Monday, November 4, 2019

Our Half Baked Slow Travel Plans

You'd think that after working towards financial independence and early retirement since 2012, a full seven years, that we'd have a thorough plan of what we want to do right after leaving work. Even though we have some decent ideas of what we'd like to fill our days with -- walking Baby AF and yet-to-exist MC Baby to school, volunteering at school and with local charities, helping with homework, making dinner as a family, writing more on the blog, making a podcast and maybe creating a boardgame -- none of these things on their own is necessarily a 'life plan', whatever that is.

They're a lot of things we enjoy, of course. But they're also things that we are either doing right now, or that we could do if we wanted to. None really require us to leave full time work.

But after years of traveling at our quick pace, maybe four or five days in a city and then on to the next, and seeing that Baby AF traveled like a champ earlier this fall, we've finally come up with a thing we'd like to do that truly would require the freedom of a retirement from our current jobs: some slow travel.

Here are the outlines of our half-baked plan.

  • We don't want to travel until yet-to-be-created MC Baby is one and has the MMR, at least. Our current timeline for would mean this occurs sometime between January and April 2022. 
  • We should hopefully hit FIRE maybe six months or a year earlier than this, but who knows for sure. So much depends on the market when you get close to your FI number. But according to our current estimates, we believe could be done with full time work by then.
  • We're enamored with the idea of spending a year abroad, but each country has different rules for how long you can stay.
  • We'd start by getting an apartment in Lyon for three months, maybe starting in May: apparently US citizens can stay in France for 90 days. AirBNB has some good looking options with their 'Stays' feature. We could also use a real estate agency, or we could even try coordinating direct with a landlord. That would be our home base, and could catch trains to surrounding cities for day trips or weekends away.
  • After our 90 days were up, we'd catch a train or plane to Scotland, and do the same thing there: 90 or 120 days. Since the UK isn't in the Schengen proper, this time in Scotland wouldn't count towards the 90 day visit with 180 days requirement.
  • After that time in Scotland, we could come back to another Schengen country for 90 days, like Portugal or Italy, for the cold winter months.
  • Finally, if we wanted to stretch to a whole year, we could come back to the UK again for the final 3 months of the year: maybe spring in London, with some weekend trips to Paris.
On our last trip, we kind of fell in love with Europe again, and we are kicking around the idea of a year of travel before Baby AF starts kindergarten. With school-age fast approaching for Baby AF, the window for us to take very long trips is surprisingly small, even if we retire early. 

We could get away for two months a year during the summer breaks, of course. And I suppose school abroad is always an option, I'm not sure we're yet up to the task of getting him enrolled in schools in countries abroad just yet.

But if we were going to try to make this year away happen, there are a few big questions we'd need to answer first, too.

What about our pup, Cayenne? We could leave her with my mom, who is retired and who Cayenne loves, since she gardens all day and is happy to toss the ball for hours. And my mom likes the side income she gets when she watches them for us. 

But a year away from the pup is a very long year.

I suppose we could try to bring Cayenne with us as well. But I've heard too many bad stories of people having to put their fur baby into quarantine because of a paperwork issue or a misunderstanding. I'm not sure we want to roll the dice four separate times as we move from country to country every couple months.

While it's a tough call, I think we'd leave Cayenne with my mother. It'll be harder on us, but I think it will better for her to have a home with people around all the time, and a yard to play in, rather than being an apartment dog, moving from strange city to strange city.

That leaves the house. They say you don't want to up your costs right at the start of early retirement, and staying in Europe is definitely going to drum up some housing costs. The simplest option would be to rent our house out for a year, ideally furnished, with our clothes and keepsakes in boxes in the garage. 

If we rented it unfurnished, we'd need to do some serious downsizing and get a large storage unit. Even accounting for the cost of a property manager, pool and yard services, we might be able to net more in rent from our home than we'd be paying in rent on the continent. But unexpected repairs, or a problem with a renter just ghosting on us, would throw a serious wrench in our plans.

Another option would to try to do short term rentals, with something like AirBNB. This would come with more upside potential, but certainly more risk of vacancy, as well. And we don't have experience with this sort of rental. 

While I like to think our home would make for a good AirBNB, and there are some attractive aspects of this, it also requires us to lean heavily on someone to manage the rental while we're gone. Our neighbor might be an option as he's open to side income. Anyway, things to consider.

