Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My Trip to Charlotte

Last week my wife and I spent the week vacationing in Charlotte, North Carolina. We set out to put our official stamp of approval on Charlotte, that it would be our Atlantis and where we would set our sights on for the next chapter of life together. The end result was that we discovered we are a lot more assertive and have a definitive idea in mind of what we want our next community to be. Some of the realizations we came to surprised us, particularly because it has been a few years since we’ve last evaluated what we want out of the next phase of life. The coolest part of it is that my wife and I are on the same page on most things. There were parts of Charlotte that we loved and there were parts that didn’t fit, but regardless we were in sync and that is something that we have worked in throughout our marriage with transparent communication. It’s not easy, but all of the work we have put in has made our marriage strong and put us in a place where we can work on the same wavelength towards our shared goals.

I’ll spare you further suspense as I’ll say that we will probably not be calling Charlotte our new hometown. Please don’t get me wrong. Charlotte is a beautiful city with great communities and beautiful lakes. We spent the better part of the week hiking, kayaking, checking out farmers markets and exploring the music scenes, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. The pace of life is so much slower than Chicago and the BBQ would make me reconsider my flexatarianism percentage allocation towards meat.

But during the trip we learned that if we are going to move away and give up big city living, we need a beach. My wife and I met on an island and for five years (when the weather is warm) have taken for granted the beach front along Lake Michigan. And in Charlotte boating is huge and upon first glance it looks like everyone has a boat. But sandy beaches to relax along Lake Norman or Mountain Island Lake are just about slim to none.

We still enjoyed our time there though. The people were amazingly nice and considerate and during our week there I even started (in our rental car) to drive like them. The pace was so much slower than here in Chicago and I loved it. But the lure, call and lifestyle of beach front living definitely made its way into our psyche and now as we move away from Charlotte as our next home, we are happily looking forward to future trips to Charleston, South Carolina!

But while in Charlotte we used a few tricks of the frugal trade to cut travel costs. We couch surfed with a very well traveled and nice couple just a little south of the city limits. We popped into grocery stores rather than going out. For souvenirs we made our way to local Goodwill stores. And for gas we made sure to fill up in South Carolina, which was 30 cents cheaper and flirted with $3 a gallon. Overall for daily outings we came under our budget by $300.

If would have asked me before the trip, if Charlotte doesn’t pan out for you how would you feel? I probably would have answered dejected and downtrodden. Instead I feel a calming sense of peace and a bit revitalized. It’s a little comforting to know that now we are going to continue to circle like vultures looking for where we want to move to. That in the short term we are here to stay in the windy city.

In fact the results of this trip have lead us to look forward to Charleston, move a few neighborhoods north for cheaper rent and bigger space, and at the end of this month, when we slay my wife’s final debt, to take our foot off the gas pedal and reclaim what we love most: our time spent together. Kids still may be a few years out but I think it’s about time we start the latter half of Dave’s mantra: “live like no one else so that later you can live like no one else.”

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