Showing posts with label moving to Greece. Show all posts
Showing posts with label moving to Greece. Show all posts

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Expat Life ~ With a Foot in Two Worlds

All my bags are packed
I'm ready to go. . . 

. . .'Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again. . .

                                                          -- Lyrics by John Denver, sung by Peter, Paul and Mary

“Leaving on a Jet Plane” is one of my favorite pre-travel theme songs.  This year perhaps its lyrics are a bit more poignant and at the same time a bit more exciting than ever before. We will soon be off to Greece.

And for the first time ever, we won’t be returning to a home base in Washington State.
We’ve always had a home in Washington. And that’s what makes this such a journey into new uncharted territory for us.

From the airplane - Washington State's Mount Rainier
P1050095Regulars at TravelnWrite know we’ve just concluded a “Summer of Slogging” at our Pacific Northwest home; cleaning out and organizing our life’s accumulations in order to embark on a new adventure: living in Greece.

[For those new folks – we purchased a home in Greece 2.5 years ago and obtained our residency permits this spring. It was the nudge we needed to go from our part-time to full-time ex pat life.]

With treasures tucked away in storage, given away or sold, we put our home of 30 years on the market two weeks ago. In a head-spinning blink of time it sold within 48-hours.

In two weeks, we’ll be boarding a flight to Athens.  With our heads still spinning, we have yet to feel the euphoria of freedom and adventure that so many ex pats before us have promised will happen.

Not Here Nor There

Instead of swooning over newfound freedom we are teetering between two worlds; feeling neither here nor there. A Twilight Zone of sorts.

Our destination: The Mani, Greek Peloponnese
Cue up Rod Serling (those of you of a certain age will know who I mean). In that quiet tone he’ll tell the viewing audience,“The Smiths  have just realized they are in a world of limbo – no longer rooted in the U.S. and not yet planted in Greece. Their only way out is through a maze of lists, logistics, and lessons.”

In the grand scheme of things, our Twilight Zone is nothing. Compared to those uprooted and homeless as result of hurricanes, wild fires, floods and social unrest, what we are experiencing is a blip on the comfort zone. Yet, when your world is shifting – if even by choice, as ours is – the change process is seismic.

The Logistics and Lists of Leaving

Way back in June we told you all that we’d be back in Greece by mid-September. Heck, yes! No sweat! We’d clean out the house, put it on the market, come back in a few months when it sold and complete our move.

Arriving in Athens, Greece

That was the plan alright but as the old saying goes. . .life has a way of happening while you are busy making plans for it. Time to regroup, take a closer look at those lists and logistics and forge ahead. . .

Regrouping and refocusing - taking a closer look at details
Changing dates:  We now have an early October date to move out of the house. We have a date for closing the sale. We have a new departure date for Greece.  And none of those dates are the same.
If all goes as planned (and that phrase is our new mantra) paperwork will be completed one day, we’ll finish moving out of our already-pretty-empty-house another, we’ll spend a couple nights in a SeaTac Airport hotel and two weeks from today we will fly to Greece.
* A lesson learned: we were able to change both the date and destination of our return flight on British Airways for little over $1,000 for both of us and we were able to stay in the previously booked premium economy section. That was less than we’d have paid if we’d have cancelled this the trip (the return leg of our trip here in June) and rebooked it using premium economy with the low-cost Norwegian Airlines and a regional airline.

“Moving abroad. . .must sell. . .” the reality is that no matter what they tell you about storage units, you can’t get the contents of a three-bedroom home into a 200-square-foot-storage unit. And further, in a hot housing market, volunteer agencies get mighty selective in the donations they accept.
*A lesson learned: We’ve attempted to donate some of our furniture that won’t fit in storage, to organizations serving the needy and homeless. Several of them have on line lists of items they will accept.  Two organizations in the Seattle area, charge a fee to cover the costs of picking up your donations.  The fee is $300 for one group and $500 for another.  We’ve opted to sell the furniture using on-line classified ad sites.

