Coming Soon To A Traveler Near You

Where I am now

Chiang Mai still, but now at a new place for my second month back here.  Honestly, there’s not really that much to say about the new place.  I hated it when I moved in (on Saturday, Oct 17th): it’s a studio 2/3 the size of my prior 1 bedroom place, has no view to speak of, I’m back to having a shower open to the rest of the bathroom without a shower curtain , and the internet was crap the first day I was here.  The place is a bit close to a big intersection with a major road — they call it the Superhighway; I call it “Mad Max does Sepulveda Blvd” (which I admit doesn’t roll easily off the tongue and is unlikely to catch on) — and the first 3 days I had headaches that I thought was from the pollution.  The bed is back to the seemingly typical asian style of having a blanket but no topsheet, so you have a choice between leaving it off and being too cold (with the A/C on) or using it and being too hot despite the A/C — and the A/C blows at head of the bed, so there’s a chill breeze off and on all night.  I was giving some serious thought to going back to the old place and seeing if they still had my room vacant, despite the fact that it would have effectively doubled my housing cost for the month.

A Room With A View (of an abandoned construction site and the locals living in tin shacks thereon, but, still....)

A Room With A View (of an abandoned construction site and the locals living in tin shacks thereon, but, still….)

But, then, as I was working on the headaches, I started to think that the pollution wasn’t the whole picture, that maybe the ambient pollution increased my base physical stress level, and then any other stress would push me over the top and the headaches would kick in.  So I started working harder on clearing other stress sources, and that included not liking the room.  Let’s face it: I’m traveling and staying in places that I really can’t judge well until I get there.  There are going to be duds, and I have to be able to be comfortable with them, just relax and accept their (sometimes many) imperfections, and not have to deal with headaches as a consequence.  Looked at it that way, it was easier to just accept the place for what it was and not what I’d rather it be, and then lo and behold my stress levels dropped and the headaches started to settle down.  Yes, there isn’t a great view, but there’s some sky and a bit of green, and the room is clean and well decorated, and it’s conveniently located (a block north of the MAYA mall that I frequent), and the occasional traffic noise isn’t generally intrusive, and the prevailing winds blow most of the exhaust away from me.  So, yay?  And after a few days, I happened to try the internet again, and it was much better, and I think they were having problems with it that weekend.  So, it may be no worse than the weak internet of my last place. And, really, this studio is much better than most of the places I stayed in Chiang Mai last time I was here — and, at $558 for the month, way cheaper. Yay again?

By day 3 or 4 I had become pretty comfortable with the place, and my life was largely back to normal.  Or what passes for normal these days.  How about let’s call it “the usual”.  That sounds true enough.

Where I am next

So, as of today, Tuesday, October 27th, I have 3 weeks until I return to the US for the holidays.  I’m in the US until the end of January, and then I head to Europe, starting in the south while it’s still winter, and then heading north as it warms up.

I have added a permanent blog page for my Itinerary, and I’m going to keep it updated as my travels and plans progress, and there’s now a link to it in the menu bar above.  So, if you’re ever not sure where I am, what time it is there, or where I’m going next, the details are all there.  And, when the dates and times of my flights are relevant (i.e., in the U.S.), I’ll include those.  The list is latest-first, so as I plan new places, they’ll go at the top and the the list will just keep growing.  Eventually, it should become quite long, and then I can look at it and feel as though I’m actually accomplishing something in my life.  😉

The Itinerary includes my U.S. travel dates, but I’m going to elaborate on those here, and include any known appointments that I have, in case anyone wants to schedule around them.  I’ll update those appointments here, as they get added.

Elaboration – American Style

Here’s how my winter will be spent, in the bosom of friends and family.  (Now there’s a word that has not held up well over the last century.)

