Be Back Whenever


For the love of maps!

Parents … teach your children how to read a map, would you??  I love maps and am always the map reader on our trips. I’ve used AAA maps to navigate around the U.S.  We used a map in Japan to find our ryokan by counting the streets we passed since we couldn’t read Japanese.

I’ve used Michelin maps all over Europe to get us to small villages in France for the Tour de France.  We even have a shorthand of explaining how big a road is based on the colors used on Michelin maps – white road (really narrow, maybe one lane), yellow roads (has some minor route designation) and red roads (major route designation).  Paper maps have served us well.

Along came Google maps and my students all said “Why do I need to know how to read a map?  Google will tell me where to go.”   I use Google maps.  They saved our lives in Austin one evening when we could see the hotel but couldn’t figure out how to navigate the silly side roads all over the Texas interstates.

Yes, we used Google maps on this trip to help get around Tasmania and Western Australia.  I even let “The Voice” give directions.  However, being able to read a map helped me make a decision to NOT accept Google’s directions to drive through the middle of Perth at rush hour.  Google directions don’t do any good when you lose cell reception!  And the lady’s voice is less than useful when she says, “Head northeast from the parking lot” and you have no clue where north is.  Reading the map and making the left, right, or straight decision is a good skill to have!

Another reason to know how to read a map … in the middle of cities with lots of high rise buildings, GPS doesn’t work really well.  You need to be able to figure out which direction you’re walking.  You can turn around before you walk too far as soon as you find a cross street.

Reason #2 – You need to figure out which tram/bus goes where and which stop to get off.  All you have is the tram map to solve the problem because you have no cell reception.

Reason #3 – You’re on the “Amazing Race” and need to find the challenge.  If you watch the show, you’ll know how many teams have lost because neither of them could read a map!

Even if GPS is working, a few map problem-solving skills can be useful.  Ever come out of a subway stop that had 6 exits in the middle of the city and try to figure out even which side of the street you’re on?  Do I turn left, or do I turn right?  Being able to follow the Google blue dot as it moves comes in handy!

Mark and I must look like we know where we’re going on this trip.  Two ladies from Hong Kong asked for directions back to their hotel in Launceston, Tasmania.  Thanks heavens they knew the name of their hotel.  Google showed us the location of the hotel and we gave them simple directions.

Some college-age guy was standing at the cross walk in Melbourne looking confused and staring at his phone. He asked if we could tell him where Swanston Street is.  We told him to walk straight for 7 blocks and he’d be there.  His reply – “Best directions I’ve had all day!”

Country-specific Travel Advice

We like to keep up on events that might impact our travels around the world and we use a number of different sources.  The most well-known one in the U.S. is the U.S. State Department.  They publish information about travel in many counties.  The topics include information on passports, Alerts and Warnings issued for each country, visas needed to enter the country, crime, driving conditions, etc.  I think the State Department tends to be very conservative relative to the U.K. and Australia but it’s a good place to start.

The State Department also runs a program for Americans called Smart Travel Enrollment Program (STEP) to enroll your international trips.  After enrollment, you are connected with each Embassy and they will send alerts, if necessary.

If you want another take on security around the world, you can sign up with the U.K. Foreign Office to get alerts as they are issued.  Go to and enroll in “Get Updates” via email.  You can choose the countries you need alerts for.  I really like that the U.K. even gives information on possible travel problems due to soccer matches and other events like this. You can tell where football/soccer ranks in importance there!

One of my favorite information sources is run by United Health Care Global.  Sign up for “Daily Security Alerts” and every day the alerts will show up in your email box. In addition to the “normal” crime, terrorism, and political activities, this groups publishes information about a wide variety of strikes also that can definitely have an impact on your travel – taxi strikes in Italy, rail strikes in the U.K., airline and airport strikes, etc. – as well as a list of holidays around the world.  Can anyone say “Closed Museums”??

Hope this helps!

May 2017 Planning Update

Thank heavens for Excel spreadsheets!  I use them to keep track of where we’ll be every day, where we’re staying, flights, trains, etc.  Another spreadsheet is tracking costs and what we have left to book. I even have a worksheet to calculate how many days we need to take anti-malaria meds.

