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!

Does It Spark Joy?

Before I began going through my cold weather travel clothes week before last, I told myself to go with Marie Kondo’s advice and ask myself with each piece of clothing or pair of shoes I tried on whether it sparked joy; that it, did it make me feel good and/or happy when I looked at it and thought of wearing it again. I admit to being surprised by a few items that I thought I liked but when I held and looked at them did not bring forth happy feelings or any desire to wear them again. I was equally surprised by a few items I thought would go into the discard pile that I actually loved because they now fit and look better in comparison to how they did in the past. The end result is a wardrobe that I can imagine wearing and enjoying in the future, and with enough variety that I can’t imagine needing more.

This whole “spark joy” exercise got me thinking that maybe Brett and I should apply the same tactic when we evaluate future plans and possible locations. While it’s easy to create list of things we would like to have in a possible location, if there is no feeling of joy or excitement when we think about living there, even a little, what’s the point? There’d be more than a good chance we would end up feeling miserable after not too long a time and wanting to move again. 

Hawaii, although it initially felt like an impossible dream, was a location that sparked joy in both of us back when we were discussing and evaluating retirement locations, as did locations along the Southern California coast that ultimately did not work out. The idea of doing a big travel adventure immediately brought joy to both of us, and when when we were drawing up the itinerary for our Big Adventure we dismissed locations that did not have some sort of an emotional element of excitement and wonder. We decided we weren’t interested in visiting places just to say we’d been there; we wanted to go places that spoke to our hearts and souls in some way. Japan has always been a location that brings us deep joy when visiting, a feeling that has only increased over the years. While we enjoyed every place we visited during our travels, there were definitely locations that brought more joy than others, some of them quite surprising in retrospect. There were others that didn’t as much as we had imagined they would.

So, we have added does it spark joy? to our list of criteria, and it may just be the most important of all. Kaua’i is definitely at the top of that list but unfortunately doesn’t meet many other of our criteria these days. We also noticed that a couple of other places we’d started to evaluate definitely didn’t spark any sort of joy and actually made us feel sort of miserable when we thought about living there. We just couldn’t imagine ourselves living those places or being happy there no matter the low cost of living or whatever other benefits they might provide.

I’m glad we have time to figure this all out, and to make the best decision for our future, one that will not only give us a location that meets most of our needs and wants, but bring us happiness and joy as well.

On the Same Page

When Brett and I talk about things like travel plans or our finances, we approach the task from very different places. Brett has a very right-brain, visual way of seeing things. That is, he learns, understands and/or retains thing when he can see them, and does even better when they’re not just words or numbers on a page but arranged in a meaningful and engaging way. He’s also a vertical thinker, and deals best with one task at a time. These traits were a good match for his professional duties of writer and illustrator, but not so good when we need to talk about financial stuff or we’re planning something.

On the other hand, I am a very left-brain, analytical thinker and do best when I hear things laid out or see items written succinctly on a page. I am also a horizontal thinker, meaning I can be working on and/or juggling many duties at the same time and keep everything up in the air, which is the reason I take care of tasks like budgeting, travel planning, shopping lists and menu planning. Brett says that whenever I try to talk about these things with him I am “talking in spreadsheets,” and that he quickly loses where I’m at or what I’m talking about because he’s not able to visualize it.

One year, when the amount of a bonus he would receive was revealed, and after I realized there would be enough for both Christmas presents, debt repayment, and savings, I sat down and went over our current financial plan and thought about whether there was a better or faster way we could pay down our debt and save for a future vacation. After crunching the numbers for a couple of days I came up with what I thought might be the best way to accomplish both goals. I tried to talk about my idea with Brett but all I got back was “you’re talking in spreadsheets again.”

So, I made a coffee date and put together a sheet for him outlining the debt repayment path we were currently on along with a second way I thought might work better and help us accomplish our financial goals more quickly. I used colors, an interesting font, and different sizes of print to hopefully make the information more interesting for him to look at and easier to remember. I purposely didn’t mention that I was doing this until we were at the coffee shop and had time to sit together and go over everything.

It’s always been a boost for both of us to find out we’re on the same page, whether that’s our finances, our dreams, or things we need to accomplish, even if we do approach those things differently. As we went over the information I had put together on that sheet in more detail Brett took notes and offered ideas or asked for more explanation. As usual, we eventually came together on what we wanted to accomplish even if we approached the process for getting there in different ways.

