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Making Big Life Decisions

Making major, life changing decisions is hard! While it’s a unique process for everyone, I thought it might be helpful to share my story of how I made the decision to become a part-time expat.

In 2018, I built my 700-square-foot accessory dwelling unit, “Richmond Rose Cottage,” and in early 2019 I moved in and rented out the main house. One of my key reasons for downsizing to a small home was to simplify my living situation and make it easier to travel. Of course, in early 2020 life changed. My cottage provided a safe and comfortable cocoon to ride out the pandemic. Yet much as I loved my home in Portland, Oregon, I was ready for a change and to break free from my comfort zone.

Exploring options

Truth be told, I felt a little trapped. I wanted to slow travel Europe, Canada and the US. But I couldn’t afford to do that without renting out my house while I traveled. After extensive research on Portland rental laws, I came up with a few options. Ideally, I would have liked to Airbnb my house. But there was no way I could manage short-term rentals while traveling. Renting the house for two or three months seemed ideal. However, the city’s rules would require me to pay each renter $3,300 in relocation assistance each time I returned home. There is an exemption that would allow me to move back into my home, but I didn’t qualify for it because I’d put the property under my LLC instead of my name.

For months I kept churning my options over and over in my head. I couldn’t decide what to do and I couldn’t see a way forward. First-world problems, I know, but the pandemic had taken a toll on my mental health. The more I thought about my options, the more trapped I started to feel. Dark feelings of helplessness and hopelessness swept over me. Fortunately, I had the tools that helped me realize these beliefs — holdovers from my childhood — we’re simply not true. I was not helpless, and the situation was far from hopeless. I had the power, the intelligence and the resources to manifest the life I desired.

Clearing the mind

In all the years I’d lived in Portland, I’d only been to Seattle a couple of times. I decided to take a week to explore the city and visit friends. When I travel, I almost always have an epiphany. There is something about getting away from the home environment, and spending time in nature, that clears my head and helps me see what's truly important. I realized that if I wanted to slow travel, I needed to make that happen — and sooner than later. I decided to take the risk, and rent my house out long-term, even though that meant not knowing when I’d be able to return home.

Now I needed to tell my good friends who live in the main house. I was worried they’d be upset since I’d be gone for a whole year living the life of a digital nomad. But when I told them of my intense desire to travel, the response was, “That’s great. Why don’t you Airbnb your place and we’ll help manage it when you’re away.” They were, and continue to be, my earth angels helping me make my dreams come true.

A walk through the Douglas Firs in Mount Tabor Park in Portland, Oregon.
The road appears before us when we set our direction.

Making a decision — even if it’s the wrong one

When we set an intention — in this case to slow travel — and we’re brave enough to make a choice in order to fulfill our dream — even if it’s the wrong one — the Universe knows what we want and starts putting the pieces into place to manifest our desires. And that’s exactly what happened.

Instead of becoming a digital nomad, I decided to Airbnb my place whenever I wanted to slow travel. I got the ball rolling right away, purging a ton of stuff from my house, clearing out closets and creating an inviting vacation rental for my guests. I registered with the city, set up the Airbnb listing with professional photos and found a great house cleaner. Now when I travel, I have the funds to do so, and I have the peace of mind knowing someone responsible is looking after my home.

Doing short-term rentals allowed me to create the part-time expat lifestyle I desired all along. Being a full-time digital nomad would not have suited me. Although I'm happy living out of a suitcase, I am also a homebody, and having a beautiful and comfortable home base is important to me. I’m happy to be a part-time expat, even if it’s just three months a year.

The power of making a decision

If you need to make a major life decision, it’s important to do your research first. Knowledge is power, and you simply can’t make the right decision without all the facts. Explore your options, and the pros and cons of each choice.

Then do the internal work. Do whatever it takes to quiet your mind and listen to your heart: meditate, spend time in nature or get away from your everyday life.

Thirdly, make a decision. If it feels right in your body, express your intention, and start moving forward. You’ll know you’ve made the right decision when obstacles are eliminated, the right people show up to support you, and all the pieces fall into place. It doesn’t mean the journey won’t entail hard work, but as I always say, “If it’s meant to be, it will happen with ease.”

Thank you to my reader, Mariam, who inspired this post.

Let me know what big life decisions you’ve had to make and what helped you reach a decision. Or perhaps you’re mulling one over right now. I look forward to hearing from you.



Hi, I’m Lori Cronwell. As a writer and frequent traveler, I admire the values most Europeans embrace: choosing quality over quantity; residing in smaller, more sustainable homes; working less and spending more time with friends and family.

Those values were key in my decision to drastically downsize to a 700 sq. ft. accessory dwelling unit (ADU) with the goal of creating a simpler, more sumptuous life with time for travel.

Slow travel, that is. Spending more time in one place — even if it’s just a week. You'll not only spend less, you'll discover a deeper and more meaningful travel experience.

Please subscribe below and join me on a journey to find affordable ways to explore Europe in the slow lane and to live a more European lifestyle every day of our lives.

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