How to Spend the Summer Abroad

This is a series of posts about spending the summer abroad.  The idea germinated from an offer to housesit for a friend in Windsor, England, for the month of July.

When I tell people I’ll be gone for the whole summer their first question is usually, “What are you going to do with your place?”

I’ve fought and struggled for everything in life, but the answer to this question unfolded easily, so I figure it was meant to be.

When I got the offer to housesit, I searched Craig’s List to see if there was anyone out there who might be interested in renting my place for July. The first posting that popped up was from a couple looking to rent a place for the summer.  They are originally from Minneapolis, are retired in Florida, and they want to be in Minnesota to spend time with their kids and grandkids during the glory days of summer.

They seemed like ideal renters.  He is a retired insurance agent.  It was highly unlikely they would be having any wild parties.  So I expanded my thinking to being gone for the whole summer. This couple also agreed to rent my car, which will cover my car payment.  I live in a condo, and the management company agreed to manage the rental for a 7% cut.  That seemed reasonable—what could I do anyway if the toilet in my condo overflowed while I’m was in Ethiopia?  The management company will deal with it.

I can’t afford to not work.  Being away for three months requires working remotely; something my employer is okay with because I’ve proven myself.

I currently work 90% time and love it. On my two unpaid days per month, I go to the bank, the farmer’s market, the grocery, post office, liquor store, library, pharmacy—during the week, and then I actually have a weekend.  I have paid a price for it, which is that people view you as not being a “high powered” career ladder climber.  In the U.S. in particular, we highly value people who come in at 7am, work til 7pm, check work email 24/7, and forfeit their vacation time.  I like my job, but I enjoy so many other things too, like blogging, being outdoors, spending time with people I love, and travel.

Back to the summer plan: there are so many moving pieces.  Rental income must be reported to the IRS.  Several people have said, “Just don’t report it; they’ll never find out.”  I’m one of those suckers who believes in paying my share.  Plus I don’t want to go to prison.  So I’ll report it, but to offset it, I will go down to working 80% time.  That means a four-day work week.  The paid time off I’ve stockpiled, plus the summer holidays, will mean I’m basically working an average of three days a week.

I realize many people cannot afford to work part time, so I feel really fortunate.  After slogging away at my career for 30 years, I make a certain level of income that, if I am frugal, allows me to do this.

I’ve been paying for flights and Air B&Bs and trains as I can afford them over the last four months, so my June travels are paid for except for food and miscellaneous.  In July I’ll be house sitting and in August I’ll be a house guest, so I won’t have accommodation expense.

This is where I need to point out, if it isn’t obvious, that I have very good and generous friends.  I met Lynn and Sam when I was working in England 10 years ago.  Facebook and email and What’s App make it easier to maintain friendships across the ocean.  But I’ve also physically visited Lynn and Rob and vice versa, over the years—which takes time and money and effort.  I met my Dutch friend, Ingrid, before the Internet existed.  We wrote letters a couple times a year; she came to the US twice and I visited her twice.

I didn’t make these efforts to maintain friendships because I wanted a free place to stay, but it’s a bonus!

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