Going from travelling full-time to having a base. Memories of the Good, the Bad and the Complicated.

Going from travelling full-time to having a base.

Going from travelling full-time to having a base.

It was 7 months ago that we left Split. We’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

For those new to the blog: we left Canada in 2014 to travel. One of the places we spent time in was Split (Croatia). We visited a few times and fell in love with it, so much so that we decided to stay there for a year in 2017. That ended in March 2018.

Lissette and I have different feelings about our experience and what we took away from our year in Croatia. If you’ve travelled full-time and then decided to settle down somewhere you might be relate to some of the different emotions we’ve gone through.

 

Lissette (Spanky)

In 2015, just before our first trip to Split, Croatia, I met an ex-pat in Thailand who told me that one day, I might arrive in a place where I would feel that I just belong. I wouldn’t want to leave. “It will just feel right. You will feel it the moment you get there.” It’s really wasn’t anything I wanted to hear or believe in. We had just barely started our full-time travels and I was still getting used to the idea that we did NOT have a home. We were living out of our suitcases. We were going to see the world and not stop travelling until we were ready to. If ever.

While Frank took care of the luggage and explained to our Croatian cab driver where we wanted to go (and secretly bracing himself for a confrontation. Taxi drivers are always a source of stress) I slipped into the back of the cab and almost instantly thought, I like what I’m feeling. I hadn’t seen the Riva, Diocletian’s Palace or even caught a glimpse of the Adriatic (I rather not look outside my plane window no matter how hard Frank pokes me to). But I liked our cab driver’s face and I knew I’d like Croatia.

2 years and 3 visits later everything came together. We chose to make Split our base. After 3 years of full time travel, we both needed a timeout. Having a base filled with most of our own furnishings was just ideal. It was also a step towards relocating to Europe.

For almost a year, I was living my dream. Having a base after years of travel meant no more living out of our suitcases. Our apartment would be filled with our furniture and personal belongings and I would sleep in my own bed with my own linens. I would open the closet and I could pick whatever I felt like wearing with whatever shoes and purse. I would get to know people from the local market, shops and gym. I would walk down our little street and I would wave to the people whom I would see every day. I would make friends and feel connected to a community.  

Having this particular base meant I would have a home but this time not one that I was born into. Not one where I relocated for work, but one I had chosen. How fortunate was I to finally be able to do that?  Having a base meant that we would still travel but now we had a place to return to to just reboot, relax and plan our next trip. Not having to do the Schengen shuffle was a dance we were looking forward to not having to do. We would travel and return home to Split whenever we wanted.

Unfortunately, all the hard work/money that went into making Split our base went up in flames when we were not able to keep the apartment. Everything spiralled out after that and we had to just accept the fact that it was not meant to be and we had to get out of the country. Packing up, I wondered if our decision to find a base was a mistake. What is worth it? What’s the point?  Maybe attachment to places, people and our stuff only holds you back.

 

The first 4 months after we left Split were very difficult for me.  We visited some beautiful places, made some wonderful memories and even met some great people. We discovered Lviv, a new city that I hope to revisit in the new year. My love for travel is still intact. I realized that having a base to come back to will only help me travel longer. It will give me the break I need to absorb everything I experience and keep the lust of travel in my heart.

 

It’s been 7 months since we left Split. We are back in Prague. Today, I’m sitting in a café near our flat. We were welcomed by the very sweet owner. She’s entertaining a few expat patrons as if they were long lost relatives. It’s the kind of place that is owned by foreigners and that’s become a bit of a hangout for ex-pats looking to connect to other strangers in a foreign city.

Frank and I sit down with our lap tops and sip our coffee. Our cake arrives and after the first bite I’m taken aback by the taste. Is this something I had before? Not here. Where? I find it hard to concentrate. I start to focus on the conversations in the café. The owner’s husband just walked in and is being greeted warmly by everyone. I find it almost impossible to write. Within a few minutes, he talks about Croatia in a way that only a Croatian would. The cake is familiar since it’s one I’ve tasted countless times during our time in Split. I suddenly feel as if am transported back…home.

