Sunday, August 27, 2017

Escape ~ A Summer’s ‘Slog’ down Memory Lane

                            Escape: break free from confinement or control

Never has ‘an escape’ sounded as good as it does right now. 

Seeing the Peloponnese and its wonders  - 2013
Our summer reminds us of that time back when our lives were governed by our 8-to-5 jobs. It was a time when we lived for those one- or two-week vacation escapes allowed in our employment contracts.  In that life, even the promise of a long holiday weekend made us giddy.  We enjoyed the anticipation as much as the escape itself.

PicMonkey Collage
Setting out to explore the Wadi Rum - Jordan, 2015
Fast forward a few decades and we are again in the ‘anticipation phase’; dreaming of an escape from what will forever be known as our Summer of Slogging. “Slogging” -- the term I’ve borrowed from my ex pat friend Anita who writes No Particular Place to Go -- is the process of cleaning out life’s accumulations in anticipation of having a new adventure somewhere else in the world.  For Anita and Richard it is Portugal, for us it will be Greece.

Slog: work hard over a period of time

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The Stone House on the Hill - a catalyst for change
Now the process of discarding and downsizing was a long-overdue task especially at the ‘boomer ages’ that we find ourselves.  And we are blessed to be tackling it so that we can have a new adventure and not because health or finances have forced the task upon us. While spending more time in Greece was the catalyst to get us off our duffs, the reality is, that it is time.

We are certainly not blazing any new trails, simply following the path of so many ex pats before us: packing up and storing away this life until we are ready to return to it.  And that means discarding and downsizing.

Our new digs: a 200-square-foot storage unit

The intent of this blog has always been to inspire travelers to step outside their comfort zones, to travel to places they’ve never gone before. And I have to tell you – this summer we’ve taken our own advice and done just that.

Closing out, this longest chapter of our lives together, is proving to be one of the biggest adventures we’ve ever embarked upon. While it sounds simple enough to ‘clean up and clean out’ we’ve found the process in many ways to be surprisingly unpleasant and stressful as deadlines loom and the ‘to do’ list grows.

Frankly, it would be so much more fun to be packing for a summer road trip.

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Monument Valley - Utah, 2016

But the bright side has been taking a road trip of sorts down Memory Lane.

Memory Lane: the past, especially the past shared and remembered by a group of people, thought of as a path that can be traveled along to revisit former times

While never leaving the house, we’ve been back to our childhoods, our teens, and our early years together. Our travels and those never to be forgotten ‘good times’ with friends have been savored as we sift through faded photographs. It’s been a great route though and in its own way has provided a bit of at least a mental escape.

PicMonkey Collage
My friend Mary and I and our first concert - 50 years ago this week

With a Little Help from Our Friends

Since I wrote about our plans to live in our Stone House on the Hill in the Greek Peloponnese for a longer period of time, many of you have shared your stories with us. Those emails and comments have kept us sane as we go about our slogging: Misery does love company!

Some of you have moved short distances to smaller digs or have opted to rent over home ownership and its headaches. Some are moving (or have moved) to a far distant place within your country of residence. Others are taking (or have taken) the quantum leap to a new country. And you all lived through it with most of you being able to laugh about it now.

Someone else is escaping to a new adventure 
You’ve also shared some great tips and words of wisdom about downsizing that  we are using and that I want to pass along five of them to others who might be contemplating the writing of a new chapter in their lives:

1. If in doubt, take a photograph and toss or give away.  This advice has worked well with those items that I’ve ‘had forever’ but never use and seldom look but with which I hated to part.

2. Weigh the cost of buying a new item someday with that of the storage space rental. My kitchen appliances will likely head to charity and when we return, I’ll get to buy new ones. (And using that discard plan, I can keep my parent’s old electric popcorn popper in the freed up storage space!)

3.  Give gifts back to the friends who gave them to you. They say you give gifts that you would like to receive. I’ve returned several birthday gifts to girlfriends who gave them to me and told them to use and enjoy them while I am gone – we can discuss ownership after I return.

4. Share family heirlooms with the younger generation now – we’ve given a number of things to the next generation of family so they can be used and enjoyed instead of stuffed in a box in a storage unit for years.

5. Give it away. One of the beyond-best things we’ve had recommended to us as part of our efforts is the Buy Nothing Project, a community-building effort that is using FB to achieve their goals. You search FB for a Buy Nothing group in your area and request to join. Once accepted you can give away items to your heart’s content or on the flip side, seek items.  We’ve seen posts from those who’ve cooked too much of something for dinner and have offered to share it with others (and they’ve had eager responses). We’ve given away an incredible amount of stuff to an incredible bunch of people – all of whom live near us, but whom we’d likely have never met.

PicMonkey Collage
My 'toss' has become 'treasures' at Buy Nothing

Words of Advice

We are nearing the end of this process and are now thinking Greece. A number of you have asked for our downsizing tips.  Our answer is: start now. Fill a bag with clothes you no longer wear.  Get rid of Aunt Nellie’s cookie jar that you never wanted in the first place.  Give grandma’s mixing bowl to another family member.  Don’t wait until, like us, you are faced with the task of doing it all at once.

