Uneasy feeling...

It is hard to describe how it feels to take a year off from 'real life' and travel as a family.  It feels really good...almost too good.  Code and I always feel like at any time everything will unravel and the trip will disasterously in financial ruin, or our careers will derail, our health will fail, or you name it.  I almost feel that sense of guilt, like I am cutting class, and I know I am doing something wrong and I am going to get nailed for it (even though I NEVER cut class, at least in highschool, for fear of getting caught).  It is like the opposite of that saying: All work and no play...we're All play and no work, but it is hardly dull!

What has been interesting is our transition from easily explaining our trip to perplexed acquaintances to being perplexed ourselves, wondering why we are having to explain our life.  We wonder why we see so few others families-or even couples- out and about for a year.  I guess if you do something out of the norm long enough, it begins to feel normal.  Now it hardly crosses my mind that our kids are schooled 'at home', that we are both working (albeit part time) remotely, and that our home is on a boat.  

Maybe I am feeling more of that sense of being unnerved is  because we are off the boat and travelling inland.  Maybe that we're off the boat and living so nomadically - detatched from our home base if you will - that things feel so much more fragile. Of course, that sense isnt stopping us.  We note it and go on.  I want to prove to ourselves that you can live outside the comfort zone and still have a sense of stability as a person and as a family.  

So, instead of going off to the office, we're off to the pool for the afternoon.  Then again, it is Sunday, and we would be off to the pool in our regular lives, but at least there's no mountains of laundry to fold when you each only carry a single change of clothes and spare underwear.  Tomorrow and the next day we're off to the slopes, and then next week we're off to Paris for a week.  After that another week of skiing at another spot in Austria, then back to the boat to get ready to sail in April.  Real life will be back in our lives all too soon, and I am sure I will look back at this posting and wonder what the hell I was so worried about.





Landlubbing a bit

After Ruth and Dave left, we packed up our backpacks to travel inland, beyond Turkey for a few weeks.  We took the all night bus from Marmaris to Istanbul then to Sophia, Bulgaria.  Bus travel is not as bad as it sounds- in fact it was quite comfy and civilized, as bus travel in Turkey is the way people get around since there are relatively few trains.  The seatsbacks all had video players and there was even a steward who gave out drinks and snacks like you would find on a plane. 

We got to Sophia about 20 hours after leaving Marmaris and spent the night in a hotel. The next day we just toured the city - very different than the communist stalwart that it was when I was last there in the 80's. We had a day to kill and we just werent too focused on sighseeing in Sophia.  We walked around the city a bit, but it was cold and snowy, so we just wanted to get inside.  It just felt like after a few churches, mosques, and general architectural sights.  There were some hip shops, but somehow ended in the mall.  We got our haircut (um, not Code) and we were warm, sudsy, and pampered.    My impression was that the malls were full of high end shops - Laura Ashley, Ralph Lauren, and stores filled with anything you would find in US department stores, mostly with US prices.  Another observation was that apparently Bulgaria has the European rose market cornered.  There are tons of cosmetics stores that focus only on products made from roses.  Rose soaps, rose oils, rose lotions.  Everything coming up roses, I guesss.  I have to say, you can have too many roses.

There might have been some great works of art that we missed or some famous historical monument, but we were just burned out and readying ourselves for more travel.

As we travelled by train from Sophia to Budapest, then to to Vienna and then Salzburg, the trains got progressively nicer and more modern.  We took a night train out of Sophia with a sleeper cabin.  The kids thought that was the cooles thing ever.  Aethan slept on the top bunk, Code on the middle, and Graeme and I on the bottom.  Sleep was fitful and occasionally interrupted with knocks from passport control, etc.  Nevertheless, having the opportunity to sleep in relative comfort was awesome after 'sleeping'on the bus 2 nights prior.

