Now, when I say “winter,” I loosely mean “everything from when it starts to get cold until it stops being cold.” So, we headed out from our Michigan place at the end of September, and traveled pretty constantly until last week.
I will note that we did return “home” (ish) in November and stayed in the Midwest until New Years. The purpose of this unplanned return was to sell our old townhouse in the Chicago suburbs, so we actually spent a good bit of time staying at that townhouse, and then hotels in the area. So, with the logistics, transit and moving, and the fact that our original plan involved Key Largo in November and December instead of a Michigan-Illinois mish-mash, I’m just rolling the whole thing into one giant ball of transit.
Whew. With caveats out of the way… Everyone likes to take a data-driven approach these days, so let’s do that.
Our Vagabonding Season, by the Numbers
Alright, here are the raw stats of our travels.
233 days of moving around
4 homes occupied (5, if you count the place we own in Michigan, and 7 if you count places we stayed for ~10 days instead of a month)
I am typing this from home. Or, at least, I’m typing it from a house that we own. We’ve always thought of it as our lake house, despite opting to make it our primary residence as far as various municipalities are concerned.
This puts in southwest Michigan, kind of in the middle of nowhere, and definitely in the woods. And it’s nice to be back!
I was going to do a winter retrospective this week, but I thought I’d tackle the subject of coming home instead. Maybe I’ll do the winter retrospective next week.
The Trip Home
As I mentioned last week, our last vagabonding stop was the Florida Keys before spending a week in Raleigh to visit a client. So the final leg of our cold season journey involved a single (long) day trip from Raleigh to here in Michigan.
That was a minor adventure. The vent system in our Jeep is on the fritz, and it crapped out an hour or so into the trip.
Now, this might not sound like a big deal, but when you’re traveling with cats, you can’t really roll the windows down. And, even though it was probably 40 degrees or something for you northerners, Monday in North Carolina saw highs around 90. So we sweltered.
But, as luck would have it, the temperature dropped 50 degrees during the course of that drive, as we headed north and the sun headed west and down. So, by the end, we were actually cold in the car, with the window cracked to prevent the windshield from fogging, rather than to keep us from dying of heat stroke.
But we made it.
We made it to a house that was more or less in good working order. Eh, give or take a weird smell from mineral deposits in the water heater and a sagging deck by the lake there. The place held up pretty well for a house relentlessly attacked by ice-nadoes and bomb cyclones and whatnot all winter.
So we did what anyone used to 80 degree weather, beaches, and sun for the last bunch of months would have done upon arriving in the frigid north. We made a fire.
Luckily, the cold spell lasted only a day, and now I’m out jogging in the 75+ degree weather to which I am accustomed. And, I’m doing it back home where I can take power tools to anything in the house that displeases me, rather than calling an AirBNB host to come fix it.
On the return trip, Amanda and I started listening to the audio book Ready Player One. I haven’t finished it yet, but as someone who grew up RPGs and reading fantasy books in the 80s, it’s a real laugh-shot of nostalgia.
I’ve historically had a… complicated… relationship with Quicken. I’ve relied on it heavily to keep my books for 2 decades, but its user experience is somewhere between that of the DMV and the business side of a rumble strip. But as of Quicken 2019, you can sync your finances with their server, giving you the ability to quickly log a receipt from anywhere, as if using Expensify. I no longer keep receipts in my wallet, and consider this a game-changer.
Amanda and I visited the Duke Lemur Center while we were in Raleigh. For something like $25, you can wander around visiting the different lemur exhibits, and there are tour guides stationed everywhere to answer all of your questions and talk about the different animals. If you like cute cat-monkeys, you will not be disappointed.
Now that I’m home, I plan to make good on my threats for more content. But, since that didn’t apply to the past week, here’s another embarrassingly sparse digest.
We published a video on the Hit Subscribe Youtube channel, where we talk about the case study website we’re building with Hit Subscribe.
A week ago, I was watching the sunset over the Florida Keys. As I did that, I wrote a post summarizing my take on the area, in detail. What I didn’t mention is where we were headed next.
It was Raleigh, North Carolina. And I’ll talk about that, briefly.