And after you’ve taken that first step, hope you’ll be back with us next week. We are gearing up for our return to Greece and next week want to tell you about the wine country not far from us there. It’s a refreshingly different experience than we are used to in the States. 

Until then, safe travels to you and yours.  Thanks for staying in touch and for the time you spend with us ~

Linking up this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

nking this week with:

Monday, August 14, 2017

In France ~ Something Old and Something New

Never has the old and new been so perfectly juxtaposed as they were in the French countryside where we made our home for a week in June. We had Disneyland to our right and the medieval city of Provins to our left.
PicMonkey Collage
Disneyland and Medieval villages in the French countryside
And we can thank our ‘timeshare’ life for introducing us to both.  I’ve long sung the praises of the timeshare concept of ‘trading time’ for new locations.  In this case we’d traded one of our small hotel-room sized weeks in Hawaii for a two-story, two-bedroom, 2.5 bath home in the French countryside. I wrote about it in June, if you missed it, take a look at our home away from home.

Minnie's welcome sign at Disneyland
Our stay at the “Village Marriott” or the Marriott Ile-de-France as it is properly called, put us smack dab between the sprawling Disneyland (now celebrating its 25th Anniversary) and several charming villages where life remains untouched by the glitz that Mickey and Minnie brought to the area a quarter century ago. One of our favorites was Provins. . .

Entry into the medieval town of Provins
While the name when spoken sounds much like the wildly popular “Provence” region, this “Provins” is in the midst of the Champagne region; a region founded back in 1065.  Once the administrative center in Charlemagne’s empire, the place is simply oozing with history.

Heavy security at Disneyland
And unlike Disneyland, there are no entry fees or metal detectors or armed security guards with their attack dogs to greet you.

So on a cloudy morning that threatened rain we set off for a trip back in time. . .by hopping a public bus at the station near Disneyland.

The journey aboard bus No. 50 was a journey of an hour in each direction. It would have only cost 4 euros round trip per person had we not purchased the bus/train pass that allowed us unlimited travel for the week we were there.

Those of you who’ve traveled with us at TravelnWrite, know that we are not fans of group tours nor do we like the confines of set tours. Hopping a public bus and setting off on our own is one of our favorite ways to explore new territories. 

Off on an Adventure

We pretty much had the bus to ourselves – which also meant we had front row seats. The villages on the route are small and there weren’t a lot of folks traveling between them and Disneyland on this mid-week June day.
Our almost private bus in France
Again those who know us, know one of the reasons we bought a place in Greece was to have a base from which to explore more of Europe. This week-long trip was one of our first ventures out and let me tell you, that a just-over- two-hour flight from Athens to Paris is an affordable treat when compared to trips from Seattle, our home-base on the U.S. west coast.  And as we prepare to make Greece more of a full-time home base, we are also planning the outings that we’ll be taking.

PicMonkey Collage
What a contrast to Paris less than an hour away by train
Provins was an administrative center in Charlemagne’s empire and was one of six cities on the circuit of Champagne fairs.  Those medieval fairs lasted for six weeks in each location and at the height of their reign offered fair goers textiles, furs, leathers and spice.  Some of the huge warehouses in which the fair goods were stored still exist within this walled city.

The city square - Provins
I’d like to imagine the fair -  the fair of St. Ayoul of Provins - was held in this city square each September.

The buildings and streets in Provins were out of a fairytale
Provins prosperity lasted until the beginning of the 14th century when rerouting of commercial routes, plagues, wars and the decline of fairs led it into a state of hibernation; a small town in a rural setting - somewhat untouched by the outside world.

Provins storefront
That seclusion is credited with the saving of some 58 monuments, nearly all built in the 12th and 13th centuries. They’re credited with this town’s placement on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

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Eglise Saint-Quireace  Provins, France
Entering this cathedral we were reminded of one of our all-time favorite books, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It is set in medieval times – those in which fairs were held and central to its story line is the building of a cathedral. We highly recommend it to you historical novel fans out there.

Even the doors reek with history
We pretty much had the town to ourselves on the day we visited although from the many tourist shops and restaurants that fill the ancient buildings we suspect this place at times could be as busy as Disneyland.

We were content to wander the streets and let our imaginations run wild (with the help of interpretive signage along the way)but for those who want more tourist-type experiences, there are a number of monuments  and performances that have set hours and admission fees. For example the Underground Galleries are 4.50-euro for adults and 3-euro per child; the Legend of the Knights show is 12-euro for adults and 8-euros per child.

Even the steps had a story in Provins, France
Should we return to this part of France again, we’d probably opt to spend a night at one of the many hotels within this walled city so we could experience its after-dark atmosphere. . .I am certain it would be magical . . .

