Change…Big Change

If it seems like I bounce around in many different directions, it’s because I do.  One day, I might be ready to buy land and a tractor, the next day I come to the conclusion that it’s impractical or unaffordable.  Then, I might decide to abandon yard-work in favor of living in a condo.  Or I might decide to start a new business.  I must be/have ADD or something like it.  In the words of Paul Simon, I must have a “short little  span of attention.”  But sometimes, all that fades away into unimportance when the right thing “hits.”

The conversation came when we returned home after looking at the quality of workmanship of a fence company that had been recommended by some neighbors.  I don’t know what prompted me to say it: “Instead of spending a chunk of money on the house, maybe we should just spent what we must to maximize what we’d get out of it and then sell it.  Then we could buy a smaller place, for less money, and spend some of the difference fixing it up exactly like we want it.”

From there, we talked about just selling it and NOT buying another place.  Maybe, instead, we would buy an RV and travel around to places where we might be interested in settling…but we’d just set up shop temporarily and explore.  No long-term commitments; just a look-see.  We might rent a furnished place when we found a town, an area, with potential.  Yeah, we’d have to sell most of our “stuff” when we sell the house…we wouldn’t want to cart a bunch of “stuff” around with us. Just the bare essentials in the RV.

We’d buy a used RV that’s small enough for me to be comfortable driving it, but big enough to tow a car; we wouldn’t want to be saddled with an RV as our only means of transportation once we got to a stopping point.

And then we started talking about WHERE we might ultimately like to land.  My wife does not want to deal with snow and ice…rarely, maybe, but she doesn’t want to have to cope with it regularly.  And she doesn’t like cold weather.  Neither does she like abysmally hot weather, the kind of weather we’ve come to hate in Dallas…and many other places with winters that are at least tolerable.  Immediately, we both began to focus on the Pacific northwest.  The time we’ve spent in Oregon, albeit brief, sold us on that area of the country.  We love Portland and we enjoyed wandering through the Willamette Valley; we liked (me, perhaps, more than my wife) the little town of Woodburn, a place that appears to me to be a blue-collar, agricultural town with a heavy concentration of Hispanics in the population.

We talked about the coast, too.  I remember our trip to Cannon Beach and how much we enjoyed the beauty of the coast.  And we talked about places where I could, if necessary, find a job or find a way to generate some income.  We agreed we would need to do some research about places we might want to consider visiting, with an eye, eventually, toward settling down. My wife suggested we might not want to buy a place…certainly not immediately, maybe not ever.  Maybe, she suggested, we’d want to retain the freedom that   is impossible to have with home ownership.  “We could be gypsies,” I said, and she said “Yes, gypsies!”

And so I started, immediately, doing a bit of research.  For reasons I may address in a future post, I quickly targeted Astoria, Oregon.  It’s a small city with a population of only about 9,500, located at the mouth of the Columbia River just a short distance from the Pacific Ocean.  A quick check on real estate revealed that there are some affordable homes, plus there appear to be reasonably priced rentals…between $700 and $1100 per month (not cheap when you don’t have an income, but not obscenely over-priced).  I checked into voting records for Clatsop County (in which Astoria is located) and found that a majority (though not an overwhelming majority) voted for Obama in 2012…I like a place that’s got some balance, unlike the blood-red state of Texas (though I hope that changes, over time). There’s a nice mix of small businesses, a two-year community college (more on that below), and some very interesting “tourist” attractions, as well.  And it’s near places I’ve been and enjoyed when last we visited. And it has a hospital and doctors…though I suspect neither are “world class” with the latest gadgetry and technologies.

Clatsop Community College has a “community education” program as well as some certificate and an associate degree program track.  I was thrilled to see that the college has a certificate program in welding!  I would love to take some more courses in welding so I could actually get back into doing art (and some practical stuff) with welding.  Other course include classes such as these:

  • Fine Arts
  • Exercise
  • Computers
  • Martial arts
  • Foreign language
  • Music
  • Hobby classes
  • Writing
  • History
  • Astronomy
  • Personal enrichment
  • Ballroom dancing

Facebook friends gave me some valuable feedback, plus links to relevant websites, that made Astoria and the Oregon coast, in general, even more appealing.  Yeah, it’s way too early to settle on a place (especially one we’ve not even visited), but I’m pumped about taking a closer look.  So, next steps are in order.

First, more research.  Much, much more research.  Places, cost of living, etc.

And, of course, I need to explore what would be involved in buying, driving, and maintaining an RV.  I’ve never driven anything larger than a pickup or an SUV, so I’d have to get used to driving a beast like an RV.  And I’ve never pulled a trailer or towed a vehicle.  A lot to learn there.  And what about this house we live in?  What would we have to do to maximize the value?  How much would we have to spend to get it “right” to sell it?  And what does one do about mail when one is a gypsy?

