Saturday, September 23, 2017

Expat Life ~ With a Foot in Two Worlds

All my bags are packed
I'm ready to go. . . 

. . .'Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again. . .

                                                          -- Lyrics by John Denver, sung by Peter, Paul and Mary

“Leaving on a Jet Plane” is one of my favorite pre-travel theme songs.  This year perhaps its lyrics are a bit more poignant and at the same time a bit more exciting than ever before. We will soon be off to Greece.

And for the first time ever, we won’t be returning to a home base in Washington State.
We’ve always had a home in Washington. And that’s what makes this such a journey into new uncharted territory for us.

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From the airplane - Washington State's Mount Rainier
P1050095Regulars at TravelnWrite know we’ve just concluded a “Summer of Slogging” at our Pacific Northwest home; cleaning out and organizing our life’s accumulations in order to embark on a new adventure: living in Greece.

[For those new folks – we purchased a home in Greece 2.5 years ago and obtained our residency permits this spring. It was the nudge we needed to go from our part-time to full-time ex pat life.]

With treasures tucked away in storage, given away or sold, we put our home of 30 years on the market two weeks ago. In a head-spinning blink of time it sold within 48-hours.

In two weeks, we’ll be boarding a flight to Athens.  With our heads still spinning, we have yet to feel the euphoria of freedom and adventure that so many ex pats before us have promised will happen.

Not Here Nor There

Instead of swooning over newfound freedom we are teetering between two worlds; feeling neither here nor there. A Twilight Zone of sorts.

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Our destination: The Mani, Greek Peloponnese
Cue up Rod Serling (those of you of a certain age will know who I mean). In that quiet tone he’ll tell the viewing audience,“The Smiths  have just realized they are in a world of limbo – no longer rooted in the U.S. and not yet planted in Greece. Their only way out is through a maze of lists, logistics, and lessons.”

In the grand scheme of things, our Twilight Zone is nothing. Compared to those uprooted and homeless as result of hurricanes, wild fires, floods and social unrest, what we are experiencing is a blip on the comfort zone. Yet, when your world is shifting – if even by choice, as ours is – the change process is seismic.

The Logistics and Lists of Leaving

Way back in June we told you all that we’d be back in Greece by mid-September. Heck, yes! No sweat! We’d clean out the house, put it on the market, come back in a few months when it sold and complete our move.

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Arriving in Athens, Greece

That was the plan alright but as the old saying goes. . .life has a way of happening while you are busy making plans for it. Time to regroup, take a closer look at those lists and logistics and forge ahead. . .

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Regrouping and refocusing - taking a closer look at details
Changing dates:  We now have an early October date to move out of the house. We have a date for closing the sale. We have a new departure date for Greece.  And none of those dates are the same.
If all goes as planned (and that phrase is our new mantra) paperwork will be completed one day, we’ll finish moving out of our already-pretty-empty-house another, we’ll spend a couple nights in a SeaTac Airport hotel and two weeks from today we will fly to Greece.
* A lesson learned: we were able to change both the date and destination of our return flight on British Airways for little over $1,000 for both of us and we were able to stay in the previously booked premium economy section. That was less than we’d have paid if we’d have cancelled this the trip (the return leg of our trip here in June) and rebooked it using premium economy with the low-cost Norwegian Airlines and a regional airline.

“Moving abroad. . .must sell. . .” the reality is that no matter what they tell you about storage units, you can’t get the contents of a three-bedroom home into a 200-square-foot-storage unit. And further, in a hot housing market, volunteer agencies get mighty selective in the donations they accept.
*A lesson learned: We’ve attempted to donate some of our furniture that won’t fit in storage, to organizations serving the needy and homeless. Several of them have on line lists of items they will accept.  Two organizations in the Seattle area, charge a fee to cover the costs of picking up your donations.  The fee is $300 for one group and $500 for another.  We’ve opted to sell the furniture using on-line classified ad sites.

