“Home Sweet Anywhere, How We Sold Our House, Created a New Life, and Saw the World” is an inspiring story for anyone nearing retirement age who wants to shake things up and be a senior vagabond. It’s called a memoir but it’s difficult to categorize. Part travel narrative, part “how-to”, part memoir, author Lynne Martin draws you into her world as a modern nomad with an engaging, lighthearted, self-effacing approach to retirement with a twist. Readers who have a specific interest in any one of the genres might be disappointed that it’s not weightier in any particular category but those who just let themselves be carried away with the story without too many preconceived notions will be in for an entertaining treat.
Lynne Martin and her husband, Tim, decided they didn’t want to take the easy road in retirement by buying into a retirement community and whiling away the hours playing golf (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Instead they made a bold leap of faith by giving in to their wanderlust and, in an effort to make the math work, sold their comfortable home in Southern California, put a few possessions in storage and live in furnished apartments around the world. If that sounds unimaginable to you you’ll get a lot out of hearing about their philosophy and might pick up a few tips. If you’re an experienced traveler with long distance trips under your belt you might not learn that many cold, hard facts but you’re likely to enjoy following the travels of the Martins, who approached retirement travel in a unique way.
As a travel narrative it’s fascinating to contrast the different locales and how the Martins adapt, from scorching temperatures to temperamental GPS navigation to shopping like a local. Starting off in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, hardly an exotic location as it’s filled with North American ex-pats, I was concerned that they weren’t going to stray far from the beaten path. However, that was just a transition period to get prepared for more adventurous travel to Turkey and Morocco, along with more conventional destinations like France and Ireland. However, for those looking for a lot of adrenaline or tension-filled escapades, that’s not the Martin way. They are happy with more pedestrian pursuits such as perusing the aisles in the supermarket or having a picnic in the park. If you envision traveling as endless days zip-lining, scuba diving, surfing or immersing yourself in a museum, that’s more like a vacation, and you need deep pockets and lots of energy for that. When you’re in your late 60s-early 70s life slows down a bit, whether you’re in the home you’ve been in for decades or traveling around the world.
As a “how-to” book there are pearls of wisdom to be gleaned, like making a checklist to assure that you have everything figured out when your host is showing you around your new digs, but the story is focused more on their experience than telling others how they should do it. Which is fair enough, as travel styles are very individual. Half way through the book, however, the “how to” piece loses focus a bit as she transitions to chronicling her experience publishing her first newspaper article and landing a book deal--a remarkable turn of events that isn’t likely to happen to the average blogger. Lynne has continued to share her stories on her Home Free Adventures blog.
As a memoir it’s an upbeat description of the planning and execution of their unorthodox retirement blueprint, without getting too heavy or introspective. Their approach wouldn’t work for everyone but it works for them.
One interesting element of the Martin way of traveling was the value of a repositioning cruise to be cost effective for getting across the Atlantic. They weren’t fans of cruises but found that repositioning cruises, where the cruising company moves a ship from one place to another, usually in the off-season, turned out to be a relaxing way to travel. The ship is generally less busy and there is more flexibility about how to spend your time.
One thing that sets this apart from many travel narratives, which often contain nothing but glowing reports of fabulous meals, vivid sunsets and friendly locals, is that Martin doesn’t hesitate to call it like she sees it—when Buenos Aires, Argentina proved to be a challenging place for them due to a variety of factors, not the least of which was decidedly aloof locals, they changed course and left early. Another lesson learned: if a place isn’t living up to your expectations after a fair settling-in period, move on. Life is too short to fit a round peg in a square hole.
Overall the book, whatever genre it fits into, is an enjoyable introduction into the practical realities of being rootless and free (but grounded in common-sense and financial security), something a lot of people dream about but few achieve. The Martins are to be congratulated for living out a dream and sharing the results with the rest of us. Knowing that their lifestyle works is sure to be inspirational for others—there are lots of ways to travel in retirement and it’s good to know that extreme travel can be a viable plan.