Tag Archives: photography

Retirement – One Year Later

Lunch at Johnny Rocket’s aboard Symphony of the Seas

May 25 marked the first anniversary of our retirement.  And boy, what a year it’s been!  What we most wanted to do in retirement was to travel, and I’d say we did a pretty good job of it.  Looking back over my Lightroom catalog provides a visual history of our adventures, starting with an amazing trip to Italy, shorter trips to the NC mountains and NC coast, a road trip to Ohio and Virginia and a month at the beach in Hilton Head.  And that was just in 2018!  So far in 2019 we have been away 61 days out of 151.  We’ve taken two cruises (29 days at sea, including two back-to-back 7 day cruises and a 15 day cruise through the Panama Canal), made a road trip to Florida, another to Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, and we just finished another Ohio-Virginia road trip.  But we’re home for a while, I think.  Frankly, we’re a little tired!  The next scheduled trip is a trip to the beach in August, although there is a pretty good chance that something will come along in the interim!

Our visit to the Colosseum in Rome
Altesino winery near Montalcino, Italy
Aboard the train from Florence to Rome at the end of our Tuscany photo tour

One of our neighbors asked us the other day if we were trying to spend all of our retirement money in the first year!  We’re not, of course, but we obviously have done more than our financial advisor might prefer (sorry, Steve!).  But travel is what we do – we don’t have other expensive hobbies, our kids are self-supporting, and we have very reasonable monthly expenses.  We are very aware of how fortunate we are to have started the savings habit early and to live (mostly) within our means for the last 39 years (our 39th wedding anniversary is in October).

Sunset Beach Bar at Maho Bay, St Martin
In Nassau, Bahamas aboard Symphony of the Seas
First Cocktails Aboard! Symphony of the Seas

Here are some of the things we have learned and experienced in our first year of retirement:

Expected (good & bad)

  • LOTS of time to do whatever we want.
  • We really like being able to come and go as we please, without having to check vacation schedules and “request” time off from a boss.
  • We especially like not having to stick to a week-to-week or weekend routine.
  • We love to cook, and having time to shop for good ingredients and be creative in the kitchen has been fun.  As a result, we rarely go out to eat any more.
  • Less going out to eat has meant that we’ve both lost weight and saved money (to spend on travel!)
  • We manage to get in a good walk just about every day, continuing a habit we had established at work.

Unexpected (good & bad)

  • Lots of time means it is easy to get lazy.
  • We didn’t expect to miss work, and we really don’t.  At first, we missed the people and were really good about checking in.  We still miss the people, but the farther away we get the less often we seem to make contact.
  • It’s hard to keep track of what day it is!
  • We’re even more laid back and relaxed than we thought we would be!
  • We’ve gotten a lot more reading done, although we read more at home and less on the road.  It used to be that we needed to go on vacation to read!  Now our vacations are busier and we’re more relaxed at home with more time to read.
  • We can go for days without getting in the car.  Other than going to the grocery store or visiting the kids we rarely leave the neighborhood.  We need to make a point of getting Kathy behind the wheel periodically so she won’t forget how!
  • Our monthly expenses have gone down, due mostly to not eating out as much and not using as much gas, but also due to just not buying stuff.
  • Without an alarm every morning, our sleep schedules have diverged.  I like getting up early in the morning and don’t mind going to bed early.  Kathy is just the opposite and our schedules can some days be a couple of hours different.
‘Tween Waters Resort at Captiva Island, Florida
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Sunset on the beach, Palmetto Dunes Oceanside Resort, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, North Carolina

So what’s in store for the next year?  We’re telling ourselves that we need to do a better job spacing things out.  The first 5 months of this year have seen a lot of travel, partly because of the last-minute addition of the Panama Canal cruise but also because of the January road trip immediately followed by the two cruises.  We’re anxious to continue checking off states as we try to get to all 50, so there will undoubtedly be a few more road trips.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find us on another cruise or two, and there will most certainly be visits to the mountains and the beach.

US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

Bus tour of the Marshall Space Flight Center at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
Jungle Gardens in Avery Island, Louisiana
Lunch at Johnny Rocket’s aboard Symphony of the Seas
Outdoor display area at Homestead Furniture Company near Mount Hope, Ohio

So watch this space!  I’ll do my best to keep posting articles and photos – when I have time!

US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama

Hot Stuff!

Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana

Tabasco sauce is one of those condiments that I think everyone has heard of, and that many people always keep on hand.  I’m not particularly a big fan, instead preferring sauces with more flavor and less heat such as Cholula (Mexico) and Pickapeppa (Jamaica, mon).  But when it comes to pepper sauce, I’ve got a bottle and suspect a lot of readers do too.

Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana
Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana
Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana
Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana

When I realized that the Tabasco plant and museum, located in Avery Island, was just a few miles from where we stayed in Lafayette, Louisiana, going there was a no-brainer.  Adjacent to the grounds of the Tabasco plant is Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre botanical garden and bird sanctuary created by the father of Tabasco, Edward Avery “Ned” McIlhenny.  Jungle Gardens is a separate story and a separate post.

Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana
Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana

I learned a few things about Tabasco during our visit.  I hadn’t fully realized the time, effort and craft that goes into making hot sauce.  And I didn’t realize that there were so many varieties!  We got to try a number of them in the store after our tour, although I stopped myself before my taste buds got damaged!

Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana

All in all, the Tabasco story is an important part of Louisiana heritage, and I’m glad we had a chance to pay a visit!

Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana
Tabasco Factory Tour in Avery Island, Louisiana

Ready, Set, Go!

Costa Maya, Mexico

One of the things Kathy & I are really loving about this retirement thing is the ability to pretty much come and go as we please. No, we didn’t win the lottery jackpot so we are kind of limited to what we do and how long we go, but it is no longer dictated by an arbitrary vacation allowance.