As we head out the door, I turn to the owner and ask if he is Croatian. He proudly says he is. He and his wife left the Slavonia region for better opportunities. I don’t look Croatian but he asks me if I’m from there. I’m confused for half a second then I think he must see how much I love Croatia. I tell him that it feels like my home.

That’s what a base is for me. Home. 

 

Views of Split, Croatia

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Me (BBQboy)

I’ll admit I get sentimental seeing photos of Split. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been.

When Lissette and I talked of having a base in Split in late 2016 I was all for it. In theory I liked the idea of having a base to come back to between trips. And although I saw a few factors that made me question the long-term possibility of Split as a long-term base (language and bureaucratic red tape among them) we both needed a break after 3 years of full-time travel. I also knew I would never get bored of the incredible nature of the Dalmatian coast.

When we applied for our 1 year Temporary Stay, we also entertained the possibility of working towards Permanent Residence. Permanent Residency in Europe is one of our long term goals.

Getting that one year Temporary Stay in Croatia wasn’t too hard. It meant quite a lot of paperwork and expense, the major ones being a lawyer (you need one to lead you through the process) and signing up for Croatian Health Care (which, when a 3rd party national, means paying a full year of premiums on top of regular monthly HZZO payments). We got through it. But it was a lot of paperwork and we spent a good 6 weeks doing a lot of running back and forth between the lawyer’s office, police station, notary and government offices.

At about the same time we found out that our tenants in Montreal – who had rented the condo for the last 3 years – had decided to buy their own place. I had a decision to make. Find someone to rent it out to or sell the condo. By this point we had travelled for 3 years and knew that we didn’t want to live in Montreal again. We decided to sell the condo.

Selling the condo meant also settling another outstanding issue – our storage unit in Montreal. We had been paying $300/month for the last 3 years. We had some really nice furniture in there, many original pieces. We had justified storing it because of the value. We didn’t know back in 2014 how long we would travel and/or if we would come back to Montreal. So putting it is storage was a temporary solution that we knew would have to be addressed at some point.

We decided to empty our storage unit and have the contents shipped to Split (where our apartment had a large storage unit).

So 2017 was the year where we ended up liquidating all our assets in Montreal.

But again, it meant more paperwork. I sold my condo within about a month. I then arranged to have our goods shipped to Croatia (I wrote about that here). I personally went back to Montreal to attend to the move of our storage and to sign the paperwork for the sale of the condo. I also combined all this with my yearly visit to Mexico to see my mom.

By the time I came back it was July. All our furniture had arrived and Lissette had set up our apartment beautifully.

But the work wasn’t finished.

When deciding to use Split as a base, one of the reasons was that we could rent out the condo on Airbnb. Our friend Vedran lived nearby and would be the host.

We spent a month perfecting the apartment, buying extra towels, bedsheets, etc. It was non-stop running around. But by the end of the month it was all done and we had several bookings that filled up most of August (here’s what our apartment looked like).

We went to Prague for the month of August to attend to our usual medical checkups, dental etc.

When we came back in September we came back knowing that WE COULD FINALLY RELAX AND ENJOY OUR NEW HOME.

And we did. For the next few months we settled in, took weekend trips to the islands, and just generally lived as most people do when they live anywhere.

 

Did we enjoy it?

To varying degrees. We both realized that we didn’t love the apartment. It was however perfect for the purpose that we intended, namely as a base whenever we came back to Split and as a place we could easily rent out when required.

Having an apartment again after 3 years also reminded me of the obligations of having a home. Having to get a plumber to fix a broken seal in the bathtub that flooded the floor, having the terrible tap in the kitchen fixed, getting a specialist to clean our AC units. The apartment had been mostly empty for the last few years and everything was breaking apart.

I didn’t have much patience for it all. For me our year in Croatia brought back many of the reasons I had wanted to leave Montreal for travel. I had wanted something different. My son had grown up. He now had his own life. And I didn’t want the other responsibilities of life: of being a homeowner, of paying monthly utility bills, of taking care of all the stuff that we all have to take care of in our daily lives. I had done that all my life.

And now here I was after 3 years of travelling with a “home”, monthly bills to pay, and bureaucracy to deal with. I no longer felt free. I felt like I had a noose around my neck.

