world travel

Athens – Day 3…or is it 2?

View of street from our balcony

Technically, it would be the third night we’ve been here, but do we really count the first night since we were so exhausted when we got here?!

The jet lag had not let go of it’s grip on us, but I can at least say it loosened. None of us were up before 1:00 pm though! With Willow getting sick, we had more laundry than expected this early in the trip and needed to quickly figure out the washer, then venture up to the roof to get it on the drying line. In this weird head of mine, I actually dread doing laundry when I’m at home, but get a little pleasure from it when I leave the states and have to line dry my clothes. Though I had never done it in 45 degree, windy weather on top of a three story roof!

Hanging laundry on the roof

With the chores done, we finally left the house, sometime after 5:00 pm. We called an Uber and drove over to “The Mall”. Yes, that’s what the actual name of it is! I read that it was a four story mall that was the first of it’s kind to be constructed in Greece and one of the largest in Southeastern Europe. Not a bad place to go when sunlight is about to run out and you need to get the kids out of the house!

The mall is huge! We really only went around one floor, and possibly only half of that floor! I forgot how much I love the shopping in Europe! There are so many stores we don’t have in the US that are filled with cute clothes and very inexpensive compared to shopping in the US! The girls always get excited and love to shop in these places!

Shopping fun at their favorite stores

I’m not sure if it’s common in malls in Europe, since I’ve only visited a couple, but their dining area was nothing like what we have in the malls in Texas! The restaurants are actually nice! Not the crappy choices of nasty Chinese food, baked potatoes or chick-fil-a. Yes, I know how much people like chick-fil-a, but I prefer real food over any kind of fast food.

We sat at a nice gourmet burger place that had a big Lego play area for kids, where Willow was quick to run off to. I’m not sure what I expected, but the burger was actually good and came with a side of truffle mayo and fries. I’ve had burgers in other countries and sometimes they don’t exactly taste like burgers, but these were good!

Dining on the third floor of the mall

We left as the mall was closing, heading to the taxi area where we called another Uber. According to the first Uber driver, only taxi drivers can drive for Uber here now. It wasn’t that way at first, but taxi drivers started to feel the pinch from the popularity of Uber and the union of about 60,000 taxi drivers got together and protested. This amazing thing happened and the government listened to the people! They changed the rules for Uber that only taxis can take the calls now. I’m stumped as to why the word union is a bad word in America.

We were waiting in freezing cold for about 10 minutes and the Uber wasn’t there, so I cancelled it, thinking we would just take a regular taxi. The only reason I cared to take the Uber was because I could put in the destination and they would know where we were going, without me messing up the name of the street or confusing the driver more. That’s just one of those security blanket type things I like to use as a crutch when I’m traveling. Unfortunately, when I opened the door of the taxi, he told me no! We had 5 and he would only take 4. Sooo, we called for another Uber and waited even longer! Thankfully the Uber taxi doesn’t seem to mind that we have 5!

After a short day we were back at home, trying to get to bed at a decent hour to get up the next morning and do something in the day. I can’t say we have been really successful at that yet!

Athens Trip Day 1..and 2

Why start with the first two days rather than just the first day? Because that’s how long it took us to get to Athens!

Willow anxiously awaiting boarding time

Leg One

I’m still trying to determine when the best time is to start a long travel journey. Some think it’s at night, others in the morning. For me, it’s more about when the best price for the flight comes in. Our journey started with leaving the house at 3:00 am to catch at 5:30 am flight. This sounded good to me, since it was a flight from Austin to Denver, where we would meet up with my oldest daughter, Amber, then take another flight from Denver to London. The only thing I didn’t think about was the 7 hour layover! I have a very hard time sleeping the night before we travel anywhere, so I had about a two hours of sleep before leaving.

We were flying Frontier airlines for the first time ever. The airline it’s self wasn’t so bad. They had just moved to a new section of the Austin airport though, which was very small and didn’t offer much choice in the way of food in that area yet. But, getting through the little security area was quick and easy.

