Three years ago, Lynne Martin was “living the California dream … in a darling house,” as she describes it, when she had an epiphany: The author of “Home Sweet Anywhere” wanted to give it all up to travel the world.
“I finally got up the courage to say, ‘I’m going to be 70 pretty soon and there are so many places I want to see’ … and Tim [Martin’s husband] said, ‘How do we do that? Just leave all this behind?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, pretty much,’” says Martin.
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Just four months later, the Martins sold their house and hit the road with just two suitcases and two computers. The Martins have traveled through Europe and South America, and they have no plans to settle down. They spend a month or longer in each destination so they can truly explore and live like locals.
Martin, now 73, shared her pearls of wisdom on giving it all up in the name of wanderlust.
1. Do the math: Martin says she and her husband crunched the numbers on the costs of living in their California house as opposed to living on the road. Much to their surprise, they learned that living on the road was slightly cheaper.
She says it is vital to make sure you can afford your trips. “Do those calculations,” says Martin. “You certainly don’t want to spend your capital. We have an investment portfolio that we don’t touch.” Martin says she and her husband only use the profits from their investments, social security and money from selling their house to travel.
2. Live like a local: The Martins love traveling, but they’re careful not to act like high rollers on vacation. Most importantly, they always stay in vacation rentals instead of hotels. “We have a refrigerator full of food and most of the time we eat at home, just like we would if we were in California,” says Martin. “The difference is we’re in thrilling places like Paris or Portugal or Italy.” Martin says they also usually stay in residential neighborhoods instead of tourist areas.
3. Plan ahead: Satisfying your wanderlust doesn’t mean you should be reckless. You don’t want to get stranded without a place to stay; you also want to make sure you’re sticking to your budget. “We know pretty much six months in advance where we’re going to go because we’re too mature to wing it,” says Martin. “The last time we were on the road was for nine months. We were pretty well-organized before we left.”
4. Get rid of what you don’t need: The Martins need to be ready to leave every few months, so they only carry two suitcases. “Our rule is if you buy something, something else has to go out,” says Martin. “That’s how it has to be. Sometimes we even rent clothes.” Martin admits that it means you have to get accustomed to wearing the same clothes over and over again. “We want to burn our clothes when we get home,” she says.
The Martins also have a storage unit in the U.S. so they can swap out their things when they return.
5. Learn the language: You certainly don’t need to be fluent, but Martin says it’s helpful to learn a few key phrases wherever you are. “Please, thank you, excuse me and beg your pardon are useful,” says Martin. “People are really pretty wonderful when you try to speak their language.”
6. Take a day off: Martin says she and her husband would not enjoy their travels nearly as much if they didn’t take off a few days once in a while to relax. “When you know you have a month to explore a place, there isn’t this sense of urgency,” she says. “We learned that we have to take time on the road to regroup. We have to spend days at home to completely cocoon and rest up.” Martin says doing this helps her recharge and regain her energy.
Follow Andrea Park on Twitter: @andreapark