2018 UK and Ireland Adventure: Home At Last

Dublin's Ha'penny BridgeAS ONE OF MY READERS has remarked, “this has been quite the adventure”. Yes, it has been very different from my previous trips. Not what I had envisioned, but I can easily say it was fun, adventuresome, a learning experience, I saw things I’d not seen before and I was able to share my experiences with a friend—at least two voiced desires (from previous adventures) finally met!

I’m going to apologise now for this final, super-long blog (I could break it into two or three to make it more manageable, but nope—sorry). I’m trying to get all the left-out bits pulled together to create this one last travel-Image of cloudy, blustery skies on the way to Dublinblog entry. Also, you’ll see photos scattered throughout this blog. Make sure to click on them to see the full size—and more importantly—more information about the photo. They will not necessarily be in the order seen on the trip.

Being home. Aaah. What can I say? Standard response is “it feels so good to be in my own bed”—definitely. But almost I want to travel posterimmediately, I’m wishing that I could go back. Travel more. Wander and ponder more. See more things—crazy, I know, since I have been away for nearly three months. I am glad to be home; back to my sweet little kitteh, who did not shun me one bit this time—he was purring and rooting the moment I stepped foot in the house (and yowling loudly till I could get the door opened to step inside)! What a lovely greeting (he’s usually pouting and ignoring me for a good half-hour—I like this new response).

I’ve already had a few of the usual questions pop up: Sunrise from our hostel room in DublinWhat did you like most and least? Which was your favourite place? What would you Hanging Flower Potsdo differently? I’ll answer those and more, plus add a few observations since arriving stateside.

What I liked most has always been a hard one—there are always so many amazing things—so I choose to give four Image of River Liffey from a Bridgeanswers: one per “country” (yes, yes. I know—I only visited two countries, but since Wales and Scotland each have their own governmental structure and a distinct and very strong sense of ownership to go with it, I will break my answers down to the four regions we visited.)

Ireland: For this trip, I’m still National Leprechaun Museumenthralled with Dublin’s energy. I’m usually not a fan of the busyness of cities (and Dublin had its fair share of busy, noisy stuff. Though I was unable to keep my usual pace, there were Cannonball into harbourtimes, just walking through the the various areas of the city (especially Temple Bar and Trinity College areas) gave my spirits a lift. As a close second, I loved the Donegal area. We did not really get down into Donegal, but instead, were up in the countryside overlooking it. Secluded, tranquil, beautiful vistas everywhere. I was still seriously nursing my ankle injury (in addition to a wound acquired fighting with the step to the shower area <giggle> at the B&B we were at), so the tranquility was nice. Next time around, I do want to spend more time on the west coast—around Connemara and the wild countryside along the southwest coast.

Wales: ooh, what isn’t lovely image of tomatoes, cucumbersabout Wales?? Sandy would say, “getting stepped on by a horse …” Yes, that bit was far from lovely, and this created two gimpy gals trying to have fun. Sigh. Back Rooster Weather Vaneto the question at hand—Snowdonia National Park will always have a place in my heart, but it now must share space with Brecon Beacon National Park—both are shining gems in Wales. Definitely worth the Crystal Ball Shot of Garden and Treestime to explore the hills, mountains, lakes, rivers and valleys. I’ve only seen a wee bit of Shaggy Sheep Seeking Shadeboth Snowdonia and Brecon Beacon. One of these days I’d like to explore each more. As for towns … Llanberis and Betws Y Coed. Llanberis because … well, it’s just a cool little town and I love to say the name (it’s not Lan-beris, Beautiful Window at Tintern Abbeyit’s … um, Ll is a lispy L sound—tongue at the front, allowing air out the sides. Kinda—here’s a link for the pronunciation <grin>).

England and N. Ireland: I know I keep talking about the countryside in all of these Image of two shadowsareas, but well … yeah. Can’t be helped. For this trip, hands down the Yorkshire View of Tintern AbbeyDales—the amazing beauty and tranquility I find in this heartland of the Yorkshire countryside gives me such peace. If it’s a town you’re looking for me to recommend, the only one that comes to mind is Hay-on-Wye. It’s really the only one where we did much exploring. If you’re a bibliophile, I think there are more book stores per block in this town than any other I’ve seen … and there’s an annual book festival. Walkways alongside the river were quite amazing also!

