In 2011, Lynne and Tim Martin sold their house in California's wine country to travel the world and live in vacation rentals, putting down new roots one country at a time. Lynne Martin is the bestselling author of "Home Sweet Anywhere" and you can follow their travels at HomeFreeAdventures.com.
My family has been renting houses since the sixties to celebrate big holidays together, but in the “olden days” they were offered primarily by real estate companies. It was a terrific hassle to contact the outfit in another city or country and make arrangements by phone, fax and even snail mail. Hard to imagine now, but as late as the eighties we were still sending paper checks and signed paper contracts to secure those places. Thankfully, our arrangements worked out well and we have beautiful memories of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter gatherings in the mountains, at the beach, and all of us bunking in together, cooking, laughing and bumbling our way around the Sacramento Delta on a large sailboat.
Much has changed in the vacation rental business since then, and a lot has happened in our family in the intervening years, too. The kids who used to frolic on the beach at Thanksgiving or enjoy the slopes during Christmas holidays are now the parents of teens and in an interesting twist of history, my husband and I have been living full time internationally in vacation rentals for over three years. Who would have thought those great places with no strings attached would become our primary homes? In 2011 we made a bold move which surprised our friends and family and resulted in my writing a book about our adventures. We sold our house, gave the proceeds to our financial adviser who combined those funds with our savings and doles out a monthly stipend while keeping the portfolio intact. We disbursed our furniture, put the art and our personal treasures in storage, and began an exciting new phase of freedom, our Home Sweet Anywhere adventures.
Snail mail has very little part in anyone’s lives today, and with the advent of outfits like HomeAway, through whom we always secure our rentals, finding just the right spot and making the arrangements is not only easy, but also fun to do. We spend hours happily shopping on the Internet for destinations worldwide and have enjoyed each one for its own particular qualities. In some cities, like Paris, location is the star ingredient. Other times, spaciousness is our goal, as it was when we lived near Lisbon in a house big enough to host friends from home.
We’ve lived in many circumstances during our adventures, sometimes in the country, many times in large metropolitan areas, and even in our own hometown when we’ve returned to have a month or two living near our children. Our experiences have taught us how to travel light, but more importantly, how to travel in comfort! Almost every place we have rented has lacked a few tools that we find essential to make ourselves happy and comfortable, things we could probably find in the local area, but would spend too much time searching for, especially with our limited vocabulary in most places we visit. (Who has time to learn Arabic, Portuguese and Turkish, I ask you?)
Here are the items that go into our suitcases along with all the stuff you find on the regular packing lists. I’ve included links to them, too.
SPICE BOX: Herbs and spices are expensive, certainly if you must replace them in each new location. Since most rental places offer only salt and pepper, we carry a handy box of flavor boosters in our suitcase.
CORKSCREW: One of the joys of travel is discovering new wines, but a lousy opener can ruin the experience. Having one of these handy is our solution.
RUBBER CLOTHESLINE: No matter where we are those undies need washing, and this handy item makes the chore much easier.
PLASTIC DRAIN STOPPER: Don’t ask my why, but we find houses all the time that lack plug covers for a sink or tub, so we carry this little thing along so we can have a relaxing bath after taking in the sights.
CONVERTER/ADAPTER KIT: This seems obvious, but if you forget to bring this along you can spend a lot of time finding the place to buy one!
KNIFE SHARPENER: Even the most meticulous vacation rental owner can’t remember everything. They almost always forget that a sharp knife is a kitchen essential. We carry this little goodie with us so our tomatoes are thinly cut, not our thumbs.
PEEL OFF HOOKS: The absence of a hook for your robe or towel can be maddening, so we take a couple of packages of these along. They won’t take the paint off when you de-camp for your next destination.
HEAVY DUTY ZIP LOCK BAGS: Europe has many fabulous attractions and products, but good heavy duty zip lock bags do not seem to be a priority. We line the bottoms of suitcases with them and use them for wet clothes, food storage, picnics, and a thousand other things!
How lucky we are forty years after taking those vacation trips to the beach or the mountains, towing kids, dogs and grandparents. Not only can we rent a wonderful apartment, home or even a whole island with the click of a computer key, but we can also take along what we need to have even more fun! The total cost of my favorite tools is around $75, a small price for lots of convenience.