Should We Do That?

Although we’ve recently been focusing on the idea of a big road trip, Brett and I talk almost daily about what we want to do and where we want to go when our time in Nashville is over. Mazatlan? Big road trip? New England? Settle down somewhere else in the U.S.? Something else? All of these appeal to us in one way or another, but they all come with pros and cons, and we’re grateful we have the time and opportunity now to examine all of them more deeply. It’s fun to have possibilities or to sketch out rough plans, and it gives us plenty to talk and think about together, but we’re not getting any closer to making a decision, let alone the right one. All we know for certain now is what we don’t want.

We decided this past weekend that it was time we set up a spread sheet. We need to define what we want and will need going forward, and then evaluate the different ideas and places we’ve come up with using those criteria. We’ve made a list of nine items once again, but unlike the past when many of our criteria were in support of our daughters and how a relocation would affect them, the focus this time was solely on our needs as aging retirees. We need to have a logical system for evaluating choices versus getting wrapped up in ideas that have us potentially changing our mind every couple of months or even weeks. Spontaneity, creativity, adventure, and trying something new have always played a strong role in our decision making, but this time is different.

Below is our list of nine criteria to evaluate the potential of particular locations or travel ideas. None of these have been ranked (yet) as being any more important than any other except for cost of living/affordability and healthcare. We discovered when we did this the last time that as we went through the process of evaluation our wants and needs mostly sorted themselves out and ranked themselves without our intervention. Back in 2014, much to our surprise, Kaua’i met eight of our nine criteria, but I don’t think that lightening is going to strike again. Our nine criteria this time are:

  • Cost of living/affordability
  • Healthcare/dental care
  • Housing
  • Proximity to family
  • Adventure/activities
  • Climate
  • Transportation
  • Taxes
  • Senior services

We have less than two years until it will be time to move on, and we’d like to know sooner rather than later where we’re going and what we need to be doing to get there in the most cost effective and efficient way. We’re fortunate to have a variety of choices and time on our side for now, but we know we have to get it right. There will be no more do-overs for us this next time.

Could We Do That?

Back in 2016, Could we do that? was the spark that began The Occasional Nomads’ Big Adventure. We were trying to pick a first location to visit after YaYu left for college from a list we’d put together when Brett said outlaid that he wished we could see them all. We looked at each other and both said, Could we do that? Everything that followed stemmed from that one question.

This past week we once again found ourselves asking each other, Could we do that?

Although we’ve been planning to relocate to Mexico when we leave Tennessee in 2024 we’re still feeling itchy to do a bit of travel first. This past week Brett and I were talking about possibilities for that and road trips came up. We’ve long dreamed of a road trip to visit all the western U.S. national parks, and it wasn’t long before we were asking each other, Could we do that?

We have a car again, and Brett loves to drive. I don’t enjoy driving as much as he does, but can do it and am otherwise a good passenger; long days in the car don’t faze me. Other than my remaining student loan balance we have no debt. Once it’s time to move on from Nashville we will have no obligations, nowhere we have to be at a certain time. It would be an ideal time to head out west and fulfill another dream and it would honestly be our last opportunity to undertake such a journey.

Could we do that?

Someone came up with an ultimate national park road trip map, but we’re only interested in doing the western portion.

We’ve been crunching numbers for the past few days, looking at maps, and gaming out what a big road trip like this might look like and involve. For a couple of days we got excited about camping along the way, and even looked at lightweight campers we could tow, but eventually realized that option didn’t really interest us – for a few days maybe, but not months of it. After figuring out possible expenses (primarily gas, lodging, and meals, storing our furniture) we figured out that by staying in pet-friendly budget motels/hotels and Airbnbs along the way, and sticking to a set daily food budget it would be affordable. We have a lifetime pass to national parks and monuments. We’re still trying to figure out what could be a workable route based on when we could leave but have also realized we need to research more about which parks are open when, which accept dogs and which don’t, and so forth. There’s lots to learn.

While we’re having a good time with this right now we’re still not quite ready to commit to something this big. There are too many unknowns for us right now, things like future gas prices or whether we will even feel up to taking on such a big project in another two years. Is this really even a good idea, we wonder? In spite of the unknowns, the idea is out there now and the big question has been asked.

Could we do that?

We’re beginning to think we just could.

