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    Inspire

    The Suitcase Nomad Life

    Two Plus Years and Counting

    Location: Everglades Florida

    It’s been two years today since we took our shiny new REI bags and got on a plane to Thailand.  Although it’s actually been more than two years since we became suitcase nomads when we left our little condo rental and headed to Hawaii on June 12, 2016 (exactly two years, five months, 17 days, 12 hours, 45 minutes and 49 seconds ago).

    We have been living out of those (no longer shiny) REI bags now for 900 days.  In the beginning Arne said we would know after six months whether or not we could live this lifestyle.

    Suitcase nomad

    Our bags the day we left November 2016

    Apparently we can.

    65 Flights and 48 countries later here we are in Florida.  Florida?  How did we get here?

    We are on our way from Florida next week to five more months in South and Central America, seeing many countries we have wanted to visit for a very long time.  Expecting the suitcase nomad life to continue – full of adventure and fun.

    This week marked two years since we headed to Thailand as well as 36 years since we got married.  Our anniversary also

    Packing (again) after three weeks in Greece

    marked the closing day for the condo we have purchased (sight unseen) back in our home state of Washington.

    We plan to continue the suitcase nomad life, but we also look forward to having a “home” once again…a place we can unpack and kick back and call our own when we are in the USA.

    Suitcase nomad

    Leaving again August 2018

    But, that won’t happen until May.  Meanwhile my niece and her family will housesit in our new condo – while we continue gallivanting around…suitcase nomad life on a roll.

    It’s fun.  It’s exhausting.  It’s exciting. It’s hard.  It’s exhilarating. It’s monotonous. It’s not for everyone.  It’s our life.  This is our suitcase nomad life.

    I wouldn’t change it.  What we have seen.  What we have learned.  How we have grown.  What more could anyone ask for? My Fab Fifties Life.

     

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    Inspire

    Where The Hell Was That?

    Travel Amnesia – Yes it’s a Thing

    I have talked a little in the past about travel fatigue – a real ailment that afflicts most full-time travelers, but I’ve never mentioned travel amnesia. Yes, it’s a thing. Not a day goes by where one of us doesn’t have a total brain meltdown and say “Where the hell was that?”

    Let me give you an example. Walking around Malaga Spain my husband says “this reminds me of that place where there were all those sailboats.”

    Me “We’ve been lots of places with sailboats”.

    Him “You know it was real busy and there was a soccer match and we waited forever for the Uber because there was so much traffic”.

    Me “Oh and we had that terrible meal at that restaurant. That was Sydney”.

    Him “Was it? I don’t think so. Where the hell was that?”

    Me “I’m sure it was Sydney and we went to that new art museum in the industrial area.”

    Him “That doesn’t seem quite right but I guess it was”.

    We go round and round like this daily. Sometimes more than once a day. Travel amnesia. Sometimes we pull out my phone to look up a photo to remember where we were.

    Sometimes this “where the hell was that” moment creates a disagreement, but usually it resolves itself quickly, when one or both of us remember a detail that jogs the other’s memory.

    But sometimes it doesn’t. Going back to the conversation above, the next morning I was waking up from a good night’s sleep when my travel amnesia floodgates opened. I turned my head to see if Arne’s eye were open. They were so I said –

    “Cape Town”.

    It took him only a split second.

    “That’s it. I knew Sydney didn’t seem quite right.” We laughed about it the rest of the day.

    Problem solved. Until travel amnesia rears it’s ugly head once again.

    It’s actually become a game for us. Part “too much travel” and part “I’m getting old” – keeping the internal database clicking along without any glitches is a challenge. Thank goodness we have each other, it’s the only way to solve our daily travel amnesia question “where the hell was that?”.

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    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    My Favorite Tapas of Spain

    Eating My Way Through Spain

    Location: Sevilla Spain

    It’s no secret I love to eat.  Our grand adventure involves a lot of food.  Travel is a conduit to cuisines of the world.  And I couldn’t love that more.

