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Becoming a Globetrotting Nomad at 58

The Best Places in the World to Retire founder embarks on an adventure

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I was at a lecture a few years ago where the speaker casually mentioned that most members of the audience were in the final third of their lives. As I looked around, I saw a lot of “old people,” so it seemed like he was right. Then, I did the math relative to myself. Oh, no! He was talking about me! I realized I was now in the last third of my life. (I’m now 58.) I had never stopped to think about it.

Even before that, I was speaking with a friend who was a few years older than me and in perfect health. He predicted that, given how long he keeps things, he would probably purchase just one more car in his lifetime and had likely bought all the suits he would ever own. “How strange for him,” I thought, until I did the math for myself. I had probably purchased my last suit, too.

Then a year ago in May, while playing basketball, I tore my Achilles tendon. It was just another reminder that not only is tomorrow promised to no one, but neither is the health to live life actively — which, to me, is important.

Every day, whether we want to or not, we play Russian Roulette with our health and even our lives. One day, something will happen; we just don’t know when. I began wondering: Would I wait too long to do the things I wanted to, and then not be able to at all?

I began wondering: Would I wait too long to do the things I wanted to, and then not be able to at all?

Becoming a Digital Nomad

The possibility of having regrets was too much for me to bear, so I decided not to wait any longer. That’s why, a few months back, my wife Jet Metier and I decided to become nomads.

We sold our four-bedroom home in Tucson, gave away about half our stuff and put all the other stuff that we couldn’t fit into a huge van we purchased for our adventure into storage.

As the co-founder (with my wife) of the website Best Places in the World to Retire, I had created the business to be able to be run it from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. I have people working for me in the Philippines and Finland, customers in Central America and Portugal, and people from all over the world as visitors to the site. There was nothing holding me back from life as a digital nomad except for the imagination and the courage to do it.

The Plan for Our Travel Adventure

Our plan is to be mobile, and to “live” at various vacation rentals for six weeks to several months at a time. Since our site is about retiring abroad, our new lifestyle has the added advantage of eventually allowing me to include our experiences among the 500+ expats on our site who answer questions and tell their stories about living abroad.

On April 4, we left Arizona, and recently we were in Chico, Calif. Our rough plan: to drive from there to La Paz, in Baja California, take a ferry to the Puerto Vallarta area, drive the highlands of Mexico to Ajijic / Lake Chapala and then to San Miguel de Allende, reputed to have some of the best weather anywhere. We’ll then drive down to Merida, in the Yucatan Peninsula, over to Belize, and along the way, perhaps visit Nicaragua and Panama. If we can get someone we trust to watch our two dogs, we may even visit Portugal. (By the way, my Spanish is extremely elementary, my wife’s is close to nonexistent, and neither of us speaks Portuguese.)

I’m writing regular updates on my Facebook page. Periodically, I’ll write about my experience for NextAvenue, so perhaps you can see if something like what we’re doing or one of the places we visit would be good for you.

What Drives Humans

I’m a big fan of Jonathan Look (another nomad traveling the world and a Next Avenue writer) who recently related a quote from a book by journalist and entrepreneur Steven Kotler. It said that once basic survival needs have been met, the three drivers that motivate humans most are: a combination of autonomy (the desire to direct your own life), mastery (the desire to learn, explore and be creative) and purpose (the desire to matter, to contribute to the world).

All three apply to our adventure. So, for me, this observation is “dead on.”

The Giant Wind Chime

One story from our trip: In front of the sidewalk of the house across the street from where we stayed in Chico was a giant wind chime. In fact, it was five times larger than the largest one I’ve ever seen. Towards the bottom, like all wind chimes, it had a wind catcher attached to a rope that, if pulled to one side, caused the wind chime to make a sound.

Would you walk across the street to pull the rope to see what sound the giant wind chime makes?

When I asked our landlady (who has lived across from the wind chime since 1987) if she ever pulled the rope, she was a bit perplexed that I would even ask the question. No, she had not (even though it was sitting there, looking right at her, for decades).

I asked my wife if she would pull the rope. Like the landlady, she would not.

So I guess we can divide the world into two groups: those who would pull the rope of a giant wind chime and those who would not.

If you don’t pull the rope, of course, you’ll never know the sound it makes.

Would you pull the rope?

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