Travel In Our Future

Photo by Leonardo Yip on Unsplash

Brett and I are starting to like this being settled in one place with our own stuff. We like having a dog in our lives again. We’re currently no longer itching to travel, travel, travel other than visit sites or destinations in our area. Brett has already put his foot down that our move to Mazatlán will be our last, and I have agreed. We will not be selling our furniture or things this next time either. Going forward, where we go our stuff will go with us.

Beginning with our departure from Hawaii last May, we found travel experiences disappointing to downright miserable, and something of a deterrent to future travel. I shudder now when I think of the long waits we endured in airports, the expense of dining in airports, or of getting an hour or so of sleep between flights. With airline schedules constantly changing these days, flights being cancelled or placed on hold, and prices going up as well, going from one place to another is no longer the exciting process it was for us back in 2018. Since leaving Hawaii, our journeys from one location to another turned into everything from uninviting drudgery to pure misery versus being the thrilling start to a new adventure they were before.

So, what’s a couple who loves to travel and experience new locations to do? There are still so many things we want to experience, and places we want to see, but we dread the process of getting there.

Mazatlán gets especially hot mid-summer through early fall, and those months would be an ideal time for us to leave town for a while. Early fall is a wonderful in Japan, and mid-summer a great time for us to head up to the northeast to spend time with the girls. We can see ourselves renting a New England beach house or mountain cabin for a month, and spending a couple of autumn months in Japan each year. The “shoulder season” before the summer travel season begins would be for visiting other destinations. There are still plenty more places we’d love to see, including several in South America and others in Europe and Asia.

Travel is definitely going to have a place in our future, but it’s going to have to be done differently than in the past. We’re going to have to adjust our attitudes and expectations going forward and change how we think about and do travel, from possibly upgrading how we travel to the length of time we stay in a location to even possibly taking part in a tour now and again. The travel industry is not going to return to its pre-Covid heyday, and we’re not getting any younger either, nor have the energy we once had for full-time travel. We don’t want to sell all our stuff again, or put it into storage, and the thought of lugging around two big suitcases is no longer as exciting as it once was. We’re ready to have a home to come back to. And, time with our family is more important to us than ever. We know we can make that work for us when it comes to future travel, visiting family and some of our favorite places every year but making time for new locations as well.

The adventure isn’t over yet, and we intend to remain Occasional Nomads as long as possible, but travel in our future is going to happen in a different way.

Retirement Done Differently

Or, How We Got To Where We Are Now.

I never had any sort of idea for the longest time what retirement should or would be like, and certainly never thought ours would turn out the way it has. Brett’s and my path to retirement never followed any sort of regular route, but sort of got made up along the way. Brett retired from the navy following 22 years of service, when he was 42, and continued working after that for another 21 years. I finished my degree (after having to borrow a ton of money) in my 40s, and then also went to work as an ESL instructor. Just to keep things interesting though, during our mid- to late-40s we adopted three beautiful daughters, and I left regular employment in 2006 to stay home and care for them (for months afterwards I never could figure out where I had found the time for my job). Retirement seemed to always be the last thing on our minds, pushed to a back burner and mostly forgotten, and by the time we were in our 60s, and following a major economic setback, we gave up thinking we would ever be able to fully retire. Brett was convinced he would continue to work into his 80s.

Brett and I have never followed what many would call a “normal” pathway through life anyway, and our journey to where we are now was certainly no different. We had one child in our twenties and then adopted three more when our peers were thinking more about their IRAs and an empty nest. We spent the first 15 years of our marriage with Brett in the navy and all that entailed, including moving every two and a half years. The cost for many of those moves came out of our own pockets making saving for the future difficult. Military salaries were low, and it seemed we were always paying off the cost of the last move and trying to save for the next one. Brett’s service was done one enlistment at a time until we finally decided at around the 15-year mark that maybe we should stay to collect the retirement (the best financial decision we ever made). Owning a home was a pipe dream back then, an impossibility, not just because of the frequent moves but because of the extremely high interest rates in the 1980s. A house was just flat-out unaffordable for us, especially when it would have to be sold in a couple of years. Brett retired from the navy during the recession of the early 90s but went back to school, earned a degree, found work, and in 1995 we purchased our first home. With the addition of the girls to our family our focus (and our budgets) turned to raising them. Retirement was still out there but not something we gave a whole lot of thought as there always seemed to be more pressing and immediate concerns.

