Wednesday, January 27, 2010

January… time to plan travels (Part I)

Every January a large scheduling sheet was passed to each of us in our department so we could place an X on the weeks we requested for our annual holidays. I worked in the corporation for almost 26 years so the habit to look in January for anticipated travels is still with me. When I started working there in 1982 it was hard to make traveling plans so long in advance. There was no Internet with quick information. I had to go to our library to do my research and much of the information was dated. Then I would write – slow mail since there was no email and long distance telephone was expensive – to the hotels or bed and breakfast to make reservations. I remember how I wrote to a bed and breakfast in Chester, England in the early 1980s with anticipation but three weeks later they replied that they were full for that date. I had to start my research all over again.

Vintage postcard of Chester circa 1906 (this was before I went there!)

I still like to make travel plans in January but also other months, long enough in advance of the trip to allow for full research and reading on the area, the history, the authors, et al. My love of travel started when I was 6 years old, after World War II, when my mother and I took a ship to Istanbul, Turkey to sell my grandmother’s house and bring her back with us to Paris (my father’s mother.)

Painting by Robert Otto Nowak, Austrian 1874-1945

It took more than 10 days for the ship to go from Marseille to Istanbul because it had to stop many times. My mother told me “look at those black things in the water” I saw them and asked “what are they?” my mother replied “they are unexploded naval mines so the ship has to move slowly” “why?” “Because the ship would blow up” (and some already had prior to us.) I did not fully understand the implication but since my mother was staying in the cabin being sick while the ship was moving I had a great time being free to run on the ship with other little children. I especially remember an English girl and an Italian boy and started talking to them somehow. I liked this trip so much I decided I would travel always and also learn English and Italian.

Painting by Maurice Prendergast, American 1895-1924

I have traveled to many countries and islands – some more than once like when going back to France, England and Italy and some just once. Here is the list in alphabetical order (I am not counting stops at airports like Jeddah, Saudi Arabia): Algeria (3 times or 3 X) Barbados, Belgium (many X) Canada (9 X) Denmark, Egypt (4 X) England (many X) Ethiopia (2 X) France (many X) Gabon, Germany (2 X) Greece (2X) Grenada, Iceland, Indonesia (including Bali), Italy (many X) Jamaica and

Japan, Laos, Luxembourg (2 X) Malaysia, Malta, Mexico (2 X) Monaco (4 X) Morocco, Netherlands (3 X) Netherland Antilles, Portugal, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Senegal, Singapore, Spain (2 X) Saint Pierre et Miquelon, Sweden, Switzerland (2 X), Thailand (2 X) Tunisia (4 X) Turkey (2 X) United Arab Emirates – Dubai and Sharjah, United States (46 states) Vatican City, Virgin Islands, Uzbekistan and Yugoslavia = 48 total and I hope to make it an even 50 this year. I also learned to speak English and Italian (with a spattering of Russian and Arabic.)

I have not been everywhere, but it’s on my list.
-Susan Sontag, American author 1933-2004

Traveling to all these cities, states, islands and countries has kept my mind open and alive. Learning the various customs, religions, history, visiting monuments, historical sites, museums, speaking to the local inhabitants and eating their food have challenged my perceptions and expended my experiences. When I was little and declared I would travel all over the world adults said that it was too expensive. They said growing up and realities would cure me of this dream. I kept the dream alive all these years and vagabonding is in my heart. I am still keeping dreaming and hoping - I think that each one of us is the master of our destiny and in control of our fate so why not keep on dreaming - and planning trips. I keep hoping that I can travel and be a vagabond as long as I am able.

Hope, painting by Edward Burne-Jones, English 1833-1898

Hold onto dreams
For if dreams die
Life is like a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
Langston Hughes, American Poet, 1902-1967

We can always find a door that will open for us

Picture of a door I photographed in Florence, Italy (with my old film camera) click to enlarge

One of my blogging friends commented that I was not a “vagabond.” I guess since the term most commonly refers to a “vagrant” or “hobo.” In French, however “vagabond” or “vagabonde” in its feminine form has various meanings: 1) someone whose imagination travels and 2) who travels or wanders without set ideas and 3) who is eccentric and whose mind goes from subject to subject - an eclectic mind.

