If you don't want to take the time to figure out who we are by reading my blog and its various pages from start to finish, I've decided to provide you with this shortcut. I will be as brief as possible and still give you a flavor for who we are, what we're doing, and why we're doing it.
In 1998, when we each turned 50, Cathey and I began thinking seriously about our retirement. What did we want to do during our active retirement years? Travel. Where did we want to travel? Europe. Why not live there?
That’s the flip, short-hand way that I've explained the decision that led us to purchasing our vacation home in the south of France as a start on moving there permanently. The deeper reasoning was a bit more complicated than that and we've had to re-examine our decision at various points along the way. Perhaps it’s time to update the discussion of our making the decision to live as expats.
Before meeting Cathey, my travel had been confined exclusively to the East Coast megalopolis – Boston to the north, D.C. to the south, and not very far inland. My family never ventured outside the region while I was growing up. I don’t remember my grandmother, who lived next door to us, ever leaving town during the last fifteen years or so of her life. Dad and Nana had moved from the Bronx in the 1930s and, although Nana had walked out of Russia and made her way through Europe to Ellis Island 30 years previous, and although Dad had island-hopped with MacArthur and sailed around the Horn numerous times in the Merchant Marines during WWII, once they had settled on a dirt road just outside of Flemington, NJ, they stuck like glue.
Mom was even more parochial. Born and raised in Frenchtown, just down the road from Flemington but less than half its size, Mom graduated Frenchtown High, went to nursing school in Newark, and lasted only two weeks before homesickness drove her back to Frenchtown. She lived within ten miles of her four older siblings for 70 years, until the eldest brother moved into his daughter’s condo in Boca. The remaining four passed where they had been raised. Aunt Sara was found on the floor of the kitchen in the family house in Frenchtown. She’d never left. There were whispers that she’d been the victim in a tragic love affair. To me, and later to Cathey, Sara had always been open and welcoming. We visited more often than any of the other nieces and nephews who had moved away, she always had cookies for us – store-bought chocolate chip, and if it was mealtime, maybe a bit of herring? We liked Sara and I think that she liked us. I hope that she didn’t suffer.
Cathey’s back story is a bit different. Born in her mother’s family’s base in New Orleans, she was raised successively in Brownsville, San Antonio, and Dallas, Texas. Her father was in the hotel and hospitality industry and had an affection for things Mexican. As a result, Cathey spent time in Mexico with family friends, went to college in Mexico City, and had done the Icelandic Airways/backpack Europe thing that was in vogue in those days besides. She was a traveler and felt comfortable in other people’s neighborhoods.
It was pure serendipity that I met Cathey on my first trip outside of my comfort zone. We first laid eyes on each other in 1970 at the old Dallas airport coincidentally named Love Field.
I discovered on that first trip that I enjoyed the road. It was a doozie of a trip – Flemington to Atlanta to Dallas to Indianapolis to Dallas to Indianapolis to New York to Boston to New York to Chicago to San Francisco to Los Angeles to Dallas to New Orleans to Dallas to Flemington. All in a 1970 VW Beetle – brand new when the trip started. Cathey and I have been traveling ever since, around the USofA, into Mexico, out to the Caribbean, and finally to England and Europe.
On the way, I discovered that I enjoyed breathing different air, tasting different foods, seeing different sites, figuring out how to communicate in a language other than English. For Cathey, who’d flown on DC3s when they were brand new and all the women – passengers and crew – wore white gloves, the idea of living an expatriate’s life was hardly a novel one. She knew many expats personally. She counted some among her best friends.
What did we want to do during our active retirement years? Travel. Where did we want to travel? Europe. Why not live there?
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