¨I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met¨
A Note About Blog Photos
While much of this blog contains photos of the topic under discussion, many of the photos are from some of my favorite places throughout the world. In future posts, I will briefly talk about why I love these places and hope that you will, too.
Being a Travel Addict Has Changed My Life More Than Almost Anything Else
I am a true travel addict. I am possessed by a constant urge to see new places, meet new people, and learn about the world. Whenever I do not spend a considerable amount of time traveling, I feel like something important is missing in my life.
This addiction has ruled a considerable part of my life. I have spent more than ten years traveling around the world as a volunteer, student, or tourist; visited eighty-five countries; and extensively studied the history of culture and history of several nations (including Italy, Japan, Russia, Canada, the U.S.A, and perhaps more than anywhere else—Mexico).
A rare day passes by when I am not either:
- sightseeing, traveling, writing, or researching about travel.
- planning a future trip.
- learning about places that I have visited before or want to revisit in the future.
My Lifetime Addiction to Travel: A Summary
Most of my most vivid childhood memories revolve around either traveling or planning travel, including:
- Five years old: Santa Claus came to visit me and asked what I wanted for Christmas. My reply was ¨to go in your sleigh so that I can visit and see all the other children around-the-world¨.
- Seven years old: On one of our frequent family trips to Tijuana, I found a booklet entitled something like ¨How to Retire in Mexico on $100 a Month¨. (I grew up in Orange County, California, about two hours north of the US border). I devoured this booklet and then declared to my parents that I want to retire in Mexico. My parents replied, ¨Don’t you think that you need first to finish school and work before you retire¨? My reply a sheepish ¨Well, I guess so¨.
- Eight years old: I memorized the name, location, capital, and some basic facts about every country on Earth. (I still can recite this information, accounting for changes such as the breakup of the Soviet Union, to this day).
- Twelve years old: I randomly found in a small bookstore in Marin County, California, a copy of what I believe was one of the first Lonely Planet guides. (A Shoestring Guide to Asia). The book opened up the world to me. It made me realize that it was not expensive or difficult to travel and helped me develop an itinerary for my future dream round-the-world trip. (Still to this day, I visit places that I discovered in this book).
- I spent nearly every summer in High School as an exchange student in Japan, the Philippines, and Mexico.
- I have a degree in Geography and International Studies (from Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN) and spent a semester abroad at the American University in Cairo. After finishing my studies, I told the live-in nanny from my childhood about my studies. She replied, ¨I always knew that you would study Geography, you were obsessed with it as a kid¨.
My Young Adulthood
When I finished college, I tried to work in and study more ¨practical¨ things. I got a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California. I worked for most of the next fourteen years as an administrator of several municipal housing programs.
While I liked most of these jobs and studies, I always dreamed about traveling. I scoured guidebooks, and later internet sites, to help me expand my travel dreams. (I am particularly grateful to Arthur Frommer’s book A Whole New World of Travel. It opened my eyes to the world of ¨alternative travel¨ like learning and volunteer vacations).
Every year, I spent all of my vacation time going to places that seemed exotic to my coworkers (like Bali). I also participated in many out-of-the-box activities. (Like studying tango and Spanish in Argentina).
For a year (1994-95), I quit my job and became a volunteer English as a Foreign Language instructor in Kaliningrad, Russia. (I married one of my students and tried to live a 9-5 existence complete with the house with a picket fence and was not happy).
Living as a Full-Time Travel Addict
By my fortieth birthday in 2004, I felt almost compelled to make my living out of my travel addiction. I began the Big Blue Marble, which involved teaching seminars throughout the US and writing materials about living and traveling abroad.
Through these seminars, I discovered a small community of people throughout the US who love travel and living abroad as much as I. (In fact, many of the advice posts on this website either come from or are inspired by these students).
In April 2009, my parents got sick, and I decided to quit the business and devote my life to taking care of my parents. A few months later, my mother died, and I took care of my father after that for a year and a half until he died.
My parents left an inheritance that allowed me to realize my dream of traveling worldwide from June 2011 to November 2015. (I traveled for nine months a year from 2011 to 2015. I spent three months a year living with a girlfriend in Montreal, Canada).
The period from 2011 to 2015 was the best in my life. I loved having the opportunity to travel for extended periods without thinking about money or other responsibilities.
From November 2015 until August 2019 I:
- lived part-time in my house in Merida, Mexico.
- spent three months a year in Montreal. (I will spend less time in Montreal starting in 2020).
- and traveled around the world for 3-4 months a year. (I hope to continue traveling at least three months a year in the future).
While I continued to enjoy my life, I did not enjoy the period from 2016 to 2019 as much as 2011 to 2015 because I:
- undertook a wide range of home repair and construction projects in Merida that left me a bit overwhelmed.
