Leaving the U.S. (for a While): Positives & Negatives

Photo credit: Rob Wicks/Unsplash

When we depart for France in May of next year, we have no plans to return to the United States for at least a couple of years, and may be outside the U.S. for as long as four or five years, depending on what’s going on with our family, how we feel, and if we are continuing to enjoy full-time travel. It sounds very exciting, but we are at the beginning stages of figuring out the positives and negatives of leaving the U.S. for a long time without a permanent overseas address. We will maintain an address in Hawaii for tax and other purposes, but otherwise will have nothing left to tie us down here.

There are both positives and negatives to being full-time nomads. I’ll start by getting the negatives (so far) out of the way first:

  • We will not see our family for long stretches. While we plan to visit Japan and see our son and his family at least once a year, spending time with the girls is going to be a bit more difficult. Meiling and YaYu are able to afford to travel and have said they will try to visit us once a year in one of our locations, but it will be much harder, if not impossible, for YaYu, who will be attending grad school. We’re going to set aside a little each month so if necessary we can help with the girls’ transportation costs if they’re able and want to come and see us overseas, especially YaYu (maybe a good reason to get that Delta card and miles?).
  • Our driver’s licenses will expire during our travels. This was one of the main things that was going to keep us on Kaua’i until the end of 2022 – we just could not imagine existing without a driver’s license. Without licenses we would not be able to rent a car overseas for short road trips. However, we finally realized we lived successfully for months on end while we were traveling before without a car and were fine, and that we will be okay again with or without driver’s licenses. Will we want licenses again when we eventually return to the U.S.? After a lot of discussion the best answer we can come up with is maybe. Another problem: without having license (or a car) when we return, how would we go about getting a license again if we do want one? That has turned out to be pretty easy to overcome though. We can sign up for a day or two of practice with a driving school, then use one of their cars and insurance to take the driving test, if necessary. People do it all the time.
  • We’re still responsible for paying U.S. taxes no matter where we go. All I can say is thank goodness for online tax preparation. Brett took care of our taxes while we were on the road before and he can do it again. They were very simple while we were traveling.
  • We will be unable to vote, or at the least it will be very difficult. As two people who have always voted, in every election, this has the potential to be a big negative for us, but we’re also thinking with everything going on right now it might be time for us to be able to observe things from a distance. We’re already looking foward to being outside of the U.S. for next year’s midterm elections.

There are positives to being outside of the U.S. for a while, for us anyway:

  • We can get necessary dental work done for less overseas. We both have major dental procedures coming up that would cost us a small fortune in the U.S. At first, the thought of having to have dental work done overseas was a huge negative, but the more we’ve learned it’s turned into a positive. There are locations overseas where we can get high quality dental work done for far less than it costs in the U.S., and our dental insurance will still cover some of it. So, the big question has become, “Where should we spend some time and see the dentist? Spain? Prague? Malta?” Medical care, if necessary, will also be less expensive.
  • We will be living car free. Brett and I have dreamed about living without a car for a long, long time, but we will have a big opportunity to put it into practice and develop strategies to see if living completely car free actually works for us. We figure if we were able to live without a car in the rural Cotswolds for three months, we can adapt the skills we used then to living car free almost anywhere, although urban settings will obviously be the easiest. We know we may still end up wanting a car once back in the U.S. – that will depend on where we eventually decide to settle – but we may learn we can live without one for good.
  • We will continue to see, explore, and learn new things about the bigger world. It’s not that we wouldn’t or couldn’t learn new things if we were staying in the U.S., and it felt comfortable coming back to the U.S. after being outside of it for several months, but this time around we are looking forward to being “uncomfortable” a bit longer and having to see and adapt to things with different eyes, not only to find what we need to get things done but to understand how others think and see the world. We enjoy learning more about the rhythms and culture of each place we visit and hope longer stays in each place will open our eyes and minds even more.
  • We’ll be putting some distance between ourselves and the current negativity and political polarization in the U.S. This, we feel, will be a very good thing. Sometimes we honestly can’t believe or get over some of the things happening these days, and the anger – the rage – and violence we read about in the news. Although we are still doing well in spite of the current inflation and other changes, there are times when we feel like we can’t recognize our country, while at the same time recognizing the current situation seems the logical end to so many things that happened in the past. We are looking forward to looking at our country from a distance for a while.

