A Story about O’Neill’s Pub, King’s Cross, London.

All week long I’ve been walking around with little smile on my face thanks to last week’s post about drinking beer with the locals of the world. In the search for pictures to go with that post, I came across a picture of O’Neill’s, King’s Cross, London. I love that place!

Now, right now, you’re thinking that this is going to be a blog post about drinking beer, and people and an original place that I somehow embraced in a foreign country? No. Well, not exactly. All of those are true, to a point. Whenever I’m in London, I attempt to make a trip across town to O’Neill’s. I also admit that I have a beer (or two) while I’m there. To be honest, I don’t usually talk much while there. And, to be honest, it’s kinda like most of the corner joints in the city. So, why bother? Well, let me tell you a story.

A photo of O’Neill’s Pub in King’s cross, London. Taken as I wandered back to my hotel from the reception for the London Book Festival, January 2015.

Back in the day, summer of 2004, I was scouting around the internet and looking for things to do that might be considered cool, when I stumbled across a backpacking company out of London that put together trips for the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. (www.backpacker.co.uk Honestly, I don’t know if their still in business or not, but they were an outstanding group to travel with.) A quick shuffle around their website and an international phone later, and I was in, headed for London so I could go do crazy things in Pamplona.

Back in the day, there wasn’t a plethora of website and internet outlets for finding cheap hotels. Today I tend toward booking.com. They work well and give me what I’m looking for. (I’m too old to hostel, and too poor to Five-Star it like everyone you see on the travel shows.) In 2004, I used my handy-dandy Lonely Planet Guide. I used the London City guide, specifically. I still have it. It came with good maps and lots of extra what-not. It was also the best place, most important at the time, to find reasonable hotel options. The guide broke the hotels of the city down by high priced, medium priced, and cheap. (The newest copy of a Lonely Planet Guide that I bought lately didn’t even have a hotel listing section. Another concession to the world of the internet, I guess.) The guide actually only gave you contact information. You had to contact them individually to see if they had rooms, and if the prices quoted were correct. It was a more interesting time to travel.

But, I’m sliding off-topic. After looking around, I ended up finding a nice little hotel up in the King’s Cross section of London, for the week before the bus for the bull runs left. It was my first time to London and I want to see one of the four World-Class cities in Europe. (Incase you’re curious, the four cities are London, Paris, Rome, and Istanbul. That’s not my opinion, it other people’s. Though after seeing three of the four, I think their right.) Like everyone else going to London for the first time, I was shocked by how expensive a city it can be. Take your Visa card, you’re gonna need it. So, in an effort to be as sensible as possible, I ended up in Kings Cross. This area was ( and I believe still is) know internationally as the backpacker’s go-to spot. It was the section hosting most of the hostels and cheap hotels.

I love Kings Cross. It’s what you expect to find, after you’re done looking for museums and galleries. I wandered all over, ending most of my scouting trips at a pub around the corner and down the street from my hotel. Yup, it was O’Neill’s.

At the time of this journey, I was just solidly formulating the characters and landscape for my first novel. I knew it was going to be about vampires, and I knew the vampire the story centered around was going to be female and slightly tomboy-ish. (Who doesn’t like a female protagonist???) As I sat at the outside tables of O’Neill’s drinking my pints of whatever looked pleasing that day, I watched London pass me by and listened to its rhythms. It was there, at O’Neill’s that I decided Sara Anne Grey would be an English girl, and hail from London. It was an excellent choice, as it gave her a further depth of spirit imbued upon her by the city.

I took a lot of notes and pictures sitting outside that pub, drinking and watching the city go by. A picture of the new London Library sitting across the street from old ST Pancras Train Station stayed with my writing materials and kept reminding me that the city, like my character, was both old and new. (I’m pretty sure that the photo is now in a file folder with other stuff from the writing of those books.)

Flash forward to 2015. I had been to London a couple time since 2004, and always enjoyed being back in the city. In January of 2015, I went to London to accept the Grand Prize at the 2014 London Book Festival, for the third Sara Grey novel, Progression. The novel that actually had all the O’Neill’s pub scenes in it. As I walked out the London Library, where that gala was hosted, I walked over and took the above picture of O’Neill’s. The place where it all started.

