Saturday, August 30, 2014

End of August

This is an experiment, to see whether I can create a blog entry at the boat with the new computer, thereby simulating the conditions in Europe. Here's a picture of me at work. (How's that for self-referential?)

Arlyn editing her blog at the Pied-a-Mer

An article appeared in the New York Times about people doing what we're planning. But, while we're thinking of being "homeless" for about ten months and then reclaiming our furniture, the people cited in the article have decided to be homeless forever. One doesn't even have a storage unit, just travels with all his necessary belongings. I can't picture ever going that extreme.

Researching the Orkneys last week led us to expand our ideas in the British Isles. We're now thinking of spending a few days on genealogy-related tourism. Les' mother's family came from the Meltham area near Manchester. And that's fairly close to Leeds, where my grandmother was born and lived until she went to New York City at age 30. We have some addresses in those places, so it would be fun to see what's there now—probably not the houses that were there a hundred year ago. But we might be surprised, because a few years ago in Bathurst, New Brunswick, we found the house where Les' mom lived as a child, even though we didn't have an address.

Shaw family home (1916)

Same house (2010)

We'll probably have to rent a car for a day or two to do our searching, if Les gets over his fear of driving on the left side. And an Esperantist we're fond of lives in Edinburgh, so we'd like to spend a few days there. Considering the previously mentioned Schengen Agreement, all of our time in England and Scotland is "free"—that is, not counting toward the 90 days permitted for the rest of the countries we'll be in.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Progress report

We’re making good progress on our plans.  As you might expect if you know us, we have a list of 23 topics to research or take care of.  We’ve now got a handle on 8 of those.  For example, we bought a travel bag with wheels, the first one we’ve ever had.  For the past 20 years we’ve used two backpack-style bags for all our trips, always putting them in the overhead bins.  Now we’ll have to decide whether to still use those two and also check the new wheeled case, or just use one backpack and one wheeled one and put both in the overhead bins.

We’ve decided how to handle the mail.  There’s a mailbox service in the Belltown area of Seattle that seems suitable.  They’ll throw away any junk mail that gets forwarded from our old address, and will mail to us anything we want.

We’ve made a major decision about March and April.  Before, we’d thought that we might ask for an extension to the lease.  But now we realize that it will be best to take care of the disposal of some stuff and moving other stuff into storage well before May 1.  So we’ll handle those tasks in February, and by March 1 we’ll be moving to the boat.  We’ll take a 3-week car trip to Portland and other parts of Oregon in March and April, as a trial run of our nomadic lifestyle.  Does the mailbox get too full?  Are we able to do everything we want on the computer, such as making blog entries with photos?

Speaking of computers, just today we bought a very inexpensive Windows laptop.  It was tempting to make do with our Chromebook, which Les likes a lot although I have trouble typing on it.  But Les feels there are times when we'll need a little more capability than the Chromebook can offer.  For one thing, although Les has found someone to take over as administrator of the MorseKOB system, he may want to work on enhancements to the program.

Our boat, the Pied-a-Mer, is currently set up for spending one or two nights at a time.  In order to live there for weeks, with no other “home”, we’ll have to re-think what’s there.  I’d want a lot more cooking appliances there, and we’d need to store clothing, have another comfortable chair, things like that.  I’ve already made lists of “bring from apartment to boat”, “sell from boat”, “sell from apartment”, “give away”, etc.  Other questions: Would I want my sewing machine and all the fabrics and equipment?  How about the printer/copier?  And how to make the best use of what we call the “sunroom” on top, which is now virtually unused?

Les likes the idea of a base city in Europe, a place we go back to several times and think of as “home”.  A few weeks ago, we tentatively settled on Frankfurt, but today we’re thinking more of Ghent.  It seems to be a charming place, is the third-best vegan city in Europe (after Prague and Berlin), and is pretty good as a rail hub.  And we already found a B&B that we like there.  (We have the best luck by using TripAdvisor for finding lodging, and also ideas of what’s attractive in each city.)

Oh, and we’ve added a new destination on the North American part of the journey.  It’s Point Pelee in Ontario.  My New Jersey high school friend, who’s a big birder, has often gone there to enjoy the spring migration.  We should hit it at just the right time, about May 9.  Point Pelee is a peninsula on the north side of Lake Erie.  I’m really excited to think of seeing all the interesting birds there.

We’re also thinking about a new destination in Europe.  It’s really far-out (literally).  A friend of David has a relative with a cottage on  a small island in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland.  The population of that island is about 25.  The relative only uses the cottage in the winter, so we’d be able to spend a few days there in the summer.  It would be an adventure just to reach it from London, via trains, ferries, and buses.  We’ll have to mull that over in the coming months.

