Looking Into the Future: Our Short List for our Future Home
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I’m never sure how much people would be interested in the topics that plague us and consume most of our free thoughts: Where will this journey end? When will it end? What will life look like on the other side of this travel rainbow?
When we left on this world-wide adventure, we tried our best to detach from our previous life as much as possible. We sold our house, our cars and got rid of as much as we could (OK, I could) emotionally part with. It was tough, I’m not going to lie. Packing up your life and not knowing when, if ever, you might see it again is no joke. It’s hard enough to leave the people and places you know as love. I had to hold onto a few possessions, even though they just sit and cost us money each month in the meantime. We may never really see or use them again anyway if we were to actually settle overseas.
Is that a real possibility? To settle ANYWHERE in the world? If you’d asked us 14 months ago when we left, I’d say definitely not. Now? I’d say most definitely. I dream of it constantly. How would it really be though? What about all the little details I can’t anticipate? I’m not sure.
I will say the longing for home has started to begin for us. The inkling to settle down is growing, month by month. We all love the adventure of it still and don’t want to stop, but the driving hunger to get out of our life and see something new is tampering. Like a dying fire, we are learning from the remaining coals what holds value for us. What still drives us and when will it be time to stop?
We are in a strange place in our lives because we don’t know where home is. Pretty much anyone you meet can give you an answer about where home is. It’s sort of a basic part of human nature, right? You always know where you can go back to if things get to be too much. We don’t really feel that anymore to any one place and it is a little uncomfortable. We are itching to have a place to call that again.
As we ponder and discuss the future, nearly daily, certainly weekly, we dream about the following places. We have much left to explore, specifically Europe (since we don’t plan to settle in Africa or Central or South America). Our list will likely expand a bit with European possibilities, but after nearly a month in Portugal, I can already see how much easier it will be to see our life in Europe over our time in Asia.
Kauai, Hawaii. This was our first stop outside of the continental US and somewhere we’d never been to or heard much about (other than the standard “IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL!”) . It lives up to its reputation. Kauai is the oldest island of the Hawaiian islands and feels more remote. It has an incredible lushness and is small enough to get around in a day (you actually can’t drive around the entire island due to the NaPali Coast, which is one of the most magical things about Kauai). However, beauty would never be enough to entice us to live there as our “forever”. We see beauty everyday, from modern beauties of skyscrapers and man-made structures to the breathtaking beauty of wine countries and lakes and rivers. We appreciate all kind of beauty and recognize beauty is everywhere.
Why, after nearly a year, do we find our hearts drawn back to this island of paradise? For me, it was the people and the culture. I loved the breath of fresh air in being able to parent in a more relaxed way. Shoes are optional, everywhere, in Hawaii. Kids, especially boys, run free. They play in mud, they surf, they hike. This appeals to my inner mama spirit for my boys. My girls too, but they have a different kind of energy. A big part of me wants to push my boys out the door with full bellies and have them disappear for a few hours, returning to fill those bellies again and covered in mud, dirt, saltwater or whatever earth they engaged with. Kauai would be like this. Just in our little townhome Airbnb, they made friends with some neighbors and spent hours in the small courtyard chasing chickens, picking fruit, playing games and enjoying the random downpour rain showers that keep the island so green.
Kauai is an island of hidden treasures. The locals work hard to keep them a secret and we’ve gotten serious backlash for just the few things we’ve shared on social media. I have mixed feeling about this, but can understand their sentiment.
What do I worry with Kauai?
The smallness of it. Would we get island fever? Would it start to feel too small?
The expense of having to fly out of there anytime we travelled. Travel will never be a stranger to us (I hope), so planning out what airport will serve us is a real concern.
The sight undertone of prejudice that exists in Hawaii. There is a real thing between being Hawaiian and not and that stigma never goes away. I’ve talked with a few people, especially young men that were not Hawaiian and grew up there to find they were picked on or even beat up by locals despite growing up there. Kauai is probably the best island for a foreigner since it is dominated by foreigners. It has become so expensive that it is difficult for anyone else to afford it. All of this give me pause.
Overall lack of amenities. We’ve been in some of the biggest cities in the world and LOVED all there is to see and do. Would the magical nature of Hawaii weigh these kind of amenities out?
Expense. Everything is imported (unless you get it from the land or sea, which may locals do to make the costs work) and it comes at a hefty price. Property is very expensive.
2. Singapore is what we like to call “Asia Light”. It’s a great appetizer to Asia. English is the primary language, it is INCREDIBLY clean (rivaled only by Japan, but in different ways), it is super modern and probably the safest place on earth. It is small enough that the entire country is on security camera! That can weird people out, but it keeps it quite incredible. I had locals tell me you could leave your purse at a restaurant and come back hours later to find it, safe and sound. You could show up to the train station and, having forgotten your train card, ask a stranger to pay for you. You would arrange to send money to them later and it would be no biggie. They would pay your fare. isn’t that incredible?! I’d say the culture is reserved, but I imagine they warm up wonderfully once you know them. This is true of most of Asia.
3. Bangkok is basically the city where all my dreams come true. Anything and everything can be found here (except good plumbing and flushing your toilet paper- haha!). You can shop, you can fine dine, you can entertain your kids for weeks, you can find major culture, the people are so warm and welcoming, it is very affordable. You could go to the floating market in the morning and do designer shopping and hit a 5-star hotel in the evening. You could eat your dinner for $1.50 from the street vendors outside or sample so many flavors and textures at a night market. I LOVE Bangkok and it hold as my favorite city ever. Living there? I’m not as sure.
