As Bob and I reflect on our peripatetic lifestyle of more than three years, we’ve come to realize little things often seem to fit together into larger generalities. For instance, we never realized how attracted we were to the water until we went back and looked at how many of our stays were close to the oceans…many within direct sight. In the United States there was Boston, Seattle and two locations in Florida. Beyond that was Gosport, England, both the southern tip of Portugal and the northern coast of Spain, Lanzarote in the Canaries as well as Sicily, Panama and now Nova Scotia. We find the water provides a peaceful, relaxing environment and we often wonder if growing up on the shore of Lake Michigan has anything to do with our attraction to large bodies of water. The draw continues as we have reservations to spend next January and much of February in the Caribbean before heading to Lecce, Italy not far from the coast and the rest of spring in Antibes, France, on the Cote d’Azure.
We also have found the food to be generally wonderful wherever we go. Because we’ve spent so much time near the water we have devoured delectable seafood dishes in more places than we can count. We’ve had endless lobster and mussels in the northeast and Canada; our fill (well, almost) of shrimp in Florida. We find ourselves comparing favorites: “Okay, how would you rate this seafood chowder compared to…? Or I think this lobster roll is even better than…” We had never tried food trucks until in DC and it’s now become one of my favorite venues. And the Mexican restaurants in the southwest were amazing!
We try to get recommendations from people we meet for suggestions where the locals eat. Sometimes it’s the setting not just the menu. For instance in Nashua New Hampshire we ate at “The Common Man.” http://www.thecman.com/restaurants-and-menus/common-man-restaurants/common-man-merrimack.aspx Not only was the food scrumptious, but the restaurant was the former home of Matthew Thornton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence! The restaurant seated groups throughout the small rooms of the home making it feel very cozy. There were crackers and two kinds of dips as you entered the front door of the restaurant as well as a large cheese round upstairs for all to try.
In Saint John, New Brunswick we found ourselves in a lovely casual restaurant, (http://www.lilylake.ca/lilys.html) Lily Lake Cafe that featured local food made from scratch and to our amazement it was listed as a charity. When we inquired, our waitress explained that the restaurant proceeds benefit community programs in the area.
On the surrounding grounds are biking and hiking trails. There are nearby statues honoring the Canadian worker.
More than a hundred years ago, Lily Lake was a major source of fresh water for the area, and there was a huge dispute between the ice cutters and the skaters which the skaters eventually won. Our waitress explained that this was the lake where she had learned iceskate and also where she taught her granddaughter to skate as well.
If you’ve read my previous blogs you know that historical sites are a major destination for us wherever we travel. We traipse around battlefields, and stop to read monuments, often of people we’ve never heard of. We wander through cemeteries reading names, dates and interesting quotes. We find the architecture of churches interesting but were a little overwhelmed by the sheer number in Europe so while we still check them out, we are less apt to go inside unless. We also like to visit sights off the beaten path like an old residence of a famous person or the Thomas Hart Benton murals in rural towns in the midwest. Or just random things we read about. We enjoy museums of all sorts.
We enjoy art. And we take advantage of local festivals whenever we can. We were in Ireland during the Galway International Arts Festival. The Fringe, along with the Tatoo, were among our all time greatest experiences when we were in Edinbourgh. (We loved the Tatoo so much we got tickets to go to the Halifax Tatoo next week. More about that in my next blog.) We love music so we seek out concerts, particularly those reflecting local heritage, wherever we travel. So far it’s ranged from the waltzes of Vienna to the Celtic Music of the Cape Breton Highlands.
We like trivia games though we’ve not tried them in a foreign country yet. We did find an interesting one at Politics and Prose one of my “must stop at” bookstores whenever we are in DC. The night we went they had one topic, “Broadway.” Wow. I can’t think of any topic we might know less about than Broadway. But it was still a fun and enjoyable evening.
We are often asked how we decide where to rent and what to take with us. Over time, we’ve become more attuned to what we need in our rentals. A washer is really important for us, but after living in Europe for a while we realize while a dryer is nice, not having one is not a deal breaker. We like the car for getting from one destination to the next but it’s really nice to have a supermarket, parks and restaurants within walking distance. We get a better feel for the neighborhood on foot. And a really big plus, is proximity to public transportation. DC has become a second home for us, I believe in large part, because it’s so easy to get around without a car. We take advantage of discount cards when available. We have senior metro cards for DC which allow us to ride the metro for half fare and the bus for $1.00. We also have senior Charlie Cards for Boston with similar discounts. When we have a car, it’s nice to have a place nearby to park (even when we leave it there for days or weeks at a time).