Leg Two

Reaching Denver International airport was quick, only a two hour flight, and the pilot flew so fast we arrived 30 minutes early! Wandering around the huge airport, we avoided the quickly growing security line and found a coffee and a breakfast snack, despite there only being a couple of places open. With a 7 hour layover in front of us, we found a spot close to the airline check-ins to wait for Amber and the airline to open. The girls were exhausted by then and, upon finding an empty seat next to an outlet, they all fell fast asleep. How in the world they were able to sleep on an airport floor, I have no idea! I was tired too, but no way could I have slept!

We were able to do a self service check-in, but one of the machines didn’t print out Amber’s luggage tag. So we had to wait in the line that started to form for regular check-in. For some reason the airline thought they only needed one employee to check people in, and only to check in the priority club customers. After standing in line for about an hour, I moved to stand in the bag drop line, which seemed to upset some rude priority club customer who decided to cut in front of us and get rude with me. After brushing him off, we finally got the tag for her bag and dropped all of them then headed for security. I had heard that security lines were running about four hours due to the government shut down and a lot of TSA agents calling in sick. We must have gotten there at a good time since we got through very quickly and easily.

Sleeping at Denver International airport

We finally boarded our Norwegian flight to London, which was going to be an 8 hour flight. I was really impressed with the Norwegian plane. In upgrading their plane, they added “mood lighting” and started pumping in more fresh air to help alleviate jet lag. The one thing I can say I don’t like about airlines these days is that nothing is included with the airfare anymore. We had to pay extra fee’s for luggage, a meal and seat selection. You would think seat selection would be free if you have a small child, but it isn’t even for that. I have heard horror stories from traveling parents that their three year old was not given the seat next to them and other passengers refusing to switch seats with them! So to avoid the possibility of this even happening, I pay the extra for seat selection. Not that long ago, in 2012, I remember not paying anything extra for these things on long distance flights!

“Mood lighting” on the plane

Leg Three

Once we arrived in London, we had another 8 hour layover before we would take an Easyjet flight to Athens. I was unable to sleep on the plane, which is pretty typical for me, so by now I was completely exhausted. There was no way I would have been able to stay up for the long layover and I wasn’t finding any comfy looking areas at Gatwick airport to curl up at and take a nap. Not to mention, I wouldn’t have felt safe falling asleep in public with Willow and all of our luggage. So I opted to get us a couple of rooms at one of the short stay hotels they have in the airport. I’m not sure if they have something like this in the US, but I have only seen them in Europe so far. They are VERY small rooms with only a bed and a bathroom. In the bathroom is a small sink, toilet and shower head. Which is also something I’ve only ever seen in the UK. We rented a house once just outside of London that had a small bathroom with a shower head inside. So you could practically sit on the potty while taking a shower! At the time I thought this was just something the homeowner did, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s more common! The room it’s self was just a bed. You had about 4 feet from the door to the bed and that was it. Not a lot of space if you have a lot of luggage with you! None the less, it was perfect for getting some long overdue sleep! We got a few hours of sleep and a short shower in, then headed off to check in with the airline. Easyjet is no different than other airlines in that everything is a separate charge. So to keep costs low, you can opt out of choices like seat selection, priority boarding and food. Despite my dislike for all airlines choosing to do this, I actually like Easyjet when flying in Europe. Unlike Ryanair, which will literally nickel and dime and dollar you to death. I avoid them as much as I can.

Willow sleeping under the window in the BLOC room

Finally arriving in Athens

The last flight was just under four hours and not so bad since we had a little rest beforehand. All of the girls did pass out as soon as the plane took off. Willow was reading the flight instructions to me, and I was showing her how to place her hands behind her head, when I accidentally elbowed her in the head. Wouldn’t you know I would make her cry on a full plane before we even took off! Lucky for me she didn’t cry long, fell asleep and slept through the whole flight! We landed a little early, which was nice, and quickly made our way through customs and to get our luggage. I was very happy I decided to arrange a private shuttle ahead of time to take us to the apartment we rented. He was standing outside with a sign, then Kindly took our bags to the van and we all piled in for the 30 minute ride. Since we arrived at night, there wasn’t much to see as we drove. Once we reached the apartment, the owners were outside waiting for us. We got all our bags out of the van and were anxious to get upstairs to finally have a good rest.

