Who’s Counting

This could also be titled, Whose Counting.   At the bottom of this post is my Trip Advisor map which calculates over 100 different countries visited.  Not counted in this list are:

Clicking on the links provides the Wikipedia explanation.

On the other hand, when I started traveling, a number of countries on the list did not exist.  The Baltic countries and the Balkans only became individual countries again in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

This post marks a reflection not only on how we travel but also why I blog.  All places have some touristic value.  Each country competes to win more of the tourist trade.  What is interesting to me is how the day-to-day life works in the places we visit.  The open air market is always a fun visit as a tourist, but negotiating daily food purchases in an unknown language offers subtle insights.

I have experimented with travel tips and tricks posts.  The tone of those seemed too didactic and not much fun.  What I am discovering is that I want this blog to encourage you to have adventures, to try new foods, to find unique experiences.  International travel is an easy way, but not the only way.  Raising a child or visiting grandkids is also an adventure.

If you want to get my take on some of the places I visit, you can see my reviews on Tripadvisor.

There are many amazing memories but only a few photographs.  Sometimes I had no camera. Other times, photos were misplaced in moving. Mostly, they document we were there, but do not capture the emotion.



Here is the Map


Artifacts 2: Rain Jacket

I thought about sharing some of the lessons learned from our travels. One direction on this path involves what we carry. This is a theme I have touched on before.  It is interesting to me to experience how the artifacts both physical and electronic define the modern self and its relationship to its environment. No tips and tricks here except to keep experimenting and be observant.

Our rain jackets are essential for any trip. Beyond keeping dry and warm, they offer freedom to explore even during bad weather.  This has led us to many interesting discoveries and appreciations of the neighborhoods we visit.

My simple jacket folds itself neatly into a zippered pouch which I store in an outside compartment of my bag for easy access (see below). Sometimes, it stays stowed for a month. Here I remember Malta, Kuala Lumpur and Cape Town.  At the other extreme, I wore it every day in Vancouver.




My photos provide more of a documentary experience than an artistic one. Over the past seventeen years, this raincoat became a central theme of my travels and showed up in way too many photos.




Feeling Safe

The old man sits at the window after his morning walk. In a philosophical mood, he assays the traveling of his life. For him there is always that anxiety coming to a different country. Even though he visited France twenty or thirty times, arriving in Marseille the past summer made him nervous. It is not important how safe a city or a country is. These statistics are useless when one falls victim to a pickpocket, mugger, or scammer.

He mulls the many thoughts on travel safety but sits perplexed trying organized them. Lists for traveling safely abound on so many websites and highlight so many chapters in books.

Reading these articles may not make the tourist feel secure. The old man remembers how confident the family felt living in Frankfurt from 1998 – 2003 reading the International Herald Tribune (IHT) everyday. Then, the IHT began to include a supplement with English summaries of the Frankfurter Allgemeine. This included local disturbances. After reading about altercations in the neighborhood, the family began viewing daily routines a little more seriously. Its that old dilemma, “does a bicycle helmet for a child make the parent feel safer, or make parent more anxious with the realization that a bicycle can really be dangerous?”

Instead of a negative list such as:

  • Keep valuables out of sight,
  • Stay close to home after dark,
  • Avoid both empty and too crowded streets.

What could he write to encourage you to visit new places?

First, realize that no matter where you go, generally, people all over are good. They work at jobs, they have families, they share love, just like you. In the last six months, people have been so kind. A woman selling bread on the street in Sophia speaking no English used her cell phone to call a taxi when the scheduled one failed to show.

Second, take a look around your neighborhood. Get up early, take the essentials (room key, a few dollars, and hotel address/phone) and take a little walk before breakfast. Explore. Is there a convenience store handy? What products can you recognize? Is there a park? Where does the hotel staff hang out? Can you walk on sidewalks or do you have to walk in the street? At this time, you can see people doing what needs to be done and hardly paying any attention to you.

Third, be a decent fellow. You are a guest, and you may end up making a few deposits into the bank of experience, BOE. Personally, the old man has received very good returns on investments in the BOE. He thinks modesty is the term that fits well. Carrying expensive gadgets and jewelry draws the wrong type of attention. When it comes to alcohol, partake moderately or not at all. Returning home late and drunk is an open invitation to difficulties. As you know, the travel dollars stretch farther when snacks along with drinks (especially, wine and beer) are purchased at a corner store for consumption in the evening at hotel.

So the old man, lets the newspaper slip as his eyelids close. Resting his eyes, he shakes his head remembering younger days with less concerns: walking home in the dead of night between cemeteries, hitchhiking alone over the Andes after the coup d’état deposing Allende, wandering lost on the subway in Soviet Moscow after eight days on the Transiberian Railroad.

The first four photos from Istanbul show normal life in the neighborhood.  Note that the inset on the quiet street shows a Christmas tree up the stairs in one of the alleys.  The last one is a supermarket in Skopje, Macedonia.

A nice chair put out for a cat
A nice chair put out for a cat
Fresh bread delivered awaiting the coffee shop owner
Fresh bread delivered awaiting the coffee shop owner
Some streets should be explored during daylight.
Some streets should be explored during daylight.
Istiklal Street is always busy.
Istiklal Street is always busy.
A supermarket provides a window into culture.
A supermarket in Skopje provides a window into culture. What is available, how is it displayed, do you weigh your own vegetables, how do imported goods compare in price?

Invention of the Telegraph

23 May 1844 , 170 years since Morse tapped out, “What hath God wrought.” This marks the opening of the gate to the modern connected world of today.  That was then.  Now it is almost a year since I last posted.  Our trip through the Baltics was hectic but very satisfying.  Meeting up with M in Paris was truly a wonderful reunion.

Macaroons before flying
Macaroons before flying

A little snack of almond macaroons and raspberry tart before we boarded our Iceland Air flight back to US via Reykjavik.

New Adventure

Last December we started planning this and now here we are at MSP terminal 2 checked in waiting for the arrival of Iceland air from Reykjavik. Once it turns around, we will board and head off to Cambridge UK. Just a 70 minute stopover to change planes in Reykjavik so it could be interesting.

M will be at Jesus College at Cambridge University on a summer study project. I and K are vagabonding around. More on that in later posts. Then, in August we pick up M in Paris and head back to Minnesota.

Right now there is free wifi in the airport. We are interested to see how our different connectivity options work while on the road.

Have a meaningful Independence Day. We are.