The three wheels that make my travel trike go are time, health and income.
I was fortunate to retire from working not long after I turned 62 with no debilitating health conditions and a modest Social Security income.
When I turned 65, another modest monthly pension check from my former employer started arriving.
But not until I became bored and disillusioned with idle retirement, which happened quickly, did I realize I owned these three important keys to a comfortable life on the global road, which I’ve been enjoying now for more than two years.
Recently a 57-year-old friend I’d met in Peru, who is single with a daughter about to finish college, told me she wished that one day she could travel as I do, and I encouraged her, cheering her on with a peppy “Yes, you can, if you really want to, you can do it.”
Then she challenged me: “OK, you’re the expert, tell me how to do it.”
Now while I do not claim expertise, my friend did get me thinking how lucky I am, but really not so much more than many people approaching their retirement years. It’s just that long-term solo travel needs some planning and forethought, and the earlier you start the better.
You can begin by assessing the state of your own golden travel trike.
What’s your time-frame?
Are you ready to go now or do you have time to get ready? When do you want to begin?
Just thinking about these things means you are already on your way. I took eight months from the day I had my travel epiphany until the day I actually hit the road. But the excitement and anticipation leading up to that day were invigorating.
Next, you need to figure out your resources.
What assets do you have?
Good travel doesn’t have to be expensive, but few good things in life are free. So you need to project what your assets will be. Savings? Private or government pensions? House? Property? Vehicles? Other stuff you could sell to help launch your dream?
Also important are your intrinsic assets, your marketable skills. Maybe you make jewelry, or have internet expertise and could start a blog, or professional skills like drawing, painting, massage, photography, or simply hosting skills that could help you get work in a hostel to help pay your traveling bills. All these things could help sustain your travel life.
Think about your budget and what you might need besides the obvious necessities like food and lodging. You should have some type of insurance in case you get seriously sick or injured, suffer a significant loss from theft, or have some other event that puts a big pothole in your dream road. I use World Nomads for insurance which offers travelers affordable basic protection. But it’s not the only one. Shop around and see what’s right for you.
You also will likely want telephone and/or internet connectivity, etc., so you’ll want to factor in those costs unless you are confident enough to think you will be OK without those connections. There will be myriad other costs as well, but with $1,500 a month, and good planning, you should be able to live comfortably in most places around the world.
Third, how’s your health?
Get in Traveling Shape
Work on your conditioning. And don’t fool yourself, you can start at any age. Even if you only do a little more than you’ve been doing, every little bit helps. Start slowly and keep building on what you do. You’ll need to be fairly fit for traveling on a budget. Eat lots of good whole foods, less junk, avoid sodas and sugar-added drinks, and exercise regularly.
It’s advisable to consult a doctor about your plans, about managing any existing ailments, about your diet and exercise plan, and about any vaccinations you may need to consider getting if traveling to certain parts of the world.
Now you can start adding some bells and whistles to trick out your new trike. One good way is to develop a travel philosophy and start motivating yourself. Turn off the TV. Start reading travel books for inspiration, advice, and tips. Paul Theroux and Rolf Potts are just two contemporary travel writers I recommend, and there are literary giants like Walt Whitman, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, and so many others who can inspire you.
Start scouring the Internet travel blogs. Look at Nomadic Matt, Go Nomad, Travel Life Experiences, and Transitions Abroad, just for a few examples. There are dozens worth following.
Begin to absorb everything you can about travel and tailor the information to your needs and wants as a traveler. You will begin to feel inspired and start dreaming.
What do you want to do as a traveler? Where do you want to go? How do you want to get there? Soon you will start forming an image in your mind of yourself as the traveler you want to be.
Take it seriously, because this kind of travel is not just vacation time. Meaningful travel will enrich your soul, expand your mind, and change your outlook on life in a positive way, which, I believe, should be your goal.
You will learn that you don’t have to visit the latest trendy tourist attractions to have a rewarding travel experience, because fundamentally it’s all about people, not the places you visit or the things you see.
It really doesn’t matter where you are. The best of travel involves the people you meet and the friends you make along the way.
There’s plenty of good advice available almost everywhere you look, and you can accept or reject any of it according to your desires, but I suggest you remember these two valuable travel tools that will add no weight to your bags. Always carry a ready smile and a helping hand.
