When we launched ourselves on this vagabonding adventure, it was our intention to settle in at each location, and for us settling in meant cooking and eating at home.
Somehow we lost sight of this aspiration in South America, in the early stages of our journey, but once we arrived in Spain, after three months of travel, we finally started cooking at home. It has now become an established practice on our journey.
Back home in California, we have always preferred cooking and eating at home. We both like to cook, and we enjoy lingering at the table after the meal in conversation. It’s one of the things that keeps the romance running strong in our relationship. (Did we mention we are still madly in love and enchanted with each other’s company?)
Home-cooked meals at our house were certainly a mainstay of life for our kids as they were growing up, and occasionally for their friends as well, and we also frequently entertained guests in our home for dinners and brunches.
We also don’t mind the preparation or the clean-up afterwards!
But cooking in combination with this itinerant life proved to be a little more daunting. For one thing, the short-term rental apartments where we usually stay are often missing essentials like spices and cooking oil. And then finding good markets in some of the typically touristy historical areas has sometimes been a challenge.
In Valencia, however, things began to change. First, we landed a sweet apartment with a well-equipped kitchen. Then, we discovered, Valencia is a foodie heaven, with fresh, delicious, abundant local products available in markets throughout the city.
Suddenly, the urge to cook at home kicked in for both of us in Valencia, and almost without effort we enjoyed home-cooked dinners four nights in a row!
We have finally adapted and it makes visiting each destination so much more relaxing when we end the day with dinner at home. Oh, and we eat more reasonable portions and it will bring our budget back to a long-term, sustainable level. This small change actually tips the scales so that it is now less expensive, per day, to live abroad than to stay in our three-bedroom house in San Rafael, California.
Our meal plan is relatively simple. Breakfast at home consists of coffee, toast and cereal. If we are in a region that caters to American visitors, then we can even find peanut butter for our toast at breakfast.
We typically grab lunch out, away from home, while visiting tourist sites, although as often as not it’s just a sandwich or something from a vendor rather than a sit-down meal.
Then we stop at the market in the afternoon to pick up groceries for dinner – vegetables, salad fixings, bread and a bottle of wine. A main course at dinner might be pasta, steak, chicken and occasionally home-made pizza. If we are feeling a little lazy, we sometimes pick up a hot roasted chicken and build a meal around that.
We have adopted the custom of purchasing and then bringing along our kitchen basics, either stuffed into one of our backpacks, or in a separate grocery bag — olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs, balsamic vinegar, and sometimes olives, Tabasco sauce and other non-perishables. On the relatively rare occasion when we have required air travel to get to our next destination, we have jettisoned our kitchen staples and then purchased new items to supply the next apartment.
This adaptation in our vagabond lifestyle has afforded us the uniquely happy experience of sitting in our own place, sharing a meal. It lets us capture one of the best aspects of our former life in California. Meanwhile, we still get ample opportunity to wander around a beautiful city like Valencia or Seville during the day, or even after dinner, if we choose.
Pretty sweet, eh?
Below are some additional photos of a few of our home-cooking lifestyle in Spain and France.