Category: The Daily Life

Hurricane Stats, What Causes Them and Can They Be Stopped?

hurricanesAs Hurricane Michael impacts the United States today, I wondered about past hurricanes and some facts about one of nature’s most destructive events.   Here are some things I found:

  • Strongest Hurricane:  Wilma (2005).
  • Hurricane with Highest Sustained Winds:  Allen (1980) at 190 mph
  • Year with Most Hurricanes:  2005 with 15
  • Costliest Hurricane:  Katrina (2005) and Harvey (2017) with $125 billion in damages
  • Deadliest Hurricane:  “Great Hurricane” (1780) with over 22,000 deaths.
  • Largest Hurricane:  Olga (2001) at 995 miles in diameter.
  • Longest Distance Traveled:  Faith (1966) traveled 6,850 miles
  • Longest Duration of a Hurricane:  “San Ciriaco” lasted 27 days, 18 hours.
  • Most Frequently Hit By Hurricanes:  Monroe County, Florida (15)

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there is an average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes each year.

So what exactly causes hurricanes?

A hurricane is a type of cyclone, which is a generic term for any powerful, rotating storm that originates in warm tropical oceans and creates strong winds and heavy rain. Cyclones occur around the world, but are called hurricanes if they occur in the Atlantic and Northern Pacific—so off the coasts of the U.S., Mexico, and in the Caribbean. Elsewhere, they’re called typhoons or tropical cyclones.  A weather system technically becomes a hurricane once it reaches wind speeds of 74 mph (before that, it’s called a tropical storm). From there, hurricanes are broken down into five different categories using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.  Hurricanes are made up of the eye (a 20- to 30-mile wide center), the eyewall, and the outer rain bands. The eye is notoriously calm and clear, lacking in winds or precipitation—but you wouldn’t want to be caught inside one. Surrounding the eye is the eyewall, a dense, dangerous zone where winds reach their highest speeds. Outside the eyewall, rain bands contain heavy showers that extend hundreds of miles off the center. A typical hurricane spans 300 miles wide, but can grow much bigger (Irma was 425 miles in diameter).

So with all the technology we have, why can’t we stop a hurricane?

Believe it or not, it has been tried – or at least thought about.  There have been few methods considered:

  1. Fly Supersonic Jets Into it.   Basically jets would fly in circles around the eye of the hurricane to create a sonic boom that would disrupt the upward flow of warm air that fuels hurricanes.  The NOAA thinks this is a bad idea and would jeopardize the lives of the pilots.  The effects of a sonic boom would have little effect on the storm.
  2. Use a Giant Funnel to Divert Warm Water into the Ocean.  Intellectual Ventures proposed placing a plastic funnel in the water with a cylinder that uses wave motion to divert the warm water that creates hurricanes into the ocean floor.  This idea has never developed as there would be significant regulatory red tape to overcome in order to simply test this theory.
  3. Project STORMFURY.    This was a government project to seed hurricanes with silver iodide, in the hopes of strengthening the clouds around the hurricane and creating an “outer eyewall.” According to Willoughby— who helped put the project to bed once and for all — researchers seeded clouds in hurricanes Esther (1961), Beulah (1963), Debbie (1969), and Ginger (1971) with silver iodide. And at first, the results appeared promising — the hurricanes seemed to slow down somewhat. But further observation revealed that the hurricane changes were consistent with what you’d expect a hurricane to do, and it turned out that hurricanes develop an “outer eyewall” on their own, without any human intervention. And observations in the 1980s proved that there just wasn’t enough supercooled water inside hurricanes for the silver iodide to have much effect.
  4. Blow Up A Hurricane.  Dropping any kind of bomb – nuclear or otherwise – designed to disrupt a hurricane might work but could cause other collateral effects as you would imagine.
  5. United We Fan.  A group tried to “blow away” Hurricane Irma in 2017 by asking Florida residents to point their fans towards the hurricane to prevent it from making landfall.  It is estimated that 60,000 people volunteered try this method.  It didn’t work.  Irma still made landfall in South Florida.