Nov 17th, Tuesday Visit Mark and Jane in LA, and stay through Thanksgiving.
Dentist: Fri, 11/20 at 11:15
Barber: TBD
Investment god: TBD
Group lunch: 12/16 at 2:30
Dec 1st, Tuesday Sarah flies down to LA.
Dec 2nd, Wednesday We rent a car, and Sarah and Mom and I drive up to SF to visit Aunt Florida, leaving early in the morning
Dec 6th, Sunday We leave SF, and drive up to Seattle, also early in the morning.
Dec 10th, Thursday I fly to Bozeman to visit Lynne and Roger.
Dec 14, Monday I fly back to LA and stay with Mark and Jane through the New Year
Jan 4th, Monday I fly to New York to visit Brandon & Sallie.
Ramen with Holly: TBD
Jan 30th, Saturday I fly to Europe

Elaboration — European Vacation

As I say, I had been planning on starting in the south of Europe in February, and moving north as the temperature warmed. Initially, I was going to spend 3 months in Croatia (beautiful, cheap, cosmopolitan, with great Roman and modern architecture). But the capital, Zagreb, seemed too expensive so I was focusing on Split, Croatia, a classic and scenic coastal city with a mild climate. Then I started wavering on going there or choosing Lisbon, Portugal, which was also very appealing and has the advantage of having a more generally useful language that I could pretend to try to learn for a few weeks until I gave up and just relied on my smile and winning incomprehensibility. (I’ve been told that I’m at my best when nobody knows what I’m saying.) And then I figured out that Zagreb was actually pretty cheap, I’d just been looking at Airbnb during the high tourist season when the prices were higher. In the February-May range, it’s fine. But Zagreb’s a little north and still kind of chilly in February-April, while Split was just enough more temperate that I could avoid needing a heavy coat… and I found an Airbnb place in Split with a great sea view that boasted broadband. I was really paralyzed with choices here.

Finally, I did start to notice that my gut kept telling me Croatia more than Portugal, and during one of those more certain moments I started looking up air fares and noticed that nobody flew from the US to Croatia. My plane was guaranteed to stop in some other interesting-sounding European city, which lead to the thought that I could fly to one of those interesting-sounding European cities, stay for a bit, and then take the train to Croatia, at which point it would be later in the year and Zagreb would be warmer. Lisbon, Madrid, Rome, were all places that planes went to more easily, which should be pretty temperate even in February. I played around with that idea for a bit, quickly figured out an approach that I liked, and a couple of weeks ago I the first step and booked my flight, and filled in the gaps until my last booking this morning. So, in a rough sketch, here’s what 2016 looks like for me:

  • January — Fly from LA to New York, stay with Brandon and Sallie for just over 3 weeks (leave Jan 30th). (Assuming that still works for them, of course. Otherwise, NYC is amply supplied with cardboard boxes, and there are Starbucks everywhere for the WiFi I need.)
  • February — Italy. I arrive in Rome via Heathrow, stay in Rome for a week, then take the train to Florence for 2 weeks. Florence is my real destination. It’s reputedly a great city and, more importantly, features prominently in A Room With A View, my favorite movie. — you can look forward to pictures from the movie’s locations.
  • Late Feb to Late March — Split, Croatia, a nice little studio with a terrace overlooking the sea, and close to a really big park.  Possibly my favorite place on the trip, ’cause I’m a sucker for views.
  • Late March to Late May — Zagreb, Croatia, a couple of hours inland and northeast from Split.  This was a pain to book, as I’ll explain below.
  • Late May to Late Aug — Ireland. Probably County Kerry, but we’ll see. Nothing booked here yet, because 7 months in advance seems like it ought to be enough for now.  (I know I’ll regret my sloth later, but I’m so done looking at listings.)
  • Late Aug to Late Sept — Scotland: 2 weeks in Glasgow, 2 weeks in Edinburgh.
  • Late Sept to Late Oct — Berlin, for Oktoberfest.
  • Late Oct – early Nov — Amsterdam for 2 weeks.
  • Mid November — Back to the US. Stop in NY for a week, conveniently on the way, on to LA by Thanksgiving for the usual holiday rounds, and out through NY (I expect) in 2017.