I’ve often called us “accidental retirees.” While Brett receives a monthly retirement check (and good healthcare benefits) from his military service, the amount has never been enough to live on, especially not with a family. Brett was hired by a company in 1997 that offered a defined pension and he became vested. Sadly, that plan was closed soon after and before he had time to accrue much into the account, but it provides us a small amount of income every month (“milk money”). We also knew that our Social Security benefits would provide another source of income, but even with all three streams it would not be enough that we could ever quit working entirely, especially not with three children at home. The accidental part of our retirement came when the SSA informed us that because the girls would be minor dependents (under 18), in addition to his regular Social Security payments Brett would qualify to receive additional family benefits. This was a huge surprise to us, but we we added up the numbers and along with eliminating our debt figured that Brett could afford to retire in 2013, at age 63. We decided that I would “officially” retire when I reached 64 and start drawing my Social Security once our youngest had aged out of the family benefit.

I’ve often said that many if not most would be surprised at the amount of our retirement income, that even with three streams it’s less than most might imagine. However, Brett and I have always had the ability to make things happen with a smaller income. Have we made mistakes and done stupid things along the way? OMG, yes!!! But we learned from those mistakes: to take our time, save what we can whenever we can, plan and set goals, focus on what’s truly important (needs vs. wants), and leverage debt when necessary. We’ve never been afraid of change or a challenge, of doing things differently, or waiting rather than having to have or do something right away. We’ve learned to be creative savers even when it seemed like there was nothing to save, and practiced frugality before we even knew what that meant. We’ve carried debt over the years but much prefer not having any, and we refuse to judge those who do have it, even in retirement.

Looking back, it sometimes amazes me to think of all we’ve accomplished over the years and that we arrived at where we are now. With the girls grown and on their own, we’re enjoying a comfortable retirement, one we never could have imagined a decade ago. My mother used to tell me “you have to have money to dream.” I disagreed with her: dreams are free, but you often need money to make them come true. However, once you commit to a dream and make a plan, you can and usually will figure out the money part.

The road to retirement is different for everyone, and how we got to where we are now is certainly not any sort of blueprint for others to follow. Our story is ours alone. I offer no advice about how to have a great retirement except to pass along what I’ve learned: 1) Know what you need and what you want and then set your priorities and go for it. 2) Do what works for you and do it in a way that makes sense to you; forget about what others think or what they have. 3) Don’t expect perfection or a straight line. 4) Sometimes what seems like a not so great choice or decision at the time can affect your future in surprisingly positive ways. 5) There’s a big difference between fantasies and dreams. 6) Adjust your dreams as necessary, but never stop having them. 7) It’s your story to write.

Until One Is Committed

“UNTIL ONE IS COMMITTED, THERE IS HESITANCY, THE CHANCE TO DRAW BACK, ALWAYS INEFFECTIVENESS. CONCERNING ALL ACTS OF INITIATIVE (AND CREATION), THERE IS ONE ELEMENTARY TRUTH, THE IGNORANCE OF WHICH KILLS COUNTLESS IDEAS AND SPLENDID PLANS: THAT THE MOMENT ONE DEFINITELY COMMITS ONESELF, THEN PROVIDENCE MOVES TOO. ALL SORTS OF THINGS OCCUR TO HELP ONE THAT WOULD NEVER OTHERWISE HAVE OCCURRED. A WHOLE STREAM OF EVENTS ISSUES FROM THE DECISION, RAISING IN ONE’S FAVOUR ALL MANNER OF UNFORESEEN INCIDENTS AND MEETINGS AND MATERIAL ASSISTANCE, WHICH NO MAN COULD HAVE DREAMT WOULD HAVE COME HIS WAY. I HAVE LEARNED A DEEP RESPECT FOR ONE OF GOETHE’S COUPLETS:
WHATEVER YOU CAN DO, OR DREAM YOU CAN, BEGIN IT.
BOLDNESS HAS GENIUS, POWER, AND MAGIC IN IT!”

William Hutchinson Murray

(This is a repeat of a previously published post)

The best description I ever heard of the China adoption process was that putting the dossier together was like doing your taxes over and over and over and over and over and over . . . again and again and again and again . . . . At the beginning of each adoption journey, a slew of documents needed to be assembled upfront: a home study, birth certificates, marriage certificate, medical reports, police reports, financial statement, adoption statements, immigration forms, etc. – there were nearly 20 documents required in all. Each one of those documents had to be notarized in the state where they originated, then each notarized document went to the Secretary of State of that state for the notary to be certified. After that, the entire stack, by now a couple of inches high, was sent by courier to the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. for each document to be certified again, and finally the whole thing was again sent by courier to the Chinese Embassy for each document’s final certification and approval. Four copies had to be made of every page and certification for the entire dossier and only then could it finally be sent to China and put in line for us to be matched with a child.

