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Monday, June 27, 2016

My itinerant lifestyle

I'm packing again. I'll move out of my place and into a different  house in Portland on Friday, July 1st. My unusual living situation requires it. I have been renting a lovely, fully equipped apartment in a perfect location for 10 months each year since September 2014. However, the owner of the apartment returns to Portland from Los Angeles each summer and reclaims her apartment to get away from the heat of southern California.

That's not a problem, I responded when learning of these terms, I'll just return to my native Colorado to reconnect with family and friends and enjoy the summer in Boulder. And I don't have to move out completely,  I can put away my personal effects and leave them in boxes in the basement.

But this year is different. I won't leave Portland for the summer. I've found a house-sitting gig not far from my current place. A friend will be traveling to Scotland for two months and she would like someone to watch over her home, sort the mail, and occasionally drive her car so that it won't suffer from disuse. There are no pets to take care of and no houseplants to water - so I won't be tied down to a rigid schedule. Furthermore, the house is in a historic Portland neighborhood filled with large beautiful homes. And the icing on the cake? It's not far from a vibrant commercial neighborhood filled with interesting shops and restaurants.

I'm thrilled. I'll have a new neighborhood to explore.

But Elaine, isn't it hard for you to pack up and move all the time? Don't you want a place of your own?

Well, yes. I sometimes wish I didn't have to put my books away in boxes, sort through my clothes and  decide what I need while packing everything else away. I do lose a little sleep as I get used to a different bed and have trouble finding things in a new kitchen and new neighborhood.

And sometimes I wish I owned my own place with a view of the mountains or the city lights or both.  I would love to have beautiful modern furniture, my own art on the walls, a well-equipped kitchen, and space enough for entertaining. I would live near parks, shops,  and restaurants that would provide everything I want without needing to drive my car. Finally, I'd like to live near my son so that I could enjoy a future grandchild.

But housing has become terribly expensive in Portland. It's a seller's market with buyers (and renters!) going to extraordinary lengths to bid on the few houses or apartments that come available. I do keep my eyes and ears open - just in case something comes up that I can afford. But with a limited fixed income and no job, I am unwilling to blow what's left of my savings on a home. And my current apartment, even though I live here for only 10 months a year, meets my needs perfectly.

I prefer freedom. Freedom to travel, freedom to explore, freedom from THINGS. I don't want to be tied down by possessions. I like the discipline of keeping my life simple. My "things" have no hold on me.

I think it keeps me humble. And it certainly gives me flexibility: I feel free to live in Boulder or Paris or Portland or wherever my heart desires, needing only what I can carry in a suitcase.

My decision to live in fully equipped houses with furniture, linens, and artwork that I haven't chosen wouldn't work for everyone.

But so far, since I moved out of my home in Boulder in 2008, leaving behind everything except my clothes and books; it has worked for me. I spent four carefree years living in Paris and traveling in Europe with no furniture, mortgage, or household repairs to worry about.

My attitude, my needs, and my desires may change in the future. But for now, from the first of July until the 7th of October, I'll be sleeping in other people's beds, looking after other people's houses, and exploring new neighborhoods. What an adventure!