A blog is nothing more than a vanity project. I know, I know – some of us might say it’s a way to inform, educate and entertain, but at the heart of it, it’s a way for the author to broadcast personal and/or narcissistic thoughts or ideas. 🙂
When I started this blog, I always envisioned it would be singularly focused re: living on a boat/sailing our boat, but I realized that as time has passed, it took on more meaning and intention; I wanted it to reflect our lives and everyday activities, as well as act as part diary, part notification for family.
It is with this spirit that I get back in the saddle and start to write again. It’s been a long time since we posted anything – maybe you’ve been following along on Instagram (living_on_a_boat) – but if you haven’t, then let me explain what we’ve been up to.
As some of you may remember, our last post was from Turkey, where we were spending 3 months escaping hurricane season in Mexico. Our visa allowed us to be in the country for 90 days, and we left by ferry on Day 89. As the Turkish immigration guy reminded me: “You cannot come back!!”
Since leaving Lodos in June, we traveled from San Carlos, Mexico to Dallas then to: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Datca (Turkey), Kos, Symi, Rhodes, Santorini, Naxos, Athens, then back to the States for 2 months with a trip to Canada, the Copper Canyon and Russia somewhere in between. We recently landed back in Mexico where we have been getting Lodos ready to sail again. And, now, I write this on a plane to the Dominican Republic where I’ll be working for a week.
In each place we traveled this year, we tried to act as if we lived there: not as tourists, but as residents. Yes, we did some touristy things, but mostly, we did very little or we focused on the mundane and pedestrian aspects of everyday life (e.g. taking a walk, sitting in a park, riding a bus, eating like locals, going to a laundromat, grocery shopping, binge watching 7 seasons of The Good Wife….). We love traveling like this as we get to see the world in a more personal and vulnerable way.
When we left Mexico in June 2018, we bought two wheeled suitcases at Walmart for ~$11 each. Somewhere in Paris, the blue one lost its wheels, and we drug it unwillingly the rest of the way to Turkey where it died a quick death; however, the red one is going strong, and I’m still using it.
Truth be told, I quite hate this suitcase. I have been living out of it for 6 months. Aside from a small shopping spree at Kate Spade and Nordstrom in order to have something to wear for work trips, I’ve been wearing the same clothes for 5+ months (although some of them I did have to throw away because I have literally worn them out).
For me, the glamour of traveling and living out of an $11 red rolling Walmart suitcase (Big Red) got old around month 3 1/2. But, we are lucky to have good friends and family who have put us up and let us stay at their glorious homes resplendant with real beds, soft linens, endless hot water, steady electricity and wifi. We tried to follow the rule that visitors are like fish: both start to stink after 3+ days, but I’m sure we overstayed our welcome many many times, and for that, we’d like to especially thank:
Karin – who’s flat in London was the perfect resting and jumping off point for our adventures
Dick – proving that a 30 year friendship is just as fresh and fun today as it was back then
Mar & Shar – letting us takeover half your houses (in two states!), multiple times, demonstrating that only family can tolerate you as a long term guest
Dilan & Sam – getting to meet Asa was a top highlight of our year, and we can’t wait to watch that gorgeous little baby grow up
Adam & Aleta – for being such great sports by hosting us so soon after that very long and adventurous trip to Sinaloa cartel country in Mexico (we’ll remember it always, I’m sure!)
John, Elizabeth, Leo & Lucca – it was a special treat spending time with your beautiful family and playing Catan with you!
Jeff & Cindy – our peaceful Christmas palette cleanser
Vince, Adrienne, Mia & Vincent – making us feel so welcome, at home and ringing in the New Year together
I look forward to getting back to a regular schedule that chronicles the joys, triumphs, and frustrations of living this nomadic life, and in the meantime, we’d love to hear from you!
We get a lot of questions about Turkey – I’ll use this post to answer some of them. Better yet, come visit sometime and experience it for yourself!
