It’s the beginning of another season, the time of year we think about priorities and how we want to move on in the coming years. You may be retiring soon or want to make a change in how you have retired. This is the time to pause. My husband and I have used such pauses well over the years. In 2007, we met and married more than a year later. We retired embracing one retirement lifestyle; in 2013, made a change; and in 2017, went through another. Now it’s time to do it all over again. Here are the lifestyles we tried and what we want to do next.
1. Full-Time RVing
About 6 months after we married, we retired and decided to live in an RV full time. We rented out our homes, sold some of our belongings, gave away others to family, and stored the rest in the garage of my daughter’s house and the shed of my condo in Seattle. We set out to conquer North America.
For the first 3 months, we simply tried it out and bought a small used 24-foot Class B motorhome. When we were convinced it was the lifestyle we wanted, we bought a membership at a national campground network and upgraded our “home” to a 37.5-foot Class A. The network enabled us to stay at a campground (one of almost 200) for 3 weeks at a time. At the end of this retirement phase, the daily camping cost worked out to be less than $10.
Full-time RVing is perfect for the avid travelers that we were. We crisscrossed the continent six times in 5 years, staying in all 49 continental states, 10 Canadian provinces, and six Mexican states; we visited 35 national parks, 34 national monuments, and hundreds of other national, regional, and state landmarks. It was even more perfect for me: I had just retired and migrated to the U.S. Traveling all over America made its history and culture alive. I really became an American!
We learned a lot about RVing. And we found out that it was a very economical way to live as long as you invested in a good brand second-hand RV from a national chain, joined a reputable campground network spread out over the continent, mostly dined in with the majestic backdrops you find, and loved the outdoors and its bounty.
2. Snowbirding + World Travel
In 2013, when health issues arose for us, we had to tweak our retirement lifestyle. We looked to snowbird, stay put for a few months, and have annual check-ups with a team of doctors. Starting that Christmas season, we parked our RV at the Viewpoint RV and Golf Resort and wintered in the Phoenix area. The rest of the year, we stored the RV and visited family, held family reunions, or took off to explore the rest of the world.
To do this, we invested in two timeshare memberships: one that gave us many resort options around the world and another that had extensive properties all over the U.S.
As a result, we have spent a week each in various towns of Spain, Italy, the UK, Malta, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, France, and Belgium, making them bases for wandering around and touring Morocco, Tunisia, Macedonia, Greece, Serbia, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein. The other allowed us to host week-long family reunions for each of our families in many scenic states. And, since our children’s homes are spread out over three countries and four states, we have gotten to know those locations and their adjoining areas well.
3. Resort Living
We loved this snowbirding phase so much that we decided to stay permanently in Viewpoint and sold our RV. In Christmas 2017, we gifted each other a brand new three-bedroom unit. Three months later, we moved into our new home, getting “lost” in the 1,200 square feet of space, having lived in a cozy 350-square-foot RV for 8 years.
Viewpoint has everything you need for an active 55+ lifestyle (we are in our 70s). I choose from two fitness centers every day; after which I go to the pool, hot tub (there are four available), and sauna. Bill golfs at either of the two courses. We tried our hand at the tennis courts (there are 10) and when we did not do well, contemplated a shift to pickleball (also 10 courts). And Bill loves to take me for pleasant walks around the park in the evening. There are movies, bingo, concerts, dinners, games, parties, and about 50 clubs to choose from. I chose photography, writing, painting, Texas Hold ’Em, and the computer club.
With a big kitchen, I have enjoyed cooking more, tending to my plants has been a new pastime, and I have enjoyed time with valued friends. Staying home has allowed me to get renewed for the demanding and exciting travel days ahead. My travel juices are focused on planning future trips, collecting facts about remaining bucket list items, choosing among competing alternatives, and finding the best deals.
As an endnote, we chose a base in pretty Arizona so that we can have many options for day trips for ourselves and our visitors.
4. Making Another Country A Second Home
In 2017, one timeshare reminded us that we still had 3 weeks that we would lose if we didn’t use the points by the end of the year. We quickly decided to spend that Christmas season in Cozumel. On that Caribbean island, we got a chance to change our retirement lifestyle yet again.
The truth is, Bill would love to retire full-time in Mexico. It was where he had enjoyed months with his family before his first wife passed on. As a compromise, we gifted ourselves with an all-inclusive 3-month leased timeshare we could use in any of the seven resorts in Mazatlan, Puerto Morelos, or Cozumel. This has turned out to be more practical than maintaining a house in a foreign land.
In 2018 and 2019 (impossible in 2020), we went to Mazatlan where, as a bonus, we found a reliable U.S.-educated dentist who provides oral care at one-tenth the cost. We also never have to cook or clean. There are as many as 10 restaurants available, two private beachfronts, steps away from the Zona Dorada (shopping zone), and next to the country club with tennis, golf, pickleball, spa, and fitness facilities free for us to use. It’s also a short drive to downtown Mazatlan and has many day trip options to small quaint Mexican towns.
In 2024, we will shift to the five-star Ventus Resort on the Riviera Maya in Puerto Morelos.
5. Long-Term Cruising For Lifelong Learning
In 1926, its first ship sailed from New Jersey for a voyage of 7 and a half months to 90 ports. It was called the University of Seven Seas; later it came to be called the World Campus Afloat. For the last 57 years, the Institute of Shipboard Education has been conducting the successor program, Semester at Sea. We had a taste of this when we sailed the Baltic countries, Iceland, and all of the UK in 2015.
Actually, the program is available for students. For non-students, the institute makes a part of the ship available for Enrichment Voyages which has since morphed into the Lifelong Learning Program. For a minimum of 30 days, visits to ports are complemented by seminars or workshops while at sea. Seminars are political, economic, historical, geographical, and feature art and architectural discussions of the ports/regions. The same professors with PhDs in their fields who teach the students are seminar leaders. There are also workshops that include arts and crafts, writing and book clubs, dance, yoga, tai chi sessions, etc.
The ship’s facilities may not be as luxurious as regular cruise ships but adequate for the 700 of us: 10 classrooms, 1 large seminar/showroom, another large seminar/ballroom, a piano bar, two dining rooms (buffet and waiter service), a pool and poolside bar, three viewing decks, a gym, spa, sauna and massage wellness center, a library, a computer lab, a cruise ship store, and a medical clinic. WiFi facilities were formerly very limited but now that problem has been solved.
We have yet to try this for a full semester. We will when we feel more comfortable that COVID is no longer the risk that it is in cruising.
6. Making Another Country A First Home
This is what we have not yet tried. There are places where the cost of living is such that you can pretty much live at the same cost as home but be at the backdoor of other dream destinations. You can stay at a Spanish “castle,” a French chatéau, an Italian vineyard, a South American pueblo, or “own” an island in the Philippines! Jackie Smith, a fellow travel blogger, always writes about her “Stone on a Hill” with a small olive orchard in the Peloponnese peninsula of southern Greece.
We are considering renting an apartment either in Ireland, Portugal, or Greece. These countries have special programs to attract retirees to their shores. When we are finally able to decide, we will be at home in Arizona for 3 months for healthcare, spend 3 winter months in Mexico, and live 6 months at a primary European home.
As you can see, we have combined lifestyles. But, if traveling gets to be more tiring, as it will tend to do as we grow older, any one of them can be used to stay put longer and be confident the traveler in us will still be well-served.
Read more about retirement options on TravelAwaits, including these articles: