From South America to Alaska and Beyond

Hi everyone! I’m sitting at Gate E7 at PDX where I just awoke from a little snooze. It may be the first time I’ve been able to take a really deep relaxing breath since napping at the United Club lounge in DFW 19 days ago.  It’s been a crazy whirlwind of fun, family time, business and chaotic activity –  even sometimes stressful.

Leaving Bogota, Colombia in the middle of the night and arriving early in Dallas Fort Worth, Texas we were sleep deprived, but ready to board our flight for Vancouver, Canada to get a few more hours of sleep, when we heard an announcement about the flight being oversold and volunteers to give up their seats were needed.  $500 travel vouchers and seats on a 5:00 pm flight were offered in exchange. We promptly volunteered!

Vouchers in hand we set off for the United Club Lounge (we get a few passes  for carrying the United Explorers VIsa card).  Soon we were camped out for the day: snoozing, snacking and relaxing.  We were feeling pretty rested as we walked to the gate where we casually asked if the flight was oversold and were told that it was so we again volunteered and earned another $500 each in future flight vouchers, plus a hotel stay and food vouchers for dinner, breakfast, and lunch (which we got “to go” and ate after arriving in Vancouver).

We were extremely pleased with ourselves for having $2000 in future flight vouchers. Not bad for a day’s “work”- another benefit of this lifestyle was having the flexibility and freedom to take advantage of situations like this.

We finally arrived in Vancouver and traveled via the SkyTrain downtown to find our AirBnB rental – a beautiful West End high rise apartment on the 39th floor overlooking Sunset Beach, English Bay and Downtown Vancouver.

The view from our AirBnB apartment of Sunset Beach and English Bay

That night our kids arrived by train from Portland and the next day we had perfect weather to explore Vancouver by bicycle. Then my mother and sister arrived and we all met for dinner.  

The next day, after a horrendous 3-hour embarkation experience on The Jewel of the Seas, we sailed under the Lions Gate bridge for our week-long Alaska cruise. We were blessed with fantastic weather and enjoyed great food and excellent company.  The ports of call included Juneau (where we visited the Mendenhall Glacier), Skagway, (cruising Tracy Arm Fjords) and Victoria before disembarking in Seattle and traveling by Amtrak to Portland.   

We were a group of 11 all cruising together.

Beautiful Sawyer Glacier

First things first: we unpacked our espresso machine!  I think those first few cups were my favorite – yum! There was so much that needed to be done during our week in Portland – it was hectic and many nights I couldn’t sleep. Besides the fun things like going to church, visiting with family and friends, and attending my kids’ music recital, there were banking and financial transactions, surprises in the mail to amend, travel wardrobe switch-outs from a box we’d left behind in storage, buying new necessaries, getting a shoe repair, travel research and making reservations – and a problem to resolve regarding our house.  Unfortunately, the house that had a “rent-to-buy” contract and was part of the financial puzzle funding our travels had a tragic turn of events and was vacant (accounting for the sleepless nights!) At first we were overwhelmed by all the work that needed to be done in order to put it on the market, but opted to personally give the house a good cleaning (and rediscovering some unused muscles which then required appointments for Chinese massages) and leaving the rest of it in the hands of our realtor who will have the yard overhauled before listing it. We made quick visits to the title company and accountant.

Currently the Portland real estate market is very strong with llimited inventory – what they call a seller’s market so we’re hoping, not only for a quick sale, but a bidding war!   

I’m glad I dont have to witness the yard guys butchering my gardens.

It wasn’t all work. I did reread a delightful book, Home Sweet Anywhere, by Lynne Martin which was instrumental in my getting the nerve to embark on our own “home-free adventure”.  Reading it a second time I found I could relate so much more to her experiences.  If you’re enjoying my stories and our adventure intrigues you, I highly recommend her book; she’s a wonderful writer! Another great storyteller, but from a younger point of view, is Betsy and Warren Talbot’s book, Married With Luggage – another great read.

Boeing 777 flying over Canada

And now we excitedly commence on Phase 2 – the European Adventure.  The plans have evolved and we are excited to have arranged several housesitting assignments through Trusted Housesitters. Originally we were going to stay a month in Lisbon but the plans changed when we were chosen for a house/dog sitting job in Scotland. Our plan is for longer stays in each place sandwiching short periods of sightseeing.  We will only have 15 days in Portugal (this time).

The day after Fathers’ Day (and our wedding anniversary) we fly to Glasgow, Scotland to care for a silver schnauser named Chill for 10 days.  We were offered the opportunity to return for another 11 days so we’ll have 6 days for some sightseeing between the two sits.  Afterwards we have 4 additional days to explore England before reporting to care for a black lab named Fred.  After 2 weeks on England’s eastern coast outside of Ipswich we will fly to southern Spain, near Granada, where a villa with pool, garden, olive orchard, as well as 2 dogs and a cat, await our care for an entire 42-day stay.  That will get us to mid-September.

I will be working on plans for a month-stay in Italy and some time outside the Schengen Zone in Croatia and Turkey so we can return in early December to commence a second 6-month period in Europe (of which we can stay only 90 days out of 180 in the Schengen Zone).

I just put the finishing touches on the above report while enroute to London from Vancouver on an AirCanada Boeing 777-300ER – a monstrously large jet.  Looking around, it’s a pretty full flight, but we gambled and won.  We are both in window seats (Steve’s in the row behind me) and neither of us have anyone in the middle seat giving us both a little more elbow room. I think I’ll try to get some sleep now.  It will be 4:30 am Pacific Standard Time when we arrive at Heathrow for a 2-hour layover before continuing to Lisbon. We’re pretty excited. 

From South America to North America – Canada, Alaska, USA – and on to Europe,

Enjoying some sun while cruising

Until next week, when once again…I’ll meet you in the morning!

4 responses to “From South America to Alaska and Beyond

  1. Good morning Merrill and Steve, It’s 7:15 am, Sunday, June,7 as I’m reading your adventures. Wow, what an exciting schedule both of you are keeping. May the Lord bless you both with health and safety, and we’ll keep reading your posts. Pete.

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  2. Wowza! Just finished reading your post. I think I need a nap!
    Looking forward to reading about your adventures on the next leg of your journey.
    Love and safe travels.
    Debbie

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  3. Great post! I love the shot of you in front of the ship with the Canadian flag. I didn’t get that one!

    >

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  4. “The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read a page.” This is one of my favorite quotes. Thanks for the great stories and photos. I check you out every Sunday. God Bless!
    Dorothy Baars

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