2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season:

  • Subtropical Storm Alberto (May)
  • Hurricane Beryl (July)
  • Hurricane Chris (July)
  • Tropical Storm Debby (August)
  • Tropical Storm Ernesto (August)
  • Hurricane Florence (August)
  • Tropical Storm Gordon (August)
  • Hurricane Helen (September)
  • Hurricane Isaac (September)
  • Tropical Storm Joyce (September)
  • Tropical Depression Eleven (September)
  • Tropical Storm Kirk (September)
  • Hurricane Leslie (September)
  • Hurricane Michael (October)

 

 

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How To Deal with Difficult Situations and People

None of us enjoy doing the difficult things in life. Obviously we prefer the path of least resistance. I am one of those people. I would rather go out of my way to avoid difficult people and situations than plowing head on into them. Why create additional stress and pain when you don’t have to right?

Life has a way of forcing us into those difficult things at some point in our lives. I’m sure you know those people who thrive on confrontations although I honestly think those people embellish it more than it actually is.

I know there have been times that I was determined to avoid someone when I walk around the corner or the elevator doors open and there they are. Right in the space I want to occupy.  No way of escape or evasion.

Difficult people and situations require us to dig down deep to pull out the best that we can be. I won’t lie. It’s awfully difficult at times. Somehow we are often led right into the Lion’s Den. Sometimes you walk right into ground zero where you are face-to-face with your enemies. No avoiding it and no getting around it. It takes courage to summon up the strength to get through those moments.

So how can you and I survive these moments in our lives?

First, never forget who you are. Don’t let someone else tell you who you are. They don’t know you. They are basing their information on what they think they know about you. People tend to take parts of the truth and then fill-in what they THINK the truth is. There was a time in my life when I had to face a difficult person more often than I liked. I always had to spend time to prepare myself mentally before being around them. I finally learned that this person’s opinion of me was just their opinion and didn’t mean they were right. I just put an invisible shield around my feelings and let them act however they wanted.  Don’t allow others to tell you who you are. You know you. Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you matter.

If you are in the face of a difficult person, answer with a soft answer and never allow them to get you worked up. You are in control of you. When you lose control of yourself or the situation, you will lose control.  Stay calm.  When a situation is emotionally charged, it’s easy to get caught up in it.  Control your breathing and take deep breaths.  Raising your voice or speaking harshly in return will only add fuel to the situation.

Be willing to give something or someone a second chance. This isn’t always easy but might be something that is worth pursuing. People change sometimes.  Listen and try to understand why the person is being difficult.

Difficult people and difficult situations aren’t fun but we can get through them without injury. I am not the best success story in managing these situations but I am learning. These are things in life that we can learn from and make us stronger.

There is always a time and a place for confrontations. I hate them. Sometimes you have no other option but we can stay in control of us. Know who we are and refuse to let difficult situations or people to change that.

Yes, I know this all is nice but it’s a different story when you start feeling those butterflies in your stomach and you know you are going to go through a difficult situation or face a difficult person.  I don’t like that feeling either.  Control yourself and be strong.  Don’t let the person or situation intimidate you.

 

Freewrite Traveler or Bust

freewrite

Okay, I did it.  I took the risk and pre-ordered the Freewrite Traveler from Astrohaus.  I paid the $275 dollars for a tech device that hasn’t even been built yet and not expected to ship until June 2019.

I hope I’m not the sucker here.   People that know me know how I like gadgets and new/unique tech stuff.   Over the years I have fallen for the Pocket PC, Palmtop PC, Google Nexus 7, iPad Air, iPad Mini and just about any techie device.  I even had a digital Bible at some point in the past that I carried to church.  (Not to mention the various keyboards and other accessories I have collected over the years.)

The Freewrite Traveler is a distraction-free e-ink word processor which is billed to be the ultimate writer’s tool.  You can take the device anywhere and write when inspiration strikes and upload to the cloud.   Traveler removes the ability to get distracted. There isn’t a web browser, email client, or even any notifications which means all that energy required to resist temptation is now freed for a more useful purpose, your writing.

The Traveler also has:

  • 4-week battery life
  • E ink screen
  • Less than 2 lbs
  • Full-size keyboard
  • Folding design for maximum portability
  • Syncs to Dropbox, Evernote and Google Drive

For a writer like myself, this looks like a good investment.  I just hope it lives up to the expectations.  Although I can work on a laptop, ipad or other devices and ignore distractions I like the idea of having a device that is only dedicated to my writing.  No apps and no other things cluttering up the device.  Just a keyboard and screen.

I also like the idea of synching to a cloud drive.  I want to be able to access my projects wherever I go and not have to keep them on a hard drive or flash drive device.

The folks at Astrohaus say that studies have shown it takes 25 minutes on average to refocus on the original task after a single interruption.  I think anyone who writes or reads can identify with this.  Getting in the “flow” is so important to a writer.  You don’t want anything to stop you.

Right now the Traveler is in the crowdfunding stage and the last update stated that in less than a day, the Traveler has been 333% funded by 525 people.  That should be a good sign that this product will actually become reality.  That’s a good sign and, for me, that I won’t end up being a sucker for another tech gadget.

So now I wait until June.  I’m not good at waiting.

Overcoming The Vacation Blues

louvreMy wife and I have been back a week now since our amazing vacation in Europe and….I hate it.

I don’t like being “back to normal”.  Sorry, but I’m being honest.

I don’t want to be back to normal and back to the routine.  Yes, I know routine is good and security is important to our lives but that doesn’t mean I like it right now.

I still want to be in Europe traveling with my wife and exploring new places.  I miss our son and daughter-in-law showing us around Germany.  I guess that’s the price you pay when you have the best vacation you’ve ever had.

I Googled this issue and discovered that there is such a thing as the “vacation blues” and I have it.  I have it BAD.

As much as I hate to admit it, our vacation wasn’t real life for us.  Now I’m back to our reality.  We are back to our jobs and back to Nashville.  I can’t help but to say that I hated coming back to Nashville.  It’s no Paris, London, Rome or Lucerne.  Never will be.  But, I have family here and this is our home.  People actually take vacations to come HERE.

I also don’t want to let go of these feelings I had on vacation and I struggle to hold onto them because I know that as the days go by, those feelings will subside and I’ll be back into my life here.  Yes, I’m bummed about that.

I don’t expect you to feel sorry for me.  I’m just telling you like it is.  There is a mental hangover when you’ve had an awesome vacation.  Let me assure you that you’ll go through it too.

Back to real life.

As hard as it is to read that, it is true.  You can’t live in a vacation.  We all have to work and now we actually have to pay for the vacation.  Sure, I’m very thankful to have a job and have a place to live.  I’m sure that if I was actually living in Europe and working a job that it would be the same.  It’s like so many people who have this fantasy about the beach, it’s nice to go there on vacation but it’s another story when you live there.  Ask anyone who lives in a beach town or a tourist location.  When you aren’t the tourist, it really isn’t much fun.

Vacations are good for our mental and physical health.  It was nice taking a break from work and leaving my work phone behind.  I actually never gave it a thought until I got back home.   I was in denial that I would have to come back but now I’m here.  So how does one deal with these feelings?

Here are some of the suggestions I have found about overcoming the vacation blues:

  1. Plan your next trip.  This is funny because the day after we returned, I was already looking at YouTube videos of other places we would like to go.  It might also help to have smaller vacations or even daytrips instead of planning another Super Bowl of vacations.
  2. Re-create something from your trip.  Maybe it was a good meal or dining outside or just experiencing something similar.  I even discovered that in Paris, Tennessee they actually have a replica of the Eiffel Tower.
  3. Clean up your clutter.  I’m not sure where this suggestion fits but they say since you learned to live with less on your vacation that it should motivate you to clean up your clutter at home.  I’m not sure I’m up for this one.
  4. Frame your favorite memories.  We’re definitely going to do this.  We have thousands of photos and I’m sure we will find our favorites and frame them.  We also want to create a photo album with memories from our trip.
  5. Make time for relaxation.  The feeling of being “relaxed” on a vacation doesn’t have to end. With fall approaching, it will be relaxing to find a place to relax or go to a fall festival.

While none of these things can replace the vacation, it can certainly help ease back into the life we have here.  The blues will eventually fade away and I’ll be okay.  I am very lucky to have the experiences and been able to take a vacation.  I’m sure my attention will eventually turn to football, hockey, fall festivals and Christmas soon.

The vacation blues are normal and it’s okay for your heart and mind to still be on vacation even if your body is back in the office.  Okay, so my body is back even if my mind is still at the real Eiffel Tower.