The spreadsheet is getting longer and details are added by the week.  We have most of the long haul flights organized and have organized a tour in Jordan for 8 days – seeing Jerash and Petra, the Red Sea and the Dead Sea.

The latest detail is setting up a tour in India.  We’ve decided to use Audley Travel with a driver and tour guides in each city.  We’ve been working with Byrn Woodworth at Audley Travel   and she’s been great, so far.  She gave us “homework” to do – check out hotels, make a list of cities we want to see and what we want to see in each city.  Bryn took that information and came up with an itinerary along with 3 or 4 hotels in each city for us to consider.  The tour includes driver between cities and private guides in each city along with admissions and hotels with breakfasts.  Dinners and lunches are on our own.  After some more research on our part, we’ve made that reservation!

Now it’s time to start filling in the blanks – trains, a few hotels, short flights.

Today was pretty frustrating when I tried to book 2 seats on the Indian Pacific train from Perth to Sydney on the Great Southern Railways website .  I made it through the booking process but when I clicked on “Payment”, the website just sat and stared at me for 5 minutes (Yes, I timed it.) with the little message “Payment Processing”.  Finally, I checked my credit card website and, sure enough, they’d approved the transaction.  No booking number appeared, no email showed up with a booking number and I couldn’t log on to an account, even though I’d attempted to set one up.  I couldn’t even get Great Southern to reset my password.  Their site SAID they were sending me an email so I could set a new PW but that email never showed up.

I sent Great Southern Sales and Booking an email. The autoreply announced they are experiencing a greater than expected number of emails and to just hang on and wait for a reply. Wonder why??  Now, I’m sitting on hold with Great Southern trying to get this figured out.  Thanks heavens for Skype!

5/22/Update – Great Southern was really helpful after I got through the hold – a mere 15 minutes.  The booking is done – yeah! Now we have to figure out the rest of the time in Australia!

Let’s add Jordan to the itinerary.

An interesting story about Jordan on 60 Minutes gave us an idea to make a stop in Jordan for a few days to see Petra and the Dead Sea.  It would be prudent to check with the U.S. and U.K. governments for any travel advisories – travel to Jordan is a go!  The CTP (chief travel planner) looked for some tours in Jordan so now it’s a matter of choosing a good one.  Another task added to the “to do” list. Now the itinerary has grown to Rwanda … Cape Town … Seychelles … Dubai … Amman … and back to Europe.

Lonely Planet books  became our go-to travel sources ever since we found them when we lived in Australia and discovered that they include laundromat locations!  Finding a place to do the laundry is VERY important!  Now the books are offered in e-versions and, when LP has a sale, I stock up on e-versions of the books. I can always print out a few pages to take along and I don’t have to lug the whole book in my backpack.  Today, I added a book about Jordan and another one about the Arab Peninsula.  Does this mean we’re REALLY adding those countries to our plan?

We made our first reservations!

Thomson Safari Book

Thomson Safari booklet

A safari made it to the top of the bucket list and we started researching safaris about a year ago – talking to friends who’d been on safaris, reading magazine stories, checking out rankings.  We finally narrowed the list down to one country – Tanzania – and one or two companies.  After quite a few conversations and more than a few emails and dozens of questions, we finally decided on Thomson Safaris. (I’m sure Gabriella cringed every time she saw another email from me.)  We picked a date and a safari but we knew the decision was REALLY made when we made a reservation and put down a deposit last month.

Mark took a few looks at the map and said “Rwanda is the next country over. We need to see the gorillas if we are so close!”  More decisions to be made and more research to be done. The gorillas are in Volcanoes National Park along with the Golden Monkeys and permits to go trekking to see the gorillas are limited each day.  After going back and forth on dates and availability of permits and hotels, we finally added this experience to our trip – more deposits were made!  Now we have a few dates in concrete on the trip itinerary.

Deciding to visit Rwanda added one more little task to the “to-do list” – yellow fever vaccine is required to enter Rwanda.  Off we went to visit the Larimer County Health Department for a Yellow Fever immunization.  I’m happy to report neither one of us had any side effects from the experience!

