Last Tuesday, December 23, 2008, I spent a very happy time at Radio Station WWJB in Brooksville, Florida, as the guest on the Bob Penrod Show. We had a whole hour between 1 – 2 p.m., and time flew by, and now I have a CD recording of the interview to remember it by. How I hope that I can share it with you! How I hope that, somehow, this technologically-challenged woman whom I know myself to be can pull off the magic of moving the material to this blogsite.
Five hours later: So far, no good, as far as whomping up the way to get this radio program tacked onto “this here blog” so you can be all the wiser for it. Once I started writing the above, I thought I saw a possibility and got sidetracked on trying to download the CD to my hard drive, so that I could upload it here. It seemed to comply, but now I can’t find it in there.
In the meantime, my dear friends, Fawn and Julie, had a dinner party and a viewing of Mama Mia, so off I went to that and then came home full of green chilies and pizza, singing “Dancing Queen,” and again confident that I could just get this show on the road, so to speak. But, I have batted out for tonight and am going to bed. In the morning, I’ll tackle the problem again. Someday, I shall be a confident blog assembler but that day has not yet dawned.
This time next week, I’ll be going to bed for the first time in Bogota, Columbia. Only a few days left to wrap up all the little details. Usually, when I have an unfinished task like this, I toss and turn all night trying to work out how to do it in my sleep. It’s easy. ..I know it is, but when there’s a missing bit of how-to information, it may as well be rocket science.
So, for now, you will just have to take my word for it. It was lovely hour on the radio.
Unbelievably, I walked for many, many miles along Clearwater Beach today – barefoot and in my bathing suit – and this is mid-December! Granted, I live in Florida, but we have already had some cold weather and when things get chilly, I bundle up. Today was summer warm though, and even the Gulf water was okay for wading. So, it was good to get one last long walk in, just to make sure I’m still in shape.
Two weeks till takeoff and things are coming together. Lots of duties to accomplish yet, but there sits my well-stuffed backpack, right over there on the sofa, all set to go. I put it on, loaded now, and it feels very good. This is the new 65-liter one and is fitted properly to my body, not the man-sized, 85-liter one I used on my last trip. However, it weighs exactly thirty pounds right now and I have a few more last minute things to add. The luggage limit is fifty pounds so I have some leeway, though the pack won’t hold much more.
Next week is Christmas and some family members are coming. No plans, at all, for New Years but that’s the way I always celebrate that holiday, just quietly happy to see the calendar roll over and eager for the coming year. This one starts with a bang for me, taking off for parts unknown the following day, and then it will suddenly be late Spring when I roll back into town. An eerie feeling with today acting so much like the middle of summer, which is the season I’ll soon be jumping into in South America.
In the meantime, my present time-fillers, such as lists, ordinary duties, housecleaning and remembering essential trivia to be done, add up to pretty paltry blogging subjects. I shall make up for this lack, hopefully, when I begin to post reports from a rapidly changing ground zero, meaning wherever I happen to be at the moment – unknown to me, unknown to you.
I’m starting out in Columbia, which I hear is a very beautiful country. To us, in the States, its reputation is considerably one-sided. All that most people know about it, or associate with its mention, is drugs, cartels, and rough, grabby things associated with that world. But, that snap judgment dismisses a whole country filled with wonderfully sincere people, so it has to be a truly narrow-minded conclusion; though there’s also an undeniable reason we make that connection. I’ll be going in with eyes wide open expecting to find the beauties of the country and of its people and then I’ll share what I find out here in this blog.
In the summer of 2004, while backpacking through another much-maligned country, Nicaragua, and staying at the lovely Oasis Hostel in Granada, I met Jewel and Caroline, two young Canadian schoolteachers who had just finished a year teaching school in Columbia. They were returning home overland all the way to Canada, having collected the money that the school system would have used to fly them home; instead spending it on hostels and bus tickets to take the long, slow way, planning to be home by Christmas that year. They had loved Columbia and urged me to go there someday. This is the way that prejudices get busted. Word of mouth. Somebody’s experience. Later, those girls went to teach for two years in Dubai. We were supposed to get together in Mumbai, India, but they had visa troubles and we missed each other. I wonder how they liked it in the United Arab Emirates and if that spot will show up on a future list of mine because they did.
