Travel

Sick … sucks.

I’m actually at the point where I’m just starting to feel better. Made it to the gym for the first time in a week. For the last week I’ve been sick. Nothing traumatic, just your standard head/chest cold. But, let me assure you that, when in the desert, being sick sucks.

Like any good red blooded American, when sick I turn to the drug isle for remedy. Its the quickest and best way to kill off what’s killing you. Well, in most setting it is. In the desert, I’m not so sure.

Next time you’re in an arid climate consider this, pretty much everything you can grab at your local shop, in some fashion, seems to be a diuretic. What the fancy language means when it says it dries out your sinus’ means it dehydrated you doing it. If you don’t believe me, try it. When you wake up so dry that your lips crack, you’ll rethink it.

In the desert, dehydration is bad. So, you drink lots of water to compensate. Then, you take cold medications. Then, you drink lots of water to rehydrate. But, you never really seem to compensate. It is kinda sucky.

It makes me consider if it wasn’t the desert people that started the idea of alternate medicines or natural remedies? Maybe they came up with a plan after too much dehydration? I don’t know, but it sounds legit to me.

For my next round of sickness, I think I’m trying something a little more natural. Maybe. Maybe, I’ll just drink more water?

This is not a life lesson, just a general observation. You never know what new thing you’re going to learn. That is why you travel.

So get out there. Learn new things. Just, try to do it healthy. Hahahaha

The desert. Last week. Yup, dry as a bone!

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Travel

Great, there’s a sand storm.

So, last week it was kind of dusty out. I don’t think you could call it a sandstorm. It was more like sand blowing around in the air to the point of annoyance.

You hear these stories of sandstorms all the time. A Great Wall of dust that was lifted off the earth and flung at you for days on end. It darkens the sky and infuriates even the nicest of men and beasts alike. Ya, this wasn’t that. I have to admit that when I came back to the Middle East getting that iconic wall of sand photo was high on my agenda. Now, while still on my list of stuff, it has slipped down the ladder.

My time in Turkey was beautiful weather and no sandstorms. Egypt was the same way. I have good sand dune pictures, but no sandstorm picture. I know, be careful what you ask for, it could be awful. Could be …..

My only sandstorm experience so far was more like; “hey guys it’s pretty crappy outside. The sand stings my eyes.”

“Oh ya, we noticed that too.”

It was just a dull brown from one horizon to another. And, safety glasses really didn’t help completely. It was a little surreal.

I guess I can say I that, at some point, I’m gonna get a real sandstorm and maybe the iconic photo. Until then, sand blowing around in the wind will have to do.

That’s that. I’m still chasing the sandstorm. That, and a thousand other experiences. What are you chasing?

Get out there! Go after it!

A picture from the daily commute. 😎

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Travel

Driving? Is it really necessary?

I’ve been driving in the Middle East for about a week now, and I can testify that it is not what I remember the driving in Europe to be like in the late 80s. In a word, its awful.

I would say that it’s been almost 30 years since I have driven in a country other than the USA. I have driven in Canada several times, but growing up in a border town, I don’t view that to be a different experience from American driving. Sorry Canada.

I do remember it taking a while to find a comfort level with driving when I started driving around Germany. Getting used to the traffic on the Autobahn as a teenager took a few days. Everything in Germany either moved fast or slow. But, as all things do, soon enough it was old hat. I was driving everyday just said it was home. 

That being said, I’m pretty sure the same thing will come of the hellish traffic over here in the Middle East. They say, if you can drive in NYC or L.A. you can drive anywhere. I’d say that’s about half right. Having driven in both cities, I would put the difficulty factor at about 2x NYC. Its either okay or its REALLY not okay. 

Which I guess, brings me to my question of the day. Do you feel that you need to drive when you’re traveling or do you use local means of transport? How do you get around?

Personally, I normally use local transport to get from A to B. I have found that it is usually not difficult to get where you’re going without driving. 

In Europe its particularly easy to get around without a car. Trains and taxis will get you almost anywhere you want. Those to are supported by the occasional bus trip to get to the very few places the trains don’t go. Its really super easy. 

In Central American I have used a car service to get off the beaten track. Trust me, there’s not much beaten track in Central America. In South American, planes, trains, and taxi cabs got me anywhere I wanted to go. That included all the way up to Macchu Picchu. Getting to the mountain city was as simple as a train ride and a short bus ride. It was a harrowing bus ride on a switchback dirt road straight up the side of a mountain, but it was short. 

