Wow! It's hard to believe that it's now three years since we left the US to relocate to Greece and the broader Mediterranean. It's crazy to reflect on that simple mission that we outlined:
To become a mid-life-crisis-boat-bum and live on a boat for a few years. (End of a care-era).
It's largely been successful, after all here we are, living on a boat. But I'm no longer sure about the mid-life-crisis part. Our life is far from a crisis, in fact it's far more intentional and enjoyable than we could ever have expected it to be. Despite the seemingly "radical" nature (to some people anyway) of living on a boat, it's actually settled into a fairly predictable set of routines – cruising, exploring, fixing, traveling and increasingly, meeting up and making friends. How predictable? Well, it's exactly one year ago that we were in Edinburgh, and here we are, in Edinburgh again now, with every chance we'll be here once more this time in twelve months too.
In Year 1 and Year 2 we did a bit of a detailed year in review, but this time around we thought we should do something a bit different. The travelogue is here on the blog for anyone who wants to read it, so no need to summarize, instead we wanted to reflect on the amazing friendships we've built over our time here.
I've probably mentioned it before, but it feels rare to me at this stage of our lives (both now on the wrong – or right – side of 50), that we meet and create so many new friendships. Our lives are richer and more full of people than we ever expected them to be. If there was one thing we did NOT expect about travelling and living aboard full-time, this would be it.
We weren't really sure how our life would pan out on a boat. I definitely anticipated that there would be boat maintenance, although to be fair it's more than I expected. We knew we'd enjoy exploring the Mediterranean by sea. That we've found so many amazing places to see is not really a surprise (the surprise might be how "samey" it gets after a while with yet more old shit).
We have been to countries we didn't expect. I doubt either of us could have pointed to Albania or Montenegro on a map three years ago and certainly wouldn't have listed them as places we were going to explore by boat. But of course, boats are slow and take time to get from A to B, which means you end up exploring things you didn't expect along the way. It's been a pleasure because of it.
Perhaps the most unexpected has been spending less time on the boat than we thought. Full-time is a lot. We didn't really think about the need to "winter" the boat, but have enjoyed the opportunity that provides to explore by land.
Friendships however were the one thing we just got plain wrong. It seems ridiculous to me now that we didn't think we'd meet people. After all, the sea is full of people about our age, about our stage of life, exploring the world by boat and happy to meet up with fellow cruisers to share experiences. But, it was probably our biggest concern. That we'd be exploring on our own and that friendships would be hard to come by.
So here's to three years of fantastic friendships and more to come. We've loved everyone of you that we've met along the way.
From our early days in Athens where we met the Habibi Center teachers and associated friends like Camille, Steph, Simon, Esther, Jake, Matthew and then still others like Ginnie, Michael, Erik and Hannah through meetups that made our first few months in Greece bearable during lockdowns. We're still in touch with most of you and can't wait to see Esther in a couple of weeks when she joins us in Istanbul.
Of course there's the people in Athens that we met through the boat buying and apartment buying process. Kind hearted, generous people who helped us through the maze of Greek bureaucracy like Sotiris and Maya who we are very proud to call friends now. Or people like Thymios, a friend from the US who I bumped into in a marina! And who can forget Vasilis? He was a great mentor while learning the Greek waters on a cruising course and now a wonderful friend who always has an eye out for our progress.
From our first season cruising the Saronic, we have friends now in Marcus and Isa, who taught us so much and were so generous when we shared Marcus' house last year in Bavaria. We also met others, like Siung and Joan who shared time with us on our boat. Friends from Athens, like Camille, Matthew, Hannah and Erik all came to visit aboard as well. Hannah is coming back again in a few weeks for her third stay - we haven't scared her off yet!
Our first winter in Aegina also introduced us to many colorful locals, people whose names we don't even know, but still remember us 12 months later, like the "Fruit Lady" and the "Cheese Lady" (who we now know is called Najoua and has since dropped in to see Matilda).
Then into our second season proper, we met more cruisers who we've continued to follow and share information with. Mark & Elizabeth who dropped it all to come deliver a boat and we've just recently caught up with again on this road trip. Tuula and Pekka then Kerry and Keven who we shared adventures with as we cruised around the Peloponnese and up into the Ionian. Carol and Peter that we met in Sarande and again later in Montenegro. As well as many others where we crossed paths for a day or two or even again and again, recognising each others boats but not meeting for months to come.
This last year it's been wintering in Montenegro that's introduced us to a large community of sailors, many of whom have become friends we hope to continue meet with as we cruise the Mediterranean. We still have an active WhatsApp group that allows us to share information on who is where and seek information from each other. We're grateful to have met that amazing community and in particular, it's been wonderful to catch up with Linda & Mike, Catherine (and Todd who we missed), David & Stacey, Eric & Vandy, Sarah & Peter, Seamus & Sandy (who we'll winter with again, this time in Mytilene), Chris & Christine, Kim & Stuart; and on land, Claire & Ollie who've been so generous to us on this road trip. There's so many more that we've missed seeing on the seas but still chat with regularly and hope to see again in the future like Sean & Lynne, Seb & Suzanne, Judy & Steve, Nat & Colin and Kate & Iain. It's been wonderful travelling around and knowing there's a friendly face waiting to say hi in almost every port we visit.
