Sunday, November 26, 2017

When Travelers Become 'Nestless' and Restless

The symptoms were all there. I had just ignored them.

The first appeared shortly after arriving in Greece: I wanted to make a meatloaf for dinner. That was followed by a near frantic quest the following week to find and buy brown sugar, oatmeal and raisins to make cookies.

I am not one to lust for the kitchen.  I’m the have-bag-will-travel-at-a-moment’s-notice gal. Ready in a nano-second to try a new restaurant.  The one who goes into the village bakery for a loaf of bread and comes out with a bag of cookies as well. Bake cookies. . .at home?  Really?!

A road trip through the Greek Peloponnese is a favorite outing
Yet, there I was in the kitchen having traded my travel guidebook for a cookbook; my camera for a cookie pan.

I realized then, that this traveler was suffering from a need to nest.

Nest: a home where people live.

The Stone House on the Hill from our olive grove

That self-realization may have been the biggest surprise that came out of our ‘summer of slogging’.

For those not with us in recent months:  we got rid of our life’s accumulations, sold our U.S. home of 30 years, filled two storage units with our remaining treasures, packed an enormous pile of suitcases (by our travel standards) and came to Greece for a full-time expat adventure.

Ancient pathways to discovery - Monemvasia, Greece
While starting the new chapter has been an exciting time, we found that closing out the last wasn't. During our last few weeks in the Pacific Northwest our day-to-day necessities were kept in plastic storage bins and suitcases. We slept on a mattress on the floor.  Dinners became a stream of 'Happy Hour' outings as nothing remained in the kitchen with which to cook. Lunch was often a cellophane wrapped sandwich from Starbucks.

We had a roof over our heads but for all practical purposes we really were ‘nest-less near Seattle’. 

Our Casa Kirkland January 2016
Our last two days of that chapter were spent in a at a hotel a few miles from what had been our house. It was similar to a ‘staycation’ but more appropriately named by The Scout, it was a ‘leavecation’.

“Welcome to Bellevue! Have you stayed with us before?” asked the chipper desk clerk at the Marriott Hotel. ‘Well, no. Until today, we used to live just down the road.’

The Three E's: Euphoria, Exhaustion and Expectations

Those ex pats to whom we turned to for advice and encouragement described feeling euphoric at the new sense of freedom this new lifestyle brings.  I hate to admit that I am still waiting for that euphoria to hit. The reality was that we arrived in Greece feeling, well, . . .exhausted.

I'I didn't shed a tear (somewhat to my surprise) as we drove away from our Kirkland home. It was such a relief to be done with cleaning it out and selling it that if I came close to euphoria that might have been the moment.

Our new garden spring 2017 at The Stone House on the Hill

By that point our focus was expectations for Greece: how large the new plants would be, the size of our olive harvest, the type of car we'd buy.

Reality can dash those expectations as quickly as exhaustion can quash euphoria. Many plants had been baked into the ground by the summer’s unusually hot temperatures. Even those heat-tolerant plants were varying shades of brown and tan. The olive crop so small we considered not harvesting at all. And you know from the previous post what an adventure we had buying a car. 

However. . .

Those Sunny Skies ~ And An Indian Summer

Nesting on the hillside in the Peloponnese

That same sun that had baked the garden only weeks earlier had mellowed by the time we arrived in October. It continues to make one of the loveliest Indian Summer backdrops to this new life that you can imagine.

We've replanted the garden. Flowers and vegetables have already begun flourishing. Our olive harvest was small, but we had one. Our Hi Ho Silver has already had his inaugural road trip.

Oh, yes. . .I also made that meatloaf. And I baked cookies (having successfully found two of those three ingredients and substituting Craisens for raisins). I’ve puttered, or pottered as my British friends here would say, in the garden on a near daily basis.

Our village, Agios Nikolaos, slows for the winter
Now, after nearly two months in our Greek home, we are back into the rhythms of village life. Olive harvest is in full swing now in the Messinian Mani marking the end of autumn, many restaurants and tavernas have closed for the winter. Just as the village slows its pace, so have we.

We have rested and nested.

But those of you who've been with us for awhile must know that means for us. . .

It's Time to Fly!

“A bird in a nest is secure, but that is not why God gave it wings.”
  - Matshona Dhliwayo

We had different responses to our summer of slogging: I suffered from a need to nest while The Scout grew restless. We had far too little travel. Travel planning came to a screeching halt. So while my nose has been in cookbooks, his has been in guidebooks.

Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt

Since part of the reason for relocating here was to take advantage of travel on this side of the Atlantic, it is time to do just that!  With low airfares and close destinations, it is difficult to decide which direction to head. Did you know it takes less time to get from Athens to Egypt than from Seattle to San Francisco? You can be there in less than a couple of hours.

