Monday, November 16, 2009

A quick thought about fountains/wells and landmarking...

In many European towns and through Mexico and hot climates countries, the centre of town can be found at the town's fountain.
Often the first and only place to gather water, all things spiral out from this spot.
The old town squares were built up around these fountains and wells.

(images: Prague, Heraklion-Crete, Paris-France)
There is often lore attached to these.....for example in Prague, King Wenceles had several attempts on his life around wells and windows, it is now the custom to not go too near or to touch the wells, and never lean out open windows. :)

( images:Heraklion-Crete , Oviedo-Spain )

Not enough guide books comment on this and I had to learn this as I went so....

tuck this away....find that fountain or well, and have a good look around then freely wander and get lost in those side alleys that are so alluring, safe in the knowledge that you can find your way.

A word of warning though...don't get too close or you just may end up ummm...


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cueing up, or...will this line ever end?

Getting there and lining up to do so, is a big part of traveling and it doesn't have to suck. For most it is an inconvenience, a bother. This doesn't have to hold true for you.
The one thing that you have going for you is that EVERYONE around you has to line up as well.
It is a global phenonmenon..the line...the cue, the hurry up and wait. can be the most frustrating can be fun...really.
I think about it as guilt free time. You can't possibly be doing anything else but being in the moment, for as long as that moment takes.

When waiting around, feeling like an idiot in your socks, holding your shoes in your hand, belt in the other and waiting for and strike up a conversation with people close to you. Start up questions could be
" is this the line to ....(fill in your location)?"
"Where are you headed?" "What has been your favourite place so far" ..... and see where they recommend.
You can find out about cool places to visit and great stops not in those guide books.
People really like to share what they have discovered. You will be amazed. It helps to pass the time and can even include meal companions when you find a kindred spirit. I was at a train station in Cologne enroute to Prague, cued up on an outdoor platform.
All night trains delayed by hours.
Cold, hungry and not even sure I was on the correct platform, I asked a young man if this was the platform to Prague.
We started chatting, He confirmed I was in the right place. Whew! He spoke many languages, was heading home from a job interview and interested in Canada.

A couple listening to us, started to chat and become very animated waving at us.
I did not have a clue what they were saying but they were so warm and lovely we moved closer.
They were an older couple from Kosovo and this young man spoke both our languages a little and translated.
They insisted we join them in their evening meal (it was 10:00pm and nothing was open, we all were hungry).

We sat on a bench eating delicious homemade soup/stew and bread with cheese. I offered up some bottled water and some chocolate wafers ( mmm Europeans make the best wafer cookies) and Jan had some coffee in his thermos. It was a grand picnic.
I passed on the coffee but the stew was unbelievable.

When our trains came, we said goodbye as friends. They gave me their address in Kosovo in the hopes I could visit them in the future.

That was one of the best meals I had in my entire two months abroad- on a slate grey landing, on a cold October night, wet with the fog, with people I will probably never see again.

Those moments of "cueing up" can be really special moments that make your journey so much more colourful than ever imagined.

*I have also learned, and this is important, keep reading...

...there is a time for talking and a time when shutting up and looking otherwise occupied, is a good plan.

When you sit down on that long haul, flight/bus/train, might I suggest those earphones? If it is a short worries, chat away and if you are not kindred spirits, enjoy the moment and say goodbye.
If you strike up a conversation with the person next to you on that 9 hour plane ride however, and they end up drinking so much that they:
A-piss off the airline staff
B- get cut off and become beligerant and loud
C- climb noisilly across your lap every 5 minutes to pee cause you are on the aisle...( I speak from personal experience)
then feigning sleep and wearing earphones can really be your only peace.
This lesson I learned the hard way, sigh..they seemed so calm at the beginning of the plane ride. Heading to a month in Ibiza should have been my first clue.

Lesson learned?
-pick your chat times and your escape plan
Mine is my Ipod.

Meeting people really is the easy part, how much you want to talk is up to you.

So you see.... just switch up your thoughts about the great line up.
Cues can be a good thing..they are a "life-line" to the rest of the world!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

First steps.... word keeps ruminating around in your brain.......TRAVEL.
So what do you do about it?

Well here is what I did.
I planned. A lot, for several years.
I believe it took this long partly to convince myself that I could really do this, and partly because when we become established in our homes-lives-careers, it is more challenging to extricate oneself and leave for several months.

