Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.

Portland Oregon railroad bridge, as seen from our temporary digs, at Wayne’s folks, looking East.

What’s it like when you’re done cruising, if you go minimalist, like we did?  It’s a little weird.

No home.

No car.

No storage unit.

No furniture.  No appliances.  No electronics (besides what phones, Kindles, iPads and laptops were still usable).

Columbian River canoeist, Portland Oregon, as seen from our temporary digs, at Wayne’s folks, looking West.

“Wow!  I can’t believe you pretty much got rid of everything.  So many of us have talked about doing it, but you did!” exclaimed a former HP colleague when I bumped into her in downtown Vancouver.

Indeed we did.

We sold our house at a break-even price in the real estate bust of 2007, renting until we left. 

Columbia River Gorge as seen from Crown Point; what drew me to the Portland Oregon area from the very beginning.

Once we left, we didn’t know for sure how long we’d gone, and when we were done if “home” would be the US.  Thus, we didn’t want a storage unit.

Before we left the US, Wayne’s folks in Portland Oregon kindly stored our legal paperwork, some clothes, keepsakes, art and a tiny bit of camping gear.  Fortunately that camping gear included a queen-sized airbed, so we will have a bed temporary bed once we move into an apartment.

Our final box as it was received in Portland ~three months after we sent it from Australia.  Not everything survived shipment.

When we sold our boat in Australia, we mailed some tools and a few souvenirs.  We took a subset of our clothes, electronics with us for driving tour of Australia.  Nearly everything else either was left aboard our boat for the new owners, sold via Gumtree (Australia’s Craigslist equivalent), given away or thrown away. 

When we flew back to the US from Australia, we pared down further still, including our remaining cookware and camping gear with the sale of our Landcruiser.

Since January when we readied our boat for sale — for 6 months — I have not had a space to call my own.  Life has been out of suitcases and boxes, often scattered hither and yon.  No dressers.  No cupboards.  A few inches of closet space.  Shoes hopefully out of sight under our borrowed bed.  Dirty clothes tucked away in the corner, until washed using someone else’s machine.

We’re lucky.   

One of many tents we see marking “home” for Portlanders, under bridges, overpasses, in traffic medians and elsewhere.

Whenever we go into town, we see the many Portlanders who’ve set up residence in tents, or lay sprawled, blanket-wrapped, across sidewalks and tucked into doorways, often in the shadow of condo high-rises, whose residents paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to tower above the have-nots for the convenience of a chi-chi natural grocery store and a movie theater a block away.

Our in-laws let us move temporarily into their guest bedroom — their sewing room, really.  They let us invade their kitchen.  Take up residence in their favorite chairs.  Hog us their bathroom.  Ride the coat-tail of their internet.  Wash our dirty laundry.  Borrow their cars. 

When living in someone else’s space our goal is to alternately add value and become invisible.  It’s an odd state of being.  A somewhat impossible one whilst everyone tries to be considerate of sharing a space normally enjoyed by two, not invaded by two more who often have little idea of how things are normally done.  We’ve grossly violated our ideal visit time of three days.

This prosaic explanation of Portland art harkens to my puzzlement over our current state:

‘My chosen form is an ordinary flower – some might even call a it weed. A universal childhood memory that becomes a metaphor for a child’s lost innocence and joy.  To a child, it is a flower full of wishes. But, to an adult, it is a weed that must be eradicated.

I wanted to make the flowers invisibly large and powerful so that their emptiness gives attention to how they hold space.  They become templates of the possibility that wind and air filled them once and that they have left a mark in your life.

Lastly, this piece also represents Portlanders, who are continuously finding the beauty in what is often perceived as ugly.’

-Deb Hiller

Slowly, though, we’re making progress.

Thanks to one of Wayne’s former colleagues hand-delivering his resume to a former employer, he has a handshake offer to get his former Portland job (otherwise he’d still be waiting).  The required prerequisite criminal check may take as long as month, so no start date yet,  Now at least, one of us knows where they’ll be working. 

We’re not the only unofficial temporary dwellers in the marina.  Only a window separated us from this other interloper.

We’re reluctant to go with any long-term lease until we know where I’ll end up working, given how bad traffic can get for Portland metro commutes.  We don’t want to repeat the mistake we made in Everett, where only one of us had a sane commute.  

My job hunt continues, a bit more challenging given my 12-year hiatus from the kind of job I currently seek.

In a few days, we’ll rent an apartment and pay the financial penalty of month-to-month rent over a more favorably priced lease that might lock us into someplace I don’t want to commute from.  We were shocked that today a two-bedroom apartment in a bad neighborhood is over $1500/month; twice what we paid in Everett 5 years ago in a much better neighborhood (Everett prices were comparable to Portland’s). In October, rent controls begin, and with it the expectation that rents will escalate in open, uncommitted apartments.

However, if there’s one thing cruising taught us more than anything, we’ll figure out a solution, due to our resourcefulness and flexibility.

While we may be done cruising for a while, everyday life continues to provide an adventure — just of a different kind.

Portland Ports, as seen at sunset from our temporary spot on the Columbia River.
While looking forward to our own place, we will certainly miss these views!

Location Location
We’ll be looking for a place to call home in Portland Oregon metro area, though at the moment I am visiting my Mom and Dad in Florida, as it’s been 2 1/2 years since I last saw them.  

Up Next
While “Galley Wench” is done cruising for a while, there are still plenty of untold tales yet to tell, with videos and photos.  And for those wondering about what happens when one returns, homeless and unemployed from cruising halfway around the world, the occasional post like this one, will give you a sense for what it’s like.