Why did we decide to include home-free retirees world travel tips?

 

The Golden Temple Amritsar, India
The Golden Temple Amritsar, India as seen through a decorative archway on the religious grounds of the historic Sikh location. Please click here to see more photos from Amritsar.

Note: This post is the second of the 2000 word posts required for SEO. Some of the verbiage may sound repetitive. We’ll be back to our usual post tomorrow. Only three more of these to go. Thanks for your patience. Feel free to read.

As Tom’s retirement was fast approaching and we’d made the outrageous decision to travel full-time, we searched online for travel tips that possibly could point us in the right direction, especially those applying to retirees. When many young people travel the world, even with children, they often stay in hostels, camp, rent or buy campers or caravans and may live very different lifestyles than we were seeking.

At that time in 2012, considerably fewer retirees had “given it all up” to do what we’d chosen to do, travel the world for years to come with minimal possessions with us, no storage facility anywhere in our home state or country, and find a way to make it work being totally home-free. We considered no condo, apartment, or studio-type living quarters as a base to return to should we so desire. We chose to make the “BIG commitment” and for us, that only came when we sold everything we owned, leaving us little opportunity to change our minds if something went wrong, especially in the early days. Always a part of our mission was to include home-free retirees world travel tips.

Our friends and relatives bombarded us with suggestions and travel tips, amid a plethora of travel warnings on all the potentially horrible situations we could encounter along the way, some even life-threatening. We chose not to take heed of their warnings when instead, we chose to do research on our own.

Searching online was little help. We found countless travel tips from travelers who’d been “out there” on their own, as a couple of a family of three or more. But, few were retirees, and most had a place to call home to return to for a break or respite. Of course, today, eight years later, we’ve encountered other retirees, home-free, and traveling the world. But after a fashion, most acquiesced and returned to their home country, recovered their belongings from storage, and began again. Not us. We wanted to do it differently, to truly experience the challenges and benefits of living life on the move, as retirees, with no safety net.

What are the potential challenges facing home-free retirees world travel tips?…

The most frequent travel tip/question most travelers tossed our way revolved around these two topics:

1. What will you do if one of you becomes very ill, when, retirees, due to an advanced age are more likely to encounter health problems?
2. What will you do if something goes wrong or you tire of traveling?

In the first over six years of our home-free world travel lifestyle, neither of these potential issues had any impact on our lives. As retirees, we were healthy, fit, and relatively active. We’d had extensive medical tests before we embarked on our journey, all required dental work completed. As we traveled the world, every few years, we each had basic health checks, blood tests, and dental appointments. All was well until…

The “worse case” scenarios transpired…

While living in a holiday home in the bush in South Africa, in February 2019, I had to have emergency triple cardiac bypass surgery, which resulted in four total surgeries (due to complications) and over the US $150,000 in medical expenses which our then international health the insurance company refused to pay, claiming I had a preexisting condition (I had no idea).

The question many other retirees had asked, “Should such an event occur, what would you possibly do?” Would being home-free prevent us from quality medical care and a place to recover after such a frightening event? It did not. We simply extended our rental period for the holiday home or would have moved to another while I recovered.

At the time, many home-free retirees world travel tips came our way with suggestions for us to return to the US but that tip was preposterous. I couldn’t travel on an airplane for at least three months. We stayed in the wonderful bush house while I recovered sufficiently to again begin our world travel journey. Nothing was holding us back. We continued on for three months in an oceanfront house in Connemara, Ireland as my convalescence continued.

The second question above asks, “What will we do if something goes wrong or you tire of traveling?

Tom and I made a pact when we began traveling the world, as home-free retirees. If either of us ever became tired or bored with traveling the world, we would stop. Even amid the challenges facing us these past few years, neither of us has suggested ending our journey to the other.

Another huge challenge that tested our durability and commitment as home-free retirees, was the pandemic that hit the world in January and February 2020. At the time, we’d just completed a weeklong tour on the renowned Maharajas Express Train from Mumbai to Delhi. After the train, we embarked on a 55-night tour of India, which we had to cut short when COVID-19 presented us with a huge risk of continuing on. Most temples and tourist sites were packed with people, often crowding in small spaces. More, we considered home-free retirees world travel tips from other readers with similar experiences.

We decided the risk of being at crowded venues was too high and started self-isolation on or about March 12, 2020, when we were notified that our upcoming cruise on April 3, 2020 had been canceled due to the COVID-19. As of this writing, we have officially been in India’s government-mandated lockdown which began on March 24, 2020, for a full six months. More and more of our readers write to us each day with tips and suggestions as to what we should do at this point. But, it is our special circumstances and home-free lifestyle that has guided us as to what works well for us.

Considering home-free retirees world travel tips weren’t a factor in preventing us from heading back to the US to hunker down in lockdown. Where would we stay? Ultimately, we decided to stay put in a lovely Marriott hotel until such time as we can continue on our travels. At this point, the pandemic has reached such proportions in the US, we have no desire or plan to return. Also, without a home, it would be difficult to decide where to stay while we waited it out. We’ve been safe in this hotel, although India has been hard hit as well. Only time will tell when we can continue on.

During this period, we’ve received hundreds of tips geared toward our home-free status, as to what we should do. We’ve appreciated all the tips, suggestions, and updates sent by readers, family, and friends. Most of the retiree’s circumstances are very different from ours and what they would choose to do in these circumstances may be very different from our choices.

What do we do as home-free retirees if the lockdown/pandemic continues for more months to come?…

We are safe. This hotel has exercised diligent efforts to avoid a single case of COVID-19 since we arrived. All staff is required to wear face masks and gloves. All staff members live within the walls of the hotel. No one is allowed to clean our room or serve our meals, via room service, unless they’ve been living here for a minimum of three weeks. We are confined to the fourth floor except for those few times we’ll head downstairs to the reception desk to pay our bill. We haven’t been outdoors in six months.

But, when we think of retirees living in a retirement community, most likely they haven’t been outdoors much either. Perhaps, our situation isn’t so unique after all. We’re safe. We have everything we need. We’re relatively comfortable. We do miss socializing and often think of how enjoyable it would be to get-together with other retirees and commiserate over this challenging situation.

But, it appears, as retirees, we’re the oldest people in the entire hotel. The staff and any other guests appear to be mostly in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, at most. Every few days, we receive tips in our email with movies and TV series, we should binge-watch and games we should play to allay the boredom we’re experiencing now. We take many of these tips to heart and find ourselves streaming many fun new series suggested by our readers. This means a lot to us.

How are we emotionally impacted by home-free living?…

Often, we’re asked, don’t you feel lost without “roots?” Our answer is simple from an old adage, “Home is where the heart is.” And, although our hearts are filled with love for family and friends back in the US, as a couple, we have made anywhere we may be living, at any given time, our “home.” That premise prevents us from ever feeling lost and lonely in a home-free lifestyle.

Most home-free retirees world travel tips include comments from those who spent their lives and careers in Minnesota, often leaving to spend their retirement in warmer climates. In most cases, they’ll purchase or rent a condo, house, or apartment in such states as Arizona, Florida, Texas, or Hawaii. Often, they’ll keep their original home and deal with the maintenance of having two homes. This didn’t appeal to us at all.

Instead, as retirees, we chose to be totally home-free; no apartment somewhere; no bedroom in one of our adult kids’ homes with a closet full of clothes; no lease on a storage facility as a safety-net to enable us to “set up housekeeping” once again. This was it, just the two of us and our luggage, the size of which has diminished greatly over the years.

In the beginning, Christmas was a time we had to make adjustments. We’d no longer have a Christmas tree, nor did we have decorations, or a need to bake endless cookies and baked goods. We no longer sent Christmas cards and gifts, instead of sending gift cards to our grandchildren. This commitment required a lot of emotional changes experienced by many retirees who become ex-pats and world travelers.

The hardest time we’ve experienced has been during my recovery from open-heart surgery and now, six months in lockdown in a single hotel room. But, somehow, these two home-free retirees have managed to maintain emotional strength and resilience in the knowledge that in time, we’ll be on the move again.

Will we ever settle down?…

This question has been asked of us over and over again. And, the reality is, we’ll have to at some point. With advancing age and potential health conditions, it may be necessary for us to return to the US and find a place to live. Does this worry us? Not at this point. We’ve survived so much, we both feel confident that when the time comes, as has been the case in every other situation, we’ll figure it out.

