Ye (ancient) gods…

How would you travel if you had more time than money?

That is the question we chew on now that we are retired. Even with very reasonable retirement incomes, we make less money than we did while working – but must maintain our travel habit!

First up? Couch surfing with my daughter in Turkey! She camped under my roof for a couple of decades, so it’s time for her to repay the favor!

Given the political climate* between the U.S. and Turkey, getting the visa to stay for a month wasn’t trivial. In November, i had been stalking some travel websites, and learned that there was still a process allowing to obtain walk-up visas in the Istanbul airport – but only if you spent a few days in another country. This became Plan A.

Plan A, however, was scuttled somewhere around November 20th, as this work around was shut down – but both embassies announced that a limited number of visas would be processed. This became Plan B – we decided that we’d burn up some frequent flier miles, and hotel points, and plan to spend some time in Athens. Worst case? The Girl could hop over and visit with us, even if we were not given the opportunity to visit Turkey.

The application process was messy, requiring a metric ton of documentation – including pay statements from my son-in-law, a copy of the deed to their home. We had to provide proof of income as well.

We hired a service to expedite visa processing in Washington to hand carry our passports to the Turkish consulate. That was right before we took off for our Christmas holiday in mid-December. Much to my complete and total amazement, we were notified that the visas were granted just a few days later!

As excited as we were to have the visas, there was this bit of news. The US and Turkey came to an agreement to stand down, and return to normal visa processing about a week after we got our pretty stamps in the passports. Because of course they did…

We decided to proceed with a short stay in Athens on our way to Izmir. The Girl joined us, as neither she or Studley had been there before.  Thanks to my 20+ years as a business road warrior, the hotel gave us a room on the executive floor, providing free breakfast, and a happy hour with snacks! These served as two of our daily meals!

i’ll let some photos do the rest of the talking…

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Breakfast on the hotel terrace. That is the Acropolis in the distance. Truly a cradle of civilization, wandering the temples, gardens and facades scattered through the modern city provides a powerful perspective on “old”…

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One of my favorite things about the old section of Athens is riding the Metro! As the Greeks prepared for the 2004 Olympics, they wanted to improve public transportation through the addition of a subway – but when you’re digging in Greece, every hole is full of treasures! Rather than remove them all, many were incorporated into displays at the Metro stops!

Street critters were generally well fed and cared for by some combination of residents and the city government. Many were tagged, giving some evidence of the “Trap, Neuter, Release” program. How very civilized. The U.S. could take a serious lesson here… Did i mention that they seem quite well fed? The three fat pups welcomed us to the Agora, near Monastiraki Square.

Street art abounds! i’m a fan of high quality graffiti, and Athens was not lacking.

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No visit to Europe is complete without time spent in sidewalk cafes. A bit chilly in January, we still managed to find several nice stops – for coffee in the morning, and beer in the afternoon.

We’re both embracing the gray hairs. Life is much simpler since i shaved my head. Studley still isn’t sure about the beard…

 

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Being devoted “booze travelers”, we visited Brettos – a bar and tasting room operating since 1909. Ouzo, brandy and wine are available for tasting. Being in Greece, we chose the ouzo tasting!

i’ve had better ideas. The equivalent of one serious glass of ouzo got me pretty lit!  Stumbling Walking a few doors further, we stopped for a late lunch.  A giant plate of grilled meat helped me stabilize enough to hop the Metro back to the hotel! Perhaps the wine tasting is a better option?

Three days was enough! In general, i can highly recommend a few days in Athens – and January is perfect for missing the crowds (if you don’t mind a little chill in the air). Five suitcases and three backpacks into a taxi, and off to the airport for the next round…

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* Two nominally adult men waging battle over the size of their weiners…

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On the blend…

Blended families.

We think of the classic Brady Bunch situation, or the more complex arrangements where there are young children, remarried parents, custody and shared parenting. With effort this can work well, but often leads to headaches, holiday melt downs, and logistical nightmares.

What happens when old people, with grown children, pair up? Not a lot written about that…

Studley had two twenty-something children when he divorced his wife, and my children were college-aged when their dad and i split. Our courtship was fairly non-traditional, but after hanging out together for a few years, it was inevitable that our spawn would be introduced.

With my kids, it was a more organic process. In the early days of our relationship, they were either living at home, or at university and coming home fairly often. They’d spend time with us, we’d go out to dinner, hang out, watch movies, and they grew attached. Studley and i were also in the more enthusiastic stage of dating, and maintained an open relationship*, which meant he wasn’t my only date. There was only one other man they met, and neither liked him. They were “Team Studley” from the start…

Studley’s situation was quite different. His eldest lived out of state, and his youngest was away at university. There was also a bit more stress regarding the parental divorce, and no way for him to have a civil relationship with his ex-wife. It took more time for him to feel comfortable introducing his children to his “girlfriend”.

