Our Roving Retirement: 2019 in Review…With Pictures
2019 was certainly a year on the move for us. We began our year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, housesitting in a luxury apartment for a month. It had full-length windows along one side with a balcony overlooking the city, and access to a fantastic pool and gym. Watching the New Year’s fireworks display in comfort was a great way to start the year.
We moved on to other housesits after that. Another in Kuala Lumpur, then one in Bangkok, Thailand, and then Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Housesitting not only allows us to move around, but we get to experience life on a local level, in places that we might not usually see. It also gives us time to do our freelance work and replenish our funds to maintain our lifestyle.
While 2018 was a terrific year for us, it was punctuated by the fact that we weren’t able to complete our trans-America crossing on our bicycles. Stopped by fires in Montana, we pledged to return in 2019 and complete the journey with an epic climb over the majestic Rocky Mountains.
As we had little climbing experience on the bicycles, we knew we would have to plan in some preparation time before the attempt. With a bit of research, we decided to do a couple of housesits in Canada first while we got ourselves fit enough. Our first housesit was in East Vancouver, British Columbia for six weeks. Our second took us to Calgary, Alberta, for five weeks. As the weeks passed, we spent more and more time on the bikes.
Then it was time to set off. We began in Eureka, Montana. We had five high mountain passes to climb as we made our way slowly through the rest of Montana, across the Idaho Panhandle and into Washington State. Although it was difficult for us at times, all the effort was thoroughly worth it. The alpine panoramas were spectacular. We camped in thick forests alongside deep, glassy lakes and even had the good fortune to see a mountain lion as it gracefully bound across the road behind us. We arrived at the coast with a great sense of achievement.
With the Rockies conquered, we set off through Washington State and into Oregon, where we cycled the Willamette Valley down to Eugene, before crossing to the coast and making our way to San Francisco. While camping is cheap, we also made use of an organization called Warmshowers. A bit like CouchSurfing, it comprises a group of people who cycle and open their homes up for other cyclists on long rides.
Having crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and reached our final destination, we put the bikes away for another year and began a series of five housesits. This would see us spend the next two months in the notoriously expensive San Francisco Bay Area without spending a dime on accommodation. We also managed to fit in a three-week housesit in Napa, where we were able to catch up on several freelance projects.
With the money we’d saved on accommodation, and the extra income from freelancing, we planned a couple of road trips out of Las Vegas to visit the national parks of the southwest.
After staying in Las Vegas for three nights to see what the fuss was all about, we hired a car and set off with our tent and camping gear. A quick trip to Walmart for an icebox, a couple of camping chairs, and some supplies, and we were off to Death Valley. It was 112 F degrees when we arrived in the appropriately named Furnace Creek. The scenery was spectacular and worth a little discomfort.
Our 10-day route took us down through the shimmering, sunbaked valley to the Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park. Each of these places had its own unique landscapes.
From Joshua Tree, we headed north again on some sections of the old Route 66. We visited Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, and eventually, the fervently colorful Valley of Fire State Park.
After returning to the gambling mecca, we picked up our car and headed to Utah, to Zion National Park. This two-week road trip would also take in the extraordinary sights of Bryce Canyon National Park, Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, a corner in Winslow, Arizona, Sedona, and last but not least, the mighty Grand Canyon.
We finished our year off with two months in Australia. Once again, we organized some housesits while we were there. We certainly packed a lot of adventure into 12 months, but still managed to stay on budget, despite spending most of the year in more expensive locations. Housesitting, freelance writing, and tapping into the sharing economy are just a few of the ways we reduce our costs as we live out our dreams traveling the world.
Written by Sharyn Nilsen