March 24, 2015

Must-have smart phone travel apps

The day that smart phones became available, travel changed forever. Immediately, my smart phone became my watch, my alarm clock, calendar, address book, notebook, mirror, and even my flashlight, lessening the number of devices and the weight I needed to carry. As more and more travel apps became available, my smart phone quickly became my most valuable travel accessory. But with literally thousands of apps related to travel, figuring out which are truly useful can be daunting, so I put together the following list of my favorite and most beneficial apps:

Maps With Me:

Maps with me travel apps

Maps with me

Maps With Me allows iOS and Android users to download detailed maps of countries on their phones, so no wifi or cell connection is needed to use them. Once downloaded, users can zoom in on any city or area of the country, right down to the smallest street or attraction. The quality of their maps is so good that I am able to follow along as I ride trains through remote areas, to make sure I don’t miss my stop in countries where I don’t speak the language.

 

XE Currency Converter:

XE Currency Converter

XE Currency

One of the most confusing issues that travelers deal with is currency conversions, but with XE Currency Converter, the process is simple. This app provides live exchange rates and historical charts with wifi access, and the most recent rates are stored for offline use. The app is available for iOS and Android. The free version allows tracking 10 currencies simultaneously, while the pro version ($1.99) allows  for 20 currencies, though both versions show the conversions for 180+ different currencies.

 

Mobile Passport:

Mobile Passport app

MobilePassport

First launched for Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and now operational for Miami International Airport, this free app lets you lets you skip the Custom and Border Protection line. Simply set up your profile in the app, then upon returning to the U.S., launch the app and answer CBP’s questions and go straight to the “Mobile Passport Control” express lane at the airport – no need to fill out the customs and immigration forms! CBP intends to expand the app for other U.S. airports.

 

Google Translate:

Google Translate app

GoogleTranslate

Gone are the days of struggling with languages you don’t speak in foreign countries. Now the free Google Translate facilitates translations in 90 languages. The app uses computer programs to perform the translations, so they are not always perfect, but in my experience they are good enough to be understood. Select the language and either key in or use your finger to write the words for which you wish a translation. Pressing the speaker button will speak the translation aloud. The newest feature of the app allows taking a photo of a sign written in a foreign language, which is then translated on the screen.

 

Skype:

Skype app

Skype

An oldie but still a goodie! The free Skype app allows phone calls to be made over any wifi network, using smart phones, tablets, and computers. Calls between people who have Skype accounts are always free, no matter where in the world they are located. Calls to a person who does not have a Skype account are extremely affordable, costing just a few cents per minute (charges vary according to country). I maximize Skype by purchasing a subscription that provides me unlimited free calls to any landline or mobile in the U.S. or Canada, and by purchasing a Skype U.S. phone number that allows friends and family to call me no matter where in the world I am for the cost of a local phone call.

WhatsApp:

WhatsApp

WhatsApp

The only communication problem that Skype does not solve for me is texting, so for this function I turn to WhatsApp, a free chat/texting app that sends free texts worldwide whenever the user is connected to a cellular or wifi network. In addition to basic messaging WhatsApp users can create groups, send each other unlimited images, video and audio media messages. The first year is free, with a charge of 99 cents per year thereafter.

 

 

1Password:

1Password

1Password

To ensure security, it’s advisable to use different passwords for every site, but doing so presents another problem – how to remember all those passwords. My preferred app for password storage on my phone is 1Password, which creates strong, unique passwords for every site, remembers them all for you, and logs you in with a single tap. Everything in your 1Password vault is protected by a Master Password that only you know. The free app encrypts all your data using authenticated AES 256-bit encryption and auto-locks to protect your vault even if your device is lost or stolen.

 

SignEasy:

Sign Easy app

SignEasy

When traveling, life doesn’t stop, and occasionally I have needed to sign a document. It has always been challenging to find a way to print out the document, sign it, and then fax it off, especially when in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language. SignEasy allows me to access and sign documents on my phone with my actual signature, wherever I am in the world. The free app works with 15 different file formats and works with popular cloud storage services such as Dropbox and Google documents. You can fill up your paperwork on a iOS, Android or Kindle device and seamlessly switch between devices to carry forward your paperwork. All your files remain safe even if you lose your device or even if it’s stolen.

