We should be in Canada right now. If you have been following our journey, you know that we sold our house and most of our belongings over 3 years ago so that we could travel through Europe for 9 months of the year and help others with their European travel plans. In the summer months, we usually retreat to our only home, a cottage that my parents built on a lake in Quebec, Canada.
If you are new to this blog, let me invite you to read more about us and our lifestyle by exploring our website About Us section and perusing some prior blogs such as Go Big or Go Home – How to Live Abroad in 3 Easy Steps, So I Quit My Job – Now What?, An Update from the Vagabonds, Our Grand Tour of Europe Begins, and Catching Up with the Vagabonds – Part I and Part II.
The coronavirus pandemic has deeply affected each one of us in numerous ways. I want to preface this post by stating for the record that we feel extraordinarily fortunate. We are weathering the storm well, but it is strange not to have a home right now. The best advice we have beyond wearing a mask, washing our hands, and staying 6 feet away from others is to stay at home as much as possible. It’s too bad we can’t click our heels like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz as we realize “there’s no place like home,” especially at this particular juncture.
In the “Before Times” – Life Before the Pandemic
I have gone to our cottage in Canada every summer of my life. Our children have also traveled to Quebec every summer of their lives. Our friends are there, our community is there, and honestly, my clothes and underwear are there – we travel with a suitcase and a backpack during the year and all my extra clothes are at the lake house. I have been wearing the exact same few outfits since we left the cottage last September, 2019. Remember 2019? We didn’t know how good we had it!
Life as we Now Know It
We were in northern Italy when the pandemic really started to hit globally. We wrote about this experience in A Letter from the Langhe in the Time of Coronavirus and My Reflections on Our Time in Italy During Coronavirus. We flew back to the US from Paris on March 14. We have literally been couch surfing ever since.
We are so lucky! We spent our initial 14-day quarantine with our daughter and her husband in their 2 bedroom-1 bath home in Madison, Wisconsin. When our quarantine was up, everything else shut down. Our son-in-law was able to work from home. We worked on our website and our blog, built a deck and helped with renovations, ate wonderful meals together, had ZOOM happy hours with friends across the world, watched every season of Game of Thrones for the second time, and did our best to deal with the shock of our global situation.
We stayed in lockdown in Wisconsin until the end of May. Chelsea and Sam would have let us stay, but we felt it was time to give them some space. We moved on to Ohio to stay with Greg’s parents for over a month. Our family welcomed us and we enjoyed our time together. But we have to give our family a break at some point! Fortunately, we also have friends who kindly and generously opened their homes and their hearts to us. We moved on.
Where Did Our Travel Plans Take Us? Where Did We Go?
After Ohio, we visited friends and former colleagues in Tennessee. These are some of our very dearest friends. We wanted to be extraordinarily careful in coming into other people’s homes – we do NOT want to bring the virus to anyone. We wear our mask, use hand sanitizer, and do not go where there are crowds. At the end of June, our friends in Tennessee sustained us on our first outing beyond family since March. We enjoyed their hospitality immensely. We ate well, drank some, cried a little and laughed a lot. We had movie marathons and a fire in the chimenea. It all felt almost normal.
We moved on from there to our friends’ house in Arkansas. It was awesome. They live on a lake and it felt so reminiscent of our place in Canada, albeit, an Arkansas version. I read by the lake, we took boat rides in the evenings, we kayaked along the shore and worked on Euro Travel Coach on their screened in porch, which felt like heaven. We hiked, played Top Golf for the first time and even visited Crystal Bridges, an amazing museum in Bentonville.
Crystal Bridges was our first museum to visit in many months. We wore masks, we used the hand sanitizer at the door and at strategic points throughout the building, and we socially distanced, while we viewed world class American art. It didn’t matter that we were wearing a mask. It felt normal and wonderful to be there. It was incredible to be inspired and moved by the work of these artists, especially during a pandemic.
From Arkansas, we traveled to Colorado to visit more friends. I can’t begin to tell you how kind and generous all these people have been. We are humbled and grateful. We are having a good time! We only get to see these friends occasionally and it was incredible to spend nearly a week with them in their cabin in the mountains. They showed us all around. We hiked together, ate out together, visited Aspen and watched sunsets. It has been really quite amazing.
