100 Stories and We Have Only Just Begun

Entering Plitvička Lakes National Park, Croatia

On our September, 2013 trip near the entrance to Plitvička Lakes National Park, Croatia

This is my 100th post in the year plus since I started this blog.  Out of curiosity I went back over all of my previous stories to see which were the most popular.  I discovered the top five most-viewed posts dealt with some aspect of how we travel, how we budget, how we decide where to live and how we adapt to our living arrangements. 

Touring the islands of Lake Nicaragua - Granada, Nicaragua

Touring the islands of Lake Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua

As much as I would love to think readers wish to see our pretty pictures and learn about different places in various countries, it turns out what is most popular is to learn about the process of traveling.  This realization made me think perhaps I should use fewer words discussing ‘what’ and dedicate more effort discussing ‘how.’  I will keep that in mind.

If there is one thing I have learned, it is that there are thousands, if not millions, of travel blogs.  I am a relative newcomer to the world of travel and the blog scene.  While I would dearly love to do distinguish myself in that realm, I have barely scratched the surface.  I feel fortunate to have several things in my favor.

Altar of the feathered serpent Xochicalco, Mexico

Altar of the feathered serpent
Xochicalco, Mexico

First, The 6 Monthers concept is fairly unique.  There are other travelers who choose a variety of destinations and stay for extended lengths of time.  However, I have not discovered anyone else taking our six-months-at-a-time approach, which is why we purchased the web domain.  Our challenge now is to increase our visibility beyond the few thousand people that have heard of us. 

Mike: 'What's that sound?' Florence: 'My teeth chattering.' Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Mike: ‘What’s that sound?’
Florence: ‘My teeth chattering.’
Torres del Paine NP, Chile

Second, I retired a couple of years ago and I now have time to pursue with a passion both travel and writing.  With Florence’s social media and photography expertise, we leveraged our skills to earn an invitation to travel for three-and-a-half weeks in Croatia as the guests of Dhar Media and Touristar.tv to help promote tourism in their country.  That was cool!  Our ambition now is to carry our experience forward to other countries to help bolster their tourism industry while saving on expenses.  Sharing those kinds of experiences would dovetail nicely with writing more about the ‘How to’ of travel.

On the main island of Antigua - Leeward Islands, Caribbean Sea

On the main island of Antigua
Leeward Islands, Caribbean Sea

Finally, I want to someday point back to something meaningful to say, “I created that.”  Perhaps it will be a book.  We have published one children’s book, and we have a dozen more waiting in the wings.  We would love to score a publishing deal so we could get our books illustrated for young readers.  We would love to teach children about the people and animals and cultures from around the world.  And we would love to build our name, The 6 Monthers, which might one day be worthwhile to the next generation of travelers.

We have our work cut out for us.  Every great idea that amounted to something required perseverance, creativity, and passion, things we think we have.  We now look ahead as we pursue our journey and continue our travels down as yet unexplored roads.  As always, I hope you will accept my invitation to join us and share your thoughts along the way.

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The Most Influential Blogger Award

Who won an award? Seriously?

You won an award?  Well, congratulations.  No, seriously.
Photo credit: Matt Pereira

My first blog award was such an important affirmation that somebody was actually reading something I posted. Within a few months, I began to feel like I was part of a community – the blogosphere. Another award or two came in and I soon found myself preoccupied with acknowledgements and questionnaires.

I stopped posting stories like ‘Look, I got an award!’ I am not one to hang certificates or wear lapel pins that announce accomplishments, although I posted the awards on my About page. I also did not know enough bloggers to pass the award forward to ten or fifteen people according to the rules of the awards. It began to feel like I was posting an electronic chain letter. Remember those? Now Facebook does stuff like ‘share this if you love your mother.’  So what, people do not love their mothers if they do not share a link?

most-influential-bloggerNevertheless, I like this award. I like the questions in the ‘Tell us something about yourself’ portion. I like Robin and her blog Witless Dating After Fifty who sent me this award. And I like some deserving writers out there, especially the newbies that are worthy of recognition. If you do not see your name on the list below it may be because I recognized you recently. Or if you just want another cool award, email me and I will add you along with some nice words. You know who you are.

Here is the questionnaire:

If you could create your own planet what would it look like?
I am quite fond of the planet we are on, although I would add more trees and fresh water, and perhaps a few more glaciated peaks with lots of waterfalls – big waterfalls!