This is often the way it works. Very often, in fact. I wound up discovering and falling in love with Croatia because I sat next to a sailor on an airplane as I was flying home from Budapest. He was Scottish and had married a woman from Split and raved so about the place that I made a mental note. The very next year, I went to that country. Split did not impress me, but I so very much loved Dubrovnik and the rest of the Croatian Dalmatian coastline.
In fact, Columbia went to the top of my list when someone at a recent talk of mine raved about Cartegena. Check. That’s the first place I’ll head after flying into Bogota, the capital. So, I plan to pass on all my good news and special spot tips to you….just as soon as I take care of business in these last few days at home.
These days, I try to think of good blog topics while I make my boring lists and run my necessary, but unexciting, errands to make sure that all is remembered before I take off in the early days of next year…just three weeks from today. I seem to be on schedule and, so far, is so good; but what great philosophy do I have worthy of blogging about and sending out on the airwaves these days?
Well, there is one line of thought, deep in development, but it’s not ready to run up the flagpole yet. Trouble is, I haven’t had many of my long beach walks where I do my best thinking, since the weather has turned chilly. That inspiration concerns mystical properties of the Spinal Analogy of South America. I’m gathering my maps and various related material to study up on, and you will surely hear plenty about this idea, the farther south I go. But, it’s premature at the moment.
However, there is one emotion (Gratitude) that I should sit down and pay homage to…as well as to remember to have within my own breast as I go charging along making my current dreams come true. Perhaps you have noticed that the three unrealized dreams of last summer have now all become realities: my book is published; my blog exists; and my next world trip is going to happen. I am so in the mode for it that anything that might come along to derail these plans would be hard to adjust to at this late stage. So, the inner determination which I feel right now makes me even more sensitive to the plight of so many others who are watching their own dreams become shipwrecked.
I’m very, very grateful that the World Crunch, which seems to be creeping over life in so many dimensions here in America, has not touched me or my family members. The huge, messy, housing bubble that has just blown up in this country has not personally impacted me. Yet, in my neighborhood, city, state, and country, For Sale or For Rent signs are sprouting on so many houses as mortgages become unbearable and bank foreclosures multiply. Behind the scenes, people are scrambling to pack up and move out of beloved homes; children must leave their schools and friends behind as new family shelter is sought and everyone’s life becomes a big unknown; lived in the temporary lane.
The fallout has scrambled Wall Street. Corporate giants are falling. Stocks have dried up. Money is suddenly safer under the mattress, if it still exists. Jobs are cut by the thousands, so it’s not only one’s home that disappears, it’s the workplace, and the schedule, and the security, and the retirement plans, and the college savings. In general, everybody’s hopes and dreams have been thrown into the blender.
Suddenly, for so many people, it’s hard to see ahead and to estimate what the new year will be like for them. That makes it very difficult to conceive of a bold, new idea and then to take the logical steps necessary to convert a wispy figment of hope into a crystalized future. It’s the difference between planning to cross over a raging river and having before you either a strong bridge…a sturdy log…a few slippery stones…or, nothing at all, except your own dog paddle.
Dreams don’t crop up as often under the latter circumstances. BUT, on the other hand, sometimes when all ties are loosened up, dreams become absolutely possible for the very first time. Maybe when house and job and savings and future plans are all washed away, that’s when someone finally gets the courage to venture forth into the unthinkable; like immigrants forced to strike out into the Wild West during the early days of this country. Risky, hectic, desperate. ..but, sometimes you can strike gold.
I’m grateful for being able to, slowly and deliberately, plan my next escape and to tick off those boring lists without any outside pressure. How did I escape the hurricane so far? Well, I have nothing to be swept away. I’ve sometimes called myself a little waterbug, skimming along on the surface of this material world’s pond, and I’ve always seen that as a great advantage. My few possessions could be replaced. I’m a “cheap date” for my darling buddy, Life, having no health concerns and no expensive appetites. I could just as happily live one place as another. So, the stuff that takes a lifetime to acquire has not accumulated around my head and heart.
