A couple who wanted to travel in retirement sold their 4,000-square-foot house to afford it, and they aren’t sorry

Joe and Karen Stermitz in Mexico.

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Joe and Karen Stermitz in Mexico.
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Courtesy of Joe Stermitz
  • Joe and Karen Stermitz, both 62, wanted to retire and travel after corporate careers, but they realized that owning a home would make that impossible financially.
  • They decided to sell their home, and now they travel the world full time and live in their overlanding vehicle, seeing the world and traveling slowly.
  • Business Insider is looking for retirement stories to feature in our Real Retirement series. If you’re in or nearing retirement and want to share, email yourmoney@businessinsider.com.
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Joe and Karen Stermitz didn’t want to put off their dreams of seeing the world any longer.

The couple, both 62, worked for years in corporate careers at the same technology company but needed a change. By age 55, Karen had retired, though Joe worked until he was 60. They owned a home in southern Washington, near Portland, Oregon. But something was still missing: adventure.

Before Joe retired, he felt they needed to do something different. “Karen was going nuts, not having enough to do. I started thinking ahead, and I’ve always wanted to drive around the world. Since our earliest trips as backpackers, we occasionally met these guys, mostly Europeans, that had little Vanagon campers, Volkswagen Westfalia campers,” Joe said. “We thought, ‘How cool would it be just to go wherever you want?'”

They started thinking about how they could follow their dreams of traveling and seeing the world in retirement but quickly found that it wouldn’t be possible without sacrifice. “As we were approaching retirement, it was complicated. We were faced with a situation of perhaps having to sell our house,” Joe said.

And so they decided not to wait any longer. “Looking ahead we said, ‘Let’s just go ahead and sell it now, and then let’s travel around the world. Let’s get a vehicle set up and just hit the road,'” Joe said.

“We’ve owned homes all through our careers, and they turned out to be good investments. I don’t know that selling the house was as much a strategy as it was a necessity. It was the only way we could retire early,” Joe said. “It was a tough decision: to have no home and to get rid of the things and not look back,” he added.

They haven’t regretted it. “I don’t need a big house,” Karen said. “I had a big house – 4,000 square feet – in Washington.”

They now live in their overlanding vehicle, with a 6-by-7-foot camper, totaling about 42 square feet. Overlanding – a way of slow travel that involves driving, camping, and being self-sufficient – is a favorite method of many travelers looking to keep their costs low while seeing the world. “Now the whole world is our backyard,” Joe said.

They have options planned out for the day when overlanding isn’t for them any longer, but they aren’t likely to return to the life they once had. “To be honest, I don’t know if we’ll be able to afford a nice home again,” Joe said. “But that’s OK. We can rent one or do some house-sitting in one,” Joe said. “House-sitting is a great way to push your money because you’re not paying for rent.” House-sitting isn’t new to the Stermitzes. They twice house-sat at a castle in France, one time for a full five months.

They agree that while they both made sacrifices to live their life on the road, it’s a decision they don’t regret, and they even wish they could have done it sooner. “Be gutsy, be frugal, and go live life a little bit earlier,” Karen said. “Don’t wait until you’re 65 or 70.”