I’m Still Jet Lagged So I Can’t Think of a Catchy Title

5dollarsaday

We just got back on Sunday from a 12 day trip to Belgium and France.  I missed y’all and AGMA!

But it was fun.  Lots of fun.  Beautiful cities, great Belgian beer, WWI and WWII history, great Belgian beer, wonderful food, great Belgian beer, the amazing Mont St. Michel, great Belgian beer.   Brilliant!

I may have mentioned this before – I love to travel.

The travel bug bit me back in the day when, if you were a student, travel was cheap.  Like ridiculously cheap.  When you could fly “student stand-by” for practically nothing.  Remember the classic book Europe on $5 a Day?  As Archie and Edith sang, “Those were the days…”  Sigh.

I took my first international trip in 1972 when I was 18.  We flew from Dallas, Texas to Athens, Greece with a stop in Bangor, Maine and Shannon, Ireland to refuel.  Yeah – the plane had to refuel twice.  At least it didn’t have propellers…or did it?

I was hooked.

In 1976, I did the semi-obligatory post-college trip to Europe.   An organization called “The International Student Exchange” advertised a fabulous eight week tour of Europe by posting flyers seemingly all over every college campus in the US.  A lot of us took the bait.  It was run by a man called “Uncle Roland”.  Kinda creepy.

This operation was intense.  Every week for probably a month – mid May to mid June – a charter took off from New York to London. Everybody on every plane was between the ages of 18 and 22.  Yes – the inmates were in charge of the asylum…

Each planeload was divided into five groups.  After the first night in London, group #1 left on the “official tour”.  Then the next day group #2 would leave.  Yada, yada, yada until all five groups had left London.

My group was J-10 because we left London on June 10th.  Clever… So we did and saw everything that group J-9 did, but a day later.     J-11 was a day behind us.  J-12 was two days behind us.  If it’s Tuesday, where the hell are we?

Each group had it’s own bus that met them in Calais after the Channel crossing.  Our bus driver was Robert.  He couldn’t speak English and may have been a dirty old man – he was probably all of 35 – but this man had the patience of a saint.  Our guide for the eight weeks was a 24 year old man from Austria named Eric.  He was only two years older than me.  Again, an inmate was in charge…

So there we were – 36 hormone super-charged, ADHD, mixed gender late teen/early 20-somethings craving excitement and adventure, all crammed on a bus for eight weeks driving through 11 countries in Europe where attitudes about alcohol, drugs and sex are way different than the US.  Whatever you imagination can conjure up, it probably happened.  Yeah – that too.

Naturally, by the end of the eight weeks, we basically couldn’t stand the sight of each other.  Some people hated each other.  And nobody liked the girl who decided not to use the toilet and used the back of the bus instead.  Especially Robert.  Plus everybody stunk a little…

A few years ago, I found the flyer for the trip that my pack rat alter ego saved for all these years.  It advertised “Come join us for eight happy weeks in Europe!”  Okay – I’ll give them six happy weeks and two pretty crappy ones.  But 38 years later, I remember it like it was yesterday.  Good times.

Total cost in 1976 for 11 countries, 17 cities, hotels, breakfast, most dinners, tours in each city plus lots and lots of special extra events – $1195.00.  Sigh.

“Those were the days….”

Racking up the Skymiles!

BedBugs

Big trip coming up tomorrow.  Again.  Whoo Hoo!  My husband and I are in a season of travel right now.  I like this season. Travel is one of my passions.  Don’t tell the Tea Partiers, but seeing the world can expand your thinking.  I know – I’m a Socialist…

We’re very fortunate to have the means. But only because we are “value” travelers.  Bargain airfares (mostly offseason), bargain accommodations (sans bed bugs!), bargain tours, bargain car rentals, bargain food.  I do get a bit tired of the doner kababs sometimes.  But they’re cheap and filling if the sodium content doesn’t cause a stroke…

We have the time.  Remember, I’ve been on hiatus.  And my husband has been working for the same organization for nearly 40 years.  He has something like 10 weeks of vacation every year.  You’d think we were French, right?  And because he’s the boss where he works, with a few exceptions, he can go when he wants.  Mel Brooks is right – it’s good to be the king.

We have the physical ability.  For now.  My husband has a neurological condition that’s robbing him of the use of his right leg. He can walk, but only very slowly and with a cane.  He can’t walk very far – about a half a mile in a day is it.  So I have to plan our trips carefully for easy accessibility to sights and transport. Sometime that ratchets up the cost of our lodging.  But, it’s still possible to get value digs without having bed bugs as your bunkmates.  It just takes a little extra time to research.  Okay – a lot of extra time.  Trip Advisor has become my travel BFF.

The upside of his condition – if there is one – is that flying is easier. Back in the day, flying used to be easy for everybody.  Now it sucks. Too many people, too few flights, too little space, too much customer “no-service” from the airlines…  S-U-C-K-S.

