For most of human pre-history, human beings were nomadic; it wasn’t until the advent of agriculture that some populations began staying put in one location. But plenty of us still feel the urge to move around the world, even in the modern era, including retirees Lynne and Tim Martin.
While on vacation in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, the couple — whose kids were grown and gone, and who would be returning all-too-soon to their California home, complete with a dog, garden, and a lifetime of possessions — came up with a new retirement plan.
"We were sitting on a terrace in Mexico watching the sunset and drinking cocktails, talking about our next trip and I said, 'There's something I've been wanting to tell you. I haven't seen nearly enough of this world that I've always wanted to see. I'm proposing to hit the road, permanently. We are both healthy, and I'd like to experience another kind of life.'"
Lynne was nervous about her proposal, but thankfully her husband’s answer was the best possible one: He said, “I’ve been thinking the exact same thing. But I never thought you'd want to leave your children and grandchildren.” As a result of that honest conversation, they changed their lives permanently.
They sold the house, and got rid of most of their belongings over the course of four months. Lynne describes it as a “challenging period,” because not only were they dealing with their home and things in it, but also the opinions of friends and family.
“People were aghast at this wild idea. We tried to calm their fears, but we had to do what was right for us. It all came together and everyone has forgiven us,” says Lynne.
Loved ones who think you are crazy can be a tough nut to crack, but Lynne says it’s all about perspective: “Here's the thing: At our ages (I'm 73 and my husband is 68) we postpone nothing," she says. "One of the benefits of getting older: That there's the certain fact that you're not going to get another chance at some things."
The Martins consider themselves the founders of the Home Free movement: Simply put, they are living abroad with two suitcases, two computers and “the savvy to make a home almost anywhere,” according to their site.
Apparently, their idea appeals to many. Lynne’s memoir based on their adventures, “Home Sweet Anywhere: How We Sold Our House, Created a New Life, and Saw the World,” is the number one travel book on Amazon.
But why not just keep taking great vacations?
Lynne explains,"The idea is to live like the locals, not tourists, and enjoy experiencing life as if we live there."
How do they do it? The Martins actually rent apartments for a couple of months (or more) and prepare their food at home — which entails shopping with the locals, using local transportation, and insinuating themselves into local living.
Lynne says there are three main rewards to living Home Free: being able to take time to see everything, making friends along the way, and being free of belongings.
“We are not in a big hurry to see everything, like when we were tourists," she says. "Now we are able to just wander, and do as you will, enjoy a trip to the grocery, or have the lady on the corner say ‘bonjour’ and know who we are."
Naturally, being so immersed in the local cultures has enabled the Martins to make fast friends."We have friends all over the world now; people we've met as neighbors, at parties, people we’ve struck up random conversations with — we’ve created a whole new friendship base all over the world," Lynn says.
While there are plenty of young people who call themselves nomads, bopping off to obscure corners of the earth for months or years at a time with tiny backpacks, the idea of retirees attempting something seemingly adventurous is daunting to many people Lynne and Tim’s age — So how is living nomadically different for them?
“We have to plan ahead, because for one thing, we are not young anymore. We need our creature comforts. Thankfully, we are both in good health,” which Lynne says is key to their comfort level for travel.
Thus far, they’ve stuck to countries that have fairly robust infrastructures and good health care: Mexico and Argentina to start, and then countries all over Europe.
Interested in creating your own, similar adventure? After living the Home Free life for a few years now, Lynne has a couple solid pieces of advice:
First, Lynn suggests using thrift stores so you don’t have to carry so much clothes-wise. "We discovered that in England it got colder than we expected, so we walked into a Salvation Army and my husband got a gorgeous topcoat and I found one too," she says. "When we left, we gave them back to Salvation Army. It’s true recycling!" (Another tip: Always carries a knife sharpener, because there are never sharp knives to be found in vacation rentals, she says.)
Secondly, Lynn notes that you don't need to commit right away — try it out first. “Rent your house out and give it a go for a little bit and see how you feel about it," she says. "Do your homework, and take your time planning, as it will make life so much easier. It's a lovely life for us but not everyone has the same spirit of adventure."
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