Read 1st - About Us

uswedHow does a well-educated, church-going, beautiful girl meet a long-haired, guitar playing, hockey player?  These two worlds are not usually known for much crossover content.

Marsha grew up in Hanford, California.  Preston grew up in San Diego, California.

Marsha is the oldest girl in a family of seven.  Preston was an only child from age four on.

Marsha went to college on an academic scholarship.  Preston made sure he was eligible for high school sports with Cs.

Marsha’s first car was a 73 VW Bug.  Preston’s first mode of transportation was a motorcycle.

Marsha won Junior Miss, sang in church, and expressed herself through lead roles in the theater.  Preston chased hockey pucks, threw baseballs, and made noise in a rock band.

Although unlikely, these two very different worlds would meet.

It all started on January 4th 1974 in San Diego.  Marsha and her sister invited some fellow apartment dwellers over for dinner.  One of Preston’s hockey buddies lived in the apartment and extended the invitation to him.  Although he cut the evening short to go to a hockey game and leave a wonderful meal, something special and totally unexpected was set into motion.  One month later, on February 4th, between the first and second periods of a hockey game that Preston was playing in, he skated over to the boards and asked Marsha to marry him.  And what may have been a Zamboni-exhaust-fumed daze, Marsha said yes. They were married that June.

It is worth noting here that Preston made a profound statement very early on in their relationship.  Looking tenderly and lovingly into Marsha’s beautiful brown eyes he said, “We may never be rich, but you will never be bored.”

Preston is happy to report that he has kept his promise … on both accounts.

After four years of carefree, marital bliss, the four-part McCracken clan started to form.  Sarah was born in San Diego circa 1978.  In Grand Rapids Michigan Joshua joined the adventure mid 1980.  The band was together, now it was time to hit the road.

Shortly after Sarah was born in San Diego, Grand Rapids Michigan became home.  Preston started his career as a High School Special Ed teacher.  Marsha loved being a full-time mom for Sarah, and then shortly afterwards, Joshua.  This residence lasted four years.

Back to San Diego.  Marsha added some part-time work with her full-time momming while Preston continued to teach.

After four years it was off to seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.  Marsha worked at Asbury College and then the Asbury Seminary library.  Preston was a full-time student and worked part-time as the adult hockey director in Lexington.  (God does work in mysterious ways.)

This pastoral family’s first church was in Soldotna, Alaska.  Preston spent most of his time trying to figure out, at thirty-nine, what being a pastor was all about.  Marsha enjoyed three years helping children in an elementary school.

The McCrackens experienced their second church in Sacramento, California.  Marsha relished working in a reading clinic while Preston functioned as the associate pastor with a staff of five.  After a brief two years all the staff went their own ways.

Our way was back to Michigan, this time a smaller city called Jackson.  Marsha was part of Junior Achievement and Preston was, once again, the associate pastor.  After four more years of Michigan winters, Preston ‘felt the call’ to explore more ‘sunny’ ministry opportunities.

Back to the west coast.  Seattle, Washington.  (OK, the term ‘sunny’ is very relative.) Marsha found her last, almost last, job.  She was hired by one of the big four accounting firms. Preston was the solo pastor of a very small church, mostly of senior citizens.  This was the first move without children and they were now officially empty-nesters.  Sarah moved to Colorado and Joshua stayed in Jackson for a few years.  Preston and Marsha loved the Seattle area, but there was going to be a brief intermission.  After three years there was one more move on the horizon.

Preston took the position of executive pastor at a very large church in Indianapolis, Indiana.  This was a mistake.  After two months Marsha returned to Seattle to her previous job.  Preston ‘closed up shop’ and joined her a few weeks later.

Back in Seattle Preston decided to return to ministry and took another associate position.  A few months later they purchased their last house.

After living in six states, fourteen years in their last house, Preston transitioning into creating things full-time in 2012, and Marsha retiring in December of 2016, the McCrackens have decided to quit messing around and go on the road full time. This is The Great Adventure.

