I am totally hooked on HGTV’s reality show “House Hunters International” — but I don’t have the confidence (or sense of direction!) to put any plans in motion. Stephanie, on the other hand, is living around the globe after a divorce and retirement.

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Stephanie in Vietnam during a pre-retirement trip. (Photo courtesy The Hostel Mom)

 

View from Stephanie’s current home on a Spanish island.

Transcript

LAURA STASSI

I am totally hooked on HGTV’s reality show House Hunters International. Have you seen it? It features real estate options around the globe – quaint villages, bustling capital cities, secluded islands …

 STEPHANIE

That’s exactly how I picture my retirement. You have a little one bedroom with kitchen, clean. A door opens, and there’s the beach.

 LAURA STASSI

That’s Stephanie. I met her last year on my hometown pickleball courts. Now, House Hunters International often features couples who are making pricey relocation plans because of career moves. But Stephanie? She’s focused on economy. And, she’s doing it solo.

 STEPHANIE

I was married for 20 years. And my husband and I separated and divorced recently, two years. It was very amicable. We’re still great partners in raising my son who is 21. It’s I just don’t want to live in the same home with him and give him half my money.

LAURA STASSI

Okay, you’ve been in a long marriage. And it sounds like you were both equal career earners.

STEPHANIE

Correct.

LAURA STASSI

So did you not have financial division issues when it came time to the divorce?

STEPHANIE

No, no because he was a single child with no siblings, he was raised in an environment where it was very self-contained, not necessarily selfish, which he didn’t have to share. So when we got married, we had agreed to keep our checking account separate. And then I would give him a percentage of my paycheck to pay for the housing, household goods. And so it allowed me — which I just love — it allowed me the opportunity to buy what I wanted to buy without having to ask for money. My car payments, my credit card bills were my responsibility. And then he would take care of the mortgage, the heating, the food, and those types of things. So it worked out really well for me, as I was able to have money, so that when I decided to leave, I had the funds to do so.

So for my friends who are in relationships that are not ideal, they do not have the funds to get out. And therefore they’re trapped in a situation where they’re not happy. And I think it goes back to my early childhood, when I had asked my mother for 25 cents for milk money, and she said she didn’t have it. And I said, I will never ever, ever ask anybody for money again. And so I’m just thankful that I was able to save money without depriving me of my — you know, being frugal, but just being able to save money, that when I needed to get out, I had that bank account that would support me.

LAURA STASSI

Did finances play any role in your unhappiness with your marriage?

STEPHANIE

Absolutely, yeah. The reason is because I would give half of my money, my paycheck, to my ex-husband to support the home. And he would say that it wasn’t enough. And then whenever something would break in the home — the dishwasher or the water heater, the washer dryer — I would have to pay for that. And then I would also have to pay for my son’s camps and doctor’s appointments and haircuts and clothing and all those things. So it’s for me, it was very imbalanced. And then if you ask him, he perceived it, it’s being imbalanced. And so my decision was based on, in that struggle. I don’t want to give you half of my money, you’re still not satisfied. I’m done.

LAURA STASSI

Right. Did you earn about the same amount of money?

STEPHANIE

It was almost exactly the same. And it was over six figures, both.

LAURA STASSI

Yeah, oh that’s so interesting to me, that it was still an issue, money still was an issue.

STEPHANIE

Yeah. He had a hobby, he was a hunter, and I encouraged the hobby, I had my hobbies as well. And he would buy a lot of clothing and a lot of the guns and he would hunt ducks, which were beautiful — from all over the world and would pay to have them stuffed, if you will. And all that costs a lot of money. And he would drive very, very fancy cars. And it wasn’t until I was looking to get a new car. And I went to the BMW dealership to look at it like a little Mini Cooper. And the salesperson flipped the computer around and he said, Oh, is this your husband? And I saw his car. And it was over $100,000

LAURA STASSI

Oh, and you had no idea.

STEPHANIE

I had no idea. Nor is it my business. But the fact that it was impacting our kind of fiscal responsibility. It was an aha moment that, you know, he’s asking me for more money to support …

LAURA STASSI

…the joint efforts. But the single efforts — solo efforts he was having not a problem with. Wow.

STEPHANIE

Yeah. That’s a — it’s a good story. We’re very amicable and on purpose, whereas I know many women can touch the hot button and blow the relationship up to sky high. I could do that. I won’t do that just because of my son and the family unit that we have.

LAURA STASSI

Tell me about the importance of travel in your life.

STEPHANIE

So when I met my husband, he was actually born in Pakistan. And so he slowly took me on trips within the United States. And then, because he wanted to introduce me to his family after our son was born, we went on international trips to Asia, to Europe. And then he encouraged me to travel. And I went to Thailand with my father, which is interesting. So my father literally would travel with a school backpack, anywhere in the world.

