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Re: 58yo perma-traveler, retired at 38yo

Posted: Fri Jun 19, 2020 7:43 am
by shemp
OP here. I'm was trapped 95 nights in a town of about 20000 people in southern Spain starting March 12. Lockdown wasn't too bad. During strict lockdown, I was able to visit the store each day then walk around town for an hour or two with my shopping bag. Strict lockdown ended after a month and then I was able to spend 4 hours each morning walking in the mountains just outside of town (5 minutes from my hotel to reach countryside). As of this Monday, I'm currently hiking town to town again, alternating between hotels and camping in the forest. Sometime in July, I'll fly to Ukraine for 3 months or maybe more.

Financially and otherwise, I am always prepared for something like a lockdown. In particular, I'm always prepared for an injury that forces me to stay in a hotel a month or so recuperating.

This won't be the last pandemic. But lockdowns to fight pandemics are terribly inefficient, especially pandemics like covid-19 which aren't even very serious, certainly not as serious as smallpox or ebola, so I don't expect lockdowns of entire countries in the future. But I would expect air travel to be cut and containment zones within countries.

There will likely be a gradual redesign of society to be more resilient in the face of frequent partial lockdowns. In particular, a move away from lean inventories and high debt (thus exposure to cash flow problems) towards lots of slack capacity and more equity and cash reserves. This will raise costs substantially. Hotels and air travel, my two big expenses, might thus be more expensive in the future. Working from home part of each week will be the norm where possible, in preparation for fulltime working from home. People might increasingly live in small towns a few hours away from big cities, then commute to the big city occasionally for several long days of in person activities (medical care, face to face interviews, social events). Hotels or pied-a-terre apartments to accommodate such a lifestyle might be a good business.

Re: 58yo perma-traveler, retired at 38yo

Posted: Fri Jun 19, 2020 12:30 pm
by nomadscientist
shemp wrote:
Sat Aug 03, 2019 2:27 pm
As for the future, it occurs to me that perma-travel like I do now may someday be impossible, such as because of pandemics that cause shutdown of most passenger air travel and for whole counties to be quarantined.

I enjoy your posts.

Re: 58yo perma-traveler, retired at 38yo

Posted: Fri Jun 19, 2020 5:04 pm
by ertyu
OP, what are your end-of-life plans? Asking as someone else who doesn't really have family and isn't likely to start one.

Re: 58yo perma-traveler, retired at 38yo

Posted: Sat Jun 20, 2020 11:08 am
by shemp
@ertyu: My basic plan is to continue my current lifestyle of permanent foot/bicycle travel as long as possible. My normal schedule is 3 months hiking in Spain in the spring, 3 months in an apartment in Kyiv in the summer to visit the sugar baby, 2 months hiking in Bulgaria in the autumn, 2 months bicycle touring in the USA desert in the winter, finally 2 months in a motel in the USA to replace/repair gear and attend to business that can't be done while traveling (renew passport and driver's license, etc).

Due to the covid-19 lockdowns, this year was slightly different: longer stay in Spain, delayed stay in Ukraine, probably skip Bulgaria, and who knows what the situation will be when I return to the USA.

The desert bicycle touring is fairly strenous, so I'll probably give that up when I turn 70 in 2031. At that point, I'll probably move gear in my storage locker to Ukraine and arrange residency there, so as to avoid annual trans-Atlantic flights. I'd still plan to fly from Ukraine to Spain each spring, though Greece would be acceptable substitute if flying to Spain becomes a problem, since Greece can be reached from Ukraine by bus. Like Spain, south Greece mountains have Mediterranean climate, which is best climate for spring hiking. Mountains of Ukraine, Bulgaria and northern Greece are best in early autumn.

If I suffer some injury that forces me to give up hiking, then I'll probably just do bus travel around Ukraine and the Balkans. Stay in small towns for a few days, then move on.

Re: 58yo perma-traveler, retired at 38yo

Posted: Sat Jun 20, 2020 2:56 pm
by Freedom_2018

I've enjoyed your posts and am a few years behind you. I retired at 39 and in the 8th year of having left Corp America and am 100% nomadic. Last year spent 8 months in Europe and had to come back due to Covid but would have liked to continue much longer. Currently biding time in the US waiting for opportunities to head out again. Since you are much more experienced than me in Europe and other travel, if you don't mind, I have a few questions:

- Are you subject to the 3 month Schengen limitation or do you have some EU residency etc? I ask because that is always a thorn in my side and I have to juggle with UK and the few remaining non-schengen countries ... which increasingly look like might turn Schengen too.

- Are you originally from the US and have family/ties to Eastern Europe etc? I grew up in India but unless I open my mouth find it fairly easy to not stand out too much thanks to a somewhat 'citizen of the world facial features' as someone once remarked.

- How would you compare Ukraine to say Romania? I ended up spending two months in Romania and liked it quite a bit. Haven't been to Ukraine but wonder if the people are a little more aloof/unwelcoming of outsiders. Are they well disposed towards US Citizens?

- Are you a US citizen? Asking because it seems like social security payments can't be made to Ukraine and a handful of other countries. Of course things can change with time.

