December 31, 2017 we got on a plane and left Grand Cayman, our home for 15 years, where have the past 2 years gone?? Some days I cannot believe we have been nomads for 24 months already!! We are enjoying this way of life immensely however it has not been without some ups and downs along the way. That being said we have no regrets and appreciate each new country we have the opportunity to visit. These past 2 years have been unpredictable, challenging, rewarding, frustrating, memorable, humbling, enriching and without a doubt a good decision. We enjoy discovering new places so much that neither of us can imagine staying in just one place, at least not anytime soon. That day will come but for now we look forward to continuing our travels indefinitely. Something we have discovered during these past two years is the more we see, the more we realize there is to see.
Our 2019 year of travels began in Valencia, Spain where we rang in the New Year. From there we traveled around the southern portion of Spain for a month, continuing into Portugal where we spent two wonderful months. After a quick ten day foray back into Spain we flew to Croatia where we spent six weeks, not long enough! We squeezed in a brief one week visit to Cappadocia, Turkey before flying to Bulgaria for a two week visit with an old friend from Cayman, fun times. We toured Germany and France for one month meeting friends in Stuttgart, Paris and Cologne before traveling to Canada where we spent four months. Leaving Canada in early October we finished off the year with three months in New Zealand. We are still not traveling as slowly as we had hoped because we are continually restricted by the length of time we are allowed to stay in a country, forcing us to move on. I suppose if we changed countries more often we would not run into this problem but that defeats the purpose of slow travel.
2019 was a challenge on personal level as we dealt with the loss of a parent. We have lived far away from our family for the past 17 years so have always been prepared to go home at a moment’s notice if need be. Our travels through Europe in the spring were cut short when bad news found us and we needed to return home. We ended up staying for 4 months until we were ready to resume our travels again. The time at home was good spending quality time connecting with family and friends who we miss very much during our travels. When winter started rearing it’s ugly head, it was time for us to move on.
So how did the finances stack up this year compared to last year? 2018 being our first year was really a “guestimate” about what this lifestyle would cost, but turned it out to be a fairly good one and 2019 has turned out much the same as 2018. If we splurge on one thing we find a way to cut back on another and we don’t get bogged down in daily costs, instead looking at the yearly picture, giving us flexibility when we need it or want it. We are no different than any other retired couple, living on whatever income and/or savings you have at your disposal. We spend no more than it would cost us to live in Canada, just on wildly different items. Instead of cable bills, property taxes and mortgage payments we spend our money on airfare, travel insurance and apartment rentals around the world. Accommodation continues to be our largest outlay at 34% of our costs this year (32% last year) Transportation is our next largest expense however we spent the same as last year and continue to appreciate having a car, exploring the countryside as well as the cities. This may change as we visit less westernized parts of the world in 2020 where driving a car may present a challenge we don’t want to take on.
In 2018 we struggled with language barriers yet 2019 seemed a whole lot easier. In 2018 we spent 134 days in non English speaking countries and in 2019 that number was 156 days. I had thought our foreign language time was more in 2018 but this goes to show that we have become more comfortable and do not find it as stressful as when we first started. We are adapting 👍
Last year I wrote about the negative aspects to our nomadic lifestyle and looking back I think we are becoming more used to the inconveniences of full time travel. Our health was much better in 2019 which no doubt contributed to our overall improved outlook. The not so perfect parts of our lifestyle are still:
- Loneliness, having nobody to go out for dinner and a few laughs with. Unless you travel for a long time you probably don’t give a lot of thought to how easy it is to go out and have fun with people who know you.
- Missing our family and friends.
- Trying to cook in sparsely equipped kitchens since many apartments cater to short term renters who probably don’t want to cook during their vacation.
- Sleeping in someone else’s bed all the time. We counteract this when we can by purchasing our own pillows to carry with us when we have a car.
- I miss the sports activities we used to do, although we have enjoyed more hiking this year.
