Author Topic: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?  (Read 7209 times)

Shane

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Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« on: April 04, 2015, 03:06:18 PM »
Planning to FIRE before the end of 2015 and go travelling around the world for a year with wife and now 6 year old daughter.

The plan is to sell everything we own, except for a few personal items that we'll stash at a relative's, and then fly from our home of 20 years in Hawaii to the West Coast. Right now, we're thinking Seattle, because WA has no state income tax. After establishing residency in Washington, we'd like to buy a used car or camper van and take a road trip across the U.S. and Canada, camping and backpacking in national parks, sleeping on friends living room floors and staying in cheap motels as we make our way across the country to the East Coast, where we'll sell our car and fly to Europe. After backpacking around Europe for a few months, we're planning to take the Trans-Mongolian Railway from Moscow to Beijing where the three of us are planning to study Mandarin at a language school for a few months or maybe longer if we really like it.

We're really excited to start this new chapter of our lives where we won't have to work at a job unless we want to. I've been thinking a lot about the logistics of our trip:

What do you guys think we should do for health insurance? Right now we're covered by a plan through my employer, but it's an HMO, which is only really usable in Hawaii. It's possible I could switch to a PPO plan through my employer, which would cover us all over the country, but it looks like paying COBRA for the few months we plan to travel in the U.S. will be expensive, and the plan will probably be useless overseas. I'm thinking maybe if I work up until close to the end of 2015, maybe we could pay COBRA for the first couple of months and then get signed up for ACA in Washington State? If I have no income from my job in 2016, we can use Traditional-Roth IRA conversions to create the perfect amount of income so that we can qualify for maximum subsidies under ACA.

Once we're overseas, should we pay for travel insurance? It looks like pretty much all travel insurance does is pay for emergency treatment and then pay to fly us back to the U.S., but if we're away for a long time we probably won't keep up our insurance in the U.S., while we're away, or should we? Right now, we're thinking of just self-insuring while we're overseas. I'm not sure if we have medical problems that being flown back to the U.S. would be the best thing? Maybe another place where good, affordable medical care is available would be better???

Maybe, as I think about it more I'll come up with some other questions, but for right now, the insurance thing is what I've been worrying about the most.

Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance.

arebelspy

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2015, 03:58:21 PM »
Awesome plan!  Hope you share more as you approach the big move.

Moving states is a qualifying event for signing up for an ACA plan.  Start checking into their cost in WA and your eligibility in FIRE for subsidies.
I am a former teacher who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and am now settled with three kids.
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WYOGO

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2015, 07:58:35 PM »
Sounds wonderful. Lots of space to roam free in these parts :P

Dee18

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2015, 07:27:13 AM »
Definitely get trip insurance.  While you might not fly back to the US, you might want to go somewhere specific depending on the seriousness of the illness/accident.  Also, your current health insurance might not fully cover expenses abroad. It is a bit scary when a child is sick overseas; you want options.

As for studying Mandarin, if you are going to be in China in the winter a great place to live is Xiamen on the southeast coast.  It has mostly clean air, tropical weather, and a relaxed atmosphere...and plenty of great language teachers.  I spent 5 months there with my then 10 year old.  I had hoped to go to Beijing, but was so glad in the end to be assigned Xiamen.  We would not have survived the air pollution of Beijing for 5 months.

Secretly Saving

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2015, 08:49:18 AM »
Sounds like a fabulous plan.  So much fun and a great learning opportunity for all of you!

I've recently been reading a book on retiring overseas.  In it there are lot of pieces of information on insurance -- travel and health types.  They talk about good and bad types and mention: a hospital insurance plan, travel insurance, internet based insurance policies, local (in country) medical insurance policies, and international medical insurance policies.  I know you're not looking to retire abroad at this point, but maybe a book like this might give you some ideas of what is out there and what might best fit your needs.

arebelspy

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2015, 09:12:52 AM »

Sounds like a fabulous plan.  So much fun and a great learning opportunity for all of you!

I've recently been reading a book on retiring overseas.  In it there are lot of pieces of information on insurance -- travel and health types.  They talk about good and bad types and mention: a hospital insurance plan, travel insurance, internet based insurance policies, local (in country) medical insurance policies, and international medical insurance policies.  I know you're not looking to retire abroad at this point, but maybe a book like this might give you some ideas of what is out there and what might best fit your needs.

