Two More Geezers Hit the Open Road

We’ve finally done it!

On November 6, 2015 at exactly 12:39 p.m., two more crazy geezers (that’s us) hit the open road with not much more than our backpacks and rollie-bags. Other than a few boxes temporarily stored with a friend (Thank you!), everything we own now fits snugly in the back of our mid-size SUV.

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Welcome back…

This blog has been dark the past few months for a couple of reasons. Some might call them excuses, but, whatever…

I started Just a Backpack with the intention of sharing my experiences and all the information I was gathering as hubs and I began our journey of downsizing and exploring some very cool and unusual options for a new lifestyle in retirement. One that involved living on MUCH less money yet still finding ways to travel, eat well, drink good wine, savor the magic in everyday moments and conjure up as many adventures as possible in whatever time we have left. Diligently I searched the internet and talked to those who were blazing the trail ahead of us. We began testing the water, one shaky toe at a time.

Much of this journey I shared here on the blog. I heard from folks all over the world who read my posts and were inspired to take action of their own. Many of these readers were now living the life I was planning and here I sat. Still planning. Still writing about planning. Not feeling like I was brave enough to take the leap of faith.

There were also family plans and responsibilities that I definitely wanted and needed to be available for. So I waited. For the Perfect Moment. There was always a good reason to wait. But, truth be told, good reasons are often just fear in a fancy dress.

So, to paraphrase an old saying “Them that do, get to doing it and them that don’t…keep on blogging about doing it”. Put up or shut up. So…I decided to shut up for a while.

Of course, anyone who knows me, knows that you cannot shut me up for too long.  So many fabulous things have happened while I was gone from the blogosphere that it feels like the perfect time to fire up the laptop again as we hit the road to see where this journey takes us.  I hope you will come along for the adventure.

A very casual “what if” conversation between hubs and I while riding the train from Seattle to Portland set so many wheels in motion it made my head spin. Watch out what you wish for! In 90 days we listed our house. Got it ready to sell. Had 8 offers, 3 escrows (and a partridge in a pear tree). Sold or gave away everything we owned. Took too many trips to the Goodwill to count. Filled 2 Am Vets trucks with donations. Launched one under the cover of darkness stealth car load drop-off in a friend’s apartment complex dumpster and hosted our first Sip, Savor & Sale goodbye party. They came, they sipped and they BOUGHT!  Whew!  Just writing that poops me out!

I’ve finally figured out how to set a new course without pulling the plug on my safety net until I am ready. It turns out I need that safety net firmly in place to take a leap of faith. I am okay with that. It also turns out that Mr. If it doesn’t fit in a backpack and rollie, we don’t need it.” had a very hard time letting go of his stuff. Stuff like old t-shirts from 1980, five fishing rods, hip wading boots, tools and stuff I’m sure I don’t even know about. Hub’s backpack and rollie is currently 2 rollies, two backpacks, a very large canvas duffle-bag and other various carry bags and boxes. Obviously, we both have work to do.

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On the other hand, I managed to create an office-on-the-road with my two laptops, one plastic file box, a desk drawer in a small handle carry plastic box and a lightweight lapboard as my desk top. So far, it’s all working just fine.  It’s all about organization. Not generally my strong suit.  Another growth opportunity!

Hubs and I are house and pet sitting in the Pacific Northwest through the New Year and hope to head south to sunshine and warmer temps for January and February and then sometime in the spring (after the snow and before tornadoes) we’re going to head east across old Route 66 to check out the middle south.  Along the way, we will be looking for a comfortable place to set down new roots and a launching pad for future travels.

Stay tuned!

Nancy

P.S.  If you know of anyone who is in need of excellent house sitting services please send them our way.  Our house sitting website is GlobalHouseSittingPros. We’re also listed with Trusted Housesitters, House Carers and HousesittersAmerica.

 

 

 

Superbowl – It’s not all fun and games

It’s the Superbowl calling!  Come to Phoenix for a week.  It will be fun!

