Reflections

reflections

Word Press blogging is habit forming

carryoncouple.com is a razor-thin part of the Word Press blogosphere of millions of blogs.

Regardless, Sue and I love writing bits and publishing photos from our travels and other post-work experiences. We enjoy hearing from family and friends via blog comments or “likes” during our trips. We also hear from people from all over the globe. It is a lot of fun and satisfies our publishing addiction from our newspaper days.

After two-and-a-half years, we have done about 200 posts and our blog has been viewed more than 11,200 times by people in nearly 100 countries. We have had more than 820 comments.

After a day on the trail, we often pour a glass of wine, look through our photos, and write a short narrative about the day. When we publish a post, we often hear a ping that indicates a “like” or comment has been registered. We love these, but the best part is the “publishing.”

The blogging world is like a humungous bookstore. People browse with no obligation. We are amazed at who finds our blog. We are honored that 190 people are “followers.” Admittedly, some are out to make money on their blogs by expanding their reach, but we are under no obligation either.

Thanks, everyone. And thanks to Word Press for providing a free platform that even we have figured out how to use (with some assists from our patient son Andrew).

 

 

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Farewell, Mariposa

Twenty four years worth of stuff - minus some furniture that the buyers wanted - went into storage pending a new home.


We had booked our next “carryon” expedition to Europe for May before we went to Ashland, Oregon on a discovery mission in March. It seemed like a perfect match for us and we decided to try to move this year. The Mariposa house sold so fast (escrow closed Wednesday) that we found ourselves, with help from son Brad and some great friends, moving out of our home and getting on a plane almost simultaneously.

 

 

Home free! Or homeless!? We did manage to rent a furnished condo in Ashland for when we return.

People we meet here in Scotland ask where we are from. Our answer will take some getting used to.

 

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Am I as old as you look?

A pond at Ashland's Lithia Park provides a setting for reflection, or perhaps a place for an old man to nap.

 

Ashland, Oregon is a popular home for retirees. The place is crawling with people in their 60s, 70s, 80s…

All very friendly, their faces crinkle as they smile and say, “Hello!” The men, with belts firmly buckled around their chests, escort white-haired women downtown for dinner and the theater.

During the past week, we have walked many miles looking for the perfect neighborhood. We love it here, but sometimes I think, “There are so many old people!”

Then I see someone in their 30s and I am relieved. “Whew, there are people like me!”

I know middle age is just around the corner. But every once in awhile I get a wakeup call that puts that corner in the rear view mirror, like recently when I looked at my Taco Bell receipt.

“Senior discount,” it read.

So, when will I feel as old as I look?

 

Author's note: The above may be an exaggeration. Ashland is also home to more than 6,000 students at Southern Oregon University and you will see many families with children enjoying the city parks.

 

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Travel theme: Work

A fascinating part of travel is the opportunity to see work in other cultures. Here are some people in various countries we have visited as they toil, often in the service of tourists. The theme for this post was suggested by wheresmybackpack.com, a blog we follow.

Sue found an accordionist in Rome and was enchanted by a piper at Glen Coe in the Scottish Highlands.

A calligrapher paints our name in Shanghai, China. A woman on the Li River in southwest China brings our tour boat fresh food for lunch.

Men in Spain operate a transplanter next to the Camino de Santiago during our trek last spring.

 

 

 

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Adventure calls, but when will we answer?

Our sons, Chris, Andrew and Brad in their Balmerino, Scotland school uniforms.

When is the right time to take an adventure?

There are many answers:

When the kids get out of school.

When we can afford it.

When we learn __________ (insert a foreign language).

When we retire.

When we pay off the house.

When the economy is better.

In other words, when it is easier and less risky. There is such a thing as the wrong time, of course. But how often do we keep adventure in the future when we could take the leap at the only time we are guaranteed: today?

The perfect time doesn't exist.

It will be risky. It will be difficult. Mistakes will happen. That is because adventure takes us outside our comfort zone.

When our three sons were in their early elementary school years, Sue was working full time and I was teaching and working a second job on weekends. We were beginning to save some money for the kids' college education and even saving for our retirement. The linear American dream was alive and well!