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Our cars and Herbie

Soon to be Car-less in Seattle:  After having been a two-car couple for decades, (with Herbie my ‘69 Bug a pretty face in our garage) we are going car-less. We sold both of our cars to friends in the eastern part of the state. Herbie (sob!) has been sold to a local classic car enthusiast. Timing is everything at this stage of the game and our friends are working around our schedule, taking our last car the morning of our departure for Greece.
*Lesson learned: Opting to sell the cars will result in no storage costs (for Herbie alone the quotes were from $200 US a month to $350) nor insurance payments or licensing costs which amount to savings of several hundred dollars. On the downside, we will need to rent a car when we come back for visits, but the savings will pay for it.
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This was too many bags - we'll have more this trip!
Packing the Bags:  While packing boxes and garbage bags has been the main focus of the summer, I’ve also been packing travel bags.  We are breaking all our previous rules about traveling light and will be herding more bags than either of us would prefer.  But we’ve realized that all those things that we’ve previously left ‘at home’ when we travel, for example those file folders with tax, medical and other ‘life’ information, also need to relocate.
*Lesson learned: By flying premium economy we are each allowed two free checked bags, an additional carry-on bag and one personal item.  We explored the cost of shipping a suitcase or a box the size of a suitcase and found it to be $200 for each piece and some who do international suitcase shipping don’t serve Greece.
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Washington State ferry and Seattle Space Needle - icons of our life here

“The address and phone number associated with this account?” I’ve had three encounters in recent weeks – at retail stores, service providers and state agencies that all asked for some account identification that included either an address or phone number.  Hmmm. . . so what do we use to access those accounts when we don’t have an address or phone numbers?
*Lesson learned:  We will maintain a U.S. address by using a mail forwarding company in our town.  For $20 a month, plus a small charge and postage costs, they will forward our ‘snail mail’ to Greece.  By not having a land line, internet provider and cell phone as we do now in the U.S. we’ll save more than $300 a month, nearly $4,000 a year. We’ll rent a mobile phone during future extended stays in the U.S. or do like we did only a few short years ago when we traveled without mobile phones.  Wouldn’t that be a novel thing to do?
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Home
Homeless in Seattle . . .but not Homeless  ‘How does it feel to be homeless?,’ our U.S. friends are asking with increasing frequency. ‘When will you be home?’ our friends in Greece are asking. It’s all in your perspective.
 
Home for the indefinite future will be in our Stone House on the Hill, on the edge of our olive grove overlooking our slice of The Mani. In three week’s we’ll no longer be ticking off lists and logistics, but will be scheduling our olive harvest. We’ll still be listening to our UW Husky football games (broadcast live in the early morning hours of Sundays) and following our Seattle Seahawks on internet feeds and FB updates. We’ll read the Seattle Times and watch televised feeds to keep up with Washington and U.S. news. We’ll welcome guests from the Pacific Northwest to our home. We’ll come back and visit.

*Lesson learned:  In June I was thinking of life as chapters - this one closing and another beginning. I've changed over the summer. I now think of it as life's continuing story, a single chapter in which the setting may change, new characters are added, the plot will have new twists and turns; but it all will serve to make the chapter larger and more interesting. It won't be a chapter's closing.


Again, thanks for being with us and all your words of encouragement and excitement as our adventure unfolds.  We appreciate your time and love reading your comments and emails. Hope you’ll return again next week and bring some friends and family with you! Safe and healthy travels to you and yours~

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens

Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration



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38 comments:

  1. This is a time for both 'Goodbyes' and 'Welcome Homes' and I can understand why you might feel like you're in a "Twilight Zone" episode. I'm sure you've had many moments of thinking, "Are we really doing this?" And so, the saga will continue in an ancient land filled with myths, ruins, gnarled olive trees and plenty of wine but not so far away, thanks to both the internet and airlines. A little bittersweet but there are memories to keep with you while you look forward to new experiences. Congratulations and here's to a simpler life! 🙂

