Tag: travel

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.

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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.

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.

 

 

 

Parlez-vous anglais?

I have spent the past few days using that phrase. My wife and I just finished our first visit to Paris, France with our son and daughter-in-law. This was an amazing trip. Although I probably butchered the French pronunciation above, I’m sure I inflected a Southern accent to this phrase. The way I said it sounded much like “parley view ang-lay-ez” which means “Do you speak English?”

Paris was amazing and to see the magnificent Eiffel Tower in person was more than I could have ever imagined. You see it on TV and hear about it all of your life but when you see in person, it takes on a whole new meaning.

So what are some things I learned about Paris?

I know that driving in Nashville, Tennessee is NOTHING compared to the way they drive in Paris. Our son drove us around and I am very glad he did. I would have been in my room curled up in a fetal position. The odd thing about it was that there seemed to be a method to the madness. It’s like everyone knew what the other was doing. Yes, they blowed their horns but it was just that. No road rage and no anger. People just wanted to get to where they were going. That’s it.

The people like it when you try to speak French to them first as in the phrase I learned to use. They appreciate the respect.

For a short stay, you can survive without knowing the language. There are many things in both French and English. If you are at a restaurant, you can request an English menu if it is available.

Touring the Louvre or Palace of Versailles takes a long time. You really need to commit at least a full day to touring each of these. We only scratched the surface on our visits such as seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.

For the romantic side, although there is no longer the “Love Locks” bridge, (the bridge is there but you can’t attach a lock there) there are several places where you and your significant other can attached a lock to Paris to pledge your love. We found a place for our lock and it had a view of the Eiffel Tower.

While many people like to try new foods specific to that country, I am not one of those. I ate so I could sustain the days of walking 8-10 miles each day. You aren’t forced to eat French food. There are options just as they are in the US. You can still get your McDonalds or Starbucks fix if you get desperate.

It seems to me that Parisians just enjoy life. It’s more about living than working 9-5 or working for the weekends. They seem to know something that Americans can’t seem to grasp.

Okay, one thing I have to tell you about Paris that will blow up what you think you knew already. They don’t constantly pipe French music throughout the city. In fact, I heard more American music than anything else. It was a bit odd to eat at a French cafe while listening to Coolio’s “Gangsters Paradise”.

Paris was an amazing experience and one that I will never forget.