Some Hurdles Have Happy Outcomes, Part 2

Link to: Part One

Italy.  Until a few months ago, we had never been there. After Tim’s retirement from the Fire Department in June of 2016, his wish was to celebrate together as a family by taking a trip to Italy. As for annual vacations, we were typically tent campers or couch surfers. The fanciest family vacation we had taken to date was to Waikiki and that was when both kids were still in elementary school. School and summer job juggling left us with the Summer of 2017 for our family trip to commemorate both Tim’s retirement and the realization that our little family of four was about to be spread across the country. Getting together for even a dinner was going to be difficult for several years. We saved and saved for this trip and with advanced planning, were able to go to Italy for two weeks and wrap up our trip with a few days in Santorini, Greece.

We were able to visit Venice, Florence and Rome for a few days each and hit all the hot tourist spots. And I do mean hot. We were in Rome during July of 2017, the hottest in recorded history. So yeah, by the time we got to Greece all we could do was eat and lay in the sun. Perfect, actually.

After our all-time-greatest family vacation, we came back to San Diego just in time to get both kids organized and into their respective dorms on each coast. For our eldest, it would be his first time living away from home, as he had attended two years of community college in town and would now live on campus in Northern California. It also meant that for the first time since becoming parents, we were back on OUR own. The nest was empty.  We no longer needed the big (rental) house and fresh off our fabulous trip to Europe, we were ready to really see the world. As mentioned, we had planned on relocating to the wine country of California, but the Napa Fires essentially gave us the nudge we needed to really step out and try becoming global citizens. The search was on!

Since we were doing this move to Italy on short notice, we decided to first go for only a few months. Make sure it’s something we really want to do before going all-in. Fortunately for us, our next door neighbors had lived in Greve, Chianti for a year. They were encouraging and happy to share tips, websites and the essential guidebooks. Simultaneously, a friend of ours had announced his plan to become an expat and retire with his partner to Portugal. This might be doable!

Our family trip though Italy was amazing but it was also pretty brief and during peak tourist season. The temperature was high and the crowds extremely large. Everywhere we visited was lovely, we wanted to see more. We did not get a chance to visit  Italy’s famous lake region, the beautiful Amalfi coastline or spend much time in Tuscany, outside of Florence. We realized that it would be easy to fill our days exploring the regions of Italy we had not yet visited if we were to find a centrally located apartment near the rail lines.  After weaning down lists of gorgeous villages, we settled on the ancient walled city of Lucca, in Tuscany. Shortly thereafter we found a fabulous loft inside the ancient walls a short walk to everything. The rent per month for a furnished loft is a fraction of what our rent would be in California. The time we spend on this extended stay in Lucca will help us determine if, when and where we will return to Italy on a more permanent basis. The countdown is on, we leave in less than six weeks!

Some Hurdles Have Happy Outcomes, Part 1

It’s December 2017 which means in San Diego (and much of Southern California) it is Wildfire Season. Santa Barbara County is still burning as I write. This calendar year has been the worst fire season on record. Including massive wildfire losses in Northern California, earlier this year.

As such, the rental market in California is challenged. What has never been particularly affordable housing is now in great demand. Less home for more money, and more people clamoring for the “privilege” of shelling out big bucks for tiny homes.

Tim was a Fire Captain and I ran a Concierge Company. As a civil service worker and small business owner, we were comfortable but both worked very hard. As the economy ebbed and flowed, so too did our home ownership. We owned, rented, sold, and lost homes along the way, settling in as savers and renters patiently waiting for economic or market changes. We managed to get our two kids into great colleges, one in New York and one in Northern California, and retire while still in our fifties.

When our lease was coming to a close, our plan was to move into a smaller place, better suited for empty nesters, and perhaps relocate to Northern California. Then came the Napa Fires. We knew from experience in San Diego how devastating massive wildfires impact the community, especially the rental market. Now what?

This is where our hurdles have actually helped us be better prepared for what is to come next. Getting bounced around by our lenders and landlords was a hassle but it helped us learn to be flexible and react quickly to changes. We can make the best of any situation, we know because we’ve done it. We have reduced our footprint, learned how to live with less and embrace the things that really matter. We started to think a bit more outside of the box. Since we were were planning on relocating and renting, there really was no restriction on where we could move as long as it was within budget. We started thinking of “what if” scenarios. What if we could live anywhere in the world? Where would we want to live? I started researching things like, “What is the weather like in February in Ireland? (cold!) In Italy? (warmer) Italy, hmmm. Italy!

More Soon


Wine Tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley

June 2016 was a pretty big month for the Adkins clan. Our daughter graduated high school and Tim retired on the same day!

Dad retires, daughter graduates on same day!
Dad retires, daughter graduates on same day!

After the graduation festivities with friends and family, Tim and I took our first “untethered” trip together to kick-start his retirement. To be honest, he has been away at work for 24-76 hrs at a time when he was a firefighter, so hanging out together without a tight window of time is a new experience for both of us. So far, so good!

Tim is a winemaker and loves trains so we took Amtrak out of San Diego direct into Santa Barbara, then rented a car and drove to the Santa Ynez valley. We bought business class seats — it was worth it! This is a busy route, particularly in the summer months. The train was completely full and every seat in Business was reserved.

Boarding Amtrak in San Diego
Boarding Amtrak in SD

You get a little extra leg room, complimentary newspapers, coffee, juice and pre-wrapped pastries in the morning and a “snack pack” with munchies and one free water, wine or beer delivered to your seat.  The route is mostly along the coast and is quite a lovely ride. The nearly 5 hour journey goes by faster than you think it will.  Leaving San Diego, sit on the left side facing north to get the best oceanfront views as you roll north through Del Mar, San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente and eventually Ventura and Santa Barbara. We went the week that the Sherpa Fire was going and we didn’t experience any smoke or ash, just a whiff of smoke, once in a while. From the Santa Barbara train depot we walked .3 miles to Avis and rented a car. It’s a 40 minute drive to Santa Ynez.

santa-ynez-innWe stayed at the surprisingly upscale Santa Ynez Inn in the center of the small town of Santa Ynez, within walking distance to wineries and less than a mile from the Chumash Casino Resort where there is a very nice spa and casino. Mid-week has great discounts and most of the local tasting rooms are open 7 days, but check first as some are not and others are reservation only. Our first floor room had extra-high ceilings, a quaint courtyard patio and very large bathroom with jet tub and a gas fireplace in each room. Also included are daily breakfast, happy hour with tastings from local wineries and a dessert bar.

A friend from Solvang (yes, people really are from Solvang) gave us a short list of her favorite tasting rooms and also a few nice spots for dinner.  A great local tip she shared was heading first to the fantastic El Rancho MarketPlace where you can pick up snacks and picnic supplies. Try the BBQ Tri-Tip sandwich!

We took our time meandering through the various wineries and will cover our favorites in future posts.  Cheers! — Cynthia