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Planning Retirement Online

Why play the waiting game with your trip of a lifetime?

If you’re one of those thousands of pre-retirees who are holding off visiting must-see countries, or indeed continents, until you leave work, you may want to think again. Although travelling postretirement is a great motivation, do you really need to put off that trip of a lifetime or are there advantages to grabbing the experience right here, right now? If you’ve already worked out your virtual travel schedules or lists of personal tourist hot spots, is it better to pack your bags pronto rather than simply pack away your plans?! !

We’re Gerhard and Madeleine, a couple in our fifties, and in regular work, who made the seemingly radical decision to take six months out of our ordinary lives to strike out alone through South America rather than wait until we retire. In this piece, we’re going to explain some of the reasons why it worked out for us not to wait. Of course, it won’t make sense for everyone, and some may say we are lucky to be able to make that choice in the first place, but we try and offer practical advice and inspiration now and over the coming weeks on how you make that travel dream a real thing.

Not to begin on a negative point but one of the big reasons for us travelling today rather than tomorrow is health. Gerhard has a pretty rare arthritic condition in his shoulder which means that he may be due for a complete shoulder replacement at some point and, at the least, needs to undergo regular operations. The bottom line is that it won’t get better. He may lose feeling in his left arm. As a guitarist and adventurer, this means he’s keen to strum and travel before it’s too late. And as we clamber over rocks in the high Andes and jump between boats on Lake Titicaca, it’s a reminder that those kind of deteriorating health issues can be universal.

And at this point in our working lives, although we’ve by no means hit the heights of our professions, we’ve managed to establish some kind of job security and confidence in our career path. For Gerhard that means taking advantage of his employer’s allowance for a sabbatical. He will return with his job intact. For me, I gave up my charity role but feel reasonably confident about
applying for another role at the finish of our trip. It’s a gamble in your fifties but one that’s worth taking to secure an earlier trip.

So you think you like travelling but do you know that for sure? Sure enough to plan long retirement trips? Before our journey round South America, the longest I’d been away was a three-week trip to California or the annual German holiday, hardly a model of hardy independent travel. Gap years
just weren’t that common when I left school in the 80s. These months on the road have opened my eyes to how I feel about travel and will definitely inform our plans for any trips we take postretirement.

I know just that little more about myself and how I behave on that long, dusty road in the deserts of northern Chile or the coffee mountains of Colombia. It’s a travel heads-up worth having.

If you’ve been a little bit inspired, or if the themes in this article chime with you and your plans, we hope you will enjoy reading more about the practical side of dipping out of work in our next articles covering topics such as new ways of making use of local information, ensuring your finances work for longer-term travel and keeping in contact with family and friends while you’re away.

You can also read more stories about our travels at

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