What's the title/author?  :)
I am a former teacher who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and am now settled with three kids.
If you want to know more about me, this Business Insider profile tells the story pretty well.
I (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out the Now page to see what I'm up to currently.

Axecleaver

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2015, 08:04:14 AM »
That sounds like a wonderful plan, congratulations!

Health insurance plans in Hawaii generally do not have good out-of-network benefits, because most people in the islands don't need them, and they raise the cost of the plans significantly. Unfortunately, that means you don' t have easy access to a plan that will cover your needs while travelling. You might want to look into some of the RV sites that cater to a mobile population - there are many thousands of retirees living in RV's caravaning around the US.

In terms of places to visit, this is something my wife and I considered doing in retirement. We started a list of festivals and national parks around the US we wanted to visit, here's a sample. Your list will probably be very different!

Festivals
Bonnaroo music festival mid June www.bonnaroo.com
Memphis in May (month long festival, BBQ cookoff & Beale St music) www.memphisinmay.org
Suwannee, FL Magnolia music festival (October)
SxSW (Austin, TX) Two to three weeks in mid-March. (This one has gotten a bit out of control in recent years)
Mardis Gras (New Orleans, LA)

National Parks
Grand Canyon
Yosemite
Yellowstone
Redwood
Crater Lake
Mount Rushmore
Arches (SW sandstone arches)

Gimesalot

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2015, 08:42:31 AM »
Regarding your time in China, have you looked in to getting the necessary visas to stay in China long term, more than 30 days?  They can be difficult and expensive to acquire if you don't plan it correctly.  I would pick a city and school first and have them help you with the visa paperwork since you will need to submit documents from them to get your visa.  Also, remember that you need to do all of the paperwork in person, so make sure you end up in that situation, if not you have to pay for a handling service.

I would also avoid Beijing due to the pollution.  I spent some time in Shanghai, and it is difficult to imagine how it can impact your life so much.  You might want to see if Hangzhou is your speed.  I hear it is beautiful and the air is cleaner.http://aqicn.org/city/hangzhou/

Cookie78

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2015, 09:31:08 AM »

Sounds like a fabulous plan.  So much fun and a great learning opportunity for all of you!

I've recently been reading a book on retiring overseas.  In it there are lot of pieces of information on insurance -- travel and health types.  They talk about good and bad types and mention: a hospital insurance plan, travel insurance, internet based insurance policies, local (in country) medical insurance policies, and international medical insurance policies.  I know you're not looking to retire abroad at this point, but maybe a book like this might give you some ideas of what is out there and what might best fit your needs.

What's the title/author?  :)

Also interested in hearing more about this book.

YK-Phil

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2015, 10:19:31 AM »
Awesome plan, congratulations! Sounds a lot like my plan, but as you have a 6-year old you are probably 25 years younger than I am and way ahead of me!

I've traveled to Ulan-Bator by train but the journey to Vladivostok is on my wish list. I just have one comment about Beijing and China in general. I've visited that country over a dozen times since the early 80s and really loved it. You should definitely spend quality time to explore this vast country by road or railroad, but if I were to spend any extended period of time to study Mandarin, it would not be in Beijing (which is still a very interesting city) and my #1 choice would be Taiwan.

Shane

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2015, 01:38:36 AM »
Definitely get trip insurance.  While you might not fly back to the US, you might want to go somewhere specific depending on the seriousness of the illness/accident.  Also, your current health insurance might not fully cover expenses abroad. It is a bit scary when a child is sick overseas; you want options.

As for studying Mandarin, if you are going to be in China in the winter a great place to live is Xiamen on the southeast coast.  It has mostly clean air, tropical weather, and a relaxed atmosphere...and plenty of great language teachers.  I spent 5 months there with my then 10 year old.  I had hoped to go to Beijing, but was so glad in the end to be assigned Xiamen.  We would not have survived the air pollution of Beijing for 5 months.

Point taken about trip insurance. We're definitely interested in learning more about the options available. Do you have experience with any specific companies that you would recommend? What did you and your son do while you were in China?

Thanks for the tip on Xiamen. It looks beautiful there. I'd love to go check it out.