TunnelBear:

TunnelBear app

TunnelBear

Whenever I perform sensitive activities on my phone, such as Internet banking, I take extra measures to ensure my IP address is hidden and my data is not visible to hackers by using the free TunnelBear app, which connects my phone to a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN). It also has the added advantage of getting me around censorship in countries like China, where sites like Google and Facebook are blocked sites.

 

 

Kindle:

Kindle app

Kindle

Last but not least is my Kindle app, which I use to read the 10,000 or so books I have stored on my phone. Though it is commonly believed that the Kindle app can be used only to read books purchased through Kindle, this is not true! It is easy to load any book on Kindle. Simply connect your phone to a laptop or computer where your books are stored, launch iTunes, and when your device appears, click on the app tab. Scroll down until you see the Kindle icon and drag and drop any mobi formatted books onto the icon.

 

These are my favorite ten smart phone travel apps, but I’d love to hear about any others that you’ve found particularly helpful when traveling.

When Barbara Weibel realized she felt like the proverbial “hole in the donut” – solid on the outside but empty on the inside – she walked away from corporate life and set out to see the world. Read first-hand accounts of the places she visits and the people she meets on her blog, Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel. Follow her on Facebook or on Twitter (@holeinthedonut).

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (5) 
Category: Female Travelers, Senior Travel

February 24, 2015

The rising popularity of river cruising

A record 23 million passengers are expected to take cruises around the globe in 2015, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which recently made the projection in its annual State of the Cruise Industry Report.

Admittedly, I have never been a fan of ocean cruising. As a long-term, independent traveler who immerses in the culture of the countries I visit, the idea of being trapped on a ship that visits ports of call for a few brief hours is more than a little off-putting. To that, add the issue of seasickness. During the two specialty ocean cruises I have taken, seas were so rough that I spent more time curled up in my bunk than I did enjoying the voyage. And then I discovered river cruising.

A record 23 million passengers are expected to take cruises around the globe in 2015, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)

My first experience, in 2011, was the Luang Say Cruise down the Mekong river from Houei Say to Luang Prabang in northern Laos. Within minutes of departure, razor-sharp rocks protruding from the chocolate river had forced us into narrow channels topped by frothy rapids. Our captain so expertly navigated the turbulence that the gentle motion of the ship lulled me to sleep on the sun deck. Each day offered opportunities to visit hill tribe villages, where I learned about traditional fishing, weaving and whiskey distilling. Because we were sailing a river, there were no long, boring days at sea, and our gourmet meals often featured fresh fish, purchased from fishermen who paddled up to the side of the ship. I was in heaven.

Buying fresh fish on the Mekong River

Our captain pays local fishermen on the Mekong River for their fresh-caught fish, which are bound for our dinner table

A few weeks later, I stepped aboard the Vat Phou Cruise in the Thousand Islands area of the Mekong. It was hard to believe I was on the same river. The southern Mekong was placid, sapphire blue and dotted with thousands of tiny green islets. In addition to traditional village visits and gourmet meals, this river cruise featured a day long visit to the spectacular pre-Khmer Vat Phou ruins. I was hooked.

I am not alone in my passion. For CLIA North American brands, river cruising has been growing by more than 25% per annum in recent years, as opposed to an average annual growth rate of 4.83% in the ocean cruise category. To meet the increasing demand, 39 new river ships will come on line this year. Viking River Cruises is building and launching river ships at twice the rate of its competitors. Over the past four years, they have launched 40 new Longships, which recently topped Condé Nast Traveler’s annual readers’ Cruise Poll for best river cruise ships. The Longship design includes a revolutionary all-weather indoor/outdoor terrace that has retractable floor-to-ceiling glass doors, allowing guests to fully enjoy the views and dine al fresco, as well as green upgrades that include on-board solar panels, organic herb gardens, and energy-efficient hybrid engines. Viking will launch 12 more new river vessels in 2015, ten of which will be Longships.

