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Where’s Wilson: The Norwegians

Where's Wilson, The Newest ICLEF Blog

In the newest Where’s Wilson post, our ICLEF travel expert, John Wilson discusses hiking throughout the U.S. and the World. Sit back, enjoy and learn from the travel master.

The Norwegians
By John Wilson 

My prior blogs have covered travel preparation, destinations, activities, some Olympic experiences and other stories. I have enjoyed warm weather, great natural beauty, fascinating cities with spectacular churches and museums, and great food ranging from the street, to home meals and fine dining. Through it all, the people I have met that have been the best part of travel. Here is my favorite people story.

I had not made a timely dinner reservation. When I called “Tito’s” in Florence in the early evening, they said they could seat Margaret and me at eight but would need the table at nine-thirty. Because only Margaret and I were going, and we had been traveling together for three weeks in Italy, I didn’t think we would have so much to discuss that we could not finish dinner in an hour and a half.

We arrived on time which was not easy as Tito’s (really Antic Trottoria da Tito dal 1913 if you want to go there) is not well marked on a side street in a city that has different street numbers for businesses and residences on the same street. We were seated and all was going well when four guys a couple of tables down ordered a two foot tall bottle of grappa. Channeling the Japanese tourist in me, I went over to take a picture. When I asked if the guys minded me taking a picture, they said okay and asked where I was from. Indiana in the States, I told them. They said they were all from Norway. One of them asked me if I knew Larry Bird and said he remembered when Bird left Indiana University and went to Indiana State. That is not a piece of information you would expect your average diner in Florence, Italy to pull up. Wife Margaret is a huge basketball fan, a bigger college fan and let’s not even talk about IU. She had to meet these guys. We invited them and their bottle of grappa over. We added some wine and lemon-cello and the party was on.

The four Norwegians were in their mid-fifties and had met playing basketball for Norway in international competition when they were in their twenties. Still friends, they took one or two long weekend trips in Europe a year. This year it was Florence.

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By eleven o’clock, well past our scheduled departure time, the fourth generation owner of Tito’s, Bobbo, had joined us, the table was littered with bottles and the basketball stories were flying as fast as a Hoosier fast break. All was good until, Bjorn, one of the Norwegians, said he and his son had played pick-up basketball at the center of basketball in the U.S., Hell’s Kitchen in New York City. That did not sit well with us, not well at all. We refuted that statement in multiple ways, but they refused to be convinced. So we did the obvious thing that you would do with people you had only met three hours before. Margaret and I invited them to stay with us in Indianapolis, the true Mecca of basketball. And they did the equally obvious thing and accepted. The Norwegians gave Margaret a rose as did Bobbo. I settle the check (Bobbo, ” I have no idea how much your bill is. How about sixty euros?” Me, “Sure”.) We wandered home to our hotel.

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After a very few e-mails, Martin and Bjorn landed in Indy late on a Monday evening in March. Big Erik and little Erik (Norwegians named Erik, who would have thought?) couldn’t make the trip. Mornings for the rest of the week were like Chanukah. Every morning brought a new present from Martin and Bjorn. First, smoked salmon, then basketball jerseys from their club in Oslo, Aquavit with traditional drinking glasses and more. We had chosen the week that the Big Ten Tournament was in Indy. It was also Boys High School basketball regionals.

To warm them to the task, on Monday night we showed them the movie, Hoosiers, including my one second appearance as a radio announcer. On Tuesday morning, I took them down to Hinkle Fieldhouse to see if we could buy tickets for the weekend high school games. We looked in the gym where a sole player was shooting baskets. Very Hoosiereske. That night it was a Pacers game. My friend Bob Poorman treated us to his fourth row seats. At half-time he introduced the guys to Larry Bird. The next morning at breakfast, Bjorn who had played international basketball all over Europe, told Margaret that he had felt like a kid when he met Larry Legend.

Martin, who was originally from Prague but emigrated with his family to Oslo when he was boy, still coaches an elite women’s team in Oslo. He was interested in learning more about the women’s game here in the U.S. A couple of attorney friends in Lafayette, Jack O’Bryan and Brian Walker, arranged for the guys to have an interview with Sharon Versyp, the Purdue women’s coach. She gave them two hours of one on one coaching thoughts and then had another coach give them an extensive tour of Mackey Arena. Much to my chagrin as an IU grad, Martin and Bjorn were so impressed with the experience that they almost bought out the Purdue gift shop and to make it worse, they wore Purdue stuff in my home.