Both the pros and cons of living outside of the U.S. are of course highly personal, and particular to our situation. With a permanent overseas residence some of these things would not be an issue or occur, but there would of course be other issues popping up that we’ll be avoiding because we’re nomads. We’re also sure other issues are going to pop up that we haven’t even considered yet. But that is one of the things we found we loved about being nomads before: facing new situations, sometimes difficult ones, and finding strengths we didn’t know we had as well as challenging ourselves to figure things out, all the while learning more about not only ourselves but others as well.

The Other things We Carry Part 2: Electronics, Kitchen Needs, and Miscellaneous

Our Japanese coasters help make any rental feel a little more like home

Beyond health and safety, and personal items and toiletries. we carry several other things, most of them small, that make our stays easier and allow us to settle in and feel “at home.” Many of these things we carry along came about through trial and error, or were things that were missing from the homes we stayed in and were frustrating not to have available.

Electronics: We are fortunate these days that electronics are compact and lightweight, and only a few devices are necessary to cover many functions. Brett usually carries his iPad and my laptop in his backpack, so that only one of us has to empty things out when we go through airport security. The voltage adapter from our last adventure still works well, but we figured a back-up wouldn’t be a bad idea this time. Same for a the wireless chargers, dongles, etc. All of our devices are made by Apple, and one of the tasks we perform soon after arrival is figuring out where the nearest Apple store is (or if there even is one), or where we can get our Apple products repaired, if necessary!

  • Laptop (Laura)
  • Tablet w/keyboard (Brett)
  • 2 phones
  • 2 Kindles
  • 2 wireless chargers
  • 2 voltage adapters
  • 2 laptop to USB dongles
  • 2 electric toothbrushes & chargers
  • Digital fish scale (for weighing luggage)
  • Hearing aid batteries (Brett)
Seems like so much when they’re all together, but each piece is easy to tuck in somewhere on its own

Cooking utensils: The below items are ones that we found to be sometimes either lacking in rentals and that we missed having, or in poor condition and unusable (there was nothing worse than discovering a vegetable peeler that wouldn’t peel!), and as we went along we began to carry a few of our own things. Our little spiralizer will not be traveling with us this time for an obvious reason – no sense tempting fate again.

  • Kitchen shears
  • 2 vegetable peelers (regular & julienne)
  • 2 paring knives
  • bamboo spatula
  • small pair of tongs
  • silicone spatula
  • measuring spoons
  • small whisk
  • wine opener
  • cooking chopsticks
More items that are easy to tuck in among our clothes but make a long stay easier and more comfortable

Kitchen accessories: All of these items are lightweight and can easily tuck into our suitcases and carryons. The soba choko cups are immensely versatile, and are exactly a half cup, so can be used for measuring. Some rentals have a coffee maker; others may only have an electric kettle, and we discovered that coffee filters can be difficult to find at times. We’re taking along two coffee cups out of our former collection, the ones we would miss least if anything happened to them. The small melamine plates are wonderful for corralling items and keeping things organized in both the kitchen and bathroom, especially during long stays; they weigh next to nothing and take up next to no space. The microfiber clothes are indispensable for a variety of tasks in the kitchen and bathroom.

  • 4 soba choko cups
  • 8-ounce plastic pour-through coffee filter basket
  • Size 4 paper coffee filters
  • 2 coffee mugs
  • 2 8″ melamine plates
  • Microfiber cloths

Miscellaneous items: We never used our sewing kit during our last round of travel, but know if we hadn’t carried one we would have needed one. We also accumulated quite a collection of shopping bags during our earlier travels but this time we’re taking along just two large L.L. Bean canvas bags and our beloved Japanese bag for grocery and other shopping. One of the Bean bags will double as my under-the-seat carry-on when we fly. The coasters were ones we bought in Japan during our 2019 stay, and setting them out (along with using our own coffee mugs) helps us personalize our rentals and make it feel like home.

