Tag Archives: cruising

10 Ways to Make Traveling with a Companion Companionable

I’ve always thought that renovating a house or traveling together are true tests of compatibility. We’ve done a lot of house renovation, and now we’ve been traveling together for over a year. That means spending time together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway

Here are some suggestions that have worked well for us:

Discussion and mutual agreement must be the order of the day. For instance, in the ‘getting rid of possessions’ stage of travels, it must be agreed that the woman gets three suitcases and the man gets one. (What woman wouldn’t need a suitcase just for boots and shoes?)

Allow the partner with the impeccable sense of direction to lead. It’s preferable to remain calm and patient while waiting for the spatially aware partner to decide which way to go. After all, you’re not in any hurry and sometimes your best discoveries are when you’re lost. For sure, one of you is better at navigating and one of you prefers asking for directions. Kudos to the one who can find their own way, but the other is practising their fledgling language skills with the natives.

Osaka, Japan
Osaka, Japan

Take a hint from your partner when you’ve been approached by scam artists. Your partner may be intrigued by these people’s approach but realizes the impending scam and is obviously playing along. You want to hone those street smarts, especially in Shanghai.

Take rest during the day to ward off the weariness of new situations that require patience and attention. Prevent irritability of either party at all costs. Actually, carrying a supply of snacks, water and the indispensable Japanese fan is a travel asset. It’s akin to always carrying the diaper bag (if you have that experience) but without the diapers and extra change of clothes. I’m not admitting that we’re approaching second childhood, but snacks, water and a nap are always welcome.

Houtoung (cat town), Taiwan
Houtoung (cat town), Taiwan

Make no unilateral decisions unless one recognizes an obviously dangerous situation before the other. Decisions to do anything or go anywhere are made together. It’s great if you both want the same things and feel the same way about most everything. Sometimes though, one wants to shop for souvenirs and the other prefers to sail origami ships down the stream. Try taking turns, or maybe a compromise … sailing souvenirs downstream?

Recognize a performance well done. Compliments are encouraged if one remembers which restaurant had the amazing ramen and even how to find it. Recognize an accomplishment if one can read enough Hiragana to find the train station you need. It’s always nice to be appreciated.

Listening, listening and more listening to each other. We sometimes meet a person who just likes to talk. It’s apparent to us that they haven’t heard nor registered anyone else’s contribution to a conversation. Whenever this happens, it prompts us to inspect ourselves to make sure we are not guilty of the same. Listening and paying attention to each other is essential to companionable travel.

Remember that hardly anything is more important than joy, happiness and tomfoolery (and Tom’s sisters and brothers too). Is it really worthwhile to be contrary about anything, even the slightest points?

Be flexible and go with the flow. You never know what will present itself around the next corner. Sometimes you’re just too tired to bother doing something that your partner is suggesting, but if he or she is excited about something, it’s probably worth a try.

Don’t forget to sing and dance and enjoy every moment because, really, all we have are moments to live.

on the Sapphire Princess
on the Sapphire Princess

How Can We Afford to Travel? or How Can You Afford Not to Travel!

This is a question we are often asked “How can you afford to travel?” We’ve learned one of the secrets is slow travel.

Generally speaking, transportation is the most expensive and least flexible cost of travel. Once you decide to go to a specific place that is some distance from where you are now, you have only a few options to get there. Air travel is expensive if you have a destination in mind. If you are somewhat flexible, you can wait for airlines to contact you with price reductions via their email alerts.  Fuel, any place you go is usually costly, but local buses and trains are often economical. We don’t try to cover long distances every day.

$13/night - on the Colorado River!
$13/night – on the Colorado River!

Accommodations can be surprisingly inexpensive if we rent by the month.  Some places, though, like Laughlin Nevada had a nice suite at $13 weeknights and $35 weekends. Camping is an inexpensive alternative while traveling in the United States.  National Parks charge $8 per night and no park admission fees with a lifetime Senior Pass. We’ve stayed in lovely AirBnB’s from $10-$40 per night, often with an ample home-cooked breakfast and an uber-friendly host to show us around the area. The Goenka Vipassana 10-day meditation retreat did not charge at all for accommodations, meals and classes (although we made a donation). We’ve stayed with family; and with friends who feel like family to us.

Medical services can be much less expensive in countries other than North America. We blogged about this already in Costa Rica. Insurance for world travelers is surprisingly inexpensive. We pay $100 per year between the two of us for quite comprehensive travel insurance that includes emergency medical benefits. It covers us all over the world except in North America.

Backpacking means paying no rent.
Backpacking means paying no rent.

Slow travel allows us to enjoy the local culture, food and recipes. We can eat like locals by shopping and cooking for ourselves which is quite a savings from restaurant fare or picking up prepared foods.

Cruising has turned out to be an affordable way to travel if you compare the cost of airline tickets to travel overseas. We’ve enjoyed gourmet meals, world-class evening entertainment, a myriad choices of daily activities, use of a gym and port visits to many different countries for 25 days. It’s amazing what is included for a  month-long cruise for 2 compared to about the same price for a pair of airline tickets. For instance, many passengers who landed in Japan, joined the Celebrity Millenium sailing from Tokyo to Vancouver. It’s a 14 day cruise advertised last week for as little as $500. I don’t know why I would ever choose to fly overseas again.

A one-day port stop can be fun!
A one-day port stop can be fun!

The really big factor is that we sold our home with all its associated costs including mortgage, taxes, utilities, maintenance and repairs. We’ve been tracking our expenses. Besides being more exciting and more rewarding than we ever imagined, we are spending less money than if we were living at ‘home’. The question how can you afford to travel should rather be posed:  “how did we ever afford our lives before traveling?”

“Don’t be a tourist. Plan less. Go slowly. I traveled in the most inefficient way possible and it took me exactly where I wanted to go”. ~ National Geographic’s Andrew Evans

It’s All About the Journey, Not the Destination

One of the questions we are often asked is how we decide where we will go next. We don’t plan very far in advance so we can seldom say where it might be.

Jaco_5506One determining factor is traveling inexpensively. There’s a Google app for that. Google Flights delivers a map view of the least expensive destinations from where we are right now. There’s also Sky Scanner. Putting ‘Everywhere’ in the destination field in www.SkyScanner.com is like throwing a dart at the globe blindfolded. Sky Scanner will present you with a list of possible exotic destinations, the least expensive flight being at the top.

Our next stop may be based on an invite by someone. We’ve had invites from friends we’ve only just met and with whom we’ve developed a close rapport. We’ve received invites from those whose culture is far from our own. Paying guests at our AirBnB (when we had a home) have also offered to have us stay with them. One amazing artist even offered to teach us the art for which he has a passion. Others just want to show us as good a time as we’ve shown them.Taiwan20140421_6415

Either as an afterthought when we have a travel plan or as a possible destination, we research the not-to-be-missed festivals and cultural events of the world. We easily keep track of on them on www. Joobli.com. It highlights mostly European events.

We check house-sitting opportunities especially in exotic locations. We were offered a 1-month house-sitting job that would have been great but it conflicted with a booked cruise. Living somewhere for a few months while house-sitting, allows us to integrate into the local scene. An organized and equipped kitchen allows us to buy local food and cook for ourselves. Some jobs include bicycles, vehicles, a nearby gym or cultural center. Long assignments are a good way to pick up or brush up on our languages.

While I write this, for instance, we are on a 25-day cruise to Japan on Princess because it was highly discounted. We intend to stay in Japan and perhaps visit some of Japan’s neighbors. This is one of the perks of having an active travel agency under the umbrella of a large travel company. We also love that we can get the best travel deals for our friends and readers.Taiwan20140421_6421

At some point we’ll try to stay in the really odd places we’ve heard about like a monastery, cave, Bedouin tent, ice-hotel, Yurt, undersea hotel, Japanese capsule, forest hut, canopy tree house or Chinese underground village.

We may try to visit destinations whose very existence is challenged because of politics or adverse environmental conditions.

We often surf the web to discover places to go and things to do that are off the charts, not just off the beaten path. We know there are absolutely surprising and exotic possibilities. Do you have any on your list?

We are enjoying the current journey wherever our next destination is. Oft times, we mention our nomadic lifestyle, we’ll receive endless recommendations of travel destinations. Our travel bucket list is so large that it doesn’t quite matter where we go, it’s all going to be new to us.

 

Bored On Board? Not Us!

When I was younger, I never thought of taking a cruise. My preconceived notion was that there would be nothing to do and I’d be terribly bored. After my first cruise, I realized that I could make the cruise just like my regular life – busy and fun.

For this blog, I’ll give you a view of a typical day on board our cruise. This particular cruise is an interesting case study because it’s twenty-five days long and has only six port days. What do we do when we’re trapped on board all day long?

We get up very early because we discovered an older Chinese man that does Tai Chi every morning. He’s been doing it for forty years. He loves teaching it and by now has a small group of us meeting him on deck every morning at 8:00AM. Because this cruise goes from California to China and Japan, a big percentage onboard are Chinese. We noticed that there are also Xi Gong, Chinese dance and other Tai Chi groups in the morning.

IMG_0478
Sunrise from the aft deck of Sapphire Princess

We wake up before 7:00, have a small breakfast and coffee, and then spend the better part of an hour doing yoga stretches. Now that we’re below the twenty-third parallel, we practice outside. We put lounge cushions on the deck in the morning sea air and stretch until Thaang, our Tai Chi leader, arrives. He comes early and teaches us some warm-up exercises.

After that, we head to the gym for some strength training on the machines. At 9:30AM, there’s a terrific Zumba class. Today, however, and maybe for the rest of the cruise, I walked for an hour while Deena did Zumba. I’ve decided to learn a few basic phrases in Japanese, so I put the Pimsleur Japanese course on my iPod. I can’t believe how hard it is to learn a non-Latin language!

By the time we hit the sauna, the showers and change clothes, it’s time for lunch. Quite often, we meet people and exchange stories. Or we run into people that we’ve met and enjoy, and have a conversation.

Someone has put together an improvisation group. I love doing improv and try to make the meetings whenever they happen. I’ve even talked Deena into it and she (of course) is quick and funny. There’s some talk of actually having a show before the end of the cruise.

Deena and I have also found a ballroom dance class the occurs most afternoons. It’s something that we love to learn but hated the idea of buying lessons for an exorbitant price in Fort Lauderdale.

In the evening, there’s entertainment. Sometimes it’s a comedian, a singer or a magician. They also have music and dance productions. Some evenings, it’s hard to decide what to do with two great options. Usually, we have a chance to practice our ballroom with a big band. Okay, it’s only five or six musicians, but they call it big band so who are we to argue?

Most afternoons, I try to answer emails, get some work done and write this blog. To tell the truth, there’s hardly any time left after all those activities. Now you can see why our blog has been sparse since the cruise started. We’re too busy to write or get bored.