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    1. You've nailed it again, Anita. "Are we really doing this?" and "What ARE we doing?" are questions I've pondered quite often this summer. I have reminded myself that those friends who want to stay in touch do so and pick up right where we left off no matter the time and distance that passes between us, so I am seeing this as opening up our world not leaving anything or anyone behind. Thanks for your counsel -- it has been a shining light! Look forward to seeing you soon ~

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  2. Your picture with the wheeled bags all in a line, ready to follow you, is so poignant.
    You have a white donkey neighbor?! A very auspicious sign! (In Jewish tradition, the messiah will come and enter Jerusalem riding on a white donkey.)
    Good onya for all you have accomplished in a short time. Soon, welcome to the eastern Mediterranean!

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    1. Oh I do hope that is an auspicious sign! (Actually he lives down the road but I get such a laugh when we drive by and he looks in the window seeing us as much a novelty as we do him!) Thanks for the welcome - we are most excited to spend more time in the magical Mediterranean!

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  3. Hello, I heard the Washington State homes were selling quickly. Good for you, it is a hot market. I am sure your Washington home has many happy memories. But, you new home in Greece is wonderful and exciting. I am envious, I have always wanted to visit Greece. I wish you all the best in this new life, sounds awesome. Happy Sunday, enjoy your day and the new week ahead!

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    1. If you ever make your trip to Greece happen, do let me know in advance!! And keep those photos coming of Washington - I am sure to be a bit nostalgic about it!! Happy week ahead!

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  4. You are on the way to a new adventure.

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    1. Sure hope so - I am definitely tired of this limbo phase. Thanks for stopping by -

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  5. So much to do! I had never thought that you would have to pay for someone to pick up your donations. I guess it makes sense though, they can be picky about it. So far it seems like things are moving forward at a decent pace. By the way, "Leaving on a Jet Plane" is the best travel song, so poignant! Thanks for linking in this week, #wkendtravelinspiration

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    1. The sequel to that story is we sold for $100 the bed set we'd planned to donate thus we figure we made between $400 and $600 when figuring actual purchase price and what we didn't have to pay for a pick up. . .sadly, the needy in the area lost out as result of the agency's response to donations. Thanks for dropping by!!

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  6. It's been quite the summer for you guys. There are also lessons to be learned about life and ourselves, aren't there? I wish you the best of luck in the next chapter of the continuing story of life.

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    1. Thanks much Donna. It has been a learning curve this summer - with a bit of stress thrown in -- but another week and hopefully we will see the light at the end of this tunnel! Thanks much for your good wishes ~ Jackie

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  7. Hi Jackie! I discovered your blog about a month ago and just now arrived at the present--ha! I loved reading about your journey from avid travelers to full time expats. Your writing is beautiful. I really appreciate the details too, because I want to be an expat myself, hopefully within the next two years. Wishing you safe travels as you soon head back to Greece!

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    1. Thank you Patty for the lovely comments. Good luck on your ex pat quest. Stay in touch and let us know how it goes. Hope to see you commenting here regularly! Jackie

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  8. So many lessons learned Jackie. I too am learning lots of lessons, mainly that things never go the way you expect them too and that Murphy's Law will prevail. I too am packing and taking lots of suitcases with me instead of shipping them over. Good luck on your trip across the pond and may you enjoy Fall in Greece.

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    1. Yes between the Peter Principle and Murphy's Law you must be flexible and keep an ability to laugh, don't you? Good luck as you prepare to do the journey in reverse. Do keep in touch!! Jackie

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  9. How gorgeous is your Rainier image from above.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed that shot of Rainier - it is a beauty from any angle, that's for sure!

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  10. Such an exciting time for you, Jackie! Thx for sharing all the details of the process with us. One never knows when such an opportunity might arise. :-)

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    1. You really don't ever know when some new door will open and beckon you through it, do you? I have been thrilled by the numbers of readers who have said that they too have dreams, and some even plans, to pursue the life of an ex pat as well.

