Monday, January 15, 2024

Traveling Solo in Ireland

 

As much as I enjoy traveling with family and friends, there is something very special about traveling solo.  You have complete freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want with no restrictions.

On my first trip to Ireland, I had planned on a group tour, but it was cancelled so I decided to take the trip and just go on my own.  It was such a fantastic experience that I couldn’t wait to do it again.

Not only is it one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been but the people are so warm and welcoming, I immediately felt right at home.


Planning was much easier than I expected, I booked my flight and hotels online and rented a car after I arrived.  I followed the original itinerary of the tour but going alone gave me the opportunity to explore areas that the tour would not have taken me.

Most of the hotels I stayed at offered food and live music on-site or nearby, so I could enjoy a great evening out without having to drive. 


Driving through the countryside, I loved being able to stop along the way for lunch or a cup of tea and not worry about following any set schedule.  Your time really is your own when you travel solo, but you don’t have to be alone unless you want to. 

People are always very interested to hear about your adventure and talk to you about your travels.  They are happy to share information about great things to see and do in the area.  I have met so many wonderful people on my trips and still stay in touch with many of them.



The joy truly is in the journey when you travel solo! 

Published - MyFlightSearch.com I dream of travel

Friday, December 1, 2023

Christmas Magic

It was just a few weeks until Christmas and I could hardly wait.

We had moved into our beautiful new house, and I had my very own bedroom.  No more sharing with my annoying younger brother.

Mom was busy decorating and getting ready for the holiday.  I’m not sure I had ever seen her so happy.  She finally met someone who treated her well and even liked us kids too. 

Buzz was a kind man, quiet and gentle with a warm smile.  Walking in with his dusty work boots, exhausted from work, he was never too tired to pick me up and give me a huge bear hug.

We were living a life I could never have imagined.  There was so much food in the house we had to put another refrigerator on the back porch.  We didn’t have to worry about moving in the middle of the night because we couldn’t pay the rent.  Life was very good.

“You are not going to start another project this close to Christmas.” I heard my mom telling Buzz.

He was always working on something.  He built a new patio with a rock garden for mom in the summer and a mini playhouse for me and my brother.

Despite her protests, he began working.  

It was unusual for him to be doing it inside, but it was winter, so I didn’t think much of it. 

Mom was beside herself with the mess.  She had worked so hard to clean and decorate the house.  He had even pushed the Christmas tree off into the corner.

I was surprised and confused when I came home from school and saw that he was actually tearing down the living room wall. 

He and mom almost never argued but this was different.  There were pieces of wood and sheet rock everywhere.  I was happy I had a room to go to where I could stay away from it all.

As the days passed, mom accepted that this was going to happen whether she liked it or not. 

Just a couple of days until Christmas now and I was more excited than ever.  This was our first Christmas in the new house.

Behind the canvas tarps, Buzz worked away, he looked like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain.

He even enlisted my brother to help with his “secret project”.
I was a little jealous that I wasn’t included but I kept myself busy playing with my dolls and reading in my room.

Finally, it was Christmas eve.  I knew this year would be special, but I had no idea how much. 

After dinner, mom sent me and my brother to our rooms.  “We have something to do before Santa comes, so you have to stay there until we tell you to come out,” she instructed. “And no peeking,” she nodded to my brother.

Presents, it must be our presents we both thought. 

When she opened the door, she told me to close my eyes.  Gently guiding me, we walked into the front room. 

When I opened my eyes, I saw the most incredible fireplace I had ever seen.  

That is what Buzz had been working on.  Whoever had lived there before had covered up the fireplace with a wall.

It looked like something out of a fairy tale – the fire was glowing with twinkles of light reflecting on the hearth.

Under the tree were two boxes, one for me and one for my brother. 

We didn’t usually get to open any gifts before Christmas morning, so this was another unexpected surprise. 

My box was not wrapped, so it was easy to just open the top.  As I did, up popped the most beautiful little gray kitten in the world.  

Immediately I began to cry, as I carefully lifted her out of the box.

