Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Too old for travel or expat life? 'No Way!', you say. . .

“The key to successful aging is to pay as little attention to it as possible.”
Judith Regan

Wow! You do have some thoughts on 'boomer' lifestyle and travel!  Your response to my most recent post made that very clear. . .

Elders in Tripoli, Greece reading the news

In that post (The Night I Danced with the Barmaid and other tales.  . .)I wrote of the juxtaposition of  my experiences in dancing with a barmaid in a Greek taverna and falling over a suitcase at an airport with my first U. S. Medicare Wellness Exam. While neither of the falls I took had given me cause to think about ageing and health, the exam certainly did. 

I began pondering if 'a woman my age' (that phrase doctors start using when you turn 50) just might be getting too old for the adventures we have been having as full-time expats in Greece and avid world travelers.

Aging playground in the village of Trachila, Greece

Ending that post with the question, 'what do you boomer travelers and ex pats think about the impact of aging on your lifestyle. . .or do you think about aging?' we didn't expect such an outpouring of thoughts.

Boomers are ready for new vistas and discovery

For those getting Travelnwrite delivered as an email, you miss the richness of the comments that are added by readers to the blog post. If you respond to the email you receive, we are the only ones who see it. Those of you not on Facebook also miss the comments posted there. And for that reason, your most recent comments -- which deserved to be seen by more than the two of us --  prompted me to shelve my planned post on updates from The Stone House on the Hill and instead share a sampling of your thoughts on boomer travel and lifestyle choices.  And I've included links to the blogs written by many who left comments - I'd recommend them all!

Kalderimis - ancient Greek roads make excellent hiking paths

 Anita Oliver, co-creator of the blog No Particular Place to Go, a friend and fellow American ex-pat who lives in Portugal wrote:

We've talked in the past of common experiences we share but this post lands on the top of the list! I've tripped over chairs in restaurants, fallen off bikes and down stairs, skidded across gravel and rocks when walking and yes, sprawled over my own damn suitcase in front of crowds of people. ­čśü All you can do is laugh and be thankful that nothing's broken. I couldn't agree more with your words, "... they've made me appreciate even more our decision to live differently; to dance, to travel, to climb stairs without handrails and to walk on uneven surfaces for as long as our old bodies and minds allow us to do so." How boring our lives would be if we didn't challenge ourselves to search for new experiences and adventures rather than play it safe

Boomers are ready to travel new roads

Philadelphia-based traveler Suzanne Fluhr, who authors the blog, Boomeresque wrote:

My Medicare card just arrived effective April 1, the month I turn that age. Is it cheating if I start memorizing those words before my Medicare Wellness Exam? I wish I could honestly say I travel with as much abandon as I did when I was younger although some people might think I'm still a little cray cray. However, with apologies to the country music singer whose name I can't remember ;) , I still dance like nobody's watching at every opportunity, especially if frozen mai tais are available.
Greek village of Stoupa at sunset

Fellow American ex pat in The Mani Linda Jackim Werlein, writer and one of the creators of Write Club The Podcast Group summarized her thoughts on aging and ex pat life:

I love living in Greece in large part because of the pace of life. We're not necessarily expected to show up on time (unless you're going to an affair hosted by other Americans), and the cashier doesn't panic if you don't have enough money with you ("Don't worry. Bring it later.") and nobody dresses up for much of anything. Everything is down to what's really important: Are you comfortable? Are you happy? Do you need help with anything? . . ..

Life here is good, people are friendly and generous, and the landscape is unspeakably beautiful. I'm 74, Hal is 81, and we wake up grateful every day for the privilege of living here. And hell no, we don't feel old!!

Springtime in The Man

From Viet Nam, Elena, slow-traveler and co-creator of Traveling Bytes blog writes:

I’d been slow traveling around the world for the past 7 years. I noticed that outside of the US, there is a very different perception of what “age” means. My host in Sicily was a tiny lady with boundless energy. Once, in a conversation, she mentioned that she was born a decade before Mussolini came to power. Ouch! I needed a break in the middle of hot summer days, but she didn’t. In rural Japan, during my morning runs along the river, I often saw a gentleman effortlessly (and tirelessly) running back and forth. As it transpired, he was training for an upcoming marathon. He mentioned that his wife joked that at 82 he would be the only entry in that age category. He was pleased that his tenacity and wise approach to training produced results that put him in an almost half-a-century younger bracket. I wonder if whoever put together questions for the “Wellness Visit,” ever saw stairs of homes in Amsterdam or knew that elevators are a rarity in many French buildings. In my yoga class, here in southern Vietnam, half of the participants would qualify for Medicare in the US. However, they do not get any different treatment than others and would be puzzled if somebody asked them about feeling unsteady while walking. Cheers!

