Sometimes I feel a bit like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, who had to escape south of the border to escape the law. In my case, the law was not on my heels, and I didn’t have to go all the way to Argentina, but that damn COVID virus was definitely breathing down our necks. And it messed up all our plans, just like many of you.
My girlfriend, Kathleen and I, permanently left the US in February 2019 with no intention to return. We sold everything that was sellable, got rid of the rest, and with just a few backpacks and one suitcase each, we split for Spain. We are not the first and will not be the last ones to make such a bold move, but considering I never traveled internationally until 2016, the three weeks I spent in Europe four years ago changed my life. The other thing that made our exodus more unique was that I was 64 and Kat was 66 at the time, and had only been dating for about a year. Met online, Match.com, of all things–how Millennial like! And it was the Millennials that inspired me to travel LIKE them and to follow their paths as intrepid nomads, putting travel at the top of the list and living for the moment, not for the future.
During the summer of 2016 I was offered the chance to speak overseas in Amsterdam, Prague and Warsaw. The event company was paying the airfare and lodging for the one night I would be speaking at each location, so I decided that it was time for me to see what Europe was really like. With just a 48 liter backpack, I visited six countries over 19 days and came home a changed person.
I was shocked, and so impressed at the European mindset. They lived to live, not just to work, and they traveled so effortlessly. Especially the younger generation. Differences in language, currency and customs was not intimidating and they boarded trains, planes and buses without effort. Meanwhile, this then 62 year old me had to double and triple think every step to make sure I wasn’t doing it wrong.
Even before this trip I had been a student and teacher of the generational differences between Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials, and was aware of how different the bookend generations were from each other. The Millennials, born between 1981-1996, are now between 24 and 39 years old. They think differently and there has been a lot of controversy and criticism about them, but the way they traveled, well, it inspired me.
When I returned to the US from my overseas sojourn I committed to traveling more. I was a single man, newly free the last three years after a 27 year marriage, and when I reinvented myself at age 59 I decided to live for Fun, Laughter, Adventure, and Love. I found all of those, but international travel was the weak link in my plan, so when I came back to California from Europe, I knew I would travel more.
Over the next year a quick trip to Iceland (amazing!) and to Barcelona in January 2018 convinced me that 1) there was nothing tying me to the US, California, or Orange County where I lived, and 2) I truly could work location independent, and as long as I had internet access I could write and consult and 3) if I didn’t do it soon I would forever regret it.
Kathleen and I met when I had the Barcelona trip planned and I invited her along. We went in winter and were shocked at how cheap the airfare and lodging was. SO much cheaper than California!
Nothing happens by accident and I was offered a chance to go to Madrid, Spain for a business event the following August for four days, expenses paid, so Kat and I decided to extend that out to six weeks and focus on Spain and Portugal.
I was already a fan of Airbnbs and found them to be a much better option to hotels, so we developed an itinerary to get to Spain about one week before the event and stay for another five weeks afterwards. Over the course of those six weeks we had many things on our minds, but the number one question was “CAN we do this?” Can we leave the country we were born and raised in over the past six decades, leave friends, family, conveniences and face language and currency issues along with more uncertainty than ever before?
The answer was a resounding YES.
We traversed Spain from Barcelona to Madrid, then visited Lisbon, Portugal and all of that coast, too. On our return back through Spain we hit Cadiz, the country of Gibraltar and Malaga and finished our life altering adventure on the island of Menorca for ten days.
As a long time motorcycle rider, we rented bikes in several cities and did likewise on Menorca. That final idyllic leg of our trip had us 90 percent convinced that YES, we could do it.
Fast forward to this Bizarro year of 2020 when our lives were permanently changed forever. And it absolutely, certainly and dramatically changed the world of travel, which was key to our adventure.
We began this year on New Year’s Day in Singapore and spent the first two months in Asia. We returned to the US in March for a wedding and another business event in Florida, and had about two weeks to kill during that time. Our intention was to return back to Europe…
And THAT is how we got to Mexico.
A two week timeout that is now six months old and will continue until who knows when. But truth is, we are hunkering down in Puerto Morelos, just south of Cancun, in this amazing fishing village with turquoise blue water, very, VERY affordable lodging and amazing people, both locals and ex-pats.
The time out has given Kathleen and I time to truly chill after 14 months on the road and visiting 33 different countries, and maybe that is what the Universe intended. Maybe this WAS a way for Mother Nature to slow us down—hell, to slow everyone down!–and now move forward with new eyes and ideas.
Time will tell, and so will I, as I share the experiences of traveling like a Millennial, living like full time nomads, finding amazement and beauty all over the world, and maybe, just maybe, I can open your minds to the fact that you are NOT too old to travel; you CAN afford it, and it is NOT that difficult.
Check out these other great articles on travel:
Wine Not? Wine Series #1- Destinatino: South Of The Border by Rebecca Merrell
Quarantined In Paradise by James Brownold