Road tripping, house sitting, and couch surfing our way around the world

Because… If not now, when?

The impetus to finally act on our desire to turn our periodic road trips into a full-time nomadic life of travel emerged in a way we never expected. It was December 2016 and we were in South Florida visiting our newborn grandson, his 5-year old sister, and of course, the proud parents, our son and daughter-in-law. We enjoyed it so much that we hated to leave. We realized that we had to repeat this “too short” visit twice more in the next six months as two more bundles were due to arrive in April and June 2017. (Yeah, both our daughters were pregnant, too.)

On the drive home to Wilmington, NC, we discussed how we wanted to spend longer periods of time with our family in addition to the quick road trips to see our newborn grandchildren. With two babies coming in the next six months, that meant we’d be traveling and not using our apartment for more time than we’d be there.

Joe and I looked at each and grinned. This was the “aha” moment, the “sign” from the Universe. We’d been playing around with the idea of going on an extended road trip for years. We downsized many times over, moved our businesses over to digital mode that required no home base, and researched the hell out of every option. All we needed to do was to pack our stuff, get in the car, and go. Easier said than done.

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

We’d taken cues from the Universe before. In fact, it seemed most of our major decisions were made due to a swift kick in the pants from the cosmos. Our move to North Carolina from South Florida, something we’d talked about for years, was precipitated by a phone call from our landlord, telling us he’d sold the townhouse we were renting. With only 30 days to make the move, we put most everything in storage, and rented a vacation cottage in Waynesville, presumably for 3 months. We had every intention of moving to Asheville, but it wasn’t until almost 3 years later when our landlord raised the rent by more than $200/mo, effective immediately, that we hauled our butts and stuff to where we wanted to be all along.

We love Asheville, but after 9 years, we felt the pull to broaden our experiences and get on with the mobile life we’d been dreaming about. Still a little leery to go full out, we sold, gave away, or dumped most of our furniture and belongings. We moved across the state to Wilmington, towing everything that was left in a 6’x12′ trailer behind our Jeep.

Ultimate road trips unfold like maps

At the time of the most recent revelation, we were living in downtown Wilmington in a small apartment, two blocks from the Cape Fear River—with 6 months left on the lease. We didn’t know how we were going to make our departure happen, we just knew that we would figure it out.

In January 2017, a friend who was spending the month in Europe asked us (Joe, really) to drive his Porsche while he was gone, and check on his beachfront condo as well. One beautiful winter day with temps in the 70s, I posted a photo of us enjoying lunch on his terrace overlooking the Atlantic with a mention that we were house sitting, in case anyone needed the service too. Within 10 minutes I got a message from a friend in Asheville asking if we were free to care for her 6,000 square foot home and adorable Yorkie in February while she and her hubby vacationed in Florida.

Here was the test drive we’d been waiting to take. We spent 3 weeks housesitting in Asheville, followed by a one-week stay in Atlanta with our daughter and son-in-law. We discovered were able to work on the road, and visit friends and family without missing a beat. In fact, we were so excited by the prospect of being able to take our life on the road that we gave our move-out notice to our landlord upon our return to Wilmington in March, without really knowing where we’d go once we left.

And once again the universe rewarded our boldness. Our Asheville friend asked us to return for two stays…Memorial Day weekend and then again at the end of June. We accepted, figuring something would show up for the few weeks in-between. Sure enough, we got another request to house sit almost in the same Asheville neighborhood where we were going to be. So, about 5 weeks following our move-out got booked without any effort at all.

Knowing that we’d be taking a short road trip to New Jersey in April when the next grandchild arrived, we had only about 2 months time to wrap everything up in North Carolina. Decisions had to be made, and quickly! Which car should we take? Should we sell them both and buy something new? What should we take, leave, or get rid of? Where should we store the few items we wanted to keep?

Of course, in the middle of all the tummel (Yiddish for confusion), our granddaughter arrived and we hustled up to the Jersey shore to welcome her to the family. When we returned home, we had about 6 weeks to wrap up everything: sell or give away what we weren’t keeping, pack what we were, get the car serviced for a major road trip (brakes, suspension, interior renewal, etc), and move out. With the help of a very generous (and strong) friend, we managed to beat our deadline and move out early, enabling us to have our security deposit returned quickly, an added bonus.

Another incredible, serendipitous event: Just before leaving Wilmington, we joined an international housesitting site, which connects home owners and potential house sitters. One of the first listings I found was in the same small suburb outside of Atlanta where our daughter lives. The dates requested weren’t ones we could fulfill, but I wrote anyway, explaining that we’ be there sometime in June or July after our grandchild was born, and perhaps we could meet then in the event there were future house sits. 

We received a prompt and cheerful reply from the home owner. They needed someone again in the summer and would coordinate their dates to match our availability. We agreed on a stay in July, commencing upon our departure from Asheville.

While were in Asheville in June, we touched base to confirm the dates and times. Turns out, the homeowner had another home very near where we were staying and happened to be up for the weekend. We met at a local coffee shop and became fast friends.

As the months and house sits have progressed, we’ve met wonderful people and made many friends…none of which would have happened unless we took that initial step. And we’ll be eternally grateful that we did, for we are truly on the road trip of a lifetime.

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