Barbara and Scott Dukette ’80, spend year abroad – 12 locations – 4 continents

Barbara and Scott Dukette ’80 are hunting for an international living location by test living 12 cities in four continents over 12 months.  The Dukettes started their oddssey in April 2017.  Here’s Scott’s report:

“When I sold my share of civil engineering firm Klotz Associates and retired, we sold our house and cars in Austin, Texas, gave away/sold/trashed most of our belongings, packed up the rest into a storage unit and hit the road to seek our fortune abroad!  We signed on with a program called Remote Year (www.remoteyear.com), and are checking out 12 different cities for one month each as part of a group of about 50 working nomads.  I’ve been doing remote consulting work and trying my hand at writing flash fiction while adjusting to homelessness.  It’s been an exciting experience so far!

The Remote Year program provides housing, a fully equipped co-working space, travel between program cities and various local experience events.  We take care of our own meals, insurance, voluntary travel outside the program and any other miscellaneous costs.

We’re the oldest people and only married couple in our Remote Year group, known as “Veritas”, which ranges in age from 23 to 59.

While we’re currently over halfway through the program, we haven’t yet decided what life looks like after our Remote Year.  It’s likely we’ll spend a month or two back in the States with family and then pick an international location for a trial expatriate experience of 6-12 months.”

While we’re currently over halfway through the program, we haven’t yet decided what life looks like after our Remote Year.  It’s likely we’ll spend a month or two back in the States with family and then pick an international location for a trial expatriate experience of 6-12 months.”

Dukettes.jpgScott & Barbara, Belgrade, Serbia, September 2017

 

2017
May – Split, Croatia
June – Prague, Czechia
July – Valencia, Spain
August – Sofia, Bulgaria
September – Belgrade, Serbia
October – Marrakech, Morocco
November – Buenos Aires, Argentina
December – Cordoba, Argentina
2018
January – Lima, Peru
February – Medellin, Columbia
March – Bogota, Columbia
April – Mexico City, Mexico

You can access a daily photo documenting our travels on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/scottdukette/

You can access a sample of my Flash Fiction on my website at www.outofaustin.com

MONTH 1 – SPLIT, CROATIA April 30, 2017 through May 27, 2017

This part of the Adriatic coastline is spectacular.  The water is an alluring blue in deeper areas and fades to turquoise in the shallows.  Split seems a very safe city.  Tourist destinations are carefully maintained, and the streets are washed nightly.  Most of the restrooms we used were immaculate, either public or in restaurants.  Most people we encountered seem hard working and honest.   There were a fair number of cruise ship tourists about at any given time, but the city didn’t seem overwhelmed during our pre-season stay.Dukettes Croatia.jpg

Split was beautiful and is on our short list for further consideration.  Our main concern is the potential for tourist overload during the summer season.

There’s a huge old Roman ruin called Diocletian’s Palace that the city has grown around and into over the ages, which has created a fascinating maze of streets that are fun to explore.  We also had a great visit to some of the Croatian islands, as well as to the City of Dubrovnik, which is a breathtaking place used as the film location for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones.

MONTH 2 – PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC! May 27 through July 1, 2017

The architecture overall is beautiful and well preserved, and made walking around a pleasure. There is something interesting around every corner.  Much of it is very old, like the Old Town Tower at Charles Bridge and St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle, built in the 1300’s and still in use.

Prague is also a very cultured city, with many museums.  Franz Kafka and Alfons Mucha (writer and artist respectively) are native sons. Sculptor David Cerney has several pieces displayed in Prague (see photo). The term ‘Bohemian” in reference to a socially unconventional artistic class started here!  Lager beer also originated in the Czech Republic.

They have a great public tram/subway/ bus system, beautiful parks, history, architecture and lots more.  There is an amazing amount to see and do.  We loved it!Dukettes Prague

Prague ticks a LOT of our boxes.  However, we’d have to winter over before deciding whether we could retire there permanently, and we suspect it would be too cold and snowy for us.  But anyone who likes four seasons and doesn’t mind snow should consider Prague for permanent retirement!

