 weeks scheduled for Australian Shepherds in England and a cat on the outskirts of London. 

As its identify implies, this worldwide (and really searchable) fee-based membership website and app relies on belief. Individuals who want care for his or her pets whereas touring publish all the main points and invite functions, often 1 week to three months out.

Typically through video convention, we interview with our potential hosts. No cash adjustments arms. An added bonus is consuming all perishable meals within the fridge and visiting new locations.

Nomad Funds 

We’re NOT on trip—we simply reside our lives in a sequence of various neighborhoods and cultures. Our core price range is $60K a 12 months plus an extra $40K for splurgey journey for 5 extra years. The transition from accumulation to spending has NOT been an issue for us. Social Safety now covers 70% of our bills:

  • Lodging: $30K (short-term leases and accommodations)
  • Meals: $15K (we just like the occasional Michelin-starred expertise however largely cook dinner “at dwelling”) 
  • Cruises: $25K (usually, inside cabins. As a blackjack participant, I additionally get dozens of gives for “comped” cruises. We cruise an ocean relatively than fly over it at any time when doable).  
  • Transportation: $10K (trains, planes and vehicles) 
  • Charitable giving: $8K (I’ve at all times given monetary voice to my coronary heart by giving not less than 10% of my earnings to causes I care about). 
  • Clothes, mail, leisure, and so forth. $5K 
  • Insurance coverage, medical & taxes, telephone: $7K

We anticipate our post-nomad bills—in our so referred to as “no-go” years to be round 60K, lined by our Social Safety, utilizing dividends and RMDs for shorter stints of journey.

Gained’t You Get Bored?

“Boredom is the lack to choose up on delicate vibrations.”

–Colin Wilson 

Folks marvel if we get bored. By no means, ever! There are such a lot of books to learn and folks to observe. We stroll. Nick brings his watercolors or guitar. 

We meet new pals and take a look at new meals and study new prepare and bus methods. We pack lighter and lighter—we now journey with two roller-bags and two back-packs.

Well being “Care” vs. Well being Insurance coverage

And what about healthcare? We plan not less than 2 months in Washington yearly for medical and dental appointments and follow-ups.

Medicare Benefit will cowl an emergency abroad (I up to date the unique textual content from Medicare to Medicare Benefit in response to reader feedback and added the hyperlink to info on Medicare Benefit plans for readability).

And we even have Med-Jet for emergency hospital-to-hospital air evacuations. We additionally purchase the cruise/air service insurance coverage. AND, for longer land stints, we get protection through a quote from

We’re contemplating an annual journey coverage however, at our ages, the alternatives are restricted and costly. Many nomad pals report glorious care abroad at very cheap costs.  

We’re intentional about each step we take. We’re extra scared of falls than COVID. A bathe mat travels with us wherever we go. We keep away from the damaging behavior of being 17 years previous in our heads. The “3 factors of contact” rule is necessary (i.e. if there’s a railing, we USE it). Additionally “one factor at a time”. We regularly warning one another about steps, uneven cobblestones and low beams. 

We discover lodging through, Airbnb and expat FB pages. Brief-term resort stays are simple to e book final minute through Hotwire. We play the factors sport with bank cards to keep away from paying money for air transportation. 

Associated: Journey Extra and Spend Much less With Credit score Card Journey Rewards

We belong to a GREAT FB web page for nomads of all ages referred to as Go With Much less the place info and suggestions are traded generously.

The Energy of Flexibility and Creativity

In all places we go, everybody we meet is curious and generally envious about how we reside. And marvel if they may do it. Over dinner final week, considered one of our new companions mentioned they weren’t positive that they had the center to reside like we do.

My response? All it takes is the willingness to be untethered. We’re easy-to-please folks with newly discovered flexibility about what life (and prepare strikes) throw at us.

And what occurs when you possibly can now not journey at this tempo? 

Our endgame is to seek out an residence within the little Washington State city the place our storage shed is. And get a canine. And perhaps cats, too. 

The liberation of proudly owning nothing is exhilarating. This manner of being on the planet is extra enjoyable than I ever imagined. Not working is extra rewarding than I ever imagined. 

Stay your life. Stay your life.

