‘There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.’
- Jane Austin
|Looking back - Kardamyli Harbor|
Looking back I am not sure when the realization hit, but there’s certainly no doubt about it: by choosing to become full-time ex pats of the sort we are, we’d become part of America’s homeless population. We’d chosen to severe all traditional ties to the Mother Ship.
Now before you start sputtering, but that’s not real homelessness, the kind of which headlines shout . . .let me tell you that it very much is homelessness – just of a different kind. Headlines aren’t interested in this kind of homelessness even though thousands of ex pats -- not just American ex pats -- experience some version of it.
|A homeless boat out of water - Kitries, Greece|
‘Just for the record darling,
not all positive change feels positive in the beginning.’
-- S. C. Lourie
How difficult could it be?That was what we asked ourselves last summer as we put our Pacific Northwest home of 30-years up for sale. We’d spent a lot of effort to obtain our Greek residency permits. We’d also spent a lot of time here over the last few years before deciding to live full-time under the Mediterranean sun.
How difficult could it be to pull up stakes and try something new for a full-time while?
|Step One: pack up old life|
No U.S. home. No U.S. residential address. No U.S. phone.
‘Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute for experience.’
-- Paolo Coelho
Your Address Please?For those of you reading this in the U.S. let’s begin with a question:
|Kardamyli kiosk: the village business center|
How many times in the last week have you contacted some firm, service provider, health care provider, financial institution, store or other-keeper-of-your-information and been asked to ’verify the home address associated with this account’ in order to get any closer to reaching the person or information you were seeking?
While we no longer have a residential address, we certainly do have need to stay in touch with many of the agencies and firms listed above. And therein lies a problem. . .at times.
|Our address is Agios Dimitrios, mail comes to Agios Nikolaos|
Ahh, but being the wily sorts we are, we’d rented one of those private mailboxes that offered a choice of ‘box’, ‘apartment’ or ‘suite’ numbers before we left the country. We cleverly picked apartment and thought we’d mastered the ‘game of address’. The first call to a credit card company to register the new address dashed that hope – in a nano-second they knew it wasn’t a residence!
That same private mail service failed us within the first two months of using it by losing dated material, haphazardly forwarding items and as a grand finale forwarding mail to us addressed to someone else. Thankfully last January friends stepped in letting us use their home address and forwarding our mail regularly.
So while we have no ‘real’ address we are up to three ‘maybe’ addresses: our old home, the ‘fake home’ mailing service or our friend’s address? Which one did we put on which account? Did we change it. . . if so to what? It has resulted in some convoluted conversations on this end. If it involves an automated answering machine, we kiss the conversation goodbye at the start.
|We get our mail in Agios Nikolaos but technically our home is in Platsa, another village|
Sometimes we have simply given our Greek address which really puts things in a tale spin as we don’t have a house number or road name, but a very long address all the same. Bottom line, as many of you know, we pick up mail at the village café.
In a couple of cases that Greek address has done nothing more than to label us as ‘a foreign address’ and let me tell you red flags fly high when you are labeled with that!
As an example, we sold some investments in one of our accounts and wondered why the proceeds were kept in a holding account and not deposited to our cash account. All transactions were within the same firm we've used for nearly 40 years. When we called and asked why it was still in a ‘holding’ account we were informed that it couldn’t be deposited as they don’t deposit money from 'foreign' sources. (The money was earned in the US, saved in the US and never left the US. . .Ah ha. . . but "we" did!
|A fork in the road - which one to use?|
Phone number – but which one!We went from no phone to more phone numbers than we know what to do with. And most of them don’t help at all when dealing with American financial or health institutions or retail outlets.
We’ve got a mobile phone number that we pay for month-to-month and activate when we are in the U.S.
A few weeks ago we purchased a Skype number with our old US area code that we give to businesses/agencies in the U.S. in case they need to reach us. . .but we quickly add, 'it's a local number for you, but we are 10 hours ahead of you, so keep that in mind if you call’.
For several years, we've had a Greek mobile phone that we use in Greece. (And that Greek number doesn’t fit on any US forms.)
Even the simple things. . .
|Google Gods know where I live and when my birthday is. . .|
However, if I try to shop on line stores back in the States (I do that in advance of our return trips back to the U.S) the Google Gods know where I am now when I am ordering and retail sites like Macy’s and Chico’s come up with my Greek zip code and all items show up in euro, not dollar, prices. A pop up on each site offers deals on shipping and customs charges to Greece from the U.S. (I go in and manually change location and currency).
|Village home in Kardamyli|
While the pleasures of being homeless in America – by choice - still outweigh the problems, the reality is that while the acclimating to Greece has been great, the American homeless part has been a challenge. Not insurmountable, but often-times not for the thin-skinned or faint-of-heart either. It is something to keep in mind if seriously considering a stab at being an ex pat.
Our type of chosen ‘homelessness’ has made us much more empathetic to the real homelessness that exists in the world. Just as our experiences with the immigration processes has made us far more sympathetic towards those seeking residency in other countries – not by choice as we did, but by circumstances beyond their control.
|A storage unit that feels like a morgue back in the States|
Thanks for the time you’ve spent with us today as we looked at ex pat life from a slightly different perspective. Safe travels to you and yours ~
Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Travel Photo Thursday –
Best of Weekend