I didn’t cross the street and go in. It seemed wrong somehow, like it would break the crazy spell I was caught up in. I did, however, go over the next day and have a couple, still being quite full of myself.

This story is told to illustrate the context of the statement forwarding the last post. Travel is about making experiences that you take away with you when you leave. It’s the collection of memories that allow you to have the depth of knowledge necessary to accurately interpret the world around you. Or, that’s my opinion on the matter.

A. I hope you enjoyed me shamelessly wandering down memory lane.

B. I hope that it also gave you some push to want to get out and make your own memories.

C. if you’re in London, head up to Kings Cross and have a pint at O’Neill’s.

I plan on being back in London, in May. I’m just passing through on my way to the continent. (It was the cheapest point to fly to from Texas.) I don’t know if I’m going to have time to get up to King’s Cross, but if I do, I’m headed to O’Neill’s for a pint.

Now, get out there and make your own memories.

Beer? I have time for a beer.

Before I get into this one, I want to make a statement. Travel isn’t about places or things. Travel isn’t about crap you read in guide books and magazines. or, on blogs on the internet, for that matter. travel is about experiences that stay with you, after you leave a place. It’s about understanding the way people in other places understand things. Okay, that being said, go … 

I was sitting on the couch the other day, thinking about stuff that should end up on Pinterest. Somewhere in looking through external hard drives, USB drives, and random flash cards at pictures from the various travels, I noticed that I have taken a pile of pictures of beer. Most of the beer seemed to be Guinness. I think this is because the brand is so widely dispersed. In countries that have regional beers, I will go out of my way to drink those beers. For example, in Thailand I drank a lot of Chang. But, it seemed to keep coming up Guinness, so I decided to build a Pinterest board of the different Guinness pints I’ve ingested around the world.

Let face it, if you’re from the United States or Western Europe, you like a glass of beer. (For the purposes of this blog post we will forgo the wine and whiskey categories.) I certainly like several glasses of beer at any one sitting, but that might be one of the things that explain my current western-sized BMI. So I decided to put up a blog post a couple of my favorite pints from here-and-there. These are all Guinness stops, because I was collecting photos for the Pinterest board. I think they are accurate representations of one of the small pieces of travel that adult travelers enjoy so much. I hope this at least makes you chuckle.

_______________________________________________________

Number One, Drinking in Dublin, Ireland, 2009.

Part One, The Sky Bar.

The free beer you get after the Guinness Brewery tour. The views from the Sky Bar while drinking the free beer are outstanding.

When you make it to Dublin, Ireland, one of the things you are going to want to do is take the tour of the Guinness Brewery, at ST. James’ Gate. The brewery tour is quite enjoyable, and the gift shop on the third floor is HUGE! (I even came out with golf tees.)After your tour of the brewery and its beer-making process, but before your attack on the gift shop, you are ushered up to The Sky Bar, Located above the brewery, for a free pint of beer. The Sky Bar only gives out Guinness Draught, but that’s quite alright.

The barmen and women at The Sky Bar pour soo-many pints a day, that it’s all but guaranteed you will get a quality draft. The draft tastes excellent and the views from the high elevation above the city are outstanding. take the time to take the tour. It really is worth your time.

Part Two, the Brazen Head.

The Brazen Head, Dublin, Ireland, is Ireland’s oldest pub.

The Brazen Head is a nice little bar, in Central Dublin, just south side of the river. Dating back to somewhere around 1198, it is officially recognized as the oldest pub in the country of Ireland.

Now, because the pub is a landmark, and because the pub is totally stamped on the tourist map, and because the pub is easy to get to with a quiet walk through the city, it can be a disappointment if you go at it the wrong way. It is a major tourist draw. Most tourists looking to get a picture and a story will make it no farther than the hostess person standing at the little front door stand. The tourists are shown to a seat, normally outside because the place isn’t very big, and provided with a perfectly adequate time. If you require a more-genuine experience, smile and push past the hostess and grab a seat at the bar with the locals. They are quite welcoming, and you can have great conversations while you enjoy a pint.