10/5 Update – we made hotel reservations for the Hotel Uhland in Munich for 8 rooms for 16 of us so now we have a place to stay for Oktoberfest.  Next task for Oktoberfest is to get reservations for tables in an evening session tent and then buy  food vouchers.  I’ll be in Germany this summer and may try to get them all then.

Hotel Uhland Munich

Hotel Uhland, Munich

A change to the not firm plans

Last Friday I got an email from SRH in Heidelberg asking if I want to teach a class this coming summer for 5 weeks.  I’d like to but this throws a wrench in the plan that’s not set in concrete yet!  Since we can only be in the Schengen countries 90 days out of every 180 days,  spending 5 weeks in July reduces the number of days we can stay in most of Europe after the Africa trip.  Thanks to an amazing calculator I found published by the EU, I figured out we can stay about 7 days after the Africa trip so it’s on to Plan B.  Now we’re thinking we can drop off the duffel bags in Heidelberg, pick up our “regular” bag and head off to the UK – maybe stop in for a visit with Darcy and Kelly before we head up to Scotland to see what the whiskey trail looks like. We need to so some research to make sure the distilleries and castles are even open in December but I’m betting we could have a few places pretty much to ourselves!


How do we pack for this adventure?

clothes on bed

What should we pack?

After working for LOTS of years and trying out all sorts of travel, we’ve decided we’re too old to do the backpacking route. While we’ll each have a daypack with computers and cameras, we are NOT lugging backpacks along and trying to manipulate them on buses while earning sore backs and shoulders – as much as I like massages!  We’ve opted for one suitcase each plus one joint duffel bag for the safari.

I can hear everyone say “You’re taking too much.”  Here’s the explanation.  We can only take a soft bag on the safari and each safari bag has a 15 kilo weight limit.  We’ll leave the suitcases with friends in Germany, take the duffel bags (One big and one small) and daypacks on the safari. After the safari we’ll go back to Germany to exchange the duffel bags for the suitcases.   We may send things we won’t need back home unless we decide we’ll be back in Germany in the Spring.  In that case, we’ll let the duffel bag spend the winter in Germany and reclaim it when we come back through.  Of course the packing gets more complicated because Capetown and the Seychelles keep showing up on our destination list after we finish with the safari, meaning we need clothes for there, too.

This would be way easier if we could plan our travels so it’s always summer but starting September in Europe nixed that idea! We did eliminate the Winter Olympics in Seoul because taking THAT many winter clothes is just too much!  We already have a few dedicated shelves for items we know we’ll need.  Stay tuned for the packing adventures.



Where are we going on our travels?

Lonely Planet books


A few years ago we made a list of places to go and things to see.  We kept the list and added to it as we went along and found new places we want to see.  About a year ago, we got serious about retirement and started to put dates and seasons next to some of the “bucket list”. When is the Australian Open?  When is the high season in the Maldives?  The list got longer with more details and we refined it until we ended up with a broad outline of places to go and people to see.  It helped to have lots of erasers and red pens nearby!  The list evolved into a broad plan for Round the World Travel although we probably will do some some backtracking, we suspect!

Oktoberfest in Munich is the start of the trip in 2017 along with friends. We needed to know the exact date for 2017. Simple, right?  You must be able to Google that.  Not so much!  We found several different dates and went to the source for the definitive answer – the Munich Tourism Board!  They quickly answered my email with the real dates. Oktoberfest begins on September 19, 2017.  The distribution list for folks who “say” they want to come was pretty long but the closer we got to October 2016 and having to make a firm decision, the list began to shrink.   Final count – 18 people have committed to meeting in Munich for 5 days of beer tasting, schnitzel, and sausages.  Most of us all staying together at the Hotel Uhland, a great little hotel only 2 blocks to the Oktoberfest grounds and near all the rest of the main sites in the city.  Everyone is scattering after that – a few cruises, some road trips, a visit with relatives. We’ll spend some time with Mark and Vivian in Italy before they go home to Fort Collins.  Then what will we do?? It’s a mystery until we hit the road for Africa.