(Substantially Revised: February 2022)


This photo is from the balcony of my childhood home in Corona del Mar (Newport Beach), California, around 1978. I lived in a modern-style house built in the 1960s. The balcony overlooks a canyon. The house is about half a mile from the ocean, and on a good day, if you squint, you can see the sea in the background. I am on the left side of the photo. My aunts, uncle, and grandmother are the people in the center of the picture.

¨I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met¨

John Green

An Unconventional Travel Addict Profile

A Note About Blog Photos

While most of the photos in the Fifty Plus Nomad blog relate to the topic under discussion, many photos feature my favorite places worldwide. The pictures’ captions also discuss why I loved that particular place.

Being a Travel Addict Has Changed My Life More Than Almost Anything Else

I am a confirmed travel addict. I constantly yearn to see new places, meet new people, and learn about the world. Whenever I do not spend considerable time traveling, I feel like something important is missing in my life.

This addiction has ruled a considerable part of my life and led me to many adventures, including

  • Spending more than eight years traveling around the world as a volunteer, student, or tourist;
  • Visiting eighty-five countries; and extensively studying the history of, culture, and history of several nations (including Italy, Japan, Russia, Canada, the USA, and perhaps more than anywhere else—Mexico). 

A rare day passes by when I am not either:

  • Sightseeing, traveling, writing, or researching about travel.
  • Working on my Fifty Plus Nomad travel and living abroad blog posts or teaching a language or travel seminar.
  • Planning a future trip.
  • Learning about places I have visited or want to revisit in the future.

Take Fifty Plus Nomad’s Living and Traveling in Mexico Workshop

Let me use my extensive experience living and traveling around Mexico to:

Help you decide if living in Mexico is right for you (it isn’t right for everyone)
Share my passion for Mexico
Find your perfect place in Mexico.
Set up, enjoy, adapt and create a joyful new life in my adopted homeland
Travel around Mexico comfortably, safely, and enjoyably on any budget.

My Lifetime Addiction to Travel: A Summary

My Childhood and Adolescence

Baby Picture, 1967

Most of my most vivid childhood and adolescent memories revolve around either traveling or planning travel, including:

  • Five years old: Santa Claus visited 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 our frequent family trips to Tijuana, I found a booklet entitled “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 declared to my parents that I wanted to retire in Mexico. My parents replied, ¨We don’t you think that you need first to finish school and work before you retire¨? My reply was a sheepish ¨Well; I guess so¨.
  • Eight years old: I memorized the name, location, capital, and 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 a copy of what I believe was one of the first Lonely Planet guides in a small bookstore in Marin County, California. (A Shoestring Guide to Asia). The book opened up the world to me. It made me realize that traveling was not expensive or complicated 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¨.
  • I also discovered in High School that I liked learning foreign languages but had a distaste for the way teachers taught foreign languages in those days. I ended up with a Minor in Spanish but didn’t finish a Major because I didn’t enjoy studying Spanish literature.
High School Graduation Picture, 1983

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 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 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.

I discovered people who love traveling and living abroad through these seminars like me. (Students’ comments inspire many of my Fifty Plus Nomad blog posts).

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 cared for my father for a year and a half until he died in February 2011.  

me, 2005, teaching Big Blue Marble travel seminar

March 2011-November 2015

Here is a photo of Paul Heller, the founder and CEo of Fifty Plus Nomad, on a Caribbean cruise. Find out everything you want to know about him in this Unconventional Travel Addict Profile of his life.
2012, Caribbean Cruise

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 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.

November 2015-August 2019

From November 2015 until August 2019 I:

  • lived part-time in my house in Merida, Mexico.
  • spent three months a year in Montreal
  • 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).

I did not enjoy 2016- 2019 as much as 2011 -2015 because I:

  • Undertook many home repair and construction projects in Merida, which overwhelmed me.
  • Did not spend enough time developing friendships and a sense of community in Merida.
  • Never felt settled in one place.  

My Incredible Travel Experiences from March 2011-August 2019

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 various 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.
  • Attending incredible festivals like the Carnival in Rio and the Stampede in Calgary and enjoying all the special behind-the-scenes tours in Disneyland and shows and amusement parks in Cancun and Las Vegas.
  • Traveling a couple of years independently in relative comfort (no hostels) worldwide.
Photo of me, my friend Claudette, and her son, Reginald, at the Calgary Stampede in 2014.

