Sunday, January 29, 2012

Look Out Nessie

Mike & I had a fun day today.  Rather than just walking to our local grocery store, like always, we decided to walk 4 miles east to the closest Sainsbury's.  We haven't shopped at a Sainsbury's since London and it was a lot of fun seeing the familiar packaging of the Sainsbury's brand, reminding us of our time there this past summer.

The reason for our grocery shopping detour was due to the ScotRail vouchers Sainsbury's was giving away.  For every purchase over £15 you received a voucher to travel anywhere in Scotland for only £19 return.  Mike & I were just saying how sad it was that we've been in Scotland now for over a year and we have yet to make our way up to Loch Ness.  But, when we researched prices, train tickets were running about £35 each, and we just don't have £70 worth of excitement in us about Scotland any more.  But, now that we have these vouchers, we can definitely muster up £38 worth of excitement.

Train travel in the UK is expensive.  Actually, all travel in the UK is expensive.  It's cheaper to purchase a flight to somewhere on the continent than it is to go to Edinburgh (sadly, though, we have to go to Edinburgh in order to fly to the continent).  Accommodations here aren't cheap, either.  We booked a hostel in Inverness for one night and it cost £36.  Inverness, people.  That's more than we paid for a hostel in Edinburgh.  There's no reason for a hostel in Inverness, in February, to charge those prices.

All that aside, now that we have cheap travel to a whole new area of Scotland, to a place we've always wanted to see, we're excited again about exploring Scotland.  Inverness is the capital of the Highlands, situated on the River Ness, near Loch Ness, and we get to spend a weekend there thanks to our Sainsbury's vouchers.

Besides the voucher situation, though, we had a whole lot of fun today just on our weekly grocery shopping trip.  We're simple people with simple pleasures who enjoy walking 4 miles one way to go grocery shopping.  Receiving a voucher for cheap travel was just the gravy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Living For Today

I recently read this book synopsis about the wisdom of the elderly.  Though I probably won't read the book, the article in itself is good and really resonated with me, especially the two points about Careers and Regrets.

Similar to the article's author, we lost Mike's sister suddenly in 1999 when she was just 20 years old.  Among other life lessons from that tragedy was the realisation that retirement is not a certainty and one is not guaranteed tomorrow.  Years after the accident, and without knowing why, our dreams began to diverge from the well-worn path that we were on - house, career, retirement - and we started wanting something different; we began living our lives for today.  Only now, 12 years later, can we look back and identify the source of that diversion, and of our enlightenment.

This article has helped remind us of why we're here in Dundee and will help to keep us focused as the years progress.  We're here, not for a temporary life change, for a complete life renovation.

Our life was never going to be "house, career, retirement" but because of Angie's death we came to that realisation much earlier than we would have naturally.  Although we would rather have her alive and well, we're glad we can point to something positive coming from such a horrible tragedy.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Back Home

We are just now back from 25 days in Rome and, shockingly, glad to be home.  Although we love our long holidays, it is nice to come back home because the sooner we're home the sooner Mike's done with school and the sooner we can move on with our lives.

Much like our last winter holiday, we spent our time exploring our new city through the eyes of a possible new resident rather than a tourist.  Since we're doubtful we'll ever return to the States and know that we won't continue living in the UK for much beyond Mike's graduation, we're always keeping an eye out for our next address and approach these trips as though they are house hunting excursions.  Unfortunately, after our month in Rome, we doubt we'll be calling that city, or anywhere in Italy, home.

Our time in Rome was nice but we wouldn't choose to live there and Italy as a whole does not appear to support the type of lifestyle we're looking for.  Rome definitely had the community feel we like - our neighbourhood was very welcoming and friendly - but the city wasn't big enough and the cheap eats were not varied or plentiful.  The Italians appeared laid back and friendly but they also appeared inconsiderate and, especially after speaking with another American ex-pat in Ostia, the infrastructure and bureaucracy appear logic defying.

We're taking Italy off the list of possible future homes but keeping it on the list of places to visit because it is lovely and we'd love to see more of it.  In all our future Italian travels, though, we wouldn't be shocked if we never returned to Rome.  I think we've given that city enough of our attention.
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