We still have to decide what to do. After a period of negligible progress we have discussed precisely what we both want to get out of this part of our lives. The common and dominant factor is to cease doing what we are doing now, for a variety of reasons. I want a change of lifestyle, to do something more involved with the natural environment and he wants to travel. Whilst these aren’t identical there is definitely some overlap so that both aims should be able to be accommodated. I have vivid memories of seeing an older British couple waiting on the quayside on a Greek Island to help clean the chartered boats on the turnaround day of our flotilla holiday. I remember being quite surprised to see them there as we disembarked but now wish I had taken the opportunity to talk to them as I suspect they may have been doing something similar to our loose plans.
I have googled and googled various words and phrases to try to find some inspiration or suggestions, with limited success. Most of the information is directed at gap-year students or people wanting to get some volunteering experience on their CV and paying quite significant sums to do so. We didn’t really need to enhance our already extensive CVs. That dichotomy isn’t wasted on me in that we have much to offer, many transferable skills alongside our professional qualifications and experience. We aren’t totally averse to continuing to use them, just selective about the circumstances. We have told some of our friends about our plans, partly in the course of conversation but also to advertise that we were looking for a new challenge on the off chance that someone may know of an opportunity for us. This information has been met with enthusiastic support from all and even a degree of good-humoured envy but no leads as yet. We are prepared to work quite hard for the correct returns in terms of satisfaction, quality of life and work/life balance. However income is not the driving force, just sufficient to live off and move on with as and when necessary. Living costs could be significantly less than our current level but local pay would reflect that.
Along with the problem of what to do is the question of where to go? If we could answer either one we may be able to make some progress. Warm or cold climate? We have enjoyed many ski-ing holidays and recently had the pleasure of a trip to Northern Lapland in a failed attempt to see the Aurora Borealis when temperatures dipped to -35 one day.
Despite the cold and the lack of visible aurora we still had a fabulous time in that winter wonderland. My circulatory problems (Reynauds) wouldn’t be too happy but could be managed in a cold climate. Warm weather always seems more pleasant, not to mention cheaper as fuel costs for heating would be eliminated. As a fair skinned Celt I’d probably have to invest an equivalent amount in sun screen although shade can be free. However, I have read that it can take as little as 12 months to acclimatise to a warm climate and have certainly observed Tunisians in coats and jackets in February whilst we wandered around in shorts and T-shirts trying to find an open ice-cream vendor. We could chose to stay within the European Union with its inherent advantages or go outside with its inherent advantages. Closer proximity to home and both sets of aging parents has distinct benefits in the event of an untoward incident. Friends may even consider visiting us, if we have anywhere for them to stay and aren’t too remote. Currency and general financial management of our properties could be easier. I had thought that internet connections would be more complicated but understand that some far-flung places may be much more advanced than I’d imagined if they are used to catering for tourists. Tourists, is that what we’d be? That wasn’t really the plan. ‘Comers-in’, yes, Yorkshire folk will understand that term, but we want to live and work in our chosen place, albeit temporary or transient. We could even work in the tourist trade on site, cleaning boats in the Greek islands doesn’t seem too shabby.
A problem with being abroad is our lack of language skills. I can just about get by with school French and whilst, in theory he’s the same standard with German, his usage in the intervening years has been minimal. I don’t think that languages are a strength on either part, we are just so lucky to speak the almost universal language. Purists may dispute this to be the case but I don’t have the time (not inclination) to learn Mandarin. We are not adventurous or intrepid enough to tackle somewhere remote initially although hopefully in time as we become more experienced at this type of living – whatever that actually is – we may be able to consider it in the future. A young Finn, who transpired to be only 23 although with a much older head on his shoulders, struck a chord recently when describing his travels around the globe, even into war zones where white faces may not be expected to be welcome. He negotiated it all without mishap as he knew how to integrate with local communities, we are ignorant of this and would probably fall foul of some unintentional but perceived insult.
How would we be able to keep abreast of world affairs, where’s safe to travel to, where isn’t? I can manage it safely from my lounge at the moment with my Sunday papers, BBC news and on-line information but how would we manage this if these were not accessible. If we lost touch with our own culture for a period of years would we struggle to re-integrate when we return? Would we be able to wade through the quagmire of health and social care? Wi-fi access seems to be essential but that does restrict us from some areas or does it? – we lived without it for most of our life. What if we did have it but then the device broke down? Fortunately he does have some IT knowledge. Mine extends only as far as switch it off, wait 1 minute and switch it back on again but this has proved effective in over 50% of occurrences. Still not answered the question, just revealed more questions but we may be getting closer to the answer by elimination process!