Unexpected Encounters

My book, Unexpected Encounters, chronicles my adventure into 19 countries, including the Arctic Circle and the Sahara desert.

Some folks seem to think, at the age of 74, it was a big, brave, challenge for me. I, on the other hand, didn’t think my age had anything to do with the year long journey.

I’m just an adventurous person, but I did find toting suitcases, computer, camera and bags a challenge for my weakened muscles, earned from sitting in front of a computer for many years as a reporter.

But, if I can do it, you can do it, no matter the age.

My book is getting edited

The book that chronicles my yearlong journey is getting edited by an exceptional person. She is detail oriented and I’m happy to hear it’s going well.

She thinks it will be a best seller. I sure hope so.

A bread head

A bread head in Turkey

Hosteling mixed blessings

You can save some money while traveling, by staying in a hostel.

However, there’s a range of quality from a D minus to an A. While on my one year journey, there were some hostels catering to people younger than myself. That created some problems, when I went to sleep around 10 – 11 p.m. and they’d stager into the room around 3 a.m. and they were not silent.

Noise, limited showers for the number of people using them, no choice as to who you room with, bad lighting and non-caring folks at the reception area, were norms for the D minus hostels.

But there were good hostels too. Those were run by folks who catered to the guests’ comfort.

So, unless you do your homework ahead of your stay, be prepared for whatever you find. It may be a D or somewhat in-between the worst and the best. Good luck.

Traveling to Cuba

It’s easy to travel to Cuba today, since President Barack Obama changed a long held policy that limited the U.S. citizens to visit the island.

I did when living in Costa Rica, and loved the week I spent there.

I rented a hotel room, that was a converted house across the road from the ocean.

The home was once a prestigious house, with marble steps, filled with expensive furniture. I paid $25 a night.

If you want to see Cuba, you should do it before it changes and becomes a tourist trap.

Schengen rules – keep them in mind

If you plan on staying in any country that applies the strict schengen rules, then you must be aware of those rules. If you go over the 90 day allowance in any schengen rule country, then you face a $10,00 fine and/or deportation.

Most every European country will hold a tourist/visitor to those rules. So if you plan on staying longer, you must leave the shengen country for 90 days before entering the country again.

The United Kingdom does not hold a tourist/visitor accountable for the 90 day rule, however, those countries have their own visa rules.

What I’m saying is to study the rules, and know before you go. Since security has gotten tighter, custom agents, as a rule, look carefully at passports and can assess how long you stayed in the country.

 

 

What I learned when traveling for one year

On the road for one year, on planes, buses, trains, boats, ferries, camels, horses, with luggage, purse, camera, and computer, I learned that most people are good.

It’s easier to find the good folks than the bad ones, that is if your open to that possibility.

Everywhere I went, someone was always there to help me off of a train, pick up my luggage and/or walk with me to my next place.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak the language, always try English first. If that doesn’t work, try pantomime, point to a map, write it out. MOst people will find that fun and charming and will work harder at trying to help you.

Learn how to ask where is…, thank you, hello and goodbye in the language of the country where you are, even if just for a few hours or an extended time.

Have fun and that will beam out of you.

Traveling with minimum luggage

First of all, for minimum fuss, you must keep your clothing options down to a manageable size. This is something I try to do every time I go somewhere, and every time I come back with something I didn’t wear. But I will not give up.

I almost have it down to a science, but not quite. When I traveled for a whole year, there were seasons to take into consideration. But since I traveled alone, with only myself to haul my baggage around, I had to be ruthless with what I left behind. Once when my raincoat didn’t keep me warm in Iceland, t purchased a sweater, and then I had to let go of something else to accommodate the extra bulk. Oh, and I lost weight, so some items because of that, got left behind, as well. I’m known for leaving items on park benches and airports.

Then there are those great plastic bags that will shrink clothing by using a vacuum sweeper hose to suck the air out. That will give you more space.

But, one more reason to keep your luggage down to minimum is the airlines weight regulations. It’s very costly to go over the limit.