  • Small sewing kit
  • Cloth shopping bags
  • Japanese ceramic coasters

All of these items are again fairly small and can be tucked in amount our clothing, or into our carry-on bags. Put together they seem like a lot of added weight, but we have learned a long stay in one place is a very different beast than a shorter one. What we can go without or muddle through in a couple of weeks is not as much fun during three months. We also did not enjoy having to buy things along the way and we learned to carry things from one location to another.

By the way, we carried more than I’ve listed in Parts 1 and 2 when we carried Christmas gifts back to the mainland during previous travels, so we know we can make all of these things fit and still not be overweight. We did it before and we can do it again!

The Other Things We Pack Part 1: Health, Safety, and Personal Items/Toiletries

Although he has nothing to do with health or safety, Little Guy will of course be traveling along with me again for good fortune, but this time he’ll have a companion: Big Brother, who’s older and slightly heavier than Little Guy. I’ve had BB since 1982, and both Inu Hariko came from the same shop in Tokyo.

Our travel luggage consists of two large rolling duffel bags, two rolling hard-sided carry-on bags, a backpack for Brett, and a large canvas tote for me. Between all of it, we are able to (and have to) pack all the things we need for clothing ourselves year-round, and ensuring a comfortable stay no matter where we go.

I’ve divided the non-clothing items we carry into two parts because there are lots of “other things” we carry. Almost all are small but necessary, to us anyway. Some items make our stays more comfortable and organized, others mean we don’t have to purchase something new at our destination, and others are things to get us started until we can find or replenish with local items and goods. Some miscellaneous items go along to make our temporary lodgings feel a little more like “home.”

All of these “other” things can be tucked into our suitcases or carry-ons without taking up much room. We try whenever possible to choose things we can share (like shampoo or vitamins, for example) rather than having one product for Brett, another for me. We will start out with a few big containers purchased at Costco (vitamins; pain relief), but those will eventually get swapped out for smaller packages that we purchase along the way. Those big bottles from Costco are very cost efficient, but some of the most difficult things to pack and we’re always glad when they run out.

This week’s post covers items we are packing for health and safety, and our personal toiletries:

Health & safety: Last go-around we carried way, way too many of some of these items, and not enough of others. For some reason, for example, we didn’t take any cold relief medicine, and we found it was quite difficult to find overseas when we needed it. We’ve also learned that we don’t need to carry much to get started because most things can be found locally (cold relief and antacids being the exception).

  • Prescription medications
  • Hydrocortisone cream; Lotrimin (for bug bites and other itchy things)
  • Anti-bacterial cream (i.e. Neosporin)
  • Bandaids; Leukotape (for cuts and blisters)
  • OTC products (antacids, pain relief, cold medication, anti-diarrheal, motion sickness)
  • Vitamins

Personal items/toiletries: We try to keep these as minimal as possible to start out, and we buy and replace as needed wherever we are. Bars of solid shampoo and conditioner work great and are big space savers and last longer than travel sizes of shampoo and conditioner. Products that come in tubes are preferred to other types of containers as they are the easiest to pack and cut down on waste. We found American-style washcloths difficult to locate when we were in Europe last time and swore to never travel again without our own supply. There’s also no makeup on the list as I no longer wear any other than lipstick so it’s one less thing for me to pack.

  • Mouthwash/toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Solid shampoo and conditioner bars
  • Curl cream (Laura)
  • Body lotion (Laura)
  • Facial moisturizer with sunscreen/night cream (Laura)
  • Shaving cream (Brett)
  • Razors (Henry’s + blades for Brett; disposables for me)
  • Washcloths
  • Manicure kit
  • Extra pairs of glasses

The above lists are fairly basic, but we’re mostly only bringing enough to get us started, and with only a few items travel sized, things like the mouthwash and toothpaste that we can later purchase at our destinations. We aim to shop local whenever possible.

Next week I’ll list the electronics we’re bringing, and some other items we started out not carrying but learned along the way were a good idea to have, just in case.

Putting the Travel Wardrobe Back Together, Part II (Warm/Hot Weather)

My warm weather clothing – several items in the photo will not be going with me and have already been removed and sent to the thrift store.

Writing down everything I want to pack has shown me how much I am trying to carry along this time. We plan to be out of the U.S. for a long time, a couple of years at least, and while we have a travel budget figured out, we hope to avoid having to add clothing into that, for a while at least. It’s been very helpful to have to think more carefully about my clothing, and I have already culled some items that I know won’t get worn much and would just be taking up room in my suitcase.

