I have gotten very spoiled with excellent luck with animal sightings when I go on any kind of excursion, be it whale watching, bear photo safari, bird watching or whatever. It ends up I do not have the magic touch with scuba diving trips to see manta rays. Two years in a row we went on boat dives to swim with the majestic animals, confident that we will have a dozen or so swooping past us so close that it will be hard to film. Crickets. Or rather, snapping shrimp. The company we went with, Kona Honu Divers, rebounded admirably with a very nice reef dive where we were able to find some great night activity. But still, we really wanted to see those manta rays.
This year after our second fruitless dive we went snorkeling at Two Step. I had read that the dolphins come in to Honaunau Bay quite often so I wanted to go out deep into the bay and see what happened. Dan was game for that so we ignored the beautiful wildlife that was evident around the rocks in the clear water as we entered and struck out for the middle of the bay. We kept swimming, with no real destination in mind and eventually Dan looked up and started to say he hadn’t seen anything in a while. Just as I sensed his head come up next to me, I saw below us the majestic wings of a manta ray emerging from the amazing blue water. I started punching the water frantically trying to get him to look back down and then we were able to enjoy the magic of the ray together. Dan even got it all with the GoPro.
We learned that each ray has unique, identifiable markings on its back and that the couple hundred that cruise the coast of the big island are all documented and “named”. We noticed that this ray seemed to have some damage on the edge of its wing, maybe made by a shark. It was amazing to watch as it raised and lowered the cephalic fins on either side of its mouth depending on whether it was feeding or searching. At times it paused on the down current side of a cluster of rocks on the bottom and lowered the cephalic fins, appearing to hover there and feed for a bit off of the nutrients coming across the rock grouping. Those pauses were probably the reason we were able to follow it for a bit. The ray was able to flick a wing and smoothly “fly” off against the current at a seemingly effortless pace, far exceeding any speed we could maintain. After watching for a few blissful minutes we faded back and let the ray slip back into the deep blue water, leaving us wondering if that had really happened. We were absolutely euphoric and decided we were happier with that natural encounter than we would have been with the manta ray dive, where they are attracted by large lights that bring plankton in for them and divers sit in a large circle on the floor as they swim through the light over and over. It was great to see this ray, doing what rays do, which is cruising the coast finding plankton naturally occurring along the way. It came close to us of its own free will, we were able to watch it soar in its natural environment and it was just the two of us experiencing it together.
When we calmed down a bit from that amazing encounter we decided we would head over to the edge of the bay and work our way back to our exit point by snorkeling around the rocks and enjoying the usual rich life found there. At this point we were probably about 2 miles out and dead center of the bay. We put our heads down and swam, seeing nothing of consequence along the way. The bottom dropped away and all we could see was deep blue going on forever. Dan looked up again and said it was boring, maybe we should head in another direction. I looked up to see where we were, where else we might want to head and immediately noticed 4 or 5 fins about 50 feet in front of us. The snorkel had just turned from our best ever to off the charts! As soon as we put our heads back down we had pods of spinner dolphins swimming past us, around us, under us and practically through us. Check out how close this group came to Dan. He could have reached out and touched them. And be sure and look for the teeth that you can see on the closest one.
We ended up swimming with this pod of over 50 dolphins for close to an hour and a half as they split off and jumped and spun in the distance then came back to join the group, dove straight down and disappeared for a while returning suddenly from the other direction or suddenly all disappeared only to suddenly reappear underneath us a few minutes later. They were clearly comfortable with our presence and I had a chance to swim alongside a couple of them for a few seconds, maintaining eye contact and they slowed to check me out before they dove with the rest of the pod.
The whole time we spent with them we could see a bunch of people back at the snorkel entry point watching us. No one came out to swim with them. We were still quite a ways out, but nothing would have stopped me if I had been on the beach watching us out there with them. We finally headed for the beach, even though the dolphins were still there. We had been in the water for about two and a half hours, were completely blissed out and finally dragged ourselves away from our new friends.
At the entry and exit point at Two Step if you look down, stones and shells are arranged to spell out Aloha on the sea floor. It must be maintained daily by visitors and I found it completely enchanting.
No doubt we were feeling the aloha and offering a very heartfelt mahalo in return.
