It’s been a while. We’ve been busy.
Our last week in Bratislava, mid-November, American friends visited. We spent lots of time talking, in coffee shops and apartments (both ours and theirs) over drinks and meals and desserts. During one such visit, the husband, Will, said “It seems like your life is an experiment now. You do something. Learn from it. And adjust.”
I’d never considered it in those precise terms, but he was right.
At first, we moved slowly: three months in Paris; three months in Guatemala.
When I planned 2016, I thought visiting our favorite places would be fun. I was coming off a winter in Guatemala and felt off kilter. A year of Budapest and Bratislava and our favorite Irish village sounded settling.
Yet as 2016 ended, instead of feeling settled, I felt a bit bored.
So we left Bratislava early on a whim and a one-way Ryanair flight to Barcelona. And from there, we flew to Bordeaux. Then we took the train to Paris.
I thought of our daughter who is in her 20s and is still feeling her way, deciding what she loves, and learning what she doesn’t like. Most of society accepts this as normal. In your 20s you work, save, take time off and hike Machu Picchu, then work some more.
I encourage that. Obligations come too quickly and tend to stay once acquired.
Pat and I have entered our own time of great experimentation. We are in our late 50s (barely). Healthy. A bit of savings and a small pension. Free.
But society seems to view this phase differently. The norm dictates that we settle down. Buy a house (because what self-respecting 50 year olds don’t own a house?). And consider proximity to quality medical care “just in case.”
Now is not the time to experiment.
Which means never is the time to experiment, right? (Seriously. If not in my 50s… soon to be 60s, then when?)
Our trip home from Bratislava went well. We were enchanted with Barcelona and spent the last day looking for the exact neighborhood where we will settle one January (next January?).
We tasted Bordeaux in Saint Emilion and shipped a case home. (The next ten Christmas dinners are set.)
Since we will live in the 11th in Paris, we stayed in the 7th and explored that neighborhood.
December turned hectic. Within days of arriving in Philly, we took the train to DC and applied for French residency. (Ten days later, done!)
Then we flew into a Northern Michigan snow storm for a family wedding. Set off for Virginia to babysit our grandson for a long weekend. And returned to Virginia for Christmas.
In the midst of this, I learned a piece I had written was selected for publication in an anthology (a real book that you can buy at Barnes and Noble!). But I had to spend two full days just before Christmas working on edits.
Two days after Christmas, our son Ryan received a text as we were leaving Virginia that the adjoining row house to his home had burned. His home was water and smoke damaged. (And yes, this is the place where we store our things. So we spent two days culling and reducing our boxes once again.)
As we boarded a flight from Philly on New Year’s Eve, I realized how invigorating it was to be busy. And how freeing it was to get rid of more of our things.
I’m not ready for the front porch swing. Not yet.
Now, we are in Courtmacsherry, Ireland. I’m writing this in front of a wood fire. The sun rises late here. Outside, the pink and grey sky is slowly transitioning to a smoky blue. The bay is at high tide. Fuchsia blossoms dangle from the bushes just outside my window. The farm land across the bay is as green as ever.
The days are short (maybe too short). And quiet (maybe too quiet).
So tomorrow, we are leaving for an impromptu trip to Galway. We haven’t been there in 20 years. On this visit to Ireland, we have a car. Why not use it?
I’m not one for resolutions, but in my 32 years with IBM, I became used to the “performance review” cycle. January is the month where we looked back at the prior year. Measured it. And planned change.
Perhaps I’m now wired that way.
So what have we learned?
- We like the light weight travel that a base provides. But I want a temporary base—a year lease. It’s cheap enough to continue our travels but a short enough commitment should we elect to set off again.
- We enjoy new places. As I look back on 2016, I remember two weeks in Berlin, a week in Zurich and four days in Dubrovnik—along with new neighborhoods in Charlottesville and Philly. Yesterday, I penciled in our trips for 2017: skiing in southern Austria in March with Igor and Vlasta, heading by train to Aix en Provence in May. Oysters in Brittany during November? Most likely.
- Last August, we hiked the Wicklow Way. The accomplishment of completing a 90-mile hike was thrilling. I’m looking for something similar this September.
- We missed our grandson’s birthday, and I vowed never to do that again. I have already booked flights back to the US for Pat’s birthday (April) and mine (which I share with our grandson in late October).
- I enjoy being busy. Once we get to Paris, I have to think about this and set some writing goals. In preparation, I have once again applied for the Paris Writers Workshop this coming July.
- I still hate snow (blissfully, there’s none here in Ireland!)
This experiment of life is an awesome thing. I can’t wait to find out what this year will bring.