Have you ever dreamed of selling everything and taking off to travel the world?

The Backpacking Housewife World Travel

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.

Exploring Honduras Central America.  The Backpacking Housewife.
Exploring Honduras Central America. My husband and I were in our mid-fifties when we sold up and flew away.

 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.

Selling the House to Travel The Backpacking Housewife

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.

Selling everything to travel the world The Backpacking Housewife

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.

Travel Around The World with The Backpacking Housewife
Backpacking Around The 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!

Travel Ban 2020

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.

Island Life The Backpacking Housewife
We were looking forward to spending the summer on a small island off the coast of Honduras

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.

Plans falling like dominoes
All our plans for 2020 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!

The Backpacking Housewife 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.

A lot has changed within a generation. Empty-nesters are increasingly looking to travel.

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?

How much does it cost to travel the world? The Backpacking Housewife
How much does it 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.

The Backpacking Housewife enjoying a sunset in Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
The Backpacking Housewife enjoying a sunset in Kota Kinabalu Malaysia

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. 

Did I happen to mention that all my bestselling romantic adventure books are available from Amazon and that The Backpacking Housewife series of books are published by HarperCollins?

Tha Backpacking Housewife Series
The Backpacking Housewife Series

I’ll also be offering competitions and giveaways so why not consider subscribing to my occasional newsletter?

The Backpacking Housewife exploring the island of La Digue in Seychelles by bicycle
Exploring the island of La Digue in Seychelles by bicycle

And so back to my original question…

Have you ever thought of selling everything and taking off to travel the world?

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16 comments

Ryan K Biddulph -

Good for you Janice. My wife and I have been digital nomads for about a decade but became full time homeless in July of 2020 when my wife sold the house she inherited after her mother’s passing. We live out of a suitcase and carry on; nothing feels more freeing because although challenging at times, living with almost no attachments allows you to hit the road at the stop of a dime.

Ryan

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JANICE HORTON -

Hi Ryan! There really is something strangely liberating about not having any ‘stuff’ isn’t there? I wished I’d realised it sooner in life. If you don’t own anything except for a few items of necessity – I mean a phone and a laptop and a few changes of clothes – then you really don’t have any cares or responsibilities or complications to get in the way of truly living. And, as you’ve said, you can hit the road at the stop of a dime. I’m still envious of you and your wife being in sunny Panama btw! From Janice the backpacking housewife in cold and rainy Scotland.

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f2lf2rh -

I found you through the 10k challenge. We also sold our home and a lot of our stuff to travel fulltime in an RV. With that aspect, COVID has not stopped us as wherever, we go, we are in our own home! Wishing you safe travels sooner than later!

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JANICE HORTON -

Hi and I’m glad you found me here at the Backpacking Housewife and thanks for leaving your lovely comment. I’m pleased to hear your RV lifestyle hasn’t been too affected by the Covid crisis – that’s wonderful. I’m hopeful for travel opportunities later in 2021. Safe travels to you too! Janice xx

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Vicky -

This is quite inspiring. My partner and I are in our early 30’s. We own a house which we have made approximately £125k on from renovations. We love to travel and we are seriously considering selling up, quitting our jobs and doing some travelling before we purchase another house.

Any advice?

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JANICE HORTON -

Hi Vicky – thanks for your comment and for your question. Right now, I would only advise the planning of international travel rather than actually travelling during these uncertain times. BUT I love that you and your husband are seriously considering travel before you settle down to buy a new house and all that it entails. In the meantime, maybe you could fine-tune your top destination list and work out your budget and allow time to chat together about the fabulous experiences you’ll both want to enjoy while travelling. Planning to accommodate each other’s ‘greatest wishes’ list is part of the fun! Right now, while we are all paused, the backpacking husband and I are also dreaming and planning of our future travels. Please do let me know your itinerary when you have it – and do keep popping back to thebackpackinghousewife.com for more travel destination ideas – as I’ve got lots of catching up to do with posting.
Best regards, Janice xx

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Best time to see Northern Lights in Iceland -

Hey Janice! I am thinking about selling everything and travelling the world without looking back from time to time, planning accordingly will someday help me get there. I love the way you said that it takes “planning, good timing, and bravery on your part” – this is so true.