We’re both getting more excited with every week.  Sometimes it seems hard to wait until March to get going.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Second thoughts

(Often "second thoughts" conjure up a change of mind, but not in this case; I'm just adding to the first entry.)

We couldn't have pursued this idea until now.  When we owned a condo or house, neither of us liked to be away for more than two weeks or so.  We worried that something would happen: a water leak, grass getting too long (even with somebody else doing it), packages being left on the porch, etc.  I know, I know, everybody else has solutions for all these fears, but in our case nothing helped.  Then, when we rented at Ten20 for four years, we had no such worries, and we didn't mind traveling for three weeks or more.  But, on the other hand, it seems kind of wasteful to be paying rent for an unused space.  We never would have dreamt of waiting for the lease period to be up, storing the furniture, and going off for an extended time, because Les loved our particular apartment at Ten20 so much that he wouldn't take the risk of losing it.  Our new apartment at Palazzo is fine, but we're not in love with it, and don't mind at all leaving it after one year.  We're actually looking forward to some new options in January of 2016, after our first trips: perhaps rent a floating home for a year, or a studio apartment in Belltown in order to live partly there and partly on the Pied-a-Mer.

Universala Kongreso in Reykjavik
So far, we have three "musts" for our trip to Esperantujo, each one lasting about a week.  The Universala Kongreso next year will be held in Lille, France, at the end of July.  We've been to two of these international conferences so far: Yokohama in 2007 and Reykjavik in 2013.  We enjoyed both, so we're looking forward to Lille.

Then I've always wanted to spend a week at Château de Grésillon, which is an Esperanto castle in France, far from any city.  Every week of the summer they have a different theme: excursions, family week, a certain topic to explore, etc.  When we see the schedule for 2015, we'll pick the most suitable week for our visit.

Family gathering in Xanten
The third "must" is REF, a gathering for families that use Esperanto as their everyday language.  They often meet in Sweden, but next year their meeting will be in Hungary.  We have a pretty good idea of what this will be like, because we attended a similar gathering in Xanten, Germany, in late December 2012.  We hope to see some of the same people we met in Xanten, and also meet some new families.

If the timing works out, we'll go to the annual 5-day Summer Esperanto Festival in England.  And sometime we'll definitely spend a few days at La Chaux-de-Fonds, an Esperanto house near Neuchâtel in Switzerland.  And we have dear friends in Leipzig and other cities, whom we'll definitely visit.

We're looking forward to a new release of Pasporta Servo in January.  This is like Servas, in that people offer to put up guests for several days, at no cost.  We used to be in the book about 20 years ago, and enjoyed hosting Esperanto speakers from China, Germany, and other places.  Also, Les took advantage of it occasionally when he was in East Germany 25 years ago.  So, once we have an idea of what our travels look like, we'll contact people in the book to see whom we might visit during our European stay.  Even though they're only promising a bed, they often also give meals and sightseeing tours and other help, and it's nice to get a view of local life that you don't get from a hotel.

The two months in New Zealand will be a lot less researched, I think.  We'll wait until we return home next September, and start thinking about how we'd like to spend our time there.  It's too difficult to be thinking simultaneously about two completely different regions.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

First thoughts

A couple of months ago, Les and I were walking along the waterfront in West Seattle, when I noticed a PODS moving container across the street.  (It's a big steel box that the owner fills himself, then sends away for storage.)  This triggered an idea, and I mentioned that maybe when our lease was up in March, we could put our furniture into storage and go to Europe for six months.  To my great surprise, Les responded that he'd had that thought on his own.  From there we quickly devised a plan (or at least a concept).  Now, in mid-August, we've already researched many of the tricky topics: health insurance, how to handle mail, storing things long-term, countries we're interested in, etc.

From the start we both agreed that the focus of Europe would be "Esperantujo"; that is, the Esperanto people we already know or would like to know, and the many events held there.  We have the 2014 list of major Esperanto events, in which there are three or four week-long events every week in Europe, so the problem next year will be to choose places that are the most appealing, while minimizing train travel.  (We plan to do all in-Europe travel by rail.)

Along the way, we've learned that the Schengen Agreement limits us to three months out of any six in continental Europe.  So we'll spend two weeks in the middle of the stay in England, which doesn't count toward the 90-day limit.

The current plan is: leave the Seattle area about May 1 (either by extending our lease two months, or by living on the Pied-a-Mer for March and April); visit Minneapolis (cousin Madeleine), Toronto (3-day Esperanto event), Kingston (sister Mary and kayaking in the Thousand Islands) in May; head to Europe about June 7; return to Seattle in mid-September; go to New Zealand for November and December.

One of the items on our "to do" list is to start a blog.  We've never had one before, so we're experimenting here.  I'll see how difficult it is to keep this up-to-date and include photos.