We’ve downsized again.
The movers are here packing up all of our furniture, our collected artwork and memorabilia, and most of our dishes and kitchen ware, all of which will go into storage until we return from our travels, or one of our sons (or their wives) decide they want it. Recently retired, we are divesting ourselves of “stuff” and becoming gypsies. The dream is to spend a portion of each year, when the weather is decent, somewhere near our kids and grandkids. The operative word in that sentence is “somewhere”; we have no plans for a permanent home and the maintenance that entails, but we do want to be within a day’s drive of them when we are in the country. The rest of the time we’ll travel, using VRBO or AirBnB to arrange temporary “homes” around the world.
We understand that not having a physical “home” is not for everyone. North Americans and Western Europeans especially seem to be tied to a “home base” – whether that is a home town, an ancestral family home, or just the house in which they were raised or in which they raised their families. Ted and I never felt that way.
Forty years ago, shortly after we got married, we were daydreaming about what it might be like when we retired. (You need to understand that we have both always been long-range planners!) We mused that it would be amazing to simply travel full time. We even thought ahead about what it might cost if we struck a deal with a hotel chain to stay in one of their properties (just not the SAME one) 365 days of the year, packing up our minimalist needs to follow good weather across the continent… or even around the world. Our friends and families thought we were just crazy kids, but 40 years later the dream lives on.
Fast forward 34 years.
In 2010, after my mom died and we no longer needed to live close to her, we sold our 4 bedroom house in the suburbs, in which we raised our family, and bought a 2 bedroom highrise condo in Mississauga. Our “aha” moment came on moving day when my husband stood in our empty house and looked around. Without our accumulated things in it, it was just a box. The structure itself held no nostalgia for us. Neither of us are gardeners, or handy with home projects, so there was a great sense of relief at leaving behind lawns and flowerbeds that needed tending, and a roof and deck that would need eventual replacement. The fact we were downsizing also meant selling or donating much of our furniture, which was both too copious and too large for our new space, and keeping only those items that held special meaning for us. We quickly adapted to, and loved, condo life. What could be better than sitting in the indoor hot tub watching snow fall outside and knowing we would not have to shovel any of it? We were both still working, and happy to have a comfortable, convenient new home. I got involved on the condo board and with social activities in the building, and life ambled along.
Then within a fairly short span of time Ted retired, I lost patience with condo politics, and in 2017 we decided to sell…… but not to re-buy. A number of factors influenced our decision, but the major one was a desire for mobility. We found a lovely condo to rent for a year, downsized furniture yet again, and pondered our options. Our eldest son lives in the city, just 40 minutes away, in a condo he rents from us. Our youngest son is in the Canadian air force and at the time of our move was waiting to be re-posted. At that point, we had 3 very young grandsons who had all been born and raised in Nova Scotia, while we grandparented via Skype from Ontario (22 hours away by car). I had my own retirement on my mind, and we began talking about moving closer to the boys, while revisiting that original travel plan from 40 years earlier. We knew we both wanted and needed better weather than Ontario or Nova Scotia had to offer in the winters, but were open to moving to Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley for the spring and summer. Then their posting notice arrived: a teaching position at CFB Borden and a new home just 90 minutes away.
So here we are. 2018. Married 40 years. Kids settled. Ready for our next great adventure, but with our family now all close by for the first time in years, and the two of us planning to just take off and leave them behind? Our boys “get it”. They heard the dream enough times while they were growing up. Our grandsons are another story. The 6-1/2 year old has gramma’s travel bug, and wants to quit school so we can take him along! The 3-1/2 year old holds on tight and tells us not to go because he will miss us. Fortunately the 2-1/2 year old is still blissfully unaware of our treasonous plans, because 3 woeful faces might be too much to take.
At any rate, we have found an initial compromise: for the next 2 years, we will spend May through end of November renting a fully furnished condo on the shores of Lake Huron, close to the kids. We will celebrate family Thanksgiving – always my favourite holiday anyway – with them before taking off for more temperate climes. Their other grandparents will celebrate Christmas with them while we eavesdrop the opening of presents via Skype. We’ll Video chat at least weekly, email them photos and souvenirs, and tell them about all the places we visit. When possible, we’ll try to arrange for them to vacation with us.
This winter we’ll spend in South Carolina, taking the opportunity for an extended stay with my brother-in-law and his wife. We’re already planning for the winter of 2019/20 to be spent somewhere in Europe, travelling around from a home base in Calabria, Italy or the Algarve region of Portugal.
But today it is the movers. Putting our clothing into suitcases and boxes to take with us. Selecting a few special kitchen tools with which to travel (we can’t expect every furnished rental to have a garlic press after all!). Doing a final check to ensure nothing is left behind for our landlord to puzzle over, and nothing sent to storage that we might need in the next 2 or 3 years (should I hang onto that cheese grater or just buy one at the dollar store if I need it?). Drop off the keys. Load the car.
No looking back. This is just the beginning.
Tonight we’ll sleep in our new – temporary- home. Starting today, roots are the family we carry in our hearts. Home is wherever the two of us are together.
Our long awaited adventure begins.