Reunited after a 35-year separation, Lynne Martin and her husband Tim decided that their retirement should be spent not at their home in California, but travelling the world, experiencing things they’d never dreamed of. Not content with a weeklong jaunt, the couple sold most of their possessions – house included – boxed up the rest, and embarked on a journey that would see them living out of suitcases and laying down roots in countries across the globe.
After discovering they were never happier than when travelling, the couple saw their twilight years as an opportunity to up sticks and go, taking only a suitcase of essentials and each other for company. Lynne, 73, and Tim, 68, liken themselves to senior gypsies, and have spent the past few years moving from place to place in search of fulfilment.
Now the couple’s radical lifestyle choice is the subject of a new travelogue autobiography entitled Home Sweet Anywhere. Put together by Lynne, the bestselling book is a lesson in why baby boomers should postpone nothing and seize the moment.
Postpone nothing. Do not overthink it, because life may not let you do that thing you want to do. If you’re going to do it, get on
Describe the events of your new book
My husband and I decided in 2011 that we would rather live in other countries and experience the world than stay in our retirement house, despite our family, garden and dog being there. After a series of discussions we got rid of almost everything and have since been on the road, living only in rented accommodation around the world. The book is an account of our first year of living internationally without a home base.
How did the initial conversation with your husband come about?
It was wonderful. We were sitting on a beautiful terrace in Mexico watching the sun go down, and I had been thinking about this idea for quite some time and finally plucked up the courage to say: “I’m going to be 70-years-old soon and there are still so many places I’d like to experience before I get out of here. It seems to me that we should spend these last few years of our active lives together doing something we really want to do.”
Here there was a long pause and he started to laugh, which is when I said: “Why are you laughing?” To my surprise he had been thinking the exact same thing but was hesitant to say so because he thought I’d never consider leaving our home. Four months on we had done just that.
Were you well travelled before you set out?
We had both travelled the world beforehand but really wanted more time. The difference for us really is that when you’re on holiday you’re in a big rush and there are so many things you want to see and do in such a short space of time. We wanted the luxury of living among local people and experiencing what it’s really like.
Have you found this experience liberating?
Oh yes. There are many things we’ve experienced that we never dreamed we would. One revelation that came very soon after we started out on the road was that I found there were less barriers for us when getting to know people. Of course, when you don’t have a home you don’t have things, and we found that these ‘things’ can often prevent people from getting to know one another on a human level.
How far ahead, if at all, do you plan your travels?
We do plan very far ahead. For two reasons: one, we’re not young anymore, and the other, we’re not wealthy. These factors together demand that we plan far in advance, because making it up as we go along is really beyond us age-wise. Also, from a budget standpoint, when one plans far ahead, one has the ability to negotiate, and the properties we’re looking for are more readily available if we plan in this way.
Of all the places you’ve been, which was your favourite?
Every place we have been to so far has some element to it that is utterly amazing. I am particularly fond of Paris, for many reasons: it’s flat, it’s easy to get around, the people are friendly and the food is incredible. My husband is very fond of our time in Portugal.
Are there any luxuries you’ve struggled to live without?
Oh my, yes! Furniture – and it may sound terribly shallow – is the thing we miss the most. In most rental accommodation, no matter how lovely it is, there is really never any completely comfortable furniture.
You travel light, but is there anything you keep with you at all times?
Well, because we have such wonderful electronic equipment we’re able to see the people we love, whether it is in photos or via Facetime or Skype. Aside from that, we don’t take much with us. There’s not much room for anything other than clothes and essentials.
Do you ever pick up souvenirs along the way?
Almost never. I do buy a little piece of jewellery here and there – just to remind me of the places we’ve been – but unfortunately we just don’t have the room to do that; our photographs are our souvenirs.
To what extent is this lifestyle about travel? Or is it just one way of following the ‘postpone nothing’ philosophy you mention in the book?
You know, I do think it’s about this ‘postpone nothing’ lifestyle more than the travel. Our decision is not just to travel, but to go to different places and take our life with us. We still have our little routines, and it’s not nearly as exotic as it may sound. For one, due to health reasons and budgetary constraints, we cook dinner at home most of the time.
It’s about the challenge of being in new places and experiencing the way other people live, and having to adapt your ways accordingly. When we talk about bringing this experience to a close, neither of us are keen, because we’re having such a wonderful time.
One of the biggest joys of this whole experience is that we’re beginning to talk to people, through our book and so forth, and to encourage older people in particular to adopt this postpone nothing mentality and tell them they have the opportunity to do something similar.
We’re healthier now than we have ever been, and we have the opportunity to experience things that we’ve always wanted to do. So if we have a message then really that’s it: to encourage people to get out and do whatever it is they most want to do. It might be starting a charity or building a garden shed, but whatever it is you need to do, just get on with it.
Were there any moments on your travels where your eyes were opened to something new?
All the time. I’m always struck by the kindness of people. To me it’s just astonishing. I think that Americans are not very well-travelled people, and have the impression that people elsewhere in the world are not going to like them very much, which is absolutely untrue. Everywhere we go we find people more than willing to help us, who are courteous and kind, willing to direct us. We have never experienced any unkindness anywhere in the world, and even in places where we have no language in common it always seems to work out.
How have you changed since your journey began?
We have both become more patient. It takes an awful lot to make us worried or upset nowadays, and we are much more flexible than we’ve ever been. I guess you learn that on the road; you have to be flexible or you just could not hack it, you have to take things as they come.
What would you say to those considering doing something similar?
Postpone nothing. Do not overthink it, because life may not let you do that thing you want to do. If you’re going to do it, get on with it.
Having said that, I would suggest to people thinking of doing something quite as drastic as us that they consider renting their house out and trialling it for a few months. This way they can head out on the road and see how they feel. Perhaps, most importantly, see how their relationship holds up – if they’re comfortable being on the road and flexible enough to encounter the many different experiences ahead. In order to do this you’ve really got to like the person you’re with.
Do you think you’ll ever buy another home and settle down in one place again?
You know, I think we probably will, in the end, return to California. Right now our health is excellent and there are many more places we want to see. We want to go to south-east Asia, we want to see Australia, and we want to go back to South America and Canada.
For the time being, I think we’re going to continue until we don’t feel up to it, and at that point we’ll return home – as a courtesy to our family apart from anything else.