“Maybe it's true that life begins at fifty. 
But everything else starts to wear out, fall out, 
or spread out.”
Phyllis Diller 

Stairs without handrails are normal in this part of Greece

Goatdi who raises La Mancha goats and a few chickens on '42 acres of paradise at the most southern tip of the Cascade Mountain Range and who writes New Life on the Farm Last Chapter, said:

When the folks who run the rules and regs at Medicare volunteer to help me haul and stack a load of alfalfa bales for my dairy goats (125# per bale ) we will talk. 

Mani in the Springtime

Forest Ranger Gaelyn who writes Geo Gypsy Traveler travel blog from various locations in America's Southwest replied:

I just got signed up for Medicare and haven't taken that test. Please don't ask me to stop dancing, sauntering and traveling. Who is that wrinkled Ranger in my mirror? I will do what I do until I am unable.

A springtime sunset over Messinian Bay

An email from long-time reader, Sue C., who is a tireless 'can do' volunteer with whom I've worked in civic and political efforts in the Seattle suburb where we used to live, provided more food for thought:

I just got an email that said "How old would you feel if you didn't know your birthday? ".  Food for thought.  Luckily I sure don't feel 77!  I can even do stairs without railings!

Greece and olive groves - timeless

Cindy Carlsson, fellow travel enthusiast and author of Exploration Vacation blog, responded:

I'm younger, but my spouse passed the Medicare milestone the other year and, of course, my mother deals with these questions all the time and that nagging fear "am I too old to do this?" For many people 65 is simply not old anymore and we shouldn't be rushed to stop living our lives because "something might happen." Something could happen to anyone at anytime - especially if you are klutzy like I am. I love that you've decided to live life on your terms and not society's expectations and I try to do the same. I just hope that when they do the memory test they don't ask me what day of the week it is, because I never have a clue - why would I need to know if I'm not living every moment on someone else's schedule?! Keep those dancing shoes handy just in case!

Spring wild flowers carpet olive groves in The Mani

From Israel, Dina, author of Jerusalem Hills Daily Photo blog, observed:

I think the best way for us not to get old is to hang on to our sense of humor. :) 

Taygetos Mountains frame The Mani

Tom Bartel, who along with his wife, Kristin Henning, created Travel Past 50 blog, wrote during their current travels in Cambodia:

And yes, I too, passed the memory test. At least I think I did. I can't remember. We're in Cambodia right now and I haven't so much as seen a hand rail yet. However, we do also have rugs on hardwood floors at home, and we measured them and got thin rubber pads non slip pads for them. Cheap insurance. At least cheaper than Medicare.

A toast to boomers everywhere!

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, 
the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. 
When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”
Sophia Loren 

Our sincere thanks to all of you who take the time read our blog and share your thoughts in return. The richness of the discussion is what makes the blogosphere so interesting!  We wish you safe and happy travels.  Carpe Diem and hope to see you back again soon - bring some friends with you!

Linking with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, March 10, 2019

That Night I Danced with the Barmaid and other stories

The wine, krasi, as it is called here had flowed freely. The Greek music was a magnet; its pull, irresistible. Napkins tossed into the air fell like raindrops. 'Opa!' we called out. 

It seemed the entire taverna was dancing.  Katerina, the barmaid, was my partner. 
We whirled and twirled together.

It was during one of the whirls and twirls that I was supposed to go solo but I didn't know that until she spun me away from her, letting go of my hand. Instead of a graceful pirouette of some sort, I did a somewhat ungraceful full-body slide across the floor. My slide ended unceremoniously below a table where The Scout was sitting.  He leaned over me, asking, 'What ARE you doing?'

'Dancing,' I replied as I returned to an upright position and continued the fancy footwork into the wee small hours of the morning.

That was shortly after we'd moved to Greece as full-time expat's and I got the dancing out of my system that night.

Our travel bags are much larger than these  since moving to Greece

Last year, after The Scout had managed to pull our two over-stuffed suitcases from the baggage carousel at SeaTac (Washington State's international airport), I tried to roll one away from the crowded area when its weight shifted and instead of letting it fall, I held on.  Thus, I fell  on top of it, drawing stares and concern from fellow passengers. 
Aside from a bruise on my leg, the only thing injured was my pride. 

I've not told either of these stories to you before because they were, in my mind, just silly experiences that are a part of life. But recently I had another experience that got me to thinking about boomer travel and being 'older' ex pats.  I've been pondering the questions now for several weeks:  when are boomers too old to travel or to be expats for that matter?