Creating a visually appealing and easy-to-follow outline still helps me explain my thinking more clearly to Brett, as well as keeps us on the same page with our finances and goals and how we plan to get there. I still tend toward “talking in spreadsheets” when I get excited about an idea, but am better these days about getting things written down for Brett to let him know what I’m thinking about, and to get feedback and input from him.

Once a plan gets put into action though, it’s passed over to Brett. He’s our logistical wizard. He loves keeping daily figures and tracking how we’re doing, something that’s can be excruciatingly boring for me, and he makes sure we meet our deadlines. We make a good team, and we’re glad to have figured out a great way to stay on the same page to reach our goals.

Time to Break Out a New Spreadsheet

Before Brett officially retired in 2013, we decided we had a great opportunity to relocate to a warmer, sunnier climate. We wanted to escape the dreary, damp winters and head for someplace with a warmer, sunnier climate. But where should we go?

We started our search by determining the things that would be important to us in a new location and eventually came up with eight criteria we would use to evaluate different places:

  1. Good year-round weather
  2. Cost of living
  3. Schools
  4. Proximity to the ocean and/or mountains
  5. Nearby military facilities
  6. Proximity to Japan,
  7. Tax benefits for retirees
  8. A strong, vibrant Asian community

After determining these criteria, we then came up with places that we thought might include those things or at least some of them. Hawaii was added to our list as a joke because we knew we would never be able to live in Hawaii but it sounded fun. The next step was ranking the criteria, figuring out the things that were most important to us. We came up with the order above. Finally, we began researching different locations, taking notes and checking off which areas met which criteria. Some places were eliminated more quickly than others.

We were very, very surprised to discover that Hawaii met eight of our nine criteria. The only problematic one was the state’s high cost of living, but we eventually decided if everything else fit we could somehow figure out how to live within our means there. We talked about changes we could make (i.e. renting versus buying), ready everything we could find about living on a budget, how to shop, etc. and made it work for us. We’ve never regretted our decision to come here.

However, with the cost of living on Kaua’i rising rapidly these days we are thinking about whether it would make more sense to relocate back to the mainland. The cost of housing on Kaua’i is rising to a level that will make it close to unaffordable for us to stay. Most of our children have ended up settling back east on the mainland. Flights to Japan from Honolulu take as long as they did from Portland, and fares are often higher from here to there. Now is the time to consider whether we should leave or stay.

It’s time for us to come up with a new spreadsheet once again, and evaluate our choices. Brett and I sat down together week before last and came up with a new list of what’s important to us. We haven’t ranked this list yet, but think it’s a good basic one that covers our needs and wants at this stage of our lives. In no particular order, these are the eight things we want/need to consider: 

  • Proximity to family: As we age, and our daughters get closer to having their own families, we would like to live closer to them. Our children would like to have us closer to them as well.
  • Cost of living: Will the cost of food, transportation, and everything else in a new location fit into our budget and leave something left over for other things we want to do (i.e. travel)?
  • Cost of housing: Is there quality housing in the area that fits within our budget?
  • Tax benefits for retirees: Is Social Security taxed? Would Brett’s military retirement be taxed?
  • Weather: Is the area prone to big weather events like hurricanes, flooding? After living in Hawaii can we deal with dreary weather once again, or things like snow and other effect of brutal winter weather? Do we want to?
  • Proximity to the ocean and mountains: Is it possible to find this combination again?
  • Travel & cultural opportunities: Are there things for us to see and explore in the area? Is there a major airport nearby for overseas travel?
  • Healthcare availability: Is there a nearby hospital and otherwise good medical availability in the area?
  • Nearby military facilities: Is there a military base nearby, mainly for things like ID card renewal and possible commissary/exchange shopping?

While we now have a list, we still need to come up with areas that might work with these criteria. We know that no place needs to be a perfect fit, but it should meet at least half of what’s on our list. Before coming up with a list of locations, we still need to rank the criteria, add others to the list, if necessary, and then begin researching and seeing what might be a good fit. 

We already know that Kaua’i is barely going to meet half of these criteria, but it carries something that no place else does: our hearts. No matter how great another location turns out to be, no matter how many criteria it matches, going up against our love for this island will not be an easy task. But, getting started now on a possible move is something that needs to be done, so it’s time once again to create a new spreadsheet so we have time to get it figured out to make the best choice for all the right reasons.

What I Did On My Winter Vacation

Travel planning has begun . . .