It all still seems like so much, but I have a genuine ability to get sick of clothes quickly if I have a limited number of items to wear over and over and over again. I still clearly remember wanting to build a bonfire for my maternity clothes after our son was born because I was so sick of all of them after just six months! And when I read about people traveling for a year and carrying all their things in a backpack my skin crawls. That’s just not me. So, I want to start out with a good variety and see how it goes this time.

Only four new clothing items on my warm weather list have been purchased specifically for this trip : the black cropped Perfect Fit pants, the fisherman sandals, the long skirt, and the jeans jacket that I found on eBay. Three of the lightweight tops, one of the dresses, and the two pairs of cropped jeans were bought last year to wear here, but everything else traveled along with me last time:

  • 8 lightweight cotton and linen tops (4 sleeveless, 2 short sleeve, 2 three-quarter length sleeves)
  • 2 sleeveless linen dresses
  • 1 lightweight black sweater
  • 2 pair cropped stretch jeans
  • 2 pair cropped Perfect Fit pants (1 black, 1 dark olive)
  • 1 pair cropped white linen pants
  • 1 long lightweight cotton skirt (grey, black, and white print)
  • 1 jeans jacket
  • 3 pairs lightweight cotton pajamas
  • 2 pair leather sandals (silver Mephisto, black fisherman)

Once again, will all this fit in my suitcase along with my cold weather things? I think so. I have gotten rid of several things I packed before because they honestly didn’t “spark joy” any more or had became too big. Between losing those items and not buying too much more in between, everything should fit into my suitcase, with a few items going into Brett’s or my carry-on. The jeans jacket will be worn on the airplane. As I’ve said in the past, Brett could fit a grand piano into a carry-on bag if necessary, so I am confident all of the clothing I plan to take will make it this time. I will be using the KonMarie folding method along with rolling most of my clothing items which will also reduce the amount of space things take up. I have downsized the number of bulky items that I carried last time which will also help, and I will be using space bags to further decrease the amount of space some items could use up.

I have told myself though this still may all prove to be too much. If the amount is unpackable before we leave Kaua’i, then I will go through everything again and get rid of a few more things. Fingers are crossed though.

Putting the Travel Wardrobe Back Together, Part I (Cool/Cold Weather)

My cool/cold weather coats and tops have been waiting patiently to be useful again.

One of the great things I have loved about our apartment is the second closet in the bedroom where Brett and I have been able to store our cold weather travel clothing. We’ve kept a light burning in the closet 24/7 since we been here – the small amount of heat retards the growth of mildew – and keep the doors open during the day so that fresh air can circulate.

We still had a bit of a problem last summer with mold growing on some shoes, and Brett had to toss the pair of boots he traveled with last time. Only a small amount of mold grew on one pair of my shoes, and it was easily brushed off and hasn’t returned. The mold did cause some musty odors to arise however and almost everything will have to be washed probably more than once or dried cleaned to remove any lingering odors.

I have only needed to add very few things for our upcoming round of travel. I’ve already bought leggings and new sneakers, and will get new Perfect Fit pants and denim leggings (the old ones were too big) at the beginning of next year. I plan to buy a turtleneck tunic from J Jill and a pair of Duckfeet Chelsea boots, but that’s all that’s needed to update. I will need a hat for fall in Scotland and winter in Japan, but plan to find something stylish while we’re in Edinburgh.

My current packing list is below, although probably a couple of things may change before we depart. It seems like a lot – it is a lot! – but it’s perfect for full-time travel and long stays. I never got tired of any of it last time around because I had enough that I wasn’t wearing the same four or five outfits over and over and over again. More importantly, having all of this kept me from buying anything else during our travels except for the black gloves (Italy), the pashmina and cashmere scarves (India and Scotland), and the beautiful long wool jacket in India. Not counting accessories (gloves, scarves, shoes) and pajamas my cold weather wardrobe consists of 35 pieces.