    I’ve been asked often what my favorite cuisine is.  It’s a tough question.  I love the comfort noodles of Asia, the rich stews and meats of the Balkans, the fresh seafood of the Mediterranean.  I adore any

    Anchovies

    cuisine made with the freshest local produce.  And I am also endlessly fascinated with the culture and history behind regional cuisine; pierogi of Poland; khao soi of northern Thailand; peka of Croatia, shopska salad of Bulgaria, tagine of Morocco.  These foods are both storyteller and palate dancer.

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Shrimp

    What could be more fabulous?

    Spanish Cuisine

    We’ve been in Spain now for more than a month.  Last year we spent more than two months in Spain.  I have learned to enjoy what is really a simple cuisine here in this country – locally sourced, simply prepared and not overly seasoned.  Although the many regions of Spain have their individual specialties, the focus of the overall cuisine of Spain is fresh and seasonal.

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Fried sardines

    My only complaint about Spain is how late they eat their meals.  Breakfast is barely a meal – just coffee and a croissant, maybe a tortilla (here in Spain ‘tortilla’ is an egg and potato dish, aka Spanish omelet) around 10am.  Lunch isn’t until 2:00pm and dinner rarely gets started before 9pm.  For this American, that is well past my bedtime.

    One of the reasons Spain eats so late is because they are in a crazy backwards timezone.  Ever since Franco wanted Spain in the same timezone as Germany, Spaniards have lived with a VERY late sunrise and a VERY late sunset.  So, they have adjusted their eating habits to accommodate.  Unfortunately my internal clock is not so easily adjusted.

    So the answer for me, when in Spain, is to live on tapas – the luscious

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Stuffed olives

    little dishes served all day long.  I have become a fan of tapas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    The Tapa Life

    We have enjoyed my favorite tapas of Spain in Madrid, Santiago,Leon and Barcelona.  But Sevilla loves its tapas bars (there are no tapas restaurants only bars – tapas are always served with alcohol) and the abundance of options is both fun and a bit overwhelming.  In fact many will argue Sevilla is the birthplace of the tapa. We studied up a bit on where to go, what to eat and some history, then we set out on our own little “tapear”, the Spanish word for tapas hopping. Time to find my favorite tapas of Spain.

    As we set out on our excursion we were happy to know there really wasn’t anywhere better we could be eating tapas than in Sevilla, and specifically in the historic Triana neighborhood.  Myths and legends abound about tapas. One of the most

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Cold tomato soup

    popular is King Alfonso the 10th, The Wise King of Spain, had once been stricken with a serious illness which only allowed him to take in small portions of food with small amounts of wine. After recovering from his illness, the king issued a decree that no wine should be served at inns unless it was served with food. (credit A Brief History of Tapas, Pita Jungle).

    My Favorite Spanish Tapas

    We did not have the opportunity to try every kind of tapa Sevilla is famous for, but we indulged in many and here is a list of some of our favorites both from our tour of Triana and our time throughout Spain (see photos and captions of

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Pork in whiskey with potata

    several throughout this blog); croqueta (very popular bite size fried cheesy nuggets often with jamon but we enjoyed it with duck as well as mint), montadito (tiny bite size jamon and pork sandwich), solomillo al whiskey (pork in whisky sauce), los pajaritos (tiny fried quail), patata (fresh potato chip), tortilla bites (egg and potato omelette), tortillita de camarones (fried shrimp pancake), espinacas con garbanzos (spinach and garbanzo beans), salmorejo (cold tomato soup), stuffed olives, thin sliced jamon iberico de bellota (acorn fed Iberian ham), pancetta frita (fried pork belly), grilled shrimp, boiled shrimp, sardinas ala parilla  (grilled sardines), mussels, pulpo (octopus), razor clams, fried calamari, boquerones (anchovies) on toast, sausages and rabo de toros (bull’s tail).  And those are just the ones I can remember.

