Our new book is out, and we’re very excited about it! Kim and I have a deep tie to Kauai and all the Hawaiian islands. We also both have very up-close-and-personal experience with the education system here. This is a place that recruits over a thousand teachers from the mainland US every year to fill teacher job vacancies. That situation gives rise to some big challenges for new teachers, people moving here from the mainland, and for the schools and communities that look to embrace them.
There are a few books out there about moving to Hawaii, but none of them address the specific needs of new teachers coming to The Aloha State. It touches many topics we care a lot about, so we write this book with the idea we might help new teachers, the community, and the kids of Hawaii.
Dobar den! A common greeting in Bulgarian and the sum of what I’ve picked up after a week here. Luckily, some French and Italian phrases are used regularly by Bulgarians so there is a smidge of familiarity. I had forgotten how disorienting it can be to enter a space where you literally can’t speak or read the language-not even one word of it!
Plovdiv has an excited, vibrant feel. We have been staying in the Old Town area and are surrounded by cute coffee shops, abundant street art, nice restaurants, art galleries, Roman ruins, museums, a large Mosque and the longest pedestrian mall in Europe!
The city has been chosen as one of two ‘European Capitals of Culture’ for 2019, a European Union project meaning to, among other things, highlight the richness of the cultures of Europe, revitalize areas, and boost tourism. It appears to be working! There is a lot of fresh energy and capital running through the city.
Today is our last day staying in the heart of Old Town. We are spending a few days in a hotel to take advantage of some nice services and celebrate my birthday! Then we have one more week in an Airbnb apartment we found right outside of the city center. There is supposedly a large market right in the neighborhood, so am hopeful for something interesting.
Feeling grateful and a little tired
I am so grateful for these past months of traveling. Grateful for the support of my friends and family. Grateful for a wonderful companion and boyfriend to travel with. Grateful to be able to fulfill this urge to wander and explore. This has been a great idea!
However, we are on our last month of traveling and feeling a bit travel-worn. Settling into Bulgaria has been more difficult than other places. Even with all the vibrant energy, being a foreigner has started to take it’s toll. The weather is a little cloudier and rainier. Internet problems and dealing with little set backs are somewhat harder. It was difficult to become enamored of Plovdiv, our home for a few weeks, at first. We are a little grumpy and a little ready to come home to our friends and family!
We’ve since found the charm and are getting acquainted and getting some work done. But not before contemplating some changes in direction, including heading for warmer climes and coming home early!
After some serious prioritizing and reflecting on what are goals are at this point, we decided to stay our plotted course. Two more weeks in Bulgaria. A few days in Barcelona (would love more but we have stayed our welcome in the Schengen Zone!) and a week in Morocco.
Have figured some things out along the way
I have decided I am not cut out to travel as a digital nomad indefinitely. Which is good to know! I like the contrast. Leaving home and coming home. Pulling up roots and putting them back down. Three to four months is a nice amount of time to travel. After that home starts to call. Friends and family start to get missed a lot. I crave my own bed. I want to plant a garden.
Home is Wisconsin. Home is also Hawaii. Hawaii hasn’t been home for as long as Wisconsin has, but it has those similar feelings and longings. Friends and family and familiar places which I miss dearly.
We have some things to celebrate! Pete and I have almost finished our book. Hooray! One of our goals was to write a book together while traveling. We are not quite, but almost done. Very soon you will be able to find our ebook, Moving to Hawaii to Teach-Your Study Guide online! Definitely before the start of next school year 😉
One of my personal goals was to explore and develop means of supporting myself while being location independent. I am happy to say I am currently working with my first client to help her develop her online presence to sell her books! It’s a trip and a learning experience.
A few favorites
Major City: Rome
Greek Island: Naxos
French Village: Eguilles
Italian Village: San Gimignano
Coffee: Cappuccino al banco anywhere in Italy
Sandwich: Croquette Monsieur in France
Salad: Naxian salad in Greece. Bulgarians, however, take salad making very seriously
Pubs: London-a great pub on every corner
Views: Santorini. Sigh. Although the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland were also breathtaking
Overall aesthetic: Greek Islands. Love the white and blue architecture
After a few months in the Midwest, Pete and I plan to return to Kauai and find a homey space to live. My goals are to write, tend a garden, foster clients, sell my soap, explore options to keep teaching and of course, hang out at the beach.
