remembrance of travel past

As we prepared for our life of travel, we gave away most everything we owned.  Books, food processor, TV, down comforter, and so much more… It all came down to money. The expense of storing all of those things for the many years we planned to travel would cost quite a bit more than it was all worth.

It took a great deal of time and effort to give it all away, and, as we left on our trip, we were determined not to accumulate a lot of “souvenirs” on the road.

At the start of our travels, we spent 3 months in Japan, China, Vietnam, and Thailand and didn’t buy anything to bring back for ourselves.  That took resolve.  By the time we reached Cambodia, we found a little something that we both wanted and needed.

We’d been carrying a photo of our 4 grandchildren with us.  Putting the photo into very small, silk frame without glass would be perfect for tucking into our suitcase while we traveled – and perfect for displaying on our nightstand in places we stayed.

As we traveled with so few possessions for such a long period of time, we felt a certain “lightness.” We knew that feeling would slowly melt away with each new purchase.

The first 3 or so years of our travel, we found a few treasures worth tucking into our suitcases: a small number of seashells in New Zealand, a porcupine quill and a few flamingo feathers on the ground in Africa.

We also received gifts along the way.  Our hiking guide in Morocco, Rashid, gave each of us a memorable gift.  The hotels where we stayed for some days in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia gave each of us scarves that we love to wear. Our hosts in Whangaparaoa New Zealand gave us a Maori peace symbol.

And the hotel where we stayed for 10 nights in Cusco, Peru gave us a this charming llama family as a parting gift.

We tucked away napkin rings, a gift from Bahia Bustmante in Argentinian Patagonia.   Those will most definitely be used.

We were thrilled when an opportunity came to replace an item of our clothing.  Joe found a very lightweight blue shirt in Cambodia.  Beth found linen pants on Crete in Greece. After a visit to a soap factory in Corfu, Greece – we became faithful users of their olive oil bar – perfect for dry skin.

Finally, our trip to South America a few years ago forced us to reconsider our strict limitation on “souvenir” purchases.  We visited the studio of Miguel Andrango, one of the best backstrap weavers in Ecuador.

The prices for beautifully woven pieces in his studio shop were quite reasonable, and we knew that we would regret not having a woven piece for a someday-in-the-future home.  We bought one, and that was just the start.

We purchased a little clay hand in Peru to rest on an open book.

More textiles were purchased in Peru (photo) and on a later trip to Laos and Cambodia.

We consoled ourselves, having made more “souvenir” purchases than we initially intended to, but also knowing we made relatively few purchases over our many years of travel.  Many of our purchased items were useful and not merely decorative.  The relatively small amount spent supported craftspeople in lesser economies.

After more than few purchases, we prefer to think that what we have brought back are “remembrances” of these 6 years of traveling.  The gifts, found objects, and purchases made have continued to serve as a reminder of the far-away places and the wonderful, generous people we met.

 

June 2019

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Travel expectations

We like to think we keep our travel expectations moderately realistic.  We fall somewhere between those who hope for nothing more than a relaxing get away and those leaving nothing to chance with a too-long checklist of sites and restaurants to visit.

Generally, we’d define our expectations while traveling to be based on experiences that spark our curiosity to learn about new things.  We always trust this to happen.  It’s not something that can be planned ahead of time.

If you’re curious how this works, a wonderful example came about in Ravenna, Italy.   We kept seeing references to the Goths (Visigoths and Ostrogoths) at many of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites we visited.  That started us off on a path of learning more about the “barbarians” that fascinated us and added memorably to our visit.

Fifty-four years after Rome fell to the Goths, the Mausoleum of Galla Placida was erected.  The arts and religious structures appeared to continue to flourish in the reign of the Goths.

On another trip we planned a few stops at ancient ruins in Turkey and we became hooked.  How could we see more?

We arranged a special visit to the memorable ruin, Aphrodisias, on that trip.

Soon after, we made plans to go back to visit more ruins not so well known and off-the-beaten-track.

Miletus was one of the greatest Greek cities until the Persian invasion in the 6thcentury B.C.E. A few hundred years later a theatre was built, with seating capacity of almost 15,000 people.

We never would have expected that our trips to Turkey would result in visits to over a dozen archaeological sites.

