Up until now, I have visited 14 countries and I have lived in 3, and in most cases I have never paid a dime to get around. I must admit that more travel is not (no more) a high ranking priority in my case, but I would be happy to give you some tips on how to combine traveling would with into extreme retirement plans (thanks for the question Brad!). I think those who like to travel have basically been stuck in the same place for a large part of their life and now they yearn for new experiences just to bring back some balance. That’s just my theory, though.

As I understand there are four different ways of traveling.

  1. Tourism. Tourism usually involves paying a company to arrange the trip for you. It typically lasts 7-10 hectic days where the family is dragged around to stare at various buildings and have their picture taken in front of them. Later they return exhausted. Insofar that I can understand a 13 hour plane trip is better than a 5 hour plane trip, because the destination is more “exotic”, but other than that and the price level there is little difference other than fewer people can afford the exotic vacation. Maybe that is where the attraction lies. More advanced tourists book their own flights and arrange their own hotels. There’s really nothing to it. I usually use expedia, google, and the airport homepage (to see about the shuttle services) to map out my destination. In my experience, you can solve any problem if a) you can carry all your luggage and b) you got cash. I have met more than one traveller who was stuck somewhere because they could not afford a ticket due to some unforeseen circumstance. Regardless, I am like the worst tourist ever to the point where I prefer to stay in the hotel room reading a book rather than having my picture taken in front of some building. I’m probably missing the point.
  2. Career travel. This is how most of my traveling has been done either during my research career or as a member of the swim team. I have a theory that most scientific/business conferences are so boring that they have to be placed on the other side of the world to attract people. Personally I prefer it if they could be held at a Motel 6 down the street. Then again, I’m no fun when it comes to these things. What you need to do for this to work is of course to be in a career that involves travel. Working for the airline industry is a sure hit. I like to travel slowly though, so if this was my goal and depending on which you like most – containers or rich people – I would consider joining a cargo ship crew or a yacht (a yacht captain can easily swing six figures, think about it!). Being financially independent, this should be doable.
  3. Volunteering. There are many places that needs your help. Typically they will pay for your stay along with a stipend and sometimes they will also pay for your plane ticket. Some people almost make a career out of this. Volunteering in one place after another, they become rich in experiences but not money (which would you rather have?). In a way I envy these people. As they are always able to pick up a job practically anywhere in the world, they are truly financially independent.
  4. Living. Sadly, while the world is all about free trade, it is not so happy about the free movement of people. Of course there are ways around this 😉 Most countries will permit you to stay 90-180 days. What some people do is to find a source of income that is not location dependent (like blogging) and then they start traveling around (like this guy). For citizens of some countries (not the US), this means that you don’t pay taxes anymore (you’re just visiting on a tourist visa and you are not a resident of your home country, see!). As far as I know, the US is one of the few countries that taxes its citizens even if they don’t live in their country and use its services. MyCountry does not 😉 You could also combine this with a career like I have done. There is simply no comparison between actually living in a country and just visiting it if you want to understand the culture.

So with either financial independence (=plenty of opportunities) or some planning or even by making some hard choices, traveling is fairly easy to do, so if that is what you want, it is doable. Like all other things, I guess.

Originally posted 2008-08-25 07:15:15.