The process took several months to complete, and along the way, there was always the possibility for China to tweak or change their requirements. For example, we were almost done with the dossier for Meiling’s adoption when China suddenly announced that physicals could no longer be more than six months old, and ours were seven months old at that point. Panic! But, our doctor squeezed us in, and every other part of the certification process worked flawlessly (for a change) and in just a few short weeks our dossier was finally complete and off to China in late May of 1996. Matches and referrals were taking only three or so months then, so our hopes were high that by the time we returned home in August from taking our son to college we would have news of a daughter.

However, when we returned home and called our agency the news was not good; in fact, it was very bad. China had shut down adoptions for families that already had children, which of course included us. Our agency was moving families into other adoption programs, but China had been the only program that would accept us because of our ages (we were each over 40 years old). What had happened, we later learned, was a power struggle over the international adoption program had broken out between two different political bureaus in China, and adoptions had ground to a halt while they fought it out and reorganized. (We also learned our agency was convinced at the time that the entire program was going to collapse.)

All of our hopes and love, and quite a bit of money, had gone into the adoption process for more than a year, including all of the work of assembling our dossier. I was in graduate school at the time, and my work began to suffer because I could barely concentrate. Brett unhappily slogged off to work each day as well. Our son was at college in another state, so it was just the two of us at home each evening, and we were glum, depressed, and unsure of what to do or how to proceed.

On one particularly bad day, one of my professors emailed me the quote above, and told me to “hang in there.” I shared it with Brett that evening, and we talked about how deeply committed we still were to adopting from China and had been from the start. All sorts of unexpected and serendipitous events had happened and helped us along the way to make our adoption dream come together so far, and we decided that rather than pull out we would stay with it to the end and see what happened, no matter the outcome. We both felt in our hearts that our daughter was waiting for us there.

The William Murray quote was a turning point for us. And, it has proven prescient ever since. When we have committed to something, whether it was adding an additional child to our family again through adoption, getting ourselves out of debt, moving to Hawai’i, or planning a trip – when we have committed ourselves, as the quote says, Providence has always moved too. Things we couldn’t have imagined have happened to help make our plans a reality, and we were given the drive, vision, and persistence to see our dreams come true and our goals reached.

Commitment has been the step where we’ve gone from “do you think?” or “should we?” to “let’s do this” and then started figuring out how to accomplish it. The path to success has not always been straight or smooth or easy, but time and experience have shown that the unexpected does and will occur along the way to help, especially when we need it most. As each journey continues we begin to see things in different ways and act on them accordingly, with our commitment to finishing growing stronger the further along we get.

As the new year began in 1997 we were still waiting, but Brett and I had reached the depths of despair. There had been no positive word from our agency for weeks, and we felt like we were hanging on to hope by our fingernails. We had enjoyed having our son home for Christmas, but he returned to school on January 9. So, when the phone rang on the morning of January 10 I assumed it was him asking about something he had forgotten and wanted us to send. I had been lying on our sofa, crying and asking God for some kind of a sign, that if there was to be no adoption to let us know somehow and we would let it go, but if there was hope then we would continue to hang on. When I answered the phone that morning it was not our son but our social worker: “Laura, there’s a baby girl waiting for you in China,” and on March 12, 1997, in the hallway of a hotel in China, we met our little Meiling for the first time and she was ours.

This was the only picture we received of Meiling before we met her.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!

Game Changer

Brett and I are still coming to terms with how much of a game changer our move to Nashville is going to be for us going forward.

We have absolutely NO REGRETS about accepting our son and daughter-in-law’s request to move to Nashville for the next two years. The request was unexpected, but there was never any doubt about accepting. Brett and I have loads of experience making changes on the fly, can quickly adapt and adjust, and we always make the best of any situation.

However, this move not only changes our plans for the next couple of years, but, as we’ve been figuring out the last few weeks, also for years ahead.

There will be loads of things happening in the next few months we were not expecting to have to do again for a few more years, including purchasing a car and once again buying furniture and other things we’ll need, from a coffee maker to mixing bowls to bed linens and towels. We thankfully didn’t get rid of everything, but most of what we owned here in Hawaii is now gone.

With international travel off the agenda for the next couple of years, Brett and I knew the odds of returning to full-time travel once our DIL and granddaughter returned to Japan were greatly diminished. We talked about whether it made more sense to rent furniture for the next couple of years and buy a used car, but decided we would be happier in the long run if we purchased furniture pieces we could live with for the rest of our lives, and a car that would last the rest of our lives as well.

