On the same day that we officially became “empty” nesters, the very day our youngest started college, we boarded a plane headed for Zürich. We didn’t really plan for the two events to happen on the same day, it just worked out that way.
What WAS planned was to spend time together and to do the things that obligations had previously pushed aside. The three years between our older girls leaving the house and The Boy flapping his wings gave us plenty of time to decide
how we wanted to spend, or at least start, this new phase of our lives.
We spent the time before our nest completely emptied planning to have no plans. That may sound strange and contradictory, but we actually have planned to have no plans.
Child rearing is nothing BUT plans. Long range plans like providing a good home, saving for college, raising a solid adult. And the massive short term, everyday planning of ballet lessons, dentist appointments, baseball games… anyone who has kids gets the picture all too well. So we set out ahead of time to have no set long term plans and let the short term, daily variety, be fluid and adaptable to each new day.
Sounds simple, but in reality it takes some serious planning to have no plans. We knew that we would need some income. After all, we still have The Boy in college and we’ve grown fond of food and shelter, so we took steps in that direction.
After squirreling away nuts in various holes for years, the time had come to dig a few up. We decided to sell our condo and buy some rental property for income, as well as providing a place for our youngest to live while in school. It turns out that this is a fairly common method of providing housing for students, and it seems to work out well as long as they don’t go all Animal House on the place.
Our first encounter with the no plans plan popped up when the properties that we could get good deals on needed work. No problem, we simply became handymen for a couple of months and got to know a college town…. no plans and some new experiences to share.
We thought we ‘d be seeing the world from the deck of a catamaran by now, but new opportunities in Europe came up. So instead we are seeing Europe and North America from planes, trains and automobiles. That’s OK… no plans and new places to see. At some point in the future, when we really aren’t expecting it, the boat idea might fall back into our laps. That’s the way life is. Certainly things come up, but now we take them as they come instead of worrying ahead of time, then we simply adjust our lack of plans.
This isn’t something that we started because The Spawn were leaving, we have been laying the groundwork for over twenty-nine years. Back when we had barely evolved into human beings ourselves, Veronica squeezed out a few yard apes (how did that happen?) and we had to become responsible adults. While raising the kids, we always tried to remember that a huge part of being good parents is being a good couple. That way, when the time came to get back to just the two of us, it was easier to remember what brought us together in the first place.
After three years of embracing a “no plans” lifestyle we’ve learned a couple things. First, it’s working because Veronica and I are on the same page. We spend almost all of our time together, something that may not be right for everyone, but it works for us. In the eloquent words of Kurt Vonnegut, we are a nation of two.
Second, our stress level has plummeted. Travel can certainly take a toll these days, especially with kids or if there is a hard and fast deadline for being somewhere. But the no plans method has eliminated almost all of that. We do some of our traveling in a beat up old motorhome so our schedule is our own.
When we do fly, we try to leave enough leeway in our booking that a missed connection doesn’t destroy our trip. In fact, a missed connection can be a good thing, we’ve earned quite a few vouchers for free future travel by volunteering to take a later flight while everyone around us stresses out.
Part of the beauty of our new no plans plan is that now we get to be the kids for a change. We have found that it is very important for us to keep learning. To try new things together, things that neither of us have any previous experience with.
Explore. Examine. Investigate. Inquire. Enjoy.
That’s the plan.