After 18 months of staying in the US, Chris and I decided to dip our toes into the international travel scene again for my fall break. We chose Mexico for several reasons: direct flights, cheap prices, and easy entry requirements. As of November 2021, Americans do not need a Covid test to enter Mexico- just one to re-enter the US. We booked our tickets on Volaris airline, a Mexican carrier, and we were ready to go.
Leaving your car at the airport for more than a few days can be expensive, so I looked up some cheaper parking options. We went with parkingaccess.com, which wound up being $35 to park our car at a nearby hotel for the duration of our trip. Be sure to read the fine print when choosing where to leave your car- try to pick a hotel with a free airport shuttle option (otherwise you’ll up your costs by having to take an Uber the last mile), and some local options provide covered parking, while others don’t.
Four years ago Chris and I rented out our house, stored all our belongings, and backpacked southeast Asia for a year. At that point we had only lived in our home for two years, so we hadn’t acquired too much stuff, and we could utilize a free pack/move/store deal attached to Chris’s retirement. So I didn’t really have to do much to prepare.
This year, as we started making plans to take a year off and travel around “middle” Asia, I realized we would have to do it all ourselves. We needed to start thinking about downsizing our ever-growing belongings, storing what was left, and what to do with our house. After much discussion and analyzing, we decided to sell our house instead of renting it out. Thus, our downsizing and decluttering would need to take place at the same time as getting the house ready to show and sell.
I started by reading a couple of books for some guidance: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, and later, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, by Margreta Magnusson. I listened to “The Year of Less” by Cait Flanders. These books helped me get a handle on what to keep. We also watched the Netflix documentary “Mimimalism”, and perused their website. Through a Twitter tip from a cyber-friend, I discovered the “Sell All Your Stuff” blog, and started reading their posts. In a happy coincidence, my friend Amy, also on a decluttering kick, invited me to join the Poshmark and Mercari sites, two apps that allow you to list your items and sell them online.
Around the time that we started getting serious about culling and Goodwilling items, two friends came visiting to DC. We had actually met Tricia and Kurt on our cruise from LA to Australia four years earlier, and had told them about our year-long travel plans. Unbeknownst to me, they had followed my blog for the intervening years and had decided to they should also downsize, rent their home, and head overseas. I like to think we inspired them! When we reunited with them in DC, something they said made me really think. I asked them about how they were able to get rid of the things in their homes… those awards, those paintings, those souvenirs that you like…. but don’t necessarily want to keep your whole lifetime. Tricia told me “I looked at every item and thought “If I died, would my kids keep this? If yes, we put it in storage. If not, it went to Goodwill or was sold”.
And so I resolved to do the same. At around the time we started working with a realtor to sell the house, I started listing unused or seldom used furniture on Facebook Marketplace, and I doubled my efforts on Poshmark and Mercari. My efforts paid off, and I earned about $2400, while still keeping items we will need when we eventually “land” again in the US, such as our bed, some clothing items, kitchenware, etc. For items that didn’t sell well, or were just too low-priced to be worth my time, I offered up to my local “Buy Nothing” group on Facebook.
After leaving our house in June, we are taking a 4 month road trip, first to Alaska, and then down to Burning Man festival. We were able to think of our car as an intermediary between having a house full of stuff, and only a backpack. We created a camping kitchen kit, a first aid kit, and a car emergency kit. We separated the items we would need for our “bedroom” in our tent, and we will take more clothes than we probably need, because we have the room in the car and because we will pass through several temperate zones. Once we return from camping, we will need to once more downsize that load of stuff into just what we can carry in our Osprey backpacks. For more information on what we carry for long-term backpacking travel, I wrote a post about that here.
