Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Year in Greece. . .maybe, just maybe

‘. . .You start dying slowly. . .
If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,
If you do not go after a dream,
If you do not allow yourself, at least once in your lifetime,
To run away from sensible advice.’
                    ~ Pablo Neruda

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Arriving Athens, Greece
I suspect every ex pat out there whether part- or full-time understands Neruda’s words. We are learning that to be an ex pat, in the truest sense of the word, you need to embrace them all.

In fact, those words if set to music could be our theme song right now: we are going after a dream, challenging the uncertain – and as many of our friends and family seem to think -- we are running away from what is sensible.

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At the door of our U.S. 'landing pad' in the Seattle suburbs
When we return to our Stone House on the Hill in the Greek Peloponnese countryside this fall we plan to stay.  Not for a couple months, as we did during the Schengen Shuffle years, but really stay ~ as in live there. It will be our home, our landing pad in the world, for at least a period of time.

In our case though, with our belongings in storage or farmed out to family and friends, we will set off in September to write another chapter in what we are calling our Last Great Adventure.

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Our Kirkland home

The news isn’t a surprise to many of you regulars at TravelnWrite – you were reading between the lines of that earlier post when I wrote about giving ourselves permission to live differently.  You saw it coming the minute I wrote our summer goals were ‘discarding and downsizing’.

Our house and neighbors are near and dear to us, but in the last few years we’ve become visitors, not residents. More time has been spent in Greece and living out of a suitcase than was spent ‘at home’.

With the new plan we are simply reversing what we have been doing. Greece will be the base but we will still return to the Northwest once or twice a year and without yard work and household chores (at least for awhile) we'll have plenty of time to visit friends and family.

Opening and Closing Doors

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 Provins, France
We’ve been inspired and helped by the experiences and stories of our ex pat friends – those in our real life world and our blogosphere virtual world -- who’ve already taken the leap into the unknown. They tell us they've not regretted their moves; each describing a feeling of freedom not to mention the joy of fully immersing themselves in a new culture and country.

For that matter we have friends who’ve upended their sedentary lives in the Northwest and headed out to other destinations in the U.S. They also report that same sense of well-being that comes with change.

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Proud of those residency cards
Ours wasn’t a snap decision.  At the time we applied for a residency permit we toyed with the possibility of actually living on ‘our’ hill in the Peloponnese. By the time we got through the process we had decided the time was now or never.

Fish or cut bait.
We could stay longer.
We aren’t getting any younger.
What were we waiting for?

And besides, the bottom line is, we really like living there.

But there’s a vast difference between making a decision to go after a dream and embrace the unknown and actually putting yourself in a position of doing so.  First step in opening a new door is to shut another.

The Dream and The Reality

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The reality of the new plan is that the time has come to put our home of 30 years in the Seattle suburbs will go on the market. (And that type of downsizing activity is not so unusual for 60-something people - many of our friends are doing just that!)

What we were dreading and rightly so it seems is the enormity of the task of cleaning out and discarding. The day-to-day tasks of packing and storing a lifetime of memories, belongings and every day things that it takes to make life run is a real ‘slog’ as one expat friend calls it.

My special doll from childhood tucked away in a bureau drawer. . .The extra deodorant and toothpaste in the bathroom cupboard. . .The clothes that are relegated to the closet by travel destination: Hawaii, Greece, Northwest. . . Dish soap and laundry detergent. . .Everything
in the house.

Everything needs to go somewhere by summer’s end. . .and getting it there is where we are right now in this journey.

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Between Stoupa and Ag. Nikolaos on a winter's day
It also means rethinking life beyond the belongings.  The daily routines: What about the snail mail? How many memberships and services will be discontinued? Health insurance? What do we do with our cars? Or who will take my houseplants so carefully tended by my neighbor while we are gone –  soon to be orphans?

The Change Begins

Our summer calendar was created by our realtor. It sets out our tasks and timelines. A ‘stager’ hired by the realtor has toured our home and told us what can stay and what needs to go before it can be shown to potential buyers. (Half the furniture needs to go as does all art and decorations, throw rugs and towels. We can leave the coffee pot on the kitchen counter though!)  We have photo shoots and drone schedules on the calendar. We speak realtor talk of  “launches’ and ‘showings’.

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Sunset at the Stone House on the Hill

But we are keeping in mind why we are doing all this; how blessed we are to have a chance to dream the dream and challenge the unknowns.  Sitting on a deck at The Stone House on the Hill is a much better idea than at an old folks care facility – that’s for sure!

While we aren’t doing a lot of traveling in the real sense of the word this summer, it is an interesting journey we’ve undertaken. Once in Greece we’ll give ourselves some time. . .maybe a year. . .maybe just a few more months than we could stay before . . .to enjoy that other world of ours. 

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Our Stone House on the Hill this spring caption
I don’t want to dilute the travel emphasis of our blog with mundane moving tales, but we know some of you reading this are going through similar down-sizing processes or giving some thought to some major changes in lifestyle.  We thought you'd like to know you aren't alone in this time of adventure.

