Traveling in retirement: Seeing the world

Ask people what they plan to do in retirement and the number one response is typically more travel. It may be the dream cruise, hiking the Inca trail, experiencing the Silk Road, or tasting wine in France and Italy.

About 86 % of those planning their retirement honeymoons include some form of travel to enjoy their newfound freedom. Shoulder seasons take on a whole new significance when you can travel when you wish. Travel styles differ widely from RVs and fifth wheels to villas in Tuscany to campgrounds in Australia to mission trips in Nicaragua. Pocketbooks, states of health, personal taste and imagination guide how one goes about hitting the road and seeing the world.

The frugal traveler

I have friends who combine work and travel. One couple consists of a handyman mechanic and ‘whiz-at-cleaning’ wife who go to France for three weeks to a month in April to get a villa in the South of France ready for the season and then they take their earnings and travel for another month. Others teach English in places like China or Korea and then spend their earnings on exploring more of that part of the world.

A friend of mine has worked as a nanny, a tutor, a companion for an elderly couple, a preschool aide, and a housekeeper in many exotic parts of the world. She scans the internet in various languages for such opportunities. Others act as guides or translators on tours, work at parks, deliver vehicles, or get jobs on cruise ships or on farms. Lots of resources are out there for living and working overseas like International Living ( or Jean-Marc Hachey’s books. Figure out what you want to do and experience. Then, get busy making it happen.

Many retirees volunteer with organizations like Habitat for Humanity or do a mission trip where they are billeted locally. Others join an organization like WWOOF ( and work on organic farms for a few hours a day in return for room and board. I did this on a trip to New Zealand and met lots of interesting folks, learned a great deal, and sold produce I had picked, bagged and weighed at the night market in Gisborne. Some work with NGOs, exchange programs, environmental recovery programs, or archeological digs. Volunteers are needed in many areas of expertise all over the world.

Some work, others volunteer, while others simply explore. Another couple I know head to Mexico, Central or South America for three or four months each winter and either work or volunteer in small villages doing everything from painting murals to producing puppet shows as fundraisers for schools. Another couple chooses an inexpensive destination and stays for 2 months a year. They have lived in places like Ecuador, Thailand, and Malaysia. Some study languages by living with families in an immersion situation. Lots of off the beaten path places are still out there to explore and enjoy. Think of all the stories to tell at home.

Do some homework first

A person would need to do some research about the area. Information about climate, safety, health care, the presence of an ex-pat community, the cost of living, and crime rates are some of the areas to check out first.

Then the traveler would make the appropriate medical preparations, obtain any required visas, try to learn some fundamentals of the local language, then embrace a sense of adventure and go!

Other styles of travel from renting a villa in Croatia and inviting your friends, to owning a place in Carefree, Arizona, to taking a cruise around South America all are part of the great range of possibilities in the travel cornucopia.

Do you have any cool stories to share about the frugal or adventurous traveler?


  1. Micki

    I’d suggest to try to do some travelling before you retire. I know so many people who put off travelling until they’re of retirement age, but who never go due to illness, family commitments or injury.
    Donna’s examples of working while travelling could be an excellent way to start.

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