 

I also realized that while I loved visiting Croatia, I didn’t love it as a base. In my heart I knew that Croatia would not be the place where we would get permanent residency.

Within the next few months fate decided things for us. Among other things, the owner of the apartment died. The inheritor decided to sell. We had 45 days to get our stuff out of the apartment and leave the country. That sealed our departure from Croatia earlier this year (I wrote about all that here).

 

 

We were upset at how things turned out. But, honestly, with time I think things worked out for the best. I have good memories of Split, but when I think back I feel the relief of leaving a relationship I wasn’t happy in. Split meant obligations, paperwork, and restrictions on our free movement. Split made me feel constrained and limited*. I itched to travel again

* Croatia restricts applicants working towards permanent residency a total of 2 months outside the country in a given year. To be limited to 2 months outside Croatia for the next 5 years was a “no” for me.

 

I realize now that I wasn’t ready to settle and have a base. And that Split wasn’t that place.

I love travelling. I love visiting new places. But I’ve realized that as much as I love that, I love not having obligations. I love being able to say “let’s go and spend next month in Germany” without having to worry about our apartment or bills or about who’s going to water the plants. After a lifetime of being an employee, a father, and a homeowner,  I love the freedom of being a “nomad”. I love it. And although I had wanted to give Split a chance as a base (and maybe something more) I realize that after 3 years I wasn’t ready for that step.

I know one day we will have to settle somewhere and invest the time and energy to make it home and to work towards permanent residency. That’s going to be sooner rather than later – we’re both in our early 50’s and it’s not something we can hold off on indefinitely. But, as I say, Split wasn’t the time or the place for me.

 

Note: we wrote this separately, not knowing what the other would write. As Lissette said, reading my contribution “Hmmm, I wrote a love story and you’re talking about a noose around your neck!” 🙂 .

 

A question, and maybe this is a topic for another post: How do you live after the travel? If you’ve travelled all your life, what happens when you can’t anymore?
Obviously I don’t know that answer to that right now.

 

 

 As you can see, between the two of us we’ve had a full range of emotions.

Love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

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Going from travelling full-time to having a base

 

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20 Comments

  1. Such a big question, “How do you live after the travel?” that invites a great deal of introspection at this time as I’m also pondering the “after” with the loss of my husband. I think that the greatest thing that 3-plus years of nomadic living taught me is that the meaning of home can morph from being a place to being surrounded by a community of friends and back again depending on your needs. It’s funny but even as I find myself buying a rug I’ve fallen in love with or something that makes me more comfortable, I also find myself consciously trying not to get attached to the things I accumulate so that I don’t have to feel that “noose” around my neck. For now, I do feel like Portugal is home and having a European base is really a great solution to the “should I go or should I stay” conundrum. However you resolve the where and when question, isn’t it amazing to have the options spread out before you like (to use Hemingway’s title) “A Moveable Feast”? Here’s looking forward to 2019 and seeing where our paths will take us.

    1. Great points Anita. I see both sides of the coin and in the end I think I just didn’t feel it in my gut, no matter how beautiful I found Split. I do want to have a base and it’s nice having your stuff – but that noose around the neck memory was still in there somewhere and reared itself. Maybe I need a couple more years to figure it out.
      2019 is a new year with new adventure. Like you say, let’s see where our paths take us.

  2. Dear Frank. My comment has not much to do with your post, but I have been wondering how you guys finance full time travelling. I read somewhere that Lissette is doing work for her old company in Canada. Is that enough to support you? Do you make any money on your website? Do you have any money stashed away in a bank account? Any other income? You both are in your fifties (at least you are 🙂 ) How do you see yourself in 15 years time? Still doing full time travelling? What will your main income be then?

