Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I think I may have had enough

I think I may have had enough of traveling, for now at least. Since June 25 I have taken trips to San Antonio, Whistler, Southern California, Alaska, Maine, Italy, and Alaska again. That 's seven times I've left home for two days to three weeks. We still have three more trips scheduled - to eastern Idaho over Christmas, to Mexico for a week in January, and to the Washington coast for a week in February. And I' m chagrined to admit I' m not looking forward to any of them yet - not even to the warmth of Puerto Vallarta.

Art and I were talking today about how our travel ideas have become more refined with this series of times away. We still prefer times when we interact with locals - which rarely happens when we're with a group, as in Italy. We still prefer to make our own meals rather than eating at expensive restaurants. We like to find our own way. It's easier to do that when English is the native language, of course, but not as interesting as when we're feeling our way along with two or three words and a pocket dictionary. So I expect our next trip of more than a week will be a road trip, which we've never done together. To the midwest, probably, in the spring.

I was travel starved, I guess, after working at the same job for 20 years. And now I am full. I'm ready to be home, to go through closets, to load all our CDs into my iMac, to look up some really easy recipes for soup. And to get back to my normally scheduled activities.

That's good, I think. There are other things I want to do now that I' m not working. I've gotten back to work on my online ESL class. I' m working a lot on genealogy. I've written a couple of pieces for submission to somewhere. I'm scheduled to work this Saturday at a Habitat for Humanity build. I' ll probably take a mediation class in January. All these things I didn't have time for when we were on the road.

November is usually our rainiest month. I'm indoors a lot - it' s hard to go for a walk when it' s dreary out. I' m more inclined to stay indoors. But also to eat. And to sleep late. And to read. For a woman who lived by a to-do list, I'm becoming a slacker. As a matter of fact, there are a few things I have to do that I didn't put on my list! How times change.

Art and I will be giving blood next week at my former workplace. I see my former colleagues and I think they look caged. I never noticed that when I worked there. I must have looked that way too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The day before

We are in Kenai, Alaska for the next few days. We successfully escaped from Seattle right in the middle of its frigid, trafficky storm, at 3 a.m. on an icy interstate. We waited for two hours for a delayed flight to Alaska, and once we finished our final travel leg we waited for five hours for our luggage. We're experiencing rain, temps in the 30s and seven hours of light each day.

Park City, which was original holiday destination, is in a blizzard. My friends have been snowed in for four days and the high today will be 8 degrees.

We didn't know where we would be for Thanksgiving, or whether roads would be passable. We just knew what we wanted to do. It could just as easily have turned out that we stayed home on Thanksgiving. One jackknifed truck, or one accident, or one airport closure.

We made plans, but we didn't count on them. And things have turned out okay.

I'm looking back on the five months since I left my job. I had three goals for my first year: to learn to teach English as a second language, to get mediation training, and to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity. So far, none of those things have happened. I've started on two of them, but just barely.

What I've done instead is taken six trips, written a bunch of blog entries and a couple of pieces for publication, done a lot of reading, and taken a class on the history of Seattle. Most important, I've learned to how to live with time and quiet.

My plans are good ideas, but they don't necessarily happen. And for me to live well with myself, that needs to be okay. So far, it is.

Art and I will be spending tomorrow with my sister Alyx and my cousin Georgia and their husbands Virgil and Alan. Our parents are all gone now, along with the intergenerational tensions, so we laugh and banter and eat and are grateful for family present. A "memory maker" for each person is included in the dinner menu. Not one of the ten children we have will be with us, and that will be okay.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The cold

I have a cold. I've had it for at least a week. I took Airborne when it first started, and for four days it didn't advance. Then I stopped taking the Airborne and the cold resumed, as if the Airborne was just a postponement.

I'm okay with colds. They're predictable in symptom and length. Now that I'm not working, I don't have to go to work - or anywhere - when the cold is working itself out. So I stayed home a lot this week. Read, played Sudoku, worked on genealogy. Today I finally even wrote an article about the crew from our September schooner cruise. Pay no attention to the pile of balled-up kleenexes on my computer table.