- did not spend enough time developing friendship and a sense of community in Merida.
- never felt settled in one place.
Nonetheless, I can say that the period between 2011 and 2019 was overall the best years of my life. I had so many incredible experiences, including spending:
- four months cruising around the world as an adult participant in the Semester at Sea college study abroad program.
- six months cruising in some of the most remote parts of the world (such as the North Atlantic, Patagonia, Oceania, and Transatlantic voyage) on a variety of different cruise lines.
- over eight months on several dozen tours with many companies popular among Fifty-Plus nomads (i.e., Overseas Adventure and Road Scholar).
- nearly six months as a student (usually staying with a local ¨host family¨) learning foreign languages (including Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese) and history.
- and a couple of years traveling independently in relative comfort (no hostels) all over the world.
I am currently looking forward to spending the next chapter of my life, mainly in Merida, and embarking on my newest adventure as the founder of Fifty-Plus Nomad. Perhaps, more than anything, I want to use my life experiences to inspire every Fifty-Plus Nomad to become a travel addict just like me.
Come on, let`s all make traveling and living abroad an essential part of our lives together. If that sounds just like what the doctor ordered, take the first step by checking out my Fifty-Plus Nomad blog; taking a travel seminar or a one-on-one Spanish or English class, and joining the Long Term Traveling and Living Abroad Over the Age of 50 Facebook Group.
A Map of My Travels
Anytime I feel lost, I pull out a map and stare. I stare until I have reminded myself that life is a giant adventure, so much to do, to see.
Notes on My Travel Map
Above is a map of all the places that I have traveled during my lifetime prepared through Travellerspoint.
According to the sites’ statistics, I have traveled over 1.4 million kilometers in my life (nearly 900,000 miles) and spent more than eleven years on the road, and visited 100 countries.
However, I usually say that I have been to 85 countries. Travellerspoint counts places like Martinique, which is considered part of another country (in this case, France). My count includes only countries that the United Nations recognize.
Entering these journeys into the site’s database was a lot of fun. I was surprised to learn from the sites’ statistics that I have traveled the same distance as four trips to the moon. I would encourage Fifty-Plus Nomads to do likewise.
Note. Looking at the map, you will see three bars in the upper right-hand corner that lead to a list of all the trips I have taken. Please note that if you look at this list, it is hard to navigate the map. You should, however, be able to easily use the plus and minus to look at the map in more detail. Also, be aware of some discrepancies between the map below and the real routes I traveled.
Things I Love
¨When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable, it is designed to make its own people comfortable.¨
My Personal Philosophy
- The Best Summary of My Personal Philosophy Toward Life: From the Song Hands by Jewel, ¨In the end, only kindness matters.
My Favorite Places
- My favorite foreign country: Mexico.
- The Countries I Most Want to Revisit: India, Peru, China, Bosnia, Brazil, South Africa.
- Places I Didn’t Expect to Like as Much as I Do: Canada (particularly Quebec, the Maritimes, and Alberta), Australia, New Zealand, Berlin, Vienna, Sarajevo, Bulgaria, The US Southeast (notably Georgia and Florida), New England, Chicago, and Southern Wisconsin.
- I am a massive fan of my home state, California, but for a mixture of personal and financial reasons doubt that I will ever live there again.
- Places I Wouldn’t Want to Revisit: Nowhere.
- Places I Most Want to Visit in the Future: Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Armenia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Romania, Sweden, Ireland, Belgium. In the US, I would like to visit someday every presidential library. (I have already visited the Nixon, Reagan, Carter, Kennedy, and Roosevelt libraries).
My Favorite Things to Study
- All Social Sciences.
- Some of My Favorite Things to Study (other than Social Studies): Architectural and Art History and Foreign Languages.
- Classes that I Wish I’d Paid More Attention in School: Science (in General), notably Biology.
- Classes I Would Like to Take in the Future: Geology, Behavioral Economics (did not exist when I was in school), Archaeology, Zoology.
- Something Unexpected that I Enjoy: Accounting. I have spreadsheets of all the money I’ve spent while traveling and where I have been.
My Favorite Things to Do in My Free Time
- Things I Enjoy Doing in My Free Time: Visiting museums and attending concerts and plays. (In recent years, I have developed a fondness for opera and rock concerts).
- My favorite cuisines: Mexican, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Haitian, and French.
- TV Series that I Loved Binge-Watching: Breaking Bad, The Gilmore Girls, Mad Men, Grace and Frankie, Jane the Virgin, the new version of One Day at a Time, and Better Call Saul. Almost all documentaries. I religiously watch American Experience and American Masters.
- I Love Listening to Podcasts and Radio Shows: Some favorites: Vox’s The Weeds, This American Life, To the Best of Our Knowledge, You Must Remember This, and true crime series, in general.
