Friday, November 10, 2017

Why I Love to Travel

Some people stay in one place most or all their lives and are very content.  Then there are some, like me, who crave change and move frequently from place to place.   I don’t know if it because we moved a lot when I was growing up and that is what I became accustomed to or if it is because I have a genuine desire to go somewhere new.  It may be a little of both.

Am I running away from something or toward it?

I think the answer to that has evolved over time.  As I’ve grown older, I have begun to appreciate how important it is to be comfortable in your environment.  I truly love the experience of seeing new places and living there allows me to really immerse myself in the community, something you can’t do if you’re just a visitor.  Then there is the homebody in me that needs a peaceful, nurturing environment to thrive. 

A big sign that I am ready for a change is when I begin to feel trapped or isolated.  No matter how comfortable my surroundings may be, if I feel uneasy in my space I must leave.  My answer to that is to seek out a new location.  It doesn’t matter to me if it’s near or far, I have moved out of state and out of the country with a suitcase and plane ticket.  Sometimes I don’t even have a place to live when I arrive.

It is a thrilling adventure.

Arriving in a new city with only a hotel or B&B booked feels very fun and carefree.  Then reality sets in and you realize that you actually need to find a place to live if you are going to stay for any length of time.  Suddenly, making those arrangements and trying to get settled in your new place takes on a life of its own and can consume all your free time.  Sometimes I wonder if that is part of the appeal to me.

I’ve always loved the start-up of any project I’ve worked on.  It’s the ongoing maintenance I don’t really care for and soon will become bored and start looking for the next new thing.

As soon as something catches my interest the planning begins.

I enjoy preparing to go almost as much as the actual event.  Deciding what to do with my personal belongings, how and when I will leave etc., it’s great fun to plan for the adventure.  There is also an element of fear that seems to enhance the experience.  I am always cautious about what I am doing and know that if, for any reason, I don’t want to be there, I can come home.  It feels like a good safety net and gives me more confidence to give it a try. 

I always miss my family when I’m away and after a certain amount of time, visits will no longer suffice and I must return home again and I begin to arrange that.

With each change comes a new perspective on my life.

Looking back, I realize how much each of those experiences has taught me and how much it makes me appreciate the wonderful life I have.
Whenever I am in a new place it is an opportunity to explore an entirely different side of myself.  I am very good at blending in and becoming part of that environment, much like a chameleon.  It gives me a chance to try something new and see what fits and what doesn’t. 
Every time I return from one of my extended excursions, I feel transformed.  I have added something new that was not there before and my world has expanded.  It is that experience that keeps me wanting more.  It helps me remember that no matter how old I get, I still have the capacity to grow and change in ways that I never imagined.

I don’t know if it is bold, brave or stupid but it is something that makes me feel more alive than staying in one place ever could. 

For now, I’ll enjoy the respite of my new home-base and wait to see where the next adventure takes me.

Do you prefer to stay in one place or do you like to move around?  What is the biggest change you’ve made and how did it make you feel?  Share your stories and join the conversation.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Restarting Yoga at 61

I practiced yoga many years ago and really enjoyed the focus it brought to the chaos that was going on in my life as well as the physical benefits.  Gradually, I began doing less until I eventually stopped altogether.

Over the years, I have thought about restarting my practice but didn't really find a way that was easy to maintain with my hectic travel schedule.  I need something I can do at home or away, even in a small hotel room that doesn't require any special equipment or clothing.  I also needed something gentle and simple to perform.  Not a torturous twisting into difficult or uncomfortable positions.

After watching the Introduction to Gentle Yoga on Sixty and Me I thought I might give it another try.  So today, when I woke up stiff and achy from sleeping in a not very comfortable hotel bed I decided to see if it might help.

Today, I tried Gentle Yoga Video 1 – Focus on Joints and before I was even half way through my body felt looser and the pain I woke up with this morning was already softening.  The instruction in the session was easy to follow and very gentle on my body.  Cat, the instructor, is very good and gives you a lot of options to modify the movement and stresses to not do anything that is uncomfortable for you.

For me, one of biggest benefits of this practice is the focus on the body with breathing and stretching that improves my flexibility and strength.  After such a great experience, I'm looking forward to working my way through the series.

If you are a beginner or just a senior who might need a gentler approach to this practice you might consider trying this.

Thank you very much to Sixty and Me for sharing these great videos!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Fantastic Family Trip to Walt Disney World

As a solo traveler, I am not accustomed to planning trips for groups.  When I asked my family to join me in Florida for a trip to Disney World I was thrilled that they would be coming but then the logistics of how to arrange this type of event became somewhat daunting.  Even booking the flights, which for me, is usually seamless, took a lot of careful attention to detail. 
There are many books, blogs and websites that specialize in trips to Disney and can provide some great information to help with your planning, so we took what we needed and customized the trip to suit our specific needs.  There were 7 of us, ages 6 – 61 with all the different interests and preferences of a multi-generational family.  My daughter and her husband did a fantastic job researching and arranging all our activities and events and I think that is the real key to a great trip – good planning!

Day 1  Travel

Southwest Airlines - This is our domestic airline of choice.  They are consistently a pleasure to travel with and provide fantastic service at a low cost.

Alamo Rental Car – The agent at the rental counter was extremely friendly and helpful in providing the perfect vehicle for our trip.

Embassy Suites Tampa Airport Westshore – This was great space for our large family and with adjoining rooms we could still be together.  The hotel staff made us all feel right at home.  It was great location close to the airport, restaurants and shopping.

Besito’s Mexican Restaurant – The food and atmosphere at the restaurant was very good.  Our server gave us a lot of special attention and even brought the children good luck Mexican worry dolls.

Day 2 At the Beach

Clearwater Marine Aquarium – This was an additional excursion as we were in the area and loved the Dolphin Tale films and the wonderful story of Winter and Hope.  This is a very special place and to get to see and interact with so many of the rescue animals was fantastic.

Clearwater Beach – Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill – This was a perfect spot for lunch and an afternoon on the beach.  The kids loved playing in the water and collecting sea shells.

VRBO Rental Orlando– We were very pleased with the house and the location.  It was a beautiful 7-bedroom villa with a large covered patio and pool that the kids loved.

Day 3 Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom

This was our first-time visiting WDW so it was the perfect place to begin our incredible journey.  Immediately, we were impressed with how friendly, clean and well organized everything was.  Young and old we were all amazed and filled with wonder in this magical place.

Dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern – We didn’t really know what to expect when we arrived but we loved the incredible food and service we received.  It was a Thanksgiving family style meal – Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, vegetables, bread, cranberry sauce and the best Pot Roast any of us have ever had, the macaroni and cheese and toffee dessert were especially popular.  My daughter has a gluten allergy and I have never seen anyone cater to her the way they did at WDW.  They made her feel very special and assured her she would have the same meal as the rest of the family only gluten-free.  We found this true at all of the parks and could not have been more pleased.  As a mother, it meant a lot to me that she was treated with such kindness and respect and not like a problem.

Day 4 Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom

This was by far the busiest day and took some serious endurance.  We wanted to get to the park early so we could go to Pandora and ride the Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey.  To say this is an out of this world experience is such an understatement.  The design and realism was unbelievable.  Even waiting in the queue felt like you were walking on Pandora, every detail was stunning.  It was literally breathtaking and the most intense ride I have ever experienced.  I would actually take a special trip back to Florida just to do that again and would love to see it at night.

Day 5 Walt Disney World EPCOT

After all of the intense, adrenaline-filled excitement from the day before, this was a calmer, more peaceful day.  It might have been a little anti-climactic for the kids but as tired as we all were I think it was perfect.  We had a wonderful time just meandering through all the different countries and enjoying the lower key more educational rides and activities. 

Here are some of the things that we discovered that helped make this a great experience for our entire family.

Air Travel – If you are booking for a group you should contact the airlines.  There are different requirements for groups traveling on the same or independent itineraries.  Also, you may qualify for some discounts that are not posted on their websites. 

We found less expensive airfare by flying into Tampa instead of Orlando.  It is always a good idea to check alternate airports for your flights, just confirm your location and check distances before you book. 

Extra Activities – Check out other things to do in the area.  We loved going to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the beach before heading to Disney World.

Where to Stay -  Choose accommodations close to where your main activities will be, it gives you more time to enjoy your vacation.  We loved coming home to relax in a private pool after a long day out.

What to take – We found it easier to purchase additional supplies when we arrived so we didn’t have to bring it all on the plane (sunscreen, beach towels, snacks, drinks, etc.).  Also, it was less expensive than buying them at the destination. 

Every person had one backpack with the following - Collapsible water bottle, frozen bottle of water, cooling neck-tie, disposable rain poncho, sunhat, sunglasses, sunscreen, flip-flops, assorted non-perishable snacks.  You can take food and water into all of the Disney parks and there are many places to refill water and get additional food.  It kept us fueled and hydrated while walking around and held us over until our main meals. 

Driving/Parking – One of the biggest issues we heard about before going to Disney was the parking and how difficult it could be.  After considering all our options, we decided to drive and park ourselves in the standard lots.  We went early, before the park opened, took the transportation provided at the park.  It was a very quick and easy and worked out perfectly for our group.

What we learned – We are very happy that we were so well prepared with our supplies.  It is easy to underestimate how much food and water you need for long days in the heat and humidity.  Having protection from the sun and rain was also essential, it helped keep us much more comfortable.  The walking and standing is intense - we wore tennis shoes but it was nice to have sandals and flip-flops to give our feet a rest later in the day.

Planning your day at the parks is critical (booking fast passes in advance, going to the busiest attractions first, when and where you’ll take breaks etc.).  Also, we wore matching shirts on the first day and it made it very easy to see each other and keep our group together.  We realized on day 2 how well that had worked and would do it every day for any future trips.  Planning is great but you also need to stay flexible and adapt to changes that inevitably come up when you travel.  The only thing we might do differently would be to build in a little more down time but on a short time frame we wanted to do and see as much as possible.

This was such an incredible journey for all of us and now we are looking forward to our next fantastic family adventure to Disneyland Paris!

Have you been to any of the Disney Parks?  What are your best tips and advice for families traveling together?  We’d love to hear your comments and stories about your family adventures!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Grandmother's View of the Magic Kingdom

When I began planning for our trip to Walt Disney World, it seemed like it would be a fun family vacation.  What I didn't expect was what a wonderful and magical experience it would be.

With 7 of us ranging in age from 6 to 61 I was a little unsure of how this was going to work out.  We had never spent that amount of time together, not to mention walking endlessly in the scorching Florida heat.  I am still impressed by how well we all did, no serious issues of any sort and considering the conditions, that is amazing.

To watch my grandchildren as they experienced this for the first time was incredible.  It took me back to my past and showed me a glimpse of the beautiful future I have with my precious family.

It was truly the trip of a lifetime!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Ready - Set - Go

So, you’ve just booked your fantastic holiday or family vacation, now what?  Getting ready to leave is much more complicated than just packing.  There are so many arrangements that need to be made before leaving home.  It doesn’t matter if it is for a few days or a few weeks, there are some things you need to remember to do.

Years ago, I would wait until the last minute to begin planning for an upcoming trip.  It caused so much stress, I couldn’t really enjoy the experience and ended up exhausted before I ever left.  I already had a great packing list that helped me remember what I wanted to take on the trip so I began to add other things I needed to do before I left.  Now, I don’t worry if I’ve forgotten something because it’s all on the list so I can just relax and enjoy getting ready for my new adventure.

Personal:  I like to have my hair cut and nails done before I leave on my trip so I book that and any other personal appointments a couple of weeks before my departure. 

Documentation and Communication:  I make a copy of my essential information (passport, itinerary, credit cards) and email to myself as well as to an emergency contact.  That way someone always knows where I am and can help me if my documents get lost or stolen.

I contact my phone service provider and check what coverage I will have at my destination.  I always switch my phone to manual updates while I’m traveling to save on data charges.  Also, if I am going to an expensive coverage area I will put my phone on airplane mode and just check when I’m in a free Wi-Fi area.  I also notify my bank and credit card company of my travel plans so my cards stay active while I’m away. 

Shopping:  I make a list of any special clothing items and travel supplies that I might need (bathing suit, sunscreen, toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, medications, clear plastic bags for airport screening, etc.), snacks and some type of frozen or non-perishable food to eat when I return home so I don’t have to shop right away.

Household:  Stop mail, newspaper or any other home deliveries and set light timers.  You can also have a friend come in to water plants, take any flyers off your door and open and close blinds occasionally. 

I always keep a few ice cubes in a plastic dish or baggie in my freezer, that way if the power should go out for any length of time you’ll know if the food you have frozen will be safe to eat after you return.

Just before I leave the house I turn off all the water, set my thermostat to an appropriate temperature (warm during winter, cool during summer), unplug all small appliances (coffee maker, toaster etc.), clean the refrigerator and take out the trash.