Model of the TitanicScotland: as much as I’d like to say Edinburgh’s diverse character and all the amazing sights to be seen, I must say—this time—that Isle of Skye captured my heart and I yearn to return to take in its beauty. The towns are small and fun to roam around in—its easy to poke around each one in an hour or so … it’s the traveling from one to the next that takes the time (but, time well spent). We pretty much stuck to the coastal route—except for one time (when we finally saw some highland cows—squeeee!), but the single track roads are not everyone’s cup of tea. I have no problem with them (didn’t get to experience them Stage for Riverdance in Dublinon Skye, but did take lessons learned from Marc’s and our guide’s driving and put it to good use on the second half of our trip). The only down-side to Skye is that “the powers that be” cannot keep up with the needs of the huge influx of tourists—most of the Concessions the Old-Fashioned Way at the Gaiety Theatretourist sites (ie: Fairy Pool, Man of Storr, etc) do not have toilets or any kind of concessions, which leaves one to use the great outdoors if you “can’t hold it” … which is not the Riverdance dancers at the Gaiety Theatrebest for the environment (or privacy). Not a deal-breaker for me.

Having rented a car, we registered a “few” miles—not counting the Isle of Skye segment—as I was not the driver for that portion. Skye was a nice respite, but by the end of the week, I was eager to get back behind the wheel <grin> and continue exploring. Below, you’ll find the google maps of the highlights of our trip, including the mileage. Wow.

Map: Leg One Ireland May-July 2018
Map: Leg Two 2018 Trip Wales, Yorkshire, Scotland
Map: Leg Three-Inverness to Isle of Skye and Back June 2018
Leg Four-Inverness, UK to Holyhead, UK 2018
Leg Five-Holyhead to Dublin with day trips 2018

Embellished Cover, Dublin Ireland Earth-Rod Manhole Cover, Dublin IrelandNow for what I don’t really like to discuss because others may find they have had or will have a completely different experience. So, take this with a grain of salt (but be forewarned) if this is where you want to travel. The least favourite place we visited—hands-down—was Bath, England. I was disappointed in the hospitality industry, the hostel we were in (could not change our reservations—no cancellations allowed—otherwise we would have left after Fancy Wrought Iron Railingthe first night), and I was unimpressed with the sameness of the architecture. Admittedly, my ankle definitely held me back, so many of the things to see were out of my reach and the heat was stifling during our stay. Had we stayed in Bristol (now that is a town to put on your places-to-see itinerary—very cool place) and made a day trip to Bath, that might have been Trinity College Old Librarybetter. Mostly, it was the attitudes and trustworthiness of the hospitality industry that left a bad taste in my mouth (from the Bath Tourism office to the supposedly knowledgeable staff at points of interest—Jane Austen Tea House, Hop-on Hop-off bus’ recorded tour, and we even had issues at our hostel). I’ve never had such a bad experience on such a large scale before.

Jameson Whisky Barrel Table in Temple Bar, Dublin Brass Flower Sculpture in Temple Bar, DublinAfter returning home, I was reminded of how polite the drivers are in Ireland and the UK—compared to the egotistical, self-centered drivers (I know—they’re not all like that) I’ve encountered in my short time back home. It’s truly amazing how much faster one can get through a bottle neck (lose a lane and need to merge together) across the Pond as compared to the “you’re not getting in front of me” attitude of many California drivers when confronted with the same situation. One can only take a deep breath and shake the head … otherwise go bonkers.

I have learned quite a few things along the way.

Friends always ask me how much to plan on spending for a trip abroad. I can never give them a figure—not even a guesstimate—so, I need to keep better financial records. I mean, I have the receipts … but I never do anything with them—baaad me! Especially when sharing expenses with a friend <insert eyeroll>. Also, I need to keep record of the places I visit—my little booklets I created ended up not being used (by either of us) past the first week or so … I didn’t take the time to take notes, so places are (as usual) blurring together. I am surprised that I’m remembering things better, but there really was a lot to remember, so there are gaps—big gaps. Photos will help, but the photos need notes, too. “What’s this one from …?” is my most frequently asked question to myself. And usually, there’s no answer. Sigh.