Sharing tea and snacks with this local family in Uglich, Russia during my Viking River Waterway of the Tsars river cruise

Sharing tea and snacks with this local family in Uglich, Russia during my Viking River Waterway of the Tsars river cruise

This past fall, I sailed from Moscow to St. Petersburg, Russia on Viking River’s Waterway of the Tsars cruise. Though my ship was fully booked, the small capacity of 204 passengers and a 2-to-1 guest to staff ratio made for a very personalized experience. Tours, on-board activities, and a full program of lectures ensured there was something to do most every waking minute, but most impressive was Viking’s commitment to on-shore cultural programs. Activities such as riding the Moscow metro, attending a performance of traditional Russian folkloric music, sharing tea in the home of a family in rural Russia, and visiting a Kommunalka to experience a Communist-era communal form of living still practiced by many St. Petersburg residents provided me with unexpected insight into Russian culture. This focus on cultural programming is one of the reasons that Cruise Critic named Viking the “Best River Cruise Line” in the U.S. for the fourth year running in 2014.

“In an expanding river market, Viking continues to reign, thanks in part to exceptional excursions that include exciting and unusual options like truffle hunting and cognac blending,” said the editors of Cruise Critic.

Along with new ships, river cruise operators continue to develop itineraries in exotic destinations around the world. Sanctuary Retreats’ 10-day cruise on the Nile from Aswan Dam to Cairo includes visits to the Valley of the Kings, where magnificent tombs were carved into the desert rocks, as well as to the Rock-tombs of Beni Hassan. In cooperation with National Geographic, Lindblad Expeditions sails the upper Amazon for ten days where, between visits to indigenous villages, guests are treated to pink dolphin, parrot, and piranha sightings. The newest jewel in the river cruise crown is Myanmar, a recently opened country still shrouded in mystery and spirituality. Viking offers a choice of two cruises down the verdant Irrawaddy, passing through Mandalay, Yangon, and Bagan, where 2,200 ancient temples unfurl along the river’s shores.

Despite the move to open new territories, European river cruises remain the mainstay of the industry. With no need to change hotels and historic city centers just footsteps away from the dock, river cruising may be the world’s most convenient and comfortable way to experience the great European capitals of the world. From cruises that explore the tulips and windmills of Amsterdam and Belgium to those that focus on the Christmas Markets of Austria and Germany in November and December, the choices are endless.  As for me, I can hardly wait for my next river cruise. The only difficult part may be deciding where to go.

When Barbara Weibel realized she felt like the proverbial “hole in the donut” – solid on the outside but empty on the inside – she walked away from corporate life and set out to see the world. Read first-hand accounts of the places she visits and the people she meets on her blog, Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel. Follow her on Facebook or on Twitter (@holeinthedonut).

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (0) 
Category: Female Travelers, Senior Travel, Vagabonding Styles

January 27, 2015

Should terrorism keep Americans from traveling overseas?

In the wake of recent terror attacks in Paris and an article in an Al Qaeda magazine that provided instructions for making a bomb that is undetectable by current airport security technology, the U.S. State Department issued the following travel warning for Americans traveling abroad:

“Recent terrorist attacks…serve as a reminder that U.S. citizens need to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness”

On face value, the alert might seem a normal precaution, however a week later the Department of Homeland Security said,

“there is no specific, credible threat of an attack on the U.S. like what happened in Paris last week”

A Google search for the two statements is telling. The State Department warning was found on 2,510 websites, many of which were major media outlets, while the latter statement by Homeland Security showed up on 15 sites, only one of which was a major media outlet (ABC-TV). Little wonder that Americans are mired in fear over the prospect of international travel.