When I decide on something, I like to move fast.  My wife likes to ruminate…for a long while.  So the challenge is going to be how to accommodate my impatience and desire for quick action and her desire to think everything through, slowly, ensuring that we don’t miss something in the rush to do something radically different from what we’ve done before.  I am sure we’ll be able to do it.  This conversation lead us to what will be a HUGE step for us.  The question, then, is how big, how fast…and how?

It may not be Astoria.  It may not be Oregon.  But it will be someplace.  We will, indeed, hit the road to start seeking a place for us.  When, I don’t know.  But it will happen.  Now, I KNOW it will happen.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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7 Responses to Change…Big Change

  1. Bob, thanks so much for your post and your wise counsel! I truly appreciate reading about your experience and your perspective! I look forward to our spot “finding us!” By the way, tell Susan I hope she fully heals soon so I can read more on her blog about your experiences!

  2. Bob says:


    So my point is this…. even though you may think you can pre-select your ultimate “spot” when you make a decision to move on, sometimes that spot just finds you. Being gypsys for a while may be a good thing, and in so doing your spot may find you.

    We never made it to Oregon and probably never will (as a place to live). But a part of my heart lives there and there are wonderful spots in the Willamette Valley (Eugene, Corvallis, other small but not too remote towns), as well as the coast like Astoria or south like Gold Beach, and a fabulous town outside Medford called Jacksonville. Western Oregon won’t be hot, you won’t get much snow but ya gotta love rain!

    Good luck in your search!

  3. Bob says:

    Hi John…I don’t often read your blogs, but when I do…..I sometimes think that you are indeed the “most interesting man in the world”.

    22 years ago when we decided we just had to leave the Bay Area, we were searching for “the spot”. We had a second home in a small mountain town that we discovered to be an ideal getaway place. When we sold our primary home in the Bay Area quickly, we made a decision to move temporarily to our second home in that small town of Arnold (population 4,000, elevation 4,000′, basically two hours from anything). Sure, we had a decent grocery store and basic medical care and a small-town school for our daughter starting kindergarten with nurturing teachers, but it was clearly going to be too remote for us. After all, the closest Starbucks and movie theater (and stop light) were 30 minutes away, the closest Target or Lowe’s or hospital was 45 minutes away, all on narrow winding mountain roads. So we decided to stay there one year and look to settle in Eugene, Oregon, where I had gone to school 100 years earlier (seemingly). But to make a long story short, we ended up staying there for 21 years. Why? Three primary reasons: the genuine values of the friends we made (all of like political perspectives), the peacefulness of the fresh mountain air and it’s four distinct seasons, and the lack of hassle living in an urban or suburban setting. We moved our business there and from a base of 3 employees and revenue of very low six figures, built it over time to more than 30 employees and 20 times revenue. As we told our clients, we had “one foot in the forest and one foot in the board room”. And it all worked. We never missed any of our daughter’s school events or athletic events, even when she was in high school and we had to travel 2 1/2 hours for a Tuesday afternoon softball game. We worked our butts off in our business but our schedule was ours and we cherished the balance we were able to create.

    Now that we are both retired and our daughter in in her third year of medical school, we’ve chosen to go back to “civilization” in a town outside Sacramento where if we turn right, in 15 minutes we can be in a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe’s or a Nordstrom’s or a hospital; if we turn left, in 5 minutes we are in the midst of pastures, horse farms, streams and oak groves amidst rolling hills counting the wild turkeys, peacocks, sheep, goats and rabbits. We miss the solitude of Arnold and our close friends but do not miss the remoteness. We’ve made a good group of new friends and still stay in close touch with our “mountain friends”.

  4. druxha says:

    Good deal, John! Thanks!

  5. I’ll keep you posted, Trish!

  6. druxha says:


    As far as Astoria, OR goes, I’ve only been there in passing. It was picturesque, but that’s all I can tell you about it. I did travel often in my teens and twenties all over Oregon. In general a truly beautiful state in my opinion, the Oregonians were great, too…less neurotic than us Californians, I say. 😉

    Hope to hear here which scheme of life you and Janine will choose! BTW, personally I love the gypsy concept! Oooolée! 🙂

  7. druxha says:

    Your plan is interesting, John, and it jogged my memory of my Aunt & Uncle from many years ago when they were approaching retirement. They lived in a rambling house up in the mountains above Reno. So they came up with a plan that worked for them for many years to come. They’d purchased a rather large Winnebago motor-home, and every year they’d mosey on down to Bahia Cabo San Lucas and set up camp in front of the sea. They keep their house in Reno, letting their grown children, or relatives (like us!) use it in their long absence (they were down south 9 months out of the year), and they also rented it out, which paid in part the south of the boarder expeditions. I recall that they enjoyed this lifestyle a great deal!…..must post and open another comment to finish, for the bottom cuts and the post button no were in sight…has happened before….

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