How to Retire Early and Travel the World: An Interview with Pat Kelly

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Dear friends,

Today I’m excited to share an interview with my adventurous friend Pat Kelly, who is currently living and volunteering in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

For the past 12 years, Pat has been traveling around the world andsharing her remarkable adventures. She agreed to answer some questions about her unique path, and how she’s been able to create this amazing lifestyle.

Pat Kelly

When did your love for travel begin?

I’ve always said I popped out of the womb with an interest in traveling. My first trip was when I was 17,  three weeks after graduating from high school, when I backpacked through Europe with a friend.

In 2008, you moved from the U.S. to Puerto Vallarta. What inspired you to make that bold move?

My now ex-husband had retired years earlier, and because of our age difference we decided it made more sense for me to retire early so I could spend time with him and travel.  I didn’t want to retire from a job I loved to sit around in the U.S., so we bought a condominium in Puerto Vallarta and moved there. We both loved Mexico, and the lower cost of living allowed us to live our dream life by traveling over 50 percent of the year.


Elephant in Africa
Tarangire National Park in Tanzania | Photo by Pat Kelly


Can you share some of your financial strategies that enabled you to retire early? How did you plan and save?

We are both frugal, and that made it easy to save for something important like early retirement and travel. Along with taking advantage of Mexico’s lower cost of living, we also consolidated when I retired, so we had only one car and a smaller home. This allowed for much greater savings.


Pat Kelly in Tanzania
Pat in Tanzania in Feb. 2020


Tell us about some of your recent adventures and the important volunteer work you’re doing.

Unfortunately, after 21 years together my husband and I divorced. At that point, I decided I wanted to keep traveling. I had known about different organizations that you can do long-term volunteering for in exchange for room and board. Because I had lived in Africa years before, I knew I wanted to come back here. I also have a long-time friend living in South Africa. So, I found a great organization and spent my first 13 months living outside of Kruger National Park in South Africa. I was the Outreach Manager teaching local kids about the conservation and preservation of their natural resources.


Kruger National Park, South Africa
A giraffe family at Kruger National Park, South Africa | Photo by Pat Kelly


After a wonderful year, I knew I wanted to continue. I found a platform called Workaway that allows you find working holidays, cultural exchange programs and volunteering opportunities all over the world. These positions vary greatly, and this has become my new life. I have volunteered at several more places in South Africa and am currently in Zanzibar, Tanzania. I plan to continue traveling and volunteering for the foreseeable future.


Pat Kelly at Bright English Medium School in Tanzania
Pat Kelly, upper right, at Bright English Medium School in Tanzania


If people reading this article are inspired to help or volunteer abroad, what advice would you give?

There are numerous platforms for short- and long-term volunteer experiences. Some you pay for, and with others you trade your work for room and board. Research is the beginning!

This lifestyle requires flexibility, good planning, and being very adaptable. Life—at least in Africa—is not always easy, so you have to be prepared to live like the locals. It is interesting and very educational. I have made life-long friends doing this as well. If you can do it, you should try!


Pat Kelly
At the DAKTARI Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage


Thank you, Pat, for giving us a glimpse into your life and work. You’re a global citizen who’s truly making a difference, and we hope you’ll stay in touch and keep us abreast of your adventures.

Readers, have you ever volunteered and traveled to another country to give of your time? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the Comments section of this post. Check out Workaway for more info about Pat’s program.

Best always,

Signature for Eliza Cross

At Michamvi Sunset Bay Resort
At Michamvi Sunset Bay Resort in Zanzibar, Tanzania | Photo by Pat Kelly

2 thoughts on “How to Retire Early and Travel the World: An Interview with Pat Kelly”

  1. Loved this article and subject, Eliza.
    Great interview…inspiring!!!
    Want to join the Jan financial planning club.
    How to ?
    Mama C

    • Thank you, Mama Claire. I agree – Pat is an inspiring person. She has followed her heart and explored the things in life that bring her joy — and you’ve done that, too. I signed you up for the January Money Diet so you’ll be all set when it starts at the end of the year. Love you! xo


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