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One Year Lived – Would you take a year off to see the world?


What do you think about taking a year off to travel around the world? I hadn’t even heard of this concept until I met a bunch of round-the-world (RTW) backpackers at a hostel on the Cook Islands. They were all young Europeans and they were all having a great time on a tiny budget. At the time I thought – what a great idea! However, I didn’t seriously consider putting my career on hold for a whole year to go gallivanting around the world.

Cook Island RTW trip

I still think it’s a great idea, but it’s even more difficult now because we have a kid and Mrs. RB40’s career is finally on track. We are putting international trips on hold for a few years until Baby RB40 is old enough to appreciate the experience. We’ll travel within the US and visit Yosemite, Yellowstone, and all the other great destinations. I still want to take an RTW trip at some point, though. It seems like a pinnacle of achievement for globe trekkers and it would be awesome to say “Oh yeah, I went on a trip around the world.”

Free book from Adam Shepard

Taking a gap year to see the world is much more popular in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. It’s much rarer in the US and I don’t know anyone who has done this. Scratch that – now I actually know one because Adam Shepard sent me his latest book – One Year Lived. The book will be released on April 22nd, but Adam graciously offered an electronic copy to our readers for free. Offer expired May 31st, 2013. Email me (joe at retireby40.org) with the subject One Year Lived if you would like a free copy (pdf.) Please share what destinations you like to visit if you take a long trip like this.

Adam Shepard’s name might sound familiar to you. He wrote Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream. It’s about starting over with just $25 and the clothes on his back. After 10 months, he met his goal of living in an apartment, owning a car, and saving $2,500. This one also sounds interesting, so I’ll put it on my reading list. Adam recommends checking to see if your library has a copy.

We’re putting it off for a while

Anyway, back to the RTW trip. I’m thinking maybe we can go for a RTW trip after Mrs. RB40 retires in 15 years or so. By then, Baby RB40 will be ready to go off to college or somewhere else so we won’t have to worry about him (much). We’ll both be around 55 and should still be healthy enough to enjoy a long leisurely trip.

15 years a long way to put off, though and you never know what will happen tomorrow. When Baby RB40 is old enough, we’ll \take two weeks trips to one destination, but it’s not the same as taking a whole year off to go around the world. I guess I’ll just dream about a trip today and see where we would like to go. Here is Adam’s itinerary in his words:

A month in Guatemala; two months in Honduras; a month in Nicaragua; a month in Costa Rica; a month in New Zealand; a month in Australia; two months in Asia; two months working around Western and Central Europe; my last month in Italy.

Of course, that’s a lot different than what I would like to do. I’m not too interested in South America right now, but Mrs. RB40 would like to spend some time there. For me, my top destinations would be the Eastern European countries and North Africa. I would like to visit Turkey, Morocco, and Egypt in particular. We’d probably stop in Thailand for a couple of months to see family and recharge our batteries. After that, I would like to visit a few South Pacific islands on the way home.


An elephant ride is actually a lot of fun.

If you have ever wondered what it is like to take a year off to see the world, you’d probably enjoy One Year Lived. Check it out and let me know what you think. To be honest, I scanned most of the South American chapters because I’m not too interested right now. His time in Asia is quite interesting though. He also interjects personal stories from various times in his life into the book and those are pretty good reads too.

I still think it’s more fun to travel when you are young and if you can pull it off, you probably should do the RTW trip as early as you can. For us that probably mean in our 50s. That’s a bit older than those young people I met, but I’m sure there are a few older folks wandering the world too.

What do you think about a RTW trip? Could you take a year off to do it? Where would you go if you could?

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{ 38 comments… add one }
  • Michelle April 12, 2013, 7:28 am

    We want to go on a round the world trip as well. It’s just so hard to think about since we both have good jobs!

    • retirebyforty April 12, 2013, 10:52 pm

      That’s why it’s probably best to go right after high school or when you are in your early 20s.

  • steve April 12, 2013, 7:55 am

    About 15 years ago (before I ER’ed) I told my boss that I was planning to quit my job in about a year to take a year off for a RTW trip. A few months later he came back to me with an alternative proposal: Take a 2-3 month unpaid leave of absence each year and do the trip in pieces over the course of a few years, coming back to work in between. I took him up on the proposal and it worked out great for about 5 years, until my boss was promoted and his replacement wouldn’t go along with the idea.

    • Silly Lily April 12, 2013, 9:47 pm

      Wow, what a boss! That was a very attractive proposal!

    • retirebyforty April 12, 2013, 10:53 pm

      That was a great arrangement! I would have love to do something like that. It’s too bad you new boss wouldn’t let you continue.

  • The College Investor April 12, 2013, 8:53 am

    I wish I have that privilege! It’s almost everyone’s dream to be able to take one year or a lengthy period of time just to travel, but not everyone has the financial capability to do so or even if you have, it’s so difficult to put everything on hold for 1 year and just have fun!