LAURA STASSI

Okay, so the first time you did this solo travel, you were already single?

STEPHANIE

Correct. I had a week off, and I was looking to go down to the beach. And as a single woman, down to the beach was going to cost two or $3,000 for like a high season, one-bedroom, little shack near the beach. And I thought, where could I go for less? And I love Google Flights. So I just put in my departure city, and anywhere. And it shows you the world map and how much it would cost, and Belize was the first place,  it was $350 to go round trip to Belize.

LAURA STASSI

Oh, wow.

STEPHANIE

And so I said, all right, let’s go. You’re scared. But let’s go. And I booked my first night, at a hostel generally. And from then on, I just let serendipity take me wherever I go.

LAURA STASSI

Did you have any problems with navigation or figuring out how to eat or what to do?

STEPHANIE

I think for me, the most overwhelming part of a trip is the airport. You leave the plane, kind of in your comfort zone, and then you open the doors to the to the airport terminal, and it’s just chaos. And so what I’ve practiced now is just sitting down, because you have the taxi drivers and everybody and you don’t know where to go and what to do. I knew that I wanted to go to this little island, and I knew I needed to take a ferry. So I got a taxi to there. So you just you know where you’re staying your first night. So the most difficult part is getting to your first night stay.

And I generally will like to go in the daytime. So you’re feeling a little bit safer and not traveling at night, but as a solo traveler, and then you check in. And I like to stay at hostels — a little bit older than the typical hostel goer, but they’re so sociable. Everybody’s up in the morning Where are you going? What are you doing? Can I come? You just stay as long as you need to stay in a place before either you don’t like the person in the room with you or you don’t like where you are. And then you just look and start to make your next plans.

LAURA STASSI

Okay, so I have a terrible sense of direction. And as independent as I like to think I am I like I’ve started to tell people, I’m tired of making all the decisions, somebody like, I would go out and get, you know, we have beer tasting. And there’s like this whole beer menu and you know, what kind of beer do you want? I’m like, You know what pick for me, I don’t want to make any decisions. So that, frankly, terrifies me what you’re describing — is going by yourself. And not someone telling you what to do or where to go.

STEPHANIE

Some people really like that tour guide, meet me here at 9 o’clock, we’re going to do A, B and C. For me, that’s the worst-case scenario of having to wait, I want to go faster, I want to go slower, I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to be accommodating to anybody else’s I can’t walk up that ramp, I can’t walk here. And then I join groups when I want to go see a tourist attraction. So it’s not the whole plan of my trip. But I make sure that if there’s certain things that I want to see, and they’re only can be seen through a tour guide, then we get a tour guide.

LAURA STASSI

And where else have you been besides Beliz?

STEPHANIE

My favorite places are Asia. So I went to Vietnam, and Thailand and Vietnam — I loved. I rented a motor scooter, and just went around the country and the food and the culture is just amazing. With the pandemic, though, then I turned my sights on South America. And Peru is by far, I think, my favorite place in the world. Again, a lot of English speaking, especially because they’re just so dependent on tourism. And recently, I got back from Greece. And then again, in South America, just Colombia, and I’ve been to Panama, just quite a few countries, but only 25. If you look at the 135 that there were, so.

LAURA STASSI

Have you had any experiences where you’ve met someone? Whether it’s a, you know, a new friend or a romantic connection that kind of stuck?

STEPHANIE

Oh, absolutely. So in a hostel, I do a lot of writing. And I have come up with the name of The Hostel Mom. So again, I love the hostel. And I will always through serendipity meet a young traveler, that’s maybe 18 or 22, that is by themselves. We develop a wonderful like parent-child relationship, and I take care of them while I am there. We’ll go out to dinner, I’ll treat them to dinner, I’ll treat them to, you know, groceries or shampoos or the little spoils through the times. And young females — no interest in, in the men at this time.

LAURA STASSI

And you’re laughing, but why?

STEPHANIE

I just, I guess I’m aware of the nonsense, and I’m aware of the distraction, and I don’t need that in my life right now.

LAURA STASSI

Since our conversation, Stephanie has retired. She left the United States. And for the next year, she’s living in a flat on a Spanish island off the coast of Western Africa. You can live vicariously through her by catching the view from her window. There’s a photo of it on the Bonus Content page of datingwhilegray.com.

END CREDITS

Speed Dating While Gray audio production and mix is by Steve Lack: Audio. For more on the show, including how to get in touch with me, go to datingwhilegray.com. I’m Laura Stassi. Thanks for listening.

 Episode transcripts are posted on the Dating While Gray website before they are thoroughly proofread. The audio of this episode is the authoritative record. For terms of use and permissions, please email laura@datingwhilegray.com.