- Some of My Favorite Guilty Pleasures: Movies: Mamma Mia and Sex and the City. TV shows: Glee. Songs: Toute Va Tres Bien Madame La Marquise.
Want to Learn More About Me?
- My Crazy Top 26 Favorite Stories From Teaching English as a Foreign Language Volunteer in the 1990s in Kaliningrad, RussiaProbably my favorite travel stories come from spending a year and a half as a volunteer English as a Foreign Language teacher in Kaliningrad. It was a wild, once-in-a-lifetime experience that shaped a lot of who I am today.
- 10 of My Favorite Travel Stories From Around the WorldThis blog contains Paul Heller’s, the Founder of Fifty-Plus Nomad, favorite stories about his sixteen years of living and traveling worldwide.
- Why Pack Light Advice Doesn’t Work for Me (and May Not Work for Other Long-Term Travelers Either)I have had more problems because I packed too light than too much. Packing light advice is mainly geared toward people who are going on a whirlwind trip through Europe independently. I usually travel for long periods and stay in only a few places often with great climate variations. I also hate washing my own clothes.
- My Temporary Home Base During Travel in Montreal: 10 Reasons I Loved Coming Home During My Five Year Trip Around the WorldDuring my round the world travels,, I was glad to spend tree months every year at a home base in Montreal. Not only did I grow very fond of Quebec and Eastern Canada but it was fun to just do day-to-day activities with friends.
- My Complex Language Learning History: How I Learned 4 Foreign Languages Without Going CrazyI have learned Spanish, French, Italian, and Russian using a wide variety of methods. Some were more successful than others. I believe the most effective way is to combine several methods like I do with my exclusive polyglot method.
- Expat Life in Merida Blog, Part Two, What a Difference a Year Makes: Guilt-Free Contentment with Friends and a Dog Despite CoronavirusWhile I haven’t written any posts, the last year (Summer 2020-Summer 2021) has been very eventful. I have developed some essential friendships, improved my health, and really settled down into my new life as an expat in Merida.
- 24 Top Outstanding Food Travel TipsDiscover tons of tips for finding authentic food while traveling. Learn about some of my favorite dishes and drinks.
- Round the World Travel: My Top 4 LessonsI learned four lessons from my five-year journey around the world: 1) Mix group and independent travel; 2) Travel to varied parts of the world; 3) Avoid travel burnout, and 4) Have a home base.
- My Favorite 50+ Top Travel MemoirsThis post contains a list of Paul Heller’s, the Founder of Fifty-Plus Nomad, top 50 travel memoirs. Paul deliberately chose books that cover a wide range of countries and types of long-term travelers and expats..
- Want to Unearth Your Travel Personality? Use My Inventory as an ExamplePaul Heller, the Founder of Fifty-Plus Nomad, has outlined in detail his own travel personality. This inventory was developed after taking all the quizzes and answering the questions contained throughout the travel personality section of the blog. It is intended as a model for other Fifty-Plus Nomads to use in developing their own inventory.
- My 2 Most Magical Travel Stories from Yaizu, Japan and Gatchina, RussiaTwo of the best moments of my life occurred while traveling. The first was the overwhelming kindness of Japanese people that I met spending summer 1979 as a fourteen-year-old exchange student in Yaizu, Japan. The second was an unexpected exclusive visit and dinner at the Czarist summer palace in Gatchina, Russia, in 1995.
- My 200+ Favorite Music and MoviesThis is a list of Paul Heller’s favorite movies and music
- Visit Mumbai, India: The World’s Most Surprisingly Interesting CityFind out why I consider Mumbai as the world’s most surprisingly interesting city. Mumbai is dirty, crowded, and polluted but also very sophisticated, modern, and culturally diverse. It features some outstanding museums and sights, too.
- My Surprising and Complex Journey from Nomad to Expat in Merida, Mexico During CoronavirusIn March 2020, I decided to live full time as an expat in Merida, Mexico. It was not an easy decision. I spent 2011 to 2015 as a full time traveler. From 2015 to March 2020, I lived part time in Merida and Montreal and also traveled three to four months a year. Right when I was excited about becoming a full time expat, the Coronavirus pandemic happened and changed my plans even more.
- 8 Horrifying Lessons From An Express Kidnapping In MexicoIn January 2020, I was a victim of an express kidnapping in Puebla, Mexico. I discuss what happened to me and what I learned about travel safety from the incident.
- Frequent Flyer Points: A Lazy Man’s GuideThis is a synopsis of my use of frequent flyer miles during my round the world travels from 2011 to 2015. It should help you to see how the programs have changed in the 2010s and give you some ideas how you can design a frequent flyer strategy that works for you.