Wife and I are back. We were gone for almost 6 weeks which is far and away the longest time I’ve ever been out of the country our ever out of my home.
Going back was not the most pleasant air travel experience. It started with a cluster-F experience at Schipol (Amsterdam) airport where we were sent to the wrong terminal by the airline for the business lounge, ended up going through passport control and security twice, wandered in this huge circle for almost 40 minutes until we arrived back where we started. Our experience with Icelandair where the system of changing planes in Reykjavik is just nuts plus business class seats that really aren’t better than economy plus on United have taken this off the list as an option going forward. We did like arriving in Denver and spending the night rather than going on to ABQ. That last 7 hours of travel (with changing planes, getting home, unpacking) throws the whole thing into the 20+ hour category which is just way too hard on us.
This trip had a focus. That focus was to be a test of Wife and my desire to spend significantly more time outside of the US. In particular, I wanted test a desire I had to not just do the kind of tourist travel we have always done, but go to a place and quasi live there, get to know the area, be able to stay connected with work, and not feel the need to go, go, go. I look back to the time I studied in France and have always felt the experience of living somewhere is much different than being a tourist. But that was a long time ago. I’m not that person and my life is much, much different now. Hence the test. Determine if your feelings and assumptions are still valid before making any major commitments.
In the sense that for any test to be a success, you have to get a certain amount usable data back for analysis, this trip was certainly a success though certainly the data pointed to a need for further analysis and testing. Now I know you’re probably saying, “Hey de-I, isn’t this a ruse so you can justify further travel!” To which I say, “I don’t need anything to justify further travel. Here are my preliminary findings some of which represent some of Wife and my combined discussions and some of which are strictly my own. First.
Did We Enjoy Being Away For So Long And Do We Want To Do It More?
Yes. We had no problem filling our days in fact, as I’ll relate below, the problem was the opposite. And the three weeks in one place in Brittany was great in that it allowed us to get to know the area. By the end of the three weeks we had gotten to understand “oh this is the market we should go to,” and “We really like going out to eat here for this,” and “if we have someone come visit we should take them here,’ types of things. You don’t get that if you just jump in somewhere for a week.
However, there were many things that we found out that would need to change for us to do more of this. We can lump these under two major heading – Things we need to account for given our particular situation and issues associated with truly trying to live somewhere else.
Accounting For The Reality Of Our Situation
I think the overriding thing we discovered in being away for such a long time is that there are things we need as people who are older and have various physical issues. As we look forward most of these issues are going to only get worse, so we need to include the resolution to them in our planning. That list includes:
A need for creature comfort - This is both for physical and aesthetic reasons. On the physical side, Wife and I both have lots of joint issues. Without a certain level of adequate seating and sleeping quality, the wear and tear on the body becomes really apparent. If you’re simply on a one or two week vacation, you can probably deal with it. When you’re going for 6 weeks or more, it really tells. We’re beyond the point of travel for travel’s sake. To enjoy our time traveling means we need to have a level of physical comfort where we are not in pain. This is something we will have to account for in the future.
A need for beauty in our daily surroundings - Wife and I are people who are home bodies and by that I don’t mean we need to be home all the time (or we wouldn’t travel) but that we get great pleasure from our home itself. There’s a reason we’ve put so much into our own house changing it so that its aesthetics give joy to us on a daily basis. The house we had in Brittany was a perfectly adequate house if you we’re just doing a week of vacation, but it did not have either the interior, grounds, comfort, or view that really made it a pleasure to just be in like in contrast our place in Spain had. There were economic reasons for our choice but we will need to consider changing that trade off.
Auto issues – At most of the places we’ve traveled outside the US, an automatic transmission is the exception and you usually have to pay more for it. Unfortunately Wife is not comfortable with a standard. The result was I did all the driving. That ended up being way too much wear and tear on me and it prevented any situation where Wife could go off on her own and do things while I did things myself at home. In the future, the expense of having an automatic transmission vehicle is something we will just have to absorb.
Managing the air transportation process – Going to Europe or Asia or South America from Albuquerque is always going to be a long, long process and is very wearing physically. Business class is nice but even with smart shopping is very expensive. Our attempt at a deep discounted version left us dissatisfied. However, as stated above we were happy with our decision to break our trip back into two days and spending the night in Denver. As time is not the issue that has been in the past, it might make more sense to buy the Economy plus type seating but do the trip in two or three days (depending on just how far we’re going) with hotel stays in between. The trade-off there is that you do have to do more schlepping to and from airports, dealing with your bags, going through security and all which is wearing in and of itself. We’ll have to give that a try.
Issues Associated With Truly Trying To Live Somewhere Else
The first thing I need to state is if the purpose of our trip was test what it was like to be living in another place, we failed from the first because we really didn’t just stay and live in Brittany, we ended up having a three week typical trip there. That meant running around and seeing all kinds of things and being the kind of manic travelers we typically are. This had all kinds of implications such as greater wear and tear on our body, spending more than we had intended, significantly greater fatigue overall, and non-accomplishment of a variety of projects that we had thought we’d have time to work on. Here is a list of things that we need to consider when we do our next test.
No guests, at least not until you have your pattern down – If you have guests you’re not on your own and you don’t have time to develop a pattern of your own in a new place. I think the next test has to be just the two of us. If that works then we can experiment with going somewhere, getting established and then having guests.
Go somewhere we’ve been before – Since it is Wife and my natural tendency to get out and explore, it might be better if we would go somewhere we’ve already been so there is more incentive to stay put and delve deeper into a daily routine. If we go somewhere completely new, I have doubts that we’d be very content to just sit in one place.
Has to be a home worth not leaving – this relates to need for beauty in daily surroundings that I mentioned above. This really struck home when we got back and walked into our own home that (in our opinion) is uplifting just being in.
Have to really consider, no try, home exchange – I think there is a real limit to the quality you are going to find in a rental unless you shell out big bucks. Home exchange is a concept we’ve toyed with but are coming to feel has the best potential to get us the type of living experience we want. Home exchange not only gives you a place where someone else feels good about their environment (not necessarily the way the owner of a rental property feels) but also provides you with guidance of how to integrate into your local environment easier.
Make a commitment to breaking our travel habits – By this I mean, consciously working on behavior change, on slowing down, on going a more measured pace. I think, honestly, this will be the hardest thing for us. Behavior change always is.
So in conclusion, we had a great time. Baring the physical comfort issues and personal energy issues, we were very pleased and were thinking of all the places we still want to visit. We definitely want to try the ‘live in a place’ experiment again. But we also still want to get out and do the more classic travel and see and experience new places. I think the one hypothesis that we did prove was that Wife and I are travelers and intend to do as much travel as we can physically and fiscally do as we transition into the last stages of our life.