● Where was I? Spain, Morocco, Portugal, France, Gibraltar & 3 visits (!) to the USA.
Here we go again! As always, I write this for personal reasons but feel free to revisit 2023 with me. I survived one of the craziest work schedules I’ve had in years, full of beaucoup travel & very little time at home. On the flip side, I experienced a ton of new things, revisited some favorite spots & met great people in some of the best tour groups ever. Let’s review…
Not sure how the Rick Steves’ tour scheduling system got so out of control for me, but at one point my projected income would have been half of what I usually make. Not acceptable. The only choice was to accept book research in Tangier-Tarifa-Gibraltar & take one unusually late tour departure for Spain. This meant I was away more from home, with assignments spread out instead of concentrated into a few months… not an ideal situation, but you do what you gotta do. Met some fantastic people both on & off tour, surprised Rick Steves by having the group sing him “Happy Birthday” in Spanish & had several magical moments. As always!
To make some extra cash, I also assisted on a Paris & the Heart of France tour. My mission was to help train as well as evaluate the lead guide, so I didn’t have to give talks or learn tons of material. The sights were fantastic, & the experience of being a tour member made me appreciate my role as lead guide even more. I even got to hang out with Christopher, a good friend from former Seattle days who lives in Paris. We hadn’t seen each other in over 20 years!
Trips for fun were naturally scattered in between work assignments. First, a quick jaunt with Rafa to Asturias to use a travel voucher set to expire. Next month I was off for an unscheduled week in Iowa (see Personal section below). Then after the spring tour season, I went to Seattle to see Janet Jackson in concert! Row 17! Good to be back since my last visit was just before the pandemic in 2020.
In August I returned again to the US —with Rafa this time— where we spent a couple weeks exploring Washington, DC & Annapolis. Such a great time although our vacations are as exhausting as work 😉 As this publishes, we’ll be in Portugal ringing in the new year after a quick Christmas visit to family outside of Málaga.
So between work & vacation, I always seemed to be packing a suitcase this year. Curious to see how much I was not at home, I made a quick chart: grey = days away… or 46% of the year. Now you know why I haven’t had time for much else! Still haven’t topped my all-time record of over 60% in 2010, but I’m not looking to do that ever again.
Sadly my aunt passed away at the end of March. Although not unexpected, I’m grateful to have spent 52 years with her in my life. And so strange not to have any immediate family left in the US. However, I was fortunate to see her in November 2022, only a few months before she died. The best part? Her dementia had become increasingly worse, but on our final afternoon together Mae was her old self for about 15 minutes. We had a great talk about family, & that’s my last memory of her… a treasure I’ll never forget.
I had two fantastic learning experiences this year: passing the Portuguese B2 exam plus participating in a three-day course about wines & vinegars produced in Montilla-Moriles (an area just south of Córdoba). Both were intense & I learned a lot not only about the material but also about myself. Met a bunch of wonderful people along the way as well… need to write about the wine experience soon!
Last but not least, Rafa & I had the lower patio refit to match the rest of the house; our first home renovation! We wanted to do lots of small, connected projects: replace the cement floor with tiles, create a space to put the washer outside, get a dryer (necessary with our humid winters), store wood for the fireplace, have a small garden, redo the storage area & replace some tacky sheet metal with a terracotta awning. Rafa had to deal with most of it since I wasn’t at home, but workers were done quickly & did a fantastic job. What a huge difference! Just check out the before, during & after pics below:
All the craziness described above meant zero time for extra projects —not even to write blog posts here— but guidebook sales doubled from last year. AfterLife (my other blog dedicated to Recoleta Cemetery) has been placed on standby. I’ll continue to update as necessary, especially with important events. But unfortunately I don’t have the time to research as I did in the past. Maybe I need some staff? Volunteers?
To sum up 2023
Rewarding but random. As much as I was on the road or in the air, the craziness was worth the trouble. I remember standing speechless on D-Day beaches, asking Rafa if he could believe we were really in front of the gorgeous Capitol building in DC, & being amazed that so much of my French came back in spite of years of neglect. Also, a good measure of my year is how much I’ve laughed. 2023 turned out to be filled with laughter, whether from sheer fun or just how unbelievable certain situations were… an amazing time, even if I didn’t always know what day of the week it was!
What’s coming in 2024?
Definitely no trip to the US for me & Rafa. Three times this year was more than enough, & with current inflation we can’t do the kind of road trips we’ve become used to. We’ll travel when we can next year, but use miles & stick closer to home.
Still waiting to get my US history degree certified in the Spanish university system, the final step to obtain my guiding license in Andalucía. Will that happen this coming year? Or ever? The backlog at the Ministerio de Universidades is brutal. In the meantime, I’ve already begun to write my next PDF guidebook about my favorite tiles in Sevilla. I’m not planning on taking any new courses so I can focus on that project, but who knows what may pop up?
We’ll have to figure out how to plant tomatoes, spicy peppers & maybe a few flowers… that will be my spring thing. And maybe we’ll get some more home renovations done, like a semi-new bathroom. Nothing major, but a bit of an update. It never ends.
Thanks for reading this year & whatever your personal plans are for 2024, I wish you a fun, exciting & travel-filled new year!