With the men’s Big Ten tournament in Indy, we saw a lot of games, enjoyed the downtown hoopla and had some good food and drink. Martin’s mother who was ninety then was still active in the theater in Oslo. We introduced the Norwegians to our friends at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. They got a full tour including on stage and also got an IRT sweatshirt for Martin’s mom. Bjorn and Margaret ran in the Big Ten 10k which started and ended at Bankers Life. We caught a couple of the high school tournament games. We saw the final Big Ten Tournament game, sans IU and sent the guys on their way.

Inviting almost strangers to spend a week could have not worked out so well. But it did. Margaret and I agreed that we had never enjoyed Big Ten Week in Indy as much as we did when hosting Martin and Bjorn.

We kept in contact with the guys and ultimately decided that one good trip deserved another. Martin invited us to stay in his home. The following summer we were off to Oslo. He and Bjorn were working so we decided we would spend two long weekends with them in Oslo and travel by ourselves in the Norway in the week in between. We had never been to Scandinavia before and I thought it would be fun to also visit Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Denmark while we were there. Margaret was not so enthuse. My friend, John Westerman, met us for the last weekend in Oslo and another week of travel, without Margaret, through the other Scandinavian countries. He had met Bjorn when he was in Indy and stayed at his house. We took some gifts to Norway. Although we couldn’t out do their generosity from when they were in Indy, Martin’s granddaughter was very fond of her Raggedy Ann doll straight from the Riley Hostipal gift shop and there were no complaints about the Kentucky Bourbon.

The Norwegians were fabulous hosts. Martin really likes to cook, both Norwegian and Czech. In addition to several meals with the Norwegians and their families in their homes, Martin and his wife, Turid (“Touri”), threw a hog roast for us, a group of friends and family plus a lot of their basketball friends a including big and little Eric.

Martin’s women’s team was just starting informal practices before they got more serious heading toward that year’s season. We joined the group at the gym. Bjorn’s son had just graduated from high school and was heading to Italy for amateur, but full time basketball. Like basketball parents everywhere, Bjorn felt his son, Eivind, might not have focused on his defense as much as he could have. When Alex and two of his friends challenged, Bjorn, John Westerman and me to a make-it, take-it game, we accepted. It was half court, thankfully. Westerman is sixty and I am older. Even though only five foot ten inches, Westerman did play in college and is in great shape. My primary objective in the game was to not die of a heart attack. My secondary object was to harass my young opponent so much that he didn’t do too much damage. Bjorn was on a teaching mission and immediately drove on his son for two quick layups. Next he hit two set shots from outside. The youngsters never recovered and there was no rematch. There was, however, significant celebration that night by the oldsters.

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Martin’s women’s team did not have ten for a scrimmage. John Westerman and I were recruited. I was opposite the best woman guard in Norwegian history. Fortunately, she was fifty and five foot four. Neither age nor height kept her from teaching this Hoosier a few tricks. Shooting is not my forte. I like hip checking and defense. I started getting heckled by the bystanders (my wife and Bjorn) to shoot. Late in the game, from the corner, I let if fly. Nothing but net! I walked off the court.

For our independent tour of Norway, Margaret and I made no plans or reservations before we got to Oslo. We were there at a time in August when most Norwegians and other tourists had already stopped touring. We asked a lot of question of Martin, Bjorn and their friends and family about their favorite things to do and see and made our plan based on that. It worked well. See us below getting ready to do the Lillehammer Olympic Bobsled Run and some other sights from that part of the trip.

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Since then we have traveled with the Norwegians to Florida and Jamaica. We are now planning to sail in the British Virgin Islands. I speak to my friends about me consistently “Being rewarded for bad behavior”. I am not sure that asking our friends of three hours to visit us is bad behavior, but I suppose there could have been some risks. All we have had is rewards.

 

 

 

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This is one of an ongoing series of travel discussions by John Wilson, retired lawyer and trust banker. John was motivated to start this series when he realized that his travel bio was more extensive and interesting than his legal credentials for doing ICLEF talks. He has traveled to forty-five states, over sixty countries and all continents except Antarctica.

If you have travel questions or tips of your own that you would like to suggest please contact ICLEF’s travel expert, John Wilson, by Clicking Here.

Photographs © 2014, John Wilson. Photographs may not be used without permission. 