Another lesson: As the “planner” and “guide” I felt like I was responsible for everything. Sandy and I had a talk about this and she tried to make it clear that I was not responsible … but I kept feeling that way—my issue, not hers. So, if and when I do have a friend with Sphere Within A Sphere, Trinity College Dublinme, I need to plan “me” time in the schedule … actually, for both of us, which would alleviate the pressure I was feeling. I did it a little, but not near enough. I also need to find out the expectations of my friend before traveling—I was not fully aware of the fact that Sandy liked to use a “base camp” and go out from there to see things for at least a week, whereas I like to “touch base” with an area and move on after a couple days … with an occasional “hunker-down and explore for a bit”—but definitely on a more organic/spontaneous level. Yup … I need to work on this. And I need to make sure my travel companions know I prefer spontaneity to planning things out in advance. In a way, I felt trapped having the trip so “well-planned” (sniggle—Sandy probably would not call it “well planned”, but that’s okay too).

Most importantly, I loved having a friend with me so I could share my experiences, but in future I will limit the time to one or two weeks (or some percentage of my trip)—not the whole The Quay's Bar, Dublin Irelandtrip. Not because we ended up hating each other. Nope—far from it. We learned a lot about each other. And that’s kinda cool. It’s just that ten weeks was way too much “together-time” <grin>. Sandy agrees. When (not if, but when) we travel again, it will be for a much shorter time. I will either go earlier to explore and meet her on a designated day or stay afterwards to travel on my own.

In closing, I can now say that, whilst abroad, I’ve traveled alone, with friends and with family; I’ve traveled by car, train, boat (well … kinda—I will do it for real next time!), bus and plane. I’ve done tours (very small and way too large), done day tours and planned things on my own. I’ve stayed in B&Bs hostels, hotels and friends’ homes. I’ve travel to various Aged Manhole Cover, Dublin Irelandcountries on the Continent and extensively (yet not) in Ireland and the UK. Each and every time, I find myself wanting to go back and see more. I wonder how long I’ll be able to keep this up, because there will always be so much more to see <insert grin>.

So finally, I say cheers, my friends. I bid you adieu for another week.  Have a blessed Friday, week-end and beyond. I will go back to my routine of keeping you updated about my goofy Painterly and Writerly sides—there are a few events coming up and much to do to get my books republished … toodles!

Traveling—Again …

AAAH … TRAVEL. YES, once again I’m gearing up to travel. My new passport just arrived and it has my head buzzing with ideas. But first, I have some tedious taxes to tend to (lol—an unintended alliteration) … and book four to polish. In the meantime, “normal” life goes on …

I read an article in Monday about how we are so tearjerker (what??? I do have issues with autocorrect … can you tell?)—let’s try that again: about how we are so tethered to our smartphones … and, so says the “CNTraveler” writer, even in travel—that it is “dumbing us down”. It article was shared on Facebook by International Hostelling—an organisation I love, by the way … inexpensive rooms and so many diverse and interesting people under one roof, no matter where you stay. IH makes travel more fun because you are able to put your money into seeing the places you visit, rather than into the accommodations … yup. Hostels are awesome.

Well … anyway, this writer disagrees with the article. Perhaps I’m the oddity, but I’ll wear that title gladly. I find travel stimulating, whether within the confines of our political borders … or when breaking away and crossing those borders—or an ocean—to explore.  Yes, I do use my laptop, but the cost of using my smartphone abroad (all those gigabytes add up so quickly—yikes!) becomes prohibitive and besides … there’s way too much to see and do to be bothered with spending much time with my electronic devices. No texting, no phoning, no Googling. I’ll only go on it to work on my blog … or perhaps to write down some ideas for my ongoing storyline (but I also have a notebook—the paper kind), or check out and reserve a room at the next spot I’ll be visiting … and of course, to off-load all the photos I take whilst traveling. And there’s plenty of them!

This year will be no exception. As a matter of fact, I will be concentrating on my photography—especially whilst in Scotland, since that is going to figure into my story line. In some form … OOPS. Well, mo more spoilers. I’ll just leave you to ponder that one. Teehee.

So. I’ve been working on getting my itinerary in order. There are fixed events that I must plan my stay around. The Celtic Invasion Vacations tour in Cornwall is set in stone, so to speak. I know I want to make a trip to Cardiff to the Dr. Who Experience (foiled twice … definitely going to get it right the third time!) and have two friends in London and outlying areas that I want to visit … which will entail a visit to the Shakespeare Theatre to see “Midsummer Night’s Dream” … and maybe a visit to an elementary (primary) school to entertain the youngsters with spontaneous storytelling (working on that right now). But my primary destination will be Scotland. As far north as I can manage in the time I have. The furthest I’ve managed in the past is in and around Edinburgh—don’t get me wrong … I could spend my entire trip in Edinburgh and be completely happy. But I want to get up near Wick (south of the northeast tip of Scotland) if it’s at all possible, as our clan castle (Gunn) is somewhere near this area—I need to research this further. If not this trip, then on my next trip. Yup, there will be another trip, health permitting …

Trying to juggle all the places and things I want to do definitely requires planning, so even though I’m three-months out, I’m already behind. I do have my air fare to/from the states and the hotel rooms just before my tour and a couple nights before my departure for home. My first night’s stay is not settled, as I really don’t know which way I’ll be headed. Do I travel by trains? Rent a car? (Maybe a wee bit of both??) So many things to figure out … and so little time to do it.