We staggered out of the train in Belgrade to switch to a new train at 5 am.  Not as bad as you would think, really. No more sleeper car, but we were able to snooze a bit more on the way to Budapest. After all was said and done, 20 hours later, we arrived in Budapest.  I love that city, and it has transformed itself since the fall of communism (when I was last there).  I was surprized at how much Hungarian came back to me (my mom taught me some Hungarian when I was little, and I actually took it in college).   Not that I can have a conversation, but I recognize enough words to not be completely befuddled by it.  It is a very unique and impossible language.  The drearyness of communism has been cleaned up and the city is returning to its former beauty.  Aside from the usual sites, we went to the Gellert Baths - there are lots of thermal baths around the city each having a series of heated pools (20, 27, 34, 36, 38' C in temp), temperature graded dray saunas (up to an unbearable 80 C...which is maybe about 175 F?), steam baths, massage rooms, and a bidet room (I didnt go in there...).   Basically if it is cold or hot and you can endure it, it is there for you.  Most of the pools are single sex, except for the main family pools where bathing suits are worn.  Once again,just like in Pamukkale, the water tasted like Perrier!  The Gellert baths were built around the turn of the century and were built in the art deco style.  It is just really an experience.   

We did a short stay in Vienna and Salzburg, with the highlight being the catacombs under St. Stevens church.  Code and the kids loved it!  We left for Zell am See in the western Austrian Alps to ski for two weeks.  We're in the heart of beer and lederhosen country, that's for sure.  By 10:00 a.m. or so the bars on the slopes are full (yes, full) of beerdrinkers (if not harder alcohol) and smokers.  Yep, just what I want in the morning... I dont know how they make it past lunch, much less ski.  They drink beer like it is a sport drink, it is really strange to see.  We use the balance of our time a bit more sober, but having fun, at the pool.  There is a state-of-the-art pool around the corner with a waterslide, steam room, sauna (but it is that Austrian/Germanic naked mixed sex thing, so I pass), etc.  The pool, unbelievably, is lined with stainless steel. There is underfloor heating throughout (so I just want to lay down on that warm tile, but that would be weird), and there is a fabulous balcony area where I can do yoga while the kids swim.  

I know it is a cultural thing, but we just dont have the same love affair with being naked in public that the Germans and Austrians do.  The saunas is one thing, but the mixed sex locker room for the pool freaks me out.  High schooler girls changing with adult just seems...well, whatever you think.  Of course, they will say we are the ones with the hang ups.  Hmmm.  

So we are here for another week to ski and swim then we're thinking maybe Paris, then another week of skiing.  After this fabulous few weeks, it is going to be hard to live on the boat again! 





Happy New Year!

We had a great holiday with Ruth and Dave.  They arrived December 23 on a chilly and rainy afternoon in Istanbul.  Good weather to sleep off some of their jet lag.  Fortunately the rain cleared the following day and although it was quite chilly, it really didnt bother any of us.  Istanbul the second time around for us started to feel familiar, and Aethan loved standing in as the 'tour guide' ("next you'll find the gift shop...this is where you stand in line...this is where you can get some baklava...").  It might have been short on history, but he at least knew his way around!  

We went to Troy and Ephesus, then finally to Pamukkale - which was a new sight for us.  Pammukale translates to 'Cotton Castle'.  It is a mountain made of calcium-salt travertines.  Mineral deposits from underground hot springs created shelf-like pools with water which varied from clear to opaque aquamarine blue (from the minerals).  The hill looks like a ski hill, but the water is actually warm and removing your footware is required to walk on it.  The water at the top starts off at about 35C (about 90F) and cools as it trickles down the moutain.   Ruth, David, and Aethan walked the trail up (maybe 1/4 mile?); Code and I took Graeme in the car and met them at the top.   By the time they caught up with us, Graeme and I were wading in the travertine pools and a park ranger was insistently blowing his whistle for us to get out (honestly, we didnt see any signs not to walk there; it is really hit or miss where you're allowed to walk!).

