Life is What Happens to You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans*

We began 2019 dreaming. We’d just returned from another European escapade, and big plans were on the horizon.

By the end of last year we’d realized that our cool-but-way-too-big house had become the ubiquitous albatross around our necks – a responsibility that lingered on our minds any time we went traveling. It was a time suck – a veiled thief that gradually stole more and more time from other priorities.

So we’d decided that the time was right to sell the house and once again downsize and simplify. Then we could rent a great little apartment in our favorite neighborhood. This move would free us up to live simply. And by establishing a new Basecamp Gallivance, we could turn the key and travel to our hearts’ content.

We did all the grueling house prep. Days of pressure washing, painting, and cleaning were followed by hours of careful staging – all designed to insure that our house would sell quickly and well. It did!

Then life intervened. Over four short months we lost six cherished family members in rapid succession – leaving us stunned and reeling.

“Life is What Happens to You,
While You’re Busy Making Other Plans”
—John Lennon, Beautiful Boy

Although we managed to share some posts during those sad months, Gallivance took a backseat in our Life.

So we took the month of June to recharge our batteries by doing something we’ve talked about for years. We went camping out West with our little popup, exploring National Parks and roadside Americana, with emphasis on heavy doses of Geology for James and Anthropology for Terri.

We are renewed.

We are ready to celebrate our exploits across the USA, share our European adventures, and dive into what it means to simplify your life. We hope we didn’t lose you during our unexpected sabbatical, and that you’ll join us again for our gallivants.

Happy Trails,
Terri & James

* “The lyrics of “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” contain the famous Lennon quote ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’ However, the expression of this sentiment can be traced back to a 1957 Reader’s Digest article, which attributes it to Allen Saunders.” —Wikipedia


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

94 thoughts

  1. So glad to have you back guy’s, I was starting to get worried. I visited your site few times thinking maybe the posts are not getting to my inbox. Anyway welcome back. Sorry to hear about the loss of loved ones,it is never easy. Even when it is expected due to poor health or aging. I can totally related to dowsing, having done it about 2 years ago. It is liberating. I will look forward to your future posts 🙂

    1. Thanks Gilda. Looking back we realize that it might have been a good idea to let people know what was going on, but honestly, when we started the house process and then all the unexpected started to overtake us, it was all a whirlwind. We hadn’t really planned on taking such a long blogging break – it just happened. Anyway, we’re back on track and everything we’ve gone through is just another reminder that we need to keep focused on our priorities, and for lack of a better phrase: Carpe Diem. All the best to you and thanks for getting in touch. ~James

      1. Thanks Gilda. If and when our plans firm up we’ll be in touch. BTW, one thing I do remember from your posts was that you wished you had rented a bigger van. These are the type of questions we’ll need help with. I’m 6ft tall and a few cold nights of sleeping scrunched up in bed is not what I had in mind. 🙂 ~James

    1. Thanks Alison. It’s nice to know we’ve been missed, and truthfully, we both missed blogging. It’s been a big part of our life for a few years, and it will be good to get back into it. Thanks for continuing to follow along. ~James

  2. Welcome back. We are living in a too big house but I have not had enough courage to contemplate packing up our life. I hope you can get back to following your dreams.

    1. Thanks Anne. We went from a 1700 sq ft house in the burbs to a 700 sq ft rental in the city center. The transition was a lot of work, but we couldn’t be happier. We really are minimalists at heart, but it’s easy to fall off the wagon and be enticed by large spaces. Hopefully, this time we’ve learned our lesson. ~James

    1. Thanks so much Sayra. It’s great to hear that you are well. After the past few months we feel pretty battered, and will miss our lost family, but we’re even more committed to making the most of every day. I’m sure you’re doing the same. All the best and thanks for continuing to follow along. ~James

      1. It is a great sign to see you all blogging again. Having known the story I truly believe you did the right thing sharing with your worldly blogging family. They seem to be very happy and relieved to see you back at it!

