I Did Then and I Still Do ~

On the road of life, it’s not where you go, but who’s by your side that makes the difference.

It’s our anniversary today.  It’s a big one too.  TEN years – five of the happiest years of my life! (bada bing)  Sorry, I couldn’t resist the corny joke.  It’s one of hub’s favs and he uses it every chance he gets so it felt appropriate.

When I sat down to write an anniversary post and share my gratitude for the wonderful man who has shared this crazy life with me for the last ten years, I  circled back to last year’s anniversary post for a little inspiration.  It took me right back to that beautiful morning ten years ago.  That post expressed my feelings perfectly.   For once, I seem to have gotten it right the first time.  So, I’ve decided to make it my special Anniversary Post.  Every year I’ll bring it back, dust it off, and change the date, because…

I did then, and I still do.  Here’s to the next ten, and the ten after that.  Here’s to more adventures and my wonderful partner-in-fun who willingly goes along for the ride wherever the road leads. cityscapeadventureteambackpack

Ten years ago today, on a beautiful sunny morning, I put on my new dress, a pair of dainty little sandals, took  extra care with my hair and makeup and then walked with my best friend out to the very end of the point away from Rosario Resort on Orcas Island.  We stood there under the branches of two huge oak trees whose trunks had grown twined together and looked out at the Puget Sound.  Boats glided by.  Birds soared and swooped.  The ferry passed and we waited.  In the background the hum of lawnmowers and blowers as the head groundskeeper and her crew tended to their daily duties of keeping Rosario lush and beautiful.  We waited and then waited a little longer.  We watched a car approach slowly and come to a stop at the end of the narrow dirt road.  Finally, she was here.  The woman we’d been so patiently waiting for.   Another Nancy, and she had come to join my friend and I in marriage.  Fifteen minutes later we were husband and wife.  Becky (the head groundskeeper) and Barbara (a neighbor of the minister) were our witnesses.  I cried from beginning to end and, of course, never thought to bring a hankie.  An hour later, after a champagne toast, my new husband and I set sail on our first adventure as a married couple – kayaking in the San Juan Islands.   Cheers to this wonderful man who has brought so much laughter and joy to my life.  I loved you then.  I still do.  I always will.

We’re off on Life’s Next Excellent Adventure. July 18, 2003, Orcas Island WA

Setting a Date ~ making retirement real

I started this blog just over a year ago to share our journey from being two cogs in the corporate wheel to two happy retirees roaming the world with just our backpacks and rolling suitcases.  Since then, I’ve been exploring ways to have travel adventures on the cheap.  I’ve learned about home exchange, house sitting, VRBO and other very interesting options.  I’ve been looking at the pros and cons of living in other countries where we can stretch our small nest egg and still enjoy a high quality lifestyle.   So many options!

But, here’s the deal.  I’ve been looking, reading, talking, sharing, thinking, researching, learning and not actually DOING anything.  I’m still stuck making the wheels of commerce turn and afraid to let go of the paycheck.  I am definitely handcuffed to the security (or illusion of it) and I’ve been hanging on for dear life.  I have horrible visions of hubs and I lining up for the free meal at the end of the month.  At this rate I’ll be 90 when I finally fall over sideways – still at my desk.   I’m wearing FEAR like a big sparkly diamond ankle chain.

So, last week I made a decision.  It’s time to set a date, make it real and make it happen.

It’s time to make the leap…and FLY!  And, it terrifies me.  calendar

And it THRILLS me too.  August 31, 2015 – I’m calling it LEAP DAY.  Now I know I have exactly 782 days left to wrap up this life and get ready for our next act.  Wow, that sounds like a lot, but I know it isn’t.  There is much to be done.  I’m definitely up for the challenge.

Hubs?  He’s already there just waiting for me to catch up.

Tally ho!