Since we have friends in Beijing with a son who is the same age as our daughter and the kids communicate on WeChat almost every day, our plan is to go to Beijing at the start of our stay in China. We're thinking we'll study for a month or so at a language school in Beijing before taking off to travel around and explore the country. We're planning to move around the country and study at more than one language school, rather than studying continuously for several months or a year in one place. We want to learn some Mandarin, and then go out and use it with real people while we're exploring China. When we find a place that we like, we'll settle down again for a month or more and study some more, before continuing on our way.


Sounds like a fabulous plan.  So much fun and a great learning opportunity for all of you!

I've recently been reading a book on retiring overseas.  In it there are lot of pieces of information on insurance -- travel and health types.  They talk about good and bad types and mention: a hospital insurance plan, travel insurance, internet based insurance policies, local (in country) medical insurance policies, and international medical insurance policies.  I know you're not looking to retire abroad at this point, but maybe a book like this might give you some ideas of what is out there and what might best fit your needs.

@SecretlySaving, I'd love to know the name/author of the book you mentioned as well. :)



Health insurance plans in Hawaii generally do not have good out-of-network benefits, because most people in the islands don't need them, and they raise the cost of the plans significantly. Unfortunately, that means you don' t have easy access to a plan that will cover your needs while travelling. You might want to look into some of the RV sites that cater to a mobile population - there are many thousands of retirees living in RV's caravaning around the US.

Thanks for the suggestion on checking RV sites to see what people on there are doing for insurance. That's a good idea. I'll definitely look into that.


Regarding your time in China, have you looked in to getting the necessary visas to stay in China long term, more than 30 days?  They can be difficult and expensive to acquire if you don't plan it correctly.  I would pick a city and school first and have them help you with the visa paperwork since you will need to submit documents from them to get your visa.  Also, remember that you need to do all of the paperwork in person, so make sure you end up in that situation, if not you have to pay for a handling service.

I would also avoid Beijing due to the pollution.  I spent some time in Shanghai, and it is difficult to imagine how it can impact your life so much.  You might want to see if Hangzhou is your speed.  I hear it is beautiful and the air is cleaner.http://aqicn.org/city/hangzhou/

We've gotten visas and been to China twice before, the first time we stayed 2 months and more recently we stayed for 2 weeks. Luckily, the visa situation is better for Americans now than it used to be. Presidents Obama and Xi met recently and agreed to grant 10 year multiple-entry tourist/student visas to each other's citizens. A few weeks ago I met a Chinese woman who told me that she had recently gotten a 10-year multiple-entry tourist visa for the U.S. I've read that it's uncertain whether the Chinese government will completely live up to its side of the agreement and routinely grant 10-year visas to American citizens as well, but we're hopeful that we'll at least be able to get one year multiple entry tourist visas before leaving for China. Both times we went to China in the past we've gotten visas by FedExing our passports to the Chinese Consulate, once in Tokyo and once in L.A. (I think?). You're right, it's kind of a pain to get the China visa, but I'll bet it's even harder for Chinese people to get a visa to come to the U.S...

Thanks for the tip on Hangzhou. We haven't been there yet, but I recently met three women from there, and they're now my "friends" on WeChat (Chinese FaceBook). One of the women has a son who is my daughter's age, so we may end of there at some point to visit with them.

I agree with you on the pollution in Beijing. That's why we're not planning on staying there too long. It's just going to be our starting place.


Awesome plan, congratulations! Sounds a lot like my plan, but as you have a 6-year old you are probably 25 years younger than I am and way ahead of me!

I've traveled to Ulan-Bator by train but the journey to Vladivostok is on my wish list. I just have one comment about Beijing and China in general. I've visited that country over a dozen times since the early 80s and really loved it. You should definitely spend quality time to explore this vast country by road or railroad, but if I were to spend any extended period of time to study Mandarin, it would not be in Beijing (which is still a very interesting city) and my #1 choice would be Taiwan.

Do you know the Man in Seat 61? (http://www.seat61.com/) That guy's got amazingly detailed information on epic rail trips all over the world. If you haven't seen his site yet, definitely check it out. He's got a whole section on his website on the Trans-Siberian/Mongolian Railways.