We may never be rich, but you will never be bored.”

Next Blog:  The Travel Bug & A Crazy Idea

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Read 3rd - Mental Shift

sunsetAs I mentioned in the last post, around 2013 we made the decision to sell everything and become Senior Nomads.  So … are we crazy?  Are we rich?  Are we braver than most?  Maybe.  No.  Not really.  Here is how it came about for us.

Before being bitten by the travel bug we explored buying a home in Mexico.  Since we have been to Mexico many times and thoroughly enjoy the people, culture, and of course the food, this seemed like a no-brainer to us.  For the most part living in Mexico is less expensive depending on where you live and what you need in a home. Becoming expats in Mexico looked very promising.  We would simple swap one house for another and learn some Spanish.

Then Europe happened.  The thing about Europe is … there is so much of it.  The diversity is mind boggling.  How can you choose to live in only one place when exciting adventures are calling to you from all over the continent? … from all over the world?

I’m not only talking about the variety but the depth of experience as well.  Every time we had to leave a wonderful city or town in Europe, we felt like we had just shaken hands without becoming more intimate.  We wanted to take off our coats, sit around the fireplace with a glass of wine, and tell stories to each other.  This can only happen if you commit to living in a city for awhile.

VISITING a city compared to LIVING in a city is similar to looking at the sheet music to Ray Charles’ ‘Georgie’ and experiencing him performing it for you.  I’ve done both.  Need I say which one was the more impactful?

Since we are not rich, we could not both own a house and experience places like we wanted to.  So the biggest question was, “Do we really need to own a house?”  For most Baby Boomers home ownership was a high priority.  This is what we were encouraged to pursue.  I remember even feeling a little bit grown up when we bought our first house.

Here is a second question that sounds rather cliché but I think honestly answering it can open up incredible opportunities.  Do we own our houses or do they own us?  This is where the mental shift started happening for us.

After owning and now selling five houses we realized we did not need the perceived security of ownership anymore.  This is not an insignificant revelation.  We were now free to start asking “what if’ questions without being geographically locked down.

Maybe the most important ‘what if’ question was What if it is not possible?  We had started to embrace some significant world view changes and were getting excited about this Great Adventure.  What if it was all some silly, hippie-dippy thinking from our youth and we needed to grow up and be responsible … again. This is where some people sadly let the dream leak out like a punctured balloon.  So how do you hang on long enough to see if it is possible?  Google to the Rescue!

We started doing some research and found many Boomers (and younger) already a year or two ahead of us.  We read blogs, found expat websites, subscribed to online newsletters and answered the question for ourselves; Yes, it is possible.   We don’t have to grow up after all! We can live anywhere in the world we choose to live!

If you are keeping score, here are the Mental Shifts taking place:

  • We don’t need to own our own home
  • Yes, it is possible to be Senior Nomads because other people are already doing it

Now … what about ALL OUR STUFF?

We’ve been married for forty-one years.  That’s a lot of stuff-gathering time.  Where can we store it?  What do we need to keep?  What do we want to keep?  What do the kids want?  Can I live without my oversized Homer Simpson Pez dispenser?

Our stuff is like our house – do we own it or does it own us?  If you want a fun perspective on stuff, find George Carlin’s take on this topic.

Here is how we started to unlock the grasp our stuff had on us:

We are going to have to get rid of it all eventually, so why not now? 

Give the kids what they want.

Sell or give away the rest.

We want you to know this sounds rather carefree and daring of us, but it came in stages after we committed to it.  Marsha had her Nativities from all over the world.  There are many wonderful memories with these.

I have my musical toys to jettison; guitars, basses, and amps.

The great news is it does become easier and there is a sense of freedom through the process.

For us, the Mental Shifts happened over time.  We let go of some things that we thought were important to us and found the freedom to pursue our Great Adventure.  I am so glad we committed to this a few years before it would become a reality.  Now we are only a few months away and I can almost taste the gelato we get down the street from the Pantheon, Rome.