How did you decide on Turkey? Answered in an earlier, separate post here 🙂
Are you allowed to buy property in Turkey? Yes, we can and we have. It’s not very common to finance property purchases. Most people buy their homes with cash. We hired a Turkish lawyer, named Cihat (pronounced Jihad – same meaning!) who helped us navigate the legalities and questions of property ownership. Unfortunately, we can only stay for 90 days at a time on a tourist visa for a total of 180 days/year (90 days in, at least 90 days out). So far, this works great for us as we dodge the hurricane season in Mexico. It’s quite onerous to get a residence permit to live in Turkey full-time. Like in the US, if you are foreign-born, there are many hurdles and requirements for us to stay longer. Also, similarly to the US, you can buy property, but it doesn’t qualify you to stay longer. Also, like in the US, we could come and stay “illegally” (beyond our 90 days), but when we left and tried to return, we would likely get hassled and maybe not allowed back in the country (not a chance we want to take). Although we can buy a house here, you are not allowed to buy a car unless you have a residence permit, so we rent a car (for about $8/day) while we are here.
How does the current economy and Lira free fall impact you? The currency here is called the Lira. Currently, the lira falling is a good thing for us. We have a local, Turkish bank account, but mostly we transact in dollars, so it’s actually better for us. When we arrived, the lira was about 3.5 lira: 1 dollar and now it’s almost 7. We try to keep dollars as long as possible and exchange when we need them. Interestingly, even though Turkey takes MasterCard and Visa, many businesses reject our US cards as their chip readers won’t accept our cards. It’s extremely frustrating, and it prevents us from leveraging the exchange rate but also requires us to use our Turkish account or liras. Also, most places, unless you’re in a posh hotel, won’t take American Express, and many stores don’t even know what it is. In the long run, a stable Turkish economy will be better for us as we own a home here and want to see the community thrive and appreciate in value. We use TransferWise to move money from our US account to our Turkish account. The transfer fees are reasonable, and it’s fast and easy with an app on our phones.
What about the politics and president of Turkey? It’s best not to discuss them.
What’s the language and are you learning it? The language is Turkish – it’s a beautiful language that has more in common with romance languages, like French, and none of the harsh or guttural sounds of Arabic. My Turkish is very rusty; I understand a lot of it, and I can shop and get along pretty well at a high level, but I still can’t speak conversationally. I can follow along, but I lack the ability to say too much in response, which is frustrating! It’s definitely improved with time here. Many people here don’t speak English, so we blunder along, try as we can, and use Google Translate when we get stuck! I think for our trip next year, we’ll spend time using Babbel or taking an intensive language course to jumpstart our learning. There is nothing more humbling and makes you more empathetic to people living or traveling in the USA, trying to speak English, than when the shoe is on the other foot!
What’s your neighborhood like? Our total community is ~30 buildings with ~70 separate homes built as townhouses. Most people own 1 building, but we split ours with our friend who lives next door. The busiest we have ever seen it was during a national holiday a couple of weeks ago, but even still, our neighborhood was only about 30% full. We are in a separate little area with only 7 homes, and we call it the G7 as we are a fairly international group. All but one house was full during the holiday – it was great fun hanging out with everyone, sharing meals, and working together to make improvements.
Who are your neighbors? Most everyone is Turkish, but they either live abroad or work abroad. Two of our neighbors are Americans (living in Turkey & in the UK), one family lives in Brussels (an engineer & an anesthesiologist), one family lives in Ankara (retired ministry of tourism & a librarian), one family lives in Istanbul (a gynecologist & an engineer), one family lives in Istanbul (professor & Turkish think tank)…all professionals, and all of them speak *some* English. (They are very patient with us!) There are quite few kids here, too, which is really fun to see the energy and diversity of our community; watching them grow up year after year will be really fun. We have a beautiful swimming pool, and the beach is about a 2 minute walk away – complete with electricity (when it works), lounge chairs, a fresh water shower and palapas.
Who takes care of everything there? There is a guy, Mustafa, who lives here full-time, in a little house with a bunch of chickens. He is our on site guardian, does odd jobs, keeps the pool clean and does general maintenance. We also have a building site manager, who is accountable to a board of directors and who is supposed to run the bigger systems like solar and water (which don’t work great….). But, we are really on our own for repairs and landscaping. Part of this is because we are still a new development that hasn’t received all the rights of a city property – this will likely come in time.
