…And The Planning Begins.

SIX WEEKS IS A LONG TIME for traveling, but usually not enough time to do what I want to do…and the two months till flight time seems so far away, yet, it’s practically just around the corner. So many things to do (I hope I remember them all) and so little time. It will all come together and I’ll keep you up to date on my rush to get ready.

I will say, I splurged on my air fare. I am not going for the cheapest flight. I almost chose the non-stop flight both to and from Dublin to cut down on air time and chances of losing luggage or missed connections. Instead, I chose the middle road, with one stop in London. If I lose my luggage, no biggie. I always carry the essentials with me in a back pack. At least it’s “nearby”, rather than “across the pond” trying to find it’s way…and the time on the plane isn’t much more. I’m a wee bit anxious about the timing (less than two hours) for the layover for the return flight, but if there are delays and I miss my connection…well, that just means another day in paradise. I can deal with that. Ha–I actually did that last time (delay caused by security needing to search my bags (I unbeknownst to me had contraband–peat), which were already on the plane…had to be pulled off & no way they could get them back on in time for the flight) and didn’t bother me one bit.

I always give myself one day of chill time to acclimate to the time zone jumping. This is a very good plan…even if you are crunched for time. Better to sit back and adjust, enjoying the cuisine or stuff in the immediate vicinity rather than drag yourself through a couple of days trying to play catch-up and finding yourself dragging days beyond that.

I’ll be away from regular computer time for six weeks, so entries may be spotty during my travels. That cannot be helped (well, I could work around it, but the thrifty Scott in me always protests). I can usually get free wifi at the hotels upon arrival and prior to departure, but a ‘free’, locked, secure connection is hard to find. One time I went onto an unlocked connection (in Prague) and ended up having addresses harvested. I won’t let that happen again. I found making entries on the computer useful–just keep logging the entries till I have stable and safe internet access, then copy, paste and press send. That keeps the time on the internet to a minimum, too (access can be pricey in most places).

But, for now, I’m concentrating on my To Do list for departure, which I may need to expand, as I will (hopefully) have a non-family member traveling companion for the entire trip–need to add things she needs to know, too. I’ll find out at the end of the month whether or not she will be coming with me. This is only a part of the actual list. Just thought I’d share a few:

  • I’ll be renting a car, so I must have an international license. AAA is great for that! I carry it around with my valid drivers license. It has all the information needed in various languages for the officials looking it over. In a way, I wish we had a national drivers license that would be easy to read. When I visit other states, I have to help people to find the info on the card–it’s located in a different spot in almost every state!
  • Then there’s the car rental itself. I’ve already started to look at the different options. So far, I’ve not been able to get a quote since it’s (date-wise) too far out. Grrr. If I speak to a human, I could probably get a quote, but I’m not ready for that.  AAA membership affords a discount if I use Hertz, but when I was over there the last time I used a European firm with headquarters abroad and in NY for both a lease and car rentals. It worked out well. So, I need to decide soon on that because if I choose the European firm, I’ll need to shuffle paperwork by mail, getting it signed and returned before my departure.
  • Ordering euros and pounds to have on hand till I can access an ATM. Even then, I want to keep my withdrawals to a minimum–there are foreign transaction fees every time I use the ATM or credit card. There’s even charges to have funds exchanged between euros and pounds. So, I mentally decide now how much I’m going to budget myself on spending in each financial region. I’ll probably only put very large purchase or additional travel items, like the ferry or train on the credit card.
  • Finding my passport and making sure it’s up to date (so far, the only thing I have successfully done)
  • Making sure my Hostel Int’l membership is up to date (must do–it expire tin February, I think) It costs a ‘grand’ $25/year for the membership and allows for discounts at a multitude of hostels throughout Europe. Well worth the expense and effort to renew.
  • I do have my iPhone (through ATT), so I can initiate the International Plan to keep costs down for texting and phoning home, but I also have a little int’l phone (global phone) I keep ‘alive’ for when I’m abroad (doesn’t work while I’m in the US). I think it cost about $50 to purchase. I can purchase sim cards for whatever country or region I’m in and helps to keep costs down for phoning ‘local’ while abroad. So, need to get it charged up (hmmm…need to find the charger) and ready to go.
  • Of course, I must get all of my financial ‘ducks in a row’ before I leave. That’s a biggie. Making sure all bills are paid up (and perhaps, if possible, paid ahead for the next month–I know that would be hard for most people, I’m sure. I have a little cushion stashed just for this purpose–takes a whole year to rebuild it once travel is done!) The only one I can’t do that for is my credit card. Sigh. So, my back up is my wonderful daughter–bless her! In my absence, she checks on the mail and pays the ones that need to be paid as funds become available. What would I do without her?! Well, I could pay online from abroad, but I’m paranoid about someone getting my info while I’m on the internet, so I’d rather not test fate.
  • Oh, yes. Speaking of credit cards…I need to notify my bank and credit card company so they know I’ll be traveling (and where–they do ask) so when charges come in, I don’t end up with transaction denials (happened before on my first trip and had no clue why). It’s even happened on trips out of state (didn’t think I had to notify of interstate travel)–now I notify them whenever I’m out of town. I know it’s a nuisance, but I’d rather they be vigilant and deny payment (and then have to call the fraud line to verify it was actually me making the charge) than have someone wracking up charging on my credit card without my knowledge. Definitely worth the hassle.

