Michael and I have been reading a few of our very first blogs each morning and enjoying a convivial trip down memory lane. Many of them are pretty amusing (at least to us) but some have their serious side, too. We just reading finished the blog about our time in Sarajevo. And now, here we are in South Africa, another new democracy that is struggling to create a government out of turmoil. Being places that we read about in the news is a great motivator for both of us and keeps us learning about our world.
The Sarajevo recap was number 21 out of what will be 116 when I post this one. I am thankful we've kept this archive of our adventures - typos and all. In fact I may re-post a couple of my favorites from the early archives. Here's one that really got us laughing The Nomads Get Hostel from our time in Milan, just as we were getting started in 2013.
Throughout the blogs, and really throughout our entire journey, one thing has remained constant, and that is the kindness of strangers. So many encounters with people we'd just met turned into enjoyable conversations about the their city, their culture and more often than you'd think - politics. And sometimes those encounters begin a new friendship.
Someone we now consider as family is Chip Conley, Head of Hospitality for Airbnb. Once he learned about us, he became a big supporter and in fact, wrote the forward to our book. He likes to say "strangers are actually friends waiting to be discovered". And we are glad we discovered each other.
Sometimes our connections were brief - maybe lunch with someone we met on a walking tour. Or connecting on Facebook. Michael has great memories of sitting next to fans he'd met at football matches and getting the local lowdown. And of course once he found someone willing to discuss politics a cold beer was usually in order.
But sometimes an encounter became more than just spending a little time together. It became mutually enjoyable enough to keep in touch. We met a couple on board a small "Turkish gulet" cruise out of Montenegro in 2015 and we bonded over the hilarity of being on a sailboat without sails, the sub par food, the broken down dinghy and the motley crew. Last summer we spend a wonderful week with our new friends Wendy and Graham at their home in Wales where we regaled each other about our adventures all over again.
This very blog has also brought us some wonderful encounters. When we wrote in Spring of 2015 that we would be visiting Jerusalem we got an e-mail from a woman who had been following us for awhile and she was absolutely insistent that she and her husband be our personal guides for as long as we were in Israel. And they meant it! Ruth and Stu not only drove to Tel Aviv to pick us up and drove us to Jerusalem (during which we had TripAdvisor worthy commentary as well as a condensed version of Judaism in Israel Today), they braved Passover traffic and got us settled into our Airbnb in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. True to their word they took us under their wings during our 10-day stay and shared their adopted city like no one else could.
More recently we heard from Joseph. An affable American gent who'd met a couple while they were both stranded an airport in Hawaii. During their conversation the subject of Airbnb came up. And so did The Senior Nomads. It turned out the couple had been following our blog and had read our book. Joseph, who is also retired and travels quite a bit using Airbnb ordered the book from Amazon. Then, when he found out we'd both be in Cape Town at the same time he invited us to lunch in Camps Bay. His host joined us over the best Indian meal we've ever had. It's that sort of serendipity that makes up for the days when we are feeling a little weary of our travels.
In the same vein, we received an e-mail from a retired couple who follow the blog and live in Lausanne, Switzerland. They saw we would be passing through and invited us to spend the night with them. Not in their Airbnb because they're not hosts - we stayed in their guest room! Why not? We had a great evening with Jim and Marilyn over a delicious meal prepared by Jim - who is painstakingly teaching himself to cook because Marilyn did it for so many years, and now he feels it's his turn. Husbands take note.
We've now stayed in 135 different Airbnbs in 58 countries. That means we've met almost that many hosts and I can tell you that most every single one of them made us feel welcome. Long after we've left, many of them weave in and out of our lives through e-mail, Facebook, Instagram and the blog. But some have become more permanent fixtures.
We actually stayed with hosts Paulo and Laura whom we met in Nicosia, at their private home in Rome last September and shortly after that spent time with our Greek hosts from 2013 during a long layover at the Athens airport.
Just in the past few weeks here in South Africa we added two new friends whom we know we'll see again someday - Dominic and Suzanne. They were the neighbors next door to our Airbnb in Fish Hoek. It started with dinner at our hosts. Then a breakfast, then we had them for dinner and cards. Then they had us over for dinner and cards. A few days later, we coaxed them onto the local train they warned us not to ride for fear of muggings to get to Cape Town to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert. We got there and back with our wallets and cellphones in hand. Whew.
So many people here have gone out of their way to make sure Michael and I are enjoying South Africa to the fullest. Just one example was a day out with new chums Judith and Rose. Our semi-new friend Daniel whom we've come to know through Airbnb, works for Marriott (formerly Starwood) and he has a friend here that also works for Marriott in Cape Town. All it took was a phone call from Daniel as an introduction, and in the spirit of "anyone who is a friend of Daniels is a friend of mine" Judy and her neighbor Rose took us out for an entire day on a tour that included wine and penguins. Does it get better than that?
Writing the book last year also gave us what we now consider four dear friends, after all they were with us every step of the way. We first met Carol and Kent after Carol, a literary agent reached out to us after she'd reads the New York Times article in early 2015 and suggested we write about our journey. It took a year for us to come around to the idea, but once we did, she and her husband Kent became our champions as editors and writing coaches. We've stayed with them twice in their amazing home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Beyond working on Your Keys, Our Home together, they are encouraging us to write a second book. This one about reinventing retirement and/or transformational travel.
And then there was Toby and Luana. Two very creative people who became indispensable in producint the book - Toby as the production artist and his wife as proofreader. We met face to face in Los Angeles after 6 months of working together over Skype from far flung corners of Eastern Europe. Then when we were in San Francisco in January we drove to their amazing place in Sebastopol on a rainy afternoon for a leisurely lunch together. We will return the favor someday. Somewhere!
People often ask us how can we bear being away from family and friends. And of course there are days when I would give anything for time-travel to become an option. But the trade-off is making new friends around the world. And thanks to the many ways to stay in touch these days, we seem to be in regular contact with loved ones. In fact, some of the best visits we've had with our busy grown-up children and their families have been on Skype or Facetime because they are scheduled and focused.
Michael often says when talking about our Senior Nomads lifestyle "don't try this with any one but your best friend". That is very true. It takes two of us rowing in the same direction to keep everything gliding smoothly. We each bring our skills to bear - Michael being the Chief Travel Planner and CFO. I take on Provisions and Entertainment and serve as lead cook. We have learned a lot about flexibility, mutual respect, allowing for differences, and giving each other plenty of space. We also play lots of scrabble, dominoes, backgammon and cribbage. And laugh a lot. It all seems to work and we have become closer than ever.
I could add dozens more encounters with people who have left a lasting impression on us. From the young man that hauled our luggage for almost a mile in Krakow, to the little girl in Cuba who I drew for every morning, to the many fellow travelers we met, include our Russian and Ukrainian Bla Bla car companions, that shared their adventures with us. Thanks to one an all for enriching our journey.
Thanks for following along,
Debbie and Michael
The Senior Nomads