If you could visit one nation you have never visited before, what nation would that be?
This is funny since I am embarking on a mission to accomplish exactly this – to visit lots of nations I have never visited. Instead, I will say my favorite nation so far is Chile because right now, if I were asked to choose one place to live it would be Chile. Or maybe Canada. Or Germany. Or Italy? Or…

Have you ever taken a long distance train trip?
Yes – in 1973 my fiancé and I reserved a Pullman sleeper compartment for a 48 hour trip from Chicago to Seattle.

What is something you would collectively change about humanity?
I would make bartering the only standard payment so that people would be rewarded for how hard they work at whatever skill they chose. I think I would also require term limits for every politician and appointee.

Huey LewisWhat is your favorite song?
I occasionally change my favorite song. After my divorce it was The Eagles’ Already Gone. I am in a wonderful relationship now, so my favorite song is Some Kind of Wonderful co-written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and first released in 1961 by The Drifters. I prefer the versions by Huey Lewis and the News and Grand Funk Railroad, which are quite similar. And I love anything a cappella.

Chris Berman, ESPN Commentator Extraordinaire

Chris Berman, ESPN Commentator Extraordinaire

If you could meet one person who is still alive who would you choose to meet?
I would pick someone with whom I could talk sports for hours. That would have to be Chris Berman, one of ESPN’s original announcers. He still does “The Fastest Two Minutes in Football” during the Monday Night Football halftime show, with his iconic saying, ‘He – could – go – all – the – way!’

otterIf you could choose one symbol to represent you, what would that symbol be and why?
I would be represented by an animal – the river otter. They are adorable creatures who know how to play and have fun, have beautiful fur coats, and they are incredible swimmers. Throw in some fresh fish and life is good!

Blogs I wish to acknowledge in alphabetical order:

Aja’s Northwest Life  – Aja’s stories and photos make me to think about my home.

A Lifetime’s Exploration – Sarah Ryan makes me appreciate how much she has traveled at such a young age.

Cô Kerri – Kerri makes me think about her profession as a teacher who chose to teach English in Viet Nam. My mother was a teacher. Enough said.

I’ve Got Some ‘Spaining To Do – Nancy makes me to think about living in different cultural settings.

Gallivance – James and Terri have already won every conceivable award and I hope my blog will one day be as successful. I also mention them because they have been many places I hope to go, and they are damn good writers.

Honk If You’re Vegan – Celeste is a friend and she has influenced how I eat. I cannot imagine a greater influence in one’s life.

Tales From The Motherland – My list of influential bloggers would be incomplete without my friend, Dawn, who reminds me about parenting, the Pacific Northwest and lots of other stuff.

Daily Update – Scotland, August 1, 2013

Contributions by AK Bell, 20th century philanthropist, included this library. Parks, housing for the poor, and community water resources are among his many  donated works.

Contributions by AK Bell, 20th century philanthropist, included this library, appropriately named the AK Bell Library. Parks, housing for the poor, and community water resources are among his many donated works.

We are quickly adapting to life in Scotland. Yesterday, with a copy of our lease agreement showing our local address, we obtained library cards. That may not seem like a big deal. However, to me it means a great deal. Not only can we check out books, but we can also truly call ourselves members of the community.

We visited a different grocery store called Lidl. Other than being bigger than the convenient Salisbury’s Grocery on our block, it was rather ordinary. Their local cherries at $3/lb. were excellent! And their unusual selection of housewares and toys gave the store a feel of part grocery, part department store.

At Lidl’s, in order to obtain a cart you must deposit a £1 coin in the handle of the grocery cart to release the lock. When you are done with the cart, you get your £1 back when you return the cart and insert the locking mechanism. Alas, they do not need to employ someone to gather carts from all over the parking lot.

We are readily identified as Americans when we write a date like August 1, 2013, or 8/1/13. Here, days come first, so today is 1/8/13, which is logical since each unit is increasing in scale as you read the date.

Driving on the left side of the road is still disorienting. Whether it is logical or not is up for debate. I simply have to remember to look right first when crossing the street. One sweet old lady that we spoke to when asking directions recognized us immediately as Americans and cautioned us as we prepared to cross the street, “Look both ways first. And watch your step.” At first I thought she may have been overly cautious, but sure enough there was a car coming from my right in the near lane. Bless her heart, she probably saved me from a near miss.