Once we accepted the above, we realized we wanted own a dog again as well and would adjust future travel plans around that reality. We’ve come up with two paths once our time in Nashville is over: putting our furniture and other possessions into storage and setting off on an extended road trip around Canada and the U.S. along with our puppy for a couple of years, or buying a house and settling down somewhere in the northeast, most likely Maine, and traveling during the winter months (our middle daughter, WenYu, has already offered to store our car and all of the girls have volunteered to watch Kaipo). Both plans have lots of positives and potential for us.

Brett and I were very excited about our upcoming full time travels once again, and have honestly felt sad at times about abandoning those plans. But we are both forward thinkers and optimists, and we also like the options and opportunities we’ve been given. We plan to make the most of our future, and will remain nomads, even if that only turns out to be occasionally.

Here’s the Thing . . .

Here’s the thing about not being able to go much of anywhere and having lots of time on your hands: you can really think things through. Not just what you’re going to do that day, or that month, or that year, but way into the future. You have time to run all the scenarios, do the research, and think deeply about what you really want to do going forward.

More than knowing what we want to do with our future, Brett and I have been clear and united about what we don’t want to do. We do not want to own a home again. We do not want to own a car again. We do not want to own a lot of things any more.

It took us a while, but we eventually realized that rather than settling down someplace and feeling restless, we’d rather travel full-time again for as long as we can. Several months ago we came up with plan that put us on the road again in 2023. We created an itinerary and figured out how much we would need to save to make those plans a reality. We jumped right into savings mode and have been going strong ever since.

However, somewhere along the way, while thinking about travel and the pandemic, the idea of settling permanently in another country came up for consideration. Portugal has been at the top of our list for an overseas location, and so we spent well over a month learning everything we could about the process of obtaining a long-term visa, thinking about where to live so we wouldn’t need a car, and trying to decide what we would bring along with us and how to accomplish that. It turned out to be very doable, and Portugal beckoned with good weather, great public transportation, a low cost of living, good elder care, and access to the rest of Europe and other destinations to scratch our travel itches. The language would be a major issue but we knew we could start learning Portuguese online now and then take formal classes once we arrived.

We got very serious about moving to Portugal and swore each other to secrecy. We weren’t going to tell anyone until we were locked in.

Then a few weeks ago we got to talking about Strasbourg and realized if we were going to live overseas we would rather live in our favorite European city even if the weather wasn’t as nice as it is in Portugal. So, again we started looking into getting a long-term visa (a bit easier in France than Portugal, it seemed), talked again about what to bring, how we would learn the language, figured out a budget, etc. This became even more exciting to us than moving to Portugal! We were especially happy about this decision because learning French would be easier than Portuguese (maybe).

We got ourselves into a serious-about-moving-to-Strasbourg mode and swore each other to secrecy again.

Then last week, as we started watching old Father Brown episodes, we discovered ourselves becoming a bit emotional when scenes around Blockley appeared, especially when the little cottage we had stayed in occasionally flashed into view. We had absolutely loved every moment of our time in the UK and in Blockley, and have continually talked about going back again someday. We had already researched the possibility of settling in England, even with its crummy winter weather, but like Japan there’s no long-term visa we qualify for.

Oh yeah, Japan. In our excitement over Portugal and France we had pushed our absolute favorite country to visit to the back of the pack. When and how were we ever going to be able to do any sort of long stay there while paying rent in France? Or Portugal? What were we thinking?

Something had to change.

And here’s the thing: something did change. None of our previous plans, we realized, were exactly what we really wanted to do right now, just parts of what we thought we wanted. We don’t really want to take up our previous busy travel style again. We’re not ready or wanting to settle down anywhere or own things again. What we needed to do was put together pieces from all our previous ideas and create a lifestyle that would fit us perfectly.

We’re going to be traveling again, but at a very slow pace. We looked at visa rules, got out a calendar, and figured out we could stay 90 days in Blockley, then move to Strasbourg for 90 days, and then head over to Japan for 90 days, with a visit to the U.S. squeezed in as well to see the girls, all without violating any country’s rules for long stays. We can rinse and repeat this schedule as long as we feel up to it, living for long stretches in our favorite places and experiencing them in every season, and fitting in short getaways to other places we want to visit while we’re there. We’ll be nomads again, living with what fits into one large suitcase and a carry-on bag, a lifestyle we loved. We’ll get to see our son and his family once a year, and the girls once a year as well. We won’t have to figure out how to obtain special visas or take expensive language classes, and we’ll be flying less too. We’ll be in places long enough to quarantine, if necessary.