Google search for State Department travel warning

Google search for State Department travel warning

The reticence of Americans to travel overseas is a well documented fact. A consumer study by Skift.com – a leading source of news, information, data and services for the travel industry – concluded that only 13 percent of Americans traveled internationally in 2014. This is hardly surprising, given State Department statistics that less than 38 percent of the U.S. citizens hold a passport. Though this figure is slightly misleading (legal residents of the U.S. who are not citizens and hold foreign passports are not counted in the State Department numbers), it is still significantly below the percentage of passport holders in other countries. Contrast it with the 83% of non-immigrant British citizens who hold passports.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, the actual figures are even worse than the Skift study indicates. Only 29,015,463 Americans (9 percent) traveled to international destinations in 2013 – the most recent year for which statistics are available – and this includes destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean, which have long been vacation havens for U.S. travelers.

American reluctance to travel abroad may have been born from our isolationist viewpoint during the Revolution, when we not-so-politely informed England we no longer needed or wanted them. Not only is isolationism in our DNA, the United States is so vast and diverse that most Americans feel no need to travel outside its borders. Exacerbating this is the fact that, unlike Europeans, whose holidays range from four to six weeks, the typical American worker receives one or two weeks of vacation. Considering that traveling offshore would take up two full days of an already short holiday, it makes perfect sense that Americans prefer to vacation in their own backyard.

2014 survey by Skift.com - travel habits of Americans

2014 survey by Skift.com – travel habits of Americans

The lack of exposure to cultures other than their own, however, carries a price that may not be realized for generations. Last week I struck up a conversation with two 20-something women working at a Chicagoland coffee shop. Neither of them had ever traveled outside the U.S. or had any interest in traveling internationally.

Both agreed they hated to fly, but admitted this had nothing to do with fear of airplanes. Their displeasure revolved around the endless security lines and ever-changing rules of the TSA. “We had to go to a family event in Florida a few months ago,” one of them recounted, “and we decided to drive because it was so much easier.”

“I’m just uncomfortable being around people who don’t speak English,” the other said. “And my husband is a police officer, so he is very concerned about safety. It’s a pretty scary world these days. Have you ever had problems when you travel?”

I recounted that in all my years of travel, I’ve only had one bad experience; many years ago, I was robbed while staying in a campground on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Not only have I never felt unsafe or threatened in any of the 50+ foreign countries I’ve visited, it would take me hours to recount all the kindnesses that people around the world have shown me. Locals have invited me into their homes, shared meals, and closed their shops to help me find my way in unfamiliar locales.

Combined figures for major and minor assaults by world region, per the European Institute for Crime Prevention

Combined figures for major and minor assaults by world region, per the European Institute for Crime Prevention, In affiliation with the United Nations

Sadly, most Americans gauge the safety of the world by reports on CNN and Fox, which spew fear mongering news around-the-clock, and recent coverage of the terrorist attacks has only amplified our fears. As a result, we stay home, where we feel safe. Yet are we truly safer, or is this an illusion? The European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, in affiliation with the United Nations, ranks North America as having the third highest incidence of assaults per 100,000 population, after Oceania and parts of Africa. We are far more likely to be involved in a mugging close to home than one in in a foreign country.

Do we need to be vigilant when we travel? Of course. It is advisable to leave your jewelry at home, avoid flashing large amounts of money, limit your intake of alcohol, abstain from illegal drug use, and stay away from politically motivated demonstrations. Above all, travelers should practice being aware of what is happening around them at all times. But terrorist attacks are no excuse to stay home. If we do, we become ever more insulated from the world and fearful of other cultures. If we do, the terrorists win.

When Barbara Weibel realized she felt like the proverbial “hole in the donut” – solid on the outside but empty on the inside, she walked away from corporate life and set out to see the world. Read first-hand accounts of the places she visits and the people she meets at Hole in the Donut Cultural Travels. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter (@holeinthedonut).

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (7) 
Category: Female Travelers, Senior Travel, Vagabonding Styles

December 30, 2014

Independent travel – not just for twenty-somethings

Not long ago I was asked to write an article about the differences between traveling independently as a senior and a twenty or thirty-something. Admittedly, I bristled. I replied that the essence of travel was the same regardless of our age. We all visit new places to satisfy our curiosity, to experience something different, and to learn about cultures different from our own.

The myth that independent travel is only for the younger crowd needs to be debunked.