The reality of today’s economy is that a whole lot more people are going to be shoved, unwillingly, into the unencumbered life that I have completely enjoyed all along. My advice to them is to “Come on in, the water’s fine! It’s just a little cold, right there at first!”
In just four short weeks I will be in Bogota, Columbia, starting my next adventure of an exploration of the continent of South America. I’ve decided to start at the top with the country of Columbia so the day after New Year I’ll fly overnight to Bogota and show up early in the morning at the lovely Alegria’s Hostel in the Candalaria section of the city. I made my reservations through my favorite BootsnAll.com travel website where I also have a running blog.
I know that I will be sleepy upon arrival, because my flight leaves Tampa, Florida, at 6:20 p.m. for Houston, and then an all-night flight between Houston and Bogota, arriving very early in the morning. So I searched for accommodations where I could get a bit of privacy for some sound sleep after checking in. I could have reserved a $35 per night single room in a very attractive set of apartments, but in the end, I chose a three-bed dorm room at Alegria’s for $11.51 per night, reasoning that a small dorm room will be pretty quiet and I could sleep three nights for the cost of one at the other place. Plus, the more social aspects of a hostel means that I’ll have plenty of fellow travelers to give tips and advice about my new country. That’s one of the best parts of hostel life and I’m looking forward to being back in the swing of it.
To complete the report on the plane ticket, I decided to fly “open-jaws” in order to fly home from Buenos Aires, Argentina in mid-May. The total cost of the round-trip ticket was only $691.80, which includes all fees and taxes; only a few dollars more than the best quotes to fly in and out of Lima, Peru. But, now I can spend my time going down the West Coast of the continent and up through Argentina, without having to worry about crossing the Andes again just to fly home. I worked with Lucas at Exito Travel and that was so much better than simply buying the ticket off of an anonymous website with no human being to talk to. And, it really was no more expensive.
By the way, I discovered that my book has now made it to the Amazon.com website and is for sale there, as well as here on this blogsite. The photo of my book cover isn’t showing yet and I am taking measures to get it on the listing. Have sent them one and will call on Monday if it’s still not showing. But, this is real progress. I’m asking everyone who has read the book to write a review about it to post on my listing as that’s vital to the rankings and also helpful to potential buyers.
Plus, the book is now for sale at The Boxcar, if you happen to be anywhere near Dunedin, Florida. This is a darling little post office/snacks/gifts boutique located right beside the Pinellas Country Trail, which also runs right beside my house about a mile away. It really is an old railroad boxcar, spiffed up with a coat of green paint and it sits beside the former railroad station which is now a museum. Historically, the trail used to be a train line, but now gets only bikers, joggers, walkers, and rollerbladers, the whole athletic community…many of whom might well be backpackers.
I’m not going to distribute my book to the chain bookstores until I return to this country and can do some more promotion, but they can actually order it now if anybody walks into Borders or Barnes & Noble and asks for Hey Boomers Dust Off Your Backpacks, because it’s on their lists from Ingram. They just won’t have it on their shelves until I change my discount arrangement, which I will do when I get back and have lots more reason to go on the talk shows and boost the sales. I am going to submit the book to Amazon to make a Kindle version, so that should be available for sale pretty soon.
Time flaps rapidly along with much being accomplished.
My dear author friend, Fawn, keeps telling me to write a How-To book about doing this sort of travel. Well, right now, I should be reading somebody else’s How-To book on the subject of launching my travels. In fact, thinking about saying that in this blog inspired me to root around on my bookshelf and pull out a few of my collection of them just in case I can find the time to leaf through to see if I’ve forgotten anything.
In a pile beside my chair now is: Foxy Old Woman’s Guide to Traveling Alone Around Town and Around The World by Jay Ben-Lesser; Solo Traveler, Tales and Tips for Great Trips by Lea Lane; and Gutsy Women by Marybeth Bond. Somewhere in the house is the encyclopedic volume, The Practical Nomad: How To Travel Around The World by Edward Hasbrouck, which I recommend in the back of my own book. I’m putting a serious study session on my To-Do list.