Things gelled a bit when i attended his son’s wedding a few years ago. Some combination of me being polite to their mother, and the kids seeing what a couple of dorks we were on the dance floor, seemed to break the ice. Their dad was happy! There have been a few other holiday gatherings over the years, more time spent together, closer connections, and conversations going deeper.

i was honored when his daughter introduced us to her trail family as “her parents” when we met her during her Appalachian Trail hike in August. Allowing things to proceed at their own pace was the right thing to do. It took time, but it took!

This year, his kids wanted to meet up somewhere for Christmas. We settled on renting a condo in Big Sky, Montana, with the goal of exploring somewhere new and getting outside to enjoy the snow. Not being quite as old and crusty experienced with travel planning, they chose the absolutely most expensive travel days for airfare!

Montana

Snowshoe hike. i’m on the left, and Studley is in the middle. It was -2 F  (-19 C). We did not die. 

Calling on my inner travel ninja, i was able to save a lot of money by hacking flights together, adding a 2 day layover in Denver. This allowed for a very quick stop with my son and his family the week before Christmas! The bonus? Studley’s daughter would be traveling with us – a chance for some ‘cross spawn’ time!

Over the years, there have been a few other opportunities for my kids to meet his kids, but they’ve been limited because they all live in far off places! Louisiana, Washington, DC, Colorado Springs and Izmir, Turkey! Doesn’t make it easy to get together for Sunday brunch!

It was an absolute delight to see my son and his wife connect with his daughter. She didn’t mind hanging out with the two grandcritters, either.  She enjoyed her time, and we’ve since had discussions around building some future holiday plans where we’re all in the same general vicinity to make the bigger gatherings happen.

Non-traditional? Whatever that means. The blend extends. 

gratuitous gamma pic

Gratuitous Gamma pic… they are adorable!

 

* We still are in a ‘non-exclusive’ relationship, managing a comfortable degree of ethical non-monogamy. We have, however, become quite particular about such arrangements, having been burned to a crisp a few times by people who are batshit crazy claim to understand what this means, and then try to change the ground rules. 

Ten Years After…

As i procrastinate forge my way into the new year, it occurred to me that it was ten years ago that i wandered into the blogosphere. As a recently divorced woman with an emptying nest, and inspired by a real life friend who was a blogger from the early days, i put a toe into the blogwaters.

10th birthdayFar more disciplined (and less distracted) back then, i generally posted daily – a concept that boggles my mind. That was before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram were available to serve as host platforms for oversharing of the mundane aspects of daily life.  Short blasts, mostly reflecting on my days, i would dig in deep and hoark up something difficult about once a week.

People showed up. i followed a few people, commented regularly, and was honored and astonished when they would stop by my virtual trailer park and leave a comment or two. And they stayed – some of you crazy folks have been hanging around from nearly the start. Others have wandered in for a bit, and wandered off. Even though i’ve been far more sporadic of late, i still see the occasional first timer.

Initially, i expected this to be a somewhat masturbatory activity – spanking my keyboard in solitude. By the end of the first year, i’d made some virtual friends in the blogosphere. In my first year of blogging in 2008, i decided that flying to Europe to meet up with a couple of them was a grand idea – and i did so. Learning much from that trip, i did it again in 2010, meeting up with my two besties from Australia and South Africa and having quite an adventure in Greece for two weeks.

Despite wondering if i would end up abducted, robbed, or skinned, it has all worked out fabulously. The people i’ve found through this blog – and those who have stepped from the realm of the virtual to the real – have been good people, people i am glad to have as part of my world. Those i’ve never managed to meet in person, remain just as real to me.

Somewhere along that path, i stopped considering my blogmates as virtual friends. They are just as real to me as those i see on a regular basis.

From the outset i planned to write for myself, and kept this blog disconnected from my ‘real life’. i do not hump this blog to my friends to drive stats, and it continues to humble me that those who wander in and read are doing so based solely on the words that i spew into the ether…

On this 10th Birthday for The Trailer Park Refugee, i thank you for showing up, commiserating, and taking the time from your day to reach out and connect with a strange woman stranger that may only seem to exist inside of your computer, or tablet, or phone. i assure you, i am real.

The path i’ve wandered for the past decade, documented on this ol’ blog, brought me here… And i’m good – damn good – with where i’ve landed. What will the next 10 bring?

Beats the fuck outta me… but let’s go!

Here’s to a grand year ahead for all of us!