Eastward, ho!

Once a year, all the judges in Maryland get together for a judicial conference. Once a year, attorneys all over the state catch up on paperwork, sleep in a little, and bask in the experience of knowing, no matter how busy their practice is, they won’t have to wear courtroom attire to the office “just in case” there’s an emergency phone call from judges’ chambers. We can take it a little easier for a few days, thanks to Their Honors’ annual annual do.

I used the week to pop out to Oregon to see Beloved Offspring and her Devoted Swain. They are ready to house hunt, because Oregon checks all the boxes for them. Big trees, nice people, lots of horses, beautiful… So a house-hunting we did go.

The sticker shock about knocked my socks off. I have a little farmhouse on two acres here in Maryland. The house has character (by this I mean low ceilings, an oggly fieldstone fireplace, but also gorgeous, huge chestnut beams), and a lovely bank barn, a stream cutting through the middle of the property, a little summer kitchen, fenced paddock, big trees… I have always enjoyed living here, though it’s a lot to maintain for one person.

I also pay less for this little bide-o-wee each month than BO and DS are charged for a two-bedroom basement apartment–a LOT less. Yes, I heat with wood, and I’m only one person, but still… What I have here would cost me at least double in Oregon, and I couldn’t find anything exactly comparable anyway. When my house was built, Oregon had yet to be settled.

We started our house hunt looking for a property that could eventually house the three of us–something with a mother-in-law suite, a studio over the garage, a casita down by the pond. Nothing, not one single property in our price range, even had so much as a full-size chicken house, much less quarters I could move into.

I came home with a good dose of, “Guess where I am is pretty cool for what I’m paying. Maybe fixing this place up is not a crazy plan after all,” and that was a huge relief. I suspect the day will come when I do move west to be nearer to my only child, but that day is not today. Today I’m calling the electrician to fix the kitchen light, and taking out another trash bag of stuff  that’s been cluttering up my nest.

Has travel ever given you a helpful insight? Ever helped you hit reset on a problem? To one commenter, I’ll send a copy of My Own True Duchess, which goes on sale in the website store on June 15, and on the retail platforms June 19.


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36 comments on “Eastward, ho!

  1. In 1978, I traveled with my husband to Japan & it changed my life. Seeing how women were marginalized made me appreciate the society I lived in, but it also made me a proponent of Women’s Rights. I knew I had a long way to go in my middle-class community. But I found other ladies who were struggling for equality, some in the workplace, others on the home front. I learned which of my neighbors were being abused now or in their past, came to grips with my own abuse. I will never forget my female guide in Japan & the few personal glimpses she gave me.

    • I wish you and that guide could have a chat now. Japan has a VERY low birthrate, in part because women are refusing to get married. That to me, is a symptom of abused trust on a massive scale, and oddly enough, the female demographic that comes closest to making dollar for dollar what white American males do for comparable work is the Asian female. Fool them once…

  2. I’ve enjoyed travel, tho haven’t gone as far in recent years – and I’m always glad to get home. I’m at the stage of slowly de-cluttering so when it’s time to move (closer to family) it won’t be as big a chore. I enjoy looking at the online real estate sites that show available homes in the areas I’m interested in – it’s fun to check things out & see what kind of prices are available. Have you looked at Zillow.com or Realtor.com for where you are interested in moving? It’s also fun to see about houses to sell in your own neighborhood.

    • Yes–I looked at Zillow once, and now I am their fave spam target. I’ve been told you have to take Zillow with a grain of salt, particularly in the “estimated payment” field.
      I do like to browse, and my gracious, buying a home is not the process it was thirty years ago. In some ways it’s easier–you can all but secure financing on line–in other ways it’s more ridiculous. Our realtor in Oregon said when she started out, the offer contract was a two-page form. Now… thirty and counting.

  3. Every year, we go on vacation to Northern Wisconsin. Every year, I look forward to going. And every year, the last few days we are there I can’t wait to get back home!

    I go to the occasional professional workshop. While I love soaking up my profession with others, I am always longing to be back home where I feel the freedom to be able to do my work without judgement.

    I am a homebody, I suppose, but I do like travel. As well as learning something new, seeing something amazing, I also appreciate my own home and family. That’s another benefit of travel; appreciating your own life!

    • I feel the same way about my writer’s conferences: Lovely to talk shop, to bask in the glow of writer-ness, to blah, blah, blah… but then I want to be HOME, in my play clothes, DOING the writing, not talking about it.

