Paradise Lost

A truly awful thing happened a few days ago: I… (sigh)… went back… (gulp)… TO WORK!

(Cue the “re-re-re” sound effect from Pyscho)

Truth be told, returning to work after a ten-week leave of absence wasn’t as bad as I had feared. Unlike Italy and Rotterdam, our time in London so far has been mostly business. The four weeks since we arrived have been consumed with house hunting, pleading with landlords to accept our dog, pricing negotiations, navigating the silly cell phone landscape, getting Kiley set up at school, etc. In short, it’s been one long and ever-evolving to-do list that has maintained a moderate level of ambient stress. Now, if I had to go back a month ago when we were still in Italy, I would more resemble a toddler being pulled by her ankles out of her favorite toy store…

With work and school ramping up, Kiley and I have had a chance to do some reflecting on our journey over the past two-plus months. For your reading pleasure:

It really was the opportunity of a lifetime. How many 30-year-olds take over two months off work to travel around Europe with their dog? We knew how special this trip was and tried our best to appreciate every moment. We made time for sunrises, lingered for sunsets, saw the sights, made great new friends (shout-out, Club Corso!), purposely got lost, ate long meals, made few plans, and took lots of walks. Kiley’s transition from work to business school presented an opportunity for something awesome and we took the leap. I recommend everyone try it sometime!

Anyone can do it. If you’ve ever seen a travel channel on YouTube or Instagram, there’s a pretty consistent message: “you can do this too.” And while our two month excursion is a lot different than worldwide adventure travel, getting there is still a three-step process: recognizing the opportunity, assembling the vision, and taking the leap (not necessarily in that order). For us, recognizing the opportunity came first. We knew there’d be a lot of time and travel involved in moving to London, so we figured “why not milk this a bit and turn it into something great?” Changing jobs, relocating, losing a job, or even getting stuck in a rut at work can all be opportunities to try something like this, rather than some challenge you need to get past.

Assembling the vision was next. We knew we had the opportunity, but what to do with it? First, we set a budget—and it’s probably a lot less than you think. If you skip the super-touristy spots, lose the city-center hotel, and pass on the fancy restaurants, your two-month adventure is going to cost a lot less than you think (our total expense for our entire month in Italy was less than our monthly mortgage payment in Indiana). Once we had our budget, we set some goals. Kiley wanted something immersive, where she could drink the same coffee on the same balcony every morning; I wanted something relaxed, where we wouldn’t be trying to see too much too quickly. Turns out, fitting these goals into our budget wasn’t difficult in an inexpensive place like Italy. While everyone’s vision will be different, if you set modest goals and do some common-sense prep work to reduce costs, an extended vacation like ours becomes a lot more doable.

Finally, TAKE THE LEAP! Knowing that we were already committed to Kiley going to LBS, the most difficult part was asking my bosses for an extended leave. During the discussions, I was honest and firm about the relocation and duration of my leave and they were fully supportive. Now, I may be lucky to work for a good company with supportive sponsors, but you never know what’s possible until you ask. So, if you want to try something like this, ask for the leave or delay your start time at the new job… it could be one of the best decisions you make!

We’re going to keep some lifestyle changes. One side benefit of a two-month overseas vacation is that you’re forced to change your routine and reevaluate what’s important. To help disconnect and relax, I made it a point to read as much as possible. Now take note that before the trip, I wasn’t much of a reader at all; when I did, it was a few hours per week and almost exclusively non-fiction (you know, the stuff I feel I should read as a human being). As such, I set a lofty goal of three books; flash-forward two months and I’m at a total of eight and have digital holds for several more… I’m pretty proud of myself! Between my new love of reading and the demands of Kiley’s schoolwork, we might finally cut the cord (and save the $200 annual UK TV license fee).

Also important to a two-month trip is minimal stuff. For the past ten weeks, we’ve been schlepping around two suitcases for clothes, one carry-on for Schaefer’s goodies (food, blanket, carrying case), and two backpacks for electronics and other miscellanea. All of our accommodations—including our new flat—have included furnishings and some accessories, like cutlery. As such, we haven’t found ourselves longing for much else and we plan to accumulate as little as possible over the next two years (possible exception: Nutri-Bullet—we need our shakes).

One final change that we’re going to hold on to (to the fullest extent possible): being outside. Nothing will invigorate your love of the great outdoors more than living in tight spaces for two months. And with rental prices as high as they are, we weren’t getting any more space London. So, we’re making it a point to get out as often as possible; Kiley will be at class and various events most of the day and I’ll be working from libraries, cafés, restaurants, and other fun spots. Now, the London winter will present a challenge in the coming months, but we’re determined to face it! Besides, if you’re going to live in a world capital like London for two years, the last thing you should do is spend it in a cramped flat.

The adventures are far from over. Fear not, loyal blog readers and Instagram followers (which I assume is just our moms); just because we’ve finally settled down in London, it doesn’t mean we’re getting boring. We have plenty more funny stories to share, lots of travel planned, and—who knows—maybe even a few surprises in store (intrigue!). So stay tuned as we enter the next chapter of our adventure!

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