We’re six weeks into voluntary unemployment now, and while my infrequent blogging may have you thinking we’ve been totally zenned out with our new lifestyle, it’s actually been a reasonably busy couple months.
It all hit me when Derek, the 20-year-old kid whom I had just met via Craigslist one day prior, drove away in my car. Derek brought his gangly 18-year-old friend Tommy to the coffee shop where we signed the documents.
“How old are you?” Tommy asked abruptly.
“Damn,” replied Tommy, leaving me to wonder what that meant.
“Enjoy your new car! I hope you have fun with it,” I told Derek, handing over the signed title and keys.
“Enjoy your $6,500!” interjected Tommy again, uninvited.
Derek and Tommy hurried off with the keys and peeled out as if they were running from the police. My Subaru disappeared around a corner. My first car. The one I bought with every dollar I had (and then some). The one I’ve been driving ever since. It’s Derek’s now.
I hope he doesn’t let Tommy drive it.
“Wow,” I told Daniel as we drove home. “We’re actually doing this.”
I didn’t expect that selling my 13-year-old sedan would be the emotional tipping point. I’m not really into cars. I can change a tire and check the oil level, but that’s about as much as I know. But with that farewell, our adventure finally felt real. It was one of the last remaining relics of our old lives.
Over the course of six weeks, we’ve left our full-time jobs, moved the last personal items out of my condo for full-time use as a vacation rental, ended our lease and moved out of our apartment near Daniel’s work, sold over $3,000 worth of furniture and other possessions on eBay and Craigslist, put a few remaining possessions in storage (the classic minimalist’s dirty little secret – a pile of junk in mom and dad’s basement!), and sold the only vehicle we owned besides the van. With all this free time, I’ve gotten more involved with advising a friend’s start-up, which has been enjoyable without the pressure of a full-time job. And just to keep things interesting, I even ditched my iPhone in exchange for an Android with an international travel-friendly Google FI plan.
Yep, we’re really doing this.
Most every account I’ve read from experienced long-term travelers shares the same advice for newbies like us: slow down. While we’ve tried to keep slow travel in mind while putting together our itinerary, we’ve still ended up with a relatively fast-paced plan. Most importantly to us, though, our 2016 itinerary will give us meaningful time with family and friends, a chance to revisit many of our favorite U.S. destinations, and a three-month stint in an unfamiliar part of the world.
The adventure begins March 20th – spring equinox.
We’re starting our travels with a road trip in our 20-year-old minivan.
We’re at the age where it feels like every single person we know is getting married, so we’re naturally beginning the trip with Daniel’s cousin’s wedding in Portland and planning many of our spring destinations around others’ nuptials. We’ll spend a few days in Portland visiting with friends, then head south to Eugene to see my parents and finish any final tweaks to our van setup.
After that, it’s warm weather ahead! In spite of having grown up in California, I’ve never visited several of the state’s famous National Parks, including Channel Islands, Death Valley, and Joshua Tree. We’ll meet my recently-retired parents for a week of camping in Death Valley, where we hope to catch part of this year’s rare wildflower superbloom.
From there, we’ll plan to spend the rest of April visiting friends and family in LA and exploring Sequoia and Yosemite – along with a trip to see more family in decidedly unscenic Fresno.
After another friend’s wedding in Davis in early May, we’ll head to Utah to revisit some of our favorite places in the world, including Canyonlands, Zion, and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Daniel’s parents and 87-year-old grandmother are flying in for a week to join us, too, though they’re planning on slightly more upscale accommodations than the Caravan.
We’ll end the month visiting friends in Arizona and attending another friend’s multi-day Indian wedding outside Albuquerque.
In June, we’ll take a few weeks to make our way back to our home base, potentially swinging through Colorado to see some friends in Denver.
We had originally planned to drive to Alaska to see a friend who has worked near Denali National Park in summers past, but her plans have changed, so we’re not feeling the same urgency to make it there this year.
A few weeks back, one of my college friends called and asked if we had plans in June. “Want to meet us for a week in Istanbul?” “Um… yes!”
Just like that, we’re now planning to spend the whole summer in Turkey and the Balkans. We’ll enjoy two weeks in Western Turkey, visiting Istanbul, Cappadocia, and the ancient city of Ephesus.
From there, we’ll fly to Budapest, Hungary, where Daniel lived for a semester in college, then work our way south through the Balkans in July and August and catch our return flight from Istanbul in early September. We haven’t planned our exact itinerary through this region, which may provide the opportunity for slow traveling and changing destinations on a whim.
In September, we’ll hit the road in the van again, working our way east to a friend’s wedding in Michigan in early November. Along the way, we’ll plan to stop in Alberta’s Banff and Jasper National Parks; Coeur D’Alene, Idaho; Missoula, Montana; Glacier National Park; Yellowstone; and the Badlands. Some of our Midwestern friends are planning to take a week off in early October to meet us at their family cabin in Minnesota, and we’ll also see friends in Minneapolis, Madison, and Chicago.
Winter weather should be setting in by early November, so we’ll head south as soon as we can, visiting friends in New Orleans and Fayetteville. From there, we’re tentatively planning a few stops in Texas, including Austin and Big Bend National Park, followed by a longer journey back up to the Northwest for the holidays. Finally, toward the end of December, we’ll head up to Whistler for some early season skiing (snow permitting).
Sounds like a pretty fun year to us. I’m thrilled just writing about it! We may modify some destinations and timing as we go along, but we plan to keep this general itinerary. Come 2017, who knows! We would love to do some more international travel during the Northern Hemisphere winter. Southeast Asia? Australia? New Zealand? Somewhere else? Thankfully, there’s plenty of time to decide.
If you happen to live along our tentative route, we would love to meet up with you! Let us know in the comments.