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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

What Next? Lessons Learned Post Cruising

Portland Oregon's Morrison Bridge, viewed from Tilikum Crossing, the People's [walking] Bridge
on a fine, late summer morning 2018.  Portland area for home for us for over 20 years. pre-cruising.
After cruising, it became the big city.  And we were no longer big city people.
We didn't have a plan for "What next?" when we finished cruising.  

We alloted ourselves 5 years to travel halfway around the world, with the intent of selling our Pearson 365 sailboat in Australia.  And we did, right on schedule.  Yet we figured somewhere along the way we'd find an alternative place to call home....

Only we didn't.

lagoon Fakarava French Polynesia
French Polynesia is the place we most wish we spent more time in, especially in the Tuamotus.
This is Fakarava, the only island we visited in the Tuamotus.
Much as we loved French Polynesia and New Zealand, as non-Commonwealth citizens, it's tough, legally to stay there longer than 6 months.  If you're young enough (below 43 years old), skilled enough (for example, medical professionals are nearly always in demand) or rich enough (a mere $2.15 million investment), you can stay longer than 6 months.  We do have friends who pre-planned, and were able to stay longer with extended VISAs, but alas, we didn't want to commit ourselves up front.
New Zealand's Mt Aoraki also known as Mr. Cook.... Every place in New Zealand was gobsmackingly gorgeous. 
And the people we met were even more amazing than the scenery. 
New Zealand hands-down struck as the place we most wish we could call home.
We were tempted in American Samoa, where there was a keen demand for teachers and we were informally offered jobs, lodging provided, on the spot as the school year was starting.  We just weren't ready to stop when we were there.  The further we went from American Samoa, the less inclined we were to try to figure out how to arrange for jobs there from a distance.
American Samoa harbor, Pago Pago
American Samoa, looking down over Pago Pago harbor, where we anchored.
While there were many other places we liked, we didn't quite find the right mix of culture, enough modernity and affordability.  After we sold our boat in Australia, which took only 2 weeks as it was early enough in the cruising season there, we continued our Australian "circumnavigation" by land.  Eventually as our VISAs approached expiration, and Wayne's nearly expired passport made hops elsewhere undo-able, we decided to return to the US. And after 5 years of travel, the heartstrings of family called us home, too.
Hayden Island Columbia River Portland Oregon
Mt. Hood as seen at dusk from Portland's Hayden Island, where lived aboard our boat.
We weren't committed to staying in Portland, though Wayne's folks and what few possessions we kept -- mostly memorabilia -- were there.  So that's where we landed, initially.  Yet after all that travel, I wanted to be closer to my aging parents in Florida.  Instead,  jobs and a boat anchored us in Portland.  
Sauvies Island Collins Beach
Serendipity, our Puget Trawler at anchor of Sauvies Island, near Portland Oregon.
We savored our summertime days aboard and ashore.
Alas, summertime is only one quarter of the year....
For those of you who contemplate cruising for years, yet not indefinitely, be forewarned.... Returning is much harder than leaving.  

We'd become accustomed to sunshine, unstructured time, a thriving social network among both cruisers and locals. We'd learned to live simply and inexpensively.  

I now call Portland San-Seattle, an amalgamation of a growing influx of money and people coming from San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle area, where Portland is comparatively cheap and laid-back.  Portland went from an economic downturn to a thriving metropolis while we were gone, complete with terrible traffic, and a relatively high cost of living -- exactly what 20-plus years prior we left California to escape. The level of homelessness shocked us.  The level of crime frightened me.  

Between the traffic and our funky work schedules we didn't do much besides work, Despite living aboard and working, we weren't making financial headway.  We struggled with darkness, our relationship and what to do with the rest of our lives.  
patty greyson mark greyson lauren philipp and dana in colorado
Finally! Visiting Colorado with my brother Mark, his wife, Patty, my niece, Lauren and her husband Philipp.


Mom stylin' in the snow in her fake leopard coat
with me many moons ago.
I did manage to make three trips back to Florida to see my parents and one trip to see my brother and his family in Colorado.  In May, my Mom died, relatively suddenly and unexpectedly. It is still hard to accept she's gone; I am still grieving.  It's one of the reasons I haven't blogged for so long.



















Dad, on the beach in Sarasota in 2011,
the year before we left to go cruising.

My Dad, one of the few remaining World War II bombardiers, just turned 94.... Amazingly, Dad is still sharp, mentally.  I am not sure how much time we still have together, but being halfway across the country from him is too far.





















This Saturday is my last day at West Marine.* The next day, Sunday morning, we begin our cross-country drive to Florida.  All our possessions (mostly mine -- Wayne is far more minimalist) fit in a small FedEx crate, plus one 24" x 24" plus one small file box.  Everything else will come with us in our Prius hatchback.

*A good run considering I took a job there as a part-time seasonal cashier and found myself as the store's full time Sales Manager. 
These 3 boxes -- FedEx box, the file box and the open box -- are all our possessions not going in my Prius hatchback, including a kayak and and 2 paddles!
We don't yet have a place to live, though we're moving to the area dubbed "the Space Coast" on the Atlantic, due an hour's drive East of Orlando.  Wayne has a job in Melbourne which starts September 17th.  I have no idea yet what I will do there for a living. 


melbourne's location in florida
Space Coast, Florida, Melbourne area, highlighted in red.
We're not yet ready to retire, though traveling to other parts of the world that are far more affordable has taught us that we could retire elsewhere now if we chose.

You might ask, given all that...

  • Was cruising worth it?  
  • Should we have waited (until retirement, or until after our parents were gone)? 
  • Or not gone at all? 
  • Or, maybe, never stopped? 
My answers...
  • Yes, without a shadow of a doubt
  • No, when there is a window of opportunity, take it, and  you may not be up to the task physically if you wait too long
  • See answer #1!
  • Ahhh... for us it was time to come home.  Don't write us off yet though -- our adventures are far from over!

Your answers might be different.

I offer this one piece of advice... don't settle for dreaming.  Go.  It is far better to to struggle afterward than to live your whole life unfulfilled.