Home-free retirees world travel tips often include ways to figure out major life changes at some point or another. We are no exception. The fact we’ll have lived a home-free existence for so many years, makes those decisions only a little harder, mainly revolving around: Where will we choose to live?

We’ve considered the possibility of continuing to live in holiday homes in several parts of the US for three to six months, giving us a further opportunity to see more of our own country in our waning years. There’s also the possibility that in the next few years we may find a country besides the USA where we’d like to live as retirees, again with the principle of renting various, fully-equipped holiday/vacation homes.

In conclusion…

A home-free lifestyle is not for everyone, whether they are a young person starting their lives, a young family, couple, or retirees. We each have our own unique desires and emotional needs when it comes to our chosen lifestyle. If and when we have a need and a desire to be “rooted” to one location, we’ll do so.

World travel is not on everyone’s radar or in their dreams of what will ultimately be fulfilled and purpose-driven. We never knew we had a dream to travel the world as retirees, living a home-free lifestyle. It came upon us in a happenstance manner which is described in our first few posts and many more to come over the years.

As we’re fast approaching our eight-year anniversary since we became home-free on October 31, 2012, we have no regrets from the most exciting adventures to this most recent mundane period, spending over six-months in lockdown in Mumbai, India.

We’re hopeful for the future that in time we’ll be able to continue on our home-free journey to see the world. In the interim, we’ll continue to offer home-free retirees world travel tips as well as hearing from other world travelers. The world is a big place. We all have much more to see and to say.. Stay with us, dear reader. There’s definitely more to come.

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Photo from one year ago today, September 23, 2019:

Pond Cottage, in Witheridge, Devon, UK
The pond next to our house, Pond Cottage, in Witheridge, Devon, UK,  with a few ducks and geese. For more photos, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Travel day…Amritsar to Varanasi…Two flights with layover…Excitement at the India-Pakistan border…

The soldier prepared for the big event.

As I write here now its during our original two-hour layover in Delhi which after the first flight on Vistara Airline (owned by Singapore Airlines) was late by 40 minutes, the wait to board has been greatly reduced.


We boarded the flight in 35 minutes after check-in at the airport so my choice was to rush through today’s post or try to finish this tonight after dinner. Since we didn’t arrive at our hotel in Varanasi until around 7:00 pm, I tried to rush through to get this post uploaded so we could have a less hurried evening and  leisurely dinner but it didn’t quite work out that way..

The bleachers were packed with enthusiastic Indians.

With our driver Prince arriving at our hotel in Amritsar at 9:30 am to take us to the airport (our final contact with him), we wanted to have breakfast in the hotel, after we’d packed everything and were ready to go.


At 9:40 the van was loaded with our bags and we were on our way to the Amritsar International Airport. Arriving two hours before our flight left plenty of time to kill.

Note the headdress o the performers/soldiers..

We met a lovely Indian couple who now live in Australia and had come to visit family in India. The lively conversation with this special couple made the time fly while we awaited our flight. Before we knew it, we were boarding the first of the two flights.


I’d preferred to spend more time preparing today’s post about the exciting visit to the ceremonies at the India/Pakistan border but this schedule is the “nature of the beast,” as we spend two very busy months of travel through India, staying in each new location for two or three days.

Aligned and ready to perform.

Is this pace tiring us? Surprisingly, it’s not. Sightseeing for one or two days with one day of rest in between is working perfectly for us. We’re rested, well-fed and enthusiastic as we continue on.


This is not to say we’d do a tour such as this again. This scenario in India is unique. Most likely such an extended private tour such as this in any other country would far exceed the cost we paid for these extra 55-days over and above the Maharajas Express seven day tour through India. 

The crowds roared, particularly from the Indian side.

Below is information regarding the extraordinary experience we had being a part of the electrified festivities. 


The Indian people are dedicated to protecting their borders and this was evidenced by their loud and enthusiastic participation during the ceremonies, dancing, chanting and reciting their national expressions of love and patriotism to their country.

The soldier lined up to perform their classic high kicks.

We couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces during the almost two hours we sat in the tiered seating in the bright sun in the VIP/foreigner’s seats only about 8 rows up from the performance.


Unfortunately, my photos aren’t as good as I would have liked. The sun was in my eyes and it was impossible to see the subjects of the photos. I could only point and click.

Military police from either side of the border.

We are sharing what we were able to come up with during the ceremonies. Now as I write again, close to bedtime, we’ve arrived at our hotel in Varanasi. The city is beyond description. We’ll share details in the next few days.


We have to be in the hotel lobby at 6:00 am tomorrow to head to the dock to board a boat for the Ganges River for the sunrise and more. We had a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant. Its not quite the caliber of the hotels we’ve stayed in so far in India but we’ll make the best of it. 

Military guards protected the perimeter.

Time to wind down for the night. We’ll be back with more tomorrow. Hang tight. Thanks for traveling along with us.


Here’s information on the ceremonies:



“The lowering of the flags ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border is a daily military practice that the security forces of India (Border Security Force, BSF) and Pakistan (Pakistan Rangers) have jointly followed since 1959. The drill is characterized by elaborate and rapid dance like maneuvers and raising legs as high as possible, which have been described as “colorful”. It is alternatively a symbol of the two countries’ rivalry, as well as brotherhood and cooperation between the two nations. Similar parades are organised at Mahavir/Sadqi border near Fazilka and Hussainiwala/Ganda Singh Wala border near Firozpur.”


Every eye in the stadium was focusing on these professionals.

We’re going to give this ultra hard bed a try and see how we do. Nighty night to all!

Amritsar…Many treasures to behold…The Golden Temple…



The Golden Temple as seen through a decorative archway on the religious grounds of the historic Sikh location.

Yesterday morning, our highly competent Amritsar guide Amit, met us at our hotel to begin a walking tour of the historic city with a focus on the world famous Golden Temple of the Sikh people.


India’s Sikh population is approximately 24 million, which is only 1.72% of the country’s total population. Out of the total Sikhs in India, 77% are concentrated in state of Punjab, where we are now located.

We didn’t go inside the Golden Temple when the queue could easily have resulted in waiting in the line for four hours. This photo is only a small portion of the queue.
Sikhism may be found predominantly in the Punjab state of India but Sikh communities exist on every inhabited continent, with the largest emigrant population being in United States, Canada and United Kingdom.

For a comprehensive view of the Sikh principles, which are too detailed for us to include here, please click here. We were fascinated when Amit explained the Sikh ideology, so far removed from the perceptions many possess about this and other religions of the world.
There are many rules surrounding the reading of the Holy Book, one of which includes, once the reading begins it cannot be stopped until completed. There is a 17 year waiting list to receive a copy of the sacred book. This and many other priests sit quietly day after day reading the sacred book written in a language few Sikhs are able to translate.

There is so many aspects to this faith, we could spend years attempting to explain it. However, the purpose of our posts is share our travel and daily life experiences, leaving little time or space to elaborate. The web provides literally millions of entries to further explain details and answer questions curious readers may possess.


In any case, Amit provided us with an overview that undoubtedly enhanced our experience of seeing the Golden Temple, its people and it exquisite surroundings.
Shoes are not allowed in the area of temple and women must wear scarves and men must wear some form of a turban.

Below, we’ve including history of the Golden Temple which may appeal to those fascinated with religious history.


From this site: “Sri Harmandir Sahib, also known as Sri Darbar Sahib or Golden Temple, (on account of its scenic beauty and golden coating for English speaking world), is named after Hari (God) the temple of God. The Sikhs all over the world, daily wish to pay visit to Sri Amritsar and to pay obeisance at Sri Harmandir Sahib in their Ardas.

Amit helped Tom fashion a turban. I thought he looked good with it!
Guru Arjan Sahib, the Fifth Nanak, conceived the idea of creating a central place of worship for the Sikhs and he himself designed the architecture of Sri Harmandir Sahib. Earlier the planning to excavate the holy tank (Amritsar or Amrit Sarovar) was chalked out by Guru Amardas Sahib, the Third Nanak, but it was executed by Guru Ramdas Sahib under the supervision of Baba Budha ji. The land for the site was acquired by the earlier Guru Sahibs on payment or free of cost from the Zamindars (landlords) of native villages. The plan to establish a town settlement was also made. Therefore, the construction work on the Sarovar (the tank) and the town started simultaneously in 1570. The work on both projects completed in 1577 A.D.

The land for the site was bought by the Guru Ram Das Sahib on payment from the Zamindars (landlords) of native villages.

Building are being renovated on the grounds of the Golden Temple.

Guru Arjan Sahib got its foundation laid by a muslim saint Hazrat Mian Mir ji of Lahore on 1st of Magh, 1645 Bikrmi Samvat (December, 1588). The construction work was directly supervised by Guru Arjan Sahib himself and he was assisted by the prominent Sikh personalities like Baba Budha ji, Bhai Gurdas ji, Bhai Sahlo ji and many other devoted Sikhs.

Unlike erecting the structure on the higher level (a tradition in Hindu Temple architecture), Guru Arjan Sahib got it built on the lower level and unlike Hindu Temples having only one gate for the entrance and exit, Guru Sahib got it open from four sides. Thus he created a symbol of new faith, Sikhism. Guru Sahib made it accessible to every person without any distinction of Caste, creed, sex and religion.

Two Sikh men standing at the edge of the holy body of water. Men and women bathe separately in this man made lake for its healing powers.

The building work completed in 1601 A.D. on Bhadoon Sudi 1st, 1661 Bikrmi Samvat (August/September,1604). Guru Arjan Sahib installed newly created Guru Granth Sahib, in Sri Harmandir Sahib and appointed Baba Budha ji as its first Granthi i.e. the reader of Guru Granth Sahib. After this event it attained the status of ‘Ath Sath Tirath’. Now the Sikh Nation had their own Tirath, a pilgrimage center.

Sri Harmandir Sahib, is built on a 67ft. square platform in the centre of the Sarovar (tank). The temple itself is 40.5ft. square. It has a door each on the East, West, North and South. The Darshani Deori (an arch) stands at the shore end of the causeway. The door frame of the arch is about 10ft in height and 8ft 6inches in breath. The door panes are decorated with artistic style. It opens on to the causeway or bridge that leads to the main building of Sri Harmandir Sahib. It is 202 feet in length and 21 feet in width.

During the year but especially during the heat of the summer months, metal glasses are used to serve tap water to visitors. The glasses are washed by these women using a trough of ash, not water.

The bridge is connected with the 13 feet wide ‘Pardakshna’ (circumambulatory path). It runs round the main shrine and it leads to the ‘Har ki Paure’ (steps of God). On the first floor of “Har Ki Pauri”, there is continuous reading of Guru Granth Sahib.


The main structure of Sri Harmandir Sahib, functionally as well as technically is a three-storied one. The front, which faces the bridge, is decorated with repeated cusped arches and the roof of the first floor is at the height of the 26 feet and 9 inches.

As we walked down a road toward the temple.

At the top of the first floor 4 feet high parapet rises on all the sides which has also four ‘Mamtees’ on the four corners and exactly on the top of the central hall of the main sanctuary rises the third story. It is a small square room and have three gates. A regular recitation of Guru Granth Sahib is also held there.

On the top of this room stands the low fluted ‘Gumbaz’ (dome) having lotus petal motif in relief at the base inverted lotus at the top which supports the “Kalash” having a beautiful “Chhatri” at the end.

We walked through the old part of the town of Amritsar on our return to the hotel.

Its architecture represents a unique harmony between the Muslims and the Hindus way of construction work and this is considered the best architectural specimens of the world. It is often quoted that this architecture has created an independent Sikh school of architecture in the history of art in India.”


Of course, we’re excited to share photos we’d taken at the temple. Excessive photo taking is frowned upon, and thus we were discriminating in choosing what appealed to us most. 

Although not maintained many of these old apartments are still occupied, a few centuries after they were built.
Our few hours at the palace was enhanced by the knowledge and expertise of our guide, who works extensively with visitors of the US Embassy. We were truly honored to have him to ourselves for the day.

After the Golden Temple he walked us through back roads and narrow alleyways to further enhance the scope of our experiences. For us, seeing famous landmarks is certainly a huge plus but the ins and outs of “where the people live and interact” is equally important to us.

