Being a Traveller Archives

October 4, 2006

About Me

Adventure addict. Animal lover. Book reader and bookseller. Untrained cook. Bootlegger. SlowTraveller. Wife. Mother. Grandmother. Poor speller.

Why 'old shoes'?

You can spend the better part of your life being satisfied with summer vacations to visit family, taking your kids to Disney or DC, and the occasional beach vacation get-away. Then an extraordinary opportunity presents itself, and you're in full-blown addiction.

For me that opportunity came in the winter of 1994. A family member bought a partnership in a vacation house in Italy...sight unseen. She called me to tell me about it and to suggest that we go check it out for my birthday. We flew into FCO, picked up a rental car at the airport, and headed straight into the central Umbrian countryside. I drove, she navigated. I feel in love. In love with rural Italy and more importantly with travelling.

A travel addiction develops rapidly and its grip is unbreakable. Each trip fuels the hunger for another. Two weeks makes you crave three weeks. Three weeks is no longer good enough when you know that a month is a possibility. Ninty of the items on your "101 Things" list are trips. Your collection of DK travel guides and your atlases of other countries take center stage on your desk. Your Google search history is filled with discount airfare web sites. You spend hours every week on the SlowTalk message boards. You start thinking of the people you 'meet' there as dear friends.

You begin to view your bank accounts as your travel fund. Every dollar you spend on anything but, feels like a dollar misspent.

And that brings me to the name of this blog. It could have been "Old Cars - New Trip" or "Old Dishwasher - New Trip". We've made the conscious decision to invest in travel instead of things.

My next entry will be a recap of our travel history since 1994. Then I'll get on with the business of documenting our planning for our next major trip - The month of June 2007 to Spain and Portugal.

October 8, 2006

3,537,441 Square Miles

Since the 1994 epiphany that converted me from myopic American to aspiring World Citizen, I've traveled to Italy (9 times), Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, & Canada. More about all of those in my next entry.

First I want to state clearly that I'm not a US hater or apologist. I don't go to other countries with a Canadian flag on my backpack, trying to pretend I'm not an American. I'm proud of my heritage and grateful for my country. I think I see it clearly in all its strength and weakness.

So, I must give this vast and beautiful country its share of my travelogue.

I'm in awe of the Roman acquaducts. And I think their architects would be in awe of the Hoover Dam today.
Zip-lining through Costa Rican cloud forests causes a wonderful sensory overload. And a hike through the Ozark Mountains is like swimming in the essence of nature.
Snorkling Belize's Shark Ray alley is a great experience, but how does it compare to the awe of cruising alongside a pod of whales off the New England coast...or quietly boating through the Everglades' mangrove swamps in search of the shy Manatee?

I could go on, but I'd be getting too heavy handed with my arguments. What I'm trying to say is, that we American's sometimes romanticize the natural and man-made wonders of other countries without realizing that we live in the middle of 3.5 million square miles of some pretty amazing stuff.

I wish we'd be a little less apologetic and a little more proud. I wish we'd collectively as a country, put a bit more effort in sharing the core and the heart of this country with the world instead of just our commerce and politics.

I wish that, for every American tourist who visits Florence and stares with mouth agap at Brunelleschi's Dome, an Italian visitor would marvel at the complex engineering and soaring simplicity of the Gateway Arch here in St. Louis.

Our Travels in the US:

One of our missions as a couple is to visit and hike every national park in this country and stay in every historic park lodge. We have been taking these trips for our anniversary every year, and are a long way from completing our mission.

So far, we've visited Yosemite, Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, Crater Lake, Oregon Caves, and Yellowstone in the west. In those parks we have enjoyed The Ahawahne, Paradise Inn, Timberline Lodge, Oregon Caves Chateau, Crater Lake Lodge, and Old Faithful Inn. That leaves four lodges in the Bryce/Zion/Grand Canyon areas and all five lodges in the Glacier area.

Not all of our national parks have these wonderful lodges, however. We don't let the lack of a historic lodge keep us away. We've enjoyed Olympic National Park and the Hoe Rainforest, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Wind Cave, Grand Teton, Badlands, Hot Springs in Arkansas, Acadia National Park, & the Everglades.

We've dozens more to go, and haven't even started talking about the state parks!

While raising our daughters we did all the traditional educational trips. Chicago for the museums, New York for the Statue of Liberty, California for Disney Land, Florida for Disney World, & Washington DC, Boston, Philly for history.

And of course, the regular trips to Grandma's house for holidays.