      2. Sue, Thanks for your wonderful encouragement. It really made us both smile from ear to ear. And thanks for being there when I was debating if it was appropriate to fill people in on what’s been going on. As always, your sage advice ruled the day, 🙂 It feels so good to be back. Much Love, T&J

    1. Thanks Ben. Loss is a part of everyone’s life, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. We go forward knowing that our missing loved ones would be happy that we’re doing what makes us happy. Thanks for getting in touch. ~James

    1. Thanks for your kind words Marina. Re-adjusting takes time and effort, but the reality is that life goes on, and we’re trying our best to emphasize our priorities. Thanks so much for getting in touch. ~James

    1. Thanks Anita. Doing the things you love … that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? If there was ever a lesson in the truth of this statement we’ve had it the past few months. Thanks for getting in touch and continuing to follow along. ~James

    1. Thanks Yvette. We’ve just finished an extended camping trip out west, and there’s nothing like a bit of time in the desert for introspection. And we’re looking forward to getting back in the groove. Thanks for getting in touch and for continuing to follow along. ~James

      1. My pleasure to follow along – I was actually recently thinking of a story you two
        Shared a long time ago – about when your first laugh of the day starts – or when you come out dressed to match on accident
        Was thinking about it because my hubs and we’re cracking up
        Laughing over a couch cushion that I call a bolster now – anyhow – glad camping was soothing and decompressing!

  3. You guys are such an inspiration. So important to pay attention to grief while not letting it swallow us either. Have only done the West trip once but remember how it inspired inward reflection. These days, isn’t that the most interesting? I look forward to posts and photos. Welcome back!

    1. Thanks for your kind words Tricia. One doesn’t get to be our age without experiencing loss, and as we age it only promises to get worse. But … and this is a big but… it’s really important to not get dragged down by the grief. As for introspection, there’s just something about the high desert that makes me pensive. We camped in Bandelier National Park in northern New Mexico, and it couldn’t have been much drier or hotter. But the gnarled and stunted sagebrush provided a wonderful backdrop for thinking. Thanks for getting in touch and continuing to follow along. ~James

  4. So sorry about your losses, that is a lot all at once!

    Congratulations on the down-sizing, I know you have been happy in small spaces before. I am on the same path myself, although I have been in my 1,500 sq ft house for 30 years now. I am on the wait list for a CCRC and am considering an interim move to an apartment in a building with an elevator, but I do appreciate the peace and quiet where I am.

    I have been having health issues which have curtailed my traveling but things are starting to look up a bit.

    1. Thanks Kathy. We are well and truly through the downsizing and move and we couldn’t be happier. We really enjoyed our house and the larger space was enjoyable and convenient in so many ways. But I think we knew when we bought it that it wouldn’t last forever, and as it turned out, the time there was shorter than expected. Sorry to hear about your health issues, but with everything going on in our lives, we can appreciate what you’re going through. Luckily, we’ve managed to squeeze in a few trips and as always, the travel is good. It’s just the blogging that’s been put on the back burner. Thanks for checking in and continuing to follow along. ~James

  5. So glad to hear from you both! I was getting worried that you might give up blogging, and that would be a loss for many people who follow you regularly. We, too, are re-assessing. We’ll probably stay in our condo, but it’s time to refresh and pare down. That question “Does it spark joy?” has come up more than once lately, and I’m about ready to box up everything, put it in the front yard for whoever wants it, and live simply and deliberately (apologies to Thoreau). We just returned from a week in South Dakota soaking up the greenest the Badlands have ever been, according to locals, buying Sturgis Rally 2019 t-shirts, and checking out trout streams and needle-like rocks in Spearfish Canyon. Best of all: being in the middle of a herd of female bison and their calves for an hour and a half somewhere in Custer State Park! Oh, the adventures we love. We’ve taken a hiatus ourselves, but may be back in the proverbial saddle in about a month. Hope so, at least.