We’ve found dollar stores to be a real god-send as they provide an inexpensive way to acquire those little things that sometimes aren’t provided in our rental. With only one exception, Wi-fi has been available everywhere we’ve traveled. I generally don’t access wifi in hotels as I’m nervous about being hacked, but I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it would be to make travel arrangements without a computer. We have found that virtually no rentals provide a good can opener, and the ones at the dollar stores just don’t cut it. So we carry one with us. We have found, with our age, that futons are definitely not comfortable over time. They’re not bad for a short term stay but since we are doing this full time, we generally look for places that have REAL couches. And a side chair or two is really nice. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by how good the beds have been in almost every place we’ve stayed. An added bonus is a place to sit outside, either a patio, balcony, deck or front porch. (And it’s really nice when the weather accomodates such activity!)
Another thing I really enjoy is doing the grocery shopping. It’s so interesting to see the variety of foods. Meatmarkets and seafood counters are particularly intriguing. Octopus, squid, tongue…so many things we don’t have in our usual markets in Michigan.
The variety of fruits and vegetables are wonderful as well and so tasty! But even in the US things supermarkets are very different on the coasts than they are in the midwest. We particularly loved the “clip your own” herbs we found in a supermarket in Raleigh.
By traveling on the shoulder seasons we are able to avoid the crowds and things are generally less expensive. But as lovers of summer, this often means for us cooler temperatures. We lucked out in Palm Springs by having r warm unusually warm weather in January but other places including Portugal, Spain and Quebec have been chillier. Still we’re generally able to get by with just spring/fall wardrobes with an emphasis on layers.
Where next is always a question we have in mind. We have crisscrossed some countries several times. (France, Germany and the US come to mind.) And while I’m sure there are more efficient ways of traveling, part of the thing I love best about our lifestyle is not planning too far out. And we always find new and different things to see wherever we are…whether we’ve been there before or not.
We find that we travel with “more stuff” in the US and Canada than we do elsewhere. Our car sort of takes on the role of a closet and just as when we owned a home we tended to fill any closet we had, we tend to take more with us when we have the car to put it in.
But when we’re using trains, planes and boats, we’ve found that traveling light is the only way to go. Using brightly colored suitcases also makes it much easier to find our luggage among the ubiquitous black cases. We have learned when we leave a location to drop off our remaining can goods at a local food pantry instead of just leaving it in the house. Often our rentals have very little storage space in the kitchen and we know that the food pantry will be glad to get our donation. When we move from one destination to another and it’s more than a day’s drive, we pack the clothes we need in one suitcase and all our really valuable stuff (like passports, computer, tablet) in our rolly bag so we only have two bags to take into the hotel.
We have stored a few bins of things in our kids’ homes. To simplify things, I created a spreadsheet that lists the location and bin number, and then I list the specific items in each bin. Then too I have a list in the same folder, called, “Things with Us.” Whenever I take something out of one bin and move it to another, I update the spreadsheet. This way, if I need to ask one of the kids to mail something to me I can tell him or her exactly where to find it. Makes it much easier for all of us. Also, whenever we leave one location, I go through my “Things with Us” list and ensure that I have everything on the list. Whenever we visit one of the kids, I take the opportunity to update this list, as well as pitch anything that we no longer need.
Our kids have a difficult time remembering where their parents are or where we’re headed next so I found that creating an itinerary for them with dates and phone numbers is helpful. I share that with them on Google Sheets. Also in case of an emergency, that would be helpful information for them to have. Generally we set aside one day a month to balance the accounts and pay our bills (all online). I also have electronic copies of our passports and credit cards.
Even after three years we continue to get mail through the postal system. Ugh! Since we use our oldest son’s address as our residence, it all goes to him. Every month or so he boxes it up and sends it on to us. (Sometimes that entails sending it to one of his siblings’ addresses where we pick it up.) I had truly thought by this time we’d be done with that but no luck!
Traveling fulltime requires a lot of organization and planning but we’re continuously refining the process and in doing so I think we’re becoming more efficient which gives us more time to have fun and enjoy our everyday travels.