Arrival in Cozumel, Mexico aboard Symphony of the Seas

We were driving near the airport shortly after we returned from our cruise, when I asked Kathy if she wanted to just go get on a plane to “somewhere.” We didn’t have our passports with us, otherwise we might have done it, but that didn’t stop her from saying “why not?”

Departing Miami for our second week aboard Symphony of the Seas
Departing Miami for our second week aboard Symphony of the Seas

I suppose we’ll eventually get tired of the coming and going, but so far all we seem to have is itchy feet! And for us the cure for that is to pack up a suitcase and go somewhere.

Marigot, St Martin
Arrival in Costa Maya, Mexico aboard Symphony of the Seas

I’ve had in my mind for a while that I wanted to check out the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi and Tennessee. So in a few days we’re going to head out on a little road trip. We’ll be hitting a few highlights only – this won’t be an in-depth trip of any kind – through Alabama to Louisiana before heading back up to Natchez and up the Parkway to Nashville. No ‘Nawlins’ or ‘Opryland’ for us this time – that will need to wait for a more focused trip. In the mean time I think we’ll have plenty to see and we are looking forward to seeing it!

Costa Maya, Mexico
Breakfast at Johnny Rocket’s aboard Symphony of the Seas

PDF Books for Download

Road Ends

My reply to a recent comment from Monte reminded me that I needed to find a way to link to some of my old PDF books so I could share them.  My website doesn’t allow me to upload the files directly, but it does allow me to link to a 3rd party location.  I’ve added a link to a Dropbox folder from my website, and am also posting it here.

Toms PDF Books

Cruising for Photos

Aboard Symphony of the Seas

One of my many personal projects is to look for and photograph bits and pieces of the architecture on cruise ships.  For that purpose I hardly go anywhere without my little point & shoot camera.  It isn’t as intimidating as a regular camera and doesn’t look a lot different than a phone, which everyone is used to seeing.

There are things to see everywhere on board, just like on land.  Sometimes it is simply a shadow or a reflection, and occasionally it is just a piece of glass or metal that has an interesting shape.  Symphony of the Seas was no exception.

Cocktails at the Rising Tide bar aboard Symphony of the Seas

Aboard Symphony of the Seas

Aboard Symphony of the Seas

Sunrise and arrival in Nassau, Bahamas aboard Symphony of the Seas

Aboard Symphony of the Seas

Aboard Symphony of the Seas

Aboard Symphony of the Seas

Aboard Symphony of the Seas

Aboard Symphony of the Seas

A Year of Departure

The Colosseum in Rome

“I find it odd to confine life events and creative evolution to the arbitrary boundaries of a calendar year, but, as I have noted before, I welcome the excuse to pause and examine the progress, trends, and implications of my experiences in the past months.” Guy Tal

Statue of Puerto Rican composer Catalino “Tite” Curet Alonso in the Plaza de Armas, San Juan Puerto Rico

Odd or not, the tendency to compartmentalize our lives into blocks of 365 days is as good a way to reflect as any.  A calendar year works as well as a birthday or anniversary year for that purpose.  And I fear that if it wasn’t for the annual reminder, many of our species would not bother to look back at all, occupied as we are with running around, faces glued to electronic devices of all kinds in our real or imagined “busy-ness.”

The Doge’s Palace in Venice, Italy

Michelangelo’s “David” at the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze (Academy Of Florence Art Gallery)

The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica

As I looked back through my photographs from 2018 I began to realize that it was truly a year of departure for me, both literally and photographically.

  • Kathy & I “departed” from the workplace after 40 or so years of work.
  • We “departed” the shores of the U.S. for another continent for the second straight year
  • My photography “departed” from the norm, as more and more of my photographs had people in them
  • My photography “departed” from the norm, as more and more of my photographs were finished in black & white
  • Even more of my photos taken “in” a place are not “of” or “about” that place
  • We spent a month (actually 28 days) at the beach, the longest either of us had ever been away from home

Castiglione d’Orcia, Italy

Early morning, quiet street in Venice, Italy

Early morning, quiet street in Venice, Italy

I’m not sure what to make of the fact that more and more of my photos have people in them.  I’ve historically considered myself to be primarily a landscape photographer, and have often responded to requests to photograph weddings and portraits with something along the lines of “notice that most of my photos do not have people in them.  Thanks, but no.”  I do think that as I get older I find that experiences and relationships have taken a higher priority than trophy icon shots or sunrises and sunsets.  Oh, I still get my share of those, but for the most part the photos that call my name are the ones that bring back memories of a place, or more likely the memory of my feelings that I had when I was in the place.  Venice is a good example.  As much as I loved Tuscany, the few hours that I spent – mostly alone – wandering around Venice in the early morning is one of my most cherished memories.

Room keys on maid’s cart, Pienza, Italy

Pienza, Italy

Montalcino, Italy

I chose this collection of photos not because they are my “best” or “Greatest Hits” from 2018, but rather because they represent how I feel about the things I did and places I went, and how I felt while I was there.  It’s not that these are photos I never would have taken previously, but more that they are photos that better capture my memory of a place, not just documenting what I saw.

Kathy & I wish everyone a Happy New Year.  We’ve got lots planned for 2019 and are looking forward to getting started!

I saw this guy every morning, picking up trash before dawn. While there were a number of these street sweepers, I always knew where this guy was because he whistled constantly. My memories of mornings in Venice include the strains of whatever tunes were passing through his lips.

Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Minneapolis Central Library, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Tuscan countryside near Pienza, Italy

St. Simon’s Island, Georgia

The Pantheon