So, I planned.
( Have I mentioned I am kind of an anal planner yet ? *smiles*)

Being a theatre director means that at any time, I have the next 8-14 months of shows lined up and in pre production.
I needed time to sort through the line up of shows, clear the decks and plan to be spontaneous for two I also needed to save money.
*I was in pre production mode :)

I started looking at the places I wanted to go.....reading the history of Santorini for example. Learning about the volcano that swept most of this island away. Becoming familiar with one area.
I wanted to do this right......maximize the experience, take in everything, plan.

Let's look at how that all worked out.

I knew I wanted to go to Santorini and spend a long time hanging out at the Akri Tiri excavation site. At least two days of my 7 days on this island were to be devoted to this site.
I was excited for years about Akri Tiri, imagined myself wiping my brow with a bandana while shaking dirt through mesh boxes and discovering something amazing.
I even planned what outfit to wear....
Well, you get the idea...

So..I go to Santorini. I am so excited I am vibrating.
I go to Akri I am world....

The sign reads:

"Akri Tiri is CLOSED.
It will be closed until further notice"


How could this be? How could this happen? Why didn't it say anywhere that it was closed in my research? I had no plan for closed!

I was devastated. I tried to remain stoic as friends had joined up with me and I didn't want to be a negative Nelly, but I was crushed.
Now what? I had two days with nothing to do.

Curiously "Now what" allowed the discovery of the ruins of Ancient Thira, high above sea level, a beautiful example of life before the volcano hit. Touching the marbles and the chisel lines made by ancient fingers.

"Now what" involved time on my hands to be spontaneous while away an afternoon with friends in a dusty cafe off the beaten path, watching donkey racing by a few well oozoed locals, who danced and sang for us, brought us plate after plate of delicious food and drink and ended with glass breaking and bottle on head leaping.

"Now what" opened my eyes to the idea that all my planning may have not been quite as necessary as it seemed.

Of course you plan a little. You need a starting place, a plane ride, a place to hang your head.
You need a budget, a passport.
You need to know how to manoever from place to place safely and I will share some of my experiences around these things in coming posts, but the lesson here is about your "first steps"

In my expeirence, your first steps are to change the way you think in your everyday world.
Perhaps think more like you did as a teen, when hanging with friends allowed all kinds of adventures to take place.
Move beyond the idea of dinner dates and friend dates to the free and easy head space of being in the moment and leave room , right from the begining of your thoughts of travel, to be in the moment, to leave space in your agenda for the unexpected .
You never know what doorway will lead to unknown and unimagined delights.

and if the sign says "closed", it only means another window is open and waiting.

First Steps?....go for it!

Welcome to Travelin' Shoes...

This blog is for those of us of a certain age and yet, not silver haired, who find hostels a "hostile" environment and who still want to see the world on a budget.
For whom perhaps dinner in a restaurant alone is a very scary notion.
Who hope to find out of the ordinary pensions and apartments to stay in, and to have the adventure of their life.

I am a woman, 40, who took it upon herself to travel alone through Europe. While looking through the exhaustive literature and travel tips, I realized I did not fit nicely into most of the travel niches.

I was not backpacking and staying in hostels.
I was not aboard a tour with 20 other individual travelers.
I was certainly not a family taking in Europe from park to park.
I was not of the " Sex and the City " set who wine and dine in luxury, and I was NOT part of a traveling couple.
I was leaving my other half at home to care for our home and furry beasties so I could do this unencumbered by worry.

Blech-really, where is my book of friendly tips and advice?
I was not represented?
Surely there are other women like myself 34-45 ish with a small roll along bag, (not a backpack) at least one pair of not so sensible shoes, and a curiosity for the world?

Okay so I did it anyway, without a book.
I beat my fears back, grabbed hold of the screaming voice of doubt and insecurity and took off to Europe for two months.
Seriously, I had never even eaten lunch in a restaurant by myself prior to this.
What was I thinking?
It started (as a friend coined) "Kimmee Go Clunky" but became a much steadier ride by the end of two months.

I will offer my journey here with you.
I hope to inspire a little confidence building for you to quiet your own screaming " you can't travel alone" voice and follow that dream.

Comments welcome and encouraged.