 MONTH 3 – VALENCIA, SPAIN! July 1 through July 29, 2017

 Since we can speak a tiny bit of Spanish, it was very comfortable for us. However, Valencia (pronounced Vahl-ENTH-e-uh) has its own dialect that takes some time to catch. The social atmosphere was fun.  It took us only a few days to adjust to the meal cycle.  Breakfast about 10, lunch between 2 and 4 and dinner very late. Restaurants don’t open for dinner until 8 or 8:30 – we generally ate about 10.  But sometimes MUCH later.  And rarely were we in bed before midnight.valencia.jpg

Valencia is definitely on our short list as an option for permanent retirement!

The food was good, the wine cheap, the weather warm and the beach amazing and close.  We ate almost every meal outside.  Cultural events, street art and social opportunities were everywhere.

MONTH 4 – SOFIA, BULGARIA! July 29 through August 26, 2017

Sofia was a pleasant surprise.  There’s a laid back, gritty vibe that we grew to love and a lot of very beautiful Tsarist architecture co-existing with ugly Communist Era concrete apartment blocks.  Sofia was something of a historical tech hub for the communist block pre-1989 and has continued to be one to this day. Average wages are low, but so are food and restaurant prices.

The language is difficult – and they also use the Cyrillic alphabet, so it’s impossible to read anything.  Most people under 30 speak at least some English, although not as well as some of the other countries where we’ve been.  But the people were SO friendly, language was never a barrier!Dukettes Sofia.jpg

While we loved Sofia, winters would be a deterrent for us.  But, like Prague, anyone who likes snow should consider Sofia.

Despite the run-down appearance of many areas (we’re told Bulgaria is the poorest city in the EU), it is a safe city overall – women are comfortable walking alone even at night in the downtown areas.  Food and just about everything outside of imported goods were very inexpensive.  And there seemed to be a beautiful green park every few blocks. 

MONTH 5 – BELGRADE, SERBIA! August 26 through September 29, 2017

Architecture ranges from stunning to extremely ugly in a variety of styles.  There are many beautiful late 1800s buildings (similar to Prague), some Art Deco-esque buildings from between the World Wars and some Russian influence.

Belgrade is similar in a lot of ways to Sofia, still gritty, but perhaps a little more prosperous.  There is also waterfront along the Sava and Danube Rivers that Sofia doesn’t have.

But, like Sofia, the language is difficult, wages low and many areas of the city are run down. However, in Belgrade they’re run down for a different reason than Sofia – Belgrade has suffered centuries of war damage.  The first shots of WWI were fired at Belgrade.  Both the Nazis and Allies bombed Belgrade extensively during WWII, and NATO action in the 1990’s also took its toll.Dukettes Belgrade.jpg

Winter again deters us.  But Belgrade is well worth consideration for the less cold averse.

Overall, an affordable, friendly city with a lot to do and see.  

MONTH 6 – MARRAKECH, MOROCCO! September 30 through November 4, 2017

It’s hard to admit, because Marrakech was one of the 12 host cities on our itinerary we’d most looked forward to visiting, but we were disappointed.  It’s a great place for a 4 or 5-day tourist visit, but not a place (in our opinion) to live for five weeks or to retire.  Our great memories and experiences from the month are mostly about our trips OUT OF Marrakech, to the Moroccan mountains, coast and especially our camel trek into the Sahara Desert.Another issue was feeling like 90% of the local people are trying to cheat or steal from you, and the other 10% excuse it as a “cultural thing”.  Our time in Marrakech was a stark reminder that not everyone in the world loves Americans or tourists in general, even though many of them rely on tourism for their livelihood.  In most places where we’ve traveled, the local people seem happy, even despite huge poverty and income disparity challenges.  While this still rang true elsewhere in Morocco, people in Marrakech seemed generally unhappy.Dukettes Marrakech.jpg

Morocco overall was interesting, but Marrakech is not a city where we would consider retiring.

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