If it is better to address this via PM versus here, pls let me know and I will reach out.

Thank you jn advance. I am also happy to share my approach and experiences being job free and nomadic the past 8 yrs if that is of any interest.


Re: 58yo perma-traveler, retired at 38yo

Posted: Sat Jun 20, 2020 3:32 pm
by shemp
I'm subject to Schengen 90/180 rule. Not a problem because I only want 90 days in Spain in the spring. Bulgaria might someday go Schengen, but I want less than 90 days there in autumn, so again not a problem.

Ukraine is where I will eventually want more than 90 days each 180 days. Residency can be legally purchased for about $2500/year including lawyers fees. There are gray area ways to get residency in Ukraine for under $1000/year, but I can afford to pay $2500 and will do so to avoid possible problems.

I have no family ties to Eastern Europe or Spain either. Countries I mentioned happen to be convenient for me. I currently speak French, Spanish and Russian at the B2 level, and used to speak Greek at the A2 level. That affects my choice of countries to travel in, since people in small towns everywhere typically only speak their local language. In Bulgaria, older people often speak Russian. Everyone in Ukraine can understand Russian and most can speak it, though small town western Ukrainians sometimes mix up Russian and Ukrainian for lack of practice.

I've never been to Romania and have no plans to spend time there, other than possibly passing through on buses from Ukraine to Bulgaria. English levels are high among young people in Romania, but you are still cut off of you don't speak the local language. I see no reason to bother learning Romanian to get access to Romania, when I already know Russian, which gives access to Ukraine.

Like all slavs, Ukrainians are somewhat xenophobic, but I get along there fine. Speaking Russian makes a huge difference. My facial features are western European (French/German) so Ukrainian police and other suspicious types immediately detect I'm a foreigner, but most ordinary citizens don't know until I begin to speak.

I'm a US citizen. If residing in Ukraine, just have social security deposited in a US bank. I'd probably continue to keep all my financial accounts in the US, even if permanently residing in Ukraine, other than one local Ukrainian bank account with a thousand dollars at most. Then use transferwise or equivalent to top up the local bank account as needed. The fewer foreign accounts, the less trouble with US taxes, and you continue to be liable for US taxes as long as you remain a citizen. I would be very hesitant to give up US citizenship.

Re: 58yo perma-traveler, retired at 38yo

Posted: Sat Jun 20, 2020 4:28 pm
by Freedom_2018
Thank you very much for your response.

I did not know about the $2500/yr Ukraine residency option (haven't done much research on Ukraine yet) but once I get traveling overseas (hopefully in the near future) I would like to spend some time in Kyiv and Lviv...have heard good things about both places. Stayed a month in Croatia (preferred Zagreb to Split) but did not have any meaningful interactions with the locals beyond tourist stuff. Found slavs to be a little reserved but helpful when needed. Also at 5"10" I'm shorter than a lot of slavs whereas in Romania many people were shorter and more delicately built than I am. Most slavs looked like they could belong on an athletic team and kick my ass (including many women). Romanian is also an easier language to fiddle about in if one knows some Spanish.

Your language skills are impressive and I wish I had devoted some time to learning more than a smattering of Spanish in the past few years. Do you have any suggestions about how to pick up a language quickly, especially from a remote location ? (probably best way is to jump off deep end and put oneself into a position where there is no other option).

In the US I did motorcycle camping for 5 months and then some car camping which I've mixed with housesitting...a combination that I have enjoyed a lot since I get to see a community from the inside and also get to enjoy the company of pets (despite growing up in a family paranoid about father made me write a paper on zoonoses in the 8th biology teacher didn't even know what the word meant). I do miss seeing friends regularly but after a few years realized I am not seeing them any less frequently than I used to before (people seem increasingly insular and 'busy'...covid will only exacerbate the situation). On the other hand made some new friends through travel ..and all of them are older than me...mostly in the late 60s/early 70s.

Refreshing to hear your views about US citizenship especially since some expat blogs I've been reading seem to shit a lot on the US (especially the ones run by Canadians 😁). As someone who had to earn his US citizenship the long way (work visa, student visa, work visa, green card, citizenship) I sometimes feel the people who were born and raised here don't appreciate how fortunate they are on the whole. I don't plan to give up US citizenship either and for a while was contemplating getting an EU passport but then wondered if it might complicate things and maybe a long term stay visa or residency in a specific country might be a better way to go (remembered reading an article about some guy who had multiple passports and got into some legal trouble and looking for help from the embassy and each country was trying to palm his troubles off to the other).

Re: 58yo perma-traveler, retired at 38yo

Posted: Sun Jun 21, 2020 3:28 am
by guitarplayer
@shemp, I very much appreciate your contributions to the forum. Reading attentively and I am sure I am not the only one.

Re: 58yo perma-traveler, retired at 38yo

Posted: Sun Jun 21, 2020 4:43 am
by shemp
@Freedom_2018: that $2500 number is approximate. About $500 lawyer's fees, $400 for things you could do for free if you are fluent in Ukrainian and familiar with Ukrainian bureaucracy, $1200 for taxes on employing yourself as director of your own company which you buy consulting services from (sic, complicated but legal), rest is fees. Some people "forget" to pay the $1200 taxes, in hopes the various branches of government aren't coordinated, but I wouldn't count on this, since it's child's play to do the checking with computers.

