From the Travel Confessions File ~

Lifestyles of the Not So Rich or Famous… but the Really Lucky

Although I’m relatively new to the blogging world, I have noticed that sometimes bloggers entertain their creative spirit and each other with a variety of writing prompts, tagging games and blogging awards.  I haven’t won any awards as yet, but last week I was tagged to participate in a “travel confessions” game.  Someone tags you, you write a post and tag other blogs.  It sounded like fun and my friend Lois who blogs at Playing a New Game tagged me, so I thought I would play along.

Way back in 1987 I became a corporate meeting planner.  It was a job marriage made in heaven.  I love people, entertaining, creative design, good food, and travel.  We planned large (1,000+) international sales meetings, press junkets, customer events, and sales award trips.  Hotel site inspections were part of the job and they wined, dined and rolled out the red carpet for me on more than one occasion.   I’m afraid I became a bit of a hotel snob.  I know it’s how the 1% live all the time, but when another meeting planner and I stepped off the elevator on the 14th floor of a San Francisco hotel to find two very large suites – and one was ours, I have to admit we were rendered speechless.  And, yes I know that’s hard to believe.   And yes, we had our own butler.  It was simply spectacular.  Unfortunately we were working 10+ hour days and too busy to enjoy all of the luxuries provided.  We did the best we could.

As any single mom who travels for her job knows, the issue of who stays with the kids is always in your mind. I was very lucky.  My company often allowed my son to travel with me.  Let me just say that he adapted to la dolce vita very quickly.   When my work scheduled site inspections for an achievement trip in Hawaii over his 14th birthday, I planned the ultimate surprise.  “Wake up! It’s your birthday and hurry up because we’re going to Hawaii.”  That 14 year old boy, who is now a young man about to build and live in his own “tiny” home of 130 sq. ft., had absolutely no problem settling into the Presidential Suite at the Hilton Waikaloa.  It was larger than our entire home and included a baby grand piano, a dining room with seating for twelve, a kitchen for the catering chef and a balcony that overlooked  the Pacific ocean.  The sunsets were breathtaking.   Our three day working trip included horse back riding, a sunset cocktail cruise on a catamaran, swimming with the dolphins, daily massage, a birthday cake made in the hotel kitchen, and other adventures.  Rich and famous?  No.  Lucky?  Oh my, yes we were!

I must “confess” that my glory travel days are long gone…along with the in-room gifts, limo drivers and luxury linens.   My travel experience has at times made it challenging to stay in the Shady Inn Motel – even if they do leave the light on for you.  I am very grateful I had the chance to taste that kind of luxury.  I can truly say,  “Been there.  Done that.”

These days we’re traveling on a rather small budget.  I’m happy to trade five star for unique and interesting and charming.  I love the challenge of digging up the hidden gems.  And they’re out there.  You just have to look a little harder to find them.  Really who needs a butler?  Not me, but I am always tickled with the little extra touches when we find them.That’s my travel confession.

I’m tagging two bloggers who I read regularly and always enjoy.  Please play along only if you wish.  Have fun!  I’d love to hear one of your travel confessions.  Suzanne at Boomeresque who writes a great travel blog sharing her adventures and point of view as she travels with her working husband.  Astra, a Canadian blogger at The Dust Bunny Chronicles and self-described “zamboni fumes inhaling soccer mom” isn’t exactly a travel blogger, but I’m betting she has a few very interesting travel stories as the mom of three boys.

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If you come to a fork in the road, take it

Yep, that brilliant piece of travel advice came from none other than Yogi Berra.  I’m kind of a quote fan so I thought I’d share a few words of wit and wisdom about travel that I’ve stumbled over in my recent armchair travels.   Enjoy!

1.  “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.”   unknown

2.  “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware” –  Martin Buber

3.  “When preparing to travel, lay out all of your clothes and all of your money.  Then take half the clothes and twice the money”  Susan Heller

4.  “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”  Susan Sontage

5.  “If at some point you don’t ask yourself, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ then you’re not doing it right.”  Roland Gau

6.  “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”  Helen Keller

7.  “I travel light.  I think the most important thing is to be in a good mood and enjoy life, wherever you are.”  Diane von Furstenberg

8.  “Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.”   Lawrence Block

9.  “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance.”

