Janus ~ the god of portals and patron of beginnings and endings
With two faces he looks forward and back.
-- Roman Mythology
We are big into gods here in Greece but it is the Roman’s god Janus that I believe is the god of ex pats everywhere. The ex pat lifestyle requires a good hard look back and then one serious look forward when making the leap from one world to the next.
Being an ex pat requires endings to make way for beginnings.
The month of January got its name from him because it is considered the doorway to a new year which makes it a perfect time to reflect on this ex pat life we’ve chosen:
|The Scout's fire at The Stone House on the Hill|
I’m the early riser so starting a fire was my job on a deep and dark December morning a week ago. Our Stone House on the Hill was cold. The fire built the night before by The Scout had gone out. With my left hand aiming our trusty flashlight (or torch, as my British friends would say) I was sitting in front of the fireplace trying to restart a fire. I was being reminded why when even in the best of circumstances, I am not the regular ‘fire starter’ in this household.
Back in our 'other life', I’d have gone on autopilot, turned a button, and the gas fireplace would have lit instantaneously.
But we left that life behind in October and have since early December been in the midst of what has become a series of power outages caused by wind and rain storms in our slice of Greece. On that cold morning in the dark, I have to admit I was asking myself,
Why was it we wanted to move here anyway?!?!?
|On our road home we followed the harvesters|
Those of you've who've 'been with us' this year know the answer to that question as I’ve been waxing poetic about it for months.
If 2018 goes as planned, it will go into the record books as our first year as full-time residents living on the edge of an olive grove in the Kalamata area of the Greek Peloponnese.
|On a winter's day not far from our home|
So with the heat back on and lights on I am a much happier gal, but still thinking about the question I snarled to myself the other morning. Perhaps the short answer to the question is that we wanted to turn off the ‘auto-pilot’. We were in a pattern of living that required little thinking and participation; we'd lived that life so long we did it on autopilot. Televisions operated by remote control, machines dried the clothes and washed the dishes at the push of a button, gardens were tended by hired help and groceries could ordered on-line and be delivered to our door.
New Roads to Explore, New Bridges to Cross
Ex pat life isn’t for the faint-of-heart, the thin-skinned nor for someone who likes the routine and regular patterns of life. As some days -- I think my fellow ex pats would agree -- nothing feels routine and regular when living in another country and culture. (But that is also what makes it fun!)
While it is hard to determine an exact number of ex pats, in 2016 the U.S. State Department estimated there are 9 million of us out in the world exploring new roads and crossing new bridges. That’s about the population of New Jersey and about two million people more than the populous of Washington State. There must be some reason for that many to be scattered about the world.
Admittedly many are working outside the U.S. but others of us are boomers, enjoying retirement years in a different world from that which we knew. . .
What drives a desire to be an ex pat?
I continued my research and found boomers' reasons for choosing to be ex pats are as varied as the statistics about us. Ex pat, by the way, comes from the Latin words: ‘ex’ – out of; ‘patria’ - country.
Among the reasons I found cited were:
|Around the corner and walking distance from our house|
Days spent in the sun - I’ll have to admit that more sunshine and a warmer climate helped draw us to Greece (even if we do have severe wind and rain storms a few times a year). Seattle claims 152 days of sunshine and Kalamata 219 such days.
|Treasures like this are found in our countryside|
Medical costs are cheaper – In our case we have found that our medical insurance coverage (which is required to obtain a residency visa here) costs about $560 US a month and it covers us for six-months each year in the U.S. as well as anywhere in the world. We were paying just over $700 a month in the U.S. with only limited coverage outside the U.S.
|Fruit and vegetable prices are incredibly cheap to us|
Cost-of-living is cheaper/financial rewards – Those ex pats in our area from the U.S. generally agree that food and entertainment (dinner and drinks out) are much cheaper than back home. We were surprised to talk with some ex pats from Britain and Germany who felt the prices here were much higher than their 'back home'. It is all in your perspective, we concluded. We can have a lovely meal, in a nice restaurant with a sea-view and drink all the wine we can safely consume and drive home, while paying about $25 U.S.
Gasoline, on the other hand, costs about $7 a gallon and most of us ex pats in the area do a lot of driving because we want to explore our surroundings so fuel costs are definitely higher for us. We pay a road tax annually (as opposed to Washington State where it was tacked on to the per-gallon-cost) and our tax was 433 euros or about $525 US for 2018. Cost of insuring the car was about the same here and there.
|Looking back at 'our' point in the Mani from the one west of us|
Internet and phone costs are where we are seeing a real savings. Our landline, mobile phone and internet cost us more than $200 a month in the States (even the months we weren’t there to use it). Our internet is 100 euros ($120) a year and we’ve spent about 70 euros ($84) on our cell phone (data, text and talk) minutes in the last three months.
Property taxes – Our taxes in Kirkland were $8,200 a year for a home with a peek-a-boo view of Lake Washington. We pay 348-euro ($417) a year here for a smaller home but one with a near 180-degree water and mountain views and a 17-tree olive grove.. (As property owners we are required to file income tax forms each year as well even though we have no income generated here.)
A base for more travel – One of the reasons we wanted to have a home-base in Greece was for quicker and easier travel to European and Middle Eastern destinations. Many boomers are travelers but those long-haul flights of 10+ hours can do in a young person let alone people our ages. Living on this side of the Atlantic we can visit any major European city in a couple of hours flight time (and for a lot less than setting forth from Seattle).
|Cruising the Nile in Aswan - less than a five hour trip from Athens|
And one of the reasons that struck a real chord with us was, ‘fear of a life unlived’. When it comes right down to it, I bet that is why most boomers have chosen the ex pat life.
The life of an ex pat can be frustrating some days – like those without heat and lights - but far more days are filled with rewarding experiences than challenges. We’ve turned off the automatic pilot and are required to fully engage in life: mental, physical and emotional. We've heard those same sentiments expressed by fellow ex pats here and elsewhere on this side of the Atlantic.
'One reason people resist change is because they focus on
what they have to give up,
instead of what they have to gain.’
Many of you have said that you’d like to be an ex pat. We’d loved to hear what country is calling out to you and why you want to live there. Others of you shudder at the thought. We’d love to hear your thoughts as well on why this different lifestyle doesn't appeal, so leave us a comment below or shoot us an email.
And before we sign off this week, I do have to thank the creators of Getting On Travel, an on-line luxury travel publication aimed at the boomer traveler for including TravelnWrite in its list of Top Blogs to Read in 2018!
On that note, thanks again for your time and interest and Happy New Year wishes to you and yours. May it be happy and healthy and filled with travel (armchair or real)!!
Linking this week with:
Best of Weekend
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Travel Photo Thursday –
Weekend Travel Inspiration
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Travel Photo Thursday –
Weekend Travel Inspiration