If you’re looking at adding a stop at the Brazen Head while you’re in Dublin, do yourself a favor and make it to a barstool where the locals hangout. You will remember the conversation long after you leave.

________________________________________________________

Number Two.

The Irish Village, Dubai, UAE, 2018.

Having a beer at the Irish Village, Dubai, UAE, 2018.

If you work in the Middle East for any amount of time, you WILL end up in Dubai. It’s almost a Guarantee. If you work in a dry country, like I did in Kuwait, A stop in Dubai will probably be one of your first forays out of the country. Why? Simple, they have beer. Not only do they have beer, but they require you to walk through the duty free shop when exiting customs at the airport. They know why you’re there.

Just south of the airport, between the airport and the river that separates the north older part of Dubai from the south newer sections of the city, sits the Dubai Tennis Stadium. All along one side of the stadium is The Irish Village. trust me when I say, these people know why they’re there. It’s a wonderful place to sit, listen to a little music, and drink several pints. I stopped there everyday that I was in Dubai.

The Irish Village is easy to find on Google maps while you are there, and easy to get to. There is a metro stop several blocks to the north and a following easy walk from the metro to the village. The people are friendly, and the food-drink is quite good. I was really there for the beer. Dubai has a fairly large British ex-pat community, and the locals are quite comfortable with the consumption of alcohol. That being said, you can’t drink while in public (unless you are at a restaurant or other business that serves alcohol), and they DO NOT appreciate westerners being drunk in public.

________________________________________________________

Number Three, U2 360 Tour, Chicago, Illinois, 2009.

The inflatable Irish Pub that travelled with U2 and served Guinness 250 Anniversary beer.
The Guinness 250th Anniversary beer. It was FANTASTIC!

Back in 2009, when U2 brought the 360 Tour through Chicago, Illinois, for the first time (The tour went on for so long that they came two years in a row. I went both years.), they brought an inflatable Irish Pub with them. I believe the tour was at least partially underwritten by Guinness, though I don’t know this to be fact.

Out on the lawn section of Soldier Field, A full-sized inflatable Irish Pub was installed to serve Guinness 250th Anniversary beer to the concert goers. This stop is being added specifically because of the beer. The 250th Anniversary special was one of the best pints of beer that I’ve had. It was creamy and smooth, yet thick and filling. They produced it for a short time and then stopped. I was somewhat upset when I couldn’t get it anymore. Oh, the concert was outstanding as well.

________________________________________________________

One Honorable Mention. Mainly, because I don’t have or couldn’t find a picture of it.

The Green Dragon, Boston, Massachusetts.

In the middle of Boston, directly across the street from the oldest bar known in the United States, The Bell in Hand Tavern, is an absolute Historical Landmark, The Green Dragon. The Green Dragon is the place where the revolution was said to have been planned. And, if you’ve been there, you believe it. It has been kept as accurate as time will allow, and you can literally picture Ben Franklin passing out at the bar.

I stop at The Green Dragon every time I’m in Boston, and time will allow. The beer is always good, the food is very good, and the company is excellent. If you can make a trip in the summer, when the doors are open and the streets are full of people, you’ll enjoy it that much more. And yes, when at The Green Dragon, I drink Guinness.

_______________________________________________________

I really wrote this post because It made me happy to do it. It’s the interactions with people and places that stick in your mind the longest. It’s why we travel. So, next time you’re out exploring, stop at a good looking establishment and have a beer with the locals. It will be worth your time, and produce memories that will last. Now that I’ve just written that last statement, I have an odd sensation there will be an upcoming post specifically about time spend at O’Neill’s in Kings cross, London.

Now get out there. Enjoy your travels.

A Quick Bit About the Fortress of Tomar, Portugal.

After thinking about last week’s list and searching through numerous photo collections for the pictures, I realized that I had another spot on the globe which could/should be included. Going to Tomar, Portugal, and seeing the Fortress, is really worth the trip.

