God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Unfulfilled Traveler

For years, well, since 2001, I have had a favorite travel website--as far as I am concerned it is the go to place on the net for information about traveling in Italy and many other countries. Its premise being that from fellow travelers come the best, most honest insights and advice about destinations.

Slow Travel and Slow Talk are two parts of the same animal. Slow Travel is the information partition where you find reviews, essays, road information, trip reports and a lot more stuff. Slow Talk comprises the forums which offer country specific boards, information about technology, language help and more, more, more. Travelers assist each other in planning trips, sharing information, arranging for get-togethers in far away places such as Turkey and Africa as well as well-trod (trodden?) Europe. It is a community of mostly like-minded souls--people who love to travel and who want to experience cultures a little more deeply than tour groups usually allow.

We are people who take the unexpected in stride--well, actually, thrive on the serendipity and feel that we have been blessed when those moments come. Getting lost offers opportunity, the hidden trattoria unpromoted by Rick Steves is the goal, coaxing a smile from the brusque shop keeper is a conquering moment, experiencing a cultural difference is a time of learning, making new friends promises more to come, accepting kindness from strangers reminds of brotherhood, knowing that what seems an idiosyncrasy to us is mundane for our hosts, realizing that maybe we were "taken" a little and then laughing it off becomes an achievement, sloughing off inconvenience becomes an accomplishment --these are the mindsets of those who relish travel, the new, the broadening of horizons; who know that the world is a big place and no country holds the monopoly for setting standards and defining correct and incorrect ways.

I am saddened when I read of someone who has dreams for a trip but does not prepare for what it will be--when one wants the comforts as defined by the lifestyle at home--whatever that might be, who seems to find a satisfaction in complaining and comparing. Inconvenience is a fact of travel but should not be what composes our memories.

When only looking through the prism of the known, the joys and serendipities and excitement and experiences and wonder of the unknown are excluded. Travel loses its purpose, becoming a disappointment--barren and disillusioning. Focus is spent on the inconsequential irritants that ruin the beauty that surrounds and presents itself.

Before embarking on a journey to somewhere-anywhere, it is so important to spend time researching the country, the culture, the details--determine what it is you want to see and do. What calls out to you--what are your interests? Read reviews, check out travel books, read the fine print, look at pictures, read a little history--in other words, learn something about your destination. Absorb what other people have reported and said. Pick up some clues and hints as to what to expect.

Travel is something we make happen--other people do not make it for us. I think to often people expect............

And this is why Slow Travel and Slow Talk have met the needs of so many people. We are a community of people who support, help, encourage and educate each other-- a community for both the new and experienced traveler--anyone who wants to learn, give, share and  take. We are not experts just sharers of experiences and the love of travel.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Catch-Up Time

Yeah--it's been a time since I last wrote--maybe the longest between posts since starting this blog in 2005, before blog mania hit. It started simply as a means to journal the process of preparing to relocate to Italy for a year. Since I hate to write with pen and paper--if I can't read my handwriting, who can?--it made sense to word process. And then it occurred to me that if I did it on the web and, if the web is around for a few centuries, perhaps future family might be interested in ancestors. Plus, I do like to write when there is something to say or something that can be manipulated into being said. It was so easy at first and then, when living in Italy, writing was downright compelling.

Since those days, there have been obvious times to post either because life is interesting or I had some thoughts I wanted to share or I just wanted to write. However, dry times do hit-- life becomes rather routine and mundane or there is an absence of scintillating thought or, and most often, I am just not "into" writing.

Now a month has skittered by and I note from the handy stat counter that there are still a few faithful who drop by now and then--maybe they are future ancestors--think?  So, to keep a few followers so that I don't feel totally deserted--earned, yes, nice, no--I think I will  update the last month. I do have a post in mind about slow travel vs. fast travel but that is for another day.

So--without further ado--here are the highlights from the last month:

1.  Parted with my most favorite of cars--a little 1998 Saturn Coupe--manual shift, which I loved. It had only 52,000 miles so was in good shape. I bought it when I was working and used it as a run around town vehicle. It was "my" car with little reason for passengers. But....now, with an almost teener, I am back in the taxi business and Casey at 5'7" and his friend at 5'9" the handwriting is on the wall--the car wouldn't work for them. I became aware of this one day as I watched them try to pretzel themselves into the back seat. So now, I am the proud owner of a 2011 VW Jetta--I gave up the manual and now, truth be told, am enjoying an automatic which I swore would not happen. And....since I am not a youngster anymore, admit that I find that getting in and out is a lot easier. The strange thing with the Jetta is that it changes color from silver to gold depending on the light.  
                      OLD                                                                                                    NEW


    2.  Spent many hours planning trips---not a bad way to spend time. We're headed to our second home for 6 weeks this summer--Italy. Guess that's worth a blog post to give the details, including the opera Aida in the Roman Arena in Verona--elephants in the aisles and lots of pomp. Hopefully Casey will love it! 
         Then, call it risk taking or crazy--take your pick--we're off to Egypt and Jordan in December. That definitely deserves a post--if only to assure you that we are not totally out of our minds. Just sounds like a good thing to do over Christmas when Casey has two week off of school.

    3.  Oversaw Casey's life--an eventful and full-time occupation. Smart he may be, and he surely is, but motivated and self-propelled, he surely is not. Basically he is a 12 year old who wants to be 12 but schools expect so much from kids these days and there are so many other pressures that they have to be 16 four years early. He is taking advanced algebra. I didn't take regular algebra until 9th grade when I was 14. 

    4. Last week was spring break which was well timed. We needed a break and so we took off for Monterey. Ken and I have spoken for years about taking Casey there to the magnificent Monterey Bay Aquarium which is world famous for its work with endangered species. Having been to many aquariums I have to say that this ones rises above the others. It is quite beautiful, appealing to old and young. Casey who loves animals of all kinds loved it. I had remembered the jelly fish exhibit as being quite special but this time it was the sea horse exhibit that stole the show. Spectacular!

       And then we had time to just walk the beaches, watch otters playing in the waves, feel pity for the people with red, red backs as they basked in the sun, climb rocks--just enjoy nature and beauty.

       Ken and I were married in Carmel and so one day took Casey there to see the Church of the Wayfarer where we spoke those fatal words--I do. What a change in life such little words can bring! That evening we had dinner at Cantinetta Lucawith good friends from Slow Travel. It was a fun evening and Casey enjoyed playing table football with Wendy--made the evening all worth it for him.

       On the way home we spent the night in Santa Barbara and visited the mission there--another cultural/history experience for Casey. Then....the big moment of the week...he spotted a Tilly's store. So we stopped in and made his day with two pair of skinny jeans.

    Now we're home. School starts tomorrow and...we're one week closer to Italy. Can't wait!