Not much more to say at this point, but my next “trip” blog will be more informative. If you are interested in any of my previous travels, then look through and click on the Tags (on the right) for “Europe Travel” (and others) to keep you busy till my next blog.

Until then, hoping your St. Paddy’s Day was a memorable one and that you can see the proverbial light (Springtime) at the end of the long, dark (Winter) tunnel.

Slainté

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve Been Pondering … Deeply | Part One

OH, YOU KNOW ME … WHEN I START TO THINK—well, that can be dangerous at times. Have you ever thought about something for a long time, but feared voicing the thoughts? I mean, saying them out loud? It’s different to keep the thoughts in your head … or even write them on “paper”. Well, at least for me … for some reason, something happens when I voice thoughts. It changes the purpose. The circumstances.

I put a voice behind a thought a short time ago … and now I cannot get it out of my head. I love to travel. You already know that. I write about it all the time. I love Europe, Ireland, Scotland and … well, simply the idea of being over there, planning for the next adventure … then experiencing it. I love it enough that I’ve seriously contemplated purchasing a someplace to lay my head when I am able to visit. I put a voice to that several years ago. I actually started looking … seriously looking. Every time I was over there, I looked with the intent of finding something. I’ve talked to realtors, looked at ads, thought about consolidating into two small abodes so I could bounce back and forth whenever I could make it happen. Over the last year, I realized there were a few huge obstacles: 1) the cost of purchasing something—even renting a flat … or a room—would be very steep. 2) as long as I had critters, it wasn’t going to happen. My forever critters. I cannot justify giving them up just so I can travel for extended periods—nor put them into quarantine (“jail”) for months on end just so I can take them with me. And there’s no way I’m going to leave them behind to live abroad. All of that would be too selfish. Lest I forget my loving pet sitters—I cannot impose on them for repeated long stretches of time … so I figured, I could wait till the pets passed over the Rainbow Bridge. 3) then another realization hit me … as I wait, my health seems to be deteriorating to the point that these transcontinental flights are taking a heavier toll on me with each trip … what shape will I be in once I am pet-free?

I’m already contemplating moving up to business class so I can more comfortably make this next trip. That’s a heap of money spent just to get across the Pond. That in itself is a huge negative for me. I like to make the air fare and room as inexpensively as possible so I can use my funds to explore. So, another thought started pinging around in my head—one I kept stuffing, because I didn’t want to consider it. Logic and common sense kept dredging it back up. The thought I recently voiced was to make this 2016 trip my last trip abroad. Once voiced, the idea grew. Stop flying across the pond and instead, put my time and effort into visiting places within the confines of this continent. I didn’t like the sound of that at all. “Confines…” was the key word. But I cannot make it go away.

I love traveling so much—and the draw of Ireland and Scotland is strong. I just don’t know. It’s hard to imagine not traveling. In a way, I’m in mourning … it saddens me thinking that 2016 will be my last foray traveling abroad—traipsing amongst the trees and trudging up hills with hidden secrets … and experiencing the ancient ruins of our past. The States—and that which lies north and south of me—may be old, but Europe and the British Isles are ancient. I have fallen in love with ancient. I adore ancient. It pulls my mind away from the present, planting me deep in to the past of oh, so long ago. My imagination seems more alive as I wander over there. To think that I won’t be visiting any of these lovely places anymore leaves a huge hole in my heart.

What am I to do with this quandary?? My heart is aching over it. I cannot see a resolution in the near future, yet … I really must decide.

Always Something Happening

MY LIFE IS FAR FROM QUIET. MATTER of fact, of late, it’s been entirely too busy. Scheduling quiet time into my busy schedule is an ongoing struggle for me. Sometimes, when I don’t … well, nature takes it’s course (or perhaps it’s God intervening—insert winky face). I get “sick” enough to have to put things on hold. Allergies flare, aches and pains become more pronounced … couldn’t He just tap me on the shoulder and tell me to slow down? Um—would I listen? Probably not. (Snort) Sometimes I get a wee bit too focused on what’s happening around me, to things I’m doing … to notice things happening to me.

