Since my divorce 20 years ago I have lived alone and have slipped comfortably into the skin of an introvert. The fact that I have a large loving family made it easier to not seek out new friends. I am working on this however.
Recently I went on a group hiking trip in Italy with my two daughters, 10 strangers and a couple of guides,also new to me. On day one we started out at 11 in the morning and hiked for about four hours, waiting until evening to formalize introductions.
Inspired by a glass of wine (might have been two) I somehow suggested that it would be fun if I introduced everyone instead of going around the circle and telling something about ourselves. What was I thinking? My daughters thought this was hilarious and encouraged the group to let me give it a try. While trudging along I had time to visit with others as my daughters surged ahead and the new me was practicing their names and asking questions instead of talking about myself.
my My new friends were intriguing : among them were a former competitive ballroom dancer, an international driver of road rallies, one of the best orchestrators in the world and of course, local Italians, with many talents!
By the time I reached number fourteen I was actually sweating. Thank goodness everyone was gracious and helped me out when I got stuck.
I’ve always made use of public transport while traveling and have found it to be reliable and cost-effective. However, this time I was staying in a less touristy area of Paris and found many of the streets to be under some sort of construction. No one at the hotel seemed to know where the alternate bus stops were or perhaps they simply could not explain it to someone with severely limited comprehension of French.
My daughter and I were off to the French Open Tennis Tournament, a bucket-list item, and were frustrated with our inability to find the right bus. After several attempts at asking for help, a gentleman responded to my inquiry with a sexy accent in English and said, ” oh no, take oohbear, and hurry, the tennis starts at 11!”
A word of warning to others who have used viagogo to buy tickets: The official French Open site has broken ties with them and made it most difficult for us to enter. After waiting in line with everyone to gain access to the site, entrance was refused and we had to wait in another long line to fill out forms and answer questions. The stress level when we finally were admitted kept us both from even remembering who we saw that first day. Luckily the second day tickets were official and some of the best seats in the stadium! We watched Rafael Nadal at close range win his first match as easily as he won his last one.
In 1990 all 13 of my mother’s children got together to celebrate her 70th birthday in Minnesota. Some of us came great distances including my brother who buzzed the house in an F-86 Sabre Jet from Pt. Mugu, CA to Duluth Air National Guard Base, scaring everyone but announcing his imminent arrival to her party. I don’t really remember which one of us helped organize this tribute to Mom but it was a grand occasion that all of us will remember for the rest of our lives.
With my 70th approaching I wanted to make sure that I too would have my children with me. They are both accomplished young women who could easily afford their own trip but their vacation time from work is probably more valuable to them and I wasn’t convinced they’d want to spend it with me especially since we all live within a few miles of one another. So I did what any “tiger” mother would do and bought a package for the 3 of us!
We met in Turin, Italy after flying different airlines to ready ourselves for a 6 day hiking adventure with Backroads Active Travel, staying in delightful inns, getting our daily exercise and enjoying both the scenery and each other. Pictured below is the finish line in Portofino after the last hike followed by the good-bye dinner the next evening!
It was time that my mother’s gifts to me were paid forward. Truly this experience was one of the best birthdays to date! P.S. my cake……chocolate lava with gelato.
There have only been a few occasions when I didn’t enjoy spending time with a fellow traveler. Usually I will come away with at least one new locale that would be added to my list of places I needed to visit. Sometimes it is only a restaurant or a shop but I’m always on the lookout for a country my new friend has explored and loved. What fun it is when I return with a previously uncharted new dream.
I am always amazed by those who have embarked on a long journey without any specific timeline. Often these wanderers seem to “go with the flow” not even sure where they will end up. I am no longer that much of a free spirit…money, lodging, the next meal, transportation and comfort all weigh on my mind more these days. That said, I’m not so rigid that I could join a group for an extended period with everything planned on a tight schedule. I guess I’m somewhere between.
I have done two multi-month trips in my life; once when I was twenty and another when I was fifty-five. Both times I went alone and managed to have a wonderful time. At sixty-five I packed up and moved to a foreign country for a year and a half, again by myself. Again it was a delightful experience but found out I wasn’t ready to “settle-down”, I still had the travel bug and it is much easier to find great fares out of the USA.
I did meet an Australian woman in the Galapagos, close in age to me, who had never stopped like I did for years to raise a family. We had fun for a few minutes comparing adventures until I ran out and she was able to “ramble” on. Needless to say, I came home with a long list…..and hopefully enough years to catch up!
Kuwait has always been all about boats….although, probably not like the ones in the harbors, the marinas and on the beach today. Their history chronicles Kuwait City origins as a fishing village that became a major commercial center for trade between India and Arabia.
Soon oil became both a boom for them and then a bust. A trade embargo in the area also hurt their economy but today the nation’s focus is on the financial industry. They were ranked the 4th richest country in the world per capita according to the World Bank in 2016.
As I mentioned before, Kuwait doesn’t cultivate tourism. There are few people using the endless promenade, the beaches or the cultural center. Even the market place was relatively empty.
Other than the speeding traffic the other striking characteristic of this city were the cats…they were everywhere, scrounging around the rocks for fish, birds or rodents. I read where there are groups trying desperately to fund neutering and spading of these feral animals but they are not able to get ahead of the problem. I found an interesting link about one woman distributing 100 cans of cat food a day!
I hope they’re not permanent! My last trip was book-ended with two overnight flights and I still have not recovered. The fact that I was on the ground only 48 hours didn’t help. Couple that with the fact that I rarely obey all the things one is supposed to do to avoid this lagging. Perhaps that’s why the only one who feels sorry for me is me!!
You know you did a quick turn around when the same flight crew accompanies you both ways!
I wasn’t excited to begin this journey, more like disappointed that my trip to Iran fell through; since I had the time set aside and the airline refund to spend I opted to go and collect a new country. I expected it to be similar to Doha, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It was. It is another city built on sand with incredibly tall and interesting buildings displaying extreme wealth and very little history. Muscat was different.
It was tough interacting with locals because they all seemed to be in speeding cars or talking on their phones. When I asked about different sites the hotel staff had no idea where they were, as they like all other people holding hospitality jobs, were immigrants from somewhere else.
Tourism infrastructure was not in place. My research indicated that US citizens staying less than 90 days would not need a visa. Not true, as I discovered after waiting in line to get a stamp in my passport. Fortunately I was able to get one upstairs where I waited for another hour. The process was most confusing but others waiting were kind enough to answer my many inquiries. It was definitely one of those Charlie Brown moments: aaarrrggghhhhh
More later about the cats, cats and more cats and boats, yachts and personal watercraft. It’s also the place to go for detoxing!