    1. Thanks for getting in touch Rusha. We’ve always considered a condo and have owned a few, but the Lexington property market is a bit strange. We haven’t really been able to find a place we like in the part of town we prefer, so we are officially happy renters. And your question about creating joy is a good one. For us it’s vitally important that we make our own decisions about priorities and not be pulled along by what we did in the past or how much work it will take to make a change. Luckily, we still have the stamina to change, and we’ve always said that we can always stop traveling, but there will come a point when we aren’t able to travel. So in the meantime, we want to make travel a focus in our lives, and simplifying will enable us to do that.

      Your trip out west sounds fun. We just finished a month of bucket-list visits in New Mexico, Colorado and Utah and it helped clear out the cobwebs. Thanks again for getting in touch and for continuing to follow along. We hope that you and Bert are well. ~James

  6. So very sorry to hear of all of the losses in your life. What a heart wrenching turn of events. Your time camping and exploring sounds like it was just what was needed. Dave and I look forward to hearing more about the discoveries made. Congratulations on the sale of the house and making the decision to simplify. We downsized 6 years ago but realize there will need to be another trimming down at some point in the future. Sending very best wishes to you both.

    1. Hi Sue, Thanks so much for your very kind words and steadfast friendship. We sure do appreciate it. We’ve really missed our blog family and can’t wait to catch up with everyone. As you and Dave know so well, simplifying and downsizing has so many wonderful benefits. By nature, James and I are “cozy minimalists” – we like things simple with a few creature comforts like flowers, art, and special books. Getting back to our roots feels so good. We’re thrilled that you stopped by. All the best ❤ Terri

      1. Always so good to connect Terri. Although we have never met, you and James feel like old friends who guided our way when we were completely lost in the new blog world six years ago. We remain forever grateful and so enjoy staying in touch.

  7. You haven’t lost me and it appears by the comments your followers are still here waiting for the next post. So sorry to hear about the loss of loved ones. It’s never easy but even tougher when it all happens at once. Sending hugs, xo

    1. Thanks for getting in touch Darlene. It’s heartening to hear from old friends. In addition to staying in touch with our blogging buddies around the globe, the blog is a creative outlet that we’ve both missed, and we’re looking forward to getting back into the groove. We hope that all is well with you in Spain and that your books are flying off the shelves. Thanks for continuing to follow along. ~James

  8. Sorry to hear about the loss of so many cherished family members. We are in the process of considering the downsizing of our home now that our teens are beginning to leave the nest. As you say, it can become quite the albatross.

    1. Hi Amy, I’m so glad that you stopped by. We really appreciate your kind words. I’m sure that having your teenagers start to leave the nest is thought-provoking – you love to see them spread their wings … and you hate to see them go. Several of my friends are facing the same challenge. I’d love to know what you decide. All the best, Terri

  9. It was so nice to see you in my mailbox this morning. I figured you were consumed by life and hoped you would eventually return. Sorry to hear it was a combination of both premeditated and sad events.

    Glad to hear your spirits have been renewed and looking forward to reading more your adventures.

    1. Thanks for getting in touch Joanne. As a long-term blogger I’m sure you can relate to how much energy and focus is takes to keep a blog going, and honestly, with everything else going on, ours just had to take a back seat. But, in our defense, our philosophy has always been that we want to publish the best content that we can and if we can’t be proud of what we publish, we don’t publish. It’s pretty obvious when bloggers are just going through the motions and we don’t want to go that way. In the meantime, we’re back on track and will be more involved and present in the future. Thanks for continuing to follow along. ~James

  10. Dear Terri & James,
    What sad news, please accept my condolences. I can’t quite imagine that level of reeling… but nature is indeed the best balm; in a pup-tent no less! So, blessings of health to both of you; and may this year be one of renewal, tiny-house-loving and adventure! Welcome back 😉

    1. Thanks so much Amit. “Reeling” is the perfect word for what’s been going on with us. It was just one thing after another, and after each sad bit of news we’d say: “Surely this is the last thing that can happen.” But things seem to have smoothed out now and our heads are in a better place. As I said to someone else, time in the desert clears the cobwebs for me, and the simplicity of camping always distills things to their essence. I hope that all is well there and that the local volcano god is keeping quiet. Thanks for continuing to follow along and all the best ~James

    1. Joyce, this photo was taken last fall in Basel, Switzerland. Those Swiss like their clocks and watches. They make really fancy ones and most cost more than my first car. Love, JH

  11. So sorry for your loss Terri and James. It sounds as if there has been much change in your lives. It’s good to hear you’re feeling renewed. Looking forward to your posts about your adventures in Europe and the US.

