Bob and I have always loved to travel. Our kids grew up thinking that every family spent hours in the family car stopping randomly to see the Continental Divide, the ocean, waterfalls, wandering battlefields and national parks, picnicking tailgate style for lunch whenever folks got hungry. We started with camping in large part because there was so much more to do in a campground than in a boring hotel room and of course it was cheaper. The minute we pulled into a campground the kids ran off to make new friends.
We’ve noticed when we tell folks about our adventure to see the world, having sold almost all of our possessions, people often comment how much they like to travel but they’d need to be able to go home. Our perspective is a little different. While we are indeed traveling to different locations…sometimes as short a time as two weeks and sometimes as long as 5 months, once we reach a destination we really try to settle in and make that location our home. I think Michigan will always be home to us…at least psychologically if not physically. We love the state. It’s spectacularly beautiful. And although neither of us is originally from Michigan, for most of the years our kids were growing up we lived in Michigan. We have family and good friends there. If home is where the heart is, Michigan will always be home to us! But in the next few years, maybe longer, we intend to make our home wherever we land!
Our move to Florida was interesting. Because we’ve never spent a lot of time in the southeast, we decided to stay away from interstate highways. (You know those highways that Steinbeck said made it possible for Americans to get from one place to the next efficiently without ever seeing anything!) We find places off the beaten path to be particularly interesting. The first night out of DC we stayed in New Bern NC and walking down the main street of this little town after dinner we found the birth place of Pepsi Cola. Then the next day near the Georgia border in South Carolina we came across locals selling handmade grass baskets on the side of the road. It was like a trip back in time!
We are currently wrapping up two months in Florida. Most people here this time of year are full-timers not transplants. Many of the homes around us are closed up for the summer.We have noticed that our stays already have a different feel from the travels we’ve done previously. As we settle into places we try to find balance between everyday activities we enjoy and sightseeing.
Everyday activity example: Get a local library card. (Florida and DC have both made this process very easy!) Find a favorite restaurant (Hurricane Charleys in Punta Gorda has a thatch-covered deck right on the gulf. And amazing seafood.) We also enjoy seeing the different flora and fauna in the area. Sightseeing examples include: Visits to US Treasury, and Library of Congress. Checking out the Gulf Beaches.
Florida is incredibly hot this time of year but with our own private pool and a very comfortable two bedroom air conditioned home, it’s really no different than other extreme weather. (Though I do keep one ear always open to the hurricane forecast…so far all has been quiet in the Atlantic and Caribbean! Keeping our fingers crossed…) We’ve basically used the time in Florida to plan for the next year. We want enough structure that we have some feeling of what’s next but at the same time enough flexibility to allow us to do things on the spur of the moment. It’s not an easy balance to achieve. So where do we start? Before we left Michigan we listed several places we wanted to live. Included in this random list were: Portugal, Malta, Southern France, Turkey etc. We also knew that we were limited to 90 days in Schengen countries and then we had to be out for 90 days.
We got out our handy map of Europe. We chose to visit Europe first because we have seen very little of it and also because it is probably the area of the world that will be the easiest adjustment for us in the beginning. As we learn more about what we’re doing we can venture to less familiar areas. Next we sectioned off general areas. We have a fairly structured budget and if we plan to visit areas near each other, we can save considerably in transportation costs. Finally, we looked at the weather. Whenever possible we’d like to live in locales during their shoulder seasons. Those couple of months on either side of their high season. Weather should be good and costs a bit less.
So this is the plan: We’ll fly Aug 4 to Paris via Icelandair because the airlines has this nifty perk that you can have a free stopover in Iceland for no additional cost. We visited Reykjavik in 2006 on our way back from Scandinavia and fell in love with it. But this time we’d like to try to see the northern lights so we figured a 2 night layover on our way back to the States would break up an extremely long flight and maybe, just maybe, the aurora borealis might be visible! (Plus on Airbnb I found a place for $116 total for the two nights and the owners will pick us up from the airport! Isn’t that amazing?)
I found that we can get a short term lease cheaper than renting a car traditionally. So we’ll pick up our car at the Paris airport and then head to Utrecht, Netherlands, where we’ll spend two weeks. (An extra perk in Paris is that our daughter Cary, will fly from Rome to spend a few days with us!) From there we’ll head to Ghent in Belgium for the next two weeks. The next three weeks will be spent in Normandy. From Normandy we’ll have 3 weeks in Bavaria. We hadn’t planned for that originally but Octoberfest is something we really want to experience. We’ll end up in Paris, turn in our car and then spend a final week in Paris. We decided on the length of our stays pretty randomly figuring that after a couple of months we’d know if future stays should be longer or shorter.
Because we are expecting a new grandchild at the end of October, we’ll head back to DC to meet him and help out with his sisters. November we’ll catch up with friends, get our physicals, and spend Thanksgiving in Seattle. December will be Christmas with our Michigan kids and grandkids!
This takes us up to the end of the year. We’ve made Airbnb reservations that far. I’ve been amazed by how helpful Airbnb hosts are. We’ve found renting from individuals (v corporations) a much more pleasant and personal experience. And while we have tentatively planned where we’ll be in January through June of 2016 (Portugal, Basque area of Spain, and Sicily for 90 days followed by Turkey, and UK for the 90 days we have to be out of the Schengen countries) we’ll wait until we get closer to the end of the year to make those reservations.
I think that at this point we’ve done all the planning we can. We’re ready to jump in but first I think I’ll plunge into the pool given that it’s currently 98 degrees (and the pool reads 87)!