  4. Has travel ever given me insight? Sure, it usually makes me remember that the lesser problems in life are just that, because after all, that sunset over the Pacific is breathtaking. It makes my husband want to relocate (Napa? Really? To live and breathe amongst the vines, partaking in the splendid nectar? If we can’t afford Long Island NY State property tax after retirement, Napa is definitely out of the question!). Thinking maybe SC, but I would love to stay here on my beloved island… Anyway, in the past, my parents lived in a separate area in our home, and it was beneficial to all of us, especially when we needed a pet or babysitter, and my parents needed TLC and eventually, care/nursing. Such a gift to have them here, instead of far away. I hope that eventually you will share the same dwelling or area with your BO & DS, and that it gives all of you the greatest of experiences! I also hope you will continue to gift us with your stories, because you are truly amazing.

    • Thanks for those kinds words, Celeste. My parents lived a couple miles from my sister, and that certainly worked out well for Mom and Dad. Long, long ago, Mom did some day care for the grandkids, but that didn’t last long. Still,I’m sure they preferred having a grandma on hand rather than a daycare mom, and having done that however briefly probably made it easier for the folks to lean on my sister at the end.
      Meanwhile, I’m 1600 miles from my nearest family member. That’s not so good.

  5. Last December we took our (just) one year old to New York from the UK. I learned that –

    1) The flight wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I feared.

    2) Jet lag wasn’t too bad with a child that naps in the day.

    3) Despite these findings, barring family weddings or funerals we will probably holiday closer to home for the next few years anyway!

    • You were smart to pop across the pond when the baby was still portable. I traveled with a six month old, then stayed out of the friendly skies for a looooong time after that. I know some people who always try to get the exit row seats because children aren’t allowed there.
      I love to see families getting out and about. The sooner children learn how small the world is, the better, says me.

  6. After experiencing 4 continents & 22 countries, I’m highly appreciative of my no state income tax, 6.5% sales tax, low property tax hovel’s location. The mortgage might not be paid off before I’m 80, but it’s the amount of a car payment & I can still afford to eat + utilities. The rest is what I make of it & it’s MY hovel. I managed both flood insurance & property taxes this month (major victory) & I’m blessed with good quiet neighbors. Life is good & I’ve managed a pretty scrap of it in a peaceable place. Feeling incredibly blessed. Sometimes the grass is greener on your own side of the fence if you just fertilize it.

    • Wow. That is quite an itinerary, and you bring up a great point: Neighbors you get along with are priceless. The real estate agent in Oregon told us that in Lane County, all zoning enforcement was “complaint driven.” If you get along with your neighbors, then nobody much squawks. If you’re a horse’s behind (or they are), then no coloring outside the lines allowed.

      I guess that’s a good system?

  7. When I was a young woman I did visit the town of Westgate ( the town I live in now) and thought it was full of old people and dogs poo.It was not for me.When I married a British soldier we lived in Germany for nine years and returned to the UK when he came out of the army.We settled in Margate and raised our kids and carried on with life until our marriage split in 1994.The family house was sold and we went our different ways.I bought a house___Guess where ? Westgate,Years later I saw it in a completely different light it suited my needs being an older person.The lovely walks the green banks that run along the sea front the elegant old buildings the wide open spaces.The dog fouling problem solved.Just a lovely place to live.So for me my preferences have changed because my life styles and age have changed,I feel I have found my final settlement.But I also know the best plans can also go ____up!!’I wish you Grace much peace and contentment in your home and all the plans you make come to be.

    • What an interesting vignette. My dad saw San Diego when he was in his twenties–in the Navy–and thought that would be a lovely place to retire. Thirty-five years later, it was still a lovely place to retire, but by the time Dad had lived in San Diego thirty years, his tune had changed. “I wouldn’t tell anybody to live here. Between the corrupt politics, the wild fires, the sink holes, the drought, the earthquakes, the ridiculous wealth inequality, the horrendous crowding and lousy roads… this place has gone to the dogs.”
      For all that, he’d never have considered leaving.

  8. Travel usually makes me feel blessed, and greater contentment with one’s life is always a good thing! It makes us evaluate where we might like to live next too, where can be fun.

  9. To pursue broader career opportunities, ny husband moved from small town Iowa to Arizona. With most of our families in the Midwest, we visited when we could and continued to appreciate the duality of our Southwest Desert working life while enjoying the Midwest visits.

    Thirty years later, we are retired after careers we both loved. Our dual existence led us to buy a second home where we grew up splitting our time between them. It’s an ideal solution for us.

