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We are currently house sitting in the United States, having returned from six months in Australia and a few more in Asia. We picked up our car in Boston, where our family had generously agreed to watch over it for us. With a good washing and a tank of gas our Toyota Corolla, JJ, was ready to hit the road, loaded up with our belongings, and we were off to Phoenix, Arizona.
While in Arizona, we have enjoyed the ease of having a vehicle and getting around the greater Phoenix area in the summer heat. Neil and I were talking about our car a lot, because we have decided to drive to California in the coming fall, and then fly out to Costa Rica from there.
There is a lot of planning involved when we travel, and with no home base, we don’t really have somewhere to park JJ when we head out of the US. Added to the mix, we are sort of bi-coastal, with our family in Boston, our sons in Oregon, and our community of old friends in Northern and Southern California. Most of our friends don’t have a spare garage where we can store JJ out of the weather for an extended time.
We are still researching the best options. Last year we spent quite a bit of money insuring our car while it sat in Massachusetts and we were off in the Southern Hemisphere. We were happy that our family had the use of a spare car and were willing to take care of any maintenance, but we want to maximize our travel money, which means not having a lot of bills to pay in the U.S.
This fall since we are much closer to California, we want to visit friends there, see our kids, and fly out of San Francisco. So, where to leave our car becomes a question again. Should we take it off the road and put it in storage, park it with friends and pay for insurance, maybe sell it? What about changing the registration back to California again, when just last year we switched it to Massachusetts?
We are looking at costs for the above and pricing car covers now. A lot will depend on what we end up doing in the spring. One thing about our free flowing life style is that we don’t always know what we will be doing in six months although we plan ahead as much as we can. We will probably want to stay in Central America through the green season, unless a great house sit shows up somewhere else.
With our chosen lifestyle, we like to have plans but be flexible and open to new opportunities. We are not ready to let go of JJ, as she is a great car and has a great sound system. But, the more we travel outside of the US, the more we learn how much we can do without owning a car. In a way, the car is one of our last encumbrances. Leaving a vehicle somewhere means traveling back to that place or arranging for the car to be brought to us.
Then there is car care to think about. We managed to drive all the way from California to Massachusetts, Massachusetts to Toronto and back, and Massachusetts to Arizona, all without incident. Then, on a day trip to Sedona, we hit some huge thing in the middle of the highway in the dark of night. A loud thunk, but no apparent problems. We were able to finish the drive home, almost! Once off the highway it became clear that the car had acquired some problem, as a loud and scary noise followed us the last few miles back to the house where we are house sitting.
With few tools of our own, not knowing a reliable mechanic, and only one car between us, we were beset with some new circumstances. This is inherent in the lifestyle when you don’t have a permanent home location.
Neil, my ever resourceful partner, identified the problem and ordered us the needed parts from Amazon.com. He also found us a very cool place called U-Fix-It Automotive where we paid for time in a automotive work bay with a hydraulic lift and the use of a toolbox full of professional tools. Ninety minutes later and at a cost of only about $45 (plus a bit for the parts) we were on the road with our new fender liner in place. And still early enough for a morning coffee reward.
One of the things I love about being a modern nomad is that we have new experiences. Solving the little problems on the way keeps us busy, never bored. It was a first for us both to be doing our own car repair using a hydraulic lift in a fully equipped garage. Maybe we will change the oil ourselves next service.