Here are some more pictures I took with my old film camera

from top left: Kamouraska, Quebec, Canada – tailor shop in Dubai, UAE – the tomb of author Karen Blixen (1885-1962) who wrote Out of Africa, Rungstedlund, Denmark – House of Renoir Cagnes-sur-Mer, France (click to enlarge)

Now that I am getting older and time is slipping away, travelling, far and near, is still a top priority. You never know when you won’t be able to take the next trip, or when life will stop. There is still a lot to learn. Travels will stay with you for a lifetime as a wealth of experiences but also as interior journeys expanding your knowledge and awareness. Traveling in your own country is fine but it is not like being in a foreign land – you feel vulnerable and it changes you in a way and humbles you. You can empathize with people from very different social, economic and cultural perspective. To read about traveling or watch travel shows is most entertaining but it's not at all as being over there. You cannot turn the page or turn off the television. First hand exposures increase our objectivity and explain differences. It challenges our perception and sharpens our understanding of other cultures. It makes us see things from a different angle than the accepted “home” angle and realize that “our way” is not always the only way or the best way. It destroys ethnocentricity. Travel intensifies living and gets around preconceived ideas about foreign places.

Wanderlust has been in my blood all my life but I do understand that travelling does not affect everyone like this. Some will say – how can you afford it? It is a matter of priorities. Some people at work would envy my travels but then they would tell me about their new boat or flat screen, high definition television they just bought. With that budget I could arrange a great trip in another country. We go on a budget, travel frugally and sometimes do not decide where to go until we see a great deal, and then decide to go there. Since this is getting long I will give examples of some of my trips, on a budget, in the second part of this post.

So, this January, as in many Januaries, I have already made plans to travel to another state and in another country during the months ahead. I will take photographs there and bring them back for future posts.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do... Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain (1835-1910)


Pondside said...

I'd 100 times rather spend my money on travel than on things! You've certainly seen a lot of this world and I love your spirit of adventure!

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Hello Chère Vagabonde :o) ! ***

Tes voyages donneraient envie de partir même au plus casanier !
C'est génial de découvrir tant de pays, tant d'autres coutumes et de personnes ... quel enrichissement !
C'est avec plaisir que je t'ai lue et que j'ai regarder les photos et illustrations.

*** Bon jeudi à toi et GROS BISOUS ! ***

DJan said...

Oh! So many, VB! And yes, you are in possession of a great wanderlust, or is it "wonderlust" because you are still filled with wonder about the many ways we humans express our myriad differences. I have traveled, but nothing like you. You are a true citizen of the planet. And I am proud to know you.

Paty said...

Hi Vagabond, what a beautiful post. Travelling to me is something magic too, and meeting new places and cultures is also one of my goals for life. I couldn´t make so many trips so far, I´m 31, but I plan to do one big trip each year. Everytime I travel to a diffrent place I feel like a child again, excited about discovering new things. When I´m travelling, it seems like time has stopped. By the things you wrote I see I have a lot in common with you. I can imagine all the things you have learned from all those trips you made. You should plan to visit something in South America. Brazil is a very big country with lots of natural beauty; also does Chile and Argentina, with the cold lands of Patagonia.
I love to research a lot too when planning a trip, I did that when I went to France last year in my honeymoon, and everything worked out fine. I love to learn languages either, i did study english, italina and french, and the next i wish it were german, as I´m a descendent of germans.

Roger Gauthier said...

Écoute, il te manque le Québec, absent de ta brochette... et tu pourrais aussi apprendre le Québécois, qui sait ?

Les anglos prennent plaisir à dire que nous ne parlons pas vraiment français mais plutôt un patois, Et à ça je prends toujours plaisir à répondre :

- « Ah bon ! Et vous, vous ne parlez pas anglais. »
- « What are you saying? »
- « No you don't speak English. You speak American, it's a patois. »

Ha ha ha...

Très intéressant message, j'ai adoré.

Vicki Lane said...

A wonderful post, Vagabonde! And your illustrations are perfect. You are a true citizen of the world. Brava!

Vagabonde said...

Pondside – you are right, better spend money on travels and have memories than on stuff that clutters the house. Thanks for commenting.

Nancy - merci de ta visite et ton gentil commentaire. Toi aussi tu voyages beaucoup.

DJan - Thank you. I am still delighted to find new places and meet new people after all those years – it’s always such a joy.

Paty – we are much alike about discovering new places and learning new ways even though I am about twice your age. You have many years to visit our wonderful planet. I studied Portuguese too before going to Portugal – but that was not for very long. Obrigado por visitar o meu blog é sempre um prazer ler você.

Roger – I did go to Québec – Montréal and Quebec City, then we drove along the Saint Laurent to Rivière du Loup. Tu n’as pas vu ma photo de Kamouraska? C’est dans le Québec à côté de Rivière du Loup. Quand au Québécois vous avez quelques mots différents mais c’est votre accent… difficile à imiter.