    • My parents ended up doing that for a span of time–having a house in our old stomping grounds in central PA, and their permanent residence on the West Coast. The bouncing back and forth was a hassle, but they liked both locations for different reasons.
      I wish you double the fun and half the miseries of homeowning, and for sure, you will have two sets of friends and neighbors, which has to be a good thing.

  10. For many years we have gone east to visit our daughters and families for Christmas. In the past few years we have only stayed 7 days to 10 days. The grandchildren are now adults.

    During that time we have found too much traffic, too high a need to keep up with the Jones, and too much like lemmings going over the cliff. We have lived all of our adult life in the western US and most of our childhoods too.

    We come home with a sigh of relief as noone here cares what you wear or what you think etc. as long as you don’t try to inhibit their freedoms. I’m sure all of the above is not quite that simple.

    When the politics get to us we go east again and come happier than we live here and not elsewhere.

    • Oh, this is funny. I live in the East, and I visit family out west. I have the same experience: Who in their right mind would live where the consumption is so conspicuous, the neighbors are all spying on each other (but never coming over for a cup of tea), the traffic is horrible, and the sheer busyness is enough to drive me bonkers? Then I come home to the peaceful, green, quiet of my Maryland countryside, and thank heavens I don’t have to go back “out there” for a while.
      Different strokes… I do think the pace back East is faster, people speak more quickly (in the North East), and aren’t so friendly on first impression.

  11. Last year for my 56th birthday I took my first international trip. I wanted a Bucket List adventure so I treated myself to two weeks in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana on a tour associated with the Smithsonian. The experience was incredible. From the crowded streets of Johannesburg, seeing women cooking smiley in big iron kettles in Soweto and negotiating with market vendors, to photographing elephants mourning their dead, leopards feeding in a tree, and observing three of the black rhinos left in the world it was eye-opening on so many levels. At the bush camp towards the end of the trip there was a sense of peace I hadn’t felt in a long time – even with the bull elephant having lunch from the tree outside my tent. I came home calm, energized and inspired. Africa is in my heart now and I can’t wait to go back.

    • Good for you. My fingers are crossed for Africa. Many of those countries will leap frog infrastructure problems that cost their developed neighbors a bundle. Cell phones don’t require all those miles of telephone poles and wires. Wells are much easier to sink now than they were thirty years ago. Solar power can light up the night far from power plants–and Africa is leaping on all of those innovations.
      It’s on my bucket list too!

  12. My first couple international experiences involved staying with families as a teenager. They completely changed my sheltered and privileged developed world worldview (or I should say, started a change that took decades to really understand) and I am exceedingly grateful for them. I have come to believe that the best way to become invulnerable to xenophobia is to love many people different from you (in many ways) as a young person. In my twenties I traveled alone, and that showed me very different things but was also transformative. I found that having to only take myself into account was difficult and learning what I wanted was a surprisingly slow process. But a skill and clarity I am happy to have.

    • My sisters both did study abroad stints, one in high school, the other in college. I took one trip in my twenties when my dad was an exchange prof in Germany, but that was my big international adventure until I hit my fifties. When I became kid free, I started traveling. It has been good for me, in the sense of gratifying wanderlust and shaking up the compost, but I also have some regret: I started traveling too late, and can’t afford to do as much as I’d like to–not the worst problem, certainly, but a regret.

  13. I can imagine how much it costs to live in Oregon. When we moved from California’s suburbs of Los Angeles to small town GA we got a taste of how different the cost of living was in different areas. Since my father wanted to roll all the money from our old house into the new one, we ended up in the ‘rich’ area of our new town. More recently, my son’s rent on his first apartment in Colorado was higher than our current house payment. When the time is right I hope you can make it work to live with your daughter and her husband.

    Last year we were able to spend 2 weeks in Italy – mostly in Rome. It was an amazing experience being able to visit the ruins and realize that so many buildings were still in pretty good shape aving been built thousands of years ago. At the same time, many of the problems the people of the Roman empire faced are very similar to the ones we face today – some basic things don’t change. Their technology wasn’t as advanced as ours but they built stronger, more enduring structures than we do now.

    We’ve taken several trips to National Parks over the past almsot 30 years including: the Tetons; the Rockie; Yellowstone with its geysers, canyons, and valleys; several deserts; and the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend. Every single time I am remided that on the grand scale of things my problems don’t matter. That even though people have been around thousands of years the world has been around longer. And nature gets along just fine without us humans.

    people problems/vastness of natures

    • I passed through Rome a few years ago, and my goodness… they just keep digging, and they keep finding evidence of older and older cultures right there in the middle of the city.

