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.
I thought you had found a condo in Portland already! oh well , I understand you want to look around more. The expat almanach is fun to read though.
This adventure was worthed though . Now you know what you really can’t live without !! We are happy to have you back !!
Oh yes, Mapi. This adventure was (is) worth it. If we could do it all again, we’d jump at the opportunity. (Except, maybe, for the brain surgery part…)
Anita Blanchard said:
I totally understand what you are saying and will be glad to have you back in the area with time, time when we could possibly meet for a beer or at one of the wonderful small eateries in Portland or have you to our house for dinner (we love to cook). There are so many things you have done in your wonderful year, tiny adventures and funny moments that we would like to savor in person. I also understand completely the things you have missed. It really plays into why we didn’t become teachers in an far flung place. As much as we complain about our bureaucracy, when all is said and done, it works. Our favorite story to illustrate that was the time we were traveling for two months in Central America and realized that we wanted to mail home several items that we would want at home, but not on this trip (we were early travelers at this point in our life). It took us two days to get the package in the mail. The facility closed and opened at odd times, just when we were close to the front of the line, our window closed, a nearby one opened and we were at the back of the new line. We mailed it early in our travels and had been home for two months before it arrived at our doorstep. I also will look forward to your posts from the trips you take to France and Ireland. Travel, in person or vicarious is such a joy.
Home we’re bound, Anita. We already have the airline tickets.
It’s about damn time.
Quit yer bitchin’ and start fluffing the pillows in the spare room. You’ll be having guests soon!
Jacquie Moon said:
I love to travel but I also love to come home to my own bed. Turns out you can do both! Glad you’re coming home.
Thanks, Jacquie. Do you think they’ll take me back at OMSI?
Bernie Casey said:
Tom and Louise, You started this adventure as “Two dreamers off to see the world.” And you end it having accomplished that goal at a level broader and deeper than anyone else I know has done. What is more, you continue in the same role, dreaming about what else life has to offer. Quite a formula for living — one we all should emulate. Hasta luego aqui en Portland.
:::blushing::: Yes, coming home is another adventure. I look forward to sharing more of this one with you and Kathy.
Dear Tom and Louise,
This is wonderful news! We’re so happy for you. Here’s to the celebration of a marvelous adventure … and all the adventures to come.
When we completed our last round-the-world journey (preceded by selling just about all our stuff), we came to St. Simons Island and rented a furnished apartment for a month. That lead to finding a little condo to renovate. Now we have a home to enjoy, and when we travel it’s great to have a base to come home to. We’ve repeated this pattern several times in our lives.
Welcome to the club. We call ourselves the “Serial Nesters” – venture out into the world and play for a while … then come home and nest like crazy. We too missed our good knives and screwdrivers. 🙂
It’s been such a joy to follow along with you and we hope you’ll keep blogging. We would love to see more of Portland and the Northwest through your eyes. Although we’ve not yet met face to face, we feel like old friends and can’t wait to see the adventures ahead for you.
Hugs and best wishes,
Terri and James
:::more blushing::: James & Terri, when we began this adventure, you ran a post — something about the ten things one had to have for travel — and one of them was a home base. I couldn’t relate then. I relate now. Thanks for your valuable perspectives along the way!
street sign for directionally challenged, as it doesn’t matter what the flippin thing says. i’m lost.
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