10.  “Don’t be a tourist.  Plan less.  Go slowly.  I traveled in the most inefficient way possible and it took me exactly where I wanted to go.”  National Geographic’s Andrew Evans on his 40 day, 40 bus journey from Washington D.C. to Antartica

11.  “Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”  Gustave Flaubert

12.  “Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.”  Fitzhugh Mullan

13.  “The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them.”  Amelia E. Barr

14.  “Just shut up and get in the car.”  Nancy M. Thompson to Leslie H. Sims

15.  “If you look like your passport photo, you are too ill to travel.  Will Kommen

What’s your favorite travel quote?  I’ll add it to my list.

Booked it Danno!

I am so excited I can hardly contain myself!   If I’m dreaming, please do not pinch me.

I have been thinking about walking the Camino de Santiago for a while now.  But, in my heart, I knew I was way past that stage in my life where I wanted to walk all day and then sleep on the ground or in a hostel with the smelly, partying masses of young folk. Not to mention carrying all my belongings on my back. Don’t get me wrong – I love young people.  I used to be one.  Truly, some of my best friends are young.  And, I still like a good party!   I do not think of myself as old and crotchety, no matter what my kids might tell you.  But, when it comes to SLEEP.  Now that’s a different matter entirely.  Let it be known here that I am not nice (and might even be considered cranky if not downright crotchety) when I don’t get my full eight hours – preferably in comfort and relative silence.  So, I wasn’t sure how to make this particular dream a reality.  It was definitely a conundrum.

I firmly believe that there is always a way and a brilliant solution came to me in the form of an article written by a woman who had completed what I like to call the “relatively civilized, not too hard but still challenging, with support if and when you need it” version of walking the Camino.   Marly Tours was our answer!  This discovery made it all seem do-able.  All we needed was a little time, a moderate amount of money and good walking shoes.  As it turned out, I mentioned our idea to a few friends and now we are a party of six.  Hubs, me, my sis and three women friends.  It’s a big year too – my 65th birthday, my sister’s “something that ends in a zero” birthday, hubs and my 10th anniversary.  Definitely a year worth marking in a big way.  We’ll  walk about 10-12 miles a day at our own pace  and meet up along the way. Then we’ll gather together every evening for wine, dinner and story-telling before bed.  We’ll be a small group of no more than 14 Pilgrims + our Marly “wranglers” who will make sure we don’t get lost, carry our luggage, provide snacks, first aid and sag wagon support if needed.

So… we’re off.  Well not until next September.  Exactly twelve months from this week.    Call me a light weight, call me soft, call me old, but do not call me between September 17 and 24, because I won’t be home.  I’ll be in Spain, crossing one more item off my bucket list – walking at least a small portion of the Camino de Santiago.

Staying in small hotels like this…Sleeping in a comfy bed like this…Walking along roads and paths like this…Now, I just need to find a home exchange so we can stay an extra week to explore the rest of Spain.  I’m working on that too.

Hicksville Here We Come ~

I’ve been taking a couple of mini vacation trips with my backpack, my rollie and my lovely family.  I love summer!

Until I’m back to regular posts, here’s another fun and unique travel option that was sent to me recently from my very LA hipster niece.  She knows all the cute and quirky places to stay in California and this is certainly one to add to the travel list.  If you’re traveling in Southern California, you might want to spend a night (or two) in Hicksville.Hicksville is a  “motel” resort with lodging comprised of themed trailers with names like The Fifi, The Pioneer, The Integratrailor, and The Sweet.  It’s located in Joshua Tree, but you won’t see an address on their website.  That’s because you can’t drive by…you only get the address after your reservation has been confirmed.  It’s the ultimate secret getaway.  But wait, it gets better – the whole place, including the swimming pool, runs on solar power.  Their amenities include the pool, a Tipi with a firepit, horseshoes, darts, table tennis, archery and of course a bar.  All the comforts of home.  Well, that probably depends on where you call home, but it would definitely be a great stay for a night or two of fun in the outdoors and under the stars in the California desert. These folks really “circled the wagons” in style.

Thanks Melissa!

Air BnB ~ Another Interesting Option

Here’s another lovely benefit of writing this blog – I hear from so many people who know WAY more about travel than I do and they offer great new ideas for me to check into.  How cool is that?  Very actually!   And that’s how I came to learn about Airbnb from Suzie, a lovely woman with a lot more travel miles on her rollie than the hubs and I have right now.

How about an art filled room in Giacomo’s stone house in Vinci, Italy?