But then I had a crazy idea: Apply for a teaching exchange. I mentioned it to our friend Kathy and she soon brought me an ad she clipped from a magazine about Fulbright teacher exchanges.

We can't afford it! What about Sue's job? What about the boys' education? What if we get assigned to a country not on our most-desired list? There were many reasons not to apply.

It did not make sense, but we did it anyway.

Our sons at a standing stone in the Orkney Islands off northern Scotland.

I was very fortunate to get the exchange and our destination could not have been better: Scotland. My mother would have credited the luck of my Irish heritage.

Our year brought many challenges, some unpredictable and quite difficult. We took out a second mortgage on the house to finance the trip. Our college and retirement savings plans were interrupted.

There were times we wanted to come home, especially during the short, damp days in winter. As an American teacher in Scotland, I stumbled often. (Our Scottish friends and my former students there are having a good chuckle if they are reading this.)

But, it was the best year of our lives as a family. We made friends we will treasure forever. The old Volvo we bought took us on 30,000 miles of adventures around the U.K. and France. The boys returned with Scottish accents and a love for soccer.

So many highlights. Our sons have all traveled abroad on their own as adults. In fact, the experience influenced our kids so much that we now turn to them for travel advice!

Adventures come in many forms. At BootsnAll, I read about individuals and families doing amazing things with far more risk than we experienced. People quit jobs, sell their house and travel around the world. Some do this with children and without much money. Some find short-term jobs to pay the bills.

We all have limits to how far outside our comfort zone we will go. But, shouldn't life be an adventure? Shouldn't we live it today?

 

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Am I a Travel Snob?

 

We prove that taking an occasional selfie is not beneath us, as we pose in front of Yosemite Falls.

“Uh-oh honey,” I muttered as we sipped our coffee and scanned the morning headlines. “I think this might be us.” An article entitled 22 Reasons You Are a Travel Snob had caught my eye. Yikes…the author wasn't cutting me any slack. He wasn't concerned that I “might be” or “could be”…he declared that “I am!” I've been found guilty without a trial.

Item #1 suggests, in part, that real travelers live in the moment and arrange things themselves, something tourists and vacationers don't do. I have to admit that we do try to avoid organized tours, choosing to explore new places at our own pace, therefore allowing us to learn to live in the moment. As I read it out loud to Reg he gave it some thought. “Hmmmm, he said. Travel Snobs…we might be…”

“Well, I don't think we're snobs, I replied a little defensively. I think we're just…really enthusiastic about our choices.” After all, I thought to myself, we don't have the ways and means to be five-star Travel Snobs, expecting and enjoying the best of everything. Nor do we feel compelled to truly rough it, packing a tent and subsisting on freeze-dried beef stew and protein bars, all in an effort to have an “authentic” experience. Happiness for us lies somewhere in the middle

Reading through the remaining 21 Reasons I felt reasonably sure that Reg and I had not yet acquired the unwanted title of Travel Snobs. I think we do have an on-the-go travel style as opposed to taking a plop-in-one-spot R&R vacation, but that is purely a personal choice.

It's taken us thirty years to blend and perfect our travel style, and I'm sure it will continue to evolve. Whether your next trip takes you 500 or 5,000 miles from home, enjoy your experience – your way…and don't let the Travel Snobs get you down!

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Experiences pale with bucket list

During a bike ride to Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe, California, we took an unscheduled gondola ride up the mountain to a surprise lunch spot.

What's on your list?

How about New Zealand, Italy, Machu Picchu? Or sky dive, bungee jump, climb Half Dome?

If you are having trouble with your bucket list, visit a bookstore or look around online and you will find almost limitless suggestions. Or visit the App Store.

Why do we compile bucket lists of must-sees and must-dos to accomplish before we die?

I have read about many people who are tossing their bucket lists in favor of a more live-in-the-moment approach. If you are a traveler, think about one trip at a time, they advise. Who knows what is next? Does it really matter if you never see Machu Picchu?

Can a bucket list keep a person from some of life's great discoveries?