What we didn't do, to our everlasting regret, is take them outside the borders of this country. I'm talking about when they were children and impressionable. Sure, they did the high school and college semester abroad programs. But, think of the experiences they missed seeing through the eyes of young children.

That is why my Christmas presents this year for my four grandsons are passports.

April 19, 2008

Get a Passport, Gain the World

In a few days, I will be attending another one of those all day management workshops. At my age, and after years of participating and leading this sort of thing, I'm more than a little jaded.

Every few years a new management guru comes out with a book and starts promoting his/her revolutionary new principles of teamwork, productivity, blah, blah, blah.

As a former marketing consultant, I admit that I participated in the madness. I've lead more than my share of silly workshops where 6 people were bound together in plastic wrap and forced to work together to get themselves from one side of a room to the other. And, who can forget the classic plank walking exercise?


I thought I had left all of that behind four years ago. But, now I find myself in my "I-retired-but-my-husband-decided-to-retire-too-so-now-I'm-working-again-for-the-insurance-since-we-are-too-young-for-Medicare" career.

Fast forward to next week. As the Community Relations Manager for a bookstore, my job is to build the institutional & corporate portion of our store's business. Next week, our store manager and I will be at this all day meeting. In advance of the meeting, each of the participants must write and submit their "Six Word Memoir". I'm sure the intention is for us to come up with a bunch of catchy business/sales oriented phrases that will inspire all of us to get out there and sell, sell, sell.

But, I decided to be honest. If they want to call it a "Memoir" then I think it needs to be something I'd be proud to have on my tombstone (If I were going to have a tombstone, that is. Which I'm not, but that is an entirely different blog post.)

Hence, the title of this blog entry - "Get a Passport, Gain the World".


I'm not expecting that my "Six-Word Memoir" will be singled out for praise and discussion by the group leaders next week.

May 26, 2008

When I Remember ...

Our 2006 visit to Anzio & Nettuno has forever changed how I think of this important day. Now this is the image that will always fill my mind on Memorial Day.


Later in the week, we were at market day in a small un-touristed town in southern Puglia. Upon learning we were Americans, an elderly gentleman pulled his shirt off; and grabbed my hand to have me touch the scar from the decades old gunshot wound on his chest. He wanted me to thank the family of the Americano Dottore who saved his life, although he had no idea who he was.

Then I remember my encounter with Piero, the bicycle shop owner in Gubbio, who told me about how the American soldiers were his protectors and idols during the war.


So, whatever we may feel about our government's motivations behind this war in Iraq we must remember this: In 50 years, there will be people who are also remembering the kindnesses they experienced from American soldiers.

There will be an old man with wounds that didn't kill him because an American doctor in camouflage saved his life.

There will be a 60 year old woman who can read and write, and owns her own business because when she was a child, my brother, Sgt. Johnson, gave her a pink Hello Kitty backpack filled with school supplies packed by kids her age here in America.

In a time when it is so politically incorrect to support this war, please don't forget today to reach out with support and thanks to one of our warriors.

June 17, 2008

Dedicating This Trip to Susie

The wife of Dan's oldest childhood friend is a tiny, lovely woman with a rare warmth and inner beauty. Everyone who knows her loves her. If you put a picture in the dictionary next to the word "goodness", it would be her smiling face.

For years now, she has been fighting a battle with cancer. She wins one round and then gets sucker punched with more. The determination with which she continues to fight is inspiring. Her cheerfulness, grace, gentleness, and lack of self-pity is Saintly with a capital "S". But, this cancer is viciously invasive, and the fight gets harder. All traditional treatments have been exhausted and she is now on 100% experimental treatments.

I am ashamed to say that the busyness of my insignificant daily pursuits have gotten in the way of spending the time I could have with her. And time is the most important gift I should be giving.

Instead, I work too much, spend far too many hours here in front of my computer, and plan trips.

So, for Susie, this next month is dedicated to supporting her fight. Dan and I will be taking a special candle with us into every church, chapel, and cathedral we visit. We'll light that candle and say a prayer for Susie's continued strength & comfort.


I'd like to ask a favor of my blog readers and SlowTrav friends. As you visit the great and small houses of faith around the world -- will you light a candle for Susie? If possible, will you take a photo of that candle and e-mail it to me with a note about where and when it burned? And if you will, please forward this blog entry link to any friends you have who may be travelling.

The first thing I'm determined to do, when we return is to visit her with pictures of all the places where she and her struggle was being remembered.