Western slavs are notoriously tall. Montenegro has tallest Caucasian people in the world. Ukrainians not so tall. I'm 5'11" (180cm) and don't feel short in Ukraine.

There is no easy or fast way to learn languages. I recommend Assimil Sans Peine course to start, if they have an English version of the target language. Order from France, using Chrome translate if the ordering page in French, and Paypal to pay (i had some problems paying with regular credit cards, but not paypal). Takes about 1 week to deliver to the USA. If there is no English version of the Assimil course for the target language, use Pimsleur. 90 units of Pimsleur also advised for hard languages, such as Russian for most native English speakers, before starting Assimil course. Assimil and/or Pimsleur will give good pronunciation. If using Pimsleur only, also read a short grammar book. Assimil course includes its own grammar book.

Then spend several years listening to native speaker recordings with transcripts, native speaker podcasts with transcripts, or audiobooks with written ebook version, all of which amount to the same thing. Listen to recording, read transcript, listen again, go onto to the next recording/transcript, repeat everything a few months later.

There are also some excellent Anki decks (at, search on "sentences") made with Tatoeba sentences, some with native language audio, some with computer generated audio, some with no recording. For sentences with recording, listen to the recording in the target language, memorize sentence concept in language neutral form (e.g. for "the man sits in the car and drives away", memorize an image of what is described, not the actual words), then speak the sentence you just heard. Then press the button on your smartphone to show the transcript plus English translation. This is an extremely powerful technique, assuming challenging enough sentences. Sentences without recording are less powerful, but there are way more such sentences available. Display target language version, read aloud, memorize concept in language neutral form, close your eyes and speak sentence again, verify no mistake. Press button to display English language version. Or display English version first then translate to foreign language, then press button to compare (many correct ways to translate most sentences, of course).

Once your vocabulary is big enough, you can read real books or web pages in the target language. Make sure to sound out words aloud or in your head while reading, same as you probably did when first learning to read English as a child.

Finally, pay for maybe 40 hours of in person conversation practice.
The main reason for wanting to get rid of USA citizenship is to avoid USA taxes. However, USA taxes can be very low for retirees with stocks investments. I legally paid under 6% tax on my 6 figure taxable dividend income in 2019, for example (15% rate on qualified dividends, foreign income tax credit, standard deduction). I had additional income in my Roth account which is not taxable plus unrealized capital gains, so my overall rate on all income was under 3%. People with location independent income can avoid taxes by setting up a foreign company and hiring themselves and then using foreign earned income tax exclusion. Plus there are some very good deals with relocating to Puerto Rico. Most of the people pushing multiple passport schemes to those with USA citizenship are trying to sell consulting advice or else appealing to nobodies who wannabe Jason Bourne / James Bond.

Re: 58yo perma-traveler, retired at 38yo

Posted: Mon Jul 27, 2020 1:49 am
by biaggio
OP, if you don't mind sharing, do you finance your ongoing expenses exclusively from passive income (dividend, bond interest, selling stock)? If that's the case you seem to be one of the few on this forum that actually manages to live solely off capital without side hustles.

Re: 58yo perma-traveler, retired at 38yo

Posted: Mon Jul 27, 2020 6:55 am
by shemp
Yes, exclusively from dividends/interest and it's been that way since I fully retired in 1998. I was all bonds then because I didn't understand or trust stocks yet. As you may recall, bonds were paying good interest in the late 1990's plus the USA government had just introduced TIPS (government bonds adjusted for inflation) which were paying something like 4% then (so 4% plus another 3% or whatever was/is the current USA CPI-U inflation rate). I have always been paranoid about inflation, so I loaded up on those TIPS and they did extremely well over the next decade. I switched to stocks during the financial crisis starting 2008.

I don't think I'm the only one here who is living only on return from capital. Also, there are lots of people here, and in society in general, living on pensions without side hustles. Pension is different from living on return from capital, however both are purely passive income. I don't think various types of passive income feel different, whereas I know it would feel very different to have even a small active income, or side hustle.

Re: 58yo perma-traveler, retired at 38yo

Posted: Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:04 am
by Freedom_2018
I am a few years behind shemp on this. Retired in 2012 and have not performed any work/side hustle etc or earned a penny from the same since then. Mostly dividends from index funds and some occasional capital rebalancing.

Psychologically I have seen a significant difference between someone who say gets CALPERS pension (largest public pension fund in the US) and someone like me who is extracting income purely from monetary investments. Getting a pension is like getting a paycheck without having to go to work and very few even bother reading the newsletters or updates that might contain information about how the fund performed or potential risks to payouts in the long run - it is essentially someone else's problem.

Living off of capital I think one gets a lot of opportunity to build character in the face of adversity and taking full ownership for the outcome of one's life.
(adversity being defined as occasional significant change in the value of the asset, not a reduction in the quality of life due to change in asset least not in the short (1+ yrs) to medium term (5-10 yrs))