    1. Thanks very much Alison. It feels good to be on the other side of our misfortune and back on the path. Thanks for checking in and continuing to follow along. ~James

    1. Thanks very much Fi. We all know that these things are going to happen, but you’re never prepared. Things are on track now and it will be good to back to normal … whatever that is. ~James

    1. Thanks Tracey. We just finished a month-long camping trip out west, so we’ll soon have tales to tell. Thanks for checking in and continuing to follow along. ~James

  12. Wow, sorry to hear about the sad time and difficult time. Good news about the downsizing and starting up your travels again. Best wishes.

    1. Bertie, it’s seems like a long time coming, but we’re actually on the other side of our downsizing and move, and we couldn’t be happier. We fell off the minimalist wagon there for a while, and we have a few posts in mind to tell our story. Thanks for checking in and for continuing to follow along. ~James

  13. Terri and James – The quote you chose really is the essence of living, isn’t it? I’ve also heard that we have control over details, but not the grand scheme of life. Congrats on sorting out your details into the life you want. All the best – Susan

    1. Thanks for your kind words Susan. I hadn’t heard the idea of controlling the details, but I certainly agree. Terri and I laugh that we usually talk stuff to death, but we’ve learned that if we talk about something long enough, we eventually get around to doing it. And getting rid of our big house and moving to a small apartment was one of those things. Thanks for continuing to follow along. ~James

  14. I haven’t checked this email or blogsite for long time, but finally back. I was sorry to hear about the loss of your dear ones, but very interested in your downsizing and popup travel adventure. Look forward to hearing more.

    1. Carol, we just finished a month-long camping trip out west that has been on our list for ages. We hit a few of the National Parks in New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, some new and some we’d visited years ago, and it was wonderful. The last time we traveled extensively in the west our camp gear was a tent. This time, our little popup made such a wonderful difference. We are both well beyond that sleeping on the ground business. Keep an eye out for posts on the house to apartment transition as well as the camping. Thanks for continuing to follow along. ~James

      1. I totally understand the luxury of moving from tent camping to a pop-up, as we did the same thing. It was great until we got caught in a violent blizzard in New Mexico in December 2015. Since our life is mostly “on the road,” we now have a 24 foot trailer with a slide-out, and that is truly luxury for us..

      2. I can believe it. Something like that may be our next step, but we still fight the “big rig” phobia. But there have been times, even in our popup, when being in a hard side would have been nice. ~James

  15. We can relate to multiple unexpected losses, it changes you. It was a major catalyst for our lifestyle change. None of us are getting any younger. I’m so happy your house sold quickly and you had some time to explore out west. Carpe Diem indeed!

    PS – Welcome back!

    1. Thanks Laura. You’re right that none of us are getting younger, and sadly, that means that there will be more unexpected losses. But, as I said to someone else, the key is to not be dragged down by grief. Obviously, you and Steve have grabbed the bull by the horns and done something about your future – and more people should follow your example. We just finished a month-long camping trip out west that’s the start of our comeback. And as the Blues Brothers said: “We’re gettin’ the band back together!” Thanks so much for continuing to follow along. ~James

    1. Thanks Lexie. Obviously, we can’t control the misfortunes in our lives, but we can determine our priorities, and we both knew it was time to make a change. You’ll hear a lot more about this process, but in the meantime, thanks for getting in touch and for continuing to follow along. All the best to you. ~James

    1. Thanks Gail. Much has been written about the healing process, but it’s definitely personal and takes the time that it takes. Luckily, we have each other and our very supportive families and friends to lean on and that makes all the difference. Thanks for getting in touch and for continuing to follow along. ~James

  16. Oh my goodness James & Terri, I am so sorry to read of the loss of your loved ones. Taking time to heal & to reset sounds like it was much needed for both of you. I hope your hearts are feeling a little lighter as time goes on.