Want to share some of your experiences with us?  Leave a comment below, shoot us an email or comment on the FB post. It would be fun hearing from you and what you are up to. Until next time, our thanks for your time and wishes for safe and happy travels.

For those stopping by for the first time, you can read more about our ex pat life in Greece at: The Stone House on the Hill

Linking Up:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
– 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

40 comments:

  1. This is a great share, Jackie. Thank you for doing so. This is a big job and you are almost there! I am curious about the rules for keeping US residency, affect on Social Security benefits, and whether you will have a small abode to call home here in US.

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    1. In time we'll likely have some landing pad in the US, just too much to do to pack up and sell and didn't want to rush into a decision-making mode about buying until we gave ourselves some breathing room. There are no rules about keeping a US residence and it doesn't impact Social Security (it would require some paperwork if you were having your SS deposited into an account in a foreign country).

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  2. Livin' the dream! Good for you guys! Doing the downsize thing is scary to think about. I have no plans to move to Greece or across the valley, for that matter, but I should start that now anyway! It could take years.

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    1. Well that is a great idea and you should act on it. I've been saying it for years and am now working 'on deadline' and it's a killer. Morning to night, it is sort, discard, donate, haul, dump, save, box. . .a slog as my blogger buddy so aptly put it!

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  3. You're making a wonderful move and it is so great that you share it. We have sons and grandchildren that make us think twice about relocating to a different place, however---As you know, I share your pain on the downsizing bit. At least in my move to a nearby apartment, I'll have room for most of my flower pots. But the decisions on discarding---what a pain. The hardest were the photo albums--fat collections of printed photos with an album for each major trip between 1980 and 2003 or so. Where oh were are they going to go? Yes, I could scan each picture, but who has the weeks that would take? And secondly, the stationary boxes--again one per each major trip--with my notes, brochures, and sometimes slides that I never got around to printing for an album. The fact is that after we are gone, no one will understand or enjoy these mementos, but they still bring us such joyful memories. Alas these decisions are tough!

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    1. As I wrote you yesterday, the photos have been difficult to part with and I am tearing some albums apart and keeping just the photos (which I know I will end up dumping in the future so why pay to store them, right?) But those memory decisions are the most difficult, that's for sure!

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  4. Wow, what huge, exciting news! Yes, the downsizing is daunting, but once it's done, it's done, and the reward is watching those glorious sunsets at Stone House on a daily basis! Congratulations taking this wonderful step!

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    1. Thanks much, Amy. It is 'deadline' time and I guess it is good we gave ourselves a short timeline otherwise I'd be wallowing in memories and having a difficult time parting with things. With each passing day getting us closer to the selling 'launch' I pick up sorting speed and leave a bit more sentiment behind.

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  5. Jackie this is so timely as I am doing the same thing. Downsizing and moving most of our things to a smaller apartment in the same building. You see I am going to be moving back to the States. Our town is no longer viable for us. There is no future for the kids so I am taking the two younger ones and moving back. Isn't it funny how we are going to be crossing paths over the Atlantic?

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    1. Oh Mary I am so sorry to hear you are moving back to the US just as I am finally getting over there and getting enough time to come visit! I guess we will be crossing over the ocean! When do you plan to leave?

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    2. I'm thinking as soon as the summer is over. We have not determined the date yet. Need to finish some things here. But I suspect I'll be going back and forth.

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  6. I think the purging will be freeing for you - so much stuff accumulated.

    When we downsized to our little beach cottage ( a mile away, but it feels like we moved to another country in terms of lifestyle) we had to look long and hard at what would make the cut. I can honestly say there are only a couple of items that I wish I might have kept, but it's no big deal. Less stuff to care for and less space to bring in more stuff allows for long walks on the beach or lazy afternoons reading in the garden.

    I wish you a quick sale!

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    1. I need these words of inspiration -- this sorting and discarding starts affecting your mind and spirit. I've actually found myself enjoying standing in line at the post office just because I am out of the house and not sorting. BUT as you say, one day I'll be taking beach walks and reading books again in the afternoon! Thank's for the encouragement - it was needed today!

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  7. Such a great opening quote, Jackie and I often think how amazingly lucky we all are to be able to define and redefine our retirement dreams. Expating wasn't even on my horizon 10 years ago but how awesomely fun to watch how the dream has evolved. I especially like your phrase, "rethinking life beyond the belongings" and it really does boil down to that, doesn't it? It's incredibly freeing to own your stuff rather than it owning you. Here's to dreams and wherever they may take you!

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    1. I was thinking that as I wrote the post. . .while others say, "we knew you were going to do this" we sure didn't. I'd have bet money on that one it was so out of our minds when we bought our Stone House. But it is fun to see us evolving and changing as we go about changing our world. . .and you are so correct about owning your own stuff and not being owned by it!

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  8. Wish you the best during this process. Even though I am not going through a similar experience, your words resonate. Deep inside, a lot of us are hungry for adventure an change. #TPThursday

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  9. Jackie, just looking at your pretty stone house on the hill, decorated with bougainvillea, overlooking that gorgeous, Greek landscape and the sea beyond (but oh, so close!), well, my mind would have been made up in mere minutes!! SO excited for you and the Scout; I know you will be very happy on your hill as a home base, surrounded by beauty, magic and new memories-in-the-making!

