For many military couples planning their post-retirement transition, one of the main questions is “where should we settle now that we can finally choose where we want to live?”
For my husband and me, the #1 question was: “Where should we travel?”
We decided to take a year off immediately following my husband’s retirement from the Army before finding our next home. Our plan was to do a cross-country U.S. road trip, have a few adventures overseas, and then return to “normal life” somewhere in the U.S.
That’s not what happened, but fortunately, this military story has a good ending.
How we did it
Our round-the-world adventure seemed to present itself, and we couldn’t come up with a compelling reason not to do it.
We had no young children or pets. One of my stepsons was in the Air Force, and the other had access to my husband’s Post-911 GI Bill, so paying for his college was not a concern. Our finances were in order, so we had no debt and no mortgage because we rented our townhouse.
Our military benefits were a huge factor in our decision to embark on this journey. We would have income from my husband’s military pension, health care coverage through TRICARE, and free storage of our household goods for a year post-retirement. All of these benefits, along with the option to fly free using military space-A flights made the choice to travel a no-brainer.
Our first year of travel
As planned, we traveled the U.S., and then flew space-A to Europe, where our three-month stay included a visit to Normandy, one of the top destinations on my husband’s bucket list. After that, we spent two months in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Then, we took military hops to Hawaii and Japan. Our grand finale was a space-A trip back across the world to Spain.
Choosing a new lifestyle
That first year of travel opened our eyes to new possibilities, so rather than settling down in the U.S., we decided to keep traveling. Our wanderlust led to two-and-a-half years living in Japan and numerous other space-A adventures. More than four years after my husband’s retirement, we’re still traveling and have no immediate plans to shelve our suitcases.
Why do we love this nomadic lifestyle? Because our travels have taught us a few things:
- We can live very well in many places outside the U.S. for a fraction of the cost. What’s more, we don’t have to live in a developing country to do it. It was very eye-opening to realize that average salaries in many places like France, Spain, Portugal, and even parts of Japan were actually much lower than my husband’s military pension. The cost of living, in turn, is also lower in these countries than anywhere we’ve lived in the U.S.
- Having less “stuff” makes us happy. In fact, we realized that the more we enjoy our day-to-day life, the less we feel inclined to buy anything.
- The privilege to use military space-A flights makes traveling and living abroad much more feasible. We return to the U.S. regularly to visit family, resupply, and take care of whatever business we need to handle locally. The option to fly space-A makes this back-and-forth affordable.
- We don’t have to declare any place our “forever” home. Many military families look forward to the day when they can buy a house and stay in one place for what they think will be the rest of their lives. But after all those years of moving, many of us quickly get itchy feet and realize that staying put doesn’t suit us. My husband and I enjoyed having a home base in Fukuoka, Japan for a few years, but we look forward to experiencing other cities.
We are in search of our next home base. Not our “forever” home, but another place like Fukuoka, where we can spend at least a few years. Who knows, maybe we will fall in love with our next location and decide our nomadic days are over. But until then, we’re staying light on our feet and enjoying our freedom to pick up and move when the mood strikes!