We just moved into our new place here on Naxos, our home for the next month. As I sit in this little beach bar doing a couple hours of work, I thought I’d SQUIRREL! take a few moments to inventory and see how this place compares to my home back on Kauai.
How Naxos and Kauai are similar
much sun, much water
warm and welcoming to visitors
lots of casual beach culture
mountains, all over the place
It’s Five ‘o’clock somewhere. All. The. Time. Mai Tais, anyone?
great local food – poke, organic rum, and poi on Kauai; tzatziki, uzo, and honey-yogurt on Naxos
public wifi is very common; widespread access to the laptop lifestyle if you look
amazing, profound local culture with roots going back a long way
traffic rules are pretty chill
most evertywhere feels very safe
both have an off-season, where it’s still beautiful but ( even ) more affordable and ( even ) less crowded
kinda diverse visitor base
there’s always a chance you’ll see someone famous
great things about Naxos
most places open late, including car rentals and street grocers
most everything is very inexpensive
soooooo manybeach bars/cafes, right on the beach
no American points of stress – guns, politics, religion – are nonexistent here
quads are street-legal
freakishly clear water
very self-sustaining; serious food production and export happening here
way cheap inter-island transport
ruins. Who doesn’t like ancient culture?
freebie after dinner
more arid – less humidity, less allergies, and less rain
traffic rules are more like guidelines
many mom & pop hotel/stay options, as well as independent food options
stray animal kindness – cats are fed leftovers, given special dishes outside people’s homes, and mingle freely in the outdoor spaces. Dogs are treated well, but are much less common
 no centipedes or roaches!
also, if it’s your thing…
european beer – lots of variety, and inexpensive
less conservative – more bare skin on the beach
smoking in bars, cafes, and restaurants
more dudes in Speedos
great things about Kauai
it’s tropical – lush – wet and green all the time
there’s English everywhere, all the time
for Americans, it’s easy to get to, relatively speaking
there’s surfing, in many varieties
everything is kept up – very little graffiti or crumbling infrastructure, no abandoned structures ( except for CoCo Palms, of course! )
more choices for American beer ( and other products )
spirit of aloha prevelent
no smoking in bars, cafes, or restaurants
it’s all in dollars – not cheap, but you already have them in your wallet ( if you’re American, that is )
shipping things to the mainland US is a sure thing, and not a roll of the dice
everything closes down early – a pretty sleepy place
you can flush the toilet paper. You don’t know how great this is until you can’t do it.
a very organized rescue and response infrastructure, just in case
traffic – the streets, signs, traffic laws and enforcement you’re used to
because it’s in the US – language, military, border restrictions, symbols – although different, Kauai is probably tucked more snugly inside American visitors’ comfort zones
easier to stay connected to American sportzing via sports bars
intentional culture – very little littering, premium on organic goods and processes
Is there a winner to this throwdown?
Kauai is home, so I won’t be moving there too soon. But so far there doesn’t seem to be a clear “winner” for me.
It’s sunrise in Athens. We just left the port in a ferry the size of a small cruise ship, headed for Naxos. The ride is smooth; the ship is gliding out of the protected bay and into the Ionian Sea, gracefully making it’s way across still, strikingly blue water around the peninsula before we turn towards the rising sun and make for the Cyclades. We’re in one of the lounges, watching morning Greece slip past in the distance while we write.
For me, writing is like working out or playing a sport in many ways. It’s exercise, albeit mental. when I’m done I feel invigorated, like I’ve accomplished something. Further, I feel like I’ve used a part of me that needs to be used, you know? Like, made use of some available talent instead of letting it sit fallow somewhere in my schedule and my mind.
Also like exercise, it’s clearly a habit. If I make a go of it for a few days then it’s pretty easy to kept going. But if something comes up and my daily routine gets changed, then for me it’s very easy to fall out of a set routine. Like there’s that little part of me that was waiting patiently while all this “being productive disciplined” shit was happening, and right when there was the slightest opportunity, this thing spoke up.
“Hey, you’ll do this tomorrow. This is a long flight. Can’t write on a travel day.”
Which, of course, is ridiculous. In his amazing book “The War of Art” Steven Pressfield calls this insidious little voice “the resistance.” And everything he said about it is true, at least in my experience.
So, while in Florence I blog like a fiend. I also dedicate time to the current writing project without fail on a daily basis. But when there’s a break in my routine, I have a travel day that takes me to London and then to Chicago for a conference, BAM. Or rather, a quite sort of -snap- and that’s it. I’m off the path, and not writing. I probably don’t even notice it for days.