I’ve made it a practice to say a hearty Yes! when an opportunity for adventure knocks.  And when my friend Sallie knocks I know that fun and adventure will always follow and whatever I say yes to will stretch me in some new way.

Vendors were hawking high-priced Superbowl gear everywhere - even in our hotel lobby.

Vendors were hawking high-priced Superbowl gear everywhere – even in our hotel lobby.

Well, a couple of months ago Sallie called and asked me to work for her at the Superbowl It was definitely an adventure and I was truly stretched.  And stretched and then stretched just a little more.  I was 66 when I flew from Portland to Phoenix and felt closer to 106 when I returned home eight days later.

It has been several years since I have felt the near constant pressure of putting on back-to-back high level events.  I was definitely rusty and out of shape.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure I was up to the task.  I was terrified of failing in a huge way like leaving a VVIP stranded at the airport, or at the golf course or dinner.  I worried about giving wrong directions to one of the many vehicles we had moving about town or sending a bus loaded with special guests on a merry trip to nowhere when they were supposed to be at Taste of the NFL.  (That almost happened).

I had been dubbed Transportation Czar for the week.  And it was a test of my ability to step up and Get ‘R Done.  I think I rose to the moment.  I hope I did.  I worked 18 hour days/nights and let me just say I felt every one of my years.  My brain always seemed to be a beat or two behind.  I hung in.  I bucked up.  I made it work.  And in a very strange way, I was proud that I still had it.  Even if “it” was a little slower and sometimes had a short fuse.

Thank you Sallie for inviting me to join you in another great adventure!  I can’t honestly say it was fun.  But it was a great opportunity to stretch and it certainly gave my aging brain cells a workout they haven’t had in a long time.  A few probably fell out, but I think we blew off a whole bunch of gathering cobwebs as well.

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Getting ready to watch the game in the hotel lobby bar with a group of cheering strangers was actually fun.

When I told hubs I was going to Phoenix for the Superbowl, his eyes lit up.  “Can you get me a ticket?” he asked hopefully.  “No chance in hell.” I replied.  When I told him that the closest I would get to the game was sitting in a shuttle bus in the parking lot, he felt much better.  He even smilled!  He and Mr. Ricky had a great time at home without me.  And he got to watch his favorite team pull off an amazing win – all in the comfort of his recliner chair with a beer and a bag of cheese puffs.

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Home again! Feet firmly planted on our beloved carpet at PDX.

Life is good!  And as hubs is famous for saying, “Just keep saying yes until you have a reason to say no.”   Yes is where adventure lives.

Go Hawks!

Nancy

Nancy

 

One More Trip Around The Sun ~

Well it’s happened again, somehow I’ve managed to complete one more trip around the sun.  My 65th to be exact.

Sixty-five turned out to be a damn fine year if I do say so myself.  I am grateful for each and every moment, for adventures shared with friends and family, and way too many laughs to count.  Life is truly filled with magic moments.  And these days I take every opportunity to look back, reflect and savor my days on this planet.

So… I made a little movie.  It’s how I entertain myself when hubs is watching Mash reruns on ME TV.  Thanks to each and every one of you who made this movie possible by sharing your light, your laughter and your wine with me.  I am truly blessed.

And here’s my birthday gift to you… I gathered a few fun thoughts on being “older”.  Here’s the good, the bad and the what-the-what?

First the good ~

•There is nothing left to learn the hard way.

•No one expects you to run anywhere. (Except for Gil Peters – we expect him to run everywhere)

•In a hostage situation, you are likely to be released first.

•Things you buy now won’t wear out before you do.

•You can live without sex but not your glasses.

•You quit trying to hold your stomach in no matter who walks into the room.

•Your eyes won’t get much worse.

•Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.

•Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the national weather service.

•Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can’t remember them either.

•Your supply of brain cells is finally down to a manageable size.

And the not so good…

•Wrinkled was not one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up.

•In dog years – I’m dead.

•You sit in a rocking chair and can’t get it going.

•You can live without sex but not your glasses.

•The twinkle in your eye is the sun reflecting off your bi-focals.

•Your wild oats have turned to mush.