There are 19 months to get through before liftoff, and lots of work to do before our plans can happen. As we well know, much can change (quickly at times) and probably will more than once before our scheduled departure. In the meantime we will do what we can, and continue to save as much as possible, continue to get ourselves in shape and stay healthy, and continue to downsize, downsize, downsize. We’ll also continue to enjoy and appreciate every moment of our time left on Kaua’i. We’re lucky to be here, but looking forward to the future.

First Draft: An Itinerary For the Next Big Adventure

It’s taken a few weeks, but we’ve put together what we think is a good plan for two years of travel! We started off thinking we would figure out a year’s worth but somehow we just got going and couldn’t stop at a year.

I’m sort of happy we did this because it gives me lots of think about when it comes to planning and how much we should save in advance. There’s a big splurge in the second year which will require extra advance saving, but now that we know we’re better prepared to work on a monthly budget for that.

Before we started putting together an itinerary, we set three simple ground rules:

  • A minimum of 30 days in each location
  • Include at least one “long weekend” or getaway to a nearby location (around four or five days)
  • Ninety days in Japan each year
  • Special attention given to the weather and time of year; i.e., other than going to New England in December to spend Christmas with our daughters, no northern visits in the winter, no southern visits in the summer, and so forth.

Locations we have not visited yet were the priority, but there are some return visits. We also wanted the order we traveled to make some kind of geographical sense with not too many long flights in between.

After much deliberation and back and forth, here’s the first draft of an itinerary for the next Big Adventure. We’re pretty sure some things will change as we move closer to 2023, both because of costs and because lots can happen during two years that we have no way of knowing now.

photo credit: Danae Dal Bianco/Unsplash

We’ll start with an month-long stay on the island of Crete in Greece, with a long weekend in Athens and possibly a trip to Santorini.

photo credit: Fatih Yurur/Unsplash

From Greece we’ll head to Istanbul, a place both of us have longed to visit.

photo credit: Julia Solonina/Unsplash

Instead of returning to Rome, we’ve decided we would rather go north and spend a month in Verona, with easy access to Venice, Vincenza, Padua, and Milan.

photo credit: ERROR 420/Unsplash

Next is Western Germany. We wanted to stay in Amsterdam for a month, but lodging is very expensive there so instead we’ll make Amsterdam a long weekend visit. We’re thinking of staying in either Cologne or the area around Frankfurt so we can also go back to Strasbourg for a few days.

photo credit: Candy Good/Unsplash

We’re heading back to the UK after Germany, for just 30 days this time. We can’t decide whether to return to the Cotswolds or instead stay in Derbyshire, but it’s looking like the Cotswolds may be too expensive for a month’s stay (last time Airbnb covered the cost). We plan to rent a car this time, so a trip back to Blockley for a long weekend would be doable from Derbyshire and probably more affordable. We also want to add on a week in London at the end of our stay to see the things we missed before. After nearly missing our flight out of London in 2019, we want to make sure as well this next time we’re already in London before our flight!

England will be followed by a 90-day stay in Tokyo. We hope to find lodging this time nearer to our son’s new home but there currently don’t appear to be any affordable rentals in the area. Sangenjaya, the neighborhood where we stayed before and love, would not be as convenient as before but still doable. There are nonstop flights from London to Tokyo, and this will be where our air miles will come in handy, to upgrade to comfortable seats for the long flight(s).

photo credit: Clifford/Unsplash

If all goes as plans we will leave Japan in mid-December, and head back to New England for a month to spend the Christmas and the New Year’s holiday with our daughters, and re-provision before setting out again. Japan to the east coast of the U.S. will be another long journey, but we are already thinking that unless we find a fantastic fare to Boston we will break up the trip with a short stay in Portland so we can get together again with friends.

