Where To Next?

The view from home at Plum Island a couple of days ago after a cold front passed through

The wind raging outside right now is a reminder that everything changes, that no matter whether you’re in the middle of the prettiest sunny day or the most frightening storm, well, whatever it is it ain’t gonna last. That the wind is blowing out of the northwest and bringing with it a definite feel of autumn only adds to the feeling of impermanence.

The wind adds to the melancholy I’m wallowing in right now after resigning myself to the fact that I will not be able to buy out my brother and keep the house that has been in our family since 1972. Plum Island, the building and the place itself, are what my heart and soul have considered home going back as far as I have memories. No matter how far I roamed and how much I felt at home there, Plum Island was always home. It was always going to be home. Or so I thought.

I explored a ton of options for how I might keep the place but in the end, nothing has worked out. All my plans hinged on getting my career going again, and that has proven a tough nut to crack. I’ve applied for — and even gotten unsolicited calls about — some jobs that were, to be blunt, spot-on fits for my experience and expertise. But in the end, those have ultimately gone nowhere.

I have contract work lined up from now until June 2021 that pays me enough to afford a loan payment, but because it’s all 1099 work (as opposed to W-2 work), no bank will give me the loan. I even looked into some wonderful friends who expressed interest in buying into a portion of the house in an effort to reduce the loan I would need.

But in the end, the lack of security of my income situation scared me away. In any scenario I’d have been house-poor and the slightest interruption in income would have led me perilously close to losing the house and having nothing to show for it. And that insecurity I couldn’t handle.

So my brother and I have settled on a realtor and had a home stager in to make a plan for listing the place. It should go pretty quickly and for a pretty penny, so that will be nice, but I’ll still be a wreck. And while I’ve always been a vagabond, I always had Plum Island to return to. Without that anchor, that foundation, I don’t know how I’ll feel.

Granted, these are all very much first-world problems. I’m not getting shot by a cop, I don’t have the coronavirus and I’m not worried about where my next meal is coming from. I am well aware of how easy I have it. But it’s still going to be emotionally traumatic for me. Sorry if you think that makes me a wimp.

Came across an old Doonesbury compilation while going through my stuff today. One page had a bookmark in it and these were the strips highlighted (click on the image to enlarge). Seemed kinda apropos given my current quandary. Just call me Howie from now on, I guess. ????

And it raises a big question: what next? WHERE next?

The obvious option would be to return to living aboard Further down in Maryland, and that’s definitely a possibility. But I have to confess that living aboard for another northern winter doesn’t really appeal to me, and more pertinently, I’m not sure I want to live in a marina — with communal bathrooms and showers and laundry rooms — during a global pandemic.

What about sailing away? Well, as much as that seems like a great way to avoid the pandemic, where would I go? Most of the islands in the Caribbean are not allowing American boats to enter (as of this writing). The rally I was signed up for in November 2018 says it’s still set to go to Antigua this year but I’m curious to hear how that’s gonna work. And hey, Barbados and Bermuda both have new programs for telecommuters so maybe those are the sailing destinations this winter.

Sailing to warmth…what about Florida? Given that state’s response to the pandemic, sailing there seems akin to sailing to Chernobyl or Fukushima. The Florida Keys are intriguing, so let’s call them a possibility.

Then there are options where I leave Further on land all winter to get some work done on her and just drive around the U.S. alternating between mountains and desert and beach, camping everywhere and living on the cheap while I telecommute. Back to old haunts in Utah, Montana, San Diego or even Alaska? Set up camp on the Outer Banks for surf and kiting? It sure seems like there won’t be any old-guy hockey this winter, so my beloved skates in Exeter, New Hampshire, and Hamilton, Massachusetts, aren’t factors.

Or instead of driving, how about flying somewhere — back to Puerto Escondido, Mexico, or some other warm, surfy destination — to telecommute and live on the cheap? That’s definitely worth considering.

Were it not for the damned coronavirus, these would be really interesting deliberations. But regardless of travel mode, the pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench into any contemplation of travel or settling anywhere — not least because, as mentioned above, we Americans aren’t welcome, really, anywhere (so much winning…).

And there’s always the possibility that one of these jobs I’ve put in for — there are a couple out there right now that are both right in my wheelhouse and very interesting to me — will come in. But in this COVID-dominated era, even those jobs are largely remote, so my location won’t necessarily be determined by my job.

There’s another question, too: where do I want to establish my residency after the Plum Island house sells? Tax rates, insurance rates, rents, cost of living, politics…all are factors that will determine which state will become my next legal home. And, of course, everything’s on the table if the election results in November go a certain way.

Again, all first-world problems, I realize. But I’m already gutted when I think about driving away that final time from the home where I thought I’d spend my entire life. Here’s hoping the wind will be at my back that day.

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