Melbourne couple, Glenn and Jacqueline Lamb made a life changing decision to turn an adult gap year into a full-time travel lifestyle of adventure and exploration—while spending one third of what it cost at home. Last year they spent time in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Germany, Spain, France, England, Scotland, Cyprus and Dubai. Right now, the couple are in Mexico—and this is just their “normal” life now.
My wife, Jacqueline, and I are early retirees and epitomise the definition of roving retirees. However, it wasn’t always like this. Rewind to 2013 and I was working in the plant nursery at a local hardware warehouse and Jacqueline was a dental nurse.
We’d enjoyed overseas holidays to Europe and Asia over the years, but longed for more freedom than a four-week annual break allowed. On holiday we had seen tourist buses with ‘older’ retirees and discussed many times that we didn’t want to wait until the official retirement age to experience more of the world. We wanted to explore this wonderful world while we were still fit and able.
We started planning how this could be achieved, set a budget and started saving for our own adult gap year. In October 2015 we set off on, what turned out to be, a life-changing 12-month adventure. We lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand for five months, spent a week in Hong Kong and then criss-crossed our way through Europe during the Northern Hemisphere’s spring and summer for six glorious months. We returned to Chiang Mai for one final month on our way back to Australia and our ‘normal’ life.
That trip sparked something inside us — we knew this lifestyle was definitely something we wanted to continue. When we worked out our finances, we were totally sold on the idea.
Our full year’s travel expenses were around $32,000. We had spent about one-third less than our total living costs back home in Melbourne. Reducing our annual living costs and travelling the world full-time would actually benefit our long-term retirement plans.
Six months after we returned home, we were on a flight to Malaysia with all of our possessions — one suitcase and a carry-on bag each. We had sold almost everything we owned except our home (which we rented to provide some income for our travels).
What does a roving retirement look like? It can be whatever you want it to be.
A two-day river cruise down the mighty Mekong River from Northern Thailand to laidback Luang Prabang in Laos started our year last year. Waking in the morning to the sight of local elephants bathing in the river on the opposite bank to our overnight riverside stay was a real highlight.
Next was something that is probably on everyone’s bucket list — the beauty and awe of the ancient Khmer Kingdom near Siem Reap. We had a wonderful few days wandering the jungle that is strewn with temple ruins. The early morning wake-up call to see the sunrise over the majestic Angkor Wat complex is something we will never forget.
The historical Portuguese city of Melacca in Malaysia made for an interesting few days before our 4-hour bus ride to its nearby neighbour, Singapore. This shiny, modern metropolis has just been an airport stopover for us due to its expensive hotel prices. However, five fun days in a high-rise condo in the suburbs, courtesy of a housesitting gig, meant we had zero accommodation costs.
This has really been the key to our affordable roving lifestyle. We came across this by accident just prior to our gap year and it transformed how and where we travel. We get free accommodation in exchange for caring for people’s home and pets when they’re on holiday. As a result, we travel the world for less than $100 per day.
We love Spain and after doing a house sit in Valencia — one of our favourite Spanish cities — we spent a few weeks slowly working our way up the Catalan coast to Barcelona and Girona. The Languedoc- Roussillon region in Southern France was our next destination, another of our favourite places. With beautiful, sun soaked valleys and hills, fields of lavender, medieval towns and white sand beaches we are drawn to this region each summer.
There are so many other things we’ve done this year — a cycling and river cruise along the Rhine River, enjoying the excellent and buzzing Edinburgh Fringe Festival, walking across the ‘green line’ that separates the Turkish North and Cypriot South in Nicosia, Cyprus. Celebrating my birthday with a four-wheel drive desert safari in Dubai was yet another highlight as was marvelling at the amazing Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
Who knows what new destinations and experiences await us in the future. That’s just one more reason we enjoy our roving retirement.