The Houseless, not Homeless, Life

“Every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight
If it’s not too dear”
Lyrics from the Beatles, “When I’m Sixty Four

Ventnor sea front

Ventnor sea front

There are definite challenges to our “Houseless, not homeless,” lifestyle. Things that we took for granted in our old homes and neighborhoods are difficult or non-existent. For example, near our Tacoma apartment we had a great gym with a pool that we used almost every morning. Since leaving the US in April we’ve only found one home location with a nearby gym that would let us pay for day use. That means our exercise routines are limited to living room calisthenics, walking, or, in our two most recent flats, swimming in the English Channel.

Sunset view from our flat

Sunset view from our flat

It has also been a stretch to connect. We had hoped to be able to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity like we did back in Tacoma. But even though there are Habitat for Humanity chapters in Portugal, Ireland, and England, none of them had active projects. I’ve been able to attend a few Toastmasters meetings in England, but there are none on the Isle of Wight, our current home. We have managed to sign up for three shifts over the balance of this month helping at the island food bank warehouse. Depending on how strenuous the work is, it might also qualify as gym time.

Exploring a local 11th century church

Exploring a local 11th century church

The biggest adjustment has been a sense of purpose. When we were walking the Camino it was easy. We had big end goals in mind—reaching Santiago de Compostella or Finistere—and daily goals of distance, clean laundry, a place to sleep, and food. I do spend time on writing and writing related tasks. But it’s a big difference from years when we had day jobs that were a big part of our existence.

For now, we are enjoying the experience of living on the Isle of Wight, a quiet but interesting place. Before we booked a month in a flat on this island off the southern coast of England, my only knowledge of it was from the Beatles “When I’m Sixty-Four” lyrics that appear at the beginning of this post.

1860s era Holy Trinity Church

1860s era Holy Trinity Church

We’re spending the month of September in the village of Ventnor, on the southern edge of the island. We look out on Holy Trinity Church built in the 1860s, which has the tallest steeple I can recall seeing in a small town church. Beyond we can see the English Channel, but not France. It’s almost 100 miles away and out of sight, even from the high hill behind us.

When we mentioned to people that we were spending a month here they either told us it was beautiful or asked us what we would do there for a full month—implying that we were crazy. But this is a lifestyle, not a vacation, and this charming place has been a nice change from bigger cities.

Hillside above us

“Neighbors” on the hillside above us

We’ve been to the local country market where we sampled and bought achocha cucumbers—which look like a hedgehog fell in love with a pickle. We visited local charity shops and discount stores to get gear for the beach and equip our flat for a full month stay. And we’ve found some great hikes along the beach and inland.

Ventnor from the hillside above us

Ventnor from the hillside above us

For entertainment, sports on the island include cricket, rugby, ice hockey, and…pigeon racing. The large agricultural industry means ploughing competitions, harvest festivals, and a donkey sanctuary. And there is live music at many local venues.

Karl Marx lived right next to our flat--over a 100 years ago.

Karl Marx lived right next to our flat–over a 100 years ago.

We’ve also located the only Starbucks on Isle of Wight, which was good as I was almost out of ground coffee. Our preference is to try local establishments, but we do make an exception for Laurie’s former employer.

For now, we’ll enjoy the slower pace, the friendly people, and the chance to see why Paul McCartney suggested a cottage every summer on the Isle of Wight when he penned, “When I’m Sixty-Four.”

Trip Update

On October 1 we head to Berlin for ten days. That will be personally exciting as we haven’t been back since the days the Berlin wall was coming down. See my Keeping the People in story on that.

After that we’ll head back to the Seattle area to spend the holidays with our families. I’m speaking at the Seattle University Search for Meaning Book Festival on February 25, 2017. After that we’ll set out across the US to visit friends we keep promising to visit–but haven’t, work with Habitat for Humanity, and see interesting places.


  1. Patty deRidder
    September 10, 2016

    So I gather the Isle of Wight wasn’t “too dear”! Do enjoy your posts!

    • worldrover11
      September 11, 2016

      Fortunately, it was reasonable. In part because we reserved for the full month and we can use buses or walking to get around. And there’s no grandchildren named Vera, Chuck, or Dave who need college funds.