    We too, have shared a similar experience over the last while. My husband unexpectedly lost his sister about a year and a half ago, and in the past 3 months, both of his parents.

    Take good care of yourselves. Certainly lovely to see you here💕

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words Lynn, and we’re sorry to hear about the loss of your loved ones as well. We all make peace with loss in our own way, and as you know, it just takes time. Luckily, Terri and I have each other to lean on, and that makes all the difference. The blog has been a important part of our life in recent years, and hopefully, going forward we’ll use it as a tool to get some normalcy back. All the best to you and thanks so much for continuing to follow along. ~James

  17. I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your family members. Your health and sanity are much more important than a blog. Take time and come back when you feel you are ready. In 2012 and 2013, my family lost 8 members, including my son. It may have been spread out over a longer period of time, but was devastating nonetheless. It seemed that we didn’t get over one loss before another member was gone from this world. That being said, I think I understand at least some of what ya’ll went through. Take care of yourselves, first and foremost. Sissy

    1. Thanks Sissy. We can relate to the “just getting over one before the next.” And we have both always been good about keeping the blog in perspective. It just happened that this time, with all the stuff going on, we stopped for longer than ever before. But you’re right, we always come first. That’s the nice thing about a personal blog, as opposed to a for-pay job blog. Thanks again. ~James

  18. Welcome back and so pleased you sold your house quickly. Sorry that you have had so much grief to deal with – never an easy process, but you have the best attitude to it – your loved ones would love to see you living the life you want 🙂 Enjoy and happy travels xxx

    1. Thanks for the comment Shelley and for dropping by the blog. I’m always at a loss to know meaningful things to say when these sorts of tragic events happen to others. And I think that it’s equally difficult when trying to rationalize it in my own life. It just takes time. ~James

  19. Sorry life intervened, but glad to hear you recharged and back on track. Nature is a great healer. Life isn’t always fair, but as the Disney Nemo movie says, “Just keep swimming”!

    1. Thanks Pam. These times and tragedies are to be expected, but knowing that doesn’t really make it any easier. It really just takes time and a focus on staying positive. Thanks for contacting us and for continuing to follow along. ~James

  20. Welcome back, you two! Sorry to hear about your tough months – losing six family members in a short time sounds unreal! Another reminder that you need to live life to its fullest and follow your passions. It seems like you’re (still) on the right track with that. Congrats on selling your house so quickly. My parents as well as my brother-in-law sold their house recently and both were on the market for only one day!!

    We don’t have a house, or we’d sell it as well to finally have money and travel a bit more in luxury and style. 🙂 But, what’s life without challenges? Happy travels!

    1. Thanks for getting in touch Liesbet. As you mention, our recent experiences were a vivid reminder to follow our passions and Carpe Diem. We’ve been pretty good at that in the past, but the question we ask ourselves now is: “If not now, when?” And all of this has given us a laser focus for going forward. Selling our house and downsizing to a small rental was a big part of that, as well as our camping trip out west. We’ve missed blogging and it will be nice to get back into the routine. All the best to you and thanks for continuing to follow along. ~James

  21. Something I forget. The one and only exception to paying by installments. Real Estate. In the long term buying saves far more than renting. Getting over the initial mortgage is the hard part. Pay as much as possible in cash. When mortgage rates drop pay off part of the mortgage. My wife and I bought a snall place, paid off the mortgage in seven years and when we could afford it built an extension.