Here’s what’s going into the suitcase:

  • Plum quilted car coat
  • Black rain jacket
  • Short black lightweight (but very warm) quilted jacket
  • Short lime green lightweight (but very warm) quilted vest
  • Knit denim wrap jacket
  • Black leather gloves
  • 3 scarves (1 bamboo fiber, 1 pashmina, 1 cashmere)
  • 9 tops/tunics in black or shades of indigo (includes knits, sweatshirts, and a chambray tunic)
  • 8 pairs of leggings: 4 black, 3 charcoal gray, and 1 dark olive (half are back-ups)
  • 2 pairs Perfect Fit Pants, 1 black and 1 dark olive
  • 1 pair denim leggings
  • 2 sweaters (long black cardigan, grey turtleneck)
  • Black boucle knit sweater poncho
  • 6 long-sleeve knit tops for layering and seasonal transition (includes the new turtleneck tunic)
  • Long Indian wool jacket (my dress-up outfit LOL)
  • 2 pair cold weather pajamas
  • 5 pairs shoes: 2 pair short boots, black Chelsea & blue suede; red slip-on walking shoes; 2 pair slip on sneakers (black & navy)
  • 1 pair Italian wool clogs (house slippers)

Will this all fit into my suitcase and leave room for warm weather clothing? Yes!

Because we are leaving in spring, all of the coats and jackets will be vacuumed sealed in space bags and go into the bottom of the suitcase. Most of the other pieces can be rolled and take up very little space. Space is also increased with one outfit worn on travel days, and a pair of pajamas and another outfit in my carryon (more so in cold weather than hot). Also, Brett carries less clothes than I do, and he always puts a few of my things into his suitcase.

The weight of everything will be another matter, but between the two of us we somehow always managed to keep our luggage below the necessary weight limits and I am confident we will manage once again. We have vowed though not to use discount airlines if at all possible because of their near-impossible weight limits.

Healthcare On the Road

photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon/unsplash

When Brett and I begin traveling next May, we will leave the U.S. with no concrete plans to return. It’s not that we won’t return, but there are no calendar dates are set and no visits planned, at least for the first couple of years.

A big consequence of this is that we won’t be in the U.S. for regular doctor visits and prescriptions refills, or to have dental work taken care of. We are doing careful planning to make sure we can get prescriptions refilled as necessary, see a dentist at least once a year, and get our vision checked regularly as well.

As it is illegal to ship prescription medication into most other countries, we will begin our journey with a six-month supply of our medications. Our regular prescriptions are for 90 days, and we can get a one-time 90-day “emergency supply” as well to carry along with us. But what do we do when that runs out?

We have a few arrows in our quivers when it comes to prescription medication. First, as military retirees we can visit any U.S. military hospital in the world and get a prescription filled, so we will carry written prescriptions from our doctor with us that will get us through the first year as well as a letter explaining the reason we take the medication. When those supplies run out we will have to have a doctor’s visit at a military hospital or in the country we’re in to get a new prescription. Our military health insurance follows us world-wide so those costs can be reimbursed, but a visit to a physician overseas is not the wallet-emptying expense it is in the U.S. For example, we will need to visit a GP when we’re in the UK because it is against the law in there for a pharmacy to fill any prescription that’s not written by a British physician. The cost for the visit to see a GP at a same-day clinic is around $55, and we can get a check up as well as our prescription. The cost for a GP visit is even less in other countries such as France or Italy.

photo credit: Yusef Belek/unsplash

Dental care is another area where we’re doing some research so we know our options before departing. We have been reading a lot about “dental tourism,” or places where excellent dental treatment is available for a fraction of what it costs in the U.S. Two noted areas for quality dental work in Europe are Spain and the island nation of Malta. Having a crown procedure in Spain, for example, is around $500, the same cost as it is in the U.S. if you have good insurance. Thankfully, our dental insurance also travels with us throughout the world, but it’s good to know that if we need any sort of major procedure done we can get it done overseas without breaking the bank, and could even get a side visit to Spain or Malta! Cost comparisons for dental procedures overseas can be found online. Japan also offers good dental care at a lower cost than the U.S. although not as low as in Europe.