Because, for me, it’s all about To-Do lists. That’s the sum total of my How-To advice and I’m living it right now since I shall be in Bogota, Columbia, South America, one month from today acclimating after my arrival flight on January 3rd. I’m never going to write an instructional book because it’s more or less just common sense. How do you get ready to go anywhere? It’s the same, but just add a few visas, shots, and money arrangements. I still feel like an amateur and just sort of plug along, trying to remember everything, if that makes you feel any better. Simply apply common sense and do a bit of research, if necessary. No big deal!
This morning, I rose before the crack of dawn to go get bloodwork done because my GP doctor hasn’t seen me for a year and needed an update when prescribing my malaria pills for the jungles and the excellent mosquito bite possibilities I’ll be exposed to. Also, got a Hepatitis B shot, in case I come in contact with somebody’s bodily fluids by accident, or by blood transfusion (can’t be too careful here), so all my inoculations are now accounted for. She has also prescribed an antibiotic to have along and a wound salve, so health is covered.
Gadgets fill my coffee table and they keep accumulating. Now I must learn how to use them properly. A new and teeny-tiny MP3 player, which every child can operate, awaits my naive exploration; a teeny-tiny, pocket-sized video camera has me dreaming of Facebook or YouTube exposure, but wondering if I can get it to work; my own new digital camera, with all the bells and whistles, wants me to figure it out too, and I have something called a Personal Organizer waiting to have batteries installed and the manual studied. I think I’ve fallen for other gimmicks ready to pour their wonders upon my life, if only I can find the drawer where I have stuffed them until I could find a geek to come and educate me. Haven’t found that geek, so it’s now all up to me to turn on their wee little brains and access their miracles. All of these little things will fit into my purse and will be wonderful IF I can master them in time. Gee, I see that this organizer translates from English to Spanish! That’s probably why I bought it. I sure do need that!
On my last trip out, I carried two heavy pouches of recommended must-have items: a battery recharger and a set of electrical plug current converters. Did I wind up using them? Heck no! It was hard to remember to repack them whenever I checked out and I wound up using throw away batteries anyway. I think I mailed them home, at great expense, and I’m not planning to take them with me this time. So many gimmicks! Here’s another I just fished out of my desk drawer. It’s a World Time Clock and Calendar, also waiting with instructions for me to rev it up. Really cute, and I think my organizer would perform those same functions. I’ve owned these jobbies for a year now, bought in some fever of wishful thinking for the open road. I don’t even own a cell phone because I would have to program it, so can you imagine this throwback actually making it out the door with all of these gadgets fully functioning? I can’t. But, they are on my To-Do list.
My new backpack is already pretty much packed though it’s still a work in progress. I have the new REI stuff I bought in Denver already in it and the basic clothing I know I’m going to need. It’s always possible to find forgotten items out there in the cities of the world, so leaving something out is no great tragedy. We all tend to take way too much and the discipline of a limited-size, back-borne container is a good way to keep that under control.
Today, I’ll start the process of trying to get crisp new $100 bills from the bank. That’s not as easy as you think and it may take awhile. You see, banks order money and they might have to ask their suppliers for new one hundreds. Many of those won’t pass your inspection and you’ll have to turn those in and try again. I don’t know how strict the exchange offices are in South America….nobody is as picky as the Soviet Union used to be…but if they don’t like a dirty, torn, or marked up bill, then it will be worthless until you can get it back home. I insist upon crisp, new bills and they are getting harder to find, so you need lead time.
Then, have you ever noticed how a house doesn’t stay clean and groceries (for my son) don’t stay bought if you try to do the final stuff too far before departure? So that goes on the last minute to-do list. I’m not there yet. Only on the middle-agenda to-do listings. Anyway, that’s what my days are like. I must call my friends and set up get-togethers since I won’t be back till Spring. Gotta research trip insurance. What else? Oh yes, Christmas is coming. Gift shopping and wrapping and a dinner to plan the week before departure. How do people who have to work right up until they get on the plane manage it all, I wonder?