Here are some links to resources that helped us in our process.

http://seniornomads.blogspot.com

http://homefreeadventures.com

http://www.chuckandlori.com

http://www.moretimetotravel.com/about/about-the-site/

http://myitchytravelfeet.com

http://www.gypsynester.com

https://travelpast50.com

http://readysettrek.com

http://www.vagabonding.net

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Read 2nd - Travel Bug

130 coluseumWe have always loved to travel and don’t understand why some people spend their whole life in one place.  There is so much to see and experience.  Reading about places, people, and historical events is great, and videos can take you a step closer, but they cannot compete with actually walking the beaches of Normandy, having an Italian naval officer walk you back to St Mark’s Square because you got lost in Venice, or spending an hour at a Mexican roadside food truck with the wife and husband owners laughing while you try to communicate.

We started our marriage honeymooning at Rosarito Beach in Mexico. This started a long and rich love affair with Mexico and the appetite to travel.

Our first overseas trip started in Israel and Jordan with twelve other friends.  Although it has become a cliché, it was life-changing.  We discovered that not everyone in the world lives like us.  We started getting exposed to different food, music, and ways of seeing the world.  We found out that toilets have an amazing number of variations.

Our first solo travel began in the Netherlands to take in the Floriade.  Marsha, being 100% Dutch, wanted to visit the Motherland for this event that takes place every ten years.  Her sister and husband experienced it twenty years earlier and her parents ten years after that.

We started our railway education by arriving in Amsterdam.  Stepping onto the platform we saw nothing, just open fields with no buildings in sight. I was sure we had been purposely dropped off at the wrong place, were going to be robbed and killed by some wild Dutch gang, and never heard of again.  Just as I was about to give up hope we stumbled around to the other side of the train station to see Amsterdam.  OK, maybe we will survive another day.

From the Netherlands we explored BrusselsParisNormandyMont Saint Michel, the Loire Valley, and many other charming French experiences.

Driving / Marriage tip while in France: Do not have your navigator pronounce the names of streets, villages, and towns in French.  Just hearing them makes no sense at all while trying to read the signs as you drive.  You’re welcome.

Our first European trip grabbed our imaginations and we were hooked.  On the SAS flight back home we volunteered to be bumped, receive money for food, hotel accommodations, and best of all, two international round-trip tickets.  That night in the hotel we started planning our next trip, this time to Italy.

Europe – Parte Due

Since we had free airfare, the very next year we flew into Milan to start our Italian trip.  Italian life is artistic. The clothes, food, buildings, bridges, museums, galleries, street musicians and painters, and street lamps all go beyond the functional by expressing creativity and flare.  It is no wonder why artists come to Italy and never leave. We LOVE Italy!

Our Italian adventure included Cinque TerreFlorenceSienaAssisiRome, and an overnight train to Venice (a very interesting story about this in the future).

It was on this trip that the full-time traveling bug bit and bit hard.  We did not want to leave.  Although we experienced so much, it was too brief.  What a cruel trick to play on us.  We wanted more.  But how?

European travel tip #2:  While enjoying a romantic overnight Italian train ride, with the exception of the clothes you will change into, completely pack your bags the night before and get off the train as soon as it stops.  They don’t mess around with their departures.  Once again, you’re welcome.

Thanks to a modest inheritance, we celebrated our thirty-fifth anniversary with a ten-day Mediterranean cruise.  Once again we visited Rome, but this time at a more leisurely pace.  Our ship left Rome and headed east for an incredible ten days.

We couldn’t help but just smile as we ate dinner at an outside café while the sun was going down on Santorini.

We could almost feel the presence of Saint Paul as we walked through the old city of Ephesus (Kusadasi) to see and touch the library, the stadium, and the temple of Artemis.

What may have been the most enjoyable surprise was how much we loved Istanbul.  Sailing through the Bosphorus Strait into port and seeing the Hagia Sophia seems to link you to another age.  We needed more time than what we had to really enjoy the Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, Basilica Cistern, Topkapi Palace, the New City, and the warm, helpful people.  We will be going back.