We have changed our Thanksgiving plans. We were going to drive from Seattle to Park City, Utah to spend a week with old friends, but the weather worsened and we finally decided the stress would be too great to drive 900 miles in two days on snow and sub-freezing, black ice temperatures. So instead, we're using frequent flyer miles for a trip to Alaska to spend the time with family.

I'm big on keeping my commitments, so this change of plans bothers me. Even though people are saying, "It's a no brainer, Linda." Like maybe I should have spent $800 on last-minute plane tickets and $150 on a round-trip shuttle from the Salt Lake City airport to Park City. But then I think, no, my friends wouldn't have done that themselves. They would have cancelled the trip if something came up that made a change of plans make sense.

So I'm going to have to work on this "keeping my commitments" issue. I'm going to have to be reasonable about it.

Now that we're going to Alaska instead of Utah, I'm thinking about the RV we'll be staying in for four nights. My husband Art is allergic to my sister's four cats, so she puts us up in their motorhome. My sister is planning on buying a space heater, but the temps are going to be in the 20s and 30s and I doubt any space heater on the planet is going to keep us warm. So we'll pack long underwear and wool socks and ask for the thickest quilt they have in the house. It will be fun, she said hopefully.

In years past I've gotten Seasonal Affective Disorder. Now that I'm not working, I've noticed no sign of it yet. May that be a further blessing of not working. Or maybe I just need to wait until January.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Winter coming on

Where I live it didn't snow last winter. The winter before, we got only one storm, in December. Art and I walked to our neighborhood restaurant in the so-quiet neighborhood, and I fell off the edge of a sidewalk in the snow and sprained my ankle badly. Since then I've gotten in the habit of being very careful where I step, and I haven't fallen, but the ankle still gives me twinges from time to time.

I love snow and cold weather. That said, I've never lived where we got a lot of snow or a lot of cold weather. In the teens is about the coldest I've experienced. I like to think I'm a cold weather person, but that is a very large guess.

We're supposed to drive to Park City, Utah the week before Thanksgiving. I see the Cascades are due for snow next weekend, so I'm wondering whether we'll make it to Utah. I hope so, but. Our first alternative is, oddly, Alaska - where we could fly right into my sister's town. Or maybe we'll end up at Denny's on Thanksgiving Day!

Then we're driving to a rural resort in southeast Idaho the week before Christmas - using a timeshare trade before it expires. I'm making reservations for a snowcoach trip into Yellowstone, which opens the week before we arrive. The lady at the resort said it should be quite cold, but maybe not too much snow yet. Maybe.

I haven't got much snow gear. A ski coat, gloves, hat and boots. Long underwear. And snowshoes we bought two years ago but haven't taken out of the box yet. That's on the list for this weekend, so we can try to figure out what shoes/boots to wear with them.

What's happened here is that I've enthusiastically scheduled two trips with the potential for driving in snow - without much experience, and probably without the right gear or equipment. For a person who doesn't take risks, I'm taking some.

This week I have been recovering from jet lag and moving through the normal stages of a cold. I am taking it easy - sleeping and reading and working on genealogy and not much else. It's wonderful to not have to go to work.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Quiet time

For the last four days I've been catching up with sleep as I work through my jet lag. Each night I'm able to stay up a little later and get up a little later; last night I went to bed at 10 and woke up at 5. I think I'm at the tail end of the jet lag, so I'm hopeful tonight I'll be 11 to 6, which is normal for me.

I've sent in the material for the job application. I have no hope of an interview, even, because they advertised on Craigslist, so there will be hundreds of applicants, I think. And that will be fine. However, if I claim to say "yes" to whatever comes along in the universe, and then this comes along which is not quite what I had in mind (full time work), and I say "no", I'm not walking the talk.

I've noticed myself isolating a bit this week. After spending nearly three weeks with 18 other people in Italy, I've taken some time for myself. I did go for a sunny walk today with my neighbor and her two kids, but that's about it. I do paperwork and correspondence and that feels sane and right to me.

I've set a goal of reading one magazine a day from my basket before I read any books. The idea of having that basket in order is appealing to me, small as it is. So when I finish this entry I'll go do that.

There's no place like home this week. Then, next week, we're doing a road trip to Utah for Thanksgiving. Am I crazy or what?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What I learned from our trip to Italy

We've been home for 36 hours now. We're still out of sync with our sleep from time zone changes and the ending of Daylight Savings Time, so we wake up at 4:00 a.m. Still, three weeks away does yield insights. Here's what I learned.

