The Vagabond Life

Amish horse and buggy
Amish horse and buggy

As many of you know, Heide and I have lived in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania for the past 28 years.  We loved the area and rural Lancaster County.  With its rolling farmlands and Pennsylvania Dutch Amish and Mennonite culture, it is one of the most quaint and picturesque places on earth.  In few other places will you find hitching posts in the parking lot at Costco and the local hardware store for the horses and buggies.  It has been a good 28 years.

In June 2011, I retired from Penn State University and over the past 3-4 years we’ve done some extensive traveling with plans to step it up a notch and do more in the future.  We are at a stage of our lives where we have the time, resources, and fortunately good health.  This gives us the freedom to travel more, spend more time on our boat and with family and dear friends.

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

We have had boats for almost 30 years (somehow they keep growing in size) but since I retired, we have spent most of the summer months on our boat on Chesapeake Bay just outside of Baltimore, Maryland.  Last year, we traveled to Florida for the winter; the year before we spent the winter in Costa Rica.  This fall/winter, we plan to have a “Cajun Thanksgiving” in New Orleans for six weeks (November into mid-December), spend Christmas with Mark, Eileen, and Thomas in Northern Virginia and then off to Nicaragua for 4 months.

We thoroughly enjoy the variety but finally realized that in the past 12 months, we only spent about 2-3 months of the year at our house in Elizabethtown.  In short, 9-10 months per year, the house was empty and being watched over by kindly neighbors on our behalf–we are eternally grateful.  It made little sense to continue to pay the monthly expenses (taxes, electric, sewer, etc.) and not be there most of the year.

In the end, since most friends, family, and colleagues have spread to far off places, we decided to sell the Elizabethtown house (closed on January 30) and travel wherever the whim and wind take us.  The plan is to spend the summer on the Chesapeake and to travel the world the rest of the year with frequent stops/visits with Mark, Eileen, and Thomas–Thomas is now 7 years old and we don’t want to miss his developing years (Mark and Eileen have already developed !!!).

Witness Protection Program

In a way, I feel like we’re on the lam or in the witness protection program.  Without a house, we are footloose and fancy-free.  But we also no longer have a place to call “home.”  Home is wherever we happen to be.  We are now legal residents of Florida and will be able to receive mail at our Florida address (a forwarding service will send it to wherever we are in the world), vote by absentee ballot, and, perhaps best of all, no state income tax !!!

As we walked away from the closing on the house, we pondered deep thoughts trying to determine if we were now (a) hobos, (b) homeless, or (c) vagabonds.  Being the researcher that I am, I had to find the answer to the question…each term had connotation implications!


From Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary…

Hobo:  a person who has no place to live and no money and who travels to many different places

Homeless:  having no place to live, indigent

Vagabond:  1.  moving from place to place without a fixed home;  2.  of, relating to, or characteristic of a wanderer; 3.  leading an unsettled, irresponsible, or disreputable life

As to the definition of Hobo, only 1 of the three criteria apply (guess which one).  Homeless isn’t relevant as we always have a place to live and sleeping in the car just doesn’t rate high on my list of priorities (roughing it is a hotel with no room service).  Vagabond seems just right.  We are moving from place to place without a fixed home, wandering as the spirit moves us, leading an unsettled and pretty much irresponsible life (don’t think we’re disreputable…yet).

Sunset over Istanbul, Turkey

As it turns out, being a vagabond is the best feeling in the world !!!  And, the freedom that bestows on us is liberating.  Eventually, we know we will wash ashore and become dirt-dwellers once again.  Hopefully, that day will be quite a few years from now as we expect to continue our travels and enjoy life.

In the next few posts, I’ll tell you how we downsized from our house, digitized everything so we can keep track of family, friends, colleagues, banking and investments, and the day-to-day necessities of life from anywhere in the world.  Also, I’ll share how we have become “travel ninjas” by packing amazingly light for both short and extended trips.  And, of course, I will be writing about our travels along the way.  Please tune in, share our journey, and feel free to comment anytime.  We always love to hear from you.

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