•At 66 you find yourself at that awkward age – somewhere between desirability and complete senility.

•Everything that doesn’t hurt, doesn’t work.

The silver lining…

•Age is only important if you are cheese or wine.

•The older you get the better you were.

•Old age and treachery trump youth and skill every time.

•It still beats the alternative.

So as I prepare to celebrate my own “sweet 66” (all weekend long – thank goodness Monday is a holiday), I raise my glass to each of you.  Enjoy every magic moment on your own trip around the sun this year – whatever number it is.  Because…Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO what a ride!”

Cheers!

Nancy

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The Pope Knows ~ Top 10 Life Hacking Tips

The Pope knows – not to be confused with the Pope’s nose, a dubious delicacy from my Canadian childhood aka the icky, chewy, crunchy part of a chicken’s other end.

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Photo: L’Osservatore Romano/File/AP./ Published: 06/7/2014

I’m not Catholic. I’m not even much for organized religion of any kind, but I have a bit of a crush on this Pope. He’s a charmer with a huge heart. And he’s not only cute, but this man appears to understand a thing or ten about life and happiness. The world may already be swimming with self-help advice, but it’s not every day the Pope himself shares his life-hacking tips.

Here’s what the Pope knows for sure ~

1. “Live and let live.”
2. “Be giving of yourself to others…If you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid.” Continue reading

A Little Red Wagon ~

I was a deprived child.  I did not have a little red wagon of my own.  I did, however, have shiny metal roller skates with a key.

So I guess that makes up for it.

I don’t know if the two grown-up kids in this video were wagon deprived in their youth or not, but to me they are two shining examples that there is still a little “kid” in each of us no matter how grey hair our hair or how many wrinkles crease our cheeks.

Whatever you do today, let the child in you come out to play.  Because it really is the simple things in life that bring us joy.

Cheers!

Nancy

 

Happy Monday ~

Happy Monday to you.

Here’s a little something to put a smile on your face, a song in your heart and a spring in your step…

Wishing you a week filled with many happy moments and unexpected adventures.

Boogie on!

Nancy

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My #WDS2014 Adventure ~

You are never too old to indulge in a wee bit of World Domination!  That was my thinking anyway when I attended #WDS2014 aka The World Domination Summit – a multi-day gathering of 3000+ lively, creative and inspiring souls who traveled from all across the globe to connect in downtown Portland Oregon for the fourth annual iteration of this very cool event.

WDS was on my bucket list and this year I was lucky (early) enough to snag a ticket.  These babies sell out quickly so, you snooze, you lose and that’s what happened to me last year.  This time I jumped the day they went on sale.

Super Hero

Super Hero

When I told folks that I was going to the World Domination Summit, I got more than a few puzzled looks.  “World domination?”  “What the hell are you getting involved with?”  “That sounds…interesting.”  “Well, have a good time.”

And I had more than a good time.  I had a fabulous time.  My creative mojo was re-charged.  My head is swimming with new ideas and my waning resolve to cut the corporate umbilical cord sooner rather than later has been fully restored.  In short, getting out of Dodge has become priority number one (again).  And I have a new toolbox to work with.

For two very full days, Grandma Nancy listened and learned and shared with a whole pack of mostly 20 and 30-somethings and they blew my socks off!

Here’s how it went down.

The Great Namaste.  When an event that starts with the intent to set a new world record for the most people doing yoga in one place, you know it’s not going to be any ordinary rah rah weekend.  On Friday morning 800+ people gathered in Portland’s Living Room (Pioneer Courthouse Square), spread out their colorful yoga mats on the bricks in the 90 degree heat and OM’d their way into the Guinness Book of World Records.  So far so good.