“Aren’t you worried that something will happen? I mean, it’s not safe everywhere and tourists are targets.” We hear this, a lot, as we discuss our plans with people we meet and people we know. It’s valid. We can’t be naïve. Wandering around with shiny bobbles, fancy electronics and wide open pockets stuffed with local currency would be unwise anywhere, even at house parties of some of the people who are asking us that question! Dan is a very cautious and safety minded individual. He is also a physically intimidating man, with a non-threatening disposition which helps. I tend to rely a little more on my gut than he would like, but between us it makes for a good balance.
When we have been traveling in the past, and in the most unlikely of places, it has been have proven to us that there are many good people out there that can make the journey not just pleasant, but remarkable. In places like New York City and Paris where the reputation of the residents is less than hospitable we have found the exact opposite to be mostly true. It is delightful to have your fears assuaged by a friendly, unsolicited safety tip from, of all things, a French waiter or a random offer of assistance from a New Yorker in the subway. It puts a spring in our step, a smile on our faces and gives us the intense desire to continue exploring.
In today’s political climate, Mexico has been painted as the bad guy, a country of criminals, rapists, drug dealers and general ne’er do wells that just want to cross the borders illegally and take American jobs or commit their crimes on the American side of the border. Baja California has always been considered a sketchy area for American tourists to visit. Police corruption is well known and we haven’t helped matters by treating it as our own little playground of lawlessness. Much of Mexico is legitimately dangerous in terms of drug cartels, human trafficking, murder and other crime. But not all, just like here in the US there are places you know you just don’t mess around in. But the rhetoric against the people in general has reached a fever pitch. I grew up here on the border in San Diego though, and my experience has always been that the Mexican immigrants are hard working, helpful, family centered people that are often a lot kinder than their American born counter parts. Last year, when people were really being whipped up about the evils of Mexican illegal immigrants I witnessed a white woman’s car break down on one of the busiest corners in our area. She was stuck, alone, blocking traffic and I saw 3 able bodied, young white men walk right by without helping her. I also saw a Mexican laborer, legal or not I don’t know…but perceptions at the time were leaning towards all Mexican laborers are bad…run across the street, against traffic, and respectfully ask if she needed help. He single handedly pushed her car around the corner and slightly up the hill to get her to a safe spot, then continued on his way before she could get out of the car to properly thank him. It struck me at the time that his kindness was sort of extraordinary given the amount of, shall we say disrespect, that was being shown by the country at large towards his people. I actually teared up a little. My opinion of the people that went by with a quick, shifty glance at the woman in distress was not so favorable.
During this time of tension we were enticed to visit La Ventana, Mexico down in the Southern tip of Baja on the Sea of Cortez. A wonderful friend of ours, Joel Hall, had been visiting there for a couple years and singing the praises of the beauty, isolation, people, food, affordability and activities of the area so we decided to meet up with him while he was down there. We met Joel because he is bartender extraordinaire at a popular restaurant in Carlsbad near our home.
We love to go in and “talk story” with him and there is always a friendly group of locals there doing the same. Joel is the casual ringleader, making interesting introductions so that no one leaves as a stranger. He says has invited a bunch of people to go down while he’s there and claims we are the only ones who have ever done it. Apparently, when push comes to shove, people are a little afraid to go to a remote town in Baja California. The reputation of the area is that it is unsafe. Again, a typical hesitancy for Americans towards Mexico. Joel’s familiarity with it, and assurances convinced us to give it a go and we are delighted that we did.
We flew from Tijuana into La Paz, an easy and inexpensive way to get down to the tip of Baja.
There we rented a wreck, stayed the night in La Paz, which was delightful, went snorkeling with whale sharks the next day and ended up across the street from the marina for tacos and margaritas afterwards. I had just wrapped a towel around my waist and thrown a sweatshirt on and walked across the street at El Cayuco, so focused was I on the 2 for 1 margarita sign and the transcendent experience of swimming with whale sharks. We had a lovely meal, a very sweet, charming waiter, Tony, some of the best margaritas I’ve ever had (remember…I grew up in San Diego and am not exactly a millennial!) took some pictures with our waiter (I said he was charming, right?) and were on our way for the hour or so scenic drive to La Ventana.