Can you find everything in Turkey, like in the US? Yes and no. Generally, there are specific stores for each category of goods. If you need electric, you have to visit the electric store. If you need plumbing, you have to visit the plumbing store….and so on. There are big chain stores ala Home Depot and IKEA in larger cities but not near where we live. There are two grocery chains here (Migros & Carrefour) that are starting to carry more than just food, but in general, when running errands, we have to plan all day for a minimum of 6 stops!
Pharmacies – are prescriptions hard to refill? Pharmacies are plentiful here, but limited to generic drugs or alternatives. For example, we can’t find Benadryl here, but they have an antihistamine equivalent, and my branded contact lens solution is readily available. I take a migraine pill that costs me about $20/pill in the USA with insurance, but here, I pay the equivalent of $1/pill – no prescription required! Natural treatments like Arnica are easy to find, and tampons are nearly impossible to find. It is related to a holdover custom from the muslim culture of revering virgins (seriously). I remember this being the case when I lived here 30 years ago, but I expected it would have changed by now (it hasn’t).
Are you in a safe area? Despite what you read on the news, which is largely sensational and focused on small areas, most of Turkey is very safe, and yes, we are also in a safe area. There is and has been violence in Turkey, but we stay vigilant and try to blend in and not put ourselves in uber-tourist places with a lot of people. We have a full-time caretaker who lives here year round, and he watches the place. There are also a few dogs that live here, and they are quite protective of the neighborhood and people roaming around at night. The only thing we have to watch out for are scorpions and wild boar! 🙂 There are immigration patrols that we meet on the highway from time to time, and recently, we have seen military helicopters flying over our beach, presumably looking for refugees since we are so close to Greece (the closest entry point to the EU). The immigration road blockades generally wave us through once they see we are foreigners or Americans. For this reason, you must always carry your passport when traveling around the country.
What’s your 3-6 month plan? We will be in Turkey for just under 90 days until the first of October when our visa expires, and then we will island hop around the Greek islands for a few weeks, landing back in the states in time for the midterm elections in early November. We plan to be back in Mexico at the end of November, visiting the Copper Canyon with friends. We’ll spend December seeing family and friends (Arizona, Sun Valley, Portland) and then back to Mexico where our sailing season will start again in earnest. We’re tentatively planning to sail south to La Paz or Puerto Vallarta from January thru early March to avoid the heavy “Northers” before sailing back up into the Sea of Cortez for a few months before the next hurricane season. We both are likely to travel back and forth to the US during this time for work, and Jodi may come back to Turkey for a month in Spring to check on the house and do some weeding and spring planting.
When will you be back in the US? Sometime in late October/early November, 2018. We hope to come back to Turkey for another extended visit in 2019 – again, during hurricane season in Mexico.
What’s the food like in Turkey? In a word, amazing. Some of the best cuisine in the world. Not heavy like Greek food but fresh, whole foods grown in volcanic soil and rich in color and nutrients. Lots of fresh fruit (melons, peaches, nectarines, plums, figs, apricots) and vegetables (tomatoes – okay, a fruit, squash, beans, cucumbers, lettuces), 100s of varieties of olives and cheese (I counted more than 40 types of “white cheese” at the grocery store the other day), legumes (chickpeas, lentils, white beans) meat and fish/seafood (although we don’t really eat these anymore), and the government subsidized recipe for white bread is divine (and costs no more than about 50 cents). My favorite is breakfast, which is generally cheese, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, honey, bread, and jam. Alcohol is easier to buy than it used to be (albeit very expensive for out of country brands – a small bottle of Absolut Vodka is $20), and Turkey’s wine industry is growing fast (high-end bottles costing between $5-15). Efes Beer is Turkey’s national pilsner; it’s cheap & delicious ($2/bottle).
