Posted tagged ‘backpacking’

“You don’t need magic to disappear, all you need is a destination and a great hostel!”

July 21, 2016

Yesterday was the perfect day: sunny, warm and dry. A breeze from the south kept my house cool. It will be warmer today, but this room, in the back of the house, is still dark and cool. I’m going to be out on the deck today with a good book and a cold drink. My outside table is perfectly shaded by branches from the scrub oak. Gracie lies in the shade at the right angle formed by two sides of the deck. She sleeps deeply and sometimes even snores.

When I was teaching, I was usually traveling in July and August. I was one of those backpackers who slept in hostels, on overnight buses and sometimes in parks. I bought bread, peanut butter and jam and ate sandwiches to save money. Sometimes I bought a cooked chicken and tomatoes for a fancy dinner sandwich. I had a Go Europe guidebook which listed free food at happy hours. I’d nurse a drink and eat my fill. Overnight train travel was my favorite route between two places. Sometimes I’d just buy a seat and try to get comfortable enough to sleep, but a couple of times I bought a couchette and was able to stretch out on a mattress and sleep.

Traveling in Europe was a huge adventure for me. I got to see all the places I’d only read or dreamed about. One summer it was five weeks in England, Scotland and Ireland. Another summer it was six weeks traveling in Finland, Russia, Denmark, The Netherlands and England. The big trip was eight weeks in South America. I landed in Caracas and left from Rio. In between, I traveled from country to country by bus, car and planes. The best plane ride was over the Andes from Lima to Cusco. I saw the shadow of my plane on the mountain tops covered in snow. In those days few Americans traveled in South America. We met only one other in Paraguay who asked to join us at an outdoor cafe. He had heard us speaking English. He was the head of Pan American Airlines in South America and was on his farewell tour of Pan Am offices before his retirement. He told some great stories including one about Eisenhower visiting South American and having to extend runways for his plane. I think that trip was my all-time favorite.

Eight weeks from now I’ll be in Ghana.

“Life is about the adventures you take and the memories you make. So travel often and live life with open eyes and an open heart.”

June 23, 2014

The last few days have been gifts. The days are warm and lovely while the nights are cool for sleeping. Yesterday I spent quite a bit of time on the deck. Gracie was on the lounge all stretched out and napping. She does know how to enjoy herself. On the sports front yesterday was also a good day. The US tied Portugal at the World Cup though I really thought they’d be able to hold on to their lead, but I’ll take the tie. It was a great game. The Sox won it in the top of the tenth against Oakland when Ortiz hit a home run. He hadn’t had a hit the whole game so his timing was impeccable.

I went to the dump yesterday and wondered if they were giving something away. I hadn’t ever seen such traffic before. I even had to wait in line just to get in. Usually I go on Thursday or Friday, but I didn’t this week, a mistake I won’t make again.

When I was a teacher and didn’t work summers, I went traveling, mostly to Europe. I was gone a month or more and once, for my South American trip, I was gone the whole summer. Those were the days of backpacking and staying in hostels, university housing and even in the woods a couple of times. I traveled by bus or train and slept many times in my seat on the train and slept all night on the bus all the way to Edinburgh. Seldom did I eat in a restaurant. My travel companion and I would buy peanut butter and jelly or cheeses and cold cuts and loaves of wonderful bread and every meal was a picnic, but we’d sometimes treat ourselves and buy roasted chicken and some tomatoes for an elegant on the road meal. If we did stay in a B&B, breakfast would hold us until dinner time. We had to make sure our money lasted. I’d buy a couple of souvenirs and always sent a postcard to my parents from every country. I did that any time I traveled including through South American and when I was in the Peace Corps. The African stamps were the best, bright and colorful.

My backpacking days ended when I became an administrator and had to work summers. I’d only go to Europe for spring or winter vacation: one week and one country. I’d pack a suitcase and travel by rental car. It was like saying good-bye to the free-wheeling, go anywhere me and hello to an adult traveler.

When summer gathers up her robes of glory, And, like a dream, glides away.”

August 23, 2012

The morning is sunny and warm. This room, still in the shade, is cool and comfy. The nights have been dropping to the 60’s, perfect for sleeping, and will be as cool for the next few days. Crossing off items on my before-I-go list continues. Yesterday three bit the dust; already this morning one more is finished. At least three more will be completed by bedtime, and I’ll be left with the big one: packing on Saturday morning.

Last night was the final play of the season. I have no idea where the summer has gone. When I was a kid, summer seemed to last forever filled as it was with days and days of play. I was always surprised when we went shoe shopping, the first sign of summer’s end and the encroachment of the school year.

My favorite summers were when I was a teacher and didn’t work. Those were my traveling days, and I traveled all over, mostly in Europe, with just a few clothes in a backpack. The trips were usually 4 or 5 weeks long, and I went every summer. I had always dreamed of traveling to the ends of the earth to see the pages of my geography book come alive and those summer trips fulfilled my dreams.

My most amazing summer was training in Ghana where I stepped into a brand new world, something I couldn’t have ever imagined. I remember so well those first few days. They were like a dream. Everywhere was green. There were palm trees and there were lizards scurrying across the walkways in front of me. Women dressed in beautiful cloths and carried baskets and buckets on their heads. Little kids followed us. I remember standing just outside my room, on the second floor of the dormitory in Winneba, and looking below at the rusted tin roofs of the houses. I could see goats and I could see people going about their business. I was enthralled.

I love my summers now. My friends and I are usually on the deck, eating, playing games and laughing. We try to stretch the deck season as long as we can and usually last well into long pants and sweatshirt cold nights. The saddest part is when I have to close down in the fall. It’s the adult version of buying new shoes for schools.