Just a quick note to all. It would seem that one of the blogs on my blog roll was infected with malware and some of you (especially those with Chrome) may have been blocked to this site. I've removed that link, and contacted the blogger. I apologize for any who may have not been able to get through!
I have lived a total of fifteen years of my life in another country. By choice. Six when I was a teenager, three while on active duty with the Army and another seven as an adult with my husband and children. When people hear this, their general response is something along the lines of "I'm so jealous. I bet you got to travel all the time!". The answer to that is yes....and no.
Living overseas as an expat is as much about Immersion with a capital I as it is Travel with a capital T. This is true even for most of the retired expats I knew in Germany. In other words, life went on, albeit in a different country. My husband had a full time job, with anywhere from four weeks to six weeks of annual vacation, and the government gift of "comp time" for extra hours worked in conjunction with all those federal holidays. It would certainly be wrong to say that we did not travel. In the five years before my husband became ill we took multiple week trips to Normandy (NOT stopping in Chartres-story still to come), London, Scandinavia via cruise ship, Italy (Venice and Florence), Holland and the Low Country, Prague, and three week driving trip into the east that included smaller towns in Poland, East Germany and other countries. That long trip to the east was the longest of our vacations, and at the end of the trip as we were driving home, John and I looked at each other and agreed-we were both ready to go home. This was about as long as we were willing to handle at one time.
We were entirely grateful that we could take these trips and looked forward to them and planned so that we could make best use of our time. One of the primary reasons influencing our decision to live elsewhere was the travel opportunity. We also did MANY weekend trips and three day or four day trips-averaging at least once a month. A speed train trip to Berlin, a drive to Strasbourg, Rhine River and Mosel River Cruises..the list goes on.
Here's the thing, though. The reality of that travel time is that is was a small portion of the year. The rest of the year was spent mainly living our lives-in and among another culture. Going to the German market for food, watching a Fasching parade in our town, heading out on a Saturday afternoon to a local Christmas market, watching the world cup, having sort of block party in the center of our townhouse complex with the neighbors (during Hurricane Katrina when they all asked me why we crazy Americans made our houses out of wood or siding instead of good brick) and so on. There were ski trips, boy scout trips, dinners with friends, school events and football games, homework and relaxing at home-the normal activities of life.
Even after all those years in Europe, there are still things I have never seen.I would love to take a cruise either down the Rhone or Danube. While the rest of my family has been, I have never been to Rome (the only major city in Western Europe I have not at least been in once, even if it was at fifteen). I imagined that in retirement, I would hit the open road all the time. This has not been true-by choice.
The truth is that while I enjoy traveling, I have realized that for me, I choose to make travel a part of my retirement life, but not my whole life, or even necessarily the greatest part of my retirement. I realize that this decision would probably be the same were I no longer a widow. My husband would have wanted to ski (but with a group) be active in church, referee youth and adult sports and be active in whatever local community theater group there was. All of those would have required regular seasonal commitments. I am active by choice in church and volunteer activities, artist groups, learning activities, and travel to craft fairs part of the year. I am a social person, as was my husband.
To be clear, I have a long list of places I want to see in the US, as well as Europe. Readers have heard me talk about plans in the next year to visit San Francisco by train, take a gulf coast driving tour, and possibly take a week to visit the Dakotas and the badlands. The first two travel commitments would take six weeks. Add that to a month visiting family and friends and a beach in Texas and I've come to realize that this may be the most I am willing to be away from home each year (in terms of long term over night travel).
It may be that I change my mind, who knows? These are not all the places on my wish list, to be sure. I'm into small trip cruising, and as such I want to go back to the East coast and may substitute that for my gulf coast trip. I've been exploring a small cruise ship that goes from St Augustine to Washington DC or Annapolis. My brother lives in Seattle and I can see a three week trip going up the California coast. I am WAY overdue for trips to Boston and Manhattan. The list goes on. Note: While I also want to go back to Germany, you will see no wish list travel to the far east. I am totally claustrophobic in planes, and the price I pay for a more than eight hour trip is not worth any result at the other side.
The problem is you see, that I love being at home and the things I do at home. Recently, another blogger, while discussing his past year expenses, suggested that he had done less travel this year because he enjoyed where he lived more and had made more friends. While I am not sure that is true, for me personally, I agree that what I leave behind when I do serious long term travel is equally important, and frankly equally rewarding. Put simply, I enjoy the travel. Heck, I LOVE the travel part. Recently my son and I were looking at photos of the road trip we took when checking out schools. From Denver we drove across to Utah, cutting down to Moab and Arches National Park. We drove through Monument Valley, visiting Tuscon and spending the night in Glendale, Ariz. We then drove through Palm Springs and rolling hills to San Diego where we spent five days. When it was time to return, we took the lower road back to Texas through Yuma and the White Sands area. Sometimes the trip was lovely, sometimes the trip was barren. There were exciting parts and relaxing parts and we had a WONDERFUL time for two weeks. We were exited to go, and excited during the trip. We were, however, also excited to be arriving home.
In addition to the things I mentioned in my "this week post", I have also spent time reading in my chair by the fire with wine and a snack. I've cooked lazy slow cooker meals while watching TV. I walked my dogs down the bike path near my house. I spent yesterday in the comfy chairs of my local independent bookstore knitting and sipping hot chocolate with friends. The point of I'm trying to make is that times like these can be as wonderful and as important to me as those times on the road.
Every retiree (and person) has to find their own level of travel, both in terms of time spent traveling and level of energy used during that travel. Some of my fellow bloggers choose to spend half of their time, or even more, on the road. Some choose to spend their time doing "adventure" travel. Some choose to do back roads exploration, and some choose to spend their time in cities and towns. I fully admit that while I enjoy the natural view I experience during road tripping, I prefer my end result to be a chair on the beach or a hotel in the downtown area.
I consistently enjoy reading about the travels, and the day to day experiences of my retired friends equally. It's what makes life go around. I may decide to increase my days of travel, or even take a tour. Nothing about retirement is written in stone and I am by nature an adventurous (though not energetic) person. For now though, I've decided to keep my long term, on the road away from home travel to no more than two and a half months of the year (this includes time with family in Dallas). Add day trips and over night trips to places such as Jackson Hole and Santa Fe on occasion, and it's the perfect level-for me.
We are all different. What about you. What's YOUR perfect level of travel versus home time-and have you gotten there yet??