The weather has been abnormally sunny this past month. The locals talk of the rain just like folks back in Seattle, like it is unusual if it is not raining. Situation normal – today it is raining. No problem. That is why we packed raincoats. I would say growing up in the Puget Sound area prepared me perfectly for life in Scotland.

When Bloggers Meet

Jones Coffee Roasters in Pasadena was a cool meeting place.

Jones Coffee Roasters in Pasadena is a cool meeting place.

My writing is mostly about travel and the uniqueness of our Six Monther lifestyle. As such, I gain much from those who have gone before us like Around the World with Steve and James and Terri Vance at Gallivance. I also enjoy blogs that are just plain fun like reocochran’s Witless Dating After Fifty.

Perhaps the most gratifying experience for a blogger is the acknowledgement that comes from knowing someone out there is actually reading. The interaction between reader and writer through comments feeds and nourishes a writer’s desire to know people actually care about one’s writing. This interaction is the greatest distinction between blogging and say writing a book, which is essentially a solo project. And many writers are also bloggers, like my friend Dawn at Tales from the Motherland.

I use words like feed and nourish because I am inexorably drawn to food blogs. I salivate at the photos of amazing dishes and I look forward to trying out recipes because I have always enjoyed cooking. I love the fun recipes my grandson and I can do together, like those shared by the 20-something mother of two at Tried & Tested Kid-friendly Recipes! And I am inspired by writers committed to losing weight who share their triumphs and challenges like Jeff at Change For A Year.

Celeste and Paul look happy and healthy.

Celeste and Paul looking happy and healthy

I am now considering a healthier life through vegetarian/vegan eating thanks to several blogs including Celeste’s Honk if You’re Vegan. I was delighted that Celeste and I were able to arrange to meet in-person at a local coffee shop recently, spouses included! We all hit it off and our time together blew by so quickly that we had little time to delve into the topic of vegan food. So we did what you always do when a meeting runs over – we scheduled a follow-up.

Celeste selected a vegan restaurant for a lunch meeting in The OC (Orange County). We all look forward to connecting again in-person, and I can envision a blog post or two following our vegan experience. Our blogosphere friendship has grown to become something special. I love it when bloggers meet!

Finishing Touches

Me helping with chores

Mike helping with the chores

Our Six Monther lifestyle keeps us moving, and although the pace of our lives has not seemed demanding, we have visited sixteen countries in the past two years. We have settled into a more relaxed lifestyle, and we keep moving due to the fact we are of a certain age and we are compelled to see what we can of the world while we are healthy enough to pursue our travel dreams.

This next leg of our journey will differ considerably from our time in the Western Hemisphere as we head across the pond to Europe. Return trips to the states to visit family and friends will be more taxing than trips from Mexico, and with our anticipated Italian dual citizenship, we could find ourselves living somewhere in the EU for an extended period of time, in which case we are saying goodbye to some places in the United States we expect to never see again.

Family heirloom oak table refinished

Family heirloom oak table refinished

These kites were hard to part with.

These kites were hard to part with.

Like everyone who has gone through the downsizing process, we have been clinging to a few remaining items. We donated a few special books and some artwork that used to adorn our walls. And there are my stunt kites that I always took to the ocean beach or the desert where there are no overhead wires or tree branches. These kites came in handy when I was teaching my wife how to fly them during the get-to-know-you phase of our relationship with my arms wrapped around her in order to provide instructive guidance. As difficult as it was to part with my skis and boots, I never thought I flew the kites enough to be as attached to them as I apparently am. Do I donate them to Goodwill? We will see.

The garage before and after a couple trips to Goodwill.

The garage before and after a couple trips to Goodwill.

I am now working on the honey-do list, which includes cleaning out her parents’ garage. And while they were out of town, I refinished their oak dining table. I had never refinished furniture, and this table has been in the family for fifty years. Thus, I felt some pressure not to screw it up. Fortunately, the online instructions were quite thorough, and the finished product came out great.

Putting my library card to good use

One last use of my library card

My library card is still good, so I checked out a couple of good books, and we are catching up on reruns of some favorite television shows that we could not stream on our computers from outside the United States. However, we are just marking time. After a couple weeks of relaxation we are getting antsy. We are just putting the finishing touches on a few domestic chores. It is time to move on. I miss traveling and writing about new experiences.  We will be in Scotland soon, and I look forward to being on the road once again and sharing our stories from abroad.