Feliz Natal – Lagos, Portugal
The Woo – woo
Today is December 23rd. There is so much going on that it may seem a bit strange – the topic of this blog- but as I have mentioned in the past, the subjects of the blog just seem to come to me and I usually only write when I feel as though there is something to say.
Several years ago while cruising the Bahamas with friends aboard, my friend said to me “Wow, surrounded by such amazing beauty it must be hard to ever feel anything but happiness”. And then, similarly, a couple of days ago, I received a message from a former colleague from work who said “You are, as usual, doing much better than me”. These two statements have been swirling around my brain lately as I have been preparing for a time of year that has, in the past, been fraught with anxiety and very low grade mild depression. I think the depression is a bit of a hangover from years of working on the holidays or even going much further back to my child hood when my mother worked the holidays. My mother worked the ticket counter for Eastern Airlines and often had to work on Christmas (and most other holidays) and then as a flight attendant and then pilot and married to a pilot who had 2 other siblings who were pilots, we often all had to fly on the holidays and we celebrated on a day other than the actual holiday. It was tough – but we always felt gratitude to have jobs that put food on the table and in the case of my husband and I, we loved flying people to their families – it was a privilege. Still, it was hard missing holiday after holiday. It got harder still when we had Jack – that’s when the depression turned to out and out SADNESS at missing school plays, holidays and many other occasions. The anxiety, I believe, stems from the societal pressures that we feel to be having the “perfect Christmas”. There is so much to be joyful for right? So much abundance, the beautiful lights, the Christmas parties – its just all so much – and yet…
So here are my observations 2 days before Christmas of the difference between Christmas celebrated at “home” and Christmas celebrated at home overseas.
Im still worried about having the perfect Christmas for my son – whatever that is. So worried was I that 10 months ago (3 months before we ever left) I began scooping up presents and loading them aboard with certain fear that I would never find anything to give him that he would like as well. I must say, wrapping the presents which were loaded so many months ago was terrific – talk about having your shopping done early! But what I realized is that the frenetic activity of the before Christmas lists and the frenetic activity in general of our life back home – totally unassociated with moving ones family overseas- is gone – vanished. Granted for a working family there is never enough time in the day to get everything done in a normal month and juxtaposed with our life now where we are not working – there is a total difference in that thing alone. Still – there is a complete difference to the pace that we enjoy our life – holidays included.
2) 2 days before Christmas on any given year would have been spent checking my lists and re-organizing the to-do’s. Probably by Thanksgiving or very nearly after it, our Christmas cards would have been dutifully addressed and mailed. By now I would be frantically trying to find a left over card to send to someone whom I forgot and whose secretary probably addressed our card which just arrived. I would be trying desperately to find a gift for someone forgotten and there would be a few gifts under the tree – just in case. I would be shopping for Christmas dinner and running a thousand different errands – very few of which ultimately adding in any significant way to the enjoyment of the holiday for me or my family. Today Im writing the blog with the Christmas cards undone. I will, after the first of the year write an email Christmas card to friends and family to update them on our life but I will not be addressing Christmas cards or worrying about the cards unsent. I have already done the shopping for our Christmas feast which was done primarily at the farmers market on Saturday. I bought our amazing bread from Virginia the bread lady. I bought the various fruits and veg from other vendors. I bought the Filet and Pork Roast before we left Stuart from our favorite butcher and it has been coming up to temperature for a day in the fridge already. Job done! Jack and I have had not just one but 2 rounds of Christmas cookie making. Realizing that we were dangerously close to running out before Santa’s visit, we actually went through the whole production FOR THE SECOND TIME yesterday. Now this is something that adds to our enjoyment of the holiday – making Christmas cookies with my son. The tree is decorated – leisurely and with no schedule, we did it when it felt right as were the stockings hung. Christmas is arriving on our schedule, not the retailers’ schedule. We have never traveled if we were fortunate enough to be home on the holidays. This remains unchanged. Santa will be arriving here – and this year, we have been blessed to have friends planning to visit us. Elizabeth and her new beau are coming (some of you will remember her as one of the friends who made the crossing from Bermuda – Azores). We have made friends here in Lagos and there will be 5 children and 9 adults at our Christmas table seriously adding to our enjoyment of the holiday.
So – back to the statement, “Wow, surrounded by such amazing beauty it must be hard to ever feel anything but happiness” and the other statement “You are, as usual, doing better than me”.
The thing about cruising and traveling in general is that no matter where you go, there you are. If you are sad around the holidays or a person suffering from anxiety, there is little chance that a change of zip code is going to alter that in any significant way, but that said, living the life you were born to live – now that WILL change your life. Surrounding oneself with beauty will not create joy. But living with purpose and listening to that quiet voice inside that tells us when to go left and when to go right – that WILL create the opportunity for purpose and joy. At breakfast 2 days ago we were doing very much what we always do. Celebrating Saturday and the weekend with breakfast off the boat. Nothing special – something we do nearly every Saturday and something we did even at home. Yet, for some reason I can’t explain I was so overcome with Gratitude that tears of joy came to my eyes and I just wanted to hug my husband and son for all of the love I felt. So much for the low grade depression of my past haunting me. Two days before Christmas I have not felt any of the traditional anxiety that has plagued me this time of year. The low grade depression that haunted me from Thanksgiving – New years has taken a sabbatical this year. I did feel it around Thanksgiving but a return home from Porto and back to our life and routine had put all of this right again.
The question is – do I think that Im doing better than my colleague from work who said Im doing better than he is – absolutely not! If he or anyone else is living their life the way they are meant to than of course, that is the life they were meant to live. This life isn’t for everyone – not even close. But if you are waiting to live the life that is waiting for you – get busy!