Zagreb

As I mentioned, Zagreb was a pain to book.  My first choice was the second floor of a great house close to the downtown area but still quiet and woody on a large yard, and for about $640/month.  But the owner wrote back and said, “Sorry, I’ve already booked the place for the year to a physics student working on his doctorate.”  I replied, “That’s Ok, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for science.”  But, come on, mark the place as booked why don’t you?  (She still hasn’t marked it, I keep seeing it come up on my searches.)

This isn’t the first time this has happened.  My first choice in Florence, the lady said, “Sorry, I’m out of town then and can’t rent it.”  I’m thinking, (a) then mark it unavailable, and (b) lots of folks rent out their places when they’re not there, that’s like half the point of Airbnb.  So I replied, as carefully as I could, “I don’t mind if you’re not there, but I quite understand if you’re not comfortable renting it out then.”  And she wasn’t.

My return to Chiang Mai was another, rather painful, case of this. Tried to book a nice place with a great view and really good internet, and the guy said he’d already rented it out for 3 months.  Annoyingly, I booked the place I’m at now for my month 2, because his place had a week in the middle of month 2 that showed as booked.  So, I sent my requests for month 1 to him, and month 2 for this place, and then the month 1 request fell through.  I eventually found the place at The Bliss for month 1, but I’d have probably taken it for both months if I hadn’t been going for my preferred place, and I’d have been the happier for it.  (I learned an important lesson here: never try to book two places at once. Do one, get confirmation, then do the next. They’re not hotels, and interdependencies are asking for trouble.)

Of course, every time one of these requests falls through, it’s back to the drawing board, trying to find a replacement out of the pros and cons of a couple of dozen places: location, internet, view, nature, flatmates, price.  It’s a lot of balls to juggle, and most of them are guesstimates.  How good is the internet, really?  Good enough for e-mail and that’s all?  Based on the tourist sites, is the location close enough to cool places to be walkable, but not so close that I don’t get enough exercise walking it?  There’s a balcony, but is it a view of the brick wall across the street?  Etc.  Nothing paralyzes me as much as a bunch of roughly equal choices; I can spend forever weighing relative pros and cons.

In Zagreb, after the first place was a no go, I hunted a bunch more found a few more promising options, and settled on one in a good location with some interesting flatmates, but wasn’t sure about the internet, so I sent them a message asking them about it.  They never replied.  After a couple of days, I hunted some more, found a second place (also good location, promising flatmate), asked same question.  They, also, never replied! (Maybe in Croatia it’s considered rude to ask about your internet? “Yo, your mama has slow bandwidth, but massive throughput!”)  There was a 4th place I liked, *great* view and likely good internet, but it was a 50-minute walk from the city center which is a bit long to embrace with enthusiasm.

I expanded my price range to what I think of as my limit, $1000/month, found more options to worry over, and then ran into this place, which was pretty much at my limit, but had a nice garden and a good location and, interestingly, had 2 bedrooms.  That gave me an idea: I sent my local friend Damien an e-mail and said, “Hey, you said you’re also going to Europe next year.  Want to stay here for a couple of months?  Just chip in what you’d normally budget for rent, and we’re good.”  After a day or so, he replied that he was in, if (and I’m paraphrasing) I didn’t mind him possibly being a flake cause the date’s a ways out.  I booked the place immediately, and this one went through!  Yaaay.  So, I may get a nice place and an entertaining flatmate out of this after all.  (And, if he doesn’t make it, I’m still in my budget.  Just.)