I found the small Portuguese town by accident. I was doing Templar research for a novel, and the fortress at Tomar kept appearing, so I figured it would be a likely place as any for a story stop. I it added to the places I needed to research when I went to Europe, and have been happy that I did. The fortress ended up featuring prominently in my novel The Long Path.

Tomar is located about an hour north of Lisbon, literally at the end of a train line. Don’t be shocked if you get off the train and the place is empty, maybe a little overgrown. The train station sits on the edge of the old town section and is an easy walk to wherever you want to go in the city. It seems that most tourists are wandering into the old town section, and the way is well marked. The city of Tomar is basically split in two by the river that bisects it. The old town is on one side and modern Tomar is on the other side. The old town section is well maintained and worth exploring. For the sake of his post, I went to see the fortress, so this will be about the fortress.

The fortress of Tomar, as seen from the old town.

The Fortress of Tomar has a commanding presence over the town and is visible from most everywhere you look. It sits high up on a stone outcrop above the city. There is a well maintained walking path that will take you, at a casual incline, up to the entry gate.

the entry into the fortress of Tomar.

The pathways leading around and into the main fortress are wide and still well maintained. The cobble stone is quite easy to navigate when it is dry. I was there in the early fall, so the weather was accommodating. The walking path out of old town leads you to an exterior car park. You enter from the car park, through the main gate house and under the portcullis, to the wide entry seen above. A further gate secures the interior fortress wall. The whole structure is surprising well maintained.

Where the original Keep of the castle fortress has been destroyed, the monastery and the chapels, as well as the defensive fortifications are all still in good repair. Once a stronghold of the Portuguese Knight Templar order dating back to the 12th century, it was given over to the Knights of the Order of Christ when the Templar’s fell from grace. It became a catholic convent and still holds the proper name of the Convent of Christ.

The charola rotunda of the church at the Convent of Christ.

The stronghold’s centerpiece is the Romanesque round church that occupies a central space in the main fortress area. The round church is said to be modelled after similar churches in Jerusalem, and has wide interior aisles so that the Templar knights could enter the church on horseback and receive their blessings before being off about whatever business commanded the day. Not to overstate the church, it is absolutely stunning.

The tilework in the cemetery cloister.
Tilework inside the Cemetery Cloister’s chapel.

The main church is surrounded by many structures that are remarkable. The grounds hold seven or eight cloisters, and blocks of cells for the monks, along with necessary administrative outbuildings. The open and welcoming nature of the Cemetery Cloister is a recommended stop. The blue ceramic tile that decorates the walls of the cloister and the associated chapel is still of fine quality. If you stay in the cloister for any amount of time, you can feel the Moorish influences that still permeate the region, independent of their current use in a Catholic structure.

the author standing in the doorway of a sentry tower inside the Fortress of Tomar.

The interior of the multi-story structure has many sentry towers and exterior walkways that give excellent views of the surrounding countryside. The rooftop areas of numerous structures are also open, so as to be utilized as outdoor areas. There are only a few sections of the fortress that are sectioned off for no entry. The vast majority of the complex is openly accessible and worth lingering in.

The city view from the ramparts of the Fortress of Tomar.

As seen above, the fortress commands an excellent position over the town and offers great views. I had assumed that this stop would turn out to be a day trip for some good information and photos of the structure. I ended up spending two days at the fortress, just taking in everything it had to offer. These pictures are the smallest of samples. The place is fantastic.

If you find yourself in Portugal, and somehow becoming bored by the Lisbon cityscape, a daytrip to Tomar may be a perfect alternative. It is easy to get to, it has several accommodation options to chose from, and there are many good restaurants in the old town. I stayed in a small boutique hotel by the river. It sat on it’s own little island, and was very charming.

I confess that I didn’t spend any time wandering around the modern sections of Tomar. I walked across the bridge and took pictures of the fire trucks, sitting outside the local fire department, but that was really about it. The old town has much to see. There is also a local tourist office located in the old town, just down the street from the train station, if you need maps or advice.