I had a very good time during my break doing some travel planning . . . for fun. I focused on a return to England, to the Cotswolds again, and sort of put together an itinerary, then looked for lodging, tours, and other things Brett and I would like to include on our next visit. I absolutely love travel planning, so this was a very enjoyable and relaxing way to spend (waste?) my time for several days.

We hope to do another three month stay in 2023, this time from August through October. Our last visit was September through November, and while September was lovely, by November we were pretty much confined to our cottage and unable to get out much for walks and such because of the weather. We think moving things forward by a month we’ll be able to enjoy better weather while still getting to enjoy the best of summer and fall.

YaYu and I spent an enjoyable amount of time last week pouring over the Character Cottages website, looking for an ideal cottage for our stay. Character Cottages is a booking agent for a large group of cottages in the Cotswolds (not property managers though); even if you find a cottage on another site, its rental is often still handled through Character Cottages. They have properties in many villages, and rentals in all sizes and price ranges. The cottages each have at least one of what the firm calls a “character feature,” which could be anything from the architecture to a stone fireplace or inglenook in the living room. 

Choosing a location took some time, but after some discussion Brett and I decided we’d like to return to Blockley or very nearby, for a variety of reasons, most especially location and familiarity. YaYu and I did most of our searching among those properties. Must-haves included two bedrooms (all three of the girls have said if we go back to England they are coming to visit); a full kitchen with a dishwasher; a washer/dryer; and convenient parking as we plan to rent a car on our next visit. I also wanted a gas fireplace (easy to turn on and off, and they do a better job of warming a room). In the end we came up with three potential cottages that had everything we wanted this time, at prices we felt we could afford. I’m not going to order them, because we like all three, but one is our top choice. I would love to know how you would rank these (you can click on the link under the picture for more information)!

 

Primrose Cottage

Brook Cottage

Green Cottage

Although we did used public transportation during our last visit and managed well with that, we decided we’d rather have a car this next time, so I also investigated long-term car rentals. At first we thought we’d get ourselves to Oxford from either Heathrow or Gatwick (preferred) to save some money, but eventually figured out that logistically and cost-wise, it made more sense to pick up a car at either one of those airports and drive the little over two and a half hours to our destination. This is what we did in New Zealand, and it worked out well. We can reserve a rental through Costco at either airport.

Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the stops on the tours. We missed getting to visit here back in 2019.

Finally, Brett and I still want to do a long hike while we are there, and initially thought we would fit in a Cotswold Way walking tour into our stay. One evening when I was canoodling around though, I discovered this Cotswold Cooking & Culinary tour, and after doing a bit more investigation and sharing with Brett, we decided we’d rather do this! So, somewhere in the middle of our stay, we want to hit the trail (footpath) and eat our way through the region for eight days (hopefully walking off the calories).

Since this trip is currently over two and half years away, all I did this time was take notes, and get a general idea of how much we’ll have to save (including airfare) to make this dream a reality. None of it may come to fruition in the end (cottages not available, hosts might not want to do a long-term rental, etc.) But, the planning was a whole lot of fun, I learned a lot, and we more definite than ever about returning to England in 2023!

Ten Goals for 2021

I am so ready for 2020 to be over and done with! It’s been a crazy, unpredictable, frustrating, and somewhat ridiculous ride at times, and I am looking forward to starting over in 2021.

Over the past month, Brett and I have been talking over our combined goals for the new year, and I’ve also been thinking of a few personal ones I’d like to accomplish, and we’ve come up with the ten goals listed below:

Joint goals for Brett and Me:

  1. Continue to stay healthy! Besides avoiding COVID-19, Brett and I both want to lose an additional 10 pounds. We will continue with our current eating plan and exercise for the year and see where that takes us. We plan to segue to cross-training before the middle of the year, and will be purchasing a recumbent exercise bicycle to add to our walking. Our end-of-the-year goal is to be able to walk two to four hours at a time at least four days per week.
  2. Save enough to cover YaYu’s 2021-2022 college expenses. Thankfully we have 12 months to accomplish this, but her final year has the potential to be an expensive surprise, even with financial aid, as the college knows they have a “captive audience” and may lower previous levels of aid (this happened to us with our son).
  3. Save $8000 for future travels, including an additional $1000 in Delta gift cards from Swagbucks. This is a big goal, but we think it’s one we can accomplish. Savings throughout the year will come from the $1 bill/change jar; WenYu’s and Meiling’s reimbursements for their phone plan; a monthly saving allotment (which has been increased for 2021); all refunds, reimbursements, and rewards; and every other bit of odds and ends we can throw into the account.
  4. Save $600 for Christmas 2021. We plan to keep it simple again next year, even if we’re all together again. Brett and I have already decided that any gifts we give each other will be to support our 2022 walking tour in Japan.
  5. Send at least one stored item to each of the girls. We plan to send WenYu a lamp we’ve been storing for her, and also her light box (for drawing), but have no idea yet what to send to Meiling (she wants my KitchenAid mixer, but for what it would cost to send from her we could buy her a new one). Postage is going to be expensive no matter what we choose to send, but we are determined to start whittling down the stuff we are keeping for them. YaYu’s things will stay here for the time being, until she finishes school.
  6. Go to the beach at least 26 times. That’s an average of every other week but we think it’s a goal we can accomplish. 