Taking the plunge ~ a swimsuit shopping adventure

A couple of months ago, I received an email from a friend and avid Just a Backpack fan, with a very interesting proposal.  Would I be open to having guest bloggers?  Hmmm.  Maybe.  Not sure.  How would that work?  Lot’s of questions and no answers at the time.  It took a while, but it finally hit me – this blog is all about seeking new adventures in our later years.   I love sharing new ideas and experiences with my readers and my hope is that they create a spark to dip your toes in the water, give it a try, and then hold your nose and dive right in when you find something that looks interesting.  So, when Judy thought she might like to give writing a blog post a try – I’m here to give her a wholehearted Yes!  You go girl. 

And, now Judy is taking the plunge and making her debut as our very first guest blogger.

* * * * * * *

Is there anything as daunting and terrifying as shopping for a new swimsuit when you’re a “woman of a certain age”?  Truth be told, when I’ve been any of my ages, I’ve had body issues that made bathing suit shopping anything but fun.

A trip to Palm Desert and sunshine was the impetus for this particular shopping adventure.  I’d put it off as long as possible.  I even thought I’d wait until I got to California to shop, but I didn’t want to waste precious sunshine time in a store.  My old bathing suit still fit, sort of, but the straps made a crackly sound – which meant the elastic was gone.  So I had no choice.

A swimmer friend recommended Macy’s or a shop out of my usual traffic patterns.  So I checked the web and found Popina’s  – a local swimsuit shop that even has a selection of their own creations.  I asked the woman on the phone if she would help me find a suit that would make me look good.  “Oh, yes,” she replied, “and we even have beer.”  Surprised, I asked how beer could help my tummy look smaller.  “It won’t, but it will make you feel better”.  This sounded like it could be fun.

Popina's ~ a little slice of heaven in Portland

Popina’s ~ a little slice of heaven in Portland

With trepidation, flip flops and white legs, I drove to Popina’s the following day. This is a fun store, full of sunshiny decorations to get you in the mood. I was the only customer in the store at 11:00 a.m. and Kristen gave me lots of personal attention, which was exactly what I needed.   She really knew her stock and listened to what I wanted.  The racks at Macy’s would not have done that.

I learned that there are now suits that are chlorine resistant so they won’t break down easily from the chemicals.  She brought me a selection of suits to try on and they actually looked pretty good – until I looked in the rear view mirror.  No, the suit didn’t make my butt look big  – it was discovering I had back fat and the suit accentuated it.  Where did that come from? Too much information to share – too matronly. This hadn’t shown up in clothes.  This can’t be me!  I’ve had lots to contend with in the past several years – like  a kidney transplant – but not back fat!  Ughhh!

Kristen to the rescue – She totally “got it” and found a suit similar to the one I liked, but it was cut higher in the back – which made it much more flattering and kept the back fat in check.  Within about 45 minutes, start to finish – I  bought a new suit that I actually like.  Definitely a more fun than traumatic experience.  I didn’t drink the beer, but now I was totally ready for the sunshine.

Where's the pool?

Where’s the pool?

My trip to Palm Desert and sunshine was wonderful.  But the most delightful part was being amongst active women, all of a certain age, and with many different body  types… all of them enjoying life.   Having fun in the sun does not mean fitting into an itsy bitsy teenie weenie.  It does mean being who I am – a woman of a certain age, enjoying my good health, my body and my life.             ~Judy Romano~

 * * * * *

Judy and her husband sold their business a couple of years ago and are now exploring their own second acts in retirement.  She loves discovering all of the new possibilities and adventures life is bringing her way.  These days, Judy calls herself a very happy dilettante.

Grandmother Power!

It seems like every day the media issues another dire warning about how we aging baby boomers are about to become a giant drain on the country.  Since I’m the leading edge of this soon-to-be-retired tsunami of grey-hairs, I usually feel a combination of fear, depression and anger with each new media blast.  We’re the children of the sixties for goodness sake.  Our generation of women fought for equality, marched for peace, changed the world.  We were the superwomen who burned our bras in public so that our daughters could have it all – careers, families, and a seat at the table.  We made a difference then.  What makes the media think that we aging boomers (women and men) won’t step up and do it again?  Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I don’t think we’re done yet – just because we’re about to become retired.   In fact, our 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s might be the perfect time to step up again and change the world in new ways.  We’ve always had the compassion and the passion, but now we have the knowledge, skill and a whole lot of experience to add to the mix.  Pretty simple, really.  But not always easy.  We need a cause.  We need a movement…