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  11. Wow, I found this post utterly fascinating. Thank you for sharing your experience and the lessons you've learned. I doubt I will put them to use - it would terrify me to pull up roots and move to another country, most particularly one where I wasn't completely fluent in the language.

    I wish you every happiness, and thank you for sharing at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2017/09/the-view-from-mount-washington.html

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it! It is a rather exciting time in our lives - now that I am done slogging, I am finally beginning to realize what an adventure we have ahead of us. Love the link up - thanks as always.

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  12. I like your thought about life being one long, continuous story. You have a lot of good lessons learned, and I know that they'll be helpful for all the other "moving to Greece" expats who will inevitably come across TravelnWrite. It's less than two weeks until your big move. I bet you have a long list of friends who are planning to visit. Safe journeys. #WkendTravelInspiration

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    1. We are ticking off the to-do list at a rapid clip and I am squeezing in as many morning coffee klatches with girlfriends and we are enjoying as many wine/happy hours with friends as we can squeeze in. The countdown is reality. . . thanks for sticking with us. More from Greece!

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  13. Life in two worlds - just waiting for you to step out of one and in to another. Fine in theory. But the logistics! my goodness! Well you are well on your way now, and soon you will be in your stone house on the hill and your "other" life will be but a distant dream. It is swim or sink now as you have no lifeline to fall back on. But I know you will swim and enjoy it. And we will too reading about your unfolding story of your next chapter. I do hope you write a book! Safe travels. and enjoy the ride. xox

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    1. Yes, we are on the brink now of being done here. It is a Twilight Zone of being here but not really and ready for there but not really. It has been a time of growth I think for the both of us. We are on the home stretch now. . . thanks for your continuing words of encouragement!

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  14. So many details! Once you get to Greece, you can leave all this frantic planning and list-making behind and enjoy a new life there! We moved my mom into a retirement home and she wanted us to move into her home -- so for MONTHs we've been packing, moving, repacking, selling stuff, giving away stuff, moving us, taking care of a million details. It's tough, but it will be worth it!

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    1. Oh Sharon, I certainly understand what you've been going through. One thing this has made me realize is how little material things one really needs. How many blue jeans do I really need, same with cookware, decorative items -- I am becoming a minimalist advocate! Hope you'll comment again and let us know how you are doing!

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  15. This is so exciting and I am so happy for you and the fact that we all get to come along for the ride. You have achieved a very lot in a short period of time. Bring on Greece and your new home. :)

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    1. Oh Jan, it is so nice to have friends like you that I know are out there cheering us on. Keep in touch - I'll write again from Greece!

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  16. I sure understand, Jackie. How well I remember the change in feeling from when I visited Bear in Australia, to actually moving here, leaving my old life behind. Such a strange limbo feeling, yet beautifully exciting because it was good. Wishing you a smooth transition and so much joy. XO

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    1. A strange limbo feeling for sure. It will feel so 'normal' to arrive in Greece but I wonder when it will hit me that I have no place to arrive at any longer in the US (or if it will hit me ;-) ) Thanks for your good words. xoxo

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  17. I'm really enjoying following your experience moving to Greece. We're contemplating a move in the next few years and you've shown it takes a great deal of research and preparation.

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    1. Oh Sue it will be fun to follow your upcoming adventures. It does take a bit of true grit to get through it, but I think it will be worth it!!

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  18. You put your feelings into words so well. I feel like you told me all of this in person. Thanks for sharing this continuing story (I really like that). #TPThursday

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    1. Ruth, So glad you enjoyed my continuing tale - I'll have another update next week, hopefully from Greece!! xxx J.

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  19. What an inspiration! I have always admired people that can just sell everything and go. Even though a mindful person, I find it extremely hard to part with my things. Sad isnt it. I wish you a great adventure!

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    1. Thanks for your comment. We haven't quite sold everything as we will leave the Pacific Northwest with two storage units packed like sardines in a can with our belongings. In a few years we may just decide to return here and start bouncing between our two homes again. You just never know! Come back again - would love to see a comment again from you!

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