At the beginning of 2024 we want to return to Buenos Aires, not only because of a strong desire to experience more of the city, but because it will be summer there! We would like to visit Iguazu Falls this time, if possible, so that’s one idea for a long weekend getaway. We missed seeing Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay on our last visit, another great getaway (it’s just across the river, and a World Heritage site), or maybe spending a few days in Tigre, a natural area on the northside of Buenos Aires. Tierra del Fuego would make a wonderful long weekend visit as well.

photo credit: Miranda Garside/Unsplash

Following Argentine our destination will be Mexico for 60 days, spending the first month exploring Mexico City, and the second in San Miguel de Allende, which would have been our destination following Japan in 2020.

photo credit: Scott Walsh/Unsplash

Leaving Mexico, we will head north again, this time to Canada! Our idea is to spend 30 days somewhere in the Maritimes, 30 days in Montreal, and finish with 30 days in Vancouver. We would rent a car during our stay in the Maritimes but otherwise rely on public transportation in the other two cities.

photo credit: Ondrej Machart/Unsplash

Another l-o-n-g journey awaits us when we leave Canada because we want to head back to Australia for 60 days! We will break our 30-day rule here as there’s several things we’d like to do, and this is probably the last time we’ll go to Australia. We’ll start with a week in Sydney, then travel to Adelaide in South Australia for a 30 day stay. The train made a stop in Adelaide on the way to Sydney during our last visit and we were enchanted by what we saw. At the end of our stay we’ll board The Ghan for hopefully 10 days of travel through the center of the country, with stops in Alice Springs and overnight visits to Uluru and other sites in the outback, and finishing the journey with a short stay in Darwin. Afterwards we’d like to visit my brother and other family in Queensland. A train journey tour package would be our only big “splurge” this time around.

Then it’s back to Tokyo for another 90 day fall stay. While we love seeing the cherry blossoms, the changing leaves, autumn foods, and the chance to celebrate our son’s and granddaughter’s birthday make the fall a great time for us to be there.

We’ll end 2024 with another stay in New England for the holidays.

After coming up with that itinerary, we decided it was time to stop although we have some ideas of where to go after that. There are so many places we want to visit but those can wait until later!

Someplace Old, Someplace New

 

With a firm decision to become full-time nomads once again, we are now beginning to think about where we might want to go on this next round. There are so many places we did not get to visit before, but also several places we did visit that we’d love to experience again, mostly because there was so much there we did not have time for (or we were sick). 

The process of creating an itinerary will be ongoing for a while, and even once we get an initial itinerary drawn up we expect things will change. Our goal is to have a firm schedule set up a full year before we depart in April of 2023, which we’ve chosen as our departure date.

Once again, several things will be under consideration: cost, time of year and weather, lodging availability, and transportation costs and time to and from each location. We know there may be a few other variables we haven’t thought of yet.

Some of the places we visited before and would like to see again (including Tokyo, of course) are (in no particular order):

  • Rome: While we enjoyed our 10 days in Rome in 2018, we both had bad colds there and were also fairly anxious the entire time about crime, touts, etc – it was the first place we ever felt a real potential for theft. Also, it felt “too big” after a wonderful month in Florence. We didn’t give the city a very high rating when we left, but it has grown on us since then and we have often talked about giving it another chance.
  • Lisbon: Portugal was our destination following Rome, and if anything we were even sicker during our time here, and ended up experiencing very little of the city or the surrounding area. We’d like to give it another try as well.
  • The UK: We absolutely loved our time in the UK, and in Blockley, and could happily do another long stay there. We’re sure we’ll return to England, but I’ve learned where some of my ancestors came from (Derbyshire, the Peak District), and am now wondering if that area might be a place to visit instead of or alongside the Cotswolds.
  • Buenos Aires: We spent 10 days in this wonderful city at the beginning of our travels, and have wanted to go back ever since as there was much we didn’t get to see and experience. It’s a long and expensive trip to get down there though.
  • Australia: There’s another long train journey though Australia we want to take, from south to north this time (The Ghan) through the heart of the continent, and we’d also very much like to visit my brother and family in Queensland as well as spend a few more days again in and around Sydney.

Then there are places we initially wanted to put on our last itinerary but couldn’t make fit:

  • Athens: Brett spent time here early in his navy career and would love to visit this city again (me too, for the first time).
  • Germany & Austria: This is a big area, with lots of choices. Vienna has always been a dream destination for me.
  • Amsterdam: Another dream destination for both of us.
  • Morocco: Marrakesh was on our original itinerary back in 2017 but eventually was cut due to time and the cost of getting there and back. We very much also would like to visit Casablanca and Chefchouen (“the blue city”).
  • The South Island of New Zealand: We only had time and money to visit the North Island on our last journey, but promised ourselves we would go back some day to visit the South Island. I was also sick and missed out on seeing Wellington when we were there so I’d like to slip in another stop there as well.
  • Ireland: We have often talked about doing a road trip around Ireland, like we did in New Zealand.
  • Scandanavia: It’s an expensive area to visit, but we still want to go. Copenhagen and the Norwegian fjords are at the top of the list for me.
  • Southeast Asia: Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, and Malaysia in SE Asia all call to us. 