After 6+ years of travel to places far and wide – where we were rewarded with great and wonderful new sights – we found ourselves on a road trip to Ohio.  This trip would not be at all like our previous travel.  First, Ohio is oh-too-familiar as that is where we were both born and raised.

The familiarity started when we drove through rural Pennsylvania and into Ohio.

We hadn’t been back to Akron, Beth’s hometown, in over 30 years.   What a surprise that most everything looked better than we remembered.

The high point of that stop was a lovely luncheon with classmates not seen in many years.

We ricocheted through Ohio with stays in Oxford, Yellow Springs and Columbus.

A quick stop at Miamisburg Mound was sparked by a recent news article about new information coming to light about the people who built the ancient mounds.  We were very excited to see the mound but, alas, the displays were old and not so up-to-date.

We discovered that the trip to Ohio was a different trip entirely.  We had to drastically adjust our travel expectations.  This wasn’t a trip where our curiosity sparked new interests. Instead, this was a trip of total and pure nostalgia… visiting family and friends…remembering the long ago times…and catching up on what’s happening now.

After so many years thrilling to such places as the ancient ruins in Turkey and learning about the Visigoths in Ravenna, maybe it was time for a nostalgic trip back home.

 

May 2019

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How two eager, but weak, birdwatchers fared at “The Biggest Week in American Birding”

We admit it: we love to watch birds.  We also admit that we are not good at the whole thing. For us, the hardest birds to identify have always been warblers. So, what better challenge than to head for the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, the “Warbler Capital of the World”?  We had high expectations that this might be a turning point in our birding skills.

Many birds (including warblers) migrate north in the spring from as far away as South America.  One of the flight pathways they follow takes them through this marshy area on the shore of western Lake Erie in Ohio.

We, too, landed at the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area’s boardwalk, surrounded by an unimaginable number of birds calling around us and everywhere we looked.  There were also more birdwatchers than we’d ever seen in one place before.

What could be an easier way to find a rare bird? Just watch where the photographers aimed their cameras.

Everyone seemed incredibly helpful in pointing out where to look for interesting birds and identifying them for us.  Even with coaching from other birdwatchers, it took us about 10 minutes of searching with binoculars to finally see a perfectly camouflaghed whip-poor-will sleeping on a fallen log in the brush.

The Virginia rail is an elusive bird, and we have heard its call but not seen it in many years of looking.  Photographers lined up when a Virginia rail was spotted. This was our opportunity!

We crouched down on the boardwalk and snapped a few photos with our small cameras underneath the photographers’ long telephoto lenses.  Not a great photo but such a memorable sighting!

This was another first: a white-throated sparrow.

We looked for more birds while on a guided walk at nearby Maumee Bay State Park.  That boardwalk took us over the swamp waters, an interesting bird habitat.

One wet day we walked in outlying areas and saw two new birds for us – the eastern towhee and rose-breasted grosbeak

What a surprise to stroll down a path and come upon a totem with an eagle at the top.  Of the many eagles we saw that week, this was the only carved one.

We had signed up for field trips, workshops, and special events over our five-day stay at “The Biggest Week in American Birding Festival.”  By the end of our stay, we had seen well over 100 species of birds and of those, 17 were warbler species.

The black-throated blue warbler was a new bird for us and straddled a tree trunk just a few feet away giving us ample time to take this photo.

After bird watching for well over 40 years, we learned some new ways to look at birds that should greatly improve our identification skills.  Of course, if identifying warblers still turns out to be difficult, we can always head back to the annual “Biggest Week in American Birding” festival and get those experienced, helpful birdwatchers to tell us what we’re looking at.

 

May 2019

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April is a great month to travel

Years ago, a small group of our friends gathered and planned international trips with a particular goal in mind: spending the days hiking and eating well every evening.   When it came time to determine when to travel, we decided to take our trips when the daytime temperatures were ideal for walking, which we determined to be between 62-70 degrees F (17-21 degrees C).   It turned out to be a good idea.

When we planned our many years of constant travel – we continued with the notion of traveling in a comfortable temperature range as much as possible.  Every potential destination was charted for annual averages for high and low temperatures each month as well as how many days and how much rainfall were average each month.  We circled the top three months that were ideal times to visit each destination.