I did resort to renting a bicycle in Ireland so I could get around the site on the southern side of Galway Bay, but that’s probably as extreme as my travel needs have been. The train and the bus got my across Ireland in fine fashion, and the bike ride through the countryside was actually very nice. 

My current need to drive is promoted by my work. Having a vehicle is necessary. That being said, there does seem to be a reasonable bus system in place, and countless taxis cruising the streets. Movement options are available in the area. The closer I get to a city, the more numerous the transport options become. There doesn’t seem to be a commuter train system in the Middle East, or at least not in the area that I am in. Still, if one wanted to venture out into the dunes, I’m sure local guide services are available for day trip options. I haven’t been in the area long enough to seek those out, but I may later on. I spent enough time in traffic now.

So do you feel the need to drive when you’re traveling? Most American naturally answer yes. Its just part of our culture. But, when abroad to you search out easier or alternate means to get around? I definitely do. Local transport options can be useful, and can save you money. European rental prices are a lot if you don’t use the vehicle every day. And many cities require that you pay to park as well. 

Whichever way you choose to get around, it should be enjoyable and as easy as possible. I’m hoping that I get used to the awful traffic soon, and things become a little more enjoyable. And wherever you travel, be safe when doing so. It can be a mad, mad world at times.

Enjoy, and get out there!


Sunrise over the Persian Gulf. Taken today. 

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Travel

Off on the road again. 

Since the theme of this blog was supposed to be about travel. And, travel by adults. I decided, once again, to try and take my own advice. I always think this is a good idea, until it actually happens. Then, I think twice about it.

This time, I decided to embrace the expat lifestyle and go abroad for work. Its been something that I’ve been considering for some time. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to go do something that I knew most other people wouldn’t consider doing. I guess I also wanted an adventure of a sort. 

So, I boxed it all up and headed for the Middle East. Now, I work as an Environmental Specialist, in a non-disclosed country in the Middle East. It is an absolute change from Texas, USA. 

I was thinking when I left to come here that this was the travel destination. What I learned when I go here was that I had it all wrong. Everyone uses this location as a place to travel from. 

I hadn’t considered it before, but the Middle East is in the middle of a whole new section of the globe. Semi-cheap flights to Thailand and Africa, or Europe and India are now possible. Exotic places are no longer on the opposite side of the globe. They are, quite literally, just over there. Even the illusive Madagascar is a possibility. 

Work has a lot of long hours, but I will continue to post on any exciting new travel as it comes along. The interesting information I stumble upon will also be put out there, just as it has been. This is just the start of a whole new adventure! 

Now go on. Get out there!


Me. On the plane headed east. Approximately 2 weeks ago. 

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Travel

When To Travel?

When do you travel? It’s a question I never really put much thought into. Well, not until recently. I know that most people of adult age have restrictions on their life. They have kids in school or vacation restrictions placed upon them at work. If they are traveling utilizing points from credit cards or other promotional accounts, well then, there are definitely blackout dates to be contended with. These situations and others like them tend to push people into travelling during what the travel industry likes to call peak season.

In my opinion, the term peak season is a bit of a misnomer. Peak season isn’t really a season. It is bracketed by seasonal constraints and though. Peak season is a general term for the time when the most people travel to a certain place. It has environmental factors, such as summer time weather if in the Mediterranean or the time of the monsoons in South East Asia. These are the things that people look at before they travel. Add on the constraints of when someone or their family can travel, as stated by the problems above, and that basically makes up the peak season for any given place.

Most people tend to travel during peak season. If it is not peak season, it will be around one of the major holiday events. The travel companies know this. Airlines tailor flight prices around these times (they tend to go up in price.). The package companies and major hotel chains do the same. It just life in the fast lane. This is also why, if you read any amount of blogging or travel advice books at all, almost everyone will tell you to travel during the off-peak times. I too, offer you this advice.

Now, to answer the initial question, I travel whenever I can get reasonable plane tickets somewhere. Having been in a situation that allowed me to travel pretty much at will, I have become accustomed to traveling whenever it suited my needs. Normally, my needs revolved around my bank account.

Going off-peak has many advantages. Things are generally cheaper. Plane tickets and hotels for sure, but other things as well. (Think trinket stores.) There are fewer other tourists to have to deal with. People are generally friendlier and more forgiving of cultural or language issues, because there are fewer tourists aggravating them. Restaurants and museums will not have lines or the need for reservations. And on, and on. Now there will probably be one major downfall. The weather isn’t going to be nearly as nice as you may want it to be.