And more, they went back to their lives and jobs in Texas, and let us stay here in Colorado and continue to explore. We are hiking new trails, cooking meals, reading books, doing puzzles, working on our website, and writing blogs, all due to our friends’ generosity. To say we are grateful is a vast understatement.
Where do our Travel Plans take us from Here?
As travel planners, we usually know where we are going next. If the Canadian border opens up, we know where we will go. At this point, that seems unlikely for a while. But we will move on. We’ve never been to Yellowstone, and we’re out this far and don’t really have other plans, so we may go there. We have friends in Bozeman who say we can come visit. We would love to see them and have never been to Montana. That sounds fun! Then we’ll probably go back to Madison, Wisconsin.
Is This Nomadic Life Sustainable?
Every month I think we’ll be able to get to our cottage. Every month since March, the US and Canada have decided to extend the border closure. I’m not sure how long we can rely on the kindness of our friends and family. We can’t do this forever. Our daughter has asked us what we’ll do if the border doesn’t open up. She and her husband have generously said we can always stay with them. We love being there and it’s so much fun to help them with their house – but as a young professional couple, they don’t need their parents there all the time! So, we’ll see.
We’ve thought about buying a fixer-upper house, living in it during this crazy time, renovating it and flipping it. But if the Canadian border opens up, we’d really rather be there, so it’s a tough call. We’ve thought about hiking part of the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m not sure how feasible that is, but it’s fun to think about it. We’ve had more friends generously offer to let us stay with them. Depending on how this plays out, we may take them up on it! We are usually planning our fall European adventures by now, but Americans are not allowed to travel there yet either, so we’re not quite sure how we’ll continue to turn these lemons into lemonade, but we’ll figure it out.
What is the State of Travel to Europe in the Future?
When we get this virus under control – and I say when because I have to remain hopeful for my own mental health – we will be able to travel to Europe again, and help others do the same. We just don’t know how long it will take to reach that point. Canadians are allowed to travel to Europe now, and we are here to help them with their plans. We also have trips we are planning for our clients in 2021. Hopefully, things will be better by then.
We love helping other people travel, and I think there will be an enormous demand for travel advisors who can be a support system for those who want to go abroad. Travel is changing. Rules and regulations are different than they were before coronavirus. Travel insurance is more important than it used to be. Travel experts are on top of these changes and are able to provide what is needed for our clients so they can relax and enjoy their vacations. I can’t wait to be able to do that again for everyone. We can do that from anywhere. We’ll continue to be vagabonds in the US until we can cross the border to Canada – and then travel to Europe again. European travel will come back when it is safe. We’ll be here, ready to make amazing trips for our clients, when that time comes.
Do We Regret Becoming Nomads?
Not for a second. We have had the most amazing journey in the last 3 years. We are so grateful for this adventure, this chance to explore Europe, to help others do the same, and now the opportunity to explore parts of the US. It also gives us pause to realize how truly fortunate we are to have friends and family who take care of us always, even during a global pandemic. We hope that each of you are equally blessed with a community that wraps its arms around you in all times.
So, what is it like to be nomadic travel planners during a pandemic? I think Greg put it best, just the other day, when he said: “Even though our life sucks right now, it’s still pretty great.”
Dreaming of travel to Europe when things open up again? We can help with that! We are here for your custom trip planning to Italy, France, Ireland, the UK and all of Europe. We are experts in creating custom travel itineraries and leading small group trips to European destinations. We also book European cruises! Feel free to reach out via email — We’re always available to talk about travel!
Betsy Ball – Betsy is co-founder and partner of Euro Travel Coach (ETC), which crafts custom European vacations for independent travelers and leads small group trips to Europe. She is a passionate and culturally curious traveler who thoroughly enjoys sharing her love for exploring Europe with ETC clients. Prior to founding ETC, Betsy taught International Business at Tarleton State University in Texas (part of the A & M System) where she led study abroad trips to multiple European countries and other worldwide destinations. She retired from teaching two and a half years ago and now travels 9 months of the year in Europe. She has a degree in hotel, restaurant management from Michigan State University and an MBA from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She also holds a Level 3 certification from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust.
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