And so it was perfect timing when I received an email notification from photojournalist and grandmother_power_300dpi author, Paola Gianturco announcing the publication of her latest book – Grandmother Power, a Global Phenomenon – documenting a growing new international women’s movement.  In her book, Paola shares the stories 120 activist grandmothers in 17 grandmother groups from 15 countries on 5 continents who are fighting courageously and effectively – against poverty, disease, illiteracy, and human rights abuse – to create a better world for grandchildren everywhere.

From the Raging Grannies who dress in crazy hats and aprons and sing funny songs to attract media attention to key political issues, to the African grandmothers raising their grandchildren orphaned by AIDS, to the illiterate grandmothers in India who spent six months learning to be Barefoot Solar Engineers, bringing light to their dark villages, Paola gives a voice to the work and power of grandmothers all over the world.

Paola Gianturco is a brilliant and deeply committed woman who I had the very good GM_author_photo fortune to meet five years ago when she so generously came to Portland to speak at one of my Flourish Sunday Salons about her book Women Who Light The Dark.   Several years ago Paola left the corporate world to begin her second act as a photojournalist.  Through the lens of her camera, we meet women from all walks of life, accomplishing extraordinary things, in all parts of the world.  What a gift.  Paola has published five books and I’m sure she’s not done yet.

Reading a book like Grandmother Power give me a powerful shot of inspiration, motivation and hope.  Aging and retirement don’t have to be a slow march to the grave.  As an aging, soon-to-be-retiree, and a grandmother myself, I agree completely with Paola (also a grandmother) when she says ~ “Today’s grandmothers are younger than, better educated than, more professionally experienced than, and (despite the economic downturn) relatively better off than grandmothers have ever been.  My dream is that they will ask themselves how they can best use their experience, energy, wisdom and creativity – their power – to create a better future for grandchildren everywhere who deserve to live in a better world.”

Come on grandma.  What are we waiting for?  There’s work to be done!

If you are inspired to use your grandmother power but are not sure where to start, check out the Grandmother Power website.  It is filled with information on how to find a program that calls to you and get involved – join a group, start a group, learn more and get involved so you can make a difference.  Buy the book!  Burn your bra!  Join the movement!

All proceeds from Grandmother Power go to support Grandmothers to Grandmothers.


What are you planning for your Third Act?

I am a big fan of TED Talks.   What began as an annual get-together of the brightest minds in technology and entertainment to share their creative ideas and vision for the world, has grown into an amazing resource of information and inspiration for all of us.  From the comfort of my own home, on my own time, I too can be awed by brilliant minds, stories of courage and humorous insights that are inspiring change and lighting the dark in every corner of this planet.

As a sixty-something woman who is still searching for meaning and purpose in my life, I love Jane Fonda’s concept that today’s 60 year old’s have about 30 years of extended life.  Not long ago, that was an entire lifetime.  In her talk at TEDx Women, Jane speaks about this additional life span as Life’s Third Act.  I’ve been spending a lot of time lately researching and planning for my own Third Act so finding this talk the other day was perfect timing.  Jane had some really interesting insights and good food for thought and I was ready to listen and learn.

Plus, at 74, that woman looks hot!

Thanks Jane for sharing your voice and your wisdom on the art of aging.



Why I love of the Internet + A Few Fun Statistics

IMG_1440 [pinterest]

I started blogging almost ten months ago.  Who knew I had so much to say?   Certainly not me.  I published my first post on March 2nd, but I didn’t share my blog with the rest of the world until a few months later.  I was afraid people would think I was more than a little crazy.  I was scared they would hate my writing or not be interested in what I had to say.   I was terrified that I would quickly run out of ideas.   So much for fear.  This time, I looked fear in the eye and I went for it anyway.  I am so glad it did!  Blogging has opened up my world and helped me set a new path for adventure in our retirement years.  And, as I’ve shared my stories, I hope I made a few folks smile or inspired you say yes to some new adventures of your own.

