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Category: expat

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


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