A photo safari to Botswana remains high on my bucket list but still seems almost impossibly expensive right now. Who knows though? Maybe I will put a little away each month into an “Africa fund” after we get started and see where that takes us. We also very much want to go back to Strasbourg, but there’s a tiny bit of fear that it might not be as magical the second time around as it was the first. We feel the same about Florence, and think maybe only doing short stays in what were dream locations for us the first time around might be the way to go this time. There are loads of new-to-us places to explore and stay, but the goal this time around is to not wear ourselves out by being on the move so frequently.

Any itinerary we come up with now is going to be a process in flux for a long while, especially as we research costs, available lodgings, things to do in the area, and so forth. We want to do this smarter than we did before and that gives us even more to think about as we plan. 

Let the Adventure Begin . . . Again

. . . again.

For the past few weeks, as Brett and I have researched and discussed options for our future, a few things became clear:

  • We do not want to own a house again. We came to realize what we liked was the idea of owning a house, but actually have no enthusiasm or real desire for taking on the reality of home ownership again.
  • We are also unenthusiastic about car ownership. Again, we like the idea of buying a new car but are less than excited by the reality of car ownership.
  • We do not want to accumulate a bunch of stuff again, which is exactly what we could see happening if we bought a house.
  • We could easily imagine ourselves feeling restless, unhappy and possibly even miserable if we permanently located in one place.

Over the past few weeks we researched living in New England, and other places on the east coast, to be nearer our daughters. We then went across the U.S., state by state, and asked ourselves if any place there appealed to us. Although some areas ticked off many of the criteria on the list we had made, no place sparked any joy whatsoever. We examined and evaluated all of our options and outcomes for staying on Kaua’i, from best- to worst-case scenarios and got nowhere with that. For a few days we got excited about possibly relocating overseas. We looked into moving to Strasbourg or Bordeaux in France, or to Florence in Italy, but after an initial burst of enthusiasm and looking at the realities of having to obtain visas, learn a new language, set up housekeeping in a foreign location and all that goes along with that, it became a non-starter as well.

Feeling very discouraged at one point last week, I sighed and said, “I miss our nomadic life. Maybe we could just go back to that.”

And that was the spark for both of us.

Although travel days were hard, during the time we were traveling full time we were involved in new places, learning new things, meeting new people, and seeing and experiencing locations we had only dreamed about before. We were happy, never bored, we lived the way we wanted, and we were still able to see and connect with family, much more in actuality than we can now on Kaua’i. Brett and I enjoyed each other’s company to the fullest and we enjoyed working as a team.

We know we have a few more good years in us. We continue to be in good health and good physical shape, and agree we want to use this time to our advantage. Settling down is something that can wait for a few more years.

We have decided to once again become full-time nomads beginning in the spring of 2023. We don’t feel that international travel is a good idea for the rest of this year, vaccines or no, and we already have commitments for 2022, and would also like to see how things shake out COVID-wise in that year, to decide if traveling will be safe or whether it makes more sense move to some kind of Plan B. We need time to rebuild our savings, and much planning needs to take place before we could travel full-time again. We learned a great deal during our previous time as nomads, but would like to do an even better job of it the next time around. There are logistics to be figured out, an itinerary to plan, a budget to be set up, and decisions to be made about our remaining stuff, and lots more on top of that. One more seeming small but important part of waiting until 2023 is that both of our driver’s licenses expire in early 2023, and we want and need to renew them so that we can continue to rent cars overseas as necessary or desired.

We have already made a few decisions that will drive our planning going forward. We want to do at least one long stay (90 days) in Japan every year, and otherwise spend at least 30 days in a location as we do not want to move around as frequently as we did before. We both want to travel once again with just one checked suitcase each along with our rolling carry-ons. While we have a few ideas of places we’d like to go this time, an itinerary is still very nebulous and won’t be firmed up until later. There are places we want to revisit, but loads of places we didn’t get to last time and we want to balance those two things.

We’ve presented our decision to our kids and every one of them was and is excited for us. There will be much to do before we leave, but based on past experience we know the time will pass somewhat quickly. In the meantime, we will enjoy our time on Kaua’i to the fullest and continue to work at staying healthy and getting ourselves in even better shape than we are now.

I hope you’ll stay along for the ride as we plan and get ready for our Big Adventure, Part Deux!