Okay, this has run a wee bit longer than I planned. Sorry. But it’s all good information. Please, folks. I depend on your feedback. Am I boring you with all this information? Please feel free to comment–good or bad (but be nice about it…)

That’s all for now. Off to work on the above mentioned list, with a giant grin plastered across my face…counting the days.

It’s Official…

WELL, I’M OFFICIALLY crazy. Not only am I trying to do the promotion on book one (doing an awful job at it), but trying to get book two finalized and to the publisher, book three’s back story woven in and editing done so I can turn it into my editor, plus work on book four and bring it to completion…all of that so I can start on the other ideas bouncing around in my head while the editor does his editing thing. On top of that, I now a new love to explore.

My book’s characters are up in arms over this new ‘love’ in my life, protesting by filling my head with way too many ideas for any one person. It’s ready to explode.

My new love? Travel. Well, it’s not ‘new’, I just haven’t done much. My writing has come first for the last year. Everything else has taken a back seat. Until now. Now, I have finished with all my vacillating back and forth on when, how long, where and finally made my plane reservations, rounded up and confirming critter sitters and have a mile long list of the things I need to accomplish before my travel dates! Yikes!

I am looking forward to driving in the UK and Ireland–yes, the wrong side of the road…I know, but I have no problem with it–well, my daughter may take exception to that comment, so I’ll modify it: once I’ve been behind the wheel about ten to fifteen minutes, I’m fine. And, I’ll make sure I know how to put the car into reverse before Ieaving the lot this time. I actually had to call the car company to ask how to get it into reverse so I could pull out of a parking space. I’d forgotten about the possibility of a ring that needed to be pulled up during the shifting action. So few cars in the US have that feature. I take pride in knowing these things. Oh, so embarrassing!

I will be sure to keep you updated with a travel blog I’ll start before I leave. If you have aspirations of traveling alone, it could be informative–and surely you’ll at least get a chuckle out of my sometimes tongue-in-cheek comments and situations (see some of my previous blogs on my travel adventures…you will see what I mean). One should not be afraid to travel alone. I’ve had friends tell me I’m brave to travel alone. Balderdash. I’ve simply learned to travel smart, and not fret over the small stuff…and, there will be small stuff–guaranteed. I had a navigator the last time I drove…no navigator this time, so I’m figuring I’ll get lost more–wheee! I’ll see areas I hadn’t planned on seeing! (See? That’s the way to think when traveling.)

Oh, yeah…and I’ll try not to run over pedestrians. (Inside joke, for my daughter…sorry.)

I will also have my camera with me and will share my photos either in my blog or via my Flickr account (or both). Europe is an amazing place for photographers. The US has many awesome places, but Europe has the “age” advantage…everything is so much older over there. I love it. I love to just sit amongst the ruins and breath in the oldness, imagining the life as it was, way back when. And life is so differently compared to the US. Not necessarily better (though in some cases, yes), but definitely different. I’m all for differences.

Keeps things interesting.

I’m excited.

 

 

 

 

MUSINGS and ramblings…

In preparation for my upcoming trip to Ireland, I have given myself plenty of time to find everything that I will need. Weeks upon weeks, in fact. Now I am down to four days–well, actually, three and a half–and I am just now remembering things to add and must still find. Where is that list when you need it?!

I like to think of myself as being fairly organized, but (at least with me) with age, goes memory. Once I used to find things in a flash…now, not so “flashy”. Having a very “lived-in” home does not help. And I have no one but myself to blame. It’s just me, myself and I…plus a dog and a cat. I’d much rather do anything else–literally anything — but houseclean, so just the basics are done. Occasionally, I get crazy and do tons of cleaning…then figure I can leave it for “awhile”. It would help to have enough proper storage, which I do not have. That’s on my list of things to do, but I think, I must consider that as part of the “housecleaning” conundrum because it hasn’t happened yet. (wink)

Yesterday, I spent a good portion of the day searching for a stupid little global phone, last used on my trip in April, 2011. In my mind’s eye, I can see it clearly — in the quart-sized zip bag with it’s power cord and instructions, yet after spending so much time searching, I have yet to find it. I have checked all of the places it should be, the places it might have been placed and when 11pm finally rolled around, gave up looking in places it may have shifted to unintentionally. Such a small device in a large home is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

When I get home, it will probably be sitting there, in plain view, taunting me. Or, I figure some day, when I have the house cleaned down to it’s bare bones (and ready to move out?), I’ll come across it — and many other ‘lost’ items along the way, and think to myself: “So that’s where it got to!” Then, hopefully, I will place it in a safe, locatable home so the next time I need it, I will actually be able to find it.