July 4, 2008

Thoughts on Freedom, Montenegro & the USA

As you read this, we will be on a ferry, leaving this painfully beautiful country of Montenegro and heading for Italy.

It is July 4th. Few people on this ferry will have much of an interest in the significance of that date for these two travelers from the US. But they do understand very well the significance of freedom and national identity.

What I've come to learn about Montenegrins -- the people of the Crna Gora -- is that their national identity has survived all of the efforts of the world community to redefine them; to combine them with other nations for expediency; and to cow them into submission.

Along the way they have adjusted for survival. Yet the one thing they have never done is surrender. The crest on the Montenegrin flag is the eagle with upswept wings. It is their most treasured symbol of pride. Pride that throughout the years of successive dominations, the one thing they have never done, is lower their wings in defeat.


Montenegrins, no matter what national names they may have worn, are a fierce and proud and ancient race. The granite in their character matches the granite strewn mountains of their homeland.

Montenegro has produced statesmen, poets, artists, and more than a few villians. Their bloodlines run through the royal families of many of the powerful countries of the continent. Including Queen Elena of Italy, a woman who stood a foot taller than her husband, Victor Emmanuel III.

As a citizen of the United States, a country where we pride ourselves in our hyphenated heritage, I am in awe of these people of the Crna Gora. Their national identity is not only literally in their DNA, but it is in the DNA of their conciousness.

So to our fellow countrymen on this 4th day of July, have a wonderful holiday. If, like we, you find yourself in some other part of the world, we hope you will declare your nationality on this special day with the same pride that Montenegrin's declare theirs every day.

Keep your eagle's wings aloft.

September 3, 2008

The Forty-Three MEME

We have this book into our bargain department for only $12.95. I just spotted it today. A tall narrow coffee table picture book by Maria Teresa Feraboli, an architect from Milan. City%20Squares.jpg

It feature forty-three city squares, plazas and piazzas, with interesting photographs - some of them from unusual perspectives and well written descriptive text about the history of the square. Since the author is an architect, the text leans toward discussion of construction and buildings.

It is a beautiful, beautiful book that makes me want to visit every single one of those city squares. She seems to have listed them loosly based on chronological order from oldest to newest, rather than any preferential order on her part.

So, for fun, I've decided to list them as a meme so all my SlowTrav friends and travel blog readers can count the ones they've visited.

I've chosen to highlight my list by putting an asterisk next to the ones I've had the honor to stroll through. With only 15 of the 43, my list is entirely too meager. I have a lot of travel to do!

Copy this list into your own blog and put an asterisk after each city square you've actually spent time in. (Riding past in a taxi or bus doesn't count.) Please include the link back to my blog in you own entry and don't forget to come back to and leave me a comment so I can find your blog and admire your count.

The Forty-Three MEME from Old Shoes, New Trip
1- Piazza Del Campo, Siena, Italy *
2- Piazza Della Signoria, Florence, Italy *
3- Staromestske Namesti, Prague, Czech Republic
4- Markt, Bremen, Germany
5- Grote Markt, Brussels, Belgium
6- Piazza and Piazzetta San Marco, Venice, Italy *
7- Piazza Del Campidoglio, Rome, Italy *
8- Krasnaja Polscad, Moscow, Russia
9- Sultanahmet Meidani, Istanbul, Turkey
10- Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy *
11- St. Peter's Square, The Vatican *
12- Place Des Vosges, Paris, France
13- Place Vendome, Paris, France
14- Place Des Terreaux, Lyon, France
15- Place Stanislas, Nancy, France
16- Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain *
17- Schlossplatz, Stuttgart, Germany
18- Plaza De La Constitucion, Mexico City, Mexico
19- Praca do Comercio, Lisbon, Portugal *
20- Trafalgar Square, London, UK
21- Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin, Germany
22- Konigsplatz, Munich, Germany
23- Winter Palace Square, St. Petersburg, Russia
24- Piccadilly Circus, London, UK
25- Piazza Duomo, Milan, Italy *
26- Piazza Dell'Unita D'Italia, Trieste, Italy *
27- Theaterplatz, Dresden, Germany
28- Maria Theresien Platz, Vienna, Austria
29- Hosok Tere, Budapest, Hungary *
30- Plaza De Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
31- Times Square, New York City, USA *
32- Tian'anmen Square, Beijing, China
33- Praca Dos Tres Poderes, Brasilia, Brazil
34- Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, Canada *
35- City Hall Plaza, Boston, USA *
36- Plateau Beaubourg, Paris, France
37- Tsukuba Center Square, Tsukuba, Japan
38- Place Du Nobre D'Or, Montpellier, France
39- Placa Dels Paisos Catalans, Barcelona, Spain
40- Parliament Square, Canberra, Australia
41- California Plaza, Los Angeles, USA *
42- Schouwburgplein, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
43- Potsbamer Platz, Berlin, Germany

February 10, 2009

The Travel Personality Test

I took the Travel Personality Test from and here are my results. Spot on, I'd say.

