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Authors: Shelley Row

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TRAVELING AROUND THE WORLD: Our Tales of Delights and Disasters

BOOK: TRAVELING AROUND THE WORLD: Our Tales of Delights and Disasters
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Traveling Around the World:


Our Tales of Delights and Disasters


Shelley Row

Copyright © 2012 by Shelley J. Row


All Rights Reserved


No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, by photocopying or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.


KINDLE ISBN: 9781621410676


PRINT ISBN: 9780984698912


Library of Congress Control Number: 2011962151


First Published 2012 by Shelley Row & Associates LLC


EBOOK Published by, Inc., 2012, First Edition


Cover design by Jackie Clements


Copyediting by Robin Quinn

Other Books by Shelley Row


Living Like a Local: Stories of Our Life in France


Exploring Europe: Our Experiences While Living Abroad


To learn more about the speaking and coaching programs that Shelley offers or to have Shelley speak at your event, please visit Shelley’s website or email her at:

[email protected]



This book is dedicated to my husband, Mike. He whole-heartedly embraced this crazy journey of ours. Some days were fun-filled adventures and other days were unnerving disasters –
Throughout it all, he was a supportive and loving partner. I couldn’t ask for anyone better with which to share my life.

In Memory of Skeeter


We lost our Persian cat, Skeeter a few months after returning home to Annapolis. He spent the year we were away living with our dear friends, Wil and Siena Scott. They took wonderful care of him, and we were thankful to have some time with him after we returned. We miss his sweet, fuzzy face.


Welcome to our journey. Since you will be traveling around the world with us, we would like to tell you a little about ourselves, what we did, and why.


In short, our dream was to live in southern France for a year; to be immersed in the culture and lifestyle of Provence. We felt that was best accomplished by picking one place and living there. But there was also the lure of other wonderful places we wanted to visit. This sparked the idea of traveling around the world on our return trip home. After much discussion, we decided to live in France for ten months, followed by six weeks of round-the-world travel, and a few weeks at home before we resumed life as it was before (although life would never again be as it was before).


My husband Mike and I were living full and complete lives. Married for eleven years, we made our home in Annapolis, Maryland. Mike, a successful, small business person in Annapolis for twenty-five years, sold his business in 1998, taking an early retirement that lasted only three short years. With his extensive business background and education in economics, in 2001 he was appointed by the Mayor as Economic Development Director for the City. After eight successful years in that position, he retired when we moved to France in 2010.


In the meantime, I was immersed in my career as a transportation engineer for the United States Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT). As a member of the Senior Executive Service, I led an innovative research program with a staff of eighteen professionals. I loved my career, the contribution my office made, and the success I attained over years of hard work in the transportation industry. There was, however, the faint glimmer of a creative side of me waiting patiently to emerge. That opportunity came during our journey. With ten months of quiet walks, meditation, writing, drawing and painting, the stress of long commutes in heavy traffic, deadlines and budgets fell away. In its place, a more full and balanced person emerged.


At the beginning, we didn’t appreciate how long we would have to hold onto our dream; through what obstacles we would persevere; and the amount of planning that would be required. Mike successfully overcame his bout with cancer, we lost a chunk of our savings when the stock market dropped in 2008, and we encountered trepidation from some family members. Some days it felt daunting, but we held to our belief that eventually all the pieces would fall into place – with the help of focused planning.


In April of 2010, we made the move to France. We found a wonderful house in the tiny village of Cotignac, which is in the Var region of Provence midway between Nice and Marseilles. Cotignac has a resident population of 2500 people. The population soars during the summer months when crowds of tourists flock in from Europe and other parts of the world. We arrived in early April 2010 and lived in Cotignac until the end of January 2011. From our rented house, which overlooked a beautiful Cezanne-like painting of a valley, we oftentimes walked to town for Mike’s daily baguette, the Tuesday market, or just an occasional coffee and tea at the Café de Cours.


After ten months, it was time to leave, travel around the world, and finally return home to Annapolis. Our travel experience was completely different from our life in France. After ten months of living like a local, once again, we were tourists. We left France with a thorough, thoughtful plan and an impressive stack of papers – reservations for planes, trains, rental cars, boats, buses, hotels and tours. We were ready –
or so we thought


Our travels didn’t go as expected, to say the least. As disasters of one sort or another unfolded, we learned to adjust, be patient, and accept what was. And we learned about compassion, we received help from complete strangers, and we came to love and cherish our most unexpected experiences.


Before we left for our year abroad, Mike and I had a general sense that we would return with a lifetime of stories. And we did. We can regale you with stories for hours or days. There are so many that the two of us have trouble remembering where we were when a particular thing happened. We exchange puzzled glances, scratch our heads, and search our memories for the season, the village, and sometimes even the country. All of those shared experiences alone were worth the time, the money and the effort.


Along the way, no matter where in the world we were, I wrote. To my surprise, I came to love writing about our experiences and feelings through my blog. The blog was conceived as a way to communicate with my eighty-year-old mother and George (my honorary stepdad), but writing took on a life of its own and became a joy and creative outlet. Family, friends and strangers emailed me about their pleasure reading the blog. It wasn’t long before people began suggesting that we compile the blogs into a book. Now that we’re back in the United States and trying our best to adjust to the fast pace of life, working on this book has once again become a pleasure as we remember each experience.


The book you are reading is one of three in the trilogy that comprise our year abroad.


Living Like a Local: Stories of Our Life in France

Exploring Europe: Our Experiences While Living Abroad

Traveling Around the World: Our Tales of Delights and Disasters


It is our hope that you will find enjoyment and maybe some inspiration from our stories of traveling the world. Our year abroad marked the achievement of a major goal – our life dream. Now I have a new goal – a new dream. I wish to share our experiences and the process that we used to achieve this goal to help others achieve theirs. While these books share our stories, I also use presentations, seminars and workshops to discuss and teach others how to achieve their goals – whether the goals are personal or professional. You can find out more at my website:


Reflecting back, we can tell you without reservation – it was worth every minute. This experience changed our lives through the things we did, the people we met, and the people we became.


Now come along with us as we leave France to travel around the world!



Annapolis, January 2012

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Istanbul – A Different World

After witnessing sunrise over the Mediterranean from the promenade in Nice, we delivered the car to be shipped back and lifted off from French soil. Tears ran down my face.


A few hours later, we landed in Istanbul. The uniqueness of Turkey was not immediately apparent as we were driven past large stores, car dealerships and shopping malls that – except for the different letters – might be in the U.S. But the next day, the differences came into view. Around 6 am, we woke to the sounds of chanting as the morning’s first call-to-prayers were sung from the mosque across the street. A few hours later, we met our guide, Yesim, for a day of exploring the city.


When we stepped outside into the brisk morning, the atmosphere immediately felt different. Gone were the shuttered stone buildings with quiet streets. Here a bustling energy pulsed. It felt hectic and scantily organized, even though everything we encountered functioned efficiently. We were in the heart of the old city, dense and tightly packed. Three-to-five-story buildings lined narrow streets with shops stacked one on top of the other, sometimes three high. Men busily rolled boxes along on delivery carts, delivered luggage, and readied shops for the crush of people on the streets. All around was a whirl of activity.


People jostled along as sidewalks inexplicably narrowed then widened along the also narrow, car-packed streets which were jammed with taxis, tour buses and autos vying for the same slim piece of pavement. Yesim and her driver escorted us around town in a mid-sized bus that had automatic sliding-doors. Due to the parking and traffic pressures, our driver would drop us off, circle the block, and come back down the street with the sliding door open for us to jump in as he coasted to a quick stop. He delivered us everywhere we wanted to visit and we were
thankful he was driving and
not us.


The people, gracious and polite, also looked different with their uniformly dark coloring. The women were fashionably dressed, coiffed and made up to accentuate their thick, black hair and eyes the color of dark chocolate. A few women – maybe 25% – kept their hair covered with scarves. The shops seemed to be primarily run by men who waited by the door calling to passersby to coax them in. This was clearly a common practice – but it felt a bit aggressive for U.S. sensibilities. Both Mike and I, blonde and fair, seemed to be a particularly noticeable target for attention. They took one look at me and started guessing. If I didn’t respond to English, they called after me in other languages trying to guess my nationality –
German? Scandinavian?
When we ignored them, the shop keepers were good natured about it and recovered quickly. As we walked back from a lovely dinner along the waterfront, a man tried to get us into
restaurant. In one breath, he said as we passed, “Excuse me. Hello. Thank you. Bye-bye.” We laughed all the way back!


This was our first time to visit a primarily Muslim country. I was entranced by the mosques, the chanting at prayer times, the tall, slim minarets. The old city, as viewed from across the Golden Horn peninsula, is a landscape of minaret spires clustered around the large mosques – so different from the cathedrals to which we’d grown accustomed. The biggest mosques had a large central dome surrounded by half-domes of decreasing sizes. One complex looked like a mound of bubbles guarded by spires. Inside the complexes, the mosques became centers of activity and life. Schools, hospitals and soup kitchens accompanied the mosques.


The only functioning mosque we visited was the Sultanahmet Mosque or Blue Mosque. The base of the building was surrounded by water faucets for ritual washing of the body before prayers. Holding a plastic bag containing my shoes, I stepped into the mosque with Mike. I was overwhelmed by the spaciousness and simplicity. Unlike a European cathedral with its narrow naves and ornate sculptures stacked one on top of the other, the mosque was open with clear views across the entire building of domes. It felt like being inside a bubble –
calming and ethereal, particularly since the interior was covered with predominantly blue tiles (hence the name Blue Mosque). The Moslem religion doesn’t allow ornamentation, except for calligraphy (prayers) or floral designs; consequently, the tiles had detailed, winding floral designs. The pattern changed with every wall. What sounds gaudy looked balanced and delicate. And the floor was covered – all of it – with red flowered carpeting embedded with subtle triangular patterns pointing toward Mecca. The design serves as markers for those praying.

BOOK: TRAVELING AROUND THE WORLD: Our Tales of Delights and Disasters
9.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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