Travel – 2

We just returned from the most complicated vacation we’ve taken — a month across Scandinavia and on into Russia.  Six countries, seven major cities, apartments, hotels, boats, trains, cars, planes, even a guide (in Russia, a new experience for us).  I researched, planned, and booked this all myself.

Talk about something I NEVER would’ve contemplated during my long career!!!

With time available here and there, however, I gradually assembled this trip over a period of about four months.

First, the timing.  We usually enjoy a summer vacation in July, but this year events were such that August would be the month.  This left out more southern locations as they’d simply be too hot.  And the possibility therefore appeared that perhaps the more northern countries, where it’s really only warmish two months out of the year (July and August) might make sense.

But this would entail several countries, lots of unpacking/repacking, and contrast with our usual plan of going someplace, renting an apartment and exploring from there for several weeks or a month.  This required some discussion and eventually led to an agreement.  And a stake:  everything we did would have to be easy.  If something felt like it would be difficult, it was scratched from the list.

From the top, I mocked up an itinerary on Excel.  This was very high level:  where would we be on what day, when would we travel from place to place.  After a couple of rounds of edits, the skeleton of the trip was in place.

Then I booked the flights (overseas leg on freebie miles) and an overnight ferry boat, wanting to ensure space availability.  And put on the calendar the dates at which to buy tickets for bullet trains that didn’t allow purchasing too far in advance.

Lastly came apartment rentals, for which I used (and highly recommend) (as in air bed and breakfast), a very easy-to-use and information-rich site for renting directly from owners.  Another which folks often use is (vacation rental by owner), which I last used many years ago and found didn’t have enough capability in terms of filtering for only the attributes I wanted (perhaps they’ve improved now — haven’t tried it recently).  And then hotels.  And rental cars.

The nastiest part of the prep was the Russian visa.  The amount of info they want is prodigious, and to comply I laboriously compiled 10 years worth of travel dates/countries from old and current passports for my wife and myself.  But it yielded to brute force and a healthy dose of application fees, as well as a consulate visit in San Francisco.  I guess they require this of us because we require this of them — that seems to be the game…

And then a very fun part of the prep — buying the Dorling-Kindersley books for each of our stops (except Helsinki, for which they don’t have one for some reason) and leafing through to pick out places/activities of interest.  I love these books as they are very detailed with lots of photos;  and they dedicate almost none of the book to lodging and shopping, which isn’t what I am seeking anyway.

In the event, everything went without a hitch.  The trip was beautiful, fun, interesting, replenishing, and eye-opening — in short, the wonderfulness that travel has to offer.  Copenhagen, Norwegian fjords, Stockholm, Tallinn, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, and Moscow all welcomed us and showed us a fine time.  In order for Russia to fit the metric of easy, we hired a guide to walk around (and hydrofoil) with us and I learned the Cyrillic alphabet so to not be clueless about what signs said (a lot of words are recognizable once one can decode the letters).  And it was easy.

OK, now let’s contrast this to vacations during my long career!  We’d pick a week (very occasionally two weeks), book a hotel room someplace warm by the water, book flights, go, sit at water’s edge, and decompress.  Period.  I’d bring books and magazines along and never open them, instead just staring at the water while my brain recuperated from the exigencies of my job.  My wife relaxed and read without the ongoing load of her family and household duties of that era.  And the kids romped in the delight of childhood at the water, large breakfasts, late nights, and sleeping in.

Well, these are pretty different animals.  Opportunities can really open up in the time after your long career.  And they’re there for the taking.  Partake!



Travel — 1

‘Scuse the reduced post frequency — was traveling most of the month of December.  This is a Tapa to plan for and make happen, as it brings everything from enjoyment to enlightenment.

The enjoyment end can be anything from sitting on the beach to perusing museums and historical sites.  The enlightenment comes, at least for me, in connecting with another people, their culture, their customs, their food — even their differing ethical models.

Carole and I were just in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and India for a few weeks.  Part of this was an amazing perk she gets at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.  As part of their MBA program, the students there are required to go on a 10-11 day Study Trip (meeting business and government leaders) or Service Learning Trip (meeting folks from NGOs, aid organizations, non-profits) to someplace on the planet they’ve never been for more than a few days.  And they have to take along a Faculty Advisor — ta-da!  To be sure, Carole helps the student leaders of the trip a lot, in many ways.  And even I help out, by setting a congenial tone early.

Now, the students don’t have to invite Carole (and thus, me).  They can invite other profs.  But they seem to like her (and me) and so we are lucky enough to have been invited back each year for a while now, seeing quite a range of countries.  As a hanger-on, of course, I get to pay my own way.

We couldn’t do this if I didn’t keep my Tapas Life organized in a way that it will tolerate us disappearing out of the country for a few weeks from time to time.  This limits what kinds of things I can do, but I love these trips and wouldn’t miss them.  The students organize a quick-paced agenda from early to late every day, and we keep up.  We learn so much, get to do some sight-seeing, and enjoy hanging out with around 30 really bright ~28-year-olds.  What’s to not like?

We also do chunks of travel on our own.  We choose, discuss, and I set the trips up.  We go and we have a blast.  It’s such a different feel than everyday life, such a change of scene, very refreshing and invigorating.

Carole and I put chunks of travel on our life goal list before we got married.  There was a long wait while we raised the kids.  Although some people don’t wait, and take their kids all over the place.  We only did this within a few hours’ flight, to keep things simple(r).  You may already be doing this.

What I’m noting here is that travel is a richer experience after your long career.  You have much more flexibility in where you go, what you do, what you see, what you eat, who you meet, and so on.  So as you’re thinking about assembling your Tapas Life, leave time for travel.  This may well mean thinking through how your and your spouse’s or significant other’s calendars line up, maybe making some trade-offs/adjustments to make it work.  And, it’s well worth it.

A quick rant:  only 30% of Americans hold passports (OK, that’s way better than the 5% it stood at 20 years ago!).  There’s so much one learns by going abroad.  I love it and highly recommend it.  And, again, one must plan to have it fit on the Tapas Life calendar.

Bon voyage.  ✈  ✈     ✈          ✈