To walk through Athens is to become part of history.  What stories reside in the Acropolis, Parthenon, and all the back streets of this ancient town.

A very close second to walking the beaches of Normandy was when we meandered the streets of Pompeii.  We could almost feel the desperation of the citizens as we looked at the plaster castings of whole families who were engulfed by the incredibly fast moving lava from Mount Vesuvius.

And of course we had to have pizza where it all started—in Naples.

Now here’s the thing; WE LOVE TO TRAVEL but there is NEVER ENOUGH TIME to really get into the culture of the places we go to.  Around 2013 we made a decision to correct this.  We decided to sell everything, yes everything, and become senior nomads.

Next I will tell you how we have gone about doing this.  It was not as difficult as we thought it might be.

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Read 4th - Action Steps

europe word placesIn the 1st Read we told you how Marsha and I found each other and a little bit about our Nomadic Family.

The 2nd Read had our confession to being bitten by the Travel Bug and realizing there was no cure.

The 3rd Read laid out how we got the Crazy Idea that we could actually be Full-Time Travelers by simply embracing a Mental Shift.

OK.  Simply embracing a Mental Shift sounds adventurous and all, but unless we actually acted on this, we would be like so many others who dream dreams but let the ‘real world’ anesthetize them into settling for what is more acceptable and safe. Marsha and I know how precious our time is together, so acceptable and safe just won’t do.  We grabbed hands, looked at each other, and said, “Wow!  We are going to do this!”

We are what you would call Systems Experts.  We love to look at a project, uncover the critical points, and then put together Action Steps.

Warning: It is easy to get stuck in the planning stage and not actually pull the trigger.  It’s really fun to dream but you will never know if you can fly unless you jump out of the nest.

Some of our Action Steps.  Note:  These were put into action over a 2-3 year period.

FINANCIAL:  Can we actually AFFORD to be European Vagabonds?

Although we made some stupid financial decisions in our youth, we disciplined ourselves to the point that we now have no debt.

We met with our financial advisor to see if our dream could be a reality.  Combining our Social Security, pensions, and investments we found it would work.  Yeah!!

If this is an area of concern for you, Marsha and I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s ‘Financial Peace’ training.  http://www.daveramsey.com

RETIREMENT: WHEN can we START our Great Adventure?

Over three years ago I (Preston) transitioned into my third career as a fulltime Creative.  One of my requirements was to be Geographically-Independent; I wanted to be able to do my thing from anywhere. If I have my computer, camera, a few electronic tools, and the internet, I’m free to create from the far reaches of the world.

Marsha took a long look at her job of 18 years and decided that mid-December of 2016 would make sense.  Much to the disappointment of her team, she announced her day of retirement.

Getting Rid of Stuff: WHAT can we LIVE WITHOUT?

HOUSE.  Unless you can afford it (You are rich), owning a house and traveling fulltime becomes an issue.  As mentioned previously, we have owned our fifth and last house for fourteen years.  We have really enjoyed this home with our backyard retreat, secluded hot tub hideaway, and Marsha’s wonderful sense of interior style.

Note:  Your house-selling process may not resemble ours … at all.  We have never had an experience like this before.

We met with our agent in early February to get the ball rolling for a summer sell.  After showing him the house and laying out our game plan he told us that the housing market in our area was very hot at the moment and we might want to start the process immediately.  We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and said ‘sure.’

This was on a Saturday.  That Wednesday, at breakfast, a friend asked me about our house.  His daughter and her fiancé had just been outbid for a house in our area.  That night they came over.  That Friday the young couple came back to see the house in the daylight.  The next day they called and said they wanted to buy.  We sold our house … furnished … before it was even on the market.  Your mileage may differ.

STUFF.  After being married for forty-one years you can accumulate a lot of stuff.  Since we had committed to our Great Adventure a few years ago, we had already started selling and giving away things.  But now … it was really happening.  We did our Systems Expert thing.

What do we need while bumming around in Europe?  2 carry-on bags each.