August 2019 to Present

In August 2019, for economic and personal reasons, I decided to settle down for a while and start concentrating on developing my new enterprise, Fifty Plus Nomad.

In January 2020, I went on a two-month trip around Mexico for personal growth and researched this blog. Unfortunately, I was express kidnapped in Puebla two weeks into the trip. While I finished the trip as planned, I felt nervous and distracted and didn’t accomplish much.

I returned to Mérida, and the Covid 19 pandemic began three weeks later. The combination of the pandemic and kidnapping hit me hard. Fortunately, I have recovered and am working on the next chapter of my life.

I initially thought Fifty Plus Nomad would mainly be a forum for books and classes about long-term traveling and living abroad. However, my friend Juan Carlos Cab asked me to help him improve his English skills, and I rediscovered how much I enjoy teaching languages. I

Through the help of Juan Carlos and my expat friends, I also developed a supportive and fun-loving network of friends for the first time in my life.

So now, I will stay in Merida (and hopefully travel for three months a year) and offer workshops about long-term traveling, living and traveling in Mexico, and one-on-one Spanish and English classes in Casa Los Dos Gallos in Mérida or online. I also have recently decided to develop a new blog section about living and traveling in Mexico.

I look forward to working with other Fifty Plus Nomads to make their dreams of speaking Spanish and English, long-term travel, and traveling and living in Mexico a reality.

Among my favorite two weeks during my five-year round-the-world trip was taking a class in Madrid in modern Spanish art and history. I loved learning about the exceptional art in the Prado (pictured here), Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen Bornemisza museums. Though designed for non-native speakers, the class was entirely Spanish. Wouldn’t it be great to learn enough Spanish so you could attend classes like this?

Fifty Plus Nomad Offers Four Exclusive Spanish Workshops and Courses

Fifty Plus Nomad’s one-on-one, Intensive Spanish course, using the one-of-a-kind Polyglot Method, provides personalized coaching so you can converse comfortably and deal with daily life comfortably in Spanish.

Our Survival Spanish workshops teach you enough Spanish to deal with many typical situations facing travelers and expats.

Our “Teach Yourself Spanish Workshop” will develop a plan so you can polish up your Spanish on your own and provide follow-up coaching.

Workshops are offered online or in person at the beautiful Casa Los Dos Gallos in Merida.

Fifty Plus Nomad Classes and Workshops

Language Classes

I believe anyone can learn a foreign language if they:

  • Commit to studying Spanish or English for at least 100 (ideally 300) hours.
  • Find a teacher or a coach to help them find a way of learning a language that matches their individual needs and experiences. Everyone learns differently, and almost everyone needs to change how they learn several times on the road to fluency.
  • Interact with native language speakers as often as possible.
A photo from my 57th birthday party at my home.

Workshop on Living and Traveling Abroad

I also believe that most people can easily make long-term, extended, nomadic travel and living in Mexico the best experience of their lives. However, most people approach living and traveling abroad in a way that doesn’t give them the most satisfaction.

Like me, most people obsess over the details. But, they fail to develop the right mindset and strategies to enjoy their dreams entirely. Or worse, the details scare them off, and they don’t even leave their home and regret that they didn’t embark on their long-term travel and living abroad dreams for the rest of their lives.

I wish I had the help of someone with extensive round-the-world travel experience before embarking on my long-term travels. I made many minor errors that cost me time, money, and comfort. Perhaps, more than anything else, I went through several psychological challenges that I could have avoided if I had been more prepared for the challenges of living full-time on the road.

I want you to avoid my mistakes and offer short-term (1-2 weeks, 20-40 hours) individualized workshops to help you design your perfect new life on the road or as an expat abroad.

While I plan to write books still, I am excited about offering my long-term travel and living and traveling in Mexico workshops and intensive language classes in my home and online.

Let’s all make traveling and living abroad and/or learning a foreign language an essential part of our life over 50. If that sounds just like what the doctor ordered, take the first step by checking out my Fifty-Plus Nomad blog, signing up for a Fifty Plus Nomad individualized travel seminar or a language class, and joining the Long Term Traveling and Living Abroad Over 50 Facebook Group.