I found the town to be an excellent stop. Even though I was there was “Work”, I would still say that it’s definitely worth visiting. And as this is a blog for travelers that are not necessarily 20 anymore, the old town is small and easily walkable. The train station is on the opposite end of town from most of the hotels, but in reality it only takes about ten minutes to walk there. the walk up the hill to get to the fortress is relatively gentle on grade and not very strenuous. The restaurants on offer in the old town run the gambit, but it’s easy to find local fair that is above the backpacker pallet. I certainly didn’t have any trouble.

All in all, it’s easy to get to and has a wealth of history. The fortress has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. It is well worth your time. or, that’s my opinion on the matter.

Now, get out there. Go see stuff.

My “Current” Top Five.

Since everyone on the planet has an opinion on what they’re best travel destinations are around the globe, and since I have seen a small piece of the globe, and since I (like everyone else) have my own opinions, It seemed appropriate to throw out what I consider to be my own Travel Top Five. Now I happily confess that this list is based upon my own travel experiences, so it is definitely not a be-all-end-all of global travel. I also happily confess at the outset that it is open for serious debate. These spots just happen to be the coolest places I’ve been too, so far. They are also the place that I tell friends that they need to go.

That being said . . .

___________________________________________________________

img_0630

Number One.

The Hall of Rubens, The Louvre Museum, Paris, France.

I agree that it seems odd to start a top five destination list with a specific art exhibit, in a specific museum however, The Hall of Rubens is currently my favorite place to be on the planet. Bold Statement? Yes. Accurate? Also, Yes.

The Hall of Rubens is the home to a series of paintings representing the life of Maria de Medici. The canvases range in size from large to fantastically massive and represent an excellent representation of the period in which Rubens thrived.  The story starts with Maria’s birth and follows her through her ascension to the throne and ultimate old age. If you enjoy the old masters, you will enjoy this hall greatly.

___________________________________________________________

Scan4Number two.

The Pyramids, Giza Plateau, Cairo Suburbs, Egypt.

The Great Pyramids of Giza that occupy the tourist center of the Giza necropolis, and the associated Sphinx, are justifiably considered true world wonders. Outside of being on everyone’s must see lists, I can say without reservation that they should be on yours.

The true scale of the pyramids and the building materials used to build them are beyond realistic expression. To say they are massive blocks of stone is a complete understatement. The monuments are immense, and mirror the vastness of the plateau they inhabit. They are absolutely worth your time and effort to go see them. If you haven’t seen them, you should.

____________________________________________________________

IMG_1613

Number Three.

Machu Picchu, Cusco Region, Peru.

They say that the journey to a place is the real joy of travel. Machu Picchu is one of those places where This statement might actually prove true. Let’s say, it’s not the easiest place to get to.

High in the mountains of Peru, most people endure a flight from Lima, a cab ride from Cusco to the train station out in the middle of nowhere, a VERY scenic train ride to Aguas Calientes in the mountains, a mildly harrowing bus ride up the side of the mountain to the park entrance, and then a casual walk into a most-spectacular archeological site. (You can also walk the Incan Trail for a couple of days to get there, but trains and buses are better.)

The Machu Picchu site is absolutely breathtaking. Set high in the mountains, there is a spectacular view from every direction you look. The site itself is in a fantastic state and is awe-inspiring to walk around.

One piece of advice: The tourist buses arrive in bulk around 10am. If you want to see the site un-bothered by people, then be on the first bus out of Aguas Calientes at 6am. There will be a long line of people trying to catch the first bus, but that okay. The first bus is actually a set of like 6 buses. You can get a seat, if you want one.

Once again, if you haven’t been there, I recommend that you make the trip. The trip into the Peruvian mountains is as much of the experience as the site itself.

____________________________________________________________

img_1375

Number Four.

Angkor Wat Temple Complex, In the jungle north of Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The Angkor Wat temple complex is incredibly intact and a shining example of the Khmer Empire. Originally a Hindu temple, it was converted to other religions over the centuries. Pretty sure it’s currently holding a Buddhist title.

