Nomadic life in 2016

Robin and Shari Istanbul

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about my nomadic life, so I’ll catch everyone up a little with an overview of the first six months of 2016.

In 2016, I started out in Istanbul, Turkey. I was there (and a friend was visiting me) when the first of several bombings of this year took place. It was surreal and sad, but not really scary. I think, in general the world is scary, but I was so well taken care of my my friends and contacts in Istanbul, that I never really felt scared for my own safety. I followed precautionary measures, staying away from the bomb site and avoiding the big tourist areas and large crowds, but other than that, I went about my daily life as did all of the locals.

Robin and Shari Istanbul

A few days after the bombing, where 12 German tourists were killed near the Blue Mosque, my friend from Germany came to visit and stay with me in Istanbul. She thought long and hard about it, but I am so glad that she didn’t let fear win. We had a great time exploring, despite the chilly, windy, rainy winter weather.

As my total visa-time for Turkey was running out (only allowed 90 days every 6 months), I packed a small bag and left it behind with some of my contacts in Istanbul. I didn’t want to carry my tripod and a few other random items around for the next couple of months. I had decided that I would be returning to Istanbul as soon as I was allowed by visa regulations, tentatively end of April, and I would stay until the end of May or June.

I had to leave Turkey, so I made plans to visit with my friends Victor and Carolina from Argentina, in Amsterdam at the beginning of February. We spent five great days exploring the city by foot and bicycle and ventured off to Ghent, Belgium as well. The weather sucked for almost all of the days, but the company was good!

Shari, Victor and Carolina

 

Then what?

Believe it or not, I had no plans. I just knew that I couldn’t go back to Turkey right away (re. visa) and I needed sunshine! I made a somewhat snap decision (booked my flight only 1 week in advance) to head to the Algarve region in Southern Portugal. Sadly, the weather wasn’t as sunny, warm and fabulous as expected and it was too laid back for me. Maybe going from 10 million people of Istanbul to a couple thousand in Albufeira, was a bit too extreme for me. I spent six weeks in the Algarve region and saw amazing sites, but I needed more people in my life!

Lagos, Portugal

To throw a (good) wrench in things, I had won a trip to Africa with On The Go tours. After months of asking people to vote on my photo, I actually won the trip. I had chosen the Zebras & Zanzibar trip when I entered the contest and it was now a reality! Wowza! A trip for two to Africa. Where was that going to fit in to all of this?

After a few weeks, I ventured to Lisbon for a little more upbeat living with more to explore and more people to meet. I decided to book an shared apartment for two weeks to begin with and from that point I would decide what I was doing. Would I return home early? Would I return to Istanbul as planned? Would I go to the Dominican Republic for some sunny days, friendly faces and Spanish classes?

Lisbon, Portugal
I fell in love with Lisbon, second only to Istanbul! After about one week in Lisbon, I booked my apartment for an additional four weeks. I had made the decision to stay in Lisbon instead of return to Istanbul. With several other bombings in those couple of months, I decided not to return to Istanbul at this time. Honestly, I felt pretty safe about going to Turkey, but I thought it would cause my friends and family undue stress if I was living there. Although I try not to live my life for other people, I don’t really want people to worry about me on a daily basis either.

I made new friends from Portugal, Denmark, Spain and Mexico. Lisbon was starting to feel like home. It was a place I could see myself living long term.

Shari, JuanFher and Paloma

On my last week in Lisbon, I began looking into the process of making it my home. I knew that I would return to Halifax first, but I wanted to know the process in case I wanted to make Lisbon my home-base. Basically, I found out that I had to do everything from Canada which was fine as I wasn’t ready to make any commitments.

I spent 11 weeks in Portugal and that pretty much ate up my 90 days in 6 months that I was allowed for ALL of the Schengen Area (most of Europe). Coming in to the middle of April, I was in decision mode again. Would I go back to Istanbul for a couple of months? Would I return to Halifax a couple of months early? I also briefly looked at non-Schengen countries in Europe, but the cost of flights there and then home deterred me. Besides, I figured I’d rather spend that money in Africa since I’d be headed there anyway!

Here’s another wrench, just to confuse things. In order to keep my NS Health care, I need to reside in Nova Scotia for 152 days of the year. Not consecutively, but throughout the year. Since I had been away from January until mid-April, and I would be going to Africa in the fall, I needed to ensure that I would have 152 days back in Halifax.

After lots of ‘date crunching’, the decision was finally made for me to return to Halifax at the end of April. I wanted to go back to Istanbul, but I had made the decision not to. I also didn’t want to leave Lisbon. I wanted a few more weeks, I wasn’t ready to go back to Halifax. It was just getting warm and beautiful on a daily basis in Lisbon and I knew that Halifax was a month (or more behind).

I made the responsible decision, to go back to Halifax in order to keep my health care valid. This also allowed me a little wiggle-room in case I wanted to stay in Africa (or elsewhere) until the end of 2016. I would be in Halifax for May through September and possibly part of October. This would give me more than my 152 days in province and then I could be on my way again.

I landed back in Halifax on April 28th and here I am, July 24th …. Where has the time gone? I certainly haven’t spent it taking in the sun because it’s been so cold, foggy and rainy, but today it’s sunny and I’m writing from the balcony of Humani-T cafe.

When you live nomadically, there is a lot of adventure, a lot of decisions, crazy emotions and fun, but you miss out on a lot of things too … like your sister’s wedding, your grandfather’s funeral and the passing of not one, but two of my past photo tour passengers who were both dear friends. I don’t want to stop travelling, but it definitely reminds me to be more present when I am spending time with people I care about.