A few weeks ago, Amanda and I faced a logistical problem. The drive from Rarmod Key to our house in Michigan takes something like 24 hours, which, given our cat situation, does not lend itself to a single trip.
So our logistical issue was, “three legs of 8-ish hours or 2 legs of 12-ish hours” and, in either case, where might we enjoy stopping for a few days. We thought about places like Jacksonville, Savannah, Charlotte, and… wait a minute. Charlotte is fairly close to Raleigh… and we have a client/partner in Raleigh!
On kind of a whim, I reached out to see about a visit. And, before I knew it, we’d not only decided to do it, but scheduled some useful sessions to lay out some new mutual opportunities.
With that scheduled, we decided to make a week or so of it. We arrived last Saturday night (Sunday morning) and have been enjoying local sites, warm weather, delicious barbecue, and walks through the piney woods near our hotel. Oh, and Amanda and I each had to shop for some business casual clothes because our vagabonding life is pretty much shorts, flip-flops and T-shirts.
So we’re here enjoying the area for a few more days before completing the journey back to Michigan. And, that’s the story of how a couple of slow travelers turned a random stop-over into a fun business trip.
I recently discovered that Gatorade makes a zero calorie drink, and I like it a lot more than I would have thought. I historically liked to drink the zero calorie Sobes and Bais, so if either of those is up your alley, give Gatorde Zero a try.
I’m going to throw a pick to the idea of taking some time each morning to have coffee and let my attention wander. Instead of immediately trying to be productive, I’ve started to allow 30-60 minutes to socialize on Slack, read random articles from my feed, and generally just poke around the internet. Rather than being wasteful, this has actually really help me get all distractions out of my system and focus for the rest of the day.
In this video, I talked about why we started a remote-only company and why slow traveling is important to us. I was taking time off when we recorded this one and had just gotten done swimming, so I was a little looking a little rough.
And, in another Facebook Live, we talked about the site we own, makemeaprogrammer.com. This includes why we built it, what we hope to do with it, and what this has to do with content marketing.
We’re packing up to leave the Keys in about 36 hours. It’s been a wonderful time down here, where we’ve hosted friends and family, done a good bit of work, and had a lot of fun throughout it all.
I started our time here by chronicling our first impressions. I’d like to bookend those by revisiting them, contrasting my experience after a few days with the experience after almost 5 weeks.
To recap, we’re staying on Ramrod Key, which is about a 40 minute drive from Key West. This puts us near the midway point between Marathon and Key West, both serious vacation destinations. Here in the middle, it’s more snowbirds and locals.
Tramping around the mangroves at sunset.
Early on, I talked about encountering some derelicts and few people besides. Naturally, since we’d just gotten there and hadn’t ventured out much.
While we would periodically encounter other derelicts during our time here, the ratio was no higher than you might expect anywhere else. But we did have occasion to form an actual informed opinion.
We went to local tourist spots and ranged around the Keys, but we also discovered where the locals hang out. And we went to hang out there with them. (I won’t go into specifics here, since multiple people expressed to me that they prefer to keep these quiet so as not to find themselves flooded with tourists.)
A number of people are quasi-locals in the form of snowbirds or recent retirees. These folks come from kind of all over the place.
And then you have the transplants. These are generally folks who took the admirable step of saying “life in _____ is no fun, so I’m packing up and moving to the Keys to orient my life around fishing/diving/boating/whatever.”
As you might expect, the unifying theme here is a love for all aquatic (and, to a lesser degree, laid back life and warmth).
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the 3 weeks we’ve spent in the lower Florida keys so far, it’s that every Tom, Dick and Harry, is actually Captain Tom, Captain Dick, and Captain Harry to you, landlubber. Seriously, though. I think the post office replaced Mr. with Cpt.
Compared to people on average throughout the US, I’d say that the locals here tend to be slightly friendlier, slightly more focused on living in the moment, more committed to “working to live” and very into the sea. We met a lot of great people here.
In most of these digest posts, I either answer questions about slow travel or else I chronicle my life doing the same. Today, though, I’ll do something a little different.
I’m going to offer kind of a philosophical take on slow travel. And I’m going to do it using the weather as sort of a proxy.