If you have never been to the area, it needs to be said that you can find whatever you look for here. The larger jungle area holds two distinctly different temple areas. There is Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. They are not the same thing.

Angkor Wat is (Largely) intact, and well maintained. The jungle has been cleared and the site made hospitable for mass tourism. It is the major stopping point for most of the tourist traffic that passes through. And , as such, is overrun with people. Overrun.

Angkor Thom, and the many temples and sites surrounding Angkor Thom, are still very-much in the grip of the jungle. If you’re looking for the Lara croft version, this is where you’re headed! The temples half-submerged in the jungle are fantastic and awe-inspiring. They are where the true travelers head to when they consider exploring the Angkor Wat region.

Again, somewhat repetitiously, if you haven’t been, go. This was one of those places that I always said I was going to go to (but never really believed that I would actually get to). When I actually did get there, it was so much more than I expected.

____________________________________________________________

img_2768

Number Five.

The City of Petra, Jordan.

Where almost all of you are going to say that Petra is not worthy of being as low as number five on the list, I am going to say that I agree with you. but alas, everything ranks somewhere on all lists. Petra is another site that I always said I was going to go to, but never actually believed that I would really get to. Finally getting there, I’m happy that I made the trip.

The city of Petra is buried in a canyon, deep in the southern reaches of the Jordan desert. That being said, it’s surprisingly easy to reach. A bus out of Ammon run to the complex daily. You can even get a taxi from the Ammon airport straight to the site if you choice. There are numerous hotels in the area and the archeological site is open long hours.

The walk from the head of the canyon, down through the Siq, to the Treasury (the first tomb accessible along the way) has been made infamous by Indiana Jones. It is also worth the time to take the walk through history. Where most people make it as far as the Treasury, there is so much more to see in the other 60% of the archeological site. The most-impressive tombs and the Romain ruins section are all farther along into the site.

Petra, like a great many other sites, gets A LOT of tourist traffic. It is beneficial to arrive early, before the tourist buses and local transportation buses arrive for the day. The site opens right around 6am and gets instant traffic. Most of the touristy buses arrive about 10-11am. if you want unobstructed photos, get in when they open.

____________________________________________________________

Like I said, This list is based upon the places that I have been so far. There is a vast world left for me to explore. I am sure that as I do, this list will change. One of my favorite things to do is talk about where to go next with my travelling friends. To find out what they think is must-see and explore those places.

Hopefully, this will give you inspiration to go to places that you’ve been wanting to explore. I definitely suggest that you do. There is an old internet philosophy that says: travel, your money will return, but your time won’t. (Or, something like that?)

Now, get out there. Go see stuff.

Everybody Gets Sick.

This post is a little late in coming. I did say something in the last post about following that post up with some heartwarming story about home during the holidays or some such thing. But, then I got like, super sick, and had some time to think better of that.

What probably would have happened is a post like the one a half dozen back, where I talk about small town USA, and stuff. I already did that. So, instead, let’s talk about getting sick. Why? Because, everybody gets sick.

Three stories from three continents that maybe tell a story about seeing the world.

Egypt, 2000, sick on a cruise ship.

Say, night four of a ten night stint up and down the Nile, on a Contiki trip with a most awesome group of Aussies. Up all night, drinking and waiting for the sun to come up over the Nile. Somewhere in the midst of the evening, I slipped and got a drink with ice in it.

Now, anybody who knows anything about Egypt will tell you don’t drink the water. I mean, don’t drink the water! One drink with ice cubes in it and bang, Pharaohs Revenge. It took 2 full days to pass. I ate a complete box of Imodium AD. Pretty sure I lost weight. I flushed the toilet in my cabin so many times that I broke it. By the time I started to feel better, I had wrapped all the towels around the toilet so that it wouldn’t leak out on the floor when flushed.

I did get the pictures of the sun coming up over the river, and made it out to one Temple before I was sequestered to my cabin, on the bottom of the ship. On the bottom of the ship, where all the plumbing went up.