    Simple, Cheap & Delicious

    It’s a wonderful way to eat.  But the great thing is, even if you are only stopping for a glass of wine with a friend, the bar will always set something to nibble in front of you (because the King said so).  It will

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Grilled sardines and grilled shrimp

    probably be a plate of olives, perhaps nuts or sometimes bread with ham and cheese or tortilla.   It’s said that the original tapas were probably bread with jamon, which was used to cover your drink (the word tapa means ‘cover’).

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Croqueta

    Despite the origin of the word, it now describes a cuisine unto its own.  Though southern Spain and particularly Andalusia claim it, the popularity of tapas has spread, particularly to South and Central America, Mexico and the United States.

     

    The day of our tapear we ate and drank (both beer and wine) for several hours at six locations.  And our total spending for the afternoon? Less

    My favorite Spanish Tapas

    Tiny fried quail

    than $50.

    We leave Sevilla and head next to Malaga – about 205 km south, on the Mediterranean.  We expect to continue our tapas exploration and enjoy

    a bounty of fresh goodness from the sea. Fabuloso and delicioso!

    Malaga here we come!

     

    Read my blog about food in Barcelona.

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    Adventure Travel  --  Inspire

    Camino de Santiago Final Thoughts

    Enjoy our Fun Video

    Location: Camino de Santiago Spain


    We say farewell to the Camino de Santiago with this fun video we put together while walking the Camino Portuguese.  We hope you enjoy it.

    And we share with you some final thoughts.   If our blog, our travels and our Caminos inspire you in any way, to go do things you never imagined you could do, then we are fulfilled.  Because life is short, the world is amazing, and each one of us has a spark inside that, with a little bit of oxygen, is ready to flame.

    Don’t wait to find what makes you happy.  Go be Fabulous today.

     

    Our journey now continues with two more weeks in Spain and then on to Florida, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil and much more.

    Thanks for following.  Go. Be. Fabulous.

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    Adventure Travel

    The End of the Earth

    Ending our Camino at the Atlantic Ocean

    Location: Muxia Spain

    Over the past two years I’ve spent nearly three months of my days in the beautiful country of Spain.  I’ve seen a lot of it’s wonders.  And yet, here I am at the ‘End of the Earth’- totally surprised and in awe of this beautiful rugged coast – unlike anything else I have seen in Spain.

    I’m so glad we came.

    Finisterre.

    Bronze boot at the fini

    Finisterre & Muxia are located on the Coste de Morte (Coast of Death), at the most western spot in Spain (and some argue in Europe).  Located in the autonomous community of Galicia, both Spanish and Galician is spoken.  The Coste de Morte is named thus because of the countless shipwrecks that have occurred on this rocky coast over the millennia.

    For many pilgrims, this rocky coast is their final destination, after visiting the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.  It’s a three-day walk to Finisterre and another day on to Muxia.  For those who don’t have

    Camino de Santiago

    Santiago Cathedral

    the time, bus tours are available so pilgrims can come and see the historic and beautiful location.

    Final day walking

    Horreo a Galician corn crib

    It was Saint James who brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula. In 44 AD, he was beheaded in Jerusalem and his remains were brought back to Galicia. Following Roman persecutions of Spanish Christians, his tomb was abandoned in the 3rd century. In 814 AD, legends have the tomb rediscovered, and King Alfonso II of Asturias and Galicia is responsible for ordering the construction of a chapel to house the tomb, on the site where today’s Cathedral stands.  This created the gradual development of the pilgrimage to the tomb.  

    The beach at Finisterr

    As pilgrimage to Santiago grew, pilgrims also started arriving in Finisterre to worship and see the “End of the Earth”. The first hospital (hostel) was built in 1479.

    Sculpture at Muxia

    For the people of ancient times, the Costa da Morte was the last redoubt of explored land, the westernmost part of continental Europe, the final stretch of an itinerary traced in the sky by the Milky Way.