I’d heard of this new player in travel accommodation but, frankly I thought it was sort of a step up from couch surfing and I’ve decided that’s probably not for us (at least right now).  Boy, was I wrong.  According to the founders (three young men in their late 20’s) it all started several years ago when these guys decided to buy some blow up mattresses and offer them (along with a tasty breakfast and local hospitality) to a few of young creative types who were attending a creative design conference in San Francisco where they lived.
Hence the original name Air Bed and Breakfast.  I am always tickled by creative ideas and love it when creativity + passion + vision + hard work = major success.

According to their website, it turns out that a whole lotta people were looking for places to stay where the “hospitality was genuine and the M&Ms didn’t cost $6.  The guests got insight into the city from a fresh, local perspective and an interesting place to stay at a very reasonable price.”  Bingo!   Airbnb took off and now offers diverse accommodations in over 26,000 cities and 192 countries around the world.

So, of course I took myself for a little cruise on the airbnb site and found every imaginable kind of place to stay.   For $71 a night you can rent a lovely domed cave house in Cataluna, Spain from Eve.  Or, for $85 a night you can stay in this yurt in the trees near Ashland OR with Becky and Sidney as your hosts.  We could do this for a long weekend! Or maybe, a small apartment on an agriturismo farm owned by Francesco and his family.  They make sheep’s milk cheese.  You name it, someone is offering you the opportunity to stay in it – cabins, rustic retreats, repurposed buildings, yurts, castles, boats, lofts, apartments – the list is endless.  And, of course, you can always rent a bedroom in someone’s home, often with meals and lots of social interaction.   Brilliant idea!  Let’s get packing.

Doors of Mexico ~

In oneself lies the whole world and if you know how to look and learn, the door is there and the key is in your hand. Nobody on earth can give you either the key or the door to open, except yourself.    Jiddu Krisnamurti

I am fascinated by doors, especially old wooden ones.  They are true works of art and function.  They keep you warm. They keep you safe.  They hide secrets.  They open wide to welcome friends and strangers.  On my visits to San Miguel, Guanajuato and the small towns in between, I’ve spent many happy hours studying and photographing doors – and making up my own stories about what was going on behind them.

I’m no professional photographer and my camera is a tiny point and shoot, but nevertheless, I hope you find these doors as beautiful and interesting as I did.

Entering the Art Instituto of course!

rich gringo doors

The door knockers were works of metal art.

Striking for sure, but somehow so wrong.

Who stole the doors?

Bicycle Built For Two ~

I had never seen a bicycle built for four until a week or so ago when we stumbled upon a whole herd of them.   I’m not sure exactly what you call a whole bunch of cyclists on bicycles built for two, or three, or even four riders – whole families riding in unison on the same bike!  And everyone was smiling.  And no one was arguing or complaining.   They were happy – at least 100 of them.  It was a beautiful sight to behold.  A few even stopped a minute so I could take a picture, others just whizzed on by so I had a lot of pics of rear tires and rear ends.

Of course, this prompted the conversation “We could/should do this.”  Really?  Are you nuts?   We’re a team, a pretty good team, but not one that always works in tandem.  We each dance to our own music.  Hubs is  “Meatloaf – Life’s a Lemon and I Want My Money Back” 70’s and 80’s rock and roll and I’m all Norah Jones.  You should see us dance!  It takes a considerable amount of alcohol to smooth out the differences.  And, I have that unfortunate tendency to lead.  That’s probably not going to change any time soon.  Now, picture those very same people on a tandem bike.  Scary thought.

Apparently there are names for each position.  The person in the front is the pilot and the person in back is called the stoker.   If we were to ever consider such a crazy thing, I’m calling dibs on pilot (it sounds easier and I get to be in charge, ie. lead, which we already know I have experience with).   Hubs can be the muscle in the back.I found some very helpful information from a couple who took a 3 1/2 month tour of Europe on a bicycle built-for-two pretty much on a whim and with no experience.  Sounds like a “Why Not?” to me.  Since their tips for keeping the peace in your relationship while riding tandem pretty much work for relationships in general, I thought I’d pass them along.

Pilot – Do not spit.
Stoker –  Do not be a backseat driver.
Pilot – Do not question the Stoker’s pedaling efforts.
Stoker – Do not lean.
Pilot – Communicate – do not expect the Stoker to be a mind reader.
Stoker – Do not suddenly stop pedaling
Pilot/Stoker – Do not walk away from the tandem and assume that the other person is holding it upright.

So maybe you’ll see us on the road someday.  If I don’t waive, it’s because I’m holding on for dear life with both hands.