Willow reading the flight instructions to me

The owners of the apartment are a very kind older couple, Kostas and Sofia, who only speak Greek. Sofia was instantly fond of Willow. She cooed over her, petting her and stroking her cheeks, calling her “bonita” and telling her she loved her. This is a reaction I have found to be very common in older women outside of the US. Willow also got this reaction a lot in Spain and Mexico. They really seem to love children!

With the aid of google translate, and a whole lot of looking confused and trying to understand, they explained everything about the apartment. It’s wise to listen since, my experience so far is that, homes in Europe run differently than homes in the US. For example, you can turn an outlet on and off with a switch in some places. I found that out during a stay in Dublin when it took me at least an hour to figure out how to get the stovetop to turn on! I finally realized it was on a switch that was turned off! Here, they want you to use the breaker box to shut off appliances you aren’t using and turn off the whole apartment when you leave. It’s not common to have a dryer, so you learn very quickly how to line dry clothes. We have gotten places with washers, but they are different than in the US and I usually have to find a manual to figure out how to use them. There are also metal shutters over the doors and windows that you can close at night, some have kind of a learning curve when you first encounter them. Even the way doors lock are different!

Finally getting through it all, we were starving and had spotted a pizza place up the street as we drove here. Jenna and I walked to the pizza place and ordered some dinner, which we all ate quickly then went to bed.

Nighttime view of the street from our balcony

Day Two

I thought for sure I was going to sleep like a log when I finally hit the bed! Wouldn’t you know, that wasn’t the case. To start with, it was night here, but my body was used to it being afternoon. Add to that, I’m used to the white noise of a fan and the whole apartment was completely quiet, except for the cars passing by on the street. Oh yes, and the radiators ticking every time they started heating up. The bed that felt like we were sleeping on a piece of wood. I slept for a few hours, then woke up about 3:30 am and wasn’t able to fall back to sleep. Amber, Willow and I ended up getting up and milling around the apartment while Jenna and Ashley slept. We decided to pull out the futon couch in the living room area, which was way softer than sleeping in the bed, and fell back to sleep for a bit more. It was afternoon before any of us got up.

We all felt horrible and our internal clocks are completely off. Willow was totally zoning out and started vomiting after a bit. It seemed like she couldn’t even keep water down. At about 6:00 pm Amber, Ashley and I walked to the pharmacy to get some electrolytes for Willow and some dinner. We got some snacks from the shops nearby and some sandwiches from the pizza place, that is really a pizza, pasta, burger, salad place.

Willow finally started to feel better and was able to eat and hold down her food. We all finally went to bed at about 1:00 am and I thought I would sleep the night away. No such luck! 3:30 am and I was wide awake again! I don’t recall having this much issue with acclimating to the time change in the past. I’m not sure why we are having such a problem with it this time. All I know is, I hope it gets better quickly! On day three, we are going out no matter what!

Willow not feeling well, watching video’s on her laptop

Despite all the ups and downs, I really do love travel. Even the getting there is a journey and has lessons you can learn along the way. Patience is a really good one that not everyone has learned. Understanding that everything isn’t always going to go 100% perfect and that’s ok! It’s learning how to get through it all with a good attitude that matters. So now I’m just looking forward to getting out into the city and experiencing some new and amazing things!

3 Top Reasons Why We’re so Afraid of Change!

View from the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacán, Mexico

Why are we so afraid of change in our lives?

Just the thought of a big life change can be intimidating and scary for so many of us. For me, the choice to pursue a life of worldschooling with my kids was a intensely scary choice! One might think that it’s a really easy choice to take off and travel to amazing places around the world, but for an over thinker like me, this was a really frightening choice! We decided to sell the home that our daughters were practically born and raised in, sell the majority of our belongings, downsize to a small place and figure out exactly what we needed to do to become full time travelers. These are terrifying choices to make!

1 – Fear of the Unknown

It’s been 5 month’s since we sold our house. Since then, the girls and I have since spent a month in Mexico, a few weeks in Colorado and we leave for a month long visit to Greece in only 6 days! I toiled for weeks before I finally made the decision to make the travel plans for Mexico! I’m sure most people think it would be exciting to make the plans to travel to exotic locations, and it is, BUT! It is also very intimidating for me to do. When ever I talked about traveling to Mexico, most people expressed a nervousness, and sometimes fear, about such plans. When others express fear, it can sometimes create a fear within us as well. I knew so many that were already traveling there, so it couldn’t be such a scary a place! I pushed past that fear, made the plans and traveled to Mexico! We spent three weeks in San Miguel de Allende and a week in Mexico City. We attended the Family Adventure Summit, met some amazing new friends, visited parks and pyramids, learned about the Day of the Dead culture, ate some delicious food and created life experiences that will be remembered forever! All things we would have missed out on if we had let our fear of the unknown be our deciding voice!