At the end of each year WordPress, the site where Just a Backpack is hosted, compiles all your blog stats in a nice little annual report.   I thought I’d share a few of the more interesting numbers with you.

  • Almost 7,000 people viewed Just a Backpack
  • Viewers came from 78 different countries.  Most from the US, Canada and Great Britain, but people from Kenya, Qatar, Monaco, Syrian Arab Republic, Israel, Spain and even Kazakhstan found the blog.  I think that is amazing.
  • I published 89 posts and uploaded 318 photos.  So much for having nothing to say.
  • 486 comments.  (I love comments.  Keep them coming!)
  • The most popular post was Whirled Peas on December 14.  Rounding out the top five were Jonseing for a Little Chocolate, Bicycle Built for Two, Doors of Mexico and SWOOF’n It.  (You can click on the highlighted titles and read if you missed them the first time.)
  • My personal favorite was Two For the Road.  It sums up my hubs and I perfectly.

For a little blog that started on a whim, I think it’s all pretty darned amazing.   Let me say again that I am so happy that my friend Al Gore invented the internet.  It’s changed my world.

I can’t wait to see where this road leads in 2013.  Buckle up, because it’s going to be one heck of a fun ride!

Read any good books lately?

Continue reading

Hanging with Oprah ~

RISK ~ That’s my word for 2013 and as I said, I’m going for it. Damn the torpedoes and all that.

I decided to jump right in and sign up for not one but two creative classes.  They are online and they are both fabulous.  Great inspiration, ideas I can put to use immediately and daily and weekly projects that are already moving me out of my comfort zone.   I’m loving every minute.  Old dog + new tricks = grand new adventures!

One of my goals for 2013 is to step into the blogging world in a whole new way.  I’ve got some big plans to hatch and lots of work to do.  I am excited to go down this path wherever it leads.

Everyday Magic is a photography class led by blogger, photographer and creative living inspiration, Tammy Strobel.  Tammy and my classmates from all over the world are helping me see the magic in so many of the everyday moments I have overlooked or taken for granted as I rushed through my days.  It is just so darned cool.

The second class is called Juicy Blogging with writer, editor and blogging pro, Britt Bravo.  I just started a couple of days ago and I have already learned and tried so many new ideas I am about to burst with enthusiasm.  I know I will be much better blogger as I begin to share our Just a Backpack adventures with a larger audience.

Both classes have daily lessons.  Today at Everyday Magic our theme was  “A Day in the Life”.   Britt’s writing assignment was to do a blog post that contained mostly photos.  Sounded like the makings of a fun blog post to me.

Here’s how it played out…

Oprah was waiting for me when I opened the mailbox

Oprah was waiting for me when I opened the mailbox so we decided to go on an adventure together.  (well I decided)

Driving Ms. Oprah

Driving Ms. Oprah.

Lunch?  Of course.  We both had the apple/goat cheese salad

Lunch?  Why yes.   We both had the apple/goat cheese salad. 

Quick trip downtown to Union Station for a pickup.  Oprah was dash-surfing for a better look

A quick trip downtown to Union Station to pick up a friend.  Oprah rode on the dash to catch a better view.

Even Oprah loves a good sale.  Me too!

Oprah loves a good sale.  Me too!

See's chocolate?  Why yes, let's get a 1 pound box and eat it on the drive home

See’s chocolate? Of course!  Let’s get a one pound box and eat it on the drive home.

Perfect ending to a perfect day.  Starbucks, tea, chocolate and a little bit of Oprah wisdom.  It was my Oprah Aha Moment.

Perfect ending to a perfect day. Starbucks, tea, chocolate and a little bit of Oprah wisdom. It was my very own Oprah Ahhh! Moment.

These classes are gifts I gave to myself.  They fit me perfectly and have already brought me hours of joy.   New sweater?   Don’t really need one.  Meeting new people and making a few synapses fly in my brain?  Now that’s a gift that will last a lifetime.

What gifts have you given yourself lately?  If not…what are you waiting for?   You deserve it.  Just like me.

