Give Me The PT Life!
“Late last year, Vicki and I received an urgent call to fly to New Haven, Connecticut,” writes Perpetually Traveling Correspondent Paul Terhorst, “where our nephew was a Yale graduate student. He’d recently been confined to a wheelchair and needed some help.
“Vicki and I were in southwestern China at the time. Within a few days we managed to get flights and were on our way.
“My first priority in New Haven was to find a place to live. I began the search by wandering through campus. I saw the Yale Visitor Center, walked in, and started talking to the guy there. He was from Congo, French-speaking, and soon we were talking in French. I told him Vicki and I needed a furnished place to live for a couple of months. He said, ‘My sister has an apartment…’
“The next day we were installed in a US$1,000-a-month basement apartment.
“We had our own living room, den, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. The furnishings were basic but comfortable. Upstairs lived a wonderful African family, Mom and two daughters. We sometimes cooked upstairs and got to know the family.
“I thought the rent was a bit steep. I had seen ads for apartments for less than that, and closer to campus. But, over the course of our time there, I realized that we had a very good deal indeed. Utilities alone came to more than US$250 a month. Then there was cable TV, broadband and WiFi, telephone, gardening, maintenance, newspaper, and what have you, all paid by my landlady upstairs. I’d been out-of-touch with U.S. living costs. These days a grand a month barely covers out-of-pocket expenses for the above, much less the whopper mortgage, property taxes, and insurance. The average mortgage in the U.S. today costs US$1,721 a month.
“So goes the life of a PT, a perpetual traveler. We wander the world, from Paris to Bangkok, from Kunming in southwestern China to Buenos Aires, enjoying what we find and then moving on. Last year we moved to New Haven for two months. This year we plan to spend more time in Asia.
“We have the flexibility to do what we want to do, when we want to do it. This same flexibility also allows us to spend what we want to spend, generally speaking, choosing how we want to spend it.
“I like to think of us as homeless. Not the destitute homeless, but homeless in that we own no home, have no home base, and have no particular place to return. Home, for us, is wherever we plug in our little computer.
“Some assume that homeless means friendless, that we must be loners. But we have friends around the world, plus our cyber community.
“Others assume homeless means living out of a suitcase. Yet Vicki and I and most PTs we know travel less than many others. Other retirees go to New Zealand for a wedding and stay for a week. We go to New Zealand for a wedding and stay a month or two.
“We PTs also travel with far less luggage, in our case with only carry-ons. After all, we know we’re going to have to buy stuff when we arrive. Why bother to guess in advance what we’ll need?
“Some extend the PT concept to include Prior Taxpayer, Perpetual Tourist, or Perfect Thing. One website says, ‘PT stands for many things: a PT can be a Prior Taxpayer, Permanent Tourist, Practically Transparent, Privacy Trained, Party Thrower, Priority Thinker, Positive Thinker, Prepared Totally, Paranoid Together, or Permanent Traveler.’
“But I prefer to stick with Perpetual Traveler.
“Prior Taxpayer misses the point, I think. For sure, we PTs pay no property tax, because we own no real property. But, as U.S. citizens, we’re still liable for U.S. income taxes regardless where we live.
“Perpetual Tourist misses the point, too. We PTs tend to return to places we know well, places where we live like the locals. And Perfect Thing, well, Perfect Thing depends on your point of view.
“So consider the life of a Perpetual Traveler. We PTs enjoy adventure, novelty, reflection, and fun. We can choose to pay closer to a US$1,000 a month for housing, all in, rather than US$5,000.
“Are you a candidate for becoming a PT?
“To find out if you’re a likely candidate, ask yourself three questions.
“First: Whom do you trust?
“PTs tend to trust people rather than governments or institutions. If PTs need a hospital in Thailand, we get our innkeeper’s recommendation rather than calling the consulate. If we need travel or emergency help, we get it from a friend or a fellow traveler rather than from American Express. We travel with tourist visas, if at all possible, rather than fussing with residence permits.
“Security to a PT comes via a trusted friend, a helping hand, rather than a government program.
“Second, how attached are you to personal stuff?
“A friend with a 96-year-old mother tells me Mom is afraid to die because of what will happen to her stuff. She figures her son–my friend–will irreverently get rid of her stuff, which, of course, he will. Since she can’t bear the thought, she’s decided not to die.
“PTs live with very, very little personal memorabilia.
“Can one be a PT and still keep a small apartment or house trailer? We hear that question a lot. The answer is yes! In recent years Vicki and I owned a modest summer-home outside Buenos Aires.
“PT is an attitude as much as a lifestyle. The point is not how much stuff you have but to what extent your stuff controls your life.
“Third, do you use the Internet and e-mail?
“PTs tend to make friends all over the world. We plan trips based on trips other PTs take. The only practical way to do this is with e-mail and a website. With e-mail friends can reach us wherever we may be. We help out with a website that gives our schedule.
“And we take care of our investments, banking, and taxes, again, online.
“The way Vicki and I see it, PTs have more fun and less stress, live more flexibly, spend less money, and see more adventure than those who own homes. If families live scattered around, as many families do these days, PTs touch base more often. In short, PTs live rich lives.
“Would you be happy living the PT lifestyle? Would this be the ‘retire-overseas’ approach that might prove most rewarding for you?
“Vicki and I will be in Scottsdale, Arizona, next month, with the rest of the Live and Invest Overseas team, for the Retire Overseas Conference. We’ve asked Kathleen to build a PT workshop into the program.
“Come, join us, and we’ll show you what the PT life is all about…and help you determine whether you’re cut out for it…or not.”