It's been a minute

Actually, it's been a year. About a year ago my sweetheart and I were just back from a glorious weekend on Witte Flower Farm near Salem, Oregon, where we got to watch the full solar eclipse and feast on amazing local food. 

We were also packing up my home of ten years and I was preparing to leave on a long trip to New Zealand, Australia and Kuala Lumpur that I had nicknamed 'The Long Way Round', since I would return to England after that.

I remember feeling completely overwhelmed by all the things I had to do before I could leave.

Here's the list I had:

  • Sell my house.

I had wanted to do that privately (since I abhor real estate agents and their ridiculous fees for doing not very much. Apologies to any agents out there, but that is my honest opinion and I had a real estate license in Southern California some years ago, so it's pretty well-informed). But that didn't work out and I ended up hiring a 'low fee' company that still cost me 4% of my hard earned equity. Still, it got done with a minimum of fuss and I prepared to turn my beloved home and garden over to a stranger.

  • Figure out how and when to temporarily shut the textiles business (Nettle) so I can move out of my house and studio and head off on my travels.

This turned out to be a major mistake! I didn't realize at the time, but shutting the shop on Etsy severely damaged its ranking in the (ever mysterious) algorithm, which affected views and sales for almost a year. Oh well. Live and learn.

  • Find a new place to live in England.

I found a gorgeous little furnished cottage right on Island Wall in Whitstable, which is exactly where I had wanted to live. It had views of the estuary (the English Channel) and the sunsets were often beautiful. It was fiercely expensive though, so I decided to use it as a jumping off point to get to know the area and stayed there in the end for 6 weeks, leaving to go on a little road trip to Norfolk and Oxford and then moving to a six month furnished rental a little bit away from the water.

 Sunset from the first rental in Whitstable.

Sunset from the first rental in Whitstable.

  • Get car insurance..
  • This involves getting a new license to drive a car in the UK (something I haven't had for 25 years), which of course requires studying and retaking the test.

In the end I didn't have to retake the test! My license - passed in the 1980s - is still good for another few years. Getting insurance was still a major hassle though, since all of my safe driving in the US for the last 26 years means little to nothing to UK based insurance companies. 

  • Get a car in England.

With major help from my folks I managed to secure a 2 year lease to a wonderful Skoda Yeti - not glamorous, but super useful for hauling stuff around!

  • Figure out what my National Insurance Number is so that I can register for health care there.

This took months. Since it's the equivalent of a social security number, many hoops had to be jumped through in order to prove who I was - especially since I had been gone so long and had no chain of UK addresses to refer to. But in the end it did arrive and I was able to register with a GP

  • Get a plane ticket from New Zealand to Australia, then one from Oz to Kuala Lumpur, and from there back to England (I have my ticket to NZ already and managed to find a screaming deal)
  • Find accommodation for 6 -7 weeks in NZ, Oz and KL

My trip to New Zealand (a month), Australia (Sydney, one week and Melbourne one week - not nearly enough as it turned out) and Kuala Lumpur, five days (way too much!) was fantastic. For the life of me, I don't know why I didn't keep a blog or a journal. I think I was too busy just living the experience. I did post a lot on Instagram and FB though.

  • Open a bank account here with an international bank so that I can have an account waiting for me in the UK when I get home. This involves a trip to Seattle, 150 miles away.

This turned out to be a massive waste of time. A phone call to the bank I'd been planning to open an account with (HSBC) gave me poor information with huge gaps in it, so that when I arrived at the branch in Seattle after a three hour train ride, I discovered that in fact there wasn't time to open an account in the US and have it transferred to the UK. Chalk another one up to live and learn! It took months to get an account open in the UK as well, since you need to have established an address there. 

  • Give away, or sell almost all of my belongings - things I have had in some cases for 25 years.

Sometimes painful, wistful but mostly cathartic, I did in the end gift or sell nearly everything that I owned. Dining table, bed, books, clothes, camping gear, floral design stuff, art supplies, kitchen toys, sofa and even (most painfully), my beloved cats. They went to a wonderful home but that part was so hard and I still miss them dreadfully. 

  • Ship the rest. I'm taking only a few clothes, a box of keepsakes and some art.

Very expensive, but I'm glad that I kept a few key things from the last 25 years and have that link to my home in the US.

 The sunset at Tamarama Beach in Sydney, now a very special place in the world for me.

The sunset at Tamarama Beach in Sydney, now a very special place in the world for me.

Here's what I've discovered over the last year of nomading though.

  • I love to travel and to experience living in a place for more than a few nights to really get a feel for life there.
  • I really love Australia and Sydney in particular. Not enough to live there, but I definitely want to spend more time there over the next few years. This surprised me! I was expecting to find that New Zealand was the place that would be the best fit for me on that trip.
  • I love having so few belongings! It feels almost literally lighter on my shoulders. Everything I own currently fits in a closet sized storage locker and a suitcase. I have no desire to start acquiring more stuff again
  • Doing something this scary and intimidating has taught me that it can be done, even when you can't quite see the end from the start.

 

Susanna LuckComment