You might wonder where we chose for our travel in April these past years…

The pleasantest of Aprils was spent on our month-long stay in Florence, Italy in 2018.

One day we went up to Fiesole for lunch and this was the view back to Florence.  What a lovely sight!

In April 2017, we visited Arizona to watch birds.  We heard there had been a recent rare sighting of the tufted flycatcher, a bird whose range is Mexico down through northwestern South America.  We took off in search of the bird on a mountain where it had been last seen.

After reaching the spot we searched for a half hour and there, on a nearby branch, was the very bird!

We’ll never forget the earthquake in coastal Ecuador in April 2016.  The town where we were headed had just been destroyed.

After quick research, we booked a month-long stay in Cuenca, Ecuador – a fabulous place to visit and where we learned all about Panama hats.

We spent most of April 2015 visiting our grandchildren and their parents in California.

We went to school performances, sewed a pioneer outfit, painted furniture, and visited a little nature center with and for our grandchildren.

We made it almost halfway around the world in April 2014 to Tasmania.   (Where is it?  Tasmania is an island off the southeast coast of Australia.)

Friends, Gretchen and Phil, drove us up to Freycinet National Park, and we all hiked to Hazzards Bay.

The American southwest desert is one of the nicest places to be in April – so in 2013 we again traveled to Arizona – this time to Tucson.

We love both cactus and rocks.

We wanted to go to Cappadocia and finally made it there in April 2012.

The fairy chimneys, rock houses and formations were spectacular.  We even took a hot air balloon ride.

Consider traveling to places you want to go when the temperature is just right and the rainfall is manageable. If you’re planning a trip, we can tell you from experience that Italy, Arizona, Ecuador, California, Tasmania, and Cappadocia are all wonderful and worthwhile destinations in April.

 

April 2019

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Two ways to do a road trip

We took our first road trip when we were in our 20’s, and we knew then just how to do it.  We played loud music as we drove great distances.  We rarely stopped.  The point seemed to be centered on us, in our car, driving down the highway, escaping where we’d been, and driving for the sole purpose of driving.  When we did our first road trip, we aimed west and gave little thought to the route because we didn’t want to be too “committed”.  Every time we stopped, we looked around and thought whatever was down the road would certainly be more interesting than this, so we hopped in the car and continued driving.

Many years ago we rented a convertible to do the famous drive south from San Francisco along the Pacific Coast.

I’m guessing lots of people still do road trips just like that.  Over the years we continued to take road trips, and the more time we spent on the road, the more changes we made to the usual scenario.  We got older and learned from our experiences…or maybe we just decided it was awfully nice to get out of the car once in awhile.

Photo taken on a drive to Big Bend National Park, Texas.

The point was no longer to see how many miles we could go on the trip or in a day.  Instead it was to enjoy the landscape, to stop to see the sights up close and satisfy our curiosity.

Here’s what we saw on a scenic drive from Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas to Bisbee, Arizona.

We discovered that we had a lot of questions and sought out the answers.  That takes time, so we slowed down.

We drove to Chico Hot Springs – near Pray, Montana – and took a walk up into the hills.

We saw sights – close up – impossible to see from inside the car.  Look at this amazing fuzzy tongue penstamen  (Penstemon eriantherus).

 

Slowing down is a traveling style worth considering.

 

 

April 2019

 

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Taking our interests on the road

When we started traveling we were determined to spend every minute we could experiencing our destination.  Imagine yourself in the rice paddies of China, or visiting the great art museums in Italy.  It seems absurd to think of taking time away from sightseeing, and, yet, as our travel time stretched out from months to years on the road, we realized the joy of spending time each day on a personal project or two.

Some interests turned out to be the perfect complement for a traveling life, like finding wildflowers  and…

writing (Beth in ‎Guangxi, China)…

reading (Joe on a train in Vietnam)…

photography (in Marrakech, Morocco)…

and watching birds (a lilac-breasted roller in Tanzania).

