In early 2008, when Melissa and I traded our settled suburban life for a vagabonding life, we hoped to do it for a long time. We had a fabulous year traveling slowly in western Europe, followed by a four-month jaunt through parts of Central America and then a four-month housesitting job in a beautiful, semirural part of the northeastern United States. By late 2009, though, our disposable cash was running low and the economy was doing badly. So it was very tempting when my former boss called to say that my old employer was looking for another editor and ask if I wanted to come back. Choosing to settle down again was hard, even though it made sense financially. But we did so with a plan: We would return to Washington, D.C., for no more than four to five years, save as much money as we could while working there, and try to live as though we were still vagabonds. That meant throwing ourselves into the wonderful cultural things that the city has to offer, seeking out lots of new experiences, and not letting ourselves get weighed down with too many new possessions.
It’s been a great five years, and things mostly worked as planned. Melissa took classes in painting and drawing and learned Indian cooking. Chris volunteered with a program that helps low-income children learn to love books and reading. We learned about meditation and had the chance to study with one of the best yoga teachers in the city. We made some wonderful new friends and had the joy of reconnecting with some dear old friends. We welcomed back Melissa’s old cat, and after he passed away, we took care of a series of very cute foster cats and kittens. We discovered new interests and hobbies and rediscovered some old ones. And we relished living a largely car-free life: getting around on foot, by train, or by bus—just as we did when we were traveling. During those five years, we lived in two different parts of the DC area, each time picking places where we could walk to shops, restaurants, parks, and subway stations.
And when settled city life started getting to us, we kept ourselves sane with trips: to southern France; the Cayman Islands; the beaches of Michigan; the green mountains of western Virginia and North Carolina; Vancouver, Canada; the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State; and sunny California. (You’ll find pictures from all of those places in our Photo Galleries.)
It’s going to be very hard to leave our friends and family, but the open road is calling once again and its voice is seductive and strong.