Since then, however, I have not been able to get the question out of my mind. When I left corporate life to travel around the world nearly eight years ago, I was 54 years old. My luggage was a rolling case that converted into a backpack with a zip-off daypack. I carried everything on my back for a couple of years, but the combination of growing older and adding more camera gear and electronic equipment eventually meant the pack was too heavy for me. Grudgingly, I converted to a smaller carry-on backpack for my equipment and a small rollerboard case. I remember wondering at the time whether that meant I was getting too old for such long-term travel.

Barbara Weibel on a day hike atop the old city walls in York, England

Barbara Weibel on a day hike atop the old city walls in York, England

Independent travel means not taking a pre-arranged tour. It means not staying in an all-inclusive resort designed to keep guests from ever leaving the grounds. It means not eating at fancy hotel restaurants that are not representative of the country you are visiting. It does mean staying at guest houses owned by locals, eating at neighborhood restaurants, and wandering through areas of the city or countryside that are not on the typical top-ten list of places to see.

Independent travel is more difficult, (and infinitely more rewarding), but it is not only for the younger crowd. I will admit, however, to making some concessions over the past few years that have made this mode of travel easier. I hope that sharing a few of my tips will encourage other mature travelers to give independent travel a try as well:

 

When Barbara Weibel realized she felt like the proverbial “hole in the donut” – solid on the outside but empty on the inside, she walked away from corporate life and set out to see the world. Read first-hand accounts of the places she visits and the people she meets at Hole in the Donut Cultural Travels. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter (@holeinthedonut).

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (4) 
Category: Female Travelers, Senior Travel, Vagabonding Styles

November 25, 2014

Travel is not a dangerous activity

Nine years ago, bedridden with a debilitating case of chronic Lyme disease, I examined my life. For 36 years I’d slaved away in jobs I detested because they provided me with a good living, but despite having all the material things that money could buy, I was miserable. In that rare moment of clarity, I thought, Is this all there is?

Three-plus decades after entering the work force, I was no closer to achieving my dreams of being a travel writer and photographer. Instead, I’d become ensnared in a web of mortgages, car payments, and a seeming unending desire for more “stuff.” I promised myself that, if I recovered, I would walk away from corporate life to pursue the only thing I’d ever wanted to do.

Hiring an "Easy Rider" motorcycle to see Nha Trang, Vietnam in March, 2007

Hiring an “Easy Rider” motorcycle to see Nha Trang, Vietnam in March, 2007

A year later, at the age of 54, I slung a backpack over my shoulder and headed out on my first round-the-world trip. I was excited and a little scared. Vietnam was my first destination, and for weeks my friends and family had been alarming me with stories of the dangers of the country. My first night did not go smoothly. I checked into my guest house, found an Internet cafe down the street, and settled in to work. A couple of hours later I stepped back onto the street, only to find that metal shutters had been rolled down over all the storefronts. Everything looked the same.

By the time I’d spent two weeks traveling solo around Vietnam by bus, I was  confident in my ability to travel the world solo.

Rather than panic, I calmed myself with the idea that, at  worst, I would have to move to another hotel for the night. I did eventually locate my guest house and, after a few minutes of banging on the metal door, woke the night watchman, who let me in. It was my first lesson in rolling with the punches. By the time I’d spent two weeks traveling around Vietnam by bus, I was  confident in my ability to travel the world solo.

My second experience in Vietnam was even more profound. In Hanoi, I visited the War Museum and was shocked to learn that Vietnamese refer to the 20-year conflict as “The American War.” This one small fact translated into a fascination for the differences between cultures that has influenced all my subsequent travels.

In the eight years since my initial round-the-world trip, I’ve visited more than 50 countries, traveling slowly whenever possible in order to immerse in the local cultures. In 2009, I gave up my apartment and became a perpetual traveler, with no permanent home base, and I have no plans to stop anytime soon.

