Fifteen years ago my husband and I retired at the ages of 55 and 58 respectively. I wanted to sell everything we possibly could and travel. My husband wanted a home base in the States.
We did what he wanted, but he now actually spends about 6 months a year based in the Seattle area for his Formula Ford racing passion. I fly back and forth between there and Tucson. The major reason is our goofy dog, but beyond him, somebody has to be responsible for that homebase. He says he'll stay here till he dies. I'd prefer to sell the house and rent an apartment.
Why did we retire so early? For me it was mostly for health reasons. I did not want to spend my later years working, not knowing if I'd wake up the next morning or not. I loved my 35+ year profession as a librarian, but not all the places I practiced it, including the last one. After 27 years in the testing labs at his company, my husband had reached his limit of tolerance for the bureaucracy.
"How are people finding it when they don't have work (something meaningful) after working for decades?" I must say that this concept never even occurred to us. Our jobs did not define us. I'd spent most of my career working in a profession that I jokingly called "intellectual waitressing." I guess I'd had enough of meaningful. After his kids all hit 18, he worked to support his racing. Maybe he had, too.
I would not say my husband and I can relate much to these comments: "Lots of retired, financially flush, well to do travelers." And "... I can’t even imagine being able to retire, let alone travel longer when I have less money coming in..." Both my husband and I came from working class backgrounds. We didn't exactly grow up "flush" whatever that means. I'd say we're not flush now either.
We were both smart enough to never live up to our means, much less beyond them. We each saved, invested at a high level in our companies' 401Ks and did as many of the recommended financial planning things as we possibly could. With both our vehicles 14+ years old and having about 200,000 miles each on them, all we have to do is look at other people's newer and more expensive vehicles when they ask how we can do the things we do and they get the point.
We both believe that you can tell what's truly important to people by how they spend their money and their time. For him it's racing. For me it's travel. I can't imagine us giving up either or not having a dog as long as we are physically and financially able.
The longest trip I've ever done was 4 months in 1977-78, and I had to quit my job and sell most of my stuff to do it. The longest trip my husband and I have taken together was 2 months in 2009. That was his first trip to Europe. Even though I pay for the trips, after 2014 he opted out of travel to concentrate on racing. We didn't go in 2010. From 2011 to 2013, our trips tended to be about a month long. The 2014 one was about 6 weeks. We also didn't go in 2015.
I've traveled solo every year from 2016 to now. The longest of those trips was 6 weeks. The shortest was a little over 3 weeks. My trip this year will be about 5 weeks, including 2 back-to-back RS tours with time before, after and between them. I'd probably prefer to be gone for 6-8 weeks at a time. What keeps me from that is missing my dog and the unreasonable USPS held mail 30 day limit. Camp Bow Wow takes good care of the dog, so I wouldn't feel bad about leaving him there longer. For 5 weeks I can work around the USPS limit considering how the mail is delivered in our rural area, but any longer than that can be problematic.