During retirement: where do you want to go next?

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You might have joined the military to see the world, but now you can do it all over again at your own pace.

Vacation travel is expensive on a fixed schedule for short times at destination resorts. However retirement travel and the “perpetual travel” lifestyle can exploit seasonal prices with longer stays. If you’re qualified for military space-available flights then travel is even more affordable. Hotels and vacation condos can be negotiated at discounted rates for extended stays, and it’s easier to rent private apartments or homes for month-to-month visits. “Living local” avoids resort prices for food and transportation while exploring undiscovered attractions off the tourist track. Rural and overseas locations have much lower expenses to support the perpetual traveler’s lifestyle. Recreational vehicle travelers can stay on the road for years and may no longer even keep a house. Take a look at the “Travel links” on the blogroll for more ideas.

Don’t be surprised if you’re restless after a year or two of retirement. Veterans may initially find it unusual or even uncomfortable to live in the same place for more than two years. Like it or not you’ve become accustomed to the transfer cycle of moving in, unpacking, settling in, then a year or two later saying “au revoir”, packing up, cleaning out, and moving on. Frequent moves force families to have fewer possessions or responsibilities, and their change of address becomes its own routine. Now that you’re retired you’ll easily acquire all sorts of new furniture, hobby supplies, recreational gear, or even pets. Suddenly your home is full of possessions and you need a major clean-out just to be able to store it all. Meanwhile after two or three years you begin to notice your “Why are we still here?” attitude. It may even feel like time to “move on” or to try a new place.

When that feeling creeps up on you, acknowledge it and “move” beyond it. Spend a family evening with the photo albums reminiscing about those transfers. Talk about the old decisions and compromises, remember what went well, and think about the future. You may even be shocked to realize that it’s been two years of retirement already, and that you can have many more here. You won’t have to get restless anymore, especially when you can travel as much as you want.

Now that you can travel at your own pace you may find that your interests and activities have changed. Instead of trying to get as far away as possible from home, or driving marathons of hundreds of miles, and hitting every tourist trap in sight before your leave ends, you may be quite happy to camp at a local park or spend a week exploring the nearest big city. The word “staycation” became a popular joke during the Great Recession, but you’ll find plenty to see and do within 25 miles of home. After all, you picked this place for your retirement destination– now go enjoy it.

If you’re still raising teenagers then your travel may be much more focused. Around the end of eighth or ninth grade those family vacations become “boring” to kids who’ve discovered cell phones and social networking. Older teens will want to spend part of a summer or holiday vacation taking driver’s education classes for their license. Another challenge is beginning to slowly loom over the horizon that your teens may not want to research: college. It’s easy to “practice” the college search on local campuses, but if your teen has a specific interest or ambition then your next few family vacations may be spent wandering college campuses on both coasts. These teen years move surprisingly quickly in retrospect, and when you plan what has to happen during each school vacation then you may realize that you’ll be doing all your traveling for them.

Whether your retirement routine centers around home and family, or whether you decide to become homeless by choice, you have the budget and the skills to enjoy travel like you’ve never been able to before.  Take your time exploring your curiosity, and don’t feel locked into a 30-day leave schedule!

Related articles:
Retirement: don’t recreate your old environment
Where do you live after you leave the military?

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WHAT I DO: I help you reach financial independence. For free. I retired in 2002 after 20 years in the Navy's submarine force. I wrote "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" to share the stories of over 50 other financially independent servicemembers, veterans, and families. All of my writing revenue is donated to military-friendly charities.

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