Standing in front of the Brandenberg Gate i n Berlin, September 2014

Standing in front of the Brandenberg Gate i n Berlin, September 2014

When people learn what I do, they often exclaim, “You’re so brave,” or ask, “Aren’t you afraid?” I tell them there is no reason to be afraid, that people the world over are more similar than they are different. Though we may wear different clothes, speak different languages, and practice different religions, at our core we all want the same things: a safe place to live, enough food to eat, freedom from oppression, and a better life for our children.

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” Miriam Beard

Miriam Beard, daughter of the American historians Charles and Mary Beard, said “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” Without a doubt, travel has irrevocably changed me. I have no interest in owning a home and never purchase souvenirs. My wardrobe is limited to what fits in a 25” suitcase. Material possessions are of no interest to me.  And I have never felt so free.

I now realize that my initial fears were foolish. Travel is not dangerous. Despite traveling solo to numerous developing countries where poverty is rife, I have never felt the least bit threatened. Strangers have gone out of their way to help me and even welcomed me into their homes. Lifelong friendships have resulted. Travel, more than any other activity, eliminates the fear of others whom we see as different from ourselves.

Perpetual travel is not for everyone, however, long-term travel is becoming popular with more than just ‘gap year’ travelers. Baby boomers especially, who are healthier and more active than ever before, are looking for ways to make valuable contributions in retirement, and many are opting to do so by volunteering overseas. Having mastered the art of long-term travel, I plan to share my wealth of knowledge in this monthly column. So, whether you’re an armchair traveler or are contemplating long-term travels of your own, be sure to watch for my future articles. It should be an insightful journey.

When Barbara Weibel realized she felt like the proverbial “hole in the donut” – solid on the outside but empty on the inside, she walked away from corporate life and set out to see the world. Read first-hand accounts of the places she visits and the people she meets at Hole in the Donut Cultural Travels. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter (@holeinthedonut).

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (1) 
Category: Female Travelers, Senior Travel, Vagabonding Styles

October 29, 2012

Retirement, vagabonding style

A couple, strolling in New York.

A couple, strolling in New York. Photo: Ed Yourdon / Flickr

The Wall Street Journal had a story titled, “The let’s sell our house and see the world retirement.” A couple, Lynn and Tim Martin, decided to ditch the stereotypical retirement lifestyle and hit the road.

Here’s how Lynn describes it:

In short, we’re senior gypsies. In early 2011 we sold our house in California and moved the few objects we wanted to keep into a 10-by-15-foot storage unit. Since then, we have lived in furnished apartments and houses in Mexico, Argentina, Florida, Turkey, France, Italy and England. In the next couple of months, we will live in Ireland and Morocco before returning briefly to the U.S. for the holidays.

Nice to read that anyone can be a vagabonder, regardless of age, gender, income level, etc.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Just under the headline, click on “Interactive Graphics” to see a map with a breakdown of the Martins’ budget.  Most of cities they’ve lived in turned out to be cheaper than their California home, even expensive destinations like London. Lynn gives much of the credit to the vagabonding ethic, as she shares here:

We follow some simple strategies to keep our budget in line. Stays in more expensive locations, like Paris or London, are balanced by living in less pricey countries like Mexico, Turkey or Portugal. We dine out several times a week but eat at home much of the time. I like to cook, and food shopping is a great way to learn about a country. (Finding baking soda in Buenos Aires isn’t nearly as simple as it sounds.)

Have you retired and are currently traveling?  Please share your experiences in the comments.

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (21) 
Category: Lifestyle Design, Senior Travel

May 10, 2012

Want to travel? Wait until you are old

As I was sitting in Patan’s Durbar Square a few weeks ago, I noticed a couple elder tourists escorted by a guide: they were taking pictures, bending into unnatural shapes. The DSLR cameras they were shooting with looked like some sort of futuristic gear they could barely handle. They seemed quite clumsy and out of place, as they had been cut out from a lifestyle magazine and pasted into another wrong centerfold.

Instantly, I was reminded of the persistent, conservative way of thinking I was pushed to accept back home: before you may travel and enjoy your life, you will have to work a day job and bend your spine behind a desk for 30 years. Kow-tow to the Gods of corporate business. Enjoy the rat race. Then, maybe, you will be able to travel and see the world on a pension.