1. Italian food is plentiful and excellent. Tastes are extravagant and subtle, never wasteful. We don't have to eat everything placed before us, but it would be nice if all we eat is of value. I'm going to try to eat wisely and well now that we're home.

2. The days got short quickly while we were gone, and the rain started. It's dark now when I wake up, but I'm not depressed. I'm still interested in lots of things and my time at home allows me to pursue them.

3. I'm no longer interested in exploring options for semi-communal living such as cohousing, where everyone has their own residence, but there is common land and a community building. The 17 other tour group participants were interesting and good to travel with, but I need more quiet time than I expected. Discarding the cohousing option has actually simplified things, because I will no longer need to investigate that option and visit cohousing sites.

4. I may decide to work at least part time. When I was in Florence I logged into a favorite travel company's website to see if they offered any trips in Italy that wouldn't go to destinations I've already visited. I found out the company is advertising for a writer/editor/proofreader for its series of guidebooks. I decided to apply for the job - not because I need the money, but because I really like the company's mission and the job sounded perfect.

5. If you leave a designer cat home, and they're secure in their environment, they are thrilled to see you when you return home, and they follow you around, sleep next to you on the bed at night, and sleep on your computer desk during the day. They purr loudly and give up all pretense of feline aloofness.

6. Traveling with a husband can be touchy at times, and it's wonderful to have separate schedules and activities at home.

7. If you eat heartily while traveling, but you walk three to five miles a day on cobblestone streets and on hills, you can still fit into your clothes when you get home.

8. It's possible to learn a lot about history, art and architecture on a trip, and still be profoundly tired of walking around looking at old churches.

9. Even though you like to travel, it's great to be home for two weeks before you leave on the next trip.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Home again - Atlanta layover from Rome

At the end of this post, the first four photos are from the Vatican Museum in Rome. All of them struck me for one reason or another, though none is famous, as far as I know. The last is a sculpture, very famous and very beautiful. I'm surprised cameras were allowed in St. Peter's.

We walked a LOT in Rome. In the course of four days, we saw the Forum, the Coliseum, The Vatican Museum and St. Peter's, the papal crypts (really interesting), the Pantheon, Trevi fountain, and Spanish Steps. Yesterday we walked five miles in the interest of our final day of tourism.

Our flight from Rome to Atlanta took 11 hours. We have a three-hour layover here, where I'm writing this blog entry, and then a nearly five hour flight to Seattle.

The trip was fascinating, tiring, lots of fun and very educational. I never had a bad meal, didn't get sick, met interesting fellow travelers, and figured out how to flush every foreign toilet I encountered! And I learned enough words in Italian to get by.

But tonight it will be very good to sleep in my own bed.

Monday, November 1, 2010

No free internet in Rome

We've checked into our last hotel and will be here from today (Monday) until Friday, when we fly home. Our internet access costs 5 euros an hour and is very, very slow. So most likely this will be one of my last posts this week. To get a logon and password I paid my money and gave them my passport to make a copy of. It gets stapled to a receipt and sent to the police station! When in Rome....

Our group of 19 is beginning to break up as we start this four-day optional extension in Rome. By tomorrow, five of us will have departed for home or other Italian cities. We had our last group dinner tonight. For the next three days we'll be on our own for meals. Which will actually be a good thing, since our group dinners have usually been multi-course feasts that I haven't finished.

Our tour guide will be with us until Friday. Tomorrow is ancient sites, I think, and then the Vatican, a recommended optional tour. I grew up Protestant but married a Catholic and converted. For over a decade I was a liturgical musician, but after my divorce in the mid-80s, the church didn't seem to know what to do with me. I stopped going. I was angry for a number of years, but gradually took a different spiritual path. On this tour I've visited a number of churches; the one that left its mark was the basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. I've come to an okay place with the Catholic church even though I have left it behind.

Usually I don't discuss this kind of subject in my blog, but it's been the most significant outcome of our Italy trip - and it wasn't something I either sought or expected.

I haven't posted many photos in the last few days. We've been in cities, where photos are tougher to take. And in most of the museums and churches no photos are allowed. I'll see what visits we make in the next few days.