Bringing along books on a trip is ever so much easier now.  We remember a long ago trip of 3-months when we packed more volumes than (we thought) we could possibly read.  How did we run out of books after 2 months? We found ourselves in the smallest of villages in the Italian Alps. Our desperate search for books in English ended in a little tobacco store with a choice of about 12 books.  We were thrilled to have found them!  We carefully chose 3 books, also suitable for our teenagers, who were also running short.  We devised a system of monitored, timed reading sessions.  When time was up, the book had to be handed on to the next reader. It was painful to have to pass the book on as the suspense built.  How much easier it is now to download books on to our devices and no matter where we are, we have books – and magazines – to read online. It seems like a miracle if you travel and love to read.

Cliff and Ruth, our New Zealand traveling companions in Laos and Cambodia last year, told us they loved playing Scrabble on their devices while on the road.   We downloaded the Scrabble app and before long, it was a passion.  It may be one of the best ways ever to pass time in an airport!

We read about the wellness benefits of meditation for years, but how DO you get started while traveling?  The simple act of meditation seemed a mystery until a free app, Insight Timer, made it easy to get started.

Long before our seven-month trip in South America, we started studying Spanish online with Duolingo.

When we arrived in Ecuador, we took classes during our stay in Cuenca with the ever-interesting Sol, whose stories motivated us to learn Spanish to follow along.

We learned to speak so we could ask her questions and learn more (about her life and what was happening around us).  Since we left South America, Joe has continued to study Spanish every day.

Beth finds hand-sewing a relaxing and creative pursuit. On our road trip we had space in the car for a shoebox converted into a sewing box.  Beth discovered small scraps of fabric dating back to 1875-1900 at an antique shop in Maine.  She designed a small quilted throw of squares.

A piece of the scrap fabric is in the upper right corner of each square.  The background was light grey-blue cotton, purchased as we passed through New Jersey.

When the quilt was finished, Beth used some of the remaining small scraps to sew some little songbirds. We’ll carve wood that we found on the beach in Florida to make little beaks for the songbirds and fashion wire legs for them, too.

Pursuing our interests while we travelled added a new and rewarding dimension to our life on the road.

 

March 2019

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Car camping our way

We started tent camping many, many years ago with equipment that we’re not even sure they still make.  It seemed that, as soon as we learned how to camp, we quickly devised a style of our own.

We loved the great outdoors, and camping allowed us to spend time in places we would never have visited otherwise.  We’ve camped in many U.S. states and Canadian Provinces.

We enjoyed camping in iconic Big Bend National Park in Texas….

…and Bahia Honda in the Florida Keys.

We’ve huddled in our tent as snow fell, and we’ve camped in the stifling heat of the desert.  Over many years, our three children were along for the adventure in their own little tent.  Those were the days!

We always tent camped from a small car, and there was never enough room for all that bulky equipment. We gave away the clunky 2-burner stove many years ago.

Who needed a big ice chest? We downsized to a little cooler for a cross-country camping trip five years ago, but got rid of that on our latest trip.  (Photo: Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas)

The Coleman lantern was always too bright in a wilderness setting so we gave it away as well.  And as for our tent now, it’s very basic and sleeps 2-people.  The interior is large enough to fit our sleeping bags with a few inches to spare for our next day’s clothing.

We guess our current 3-season sleeping bags are about 30 years old.  They still work just fine along with ¾-length mats for comfort.  In the evening we read in the tent on our devices and use a hanging solar lantern to provide additional light when needed.

We use a one-burner stove and still have a little set of camping pots and pans that we purchased many decades ago.  A few carefully stocked grocery bags contain items for easy-to-prepare camping meals that don’t need refrigeration.

This past year we camped in very high heat with unrelenting sun exposure. We noticed most other campers had a tarp for shade.  We quickly purchased our own tarp to hang over either our tent or the picnic table. What a difference it made!

All of our camping equipment fits into the hatchback of our basic Toyota Prius C.

With each passing year more and more “campers” are in larger vehicles and huge RVs, living inside those, with all the conveniences of home.  (Photo: Collier Seminole State Park, FL)

We prefer to pitch our tent in a scenic wilderness.  We try to stay for many days rather than one-night stops along a highway.  (Photo of our tent, taken a short distance away from the RV at Collier Seminole State Park, FL)

We make time for exploring, enjoy living outdoors (except a few places we stayed where mosquitoes drove us back inside), and enjoy sleeping under the stars.

 

March 2019

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