    Sorry for being so nosy, but your lifestyle is something I am looking into myself. My wife and I are in our mid fifties and she will most likely get a disability pension end of this year worth €2500 each month until she retires at 67. I would not have a regular income and was planning for her to support me. I will get a steady income when I collect my pension at 67, which is many years from now. .She is worried that we will not have much money left when we retire. Mostly due to me not working. She will get a nice pension. Me also, but not as much as if I continue to work until I am 67. So, it would be nice to hear your thoughts on this

    1. Hi Per Erik.
      No problem, it’s a question we get a lot.
      We left Canada with quite a lot of money stashed away. I had a good job where I had worked many years and I also got lucky with real estate. We could theoretically have lived on that had we 1) spent the majority of our time in South East Asia (we discovered that we enjoyed Europe much more), 2) had stock markets done better in Canada (they haven’t).
      So it’s been a blessing that Lissette was able to keep her job because otherwise we would have dipped into our money quite significantly. With Lissette working we’ve actually added to what we had plus we’re 4 years later (ie. reducing the years until our pensions kick in).
      My tip to anyone: be very conservative in your calculations. In hindsight I underestimated the cost of travel and I overestimated the returns on money (assuming a 5% annual return). Lissette working has also given us more flexibility in where we’ve been able to go.

      In 15 years from now we want to have a permanent base somewhere in Europe (probably Spain) while continuing to travel 6 months of the year (I hope). You never know about health and what happens in the world…but that’s the goal.

      In your case: €2500/month is good money to live on (more than we spend per month), but you won’t be saving. A lot of that depends where you go and how you travel (see my post on slow travel). So, if I understand right, that’ll be good until 67 when she retires – and at that time YOUR pension will kick in. So past 67 you’ll both 1) have your pension, 2) her pension which will kick in.
      I think with her salary you can easily travel comfortably as we do (that’s about what Lissette makes per month). The important thing is to have money for later in life when she no longer works. And it sounds like you have that covered as well.
      Also: don’t forget Health care. Right now we pay about $1500 CAD each for expat insurance. It gets more expensive with age and at a certain point (65? I can’t remember right now) you can’t get it at all. It’s one of the reasons we want to get permanent residency somewhere by then…otherwise we might have to go back to Canada.

      Hope that helps.

  3. I enjoyed hearing Lissette’s voice in this post. I totally understand how she feels, having a home has a very special appeal. A greater sense of belonging, a community around you, friendships that are longer lasting, somewhere to truly rest and relax after months of travelling. Having your own furniture, decorating it the way you like it…there is a fuzzy, warm feeling in all of that. But Frank, I also get your need to stay free, no big commitments, going with the flow. Particularly since you still have a lot of wanderlust in you and now is the best time to fulfil that side of things. I do have a feeling that as we get older it can become harder to stay nomadic? So maybe this is your “window” of opportunity to continue exploring freely for now. Enjoy while it lasts, plenty of time for setting up roots again in the future. In our case, I think I would be happy to roam the world in a nomadic style for a very long time, but Brian certainly would not. He loves having a base to get back to. I want to travel a lot more and feel frustrated at times. At the moment I am a “Traveller Interrupted” again since family issues have kept us home until January …..but it is all good, life is great 🙂

    1. That’s very interesting – so in your case the roles are reversed with the woman being the one who has more of a need to travel. I think that’s great.
      You are very right in what you say and I do think that being in our 50’s we have to take advantage of still being young enough. I know we’ll have to settle in the future, I’m just trying to draw it out as much as I can. The one thing Lissette always says is that she’s happy we left Canada when we did and even wishes that we had started earlier. To hear that makes me happy – I think we’ve enriched both our lives doing what we’ve done.
      Thank you for the great comment Gilda.

  4. wow….a lot of moving parts to this story. a lot of frustrations and expectations. that requirement of 10 months in a year for 5 years would feel like handcuffs. I can understand why that would be a no-go.

    did you decide on a new, future homebase?

    1. I think it’ll be a few years before we try again Ric. But it’ll probably be Spain – we both speak the language and the process is not too complicated.

  5. This sounds so much like me and my husband. I think being spoiled with so much freedom to go where we want and when we want is sometimes a curse (first world problem for sure). We both struggle with wanting a place to base ourselves but also commitment issues. We get burned out and want to settle with our own belongings, but after a few months we find ourselves itching to go again. I definitely resonated more with Lissette, particularly this – “Our apartment would be filled with our furniture and personal belongings and I would sleep in my own bed with my own linens. I would open the closet and I could pick whatever I felt like wearing with whatever shoes and purse.” This is what I always yearn for. I think this is why the RV lifestyle was so appealing – we get to travel and bring our home and belongings with us. Turns out its way more work than we thought! I know my husband relates more to you, Frank. He hates being tied down by paperwork, bills and maintenance issues. He definitely loves his freedom and “no responsibilities” lifestyle. We always wonder if we’ll ever be able to really settle again now that we’ve experienced the nomad lifestyle. Its a hard thing to give up.