Joel’s description of La Ventana did not disappoint, and anyone looking to go “off the grid” should check it out. A wind surfing mecca, gateway to diving in the Sea of Cortez which is like Jacques Cousteau’s aquarium, plucked fresh from the water seafood for pennies, interesting people from all over the world hanging out in a town with one mostly dirt road in and out. The bars come complete with dogs and puppies to love on if you are missing yours and rumor has it the occasional cow wanders in, so you have to be ok with a very casual dress code. It felt friendly, relaxed and the locals were helpful and non -threatening.
The second morning I went looking for my purse. I realized that I hadn’t seen it since we arrived at La Ventana. We searched our casita and the car thoroughly. THOROUGHLY!
Dan did his detective questioning “where did you last see it?” “did you have it at blank?” and we determined that I must have left it at the restaurant across the street from the marina in La Paz. Aw Geez. I didn’t even know the name of the restau…oh wait! I took pictures and I had my phone! We were still in La Ventana for a couple days so I began trying to call the restaurant. First step, find the number. Not the easiest, but after about 90 minutes I did it. Next step, call the restaurant. Well, not so good. Every time the nice lady answered she listened to me try and Spanglish my way through what I needed for about 15 seconds and then hung up. I was calling mid-afternoon so she was probably a family member looking after the place between busy times or something like that and overwhelmed by the calls. It took me until the next day, but I finally got through to someone that I could communicate with enough and was told that Tony had my purse and was waiting for me to return. He wasn’t there, but his shift coincided with our return to La Paz to fly back home in a couple days so we could drop by and pick it up.
Dan was remarkably chill about all this. He’s pretty used to my misplacing things of importance and I guess he knows by now that fussing at me about it will only spoil an otherwise great day, so that is helpful. Even though my anti-anxiety medicine was IN MY PURSE, I managed to remain calm and Joel and his buddies were pretty impressed that a female could continue to function with her handbag out of her control in another town in Baja! I told them they knew the wrong females…
We planned ahead and left 2 hours earlier for La Paz on the last day so that we would have plenty of time to stop by the restaurant retrieve the infamous “bolso Azul” or blue purse and still get to the airport. When we arrived at the still enticing locale it was not yet open for business, but we strolled in and found a lovely lady sweeping. I believe it was the poor soul that I tormented a few days before on the phone, but we were able to communicate much better in person and she told us that Tony wasn’t there for the lunch shift yet, but that she thought he had stashed the purse in the restaurant and she began to look for it. She called but could not reach him so we presumed he was on his way in. She did a pretty thorough search of the rambling restaurant and told us we would have to wait for him to get there. Shortly thereafter, with us getting a tad nervous, he did arrive and recognized us right away. Relieved hugs were given and he explained that he had taken the purse home because he was afraid something might happen to it at the restaurant. Ummmmm. As grateful for his thoughtfulness that we were, we explained that we were flying out, that I needed my passport and could we go get it? It was a little difficult because his lunch shift was beginning, he lived about 30 minutes away and had been dropped off. After a short discussion, he talked to the other people at the restaurant and agreed to hop in our rental car and take us to his home to get the purse.
Imagine! I had made a silly mistake in a foreign country known for poverty, crime and corruption and here was this humble man rescuing me in such an over the top fashion. I have left my purse in a fast food place in San Diego, been gone 15 minutes and the purse was stolen, never to be seen again! We chatted casually as he directed us back to his home in La Paz, interesting to get back and see the neighborhoods off the beaten track. He ran into the house, was gone no more than 20 seconds and came back out with the purse wrapped in a white garbage bag and handed it to me. I took it out and casually flipped through it, laughing that I had to prove to nervous Dan that my passport was really there and that we could fly out. The contents were untouched. My cash, identification, passport, anti-anxiety meds were all there. The humble honesty and goodness of this man really knocked me over. When we got back to the restaurant he would only take a small tip and more hugs and then sent us on our way, feeling like we had been treated like family in Baja.
This is not the only extraordinary experience we have had with strangers while traveling. We are so lucky to encounter kindness and generosity frequently in the most unexpected places. It is one of the reasons that we are so looking forward to starting this journey as a full time endeavor. We really look forward to the opportunities to meet people, have experiences, hopefully pay it forward and let the world continue to surprise and delight us.
