Today we fly to Cancun. With its reputation as a party outpost for the states1 it may not be the most exotic remote locale, but this step officially commences the international potion of our 16-month walkabout. At this point it seems appropriate to reflect on the experience and lessons learned of the last three months spent as domestic vagabonds.
As an aside I’d like to point out that there’s something great about being on the cusp of leaving the country for a while: it can serve as a delightfully irrefutable reason to politely decline any manner of sales pitch. While at the Safeway the other day I was asked by the cashier if I’ve enrolled yet to their “Deals 4U” program (or whatever it’s called). I said no & no thanks: “Yeah, I’m leaving the country next Thursday, for… a while. So I’m going to pass.” This is great because not only does it curtail any push back, but it also opens up more lively and interesting dialogue between you and someone who is suddenly, magically, less of a company agent and more of a real person. Fun (even if fleeting) conversation ensues, and it’s enjoyable enough that I’m tempted to use that line with customer service people again when I get back2.
Here’s the breakdown of how we spent our nights, accommodations-wise, since undergoing voluntary homelessness:
- 11 nights of camping (1 + 1 + 2 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 2)
- 37 nights of longer-stint stays in places to ourselves (8 + 4 + 4 + 7 + 14)
- 9 nights crashing with family in Denver
- 6 nights crashing with family around Milwaukee & Chicago
- 4 nights crashing with friends
- 4 nights in hotels
- 7 nights as camp counselors
- 4 nights of short stints at hosted AirBNB places (2 + 2)
- 8 nights in quasi-vacation mode for the weddings (2 + 6)
The cost of our nightly accommodations has been, on average, $40.68. Take out the pricy week in Cape Cod and it goes down to $27.60 per night.
This summer “home” has indeed been a rather vague and ephemeral concept, and fortunately that’s been a-okay with us3. I’ve come up with an alternate construct for the concept: home for me is pretty much wherever Tracy is. Plainly, Tracy is my home. Is that a cute and sappy sentiment? You betcha. But it’s true, and in practice a quite fitting designation.
The time has largely served as a microcosm of how the rest of world tour will go: a comprehensive survey of the various lifestyles and living arrangements we’re liable to experience overseas4. This summer has taught us that we’re way more happy to be in domestic mode than in travel mode. For example, our days spent settled in Aurora were, on average, more enjoyable per day than touristing around in Boston5.
Domestic mode is great because it’s a break from the regular need to sort out where you’re going to stay next, you get to have a sense of familiarity with your surroundings (and with it a pleasantly orienting sensation of home), and there’s way less reliance on eating out when you’ve got unfettered access to a kitchen. It’s also generally much cheaper per night, when you stay a while.
This suggests the question: if we like being settled into a quasi-normal living arrangement so much, why travel at all?
Fortunately the answer to that is clear: getting settled in to a living space and exploring our new surroundings is really enjoyable. It’s fun to make that initial trip to the grocery store to newly set up your pantry and deliberately choose what you’ll be cooking and eating the next few days or weeks. It’s fun to have novelty cause you to pay attention to (and thus appreciate more) the niceties and nuances of where you’re staying. It’s fun to discover the features, establishments and choice walking routes of a new neighborhood. Throw in how the whole experience bumps you out of established routines (thus freeing you to make up new ones), and you’ve got a really nice set of reasons for traveling slow and savoring the domestic aspects. Even a short 4-day stint like ours in Granby revealed all of these positive qualities.
So we’re in a really nice position: we’re going to have a lot of opportunities to settle in to weeks-long living arrangements, and they’ll be bases of exploration in locales way more exciting than a suburb of Denver. As I write this, our plane will land in Cancun in about 2 hours. International World Tour begins!
- To wit, many of the plane passengers “Woooo!”ed when the flight attendant said festively “Let’s go to Cancun!” just before takeoff. Kinda like being on a party bus, really. ↩
- I probably won’t since I’m a terrible liar. Good thing I enjoyed declaring my imminent departure from the country with a completely straight face while I could. If you’re a good liar and can cook up answers to the predictable questions that follow, you might give it a try. ↩
- Any semblance of homesickness has yet to come up–not bad for nearly three months without a regular bed, and my heartfelt thanks to the many friends and family who allowed us to feel at home while saying at theirs. ↩
- Minus of course the camping: amid the roughly 28lbs per person of worldly possessions that we are shlepping, you’ll find nary a tent nor sleeping bag nor other such gear. ↩
- This saying a lot, because as cities go Boston is way cooler than Aurora. ↩