Here are some stats comparing 2019 to 2018:
|Airlines flown with
|Cities lived in
|Nights in apartments
|Nights in hotels
|Countries we’ve driven in
|Phone numbers we’ve had
|Gyms we’ve joined
Many of the above numbers have stayed pretty much the same with some notable differences:
- Cities lived in had a big jump because we had 4 long term stays in 2018 and only 1 in 2019
- Apartments rented doubled from the lack of long term stays in 2019
- Trains increased with a day trip to Strasbourg and a long weekend to Paris in 2019, no long journeys
- Buses were our mode of transportation in Croatia, everywhere else we had a car
- The biggest change was the gym number, reflecting our commitment to improved health in 2019
In 2018 I listed 7 places or events that took my breath away, they were:
- The Matterhorn in Switzerland
- Mont Saint Michel in France
- Bordeaux, France
- Petra, Jordan
- Dubai, UAE
- Le Tour de France
- Italy…..anywhere 🙂
So what made my list of most memorable places or events for 2019 (you will see Blair’s later):
- The Caminito del Ray walk in Spain
- Cappadocia, Turkey and our balloon ride
- Portugal (my new favorite country of the past 2 years)
- The Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand
Not as many WOW moments as 2018 but we have traveled to completely different parts of the world, and spent 4 months home in Calgary. In Europe we were kept interested with a more varied choice of things to see and do from historical sights to outdoor pursuits. In New Zealand the scenery is fantastic, the hiking amazing but there is not as much mental stimulation or ancient history to delve into. In that regard I am craving something more and feeling a strong pull back towards Europe, and the diversity of such a small geographic area. There are so many countries we have not been to yet.
I have mentioned “home” a few times…so where exactly is home? I was born in the UK and 98% of my family is there, is this home? It felt like it when we spent 3 months there in 2018 😊 I grew up in Calgary spending 36 years there where my immediate family and friends are, is this home? I lived in the Cayman Islands for 15 years and we have friends there, is this home? It was my most recent home. Now we are residents of the world and call nowhere home so I sometimes feel torn when asked where home is. At the end of the day I am a Canadian citizen and plan to live there again one day, so I can probably call Canada home! For the foreseeable future though, we will continue to be residents of everywhere and nowhere.
Now without further adieu here is Blair’s take on our 2019 travels:
Hi there, it’s me again with my annual input to “our” blog. Susan does 100% of the writing and I try to help with proof reading and suggestions. I also take the odd photo, oh, and carry the heavy bags.
First the broad strokes. Life is very good still, we are enjoying the nomadic lifestyle immensely, and we are still getting along which seems to interest, and sometimes amaze people. I attribute this to how easy I am to get along with 😊 We had no colds or health issues in 2019, whether that’s luck or we are getting better at air travel I don’t know.
Well 2019 is split into 3 different experiences. The first part was finishing up Europe, then time in Calgary, and ending with 3 months in New Zealand.
We started in Spain with 2 of the highlights being the Alhambra, and walking the Caminito del Ray.
Portugal, one of our favorites, is a great country with friendly people, great beaches, coastline, and wonderful cities, and they also make really good Port wine. We will definitely be back.
Croatia is another favorite. Walking the wall in Dubrovnik, the hike to Starigrad fortress, and Plitvice Lakes National Park were just a few of the highlights. Tough to choose between Croatia and Portugal.
Cappadocia is hard to describe. I’ll just say everyone should see it from a hot air balloon.
Our visit to Bulgaria was brief and specifically to see an old friend in Varna. We did see some of the country and will be back, both to see more and visit Nick again.
It was great to be in Calgary for the summer and spend a lot of quality time with family and friends. We got out on the bikes a fair bit and resumed our tennis although the weather was not as good as hoped.
Traveling in New Zealand is completely different than Europe. Europe is a lot about history, architecture, cities and churches, lots of churches. Like Canada, New Zealand is all about being outdoors and active. We spent a great deal of time hiking, or tramping as they call it, and as Susan will tell you, if there is a hike to a high point with a great view I’ll find it. She might also mention the steeper the better 😊 The Tongariro Alpine crossing was the highlight, followed closely by the Ben Lomond summit and the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. One downside to having most everything geared to being outside is the dependency on weather. We seemed to hit a very wet cool spring and early summer which the locals said was unusual.
Overall it was another great year. Susan will tell you she prefers Europe whereas I am torn. The first half of New Zealand on the North Island was fantastic and would be my preference, but with the poor weather on the South Island I can admit that there is more to occupy your time in Europe.
Well, those are my thoughts on 2019, and I am looking forward to starting 2020 with 5.5 months in Australia with a bit of Bali thrown in. Oh, and tickets to the Australian Open tennis…Yaaay
There you have it, my husband, best friend and travel partner’s take on our year, happily pretty much the same as mine and thankful that we both want to continue our nomadic life. 2019 was a good year of travel, visiting some amazing countries and gathering another trunk load of memories and photographs. Of the 11 countries we visited in 2019, 6 were brand new destinations for us: Portugal, Croatia, Bulgaria, Germany, Luxembourg and New Zealand. We have enjoyed every one, plan to go back to some and look forward to exploring more new countries this year.
Roll on 2020 and the third year of our incredible (to us 😂) nomadic journey, we are grateful to have you with us along the way…..
Susan & Blair