By Laura Waters and Kim Dunn, Special for PQ Monthly
We just returned from a glorious nine-month (Nine months!) adventure in Europe. We are a regular Northwest family (two moms and a darling daughter), living what was a pretty regular life until everything changed. It was a Midlife Adventure (not crisis), Kim says. We visited 6 countries, stayed in 13 Airbnb rentals, 2 homes (cat/dog-sitting), 0 airports (thankfully), travelled on 63 trains, 8 planes, countless buses, and logged over one million steps on foot (thank you FitBit.) All with a two-year old.
The “rules” were simple. Nine months in Europe, on a budget of $2,000 a month. The rules at some point expanded to include: stay in cities with lots to do (we learned this by spending a couple months walking and talking with cows.) But we didn’t just wake up one day and leave our lives behind. Well, ultimately we did. But it all started with a dream and a bit of “good luck,” or something like it.
For years we talked about going to Europe, like many people do. I would say to Kim, “I want to take you to Europe,” and she would say, “OK, take me.” And that’s when I’d say the troublesome sorts of things I say. The things that, truth-be-told, can inspire eye-rolling in one’s partner. I’d say, “But I don’t want to go for a week or 10 days. I want to go for months.” And then she’d say the troublesome things she says. She’d say, “That’s not possible. I have a job.” And so it went. For years.
Then I think some subconscious meaning-of-life-y shifts happened, a result of a bout with breast cancer for Kim and the birth of our daughter. We didn’t really know it at the time, but we were moving toward something new. And in truth, we were moving closer together too. Kim started saying, “I don’t know about this job of mine … I’d like to spend my life doing work I’m more passionate about.” One day I said, “Quit.” She said, “Really?” And we decided to go to Europe. We decided in that way that one can decide to do something, while still not really believing it’s possible, and borderline actually knowing it isn’t. But we decided.
And since we’d decided, we sat down to book tickets — to New York. We were ready to make the tiniest little gesture toward Europe while not really committing. We said that, worst case scenario, we’d have a nice little trip to the east coast and come home. After all, we didn’t really think it was possible. We had a home, cars, stuff, friends and family, commitments, you know. We huddled nervously in front of the MacBook Pro, took deep breaths, held hands and pushed the PURCHASE button. With tickets to New York firmly tucked away in our Inbox, we began breathing again.
It was at that moment that a deafening siren went off and our home starting flooding with water. It really did. It was December and freezing; a sprinkler system pipe burst in the wall and our home flooded. We instantly didn’t live there any more, were separated from most of our worldly possessions and we no longer had to figure out how to prep the place for sale or tenancy. Right then, we began our life of travel — a life that has been blessed with interesting places we’ve called home, adventures with a toddler, delicious eats and culinary challenges, learning, laughter and unforgettable memories.
All sorts of small things had to happen for us to get to Europe. We had to make decisions about stuff, money, dates, job quitting, going away parties, etc. But it began with a dream; a dream that got a serious kick in the pants by a whole bunch of rushing water.
First in a series of 6. Stay tuned for part 2 — out next month!