Ten years ago, Californians Lynne Martin and her husband, Tim, embarked on a happy adventure of living in their favorite places abroad, renting cottages, villas, apartments and flats for extended stays in Paris, Lisbon, Venice, Berlin, Dublin and elsewhere.
In 2014, Martin wrote a lively memoir about their adventures “Home Sweet Anywhere: How We Sold Our House, Created a New Life and Saw the World.’’ It is still in print and is available in eight languages. (www.sourcebooks.com) Her book chronicles the couple’s decision to sell their home on the Central Coast of California in 2011 to travel, but with a difference: They lived for up to three months at a time in each port, then returned to the United States for a month between destinations before disembarking again.
The Martins spent five years living across the world without a home base. During that time, they resided in 12 countries, including Mexico, Argentina, Turkey, France, Italy, England, Germany, Portugal, Morocco and Ireland. After that, they built a new home in California to live in, using what they learned about vacation rentals while living abroad, and rented it out when they traveled.
Lynne Martin, now 80 and widowed since Tim’s death, in 2019, no longer in the vacation rental business, but she is not sitting idly. She is now blogging about aging on her website. (homefreeadventures.com). Two of her essays on aging have been published by Mark Chimsky, editor of “65 Things To Do When You Retire: 65 Notable Achievers on How To Make the Most of the Rest of Your Life.’’ (www.sellerspublishing.com). Martin
co-authored a cookbook that was published in 2019 and is in discussions about a follow-up cookbook.
I recently caught up with Martin. She discussed her latest activities and reflected on her travels, which she thinks helped slow down the aging process. She also explained how her financial advisors helped make her globetrotting dream an affordable reality and she shared what it takes to make long-stay travel a success.
Despite the occasional apartment with no stove, the condo with all-night partiers next-door, and the flat without heat in February, Martin remembers it all with affection.
“I wouldn’t take one minute back! We loved every single second, we really did, even the lousy parts. We grew. We grew in confidence because it expanded our ability to absorb new cultures, and it helped to slow a little the aging process,” said Martin. “In every new place you have a thousand new things to learn—where the light switches are; silly stuff. But big stuff, too: You have to learn the transportation system, how the building doors
lock, very basic but it keeps you on your toes.’’
Before setting foot abroad, the couple undertook detailed preparation, including having a sound financial plan that was provided by their financial advisor of about 20 years, Neal Frankle. (Matt Stadelman became the couple’s financial advisor when Frankle went into semi retirement, she said).
Frankle took the proceeds from the Martin’s house sale in Central California (about $500,000) and added that money to their portfolio. Martin says they lived on about $6,000 a month during their globetrotting years. This figure was also derived from investment earnings (“We haven’t touched a dime of our capital,’’ Martin has said), plus Social Security and savings.
While abroad, the discipline imposed by Frankle’s master plan “saved us from ourselves, especially on those occasions when we wanted to splurge,’’ said Martin.
So in expensive Paris, the couple learned how to shop wisely in supermarkets and outdoor markets, cooking at home more often than dining out. But when they lived in countries with a weaker economy, such as Portugal, they were able to indulge now and then and make the high-end purchase.
When they embarked on their adventures, savings came from Tim Martin’s income as the owner of a small electronics company in California, and Lynne’s income from the public relations firm she operated in Hollywood. Other sources of savings came from two businesses that she co-owned, a gourmet cheese company that distributed its products in fine food markets and an equipment-leasing brokerage firm. Lynne had also inherited money from her late husband, Guy.
Back in 2010, Lynne Martin said, financial advisor Frankle was a conservative watchdog of their money, which enabled them to “progress forward. We couldn’t possibly keep up with what is going on in the financial world and have as good a time, at the same time,” she said.
Her current advisor, Stadelman, of Navalign Wealth Partners (www.navalign.com) in Encino, Calif., has provided similar planning for Martin, who now lives most of the year in a house she and Tim had built in 2015. The 1,200-square-foot house is nestled near an old oak forest (but only minutes away from Trader Joe’s, she said). It doubled as a rental when the couple was traveling, and became their eventual retirement home.
From the years of long stays in Paris and in other parts of France, Martin was inspired to write “Cook Like a Local in France,’’ in collaboration with California chef Deborah Scarborough. She says the impetus to write the cookbook came from having to learn the lay of the land, culinary wise, during those years abroad. (www.countrymanpress.com)
“When Tim and I decided to live in vacation rental houses, we learned a lot about cooking in one pot and a rusty spoon on less than functional kitchen equipment,” she said. “And when you go to a new place, say in France, Turkey, Morocco, you have to learn a whole lot about how to shop. You have to fit in with others so you don’t get trampled.”
“We wanted to do a book about cooking in France from the bottom up, which means how to behave at the market; how to communicate with the fishmonger who doesn’t speak English; how to find the best foodie festivals; all that stuff,’’ said Martin. The focus of the second cookbook being discussed is cooking like a local in Italy.
Martin says she has learned several lessons from life on the road in places where she and her husband did not speak the language and had to school themselves in the everyday demands of life. One lesson is: don’t travel with a companion on long jaunts unless you really like each other.
“Tim was a marvelous companion: He was in charge of all the activities, and renting and transportation—all the hard stuff. I just did the fun stuff,” she says. “He was a delightful, charming, funny traveler. My husband was also a genius at this stuff; he was a travel guru.’’
Martin and her husband booked their foreign travel rentals in advance through www.vrbo.com. “If you stay a month or longer, you can make a better deal with the owner. We negotiated a little bit,’’ she said.
For medical insurance, the couple kept Medicare and supplemental in place in the United States and purchased international health insurance for the days they were out of the country. Martin said international health insurance covers catastrophic illness (such as a stroke), takes care of the patient in the geographic location where the illness occurs, and covers transportation costs to bring the ailing patient home. The Martins used
www.sevencorners.com, a website providing various international insurance plans.
“Luckily, we both had great health and a sense of humor. That helped a lot!” added Martin.“We laughed at everything; you have to. We didn’t let things like no heat bother us that much,” she said. “In the beginning, we were nervous, because we were not sure we had done the right thing, but as time went on, we knew that it was all good.”
“The best part is the people you meet,” said Martin. “I just got an email from my wine guy in Paris. We lived in the same neighborhood, the 15th arrondissement, which is outside of the main part of Paris.” She and her husband lived outside the main parts of major cities to save money, and to live in neighborhoods that were off the tourist-beaten track.
“It was just glorious to get to know people in these various countries and become friends, and those friendships have lasted. I am still in touch with them, dear friends,’’ said Martin, who says some of her new friends dubbed her and her husband “leaders of the Home Free Movement.”
“So many people followed in our footsteps,” she said. “First, it was scary, they said. They were afraid: They were selling their houses, and they didn’t know what they were doing.’’
Martin remains grateful to Frankle, the financial advisor who she said held the couple’s hands from the planning of their new adventure, and onward.
If she would do anything differently in her five years on the road with husband Tim, it would be this:
“I would have stayed in Paris, forever. I could live in Paris with no trouble at all, very happily. I have been back several times since then, including when we went to Paris right as the book was published,” she said. “My second favorite is Great Britain. We enjoyed England a lot; and I love Ireland.’’
In her award-winning four-decade career in journalism, Eleanor O’Sullivan has covered everything from how to nurture a robust rose garden to choosing the best sustainable investments. She has interviewed movie stars and financial titans, and reviewed many books on best practices for financial advisors. She has written for the New York Times, the USA Today network and Financial Advisor, and was the longtime movie critic for the Asbury Park Press.