It happened in Grasmere, a small village in the Lake District of England.
I was on one of those big motorcoach tours with my family, along with thirty or so other passengers. En route to London, the bus stopped and we were allowed a few minutes to stretch our legs.
The town is undeniably a tourist trap, but on that day in 1995 I did not want to leave. Grasmere defines small-town English quaintness. The poet William Wordsworth, a former resident, called the area “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.”
I stood on the stone bridge over River Rothay and looked longingly down the quiet lanes toward the lake. I wanted to explore the streets, hike the hills, read Wordsworth and enjoy a pint at the pub. I wanted off the bus.
Instead, the kids and I bought warm gingerbread wrapped in brown paper from Sarah Nelson’s Grasmere Gingerbread Shop and returned to the coach.
A few times since, I have been fortunate to visit Europe, but never with enough time to poke around at my leisure. So that’s my vision–to explore at my own pace. To stroll the squares, tarry in the museums and linger at the cafés. Perhaps for a couple of years.
More recently, as I began to contemplate leaving Conrad, Phillips & Vutech, a notion emerged. My daughter and my son are living independently. Other than the two of them, plus my brother and my niece, I have few family responsibilities. My kids, both experienced travelers, understand the call of the open road. I believe I have their blessing. Traveling indefinitely in Europe, perhaps even living there temporarily, began to look like a possibility.
At first, I imagined being constantly on the go, moving from hotel to hotel, town to town. Then, my running friend George shared an article in The Wall Street Journal that described a more logical approach. Tim and Lynne Martin, bloggers at Home Free Adventures, travel the world by renting houses and apartments for one to two months at a time.
Staying in one place for several weeks is not only more economical, but allows the opportunity to get more deeply acquainted with an area at a comfortable pace before moving on. Imagine a month at an apartment in Paris, followed by a month at a seaside cottage in Ireland.
Once I had the epiphany, the only decision left to make was when to go.
I wrestled with this decision, thinking at first I should wait until the traditional retirement age of 65. But once the seed was planted, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I spent time researching and planning. My passion to get the adventure started grew. Finally, I decided to take advantage of my good health and independence and begin the journey in 2014.
So that’s the dream. And like the Martins, I will have to make some life changes in order to make this lengthy sabbatical a reality. I will sell my house, purge my possessions and live more simply.
Of course, I will be returning to the U.S. periodically to visit. And I intend to settle here eventually. But for now, I will visit the places I want for as long as I want, while life’s circumstances allow.
For a while, I will be a yeartripper, not a daytripper.