Vision care is currently the big unknown. For the past few years I’ve needed a new lens prescription almost every year; it’s been every other year for Brett. Since we have no idea of what an exam and new glasses might cost overseas, we plan to set up a separate vision savings account that will be dedicated to these potential costs, and hope that we estimate too high. I will be getting new glasses next month, and Brett will get new glasses next spring right before we depart, so hopefully this is something we won’t need to worry about for a while. I wouldn’t mind getting new glasses in Japan though – they honestly have the most stylish frames I’ve ever seen.

We’re doing our homework on what’s available where, how much it costs, and how we can keep up with our prescription, but know there are still going to be unknowns. We are extremely fortunate to have good health insurance to take along with us, and several options for care no matter where we are in the world, but the goal as always is to be proactive about staying healthy so that we can enjoy our time as much as possible as we travel.

Itinerary Changes (or Adventures With Airbnb)

A future view

Brett and I had created what we thought was a perfect itinerary for most of the first year of our upcoming travels: three months in Strasbourg, eight weeks in Oxford followed by eight weeks in Bath. From there we’d head back to London to fly to Tokyo for a 90-day stay.

We found a wonderful, affordable apartment in Strasbourg, submitted our request and were quickly approved. We found another great, affordable flat in Oxford, submitted our request and were quickly approved.

And then we started looking in Bath and things didn’t go so well.

First, rentals in Bath are expensive. Very expensive. Most of what we found for our dates was over our monthly lodging budget, but we eventually found a lovely apartment that we could afford and that had the amenities we were looking for. The reviews for the place were amazing, and the dates we wanted for next year were available, so we submitted our request. Airbnb hosts are required to respond within 24 hours, and the next day we received a denial with a short note saying they would have to check with the owners to see whether they would agree to a long-term stay (even though it clearly stated in the amenities that long-term stays of over 28 days are allowed). Hmmm. That was a week ago and we have heard nothing back from the owners or otherwise.

Two days after the denial, we submitted a second request for another place. It was the same price, the dates were available, etc. but we were quickly denied with a somewhat curt note from the owner saying she “really doesn’t like to do long-term stays” even though in amenities it had once again stated that the lodging was suitable for stays of over 28 days. Although the calendar was open for our dates, she wrote “I have no idea what I want to do next year.”

We were confused. Were we applying too early? Was it something we said? Both of our hosts in Strasbourg and Oxford said they had enjoyed our introduction and were looking forward to meeting us. We’ve never been rejected before and these two shook us.

Brett and I decided that while we may have wanted to go to Bath, maybe Bath didn’t want us. So, we talked some more and eventually decided to look for a place in Derbyshire. We could save enough staying there that we could afford a car rental for a month and be able to see more of northern England. Some of my ancestors come from Derbyshire, but others come from near the Lake District (Barrow-in-Furness), and I have wanted to visit those places.

The cottage outside of Stoke-on-Trent

We found a delightful, affordable cottage to rent outside of Stoke-on-Trent, wrote to the owner, and received a lovely note, but also another denial! This time however it wasn’t us – she was in the process of selling the cottage! The owner/host assured us that the new owners intended to keep it as an Airbnb, but from past experience we’ve learned that there’s a more than better chance that any new owner will be raising the rates. So, we started over again and looked at other rentals in the area, but didn’t see anything that either interested us or fit our needs or budget.

Feeling very discouraged, we had a long discussion about where else we might go after Oxford. We looked over a map of England, checked out a few places, but either couldn’t imagine an eight-week stay in some or couldn’t find lodging that fit our budget or had the amenities we wanted (or we honestly didn’t like the location or the look of some of the rentals).

And then Edinburgh surprisingly came up. We had loved our short visit there in 2019, and only scratched the surface of all there was to see and do, but we had pushed a return visit down the list to “later.” We started looking at Airbnb rentals in the city and were surprised to find several in Old Town that not only had everything we were looking for but at prices that easily fit our budget. Pictures were poured over, reviews were read, prices and locations were compared, and last night we crossed our fingers and sent off another request.

We heard back in less than 10 minutes that we had been accepted! We’re going back to Edinburgh!

We have reserved a beautiful two-bedroom apartment just off the Royal Mile, about halfway between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Castle. We’re close to the train station, and know from our earlier visit how easy it is to get around the city from where we’ll be – it’s a superb location. The apartment has every amenity we require and then some (it even has a window seat overlooking the cobbled street below), and both the apartment and the host received five-star reviews. Maybe best of all is that we’ll be paying nearly $1500 -$1800 less than what a rental would have cost in Bath.