Which do you prefer – the Aegean or Mediterranean? Turkey is one of only three countries in the world that straddles more than one continent (Russia and Azerbaijan are the others). Turkey is on the European and Asian continents. We live on the Aegean, but both seas are beautiful. If you look on Google Earth, you can see that the Aegean is a bit more green and mountainous than the Med, but both have crystal clear blue waters, and most of the beaches are small pebbles vs. sand. We are closer to a few Greek islands than we are to mainland Turkey.
What’s your typical day like? See next post – Part 2! 🙂
One of the questions we get asked a lot is: “Why Turkey?!”
Many people who live on their boats in hurricane prone areas, choose to leave the area during hurricane season. We are no exception. So, we left our boat in a safe place in Mexico and came to our house in Turkey. Many people ask us how we landed on Turkey as our “hurricane hole”? So, here’s the story:
It all started at Portland State University – Jodi’s alma mater – in 1987. I joined an organization called AIESEC – a global organization, established in 1948, after WWII, where seven young people in seven countries had a dream of building a cross-cultural understanding across nations. They hoped to change the world, one person and one international internship at a time. Today, they operate in more than 125 countries and territories, linking business students with temporary exchange jobs.
For me, it was a chance to work abroad for a summer, and when I graduated in 1988, I had an internship lined up in Istanbul. Days after graduation, I got on a very long one-way plane trip to a place I had never been, not knowing the language or anyone in the country. The job was a complete and utter disaster (a long story that might be novel-worthy…), but I loved Turkey and ended up finding a different job at Istanbul Technical University that enabled me to stay in the country. During this time, I met some incredible people, people I am still friends with today, and my connection to the country, and its people, strengthened.
I introduced Kirby to Turkey shortly after we started dating, and over the years, Kirby and I have spent several vacations here; we always dreamed of spending time here when we retired, too. So, when our good friend, Cassandra (who I met back in 1988 in Istanbul and with whom I also lived for a brief period of time) found this remote new development on the Aegean coast, we thought of it as kismet and jumped at the chance to own a small piece of one of our favorite places on earth.
Today, as has been over my past 30 years of knowing this place, the economy and government are volatile, but no matter. In Turkey, you just have to roll with it and trust the people and its government will work itself out. As an example for the longevity of this volatility, my first day in June 1988 in Istanbul there was an attempted assignation on then Prime Minister Turgot Ozal, and ever since, Turkey has had its ups and downs politically and economically.
However, it’s a place where you can see two friends walking down the street, linking arms, one wearing a burka and one wearing a bikini. Modesty in dress and actions is a sign of respect as much as it is a part of the religious undertones of the country. It’s a nation of paradox and incongruity, and it fights for its democracy everyday as it has since Ataturk (known as the father of Turkey) led its revolution in the early 1920s, effectively ending the ruling of the Ottomans – emancipating women and introducing ideas of Western culture and lifestyles.
Turkey is not part of the EU, but it is a friend to the US and a key NATO ally. Unfortunately, relations are strained in these days, but we hope to return to friendlier times, and no matter our current politics or administration, the people of Turkey are extremely kind and warm and have welcomed us with open arms. Today, the Lira is volatile, and there was a recent shooting at the US Embassy, but for us, on our tiny peninsula, sitting between two seas, located on ancient archeological ground where civilizations have lived for thousands of years (since ~500 BC), we are relatively immune from all of that.
This week is the Kurban Bayram holiday – a 5 day holiday in Turkey where most businesses, all government offices and banks are closed. It also marks the first official day of travel to Mecca and can clog travel in and around the country. It’s an important holiday in Turkey as it follows the Islamic calendar (and therefore is a different date every year).
This year, it falls on 8/21-25 and is also known as the Feast of the Sacrifice. In biblical terms, it commemorates Abraham’s dedication to God when he was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and at the last-minute, God (or an angel of God) spared his son and gave him a ram instead to sacrifice. In Islam, it’s the same story (as most religious stories are…): it commemorates Ibrahim’s (Abraham) willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael (Isaac), to show his faithfulness to Allah (God).