“Is she really for me?” I asked in disbelief, petting her gently. "I think I'll call her Thumbelina because she's so tiny," I said.

My brother grinned at me and began opening his package.  It was a toolbox with real tools to build things, he was thrilled.

Mom smiled and watched quietly as we laughed and played.  Buzz reached down from his rocking chair and lifted me, still holding the kitten, into his lap.

It was truly a magical Christmas.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The Stanley Hotel - A Ghost Story

It was a lovely spring day, and my friend was coming to Colorado for a visit.  We decided to go to Estes Park for the weekend. 

 
We talked as we drove up the mountain and he asked if this was where “The Shining” was filmed.  I told him I wasn't sure, but I thought it might be. 

It was a glorious day - blue sky, beautiful scenery, and the perfect way to begin our trip.

As we approached the overlook of Estes Park with the Rocky Mountains rising in the background, it was truly a spectacular sight.

We drove toward town and noticed a striking white building up on the hill.  Neither of us knew what it was, so we decided to investigate.  

Driving closer, we marveled at the perfectly manicured grounds and then saw the sign that read - The Stanley Hotel.

We agreed that we had to see it but were sure that it would be too expensive to stay there.

As we entered the property, the massive white gates opened to a large outdoor patio.  Inside, the lobby was beautifully decorated with big leather chairs surrounding several huge stone fireplaces.  Antique tables with fresh flowers brightened every corner, it was warm and inviting.  

We inquired about the rates and were surprised that they were offering a special price for the night, so we decided to stay.  

After checking in, the desk clerk informed us that the hotel was haunted and that they had ghost tours in the basement after dark.  We thought it was amusing and a good tourist attraction but declined.

Climbing the stairs, we noticed the air changing, it became heavy and dense.  The brightness of the lobby faded as we walked toward our room.  

When we opened the door, we were immediately struck with the closeness of the space.  Not only was it very small but there didn't seem to be any air circulating at all.  

We knew that this would not be comfortable and asked to change rooms.  They moved us to a large, beautifully appointed suite with a great view of the mountains. 

We enjoyed a luxurious meal downstairs at the restaurant and continued to marvel at the wonderful surroundings.  We planned on going into town later and do some sightseeing, but we never left the hotel.  

Throughout the evening, several people approached me saying I looked like someone they knew.  

When I went downstairs to the restroom, I felt a chill in the air.  The entire time I was there I felt as though I was being watched, it made me very uneasy, and I hurried back to our table.  

My friend laughed when I told him and reminded me about the ghost tours.  I thought it was funny, and quickly put it out of my mind.  

It was getting late, so we decided to go back up to the room.  As we sat and talked, I felt a sudden draft of cold air and looked to see where it was coming from.  

I was shocked when I saw an apparition of a man step through the doorway of the bathroom and disappear.  

Before I could react, my friend asked if there was someone behind him.  Standing over his shoulder I could see the faint outline of a young girl.  We both were stunned, not sure what was happening.  

Slowly we began to speak, this felt like a child’s spirit nothing malevolent, but terrifying just the same.

Suddenly, the energy changed dramatically.  The room filled with cold air and a bright light flashed across the wall and splashed on the bureau mirror.  It felt as though dozens of very angry people were trying to get into the room. 

We were both in shock at what we were seeing and feeling.  It was 2:00 a.m. and checking out in the middle of the night seemed strange, but we could not stay any longer.

It was a relief to see the friendly night clerk at the desk. 
 
When we told her what happened, she said that it was a regular occurrence because the hotel really was haunted.  She had seen some extraordinary things herself. 

We talked to her for some time, hoping to calm down before driving home.  

She said she was not surprised that I had a bad experience.  She told me that I looked very much like a woman from the hotel who passed away many years ago.  
 
We drove back down the mountain in silence.  Years later, I still think about what we encountered in that strange and dark place.  
 
I have never returned to the Stanley or to Estes Park.
 

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

It's the Little Things

I have been traveling for 6 months now and I am always amazed and delighted by the wonderful people that I meet along the way.  

Today as I went out for a few errands, I encountered many who were just going about their day.  Most were in a rush and not particularly pleasant, one was very rude.

When I arrived back at the hotel, I asked the housekeeper for some coffee to take back to my room.  She was so helpful and polite I wanted to give her a small tip.  

Inadvertently, instead of giving her two single dollars, I gave her a twenty-dollar bill and a single.  

I paused for a moment before realizing that not only did she deserve it, but I hoped it would be a nice surprise when she sees it later.

Here in the US, wages for service workers is abysmal.  Honestly, anyone who will clean up after me deserves more than I can give them.

I hope she remembers the gesture but not my room, I want her to be able to accept this very small token of my appreciation for all that she does.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Wanderlust

There is nothing that spurs my wanderlust more than not being able to travel. 

I love being free to just pick up and go whenever I want.

This year will prove to be a little tricker, but I have no doubt I will manage to make it happen.

My list of the yet to be discovered is growing by the day and I can't wait to explore those fantastic new horizons!


Friday, January 27, 2023

Sailing Solo - My First Cruise Alone

I had always wanted to take a cruise.

Everyone I know who’s ever gone has loved it and had wonderful stories to share. It seemed like an easy and fun way to go to many different destinations and travel with others closer to my own age. I received some great advice from people about how to pick the cruise that was right for me.

First, you need to decide where you want to go and what type of activities or events are important to you. The variety of ships and types of trips is endless. Everything from peaceful, meandering river cruises to the massive, floating cities – the options are plentiful.

Choosing the Right Cruise


For my first time, I knew I wanted something a little more low-key. Perhaps a smaller ship and more casual than the average cruise. I also like to have a little private outdoor space so I knew I would want a balcony. I didn’t need any of the popular entertainment like gambling or the big Las Vegas style shows so I started looking at other types of trips.

It’s like trying to decide between going camping or visiting New York City; choose what appeals to you.

A friend recommended a travel website so that I could start to compare all the different types of cruises available. She had just recently been on one that went to the Dominican Republic and did some volunteer work with the community there. It sounded like something I would really enjoy so I checked into it and booked the trip. It was also very affordable with a low single supplement so that helped keep the cost down.

Embracing a New Experience


As much as I travel it’s not often that I have a totally new experience. I always love visiting new places and meeting new people but the process of booking accommodation and transportation is something I am quite familiar with. Planning for a cruise was all so different for me and really took me outside of my comfort zone; it was long overdue.

I felt like a young novice traveling for the first time and it was so exciting!

I didn’t know what to pack, how to check-in, how to get on and off the boat, whether I would get seasick or if I would like cruising or hate it. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about so many aspects of cruising but I had no idea how it would be for me.

What I discovered is that the same basic travel principles apply no matter where you go. There will always be others who have never done this before and many experienced people there to help guide you. That was apparent as soon as I arrived at the cruise terminal and this immediately put me at ease.

Enjoying a Fantastic Adventure


There are some real benefits that most cruisers will tell you about – you don’t have to pack and unpack for each location, you have the advantage of seeing remote places but still eating and sleeping in your own cabin on the ship. There are so many options for food and activities I can’t imagine ever feeling bored. I liked the freedom and flexibility I had to do as much or as little as I wanted and it was a perfect balance for me.

My favorite experience was meeting the amazing people on the ship and on shore. They were so warm and friendly and happy to share information with me, especially when they found out it was my first cruise.

It may not seem like a big risk to go on a cruise, but for me this was a great opportunity to do something I had never done before. To feel so young and inexperienced was refreshing and rejuvenated my love of travel.

If you think you might like to try cruising, I recommend talking to someone who has a similar travel style to your own and asking them for their advice on what type of cruise you might like. Do your research and don’t worry, it’s one of the easiest trips I’ve ever taken and I will absolutely go again!

Wishing you safe and happy travels!

Have you ever been on a cruise? Do you prefer to travel alone or with others? What questions do you have about first-time cruising? Share your stories and join the conversation.

Published on Sixty and Me

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

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