I get invested in activities—like this last weekend. It was wonderful. Truly wonderful! Very full of hard work setting up the Gunn Clan tent on Friday at the Monterey Scottish Games and Celtic Festival, then busy engaging with everyone coming through on Saturday and Sunday … answering questions about our clan and Scottish heritage in general, and then tearing down our little home away from home on Sunday at the conclusion of the Games. I did have a chance to wander a wee bit, to take in all the fun and competitions ongoing throughout the weekend. Those were nice little breaks. But at the end, both my clan member buddy, Michelle, and I were tired. Very tired. We said our farewells and headed home. The plan was to unload everything in Monday morning before I went in to get a manipulation from my osteopath doc.

Instead, I unloaded some of it (even though completely exhausted) Sunday when I got home. Fool that I am. And by Monday morning, the idea of doing anything other than get ready for my appointment went straight out the window. I made it to the doc in time—just. Boy, was I needing the work he did on my back…

When I got home … after one quick errand, I collapsed. Yup. Overdid. Again. Not sure I’ll ever learn my lesson. I do know we need more hands-on help with the set up and tear down. That will make the weekend more enjoyable for all concerned. Wanna come stay the weekend and help out? I’ve got free tickets to the Games for you if you’ll help set up and tear down … honest. First weekend in August. 2016. Come on … you know you wanna come join in on the fun! (wink) Seriously.

So, I ended up “forced” to relax not only Monday, but also Tuesday (well … I did do a bit of work—finished unloading the truck … but that’s it). Now, here it is Wednesday and I’m finally back to normal. Yay. And the day has been marvelous. As I write (whilst sitting under the umbrella on my back porch), I’ve got blue jays calling out … earlier today two red tail hawks were talking back and forth and I’ve heard quail, lots of little twitters from wrens and the like … and the weather has been spectacular these last couple days. Sun shining, gentle breezes keeping the heat reasonable. Then the chain saws kicked in (insert  h u g e  frown). I know things have to be done, but darn it.

I’m getting off-track here—and way over my usual word count (oops … and sorry). “Hanging over my head” are quite a few commitments: this weekly blog, my WIP (work in progress), an upcoming workshop for “Under the Surface Mixed Media”—I’m really looking forward to this … I think we get to play with paint and a wood block. I need to come up with images to work with in the class. And there’s book three that finally has a publisher (yay!), so I start from scratch there. Once I receive the edited work from them, I need to make whatever changes that are required, submit/approve, then wait for the galleys (cover art and interior) to arrive, to be reviewed and approved … then off to the printer for publishing.

By the way … sounds like they are hoping for a late September release, but we’ll see—but I am excited…

All of that, plus the “normal” household chores that I keep putting off. Yard work, rooting through all the rooms and garage to sort and clear out to make room for stuff I have in storage … oh my. Yes, my life is full. To overflowing. Some mundane (and oh, so boring), some exciting. Some just plain ol’ fun!

Oh, yeah … and then there’s the planning for my trip to the UK next year. First on the list is renewing my passport—and making sure I’ve got my driver’s license renewed, too so I can acquire an International Drivers License—I’ll be renting a car again! I’m definitely going to Cornwall with the Celtic Invasion Vacation group, but plan on making sure I include Scotland and Wales (remember … missed out on the Dr. Who Experience last time ’round—not going to miss it this year!). Planning starts early with me. I’ll actually post a blog on what I do to plan at a later date—when things quiet down (if ever). Promise. This trip will be exciting, as we CIVers will be taking in a lot of King Arthur lore—sites that he and his troupe visited. The area is beautiful—and vast (been there on previous trips with my daughter and as a single traveler). Plus, of course, plenty of music—pubs and personal in-house concerts. Love those. If anyone is interested in joining, click on the link above to get more details. Marc Gunn only takes 8-14 “Invaders” with him on his tours.

Ooh. I have to chuckle. I had a meeting I nearly missed last night (Wednesday) because I forgot to put it on the calendar … and I’ve “over-committed” myself for the weekend. The art workshop is Friday (day) and Saturday. I’ve (without blinking an eye … or thinking) added a trip down to Julia Pfeiffer State Park to do some night-time photography, which I haven’t done much of—and will have several seasoned photographers available to assist me, so hard to pass up. Multiple late nights and an early morning on Saturday. This ought to be fun.