Your Travel Personality Is: The Adventurer
For you, travel is how you learn about the world. And you like to learn the stuff that's not in guidebooks.
You truly have wanderlust. When you're not traveling, you're dreaming about where you'll go next.
And your travels are truly legendary - they leave you with stories you'll be telling for the rest of your life!

July 29, 2009

Where Will I Go When I Die?

Zalma, Missouri - Marble Hill, Missouri - San Luis Obispo, California - Branson, Missouri

Borgo di Montemigiano, Umbria - Firenze, Toscana - Roma, Lazio - Gallipoli, Puglia

Santa Elana Cloud Forest, Costa Rica - Blue Hole, Belize

Madrid, Espana - Costa de Morte, Galicia - Medina del Campo, Espana

Parque Nacional da Peneda, Portugal - Evora, Portugal - Lisboa, Portugal

Budapest, Hungary - Kotor, Montenegro - Lovcen, Montenegro - Durmitor, Montenegro

Staffa, Scotland - Orkney, Scotland - Edinburgh, Scotland

So far.

Instead of paying for a funeral, my money will pay for airline tickets. Those airline tickets will be distributed to special people in my life. They'll be taking equally divided portions of my ashes to all the places in the world I want to go. Places where my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents are buried. Places I've visited and love. Places I've wanted to go and just didn't make it to before I kicked the bucket.

Taking my ashes to a designated location is not without challenges, like the fact that in might be illegal.

The one place I really DON'T want any of my ashes to go? Scottsboro, Alabama! So, if you are one of my escorts, please put me in your carryon. I wouldn't want to end up in a piece of checked luggage that went missing.

January 13, 2010

A New Book to Dream On

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of DK Publishing. They have a strong formula for balancing concise information, stunning photos, and smart layout to produce wonderful books. Their Eyewitness Guides are great basic travel books. Their cookbooks are some of my favorites.

So, when OFF THE TOURIST TRAIL: One Thousand Unexpected Travel Alternatives showed up in our store I drooled over it. But at $40.00, even with my employee discount, I didn't buy. Now, it is 50% off during our after holiday sale. Until the 26th, that is. So, I snapped up a copy.


It's a guide to the world's unspoiled sights and experiences. It takes a hundred clichéd tourist destinations - everything from over-visited national parks to overrated museums - and reveal 1,000 fresh and fascinating alternative options.

The destinations are arranged by theme - Ancient and Historical Sights, Festivals and Parties, Great Journeys, Architectural Marvels, Natural Wonders, Beaches, Sports and Activities, Art and Culture, and Cities. There's practical advice on getting there and around, where to stay, where to eat and when to go, as well as useful 'Need to Know' facts.

Less crowded, generally less expensive, and often more spectacular and rewarding, these lesser-known wonders of the world encourage readers to ditch the famous but well-worn choices, reminding them what real travel is all about - escaping the everyday and embracing the new.

I'm happy to have purchased the book. I'm depressed at the number of places I need to go and the limited time and money I possess. For now, I sip a cup of coffee and daydream as I flip through the pages.

The $20 price is for a limited time. But it's the same in the store and at either B&N or Amazon.
So, you live near a Barnes & Noble, go get your copy while they are only $20.00. If not, go online and order it. You won't be sorry.

It's georgeous books like this, that prove the electronic readers will never completely supplant the printed page.

January 2, 2011

Gifts For Friends in Other Countries

A very sweet & thoughtful friend in Switzerland learned that a friend of hers (from France) was coming to St. Louis for a steel guitar convention.

She asked him to bring me a small gift. So he & his wife travelled to Switzerland, picked up my gift, carefully packed it in their luggage, and brought it with them to St. Louis.

When they arrived, they called to asked me to meet them during one of the breaks in their convention.

So, I drove the 45 minutes from SW County to their hotel downtown; paid the parking attendant $10 to ignore my car was in a loading zone for 20 minutes; and visited with them for a few minutes before bringing the bag holding my gift home.