Chris’ Take Residence Factors

Man Plans, God Laughs

Lots of you, like me, are planners. If we’re being sincere a extra correct description can be management freaks. Studying by means of components of Margot and Nick’s story made my coronary heart race and palms sweat just a little as I wager it did a few of yours. To call just some examples….

  • Nick “hanging it up” after a layoff, regardless of not having his funds so as,
  • Margot shortselling her home on the final second earlier than foreclosures,
  • Holding “speculative inventory” positions into retirement,
  • Each Nick and Margot assembly what’s lots of our best private and monetary fears head on, receiving severe medical diagnoses.

And but they not solely handle life, however reside a lifetime of journey most of us even with good well being and much bigger portfolios can be afraid to pursue.

Margot suffered the lack of her brother. She grieved his passing. Then, relatively than dwelling on shedding him or feeling uneasy in regards to the cash he left her, she made the lively choice to deal with the blessing of receiving an inheritance, being grateful for what she acquired, and utilizing it to reside life much more totally from that time ahead. 

Studying this story won’t make me cease being a planner, and I hope that isn’t what you are taking from it both. Nevertheless, it’ll function a reminder for me, and hopefully you, that there are various issues we don’t management. Inevitably issues will occur, each good and unhealthy (and generally each directly!), that aren’t in our plans.

Our success and failure in life and retirement are usually not finally decided by these issues that occur to us, however in how we cope with and transfer ahead from them.

The Function of Flexibility and Figuring out When You Have “Sufficient”

A significant factor in Nick and Margot’s means to maneuver ahead is their means to be versatile and inventive. A possible issue for his or her creativity and unconventional strategy is the concept necessity is the mom of invention.

Many people obsess about whether or not we’ve got sufficient, and within the course of find yourself with greater than sufficient. Generally we find yourself with far greater than sufficient.

There’s a physique of analysis displaying most retirees won’t ever draw down their retirement portfolios. This can be a widespread sample I observe in readers I’ve spoken to and supersavers I do planning work with.

Margot and Nick have low mounted prices (no dwelling, no automotive, few possessions). They’re able to discover artistic methods to decrease housing, transportation, and journey prices (home/pet sitting, comped cruises, bank card journey rewards, flexibility, and so forth.).

They reside a lifetime of journey and journey that folks with far bigger web worths solely dream of. Charitable giving can also be a precedence.

Kudos to them for making this work and utilizing the assets they should construct the life they need to reside!

If you need to share your story to assist others study from it, ship me an electronic mail at

* * *

Priceless Assets

  • The Greatest Retirement Calculators will help you carry out detailed retirement simulations together with modeling withdrawal methods, federal and state earnings taxes, healthcare bills, and extra. Can I Retire But? companions with two of the very best.
  • Free Journey or Money Again with bank card rewards and join bonuses.
  • Monitor Your Funding Portfolio
    • Join a free Private Capital account to achieve entry to trace your asset allocation, funding efficiency, particular person account balances, web value, money circulation, and funding bills.
  • Our Books

* * *

[Chris Mamula used principles of traditional retirement planning, combined with creative lifestyle design, to retire from a career as a physical therapist at age 41. After poor experiences with the financial industry early in his professional life, he educated himself on investing and tax planning. Now he draws on his experience to write about wealth building, DIY investing, financial planning, early retirement, and lifestyle design at Can I Retire Yet? Chris has been featured on MarketWatch, Morningstar, U.S. News & World Report, and Business Insider. He is also the primary author of the book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. You can reach him at]

* * *

Disclosure: Can I Retire But? has partnered with CardRatings for our protection of bank card merchandise. Can I Retire But? and CardRatings might obtain a fee from card issuers. Different hyperlinks on this website, just like the Amazon, NewRetirement, Pralana, and Private Capital hyperlinks are additionally affiliate hyperlinks. As an affiliate we earn from qualifying purchases. Should you click on on considered one of these hyperlinks and purchase from the affiliated firm, then we obtain some compensation. The earnings helps to maintain this weblog going. Affiliate hyperlinks don’t enhance your value, and we solely use them for services or products that we’re acquainted with and that we really feel might ship worth to you. Against this, we’ve got restricted management over a lot of the show advertisements on this website. Although we do try to dam objectionable content material. Purchaser beware.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments