Filling In the Middle of the Puzzle

More things are falling into place… 2017 has been feeling like a jigsaw with the edge pieces all present and the middle part missing the centre-most pieces.

My host in Amsterdam emailed today with a bunch of information that will help me hit the ground running there, just as my host here did. I cannot wait to meet my new charges! My hosts are vegans and while they have told me that I can cook anything in their kitchen, I wouldn’t dream of it. So that will be an interesting challenge since I do still have many meatless days, but I never was able to manage to learn to cook without dairy (I lasted about 45 hours as a vegan!).  I suspect work is going to be really slow over the holidays, so I’m researching free or very inexpensive things to do over that period to fill my time and make the most of it.

Next, I get special deals on and was able to rent a whole studio apartment just outside of Manchester for just under 50CAD per night when the normal rate was almost twice that! It’s a newish place, but reviews look okay. I might be stuck taking a cab from the airport, but the distance is less than 10KM, so it shouldn’t be that expensive. Getting into Manchester will be cheap.

The next big piece of news is that I am definitely going to housesit for my parents for about three weeks and will be in Quebec for about a month total. I got an insane deal on a flight that has me landing in Montreal on March 15th. I am going to set foot in Iceland and get a glimpse of it, if only from the airport. 🙂

So now, I have to fill March 1st to the 15th. The obvious thing is to find a sit in or about London. There’s nothing posted for those dates yet, but I’ll keep checking back. It would be amazing to bookend this adventure with another stay in London, especially if I can stay in a different part of the city. I had hoped to find my way back to Scotland, but the airfares wouldn’t cooperate.

The next things to figure out are getting my residente temporal visa and getting myself to Mérida for about the 15th of May.

I have reviewed the visa requirements am quite confident that I won’t have any issues since I can present investment statements, which are well over the amount needed, rather than a convoluted package showing my income, which only averages the amount needed. Also, I contacted an immigration lawyer in Mérida who told me that I do not have to go to my “home” consulate, which is in Calgary. This means that I can attempt my request at the consulate in Montreal. If I have trouble with them (their reviews are appalling), I can try the embassy in Ottawa or even the consulate in Toronto. If I can get the visa while I’m in Montreal it will save me considerable expense and time.

Next, the inevitable question is do I have to go home to Haven before heading to Mérida? Why not take advantage of cheap flights from Montreal to Cancún and then just start from scratch in Mérida? I can’t say the thought didn’t cross my mind, but I want to go home to say a proper goodbye and to make sure there are no loose ends there. If I save the expense of going to Calgary, then I am going to drive, but will not take a trailer. So whatever I can squeeze into the truck, pretty much whatever I brought to Maz, is what’s coming with me. But I do have that roof frame and and am thinking of making use of exterior space for non-valuable/sentimental items. To be discussed with Charles and Caroline. 🙂

The residente temporal visa is a one-year commitment to being in Mexico, with the option to renew for up to another three years. So I am not going to be burning any Canadian bridges at this time, but I do feel committed to 18 months at least (five-month sit, plus a one-year lease).

I have a lot of expenses between now and May 15th (I’ll likely have $1,000 just in fuel costs to get to Mérida, never mind hotels!), but once I get there, expenses will drop significantly and I’ll be able to easily save up my housekeeping setup costs. I still can’t believe how long it took me to accept this housesitting offer!

I feel like I’m in a better version of the spring of 2013, clearly moving towards an ending, but without the fear of what the new beginning will be. I just need to remember to continue savouring the now and to make each step of my journey to Mexico count. I must never lose sight that the journey is often more important than the arrival.

Not Much Time Left

I can’t believe I’ll be in Málaga this time in just ten days!

Between work assignments yesterday, I worked at sorting out the following:

-How I’m getting to Málaga. By bus. The 5.5-hour bus ride was almost 16 euros (23CAD) less than the 3-hour ride, so I’m taking the scenic route there!

-Accommodation in Málaga. Like in Barcelona, I’m renting a room in an apartment and basically doing a flat share thing.

-How I’m getting to the airport in Málaga. Turns out there’s a bus I can take near my flat that is super cheap.

-Accommodation in Heben Bridge on the 8th. Renting an Airbnb room. The lady is really nice and said that she’ll come and get me at the train station!

-Accommodation in Manchester from Jan 5th through to the 8th. Still a work in progress. Mancs were extraordinarily rude to me on a travel forum and put me off from spending two days there, so I may reconsider visiting that city.

Also sorted is that I have a sit lined up in Lancashire after Hebden Bridge through to March 1st! It starts a couple of days after the Hebden Bridge one, but the couple has offered to pick me up on the day my Hebden Bridge sit is done and take me to their place a few days early so I can settle in! So that means that all but three nights of accommodation between now and March 1st are covered. That’s a huge weight off my shoulders! The only transportation costs that aren’t covered yet shouldn’t be huge either.