We were fascinated by the historic architecture.
In the early afternoon, we took a short break from the tour to allow us time to prepare and upload yesterday’s post. By 2:15, Prince, our driver arrived and he and Amit took us to our next adventure, witnessing the closing ceremony of the equivalent of the “changing of the guard” and the nightly closing of the gates at the India and Pakistan border. Fascinating! We’ll be back with photos and story in tomorrow’s post.

Tomorrow morning, we’re heading for the airport for a full travel day with two flights and a 2¼ hour layover in between. We don’t expect to arrive at our hotel, the Hotel Ganges Grand in Varanasi until after 7:00 pm where we’ll stay until February 20th when we’ll fly once again Khajuraho. More on that later.

Back on the busy street we reveled in the strong cultural influences.
We had a fantastic day yesterday and we’re enjoying a quiet day off today to work on our zillions of photos for today’s and tomorrow’s posts. 

Have a spectacular day, dear readers!

Eight hour car ride from Shimla to Amritsar…No delusions, rose coloured glasses…

My spectacular dinner made by the thoughtful chef at the Amritsar Ramada where we’ll stay for three nights.

It was quite a day. Our good driver Prince drove perfectly on the treacherous roads as we made our way down the Himalayas. The traffic, the horn honking, the weaving in and out between cars, trucks and motorbikes was quite a sight to see as well as many other stunning scenes along the way.

As we entered Amritsar after an eight-hour car ride.

India is known for its pollution, skinny stray dogs and rundown structures as a part of life in many parts of country.

A herd of sheep moving on down the road.

Sure, we tend to sugarcoat these rampant realities with our often rose colored glasses in an attempt to paint a colorful view of our nonstop world travels. But what shall we do? Whinge about the fact we’ve yet to see a bright blue sky or totally clear day? Hardly.

Historic building as we drove through crowded town after another.

This country of over 1.3 billion people belongs to its people and they are proud and grateful for what they do have as opposed to what they don’t. We are humbled by their acceptance and their kindness, no, not by everyone, but by most.

It’s easy to see how India had 1.3 billion people. They are everywhere and little land is reserved for countryside or farming.

And, what do we gain by exposing ourselves to these challenges? Exactly what we intended seven years and almost four months ago when we left Minnesota to explore the world.

Color is everywhere.

It was never about hedonistic pleasures pumping our veins with luxurious comforts. It was always about filling out hearts and minds with a new appreciation, a new perspective of life outside the box we so freely occupied all of our lives.

Every area, every town is congested with people and “stuff.”

The meaning, the purpose and the scope of our past experiences was limited to a tight circle around us. Today, it’s the world.

Shops are packed with colorful dresses worn by the Hindu women.

Why, “they” may ask? Originally, curiosity. Now, this blissful opportunity has become about sharing this adventure with all of you; for those who traveled, for those who dreamed of travel and for those who continue with their own goals of exploring the world.

People, cars and more shops.

Each and every day we plot, we plan and we share the peculiarities, the nuances, the joys and the challenges we encounter along the way. Not always pretty. Not always heartwarming and enchanting. But always, as real and concise as we can be from this long acquired perspective.

On a rare occasion did we encounter a more modern building.

Yes, in time it will come to a close. In six days I will be 72 years old with a precarious heart condition. Tom, five years younger will only be able to haul the bags for so many years to come.

As we came down the mountains, we encountered snow.

But we’ll carry on, slipping on those rose colored glasses from time to time to soften the blows of the many harsh realities we encounter in the world to share each perspective with all of you.

Dirty snow piled up on the side of the road.

We just returned from a fantastic dinner on Valentine’s night sans alcohol. No alcoholic beverages are served in Amritsar in the close proximity of the golden temple which we’ll see tomorrow morning with our new guide. We don’t mind forgoing happy hour for three nights in order to savor the local treasures of Amritsar.

Town after town became a picturesque view as we wound our way down the mountains.


Tomorrow evening holds quite an adventure, we’ll share the following day.


Thank you dear reader/friends, for your inspiration and your loyalty. You are always with us.


Happy Valentine’s Day to all the lovers out there…