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JANICE HORTON -

Thanks for leaving your lovely comment. I think it’s great that you are planning to travel the world! I’m currently in Europe – housesitting in the south of France – while finishing up writing the third book in my contract for The Backpacking Housewife series of romantic adventure novels with HarperCollins. Almost done and now planning some adventurous and exciting travels for 2020. Do pop back for updates and let me know how you get on?

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Jayne -

Hi Janice hope you’re still travelling! I’ve just been made redundant, my partner is from SA and struggles with the UK weather and we’re thinking – let’s just sell the house and go see the world! We’re both almost 50 – I will hopefully have good pensions – so should we do it? Just the guilt of elderly parents and what to do after!!

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JANICE HORTON -

Hi Jayne – thanks for your lovely message. It’s great to hear from you and it sounds like you are at an exciting stage in your life! Of course, I would wholeheartedly recommend travel to you and your partner (I understand about the UK weather!) but only you can make the right decisions together about committing to long term travel. If you’re not sure then why not try it out first? Rent out your house or get in housesitters and try a three-month trip to see how it pans out? Let me know if you decide to do it! Right now my husband and I have wanderlust again and are making plans for travel in early 2020. We’ve been housesitting in beautiful France for a while as I’ve been busy working on completing my HarperCollins contract for three Backpacking Housewife books.

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Lee-Anne -

This is my dream! I did it as a gap yearer and I love travel so much I forgot to go back to studies. I now want to do this as a mid-lifer.

The one thing that stops me is the fear of giving up my home. I live in London where owning your own home is extremely rare. To give up that privilege seems crazy to me. I also feel like a need a base I can return to recharge before I head off again. So my question is, what do you do when you need to settle for a bit while travelling? When you need to settle for a month or two?

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JANICE HORTON -

Hi Lee-Anne – thank you so much for getting in touch and for your question. I understand about your home and so why don’t you rent it out while you travel? That way you can cover your current home costs or use the income for accommodation while you are travelling. If the thought of renting doesn’t appeal and money isn’t so much an issue then getting in housesitters might be a way to keep your home safe and maintained while you are away (and any pets looked after too). We are currently housesitting in the South of France and that’s how we achieve a period of downtime and feeling settled in between travels. I find that when I’m writing – and I’m currently working on two books to be published in 2019 by Harper Collins – I need to be settled in order to establish a proper routine. As nomads with no home base this works really well for us as we choose homesits for a few months at a time. Our current homeowners are travelling around Asia and New Zealand and while they are away we make sure the house is safe and properly maintained and all their animals are loved and cared for – no money changes hands – and we find it a perfect respite between travels. Maybe it could work for you?

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Esther - Little Explorer Adventures -

Wow! This is what I’d love to do when my son has grown up. Although, I’m hoping we will have an opportunity to live abroad before then. It’s definitely what we’re working towards 🙂

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JANICE HORTON -

Hi Esther – I’m glad to hear of your exciting plans to travel and live abroad. Keep in touch and let me know how it goes and where you go!

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JANICE HORTON -

Wow Deahh – I’m excited for you! I bet you can’t wait to get started. Will you be writing a blog on all your adventures? If so let me know and I’ll be sure to follow it. Happy travels!

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deahh -

We left home for a year 2014-2015 and traveled from Australia up through SE Asia. We were renting our house out at the time. We returned to home,and work, for three years, but now (next month) we are setting off again- this time for who knows how long. We sold the house, put some boxes in storage, and are heading to Middle Asia soon. Can’t wait to see what the next few months brings us!

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