My Personal Goals:

  1. Read 52 books. This past year was a bust as I didn’t read for nearly three months after we came back to Kaua’i – my mind just couldn’t focus. I have decided that 2021 will be a “year of mystery” with my reading focusing on mysteries, thrillers (which will include the John LeCarré books – will get as many read/reread as possible), and police procedurals from around the world. I already have over ten books on hold at the library!
  2. Add 20 minutes of upper body strength training with weights to my daily exercise. I need to improve my upper body strength for our 2022 tour. YaYu has agreed to help me find a program I can follow online.
  3. Continue to study Japanese, and add French as well. I’m going to finish up the Memrise Japanese offerings at the beginning of the year, then plan to move on to working with the Japanese for Busy People text to get a firmer grip on the grammar. I’m not sure how much I can improve, but the point for me now is to keep going with it. I found a free beginning online French course offered through MIT, and want to start that. It will be challenging, especially since I will have to submit lessons and will actually be awarded a grade for the course once I sign up, so once I start I will be committed. I thoroughly enjoyed learning French before we left on our Big Adventure and have been wanting to learn more.
  4. Start writing a book. I have an idea of where I want to go with this, so will begin next month with an outline, and also start researching publishers. I plan to set aside an one hour each day for book writing. 

We have one other surprise goal, but have no idea right now whether that will turn out to be more of a fantasy or something we can get done. We’ll know more as the year goes along, but for now will keep it under wraps.

When I look over my personal goals it’s clear that I’m going to have to organize my time better next year in order to get to all these things I want to do. I’m ending this year with a sort of fuzzy schedule for the things I’m doing now, and will work with that and add things and find times that work best for me so I don’t feel overly pressured. From the looks of things though my day will be quite full, and I’ll need to motivate myself to keep moving. My daily activity cards will help me stay motivated and on task, but I know it’s going to take a little time to settle in and find my groove.

2021: We’re ready! Bring it on!

Thinking About Long Term Goals

Brett and I have some firm goals for the next two years, and even have some ideas already for 2023, but this past week we began taking about some longer term goals to get us into and through 2025, when Brett will turn 75 and I will be 73 years old. Most of what we’ve been discussing is based on how we see the next few years unfolding, or would like to see it unfold, and on our staying healthy and active, but at the same time accepting that we may need to or feel like slowing down. Things that are easy for us now might not be so easy in five years, or hold the same appeal. We also think it’s a good idea to have a general picture of where we’d like to be at that point so that other choices going forward feed into that picture.

Based on what we know as well as how we imagine things will be going in the next few years, we have come up with four long-term goals that should get us to where we see ourselves landing 2025. 