We get to board first because we need “extra time”.  Translation – guaranteed overhead bin space!  I look back at the teeming humanity in the gate area all pushing and shoving to get near the front so they can dash on when their zone is called to find a space for their roller-boards, and I think, “Suckers!”  But payback’s a bitch… When I’m flying alone, I’m part of that teeming humanity.  I imagine I’m a lioness getting ready to take down a wildebeest.  Zone 2 may now board – take no prisoners!!

We always need a wheelchair to meet us at our destination.  When you’re traveling to another country, this is handy.  Very handy. Actually, unbelievably handy.  You get to skip all of the immigration and customs lines.  Like totally.  They whisk you past all of the cranky people with whining children who have been up all night in the 12 inch economy seats.  Right to the front of the line.

Now I’m also cranky after an international flight.  And whiny.  And I look like sh*t because I’ve been up all night in my 12 inch economy seat.  But my mood improves significantly as we pass go and collect our passport stamps before the last person on our flight has deplaned.  Score!

After every trip, my husband says it’s his last.  He would gladly trade early boarding and our speedy trips through immigration and customs for the ability to walk normally again.  So would I.  He thinks I should travel alone.  He thinks he holds me back.  If I was honest, I’d say sometimes he does.  But I also think I see with wider eyes when I go slower.  I see things that I’d have missed going my “normal” breakneck speed.  A cat behind a lace curtain in a window in Dingle or a beautiful wrought iron doorway in a courtyard on Rhodes…  Poetic moments that you don’t normally notice when you rush by.

He really doesn’t do so bad.  He’s been able to climb the Acropolis in Greece, walk through the Alhambra in Spain, cross the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in Northern Ireland, walk through the Valley of the Kings in Egypt and most recently, hiked the Grampians National Park in South Australia.  All very, very slowly.  But he did it.

So I continue to plan trips for us to new places to see new things. This time it’s the beaches of Normandy and the poppy fields of Flanders.  We love history.  We can’t wait.  It’s supposed to rain in Belgium.  The cobblestones in Bruges could get interesting…

How long this season or travel will last, I can’t say.  Maybe the means will run out before we anticipate.  These days it seems like no retirement income or lifetime of savings is a guarantee of financial independence.  Maybe our time will be taken up by other things like my restarted business.  Or aging parent care.  OR OUR FIRST GRANDCHILD WHO IS DUE IN DECEMBER!!

Oh – did I say that too loud?

Maybe in a few years he’ll not be able to walk at all.  I think we’ll still be able to travel, but it will look much different than it does now.  So I just continue to plan one trip at a time.  And we both continue to enjoy the hell out of each one!

I’m not taking my laptop with me this time.  I think I’ll go old school with a notebook and a pen.   How quaint…

See y’all in September!

On Hiatus Inc.

 

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I’ve been quiet lately.  It’s not that I’ve run out of things to say.  Oh my – I’ve barely gotten started…  Lucky you.

I’m on vacation!  Or coming back from vacation. At this very moment I’m flying at 32,000 feet (that’s 9754 meters to the rest of the world) going 476 mph (766 km/h).  Zoom!  

Not that being on vacation is such an unusual thing for me.  I’ve been “on hiatus” since 2006.  That’s what I told the young man beside me on the plane when he asked what I did for a living.  On hiatus.  We agreed it would be a killer name for a company if somebody hadn’t thought of it first.  Just my luck. 

To entice me to abandon my adopted adult hometown of 30 years and move to parts unthinkable, my husband dangled the “you can quit your job” carrot.  Of the several jobs I’d had out of college, the longest running and the one I was in at the time was as an IT minion for an insurance company.  ZZZZzzzzz…  

All but the last two years of my minion life were spent working part-time.  Great gig!  Professional job, but still time to be a soccer mom and drive a minivan.  Perfect!   I  pioneered working from home in the mid 80‘s.  I really didn’t mind being a minion part-time.   But after two years of full time miniondom after my youngest son had the nerve to go off to college, I was fed up.  Forty hours a week is just uncivilized…

I bit the carrot.

Sweet was the thought of a non-corporate life.  One glitch – it was hard to leave my co-workers and friends.  Really hard.  21 years of shared day to day experiences.  People who knew about my kid’s last track meet, my obsession with chocolate in any form, my last bad haircut.  People I hugged through cancer and divorce.  Laughed with at stupid boss stories at lunch.  Cried with at miscarriage and death.  Celebrated with at births, new love, re-marriages.  You know – the stuff that makes up every hour of every day.  Life.  

I cried when I moved.  My son always says, “Mom, you’re such a girl!”  

But as the Reverend Mother told Maria, “When God closes a door, she opens a window.”  Okay, maybe that’s not word for word…  Not working eight to five was a revelation!  Fancy gourmet cookware store work, famous chef assisting, monastic retreats, massage school graduation, hospice work, running, blogging, travel.  Lots of travel. Like now… 

‘Cuz I’m on hiatus.  Lucky me!