Transition Management Consulting, Inc.

The Explorers - The Long Journey Home (Part 4)

by Bob Van Hook and Jackie Eder-Van Hook



The Explorers
The Long Journey Home

By Bob Van Hook and Jackie Eder-Van Hook

When we started our journey, we figured we’d travel until we saw a sign — like the Star of Bethlehem — that would show us our new home.

Here we are six months later and still no Star. Instead, we find that we really miss a lot of things about home, including hot running water, a coffeemaker, a desktop computer with full-time Internet access, a real bed, and a real stove. We miss having more clothes than what’s stuffed in our respective travel bags.

More than anything, we miss a sense of place. We miss knowing where we are — our place in the world. We miss the Korean family that owns the cleaners on Pennsylvania Avenue, the waiters at Atish Restaurant, and our pals at work. We miss being able to call a friend for lunch or a cup of coffee. We miss sharing our lives with others beyond what can be communicated in an e-mail or short phone call. It is time to settle down again, but where?

At the beginning of our journey, we decided that we were going to pick our next place to live based on the characteristics of the location and not on the requirements of a job. In the past, a job that one of us wanted would open up somewhere, and off we would go to take the job. We got some great jobs that way and met a lot of good people, but most of the relationships were short-lived. We got to know a lot of places, but none of them very well. Our method was long on breadth, but short on depth.

Having sold our home in Washington, DC, we have no place to go back to. No employment is luring us toward a particular place. For a while, we tentatively narrowed our search to the western United States, yet we still think about places we like on the East Coast, such as Washington, DC.

As we traveled, we methodically came up with a list of criteria for the location of our next home. Making such a decision based on this logical set of criteria is great — in theory. But so many places fit our criteria: more sunshine than gray skies; close to outdoor activities; politically, socially, and culturally active; diverse population; near a decent airport and open space; and good yoga teachers. Literally hundreds of such places exist. We wonder if any of our criteria matter anyway. We don’t want to sit in traffic on I-66, but rural folks drive a long way, too. Obviously, there are tradeoffs no matter where you live.

We looked at lists of "cool" places. You know, the lists published in the Washingtonian or AARP’s Modern Maturity. Unfortunately, it seems that everyone else looked at those lists, too, and had already moved there.

The past six months has been a transformational journey. We seriously thought that Washington, DC was the problem, but we found ourselves repeatedly defending the city, even singing its praises.

Truth is, home is wherever we decide to make it. It’s where we choose to put down roots and be a part of the community around us. Home is not so much about a place as it is about how we choose to live in a place. It is being among like-minded people and being with enough people who are not like us to make it interesting.

It is ironic that we may end up right back where we started. There might not be any star to show us the spot. At some point, we just have to proclaim, "This is the place," and stay put. Then again, as we look up into the New Mexico night sky filled with zillions of stars, we wonder if one of them has a message that is winging its way to us right now.

Editor's Note: This is the fourth article in a series (see June 2000, July 2000, and October 2000 Executive Update) about how a successful Washington couple — Bob Van Hook, a 56-year-old trade association CEO, and Jackie Eder-Van Hook, a 38-year-old federal manager — sold their house, quit their jobs, and went on a journey of discovery, searching for a life consistent with their values.

 This article appeared in the print version of Executive Update, February 2001​.

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