  1. Staying healthy and active remains at the top of our list. We currently see no reason to change or cut back our current way of eating or the amount of exercise we get, and will continue to remain vigilant about testing and maintaining the other healthy lifestyle choices we practice. We know however that one’s health can change on a dime, but for now our goal is to keep doing what we’re doing now and stay focused.
  2. Continue to visit Japan every year, make one mainland visit each year to see the girls, one in-state visit, and do one other “big trip” through 2025. Because of the virus, this won’t “officially” go into full effect until 2023 at the earliest, but at that point we can reassess how we feel, see if our budget can handle all this travel, and make changes to or slow down if necessary. However, there are still places we want to visit, or revisit, and we intend to be in Japan at least once a year to stay connected to our grandchildren as long as we can make the trip(s). We want to continue taking an annual “big trip” as long as we can, and feel that in five years we’ll have a good idea of how we’re doing and what we can handle.
  3. Buy a more comfortable car in the next two years. Our current car runs great, gets great gas mileage, and we plan to hold on to it for the next couple of years, but it’s becoming increasingly uncomfortable for both of us as the seats are low and there is no back support – both Brett and I occasionally get backaches after riding around for a while, and it’s not as easy for us to get in and out of as it was in the past. So, we are starting to think now about getting something more comfortable, something efficient, and a car that will see us through for many more years (we hope). This is going to be a major expense for us, and will most likely mean having a (small) car payment again, so a lot of thought and planning will happen before we make a purchase.
  4. Not quite a firm goal yet, but we’re getting there – should we purchase a condo or continue to rent? We’ve decided that owning a house at this stage of our lives is out of the question because we’re not interested in dealing with the maintenance, yard work, etc. that comes along with home ownership. Also, houses on the island are just flat-out too costly and too big an investment for us at this stage of our lives. There are several small (same size as our apartment now) condos around the island though that could work for us, with affordable HOA fees, giving us a permanent home to age in. We’re not in any sort of hurry now, but plan to keep our eyes open to possibilities and will go forward if it feels right in 2025 (or maybe even before). For now we’re content to rent.

These longer-term goals are all rather nebulous for now; and we’re not actively working on any of them or planning anything and don’t see that happening for another couple of years. We like having goals to work toward though. The important point for us now is to get our ideas out there, talk about them, and find out what we agree on and what we don’t, as well as what’s feasible and what isn’t. As always, stay tuned!

Still Free: Dreaming and Planning

As much as I am enjoying our current life on Kaua’i, I also honestly miss traveling. I miss the rush of being somewhere different, somewhere new, and both exercising the skills we had along with learning new ones as well. While I enjoyed sightseeing, I also loved learning more about the places and locations where we spent time, from shopping at local markets to turning down an alleyway to see where it went to talking to locals whenever possible. Although travels days involved a lot of effort and were always very tiring, it was always exciting to be going someplace different, knowing we were going to spend time in a place we had only dreamed of before.

So, what’s a travelaholic like me supposed to do when going anywhere is out of the question for at least for another 18 or so months?

In my case, it’s time to turn to the research and planning stage of travel which, right up next to actual travel, is one of my most favorite things to do. And, it’s a great time to dream about travel as well.

Brett and I have decided on a destination for our first trip off the island, a visit to Japan to spend a month in Tokyo near our son and family followed by an 11-day, 10-night walking tour of the ancient Nakasendo Way, from Kyoto to Tokyo. Planning and researching the Tokyo part is fairly easy except that this next time we’d like to stay in a different place than we did for our last two visits, and it’s anyone’s guess what airfares to Japan and back will be like at that point as well. We’re also keeping a running list of other dream trips we’d like to do in the future, including touring SE Asia and going back to New Zealand and Australia.

The Nakasendo walking tour has added a whole new level to planning. We already have plenty of travel clothes, but putting together an 11-day walking wardrobe, along with gear and supplies needed, is going to require some advance planning, and Brett and I have already started to work on that. For example, both of us are going to need new trail shoes before we go. I am currently walking in the ones I bought in 2019, when we were in Portland, but they’re going to wear out before we go so I’ve been reading advice about which sort of new ones might be best for long-distance walking and figuring out how much they might cost. Brett’s walking shoes are already on their last leg, so this is something that will be coming up soon for him. Then there are other items we’ll need to get, like clothes for layering, some of which we have, some of which we don’t. We’re going to need rain gear and rain hats, wool socks, comfortable hiking pants, and more. Then there’s the specialized gear we’ll also need, like walking poles, moleskin patches for blisters, water bottles, and so on. Thankfully we already have daypacks.

So, while we can’t go anywhere right now, we’re making up a list of what we already have and we’ll need to acquire before we go and then will move on to figuring out when and where to purchase those items. Several things will make great holiday, birthday, and anniversary gifts between now and when we go, but other things we’ll have to choose on our own (a question now, for me for example, is do I want to wear hiking pants or leggings – both have advantages and disadvantages). This task of figuring out what we’ll need is both fun and motivating, we’re learning a lot, and it gives us yet another goal to work towards. In the meantime, we’re having fun, gathering important information, getting in some good conversations, and working on getting physically ready to go.