Traveling With Sleep Disorders

 

travelwithcpapWhen my wife and I were planning to take a trip to Europe, the first thing that occurred to me was my sleep disorders.  How was I going to sleep on the plane?  My CPAP machine wouldn’t have a place to plug into on the flight and if I didn’t use it then my snoring would definitely cause the plane to be grounded.  As you would imagine, I had some anxiety about this issue.  I consulted my doctor and medical supply company about my concern.

First, I asked my sleep doctor about the problem.  She suggested that I look into getting a battery powered travel CPAP machine.  I checked into it and there is such a device; however, insurance doesn’t cover it and the medical supply company does not allow payments on it.  The DreamStation Go Auto CPAP costs $999 so that was clearly not an option.

Next, I considered sleeping without the CPAP and finding something that would silence my snoring.  It was highly recommended that I should try a new product call Provent Therapy which are adhesive strips attached to each nostril designed to maintain airflow.  I bought these and tried them at home and they were not effective for me.  I’m even doubting some of these “success” stories about this therapy.

With nothing to help me with flying an international flight with my sleep disorders, I decided I would just try to stay awake and use my CPAP machine once I got to my destination.  Fortunately, I managed to stay awake with a few short naps on the trip.  IF you are concerned about snoring, let me assure you that the jet noise will usually drown out moderate snoring.  Of course, if you are like me and you are off-the-charts on the snoring scale, you either take shorter naps or stay awake.

Once we arrived in Europe, I used my CPAP machine as I would back at home as I used an adapter to adjust to the different power connections in each country.  This worked out pretty well and I had no problems with the machine.  The only issue was the changes in the air in each room which caused my throat and nose to be dried out the next morning.

The other issue with the CPAP machine was packing it and making room in my carryon luggage.  In spite of my best attempts of keeping the bag with me, I was forced by the airlines to check it on a flight.  I was obviously concerned about that but it turned out okay as my bag made it to my destination without being damaged.  I also had no problems with the machine going through security.  I’m guessing TSA is pretty familiar with these devices by now.  I did keep my machine in a large Ziploc back to protect it in case it was removed for inspection.

In the end, traveling with my sleep disorders worked out okay.  I never slept much on the flights and if I did they were short “cat naps” and my CPAP machine survived the trip.

Personally, since sleep disorders are a medical condition, airlines should make allowances for this and provide seats where you can plug in your CPAP machine for long flights without additional cost of sitting in upgraded seats.

While traveling with sleep disorders are a cause of concern, you can survive it and relieve your anxieties by preparing in advance of your trip.  If you can’t afford the ridiculously expensive travel CPAP, find something that works and test it out.

Waterfly Bag Review

61HlJ5k4MVL__SY355_On our recent trip to Europe I decided to use the Waterfly Underarm bag as my day bag for our trips as we toured each city, museums and other tourist locations.  I opted not to carry a traditional  small backpack or sling bag for security and to keep from having to check the bag at certain museums.  So, after spending three weeks, every day with the Waterfly bag, I will say that is was functional but I hated it.  Sorry, but I’m being honest about this product.  It was a burden having to be strapped to this bag everyday.  I even started referring to it as my “purse” at the end of the trip.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a man carrying a purse but it was just not the ideal choice for me.

The Good

Okay, let me start with the positive things about this bag.  As I said, the bag was “functional” for the trip as it allowed me to carry the following:

  • Wallet
  • Portable charger w/cable
  • Coin change
  • Passports
  • Maps

Although there is a dedicated cell phone pocket, it was better for me to keep my wallet in that pocket instead of my phone.  They also advertise that you can keep a small tablet in the main pocket.  Sorry, but I didn’t have any room (or need) for that.

The bag was very lightweight and adjustable.  It also felt very secure with items being closer than a backpack.

bagThe Bad

It is a purse.  Sorry but that’s how it felt and it isn’t as cool looking as the photos or videos which promote the bag.

Coin change was very difficult to dig out of the zippered compartment.  This is not easy when you aren’t familiar with the local currency.

When it was hot wearing this bag made it even hotter because you can’t really take it off and carry it by a handle like you could a backpack.

The Ugly

Sweat.  Yes, with an “underarm” bag, you don’t have to use your imagination to know what happens when you wear this bag all day after sweating and your deodorant wears out.  I was constantly self-conscious of this.  While the bag is supposedly waterproof, it isn’t “stink” proof.