With a smack of teenage angst, I would promptly reply: “Cool. See the world, on a wheelchair?”

Seeing those tourists made me think that the way I travel in Asia now may not be replicable in about 30 years. Who would be able to take that umpteenth bone melting night bus ride after hitting the 50 years old line? Who would be able to enjoy the tastes and smells of an Indian public bus crammed to the roof with humans and sometimes cattle? And ultimately, who would have the strength to travel slow, soak into a culture or trying to fit into the holes left by mass tourism?

Certainly, not the average Old Joe.  Let’s face it: the older you get, the lesser you would be likely to travel hard, especially when you have not been used to it as a young man. And furthermore, when the kind of world we live in constantly conceives travelling as a recreational activity that cannot be taken as a lifestyle, or not even as a part-time occupation.

Me with two "Incredible Old Joes": Ibrahim and Saida from Spain. (Picture by Kit Yeng Chan 2012)

Nevertheless, it is quite a contrast – and a funny one – to observe the travelling habits of many older people, some at their very first foray oversea. It appears that so many years spent leading organized, normal lives have not been able to gift these people with a natural inclination to feel relaxed in foreign places. It seems like their movements are harder, slower, filled with the atavist fear of the unknown. They attempt to do what they may have dreamed for many years, but they are doing it with a total regret of having left their comfort zones.

But let me say that I have also met some “Incredible Old Joes”: some were biking from Europe to South East Asia, or doing the same route by walking. Some decided to avoid taking any bus ride longer than 2 hours, to stress less, and see more of the countries they visited.  All of them, however, had a common feature: they had been travelling a lot in their younger days. You could clearly see how travelling had enriched their souls… these people may have also been grinding at the office, but oh boy, how freer they were than any of my friends’ –and my own – parents!! I could sit in awe for hours just listening to their life stories.

As much as the mode of travel we use will most likely change or evolve overtime, it appears that to do it with ease we better start young. It surely does not matter how young; but that attitude needs to be embraced early in life, in order not to appear lost in a foreign square taking a bunch of pictures later. In order to actually fit in the broader World, and not be forced to end up lonely on a couch, hypno-entertained by a flat Tv screen.

Have you ever met some experienced older travellers, and do you agree with me? How do they compare to your own older folks at home?  I would like to hear some stories.

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (10) 
Category: General, Notes from the collective travel mind, Senior Travel, Vagabonding Advice, Vagabonding Styles

December 21, 2010

Experimental travel via Latourex

Joel Henry of Latourex

Latourex, short for Laboratoire de Tourisme Experimental, is a couple of French charmers who developed their experimental travel techniques to make their trips more interesting.  Instead of just doing the same old same old — go to a place, look at its museums, drink coffee at coffeeshops, attempt to blend in while suavely writing in your journal, hit on local members of your preferred gender — they offer numerous travel experiments one can perform, in as controlled conditions as you like.

Their list of potential experiments is available here, and their list of experiments and case notes from people who have committed them can be found in the new volume from (you guessed it) Lonely Planet, if you like actual bound books.  Most of these trips can be done solo or with a partner (or a small group), so being alone is no deterrant…and it actually might improve those feckless evenings when you’re sitting in your hostel twiddling your thumbs thinking, “I sure wish I’d been here long enough to develop a social group.”

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (4) 
Category: Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Family Travel, Female Travelers, General, Senior Travel, Solo Travel

March 24, 2010

Following in the footsteps of seniors

I’d never thought much about senior travel until a wrinkled yet muscled man sat down next to me on the Pokhara to Kathmandu bus. Preston had lived in Mexico, Hawaii, Nepal, Thailand and more — he’d been on the road for most of his life.

He’d relied on his wits and his skills to take him around the world. Renovating houses, fixing up boats, running a gem polishing factory, leading troops. While working to save for travel offers a great balance, an alternative route is to integrate our work and our travels as best we can. We can still always take breaks as needed…

English teaching and travel writing get a lot of attention, but what else can drive a life of travel? In the past few weeks here in India, I’ve met a textile designer, an auctioneer, a lubricants salesman, a tiger researcher, and a stock trader getting ready to move from London to Hong Kong next month.

