It’s only human nature to put things off and a vacation before retiring is often considered a luxury. What would you do if you were diagnosed with an incurable terminal disease with three months to live? As crazy as the question sounds, it might be the most important one you’ve ever asked yourself.
Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying"
For myself, the song is a powerful message about the preciousness of time. In spite of the lyrics, I’m not suggesting we all run out to sky-dive or ride a bull. However, if there is something you’ve always yearned to do, why wait? Travel is one of those things many folks put off hoping to do after retirement.
The other evening, my wife and I watched “The Last Holiday”. A humorous movie about Georgia (Queen Latifah) learning she only has weeks to live. Her “Book of Possibilities” leads her to a posh European resort and meeting a world-famous chef. For us, it raised the question of what’s on our bucket list?
We’re not suggesting anyone go out and “blow all their savings”. Yet, if there was one thing you really wanted to see, what would it be? Regardless if you have a burning passion, it’s proven to be healthy to have at least one holiday a year.
According to US Travel, more than half of Americans (55%) do not use all their holiday time. In fact, American employees failed to use 768 million days of paid time off in 2018. This was a 9% increase from 2017. The trend is going the wrong way as benefits of time off include greater productivity, reduced stress, and better mental health. The most common reasons these workers don’t use their time off include:
Travel While You Are Still Healthy
Our belief is everyone should travel while they’re still young and healthy enough to fully enjoy it. My perspective was shaped by the passing of my grandfather several months prior to his 65th birthday. My grandparents planned to travel the world, yet this remained an unfulfilled dream. The cold hard truth is none of us know how long we will walk this earth or what our health will be.
If you wait until retirement, there is no guarantee you will still have the stamina or mobility to see all that you want. For instance, walking over uneven ground at a historical site or strolling down a cobblestone street may become beyond your (or your partner’s) ability. It’s shocking to realize how many people are stricken with mobility issues.
Revitalize Your Spirit
The greatest value of a holiday is relaxing and unwinding. Whether you travel to some exotic destination or stick around home (staycation), you leave the daily pressures behind. Most of us will catch up on our rest, sleep in or have a few lazy days. Our minds finally slow down and we become more present in the moment. When we’re “off-the-clock”, we have the flexibility to do whatever we feel like. Some popular activities include camping, fishing, golf, or pampering yourself with a spa day.
Another aspect is that it’s mentally stimulating to see and do new things. As children, we all once had an innate sense of wonder and curiosity. This tends to be suppressed with our growing responsibilities and the necessity of keeping up in our fast-paced world. Travel can re-awaken these dormant senses.
It's More Affordable Now Than It Will Be
Why you should vacation before retiring is that it’s easier to afford getting away while you are still working. Unfortunately, many folks fall into the trap of financial independence planning to retire early. After scrimping and saving for years, they’re reluctant to touch their hard-earned savings. I’m a proponent of saving and properly preparing, yet what’s the point if you don’t enjoy the fruits of your labor? That’s why it makes sense to travel while you can and, if need be, work at few years longer.
Inflation and the rising cost of living ensures everything will cost more in the future. Thinking back to my first cruise (over ten years ago), the cost was about $100.00 a night for an inside cabin. That was a 21-day Mediterranean cruise and today, that same cruise is almost double the cost. The basic fare has gone up, excursions are pricier, and the cruise lines have found creative ways to further pad your final bill. Are Cruises Worth It? shows how passengers are "nickel and dimed" to inflate their final bills.
Travel / medical insurance is highly recommended when leaving the country. The rates significantly increase as we get older and a pre-existing condition may make it cost prohibitive or restrict coverage. Without proper health insurance, a trip to the hospital in a foreign country could financially wipe you out. Stories abound of inflated medical charges requiring to be paid in full for you to be allowed to leave.
Health Benefits of Vacation Before Retiring
There are numerous studies that support the health benefits of why you should vacation before retiring. These include reduced stress with improved physical and mental health. Our daily grinds are filled with stresses that cumulatively wear us down. These can be getting stuck in traffic, being behind on a deadline, financial pressures, and a host of personal issues. It affects each of us differently based on our interpretation and ability to manage it. When you begin feeling overwhelmed, your stress rises to high levels.
Stress related symptoms can include low energy, headaches, upset stomach, aches and pains, and trouble sleeping. Over time, living with too much stress weakens your immune system leaving you susceptible to disease and illness. The good news is a study by MDPI reveals that even a four day long weekend has positive effects on well-being. In fact, you may experience fewer stressful days even up to a month and a half later after a good holiday.
As many as a third of American adults may have metabolic syndrome which can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and strokes. Symptoms can include elevated blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. According to Syracuse University, there is considerable research supporting decreased risk of cardiovascular disease by taking regular holidays.
The quality of your relationships correlates with your overall happiness. Sharing time and doing something fun together is a challenge for most couples. It’s no secret that our relationships suffer due to busy lifestyles. The Most Important Ingredient for Retirement Happiness uncovers how happiness is connected to our relationships. When you think about, after retirement, what will you do and what have you got in common with your significant other? Rekindling your relationship requires making time for each other. A holiday, an occasional weekend getaway or crossing something off your bucket list paves the way to a happier retirement.
The same applies with family and friends. Travel is often a social affair getting away to share good times. Destination weddings are becoming ever more popular as an alternative means to celebrating the big day. More and more families plan a cruise or an all-inclusive resort get together.
Exploring Where to Live in Retirement
As you approach your retirement age, have you decided where you want to live? Why you should vacation before retiring is to check into the feasibility of where you want to live. This might be closer to family, a milder climate, or for a lower cost of living. Your get away focuses on getting a better feel of living there, the people, culture and if you’d be happy.
This is particularly important when you are considering retirement in a different country. Ideally, you’ll want to spend as much time as you can and at several different times of the year to get the full picture. If possible, connect with any expats in the area to get deeper insights into living there.
The World Keeps Changing
Are there places you want to one day see? The world continues to change and with the impacts of tourism, disease, and political unrest might restrict your plans. It used to be you could climb the Mayan pyramid at Chichen Itza. For safety and other reasons, it’s now roped off with thousands of tourists passing through. Cozumel has become a major cruise port with an estimated 4 million visitors each year. As more baby boomers' take holidays expect the line ups and costs to continue to grow.
The recent outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has created major health concerns throughout Asia and the world. Due to this outbreak, entire regions have been in quarantine including several cruise ships. Outbreaks of disease have always plagued mankind and will continue to flare up.
Terrorism, war, and political unrest restrict travel to affected areas. Fortunately, after almost a decade since the Egyptian revolution, the pyramids in Egypt are once again safe for tourists. Terrorist attacks, from groups such as ISIS, endanger safety and disrupt travel plans.
We get one kick at the can, so to speak, and need to make the most of our time. Taking a holiday promotes better health and well-being. If travel is something you enjoy, don’t wait for retirement. Too many things can derail even the best laid plans. You or your partner's health might decline, travel costs increase becoming unaffordable, or changes in the world can make it impractical.