I’m going to ask, is this such a major inconvenience? No, seriously, are you going to have a ruined vacation just because it rains part of each day, or because you need to wear a jacket and some gloves? I say categorically, IT WILL NOT.

I spent the weekend in Rome, in February. Why? Cheap plane tickets. I had an excellent time. I had to wear a coat, but it was still pretty mild and the trip was awesome. I mean, if you can’t enjoy yourself in Rome, you’re probably going about things wrong. I wandered across Europe and Ireland in September (Technically the shoulder season, but still out of the main tourist push). It was great. There were fewer crowds, and the people I met were definitely friendlier. I was in Key West, Florida, in July. It was hot, but definitely fun. All the bars downtown were half full and happy that I was there hanging out. Even the guy that drove the local tram was saying he liked it better when it wasn’t during the rush.

I appreciate the constraints of the real world. I deal with them often. I would suggest that you look into traveling off-peak next time. Any place that you will want to go will have a busy season and a not-busy season. Look at the money saving to be had by showing up during the not-busy season. You may save enough to consider a longer stay or a second trip somewhere else. Even if the difference just covers something like all of your tips and cab fare, that’s a good thing too. Any savings is good these days. I’m not saving you must, just that you may want to. Check it out. See what you can save. See what upgrades are available because it’s off-peak (there usually are for hotels). If it does nothing but help you plan, it’s a good thing.

Now, go on. Get out there.

 

 

The main intersection sigh in downtown Ballyvaughan, Ireland. September, 2009. I think there may have been three people in my hotel. And, there was always a seat at the bar.

 

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What to do with all the pictures?

Over the course of the last several weeks I have been thinking about how people document their travels. Obviously, people take lots of pictures, save brochures from stores and restaurants, save maps and itineraries from museums and play bills from theaters. Ride stubs from the train and subway passes are also a popular item. I have bags of all these things from different cities about the globe. They all are a great reminder of places you have been and times that you have had.

There is also, this. Not a blog, as this is a blog, but a written account of your travels. I know countless travelers that keep journals and diaries of their travels. I also know people that collect it all in blogs. I have used both. I have leather bound journals with tales of travel along the Nile, and the cloud forests of Costa Rica. I also have this blogs with its tales of recent exploits around the USA.

Personally, I don’t think that any one way of collecting memories is better than any other way. Whatever way that works for you, and lets you return to those memories, is the way to do it. I tend to, like most travelers out there I think, to use a couple of different methods. I think that it is safe to say, everyone carries a camera on vacation. I can’t think of anyone that I have run into during my travels who said, Na I don’t need a picture. I’ll just look at it for a while and that will be fine. They may be out there, but I haven’t run across them.

That being said, Lets shorten the focus of this blog post to talking about cameras. We could fill a whole blog post talking about each of the methods mentioned above, and maybe I will come back to travel journals and train stubs later on, but for now, let’s focus our lens on cameras and photographs.

I have always carried a camera. I like taking pictures. I take countless pictures with my phone that are strictly for my amusement. As with any technology, the equipment changes as the years go along. When I was in the Army, I carried a Kodiak 110 film camera. Later, while still overseas, I transitioned to a Kodak disk camera. (I really thought I was all-that for a while when I got the disk camera.) As the years progressed, I had a succession of disposable cameras and various film types. I remember when digital cameras first came out. They were huge. You have to put a 3.5 inch floppy disk in them to capture the picture on. They were not what I would consider a travelers camera. During this time, I stayed with film. Considering my dive camera was 35 millimeter film, it was an easy choice to make. Standard 35 millimeter cameras were cheap in those days.

Needless to say, I transitioned to digital, at some point, and never looked back. I think that, like most people on the planet, I have also transitioned to using my cellphone camera as much as anything else. It is just natural, I guess. I always have it on me. Why not just use the phone?

For my last bit of travelling, I carried several cameras. This was what led me to thinking about the question of storing memories. When I left to travel around America, I took a compact Sony digital camera with a 10X zoom, a Canon Digital SLR with anti-shack lens, a Go-Pro Hero 5, and my Apple iPhone 5s. Sadly, I can say with all humility that vast majority of the picture were taken with the Apple iPhone. Like I said before, it’s just there all the time. There were times where I used the big SLR for the pictures. It was when I wanted really good quality pictures. Outside on the Capital Mall, inside the Air and Space Museum, and other such places. I don’t think I use the compact Sony digital at all during the trip. It just road around in the truck with me. The Go-Pro was a new addition to my travel bag. I confess that I still haven’t figured out how to utilize it affectively. I’m sure that will change as time goes on. For now, it was relegated to driving video from the dash mount in the truck. The camera phone did the bulk of the heavy lifting, camera-wise. It takes a high enough quality picture that you can print it on camera stock, and you can usually make enlargements. That’s pretty much all I’m chasing out of my travel pictures. I suppose that if I was in the professional travel photo business, I’d use higher end equipment.