Edinburgh may not have been the destination we had originally planned, but we are surprised to be feeling even more excited about a return to Scotland than we were about Bath or Derbyshire. Our plans have changed, but somehow things turned out better than we expected.

Moving Into the Fast Lane

Packing again is going to happen sooner than originally planned!

BIG changes have been made and things are happening! We now have only 31 weeks and four days until we depart Kaua’i!

We had planned to leave in December of next year and fly to Japan, but will now leave our island home in early May when we fly to YaYu’s graduation. We’ll be in Pennsylvania for six days helping YaYu move and watching her graduate, but instead of returning to Kaua’i at the end of our visit we’ll instead be departing for a nearly three month stay in Strasbourg, France. After that we’ll head to the UK, staying eight weeks in Oxford followed by another eight weeks in Bath before flying to Tokyo for a 90-day stay and spending Christmas with family there.

Almost two weeks ago Brett and I sat down and crunched the numbers and realized it made little sense for us to return to Kaua’i, financially and otherwise, and that our savings at that point would be more than adequate for us to begin traveling again in May. By departing for Europe from the east coast we will save the cost of returning to Kaua’i and be able to put those savings toward our flight to France. And, instead of paying rent here as we watched our possessions continue to slowly dwindle we could instead be living in France and England. We spent some more time working up a budget and then pulled the trigger.

We have reserved and paid for a charming Airbnb rental in the Petit France neighborhood of Strasbourg. Careful thought was given to whether we should rent again from our former host, but we decided for the length of time there we wanted something a bit larger this visit. The apartment is in a wonderful location, perfect for walking the city and catching the tram, and has everything we look for in a rental except a washing machine. However, we used a laundromat when we were in Strasbourg before without a problem, and know we can do it again. The host gave a nearly 50% discount because of the length of our stay making the rental very affordable.

We are still working out our departure timeline, but for now plans are to move out of our apartment at the end of April, and stay at one of the beach cottages at Barking Sands for our final week on Kaua’i. We’ll hold a garage sale mid-April, and list the furniture and car then as well (we’ll rent a car as soon as it sells). A couple of boxes will be mailed to WenYu for storage but hopefully everything else will be gone before we depart.

Our downsizing efforts will speed up again after the first of the year, but for now we’re focusing on the girls’ visit at Christmas and pulling things together for that. We feel a real sense of excitement though that plans have been speeded up and that we’ve made our first commitment. We have dreamed of returning to Strasbourg ever since we left in 2018, and nearly three and a half years later that dream is finally going to come true, and sooner than we imagined.

Memories of Strasbourg, France

The city of Strasbourg is a delight for walkers.

Strasbourg started as an add-on stop when we created our itinerary for our last Big Adventure. We had been more interested in checking out Bordeaux, but when Strasbourg popped up on our radar we thought it would be a worthwhile destination and we ended up booking a longer stay there than Bordeaux! It remains our favorite city of all we visited, a ranking that’s never diminished.

What did we love so much about Strasbourg?

Strasbourg is not a big city, but we found it had everything we needed, and there was plenty to see and do. It was a very easy city to get around in as well. The area is flat, so it was very walkable. There were loads of cobblestones though, so I had to be careful about those, and loads of bike riders as well that we had to remain aware of, but otherwise it was a very pleasant place to walk. The central city especially was compact enough to get around easily on foot. There was also an amazing, affordable tram system that was easy to use, and buses as well for trips further out from the center. Trains from Strasbourg station went to points all over Europe.

For a smaller city, Strasbourg is very cosmopolitan. It’s home to the European Union Parliament, and has a top-notch university and hospital, so the city is full of and very welcoming to people from all over. It’s also a uniquely beautiful city with a long history. Located next to the Rhine River, the central city is filled with canals, and because of its location on the German border, it melds French and German culture in many ways, from architecture to cuisine. There is a large, wonderful park inside the city, L’Orangerie, complete with Alsatian storks, a small zoo, sculptures, and a forest of trees, worthy of several visits. The park is known as the “lungs of Strasbourg.” Strasbourg also contains several interesting museums – our favorites were the Alsatian Museum, which covers the regions’s culture and traditions, and the Musee l’Oeuvre-Notre Dame, which focuses on the history of the city. Both are located near to the spectacular Strasbourg Cathedral.