Do you have a secret reality show that you just can’t get enough of, even though you know it is silly, staged and completely un-real? Whether you will admit it or not, I will. My dirty little secret is Project Runway. I can’t get enough of Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, sequins, pleats, crazy unwearable designs and unabashed snarkiness. All set in the glorious background of New York City and the promise of showing at NY Fashion Week for the finalists. Fab-u-lous!
One of the best parts of each episode is the designers’ visit to Mood, the amazing fabric store in the heart of New York’s garment district. I’ve always been fascinated watching these talented artists run around 3 stories of fabrics and notions with only 30 minutes to find the perfect materials for a design they have just barely begun to imagine. And the amazing textiles they found there! Nothing like I had ever seen at a fabric store near me, that’s for sure.
It just so happened that Dan’s favorite French onion soup is made by a lovely restaurant, the Houndstooth Pub in the garment district so we made several trips there during our last trip to New York. On one of those visits, I remembered that Mood must be nearby and Googled the address. Even with the address, it wasn’t easy to find. It was on a block of amazing shops, one just of beads and feathers,
the next all embroidered fabrics, little custom shops, other fabric stores…amazing. But I couldn’t see Mood. Ends up they didn’t have a big first floor display window. You had to go into a building in the middle of the block and go up an elevator which then opened into their store on the 2nd floor. I’m just not used to city buildings I guess…not like strip malls!
Once the door opens in Mood, there is a polite young person at a small desk near the entrance greeting and asking if you needed assistance. Her quick assessment of my open jawed expression must have told her I was a fan of the show and had come to bask in the textile glow so she smiled us on our way.
Yup, I think I clutched my coat and had that expression on my face the whole time we were in there. That’s my mom’s special Christmas sweater that she wore to all holiday events back in the day. I was proud to wear it. Dan had to admit the place was pretty incredible. 3 floors packed thoroughly, if not efficiently, from floor to ceiling with all things fashion.
I mean, look at the directory signs. That doesn’t begin to describe what is happening on each level. I was not the only one walking around in stunned wonder, even some of the employees seemed genuinely awestruck at some of the fabrics and were happy to point out some unusual ones as I wandered around. I saw fabrics ranging from $8 a yard to $230 a yard and I wasn’t even looking at the prices too much.
I didn’t see Heidi (to Dan’s extreme disappointment) or Tim. The shop dog, Swatch, was nowhere to be found and I didn’t ask, but his portrait presides over the shop with a fitting air of fashionable boredom.
And no, I didn’t buy anything, but yes, as I wandered out I did whisper “Thanks Mood!” under my breath.
We’ve surrendered to the process. The days of pretending to live like civilized people is over. The living room is intentionally filling with items for sale, it is spreading into the foyer and pieces are disappearing from other rooms. There is no hope of decorating for Christmas, having people over for dinner or feeling any kind of pride in our home from now on.
It’s kind of a relief. I was trying to figure out how to do all this and maintain the space in any kind of order. I was losing ground and then Dan started to really get in on the act. We have aggressively gone after the attic now and both of our offices are starting to clear out. We are really getting into the swing of letting go, coming to terms with getting rid of things that we like, but we don’t need while keeping the sentimental essentials. A storage unit is in our future.
Unfortunately we can clear faster than people buy stuff online. We are using the local apps LetGo and OfferUp for almost everything. We have sold a lot, but it has been an arduous process.
So many people set up meetings and don’t show up or negotiate down the prices so far then make it a complete nuisance to meet up with them. It gives me great appreciation for the people that make it easy, want it, come get it and pay for it! Garage sales are in our future for sure. We have a cookie jar style container hidden away stuffed with cash that we haven’t counted and are going to use it for “mad money” when we’re all done. I have no idea what form that will end up taking. I have become so miserly in the last two years as we have been formulating this plan. I don’t have to be, it just sort of happened, I want to save all the spending for the adventure! I have to really fight that, although it is good to not purchase things, because I’d just have to sell them. Maybe I’m getting in the spirit of life on the road. I’m sure Dan will help me loosen up and enjoy a little spending spree. In the meantime, do you need anything?
