We recently talked to travel expert Lynne Martin, innovator of the home-free lifestyle and author of “Home Sweet Anywhere: How We Sold Our House, Created a New Life and Saw the World,” and “Cook Like a Local in France” (see links at the end of the article). In this interview, Lynne shares her experiences of living abroad and elaborates on what it takes to make that kind of lifestyle a reality.
So happy you could join us, Lynne! Let’s get right into it with Question #1. How did you get into the home-free lifestyle?
Lynne: My husband and I sold our house and got rid of all of our stuff—which was wonderfully freeing—then we lived around the world for five years in vacation rentals. So, that’s my story, and I wrote a book about it. It was well-received, and I was able to build a following.
As the book took off, I began attracting people to the home-free movement. At the time, it was a novel idea, and we had a lot of people who wanted to follow suit in their golden years. Our message was, Why would you age in Des Moines when you can experience living in Paris, Istanbul, and anywhere else?, and people wanted information on how they could do it.
Now, obviously you’re the travel guru, so Question #2, where is your favorite place to go?
Lynne: My all-time favorite place in the world is Paris, and I’ve lived there for many months repeatedly. It’s flat, it’s easy to get around, it’s wonderful, glorious, gorgeous, and I love the French people and French food, which I wrote a book about. Paris is easily my favorite place.
Question #3: As wonderful as that sounds, surely there are challenges to living abroad. What would you say is the hardest part about the home-free lifestyle?
Lynne: The most difficult part was not having a closet. Try living out of a 32-inch suitcase for five years. It was quite difficult! We packed light and wore black all the time, so we looked like we were going to a funeral every day. That was difficult, but the rest was really pretty easy because we weren’t moving around like you do when you’re a tourist. We would go and stay at least a month in each place, sometimes longer depending on what we were doing.
That’s probably the important thing to keep in mind. You’re not touring in a place. You’re actually living there for an extended period of time. One of our main goals in all that travel was to get to know the culture and to immerse ourselves in the places we went, and to really feel like home while we were there.
Wow, so you really become a part of where you’re traveling. The more you talk about it, the more amazing it sounds. Moving on to Question #4. In your opinion, how has COVID-19 affected travel in general?
Lynne: Well, it went to hell! It was terrible! People were absolutely frozen, stuck right where they were. No one could go anywhere. I knew at least five people who were stuck in different places, and they couldn’t move. So, they had to make the best of it.
But the world recovers from everything somehow, and things are coming back. That’s the good news. I’m planning a little trip right now to see a friend of mine in Oklahoma. When I booked tickets for it online, the website was almost shut down, let me tell you! Travel sites are absolutely inundated right now because everybody’s planning to travel. So, I really believe it’s going to be a tremendous comeback.
It’s encouraging to hear that coming from a travel expert—which leads us to Question #5. As people begin to start looking abroad again, what does the home-free lifestyle look like financially?
Lynne: The simple answer is that you replace your overhead. When you live in a house, you have a lot of overhead, period. If you eliminate that overhead, you can exchange it for living on the road. I’m not talking about staying in hotels and living it up, I’m talking about renting apartments, houses or whatever, and staying put in one place and living in the same economy that the local population is living in—like going to local grocery stores and doing all the stuff you do if you were a local.
Generally speaking, while the two numbers coincide, in some cases they’re lower and in other cases they’re higher. So, what you have to do is sort of level it out. For example, we would go to Paris for six months and then go down to Portugal for a couple months and refill our coffers, since living in Portugal is a lot cheaper. But that’s the trick: you don’t go for a week or two. That’s why we go on a ship and stay for six or nine months. So you balance it all out.
But you can’t live like a tourist, you have to live like a local. That’s the point. Coming back and forth from the United States is expensive, so you go to the places you want to go in a specific region and you live there like a local and not like a tourist. That’s the key to making it work.
Question #6: What would you say is a must-have for anyone interested in the home-free lifestyle?
Lynne: Travel insurance, without question. Travel insurance is an absolute essential.
When we first embarked on living abroad, one of the major the problems we ran into was that Medicare does not work outside of the U.S. So, when you’re on the road for months at a time, and you’re in your golden years, you’ve got to have insurance. That was how we got to know Susan.
Because let’s say you have a heart attack in France–you’d be very lucky because their medical system is terrific–but say something like that happened, and for some reason you needed to get back to the U.S. A good international insurance policy will fly you home and do whatever it takes to get you back to your own caregiver, and it will even allow your companion to come with you. Your number-one concern when living abroad is making sure you have the coverage you need, and that’s what a great international insurance policy is all about.
Plus, I think with the way COVID has affected travel and all the different regulations that airlines and countries have in place, it’s even more important to have an expert, who can make sure that all those bases are covered.
It’s been essential for me to have someone like Susan who knows her stuff, who knows exactly how to find the right insurance to match your needs, because not everybody needs what I need. Because of Susan, we’ve been able to travel the world without any concern about what we would do if something happened to us. We knew we were covered, and it provided a tremendous level of comfort.
Well, we’re tremendously appreciative of you, Lynne. We’re so thankful that we’ve been able to play a part in making it possible for you to live home-free. In closing, Question #7, can people still contact you for travel advice, and if so, how?
Lynne: Absolutely! They can contact me through my blog at homefreeadventures.com, but they can also learn a whole lot more about traveling abroad by reading my book, “Home Sweet Anywhere.” And I always tell people, don’t lend it out! Get it as a gift for someone who’s getting bit by the travel bug, and let it help inspire them about the possibilities. Maybe you’ve always wanted to see Italy. Well, why not live there for 6 months? It’s a lot easier than you might think.
That is inspiring, Lynne! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. We very much appreciate it and wish you the happiest of travels in the coming years.
Lynne: Thank you, the pleasure is all mine!
To learn more from Lynne about what it’s like to live abroad, purchase one of her books on Amazon today.