When you travel, the strangest things become markers of comfort. Some of them are comforts you adopt on the road, like the weight of a pack on your back. Others bring you back to the places you’ve called home along the way, like the Simon & Garfunkel track you play when you’re feeling lonely.
At 18 I couldn’t wait to get out in the world, move away from home, and start my adventure. I went three states away for college and 11 countries away to study abroad. It’s not until I left home, however, that I realized just how much comfort and safety my home provided, or how much I would carry the comforts of home with me. Stepping in fall leaves in Argentina brought me back to walks home from the bus stop as a kid. Snowy days in Colorado reminded me of sledding followed by grilled cheese and tomato soup in Illinois. Piano music anywhere brings me back to my parent’s living room where my brother used to sit for hours weaving melodies from Gershwin to Journey.
There’s a pang of longing that accompanies the familiar, but even more there’s a web of strength that stretches all the way back to that place I call home. It stands behind me, sometimes even holding me up, no matter where I go.
It’s this sense of home that I want to give my daughter. I want her to hear wind chimes in a faraway place and think about the wind chimes of her youth that hung outside her bedroom window. I want her to hear Sinatra playing in a lounge bar and think about holidays at home. I want her to smell onions cooking in a friend’s kitchen and think of all the nights spent hanging out in her kitchen while mom and dad cooked and drank and talked and laughed and danced.
As wanderers, we want to show her what it’s like to step out of her comfort zone. But we also want her to know what it feels like to return home again, even if that home becomes a feeling instead of an actual place over time. I want that feeling to comfort her on lonely bus rides and in foreign hostels, I want her to have a place she can see when she closes her eyes, a place she can feel when she thinks of us, a familiar place she can always go back to.
That’s why after four years of living out of backpacks, we unpacked our storage unit and bought a home.
It’s the opposite of what we were planning to do. Just months before we closed on the house we were plotting a round-the-world trip. The plan was to quit our jobs and buy one-way tickets to the Philippines. Then we got pregnant. So we went back to the place we liked best and started a different kind of adventure.
To help accommodate a life of continued travel, we wanted a house that wouldn’t weigh us down. We’ve met other parent travelers along the way and are inspired to live as they do—sharing our sense of adventure with our kid. Even with a home base, we still want the freedom and flexibility to move around in the world, so we looked at buying a house that could accommodate that.
This was our list of must haves:
Regardless of travel, we knew we wanted to be able to pay most if not all of our monthly expenses on one salary. It just makes good financial sense. The less we spend on a mortgage, the more we can save…for retirement, for travel, for a sailboat. With so much to see and do in the world, we do not want to be house poor.
Low expenses also give us more of a buffer when we return from extended, non-working trips. There’s less pressure for both of us to find full-time jobs back home.
We’d like to continue our trend of working from different locations for weeks or months at a time—especially in the winter. So we looked for a location that would be appealing to either long-term renters or house swapping enthusiasts.
We considered buying a condo but discovered that only a certain percentage of units could be rented at once. If the quota was already met when we started planning a trip, we’d be out of luck. So we opted for a house. There’s more maintenance but we have more flexibility when it comes to renters.
Speaking of maintenance, the more house you have, the harder it is to keep up. We needed something that wouldn’t be too overwhelming. Trimming the yard, tending the garden, and cleaning the interior take up a lot of time. Plus, maintenance issues always arise when you least expect them to. Our hope was that with a smaller house, it would be easier to stay on top of these things.
We still work from home so we needed a place that could accommodate that. This part came down to creative furnishing more than anything. We had to create an office that could also be used as a guest room. Jordan works from this room. Luckily, our bedroom is large enough for a work corner so I work at a desk in that room. I also work from the couch, and the kitchen table, and the recliner.
We initially worried that having a house would make us feel more stuck. But just like our childhood homes acted as roots that allowed us to grow, this home gives us the chance to get our feet under ourselves as new parents while we plan our future adventures. Right now those include a possible sail in the Caribbean and a stint in Puerto Rico.