Sherry Goodloe's own frightening time convinced her to retire early.
"I had breast cancer six years ago, and I looked at between retiring at 62 and 65, and I thought, 'Do I really want to stay there another few years, or do I want to start really living?'" she said.
The Chicago native spent most of her professional career in Southern California, where she worked as a supervisor for the Auto Club.
She retired two years ago at age 62. Goodloe realized that by downsizing and cutting expenses, she would have enough money through her Social Security, 401(k) plan and pension to "start really living."
After taking a train trip across America and a one-way "repositioning" cruise to Europe, Goodloe discovered U.K.-based TrustedHousesitters.com.
"I travel the world, house- and petsitting through TrustedHousesitters," she said. "It's almost like an Airbnb that you don't pay for."
Goodloe has to pay her own way to locations where she housesits, but once there, she stays for free. Sometimes the homeowners will allow you to use their car, she said.
"I got a world map and I started mapping out places I wanted to go," she said.
She's been a housesitter in England, Italy, Australia and even the Canary Islands. TrustedHousesitters says nearly 40 percent of its U.S. sitters are over the age of 55, and they allow anyone up to age 84 to apply.
To afford her new lifestyle, Goodloe sold almost everything and got out of her lease. Her "home base" is the second bedroom of her best friend's condo in Chicago. That friend noticed the change in Goodloe once she started traveling the world.
"She says it was almost like a rose that was closed, and it just opened up," Goodloe said.
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EBRI found that nearly half of retirees they surveyed said they left the workforce earlier than expected, often for health problems or a company downsizing.
But one in three left because they could afford to, or they wanted to do something else. Goodloe considers herself in that last category.
Recently, she was petsitting a dachshund named Biggie Smalls at a modern apartment in Dallas. Most stays allow her hours of free time to go exploring.
"If it's a cat, it's very easy, because cats are so independent," she said.
Her next stop is a home in Seattle, where she's already stayed before.
"The new retirement is not retiring. Yes, that's me," Goodloe said. "I plan to do this as long as I can. I love it."