(Photo Credit: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/GettyImages)
Inevitably, it comes up. At a doctor or dentist, with our credit card company or bank. “Permanent Address?” I could lie, but I prefer not to stuff my son’s mail box with my junk mail. So generally I reply, “We don’t have a home. We’re permanent travelers.” I prefer this to, “We’re nomads” which, in my mind, evokes a herd of cattle on the Serengeti plains.
Yesterday, a woman responded, “So you and your husband like to travel a lot?” And I clarified, “Not exactly.” (Actually, I don’t like the act of travel at all). “We live without a car or a house or much of anything that doesn’t fit into a suitcases (or our son’s basement). We rent apartments for two or three months at a time. And sometimes, like we are now, we visit one of our kids and bunk with them.” (Though I swear, Ryan, we won’t make a habit of this.)
Some people pat my hand in a “don’t give up, life will improve” gesture. But most people, I have come to believe, are escapists. They gush, “Oh my gosh, how do you do this? Do you miss your things? You have given me hope that some day I can break free of this grind.” And then we move to the predictable next questions, “How do you find apartments for a month or two in a place you never visited? And where are you headed next?”
As for the apartment search, I use two sources; Airbnb and VRBO (and, by extension, its partner company, Homeaway). Each alternative has their strengths and weaknesses, so I typically select based on which site offers the best fit for our needs in any given place. For our next several months of rentals, three are from Airbnb and three from VRBO. The models are quite different, but I am comfortable with either choice.
Airbnb is an company which controls all communications and transactions. Once you select a place and the owner approves your request to rent, you pay Airbnb. No money flows to the owner until the day after your scheduled arrival. If the apartment is not as advertised, you have 24 hours to notify Airbnb and avoid payment. Also through Airbnb, you can rent a single bedroom in an family home (a goal, but not yet my comfort zone) or entire houses and apartments.
With VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) you deal directly with the owner and VRBO is simply a conduit to establish that relationship. The owner sets the payment terms and means (partial payment now and balance 30 days before move in, cash on arrival, etc). You generally pay some or all of the rental in advance directly to the owner. Sometimes you sign a contract. This takes an act of faith, but I have found many of the nicest houses on VRBO. I never hesitate to use it, and I have yet to be swindled. With either service, if I detect anything amiss, I move on to my next choice.
My best advice, look very carefully at all the pictures. Are any rooms missing? (the bathroom or a kitchen?) We have an upcoming three month rental in a cottage without a stove in the kitchen. I swear that was not intentional, but it explains the dirt cheap price. Had I read the rental information thoroughly and examined the pictures, this omission was clearly divulged (and given the price, I would have selected the cottage anyways). I avoid rentals with unnaturally cropped photos (lesson learned from a Paris apartment with a tiny bedroom and the mattress on the floor). And I read every single review.
Everyone has their own standards. I’m less fussed about cleanliness. If an apartment is beautiful and in a wonderful location, I’ll clean it. I focus on comments about location, especially in cities I have never visited, and noise. “The home is beautiful, the views breathtaking, and the nearby restaurants fantastic. The only tiny problem was the near constant bleating from the neighboring goat farm. By the end of the trip, my husband and I learned to enjoy it!.” No thanks. However, I nearly passed on an Amalfi house based on chicken comments. Both house and chickens turned out to be awesome (and most days, the chicken owner left us fresh eggs). Bottom line, read them all – then decide.
Since my retirement, I have finalized our rentals for the next year:
- May thru July: Paris
- August: San Francisco
- Early September: Wrightsville Beach (remember that blog about learning to surf. Oh yeah.)
- Mid September through November: Suttons Bay, Michigan near Pat’s family.
- December: Charlottesville, Virginia with our kids
- January thru March: Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
I am close to confirming April, May, and June 2016 (Hydra, Greece, Budapest, Hungary and Porto, Portugal respectively). Then, most likely, we will summer in the south of Ireland in the tiny village of Courtmacsherry.
Permanent address? No thanks. This Saturday, we’re off!