Summer has wrapped up in San Diego. The fall light, that only a native would really recognize, has moved in and that pleasant chill in the morning and late afternoon has arrived. I have the distinct feeling of nostalgia that I haven’t felt since senior year of college. A feeling born of knowing this is probably our last fall in San Diego.
That feeling is spawning other uncomfortable thoughts. This is my last gray whale season as a volunteer for the San Diego Natural History Museum Whalers. We may have already seen our yard in summer splendor for the last time. The house is filling up with piles of stuff for sale, donations, garage sales etc. and it is looking like we won’t be decorating for Christmas this year, so we have already decorated the last time. We have our last annual trip to Kauai scheduled for May. We probably won’t really be missing that on our adventure, but the nostalgic feeling I have thinking about it is still slightly discomfiting. We really will be leaving this place and these people within a year. Almost everything will change.
We are continuing to go through the house and try and get rid of over 30 years of what I will conservatively call collecting stuff. Today I read through some angst filled journal entries from college, found my 9th grade science fair project I did working with penguin chicks at Hubbs Sea World Research Institute, found my flute music books from 3rd grade, found the cards and wrapping paper from the baby shower my parents had when they brought me home as a baby and ruthlessly threw away almost all of it. Honestly, if I didn’t know I had it, I didn’t need to keep it. My mom used to say that if you have the space, you will fill it up. We filled up a 3 bedroom house with a 2 car garage we can’t park in and an attic. We are going to leave with just luggage and a small storage unit. I am feeling lighter already.
Still, it is an odd, not unpleasant but slightly sad feeling as we sense the last occurrence of things passing. It means we are closer to what seemed an impossible dream too far in the future to imagine. It’s vaguely frightening, definitely exhilarating and just interesting to observe in ourselves. We still don’t have a real timeline on actually leaving other than Dan’s retirement date of May 1, 2019. That uncertainty is a little disconcerting and we need to work on pinning it down some. That sounds like another post.
Cleaning out the house encompasses an unbelievable range of items. Inevitably that brings up memories of things you hadn’t thought of in years, and the idea of walking away from things that have been in your life “forever”.
Yesterday I attacked a filing cabinet in my office. Really I just wanted to clear it out so I could hide all my yarn in it until it’s time to donate that. We have always enjoyed theatre and for the last 20 years we have had a subscription to the La Jolla Playhouse which we have enjoyed immensely. It is definitely one of the hardest things to consider giving up for our retirement plans. Due to the longevity of our subscription, we have terrific seats and we always enjoy our date nights in La Jolla. I have collected every Playbill from the performances, and others that we have gone to, in town, in New York, for my friend Michael Butterworth’s doctoral studies in Missoula, Montana, in Los Angeles, wherever. They all went into this cabinet. So when I went to clear it out I had to be ruthless. So many of the performances I remembered clear as day, the conversations we had about them, the elation of the performers in premiere plays when the audience responded well, the train wrecks…so many memories. Here’s a signed one from Hedwig and the Angry Inch in New York and a photo of me with Michael C Hall, who played Hedwig.
This was the first tough clean out. Pulling off the band-aid so to speak. I hope it makes the subsequent clear outs easier because for a sentimental person with hoarding tendencies, this was tough!
There were several things we really wanted to do while in New York City on that last trip. A visit with dear friends, dim sum in Chinatown, walk the High Line and, of course, a couple Broadway shows.
I am a theatre junkie and Dan has come to crave the Playbill almost as much as I do. While perusing the shows that were available the time we were in town I was stunned to see ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ on the list. I admit, I don’t really follow what is happening on Broadway except for when we are going to have the opportunity to be there or when a play we have seen is going to make a Broadway debut. So, it was a big surprise to me to see my favorite book, adapted for the stage by my favorite playwright/screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin (insert girlish shriek here), with the amazing and talented Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch. In my defense, it was still in previews so the buzz about it had not really built yet. Now I know that there had been talk for quite some time as Mr. Sorkin had received the rights from Harper Lee to do the play, but controversy had inevitably ensued. For an excellent article addressing that and more, check out Deadline.
