Retirement not only gives you more time to go places — that travel can help you decide where you’d like to live. Although cruises, bus tours and other package trips can be fun, you’ll learn more (and incidentally, save more) by doing it on your own. That trip may change your life.
*Thinking of relocating to another country? Then visit first — long-term Stay at least two weeks, and preferably 1-2 months. (You’d be surprised how many people turn their lives upside down, sight unseen.)
*Thinking of moving to another state, because retirement expenses are said to be lower there? (Money magazine has regular features on this.) See the previous tip. Wyoming, for example, has no income tax, all right — but if you can’t handle windy expanses and a certain amount of ruggedness, don’t bother.
*Don’t fly — until you have to. Take the train or a bus. Rent a car, or even better, a motorbike. (The latter will get you on dirt roads and back areas more easily.) Either will let you go where you want to — rather than just following the crowd.
*Pack light; everything should fit in a small wheeled suitcase, duffel or backpack. Plan for three days’ clothes, items like t-shirts and knits that can be easily handwashed and hung to dry. A pair of lightweight sandals will give your feet a rest. (Wear the heavier shoes you plan to use for walking.)
*Do what the locals do. If you’re in another country, hit the beaches with the fewest tourists. Where do the locals shop, use the internet, have a beer? Go there.
*Same for restaurants. One couple looks for hand-written menu boards, especially with fish: “that means they caught it last night or this morning.” If you want cheap-but-good homestyle cooking, pick the place with the most pickup trucks outside. Or cars — period. (My folks swore by the place with the most semis — and they didn’t eat at truck stops, either.) See here for more offbeat dining tips.
*Talk to someone who lives there. Do it while standing in line, or on the beach. Ask directions. We spent a summer on a motorcycle just before moving cross-country. Our non-Hell’s Angels appearance, gear in tow, prompted an amazing number of people to ask where we were going, and suggest good camping/eating spots, as well as interesting places to visit. People love to talk about themselves, and the place they live.
You’re not fluent in the language? Learn at least a few words (Hello, goodby, how are you, thank you, where’s the bathroom?) and use your smile. Resolve to learn more. Many overseas people love to practice their English, as well.
*Buy your souvenirs at the grocery store or outdoor market. You’ll pay far less for interesting food items than at some fancypants boutique. (Fewer tchotchkes to get rid of, too, if family and friends don’t like their presents.) While you’re there, grab some sandwich fixings and fresh-baked bread for meals. (Most grocery stores will often cook meat, especially seafood, for you right on the spot.) Did you pack plastic utensils in your luggage, for just this reason? You should have.
Just make sure, if you’re overseas, not to bring fresh or dried fruit, veggies, seafood or meat home until you’re sure it will pass through customs. (Often if it’s canned or in a jar, it will.)
Even better: buy direct from the producer. Sadly, we just finished the last of ten pounds of coffee from Finca la Milagrosa in Boquete, Panama. Every cup reminded us of Sr. Tito’s warmth, friendliness…and his delicious product. We can’t wait to go back.