A couple of years ago, while Elva and I rolled through the Florida Panhandle, taking the long way home to our beloved Island, I reflected that our compact Mazda 3 Sport hatchback contained everything we needed to survive: clothes, our bicycles and, most importantly, my beloved Cuisinart coffee maker. “We could live like this”, I said. “Just travel from place to place, park the car when we want to fly or cruise somewhere, and go home for the summer.” She looked at me like I had two heads!
Truth is, since I retired four years ago, we’ve been away from home at least five months out of twelve. Since we love to travel — and travel well together — it’s likely that pattern will continue for as many years as we enjoy good health and until the money runs out. And so the question: Why do we need to “own” a place for the seven months we live on this Island?
In my case, the life change has been gradual, and based on existential reflections. It started in my 50s when experiences began to mean more than material things. Then, since I retired and caught the travel bug, my definition of “home” has been flipped on its edge. Whereas only a few years ago, I couldn’t imagine not owning a home, today I no longer need the assurance of ownership. And I don’t want to be tied down.
Much of my grandparent’s furniture, lovingly cared for by me as a sacred trust, is now considered outdated by the younger generation. Some will stay in the family, no doubt. But, fundamentally, it’s still just “stuff”. I’ve done my duty.
Anyone who has contemplated this kind of life change knows it’s not an easy decision. Two people are involved, and they don’t travel from Point A to Point B on the decision-making highway at the same speed. While I started thinking about the transition from ownership to rental a couple of years ago, Elva was not there. She had good reason to resist the change: we both loved our condo in downtown Charlottetown. So did our three children. Two weeks ago, I again asked her if she was ready to sell. This time, she said: “Oui”.
And so the adventure began. Share our decision with the children; speak with a realtor; decide on a price; and list the property for sale. Fate intervened. Our daughter-in-law Julia’s parents, Barb and Gordon Campbell, expressed interest in the condo and, in very short order, an agreement of purchase and sale was signed by all parties. Private sale! The best kind. As of August 31, we’ll be officially homeless.
Friends and family — those in the know — have a dozen questions: “Why did you sell that beautiful condo?” “Where will you stay?” “What will you do with all your lovely furniture and antiques?” We have no trouble explaining why we sold. As for the other questions, we don’t have answers. Some think we’re crazy while others, at the opposite end of the spectrum, may even envy us for making such a brave life decision.
Life changes. “Home” is wherever Elva and I happen to be on any given day. It may be a cabin on the cruise ship Rotterdam VI, a rented condo in Fort Myers, FL, a Super 8 in Fishkill, NY (yes, such a place really exists and we did stay there once), or a swag in the Australian Outback. Technology makes it so much easier to stay in touch with children, grandchildren and good friends.
It’s a big world. There are so many places and things to see, and so much to learn along the way. We don’t know how much time we have to do the many things we still want to do together. Nobody does. But we relish the freedom of being able to come and go as we please and we work hard to stay healthy and active so that we can.
We’ll miss 55 Hillsborough when we move out on August 31. We’ll be homeless before leaving on our European adventure in late September, and homeless again when we come home for three weeks in December. We hope to have an apartment lined up for April 2018. There, we look forward to many visits from family and friends. It might not be the space of our dreams but it’ll be in the one place we love best on this earth: downtown Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
It could always be worse. One fateful evening last March, we found ourselves in desperate straights — lost in downtown Beijing without a hotel room. After being turned away by six hotels because we weren’t Chinese, our tuk-tuk driver, who didn’t speak a word of English, was running out of options. My faithful travelling companion, the best any man could ask for, broke the tension: “On est comme Marie et Joseph à Bethléem la veille de Noël! Pas de place à coucher.” (“Just like Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve! No place to sleep.”)