What do we want for living in Central America?  The same.

What do we want for our Motor Home travels?  Add some cooking items and a few other small goodies.

What do our kids want?  They laid claim to artwork, musical instruments, cooking tools, and some family memorabilia.

What do we need for the last few months in Seattle?  Ikea to the rescue!

Was it easy to jettison a lifetime of memories? Yes and no.  Here is what we found.  Think of your possessions laid out in a circle, with what you feel is most precious in the middle.  It is pretty easy removing the outer layer but your hand starts to hesitate the further in you go.  You really have to keep in mind ‘Why’ you are doing this.  For me, I found a real sense of freedom after I gave away or sold a few of those more treasured belongings.  When I started getting weak, it helped to ask myself, “Do I own things or do things own me?”  Sounds so grown up, doesn’t it?  There are times you just need to fake it to make it.

Habitation:  WHERE are we going to LIVE now and later?

BEFORE GREAT ADVENTURE.  We are moving from our 1,745 square foot house, thirty miles north of Seattle, into a 568 square foot apartment right in Seattle.

We are both very excited about this.  Marsha’s 3-hour, daily commute on the bus will now be a 15 minute walk to her office.  I will be creating from our apartment while talking daily walks down to Pike Place Market and exploring our new, hip neighborhood.  I might have to grow a soul patch.  Naaah.

DURING GREAT ADVENTURE.  We are looking forward to living in many different places throughout Europe.  We will most likely stay for a month or more in each place but we are open to whatever captures our imagination.

One of our favorite resources for finding just the right place to live is www.airbandb.com

Future Posts

I will be posting on a variety of topics.  Here are a few possibilities:

-Our continuous countdown to the Great Adventure

-Medical

-Banking

-Travel gear

-Travel revelations, challenges, and amazing experiences

Something you would like addressed?  Just let us know.

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Don’t Retire … Reload

Keep Groovin’ on the Flipside.

Week 18 – Au Revoir Paris

We can’t believe our month in Paris is over!  It was a very special time.  Staying in a world-class city for a month allowed us to overcome the “We’re in Paris!!” infatuation that demands that you scurry about to experience the ‘must sees’ and constantly feeling like... read more

Week 17 – Pantheon, Notre Dame, Opera House, & Pickpockets

Let’s get this out of the way: I was pickpocketed on the Metro this last week.  We were getting into the car during rush hour.  At the last moment, 3 girls in their early 20’s banged into us while the doors were closing.  I thought them rather rude at the time; I... read more

Week 16 –Living Creatively vs Vacationing

This last week I discovered that we are not on vacation.  Being on vacation has built-in limitations, frustrations, and an expiration date on the label.  Living Creatively is different. On vacation, you feel the pressure to see and do everything possible because you... read more

Week 14 – D-Day, Joan, and Julia

Our stay in Normandy was rather sobering.  We arrived in Bayeux on Monday, our Memorial Day in the States.  We went to Omaha Beach and some German bunkers at Longues-sur-Mer.  There is a sense of solemn respect for the lives that were sacrificed for those who would... read more

Week 13 – Chateaux in Loire and a Farm Cottage in Brittany

I’m writing this post today, Sunday, from the porch of our Farm Cottage in St. Maden, Brittany.  There is a light rain tapping on the roof as we enjoy an adult beverage and look out over our private garden.  There are ducks, lambs, and a herd of friendly cats to... read more

Week 12 – Chamonix to Beaune to Amboise

This feature picture is what we saw every morning when we woke up.  The word we used the most in Chamonix was “Wow!”  The beauty of the place is beyond intoxicating; it becomes a photographer’s uncontrollable addiction.  I actually had to tell myself to stop taking... read more

Week 10 – Nice on the French Rivera

This featured image is from an evening stroll on the Place Massena. Our travel day from Avignon to Nice was a huge improvement in Train Mastery.  We successfully navigated a 2-train outing without much stress.  I did somehow lose the stuffing bag for my down vest …... read more