At 64 years old, Norm decided to leave his “normal” life behind for a nomadic lifestyle, traveling the world. He travels to different destinations, staying there for about 6 weeks at a time. He started a blog called Travel Younger, where he shares his story and travel tips geared toward baby boomers and generation X. In this blog post, Norm explains how to use technology to make travel easier.
Traveling used to be easy! Back in the day all we needed to do was contact a travel agent and they took care of all the work. Flights, rooms, cars, all handled in one stop, but at a price.
Then the internet changed things. No longer do we need that third party—we can do it ourselves! Online flights, trains, cars, rooms, activities; all there just a few clicks away.
THOSE are the days I relish, since I am a “do it myself” kind of guy, and I have booked many flights while standing in the airport terminal! Ditto trains and activities.
My first real international trip was in July 2016, at age 62. I spent three weeks in Europe, just me and a backpack, and was blown away at how easy everyone moved around! Even the younger people. They would breeze in and out of train and subway stations, hop off and on buses with earphones in, barely paying attention.
Language barriers, currency variations, or differences in culture never slowed them down an inch. Meanwhile, there I was at my very first stop, Amsterdam airport, looking at a map of the city with indicators for subways and buses, and all I saw was a blur. The fact that none of the city names were less than a dozen letters long did not help, either.
Fast forward to Feb 2019 when I left the US permanently, and got rid of 99 percent of everything I owned. I took note of the Millennials, and learned from them. They mastered the greatest travel invention of all time: the Smart Phone.
When I began my journey I started my blog and book called, “Traveling the World Six Weeks at a Time.” That has grown into two books and over 100 entries, and were it not for COVID, the journey would have continued. Instead, I got “stuck” in Mexico with nowhere to go, but as I write this, wheels are in motion for my travels to continue in July.
As a Baby Boomer, I learned that many of us are afraid of traveling, and though we cannot get around like we used to, if you understand a few things, much of the fear goes away.
Here are the three myths I overcome, and have helped others do the same:
- I’m too old
- It’s too expensive
- It’s too hard
If I can be totally direct, those are mostly BS.
Granted, there is a point when they are more true than we would like to admit, but if you can walk upright with minimal effort and not fall apart, then you may be just old enough! Age is a mindset, yea, I get it, and at age 66, almost 67, it’s not as easy as it was a few years ago. But try, just try, to get reasonably in shape, and you will be able to navigate most city streets, climb into churches and castles, and enjoy 90 percent of what there is to see.
Is it too expensive? I say no, but others may disagree. I know that my overhead living outside the US is about 30-50 percent of what it was in California, and I am supported mostly by my social security payment. After living in 23 countries over 14 months, I found that a $2,000 monthly budget will get you by. I eat what and where I want, but avoid most tourist traps and other expenses. When I stay at a place for six weeks, my goal, I can usually do that for about $1000 per month for rent. These numbers do not apply if you require four-star resorts and a first class lifestyle.
I have no car, no car insurance and most of the bills I had back “home.” The places I stay usually include all utilities, including cable and internet. Mass transit, a joke in much of the US, is very practical, affordable, and accessible in most of the world.
I am on Medicare, and I look at it as an emergency plan, since most medical expenses throughout the world can be paid for very inexpensively out of pocket. If something drastic was needed, I would return to the US, even though I have no home there.
And finally, my magic device: my phone, which takes care of most of the “it’s too hard” issue.
There are apps for almost anything and everything I need. I have all my airlines on there, along with several train and bus options. I can check temperatures all over the world, and currency conversion is effortless. I can use AirBnb, Booking.com, and other accommodation related apps to reserve rooms.
Communication has never been easier, and I use WhatsApp, which is a web based phone that is accessible worldwide for free. I have an Android phone made by Google, called Pixel, and every time I enter a new country my phone finds the best cell phone carrier, and I have data within minutes. No SIM card to mess with.
Google Translate takes care of much of the heavy language barrier issues, and works with spoken words and written ones.
And finally, my Holy Grail: Google Maps. What an amazing stress reliever and time saver! You may have traveled 40, 50 years ago, and had to deal with cumbersome maps, folding and manipulating so you can see the tiny letters. With my Maps program I can find my accommodation, train stations, and even contact taxis through Uber, BOLT, or other comparable programs. In seconds I can know how far Point A is from Point B, and I can find food, gyms, medical facilities…the list is endless.
When I started my story I said that travel used to be easy, but right now, as we work through COVID and returning the world to some degree of sanity, it’s still cumbersome. Visa and health restrictions are a reality that I hate to admit, but, the good news is, they are easing up as we speak. Europe is opening, ditto South America, and the Far East as well.
So, what’s stopping you?
Is your roadblock legitimate, or fear based?
In my case I know there are more years behind me than ahead of me, so I decided to live life for fun, adventure, and love.
By Norm Bour
This story is part of a series of Travel Stories submitted by the Wheel the World community. Read more travel stories, like Chris’s adventure in Norway here.