There’s no place like…a home base


my perennial garden

When I was planning this travel life, I thought long and hard about my house. Should I keep it? Should I sell it? What would I do without a home?

If I kept it, how would I maintain it, the capricious nature of renters being what it is? Who would take care of my garden?

But I also wondered about the magnetic power of ownership. The way owning something large and valuable like a house ensnares you. You have to check on it. Worry about it. Replace the furnace filters. Pay the property taxes. And if things aren’t comfy enough on the road? Well, there’s always a home to go to.

Besides, did it somehow dilute the authenticity of fulltime travel to have a home in your back pocket? The bona fide fulltimers that I know don’t have anywhere to hide out.

In the end, I decided to sell, more for economic reasons than philosophical ones. I couldn’t afford to maintain my house and also to travel, and I didn’t want to rent it out. While I think that was a good choice, I will say that walking out the back door of my little house was one of the hardest things I’ve done. And that in the two years since, I’ve become a lot more comfortable with my homeless state.

Still, homelessness has its downside. For one thing, I have to keep moving. North in summer; south in winter–and you really can’t go far enough south in the US to stay dependably warm in winter. While I can camp in driveways and backyards for weeks and spend really good time with my family, my granddaughter can’t come to visit (although I have taken her camping). I can’t cook Thanksgiving dinner. I’m always the guest–always learning a different kitchen.

And although I don’t miss the responsibility of home ownership, I do miss some of the peripheral goodies–a room of one’s own, a place to regroup, a sanctuary and refuge.

So guess what? The stars have aligned to get me a house that I don’t even own. Here’s the deal:

Years ago, my sister and brother-in-law bought some land that incidentally contained a sweet two-bedroom house. They installed a cherrywood floor and a new roof and maintained that sucker all these years. Last fall, my brother-in-law casually said, “Why don’t you think about living in that little house? If you’re around, you could take care of our cats when we’re gone.”

The little house. Sweet, huh?

The seed was planted.

I could have a home base–a place to come back to. A place where my kids could visit and where I could unpack the things I chose to keep–“my old friends.” I could occupy the place without the obligation of owning it. I could come and go. I could continue traveling, but I could also come home.

In many ways, the house, which is really more like a cabin, is perfect for me. It’s small; it’s simple; it’s in the middle of the woods. At night, I can hear coyotes. When it’s full, the moon shines almost as brightly as the sun. And it’s quiet. I can’t even hear the sound of tires because the nearest road is that far away.

Will this work, do you think? Too much of a good thing?

I confess to worries that I’ll be undone by the lure of a home. It’s too easy. I think about planting a little grass. And wondering if helleborus will grow along the fence. And why in heck did I sell the clothesline contraption I had just bought. (Because it was too unwieldy to store.)

Nothing compels a person to endure the discomforts of long-term travel. There’s no valor, per se, in being a homeless wanderer. But the very fact of being homeless mitigates against the easy fall-back of throwing in the towel after, say, a touch of illness or a bout of existential angst. And it teaches you stuff about yourself that it’s hard to learn from a La-Z-Boy in front of the television.

So, yeah, I’m worried about “caving.” About feathering the nest and not flying. Or giving in to that deep and uniquely human longing for a home.

But, honestly, who can turn down an offer like this? I’ll just have to trust that the power of my original vision is enough to keep me going.

woodsy back yard



13 Responses to There’s no place like…a home base

  1. Cheryl 29 September, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    I love your Blog! Your writing is totally engaging, fun, beautifully descriptive and smooth and easy for my ADD brain. The pictures are great (especially the forest path in Forillon that leads to a circle of light through the trees at its end). The captions are perfect. You, my Dear, glow with your own “Up-to-the-minute Freshness”!

  2. Ainlay Dixon 21 June, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    Sigh, its the kids – Ming does have to start college after all and David Evan absolutely refuses to to consider another year away so it would be just me and the two youngest. It is going to be just the three of us for the last month while DE goes to camp and V sets up the house but I think I might miss them for a whole year….

  3. Erik 16 June, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

    Not too bad to stay sedentary every once in a while!

    • Kate 21 June, 2012 at 10:40 am #

      That’s what I’m beginning to think. I just don’t want to get TOO sedentary!

  4. Theodora 16 June, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    Wow! That looks lovely. The perfect place for a grandmother who likes to travel should live. I think you’d get on well with my son’s paternal grandmother, in fact. You’re very lucky.

    • Kate 21 June, 2012 at 10:44 am #

      I’m feeling pretty darned lucky. I’m also thinking it’s about time YOU took a break. If you can stand the deep, dark quite of the Michigan wilderness for a while, I’ll pick you up at the airport. (wasn’t that guy from the State?)

  5. Ainlay Dixon 16 June, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    I am positively dreading the return to settled life after our year of wandering. Your solution sounds like the perfect compromise.

    • Kate 21 June, 2012 at 10:46 am #

      You are one stalwart traveler–and your experience with your kids has been an amazing read. After 18 months of travel with two of mine–in North America–I was ready to come back.
      Do you have to settle? Can’t your husband work on the road while you-all keep on moving for a while?

  6. Jenny 14 June, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    Kate – I think that the little cabin is perfect and can’t wait to see you this winter when you return to this lovely abode! I have faith in you, your convictions and dreams!

    • Kate 21 June, 2012 at 10:48 am #

      I’m thinking I may have to lean on your faith in me. Sometimes I feel a little weak-kneed about my convictions. I’ll keep you in mind for a pep talk.


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