WDS Great Namaste

The Great Namaste

How do we live a remarkable life in a conventional world?WDS keynote

This was the question that attendees were encouraged to contemplate as we listened to a well-curated line-up of inspiring, heartwarming, funny, and very thought-provoking keynote speakers with lots of time for mixing, mingling, exploring, and making connections.  Throw in a 5k run, the Portland Experience in the Park Blocks, a scavenger hunt called the Unconventional Race and the very unusual “Highly Sensitive Person Lounge” located on the mezzanine of a nearby hotel where a dimly lit room was set up with several capsule-like hammocks for napping and you have one hell of an experience.  I didn’t nap, but I did check it out.  When I peeked in, every hammock was full and a very loud buzzing noise was emanating from one in the back corner.

But it always comes down to the people.

The Poem Catcher came all the way from Scotland.

The Poem Catcher came all the way from Scotland.

This group of adventurers and inspiration seekers were absolutely delightful – full of adventurous plans, brilliant ideas and interesting stories.  I met 29 year old Kat who quit her job in 2008 to work on the first Obama campaign doing social media and has been traveling the world every since.  Kat’s doing in her late 20’s what I hope to do in my late 60’s and she had lots of great advice for me.  I sat next to Tracy from Vancouver Island who at 50+ quit her job and began a new career as a designer of edgy baby clothes and up-cycled art jewelry.

Woody & Alice

Woody & Alice

I raised a glass in the beer garden with Woody from England and Alice from Romania who were extending their WDS weekend into a two week tour of the western United States.  They loved their Airbnb stay in Cannon Beach!

And I swapped life stories and dreams for the future with twin sisters Alex and Jennifer – currently from Boston and Atlanta who were plotting their next great adventures and bought me lunch (and several glasses of vino!).

Brave Bots wearing our invisible super hero capes!

Brave Bots wearing our invisible super hero capes!

We shared our “brave bots” with our waiters and they indulged us with a photo.  We talked and laughed for so long that we totally missed the meditation in the park meet-up, so we made a quickie doughnut run to Blue Star Doughnuts and raced back to find a seat for the final session.  My young friends then partied into the night while I headed home with my mind racing and my butt dragging.

A few take-aways !

The truth is, we are ALL cousins – from the funny and brilliant A.J. Jacobs, author of My Year of Living Biblically and currently gearing up to hold the world’s largest family reunion in NYC next June.

Stop talking and listen – Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant John Francis author of Planetwalker: 17 Years of Silence, 22 Years of Walking.

Don’t be afraid to meet someone – the WDS mantra!

It’s never too late – from all the courageous folks I had the pleasure to share my story with.

You are braver than you think!  – Dee Williams, author of The Big Tiny and Gary Hirsch creater of BotJoy

What do you want to be remembered for?

What do you want to be remembered for?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A huge congratulations and Thank You! to Chris Guillebeau and the entire WDS Team.  You rocked my world!

Pack Smart & Travel Light

As my favorite travel guru, Rick Steves says “You’ll never meet a traveler who, after five trips, brags:  “Every year I pack heavier.  The measure of a good traveler is how light he or she travels.  You can’t travel heavy, happy, and cheap.  Pick two.”

For me, packing light and packing right is still a work in progress.  I haven’t honed the skill of mix and match as much as I’d like.  And shoes – walking shoes, sandals, something dressy, slippers.  I have yet to find footwear that manages to go from trail to fancy night on the town.  At least not for these tired old feet.  We walk a lot so comfortable footwear is number one.

With summer finally upon us, hubs and I are planning as much travel as we can and so I’ve been working of my packing skills and looking for tips to make the job easier.   I keep muttering under my breath …backpack and rollie…backpack and rollie…backpack and rollie. If it doesn’t fit, I don’t need it.

One bag, One carry-on.  And off we go!

Check out these fun travel and packing tips I found on the web ~

1.  Stick a dryer sheet or two in your suitcase with your clothes to keep them smelling fresh and cling free.

2.  Use a 7 day pill container to store your jewelry.  And, really, how much jewelry do your really need?  Try a fun scarf to dress up a top for the evening.

3.  Roll it.  As it turns out, rolling your clothes actually takes up less space – especially if you’re packing T-shirts, which can be rolled together a couple at a time.

