The house I lived in throughout my entire 30-year working life – and still own as a rental property – is at West 50th Street and Detroit Avenue on the near-west side of Cleveland, Ohio. It’s a modest, comfortable property (pictured above) in a gentrified yet ‘never dull’ part of the inner city.
It’s the only ‘home’ I’ve ever known. Until now.
When my wife Ellen and I started wandering the planet almost six years ago, the plan was NOT to have any home.
Instead we chose to live here and there, usually for a month or two in Airbnb rental units, as we roamed around the globe in early retirement.
That footloose lifestyle came to screeching halt last March (3-16-2020) in Malay, Aklan, Panay, Philippines — thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
We’ve been here in an apartment at the seaside HangOut Beach Resort ever since. It’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere except West 50th and Detroit.
At the beginning, my mom, who was visiting for a winter vacation when COVID struck, was ‘stuck’ here with us, before returning to America as vaccinations became available.
In the months after she departed, during the holiday season – I could feel myself truly ‘settle in’.
Maybe it’s not all that surprising. The coronavirus has had the entire world in an uproar throughout this whole period. Countries locked down. Airlines cut operations. Hopscotching around wasn’t even possible.
Still, somewhat shockingly, the drive and desire I had to continue our global meandering has faded. I feel I’m home.
It’s mid-year – again. A time when I normally take stock, review, plan, re-balance. Perhaps that’s why this ‘revelation’?
It’s also our wedding anniversary today. Six years. Happy Anniversary, baby! I couldn’t ask for a more adaptable, supportive, and generous partner. I love you! And I’m happy to be here in this new home with you.
As I laid awake last night, watching Ellen sleep, memories of the past travel years bounced around in my head; all the places and people and experiences that came before here. All of it amazing and fun and unforgettable. But not a single home.
Somehow now, in the midst of an ongoing worldwide health crisis, economic chaos, and a local lockdown, we have found our next real home.
And it appears we could be here quite a while longer. Currently, our Philippine province has reverted to a ‘general community quarantine’ status. Only essential travel is permitted. Alcohol sales are banned (I did stock up). COVID cases are rising. Medical facilities are stretched. Mass vaccinations are rumored to be coming sometime this summer. The goal is half the population inoculated by year end.
It would be accurate to say we’ve allowed it to happen: this place to become our home. But really, we’ve also created it.
We could have gone back to West 50th and Detroit or some other place in America. Instead we remained here and used our usual monthly travel budget, savings, emergency funds, stimulus monies, and more to positively affect those around us as they struggle in this unprecedented period.
As readers of this blog know, with the help of overseas donors, and mom, we have sponsored improvement projects and other charitable works for the benefit of friends and neighbors and complete strangers. We are proud of the assistance we’ve provided; the difference we’ve made; the small comfort given. We intend to do more. Thanks to all those who have helped. Anyone wishing to join the effort is welcome.
The other day, I was greeted as Theo by folks I’ve never met. It was a slightly odd but also heartwarming moment. I couldn’t see because of mandatory masks, but I know there were smiles too. It can only mean people are aware and appreciative of our attempts to help during a time of major local economic struggle. It made me feel welcome – and home.
Indeed, we feel fortunate to be in such a friendly place during this uncertain time. The Philippine people are wonderful. It’s been an incredible experience and education; every bit as fun and fulfilling as our previous years of vagabond travel.
I don’t know how long we will call the beach/rice fields/mountains of Malay, Philippines home. (Legally we can remain three years by renewing our tourist visas until November 2022). We will wait and watch what happens around the world and hope that the COVID recovery becomes widespread. At some point I’m sure my wanderlust will return.
In the meantime, we will continue to do all we can to support the people here who have helped make this our true second home. I do not expect to be back at West 50th and Detroit Avenue anytime soon. Happy Anniversary, Ellie!
As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.
Life is NOW!
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