Last year, Sue suggested that we walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain. “Definitely not on my list,” I thought to myself.

“Why not?” she asked when I questioned why we should walk 500 miles.

It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime. She was right, it was a matter of one step at a time. And this year we are going to Scotland for more long-distance trekking. We will also visit friends we have met from Scotland, England and Denmark during our travels. So much for Machu Picchu.

So, taking a more micro view of travel actually helped me see a more macro view.

There are also bucket lists within bucket lists.

While in Rome, you have to see the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps…or should the list be your top priority? How about wandering the narrow, meandering streets, pausing for coffee or beer at a sidewalk cafe to watch Italian life go by?

It is not just where you go, but how you see it. Shall we be travelers or tourists?

One traveler advised us that the first thing you should do when you arrive at your destination is sit down and have a cup of coffee. You don't need to rush out to see the world. Relax and watch it go by. As a boss once told me, “Take time.”

Sure, there are times we want to book a place, such as the Vatican Museums, because we know we will wait in line for hours without a reservation.

But, for every iconic place, there are many hidden treasures that will remain that way unless you take risks and explore without a plan, and, perhaps, by leaving the map in your pocket. Or at home, if you dare.

For our trek this May in Scotland, we had to book accommodations because there are few available and they tend to book up. This journey won't be as open-ended as the Camino was.

We have been asked many times about the wisdom of a two-week walk in a country famous for wet weather. It reminds me of what a Scottish friend told me when I asked him how he could play golf year round in such a climate.

“Why, Reg,” he said. “It never rains on the golf course.”

 

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A blank calendar filled with possibilities

Sue has taken up watercolor painting.

“What are you going to do?”

After I decided to end my 31-year teaching career, I heard this question often.

“I really don't have a plan,” I usually answered.

When I was working and raising a family, most days were planned.

A blank calendar presented an exciting challenge.

A retired friend once advised me that it doesn't take a long list of activities to make the post-work life satisfying and exciting. Just some little things, punctuated by a nap or two, rewarded by Happy Hour at 5. My friend does some big things, like travel and visiting his kids and grandkids, but he was talking about the day-to-day.

Sue recently read an article on the Forbes website that brilliantly captures this idea. Author Andy Robin calls his new life the Tapas Life, after the Spanish appetizers. Life without full-time work allows you to try things. You don't have to fill your plate and the menu is as varied as you want it to be.

Like sampling candy at See's. Or having a flight at a brewery.

Sue and I are in our second year after stepping out of the workplace.

We have loved some big things, like off-season travel. One item will stay on our plate as long as health and budget permit: long-distance trekking. The Camino de Santiago walk in Spain last spring was so inspiring and enjoyable that we intend to do more trips like it (but perhaps not quite as long).

Along with the travel, we enjoy blogging. It allows us to communicate with friends, relatives and strangers around the world as we travel.

We have tried many appetizers, or tapas. Sue has taken up watercolor painting and frequent long walks around our neighborhood in the Sierra Nevada foothills in California. She loves reading. In the summer, she swam almost every day.

We start our days with coffee and leisurely reading our favorite snapshots of the world on Flipboard. We go to weekday matinee movies, with a senior discount. Day trips to Yosemite or Merced for bicycling. Movie nights at home. TV series on Netflix (why did Breaking Bad have to end?).

I have taken up yoga at home (learned from some great instructors on the web). I listen to music while using our eliptical trainer. Several online classes through iTunesU and Open University have been terrific. I occasionally have a beer and dinner with former colleagues. I love TED talks and have tried assembling model ships. I have read non-fiction books in areas outside my field of political science, such as psychology and science. I bicycle around the neighborhood and sometimes beyond.

I tried golf for awhile, but I have put it on hold while I figure out a way to keep my perfectionist side off the course.

Now, Sue and I know we want some tapas that may not be available where we live. So, we are going to try out some new places and, when we find one we like, we will move. It will be hard to leave our longtime home and friends.

There will be new challenges. Some will be difficult. You never know what menu choices will be around the next corner!

 

Categories: Reflections | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

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