You must check all the airlines you’ll be traveling on for those rules; and believe me they differ between airline companies. It can get tricky, so get prepared.

 

Taking two screaming cats to Costa Rica

My son Ron and I were at the San Francisco airport with each cat in their separate carriage. And we met all the requirements for the cats to enter Costa Rica, and to board the airplane.

So there we were, Ron had one carriage and I had the other. The customs agent told us to take the cats out of the carriage so the carriages could be searched. Then the next request was a real challenge.

“Put your arms out so I can search.” I had a death grip on the cat, thinking that if Peaches got out of my arm, he’d be lost in the airport probably forever.  So I switched the cat from one arm to the next so the agent could search both of my sides.

Then she told me to sit down and take off my shoes.

“What? How am I going to do that with this cat?” She gave me a stone face.

So I sat down, worked one shoe off, all the while holding on to Peaches, and then she asked me to lift my feet so she could look under them.

Ron went through the same ritual as I did, and then when that ordeal was over, we put the cats back into their little carriages and boarded the plane. This time we put the cats under the seat in front of us on the plane. The cats screamed until we got into higher altitude, and then when we arrived in Costa Rica, they screamed all the way through customs. Our paper work was shown and approved, and we didn’t need to take the cats out of their carriages this time.

I had previously arranged for a Bed and Breakfast in Costa Rica. I had packed a box and some newspapers, so right away, the cats new that was their litter box and it sufficed until the next day, when I purchased some cat litter.

So the lesson is to be prepared for any surprises while boarding and arriving. Have all the necessary paper work with you handy. Arrange for a litter box immediately when arriving. A box with newspapers is easy to pack and works fine for a short time.

 

 

Traveling with cats

Traveling with animals can be done, but with much preparation.

I took my two cats, Peaches and Buddy to live with my late husband and I in Holland for one year, and then to Costa Rica where I lived nearly two years, alone.

In was not necessary to quarantine  the cats in either Holland or Costa Rica, but in other countries, it may be necessary so do your diligent homework on that before embarking on a trip oversees or other locations in the world.

When we moved to Holland for that year, we had a friend line up a place for us to live before my husband first arrived there. I followed with the cats and had arranged for them to board into the cargo hold. I had been promised that it was safe, and to supply the cats with one carriage for them to share. It was made comfortable with a blanket, water and food. When arriving in Holland with screaming cats, the water had spilled, and food was mashed up into the blanket. They were mad but it didn’t bother their health or safety. When we traveled to another country,  while in Holland, we put the cats into a shelter, which was right in the middle of a neighborhood, next to other houses. We found it spotlessly clean and the helpers in love with cats. It was always full of cats from expats, and diplomats and others.

Before leaving for a foreign country, there are restrictions and rules to learn about from the airlines and the country where you are going to be living.

In Holland, we had to have current vaccinations, a physical and another check up close to departure. All of the information must be shown to the airline company when arriving at the airport with the pets, and upon entering another country.

It isn’t easy, but it can be done. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you more about the departure with cats to Costa Rica and the obstacles I faced getting there and the challenging return to the U.S.

More about travel etiquette

I got into a conversation with my son today regarding bad travel behavior.

He mentioned an incident where some crazy, self centered tourists carved their names into an important monument in Rome. They were rightfully arrested for destroying historical property.  I ask, why wouldn’t someone know that was wrong before they did the deed?

I’ve experienced American’s getting irritated when they couldn’t understand someone speaking a language other than  English. Their voices get louder and louder, as if the person was deaf. I’ve also seen American’s, first ask, “Do you speak English?”

It’s better just to try asking first in English, assuming they speak it, and then when finding out they don’t speak English, try another method, such as pantomime, point to a translation dictionary, or a map. Do this while smiling and appreciating their efforts.

I once had a great time with a hotel maid in Turkey who asked me something that I didn’t understand so I got out my computer and asked her what she wanted and had it translated right then and there. We passed  the laptop back and forth and ended up laughing. It was enjoyable experience for both of us.