By finding work that requires travel, we don’t have to divide our time between work and travel. Living on the road expands from experiencing, eating, and sleeping to include pursuing and achieving audacious, oft-profitable goals.

So what does this have to do with senior travel? Most of the seniors I meet on the road have done most of their travel — and are still traveling — as a direct result of the travel-based work they’d chosen to pursue. Sometimes the job sounds boring on paper. But if you listen to these seniors’ stories over a glass of whatever, it becomes clear their lives have been anything but.

Meet any exemplary seniors out there lately?

Photo by freeparking via Flickr

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (2) 
Category: Expat Life, Senior Travel, Working Abroad

March 23, 2010

Exploritas: educational travel groups

Women only at Exploritas

Women only at Exploritas

Some of you may already be familiar with Elderhostel, the hostelling and alternative travel group geared primarily towards retirees or older travelers.  Elderhostel has become Exploritas, explained as a combination of explore + veritas — meaning truth in travel.  This is a message I can get behind.

The overly slick website aside, I appreciate what Elderhostel is trying to do here: they’re rebranding as a touring company for well-read people who are interested in the behind-the-scenes at the Uffizi, rather than being designed for groups who might need walkers to get around (say what you will, but the word “elder” carries some distinct connotations).

The most intriguing part of the whole program, though, are the women’s only programs Exploritas is offering.  From a rock and roll camp for women (maybe they study Joan Jett?) in Oregon, USA to a 2-week jaunt through the Kalahari Desert in Africa, they are clearly trying to project themselves as the hip new option for older women.  I’d be interested to find out if there is a strong “older married lesbian” component to these trips, actually; so many group tours are judgemental of married same-sex couples, especially older ones, and it would be refreshing to find a company that offers comfortable options for longterm partners.

The general idea of Exploritas is a good one: group travel learning activities for older folks that don’t want to just sit around sipping margaritas all day (not that there’s anything wrong with that), that you can tailor to your needs.  I’d like to see them run a bit longer, since the “hostel” part of Elderhostel implies more of an alternative lifestyle (more of a Vagabonding lifestyle, if you will) than they seem to be pursuing.  Too bad; older folks can be offbeat, and off the beaten path, too.

Posted by | Permalink | Comments (3) 
Category: Female Travelers, Senior Travel
Main

Bio

Books

Stories

Essays

Video

Interviews

Events

Writers

Marco

Paris

Vagabonding.net

Contact


Vagabonding Audio Book at Audible.com

Marco Polo Didnt Go There
Rolf's new book!


Vagabonding
   Vagabonding

RECENT COMMENTS

Cheryl: Well…f there’s anyone out there would like to talk about old...

Cheryl: I can see now..at the time.it was just fantastic…..now…ju st...

Cheryl: Please contact me…

Cheryl: Just want to talk to people who were there…not many people in my circle...

recherche fuite d'eau: Nous sommes les numéros 1 en recherche fuite d’eau de...

Jeanette Matlock: Well written post. Something to think about & shows what you can...

Jeanette Matlock: Well written post that certainly changed my perception. Definitely...

Michael M: Great summary. I usually wind up traveling alone because my friends dont...

Nicole: Thanks so much Roger!

Benjamin ellis: Very insightful article.

SPONSORED BY :



CATEGORIES

TRAVEL LINKS

ARCHIVES

RECENT ENTRIES

You have now entered the Tourist Zone
Vagabonding Case Study: Tracey Mansted
Travel, its very motion, ought to suggest hope
Pro’s and Con’s of Traveling Solo
The negative impact of mass tourism
“The Tramps,” by Robert W. Service (1907)
Le Musee du Fumeur: Paris
Vagabonding Case Study: Nicole Brewer
Vagabonding Field Report: Hanoi, Vietnam
Foreign news should offer us a means by which to humanize the Other


Subscribe to this blog's feed
Follow @rolfpotts