The Nile as it flows through Cairo, Egypt

And that fact won the coin toss. We are heading back to Egypt the end of this week. We're going to spend most of our time in Aswan, a new destination for us to explore, but must spend a couple days in Cairo - one of our very favorite cities!

[Note:  Timing is everything. I'd just finished writing this post when news broke on this side of the world about the despicable terrorist attack at the mosque in the Sinai. We've not changed or cancelled our plans to visit Egypt as result of that incident. Our feeling is that life is rather a crap shoot these days no matter where in the world you are; you could be a victim of mass murder while attending a concert in Las Vegas or while attending a small church in rural Texas or while praying at a mosque in Egypt.]

We know many of you have made lifestyle and life location changes recently and we are curious about what you discovered about yourself as you transitioned to your 'new normal'? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below or shoot us an email! 

As always, thanks for being a part of this new journey of ours – the time you spend with us is always appreciated. 

Happy and Safe 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


  1. Lovely article Jackie. While we did not move as far from Kirkland as you we are enjoying island life on San Juan. We are only 3 hours away and don't miss it all. We need to move out completely of the condo in Kirkland, we gave up our lease, we find that we don't return unless we have to. When we do its a whirlwind of doctor appointments, dentist appointments and visits with family and friends. It will be a relief to have everything up here in one place. We plan to start traveling but certainly not on the scale that you two do. We are planning a road trip to southern California in January and Costa Rica in March with the kids. Any tips for Costa Rica? Kellie

    1. It would be nice to have everything in one place, but that isn't going to happen for us so I will content myself knowing that something I need/want/could use/wear or other is in a box back in Bellevue. Costa Rica sounds great! Never been there so can't offer any suggestions. Hope you'll post tons of photos. And yes we are lining up the appointments for our return to Kirkland after the first of the year, I feel a whirlwind couple of days coming on. Love you ~ Jackie

  2. What a lovely and self-aware post! When we made our downsizing move recently, a friend said, "Have you cooked in the kitchen yet?" It is her favorite way of christening a new home, and feeling truly at home. I must say I was surprised that you could not find raisins--with all those vinyards!! Have a great trip to Egypt.

    1. I've been conditioned to find 'baking products' somewhere near each other in U.S. markets and here am learning that sugars are in one section, flours in another and candied and fruit in another. Oatmeal - just plain - doesn't come in the distinctive Quaker Oats box. I did find raisins this week! They were among snack items for sale in a wine shop in Pylos!! ;-)

  3. We haven't made a big move like yours yet, but I admit to tasting some of that euphoria since we became empty nesters. Not that I don't miss the kids -- I do, and I talk to them often on line -- it's just that we're savoring the ease with which we can choose what we do and where we go, without having to take anyone else into account.

    1. Well having no family ties - kids or close relatives with whom we spend a lot of time - has made this leap across the world much easier on the heartstrings, that is for sure!

  4. Ah, I so understand. As expats ourselves we have travelled lots and at the end of a travel stint I can't wait to get home wherever that is to relax and regroup. But then the feet begin to itch, and off we go again!

    1. I thought that my travel buddies who read this would be able to relate to that often-times 'need to nest' and recoup and get grounded. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I can identify with much of what you say. Although I still have my house (mainly because I can't find a buyer!), I do try to travel as much as possible. But I've found that I'm happier if I can "live" in a place - which means self catering and staying long enough to unpack my bags.

    1. We've also gotten to that same way of thinking Karen and for that reason still have our U.S. based timeshare life because it does provide at least a temporary nest when we travel. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. We just moved into our downsized home at the end of the summer. It's only a few miles from our old one but I sure can relate to the feeling of exhaustion, both emotional and physical! We never worked so hard over such an extended period of time. Like you, we are just settling into our new home, trying to find the tools to cook in the kitchen, etc. and eager to get away soon! Lots of good luck! xo

    1. I had you in mind this summer Irene as I knew you were going through a similar phase of life. I believe no matter how far you are moving the cleaning out of accumulations does result in emotional and physical exhaustion - just as you described! Enjoy your journey into your new life in your new place! (I'll be thinking of you!!)

  7. Wow that was quite a post Jackie. You make me long for Greece when at the time I was there I couldn't wait to get out. Right now we are still in the process of obtaining all of our identification papers here on the other side of the pond. I had no idea there was so much bureaucracy on this side too. So until that is taken care of I will simply have to nest and decorate for the Holidays. I think the best time to be in Greece is Spring and Fall when you are not melting in the heat. Enjoy your trip to Egypt.

    1. Oh Mary, best wishes on your journey through US bureaucracy. . .I fear it could give Greece a run for the money! Fingers crossed that all goes well. Enjoy the holidays - I suspect you will now that the entire family can be together. Hugs to you ~ Jackie

  8. I need my slogging time between trips, too. I am quite amazed by some of my travel writer friends who are able to come home, wash their clothes, and go right back out on another trip--time after time! I really need to nest for a while in between. I feel ready to go again when I finally get my desk cleaned off.