I’m living with my sister, her husband, 16-year old step son and my two nieces in Hammonds Plains (which feels like the middle of nowhere after living in the centre of Istanbul and Lisbon). I’ve taken my nieces to the Shubenacadie wildlife park and swimming at a friend’s place. We’ve had a water balloon fight, played at the park and survived a week of me taking care of them when my sister went to Jamaica. I’ve gone running and biking with Samantha and helped Elizabeth learn how to skip rocks. I even caved and played Cranium with them all the other night after Samantha’s incessant begging! We’ve been to the beach a couple of times, but it’s been CHILLY! My parents visited for a few days and I’ll visit them in Fredericton in September as well when I go to the town I grew up in for my 20th high school reunion. Yikes!

I’ve gone running, walking, cycling and kayaking but not nearly enough of any of those!

I’ve seen most of my friends at least once in the last two and a half months sharing laughs, tears and lots of food! Most importantly I was home to see my friend Kevin receive a commendation for bravery and the adoption ceremony of one of my best friend’s kids. Deciding to come home early was definitely a good decision this time around and I’m so glad I could be here for both of those very important events.

Kevin's commendation Ceremony

I’ve taken portraits of my friend’s and client’s growing families. It’s always so nice to reconnect and to see the kids grow up and new ones growing in mama’s belly!

Ember and Sarah

I’ve done several speaking engagements, including Mo Monday’s where I spoke about my 1997 plane crash and several Travel Talks about different destinations. I’ve been interviewed for the radio about the events in Turkey and I’m about to have another paid travel article published (this time online).

Shari at Mo Monday's

I’ve taught my Goodbye Auto, Hello Manual Photography course and will be teaching a Composition course this coming week.

All at the same time, I seem to have done a lot and not nearly enough. Somehow two and a half months have passed and I only have two and a half left!

I’m wrapped up in trying to enjoy the sunshine when it makes an appearance and growing my business with new clients while I’m in Nova Scotia. I’m also planning my next 6 – 8 months of travel including a huge adventure and luxury travel conference this August in Las Vegas, as well as visiting the Grand Canyon and then I’m off to Africa with my sister in October for the trip I won! Who better to take than my sister?!

I’m happy to be in Halifax for five and a half months to spend time with friends and family. I’m happy to be in one house with my clothes unpacked, a fridge full of food (most of the time) and two cats! I’m not happy about the weather, my lack of connection to the city, the high prices of everything (compared to Asia and even Portugal) and the thought of summer being so darn short here!

I still feel a bit nomadic as I’m not in ‘my own’ place, but I have to admit that it is nice to have some extra clothing choices and the same bed every night.

It’s funny to feel nomadic when I’m technically ‘at home’, but with more adventures in my near future, I guess I’m not ready to settle down quite yet. We’ll see what 2017 says about that!

 

Loule, Portugal Carnaval 2016 – Photo Essay

When I decided that I would head to the Algarve region of Portugal, I hadn’t even considered the fact that I would be visiting during Carnival festivities. About two days before departing Amsterdam for Faro, I learned that Loule, a community inland was known for hosting the oldest and largest Carnival in the Algarve region. With it being only 45 minutes or so away from Albufeira, I would have to make my way there to see the celebrations!

I walked 20 minutes to the bus terminal on the outskirts of town and arrived just in time for the 10:10am bus to Loule. I jumped on the bus behind a man toting a Canada flag on his back pack and immediately struck up a conversation with him and his three traveling companions. Turns out, one couple was from Halifax, Nova Scotia and the other from Miramichi, New Brunswick. Small world! We chatted away through the 45 minute bus ride and in no time at all we had arrived in the little city of Loule.

I headed in to the centre of town which was about a 10 minute walk from the terminal. I made the obligatory stop at the information centre to get a town map and a couple of pointers and then I wandered around taking photos of the historical old town and observing local life for the next couple of hours.

By 12:30, it had started to rain and I had seen pretty much all there was to see in the historic centre. It’s a pretty small area. I headed for lunch and wondered what I was possibly going to do with myself until 3pm when the parade would commence. After an underwhelming lunch of rice and two small chicken thighs that the restaurant ‘called’ chicken piri piri, I wandered around a bit more and then sat down for dessert at La Boehm Cafe. The warm brownie and hot chocolate warmed my spirits up and left me more satisfied than the sad little lunch I had eaten.

By 2:15pm it was raining again (or still) and I made my way to the parade route with my camera around my neck, my backpack rain protected and my umbrella above my head. I was awkward at best trying to use my camera and an umbrella at the same time. Luckily I didn’t take anyone’s eye out.

By 2:30pm the streets were lined with locals and tourists and the floats were starting to fill with participants. Media had arrived to interview and film the oldest carnival celebration in the Algarve region and bands were warming up with their samba beats. The build up of music and energy was infectious and I stood on the street tapping my feet and grinning. (Don’t mistake the ‘tapping my feet’ for anything near samba dancing though!)

Right on time, at 3pm, the music blared and the streets came alive with energy and colors.
The rain had subsided momentarily and the drummers and dancers were getting the feel for the beat as the parade began. Confetti and streamers were already dancing in the wind, filling the trees, streets and hair of everyone around with colourful reminders of the day.

Despite the chilly temperature of about 14 degrees, not to mention the wind and misty rains, lots of the performers put on radiant smiles and shared their energy and love of carnival with the crowd. Having said that, there were quite a few who couldn’t muster smiles through the rain. Some of the kids were pretty cold and not so happy to be there. I chose to focus on the excited ones though, so here’s a look at Carnaval 2016 in Loule from my perspective. Hope you enjoy!