I immediately got online and found tickets, bought my usual tickets in the back, had some weird message about it not going through, re-did the transaction, got two emails saying I had tickets which I didn’t open because it was about 2 in the morning at this point and I was keyboard drunk and went to bed. I tucked that little task in the “done” column and never checked to see if the tickets were really there, or if I had bought multiple sets. When we got to New York I looked for the tickets before setting out for the day because we were doing Ellis and Liberty Island then on to Broadway for the show. I was now acting like a responsible adult and making sure I had everything I needed for the day. And I had everything except…where the heck are the show tickets? I searched every email I could find and had no tickets. I went to my credit card statement and had no charge for tickets. DRAT! Nothing we could do, by the time I figured all this out we were on the ferry to Liberty Island and as far as I could tell there is no telephone number for the box office. I got online and tried repeatedly to buy tickets from a secondary market source but every time I got to the purchase screen the seats I was trying to buy were suddenly unavailable. The only ones I could find were over $600 and I just couldn’t make myself pull the trigger on that. I told Dan we would go straight from our tour to the box office and see what we could get.
Ellis and Liberty Island are not to be rushed. We spent the entire afternoon there and took the last ferry back. I was nervous, but it was the right thing to do. We rushed back to the subway and were lucky with getting trains right away back up to the theatre. Breathless and wet from a day of walking around in a driving rain I ran up to the ticket booth and somehow explained I thought I had tickets but didn’t and absolutely had to see the play that night. It was about 4:30. The very nice gentleman completely understood and said that he had $600 seats available. He saw our faces and said they had run out of rush seats already but had standing room tickets still available. We could barely stand at the ticket counter after doing Battery Park and the Statue tours, but we had a couple hours to recover so I asked him exactly how that worked. He told us that we would have assigned spots at the rail behind the Orchestra seats (those $600 seats) with a velvet padded cushion we could lean our arms on and it would only be one person deep, not a crowd of people trying to see. That sounded pretty good, so we shrugged and asked how much. $38…I think the tickets I had tried to buy were $120 and those were 2 stories above, in very uncomfortable seats! Yeah, we took them. And he thanked us!
We found an amazing place across the street for drinks and dinner, Dan was emphasizing the drinks part so he wouldn’t feel his feet for the 3 hours he would be standing for the play. It was a wonderful adventure all by itself, another blog perhaps. The standing room arrangement was amazing. We were right behind a small Orchestra seating area, but able to see above all the heads so we had a better view than they did.
It was comfortable to lean on and to be honest the production was so absolutely amazing that I would not have been able to stay in my seat for it anyway. Dan ran up to where I thought I had purchased tickets online and snapped this shot of what our view of the stage would have been. We won!
I’m going to resist turning theater critic here and just say that it was easily one of the top 3 theater experiences of my life, and we have had season tickets to the La Jolla Playhouse for 20 years.
When it was over and I had found my breath again we dallied inside the theater and saw the cast gathering in the Orchestra seats for a post production meeting. I was dying to see if my idol Aaron Sorkin was there. Problem was, I am a horrible fan, I had very little idea what he looked like. So I am hanging back, frantically Googling pictures of him, trying not to be too obvious about peering into the dim theater to see if he is among the group gathered there. I think I spy him and we are politely urged to exit the theater.
Still on a theater high, which proved to last at least 3 days, we went out into the rain and decided we would wait by the cast exit to see if we could meet Jeff Daniels and possibly, way more exciting, Mr. Sorkin. We got to meet some great cast members most of whom were very gracious and clearly excited to be involved in the project and its clear success. I got to meet Jeff Daniels,
who may not have been feeling very well, not that it showed in his performance in any way. And then we waited. They took down the barriers, and we waited. The security dog left, and we waited. One other gal and us, Sorkin fans to our cold, wet cores. As we are chatting away, people would come out the door, we’d quickly look, it wasn’t him, they’d smile, we’d smile and we’d wait. Finally out comes a fellow with glasses and longish hair and I swooped! I gushed, I told him what a fan I was, how much I enjoyed his work and had to see tonight’s play and loved what he had done with it and OH MY GOD GIRL BREATHE!! And he said, thank you, by the way, my name is Bart.