The final option we were kicking around was a much more modest slow travel option: one month in France, plus another month in Scotland. If we wanted to travel hack a bit and book the stay on AirBNB, we could really drive down the cost with a card like Capital One Venture (taking something like a $900 monthly rent down to a net of $340, when accounting for the $560 credit towards travel...then doing that same thing again with a card in Mrs. Done by Forty's name). The costs would be so low here that we could simply skip renting out our house at all.

Anyway, lots more research to be done and many more decisions to be made. But Mrs. Done by Forty and I are really excited to do another kind of travel. We've seen some places and are grateful for the exploring we've been able to do. 

And seeing how I get 28 days of PTO, something like five and a half weeks a year, I really shouldn't complain. We have seen a lot of the world already and we get ample breaks away from the office to recharge. But, as always, I want more. 

I want the time to wander for a whole day in a part of town I haven't seen yet. I want us to spend a whole day at a beach or park if we want to, without worrying that there are other places we need to see in the last few days we have left in this country. 

And as much as I like visiting a city, I'd like to get a taste, if even a little one, of what it's like to live there, too. 

Even staying abroad for a year, will that get me what I'm after? Will we feel like we're really "living" somewhere after just a few months? Will it scratch the itch? I don't know, but I think we should try to find out.

*Photo is from ARG_Flickr at Flickr Creative Commons.

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  1. Sounds MORE than a HALF baked plan! The dog situation is one reason I'm not in a hurry to get another pet. I have "pet fever," but I know I'm too unsettled with my own plans and living situation to throw that into the equation. Sounds like you have a good alternative though. Can I come visit in France? :)

    1. You can definitely come visit us in France, Tonya! We didn't touch on this in the post, but being away from friends will probably be the roughest part. We'd love to have some friends from the US come chill for a while.

      We have some of the same feelings about getting a second dog now that Jax is gone. But I think we need a better handle on things before we consider having a second pup. Maybe after this year away?

  2. Oof, that's a lot of things to consider. It'd be great to have your neighbor right there, though, if you decide to go with the Airbnb option. And families visiting students would probably love a Tempe location!

    I would definitely worry about quarantine issues with the dog -- especially since you'll be moving four separate times from the sound of it. As you said, it's rolling the dice a few too many times.

    I'm jealous of your slow travel, even if it's a ways off. I'm sure it'll be an amazing time. (And I definitely want to hear more about this board game.)

    1. Hi there, Abby! Yeah if we went with the AirBNB route we'd need someone local we trust, for sure. I think the long term rental is probably more attractive from a risk standpoint: just one tenant to manage.

      Agree on the dog quarantine thing. It would wreck us to think of her in quarantine for months.

      Still lots to plan for this long trip, but I am excited about it, too!

  3. The logistic is very daunting, but go for it! Living in Europe for a year sounds perfect. You can explore all the museums and try local food. Mrs. RB40 was just talking about visiting the UK again. We didn't spend enough time there when we visited.
    I want to take a year off to slow travel too, but I don't know if we can do it. Maybe in a few years. We'd probably have to do it in SE Asia. My parents are getting older and they need more help.

    1. Hi, Joe. I remember you writing about helping out with your parents and I think that's a very cool thing to do, if you're able. I think stuff like that doesn't get as much coverage in the FI community: how the time away from work can be used just to spend more time with our family.

  4. I'm curious what this board game is? Looks like you have a few years to further bake your plans but if you bake them until they are totally done you may have waited too long? Best of luck

    1. Hi there, LOTM! Thanks for stopping by.

      Yeah, I hear what you're saying about waiting too long. We're still working towards FI for now, and we don't want to travel when future kiddo is under one in all likelihood. Throw in the start of Baby AF's kindergarten and that kind of leaves this one year.

      Such is life: sometimes the timing just is what it is.

  5. I think a month give you a good idea of whether you may like to live in a certain city, but probably 3 months is best. You may actually get to feel the social side of a city - would you make friends? Are there clubs you can join to meet others with the same hobbies, etc? Anyway, good luck with your journey and planning!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Kathy. Yeah, we would love to meet some new people and think we might need a few months to make that happen. (Though with our sweet, sweet collection of boardgames, a couple of which might make the trip, maybe we can lure friends to our place sooner than that.)

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