Fast Forward. . .February 2019

As regular readers know, I turned 65 last July, a milestone birthday, which rebrands you as a 'Medicare person' in the United States. It is, now that I think about it, as much a right of passage as getting a driver's license at age 16 (the license was far more exciting).  Medicare, for those of you outside the States, is a federal medical program for persons 65 and older and younger folks with certain disabilities.

Several months before our recent winter sojourn to the United States I had scheduled an 'annual physical' with my doctor there to take place during our visit. Upon checking in I learned the 'physical' had gone out the window with my youth. I was slated to have a  "Medicare Wellness Exam".

Welcome to Medicare. . .

It quickly became apparent that little focus would be on my physical health but a great deal of focus would be on my mental health and my life environment (keep in mind my environment is rural Greece).

It started off much like a physical - height and weight measured, blood pressure taken. Then. . . oh-oh, a memory test. . .

Yes!! I knocked the ball out of the ballpark!  Score!!  The challenge had been to repeat and then remember, 'train. . .egg. . .hat. . .chair. . .blue' while I  successfully drew a clock with hands positioned at 11:10 and I named off as many animals as I could within 20 seconds (that is a lot of animals, by the way) But I remembered those five words - in order!

Boomer Expats: Square pegs in round holes

No handrails in this olive grove

Midway through the questionnaire that came as part of the wellness exam, I felt I was a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. Especially the hole that helps define an 'old person' in the United States. We boomer Americans who've chosen a lifestyle outside the confines of our home country, really do live 'differently' from those back in the States.  For example:

Q: Does your home have loose rugs on the floor? (implication, you could trip and fall)
A: Many. We have tiled floors in Greece - those rugs keep your feet from freezing in the winter. And not all rugs sold in Greece have non-slip backings.

Q: Do your stairs lack handrails? 
A: I laughed out loud at that question. We have tons of stairs at our Stone House on the Hill.  And. . .many don't have handrails. That is just the way it is in Greece. None have them in our olive grove and  most olive groves don't even have stairs - we added these after we purchased the house

Rugs warm a winter's tile floor (cold even with heat on)

Q: Do you feel unsteady when you are walking?
A: Hell, yes! Our road washed out two years ago and hasn't been fixed - its surface is terrible. Not to mention many roads in this rural area aren't surfaced and every hiking trail in the area is one of uneven surfaces.

In rural areas everywhere road surfaces are uneven

Q: Have you needed or felt you needed help with laundry or dishes?
A: Okay, now I ask you, what woman in her right mind, no matter what the age, wouldn't like help with those two tasks?

I must note: My expat friends here of boomer age and I have had many laughs when I tell them about this line of questioning. Because these same friends hike, bike, kayak, take yoga classes, swim . . .and dance as part of this lifestyle.

Back to Greece ~ Whew, feeling younger already

Shovels and pitchforks are workout equipment 
We returned to Greece the morning after that appointment. And although it has been two weeks, the memories of that 'Wellness Exam" linger.  I thought of them as I walked over the dips and rises in our storm-damaged road and thought of the many ways one (of any age) could break or twist an ankle. Again as I dug up the vegetable garden alternating between a pitch fork and a shovel I thought how easy it could be to have a heart attack. Again they surfaced  as I moved rugs in the house to mop the floors. And as I climbed the stairs hauling yard debris to the lower level of our grove where the burn pile is located - not a handrail in sight.

Stairway at The Stone House on the Hill
I pondered the possibility that they might have planted a seed of fear, but then decided those pesky questions did serve a purpose: they've made me appreciate even more our decision to live differently; to dance, to travel, to climb stairs without handrails and to walk on uneven surfaces for as long as our old bodies and minds allow us to do so.

And you know what? To the questions: 'Have you fallen in the past year?' and 'Are you worried about falling?'  I answered, "No!" I have far more things to worry about -- like renewing our residency permit - than that!

Springtime has come to Greece

That's it for this week. Spring has come to Greece and with it, new projects at The Stone House on the Hill.   I'll tell you about them next week so hope to see you back here then.

In the meantime, what do you boomer travelers and ex pats think about the impact of aging on your lifestyle. . .or do you think about aging? Leave us a comment below or shoot us an email.

Linking this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday


Friday, March 1, 2019

Greece ~ We are back on the Road to Residency

If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey,
most of us would never start out at all.
                    -- William Buckley Jr.

That Road to Residency was a trip to be sure. We were determined to live full-time in Greece and the twists and turns it held didn't deter us from setting forth two years ago.

Roadway in the Greek Peloponnese

P1030082Over the months that journey spanned, we went from being tourists who owned a home in Greece to card-carrying full time residents here. Our Road to Residency led us on a winding route from the Greek Consulate in San Francisco, California . . .to  the Secretary of State in Olympia, Washington . . ..and then to immigration offices in Kalamata, Greece.