OH MY GOD
He was so sweet. I was actually speaking with/gushing at the director of this fine play, Mr. Bartlett Sher. He let me continue on, after picking my jaw and dignity off the glittering streets of Broadway, and he and Dan and I must have talked for 20 minutes about the play, putting it together, previews, how he had worked at La Jolla Playhouse with Des McAnuff. All kinds of things, huddled under the eaves by the stage door of the Sam S. Shubert Theatre at 11:30 on a Monday night. What a gentleman.
As a very weak excuse, this is Aaron Sorkin, a picture grabbed of a TV screen.
It seems any travel we do now feels like practice for our upcoming lifestyle change. We had an opportunity to go to New Orleans for a couple of days over Thanksgiving and then on to New York for a couple more to catch the pre-Christmas excitement and a couple shows, so we jumped at the chance. We found that we looked at the trip in a whole new way since we have committed to our retirement plans.
We are fortunate to be able to use Dan’s accumulated travel mile points for free flights still, and his hotel points for some pretty sweet hotel stays, so our travel budget for these expensive cities at holiday time are pretty minimal. That is definitely on our mind as we know we will be losing those perks when he finally doesn’t have to travel up to 60% for work. If anyone thinks that sounds fun, let me know, I will have him write a piece on why it isn’t and yet why he is still eager to travel after retiring.
This time we decided that, even though we were going to two very different climates, we would pack in carry on only and see how we did. We do have an unnerving tendency to overpack which does not bode well at all for getting all our stuff into manageable luggage for our adventure. New Orleans was going to have temperatures up to the 80’s F and New York City would be down to the 30’s F with possible rain. We had Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant, Broadway shows, tromping around both cities, visiting friends and a tailgate party all to consider in our wardrobe choices. Plus technology, pharmaceuticals and skincare/grooming. It was a good challenge. We did it, with a little room to spare. In fact, I took only one extra pair of shoes, which I only wore once, so I’m wondering if there could possibly be one perfect pair of shoes for every occasion out there… We layered, we felt like we were in “uniform” a lot of the time, but that was fine, we were comfortable and generically dressed, and we found that we still didn’t use all the clothes in our bag over the 10 days. I was surprised by what I did use though. I thought I would want to wear the leggings all the time, but I preferred the jeans about half the time, so I am going to have to have a pair moving forward. I thought for sure I would put on makeup for Broadway shows, fancy dinner out in NYC with friends etc., but the only time I had time to do it was for Thanksgiving dinner and I didn’t really care. Side note, my husband is THE BEST, he claims he prefers me without makeup so I am either horrible at putting it on or he is the sweetest guy ever! I didn’t take any jewelry and I did sort of miss having a little accent here and there, although I usually don’t wear much anyway. This is all going to help when it comes time to make the MASTER LIST of what goes in the bag.
Something else that we have discussed and had lots of people ask us, is whether or not we will miss “having a home to go to”. Meaning coming to a permanent place after traveling for a while. That was on my mind a lot as we were running around, feverishly enjoying ourselves in two distinct and fantastic cities. Of course, most people enjoy that kind of thing but you do often hear “It’s nice to be home.” I have probably even said it a time or two. This time we traveled with the idea in mind that soon we won’t be returning to a home of our own as we move about. It felt wonderful to collapse back in our hotel room each evening after about 10 miles of walking each day, the shower, the bed, clean clothes…aaaaahhh. But I was mindful that other than the big factor of missing Enzo the Magnificent,
I was not longing for a permanent domicile, my particular chair, an address or a familiar view. I had my necessities, and as corny as it sounds, Dan is where my home is. In fact, it felt pretty good not to have a yard to manage, a large house to lose things in, so many possessions to ummm, hmmm. So many possessions to I don’t know what, but it felt good. It felt light. Is it going to feel that way after 6 months of traveling light? I hope so, I think so, but that’s the kind of thinking that could keep us from having this big adventure so I will just say, in the words of our Amazon River guide “Yes, maybe.”
Excuse me, I am now on the hunt for the one pair of perfect shoes that can be worn for any occasion…I’ll let you know what I find.
What a question! But it is repeatedly asked, even though it is usually asked quietly and cautiously. As if we would dump him on someone, or worse yet, put him down before leaving.