Dreaming and planning for travel are free, all the better for spending time instead of money on going somewhere isn’t possible. We’re using this time to focus on our savings, and figure out what and how much we’ll need to take our next journey up a notch, all without spending a fortune and getting only what we need. The planning stage is what makes things come off without a hitch, or at least gives us a better chance of that happening, so we can enjoy our destination more, and without unnecessary worry.

Changed the Location But Not the Goal

The Nakasendo Way in spring (photo credit: Walk Japan)

Just a few short weeks ago (August 3, to be exact) I announced that Brett and I had committed ourselves to walking the entire length of the Cotswold Way in the fall 2022. That goal has been a strong motivator for getting us out every day to walk, and to come up with a plan for gradually increasing our walking endurance to where we could manage the daily distances required of us to finish the walk.

Last week though we came across a company called Walk Japan, which provides “off the beaten track walking tours in Japan.” We began pouring over their website, and this past weekend we decided that while we still intend to do a long-distance walking tour in 2022, we will do it in Japan instead of England. In particular, we want to do Walk Japan’s 10-day Nakasendō Way tour from Kyoto to Tokyo. 

Scenes like this one of persimmons drying will be more common when we walk in the fall.

The history of the Nakasendō (Central Mountain Road) is what drew us to this walking tour. It was one of five main thoroughfares from Kyoto to Tokyo (and back) during the Edo Period of Japan (1603-1868), when the Tokugawa shogun lived and ruled in Tokyo (called Edo then; the Emperor remained in Kyoto and was virtually powerless at this time). In order to maintain the loyalty of those under him, the shogun required the highest lords (daimyos) throughout Japan to travel to and live in Tokyo every other year and their families to remain in Tokyo during their absence, under the “protection” of the shogun. The Nakasendō, along with the Tokaidō, which ran along the coast, was heavily used by the daimyo from the west and their families during these times. The road had 69 post towns along the way where papers and permission to travel were checked, and where travelers stopped to eat, drink, and rest. The road also served as an important route for communication for the shogunate. The Nakasendō was well developed, and was often preferred for travel because no major rivers needed to be forded along the way.

One of the historic post towns along the ancient Nakasendo route connecting Kyoto and Edo (old Tokyo).

Our decision to change the destination for our walk was not a casual one. We spent days carefully weighing and discussing several factors and the pros and cons of using Walk Japan before deciding to change our plans.

These were the two arguments for sticking with the Cotswold Way tour:

  1. The Nakasendō walking tour costs quite a bit more than a Cotswold walking tour. This was probably the biggest factor that we debated. However, the Nakasendo tour comes with a full-time guide, and not only covers each night’s lodging, almost all meals, and all interim transportation necessary to get from Kyoto to the road. We had to think long and hard about whether we were willing to pay more for these amenities but in the end figured out it wouldn’t be that much over what we would have spent going to the Cotswolds again. Walk Japan offers an unguided Nakasendo Way tour which costs less but we both think we’d rather have a guide along because of our ages and because our Japanese is limited.
  2. We would not get to go back to the Cotswolds. This was a major factor for not switching. We loved the Cotswolds and would love to experience more of the area.
The “lobby” of a traditional Japanese inn, complete with irori (sunken hearth).

There were a few more positives however which helped to sway us to a Japan walk:

  1. We would already be in Japan and not have to worry about paying for and taking long flights to England and then back to Tokyo. All we would have to purchase is a one-way ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto on the Shinkansen.
  2. We would get to walk one of the most historic routes in all of Japan along with a knowledgeable guide, learning about the history of the road as well as the villages and old post towns we would pass through along the way. The architecture alone is a huge draw.
  3. We would get to stay every night in traditional Japanese inns and hotels, and enjoy fine Japanese cuisine in those places and along the way.
  4. The tour offers transportation alternatives for the three longest walking days. For example, if we didn’t feel up to walking 15 miles on the longest day, we could walk for around 6-7 miles and then take a train or bus to that evening’s destination.
  5. The Nakasendō walk finishes in Tokyo, where we would only need a couple of days’ rest at our son’s before heading back home to Hawaii. If we went to England we would need at least two to three days’ rest at the end of the walk before flying to Tokyo, and then would have to rest up again in Tokyo from that journey before heading back to Hawaii. It was overwhelming just thinking about the jet lag.

Our task now is to figure out how to save a few thousand more dollars than we had initially planned, but we’re sure it can be done. We remain as motivated than ever to find ways to save as travel always comes out of our discretionary funds, which aren’t much right now with YaYu’s college expenses. Time is on our side though as we have two years to make this goal a reality.