As result of that journey, we are now live in the Land of Kalamata olives. 

And we aren't the only Americans to have taken the journey. We  have three other couples from the United States among our friends here who've all traveled their own Roads to Residency in recent years and are full-time residents in our area.

How quickly the two years granted us in that first journey have passed; our
permits are set to expire in April. Many of you have been with us and recall that at the time of issue we said two years was a good test. We'd give it a try and decide at the end of that time if we wanted to live here longer. However, the time has gone so quickly the decision was simple: we are back on that Road to Residency again. 

If our permits are granted, we will be allowed to stay for another three years.

The initial journey's end - a day of celebration

I am writing this post on February 28th. It was exactly two years ago today that we appeared at the Greek Consulate in San Francisco to make a case for why we should be allowed the opportunity to apply for residency. After gaining the much needed 'Entry Visa,'  that only the San Francisco office could issue, we were off on our  journey. 

Like passports, no smiling allowed!

So many of  you reading this were with us back then and cheered us on as we dodged potholes on that zig-zag road to full-time life in Greece. And to all of you who encouraged us, we still thank you. 

'But, why Greece?

We are often asked that question by Greeks and American's alike.  And we have a list of reasons why with which we respond.

I think the only time we ask ourselves, "Why Greece?" is when we are embarking on this application process.  It is not for the weak of heart or the impatient.

It isn't an easy process. It is an expensive endeavor. And I've said before it is very humbling to be trying to convince someone of your worth; why you should be allowed to live in their country.  Making an application for residency in Greece as an American requires proving your worth as a human being both literally and figuratively. 

Apostille - a worldwide outcome of the Hague Convention, Oct. 1961

The Renewal Application Packet

The amount of documents we needed to provide for a renewal has - thankfully - decreased from that initial application when we had to have everything from our US doctors' certifying  that we were healthy to  FBI fingerprint checks to assure we weren't criminals.

Those two items weren't required this time around but this time we did have to include proof of our births and that we had married.

As we are considered 'financially independent' immigrants, we must make an application for residency. We are retired and not seeking a work permit, so must prove we have an income. We are old, so must have proof of health insurance.

The Apostilled documents must be translated into Greek

Our renewal application packet contents:

Documents from the United States that had been Notarized and then Apostilled by the Secretary of State's office in our home state, Washington.  All of these documents are then translated into Greek.

* Birth certificate - This document is a new requirement.

* Marriage certificate -  This document is a new requirement.

* Proof of income - Bank statements that show a monthly income of 2,000 euros per month per individual 

* U.S. Tax return for previous year.

* A photocopy of our U.S. Passport (every page must be copied).

The initial application required an enormous amount of documents

Greek documents included:

* Proof of residence (the contract for the purchase of our house. Those who rent need to provide a rental agreement.)

* Proof of insurance (we have purchased Greek health insurance with coverage to match the thresholds set out by the Greek government).

* Our current permit cards. 

*Other documents we choose to submit. We added proof of the property tax we pay each year.

We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey
that no one can take for us or spare us.

                                              -- Marcel Proust

The Costs of the Journey

The application process is 1,000 euros per person, plus 16 euros per person for the cost of the identity card itself.

Attorney and translation fees can fluxuate, but are around 500 - 600 euros.

The Secretary of State's office charged $20US for each document apostilled, plus an additional $50 because we walked up to the window and had it done in person (would have been less had we mailed them in.)

Cost of notary work and copying costs about $50 US.

On the Road Again. . .

The new journey began again - not by design, but coincidence - on February 28, exactly two years to the day that we met with Dimitri in the Greek Consulate, San Francisco. This time it began in a village up the road when we handed over the packets to our attorney who will represent us in this process. 

I might add our Greek attorney, Voula, who kept us on a steady course the first time, has become a friend since that first journey of ours. So, our appointment with her was at 6 pm at a local caf├ę in the village of Kardamyli. She outlined our road map and timeline and reviewed our packets. We sipped wine as we reviewed the process. When business was completed, we dined together as good friends do. 

It was the most pleasant start to the journey.

And it provided yet another answer to that question of, 'But, why Greece?'

IMG_0215 [716250]
The Stone House on the Hill - the place we call home

As always we thank you for being here and the time you spend with us on our journeys. While in the U.S. we were asked many questions about our life in Greece so next week we hope you'll return for a report about what is new at the Stone House on the Hill in the Greek Peloponnese.

Until then, our wishes for safe travels to you and yours.

Linking this week with:


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