How to Live When the World is Turned Upside Down

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

Adam and me with our son, Kasey, in Thailand in 2017

In December 2016, my husband ,Adam, and I sold our home in the NY Metro Area and put everything in storage so that we could travel the world unencumbered by a mortgage or regular monthly rent. For the next 3.5 years, we typically stayed in an Airbnb for a month or more at a time, in nine U.S. states and eight countries.

People would often ask us “What would make you stop and give up your untethered life?’ “Maybe grandkids,”we’d say. A pandemic never crossed our mind.

But here we are, many months into this surreal worldwide experience.

Our welcome sign at the Cape

Back in early March when it became obvious the virus wasn’t some H.G Welles hoax like the famous “War of the Worlds,”we quickly changed our plans and instead of heading south to Florida to attend a wedding, we drove north to Cape Cod and the home of Adam’s sister and her husband. We didn’t know how long we’d stay, but their welcome sign told us all we needed to know.

Our Living Life Untethered in Shanghai in 2018

As the weeks flew by, it became clear this was not the time to be untethered.

Being globetrotters on a limited budget had been so much fun; for years, it had been my dream, and in fact among the best years of my life. But we now had to accept a new reality. Living untethered was no longer practical. Or safe. One of our close friends had already lost his brother to COVID. Another friend spent weeks on a respirator and was now in rehab relearning how to breathe, talk and walk. The virus was all around us, and Adam and I were well aware that we’re in the age demographics most vulnerable to the virus. No, this was not the time to be untethered.

Thanks to the amazing generosity of my sister- and brother-in-law, we stayed together at their home on Cape Cod for 11 weeks while we contemplated our next move. It made sense, we decided, to park ourselves in one place for a year.

But where? Eden, Utah or Avon, Colorado were too far away from either of our kids. We loved the Algarve in Portugal, Vietnam, and Barcelona but again they were too far from our family; plus Medicare and AARP Supplemental doesn’t provide coverage when abroad. With the virus, it was just too risky.

Adam in Avon; the Snyder's and Katcher's in France near Barcelona; me in Eden, Utah; Eden; a fresh market in Hoi An, Vietnam; and the Algarve, Portugal

We decided to be more practical. Our daughter, Lili, and new husband, Stewart, live in Washington, DC and my sister lives in the DC-Maryland suburbs. So from the Cape, we went to an adorable month-long VRBO in Star Tannery, Virginia with the intention of finding a yearly unfurnished rental no more than 90 minutes from Washington and take all our furniture, clothes, artwork and other belongings out of storage.

I searched obsessively on Zillow, Hot Pads, HomeSnap, and Once we found a half dozen or more places, we’d spend 8-9 hours a day in Northern Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia checking them out. We’d contact the realtor and asked for an appointment to see insides of those houses which seemed interesting during our “drive-by."

Top on our wish list was a rural setting and if possible, a sunset view. Required were: three bedrooms and 2 baths; a large garage and/or basement to organize our massive amount of boxes and furniture that would be coming from storage, central air conditioning, good places to hike; and, most importantly, high speed Internet.

We landed in an enchanting contemporary home in White Post, Virginia. With its fabulous built-ins, wooden ceilings, windows and nooks and crannies, I call it a mix between a Frank Lloyd Wright home and the Brady Bunch house! I didn’t get my sunset view, but I love the house, and with the sweltering heat, the trees on three sides provide a welcome relief. Plus, I’m hoping for a beautiful vista when the leaves disappear.

A Frank Lloyd Wright house; the Brady Bunch House; and Our House!

So how have I faired transitioning from living untethered to settling down?

I thought I was doing pretty well until we moved in on July 1st and the house was not COVID-clean, as promised. The garage, which would house our boxes arriving the next day, was particularly dirty. I nearly cried. It was scary enough that people we didn’t know had been living and cleaning in our new home – people who might or might not have COVID-19. But given the mess, the cleaning people had to return the next day to finish the job. When they said they wouldn’t be wearing masks, I scrubbed the house inside while they worked on the garage and porches. Adam was in New York meeting our movers.

Our house on move-in day

On July 2nd our furniture and 120+ boxes were delivered to our new home, and we immediately set about following our Living Life Untethered advice to “discard, donate, and downsize.”

I knew I’d now be able to let go of things I couldn’t bear to say goodbye to back in 2016. I mean, do I really need 7 beautiful serving bowls?!? In fact, I’m planning to start a online business selling “vintage” clothing, art, antiques, household items, books, etc. from my basement headquarters. I’ll be posting things via Living Life Untethered, Etsy, Ebay, Poshmark, Facebook and other websites.

It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the house, and feel happy about being surrounded by our lovely things. Everyday is Chanukah and Christmas when you open boxes to discover anew, like my late mother-in-law’s clever egg cooker from the 1950’s or her circular butter dish. And then there is my huge computer monitor and our beautiful hall bench which has stored all the secrets of the Snyder family for more than three decades. Sometimes I feel like the me of 2016 wrote love notes to the me of today when I unwrap a carefully-packed treasure.

Living in rural Virginia is different for us. Coming from Massachusetts, it’s startling to see people without masks even though the Governor has mandated it. At an ACE hardware store, only Adam was wearing one. When he asked the sales person why he had no mask, the guy simply ignored him. We’ll never go there again. But people are wearing them in COSTCO and Martin’s grocery store, which we frequent.

Stranger still is the occasional confederate flag we see flying outside of a home. One day we were traveling on a local road when a West Virginia car passed and honked at us. We have Texas license plates with a frame which reads NY Giants in the front and NY Mets on the back, so we weren’t sure if the driver was showing his affinity for our Texas plates, or his dislike of New Yorkers. Either way, we were wide-eyed when he raced by, honking horn to the tune of “Dixie.”

Since arriving in Virginia, we’ve hiked many times. The Arboretum and Sky Meadows State Park are 10-20 minutes away. When we were living and hiking in Utah, Colorado and Nevada, I was scared stiff about an encounter with rattlesnakes! Here I’m on the lookout for ticks, mosquitoes and no-see-um’s! Bugs love me, and those no-see-ums are especially pesky, so I googled, “best no-see-um repellent.” A Louisiana oysterman said what works for him is a mixture of Listerine, witch hazel, and tea tree oil. I followed his recipe, but give the formula a C+, as I am really itchy as I write this blog! Now I have to follow another YouTuber’s advice to put scorching hot water on the bites!

Thus, the Snyder’s have officially become Temporarily Tethered. We are in retreat like everyone else, and know it is very hard for some of our friends who are living alone. For me, rather than dwelling on our past adventures, I can honestly say I am so grateful to be well, safe and happy. Lili and Stewart and Oscar the Grand Dog have already visited on three different weekends. Together we’ve hiked and gone to an outside winery on our wedding anniversaries -- their one-week and our 44th year. We Zoom and FaceTime with friends and family, including our son, Kasey, who is living and working in California and Oregon. For us personally, that’s been the most difficult part of the new pandemic world – wondering when we’ll next be able to see him again.

So, my friends, Stay Safe and stay tuned for more Living Life Temporarily Tethered.

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