Many people have emailed or asked us how this journey came about and whether or not it is economically feasible for them to replicate this trip. So, we thought we would discuss the process and the economics involved.
Last summer, while we were getting ready to sell our house and give away our belongings( the cost of transporting, insuring, and/or storing our furniture until we needed it, would have been more than the value of the furniture), we began to explore where in the USA we wanted to move in order to be away from snow. Nothing immediately jumped out at us as ideal. Listening to our children's suggestions, we decided the time was right for this adventure. Other than wondering if we could afford to make this journey (which we will discuss later) three major obstacles presented themselves. First up was how to get our medications while traveling? Our doctor was willing to provide us with enough written prescriptions to get us through the year. We thought about having our son, who would be acting as our power-of-attorney, fill the prescriptions at a local pharmacy every three months and mailing them to us. However, mailing medications overseas to individuals is illegal, so that option was out. Researching filling the prescriptions in Europe seemed to be the next best option. Everything we read indicated that European pharmacies could be helpful, at least to the point of connecting us with local MD's to countersign the prescriptions. We went with this option and it turned out to be the correct one, at least here in Italy. We now have a 3 month advance supply of medications.
The next big obstacle we faced was travel health/medical evacuation insurance. Our Medicare insurance does not cover us overseas. Most of the travel insurance plans we explored would only cover us for 90-180 days. Researching this topic, we got in touch with Travel-Ex insurance which offered a one year coverage plan, including medical evacuation if needed, for a reasonable fee.
The biggest obstacle we faced was the Shengen treaty. Twenty-six countries of those comprising the Europen Union signed this treaty in 1985. The advantage of it was to provide open borders, easing the need for constant passport control. The main disadvantage, at least for those of us not citizens on the EU was that we could not stay within the Shengen zone for more than 90 out of any 180 days. The only ways around this were either to marry a citizen of the EU, apply for a student visa, or apply for permanent residency. None of these options were applicable to us. Thus, we had to plan our journey carefully so that we would spend 3 months within the Shengen zone and 3 months outside of it for each 180 day time period. While this would mean hop-scotching around, it added some interesting travel options for us that we had not considered at the beginning.
Which now brings us to the question, is this trip worth it? Certainly, the educational and intrinsic value of the places we have visited so far were worth the effort. But what of the actual costs of the trip? We have found that we have been living consistently below our pensions and thus able to bank money into our accounts. For the first month, October when we were in Florence, our total expenses, including one way air fare, rent, food, and all entrance fees, totaled just below $7000 US dollars. For the month of November, while in Rome and when our daughter and her husband stayed with us for a week, our expenses were around $5000 USD, which included train fare to Rome from Florence, plus a day trip to Pompeii. December was even cheaper with expenses falling to under $3000 USD. As we move into January, of course we anticipate that our expenses will increase some as we will have the added expense of air fare to Istanbul.
The bottom line is that financially, this trip is quite affordable. As long as your health is good and you plan your trip carefully, just about anyone can do what we are doing.
One last item needs to be addressed; family connection. Since our children and their families are spread across the US, we customarily saw them only once per year each for an extended visit. Upon returning to the US from this one year adventure, we will once again visit our children's families for extended visits. In the meantime, we stay connected by sending postcards to the grandkids and making frequent phone calls to our children. In addition, each of our children have said that they plan to visit us with their families during this journey. Therefore, they are following along as members of this journey.