    Legend has this ‘End of the Earth’ also as the place where pilgrims would collect a scallop shell, to prove they had made the journey to the sea.  The scallop shell has many meanings to pilgrims and the Camino de Santiago, read about that here.

    Our Lady of d Barca Muxia

    So visiting Finesterre and Muxia was something we wanted to do.  We had the time and seeing the Atlantic Coast of Spain was high on our list.  Although the weather is cool and cloudy I’m still glad we came.  The stormy coast is a great place to relax and enjoy a few cozy days before we continue on our journey. The End of the Earth as we know it.  And I feel fine.

    Note: We continue our Spanish journey in a few days.  On to Sevilla, Malaga and Cadiz.  Watch for more

    The End of the Earth

    Many people don’t realize how far west Spain is. Finisterre is on the same latitude as Boston

    about those destinations soon.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Adventure Travel

    Gotta Be Flexible in our Fabulous Fifties

    My Camino Week Two

    Camino de Santiago

    Location: Camino de Santiago Spain

    We had planned to walk from Santiago de Compostela on to Finisterre on the Atlantic and then on to Muxia.  That was always our plan.  But two major factors created a need for us to reevaluate our plans.  Gotta be Flexible in our Fabulous Fifties. Gotta be flexible on the Camino de Santiago.

    Camino de Santiago

    Santiago Cathedral where the pilgrims arrive

    The Best Laid Plans

    The weather of course was the first reason.  After walking in low forty degree temperatures and pouring rain we both agreed we didn’t want to do that.  We have some rain gear but not gear for the

    Camino de Santiago

    Cold and wet

    thermometer dropping into the 30’s…unseasonably cold for Spain in late October.  Our last day hiking left me stiff and sore and it took me hours to thaw out.

    The second reason came just as unexpected as the freezing weather.  We learned on the day we were walking into Santiago that the courier service we have been using to transport our bag only operates through the end of October.  Wait. What?  Shouldn’t they have mentioned this to us a little earlier?

    We can’t walk the Camino de Santiago with a roller suitcase, even though it’s not very big.  With at least five more days of walking, we sat down and reevaluated our plan.

    Camino de Santiago

    Approaching the Cathedral from the south

    Santiago de Compostela

    Arriving in Santiago was fun, although a bit anti-climatic compared to last year’s arrival after walking for 41 days. The best part was seeing the gorgeous cathedral sans the scaffolding it had been wearing last year. We took the time to do the cathedral tour (which we didn’t do last year) and admire the remarkable gold altar and the relics of Saint James, housed in the beautiful silver tomb. This 1000 year-old-cathedral is one of the most important in the Catholic faith.  And you don’t have to be Catholic or even religious to be in awe of the history that is housed here.  For me, the idea of the millions of people who have all made the walk here for all their own reasons is absolutely

    Camino de Santiago

    The gold nave

    fascinating, spiritual and worthy of respect.

    We took all the obligatory photos, picked up our Compostela (certificate of completion) and had a delicious dinner and lots of wine to celebrate and warm up.  While drinking wine and eating Spanish tapas we made the decision to take the bus to Finisterre instead of walking.

    The End of the Earth – Finisterre

    Finisterre was where the devout pilgrims to Santiago came to collect the proof of their pilgrimage in the form of the scallop shell. In medieval times this rock was the end of the known world, where the sun set into what was then thought of as the end of the earth. The word Finisterre derives from the Latin finis terrae, meaning “end of the

    Camino de Santiago

    Arriving in grey Finisterre

    earth”.

    So a four-day walk became a three-hour bus ride. We are here in Finisterre for two days and will walk and see some of the Camino sights here, as well as enjoy the bounty of Galician seafood. With the weather forecast improving, we plan to walk on Friday the 20 miles to Muxia and send our roller bag via taxi to meet us there.

    Camino de Santiago

    Tapas in Santiago

    Hopefully this will work out, and given our extra time, we can relax and enjoy a comfy Airbnb in Muxia for five nights. I’ll certainly be blogging on how these plans unfold. Fingers crossed.