Conclusion

If I ever do this again, I will choose to use either a small sling bag or backpack.  The museums and tourist attractions weren’t as strict on small bags.  It would also be useful to have a bag with water bottle pockets.  We spent a lot of time carrying water bottles.  Yes, it got the job done but it was pretty restricting and uncomfortable at times.

A Rookie’s Guide To Traveling Europe

My wife and I have just returned from a trip to visit our son and daughter-in-law in Germany.  Sandwiched in between the weeks we were with them, we visited several countries and cities in Europe on our own.  I have to be honest with you and tell you that this isn’t something I thought I would ever get to do.  Aside from the finances, taking the time off from work and making the plans just seemed impossible. Somehow it all came together and thanks to my wife’s awesome planning, we were able to enjoy the trip of a lifetime.

Not being the “world traveler” and basically a rookie at doing this, I want to give you my amateur insight to traveling and the places we visited.  I’m not Rick Steves or anyone that knows much about travel but I want to share my experience with you.  None of the YouTube videos could have prepared us for what we experienced on our amazing trip to Europe.

First, let me give you a brief personal ranking of the places we visited:

Paris_Family on Seine River

#1 – Paris, France

After our trip, we both emphatically rank Paris as our top experience.  It was everything we had hoped it would be and more.  Nothing really compares to seeing the Eiffel Tower first the first time with you own eyes.  It was amazing.  Notre Dame was an amazing sight too.  Yes, I know it is known more for that hunchback character,  but it is also said to be the home of the crown of thorns.  Yes, I’m talking about THAT crown of thorns.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t on display when we visited.  We also learned that there aren’t many thorns left because some of the them were given to other kings and dignitaries over the centuries.  Saint Chapelle had some of the most amazing stained glass windows I have ever seen.  Of course the romantic folks have heard about the Love Locks bridge.  This is where lovers attach a lock to the bridge as a pledge of love to each other.  The bridge is still there but the locks have been removed due to safety concerns.  My wife and I still managed to find a bridge in Paris to place ours and within view of the Eiffel Tower.  The Louvre was a seemingly endless museum of art and sculptures.  We only scratched the surface as we hit the highlights like the Mona Lisa, Venus and several others.  One of the best decisions we made was to take a river cruise on the Seine River to see a lot more of Paris than we would see otherwise.  If you want to see a major palace of former French kings, the nearby Palace of Versailles was definitely a huge residence for them.  Again, like the Louvre, we were only able to get a small experience of it.   Finally, any Disney fan would be lost without a chance to visit Disneyland Paris.  Some said it would be a waste of time to do but it was a good experience.  No, it isn’t like Disneyland or Walt Disney World but it was a nice combination of both.  I rode the Ratatouille ride which was pretty appropriate with it being in Paris.

#2 – Lucerne, SwitzerlandLucerne_Chapel Bridge

Beautiful just can’t adequately describe this place.  This city which is situated near Lake Lucerne and surrounded by mountains is just an amazing real-life portrait for the eyes.  We never got tired of the view.  We took a boat ride to Wegiss which is a small city near Lucerne.  This was an unplanned visit and we were glad we went.  Wegiss is absolutely the most amazing place with spectacular views.  It is easily my newest favorite place in the world.  I will have to admit that Rick Steves convinced us to add Lucerne to our trip and we are glad we did.  I will also tell you that Switzerland was the most expensive country we visited.  The currency is francs and things were very expensive there so be prepared for that if you decide to go.  Other than that small negative, I would highly recommend Lucerne to anyone.

Como Italy#3 – Como, Italy

This was an unplanned visit at the beginning of our trip.  We had a floating day and we decided to stop in Como overnight on our way to Lucerne.  Again, the word beautiful doesn’t adequately describe it.  After leaving Venice, Como was a welcome change.  Como was not over populated with tourists and sitting on a bench looking out over Lake Como was very peaceful.  We only stayed overnight but we wished we could have stayed longer.  If you are debating on whether to go to Venice or Como, I would choose Como every time.

London_Buckingham Costume#4 – London, England

Before our trip if you were to ask me where I would like the least it would have been London but after visiting there I have changed my mind.  London was a unexpected surprise.  We really needed more time here too.  Once you master the Tube (London’s subway system), you can get around to the various places you want to see.  It was awesome to see Westminster Abbey and the centuries of history in this place.  We also visited Buckingham Palace which was every bit of royal as you could imagine.  My wife and I listed as Windsor Castle as one of our “must see” places when we got to London.  It wasn’t an easy venture but we navigated the three trains to get there and glad we did.  To stand in the very spot where Prince Harry and Meaghan Markle were recently married was just mind blowing.  At the end of our trip, we took a boat cruise and saw the Tower Bridge.

