Thank you, Donna, for inviting me over to participate in your Sunday Series. It is a pleasure, and an honor, to be called one of your favorites. My ego is bursting!
A retirement lifestyle?
At 42-years-old, I am not retired, although many people might think differently based on the lifestyle I have been living since 2003. It’s either that, or they think I am on a perpetual vacation, or that I am rich, or all of the above! Living an alternative lifestyle throughout adulthood causes these assumptions. Unfortunately, the reality is “none of the above.” Although I have the flexibility to sleep in and form my own schedule, that’s where the comparisons stop. I still need to make money and sacrifices to survive, and I own nothing, not even a retirement account. My husband, Mark, and I like the minimalistic approach and don’t require much to be happy and free. All our belongings fit in our red Toyota Prius and, other than our business, The Wirie, we have no burdens or responsibilities. We don’t have a home, children or pets (yet) and go wherever we find an attractive long-term house and pet sit. To us, creating memories and going on adventures is more important than collecting material goods or financial wealth.
Blogs to inspire and share?
In 2007, Mark and I embarked on an impromptu cruising adventure with our two big rescue dogs, Kali and Darwin. After a failed attempt two years prior in Northern California, because the dogs hated sailing on a monohull (which lays on its side when moving in certain directions), we searched and found a 35-foot catamaran (more stability and less seasickness for me) in Annapolis, Maryland, and named her Irie, which is a reggae term meaning “It’s all good!” I started my first blog, It’s Irie, to document all our adventures and share tips while cruising the Caribbean and the South Pacific. We ran a business from the middle of nowhere (tricky!), I wrote blog posts and magazine articles, and we indulged in many foods, cultures, sights and wildlife encounters while living on a tight budget. The longer the money lasted, the longer we could sail and explore the islands.
Eight years later, in August 2015, the challenging yet rewarding lifestyle proved to have been enough. We sold our sailboat in Tahiti, French Polynesia and ‘moved’ to land in the United States, to focus on the long-range WiFi business we started in St. Martin in 2009 and to concentrate on my writing. I started a new blog, settling on the name “Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary.” I moved from the Blogger platform to WordPress and have been a happy camper since. Picking a name was difficult. On the one hand, I did not want to let go of the term “irie” (which, as our floating home, had been good to us and which is part of the name of our product), on the other hand, I wanted something that reflected our ever-changing lifestyle. Now, I am happy with the name, since “roaming about” is exactly what we keep doing. It is a versatile topic, and even when I report on my writing progress (or digress) it is still related to travel and adventure, since those are the topics of my stories and non-fiction book.
Where does this wanderlust come from?
Good question! Since I am working on a memoir right now, I have been wondering about my wandering needs. On a recent visit to my parents in Belgium, I asked them once again: “Is there anything that I was doing as a child that gave any indication that I loved adventures, explorations, to be out and about?” Once again, the disappointing answer was “No!”. I was as normal a child as could be. (That changed during my teenage years.) My dad was in the Belgian Navy for two years back in the late sixties, after which he said: “That’s it. I have seen enough. I have been to all the places I wanted to see.” Since then, he is happiest at home. My mom enjoys short weekend trips and getaways, but needs comfort and luxury when doing so. I do not see any similarities with the way I live and travel. As kids, my brother and I went on family vacations to France, Spain, Italy, and Norway. Lots of Belgian kids do. By the time I was seventeen, I had developed an unexplainable love of traveling, by necessity, on a budget. This attraction to adventure and aversion to spendthrift never changed.
While apprehensive at first (which mother would be comfortable when her 17-year-old daughter hitchhikes to and in Italy for three weeks with a boyfriend?), my parents quickly got used to and even supported my traveling lifestyle. I worked… to save… to travel: a 5-week summer expedition in India, a year to Southeast Asia with a backpack and friends after college, another year of backpacking to Southeast Asia, New Zealand and Australia by myself at age 25, after working as a teacher for two years. I went back to my elementary school job in Belgium for two more years and then, I left. Indefinitely. It wasn’t planned in that summer of 2003, but I never returned to live in my home country. Instead, I explored the US, Canada, and Alaska with a camper, a boyfriend and a dog for a year and a half. And, I met Mark in December 2004. We unsuccessfully attempted that sailing trip to Mexico with his two dogs. Then, we changed gears and mode of transportation and drove a truck camper throughout Mexico and Central America for a year. This was followed by life in a tent and car for two months, until we found Irie.
Traveling full-time is exhausting! After this last sailing journey, Mark and I have found the perfect lifestyle in house and pet sitting. We adore dogs and enjoy the creature comforts of electricity, water, and internet, while moving about, resting up, exploring new areas and living rent-free. As to the origins of my wanderlust, the answer had been found! Apparently, there is a gene called DRD4-7R, which causes people to take risks and explore new places. That has got to be it – this gene is part of my whole being. It is possessed by around 20 per cent of the population, so I can’t help but wonder: are those people stuck in a boring 9-5 work situation, living the so-called American (Or Canadian, or European, or Down Under) Dream, feeling trapped and craving freedom? Or have they found other creative outlets to let their spirits soar?
What do you want to achieve in life?
This guest post is getting long enough. I hope I have not bored you to sleep! The words organically appeared as I was trying to shed some light on our lives in an attempt to show you that it is possible to live the life you desire without financial or other restraints, but with a dose of curiosity, flexibility and determination. When people say “You are so lucky to be living like this!” I can’t help but correct them: “Luck has nothing to do with it. Life is all about the choices you make.” Granted, bad health and certain responsibilities can be debilitating, but hopefully only for a period of time. It is a cliché, but we only have one life on this beautiful and fascinating planet, so we better make it count and try to own our happiness. My best friend recently asked: “What would you like to accomplish by the time you die?” My answer: “I don’t want to have any regrets.” The other idiom “It’s better to regret the things you did than the things you didn’t do” is closely related to how I feel as well.
How about you? What do you want to achieve in life? What would you like to change? What would make you happy/happier? Any chance of achieving this state of mind or lifestyle change (soon)?
From Retirement Reflections: Thank you to Liesbet for sharing her facinating story of living life freely and fully — at any age. Her minimalist lifestyle, and focus on creating memories and adventure is incredibly inspiring and thought-provoking. Please join us again next week when we welcome Gideon Sock-Puppet from Dr. Sock Writes Here. See you then!