Our plans are still in flux. We aren't planning on spending an extended time in Beijing. Since we have some friends there, we're planning on starting our China journey there, but as you said, China is a huge country that deserves to be explored, and staying only in Beijing would be a waste in my opinion. Just in the last two days since I started this thread, my wife and I have been going back and forth about our plans. Now we're thinking of maybe flying from Hawaii directly to Beijing, exploring China for anywhere between a month and year, and then taking the trans Mongolian railway from Beijing to Europe and checking out Europe after China. We're also definitely planning on going to Taiwan and possibly studying Mandarin there as well. It'll be nice to be free to go where we like, when we like, without having to worry about having to return home at any particular time to go back to a job. :)

Peter Hessler has written some good books on his travels in China. One of them I liked was Country Driving http://www.amazon.com/Country-Driving-Chinese-Road-Trip/dp/006180410X. Peter rented cars in Beijing and spent months (in clear violation of his rental contract :)) driving thousands of miles all over China but especially along the route of the Great Wall. If you're thinking of travelling around China by car, that book may be an interesting read before you go.

Secretly Saving

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2015, 07:13:20 AM »
Shane, Arbelspy, and Cookie78, the book I referenced is called How to Retire Overseas: Everything you need to know to live well (for less) abroad by Kathleen Peddicord.  Copyright is 2010, so it's fairly recent.  I was looking for a comprehensive book that was written after the crash and snagged this one from my local library.

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2015, 07:21:56 AM »
It sounds like you're planning some great initial adventures!

Point taken about trip insurance. We're definitely interested in learning more about the options available. Do you have experience with any specific companies that you would recommend? What did you and your son do while you were in China?

Don't forget the ACA individual mandate. Going on a months-long overseas trip won't qualify you for an exemption. See IRS form/instructions 8965 for the details.

Be careful to understand overseas coverage and procedures (e.g. whether you are expected to pay for everything up front and get reimbursed later) for any policy you consider, whether an ACA plan or travel insurance with medical and/or evacuation benefits. Medical evacuation can be insanely expensive, so I wouldn't recommend self-insuring for that. It is also something you would need outside help arranging in most of the world, including rural Russia and China.

Annual travel insurance plans often limit the length of any single trip, which could be an issue with your plans for a single extended trip. I could recommend the low-cost basic annual plan I have, but it has a 30 day per-trip limit. If you will be gone for 6+ months, you may have better luck with policies designed for expats rather than travelers, though beware many of those are not ACA compliant (so you would either need a separate ACA plan, an exemption, or a decision to pay the penalty).

Cookie78

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2015, 08:11:52 AM »
Shane, Arbelspy, and Cookie78, the book I referenced is called How to Retire Overseas: Everything you need to know to live well (for less) abroad by Kathleen Peddicord.  Copyright is 2010, so it's fairly recent.  I was looking for a comprehensive book that was written after the crash and snagged this one from my local library.

Thank you. Luckily, my library has it too. :)

arebelspy

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2015, 08:18:23 AM »
Shane, Arbelspy, and Cookie78, the book I referenced is called How to Retire Overseas: Everything you need to know to live well (for less) abroad by Kathleen Peddicord.  Copyright is 2010, so it's fairly recent.  I was looking for a comprehensive book that was written after the crash and snagged this one from my local library.

Thanks! Got it from the library.  The title is familiar, I feel like I may have read it 2-3 years ago, but a refresher is always good if that is the case.  :)
I am a former teacher who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and am now settled with three kids.
If you want to know more about me, this Business Insider profile tells the story pretty well.
I (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out the Now page to see what I'm up to currently.

Secretly Saving

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #15 on: April 08, 2015, 07:33:38 AM »
Hopefully it will have some information of value for you Cookie78 and Arebelspy! 

flyingaway

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #16 on: April 08, 2015, 10:01:53 PM »
I suggest you to get your China visas in the U.S., my son was rejected a China visa in Hong Kong last year and was told to go back to the U.S. to get his China visa.
I doubt you can learn Chinese language to a useful level in a month. However, most young Chinese people can speak some English, you should have no problem in travelling in China. I also suggest to avoid any organized tours, especially the cheap ones. Next thing to expect is a lot of people at any places, especially during the summer time when the students are on travel. 
People in Taiwan speak Mandarin with a different accent. The more differences are in the written words. In mainland China, simplified Chinese words are used, in Taiwan, traditional Chinese words are used.