Start slowly, travel slowly
You can start small, too. Your first trip doesn’t have to be your dream journey around the world. Travel within your own state, or country, and practice doing it on a small budget. Learn to travel light. Go solo if that’s the way you’re planning your big trip. Realize you won’t need as many things as you think you do.
Learn to travel slowly without the need to be in a hurry. When you can, explore a place, get to know the people who live there, have people in the neighborhood where you are staying get to know you. Becoming intimately familiar with a place and the people who live there, even if it’s just a neighborhood, can be a richly rewarding experience.
Keep a record
Keep a journal. Start now, even before you take your first step. Take notes, write down your impressions, your thoughts, plans and ideas before and while you plan your trips, and while you’re on them. You don’t need grandiose prose, you don’t even need prose at all, just something you can understand and refer to later to refresh the memory of your thoughts and ideas about traveling.
Learn the language
Nothing ingratiates you more when you’re in a foreign-speaking destination than when you make the effort to communicate in the local language. Never be ashamed or embarrassed if you stumble. Just try. People will like it and help you.
Take language lessons in a foreign country if you can, immerse yourself in the culture, don’t be afraid. You might consider targeting a large region that speaks the same language, and learn the basics before you go. Wherever you go, people are almost always pleased when they know you’re trying to speak their language rather than just throwing up your hands in frustration and starting to talk in your own language, only louder, as if that’s going to help. It won’t.
I spent my first 12 weeks in Antigua, Guatemala, a small, pleasant, tourist-friendly city that has a number of Spanish schools and individual tutors. I enrolled in Don Pedro de Alvarado Spanish School that included a homestay program so that I lived in a Spanish-speaking home where learning was accelerated through immersion when I wasn’t in class. You also meet local people and travelers like you who are invariably friendly and helpful. I found it an excellent way to get started on your travel journeys.
Even if you decide to jump right into a completely different language environment it still helps to learn to say “please” and “thank you,” “hello,” goodbye,” “bathroom,” and other such basic words and phrases because they will come in handy. Consult Google Translate on your smartphone, or buy a phrase book, or travel with both.
Always try to keep a positive attitude, Things will get difficult at times, you’ll be frustrated, lost, anxious, perhaps even wondering what the hell you are doing. But you’ll learn to let the bad feelings go and that the bad things will pass. And again, it bears repeating, a smile goes a long way toward getting the help you won’t otherwise receive if all you want to do is show other people how upset you can be.
Attitude is a key to your successful travels, and developing your travel philosophy will help you develop the attitude that will pull you through the tough times.
For an overview of my philosophy, read an interview that appeared on the website Transitions Abroad, about 11 months into my journey, or more recently, this interview I did recently with Nomadic Matt.
And some more good information sources:
And, of course, the blog you are reading, www.davidhunterbishop.com, where I will continue posting travel stories and information to help beginning travelers get motivated and get started on this wonderful road. Use the “Talk to Me” page to ask me anything and I will always do my best to help.
I wish you all the luck in the world as you transition your life to the road in retirement, or at any stage of your life, and begin discovering all the fantastic changes in your life that world travel can make.
Get started now!
Paper umbrellas in the photo above are on display in the Bo Sang Handicraft Centre, Chiang Mai, Thailand, where local artisans make and decorate the world famous, traditional Sa Paper umbrellas and parasols by hand.
David Hunter Bishop is a retired journalist from Hawaii who quickly tired of retirement life and hit the road as a solo traveler in August 2016. Since then he's traveled through 16 countries on four continents and is currently enjoying life in Chiang Mai, Thailand. For more about David's journey, see published interviews with Nomadic Matt and Expat Focus, and in A Confluence of Adventure Writers, with Sarawak (Kuching, Malaysia) Tribune writer James Ritchie.
David's Articles On Other Travel Blogs
GARIFUNA SETTLEMENT DAYS: Colorful festivals celebrate Caribbean History and Culture
SELVAMONOS: An Alternative Arts and Music Festival in the Amazon highlands
ANIQUEM: Reinforcing Human Connections Through Travel
PROMISES, PROMISES: Tourists High and Dry in Siem Reap Rip