    Our Journey Continues

    In the meantime, feeling accomplished to have made it this far.  I have no need to prove anything to anyone including myself, so I am perfectly happy with our current plans.  And watching the weather forecast with a hopeful heart for a warming trend in the days ahead.

    Buen Camino!

     

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    Adventure Travel

    Comparing the Camino Portuguese to the Camino Frances

    My Camino Week One

    Camino de Santiago

    Location: Camino de Santiago

    Here we are.  Walking our second Camino de Santiago.  Why you ask?  Why not?  It just seemed like we should.  Six months ago when we were planning our fall itinerary we were looking at being in Madagascar in October.  Until we looked at the airfare. Yikes.  Madagascar will need to stay on theCamino de Santiago bucket list for a while longer.  So we turned our attention back to one of our favorite countries, Portugal.  And well, here we are.

    Having completed the 486 mile Camino Frances last September, I wasnt sure if the Camino Portuguese would be different.

    It is different. While also being somewhat similar.  One week into the Camino Portuguese, I don’t think I can say I prefer one over the other (yet), because each is special in its own way.  But I have found  myself during week one on the Portuguese Way comparing it to the Frances Way.

    Here are my thoughts so far after one week of walking;

    Distances are Different

    Of course the biggest difference between the two walks is the distance.  When setting out to walk the  most popular Camino Frances many people begin in Saint Jean Pied de Port in France.  This is where we began on September 1, 2017. Forty-one days and 486 miles later we arrived in Santiago, Spain.Camino de Santiago

    On the Camino Portuguese we started in Porto, Portugal on October 21, 2018.  We plan to walk to Santiago and then beyond to  Muxia on the Atlantic Ocean.  This walk will take us about 15 days and will be 217 miles.

    It is a significant difference in distance and days walked – making some of the comparisons here not really fair.

    We are Different

    We are not the same people we were a year ago.  And so this is another major difference.  A year ago we had never tackled anything like walking the Camino de Santiago.  We were a bit frightened, naive and apprehensive.  I think we over trained and over planned and over stressed.  I spent too much time reading what other people thought Camino de Santiagowas best.  Ultimately most of that wasn’t best for me.

    This time we hardly trained, barely planned and did almost zero research.  In fact I stayed away from the Camino Facebook pages (which I found last year too judgmental) and just went with what felt good for us.  We did use the John Brierley books again – a valuable resource for any Camino pilgrim.Camino de Santiago

    We also don’t feel any pressure this time to “succeed”.  We are just enjoying it.  If we don’t finish – no worries.  If it pours down rain and we hop on a train, so be it.  If we get sick or tired and decide to sleep all day – well Buen Camino.  Our Camino, our way.

    Our Bags are Different

    Last year I walked the first 100 miles with a 15 pound pack.  But eventually it was too much for my plantar fasciitis and I began shipping my pack ahead each day.  This year I decided to do it from the very start.  It’s so much better.  I last longer and feel better at the end of the day.  My Camino, my way.Camino de Santiago

    The Terrain is Different

    Over these past six days we have seen quite different terrain than what we enjoyed walking across Spain.  We have spent a lot of time in beautiful wooded areas of eucalyptus, cork and pine trees. We have also spent a lot of time on rocky paths climbing over mountains.  In Portugal in the suburban areas, and even on country roads, we were forced to walk on difficult cobblestones –  both ancient and new.

    Camino de SantiagoSimilar to the Frances we have also spent a lot of time in bucolic farmland with cows, sheep, horses and goats (there is a distinct Camino aroma!).  Most enjoyable is passing miles of vineyards, corn fields, chestnuts, vegetables of all kinds and many fruit and nut trees.  Here along the Portuguese way these things are grown altogether.  In Spain there were more distinctive sections of types of agriculture.