4.  No matter how long your trip is, don’t pack more than a week’s worth of clothes.  You can wear most things more than once and then prepare to do laundry.  Bring a travel clothesline for hand wash or find a local laundry. (Hubs and I aired our dirty laundry through the streets of Santiago in search of the tiny lavanderia tucked in the back of a small grocery store.  Later that day we were clean, pressed and back in business)

5.  Store your loose cables and chargers in an old sunglasses case to keep everything in one place.

6.  Don’t forget your phone charger, but if you do, check the back of your hotel TV.  There’s usually a USB port.  (I didn’t know this!)

7.  Scan your passport, ID, and itinerary and email it to yourself so you have a digital copy in the event of theft or loss.

8.  Pack only garments that can be color-coordinated with everything else in your travel wardrobe.  If it doesn’t work with multiple outfits, leave it at home.

9.  Pack your suitcase only two-thirds full.  Leave room for the inevitable souvenirs and treasures you’ll pick up along the way.

10.  When in doubt, leave it out.  (my new favorite)

Happy travels.

Nancy

 

 

 

 

Happy Fourth of July ~

Happy Fourth of July!

Greetings from Hillsboro, Oregon 1988. 

Fourth of July Parade

I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy

I love a parade.  And one of my all time favorites is in Hillsboro.  It’s the largest 4th of July parade in Oregon.  Everything from kids decked out and ready to strut their stuff to giant John Deere tractors roll right down the middle of Main Street.  Jazzercise mamas, high school bands, church groups, hand-made floats on the back of flatbed trucks and even a local politician or two round out the entertainment.  It’s definitely 2 1/2 hours of small town wacky bliss.

America truly is a great big melting pot of weird and wonderful.  And that’s exactly why we mark this day.

Whether you choose to celebrate at a small town parade, enjoying brauts and brews in your neighbor’s backyard, lighting off bottle rockets under the cover of darkness (oh no, please don’t!) or stretched out on the grass gazing up at a night sky filled with flash and sparkle, enjoy the day and savor the moment – from sea to shining sea.

Cheers!

Nancy

 

Aging with Attitude ~

It’s not your age.  It’s your attitude.  Isn’t that what they say?

Well, I’ve got plenty of attitude and some days its not the attitude of gratitude I’ve been striving for.  Some days I just feel old.  And tired.  And really tired of working for a living.  I’m the last of my peers to still be chained to a desk and while most of the time I am extremely grateful for the job and the paycheck, sometimes I think I’ll never get out of the retirement starting gate.  The grass looks greener where my friends are playing, and gardening, and traveling and starting happy hour at 3 o’clock instead of our usual 5:30 meet-up time back in days when we all snuck out of work a little early for attitude adjustment hour.  I’ve got short-timer’s disease for sure and the time feels very long indeed.

But here’s the thing.  While I am ready to give up the desk jockey job, I am not ready to give up some kind of meaningful work.  Whatever work might look like.  So, I’ve been trying on all kinds of hats to see what fits and what feels kinda groovy.  At least for a while.  travel writer – blogger – world explorer – pet and house sitter – walking enthusiast – photographer.  So many hats!  So little time.  And I still don’t know what I want to be when I finally get the chance for my second or third or forth acts.

It's fun trying on new hats!

It’s fun trying on new hats!

Some people seem to float from act to act with ease.  I admire these folks.  And, I love hearing their stories and learning from their adventures.

Meet Barbara Beskind ~

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photo courtesy of IDEO/Senior Planet

Barbara is somewhere around her 6th Act.  She is a role model extraordinaire.  Barbara just celebrated her 90th birthday – with her co-workers at IDEO, a Silicon Valley innovation company, where she recently started her latest gig as one of their designers.  A job she won when she competed in the firm’s design challenge for products for older adults.  Every Thursday Ms. Beskind travels by train from her retirement community in San Mateo, CA to the IDEO offices in San Jose.  She’s not an engineer, but she certainly is a real life adviser.   Read more of Barbara’s inspiring story on Senior Planet.

Rock-on older ladies, indeed!

So, my dears, here’s the question of the day. What does aging with attitude mean to you?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Cheers!

Nancy