Vicki Lane - Thank you dear I am pleased your enjoyed the post.

Kenza said...

Ma chère Vagabonde,
Voilà un très beau billet qui m'apprend un peu plus sur ta gentille personne: que tu as visité mon pays natal 3 fois, que tu as, tout comme moi, été touchée par la tombe de Karen Blixen ainsi que par la maison de Renoir, et que le voyage forge l'esprit...
Merci et très belle soirée

Elaine said...

Great post! You have certainly seen a lot of the world and there is always more to see. Planning a trip and the anticipation is almost as fun as the actual travel. I can't wait to see where you end up this year.

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Un petit passage en ce vendredi matin pour te souhaiter bonne journée Vagabonde :o) ! Bises amicales ! ***

Louis la Vache said...

You certainly stirred up «Louis'» wanderlust with this post!

Louis la Vache said...

«Louis» has added a link to your blog in the right sidebar of San Francisco Bay Daily Photo.

Daniel said...

so you got around to answering my question just like that>>>>>>i would pay good money to you with all the expense and effort you make to entertain me from all your travels, but here i get it all for free, except your surely your time that it takes to put it all together, what a blessing you are to me and i have only read two of your posts figs which i now want to eat and travel plans....thank you you dear soul>>>>this is the putz on my son,s daniel handle>>>he is a thirty live at home son who feels just the way i do>>>>we take 30 trips a year, but very few to Europe or other places you have been, most of my trips were 40 years ago{at least to other than american locales

kyh said...

My gosh, I'm jealous! You're really wide travelled, and I'd love to hear all your travel tales!

And I'm a traveller at heart too, though financial constraints have set me back a bit. Nonetheless, I try to visit at least one new destination each year ever since I had my passport done last year.

So where are you heading to this year? ;)

Vagabonde said...

Chère Kenza – merci de ta visite. Maintenant je me demande quel pays j’ai visité 3 fois et qui est le tien, l’Algérie ou la Hollande? Ils sont tous les deux des pays merveilleux avec tant d’histoire. Je ne me rappelai plus “le voyage forge l’esprit” et j’aime ça.

Elaine – you are absolutely right – planning the trip has a lot to do with the enjoyment of the trip. I’d love to go back to the enchanting sites of your outstanding state of Alaska.

Louis – thanks for commenting and placing my link on your beautiful San Francisco blog. As the song says I certainly left my heart in San Francisco.

Putz on Daniel – I had to read your comment a couple of times to understand it – you, Putz, used your son’s blog, called Daniel. Whatever blog you used, it is nice that you took the time to comment on mine, thanks.

Kyh- you should not feel jealous dear friend, as you are young and have many years to travel. I started at 5 and am now in my 60s so that is why I had ample time to travel. But traveling does not have to be in foreign lands only. I get as much pleasure in discovering new towns in states nearby, like Tennessee or North Carolina, and even new areas of my town. I have lived many years in the Atlanta area and just last Thursday discovered that the grounds where the house of the President of the University of Emory stands is an historical area with a park, a lake and a creek where people can visit. I did and it was enchanting. I’ll have a post on it – it was only 40 miles from my home.

Friko said...

Wonderful, a woman who knows what she wants and goes for it. May your travelling legs never let you down!

You must have a wealth of memories to carry with you, did you ever think to write about your experiences before you started to blog?

What did you do with the children while you were on the road, in the train, in the air?

Vagabonde said...

Friko – am always happy when you visit. To answer your questions – my family said I should write about all my experiences – and this is why this blog started. I’m getting to them slowly, but I’m trying… and second – I traveled before I was married, and after that I worked so I could visit my family in France at least twice a year, then I took “detours” on the way to or back from France – which is why I did not visit South America – it’s too long a detour!

Deborah said...

Now I understand why you call yourself Vagabonde! Please do write more about your travels - you have a true world citizen's sensibility and outlook and it seems to have started with your interesting family background. Was your father's family Turkish, then?
Your posts are lovely vignettes, obviously made with care and attention. Ca se comprends que tu as quelque fois du mal á supporter les gens qui ne regardent que leurs pieds.

Anonymous said...

Do you think television and the cable channels have hurt the travel industry?

I don't get around much anymore but do watch the travel channels.

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** un petit bonjour chez toi ! je te souhaite un agréable samedi et merci pour tes gentils coms chez moi hier :o) ! GROSSES BISES !!!! ***

Ashley Ashbee said...

I've done my sharing, but have never caught the travel bug. I just don't have wanderlust! My twin sister, with who I have done all of my traveling, has some serious wanderlust. I still don't understand the allure of travel, so thank you for explaining it for me!

