Saturday, February 20, 2010

We Don’t Have a Place in Italy for July

As I sat surfing for a house on a Greek Island where David and I might spend the late summer, he was looking at real estate in Maiden, NC, the tiny town where I grew up.  This wasn’t just incongruous it was ludicrous.  Neither of us had ever considered living in Maiden, in fact we had moved from North  Carolina for what we thought was the last time in 2005.  What was going on?

We’re travelers, vagabonds.  One friend described this as my bohemian phase.  I like the concept although I don’t think I quite live up to it.  We are moving from place to place to experience life, to learn about how things work outside of the US consumer bubble, And we love it!

But now I was hit in the face with the knowledge that I agreed with what he was doing.  The idea of moving to Maiden would take some real brain adjustment for me but I understood his desire to identify a retirement location that could be paid for and ready for us should we decide to get off the road or if our tentative health decides to knock either of us flat.  I know that could happen at any time but I live in total denial of it.

We look wistfully at photos of San Miguel de Allende where we spent most of a year and wonder if we should head back.  We write about and organize pictures from our time in France and know that it was a good experience but not one we would like to repeat.  We plan for what to do during the remainder of out stay in Scotland - travel to the Isle of Mull, visit friends in Thornhill and Aberdeen, spend a day in Glasgow, eat some Loch Fyne oysters before the end of April when the months no longer have an “r”.

We must leave Britain by the end of our visa on June 23 or the British Border Bitch will surely have her minions out searching for us.  We might be staying over to put liquid explosives in excess of 4 oz in our shoes or something.  We can reenter the Schengen visa territory of the EU (basically everywhere in Europe except the UK, Ireland, Bulgaria and other eastern European countries that I can’t remember) after that date but can only stay for 90 days.  Because we would like to travel back to the US on a repositioning cruise that leaves on Oct 4 we must identify somewhere to park ourselves for a little over three weeks either at the beginning or the end of our time in mainland Europe.

We are staying on because we are here and the most costly part of traveling is, well, the traveling part.  Basically, wherever you go, there you are and we are here and would like stay until we are forced by ridiculous regulations to give up playing the system and just get the hell out of Dodge for awhile.

So we’re thinking of going to Ireland for a few weeks before we head back across the Channel and then spending a week in Istanbul on the back end before we fly to London to get the boat.  In between we were planning to train across France and down the coast of Italy where we had located a lovely flat overlooking the Mediterranean in Salerno.  And then last night I got an email that the flat wouldn’t be available after all.  (Expletive!!!)

There is still the villa on the Greek island of Thassos for August and September but we are waiting for final confirmation on that and now I am  nervous that our summer plans will just fall apart.  That is how my brain works.  I’ve learned to live in perpetual white water so I must always be prepared for the worst and then enjoy the best when it emerges..

Time for Plan B, a backup plan, a do-over, something that sticks.  But I’m not sure it is moving to Maiden.

I love the idea of coming full-circle, spending time with my Mom, getting to know my soon-to-arrive baby niece,  nephew and cousin, being there to help out with all those family things that need helping out with -- but I am equally nervous about boredom, getting stuck in a rut, having religion pushed in my face,  not having enough intellectual challenge, being surrounded by conservative thought and being made fun of for thinking differently - the things that pushed me away from there in the first place.

 My sister said that nothing I could do would surprise her anymore.  I didn’t like hearing that.  She did not intend it kindly and she lumped me in with my brother which is not a place where anyone would want to reside. But it is also where I have landed by intention as much as by default.

I am reading “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I must be the last female in the western world to do this.  She is getting divorced and as a result is assessing her feelings about family and children and her life.  As I read I totally identified with what she was saying . Hope she will forgive that I have made a few changes to fit my situation.

[It is the potential] shock of stepping off the track of a conventional lifestyle and losing all the embracing comforts that keep so many people on that track forever…. I discover this truth every time I go to a big reunion of my mother’s family in [North Carolina] and I see how everyone is so reassuringly in their position over the years. First you are a child, then you are a teenager, then you are a young married person, then you are a parent [although not always in that order in my family in recent years], then you are a grandparent, then you are retired - at every stage you know who you are, you know what your duty is, and you know where to sit at the reunion.  You sit with the other children. or teenagers or young parents or retirees.   Until at last you are sitting with the [75] year-olds in the shade, watching over your progeny with satisfaction.  Who are you?  No problem, you are the one that created all of this.  The satisfaction of this knowledge is immediate and what’s more, it’s universally recognized.

At our reunions someone often tells the story of my grandfather as he sat looking at all of us and said to my grandmother, “Bertha, can you believe we started all of this”

But I chose to live outside that circle of continuity and certainty.  Oh, I return from time to time to dip my foot back in and observe the world my grandparents created.  But that world of tradition and orderly disorder with controlling rules and expectations frightens me away every time.  I prefer a little chaos.  Perpetual white water is easier for me to manage than a comfortable life of convention.  I need adventure, change, excitement.  I crave an interesting existence.

But I can’t be foolish and ignore health and long term financial considerations and as another good friend has said, I probably need a place for centering.  Yes, a place where I am grounded and understand what is going on around me.  A comfort zone.  But can I find that in the place I rejected so vehemently when I was younger. The place that in all senses pushed me away.  I have changed and mellowed somewhat.  Has the same happened there?

So I will continue to look for the next travel destination while David peruses real estate.  We’ve expanded our search a bit but keep being pulled back to  Maiden.  Wherever we travel we search out a quiet existence. We are no longer party animals.  Age is slowing us down and we spend more time in quiet pursuits - writing, reading, listening to music, watching movies, sewing, crocheting .  Perhaps we should add a little gardening to that. Perhaps we can create our own quiet island in that sea of extra baggage that would surely haunt me there.


  1. If you are as liberal as you sound and as put off by tradition and conservatism, I sugges you head back to San Miguel where the foreign population is 90% liberal. Or, if you feel the need to be in the states, try Bisbee, Arizona...another liberal bastion like San Miguel. Real Estate is cheap and there are plenty of young and old hippies who think the government should take care of them from cradle to grave!
    You'll love it!

  2. I'm pretty sure that the only place I could live in NC is where I am now. Of course you know that, and also know that I can absolutely identify with most of this post.

  3. Sadly, too many people hide their narrow minded bigotry behind anonymous comments. There is nothing wrong with a conservative perspective, or believing in traditonal values, so long as these ideas are presented in a thoughtful manner. American suffers from having too many people who shout expletives at the opposition, rather than discussing the issues intelligently.

  4. Very well put. Unfortunately, " Anonymous" has become a permanent creature of the "New South" Very well put David. Cindy Lou told me she married well. Welcome back home girl, but if you choose not, I will fully understand.