As a side note, I also carried a selfie-stick for the iPhone. I never used it for pictures. Frankly, I kept forgetting it was in my bag, so it never got taken anywhere. Maybe, at some point, I’ll remember to take it along. Hopefully, that is before everyplace on the travel map bans there use. We’ll see.

When I was traveling with film cameras, I would find a good place and store all of my negatives. That way, I could go back and make additional copies of pictures or get pictures enlarged. I still have all the film negatives in a storage box, just in case. Now days, I also keep a CD-ROM copy of my digital pictures in the box with the negatives. That way I also have a backup of those. Let’s face it, hard drives crash and external drives fail. It’s just life.

That the way I do it. How do you do it? Do you take tons of picture or very few? Do you still use film or are you digital? Do you print pile of pictures and cover your walls with your travels (I do.) or are they all in photo albums? Needless to say, there is no right answer. Whatever way works for you is the best way to do it. Even if there are still a 1000 pictures on your phone from that cruise you took last year. It’s okay.

Take the pictures. Capture the moment. Do whatever you want with them later. Just, savor the memory.

Now, go. Get out there.

Yours truly, at the Gravity Bar, ST James’ Gate, Dublin. September of 2009. As you can tell, it was the pre selfie stick days. Yes, this too was an iPhone pic. Good beer, that Guinness.

 

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US Road Trip 2017, Day 17.

The final day of the road trip can be summed up in one word … exasperating. Yup, that’s the word. 

I started out on the eastern edge of Tennessee, and headed west. After already having put on a good 4,000 miles during this little trip, I really didn’t want to be driving anymore. Yet I pressed on under an envelope of stars. 

Needless to say, if you’ve never driven east to west across Tennessee, it took FOREVER! I seriously didn’t think I was ever going to see the sign for Memphis. It was like the Hotel California of states. 

Cruise control on and coffee in hand, I finally prevailed. I crossed the mighty Mississippi River and entered Arkansas. I was happy. For about 20 minutes. 

First, I finally finished the new Daniel Silva book, House of Spies. I’m a huge Gabriel Alon fan. It was unabridged on cd, and it was excellent. I now had to go back to digging for music on the radio.

The road went to hell about 40 minutes into the state. Oh well, bad road is bad road. I continued on unbothered. 

Then, second, about 30 miles east of Little Rock, the whole interstate came to a screeching halt. There had been an accident and the interstate was closed. Stuck in the left lane, no exit even remotely close, and surrounded by tractor trailers, I was going nowhere. The scrum moved a car length  at a time for 2 1/2 hours. When we finally got up to the point where we could pass the accident, it turned out the a tractor trailer load of booze had overturned and slid down the median. You could smell alcohol, even with you windows up. It was a Greek Tragedy. 

The ramp for the bypass around Little Rock was under construction, so I had to drive through the city at rush hour. Great, more lost time. The state of Arkansas ended with an 11 mile construction cone slalom run. The signs said they were rebuilding. From what I saw, it was doubtful. 

I pulled up in Texarkana and assessed. 4 1/2 hours more misery and I could be back in Salado. No stopping now, I continued on. Interstate 30 to Dallas turned into a heavy rain mixed with road construction. Finally getting to Dallas, the ramp for the bypass expressway (635) was closed. I had to overshoot, and come back at it from the other direction, so I could use the other south Bound ramp. I-35 south was a start-stop of road construction. The interstate was completely closed at Temple, Texas for construction. All traffic got diverted onto the frontage road. It was great fun. I pulled into the yard at 12:30am. A 19 1/2 hours of driving day. For a moment, I considered just sleeping in the truck. 

All in all, a round trip circuit road trip across 19 states (most of them crossed twice), with 7 major stops along the way. Total money spent, $ 3,276.67. Total money won, $ 642.00.

Cost: averaged out to $ 192.74 per day. Not too bad. Most of it was hotels and gas. 

I think that, that is that, for a couple days. I have to go back and check in with the real world. 

Get out there! Enjoy!


Enjoying the view in Arkansas.


There’s something you don’t see everyday. 

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