 International:  If my trip will be out of the country I add some additional items to my list.  I verify that my passport is valid for at least 6 months past the end of my trip, check any visa or immunization requirements and purchase an electrical adapter for the country I’ll be visiting.  I take paper copies of any maps/guide/translation information that I need as phones don’t always work in all areas.  I also double check that my credit/debit cards will be accepted and purchase a small amount of the local currency before I go. 

I used to arrange my lists by the type of trip I was taking but I realized that it is much simpler if I stick to one basic list and just modify it for whatever clothes or special items that I need.  I also purchase duplicate travel supplies and keep them separate from those that I use at home so I’m not stuck if I happen to forget my hairbrush or toothbrush after getting ready the morning that I leave.

It doesn’t matter if I’m traveling by car, train or plane for a weekend getaway or an extended trip, I use the same list and just modify it for whatever I need.  I love knowing that I can easily plan my trips and don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time I want to go away. 

What are some other things that you do before leaving on a trip?  Do you use a travel or packing list to help you prepare?  Do you enjoy planning for your time away?  Share your experiences and join the conversation!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Why a Solo Cruise Can Be a Wonderful Lifetime Experience

My first solo cruise was such a great experience, much easier and more fun than I ever expected. It was a small ship (700 passengers) and not entirely full so it was a good way for me to try cruising. Also, I met so many wonderful people – couples and singles – who were happy to talk about their experiences and give me good information on what to consider if I wanted to continue cruising.

Planning My Next Solo Cruise Adventure

I started checking cruises leaving from Florida in the next few weeks hoping to find one that would offer last minute discounts or waive the single supplement for someone traveling solo. I wanted to see more of the Caribbean so I focused on those trips.
There were lots of options but most were already sold out or not really areas I wanted to travel to – at least not yet. I did find one that sounded very interesting, 10 days, four islands and some great activities on and off the ship, but it was completely full and set to leave in a week.

On a whim, I contacted a travel agent to inquire about any last-minute cancellations. I didn’t really expect anything to come of it and thought that would be a good trip to take some time in the future.

Learning to Be Spontaneous

It was the last day the ship could make passenger changes and there was one cancellation. The agent asked if I was still interested and if so, we had to book it immediately and I would need to be at the port in three days.

I was thrilled and very nervous all at the same time. A million questions raced through my mind – do I really want to do this, what will I pack, how quickly can I take care of everything before I go? All I could say was yes, absolutely. I wanted to try this and now it was happening.

Usually, when you are planning a cruise you pick what cabin you want, what deck, if you want interior or ocean-view, what meal and or drink package, etc. Since I was purchasing the cancelled trip, there were no options: I would either take what was available or not go. I hadn’t done anything this spontaneous in a long time so I jumped at the chance.

Suddenly Reality Set In

After committing so quickly I began to have second thoughts. This was a massive ship with 3,000 passengers and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be comfortable with the size and being with that many people. Unlike my first cruise that was very casual, this was your standard shopping, casino, shows, specialty restaurants and dining dress codes type of cruise. Something I have never experienced before and I needed to be ready in a couple of days.

It took me a minute to calm my fears but once I realized that even if I didn’t do anything but walk around the ship, take some shore excursions and read in my cabin I would probably have a good time. I love seeing new places and really appreciate having food and entertainment available, so I quickly focused on the positive aspects of taking this very last minute adventure.

My Feeling of Panic When I Arrived at the Cruise Terminal

The cruise terminal looked chaotic, with people swarming everywhere and luggage as far as the eye could see. I took a deep breath and dove in. I worked my way close to the nearest baggage handler and quickly realized that this was going to be just fine. Everyone was so helpful. Even though I didn’t have any documentation because of booking so late, they directed me easily to where I needed to go.

Even check-in was a breeze. They had my name on the passenger list and directed me to the desk and then the waiting area. I was very surprised and relieved that they were so organized and took such good care of all of us. The process didn’t take much longer than it had on the small ship and that was amazing with that many people.

On Board I Got a Pleasant Surprise

My cabin was beautiful with a lovely private balcony and a gorgeous port-side view. Now, I was getting excited. I remembered other travelers telling me to pack a carry-on bag with a change of clothes and swimsuit so I would have what I needed with me until my bag was delivered to my stateroom. This was fantastic advice and allowed me to begin enjoying my trip immediately.