We've also continued to meet other sailors this season outside the Montenegro community, we had enjoyed getting to know Trish & Steve and Wolfgang & Petra in Italy as well as the other boats where we've shared a drink and or a chat as we've cruised to Mytilini.
Which neglects the amazing community of friends we've made online too. Social media can be incredibly frustrating at times, but I've also found it an amazing way to connect with old friends and make new friends too. Regardless of if we knew you before or we've just met you online, the community of people who are interested in and care about what we are doing is amazing and we hope to meet you in the future if we haven't.
No Foreign Land is a fantastic resource for sailors and we've had long conversations with others who've been to places we are yet to explore (or vice versa) that make it feel like we've always known each other when we finally meet up for real.
I could shout out a long list of people here in this online category, but for now let's just point out two; Viv, an old friend refreshed by contact and interest in our journey and Henk-Jen, a new friend online who we've yet to meet, but we've both taken interest in eachother's journeys as we intend to swap roles in the next few years (him move to the Med, and us to the canals).
It's been an amazing three years so far and we're looking forward to many more. Which segues nicely to the last week of travelling around the UK. If there's one thing we're sure of, the next few years will involve canals and boats - possibly Matilda, possibly something different.
Sunday we spent travelling by train with Claire & Ollie to a small village outside Torquay where we enjoyed a devonshire cream tea - our "todo" list is dominated by food experiences. After exploring a small thatched village we headed back to their house, Karina and Claire went shopping while Ollie and I relaxed at home. A Thai meal for dinner and then on Monday it was farewell to them both as we hit the road for Warwick. I'm sure we'll catch up again soon, it was great to spend some time on land in decent weather after all the cold and wet on boats in Montenegro.
In Warwick it was off to meet with our friends Nigel & Alison. I worked with Nigel years ago at PwC and we've continued to stay in touch on and off since then. We had a wonderful time just hanging out, enjoying home made pizzas in their "Ooni" pizza oven (can recommend, it was great), and exploring the Cotswolds villages as well as a pub meal or two along the way. We also visited the Hatton Locks which looks like a fun experience to try on a barge one day.
After two nights there, it was on to Liverpool. We've continually heard positive things about this city and it's somewhere that neither of us have been. I think it's safe to say we'll be back! It's got a fascinating history and is full of interesting architecture, a great little port and a rich merchant navy presence. On top of that, it's got the Beatles.
I think if you were just going for the Beatles, I'd say don't bother. It's such a touristy mess of experiences that are so far removed from the reality of those early days that it's just not worth the effort. The "Cavern Club" doesn't exist (although the business does, it's in a different location). I don't think I've ever heard as many buskers or live music acts singing renditions of Beatles songs in my life. I'd consider myself a bit of a Beatles fan, but I wouldn't recommend Liverpool as worthwhile in this regard.
And frankly that's fine. There's so much other cool stuff to explore and see! We knew our stay (one night) was brief but that's OK. There's somewhere else now we know we want to come back to and explore in more detail.
Aside from the architecture and just the vibrancy of the street life, one of the highlights was the "blitz beach". Liverpool was subject to a lot of bombing during World War II due to being a major port and over 70,000 people were displaced with around 7,000 killed. In order to keep the city functioning, they had to get rid of the rubble of the destroyed buildings and clear the streets. Some was used as ballast on new ships heading out, but more often, the remenants of the bombed buildings were dumped up on a beach a few miles north of the city. After the war, the economy was so depressed there was no money to clear it up and now, it's been covered with sand and left. All along the coast the rubble has been exposed and warned by the seas and there are all sorts of fascinating bits of the old city to explore, from worn and rounded bricks, to tiles, parts of bath tubs, marble, slate and even occasionally crockery, clothes etc. which have all surfaced as it erodes away.
From there, we headed a little further north into Lancashire where we visited a barge for sale. It's long been our goal to live on the canals of Europe in a barge and while there's no immediate plans to make a change, we did want to start exploring the options. It was a fun experience - barges are a LOT roomier than Matilda and all these wonderful port cities we've been seeing like Exeter, Gloucester and Liverpool would be amazing to visit by boat. This particular barge was a great fit in many ways but had a few things that weren't quite right for us, so we'll pass for now and continue to explore options for the inevitable future when we leave the Med and head inland.
After viewing the barge we drove north and finally arrived in Edinburgh where we've spent the last couple of days with Ella and Inge. On Friday we went to our favourite cafe here for lunch (Kilimanjaro), walked through the city and then headed in to see the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
It's quite expensive at £70 a head but one that's worthwhile as a "once in a lifetime" type of experience. I enjoyed it and I will say that I definitely appreciated the "military precision" aspect of the schedule. They started and finished EXACTLY on time with no mucking around at all!
Saturday has been a bit of a quieter day. I spent it pottering around the house, writing the blog and enjoying a coffee at my favourite local coffee shop (Throat Punch) while Inge was at a work event and Karina and Ella went shopping in the city.
And of course it doesn't stop with the completion of year three. To kick off year four, we're using the car to go for a drive and a bit of an explore further inland with a visit to Loch Lomond, then Tuesday we're back home to Matilda. It will be an intense "preparation" period after emptying her of most supplies before we left to travel. Then it's off to Turkey to explore there for a few months.
Until next time,
Tim & Karina