PicMonkey Collage
Our cars and Herbie

Soon to be Car-less in Seattle:  After having been a two-car couple for decades, (with Herbie my ‘69 Bug a pretty face in our garage) we are going car-less. We sold both of our cars to friends in the eastern part of the state. Herbie (sob!) has been sold to a local classic car enthusiast. Timing is everything at this stage of the game and our friends are working around our schedule, taking our last car the morning of our departure for Greece.
*Lesson learned: Opting to sell the cars will result in no storage costs (for Herbie alone the quotes were from $200 US a month to $350) nor insurance payments or licensing costs which amount to savings of several hundred dollars. On the downside, we will need to rent a car when we come back for visits, but the savings will pay for it.
This was too many bags - we'll have more this trip!
Packing the Bags:  While packing boxes and garbage bags has been the main focus of the summer, I’ve also been packing travel bags.  We are breaking all our previous rules about traveling light and will be herding more bags than either of us would prefer.  But we’ve realized that all those things that we’ve previously left ‘at home’ when we travel, for example those file folders with tax, medical and other ‘life’ information, also need to relocate.
*Lesson learned: By flying premium economy we are each allowed two free checked bags, an additional carry-on bag and one personal item.  We explored the cost of shipping a suitcase or a box the size of a suitcase and found it to be $200 for each piece and some who do international suitcase shipping don’t serve Greece.
Washington State ferry and Seattle Space Needle - icons of our life here

“The address and phone number associated with this account?” I’ve had three encounters in recent weeks – at retail stores, service providers and state agencies that all asked for some account identification that included either an address or phone number.  Hmmm. . . so what do we use to access those accounts when we don’t have an address or phone numbers?
*Lesson learned:  We will maintain a U.S. address by using a mail forwarding company in our town.  For $20 a month, plus a small charge and postage costs, they will forward our ‘snail mail’ to Greece.  By not having a land line, internet provider and cell phone as we do now in the U.S. we’ll save more than $300 a month, nearly $4,000 a year. We’ll rent a mobile phone during future extended stays in the U.S. or do like we did only a few short years ago when we traveled without mobile phones.  Wouldn’t that be a novel thing to do?
PicMonkey Collage
Homeless in Seattle . . .but not Homeless  ‘How does it feel to be homeless?,’ our U.S. friends are asking with increasing frequency. ‘When will you be home?’ our friends in Greece are asking. It’s all in your perspective.
Home for the indefinite future will be in our Stone House on the Hill, on the edge of our olive grove overlooking our slice of The Mani. In three week’s we’ll no longer be ticking off lists and logistics, but will be scheduling our olive harvest. We’ll still be listening to our UW Husky football games (broadcast live in the early morning hours of Sundays) and following our Seattle Seahawks on internet feeds and FB updates. We’ll read the Seattle Times and watch televised feeds to keep up with Washington and U.S. news. We’ll welcome guests from the Pacific Northwest to our home. We’ll come back and visit.

*Lesson learned:  In June I was thinking of life as chapters - this one closing and another beginning. I've changed over the summer. I now think of it as life's continuing story, a single chapter in which the setting may change, new characters are added, the plot will have new twists and turns; but it all will serve to make the chapter larger and more interesting. It won't be a chapter's closing.

Again, thanks for being with us and all your words of encouragement and excitement as our adventure unfolds.  We appreciate your time and love reading your comments and emails. Hope you’ll return again next week and bring some friends and family with you! Safe and healthy 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


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.

ChelanToppPort2010 044
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

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Year in Greece. . .maybe, just maybe

‘. . .You start dying slowly. . .
If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,
If you do not go after a dream,
If you do not allow yourself, at least once in your lifetime,
To run away from sensible advice.’
                    ~ Pablo Neruda

Arriving Athens, Greece
I suspect every ex pat out there whether part- or full-time understands Neruda’s words. We are learning that to be an ex pat, in the truest sense of the word, you need to embrace them all.

In fact, those words if set to music could be our theme song right now: we are going after a dream, challenging the uncertain – and as many of our friends and family seem to think -- we are running away from what is sensible.

At the door of our U.S. 'landing pad' in the Seattle suburbs
When we return to our Stone House on the Hill in the Greek Peloponnese countryside this fall we plan to stay.  Not for a couple months, as we did during the Schengen Shuffle years, but really stay ~ as in live there. It will be our home, our landing pad in the world, for at least a period of time.

In our case though, with our belongings in storage or farmed out to family and friends, we will set off in September to write another chapter in what we are calling our Last Great Adventure.