Write something dammit! ~

I’ve got nothing to say.  Really.  I’ve been trying to think of something brilliant, witty, inspiring, informational, heart warming to post for days. But…I’ve got nothing.  I’d call it writer’s block, but that would mean I’d have to call myself a writer.   Which I definitely am not able to do.  I have a blog in which I share a few of my random thoughts… but, I am not a writer.   I am SO sure of this it’s crazy.   I know writers.  Some very good ones.  I am in awe of people who have their magic way with a word or a phrase. Those folks WRITE.  Me, I blog.   Works for me. I never thought of myself as a writer and honestly as I was as surprised as anyone when I went home one afternoon after lunch with a couple of friends (thanks again Ingrid and Lois!), settled into my chair and set up Just a Backpack.  Ideas flowed and words appeared on the page.  The Force was with me.  And so it’s probably as natural as the ebb and flow of the tides, that eventually I would find myself staring at a blank screen and think “This it.  I’ve had my last idea.  Written my last post.  It was fun while it lasted.  I’ve been expecting it.”

Last night I had a girl’s date with a friend and we went to hear Cheryl Strayed speak and read from her new bestselling book Wild – from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail.   She was warm and funny and brilliant.  And, she has known she was a writer since she was eight years old.  And, still it took her 20 years to write this book.   Because, sometimes…she had nothing.  But she kept on writing.   Picking it up, letting it go until she had completed her life changing story.  Cheryl Stayed found herself again through an 1,100 mile trek on the Pacific Crest Trail.  She had lost her way, but not her compass – writing.  And through her writing I felt her loss, her fear, her pain and her joy.  For a few minutes as she read, I was right there with her.  That’s what a writer does.  Shares herself.  And her stories.

So, I’m not a writer…or maybe I am.  Maybe I never will be.  Or maybe I will.  I don’t really care.  I’m just me and for whatever reason, at this moment as I’m trying to navigate the waters of change at 64, I do have a few stories to share and thoughts to explore.   I think we’re all in this together.   We all have stories and it’s in the sharing that we connect and learn and explore new ideas.  So, let’s get on with it shall we?

Turns out I did have something left to say.  And one more thing.  Buy this book.  I bought it last night and I’m only on page 30, but I am hooked already.  Thank you Cheryl for sharing your story.  I’m sure it will help me understand my own just a wee bit better.

Don’t you just love it? ~

It really tickles me when a lovely moment of serendipity strikes. You never know when you go out the door for a bite of lunch who you might meet.  Well, that moment of serendipity struck today when I slipped down to Nordstrom Cafe for a quick mid-day break from the office.  It was noon and the place was packed.  I ordered my half salad – chicken/apple/walnut/feta – yum! and had to squeeze myself into a tiny table along the wall between two other tables.  I settled in, put on my reading glasses and pulled out my current lunch time companion – 65 Things to do When You Retire. It’s a compilation of essays from people like Jimmy Carter and Gloria Steinem and many lesser known but still very interesting and inspiring folks.  They are true stories of people in retirement who found meaningful new opportunities.  It’s sort of a user’s manual for making the most of your retirement.   A few moments later, the lovely woman on my left (I believe her name was Carol) tapped my arm and asked “May I take a look at your book?  I’ve just retired.”   “Of course” I said and I passed the book over to her table.  I then took the opportunity to introduce myself and share my newly acquired knowledge about retirement and traveling on the cheap. Carol was interested, excited and open to all of the possibilities and adventures ahead.  I told her about the backpack and rollie plan and how I had come to be a blogger.  I learned about her career as a teacher and her recent trip through Spain, Italy and France with her daughter who was sitting across the table.  We chatted for quite a while about home exchange, house sitting opportunities and even WWOOFing.   She was a sponge for information and I was thrilled that I had lots of ideas to share!

It was a lovely exchange with a truly lovely woman who, like so many of us, is excited and eager to get on with her new life.  Carol, it was a true pleasure to have met you.  I’m glad fate guided me to that tiny table in the middle.  You brought a spark of joy to my afternoon.  I hope we meet again somewhere out on the road.  I’ll be the one with the backpack and the rollie.