#5 – Germany (Weisbaden/Frankfurt/Kassel/Rhein)

If you love German villages and castles, Germany is a good place to get a dose of it.  We visitedGermany_Rhein several castles along the Rhein.  Except for the hike to get up to the castles, it was worth it to see the beauty and architecture of these ancient buildings.  We were also able to find a spot to view a spectacular fireworks display on the Rhein.  Our son and daughter-in-law took us to see some towns that were almost too much to believe.  They were straight out of a movie set.  We also didn’t spend enough time in Germany.

#6 – Rome, Italy

Rome_ColosseumRome was exactly what you would think it would be and certainly met and maybe exceeded our expectations a bit.  My wife and I were awed by the Trevi Fountain. In fact, we went to it three times during our visit.  Our last visit was early in the morning on our last day in Rome.  As for me, the Colosseum wasn’t as much for me.  Actually it looked quite smaller than I had always imagined it to be.  We also visited the Vatican and saw the amazing Sistine ChapelSt. Peter’s Cathedral was pretty impressive too.  I am not Catholic but it was very spiritual to be there and be in the place where St. Peter is buried.  Now that’s something.  We didn’t catch the Pope but it was something to see the place where he speaks to thousands.  The food in Rome was probably the best on the trip.  I have had the best lasagna and eggplant parmesan I have ever had.

When we left Rome for Venice, we made a stop in Florence to see the David statute which was made by Michelangelo.  We couldn’t help but to be amazed by the detail of another masterpiece from one of history’s most famous artists.

#7 – Venice, Italy

Venice_Gondola RideI have to tell you that I am surprised to see Venice at the bottom of this list.  Before the trip, Venice was the place we wanted to visit the most.  It did not meet expectations.  I know that we all fall for that romantic image of Venice and gondola rides but the heat along with excessive crowds pushed Venice to the bottom of our list.  My wife and I did have our romantic gondola ride (except for when the gondola operator answered his cell phone) and we enjoyed some of the romantic locations there but I wouldn’t want to go back.  Locals are very rude to tourists and they really have no reason to be nice because of the mass volume of tourists.  Venice was a disappointment.

Best/Worst of Trip:

  • Best OMG Moment: Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time.  Nothing can prepare you for this.
  • Best Tech purchase:  Ainope 10000mAh Portable Charger with LCD Display external charger.  This helped us many times when we needed to charge our smartphones.
  • Best Clothing Purchase: Shoes.  I found Saucony Kineta Series on the clearance rack. You have to have good shoes.
  • Biggest Surprise: London
  • Best Un-Planned Stop: Como, Italy and Wegiss, Switzerland
  • Most Expensive: Switzerland
  • Worst attitude toward tourists: Venice
  • Most friendly locals: Paris
  • Best Hotel: Art Deco Montana, Lucerne, Switzerland
  • Most awkward moment: Train trip from Rome to Venice where passenger seated next to me took his seat and mine.
  • Best food: Rome
  • Best scenery: Switzerland
  • Best train ride: Como, Italy – Lucerne, Switzerland
  • Most challenging language barrier: Italian
  • Most annoying part of travel: Getting correct directions and information
  • Best money spent: Upgrade flight back home
  • Number of miles walked on trip: 144 miles (7.5 miles per day). Highest day was in Rome.
  • Best Smart Phone App: Moovit.  My wife found this app while we were in London.  This app will tell you what forms of transportation you need to get to where you are going.

So as an average person going on a trip to Europe, here are some of the things I found that “they” tell you in travel videos that are not true:

  • “There is free Wifi everywhere” – There IS Wifi in many places but it isn’t always free and it isn’t always dependable. Don’t plan on having a lot of access to your cloud on a trip.
  • “Train travel is easy” – While it is much better than in the U.S., it can be quite a challenge. It was very helpful to have RailEurope or GoEuro apps on our smartphones.
  • “Venice is the most romantic place in the world” – Not with oppressive heat and masses of tourists.
  • “Romance is in the air in Paris” – Yes, Paris is romantic but don’t foolishly think they are actually playing an Italian music soundtrack everywhere you go. You would be surprised how much American music you will hear.
  • “Air travel is cheap” – This is true BUT only on no-frills/budget airlines and with several connections.  Cheap doesn’t always mean easy.
  • “Nobody every said they wished they had packed more” – Totally not true. I wished we could have brought more but when you limit it to carry on luggage you really have to be creative.