Our Kirkland home

The news isn’t a surprise to many of you regulars at TravelnWrite – you were reading between the lines of that earlier post when I wrote about giving ourselves permission to live differently.  You saw it coming the minute I wrote our summer goals were ‘discarding and downsizing’.

Our house and neighbors are near and dear to us, but in the last few years we’ve become visitors, not residents. More time has been spent in Greece and living out of a suitcase than was spent ‘at home’.

With the new plan we are simply reversing what we have been doing. Greece will be the base but we will still return to the Northwest once or twice a year and without yard work and household chores (at least for awhile) we'll have plenty of time to visit friends and family.

Opening and Closing Doors

 Provins, France
We’ve been inspired and helped by the experiences and stories of our ex pat friends – those in our real life world and our blogosphere virtual world -- who’ve already taken the leap into the unknown. They tell us they've not regretted their moves; each describing a feeling of freedom not to mention the joy of fully immersing themselves in a new culture and country.

For that matter we have friends who’ve upended their sedentary lives in the Northwest and headed out to other destinations in the U.S. They also report that same sense of well-being that comes with change.

Proud of those residency cards
Ours wasn’t a snap decision.  At the time we applied for a residency permit we toyed with the possibility of actually living on ‘our’ hill in the Peloponnese. By the time we got through the process we had decided the time was now or never.

Fish or cut bait.
We could stay longer.
We aren’t getting any younger.
What were we waiting for?

And besides, the bottom line is, we really like living there.

But there’s a vast difference between making a decision to go after a dream and embrace the unknown and actually putting yourself in a position of doing so.  First step in opening a new door is to shut another.

The Dream and The Reality


The reality of the new plan is that the time has come to put our home of 30 years in the Seattle suburbs will go on the market. (And that type of downsizing activity is not so unusual for 60-something people - many of our friends are doing just that!)

What we were dreading and rightly so it seems is the enormity of the task of cleaning out and discarding. The day-to-day tasks of packing and storing a lifetime of memories, belongings and every day things that it takes to make life run is a real ‘slog’ as one expat friend calls it.

My special doll from childhood tucked away in a bureau drawer. . .The extra deodorant and toothpaste in the bathroom cupboard. . .The clothes that are relegated to the closet by travel destination: Hawaii, Greece, Northwest. . . Dish soap and laundry detergent. . .Everything
in the house.

Everything needs to go somewhere by summer’s end. . .and getting it there is where we are right now in this journey.

Between Stoupa and Ag. Nikolaos on a winter's day
It also means rethinking life beyond the belongings.  The daily routines: What about the snail mail? How many memberships and services will be discontinued? Health insurance? What do we do with our cars? Or who will take my houseplants so carefully tended by my neighbor while we are gone –  soon to be orphans?

The Change Begins

Our summer calendar was created by our realtor. It sets out our tasks and timelines. A ‘stager’ hired by the realtor has toured our home and told us what can stay and what needs to go before it can be shown to potential buyers. (Half the furniture needs to go as does all art and decorations, throw rugs and towels. We can leave the coffee pot on the kitchen counter though!)  We have photo shoots and drone schedules on the calendar. We speak realtor talk of  “launches’ and ‘showings’.

Sunset at the Stone House on the Hill

But we are keeping in mind why we are doing all this; how blessed we are to have a chance to dream the dream and challenge the unknowns.  Sitting on a deck at The Stone House on the Hill is a much better idea than at an old folks care facility – that’s for sure!

While we aren’t doing a lot of traveling in the real sense of the word this summer, it is an interesting journey we’ve undertaken. Once in Greece we’ll give ourselves some time. . .maybe a year. . .maybe just a few more months than we could stay before . . .to enjoy that other world of ours. 

Our Stone House on the Hill this spring caption
I don’t want to dilute the travel emphasis of our blog with mundane moving tales, but we know some of you reading this are going through similar down-sizing processes or giving some thought to some major changes in lifestyle.  We thought you'd like to know you aren't alone in this time of adventure.

Want to share some of your experiences with us?  Leave a comment below, shoot us an email or comment on the FB post. It would be fun hearing from you and what you are up to. Until next time, our thanks for your time and wishes for safe and happy travels.

For those stopping by for the first time, you can read more about our ex pat life in Greece at: The Stone House on the Hill

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


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