Traveling as we do, we meet a lot of people. Conversations ensue. Questions are asked, and among the first is, “Where do you live?” Then the familiar words: vagabond, expat, ne’er-do-well, and homeless.
After we tell the story of our travels — so well-rehearsed we can recite it in our sleep — comes the inevitable question: “What will you do next?”
Our answer has always been, “We don’t know.” But now, with less than sixty days remaining of our planned expat adventure — less than sixty days! — we have decided.
We’re going home.
Note how I gave “homeless” its own paragraph up there. It turns out that homelessness is the bane of the expat adventure. Nothing, we have learned, makes one appreciate home more than being…
Relax. I’m not going to subject you to a bromidic treatise on the romance of having a home. As a guy I’m obliged to identify the empirical and pragmatic, to illuminate the practical; to list, dispassionately, the logic that has brought us to our decision.
In no particular order, these are the things we miss in our travels:
Friends and family. Bless the hearts of those who have traveled to visit us in faraway places, but the very fact that you’re far away most of the time gnaws at us like heartbreak. We long for one of those conversations that begins, “Whacha doin’ tonight,” and being able to follow up on it. When I said “In no particular order,” this is the exception. Above all, we miss our people!
Reliable Internet. Like running water, we take the Internet for granted until it’s gone. Email, Netflix, Pandora, Amazon, maps and search — try it: live for a week without the Internet. We haven’t enjoyed good service since Spain. Seven months!
Phone service and texting. Our children prefer texting over all other forms of distant communication. We used phones to reconnect when we were separated in a mall, or in a city, or even in the same neighborhood. We used phones to transact business. Sometimes we even used them for pleasant conversations. But no more. We have phones and we have phone numbers but we are flummoxed when it comes to their use. All assistance is in a foreign language and our hands are thrown up in despair.
Quality sound reproduction. Have you ever listened to Schubert or watched Terminator 5 through the tiny speakers on a TV set? Give me woofers and tweeters and everything in between!
A permanent mailing address and phone number. Go ahead, try completing an insurance claim, a visa application, a order from Amazon without them. Try it. I rest my case.
Our own pots, pans, and knives. Years have gone into our collection of pots and pans (which we still have, in storage), and we haven’t used a sharp knife since we packed up our kitchen in Portland.
A washer and dryer. We had a washer in Spain, but that was seven months ago. We’ve been washing our stuff in the sink ever since. And a dryer! In Spain the clothesline was five stories above another apartment’s roof. Socks especially (always one, never a pair) committed suicide from that clothesline every day, it seemed, leaving their carcasses sixty feet below where we could mourn them in futility. In Greece we dried clothes on the balcony. In Italy, in the garden. And in Mexico we really don’t dry them at all, given the humidity of the tropics.
A familiar grocery store, a bank, a hardware store. I yearn for peanut butter, maple syrup, good beer, and an inexpensive set of screwdrivers.
Stuff. Yeah, we know: we sold all our stuff and bragged about it. But Louise would like a hair dryer, we would like some colorful bowls for our cereal. I would like that set of screwdrivers. But we’re on the road: If it has to be packed, it’s not gonna happen.
The list goes on.
So. What’s next? We’ve rented a furnished apartment in Portland for the month of April. During that time we’re going to search for a condo to buy or a long-term apartment to rent there. We’ll settle in and hang our own stuff on the walls. We’ll dry our clothes with a machine. I’ll tighten that loose faucet with my own screwdriver.
Will we travel again? Of course we will! I want to pilot a canal boat in France. We want to visit Ireland. And as you know, we’ve already been assured of our return to Puerto Vallarta next winter. This is not the end of adventure. It’s the end of an adventure, and it’s the beginning of a new one.