Picture of myself, my wonderful dog, Lobita, and my friend, house manager, and cook, Juan Carlos Cab

A Map of My Travels

Click here for an interactive map of my travels.

A screenshot of a map of my travels prepared on Travellerspoint
A screenshot of my travel stats from Travellerspoint

Create your travel map and statistics

¨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.¨
Angelina Jolie

Notes on My Travel Map

Above is a map of all the places I have traveled during my lifetime prepared through Travellerspoint.  

According to the site’s statistics, I have traveled over 1.4 million kilometers (nearly 900,000 miles), spent more than eleven years on the road, and visited 100 countries.

Travellerspoint counts places like Martinique considered part of another country (in this case, France). My count includes only United Nations-recognized governments. However, I usually say that I have been to 85 countries.

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 develop their maps and statistics (and share them in the comments below). 

Things I Love

I spent a wonderful day at the Sydney Opera House because it combined two of my favorite things a tour of the opera house and watching an opera. (All for about $75).

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable, it is designed to make its own people comfortable.”
Clifton Fadiman 

My Personal Philosophy

  • The Best Summary of My Personal Philosophy Toward Life: Jewel’s Song Hands, “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, and 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, and Belgium. In the US, I would like to visit someday every presidential library. (I have already seen 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 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 (which 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. (Recently, I have developed a fondness for opera and rock concerts).
  • My favorite cuisines: Mexican, Chinese, Indian, Peruvian, Danish, Polish, Turkish, 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 are the Movies: Mamma Mia and Sex and the City. TV shows: Glee. Songs: Toute Va Tres Bien Madame La Marquise.
The Yucatan’s Melipona Honey is considered one of the finest kinds of honey in the world. I highly recommend that you visit a place where Melipona honey is produced. Watching the production is fascinating because it is not much different than it was 1000 years ago when Mayan culture was at its height.

Ready for a One-of-a-Kind Chance to Discover the Yucatan?

Spend a partial or full day enjoying two unique Yucatan experiences with Fifty Plus Nomad.

Eat a Rustic Home-Cooked Yucatan Meal
Let Juan Carlos Cab, one of the region’s best home cooks, show you the Yucatan’s rich and unique mixture of Mayan, Mexican, Lebanese, and European flavors.

Take our Yucatan Society and Culture Workshop.
Discover what makes the Yucatan unique from the rest of Mexico and learn how to understand and fit in comfortably with the Yucatan’s relaxed and hospitable lifestyle.

Want to Find Out More or Schedule an Experience?

Contact us via Phone (from outside Mexico: 011-52) + (Merida) (999) 611-0154 or via WhatsApp or cell phone at (Merida) (999) 388-8821 or through our Contact Form

Additional Posts About Fifty Plus Nomad Classes and Workshops, Biographies, News, Blog, Definitions

Paul Heller has been a lifelong avid traveler and language learner and teacher, Even as a child, he told Santa Claus that he wanted to visit all the children worldwide. At seven years old, Paul wanted to retire to Mexico. At eight, he memorized the name, capital, location, and some facts about every country worldwide. At twelve, he found a book "Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a Shoestring" and started developing his own itinerary for a future round-the-world trip. He remained obsessed with travel; after getting a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California and working as an administrator, He spent his vacations going to different countries around the globe studying language, touring, and volunteering. In 1994, he quit his job and lived in Russia as a volunteer English instructor. He discovered that he loved teaching languages. In 2004, he decided to make a living out of his travels and founded a community of people who love to travel just like him. He developed 5 three-hour classes about living and traveling long-term worldwide which he taught in over 50 adult education programs throughout the US. After his parents passed, he realized his dream of traveling around the world; cruising and touring some of the most remote places like the North Atlantic, Patagonia, and Oceania; and learning new languages (he knows Spanish, Italian, French, and Russian). Paul encourages everyone to learn foreign languages. He knows that it can be frustrating and slow but that anyone can learn a language if they put in the work and, most importantly, learning a language is well worth the time and effort because it opens up a whole new set of people, ideas, and cultures. He is currently spending the next chapter of his life in Mérida, México. He is excited about using this blog and his classes and workshops to inspire and equip fellow Fifty Plus Nomads with the language, cultural, and psychological skills necessary to be successful and happy long-term travelers and expats over 50.

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