At some point I realize it and think “eh. It’s just a blog. ( insert excuse why it’s not important, here ).”
And that day goes by with no writing. And then another. Now and then I’ll be at the computer and think “Hmmmmm, I should write.” And then I’ll either suddenly remember I haven’t written a reply to an email I got three days ago, I’ll check Facebook or Reddit for this one thing that pops up in my mind, and thoughts of writing, or of “practicing my art” as Pressfield would put it, are gone. banished and forgotten for another day or two.
Deep inside somewhere, The resistance is giggling. Quietly, so as not to draw attention to itself.
It’s giggling because in one fell swoop it also managed to get me to stop posting pics to the blog’s Instagram as well. That’s how The Resistance works, you see. It it gets a single, it almost always goes for the double or triple. And almost always gets it.
After Chicago I returned to London and renewed my effort to finish the writing project Kim and I are working on together. i stayed with it for some days, maybe a week, then something against nudged me off of it. I never got back to blogging, even after friends asked me “Where’s the next post?” and acquaintances wrote “For the next post, you should talk about such and such.”
Buy the way, if you ever write a blog, or anything that other people read, when someone nudges you like this, you should really start writing immediately. Pull over first, no need to write right there in traffic. But get to it soon, because they’re not nagging you, no matter what The Resistance might have you believe. By mentioning they’re looking forward to the next bit of whatever you decide is important enough to ut out there, they are paying you a tremendous compliment, and doing you a favor. Showing you a bit of respect. Return the favor, and take up your art again.
It took me a while, but here I am. Nice to be back with you all. That’s also a little trick, if you didn’t know it – if you can’t think of what to write about, write about not being able to write. I actually had a few other ideas of blog topics, but I thought this whole habit/nudging/resistance/art thing was also worth talking about.
I’ve read in a few places that for a habit to become ingrained it needs to be practiced for 21 days. I’m pretty sure this doesn’t mean I need to write 21 little mini-novellas, like I am with this post today. But I need to show up to the plate and swing the bat at pitches.
Be more aware of the things you’d like to do that produce something, that are creative. The things that make you feel good, because they tap into your soul. They’re not easy, maybe. But you’ll know them because they’re 1. creative and 2. they make you ( and maybe someone else ) feel good. Also, I’d add 3. they require effort against The Resistance, because this is almost always true. Be more conscious of your habit of doing these things, and even more important why you -don’t- do them. What are the excuses you find yourself repeating? What’s keeping you from your art? That’s The Resistance, and it is not your friend.
You may have noticed, there’s been a gap of about two weeks since we’ve posted. Kim’s been facilitating at a meditative retreat outside Florence where they take a vow of silence ( and no net access-shivers ) while I spent two weeks back in the US. We’re both back in London now, for the next 3 weeks or so.
Kim will likely write about her retreat, but during the time we’ve spent apart she’s developed an even deeper appreciation for from-scratch foods, and is much more mindful. In general, and about how she’d like to see her day go.
For my part, I spent time with friends and family. In sad news, our family dog Marius had to be put to sleep. I was there for a time very close to the end and it was painful to watch that decline, but I’m taking some comfort from the fact that now ( I believe ) he’s in a better place. Certainly my life is better for him having been with me. In happier news, I also spent time at GenCon, “The Best Four Days in Gaming.” I haven’t missed one in the last 18 years and it felt like a special sort of nerd homecoming, being back in Indy.
I need to get back in the walking habit, and the not-eating-garbage habit. I know Kim will help me with this.
If you ever visit, you may not have a month to explore the city like we did, but maybe some of the things we did can help you make decisions about how to spend your time. We have visited more places then we described below, but these have been the high points so far.
Of course during our stay in Florence we wanted to see all “the big things.” We had the luxury of not feeling rushed, and we managed to check everything off our list.
First, let’s talk about the stuff downtown
Six of the most renown sites are collectively referred to as “The Florence Duomo Complex.” These sites consist of:
Giotto’s Bell Tower – affording an amazing view of the Florentine city and countryside
The Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore – amazing and immense gothic basilica
Brunelleschi’s Duomo – an amazing rotunda atop the cathedral
The underground archeological site below the Cathedral, Santa Reparata
The Baptistry, a large domed building across from the Cathedral
the Opera del Duomo Museum
We bought a combo ticket for all of these sites for 15 Euros, a great deal for what you see. You can buy the ticket online here, but we bought ours in person at the base of the Bell Tower, in an office that opened at 8am.