So now that I am back from Europe, what are the top ten tips I can give you about traveling:

#1 – Wear comfortable shoes

I am very lucky to have picked the perfect shoes for our trip.  They were very comfortable and lightweight.  They lasted the trip and my feet are in great condition.  Don’t think you have to buy the most expensive walking shoes like Ecco or some other brand.  Also don’t buy hiking shoes unless you’re really going hiking.

#2 – ASK questions

I am hesitant sometimes about asking questions but when you go on a trip like this, you really can’t survive without asking.  There is always someone to ask and you will have to do it while you are traveling.

#3 – Stay hydrated

We were always buying water everywhere we went and all through the day.  You have to keep hydrated our your body will wear out.  There is a LOT of walking involved so you need to take care of your body.

#4 – Learn some phrases in other languages

While it is possible to survive by not speaking the language of the country you are visiting, it is still very helpful and courteous to the locals.  They will appreciate it.

#5 – Pack smart

Pack only what you will NEED, not what you want to take “just in case”.  Forget the “just in case” items.  You can buy what you want when you get to where you are going.  Also, if you are intimidated by the TSA rules for liquids, don’t take any.  Just buy them after you get through security.  Yes, it will be more expensive but it will save you the stress.  You also don’t have to pack clothes for every day.

#6 – Be patient

Oh man, this is a big one.  You will need to pack some patience because you’re going to get frustrated, confused and stressed many times along the trip.  Just remind yourself to keep calm and navigate your way through the unexpected situations.  The travel part can wear you down with the customs, security and getting from one place to another.

#7 – Foot massages

This is something my wife and I agreed to do each night when we got back to our hotel room and it is amazing how this helps to keep your feet rested and rejuvenated for the next day.

#8 – Spend more on your trip to/from Europe

If you are on a tight budget like us, you will be tempted to purchase the cheapest tickets for your flight to/from Europe.  While you don’t have to go first class, try something more than coach such as Delta’s Comfort+ option.  Believe me, you will be glad you did.

#9 – Don’t plan every minute of every day

My wife planned our trip and she did a wonderful job in NOT planning every minute of every day at various stages of our trip.  Rushing to one thing to another will wear you out and you won’t be able to appreciate it.

#10 – Be alert

Travel videos warn you about pickpockets as well as security.  I honestly felt safer in Europe than in any place in the U.S.  You still have to be alert and mindful of your surroundings.

Tech for the trip:

Okay, I am a geek and I need my tech with me.  I agonized way too much about this before the trip.  I ended up taking my iPAD with keyboard along with my smartphone.  This worked out good.  With the inconsistent access to wifi and my documents in the cloud, I purchased a USB flash drive which connects to the lightning port for all of the documents I would be working on.  This worked out really well.  Next time I think I will just take a travel keyboard and use it with my smartphone instead of taking my iPAD.

If you are taking your phone with you…..

This is something else you have to think about.  You have to check with your provider on the International plans they offer or else you will get stuck with a huge bill when you return.  It’s still going to be expensive and you need to plan on it.  Since we are with Verizon, we opted for the “travel pass” where we can still use our phones as we would here for $10 per day for the days you use it.  The only hitch we had was that we both took our phones; however, we had one using the travel pass while the other phone was in airplane mode and not using cellular data.  For us, this worked out okay and we managed our use.

What would we do differently next time?

  • Spend more on airfare to/from Europe
  • I would change my day bag to a small backpack instead of the Waterfly bag.
  • Stay longer or at least more than one night (travel days are rough)
  • Do a better job with carrying water/snacks with us
  • Get a better translator app

After three weeks visiting five countries, sorting through four different currencies, four languages, seven airplane flights, seven trains, six boats, several taxis (some rides which would challenge any Disney thrill ride) and even a pedi-cab it was physically demanding but it was worth the experience.  The world seems a lot different to me now.