“If we sold our house and our stuff, what do we own that we could not part with?”
This was the question we asked ourselves frequently before we took the plunge and became “unhoused.” This was a question we realized could only be answered in stages. Much like anxious hoarders who are advised by decluttering experts to make three piles – the “go”, the “maybe” and the “stay” , we tentatively sorted through our belongings. Would I miss that cute little mid-century table I found at a garage sale? What about the cottage lamp or the eccentric vase or the piles of books? I felt a bit choked looking at my baby booties (gone) and our sons’ baby clothes (gone – they don’t want them). Stephen wrestled with his Grade Four report card and other sentimental items that he hadn’t looked at in decades.
The sorting process helped to crystallize the “stay or go” criteria. “Will I be deeply regretful if I get rid of this – is it irreplaceable?” We kept photo albums, much of our collected art, inherited dishes, a clock that belonged to my great-grandfather and precious things from our kids. Everything else was just “stuff”; magically it lost its hold on us and was passed on to others. We had two huge garage sales, our sons arrived to claim a few meaningful pieces, and the rest went to the recycling depot. A house and garage (and crawlspace) was diluted into five art cartons and 15 Rubbermaid totes. Pure liberation.
As retirement approached two years ago, we knew we wanted to travel extensively.
After spending the past two winters driving through Mexico for months at a time, we always returned to “real life” reluctantly. We began to question why “real life” was equated with staying in one place, when we were happiest either being on the road, or planning our next trip.
We thought about VTR (valuable time remaining, as my wise friend Eveline calls it), and realized it was time for a different direction.
We had read about people who sold everything and left their lives behind to travel indefinitely, but the risks seemed to outweigh the benefits. Would it be a mistake to take ourselves out of the housing market? How would we keep in touch with friends and family? What if we got sick? What if one of our family members got sick? Could we afford to do this? Would we miss our life on Gabriola Island?
As luck would have it, we met two couples in Mexico last year who have done that very thing, and they provided valuable perspective. Our new friends, from British Columbia and Ontario, have been on the road for nine and four years respectively. It has worked well for them and neither couple have any intention of settling down any time soon.
Sentiments of travellers we have met over the years resonated:
“I feel fully engaged every day,” a young American woman who was on a year-long honeymoon with her Korean husband. Fully engaged – as we all sat in the jungle ruins of Palenque and listened to howler monkeys after just witnessing a snake swallow a frog.
“I like myself better when I travel.”: coffee wisdom from a fellow traveller. No question, I like myself a whole lot better when I’ve shucked off routines, habits and fussy rituals.
This is the ideal time – our sons are grown up. We have no pets and no grandchildren yet. We are in excellent health, and game to travel to remote places.
Our new life begins on December 30 with a three-and-a-half month trip to Southeast Asia – travelling to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Blog entries will be posted two to three times a week sharing our photos and experiences, as well as our impressions of being “home-free.” As we travel and discover how to effectively live a nomadic life, we’ll share those perspectives as well.
We welcome your comments and travel tips. Thank you for joining us on our journey!