    1. Well I thought I was ready to travel again but now two days away from departure I am dragging my feet at getting out the suitcases. . .I am ready mentally just need to get the body in gear to do some packing. Thanks for sharing your need to slog as well -

  9. Good afternoon and a big Welcome to your new, quiet, slow - rhythm village life of your new home-nest in the Pelloponesian prefecture and the country of Greece in general. While reading this post, I couldn't hold myself from giggling every now and then as you gradually come to realize the striking reality of various aspects of life, when living in a tiny remote Greek village in the mediterranean countryside, compared to what you have been used to back in the all man-made, man maintained, artificial environment of a large city in America's northwest. In time, as reality sets in, you'll come to realize among other things that no garden flowers, not even the most heat-tolerant ones, can go through the long hot mediterranean summer temperatures and frequent strong heat waves (it reached 117F in Greece this year), without some water every now and then, and remain completely unaffected. Nor should you expect any garden plant and vegetable to grow to its full potential without regular weeding, harmful bug monitoring, and regular soil enrichment, absolutely necessary in the poor, arid, rocky land of Mani, except of course some local wild species or certain desert plants. You will also find out, as is common knowledge among olive producers, that olives trees, providing they're taken care of and are disease free, produce their fruits every second year, as after every fully fruitful season, having consumed most of their already stored nutrients, they need a year of "Rest" to replenish their strength for next blooming season. So if all of your olive trees were planted together, then every other year they won't produce as much.
    Bearing these in mind, in order to reach "Euphoria" through your gardening achievements in Stoupa, you firstly need to shift your typical city-girl mentality towards a more nature-minded way of thinking and acting, at least as far as gardening goes. Up till recently you were only part-time dwellers in Greece, but once you reach a certain adjustment level as permanent residents and learn enough about life in rural Greece that you're now unaware of, then you can easily realize on your own what is reasonable to expect in your new environment and be able to rationalize your "Expectations" accordingly. Of course such radical mentality changes rarely happen overnight, different people need different amounts of time to adjust, especially when the new environment is governed by elements you don't yet fully understand and of which you used to be alienated from, during your previous life in the big city.
    As far as exhaustion goes, it is only to be expected that packing, downsizing, rearranging all your belongings and selling your house of 30 years, while preparing to move to a transatlantic far away destination, would entail copious amounts of effort and fatigue, that would take time to recover from. To me it is surprising that you were able to complete the relocation so quickly, but I do have the feeling that it'll someway prove to be the best decision you've made.
    Regarding your oncoming trip to Egypt, I hope you'll have a very nice time there, it's among the most interesting places for tourism, however keep your mind present and your eyes open while wandering around, so you can safely come back. Since you mention you'll visit Aswan - which is nice with Egypt's biggest dam- you could take a ride to nearby Luxor valley, with it's astonishing findings (Valley of the kings).Besides archeology, it is, to me at least, one of the prettiest places to visit in Egypt, after of course Alexandria which is probably the top. Don't miss visiting the historic "Old Cataract" hotel where Agatha Christie wrote one of her most famous books "Death on the Nile" or even -why not- stay there too.
    I hope I didn't tire you too much with my lengthy post, have a Swell permanent stay in Greece, enjoy your pretty stone house on the hill and your travels and keep posting more if possible.
    Greetings and joy to both of you.

    1. This has to win the prize for the most "engaged" comment I've ever encountered on a blog post. Cheers.

    2. Kalispera Anonymous and thank you for the time you took and the thought you gave to your comment above. As Suzanne has noted above, this might well be the most engaged response to a post I've ever received. I do wish you'd have said who you are, as I can tell from the comment that it would be fun to chat over coffee or Krasi about life in this slice of Greece. (Just FYI sometimes Blogger kicks out anonymous comments thinking a robot wrote them so I do hope you continue commenting and adding at least a first name to the end of the comment to be sure that doesn't happen.)

      Since you sound like you are familiar with this area of the Mani, we are nearer Ag. Dimitrios than Stoupa,and I do want to clarify some of my references which were somewhat vague in the original post. Take the sun-baked plants and dead garden for instance: we did hire a person to water and tend the garden and grove and despite his best efforts, when the municipality 'turns off' or 'diverts the water for the tourists'(both were cited by many as causes for the absence of water) for so long that even our second reserve water tank that serves the house and garden) goes dry for days then there is nothing that can be done to save garden or grove until one obtains water. We had a tense day or two back in the Pacific Northwest after he alerted us to the continuing problem and we became involved in trying to find water. Time was spent on internet and phone and thanks to our American ex pat friends and a Greek family down the road, we had a plan but found that the tank was full again. Turns out our garden caretaker - unbeknownst to us until we got here - paid for the tank of water on his own. . . But the damage was done but we are thankful he did what he could and then some.