A better place to swim than the travertines was in the 'Antique Pool'.  Southern Turkey is a little like Philadelphia in that there are places where historical figures are reputed to have eaten, slept, and so forth.  In my book, 'Cleopatra swam here' trumps 'George Washington slept here', and swimming in Cleopatras pool is just what we did. Now one of the things about Turkey and its ruins that I love is that they are more 'hands on' than we experienced in Rome.  Here was an ancient pool with submerged columns and other artifacts that was more or less in the same configuration as when Cleopatra swam in it.  It is said that she swam in Pamukkale's hot springs because the rich mineral content (fortunately it did not contain sulfur) would renew her beauty.  I dont know how long she swam, but I was in there for 2 hours!   

We left Pamukkale and returned to our home in Marmaris.  It is amazing how much the boat and the marina feels like our home.  Ruth and Dave did a day trip to Rhodes while we caught up on laundry, emails, and other errands that being home after a trip entails.  I was so glad that they decided to make a side trip to Greece, and even for being just 20 miles away, it really does feel different than can start just with the alphabets!  

The weather was relunctantly cooperative.  It was cold in Istanbul, as we expected, but the sun did make its way out.  Once we got south of Troy, the sun came out and things gradually warmed as we headed past the citrus trees of southern turkey (with the ubiquitous roadside stands selling citrus by the truckload).  Ephesus and Pamukkale were beautiful. While it poured here in Marmaris, it was sunny for them in Rhodes.  Ruth and I managed to have beautiful weather for one run (but we go rained out on another day).  I was thrilled when Ruth said that every day is filled with new adventure.  I felt like she was really having a great time, and that was so important to me.

Finally, their last day we wheeled and dealed at the local bazaar which was followed by a New Years Party at the marina.  Lets just say I would not rule out signing up for belly dancing lessons.  Graeme pooped out by 10:00, but Aethan danced his heart out until midnight. Ruth and Dave were cutting the rug with a few new friends, and  I gushed watching Aethan on the dancefloor (and gushed dancing with him).  He is at the exact cross roads of man and boy, and I am lucky enough to share it.  I will never forget how he radiated pure fun and joy that night.  'Mom', he said, 'THIS is the best New Year's ever!!'.  I had to agree.

Ruth and Dave are back home now, and we're planning our next activities (travelling to Sophia, Budapest, Vienna, and Salzburg with a couple weeks of skiing mixed in).  That should take us to mid-February, when we come back and do our last pieces of maintenance before our end of March departure.  It feels weird to think of picking up and leaving Marmaris, especially for me since I put down roots fast.  I cant imagine saying goodbye to some of the good friends that we have made here, and even the loss of those peripheral friends and acquaintences who complete the picture will certainly feel like a loss. It is too early to focus on that now.  

Now, we have packing to do and still have travel to plan.  



Christmas is just around the corner

We are getting ready for Christmas (and Ruth and Dave's visit).  It really doesnt feel much like Christmas - but there are signs of it around.  The marina restaurant and bar is festooned with tinsel garland and there are some fake trees there, too.  The weather is warmish - about 60 - so it lacks the cozy feel of christmas.  Some boats have lights up, but there are probably only a dozen or so boats that will have occupants on them during christmas.  Even we will be in Istanbul with Ruth and Dave.

The kids are making cut-out snowflakes and garland to decorate the boat, and we have a small (12 inch) fake Christmas tree, and some psychadelic blinking lights.  There are no constant reminders from the radio with ads and carols, no tv christmas specials, no Remington electric shaver ads, no Totes ads, and no Chia pets.  I am making christmas cookies - hungarian kiflies and chocolate chip cookies, of course!!  We have a diesel fireplace on our boat, believe it not.  There is a little glass door where you can watch the flame, and the miniature fire actually casts a warm glow around the cabin.

Not a conventional christmas, but christmas is what we make of it.  Still, I am looking forward to next years where I picture a big family christmas! 



We're famous!

A local TV and newspaper came by the marinas in Marmaris and interviewed some live-aboards, us included.  Click HERE to follow the link!  

This all happened about an hour after we were put back in the water after being on the hard for 2 weeks.  The boat was a mess and we had to clean up super fast...we threw everthing in the kids room and in the galley freezer and shut the doors!  I am still trying to clean up even during the interview...