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personal: places lived 9

places lived, 2009-2013, Argentina, Buenos Aires

Back in BA, some big decisions had to be made. What neighborhood to live in? Would I have much work in Europe? How do I pick an apartment when my income was anything but certain? The global tourism decline of 2009 had everyone in the industry second-guessing, including me. I toyed with the idea of producing my Buenos Aires guides as quickly as possible then moving to Lisbon, but that would be expensive. Luckily with the help of friends, I weathered the storm.

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personal: places lived 8

places lived, 2008-2009, Australia

Remember Susan from Seattle? She made an international move too, not long after I left for Buenos Aires. Sooz also fell in love & went south, but on the other side of the Pacific to Sydney. I’d visited once before although never saw myself living in Australia until a mini-personal crisis had me searching for inspiration. Buenos Aires had become increasingly politicized, things I’d grown to love about the city were disappearing fast, planning for the future seemed unstable, good friends moved away, & I couldn’t get past a creative block to design my own guidebooks. Susan steps in with an offer I couldn’t refuse: live with her & Sybil in Sydney to get back on track.

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personal: places lived 7

places lived, 2000-2008, Argentina

What’s new, Buenos Aires? That would be me! I’d spent a month earlier in the year getting to know the city & other places in the region as well. I’m still not sure what went through my head: selling most of my possessions, storing a few boxes in Laura & Dan’s garage, getting a new job with Rick Steves in Europe & flying half-way across the world with only four suitcases. But my experience in Cádiz gave me confidence that an international move is possible, even though sacrifices have to be made. After a fitful start, I not only fell in love with Buenos Aires but became obsessed about exploring the city.

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personal: places lived 6

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places lived, 1999-2000, USA

As the end of the millennium approached, I found myself in a tricky situation: temporarily homeless & without a job. No worries. I had plenty of options but needed time to figure things out. I returned to my mother’s apartment in Memphis, slept on the couch & occasionally borrowed her car when I needed a bit of breathing room. Mom also got me a temp job… at the same company where she worked & reporting directly to her. A crazy situation, for sure, but she really helped me out. When I could return to Seattle, I had a lot of decisions to make…

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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, I discovered 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, 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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