I’m trying to savour my last few days here. I went out for tapas last night and made a mental note to try a hamburger next time I go there if I’m particularly hungry. I was very hungry last night and had the tuna after the chorizo, plus the two (small) beers! Still, for 6CAD, that was a very affordable and good meal!

This afternoon, I went to the little shop up the street for sundries and marvelled that it was almost hot out. If it hadn’t been for the wind, I could have been in a tee shirt. So I got quite a chuckle out of the storeowner’s dog wearing a sweater and teased her about it. I was delighted that she’s started to stock my preferred brand of sweetened almond milk (giving up on ever again finding here the unsweetened kind) and that it was really inexpensive! I thought I was going to have to make a special trip to one of the larger grocery stores to get a container so I could finish off my cereal.

I really took advantage here of having a kitchen with a full size fridge/freezer and grocery stores that were easy to get to do some serious cooking. My kitchen in Bulgaria wasn’t bad (and actually better equipped), but the fridge was too small to store leftovers and I didn’t have easy access to varied groceries, so I ate a lot of salads and sandwiches. Not a terrible bad diet, but it was way too much bread and salami. I’m feeling a lot healthier here than I did there, despite not getting as much exercise. Being able to sleep well here has played a huge role in that as well.

Of course, I’ll miss this cat terribly and have been joking about sneaking her into my suitcase. The only other cat I’ve ever connected to on such a deep level was my Tabitha. Every place I’ve booked and all my sits will have a cat or two, thankfully!

It’s been a very good time in Spain. I’m glad that I have one more stop to make here before jetting off to Amsterdam!

Things Fall Into Place

One of the things I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older and possibly wiser is to stop fretting so much. If things are meant to be, they fall into place. If they’re not, there’s no sense working myself into a frenzy trying to bend circumstance to my will.

I was blessed to find a sit in England at the start of January, right around the time that I have to be out of the Schengen zone. But that still left me about three weeks to fill between the start of that sit and the end of my sit here in Almería. I really wanted another sit to fill that gap to avoid having to pay for accommodation.

So I began to look for sits in Morocco, the Costa del Sol, and Portugal, eventually expanding my search radius to all of Spain and France as well. I found a few sits that looked promising, but they were either super complicated and expensive to get to or the homeowners declined my applications.

I pondered this for a bit and wondered if it was a sign that I should just pony up the money and go to Morocco on my own dime. But I crunched the numbers on that and kept on coming up with a huge NOPE. Remember, I’m heading to Mexico, perhaps for good, in May!

Then, I had a thought. Plane travel in Europe is very inexpensive and if you go between major cities, it pretty much doesn’t matter where you go as it’s all roughly the same price. So is there anywhere else I’d like to go in Europe that would be a straight shot from either Almería or Málaga and then from there to Manchester? Weather was no longer a consideration by this point since I’m heading to England in January and need to get acclimatised anyway. The answer came immediately.

I promptly went to my housesitting websites and did a search for that destination. I found a two-week house and cat sit right between the end of my time here and the start of my sit in England, giving me time at both ends to travel (and possibly a day or two to explore Málaga and Manchester). I emailed the homeowners and they got back to me straight away, saying they thought they had someone lined up, but that person was being flakey. Could I give them a couple of days? Of course.

I just knew this in-between period was sorted and was not surprised when they emailed me late last night to confirm that the assignment is a go.

So I’m very happy and excited to announce that I will be ringing in 2017 from… Amsterdam!

Winds of Prairie Proportions

I cannot believe the winds I’m getting here in Almería! Of course, I’m right on the water, but it’s easy to forget that some days. It’s hard to sleep on windy nights since things rattle in the back garden and it’s quite noisy. Because of that, I was awake around five this morning. I went to use the bathroom and went back to bed, making sure that the bedroom door was firmly latched.

So imagine my surprise when I woke up about four hours later and the cat was curled up with me! My Tabitha knew how to open that style of door so I’m not surprised this cat does as well. I let her sleep with me every few nights and I think she’s decided that that’s not enough for her! I’m really in love with her, so I don’t mind. She’s so incredibly sweet and well behaved.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve only got three weeks left here! I really thought I’d get more exploring done, but the Spanish schedule and mine are really not compatible for that, never mind my incessant workload.

For example, I was able to quit at three today. Anywhere else that I’ve ever been, I would have taken off for downtown to do a little shopping and exploring before having dinner,. Here? Nothing’s open at that hour until around six and, of course, you can’t get a meal until at least eight or nine. I like ambling through cities, as you all know, but this part of Spain is basically dead in the afternoon. There’s just no ambiance and it’s not appealing. Of course, I could do siesta and go out about now, nine, to get some of the night life, but then you can’t see anything because the sun has long set. I need to be in town between about 10AM and 2PM to make a trip worthwhile and that’s just not compatible with my work schedule at present. I’m not unhappy being “home” since I have so much work to do and plenty around here to keep me busy, but I do hope I get to see a weeeeee bit more of Spain before I leave!