Catrina makeup for Dia de los Muertos, ruins in El Charco del Ingenio, a rest on the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacán, Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de México

2) Too Comfortable in Everyday Life

Sometimes it’s just easier to continue in the very comfortable life that we have created for ourselves. I am all about comfort! I am like everyone else and revel in the comfort of just being home. I love my comfy bed and chilling on my comfy couch. I love being in the community that we have lived in for so many years now, and socializing with all the people that I’ve known for so long. It’s just comforting and easy! But is that a good thing if we never step out of that comfy place and change a little? So much I’ve read says no, it’s not a good thing. It can cause you to be complacent and scared to change anything. For me, I NEED change in my life. I start to become restless and unhappy. I spent a lot of years in my life feeling depressed and unhappy, unsure of why and what I could do to change it. I longed for something, yet I didn’t know what it was. It wasn’t until after I walked the Camino de Santiago for the first time that I knew what I was missing…change. Not just change, but the experience of life! It took some years to figure out that this was my passion, but once I did, I’ve been happy ever since! So get out of your comfort zone! Change your attitude, change your life!

On the road to Zubiri, Spain, Looking back on St. Jean Pied de Port, France, The road to Hontanas, Spain, Friends and ruins along the Camino de Santiago

3) Doubting Yourself

It’s so easy to doubt yourself when making any decision of change. I do it every day of my life! We certainly didn’t make the decision overnight to sell our house. It was a discussion over years! I didn’t decide in one day to change all of our lives with travel. No, I thought about it and thought about it and my husband and I discussed it over and over. All because I doubted myself. What if I couldn’t do it? What if my kids ended up hating it and then hating me for completely changing up their lives? What would we do without a “home”? How were we going to make this work financially? Would we even be able to?! Yep, I was full of doubt, even if I didn’t show it outwardly to everyone I talked to about it! I finally just had to stop doubting myself, get past all of those fears, get out of all my comfort zones and make the decision to JUST DO IT! It doesn’t matter what you want to do, the first step to doing it is just doing it! Take the leap!

Gazing over the city of Guanajuato, Mexico

I can’t say that I don’t still go through all of these things when making my decision, because I do. I just try not to let fear be the deciding factor in my life. My husband and I are still mulling through the choices we need to make financially and what he should do for work to allow him to travel with us. As the bread winner of our family, these are even more terrifying choices for him than they are for me, which is understandable. It’s just a matter of both of us together deciding what we want and taking the actions to do it.

The Pantheon in Rome, Italy, The Louvre in Paris, France, London
Bridge in London, England, The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

Patience is a Virtue…So They Say

Processed with VSCO with a1 preset

Do I Need More Patience?

I was really hoping we would be one of those stories, like I’ve read so often these days, where our house was sold super quickly and we would be able to move on with our plans right away. It almost was! But no such luck.  Here we are, four weeks later and I feel like we are starting over again.  Probably because we ARE starting over again.

I’ve truly tried to remain patient these last four weeks.  I have even just had a conversation with my 16 year old about how it’s just better to be patient when you really want something.  To occupy your attention with something else and the time will just pass.  So for me, patience hasn’t really been the problem with selling our house.  I’ve had moments of being overwhelmed and ready to just get done with all of this, but I’ve managed to stay fairly patient.  So why do I feel like we are starting over?  We have just removed the listing from the market, redone the pictures and it’s being re-listed today, after being off the market for a few days.  Only, we are re-listing with a new agent.

I never realized how stressful a process it would be to sell our home.  From all the updating we did to it, all the money we put into it for updates and repairs, staging and getting it ready for market, listing it and then keeping it in model home condition so that we are can run out of the house at a moment’s notice if an appointment was booked to see the house.   All of this is very stressful and I can see that stress taking it’s toll on my family.  One thing is for sure, we are going to need a vacation when it finally does sell!

