It has now been 100 days since I signed the papers and handed over the keys to what had been my house for the last three years to the new owners. In return, I was handed one tiny piece of paper. But that piece of paper was the key to what would come next: freedom. It was a check for the proceeds of the sale of our house. It represented the five years we had spent wishing we could buy a house, the three years of the work we had done to improve the house once we actually bought it, and a ridiculous (but fortuitous) upswing in the real estate market. We had moved many times, nearly every year, until we moved in to that house. And we thought we would be there for many, many years. We talked about it in decades, not in months or even years. My husband overtook the three-car garage and one of the bedrooms to create the art studio he’d wanted for years. We decorated and remodeled bits of the house here and there as budget and time allowed. We ripped out the worn old carpet and put in beautiful new wood floors. We painted every single inch of the old 1970s style dark wood trim white and every wall in the house a lovely neutral color, which was a perfect backdrop for my husband’s colorful paintings. We gutted the bathroom and the kitchen and brought them into the current century with new appliances and hardware, pretty cabinets, and shiny quartz countertops. We gave the yard new life by planting grass in what had been a sad landscape of dusty dirt and weeds, planting perennial flowers by the dozens around the edges of the yard, and building an enormous vegetable garden in the back yard. We spent an incredible amount of money on that yard in landscaping, retaining wall repair, sprinkler systems, plants, and that garden that would be so “economical” because we would grow our own food. We spent countless hours tending to the garden, watching it bloom and produce more vegetables than we knew what to do with. After much debate and months of research, I finally got my new tree in the front yard, an Autumn Blaze maple that I loved because of its fiery red and orange leaves in the fall. I had dreams of watching it grow and grow from that skinny little sapling that we planted into a majestic 30-foot tree.
As it turned out, I only saw the leaves on that maple turn once. I never harvested the rhubarb that I planted in the back yard that reminded me of my childhood growing up in North Dakota. I never got to try the grapes from the vines we planted along the fence in our back yard. I never saw the lilacs that we planted bloom.
And I’m okay with that.
I’m okay with it because all that work of making our house into what became someone else’s home led us to a new home that we didn’t expect. Or, more appropriately, it led us thousands of miles away, to a place where we have no home.
When we decided to sell our home, we did so with a very distinct purpose. We weren’t upsizing or downsizing or looking for an investment or a newer house. We did so in order to have no home. In addition to selling our house, we sold almost everything else we owned: furniture, cars, tools, artwork, silverware, the whole nine yards. Everything except for eight suitcases and their contents. We went from a four-bedroom home with a three-car garage filled with stuff down to a carload of belongings.
I thought it would feel sad and tragic, like our lifelong mementos were being ripped away from us. Instead, it’s been incredibly liberating. I find myself wondering why we had so much stuff, how we accumulated it, why we thought we needed it, and how much money did we spend on stuff. We sold some things, especially the bigger ticket items. Some things we sold for pennies on the dollar. Many things were simply given away to family and friends. My husband sold the majority of his artwork at bargain-basement prices. But even then, and even with months and months of preparation, we still found ourselves carting off carloads of stuff to various places on our last day in the United States. We closed on the sale of our house at 9 a.m. and boarded our flight to San Jose, Costa Rica at 11 p.m., completely exhausted. Six hours later, we emerged into the heat and humidity of the tropics and smiled at each other in excitement and borderline disbelief as we watched the sun rise over the horizon, marking the first day of our new life. All of the planning, purging, hard work, and emotional breakdowns from questioning our own sanity had come to this moment. We had each other, and we had the world at our fingertips.
And that, for us, is home.