A note about the combo ticket – it’s good for 7 days after you purchase it, but once you validate it at the first site on the list above, you have 48 hours to see all the sites before the ticket expires. Plan accordingly.
The ticket allows you to stand in the general admittance line for each of these sites. For the Cathedral and the Duomo ( the Dome ) we recommend you show up early, on different days. These lines get crazy-long very quickly. These two sites open at 830am, and we were in line for our visit to the Duomo by 745am with a very comfortable position, almost first. We splurged and spent 15 ( additional ) Euros apiece to see the Cathedral with a guided tour that enabled up to bypass the huge line.
A note about the Bell Tower and the Duomo: if you’re a little claustrophobic like I am, I can’t recommend strongly enough the importance of arriving early for the ascents of the Duomo and the Bell Tower. Both of these sites involve walking up serious stairs in very cramped passageways. If you are near the front of the line in the morning for these sites, this insures that after you ascend to the top and look around you can descend back to street level without pushing up against a mass of sweaty people in a cramped passage.
As I walked past the seriously long line at 2pm in the sweltering sun this afternoon, I hope these poor people -love- what they are going to see, for they are surely suffering for the opportunity. Baking in the hot sun for 3 hours, then squeezing past their sweaty neighbors for a dizzying climb is not my idea of a good time on vacation.
That being said, the views are amazing, inside ( the Duomo ) and out. But the tight spaces… ugh. Rough for me. The Duomo in particular.
Also, there’s this – the Duomo and the Bell Tower afford amazing views, but if you’re at all afraid of heights, these attractions probably aren’t for you.
The Bell Tower also has a line at times, but this seemed to vacillate during the day. We went early the first day, buying our tickets and seeing the Bell Tower with no line, then as I’ve mentioned spent the additional 15 Euros to jump the line for the Cathedral ( and the crypt Santa Reparata ), and then the next day got in line early for the climb up to the top of the Duomo.
The Baptistry has no line to speak of, nor does the Opera del Duomo Museum, which are both really a neat experiences. At the Museum you see up close many pieces that were made for and once a part of the Cathedral.
We purchased tickets separately to see Michelangelo’s David in the Academia Gallery. We recommend spending a little extra and getting the time stamped version of these tickets. Also, if you buy tickets online make sure you get printed out versions from the little kiosk across the street from the entry. Ugh.
Getting here early probably helps, but our stamped time was for 545pm. We stood in line for about half hour and made it in almost exactly at our scheduled time.
Our favorite spot for gelato was “La Milkeria” with their homemade masterpieces, perfect on a hot day.
We didn’t have a favorite spot for wine or cappuccino; there were too many perfect places everywhere we looked.
Our favorite place to laptop and do a little work was The Cafeteria delle Oblate, near The Duomo. It’s not like any cafeteria you’ve ever been to – it’s an amazing multi-level open air space with great food, wine and other drinks and free wifi. It’s frequented by students and tech workers, and really is a pretty sweet spot, with a view of the Duomo.
We took a day tour to Pisa to see the leaning tower and the local cathedral. The same tour brought us to the amazing Tuscana World Heritage site of San Gimignano, and the city of Siena. If we had to do it all over again, for the timing of this tour… It would have been perfect to spend a few hours in Pisa and a few hours in Siena, and another tour to spend all day at San Gimignano. But we got amazing pictures.
For our place – we stayed at an AirBnB right near the Talenti tram stop, about a 40 minute walk from the Florence city center and it seemed like a perfectly fine option. neighborhood markets and lovely people, as we’ve detailed elsewhere. This put us close to the amazing park just north of the Arno river and west of downtown Florence.
We rented bikes at the SMN train station ( the main one in Florence city center ) for a day for 10 Euros apiece. The bikes were nothing special, but we had an amazing day going through this park in the morning and through Florence itself later on. There is also a bike route that circumscribes old Florence, but there’s really very little to see along this route. We recommend taking your bike into Old Florence despite the crowds, and possibly across the river at Ponte Vecchio.
Those are the highlights that we haven’t discussed elsewhere on the blog. We have a week left and we will try and see a jousting, a concerto, and a few other things before we wrap our stay up. If you have any must-sees, let us know.
“One day the people who didn’t believe in you will tell everyone they met you.”