Well add to that, the feeling that Shawn and I were having that we just weren’t on the same page as our realtor.  From the beginning it felt that way.  Though it was about what the house should be listed for, so I thought that should be expected.  I felt like it is probably common that people feel like their home should be worth more, and the realtor is there to show them why their expectations are a little high.  I have never felt like my expectations where too high or that the price I felt we should be asking was too high.  Our home is in a curious situation in that it’s in a housing market that is just exploding right now.  The population is expanding every day.  When we bought our house here 15 years ago, we moved to the outskirts of a town of about 10,000.  In the last 5 years that number has grown to 60,000 and if you count the outskirts, about 80,000.  The neighborhood we live in is now closer in due to things growing out this way.  What used to be a 8 minute drive to the store is now a 4 minute drive to the new store.  We used to be a small neighborhood of about 50 homes and that has more than doubled due to a custom home builder buying land behind our homes and expanding the neighborhood.  All of this has, what we consider, skyrocketed the price of homes, property taxes and cost of living here.  So if you’re looking to sell your house and move, then it should be great for you financially.  Unfortunately for me, we had two homes in my neighborhood sell at the very same time for under market and extremely fast, despite no other houses doing this.  This is causing a huge problem for me in that our realtor felt like we should be doing the same thing.  Sell low and get it sold fast.  To be fair, as she kept pointing out to us, we aren’t a custom home with high end upgrades, which is what is being built all around us now.  But to be fair to me, a house on the same street as those houses, which wasn’t a custom home with all the high end upgrades sold for $80,000 more than those only a few months prior, yet I wasn’t being put into the category with that house…only the two lowest selling ones.

Now I would agree that we were over priced if we had gotten no traffic to the house, but that just wasn’t the case.  In the first week we received a contract for the full asking price. For unfortunate reasons, that didn’t work.  On the second week we had someone come out to view the house twice then ask our realtor if we were “motivated” because they would want to do some upgrades.  Her response was we had only been on the market for 13 days.  The third week we received two calls of interest.  One of them came back twice and were measuring the rooms.  In total we had 15 viewings of the house, not including a few from an open house and a parade of realtors.  The common opinion of the majority was it was priced well, clean, staged well and nice.  For some it was too far out of town, priced too high for one realtor and one didn’t like our cat roaming free in the house during showings.  Overall, it was positive feedback.  The traffic was there and the interest was there, but nothing was happening.  The last one interested was trying to buy at the top of their price range and had not put in an offer, yet we felt like our realtor was doing everything she could to try and talk us into dropping our price, and not just a little.  It just felt to us like this was the wrong selling tactic and didn’t sit right with us.  It was obvious to us we just weren’t having a meeting of the minds with her and probably wouldn’t.  She was determined to sell our house low and fast and we aren’t.  So, it was time to find someone who thought more like we did.  Nothing personal, but we are talking about the biggest investment we own.

I was already talking to someone else before we even listed the house.  Someone who had been selling homes for a lot longer and this wasn’t their first listing ever.  Someone who had actually sold a home in my neighborhood before.  That had been doing it for so long that it isn’t just about a paycheck anymore.  When I didn’t understand our realtors responses to situations that were coming up, I called him to ask him about it and his thoughts were exactly the same as mine, without me even revealing to him what I thought.  He gave me his unsolicited opinion without ever asking for anything in return.  Simply because we had a mutual friend who had given me his name for a second opinion.  So after calling him a couple of times, it just seemed more logical to us to be working with someone who had the same train of thought as we did, rather than fighting with someone through an already stressful process.  So we decided to switch realtors in the middle of the game.  This meant nearly a week off the market.

So here we go again.  Everything is being put back on the market today.  We had a nice break of a couple of days without worry of keeping the house in show home condition (though it’s become a habit so it stayed that way anyway) and not needing to worry we may have to run out of the house in a minutes notice.  It was so nice!!  It will be even nicer once the house sells though, so I’m ready to start it again and will keep all my fingers and toes crossed that we will still get the traffic and the interest, but have someone working for us that believes in what we have and will work to get us the best return possible on our investment.

I’m keeping up the patience!

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