    Hugs
    Poppy

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    1. I'm with Poppy. The shot of the stone house on the hill has me captured. Wishing you health and happiness, Jackie.

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  10. This is really very interesting.

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  11. Wonderful and exciting news! One of the things that I think sets expats apart from travelers is that expats have to hunker down and really learn to enjoy a place -- embrace its bad parts along with the good. Travelers can just flit away elsewhere after the honeymoon period with a place is over. Learning to embrace all the parts of a place is when I felt that I really started understanding it. Great luck to you! I am trying to get my daughter to clean out her room. She's only 12, so she, at most, has 12 years worth of stuff to go through. It's taking forever. #WkendTravelInspiration

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    1. I can tell you the discard and dump (not to mention the what to put in storage) has become a major trip through Hades this summer. I should have had a 12-year sort and clean rule like your daughter and have done it every dozen years! #WkendTravelInspiration

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  12. Between nostalgia and anticipation...a period of introspection and detail drudgery. What a time. I went through this several times: when I migrated into the US from the Philippines and when we closed our Seattle chapter to a full time of RVing and then now to a home base for travels in Phoenix. Our lives are so enchantingly blessed!

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    1. I do remind myself constantly that this is a blessed curse. I am blessed to be moving on to a new adventure and not a care facility or nursing home and that we are closing out a life not because it is the end but the beginning. Thanks for stopping by Carol~

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  13. Good onya, mates! Bon courage! You have my sympathy on the house-emptying epic project. You are lucky to have deadlines and stages. I wish someone were standing over me (me, the procrastinator) and making me get rid of stuff.
    I have a new motto which I write on every week's Do List. It is Be ready to go!
    Whether the going is to a nice place in the world or in my country or to the Next World.
    Hopefully I will take inspiration from you two. Thank you and good luck with the work! Soon you'll be home in Greece.

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    1. Thanks for your good wishes Dina. I laughed at the mention of the 'to do' list as I dutifully wrote one two weeks ago and then buried it in a pile of stuff I'd sorted and only found it yesterday. Not a lot got crossed off either.

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  14. I moved to the Netherlands 20 years ago, but my husband and I are approaching a similar situation to yours, only much more slowly. We've bought a much smaller house and will move into it within a few years, renting it out in the meantime. That means we can slowly get rid of all that STUFF that clutters up the big house we raised our kids in, which is good because my husband is a bit of a packrat and needs time to let go. Our dream, though, is to live somewhere warmer and drier most of the year and spend summers in that little house we bought. We're so fortunate that we can even consider such a thing!

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    1. So agreed about being fortunate. I think you have a wonderful plan and love the slow approach to making it happen. This break-neck summer is not how I recommend doing it. Thanks for stopping by ~

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  15. Gorgeous shots! And such a lovely place to live.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoy them.

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  16. Downsizing was a huge job for us when we left our home of 25 years recently. It was made worse by the fact that we were shifting my parents as well as ourselves 1500km. Unfortunately my Mum died shortly after our arrival while we were still in the throes of fixing their home for resale. It's all settled down a little now and we are enjoying life at Coolum. I loved reading your post and look forward to sharing your journey with you.

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    1. Oh my gosh Jan you must have been on total physical and mental overload. I am so glad your life has settled down and you are settling into life at Coolum. You're an inspiration so keep the comments coming! xxx

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  17. I wish for you all the best on your new adventure. What a triumph to make your dream reality.

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    1. Thanks so much for the good wishes Marilyn.

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  18. Hello, I wish you all the best in the Stone House in Greece. It is beautiful, love the photos. Taking care of two places was something we considered but is way too much work. We want more fun times. Congrats to you on your next big step. Enjoy your day and the new week ahead!

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    1. We are amazed at the joy that taking care of our Greek house brings us as we too were of the notion we wanted fun and not work. So it was a real delight to discover that work can be fun as well! Thanks for the visit Eileen!!

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  19. Oh I so envy you taking a leap into another world. I don't think I could do it, for myself or for my children and grandchildren - though no doubt they would think that a holiday house in Europe would be nice! So I live my dreams through your stories and your running away from what is sensible. Enjoy! ....ps... but I don't envy the packing up!

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    1. Believe me I am calling this the Summer spent in Hell, and it is all my own doing. Had I not felt the need to keep every travel photo (back when we kept paper ones and their negatives) I've ever taken since my first camera in my single digit years, every airplane, train and other ticket stub, brochures, business cards etc. it wouldn't be quite as hellish as it has become. I think that travelers who are never home might be closet hoarders as they stuff all their momentums, and notes and stuff wherever they do land and then never have the time to sort and discard them. Oh as a friend would say, "what a blessed first world" situation I find myself in. ;-) Thanks for the visit!!

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  20. Wishing you all the best as you move through this stage!

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  21. Came over after a comment on my blog about gardening. I guess we are ex-pats as well. We came to Canada from Los Angeles via Bellingham in 2008 as permanent residents and are now applying for our citizenship. I never would have guessed this would happen in my life, but you just know when a change is right. - Margy

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