Moral: don’t drink the water! Let’s say, I didn’t make that mistake twice! But, some of my traveling companions did. Sucked to be them!

Europe, 2005, sick in Paris.

Everybody has the well thought out plan that goes to hell, somewhere around the midpoint. Where I have these in spades, for this particular story I’ll use Paris.

After several wonderful day wondering the Louvre, and antagonizing women with my lack of the French language, I potentially interacted with someone that didn’t agree with me. That, or more likely, I forgot to wash my hand after handling the money. (Serious, foreign currency is a huge germ carrier.)

A stop in MT Saint Michel and casual side trip around Normandy turned into 1 day running around the top Normandy sites and 4 days sick as hell in a Paris hotel.

This was one of the rare times I travelled internationally and didn’t pack a certain amount of cold/flu and stomach meds. Fortunately, there are a plethora of pharmacies in Paris. All the pharmacies are marked by green crosses. The pharmacy people are very good, and the drugs are all pretty much the same. Different names, different packages, same base ingredients.

Moral of this story? Probably, wash your hands more. Still haven’t made it to MT Saint Michel yet.

The United States, 2019, somewhere between New York and Texas.

You know that feeling you get when you’re in the middle of something and you start feel, off. You think to yourself, “hope I’m not getting sick?” Too late, you’re sick.

After days of driving and seeing people, which really was just a lot of time in my truck, alone with my thoughts, it struck. I have no real good idea about how I got the sickness, but the cold/flu hit like a ton of bricks.

I drove for as long as I could, and then pulled up at a Holiday Inn Express, somewhere in Roanoke, Virginia. I gave the desk lady my visa and asked for the location of the nearest drug store (oh, and McDonalds). After drugs, food, and the first half of the Alabama/Clemson game I crashed. (Pretty much like Alabama did. Roll Tide!) Eating drugs and drinking coffee got me the rest of the way to Texas. There, I collapsed in my bed.

Moral? I guess you just never know when things are going to fall apart. Sometimes you just have to such it up and keep moving on.

Basically, you just never know when you are going to get sick on the road.

Don’t let it get you down! It happens!

Seriously, don’t let it get you down. If you are gonna get sick, you are gonna get sick. You put a lot of changes on your system when you travel. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out.

About the only things you can really do are maintain your fitness, eat healthy, wash your hands at the right times, eat drugs when necessary, and don’t panic. These things happen. It will, most likely, be okay.

Optimism keeps us all going. Optimism will keep you going too. Or, that’s my two cents.

Now, get out there. Do stuff, even if you might get sick!

Taking the Long Way Home.

I had every intention a couple days ago with being able to give you this great end-of-year little US road trip experience. I’m headed back to NY from TX to see mom and dad for the holidays. Having made the drive numerous times, I decided to diverge a bit on the way and see some friends.

The first leg of the road trip was decided on home in Texas up to Chicago to see some friends. I gased up the truck and headed out. It has been some time since I’ve driven 16 hours straight, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it. 8 hours in and I wanted to stop and get a hotel. Putting failure from my mind, I trudged on completing the trip in 17 hours 45 minutes.

The rest point was my friend Billy’s house in Lowell, Indiana. My exhaustion was evident when I arrived. I had a beer With my host and decompressed from the drive.

This is where my loose plans went astray. I had visions of running around Chicagoland seeing old friends. This, I can say with some reservation, did not happen. I little hanging with Billy, a little bad ice on the roads, a little apathy, and the stop turned into hanging out in Lowell drinking beers. The beer drinking was happily infused with Billy working out how to ship a motorcycle to Europe so he could spend a vacation riding around Europe. This was backdropped by watching both Long Way Round, and Long Way Down. The two Ewen McGregor motorcycle documentaries.

Very good times and a quiet New Year’s Eve all around. Also laundry. Because, you need to take advantage of other people’s washing machines.

Gassing up the old girl at the start of the trip.

Me. Chillin and drinking beers.

Billy, engrossed in Long Way Down.

Documentaries confused as research.

I’ll give better reports from the road as the trip continues. Hopefully.