When I got home, I opened the bag to discover two gift boxes of Lindt Chocolates. One was Batons Kirsch Kirschstengeli -32 pieces. The other was Lindor - 20 pieces.

So very sweet of her to think of me. And so sweet of her to want to send me a representative product of her country. These are the same candies she brought with her when she visited a few years ago.

I didn't tell her then, and I won't tell her now, that Lindt is a very commonly available chocolate brand all over the US. That I can walk into any number of stores and buy the very same chocolates - for a fraction of the total cost of getting those two boxes to me.

So why am I writing what sounds like a very ungrateful, even snarkey, note about this?

Because, it holds a mirror up for me to view my own gift giving habits when I travel. The gifts I take to friends in other countries are harder to decide on than when we first started travelling. Back then, in Italy for example, you couldn't get some of our most common products in the local markets - peanut butter, for example. Now, it's hard to imagine anything you can't find in a Coop. And what you can't get in the local market, you can order on the internet.

June 4, 2011

How We Choose Our Holiday Destinations

Even more than when we chose to visit Montenegro a few years ago, we are getting the question "Really? Why there?" Followed by the question "Where the heck is Estonia?" Followed by mostly blank stares.


The answers to the "Why there" question are pretty much the same for every trip we plan.

First is time. We don't believe that it is worth our time or money to plan a trip to another country if we can't devote a minimum of three weeks - preferable four - to that visit. Your first week is spent overcoming jet lag and acclimating to a slower, schedule-free pace. You devote most of a second week to the must-sees & must-dos. It's in the two 'bonus' weeks that you will have the opportunity to become more of a traveler than a tourist. You will begin to discover what is unique about the personality of a country and its people. You will make new friends and learn new ways of looking at life. Estonia appears to be a country that will teach us much about life and will easily hold our interest for a month.

Second are seasonal concerns. Because I still work as a community relations manager for a Barnes & Noble store, my busy seasons follow the school year calendars of my public school customers. I can't be gone for long periods of time at the end of spring when they are all spending the last of their book budgets to wrap up the fiscal year. I can't be gone at the end of summer when they are gearing up for the coming school year. And, except for a week or two in January, I can't be gone for more than a long weekend the rest of the year because of school fund raising events. This leaves us with a block of time from roughly mid-June to mid-July, making climate an overriding consideration in destination. Mid-summer in Estonia looks to be glorious. And given the northern latitude of the country, they cram much of their festivities into the short season of light and warmth. We love to experience local festivals and cultural celebrations.

Third and most important is ignorance. The more ignorant we are about a potential country, the more we must learn to make a trip successful, the more fun the education is.

Who knows? Maybe in a previous life, I was an adventurer. Perhaps I traveled with those brave explorers who sailed their ships to the edge of the known world. Perhaps I accompanied Lewis & Clark across North America. I just know that "to boldly go", is the way to go.

If I am unable to find a DK, Forder's, or Frommer's guide book devoted entirely to the country on my radar that makes me happy. If the only books I can find written about the country are in its own language that makes me happy. I spent hours and hours of research trying to find a cottage to rent for the week we are going to be in a non-touristed area of southeast Estonia. I griped and complained the entire time. I loved it.

The curse in this world of Google & wikipedia, is (although easy to discover information) how much harder it is to come by that feeling of being a discoverer. And at the same time, the blessing is in the gems of information you learn about the destination of your choice. Information that sends you down delightful paths and to corners of a country you won't read about in guidebooks or on the country's tourist information website.

Six months ago, the only things we knew about Estonia were their love of choral music and the famous "Singing Revolution"; its capital city, Tallinn, is on the Baltic sea just a stones throw from Helsinki & St. Petersburg; and those three cities are (sadly in our minds) hit-and-run Baltic sea cruise ship stops.


A few years ago, we came very close to planning a trip that would have included time in each of those three cities before heading north to Lapland. (I still need to visit the land or reindeer some day.) We opted for Galicia instead and discovered horreos and precebes.

So here we are, six months into our trip planning for Estonia. Travel is booked. Apartments and cottages are rented. Rental car is hired. IDPs renewed. Contacts have been made with new friends. Friends we will meet and break bread with for the first time as guests of their beautiful country.

Let the discoveries begin.

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Old Shoes - New Trip in the Being a Traveller category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

2009 Resolution is the previous category.

Books, books, and more books is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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