Updated January 2021
My husband and I were in our mid-50’s when we sold everything to travel the world. We’d waited until we were empty nesters and our three children were through university and living life independently of us and, as we weren’t quite old enough to take out a pension and didn’t have much in the way of savings, we decided to liquidate all our assets by selling our home, our cars, and everything we owned in Scotland UK.
We’ve always been interested in travel and we have always prioritized travel in our lives.
Even when our kids were growing up and we were building and renovating our family home and money was tight, we were always working hard to save up for foreign holidays at the same time (at one point I had three part-time jobs) while my husband was starting up his own engineering business.
We always made sure to get away somewhere exciting on a two-week family holiday at least once a year.
Even if it meant delaying our home renovations (building the family home took over a decade) and going without material things (like the fabulous curtain fabric that I’d bought for our sitting room that stood on its roll by the windows for several years) and we always started saving up for the next holiday on the day of our return.
I suppose you could say that we were always planning for a life filled with travel.
Our three boys were always enthusiastic accomplices and are so well-travelled too that perhaps it didn’t surprise them when mum and dad said: ‘Hey boys, we’ve decided to sell everything we own to go off and travel the world!’
How Did We Prepare To Sell Up And Travel The World?
I’m often asked if it was difficult or painful to discard of all our worldly items and things that held precious memories – and the short answer is yes – it really was.
While our house was on the market (it took a full year to sell it) we began by sorting out the loft area where we’d been stashing our surplus items over the past 27 years. In preparation, we downsized our belongings and sold some items of furniture and the contents of my husband’s much-loved man-cave.
Eventually, once the house had sold, our efforts to minimalise our lives and liquidate our assets was ramped up and we then sold our cars and pretty much everything else we owned.
Didn’t we keep anything? Well, actually, yes. By law, we knew that needed to keep hold of our business accounting going back six years. So, as we had to rent a small storage facility anyway, we decided to pack a suitcase each containing our good winter clothes of warm woollen sweaters coats and boots, for if we ever returned to the UK in the winter months.
We also kept a box containing our family photo albums and a file containing our birth and marriage certificates. Plus any small trinkets that had sentimental value and artwork that I really loved and a box of first edition books (I had a fabulous library of books) that I simply couldn’t bear to part with.
Interestingly, this year, when we returned to the UK in March, we went to our storage facility and disposed of all the outdated business accounts and I sold the artwork and the books. I’d decided that if I’d managed to live without them for the past six years, I really didn’t need them, after all.
Things that we didn’t or couldn’t sell we gave away. Clothes and small appliances went to charity shops. The mainstay of my precious book collection I gave to various libraries or charity shops or to friends.
During that busy year of preparation, I did think about all the fabrics and furniture and appliances that I’d once coveted. The things I’d had to save for – sometimes for years – to furnish and decorate our beautiful family home.
But I never once faltered in my belief that we were doing the right thing. We were chasing our dream of living a life of travel and adventure – before we got too old to do it – and before any other factor could stop us.
And, we were prepared to step out of our comfort zone into the world and travel all the way around it with only our backpacks, in order to experience real adventure and learn more about the world around us.
I knew that every pound (£) we salvaged from selling our possessions was going towards sustaining our new life. A life free of any material responsibilities. No mortgage. No cars. No baggage except for what was in our backpacks. I knew it would feel strange. I knew it would be challenging but I was excited. I was ready!
Our dear friends threw us a farewell party. I’m sure they thought we were completely mad and perhaps even having some kind of midlife crisis. But, in our opinion, as none of us will live forever and- unless we suffer the alternative – we are all ageing and only get one life and so why not live your dream life while you can?
Favouring spontaneity and freedom, we started off with something of an ambiguous plan.
But, to start off, we booked flights to the Caribbean via the USA. We planned to spend several months exploring the Caribbean before flying back to The USA and then onto Asia and to make our way slowly around the whole world.
To date, seven years later, we’ve been around the whole world twice and we’ve explored 56 countries.
We’ve had the most incredible experiences – many of which I still have to write about for this website – and we’ve met so many lovely people all over the world. We have absolutely no regrets about selling all our material things.
BUT THEN 2020 HAPPENED!
Right now, as I write this, we are back in Scotland and life has come full circle.
Because, since March 2020, due to the Corona Virus, travel has become impossible.
Borders are closed. Doors are shut. A deadly virus is killing people.
On 12th March 2020, we returned to the UK from housesitting in France (where I’d been writing my Backpacking Housewife Series of books for HarperCollins) flying from Bordeaux into Scotland to see two of our three sons who live in Glasgow and Edinburgh. We’d only envisaged a short stay in the UK to see family and friends before setting off on another epic long-haul backpacking trip around the world.
We had plans to first head over to Central America and then spend another summer in the Caribbean.
We were looking forward to staying on a small island off the coast of Honduras where we’d rent a small house and catch up with our friends and live island life for a while before returning to the UK six months later in October 2020 to attend our eldest son’s wedding in Scotland.
We were aware of Covid-19 but foolishly we didn’t think it would affect our plans.
But the same day we arrived back in the UK was the day all flights were suspended into the USA from Europe. And all the flights, trains, boats and busses we’d booked in advance (against our normal go-with-the-flow policy but to keep tight control on our travel budget) all fell like a row of proverbial dominoes.
We found ourselves stuck. We were homeless.
We couldn’t expect family and friends to give us a place to stay for what looked to be an extended period of time. We quickly realised with a sinking feeling that the situation was serious. We weren’t going anywhere anytime soon and this was going to last for months rather than weeks. I will admit to you that I had a bit of a panic attack.
Luckily, we managed to find a house to rent back in Scotland. We’re currently renting a house very near to where we used to live before and, at first, it felt very strange. I think I was experiencing culture shock.