What do we worry about with these two?
Distance from family. Those flights to Asia are prohibitive both for time and money.
Singapore is expensive.
Bangkok is still kind of third-world, although has many first-world features. Medical services are pretty amazing in both of these, so that’s not a concern.
Bangkok has some pretty hefty pollution.
Singapore is so rule-oriented it could be a little extreme. It’s illegal to chew gum!
We always worry about friends for the kids, but expat communities are strong, especially in Singapore.
4. Portugal. OK, let’s be honest, we are often a bit in love with where we are at the moment. We are currently in Portugal, so we are a bit biased. However, we did a good amount of research and this is a very viable place for us when it comes to Europe.
What we love and what makes it a good fit:
Chris already speaks the language. This is our first experience with speaking with locals and it is SO NICE. A huge appeal for me would be to learn another language (for both me and the kids) and having Chris already do so would be super helpful.
Portugal is still on the cheaper side for Europe. The local economy is not as strong, so many people live within modest means. Rent and food costs are pretty low. This can make finding employment also a challenge, but we will continue to work in our business remotely, so that shouldn’t be an issue.
If we were to buy a house above a certain amount, we could qualify for a golden visa. This would allow us to have a 10-year visa in Europe, which is a big deal. Getting visas and residency in Europe in general can be surprisingly difficult, even when you are not taking away local jobs (as in our case). I spoke with one acquaintance who’s husband had a job in either Spain or Portugal (I can’t remember which). They all had 6-months visas, so they moved there and got an apartment. Everyone assumed their visas would be renewed by the help of the employer, but when 6 months came, they were denied! Not only were they out of a job, but they couldn’t even go back to empty the apartment. Granted, we hear often how nearly impossible it is to get into the USA, which is MUCH worse, but it’s surprising to realize how hard it can be to live somewhere that isn’t your home country and having to deal with visas and immigration issues.
The people are SO kind. Just as in the locations I loved in Asia, people love the kids here. They gently touch their hair, they bribe them with sweets to get hugs and kisses (not in a creepy, weird way, but like everyone is a grandma or grandpa). We’ve been invited to big dinners three times! We show up and are showered with food and affection, despite the kids running amok and crying. They are patient with kids and expect them to be kids! This helps me let my guard down and I love it.
The food is SOOOO yummy! We love Brazilian food, which has a good influence here, and the local favorites are delicious. Dairy and meat heavy with tons of gluten-free availability.
The landscape is stunning. Portugal is a hidden gem! The beaches are long and stunning, the wine country is breathtaking. The largest national park has castles and hidden waterfalls. The weather reminds me of Southern California with almost everyday beautiful and sunny. It’s enough for anyone to fall in love :)
What do we worry about?
While it is overall safe, the cities have a little bit of petty crime. Some pickpocketing and such.
Porto is stunning, but we aren’t sure if it is “enough” city for our craving. It is so charming, but does it have enough variety?
Medical care. I don’t know enough about this to weigh in. We did pop into an ER downtown Porto and were shocked to see the wait time probably around 4 hours just to be seen. This was a one-time thing, but gave me a little pause.
Schools. The forever question of what to do about school. Part of me would lean to putting kids in school for at least a year to get fluent in Portuguese. However, we all hate the idea of getting tied down to a school calendar again. It would also be incredible difficult for all of us to learn the language and be making a new life. I have a decent idea of how lonely and isolating this would be for the kids for a while.
5. New Zealand. We haven’t even been here, but I’ve talked to enough people to know we are going to love it! The landscape, the people, the culture. We are fully prepared to fall in love :) . I’ll have to fill in our likes and dislikes when we make it there, which is looking to still be a while from now :) . We are considering this as our finale location before we pick a final spot!
Familiarity and Comfort. Colorado or Utah. These are the closest things we have to “home” when we think of it. I’ll be honest with you… I’d be nervous to go back. We have changed so drastically and these places have not, relatively. I’m afraid we wouldn’t fit in anymore. This may be totally unfounded or it may be legit too hard to try to find something we had before. I will also put a small plug in for Portland just because I fell madly in love with it :) . Chris doesn’t think he could handle the weather, which is a big concern.
So how will we pick somewhere? To be honest, we don’t know! We hope that inspiration and prayer will make this choice clear to us someday. I know that we are all so hungry for friends that whatever place we pick first will likely be our home forever. No place will be perfect and no place will check all the boxes. People are what make a place a home. As soon as we all make friends, we will be set.
We have toyed with the idea of doing a “Phase 2” of trying on these locations for six months at a time. This would give us a good sense of what it would be like to live there. However, I think it is unreasonable. I think we will settle where-ever we land first and find a new happiness we won’t want to leave soon.
There is a real joy and value in being able to pick your next home from the entire world, as well as a big weight and overwhelming choice. No matter what, I’m so glad we have the opportunity to pair our life down to the basics and see what actually matters to us. What do we care about the most? We know we want to be careful about what we let into our future life, especially obligation wise. The freedom of our current existence is intoxicating and not something we want to hand over lightly. We really only lack real connection- connection to family, to friends, to community. This is the toll taken by full-time travel and it will need to be remedied.
Of our choices, what would be your pick?! I’d love to hear!