Shane

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2015, 03:45:09 AM »
I suggest you to get your China visas in the U.S., my son was rejected a China visa in Hong Kong last year and was told to go back to the U.S. to get his China visa.

Probably that's what we'll end up doing. I think we're going to fly direct from Honolulu to Beijing, so we'll need to pick up our visas in the U.S. ahead of time.

I doubt you can learn Chinese language to a useful level in a month. However, most young Chinese people can speak some English, you should have no problem in travelling in China.

Everyone's different. Recently I spent about 30 hours over the course of about a month listening to Pimsleur's Basic Mandarin I course on CDs in my car, and I learned a lot, even though I didn't have a teacher to help me. I use some of the Mandarin phrases I learned in that self-study course all the time now. Every time I meet Chinese people, now, I try out all the different phrases I know on them to see if they can understand me and if I can understand their answers. I really enjoy learning languages, and I'm not afraid to make a fool of myself, so I'm pretty sure I can learn tons of Chinese in a month of intensive study with good teachers.

The thing is we don't have just one month to study. If we're enjoying ourselves, we'll be able to stay as long as we like. I just don't want to lock us into any sort of long term commitment ahead of time at one particular school. China's a huge country with thousands of language schools, and then of course there's Taiwan as well. We want to have flexibility. If we really are enjoying Beijing and want to stay longer, then we'll easily be able to extend our stay. If it's getting too cold or too hot or too polluted there, we'll easily be able to take off after a month and head someplace else...

I also suggest to avoid any organized tours, especially the cheap ones. Next thing to expect is a lot of people at any places, especially during the summer time when the students are on travel.

We're not really organized tour people. We're more like hitchhike and ride on the backs of trucks filled with vegetables people. :)


Dee18

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2015, 12:16:11 PM »
I believe the company I used was SOS:  www.internationalsos.com   While in China I taught at university for a semester. It was great fun and we were provided an apartment on campus.

Eric

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #19 on: April 09, 2015, 12:21:17 PM »
It sounds like you're planning some great initial adventures!

Point taken about trip insurance. We're definitely interested in learning more about the options available. Do you have experience with any specific companies that you would recommend? What did you and your son do while you were in China?

Don't forget the ACA individual mandate. Going on a months-long overseas trip won't qualify you for an exemption. See IRS form/instructions 8965 for the details.


It depends on how long they'll be out of the country.  If it's more than 330 days (per calendar year), then they're not required to carry coverage through the ACA.

From this article:

Quote
For Americans who live abroad full time or more than 330 days in a year, the health insurance mandate does not apply. In addition, Americans who live abroad full time do not pay the tax penalty for failure to have health insurance. In general, Marketplace health insurance covers medical care that occurs in the U.S. Those living outside the country may not have an opportunity to utilize coverage for care provided in the U.S.

Shane

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Re: Post FIRE Travel Advice? Suggestions?
« Reply #20 on: April 10, 2015, 04:13:41 AM »
I believe the company I used was SOS:  www.internationalsos.com   While in China I taught at university for a semester. It was great fun and we were provided an apartment on campus.

Thanks Dee. I'll check it out.


It sounds like you're planning some great initial adventures!

Point taken about trip insurance. We're definitely interested in learning more about the options available. Do you have experience with any specific companies that you would recommend? What did you and your son do while you were in China?

Don't forget the ACA individual mandate. Going on a months-long overseas trip won't qualify you for an exemption. See IRS form/instructions 8965 for the details.


It depends on how long they'll be out of the country.  If it's more than 330 days (per calendar year), then they're not required to carry coverage through the ACA.

From this article:

Quote
For Americans who live abroad full time or more than 330 days in a year, the health insurance mandate does not apply. In addition, Americans who live abroad full time do not pay the tax penalty for failure to have health insurance. In general, Marketplace health insurance covers medical care that occurs in the U.S. Those living outside the country may not have an opportunity to utilize coverage for care provided in the U.S.

I'm thinking it would be nice to spend all of 2016 outside of the U.S., thereby exempting ourselves from ACA. It depends on how soon we're ready to begin our trip, though. If we could start in January, that would be perfect. We'll see how things turn out...