Why do you think you have always had wanderlust?

claude said...

Ton post incite vraiment aux voyages.
Tu es une grande voyageuse et commes les vouyages forment la jeunesse...
Mon prochain voyage est encore à la Martinique. Nous y sommes allés la première fois en 1999 et sans aucun doute un moutiques nous a refilé le virus Matinik car se sera la sixième fois. Et puis là-bas, mon Chéri oublie tout. Il se vide la têtre et ne pense pas au boulot.

Ginnie said...

As I read this, Vagabonde, I smiled and said YES to almost everything. For one thing, you have inspired me to make a list of all the countries I have visited. Wanderlust, in me, too. I have two planets in my 9th house of long-distance travel, astrologically, so I was born with it. I'm guessing you were, too. I'm so much the same way...saving my money for travel and not for things! I have told Astrid I want to see every square inch of Holland, and that's just short-distance travel. :)

Linda said...

Vagabonde...I can't think of a more accurate way to describe a mind set like yours, nor can I think of a more appealing characteristic. An intelligent, inquiring mind roaming the world with nearly limitless horizens; is heaven any better? One of my favorite authors once said.."I'm not searching for the meaning of life, but for the experience of being alive". That is how I see you, an intensly alive and aware woman intrigued by the unknown.

Your cards and illustrations are such a lovely accent and the trouble you take to relate your experiences is so thoughtful and so very much appreciated.

Thank you for your gentle gifts and for sharing. You are a treasure.

Ruth said...

I admire your commitment to your dream. You're right, we do what we want to do. You have a vast travel resume, and it is very impressive.

I totally agree that staying in a foreign country challenges your sense of self, and sharpens it, if you are open minded and practice awareness. Listening and watching, looking for expressions. Seeing how people interact. I love watching people in Paris, and in Istanbul, and I am usually confused about who I am in those places. But I love it all the same.

We dream of going to India in a couple of years. Rauf has promised to travel with us, show us his highlights. I love India from afar, I'm in love with it. But how it will it feel when I am there - in the heat and humidity, the smells and sounds and crowds. So much of what makes travel successful is a happy merger of expectations and the reality when you get there.

I envy you your travel by ship from Marseilles to Istanbul. What a dream.

Beautiful post.

RennyBA's Terella said...

Reading through you're posts and looking at the photos takes time, but really; It's worth it!
So interesting, so thoughtful and readable ,,,,, thanks so much for taking you're time and for sharing!

Ohhhh yea, while I'm at it: Happy Weekend :-)

Louis la Vache said...

«Louis» forwarded your comments about "Kawfee Beene's" post to him. «Louis» was happy to see that you had visited again!

Reader Wil said...

Hi Vagabonde!Vos photos sont très belles! Merci de votre visite! Vous avez vu beaucoup de pays. Moi, j'aime aussi voyager.Comme enfant j'ai habité en Indonésie.J'ai eu douze ans quand nous sommes retournées aux Pays-Bas( ma mère, mes deux soeurs et moi). Chaque année je vais à l'Australie, parce que ma fille cadette y habite avec sa famille. J'ai été beaucoup de fois en Norvège. C'est pour moi le pays de mes rêves. Mais j'ai aussi été souvent en Angleterre, car je suis professeur d'anglais.
Vous me demandiez où le banc se trouvait. C'est à Bracieux en region Loir et Cher, près de Blois, les châteaux de Chambord, Cheverney, Chaumont et Chenonceau. J'y ai été deux fois.

Marguerite said...

The name Vagabonde (French definition) suits you to a T! I admire you for following your dreams and am amazed by your travel list! Love the paintings, photos, poem, and the Mark Twain quote! Can't wait to see where 2010 will take you. Bon Voyage, cher!

Vagabonde said...

Deborah – Thank you for your visit. I spent some time researching the Net to answer your question but could not find an answer. My father was born and raised in Turkey – his parents were Armenians and he was too. My (late) mother in her memoirs refers to my father as “stateless” when he came to France in the 1930s. I do not know why he did not have Turkish citizenship. It could be that Turkey did not grant this status to Armenian families – but I am not sure. I’ll try to find more on this.

Bhavesh Chhatbar said...

You're a super-roamer, I see!

Thanks for giving the link on my Superior Scribbler Award. It indeed is very very useful. I've shared it :)

Deborah said...

Considering the historical animosity between Turks and Armenians of which I know very little other than the fact of the Armenian genocide of.. 1918 (??), I'm not surprised he was considered 'stateless'. It might be quite fascinating if you were able to find out more about this part of your family history.