I have been incorrectly saying he turns twelve this October, I just looked it up and he turns eleven! What a gift! He is a German Shepherd Dog, originally from Germany, brought over to be a show dog but when he didn’t perform highly enough they decided not to show him any more or breed him and put him up for sale at age three. We fell in love with the big lug and have had him ever since. He came to us with the unlikely name of Enzo. We almost renamed him Dude because most of the time he is so chill, but we like the name Enzo and we didn’t necessarily want everyone in town to look up when we called our dog!
He was very well trained when we got him and we worked with him to be my third service dog, a job he performed for years. I slowly began to use him less as I grew stronger and now rarely need him for that purpose except at home.
So, yeah, he goes with us. It does complicate things of course. We have to figure out transportation that doesn’t involve sticking him in the baggage section of a plane. Since he is a service dog, I think we have that covered. We have to look for lodging that is pet friendly. I suspect it will be too difficult to argue a semi-retired service dog’s rights with regard to housing in other countries. Airbnb and the like seem to have quite a few options for guests with pets so we will work around that. We have to travel with his items as well as ours, it’s only fair! We have to limit ourselves to places where we can get into the country without quarantine or issues, so that is a consideration and requires some research. He isn’t small, he is 95 pounds, so I can’t just tuck him in my tote with my guide book and go. We will probably take into consideration cultural feelings towards large dogs, we don’t want to be somewhere that everyone is terrified of our sweet boy. But he is Enzo the magnificent, our buddy and protector and soon to be homeless companion.
In preparation we are trying to make sure that he (well, all of us) are in the best shape possible for this adventure. He has arthritis in his elbow and back that has slowed him down a lot in the last year. We’ve been having laser and acupuncture treatments and recently shifted to ultrasound therapy, massage and swim therapy. The place we go for this treatment is Tsavo’s Canine Rehab in Del Mar, CA where the staff takes wonderful care of my furbaby. We are told that the treatments should take about 8-12 treatments for maximum effect and the results last a couple years, rather than the monthly acupuncture we were doing before. We have done about 5 treatments so far and the results have been really good. Enzo is taking to his swim sessions like a pro. With the supplements they recommended, massage and regular exercise he should be good to go!
Now Dan and I have to get ourselves shaped up and we will all be good to go!
After our brush with potential disaster while in Kauai, we arrived back home to the usual BS family drama trying to sap the last bit of leftover vacation vibe right out of us, a blessedly intact house and immediate neighborhood, an overjoyed to see us dog and a somewhat indifferent bird. Good to be home for sure, but we had a new outlook that was taking hold that we needed to examine.
What about “home” was important? We don’t have kids. The family we each have left is somewhat estranged or choosing to be cared for by family members other than us. We have a lovely home with a very nice yard we have grown, but it requires constant maintenance. We are familiar with the neighborhood, the restaurants, grocery stores, services, doctors etc. and that is kind of a big deal. Our friends are here, a lot of them anyway. I am a native San Diegan, a source of pride and kind of an identity if I am being honest. I’m sure I could come up with some more things if pressed. What about “home” is important to you?
Home is where the heart is. As cliché as that is, there is something to it. If Dan is with me, and the magnificent Enzo as well, as long as we are blessed to have him, then I am really where I belong. Do you have a partner like that? Or can you travel alone and say that wherever you lay your head is home? I think if you can we are the lucky ones. We are not tied to a location, a town or a building to feel comfortable. We can explore freely. Those who are tethered are limited with how far they can go, how long they can stay, how often they can leave or if they can roam at all. That’s OK for them, they are probably comfortable that way and could not imagine the scheme Dan and I have hatched. Honestly, I think it is kind of amazing that both of us are on the same page with this. How many couples do you know that have radically different ideas of what retirement looks like? Or that fear it because of the time they will suddenly be spending together?
We began to mention our idea to friends, checking the waters so to speak. Most were cautiously supportive. Most couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea that we would sell the house. Most thought we would get an RV. Secretly, I think most didn’t think we were serious. I can understand that. We found out later that I didn’t really know if Dan was serious, and he didn’t really know if I was.
We had much to figure out in the coming year or two. Financially we had done the 401K, IRA stuff and invested in 2 homes in Florida but we didn’t really know what to do with that. How soon could we look at doing something like this? We were a long way off from social security and medicare benefits. Would family be on board? So many questions, kind of overwhelming but we had to start somewhere