I’ve said it before and I will say it again, if you had asked me a year ago what we would do when we retired, the reply would have been – travel. We have a history in this area. We’re Brits and have lived abroad in the USA, New Zealand, Australia, traveled throughout Europe, visited China, stayed in Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, when it wasn’t part of China, so we’ve done a bit and we thought that is what we would continue to do. But not so. In the 6 months since we have retired the furthest we have been is a 70 mile trip to the coast. Reading through some of the posts on this site our lack of travel ambition is stark. This is when a couple starts to look back rather than forward. So…
In 1978 / 79 we lived in the USA. At another time I will give you the story of how this happened. I was a teacher then and we decided it would be fun to ‘do’ an exchange. After a stutter, when an exchange in Long Island didn’t materialize, we – my wife, 3 year old daughter and I – ended up the year after in Rockville, Maryland, just outside of Washington DC. I worked in a special school for children with behavior problems (I had been working in the same area in the UK but this was different – much harder. For the first time in my life – I was thirty by then – I struggled emotionally). It was a case of what’s that over there, yes, right over there on the horizon, oh, that’s my comfort zone. Socially we had a great time, but work was hard. The point of me telling you this is to say that that Christmas of 1978, my brother in law sent me a diary as a Christmas present. I started to write in it as a kind of therapy. It helped me sort things out, get stuff out of my head and I’ve written every day in a diary since. Through good times and bad, through challenges and achievements. Through life.
Sadly, I seem to have lost that first diary, which for an OCD person like me is incredibly annoying because it means I haven’t got the full set. It was big and red, A4 size not like the A5 size I’ve used ever since. How could I lose it? I have every one since and as a record of our travels – where we went and how it felt, they are revealing. I even wrote a book about life as a family in New Zealand and I have to say, it is quite scary. Was the grass greener? Well, in a country known for the greenness of its grass the answer was – definitely not. But that’s for another time, back to America.
The year itself was chock full of challenges, we were so young, so naive, so unprepared, I really have no idea (see above for lost diary) how we made it through the year. But we did. The final challenge of our American year was to take our Transam and drive, with said daughter and a tent, across America. What a smart move the Transam was but I loved that car and posting the photo of it brought it all back to me – the good and the bad. Either way I was determined to buy a full blown (and they don’t come any more full blown) American car unlike our nearest exchange partners who bought a sensible VW. As I told the delighted used car salesman, I hadn’t come all this way to buy a European or Japanese car. But it has to be said that the Transam wasn’t 100% reliable, in fact setting off from Rockville we didn’t even make it out of Maryland before our first breakdown in Cumberland and met with our first act of random kindness on the road. A chap who stopped to help us and ended up taking us back to his family home and putting us up for the night. Such generosity was common. Would it, I wonder, be the same now?