    • retirebyforty April 12, 2013, 10:54 pm

      I don’t think it cost as much as you would think. The biggest cost is probably opportunity cost. You would learn so much on the road though.

  • krantcents April 12, 2013, 9:02 am

    It is probably my age, but I cannot imagine living out of a backpack or hotel room for a year. I would rather travel for 2-3 weeks at a time which makes it more expensive. I love the concept, but doubt if I would ever do it.

    • retirebyforty April 12, 2013, 10:55 pm

      2-3 weeks at a time is great too, but I still would love to take off for a year.

  • Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin April 12, 2013, 10:19 am

    A lot of people may view this whole one year around the world thing as a bunch of people putting off responsibilities to go travel and have fun but I believe it is MUCH deeper than that. I had the privilege of traveling the world as a young military officer and it changed me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. First and foremost I believe you learn the value of creating and building relationships/friendships. When you’re on a limited budget you don’t have time to sink your money into “things” therefore you are damn near forced to interact with people. Not to mention spending an entire year on a limited budget, talk about solidifying your frugality. Imagine a young man/woman who traveled the world for the year scraping by who now has a full time job. I doubt you’ll see them sinking money into crap they don’t need.

    Lastly I think it’s a shame some employers look down on a year off or gap in employment.

    • retirebyforty April 12, 2013, 10:57 pm

      Thanks for your input. You are right about being on limited budget. When I stay at nice hotel, everyone always go off to their rooms. At a hostel, people are much more friendly and talkative.

  • Mike April 12, 2013, 11:13 am

    I think doing a few trips here or there would be nice. Some travel, no matter the age, can always be good for individuals. These breaks can help individuals from going bat **** crazy from work. Additionally, maybe working overseas for a period of time can be beneficial for those individuals that want to travel long term.

    • retirebyforty April 12, 2013, 10:58 pm

      I agree. I think we’ll still be able to do a RTW trip in our 50s, but it will be much harder in our 60s. I’m sure we can still go for a 2-3 weeks visits though.

  • Financial Black Sheep April 12, 2013, 1:38 pm

    I would much rather take shorter vacations here and there, because of school and work. We usually don’t even take a full week, but instead 3 day trips seem to work out better. As for a full year, I don’t have the desire to be away from home (or my dog) for that long.

  • Do or Debt April 12, 2013, 2:46 pm

    Would LOVE to do a RTW trip. I saw an awesome one a while back going to Turkey, Thailand, Iceland, Japan, and other parts of Europe….I love South America and want to spend more time there, but I have never been to Asia and still have quite a few European destinations to go to. I will email you about the book!

    • retirebyforty April 12, 2013, 11:01 pm

      I would love to visit Turkey and Iceland. Japan is great too, but it was a bit expensive.

  • Felix Lee April 12, 2013, 8:07 pm

    I would love to take a year off to explore the world if I have the enough resources. Unfortunately, things are not easy these days and I still need to work on my career and save more than enough money for this super long vacation.

    • retirebyforty April 13, 2013, 10:58 pm

      I agree that it is quite difficult, but the longer you put it off, the less likely that you’ll be able to do it. That’s how I feel because we keep having more and more responsibilities as we get older.

  • Silly Lily April 12, 2013, 9:54 pm

    Hey, is that picture of me and Syd? :p

    I didn’t (haven’t) traveled around the world yet but I quit my job, rented out the house, and lived in Italy for a year with hubby, so doesn’t that count as something? :p I haven’t thought about RTW too much cuz I like the idea of staying in one place and really soak in the local life… that’s why the next big trip will be ‘living’ in Japan for 3 months when Koya is older. I want to join you guys for a couple of destinations when you RTW in 50s, and then coming back home to rest.

    • retirebyforty April 13, 2013, 11:00 pm

      Hey, at least we couldn’t see your faces. 🙂
      I would love to live abroad for a year too. Japan would be awesome, but very expensive for 3 months. That’s really doable though. Maybe before she starts school?

  • Pauline April 13, 2013, 9:06 am

    I took a RTW tip right after college and it was a lot of fun. Now, living in Guatemala I see all kind of travelers passing by, age is not a restriction, although you do need a bigger budget if you want more comfort.

    • retirebyforty April 13, 2013, 11:01 pm

      Oh that’s great! I’m pretty sure I can make do on $25k or something like that. I’ll need to sit down and work it out, but I just need basic clean and safe place to sleep and that’s about it. A hostel is perfectly fine for me.

  • Pretired Nick April 13, 2013, 9:31 am

    We have actually planned to do exactly this. However our plans are delayed awhile for the same reason: Our baby is too young to appreciate it. I’m wondering about whether we should pull him out of school later on or try to do it before he starts school.
    The thing we’re most likely to do is actually move to Europe for a year and then use that location as a home base for traveling around the region.

