It happened in Grasmere, a small village in the Lake District of England.
I was on a motor-coach tour with my family, along with thirty or so other sightseers. En route to London, the tour paused in Grasmere and allowed us a few minutes to stretch our legs.
Grasmere exemplifies quaint English villages. Poet William Wordsworth, a former resident, called the area “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.” The village is undeniably a tourist trap, but on that day in 1995 I did not want to leave.
I stood on the stone bridge over River Rothay and looked longingly down the quiet lanes toward the lake. I wanted to explore the backstreets, 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 and climbed aboard the coach.
I made a couple of more trips to Europe, but never with enough time to browse at my leisure. There were never enough hours to stroll the squares, tarry in the museums, and linger at the cafés.
I began to contemplate a different style of traveling–one that would allow the opportunity to become more deeply acquainted with an area before moving on. I dreamed of touring Europe for a couple of years.
My running friend George shared an article from The Wall Street Journal that described one couple’s solution. Tim and Lynne Martin, bloggers at Home Free Adventures, travel the world by renting houses and apartments for one or two months at a time. They might, for example, rent an apartment in Paris and, a month later, a seaside cottage in Ireland.
Staying in one place for several weeks offers several advantages over the typical blitzkrieg vacation conducted by most Americans.
With the model provided by the Martins, I considered my circumstances. I was near the end of my career and willing to retire a couple of years early. My health was good. My daughter and son live independently, so my family responsibilities were few. What’s more, ash experienced travelers, they both appreciate the call of the open road and quickly approved of my plan.
Traveling indefinitely in Europe, perhaps even living there temporarily, began to look like a possibility. But first, like the Martins, I had to make some life changes. I resigned from my company, sold my house and my car, purged my possessions, and chose to live more simply.
Finally, in 2014, the journey began. 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 year-tripper, not a day-tripper.