      I was also very impressed with Orkney, where Skara Brae is. It’s a 7000 year old village, which was buried in the coastal dunes. Talk about built to last… and not far from Skara Brae is Maeshowe, a mound tomb that’s 115 feet high. In the tomb chamber itself is the best collection of Norse runes outside of Scandinavia because a bunch of Vikings used the tomb to shelter from a storm on their way home from the Crusades. Their graffiti was hilarious and touching and all too human: “I miss the fair widow Hildegard,” and “Hakkon stole the treasure,” and “I, Luthor, the most feared soldier in all creation, slept here.”
      Human nature doesn’t change much.

  14. A judicial break works its way all the way down into real estate and banking, oddly enough.

    My husband & I have tried to move a number of times, only to find that our “rural, remote” location gives us the lifestyle we like at a price we can afford.

    I’ve learned I now like a bed at the end of a day’s travel. Running water and inside plumbing are nice, too. I backpacked and couch-surfed across Europe back in the day, for $800 one summer including airfare. (Tells you how long it’s been.). I can’t imagine who I was then.

    And on a hillside in Wales at age 19, I made a few decisions which have determined the course of my life since.

    • I hope the course of your life has been happy for those decisions. Can’t beat Wales for beauty and a sense of legends close at hand. I flew stand-by on Icelandic Air in my twenties. $200 roundtrip! Now, I think you can do one-way for $99 sometimes, though there’s a layover in Iceland.

    • That was my conclusion every time I visited my parents in La Jolla: Glad it works for you, but I want no parts of this! While they visited my little house one time, and told me everything wrong with it.

  15. I grew up in Tennessee and learned a lot when I visited the UK after college, where I met my husband and later settled in Northern Ireland.

    1) America is a lot bigger than I realised when growing up there! 😉
    2) How grateful I am not to have tornados, hurricanes, poisonous spiders, snakes, bears, wolves, and mountain cats to worry about in the UK!
    3) How you never know when you’ll meet your soulmate – could be on another continent! 😀
    4) Something amazing could be around the next corner (or at the end of the next flight). :))

    • I’ve looked at Ireland as a possible retirement venue. Cannot beat the pretty there, the people are friendly, the healthcare is good, and the scones… ye gods, the scones, and soda bread, and BUTTER.

  16. Yes, I have. The more I saw the more I appreciated “home”. There is a lot to be done to my home but it doesn’t seem as costly now. The places we saw proved if we moved we would have to make
    changes there too. Since then my husband and I have each developed long-term conditions that
    make it smarter to stay where we are.

  17. I went as far from my family as I could for college – Washington to Maine. (I can’t stand heat.) What I learned from being so far from everyone I knew was –
    1. Who I wanted to be. Being without others expectations and set in stone interaction meant I could start over, be who I wanted to be, act how I wanted to act. I found I liked myself a lot more when I wasn’t living up and down to familial expectations.
    2. I can handle anything – dropped 100 miles from college with $50 cash and no credit cards, I made it to college, Cracked my head open – I dealt with it. Find a job and place to live in a city where we knew no one who we didn’t go to college with – got it.
    3 People will help you – friends families took me home for Thanksgiving and spring break. Students with cars drove me to airports. The retired guy who drove me the 100 miles for the $50 in my pocket at 9 pm.

  18. We’re actually in a similar place as you – looking for a place to resettle after retirement. We’re visiting potential locations to live out our days. Except we (husband, his brother, me) don’t have much family to live near. My sister and her husband and my mother live in Southern California – not an option financially or politically. My younger son is in NYC – not an option either. My older son lives about 40 minutes from us now but he considers it temporary until he figures out his life. So where to go? Warmer weather, lower housing cost, lower taxes.

    While I’ve done some traveling and come back somewhat the wiser, preparing for these exploratory trips is teaching us to identify what is truly important to us and what is “nice to have.”

  19. If you haven’t already called the electrician,try this first. I had a problem with a flickering light (kitchen and bath) and the wiring was good. I did call the electrician and he found nothing wrong. After some internet research, I found others with the same story and found that I needed to replace the old light switches with construction quality light switches. The old ones had corroded and were arcing, especially if there was moisture in the air, which made the lights flicker or not turn on. It was inexpensive and easy to do myself (turn off everything at the breaker panel, first). I did have to order them from Home Depot because they did not carry the white colored, construction grade light switches, but they were only $2 and could be picked up at the store, so no shipping charges. Problem solved! See if that works for you, if not, call the electrician.