    • retirebyforty April 13, 2013, 11:03 pm

      That’s a great plan. Keep us updated. I’m thinking about going to visit Thailand for 3 months or so when the kid is a bit older. Not sure if Mrs. RB40 will go along with that.

  • Michelle April 14, 2013, 5:32 pm

    I would love to do a RTW trip and I would take any kids after 2 years of age. But, I would have a plan re: medical situations thought out for each country. If (when) I do something like this I would like to have some online work happening so that I stay grounded and have some sense of responsibility. I would def. begin with South America as I’ve been studying Spanish for awhile. Sounds like I’ve been thinking about this for awhile!

    • retirebyforty April 15, 2013, 1:39 pm

      Have fun on your RTW trip! 🙂 I don’t want to take kids under 10. They just don’t care. I know I didn’t…

      • Michelle April 17, 2013, 7:42 pm

        Don’t laugh…I don’t care that they don’t care! They will be along for the ride 🙂

  • mobilechad April 14, 2013, 11:58 pm

    I just made the leap.

    My last day of work was 2 days ago, and the planning starts next month after some time traveling to visit friends and family in the US.

    I’ll be heading to Europe from July – November, and then doing South America, New Zealand, Australia, and SE Asia next year.

    Since I haven’t been anywhere in Europe, I’m letting people vote on where I start the trip. Every few weeks I’ll put up another poll with new options, and make my way through Europe on the whims of friends, family, and anyone that comes across my blog (www.mobilechad.com). The blog is live, so feel free to come and vote.

    • retirebyforty April 15, 2013, 1:41 pm

      Have a great time! It sounds like a great trip. I’ll come by. I vote for Italy. Spain is awesome too.

  • KC @ genxfinance April 15, 2013, 3:26 am

    It would be really really nice to go off for a year and travel and see the world! But there might also be the risk that you no longer have a job when you get back. Hey, that’s why we’re saving as much as we can for retirement ayt?

    • retirebyforty April 15, 2013, 1:45 pm

      I don’t have that problem though. 🙂

  • Forest Parks April 17, 2013, 12:29 pm

    I’ve been traveling for some time now and have met a lot of people doing this, especially 18-19 year olds. Saying that I have met many retired people doing it too and they are having a blast. They just tend to take it slower and go to bed earlier!

    If you ever have a chance you should go do it, no matter what age.

    • retirebyforty April 17, 2013, 4:10 pm

      Thanks for your insight. I’ll probably going to take it slow and go to bed earlier too. It will still be a ton of fun though. Meeting interesting people is such a big part of the whole experience.

  • Doug Marshall April 22, 2013, 12:54 pm

    How long can you stay in places like Thailand, Austraila and New Zealand?

    • papadad April 22, 2013, 10:25 pm

      typically 30 to 90 days and extendable depending which country.

    • retirebyforty April 22, 2013, 11:53 pm

      Every country has different rules, but I usually a tourist visa is good for 3 months.

  • papadad April 22, 2013, 10:22 pm

    Joe, don’t wait to travel. Just do it in small chunks. When the kids are below 5 or 6, it’s difficult but i guarantee that it will become easier and easier as you go. We’ve raised both of our boys spending lots of time over seas– now both teens. The experience that the kids get when living/traveling abroad is fantastic. They mature, they learn life lessons, and they learn to deal with stressful situations and work through problems (problem solving), not to mention ditching prejudices, learning to eat all kinds of foods, language and cultural appreciation…..and what’s best is that all this is “free and included” in the cost of the trip :).

    Let me reiterate – please don’t wait to travel. I see many old people on the flights back and forth from Asia who are now in retirement years and trying their best to be global travelers. They are old which means they are cranky, their knees and hips and eyes and arms are bad, they dont have stamina to deal with jet lag, they want everything just like they have it at home, and in general they are forced to go the “very expensive” route of 5 star hotels and tours on coach busses. They can not enjoy the site seeing because they can’t walk and climb and do the things needed to do to ‘see stuff’ effectively. It’s a shame….to work all your life, to have the means financially…but not the means mentally or physically to appreciate the world.

    You dont need to take a whole year off — summer time when baby RB40 is on school break is a great time to go travel for 6 – 8 weeks. As they get older you can do longer or shorter trips depending what other activites (sports, visiting relatives) are ongoing.

    I think world travel is a great way to make our youth more appreciative of what they have, what they can achieve, relate to others in the world, and be better people. As for fulfillment….what a great way to be a “good dad” and give your Baby RB40 this gift.


    • retirebyforty April 23, 2013, 12:00 am

      Thanks for your input. I’m thinking about visiting Thailand for 3 months when he’s about 4 years old. When he’s older, we’ll probably take 2-3 weeks trips during the summer. I guess we can go for longer trips, but we would have to leave Mrs. RB40 at home. She only gets 3 weeks off.
      I still want to do an RTW trip at some point though.

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