Talk about “always something happening” … I’m giggling whilst shaking my head. What do you do in your life that has you shaking your head, knowing full-well that you’ve over-committed yourself?

Finding that balance is tricky. Saying no. Deciding which activities are more important. So hard.

Here’s hoping that you are able to find that balance in your life, blessed with good decisions.

Looks Like Rain…

I’M ENJOYING THIS WEIRDLY WARM weather here on the Central Coast of California. Thursday’s high was 89.1, down about 74.5 (78 inside still, but coming down slowly) as I wrote this. Tomorrow (Friday) will cool a little more (80-ish), and even more over the weekend–almost back to the “normal”, but not quite…then it goes back up again. But, this doesn’t mean I’ll not be happy when cooler weather (aka: our ‘normal’ summer) comes, though…with this drought, I’m not really sure if it will arrive..

Though it’s too far out to see what weather I will have in store in Ireland, it’s 51-58 (F) and rain most days through the 11th (last day it shows). That will be a nice change after a week of off-and-on very hot weather. Unless there’s a drastic change in weather, I’m sure I’ve gotta make sure I pack a few long sleeve shirts and a sweater 😉 plus my umbrella and maybe my rain slicker. (Probably won’t get much use out of the capris I just purchased, but I’ll take them, just in case.) The coolness and wetness will not hamper my travels at all. I’ll revel in it. The only thing it might effect is the amount of photographs I can get without damaging my camera. I may resort to iPhone or point ‘n shoot to protect my good camera, but I *will* get my shots in.

I’ve got my route roughly figured out: Dublin to Galway, then follow the coast to Sligo (I will be visiting a Facebook friend–John is growing a labrynth and I’m anxious to see how it’s progressing) to somewhere along the north coast of Ireland or N Ireland to Dublin–haven’t decided exactly where yet (I’ll stick with the coast route all the way back to Dublin). Dublin to Holyhead, Wales (via ferry, as foot passenger) to Manchester, England–meet up with the Celtic Invasion Vacation group (headed by a capable Marc Gunn, Celtic Musician-tour organizer and guide Extraordinaire) to visit many points in Wales, then back to Manchester (say farewell to the group and hire another car to travel to Edinburgh (a favorite), Scotland and the northern coast (want to check out the Gunn Clan’s castle and history center), then to the outskirts of London to visit a friend, Natalie and her family (I’ve been invited to stay in their guest room). They will give me the ‘grand tour’ of London and surrounding areas, I believe. I may spend another day in a hostel in downtown London to hopefully meet up with a writer friend, Vickie Johnstone (she writes in several genre–childrens and thriller). Then it’s back to Holyhead. Holyhead to Dublin (foot passenger again on the ferry) with day trips to Cork and other areas in the southern portion–and of course lots of travel around one of my favorite cities, Dublin before I am forced to catch my return flight home.

Whew! And yet, six weeks is not enough time to thoroughly enjoy myself. Next time, I may look into sticking to one place for six weeks (or more) and use the time as a writing retreat–but I’ll still make sure I get some tromping around in the countryside to take photographs. A must. I just love the ruins, the history of the country.

And I cannot forget the people. All along the way, I plan on cultivating friendships wherever possible. These (Ireland and Scotland specifically) are countries I have fallen in love with and wish to connect on a more personal level.

Right now, I’m working on hostel room (or couchsurfing–I’m fine with this too and it keeps the cost down) reservations, but not concerned (I’ve got the important ones–first, last and a few nights in between–all taken care of). There shouldn’t be too much problem booking. Most of the time, all I have to do is book the next hostel when I check in at the current one.

I can *almost* count on my fingers how many days before my travels begin. I’ll be doing a little bit of fine tuning in these last few weeks–making sure I have all the electronic accessories I need (oh, my–it gets worse every time I travel!)–I’m taking my GPS this time since I won’t have a ‘nagivator’ to assist me. I love my GPS. I just purchased a new suitcase (the old one had a wonky wheel that made a horrendous noise) but plan only to fill my smaller suitcase and stuff it inside for the trip over (hope it fits in my cars). The larger one will be for “overflow” of gifts and purchases for myself. I’m not going to get caught trying to cram all my goodies into the small suit case like I’ve done before. The smaller one is small enough to use as a carry on, so if I am limited to one suitcase as checked baggage, I’m set. My backpack then becomes my ‘personal’ item, which will include my purse and camera equipment and GPS.

I’m nearly set. Wheeee.