A permanent list and permanent homes for all my travel things would be an excellent idea. Maybe, just maybe it will get taken care of when I get home.

Deep sigh. Maybe…

Travel Preparation

Getting ready for traveling can be arduous!  But so very exciting!

Over the next month or so, I will blog about my adventures abroad, sharing my discoveries, mistakes–no, just misadventures (really), photos and thoughts on what I’ve seen and done.  Ideally, I have it in the back of my mind to do a travelogue–tongue-in-cheek style–for women/single travelers and will incorporate what I have learned & written from my last trip and this one.  So, this blog has a bit of a duality to it, I guess.

But first, a little back history:

I have traveled plenty within the Western United States–always traveling with family or going to a family or friend’s home, but only once have I traveled for an extended period of time abroad — and that time, my daughter was with me for the entire trip–a great help when traveling by car, watching for signs, reading map directions, etc.  So, I guess, I would have to say that traveling with at least one person is great.  We had a wonderful time exploring Europe, UK & Ireland…and certainly did NOT want to come home, but did, with a promise to return someday.

So, now, we are returning–finally…three years later!

Having learned a few lessons from our previous trip, I have spent hours trying to figure out how to minimize the amount of clothes I will be bringing — only a 21″ carry-on and a packpack to cram everything into  (and with less strength to cart it all than last time around–shoulder surgeries are still in the healing process).  The rule of thumb for packing:  lay out what you “plan” on taking, seriously cut out half of it (at least) & then pack it!  (Also, figure out how much you want to spend and then DOUBLE it!)   I have made list upon list of things to do, to prepare the house, my critters and to try to “fool-proof” my trip:  making sure itineraries & passports are in order, acquiring an international drivers license (even though the plan is to use the train & other public transport), getting some foreign currency (both euros & British pounds) in advance so we are ready to go as soon as the plane/ferry hits the ground — so many little details.  If you’d like, I’ll give more details later (just send me a comment).

My daughter will only have a week to frolic in Europe, as she must return to mid-term finals right after Spring Break.  I, for the first time in my life, will be doing the majority of the trip on my own:  a single woman, roaming through Europe–hopefully having the time of my life!  I am alternately thrilled and terrified (well, only a little terrified) — so many new experiences await me.  I will be seeing old friends at various points:  CSer’s (friends I’ve met/hosted through CouchSurfers.com) and friends met  at various hostels I’ve been to–but I will also be embarking on many new experiences:  staying at hostels previously unseen, taking the trains & other local transportation with all my luggage to get from point A to point B, trying to translate the train/transit signage of various languages (hoping fervently that there will be English translation for the important stuff) and speaking in my elemental German and Spanish whenever possible to communicate (oh, those poor locals–how their ears will be hurting, hearing me slaughter their beautiful language)…

Our first week will be rather luxurious:  hotels, chauffeured around to sight-see by US friends stationed in Germany, good food–easy living!  Then Jameson goes home.  After that, I say goodbye to my friends and start staying at hostels (and a few CSer’s homes), walking, grabbing my food from local shops, taking pictures, meeting new people, experiencing the countries as the locals do, walking, taking pictures & more walking…did I mention taking pictures? — and if I feel comfortable about an area, maybe even hiring a car to drive around — maybe.

My itinerary is rather ambitious for the time allotted, but I also have “built-in” the potential of extending my stay a week or two so that I don’t feel rushed:  four weeks and two days to see eight countries.  On our last trip, we were gone for two months, drove the whole way (plus ferries across bodies of water) and visited nine countries — that is only ONE more country, but we traveled within each country far more extensively than my plans for this trip.  The train will “jet” me across landscapes to my destinations but allow me to sight see from the comfort of the train car.  There will be a few points where I will, for expediency, go by plane.  And as I approach the end of my official trip, if I have not made it to my departure destination, I will simply change my departure date.  The penalty fees will cost me, but not as much as two one-way tickets would, or making a return trip to fit in the rest of the planned itinerary.  So, that’s why I say “built-in” — I know the Added-Fees Beast may rear it’s ugly head, but I am ready for it!

So, that’s all for now.  I will blog whenever I have a wi-fi connection, so I may be clumping several days into one blog entry.  I hope you enjoy my crazy entries.  If they are anything like the ones I emailed everyone last time, they should be relatively entertaining, funny at times or at least informational, perhaps helping you out as you plan for your trip.

No catchy sign-off yet ^,^

DJSmith