Two years ago, when I began planning for A Year in the World, I knew it was I was going to have to get my act together and get organized. My passport arrived today and I’m starting the countdown to takeoff feeling slightly stressed as I review my To Do list.
This evening while enjoying a glass of wine with two of my friends, they suggested I begin writing my blog before I depart to share some info and lessons learned with my readers. So here goes…
Planning our itinerary was the first step. Finalizing it was necessary before we could begin to make reservations for lodging, book flights, purchase rail passes etc. Since we are two seniors in our early 70s, we won’t be renting cars overseas. Fortunately, the rest of the world has public transportation that far exceeds that found in the U.S. I’ve always been a huge fan of trains and decided to rely on them whenever possible.
I was making great progress on our itinerary until I decided to look at some travel blogs one day and had my “Oops” moment. I had never heard of a Schengen visa until I came across a detailed discussion of it in one of the travel blogs. Basically, it came about as part of the Euro Zone regulations and prohibits visits in the area that exceed 90 days within any 180 days. So, it was back to the drawing board. Thankfully, we hadn’t booked any reservations that had to be cancelled.
This isn’t going to be one of those “This is Tuesday, so this must be Belgium” trips. We plan to stay in an apartment or home in a location and take day tours occasionally, but the real purpose of our trip is to become familiar with the people and places we visit. We want to experience the culture and discover the local restaurants and sites at our leisure. We’re finding AirBnB to be an excellent source of lodging in the areas we’re visiting. They even offer discounts when staying for a month as we’re doing in Edinburgh.
Our criteria for selecting lodging relies heavily on proximity to public transportation. While we don’t need to be in the center of the busy tourist district, we do prefer a short commute to the main attractions. Access to local markets and restaurants is a plus. One thing we insist upon is photos that show the interior of the lodging, especially the baths and kitchens. We always read the reviews and are hesitant to book a property that hasn’t been reviewed. We also don’t want to share the property with the owners and had to cancel a booking that failed to specify this detail until we were committed. We found this owner’s description of the property to be deceptive. Now, we are always careful to ask, if the listing doesn’t state that the rental includes the entire property.
TripAdvisor and Booking.com have been excellent sources to identify hotels and things to do in areas where AirBnB doesn’t have adequate options for lodging. We’ve used these resources to book hotels in Switzerland and Austria. We also used them for a few locations in England.
Eurail and Britrail maps include info essential to our selection of places to visit. We’ll purchase passes in July since they must be activated within 6 months of the purchase date. We did a cost comparison of the passes vs. just purchasing tickets for each individual travel segment; the passes are a great value. As we near our departure date, we’ll download local bus schedules since they change frequently.
Our itinerary includes a 15-day Panama Canal Cruise. I decided to use a travel agent, who had booked cruises for me in the past, to secure our accommodations for this part of our journey. I wanted to have someone to take care of us should the cruise experience issues during our sailing. I’ve sailed on many cruises and never experienced a problem, but I’ve seen the horror stories on TV and I’m just more comfortable knowing she’ll be there for us. We’re sailing on the Coral Princess and then, we’ll be off to Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand.
Preparing to be Homeless
My son said, “Mom, do you realize that you’ll be homeless?” Well, technically that’s true, but my official residence will be his home. I didn’t realize how much time and effort are required to become “homeless” for a year. Gradually, I’ve been going paperless to the extent possible and putting many accounts on auto pay. Being “homeless” certainly reduces my expenses…no utilities, no rent, no car (my lease expired and I have extended it until I am ready to begin my travels), no cable, no security system, etc.
I’m going to put my household goods in storage and making sure everything will fit in the unit is a challenge. Every time I move, I vow to purge and down-size; it never seems to happen. I’m working on a strategy to make sure it happens this time. I’ve ordered two books by professional organizer Marie Kondo. I realize I need help and I can’t wait for them to arrive so I can get started.
Well, the books arrived and after reading the first book, I decided to follow the author’s strategy and tackle my closets first. Her methodology includes emptying your closet completely and putting everything in a pile on the floor. My clothes occupy two small walk-in closets in the home that I’m currently renting. I placed a sheet on the floor in my master bath and got to work. I discovered several tops and jackets that I had thought were lost and some that I had forgotten. After three days of sorting, organizing, and purging, I was finished! The result was nine black trash bags full of clothes to be donated. One of my long-time friends came and sorted through the bags and took five bags of clothes and accessories to share with two friends in Seattle and Tucson. The remaining four bags I gave to my cleaning lady to share with her family and friends. My closets have never looked so good…and I can easily see all my clothes. No more lost or forgotten items!
My next project will be my books. I plan to follow Marie Kondo’s guidance when I begin next week.