We fell in love with Alsatian cuisine, from tarte flambée (a sort of pizza, also know as flammekueche) to charcroute (pork and sauerkraut). The area is known for its wines (mostly white) and it’s also one of the areas in France famous for its fois gras (goose liver pate), made in the Alsace since the 18th century. Other favorites of ours were bretzels, giant pretzels that came in a variety of flavors, amazing gingerbread that also came in lots of flavors and shapes, and creamy nut-filled nougats that were cut off of giant blocks. Our apartment was close to several great markets including an organic one and another one specializing in local products. We ate well while we were there.

Tarte flambée!

Strasbourg is also conveniently located to destinations in Germany – we could actually catch the tram nearest to our apartment and be across the border in just a few minutes. Western Switzerland was only a short distance away as well and a getaway to Lucerne took only 1 1/2 hours by car. Ramstein Air Base is located less than an hour away, which would have been an easy trip for medical needs, if necessary.

Every day we spent in Strasbourg in 2018 was an adventure, and while we went out almost daily we did not see or do everything in the area. We’re eager to revisit and explore the cathedral and the Petit France area again, to stroll through L’Orangerie, to visit the markets and museums. There’s more wine to be enjoyed, and many new variations of tarte flambée to be savored as well as charcroute and other Alsatian specialties. Fresh bread and pastries, cheeses, and pates also are calling us back.

The highlight of our Strasbourg visit was a traditional French meal with our host and family at their home. Sunset was falling over the French countryside just outside of Strasbourg when we arrived at their house.

The Provisioning Plan

(photo credit: Lucrezia Carnelos/unsplash)

Neither Brett nor I are into spending right now. We prefer saving.

However, there are things we need to buy before we set out on our next adventure, and we’ve been dreading having to face some of the big expenses we experienced before our last adventure.

However, because we currently have time on our side, we came up with a plan to keeps purchases to what can fit into our monthly budget, but that will still allow us to have everything we need before we leave next year.

Our plan? I get to buy something I need or want in the odd months; Brett gets the even months. We should try to keep purchases to one thing or type of thing each month, but if a special sale or discount occurs more can be purchased.

This month I bought four pairs of cotton leggings from H&M. I bought a pair in December of 2019 to take along to Japan and absolutely loved them, and when I checked last week they were still available at the price I paid in 2019. I bought two pairs of black, two of dark gray, and a package of ankle socks for YaYu to qualify for free shipping (the socks cost less than what shipping would have). I now have four comfy pairs of leggings to see me through for a while (plus, leggings also take up less room in my suitcase).

The leggings were going to be only purchase this month but my preferred brand of bras (online) were on sale this month, and on top of the sale price there was an additional discount for every two purchased, and another 20% off everything if I supplied my email address (fine by me because it goes directly to my spam folder). Shipping was also free. My favorite underwear brand was also on sale at Costco, and two packs of those were also ordered. The new stuff will be put away until it’s time to pack; what I’m wearing now is in good enough condition to get me through next year. This month’s provisioning for me is over though.

Next month Brett plans to purchase either some new jeans or a pair of boots, and in November I’m going to replace my phone. That’ll be a big expense, but my old phone will be traded in, and we’ll use the interest-free monthly payment plan for a while from our carrier, and pay off the balance before we depart. I want to have the phone before the girls arrive in December as they can (and will) teach and help me with all sorts of things so I can use the phone more optimally. Brett says he’s going to wait and see what he gets for Christmas before deciding on a (late) December purchase. On both our lists for next year are boots, and Brett needs a cold-weather coat and new iPad. I want one pair of Perfect Fit pants from L.L. Bean since the ones I had were too big. Other items will fall into place as we figure them out.

While some items can be easily fit into our regular shopping here, our monthly plan is designed to not only to keep us motivated, but keep us on track budget-wise for the things we’ll need on the road. The schedule gives each something to look forward to each month, and by the time we depart we’ll have everything we need.

Works for us!