The ship was beautiful and so well laid out, I never felt crowded or claustrophobic. As I explored all the different areas I thought it was very interesting but I wasn’t sure how much of it I would take advantage of. Everyone seems to have their own plan for how to spend their time – some like to gamble, others shop or lay out at the pool. There are so many options you can do as much or as little as you want.

This Solo Cruise Was Just My Style

We weren’t even past the first day and I was already having a great time. Everyone was so friendly and happy to be there. It was fantastic. I enjoyed visiting the different ports but what I really love is just being on the water. It is so easy having everything right there; it was like a sailing resort with all the amenities and service you could possibly ask for.

As a solo traveler, I am careful about where I go and what I do when I’m away from home. That still applies on a cruise but what I discovered is that I felt more freedom to explore things I might not normally do alone. Like gambling or attending a nightclub. It was great knowing that I could go anywhere I wanted and at any point I could simply go back to my lovely room.
Now that I have had two very different but equally wonderful experiences, I can’t wait to try more!

Have you ever been on a cruise? Do you like to travel alone or with groups? Do you prefer large ships with lots of ports of call or smaller ships and more time on the water? Join the conversation and share your stories!

Published on Sixty and Me

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Postcards from a Solo Traveller

Solo Travel Souvenirs 

Cheese and wine from Paris, tea and biscuits from London and a pair of flip-flops from Barcelona when it was simply too hot to wear anything else.

These are the purchases that remind Lynn Clare of the wonderful places she's visited as a solo traveler.

Wherever she goes, she likes to buy something authentic, whether it's something to wear or a local delicacy to treat her taste buds. She used to try to save the latter for the journey back to Denver, but more often than not, she found them too irresistible to resist.

Now Lynn prefers to buy gifts for others. “I love to bring back gifts for my family,” she says. “I usually keep the bag the gift came in as a souvenir; I use it for my future travels, and it always reminds me of the trip where I got it.”

“My grandchildren love hearing about all the places that I visit,” she says. “We try to Skype so they can see a little of it.”

Her passport is full of stamps from New Zealand, Canada and Italy, but her most treasured memories are from her many trips to Ireland.

“The first time I visited, I found that the beauty of the Irish countryside is only surpassed by the kindness of the people,” she says. “I was so touched by the warmth and generosity that after my first visit, I came home and quit my job, so I could spend more time there.”  “That was 10 years ago, and I still go once or twice a year,” she adds.

Lynn's first solo trip outside of the US - over 30 years ago - took her to Mexico. “I did have quite a few reservations initially, but my desire outweighed my fear,” she says. “I planned as much as I could, which helped to alleviate some of the anxiety around things like where I would stay, learning a little Spanish and understanding currency conversion.”

Any concerns that Lynn had previously harboured about travelling alone quickly evaporated. On the flight home, she was already thinking about her next adventure.

With each trip, Lynn grew in confidence, gradually venturing further afield. “I kept having such a fantastic time that it gave me the confidence to travel alone anywhere in the world,” she says.

Anyone who has travelled alone will likely recognize the newfound confidence that Lynn describes.

It can be an intoxicating feeling, but Lynn has been careful not to let this feeling turn into overconfidence, particularly when visiting countries where the culture is very different.

“Some destinations are not what you are expecting, and that can be challenging,” she says. “I have to reset my expectations very quickly, so I can enjoy whatever environment I find myself in. That can be great fun as long as I stay flexible.”

“It's very important for women to stay safe while travelling,” she adds. “You must stay aware of your surroundings, protect your personal information and belongings, and always let someone know where you are.”

For peace of mind, Lynn always chooses to stay at a hotel with a restaurant on site. When eating out, she's careful not to become easily distracted, and whenever she feels uncomfortable about booking a table for one, she simply orders room service.

That's not to say that Lynn feels uncomfortable very often. Having found a way that works for her, the experience of dining out in a restaurant on her own is now one of her greatest pleasures.

Now, she always allows herself at least one night to dress up and indulge in the local cuisine, sharing pleasantries with her fellow diners or simply enjoying some peace and quiet.

The whole experience of travelling alone is one that Lynn finds to be liberating. “I have travelled solo most of my adult life, and I just love the freedom of it,” she says. “I have always enjoyed seeing new places and meeting new people, so I take trips near and far at every opportunity.”