      And no, we were not told of the water shortages that take place each tourist season until after we had bought the house. That's when we had the second tank installed. (We are told that it took a meeting of homeowners with the municipality folks to get the water running again up here.)

      The other point that needs clarification is that while we lived many years in the big city in the US, we both came from the agricultural part of the state. We both lived many decades eating food grown in our family's gardens (of which we helped tend) and in The Scout's case, he was raised on an apple orchard. We are both well aware of the on-again, off-again harvest cycles - which not only impacts olives, but fruit as well. Our harvest would have been small this year as it is the off year; however, the fruit would have been larger and more oil had the trees not been impacted by weather and lack of water.

      And we thank you for your recommendations for Egypt. Our first visit to that country took us to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings - we were so taken with it, that we've returned twice to Egypt. And yes, we plan not only to visit the Old Cataract Hotel but will be staying there for most of our time in Egypt. There seems to be much discussion over whether Agatha actually wrote a portion of her novel while staying there or whether she merely visited the hotel and was inspired to include it in her book. Whatever the case I hope to catch a bit of that 'writer's mojo' and hopefully write a stellar blog post about our stay.

      Again, I have to thank you for the time you took in writing a comment and hope that you will continue to pen your thoughts here. It will be a learning curve this new life of ours, but that's exactly what we wanted: to grow olives instead of old. And someday I hope when we pass on the street or you see me in a village café or taverna you'll introduce yourself. I would love to meet you!! Who knows? I may already know you. . .

  10. Best line: "Nestless Near Seattle". We have done the selling the house, major downsize thing and actually now spend part of the year at our house at the shore (beach) in southern New Jersey and most of the year at our condo in Philadelphia. They are about an hour and 15 minutes apart. I was always very impressed by how you and Scout managed to shuttle among 3 far flung "nests": Kirkland, Greece and Ko Olina.

    When I've been at one of our places, I find I don't want to change venues. I guess I get too attached to nests. I agree that setting up the kitchen is a big part of making a particular nest one's own. I'm glad you're feeling better about your decision now that the exhaustion phase is over.

    Have a wonderful and safe trip to Egypt. I admit I might hesitate before picking Egypt as a travel location because I'd fear that tourists were being particularly targeted. OTOH, I have friends who think we were insane to have just spent 2 weeks in Mexico, including Mexico City. It was fine.

    1. As I told Irene above, I had all of you 'who've gone before me' in mind as we set about our task of downsizing. You are living proof that it can be done and life is good afterward, perhaps even better, time will tell. Thanks for the good wishes on Egypt and your observation on Mexico as well. In reading the headlines of murders and such in the US these days, one might well wonder if it is safe to travel there! Thanks much for the visit and comments!

  11. I know I will never make the leap because of my granddaughter, but I always enjoy reading about your adventures!! What you went through and what you are finding in your new life!!

    1. Thanks Marilyn, glad you are enjoying our adventures. I can understand the pull of a grandchild!

  12. Meatloaf and oatmeal cookies are definitely a cure-all for nestles-ness! Glad that you are rested, nested and ready to travel again! Safe travels, Jackie!

    1. Oops - forgot to say thank you for sharing this post at our Best of the Weekend!

  13. Although I am not living as an expat, I could relate to so much in this post. I feel the pull between the need to travel and the need to nest. We downsized three years ago and I understand the exhaustion. I did not shed a tear as we said goodbye to our home of almost twenty years. We had many good memories there, but it was time to move on.

  14. What a great post!
    We have gone on a similar path, only we're floating on US waters. Our next phase is to do the RV or move to a country to stay a while. May I ask why you chose Greece?

  15. Pyramids are so huge. I understand the size by your photo. Thanks.

  16. So glad you are feeling both rested and nested, Jackie after your hectic summer. We moved a lot over the years we lived in the US following his and her careers and I always loved it. The big sign that I'd finally settled in to a new house was when I'd feel the itch to get out my mixing bowl, baking pans and whip up some cookies. One of the big joys of having a home base again after several years of travel is that need to nest that you've written about. It's such a good feeling to feel settled once again and enjoy cooking in a fully-stocked kitchen where you know where everything is. Living in restaurants or eating prepackaged meals gets old, quick!
    I can't agree more with your decision to continue on with your Egypt plans after the last terror attack and have to shake my head at well-meaning people who shudder at going to foreign countries where attacks have occurred. It's a sad fact, as you've pointed out, that the randomness of terror means you can't be assured of your safety anywhere. My feeling is that terrorists win when when people change their plans or become afraid to live their lives.
    Have a great time traveling and then ... head home and do some baking again!


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