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

Posted in Where's Wilson: Travel Discussions0 Comments

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Where’s Wilson: Hiking Throughout the U.S. & the World

Where's Wilson, The Newest ICLEF Blog

In the newest Where’s Wilson post, our ICLEF travel expert, John Wilson discusses hiking throughout the U.S. and the World. Sit back, enjoy and learn from the travel master.

Hiking Throughout the U.S. & the World
By John Wilson 

We were at the El Tovar hotel on the rim of the Grand Canyon when my favorite and only wife, (the former marathon runner) Margaret, said she wanted to hike the Grand Canyon for her fiftieth birthday. My last hike had been when I was a Boy Scout. I am several years older than Margaret, so you do the math. It didn’t help when Tad Sinnock, also a runner and fitness buff, told me that the Grand Canyon was the hardest thing he had ever done.

Being a dutiful husband, I made reservations to stay at the bottom of the Grand Canyon at the Phantom Range in June when Margaret had her summer off from her work as a high school counselor. That is also the time that the average daytime temperature at the bottom of the Canyon is 105-110 degrees. We planned on hiking from the south rim and back, going down the South Kaibab trail, staying at the bottom for two nights and coming up the Bright Angel Trail. The South Kaibab is seven miles, a little steeper but shorter than the Bright Angel Trail. It has no available water, so you bring your own. The Bright Angel is a little less steep, ten miles long and has some water available. Both have an elevation differential from top to bottom of about a mile. Think about walking up the stairs of a mile high building.

Being concerned, actually scared “you know what” less, I started training. It is not necessarily easy train for mountain hiking in Indy when you are looking for hills. We live close to Holliday Park, so we put on our day packs and started hiking up and down the trails there. We hiked some other places, but eventually found out that Holliday Park had the steepest grades. We even saw some guys in snow boots and full out packs hiking there who were preparing to climb Mount McKinley. (Not an everyday sight in the park.) Eventually, I worked up to walking the trails for five hours and hoped I was ready. Margaret, the former marathoner, usually quit hours before I did, saying marathons didn’t even take five hours.

The day of the hike, we took the park service bus for about ten minutes to the head of the South Kaibab Trail at about 6:00 a.m. I was pleased that about ten other hikers got on the bus with us. I didn’t even know how to find the trail head, so I thought we would follow them. When we got off the bus, our fellow hikers messed around for so long that we went off on our own. It was not too hard since there was a sign pointing to the trail. We went over the rim and onto the trail.

Awesome! It was and still is the best, and most beautiful hike I have ever done! Every turn provided a new vista. I am not the first person to say that despite any pictures, including the ones below, or movies you have seen of the canyon, they do not do it justice. For yourself, make sure you go below the rim even if you do not hike all the way down. Stay over night, at the historic El Tovar lodge if you can, so you can see the morning and evening colors of the canyon which are more spectacular than during the brighter light of midday.

The hike down took about four to five hours of steady, but not fast hiking and was no problem. The log cabins at Phantom Ranch are basic, historical and may be multi-shared with other hikers. You need to reserve them almost a year in advance. When we made our reservation for this hike staying two nights at the Phantom Ranch, the reservationist asked what we wanted to eat for dinner. A little surprised and not sure what I might want to eat of year or so in the future, I asked her what my choices were. “Steak or stew”. I said we would have stew one night and steak the next. Her response, “We are out of steak”. How to respond? Once we were at the Phantom Ranch, it was apparent that her response made sense as the first seating at dinner was all stew and the second was all steak. By the time I made my reservation, the second seating was booked.

As predicted, it was about 108 degrees midday. We spend a lot of time in Bright Angel Creek which had cold mountain water running.

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There are many signs posted advising of the danger of hiking in the Canyon without proper preparation. These signs are routinely ignored by twenty-somethings who try to do both the hike up and down in one day wearing flip-flops and taking no water. They die, usually figuratively. People up into their seventies and older prepare properly and enjoy the hike. On our hike, a guy who must have been in his seventies got a little too friendly with my wife (in my opinion, she seemed okay with it). I would have confronted him, but I couldn’t catch up to him as he hiked up the Bright Angel Trail.

If you go, attend the Ranger talks. They are fun and informative. On our last night, before the big hike out at dawn, the ranger said she would give some tips on hiking out after her official presentation. Facing a ten mile hike up a one mile grade in one hundred degree heat, no one left before her tips. The hike out was hard but not too hard. Preparation was the key. It was also beautiful and awe inspiring. I did it again a couple of years ago.