Besides saving enough, we also are more motivated than ever to stay healthy and get ourselves in the best possible physical shape. I will also continue to study Japanese, not because I expect to be able to speak it, but so I can understand more during our stays in Japan and while we travel there. The big unknown at this point though is whether Japan will be reopened for American visitors by Fall 2022, and whether the virus will be under control by then as well. We certainly hope so, and not just because we want to go to Japan.

Game on!

Travel on Our Minds

It’s going to be a while before Brett and I travel again, at least another two years. We love being back on Kaua’i but our time on the road was magical and meaningful, truly a dream come true, and we weren’t ready for it to be over, especially not in such an abrupt way.

We can and will travel again, but we know it will be different in the future. Although we enjoyed being on the road full-time, we have decided that going forward we’d rather have a home base and then focus on making an annual trip to Japan (Tokyo) to spend time with our family there, probably for around a month; taking another longer six-week to two-month journey each year, either overseas or back on the mainland; and making a shorter visit every year to one of the other islands here.

The Covid-19 pandemic and YaYu’s upcoming college expenses are the big factors keeping us from traveling right now. However, rather than sitting around and feeling sorry for ourselves about not being able to go anywhere for a while, we’ve figured out there are lots of things we can do during this “downtime” to keep us focused on the future, motivated, and well-prepared once we’re ready to hit the road again.

Here are the things we’ve either already started or will be incorporating in the future:

  • Save for travel: One of the best things we did before we set off on our Big Adventure in 2018 was to have at least six months’ worth of travel paid for in advance. Things are different now in that we won’t be giving up our home and car in order to travel full time nor will we be selling our stuff, but as we did in the past, all extra income will be dedicated to travel savings so that our travel expenses can be met without racking up debt.
  • Set budgets: We want to take our first major trip in the fall of 2022, around six months after YaYu’s graduation. We want to make our first visit back to Japan in the spring of 2023. About a year out from those dates we will begin setting up the budgets for those trips based on our research of what we expect it will cost.
  • Create itineraries: We have already picked four places we’d like to go to once we can travel again: Ireland, New Zealand (north and south islands this time), Southwestern U.S. national parks, and West Coast national parks. All four would be driving trips. We haven’t prioritized any of them yet, but both Brett and I are currently getting started on what we’d like to see and do in each place, how long we want to stay, and so forth. He is looking into Ireland now; I am focusing on New Zealand, and after a while, we will swap and then combine our information and ideas and go from there. This part is going to take a while but it’s a lot of fun and we’re learning a lot.
  • Setting a foundation: This is the fun part for me, but we’re a ways off from this right now. This is where once an actual itinerary is set, I get to find lodging, compare rental car prices, search for airfares, and so forth so that everything fits within our budget. Airfares are going to be tricky this time around – they’re all over the place right now (if there are even flights available), and there’s no way to estimate where they’ll be when we’re ready to travel again. Frankly, I can’t even imagine getting on an airplane but it’s something we’re going to have to deal with eventually.
  • Edit our travel wardrobes: We are fortunate to have a dedicated and dehumidified closet in our apartment to store our travel clothes (cold-weather items we don’t need here). Both of us felt after getting everything hung up and put away that maybe we have too many things (me in particular), so that will be a task for us in the future, to go through what we have and downsize if necessary.
  • Edit our travel supplies: We took along so many things (for health care and otherwise) on our Big Adventure that we ended up not ever using, and we both said several times, “there has to be a better way to do this” while at the same time feeling afraid to get rid of anything in case we did need it. During the next two years, we’re going to work on making a list of what was important, what wasn’t, what we didn’t have that we could have used, what things we could have picked up along the way if necessary, and then come up with a better system for carrying that stuff along with us.
  • Make reservations: This will happen as we get closer to actually traveling, and will be coordinated with setting the foundation, but making reservations is always something to look forward to – it means we’re really going! Some reservations, like at the New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo, need to be made a year in advance as rooms sell out quickly (we’ve already decided to stay there again versus renting our own apartment).
  • Stay in shape: It’s a constant effort but we’re determined to be in as good a shape in two years as we were when we set out in 2018.

There will be other things we can do along the way, but for now, our goal is to create a path to not only keep future travel on our minds but keep us moving toward them. Two years seems like a long time away but we know from experience it will pass more quickly than we imagine. In the meantime, we want and need to stay motivated so when the time arrives we’ll be truly ready to hit the road again.