Travel the World Before You Retire

Updated May, 2018

Want to travel the world, but aren’t yet retired? Don’t let that stop you.

Most of us were raised to believe that after school, we would settle into a career and then work into our sixties when we’d finally saved enough money to retire. At that point, we could finally leave work entirely and begin our dream of travel. Problem is, most of us get the urge to travel far earlier in life. We want to take advantage of good health and relative financial flexibility.

But the world has changed. The internet, a changing job market, and cheap airfares have made it quite possible to travel full-time. We’re living proof that you can travel before you retire.

You see, we’re digital nomads, and our numbers are growing.

A recent article by Tanya Mohn in the NYTimes quoted Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research, who says, “We still don’t know how many digital nomads there are. It’s hard to measure, but it’s pretty clearly growing at a strong rate.”

According to King, the two groups fueling the trend are millennials and baby boomers. Yes, you read that right, baby boomers, because according to King, they have the financial resources and flexibility.

Well, perhaps not enough financial resources to retire, but definitely enough to launch a pre-retirement filled with permanent travel.

There are three necessary conditions for you to be able to travel the world full-time:

  1. You need something that can provide a bit of income. Probably not the same level of income as you have now, but at least enough to fund your drastically reduced living expenses (see below).
  2. You need to adjust your thinking: you are not taking a long-term vacation, i.e. staying in expensive hotels, eating out and buying souvenirs. Instead, you are relocating while still working.
  3. You should stick to areas where the cost of living is less than where you live now. There are literally hundreds of destinations, resort areas among them, where you can live for far less than what you spend now at home.

Below is a chart I created from 2016 figures pulled from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and Statistics Canada. The third column contains savings figures I created myself based on research and our own experience. You can easily see how moving to low-cost areas can add up to significant savings, and therefore decreased demand on your income.

USA and Canada Household Expenditures 2016

Average annual household expenditures 2016

What kind of places are these you might ask? There are countless options, but generally, you want those that have a lower cost of living, but also good infrastructure, namely internet, transportation, and healthcare.

Here are just a few examples of popular digital nomad destinations where you can live for far less in no particular order.

Lisbon, Portugal

Berlin, Germany

Sofia, Bulgaria

Mexico City

Medellin, Colombia

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

Bali, Indonesia

Think through what would be important in your new digital nomad life, and start researching. A great place to start is numbeo.com.

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