Get out there. Do your own adventure!

As a post script:

The whole next travel leg looked like this. The driving is getting better as it goes along.

Decompression.

A sizeable chunk of bloggers on the internet is primarily focused on how to get adventuring. Those that aren’t are focused on the actual adventuring itself. The ‘look at me! I’m somewhere cool’ posts we all like to read so much. For self-inclusive purposes, I would think I best fit into the second category. I like to go do new stuff. I also like to talk about the new stuff that I am doing as it may inspire you to try something new as well.

I think that its safe to say that our current society is judging itself based upon how cool you make yourself look in the social media. I see it as both a blessing (it give me inspiring ideas) and a curse (It give everyone on the planet an extremely unrealistic view of success and happiness). One thing I am sure of is that It’s not going away anytime soon.

That being said, I think something that tends to get overlooked by most travel bloggers is what happens after the adventure is over. How do you decompress from travel? This is a very real topic of conversation with my different traveling friends. what you do to process your travels, and how you transition back into your middle-aged workaday world, are legitimate things to be considered prior to leaving.

The majority of people aren’t professional travelers nor are they independently wealthy. This implies that whenever you return from your trip, you are going to need to reposition yourself into whatever life situation you were escaping from. If you went on vacation for a week or took that three-day cruise around the Bahamas, this probably will be accomplished without much effort. If you dropped everything to travel the world or moved overseas to work and are now about in your own country, this will be a fairly more daunting task.

I idea of decompression after a trip of three weeks or less is pretty much avoidance. A long time ago, I started planning a free day at the end of every trip. A day off between the airport and having to go back to work. This day was used to get my head out of where I was (cool adventure stuff), and back into what I had left (work). Granted, this day off looked a lot like me doing laundry, organizing pictures and video, and generally lounging on the couch. Needless to say, It usually worked pretty well. If I walked out during an important time at work, it also allowed me to check in and see what was going on. That way, I didn’t walk in and get blindsided by something stupid.

Having been back from a year in the desert for a couple of months now, I find myself still adjusting from the adventure into what comes next. Even though I had a plan upon my repatriation, the shift from constant motion and the immediateness of another culture to the (quasi) normalness of the American condition has left me with the feeling of lingering. And even though I know that I’m going to be off again in a couple more months, I still feel like I’m spinning my wheels.

The funny thing is , I knew this stage was coming. I told everybody at my last job that, if I couldn’t keep myself from becoming bored, that I probably would be back. Where I’m super good at being lazy, I’m not good at be listless. If left to my own thought for too long a time, I tend to wander off in search of something to do. This leads to the title of this blog, namely Istray.

I can have the best plan ever to do whatever, and then in the middle of its execution I’m mysteriously off to Europe instead. Proof of this statement. After I had been in Kuwait long enough to start travelling, I made up my mind that I was going to see the city Ubar. The city of Ubar is located in the Empty Quarter of Oman. You have to want to go there. It would be proper adventure. A year in Kuwait, and five countries later, I left the Middle East not having gone to Ubar. I did make it to Oman, Technically. I had to change planes in Oman on my way to Cambodia. Yes, I know. It doesn’t count.

but, back on-point here. When you spend a significant amount of time moving and then you stop moving, it make you want to be moving again. My plan for spending the interval between adventures involves writing book and getting another book ready for publishing. While it’s mentally stimulation, it is NOT the life of the jet set that I’ used to. I am getting a lot more and better writing done than when I was in the desert. That’s a good thing.

So, if you plan of being off on a grand adventure, my I suggest that you take a quiet afternoon before you go and think about what it will be like when you come back. If you’re off on sabbatical or structured leave, then you probably have this done already. If you are cutting the cord and running off, well then, this exercise will be a practical use of your planning time. You need to plan your trip. You should also plan what comes after your trip. It’s all fun and games, until it’s not.

Well, that’s my two cents anyway.

The scene of the next Kristin Hughes thriller. That is, if I don’t wander off to Europe earlier than planned or go find another cool job first.

Now, get out there. Plan your way into and out of that next adventure.