personal

personal: places lived 5

places lived, 1998-1999, Spain, España

What had we gotten ourselves into? Jorge accepted a year-long position as Assistant Director for the University of Washington study abroad program in Cádiz, & we were suddenly off to Spain. Just like that. Jorge had at least been to Europe before, but for me this was another moment like Seattle in 1994: moving somewhere without any prior visit. Oh well, live & learn. I needed to get out of an awful job + going to Europe had been a lifelong dream. I crammed in as many language lessons as I could before leaving, & our rental agency even agreed to let us sublease the Seattle apartment. Everything seemed to come together… except we didn’t have a place to live upon arrival. Details, details.

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personal: places lived 4

places lived, 1994-1998, USA

Why not move across country? In Memphis I had a full-time laboratory job, a part-time weekend job at the YMCA, & plenty of time to hang out with friends. But I got restless. No doubt those two visits to San Diego during college inspired me to keep looking west. So in 1993, I took the GRE & applied to four graduate schools in East Asian/Chinese studies. Most of the best programs were on the West Coast, & grad school finally convinced my family to support me leaving Memphis. Things happened quickly though: I was accepted to the University of Washington in March 1994, quit my job in May then moved everything to Seattle in July… without ever having visited the city before!

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personal: places lived 3

places lived, 1988-1994, USA, Memphis

College time! I applied to several across the entire US & was accepted to most, so the decision was not easy. Northwestern University in Chicago seemed perfect, but financial aid figures just didn’t add up. My mom’s income couldn’t handle the extra cost. In the end, being a Tennessee resident meant that I qualified for extra grants if I stayed in-state. Plus, I’d won a hefty Rotary Club scholarship that could only be used locally. So I stayed put in Memphis. Rhodes College may be an expensive, private university, but I went almost for free. And I got to live on campus…

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personal: places lived 2

places lived, 1975-1988, USA

Let’s continue this journey! After a bumpy start with me, Memphis seemed to hit the spot for my parents. Not only did my dad make a decent income, but we were almost exactly in between both sets of relatives: a mid-point between Iowa & Florida. Grandparents could visit us easily & we could visit them, but more important for me was growing up & going to school in Memphis. Those formative years (19 of almost 50) are the longest I’ve spent in a single place so far. And surprisingly, almost all in the same apartment…

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personal: places lived 1

Places lived, 1970-1975, USA

Scrolling through Twitter not long ago, I found an account by a Canadian guy who lives in Japan. He’s celebrating turning 50 by going through boxes of his possessions that have just arrived by boat & posting the contents online… an interesting way to look back before reaching a milestone. I’ll turn 50 this year as well! The exciting combo of lockdown + unemployment gave me time to organize all my photos by year. Task complete, so I thought of this series: a look back at all the places I’ve lived. This will take several posts because I’ve moved around a lot, but feel free to come along…

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personal: becoming a tour guide

Robert Wright, Rick Steves, tour, Portugal, 2018
• Telling the tragic love story of Pedro & Inês inside the monastery complex of Alcobaça, Portugal · 2018

Help me celebrate a very special anniversary: my first tour as lead guide with Rick Steves twenty years ago. I’d hoped to invite tour members to a surprise party right now, but coronavirus has us in quarantine around the world. At least we can raise a toast together online! To commemorate these past two decades, I thought I’d answer in detail one of the most-asked questions for every guide: how did you get started with Rick? Get comfy cuz this is the long version…

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personal: mom, ten years on

Elizabeth Gae Philby, Liz Wright

How can this be? Already a decade has gone by since my mother passed away?? I thought I should write about her life after taking inspiration from a friend’s blog. My mother was a complicated woman —she gave some of that to me, no doubt— and there are many gaps in her life story that I will never know. Last month I finally finished going through ALL the old papers she saved, looked at each & every photo, read years of family correspondence & listened to endless hours of recorded conversations on cassette. I may not have a complete picture of her life, but I know more than I ever did & there’s no better moment to share her story. Buckle up.

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year in review: 2018

2018, travel, year in review
● Where was I? Spain & Portugal

Here we go again! As always, I write this for personal reasons, but you’re welcome to revisit the past year with me. Ahhhh, looks can be deceiving. From the above graph, you might think I stayed at home more than last year. Well, kinda but not really…

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year in review: 2017

2017, travel, year in review
● Where was I? Spain, Morocco, Portugal, France, & USA.

It’s back! As always, I write this for personal reasons, but you’re welcome to revisit the past year with me. This year turned out to be as crazy as last, so I’ve grouped events into a few broad categories to help make sense of it all.

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