In the Beginning: Schadenfreude, But Only a Little
This is now the 4th winter that my wife and I have spent mobile and mostly south. The last winter I spent almost entirely in the Midwest was the winter of 2014-2015, during which I spent most weeks commuting back and forth between Chicago and Detroit.
That was a brutal winter.
Less of this
I routinely drove in blizzards and had flights canceled by blizzards. And by the end of that winter, I vowed, “never again.”
Fast forward one year, and early January had us driving south with a (metaphorical) “Louisiana or bust” sign on our car. We wouldn’t return until late April.
At first, when we made that lifestyle decision, we’d listen to the weather report of things at home with interest. Oh my goodness, were we missing a blizzard? Were the temperatures in the teens?
It was fun and sort of gratifying to go outside in jeans and a sweatshirt while knowing that we were missing out on polar vortexes or whatever. So it’s not so much that we wished any kind of bad weather on our friends back home, but that we wanted our decision to have been the right one. As my wife likes to say, we wanted to feel that we were “making good choices.”
The Gradual Path Toward Living in a Vacuum
I’m typing this, right now, from the Florida Keys. Every day, the highs here range between about 83 degrees and 86, while the lows can vary anywhere from 74 to 78. Sometimes it rains a little.
This is an example of a very insulated climate, relative to the Midwest. A fishing guide told us that Key West is the only city in the continental US that has experienced neither frost nor 100+ temperatures. I believe it.
We’ve also spent time in San Diego and the Sonoran Desert. A lot of time.
Now, we’ve also spent time in places like Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. When the polar vortexes roll through the plains and the Midwest, they also affect those places, as if both were weights on a string separated by about 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
But when you start to spend time in enclaves of the country unmoored from the weather most others experience, it becomes kind of surreal to you. Think of the way some overeager factoid crafter might approach you and say, “do you know what the summer high temperature in Barrow, Alaska is?! It’s 47 degrees!”
You’d just kind of shudder and shrug and think, “well, whatever, I guess them’s the breaks if you live there.” It’s unreal to you.
My Take on the Weather These Days
We have people that work for us living in the Midwest. And, of course, we have friends and family there as well. As I’m typing this draft, those folks are anticipating a snowstorm on April 27th.
And I find myself completely unplugged from it, even after just 4 years.
Upon hearing that news, I vaguely thought to myself, “is that too late for snow in Illinois, or are people just annoyed by what usually happens?” I can’t remember. (And, as an aside, I’ve stopped thinking of Illinois or Michigan really as “home” and started thinking of them, like anywhere else we go, as places)
The nomadic life is wonderful and strange.
Until you go full-drifter, you probably won’t realize how much of your life’s rhythm involves commiseration over local stuff. You and half the people in your feed are saying things like, “can you believe it’s snowing again?!” Or maybe it’s complaining about local politicians or sports teams.
Whatever it is, it unites you in life’s mundanities.
I don’t have anything like that, really, anymore. We don’t have a large circle of friends here in Ramrod Key to commiserate with about larger-than-normal jellyfish populations or sea grass or whatever. And I no longer relate to or care about Illinois snow or local Michigan politics.
In a way, it’s like being in the bottom layer of inception, where time slows way down and wraps you in unreality. Except, instead of a nightmarish, Hotel California situation, I actually have my wife, my pets, and frequent interactions with folks I like through remote channels. So, it’s like living in pleasant fantasy land.
So I take no joy whatsoever in your weather woes, nor even a feeling that I’m making good choices. I just sit in my cocoon of vagonding and think of you and the inhabitants of Barrow and conclude, “wow, that’s hard to relate to.”
If you’ve ever felt the pain of wanting to give something personal, but having distance or expediency make cash a much better option, this site, Giftly, gives you the best of both worlds. It’s a way to send cash, but packaged in the form of curated suggestions for things to do with the gift, at your option.
It has been a rough few weeks for me in terms of time to create content, so I’ve got another anemic digest. But don’t worry, more fill flow soon.
I published a Youtube video for Hit Subscribe about how to make your blog posts rank better by breaking up text in them using a variety of techniques.
In a Facebook Live recorded in Isle of Palms, we talked about the different kinds of content that we offer with Hit Subscribe. It’s actually a lot more than just blog posts.
And, finally, speaking of slow travel, here’s a house tour of our place at the Isle of Palms beach.