After Zagreb

I’ve been planning on staying for 3 months in Ireland, as soon as I started thinking of Europe.  I mean, come on: it’s Ireland!  I was briefly tempted by Estonia, after reading this article on their strong internet showing, but their Airbnb places are surprisingly not cheap for a place that most folks have never heard of.  So, we’re back to Ireland.  I’ll probably start looking to book a place there once I’m in Split.  I’ll probably spend a week or two in Dublin, and then head out to someplace cheaper for the rest of my stay.  Someplace with woods and trees and creeks and WiFi.

I had been considering visiting Norway in September — it was the first “exotic” place I fell in love with as a child after doing a team project on Scandinavia (and by team I mean that I did all the work) and slide show presentation in 3rd grade, based on library references, slides and souvenirs from my Grandmother’s visit there, and mythology books .  Some kids have invisible friends?  I had Norse gods. (And by had I mean have).  And I do really really want to go there; I’d love to do the 5 day ferry ride that they talked about in the Slow TV TED talk.  But when I added Italy to the schedule, I couldn’t fit in Norway without compressing something else. And I really do want to stay a while in most places, not just be constantly moving, “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Dublin.” Plus, Norway’s expensive. It can wait.  Right now, 2017 is looking more like “Visit a bunch of those places in Europe you didn’t see in 2016.”  If that idea pans out, I’ll do Scandinavia in 2017, including Finland for the Worldcon SF convention.  Maybe a bit of France.  Prague would be nice, too.

Amsterdam is the least certain on this list.  I know, it’s great, blah, blah, but the odds are at least 50/50 that by the time I get to mid-summer, something will have changed and I’ll want to go somewhere else or fit some extra time in someplace.  I was totally doing Prague, until I thought of Amsterdam, and I might still revert.  Of course, I can’t wait too long.  Part of the reason I switched to Amsterdam is that at some point, probably sooner than we expect, the oceans will start rising.  Seems like a good idea to visit the low-lying places sooner, rather than later.  (So, I’ll be saving Switzerland for 2030.)

And that’s where we are! Well, it’s where we’ll be. Me, at least. Feel free to join me, if you like. In particular, anyone who wanted to go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival could persuade me to push that city sooner in my schedule. After all, I’m a devil-may-care, free spirit, totally flexible, and shifting a hypothetical destination that’s a year away, by as much as a few weeks, is as nothing to someone like me! (Please get back to me in the next 10 business days. I’m fancy-free, but let’s not get crazy here.)

And that’s about it.  Except for the Saddest Commercial Ever.  (No, really.  I’m giving you fair warning. Don’t watch if you’re not ready for an impressive amount of Sad.)

Ahem, sniffle.  Sorry, something in my eye.  Good heavens.  Youtube offered me that just moments ago, and how do you not click on something called “Saddest commercial”?  It’s like you have to click on “See this puppy and bunny best friends!”.  Except, you know, hate-ier and deathier.  Thanks, Youtube.

Ok, maybe I should end on something cheerier.  This is Amazing.

See, told you it was Amazing.  And much cheerier. When it comes to cutting and pasting someone else’s content to pad my blog entries, I never lie.

I had never heard of polyphonic overtone singing before — until I read a bit more and discovered it was the same as Tuvan Throat Singing, which I’d heard Tibetan monks do but had no idea was just their voices and no instruments.  Here’s a non-Tibetan-Monk doing it, because (a) he demonstrates different styles, and (b) he’s cute.  Maybe there’s a cute Tibetan monk doing it on Youtube somewhere, but I didn’t find one. (What, of course I looked.)

Ok, enough padding.  Time to go back to browsing http://hotmonks.xxx . For, um, research, of course.

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2 Responses to Coming Soon To A Traveler Near You

  1. Holly says:

    Ramen date in NYC please!

    • Charles says:

      Nothing would make me happier! (Aside from the usual Riches and True Love. And Enlightenment. And… maybe a double fudge chocolate cake with some Old Rasputin Imperial Stout to wash it down, while having Brad Pitt tell me how funny he thinks I am. But that’s it!) Consider it penciled. 😀

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