    1. I love your idea of buying a small place, then later adding an addition after the mortgage is paid off. Then you’re financially prepared to handle the new expense. Do you recommend financing or paying outright for the addition? Thanks again for the great input. ~Terri

  22. Welcome back! Although I have been posting on a mostly regular basis, reading/commenting on blogs somehow slipped to the wayside. I have promised myself I would rectify that situation and keep up with my favorite bloggers. I look forward to all of your new posts!

    1. It all takes time Amy, and we certainly understand. There are two of us, and sometimes it’s a strain to keep it all going. Done right, blogging takes a lot of effort, and bloggers need to read other bloggers, which also adds to the time requirements. We know how much energy it takes and we really appreciate that you continue to follow along. ~James

  23. Thank you for your wonderful blog posts. I just started reading them today and i can’t tell you how much pleasure they gave me. I too am sorry for your recent loss.

    1. Hi Steven, I’m so glad that you stopped by. Thanks so much for your very kind words. It looks like you and Annie enjoy travel as much as James and I do. Our wanderlust started when we got jobs in Khartoum, Sudan – then we started working internationally. Now we’re thrilled to find new places and go back to places we worked and do the exploring we didn’t have the time to do then. Your upcoming travels this year look exciting! All the best, Terri

  24. Life certainly forges its own path, regardless of our plans. But the key is being able to pick yourself up after a setback, and carry on with revised plans… I always think that much of the fun is in the planning and anticipation anyway. It is a shame that the changes to your plans came at such personal cost. A reminder to make the most of the time we have.

    I also deposed of my possessions just over four years ago, pretty cathartic although I kept the shell of my past – the house which I let… Somehow I have not yet been able to let go of that. Although it is a definite tie with having tenants, it also gives me something solid to come back to in case things don’t pan out as planned…

    I haven’t had the opportunity yet to browse your blog, but I certainly enjoyed this post and look forward to reading about your adventures, wherever they may take you.


    1. Hi Lieve, I’m so glad you stopped by. Thanks for your encouraging words. It sounds like you’ve been on the path to simplicity for a while now. Congrats! Cathartic is the perfect word.
      I love your blog and see that you are teaching English around the world. That’s fantastic! How often do you change locations? All the best, Terri

      1. Hi Terri,

        Not often enough is what I would like to say… but contracts are generally for a year and it gives me some financial stability for a little while at least. Although it doesn’t give me the freedom to wander and move around as much as I would like, it gives a different and unique insight into a country through the world of work as you experience some of the realities and the discrepancies in how local and foreign employees are treated. It hasn’t always been an easy ride for me, much of which has not yet found its way into my blog. Whereas in India I felt at ease to write about work issues, whilst in China I needed to be extremely careful not to add anything negative to my posts to avoid attracting the unwanted attention of authorities. And although I felt less intimidated in Vietnam, I had to be mindful that as my blog is in the public domain, it can be closely inspected by prospective employers should they get wind of it via my Facebook posts… I hope to one day add to my blog and be a bit more open about the trials and tribulation of life of an expat ESL teacher… Luckily, I have also had a lot of fun and my life has definitely been richer because of these unforgettable experiences.

        And I hope to be able to carry on with teaching for a little longer. That’s the plan anyway, but as always, plans can change.

        All the best, Lieve

      2. Lieve, that’s quite an international teaching CV you’ve built. Congrats! I’ve heard about the “restrictions” in China from several teaching friends who worked there. And I know when we were there on business in the 90s, surveillance was ever-present. I’m sure that you’re looking forward to the day you can share openly on your blog.
        So where are you based now? ~Terri

      3. At the moment still in the UK, but hope to be on my way again soon. Probably going back to Vietnam, but nothing set in stone so let’s wait and see what the great unknown has in store for me…


    1. Hey Peggy, so glad you stopped by. 🙂 The first half of our year was certainly a trial, but now we’re back and ready to rock ‘n roll. What’s your next adventure? ~Terri

  25. I just loved the topic you chose to write on… it is something we all know but such little reminders are more important when we are busy planning our futures… always expect the unexpected!!!

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