Slide into Portugal!

??????????????Sitting around looking at a slideshow of someone’s travels is straight outta 1956 or so.

Click. Here we are at the airport. Click. Here we are at the motel. Click. Here we are at the Grand Canyon. Click.

Of course, a little retro vibe never stopped us from showing pictures and telling stories. David dreamed up the whole idea: commemorate each month of our trip to Europe last year with a gathering of friends. Show some of our best photos from that region, tell a few stories, eat some regional food and drink some appropriate alcoholic beverages.

We test-drove our first slideshow last night for a very few friends. Pretentiously titled Euro 2012 Retrospective: Istria, it was just a look back at our first month. We landed in Portugal a year ago this week, spent three glorious weeks in Lisbon and another week in the north. We then flew to Barcelona, where we spent five days before meeting friends from home in Germany. (Since we were in Spain for such a short time, we lumped it together with Portugal for slideshow purposes; demanem disculpes, barcelonins.)

Our friend Greg hooked us up with a projector; David whipped up some incredible tapas; and I put the slides in order and uncorked the vinho verde. (Spanish food and Portuguese wine? It’s all about availability, my friends. We have a tapas cookbook and found vinho verde at Trader Joes. Done and done.)

All in all, an excellent evening. We’ve learned some things for the next event, a look back at Germany and a short five days in Brussels: Invite more people.  Book it for a Saturday night instead of a Sunday. Give people more notice. We got some feedback from our guinea pig attendees, too: Keep the stories coming. Don’t show more than 250 photos. Keep David in charge of making the food and Lori in charge of opening the wine. 😉

The myth of “productivity” while traveling

Thick encyclopedias with colorful hardcovers

When we left for Europe, I had a long list of things I planned to do in my free time: reading, writing, scrapbooking. I had a vision of productivity, as if Europe was going to be my own little workshop. But it didn’t work out that way. The “productive free time” I had envisioned never really came to be.

“What!?” some of you may be asking. “You weren’t working! You had nothing but free time!”

True… but between sightseeing, travel planning, and homeschooling Quinland, it felt like I was working the entire trip. That’s not a complaint – I loved almost every minute of it – but each of those “jobs” had tasks that had to be accomplished, deadlines that had to be met, and consumed hours and hours of time. We also had to cook, and sort through photos… and sleep. We were often exhausted at the end of the day.

So, what were the productive things I thought I was going to do on the trip? Did I do any of them? Let’s see:

  • Read a stack of books I’d brought from home. (Partially done; I read parts of all the books I brought with me, but didn’t finish any.)
  • Write the first of my series of Newbery Award-winning young adult novels. (Not even started.)
  • Make a digital scrapbook our trip as we went. (Does buying and downloading all kinds of cool pages for Storybook Creator count? No? Drat.)
  • Blog the trip, as well. (I did 58 blog posts for the trip… but I am only on Day 37 out of 168. Luckily, I kept notes for each day so I can finish it now that I am home.)
  • Blog here at Lighten Up! everyday. (I had averaged a post a day before the trip, but I only posted 60 times from March through August.)
  • Send postcards to all my friends and family. (I think I sent five total pieces of mail the entire trip.)
  • Skype people regularly. (This was hit and miss… I talked to my sister a lot, and Q talked to Hannah a lot, but otherwise we never seemed to be on Skype at the same time that other people were on.)

Oh, well. Perhaps my free time, such as it was, was not productive. I still got to hang out with David and Quinland, play a few games of Agricola (and many games of Dominion), watch a whole bunch of the Olympics, read a bunch of books I downloaded onto the Kindle, and try to catch up with my favorite blogs on my Google Reader. Not productive time, but very enjoyable time, and that is what matters.

Daily Check-In:

I’m grateful that everyone was so gracious when we were late – horribly, unforgivably late – for a family birthday party today. We’d swung by the house to pick up the gifts and cards, only to discover that I could not find half the gifts and had to tear the house apart. I was having a serious panic attack, but everyone was very kind to me.

I am also grateful, of course, for the photo by Horia Varlan.

Gaming our way through Europe

David belongs to a board game website called (suitably) BoardGameGeek.com (aka BGG). Before the trip started, he decided to contact other members from around Europe to see if any of them would be willing to meet up to play games with us along the way. I wasn’t sure about the whole plan – I didn’t want our whole trip focused on board games, as I sometimes feel like a Board Game Widow at home. (He and his friends love to plan game days and spend hours strategizing around the house… and I sometimes wish I got half as much attention!)

I shouldn’t have worried. At home, board games have introduced us to some lovely people that we now call friends, and the same has happened on the road. Thanks to BGG, I have played games with people in restaurants in Portugal and at a game store in Belgium (and England and Spain, for D & Q). We have been invited to dinner and games with people in the homes of people in the Netherlands (three times!) and in Wales (twice!). We have met some of the friendliest, most welcoming people.

We’d had a dream that, on this trip, we would get to know a variety of places and meet a variety of people. Honestly, our stays were too short to meet people “organically;” without the fine folks at BGG, we wouldn’t have gotten to spend so much time with the locals.

So, thank you, David; and thank you, gamers of Europe. It was awesome.

Daily Check-In:

I’m grateful for Family Haircut Day! Every one of us has shorter hair. David and Quinland are shorty-short-short; you can barely tell I got mine trimmed, but six months’ worth of split ends simply had to go.