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Un gros bisou à toi Vagabonde en ce mardi matin ... Merci pour ton message chez moi ! :o) ... reçois mes amicales pensées ... GROS BISOUS !!! :o) ***

Vagabonde said...

Abraham Lincoln, Ginnie, Louis, RennyBA, Reader Will, Marguerite, Bhavesh – Thank you all for your comments and for stopping by. I really enjoy reading each one.

Loveable homebody – your question about why I have wanderlust is a serious one. I’ll think about it and answer in my next post. Thanks for asking.

Ruth – I have not been to India yet, but it’s on my list – maybe next year or the next. My son-in-law‘s parents are from Kerala, India, so I’d like to visit that state for sure. Thanks for visiting.

Linda - Thanks for your compliments. I like your quote "I'm not searching for the meaning of life, but for the experience of being alive" you say it is from a favorite author – who is the author? It’s very true.

Vagabonde said...

Nancy, Claude – merci à toutes deux pour venir voir mon blog, cela me fait plaisir. Claude, je n’ai pas encore été à la Martinique malgré que j’ai une invitation de ma “soeur”. Elle était ma correspondante quand j’étais petite et est venue faire ses études en France.

Angela said...

It took me a long time to read through your lovely blog and to think along and nod, and then to read all the comments, too. Do you happen to speak German as well? Moi, je parle seulement un peu Francais (où se trouve le cédille?), mais j`aime le lire.
Merci pour votre blog!!

alaine@éclectique said...

My word, you have travelled far and wide! I had my first OS trip in '07 in my early sixties!! Tell me, surely you've visited Milan... what MUST I see in the two short days we'll have there in November??

Loved your post - amazing! xa

Jenn Jilks said...

I am content to virtually travel with you. Thank you for sharing them all.
Thank you for visiting My Muskoka !

Vagabonde said...

Angela – Thank you for coming over to read my blog. No, I do not speak German. I took a German course years ago when I was learning Russian and Arabic and the three together were too much. If you go to the right side of the blog and click on the German flag it is supposed to translate the post. I don’t think the translations are too accurate but it gives you an idea.

Vagabonde said...

Alaine – so you are going to spend two days in Milan, Italy? Yes I have been there. I don’t have much room here to talk but first I would take an airport shuttle from the Malpensa airport to the center of town (50 min.) There are 4 metro lines to get around but you can tour the historic center on foot. It is a very stylish city so I would not wear sneakers and jeans, more dark and conservative clothes. The most important site is the Duomo – an elaborate and gothic cathedral, the 2nd largest catholic cathedral in the world. You can go to the top and have a magnificent view – but watch out for pick-pocket. When I went there I left my camera unattended for a few seconds – and it was gone. Go to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a magnificent covered shopping arcade built in the late 80s. Also walk along the Via Monte Napoleone, where all the beautiful shops are and gaze. If you can, attend an opera at il Teatro alla Scala – depending on the date you are in Milan in November, they are playing Carmen in early November – check their website: . You should visit the Pinacoteca di Brera ("Brera Art Gallery") which has a foremost collection of Italian art – it was formerly a convent and has a charming inside garden. Leonardo da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper is in Milan – but you have to book tickets well in advance to view it (I expect you can do this on the Net.) Many shops close between 12 and 3 in Italy and restaurants close during the afternoon, so watch the time. You’ll have a wonderful time in Milan – bring some warm clothes as it is in north Italy.

lorilaire said...

Quelles régions de France as-tu visitées ?
Si un jour tu avais envie de revenir, je pourrais peut-être t'aider à trouver de charmantes chambres d'hôtes, je n'ai pas encore voyagé plus loin que dans mon pays, mais du coup, je connais beaucoup de régions françaises et d'endroit charmants.
Bises et bonne soirée

alaine@éclectique said...

Thank you very much for your suggestions of things to do in Milan and yes, I'll try to be inconspicuous! Happy planning! xa

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** En ce jeudi matin je viens déposer sur ton blog plein de bisous amicaux ! Bonne journée Vagabonde ! :o) ***

Vagabonde said...

Lorilaire - Je retounerai faire une visite en France peut-être l’année prochaine. J’aimerai aller en l’Alsace que je ne connais pas, l'as-tu visité? Merci pour ton commentaire.

Unknown said...

Bonjour Vagabonde
Je te remercie pour ta visite de mon blog.
Avec tous les voyages que tu as fait tu pourrais écrire un livre.
Que de souvenirs!!!!!!
bon dimanche

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