Ever live out of a suitcase? It can be both liberating and frustrating at the same time. After we sold our home and before we left for Greece, we lived in rental homes; not too bad as we were able to settle in and “pretend” we were at home. We had a living room and dining area, a kitchen, a bedroom and a bath. Our clothes were in a bureau and a closet; we had a washing machine and a dryer. We even had a lovely garden to sit in.
And yet…we felt transitory.
Any Day Now
Knowing that we had tickets to Greece kept us from really hunkering down. Each day was a step forward towards our departure to our Retirement Kickoff! We did not buy long term things such as toilet paper or water; we bought just enough to see us through the few weeks before we left. It felt “cozy” but alienating at the same time because we could see our “Greek” suitcases standing in the corner every day. At times, with deep sighs, we could hardly contain ourselves about the manner in which we were living; it seemed stifling at best.
The day came, however, that I realized that we chose to live this way. We didn’t count on being “in town” for more than a few weeks though, so when we had to spend two and a half months in a rental, it was a bit of a let-down. Once I grasped the notion that this is simply where we live now…and how we would be living for the next seven to eight months, our perspective…and mood….changed. I told Zaf: “we need to get used to this suitcase thing as this is how it is going to be throughout Greece as we travel from place to place.” This lightened us up and gave us clarity as to how and why we made the decision to do this.
Two years ago we decided to retire in 2021. We picked February 28th, 2021 as the day to pull the plug and hit the road. The Road to Greece. Both of us, being born there, and growing up in strong Greek homes, we wanted to reconnect with our roots and spend time there among our family, friends, home-towns, ancient ruins, the unbelievable light of the Grecian sun and the crystal blue waters of the Aegean and the Ionian Seas.
Because we got into a good rhythm of suitcase living in the USA, it proved to be a good step forward. Arriving in Athens and checking into a hotel for a few days set the tone. Zaf likes to hang up some of his clothes and put others in drawers. His shoes line up on the closet floor and his toiletry kit is on the bathroom cabinet.
My choice is to have the most needed items on the top of the open suitcase and hang up just what needs to be hung up. Some shoes are on the closet floor; some are in the suitcase. It might be because I have so much more than he does; or it might be because Zaf is slightly more neurotic about his stuff. Not sure – am leaning towards the neatnik mentality though, as I know myself pretty well. I am tidy of course, but at the end of the day, my pants might just be left on the back of a chair while they are already folded at the crease and hung up….honestly!
We knew we over-packed right from the get go. It was confirmed at the airport when we paid hundreds of dollars in overweight charges….but we planned to be gone for six months we kept saying to ourselves! While at the hotel in Salonika, we outlined our next venture out to see Greece; we knew we would be gone over five weeks, including Greek Orthodox Easter, so we analyzed our needs. By then we discovered that hey! – we can buy toothpaste and mouthwash at the local supermarket! We packed up two of the smaller suitcases with “stuff” and left them at the hotel – where we would be returning to. A bit more expensive than normal to buy most of these toiletries, but worth every penny not to lug it around.
Living through it now, after travelling for three and a half weeks as of today, we can see how we can pare down even more. Waiting for the warmer weather to begin, we don’t need the heavier sweaters and pants; we can leave those back at the hotel as we frolic on the beaches of the beautiful blue sea!
Our days here have created a rhythm of their own and the repetition of it brings comfort. I wake up early and head down to the lobby for my first cup of coffee. A robe over pajamas, with hotel key in hand, I say Kalee Merah (good morning) to the staff as they hand me the cup. After their first day, they know I’ll be down early and have it ready for me! Upstairs, we clean up, get dressed and head back down for breakfast. It is typical for hotels to provide breakfast; in some cases you can book a room without breakfast for a less expensive price, but who wants to scrounge around looking for a coffee shop at 7:00am – especially during lockdown and especially in my pajamas!
We head out for a long walk and some window shopping; right now the lock-down still prevents us from going into the stores. Sometimes we drive out to another part of the town or island and see the sights. About 1:00pm we stop and grab some lunch which we eat on a bench outside the shop, in tucked away gazebos or by the bay.
Back at the hotel, the best thing ever created in the universe awaits us – the Siesta! I nap, Zaf fiddles with his computer. Quiet ensues throughout the land. And at 4:30 – 5:00pm, the first sights and sounds stir us up again for the evening schedule; we take another walk, pick up dessert and head back to the hotel; we order in and eat in the lounge. Typically, other guests and/or the owner of the hotel start up a conversation and we get to have some interesting exchanges of thoughts and opinions about everything going on in the world. Without the lock-down, we would be going to local tavernas for our meals – but we are willing to wait another week or so to do this so we can relive Greece as we knew it before!
It does get a bit boring on the days when rain keeps us indoors, but we sneak out between downpours for short walks. This emphasizes the point that we need to have things to do inside the house to keep us busy when we return home; I blog and organize my photos as well as my online work, but Zaf will be challenged – after all, how much puttering can he do in the garage!?
When I think about it, this will probably be the same rhythm of our lives once we are back home and in our new house. A bit of activity in the morning – chores, errands, a bit of work for me. Then lunch and some quiet time. Dinner on the back patio or with friends or out at a local restaurant. Our being here and getting this pattern in motion is very good practice for the future because after all, this is where we live now.
Retire well, Helene 😊