If you are lucky enough to be in this region this fall you might want to attend the town’s Autumn Fair, October 1st.  For more information on it and the town, visit their tourist office website at:

That’s it for this week.  Our packing continues. We thank you for your time and hope that you and yours have safe and happy travels.  Thanks to those of you who’ve shared the blog with others and re-posted it on Facebook.  It is much appreciated!

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Traveler Looks at Home

“Where we love is home, home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”
  --Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

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Lake Chelan - The Scout's hometown
These two vagabonds-soon-to-be-full-time-expats have been uncharacteristically focused on home this summer. We are packing up and preparing to say goodbye to our current home in Washington State so that we can spend more time at our home in Greece. We’ve interrupted our ‘slogging’ out of accumulations only to make a couple of quick road trips back to our hometowns on the other side of the state.

Past home, present home, future home

Our Kirkland home
The juxtaposition of all those homes – past, present and future – got me to thinking about how many times the average American moves in his/her lifetime. The answer I found was 11.4 times (as of 2015 statistics).  We seem to be way behind even if we include those fleeting years of college housing.

While searching out that information, another statistic, from a 2012 project at George Washington University, caught my attention:

“About 1.3 million American seniors now live in nursing homes.  70 percent of them rely on Medicaid to pay the bill, which means they are low-income or have otherwise spent down their assets. The average cost of a nursing home private room tops $83,000 a year.”

It put this transition of ours into perspective, reminding me that we are blessed to be young and healthy enough to grab this extraordinary opportunity to live differently for awhile in our home on the other side of the world.

“You can go other places, all right – you can live on the other side of the world,
but you can’t ever leave home."
                                                       -- Sue Monk Kidd, The Mermaid Chair

Living Differently

We’ve had interesting responses when we speak of our plan to live in Greece for a year. Some cheer us on, others say they’d seen it coming, and some are sent reeling at the news.
“But where will you live?” they ask.
“Greece” we answer.
“No, I mean where will you live here?” 
“Well, Greece for awhile . . .”  Beyond that we have no answer – we don’t know where we might end up. And that is the interesting part; we have options but no set plan, yet. (And that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.)

Washington State's Mt. Rainier towers over the Selah Valley 


It’s a tiny word with huge connotations. It was change we wanted when we moved from our home in the heartland of Washington State to the hustle and bustle of the Seattle metropolitan area. The Scout was taking a job in ‘the big city’. I was leaving a good job and would be seeking employment. We didn’t have any close friends in the area. We spent days searching for a place we’d eventually call home.

Seattle skyline from Puget Sound (tallest bldg. is Columbia Tower, Smith Tower to the right)

We settled in a suburb with a small town feel to it. Somehow 30 years have blown past during which time we’ve worked at and retired from great jobs. This has become ‘our world’. One in which we are wrapped in the friendships of dozens of people.

I remember crying at the thought of our move to the big city – even though I wanted to do it – because we were leaving ‘our world’ and all that was familiar. I could cry now at the thought of the friendships and experiences we would have missed had we not left the comfort of our previous homes.

Our road trips back to Central Washington this summer were good reminders that contrary to the old adage, you can go home again. As we’ve traveled those old familiar roads we’ve met up with friends, many who’ve know each of us long before we knew each other. Visits with them are filled with old memories and laughter. . .stories and reminiscing about good times back in ‘that world’.

The Scout at Nefarious Cellars - site of his parent's old apple orchard - Chelan, WA

'In life, a person will come and go from many homes. We may leave a house, a town, a room, but that does not mean those places leave us. Once entered, we never entirely depart the homes we make for ourselves in the world. They follow us, like shadows, until we come upon them again,
waiting for us in the mist.'
                                               – Ari Berk, Death Watch

The route to our hometowns takes us through the Kittitas Valley
It all has reminded us once again that we can have many homes in this lifetime and each will be a special chapter in our life’s story.  It really isn’t the where we are in the world, but the what we do with the experience there that matters.

“Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling.”
                                             -- Cecilia Ahern, Love, Rosie

The Stone House on the Hill - our future full-time home

“Travel does not exist without home....If we never return to the place we started, we would just be wandering, lost. Home is a reflecting surface, a place to measure our growth and enrich us after being infused with the outside world.”
                                                       – Josh Gates, Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter

Summer scene in our present home: Kirkland, WA

An acquaintance asked if we were getting ‘scared’. . .at the thought of living in Greece. Since we’ve been doing it part-time for two and a half years, it isn’t like we are leaping into the unknown. I’ve chuckled over the question since it was asked and decided the answer should have been,  “No, we are scared of not going while we can.”

Summer scene in our future home: Agios Nikolaos, Greek Peloponnese
“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”
                                                   – Basho Matsuo

That’s it from the home front – (yes, pun intended). We have some tales to tell you yet about France and Switzerland so I’ll be focused on those in the coming weeks.  Until then we thank you for your time and interest in our next adventure. We hope your travels are good ones.  We are curious, though, how many homes have you lived in and which were your favorites? Tell us your story in the comments below. . .

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


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