    1. You guys are young and have your whole lives in front of you! I wish we had started at your age. The world has changed and so many more opportunities today to work and travel.
      I think the different viewpoints also highlight differences between men and women. I think men would go “caveman” without a woman in their lives. I could probably travel with 1 pair of pants and 2 t-shirts and would probably be happy. You women keep us civilized 🙂

  6. very interesting points. You guys seemed very well settled in Split. So I think it’s a pity that it ended the way it did even if ultimately you wouldnt have stayed there forever.

    1. Yes, that’s the way we were thinking. Maybe it wouldn’t have been the permanent base but we saw ourselves there for at least another year or two. But things happen.

  7. Funny… you ended your thoughts by stating how you realized the two of you had such different view points. As I was reading, I had the same thought…. they were not on the same page. Now, I’m wondering if Lissette will return to Split for her solo travel time this year.

    When I’m home in the US, living in our house and seeing family every day, I don’t want to leave. When we land back in Porto and I fall in love all over again with this beautiful city, I find myself not wanting to leave. I’m pretty sure this is a first world problem.

    I know that each time we return from our travels it’s an adjustment back to the “ordinary” routine of daily life. I’ve struggled with it in past travels and found myself plotting the next adventure within a day of returning home. At this stage of life though (we’re both in our 60’s) I’ve found that being home feels comfortable. More so than it has in a very long time. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we now live just 6 miles from our son, DIL and grandson, and that we’ve bought/remodeled a small home for ourselves. We purposely bought small as we have no desire to accumulate “stuff”at this stage. We’ve also secured our temporary residency in Portugal which gives us life options. We’ve positioned ourselves to have the proverbial best of both worlds.

    I think, Frank, that you’ll find that place and as Lissette said, when you see it, you’ll feel it, and you’ll know it. I very much look forward to seeing where this journey leads you.

    1. One thing we know Patti is that we want to get old outside Canada or the US. Neither of us have intentions of going back to N. America (I could see myself somewhere in Latin America but not Lissette). Europe is such a great continent and everything so close. Being here is ideal for us. Let’s see what the future holds, there are many political black clouds on their way here as well. I think 10 years from now things may be very different.
      But can’t focus on what can happen. As you say, best to keep all options open. Yes, 1st world problem and we can thank the stars thank the stars that we have these options.

  8. How nice to have Lissette’s point of view on things. I suspect that slightly opposing views are the norm for most couples. I agree with that that guy said to her 3 years ago. When you find a place, you just know. I also agree that the place might not be the permanent one because l really don’t think there is just one of “the place”. There are so many things to consider. Having been experimenting with different places now for the past 5 years as you know, we have sort of settled in Valencia. For us right now, it is home and we both want to stay for a while which is kind of unusual for us. I guess after years of responsibility, it’s only natural that you don’t want to deal with things anymore :-). I can’t wait to see when that feeling strikes both of you again.

    1. Thanks Kemkem. Yes, I’m in agreement with what you say. Often there are different places for different times in our lives. Montreal is a great city and was a good place to live while working and raising my son. But it’s a young city and we outgrew it after 20+ years.
      I think we’ll probably end up somewhere in Spain, at least to work towards permanent residency. For us it’s the easiest path with the language factor. And there’s tons to see, even if we have to stay 6 months/year in Spain I think we wouldn’t get bored (I don’t know how they can monitor your comings and goings within Schengen anyway…)

  9. Hi you two. It’s a cold Sunday evening in Montreal, I did some housework and finally decided to relax, laptop on my lap and a view of the city. Once again, I really enjoyed reading you. It is 2 different prospectives but I can see why Lisette wants a (temporary) home, having fallen in love with Split, and you Frank don’t want to be tied down for now. Lissette I loved that beautiful picture of Split you posted.
    Have a nice week.

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