During the holiday, rams/sheep/goats are sacrificed and used as a large feast and family celebration where gifts are exchanged. As part of the holiday, a portion of the meat is donated to the poor. In more modern times, it’s also acceptable to donate money to the poor and skip the animal sacrifice part altogether. Like Thanksgiving in the USA, it’s an important charitable time of year where family and friends get together to celebrate and give thanks. And, like Christmas, it might be one of the few times a year that a non-practicing Muslim will go to a mosque to attend the morning prayer.
There are government dedicated areas where it’s allowed to conduct the sacrifices. We passed one of these yesterday in rural Datca where many animals were in a corral awaiting their grisly fate. Thankfully, we weren’t there long enough to see any action.
If you travel to Turkey or any Islamic country, you should always check their religious calendars and holidays as travel can be disrupted. However, it’s interesting to be here during these times as you learn something culturally relevant, too.
We attended a large neighborhood potluck last night celebrating as a community. Everyone brought something to share, and the wood fired oven on our property was fired up all day yesterday (for the first time!) to slowly roast the sheep and make fresh bread. Everyone wore white, and there was music, wine, some dancing and much discussion of the state of the neighborhood’s infrastructure. A fun night and great way to make new friends.
We’ve taken a break from blogging since we aren’t on Lodos right now, but we have received a lot of questions about where we are, what we are doing and when we’ll be back on the boat, or in the states, so I decided to take each question as a separate blog post – watch this space!
We sailed to San Carlos, Mexico in early/mid June and spent a couple of weeks getting the boat ready to be taken out of the water. We left Lodos in a ship yard there, “on the hard” (out of the water) because we needed to finish some work on the boat that we never got around to before leaving San Diego. We also had to redo work that was done improperly in San Diego – hopefully the last of the projects that all have had to be redone in the past 6 months+.
It’s hurricane season in Mexico. It officially starts in June and ends in November, but truly, the most dangerous time is August-September (when the water warms above 80+ degrees), so we knew we wanted to be out of there this season. We took the time to do some traveling this summer and see friends. We went to our cousin’s wedding in Dallas (beautiful!), and we stopped to see friends in London, Oxford, Paris and Amsterdam.
Meeting Franck in Paris
Jodi finds her Churros at the Eiffel Tower
4 years ago, we bought a house in Turkey. It’s a tiny house (1 bed + 1 bath with a loft), in an “off the grid” community, in a remote new village on the Aegean Sea along the Datça peninsula. It has all the challenges of new (cheap) construction, plus layer in remote access, very little internet, spotty electricity (100% solar), and very rocky soil that we are trying to completely transform (sometimes through sheer will & grit alone).
All that said, the houses and community aren’t the reason we bought a place here. It’s the landscape and beauty that surrounds us. We are butted against mountains to the East that look something like Halfdome in Yosemite or Lake Tahoe in California and to the West, the shimmering blue of the Aegean – with the Greek Island of Kos facing directly in front of us. We are ~1 hour from the nearest city (However, there is a small village 20+ minutes from us.), and probably the only thing that keeps this place from major development is the winding, dirt-pitted road you must take through the olive and almond trees planted into the mountainsides. The food is amazing, and the cost of living is cheap – cheaper everyday as the Lira continues to fall…
It’s the kind of place people want to go to write a book, paint, read, and escape.
The flora isn’t diverse, but it is lush. We are frequented by goats who local shepherds still graze and let roam freely. We have seen owls and wild boar, bats, grouse and deer. The night is pitch black, the stars bright, and the beach is pebbly (not sand), which I much prefer. It’s safe and quiet, and all of the neighbors know each other – we look after one another, share tea and treats and stories – the way it should be in a community.
Our languid days are filled with equal parts work (professional work: Jodi is consulting & Kirby is starting a new business), work on the house and yard as well as swimming, hiking, reading, cooking and sleeping. There is nothing to buy, nothing to schedule and not much to do.
Living in a developing country has its drawbacks of course, and we find it quite manic some days, but its lesson is to be open to what may come, be open to changing your plans, and realize that you have very little control over the outcomes of many things here – it’s a country and place that forces the zen out of you.