What about my friend, Tad Sinnock, the runner and fitness buff who said it was the most difficult thing he had ever done? I asked him. He said, “Did you run both trails in one day?”

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My second favorite hike is in New Zealand. A great country to visit whether hiking or not, New Zealand has delectable food including local fresh seafood and special white wines. The Kiwi’s pride themselves in their adventure sports; whitewater rafting, parasailing, bungee jumping and whatever else they can dream up that a high percentage of normal people would declare crazy.

Near Queenstown on the South Island, the Milford Sound area has several world renowned hikes. The best know in the Milford Trek. My favorite and only daughter, Maureen, and I decided to do the adjacent twenty mile Routeburn Trek which takes three days and two nights.

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Remember, this is Lord of the Rings country. When you are within the tree line everything is green. The area gets tremendous amounts of rain. The trees are moss covered. The rocks are moss covered. Everything is moss covered. The flora is unique and beautiful. Once above the tree line, which is about half the hike, there are Colorado type peaks, beautiful lakes, fjords and numerous waterfalls.

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We took a guided hike. We carried day packs, slept in indoors in buildings that had been flown in by helicopter. Once on the trail, you do not come across roads or other signs of civilization. Our guides were well trained and fun young adults from New Zealand. We thought we might have some more Kiwi’s in our group, but realized later that they didn’t use guides and either camped or stayed in unmanned cabins that were also on the trek. On our guided hike, meals, beds and, because of the high amount of rain and waterfalls along the trek, unlimited hot water for showers after hikes which were at times cool and rainy.

Happy day for Dad when the daughter broke out singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music” during the hike

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Leave a couple of days just to hang out in Queenstown. It is on a beautiful lake, the food and wine are great, the vibe is fun and after your hike you may be ready for some other New Zealand adventure including going of the original bungee jump at Kawarau Bridge.

Next is Torres del Paine National Park in the Chilean part of Patagonia. Torres del Paine starts at a low altitude (as do the New Zealand hikes), but has numerous dramatic peaks rising to over 3000 meters, lakes and glaciers. Being as far south as the Hudson Bay is north, the area is noted for its bad weather and strong winds even during their summer. Mike Fruehwald was my travel companion for this adventure. National Geographic has rated Torres as the fifth most beautiful location in the world. (They rated the Grand Canyon as number eighty-eight, but then, they didn’t consult with me.)

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You can see Torres from inside luxury accommodations, take the loop which is a eight to nine day circle around the mountains where you must camp and cook for yourself, or the five day “W” which allows you to stay indoors in basic refugios with multi-share sleeping and prepared meals (and wine). We chose the W and were glad of it. We saw local wild life, snow storms, ate lunch watching avalanche after avalanche on a distant peak, met hikers from around the world, and saw water blowing upstream under the force of the wind on a “good” day.

We were only knocked down by the wind once. It was a great hike. At the end of the hike to get back to our transportation out, we took a ferry which took us to some unreal blue icebergs that had calved off the Grey Glacier, and turned upside down to expose their smooth deep blue bottoms.

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WW-Hike-Ice1Machu Picchu. I have a friend who traveled to Machu Picchu. He stayed in an oxygenated hotel room in Cusco (the gateway city to Machu Picchu), he rode there in an oxygenated train and then stayed in an oxygenated hotel room before he toured the ancient city. He said on the train ride to Machu Picchu he saw folks hiking the Inca Trail. He said he felt sorry for them. That is the same thing those of us who were hiking the Inca Trail said about the people going to Machu Picchu in the train.

There are many ways to hike in the Machu Picchu area, some very upscale with indoor accomodations and great dining, but only the Inca Trail takes you directly to Machu Picchu and through the Sun Gate. The Inca Trail is not for everyone. At age sixty-two, I was the oldest person in my group by thirty years (but not the oldest person hiking the trail). While the entire Inca Trail is longer, most people do a three night, four day hike. It requires staying in tents and using “basic” facilities. Thankfully, guides and porters are required, so hikers only need to carry a day pack. The guides and porters also cook, with some of the local citizens providing beer for sale, if you have the energy. The weather is not too bad, but we did walk two hours one day in pouring rain.

Altitude was an issue for me. Although Machu Picchu itself is only about eight thousand feet, to get there you have a second day hike from about eight thousand feet to the top of Dead Woman’s Pass at thirteen thousand eight hundred feet. Then you camp at about eleven thousand feet in a cold weather camp that night. The only redeeming factor on that day was that one of our fellow hikers was a young woman from Norway who happened to be a masseuse. She gave all the hikers, porters and guides a calf massage that evening.