One thing that has astounded me since I got to Spain is how much bigger the country feels than I expected it to. I think a part of that has to do with how costly it is to get around Spain when compared to traveling around the Balkan countries. Like in Canada, it’s cheaper to go to another country than to travel within Spain! I’ve seen sits in the northwest part of the country that would be interesting, but which would cost me almost as much to get to as to fly back to Canada — insane!

Last night, I went to to La Mayor for a tapa and beer as a late supper and was rewarded with a particularly generous portion since I got a whole sausage and extra fries! I was stunned! I was there for quite a while, enjoying the luxury of being able to read the local paper, something I really missed in the Balkans. I read a couple of particularly interesting articles, including an opinion piece on Catalonian independence.

In other news, it looks like my England sit for the start of January is a go! I will be flying from somewhere to Manchester around the 6th of 7th and from there going to the vicinity of the town of Hebden Bridge, in West Yorkshire, to meet my host on the 8th and start on the 9th for a month. That area is the setting of a UK show I like (Happy Valley), so it’s somewhat familiar to me. I’m not looking forward to a cold damp month, but as I’ve said before, England is the next logical step for me and this area is particularly appealing to me. My host is going to sign me up for Spanish conversation lessons once a week while I’m there! Only £5 (about 8CAD) each, so that gives me something to look forward to. That and another cat!

So I’m now trying to fill the gap between December 18th and about January 5th. I’ve applied for another sit down the coast from here from December 22nd to January 2nd. If that works out, then I can go to Málaga for a day or two before I start. I’d also like to go to Madrid for at least a couple of days and so if that sit’s a go, I could take a bus to Madrid and then fly from there to Manchester. Time will tell!

There’s a Time to Tourist and a Time to Type

I was going to head into Almería today, but found work waiting this morning if I wanted it. I took enough to get me through the weekend. Saturday isn’t great to go exploring here anyway (lots of things are closed or close early, plus the bus schedule is erratic). Might as well keep working on replenishing the coffers! They are back to levels that let me sleep well at night (that was said tongue firmly in cheek!) and now they’re building back up beyond that. My big client is in the process of paying me a non-insignificant retainer to secure a few hours of my time a week for the next couple of months, which feels like a major career milestone, so it’s good to know I have work incoming for a bit!

Late morning, I realised that I was almost out of drinking water (!!!) and relieved that the shop is open till 2:00 on Saturdays. I headed out around noon. The shopkeeper greeted me warmly and told me I looked really nice today, which surprised me since I was in what I felt was lounging clothes (my trousers from Bulgaria with my Tieks and my pink hoodie, but I do have to say I had a really nice head scarf!). Anyway, that was really sweet of her!

I got what I needed at the deli/produce/bakery counter, or so I thought. I realised after getting a few other things that I’d missed something. So I went back and said, “I’m sorry, I forgot bread, please.” I’m still working on the past tense and when I use it, I go home and double check that I was correct, which I was this time. Phew! The bread is a baguette and after handing it to me, the clerk slyly told me that their crème de Brie was on sale (oferta). So I got a tub of that! I love Brie, but not the rind, so finding it in that format was fantastic. By the way, have you ever thought of how amazing milk is in the infinite number of ways it can be transformed into yummy things?

I came in and worked through the afternoon. My jobs were super easy and went fast. I love days like that! The cat spent most of the time snuggled against me, as she does whenever I plop myself down somewhere. I’d been told she was aloof so I’m starting to wonder if she’s the cat I’m actually supposed to be minding! 🙂

I quit around 5:00 and went for a long walk. I’m definitely starting to orientate myself in this maze of a neighbourhood. Then, I came in and had my first beer at home since I got here!

Tomorrow will be a similar day, but I’ll probably go out for a beer if the bar is open. 🙂

So, no, I’m not bummed about not “being able” to go to town today. I’ve been working on a 2016 travel recap that will really show how much fun I’ve had this year, more than I could have dreamt of working a traditional 9 to 5 job with three weeks of vacation, and I’m just happy to be so well situated that I can be productive with work, but also not feel claustrophobic. This sit is everything I hoped it would be!

In other news, it’s looking more and more certain that I’ll be in Yorkshire by about January 7th! I’ll be flying into Manchester. So now, I’m working on how I’ll fill the days between December 17th and my arrival in England. I could easily go to England straight away and get a sit over the holidays, but that’s a last resort option. I’m still hoping another sit nearby opens up…