Prior to being in France, we’d been living in Asia. Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and then Vietnam.
Unexpectedly finding ourselves living back in Scotland was such a shock that it felt both unreal and surreal. It felt as if we’d actually never left at all and the past seven years of travelling had all been nothing but a wonderful dream.
TRAVEL IN THE NEW FUTURE
So why, in the middle of a pandemic, am I still advocating a life of travel and adventure? The answer is because being curtailed and grounded has only increased our passion for wanderlust and fuelled our ambitions to travel again.
When, of course, it’s safe to travel again. This probably means waiting until we have had the Covid-19 vaccine and the infection number – that all-important R Number – is well under control and our confidence is restored.
So, while we are all paused, and while we all have time to plan our travel adventures in the New Future – post-Covid-19 – I hope to inspire you through this website.
That is… if you, like me and my backpacking husband, have ever dreamed of shrugging off the shackles of a materialistic lifestyle and taking off to have fabulous adventures and travel the world!
BUT IT’S NOT THAT EASY!
I hear you! I agree that it’s not easy. It’s likely impossible to take off and leave behind a family, a home, a job and responsibilities. But what about after all that?
I’ve been asked how I can travel across the world and leave my family behind?
Well, my answer is that even when we live in the same country, we don’t get to see family all the time. Our grownup children have their own lives. They have careers and are busy people. Should we sit in the house waiting for them to visit us? Or should we live our own lives to the full and return occasionally when we’ve arranged to spend some quality time together. Or, better yet, encourage them to visit us!
The joy of travel is that we’ve been able to visit our family and friends and they have also visited us, sometimes when we’ve been in far-flung places of the world.
I believe we’ve done a good job bringing our kids up to be successful adults who live independently of us.
Our middle son, when he finished at university in Edinburgh, happily went off to South Korea to teach English. Six years on, he’s still there. He lives in Daegu and he’s now married (read about his fabulous Korean wedding) to his lovely Korean wife and we have a beautiful grandson and – until the Covid-19 Situation – we’ve been able to see them every six months since our grandson was born.
Thanks to social media we can keep in touch with our family every day using Facebook or Skype or Zoom.
But what about in a family emergency? It’s important to note that we have always been prepared to come home (and we have done so) at a moment’s notice. And, wherever we have been in the world, we have never been more than 24 hrs or a day’s flight away. Perhaps the world is more accessible than you think?
These days, more and more mid-lifers and empty nesters are looking at how to incorporate more travel into their lives and how to shake off the shackles that tie them down.
By exploring your own situation – as long as you have reasonable health and access to some savings or a pension payout or assets that you can turn into cash – then a life of freedom and travel is a real possibility rather than just a dream and it really can cost less than you might think – read on to find out more.
Travel in the New Future is becoming a New Trend!
I saw recently that Elle Magazine has been looking into travel trends in the New Future: “Expect to see a heightened thirst for travel in 2021, with people wanting to do, see, and experience more. We’re starting to get itchy feet and think of all of the possibilities that might be afforded to us if we can embrace travel once again when the pandemic’s threat reduces.”
National Geographic says: Life Begins at 50. “Empty-nesters are inspired by their children’s gap years. Young-at-heart empty nesters are increasingly looking to travel. What’s more, they’re heading further afield and for longer, preferring exotica and adventure over slippers and comfort zones.” And goes onto say. “A lot has changed within a generation, and the empty nesters don’t see why they should miss out on what didn’t exist when they were younger.”
In my opinion, it takes planning, good timing, and bravery on your part.
Some home-owning empty-nesters rent out their homes to fund their long-term travel expenses or to cover payments on an existing mortgage. If you don’t have a mortgage to cover then maybe you might want to get some housesitters in to take care of your home and garden while you are away?
Housesitting is a great option to consider not only to facilitate slow-travel but also if you feel uncomfortable not having a home base or if you have a home you are reluctant to sell.
If you don’t own a home and you currently rent then you should see your situation as being a step ahead in flexibility because you can always rent somewhere new!
Then you’ll be able to fly off to your bucket list destinations and experience them for yourself. And, I can tell you that there really is nothing like seeing for yourself all those amazing destinations that had previously only been available to you via a TV screen, a travel blog or an Instagram post.
How much does it actually cost to travel the world?
If you’re smart and savvy about it then it can be much cheaper to travel the world than you think. Especially if you have gone the whole hog and sold up everything because then you’ll have no home-based bills to pay.
Okay, you still have to eat, but you’ll have to eat wherever you are in the world. I can assure you that a delicious noodle dish and a bottle of local beer in Thailand (for example) will set you back a lot less than shopping in (insert the name of your local first-world supermarket) for your dinner.
My Top Travel Tip: Join airline and hotel loyalty programs as soon as you start out and collect miles and points. All the main airlines and major hotel chains have loyalty programs. It’s possible to build up enough points to get free flights. Hotel points usually (in our experience) add up much faster and prove more valuable than air miles and equate to upgraded rooms, perks during your stay, or even free nights. It works for us so be sure to sign up as soon as you start travelling.
Here on The Backpacking Housewife Dotcom right now and in the New Future I’m planning to share with you our own travel adventures and the destinations we’ve explored and to inspire you with our photos of fabulous places.
I’ll be sharing with you all my top tried and tested travel tips. I’ll also be sharing the mind-blowing pinch-me kind of fabulous things that have happened to us over the past few years as well as the mishaps and mayhem experiences that we have encountered as world travelling nomads. Because not everything goes to plan you know!
I’ll also occasionally be posting about my books and the romantic places and adventurous experiences that have inspired my stories.
I’ll also be offering competitions and giveaways so why not consider subscribing to my occasional newsletter?
And so back to my original question…
Have you ever thought of selling everything and taking off to travel the world?