Parting with items is hard- whether it’s selling them, donating them, or giving them to a friend who has always admired them. But you also feel a little bit lighter with every item that leaves your house. As Americans, we are pushed by a consumer-driven economy to buy, buy, buy. We are bombarded with dozens of advertisements a day. We mortgage houses that are too big for us, and then shop to fill them up with items. Chris and I have talked a lot about how we want our next space to look. We plan to combine offices, for one- both of us only use our “office” a few hours a week. Although we’ve had a full guest suite, I think next time it will be a fold out couch in the shared office instead (sorry, Micah). Public libraries and nearby stores often loan out items such as kitchen items (ice cream makers!) and tools (Autozone and Home Depot), so you don’t need to keep all those barely-used items at your house. Also check your local Buy Nothing group: I had a hankering to try dehydrating some foods and asked for a lesson from a neighbor; after trying it out for a weekend, I realized I did not actually want to purchase or own a dehydrator! There’s probably dozens of items in most of our homes that are rarely used.
What are some creative ways you’ve been able to downsize? And what are the must-haves we need to take on our road trip? Leave me a comment below:
Six years ago, Chris and I left Africa and returned to the US. In just one short month, we lived in a hotel, got married, bought a house, got a job (Deah), and got deployment orders for nine months (Chris). It was a crazy month, and we we found ourselves living in Reston, Virginia- which turned out to be our home for the next few years.
Reston has a very interesting history. It was one of the original “New Town” planned communities of the 50s and 60s, designed by a man named Robert E Simon (our town is named after his initials). It was inaugurated on Simon’s 50th birthday in 1964, and ol’ Bob lived to see quite the expansion of the area during the rest of his lifetime- I actually met him in 2013, and he lived until the age of 101.
Looking to go on a road trip this summer, but not sure you can afford a month of hotels? Tired of sleeping in a tent on the ground? As more and more adventurers are captivated by “Van Life”, you might be wanting to try it. But what if you’re not quite ready to take that plunge just yet? Here’s how you can try out an RV this weekend to see if a house on wheels is right for you.
AirBnB an RV
You can stay on private property in a self-contained RV using Airbnb. The owners will generally provide all the comforts you need, including bedding. One RV on offer in the Shenandoah Mountains even offers a ‘smores kit for guests! Staying in an RV is a great way to get out of the routine of a hotel room and not have to set a camp- especially if you don’t already own a lot of the “camping essentials”. Many RVs on AirBnB come with guides to nearby trails, ponds, and hikes, and tons of them offer fire pits, outdoor seating, and picnic tables as well.
Test Drive an RV using RVShare.com
If you’re thinking of buying a recreational vehicle but aren’t sure what size and configuration would fit your needs, try someone else’s first! The website RVShare.com has thousands of RV rentals ranging from tiny tow-behind pop ups to 34-footers that sleep six. Starting as low as $25 a night, you can reserve an RV for a weekend or a couple of weeks and find the one you like best before shelling out the money to purchase one.
Try a Tiny House
A new website lets city dwellers get out into nature and explore the delights of a tiny home, without having to sell all your household items! Getaway.House currently offers tiny houses in the woods outside Boston, New York, and DC. You specify how far you’re willing to drive, and they pick the cabin for you. Shortly before your arrival, they will disclose the exact location to you. You can just relax, knowing all the details are handled for you. Be spontaneous! In the past few years, Getaway has expanded from 5 cities in the northeast United States to more than 20 areas, including 3 in Texas and 3 in the Pacific Northwest.
Try Before You Buy
If you’re serious about purchasing an RV, many dealers have a “try before you buy” program. You can work with All Star Coaches to find a dealer near you and try out one of their inventory. You choose the amenities you want, and All Star will find the right motor home for you. The best part is, if you purchase the RV at the end of your trial week, the cost of the rental is deducted from your sales price! So you got an extra vacation for free!
Don’t worry if you don’t have your own home on the road yet. Now you can camp in an RV in a scenic location without having to worry about driving and parking, or you can try a tiny home for a weekend in the woods! If you’re ready to motor, you can share someone else’s RV for a week, or try one out before you buy your own. The options are unlimited, so what are you waiting for? It’s time to hit the road!
It’s always so hard to pick the next travel destination…. so here’s a suggestion: Florida. It’s warm, it’s sunny, and it’s a short plane ride away. Of course, Florida has dozens of options so you’re going to have to make Continue reading “Visiting Florida”→