    We left Portugal and entered Spain on day five. Here the path meandered through lovely creek-side Camino de Santiagoshaded paths before we had a major climb with a very steep descent into Redondela.  We are now in Spain’s Galicia region, one of our favorite areas last year on our walk. The mountains bring cooler weather, and marine air from the ocean just 8 miles away.

    On both routes we enjoy the incredible medieval villages, most fully functional and still living, breathing towns – on the Camino Frances it felt like many of these towns were only there because of the Camino – not so much on the Portuguese.   For someone from the USA where old is 200 years, seeing 900 year old villages and 2000 year old Roman bridges and roads still in use is just mind-boggling.

    The Portuguese People are Different

    Perhaps because the Portuguese Way is not as popular as the Frances, or perhaps because the Portuguese people are only beginning to learn how to be Camino entrepreneurs as The Way becomes more popular; for whatever reason there just are not as many businesses catering to pilgrims.

    The accommodations are fewer, the food is definitely not as available and we never encountered anyoneCamino de Santiago just trying to make a buck off of the pilgrims.  Last year in Spain it was a normal sight for someone to be set up on the side of the road selling things to pilgrims.  Restaurants, bars, cafes were abundant.

    But we have found the Portuguese Camino much less developed for pilgrim services.

    The Portuguese people are a bit more shy and quiet.  They nod and say Bom Dia but keep more to themselves than most of the Spanish we encountered on the Frances.

    We expect this to change now that we have arrived in Spain.

    Vandalism is Present

    The first day we entered Spain our guide-book gave us a choice on routes.  We could take the shorter “industrial” route or the slightly longer “scenic” route.  We chose the scenic route.

    Immediately, and for the first time on either the Portuguese or the Frances, we began to see a clear Camino de Santiagoeffort to vandalize signage, misdirect pilgrims and disrupt progress on the “scenic” route.  Beautiful granite markers splattered with paint, arrows blacked out and other arrows trying to get walkers to go another way.  We stayed the course using the map on our phone.

    Our assumption is there are locals not wanting pilgrims to go this way.  I’m sure it’s not all locals, but it was a disappointment to us.  On the Francis we always felt welcome.

    The Pilgrims are Fewer

    The most striking difference to us in week one is how few pilgrims there are.  Last year we found ourselves on the Camino Frances during Camino de Santiagoits busiest September ever.  We had chosen to walk in September because we had read it was a time with fewer pilgrims than in summer but still with good weather.

    Well clearly we were not the only ones who had read this recommendation.  It was very crowded.

    Most days it didn’t matter, but as we got closer to Santiago it was busy and not very peaceful.  Rooms were hard to come by and so we started booking several days and even weeks ahead.Camino de Santiago

    Late October on the Portuguese Way is very quiet.  On our first day we did not see any other pilgrims.  That night at dinner we met a man from Holland.  We have now seen him several times.  We also have often seen a young couple from Italy/Australia and  few others along the way.  But until day five the total number was only about a dozen.

    Camino de SantiagoOn day five we began to encounter more Pilgrims.  We learned many start walking in Valenca, the border between Portugal and Spain.  We met a woman from Seattle (who had heard about us), another woman from Ottawa and another woman from Russia.  We met a group from Australia, a couple from Germany and a couple from Mexico.  We have also seen two young men walking with a dog, several cyclists and a handful of people walking the other direction.  The Portuguese Camino also supports the route to Fatima going south.  Some people walk south from Santiago to Fatima Portugal, a town between Porto and Lisbon where an apparition of the Virgin Mary was considered a miracle and brings pilgrims.Camino de Santiago

    We have enjoyed week one.  We feel healthy and capable.  The forecast for the week ahead has much rain, and we will take it day by day to see how we proceed.  Meanwhile,  I am very happy to be here, experiencing once again the magic of the Camino de Santiago.

    More soon, from the Way of Saint James.  Buen Camino!

    Read about our Camino Frances last year here.

     

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    Camino de Santiago