Lagos, Portugal – The Travel
There is very little that I can say that I haven’t already said about Lagos. We love it! It is a terrific place to spend the winter and hit the reset button preparing for another big summer of cruising. It is an ideal place for visitors to come – the cost of living is low but the quality of life is incredibly high. There are various road trips to entice every possible traveler. There are mountains to climb, wineries to tour, cities to explore, food to relish and beaches to comb. The train is behind the marina, the bus station in front. One can make it anywhere from here on public transportation. There are restaurants from the cheap but deliciously local to the expensive and rated. The town has artisans and crafts as well as shops and a cinema. In fact today we are headed to see the new Star Wars movie. I have found the most wonderful massage therapist and we have taken the bus to no less than 10 other cities. If you haven’t been to the Algarve, add it to the bucket list because it is fantastic. The locals are friendly and communication is much easier than it should be – (most of the Portuguese people here speak English).
We have found a fantastic zip lining – obstacle course which we have visited 4 times already. Whenever we go, we end up sore for a couple of days. The obstacles (or games as they are called) are challenging and the rewards (zip lines) are many! We can’t get enough. Jack is like a monkey on this and we all enjoy it.
We also enjoyed a terrific holiday performance opening the Christmas season with Santa remaining behind in the booth for generous hours all through the holiday season. Jack has made several friends here and he is pictured below welcoming Santa with many of them.
The social aspect of this community is high. We have had several cocktail/dinner parties and our Christmas table was full with 9 adults and 5 children. Who would have thought?
We went for a week holiday by train to visit our niece and her boyfriend and his family. Porto this time of year was very rainy – in fact, I believe much of Portugal in the winter is rainy. It is probably what produces such amazing Port wine in the fall. But it didn’t make for the best holiday – what can I say. Still, the town was very interesting – great restaurants, tapas etc.. We toured a winery but we didn’t go to the valley – unfortunately it just didn’t work out with our schedule – if you are planning a visit – book this in advance. We did take a couple of tours of the city and we visited some cathedrals. All in all, it was an enjoyable trip but we definitely prefer the Algarve, at least this time of year. Most days, even if chilly, are sunny and gorgeous and there is less big city and more ocean – beach – just more our style and preference. Still to go is Lisbon. My sister and her husband are visiting in March so we will make it a point to visit either after they arrive or before they depart the Lisbon airport. Also on the list is the Our Lady of Fatima which is considered a consecrated spot where verified reports of the virgin Mary has appeared. This is high on my sister’s list so we will visit there when she is here.
Sometime in January we plan to rent a car or take the bus around the Southern points of Spain including Malaga, Seville, Cartagena, and wherever else the mood strikes. Ill include more on that later.
Gratitude and Maintenance
Alec has been busy doing off season maintenance and true to form, every small job becomes a larger job so it is good that he is taking care of this several months ahead of our planned departure date of April 1. Some of this maintenance includes all engine oil and filters for the main and wing engine and both generators. The raw water pump which was leaking got changed on the No 1 generator. The impeller was changed on the No 2 generator, and the impeller was changed on the wing engine. Air filters on both generators and the main engine were cleaned. Valve adjustments on both generators (1 done/1 to go) Remove, clean and re-install both exhaust elbows on 2 generators. James Knight from Yacht Tech is planning a visit in January and will deal with a minor stabilizer issue and he will bring with him replacement spares for the ozone generator for our black water tank. We have only had it about 18 months but apparently despite the high cost of the unit – that is the life expectancy. I would love to report that there is something better out there but if there is, we haven’t found it and black water odor is frankly a challenge on any vehicle – ocean or land going – with a movable toilet be it a boat or a mobile home – it is what it is. So cost be damned – we want it fixed. There are head additives that work – we like a digester product – but the ozone generator is fantastic in terms of effectively eliminating odors.
Right now the plan is to depart Lagos (weather permitting) April 1 and head as far North to Guernsey and the Channel Islands for fuel and a visit. Many of you will remember that we visited Jersey on the way south so this will be a nice opportunity to spend time in Guernsey. Departing Guernsey, we will have roughly 2.5 months to remain outside of the Schengen area. Last year we had planned to visit some of the East coast of Ireland and up to Scotland but missed it due to planning and weather constraints. This year we hope to see all of the East of Ireland and part of Scotland before while required to remain clear of The Schengen area. Below is a photo of our rough goal for the coming cruising season. It is aggressive! We know that. But remember it is just a goal and a living breathing plan which will change according to weather, time and preference along the way.
Im not the most savvy blogger out there but you get the picture. The thin line is the trip out and the thicker line is the trip back. The blue dot is where we are currently.
Rough timetables are to leave Portugal April 1 and arrive in Norway after visiting Ireland and Scotland by June 15. We hope to be in Germany by July 5 and then spending only 5 days each in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland. We hope to be able to spend most of September cruising the amazing Swedish Archipelago. Brief stops in Amsterdam, and Belgium and it will be a photo finish getting back to the Channel Islands – it rather reminds me of the child’s game of tag and getting to “base” before being tagged “out” (of the Schengen area). Neither of us will be surprised if something- or rather several somethings don’t get done but its just a starting point. We have 7 months planned for this –
Regarding visitors: Get your requests in early! We have the wish list filling up for the summer destinations which will definitely add another dimension of challenge to the schedule but we are firm believers that it will be exactly as it is supposed to be!
Wishing Everyone of you a very joyful and blessed New Year.
Love the Crew of the Gratitude