Not being very spiritual, I enjoyed the beauty of the mountains along the hike as much as Machu Picchu. However, my favorite guide, Luis, was telling me on the cold, rainy night before we made the last hike to Machu Picchu that he really didn’t want to take a cold shower and clean up for the entrance to Machu Picchu. I said not to worry about it, because we didn’t care. He said, “John, I must. It is the center of my religion.”

If you go, give yourself some extra days to visit other areas like the Sacred Valley, Lake Titicaca or the Amazon. Who wouldn’t want to go Ollantaytambo. Most people do not spend much time in Lima. I agree. Rather than stay in Lima downtown, many people stay in the suburb of Miraflores, I like Barranco better. It has a Broad Ripple on the Pacific feel.

Obviously, the list of hikes are endless. We also enjoyed hiking in the Grand Tetons with its majestic peaks and mountain lakes (better than Yellowstone, but don’t miss seeing its geysers).

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Muir Woods with its costal redwoods and Yosemite too. Look at staying in the Wawona Lodge in Yosemite. It is a ways from the main village, but a great, basic, throwback hotel. Closer to home, Mt. LaConte near Gatlinburg, Tenn. has a lodge on the mountain that you can only reach by foot. Brown County and several of the Indiana parks are not bad either.

Hikes not taken yet or ever to be taken. Mt. Kilimanjaro in Kenya and the Annapurna in Nepal. I don’t like the minor symptoms of altitude illness, much less the major ones. Kilimanjaro at over nineteen thousand feet and Annapurna at almost eighteen thousand feet are off my list. I can hike in Nepal at lower altitudes and it is on the list. We are scheduled to do a six day survey trip of “The Mighty 5” National Parks of Utah in September. They are: Canyonlands, Capital Reef, Bryce Canyon, Arches and Zion.

I am hiking Holliday Park to get ready. I will let you know.

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This is one of an ongoing series of travel discussions by John Wilson, retired lawyer and trust banker. John was motivated to start this series when he realized that his travel bio was more extensive and interesting than his legal credentials for doing ICLEF talks. He has traveled to forty-five states, over sixty countries and all continents except Antarctica.

If you have travel questions or tips of your own that you would like to suggest please contact ICLEF’s travel expert, John Wilson, by Clicking Here.

Photographs © 2014, John Wilson. Photographs may not be used without permission. 

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

Posted in Sale/Featured Items, Where's Wilson: Travel Discussions0 Comments

Planning for Summer Vacation Part 2

Planning for Summer Vacation Part 2

Where's Wilson, The Newest ICLEF Blog

In the newest Where’s Wilson 2-Part Series, our ICLEF travel expert, John Wilson explains how to plan for vacations.

Planning Your Summer Vacation, Part 2
By John Wilson

To read Part 1, Click Here.

When to Go?:
Some companies will only tour in the prime season, but others go year round. While I check their sites for when they say is the prime time to travel, (higher cost can be, but is not always an indicator), I also Google the weather for the locations and look to travel guides that I usually get from the public library. I also like to look for the “shoulder season,” when trips may be cheaper but weather and other factors are still good. It is a lot less expensive to fly to Europe in late September or October than in summer. But there will be smaller crowds and the weather may be better than summer. Frommer’s is my favorite travel guide based both on quality of information and how it is organized. I also use Fodor’s and Lonely Planet. For now South East Asia is on hold. I wanted to go around May. For Thailand and countries close to there, it turned out to be uncomfortably close to the monsoon season. New Delhi has an average high of one hundred degrees that time of year and Nepal has haze in the mountains. January and February work for all. More to come on South East Asia next year.

Accommodations and Things to Do:
If you decide to travel independently, use the websites and guide books mentioned in Part 1 to help with lodging choices, locations, and sights that you want to see. For lodging, also look at TripAdvisor. Take some of the reviews, particularly the best and worst with a grain of salt, but generally it is possible to find a number of suitable alternatives. Don’t forget to look at the B&B and specialty lodging sections. Unless I find a small hotel I like, I usually get accommodations from the B&B and specialty lodging areas. While on TripAdvisor for your room, check out the “Things to Do” section including the “Attractions.” I like to do things that are a little out of the main stream. This is a great place to find them. TripAdvisor can be more current than guide books. For lodging, you can also look at Airbnb and VRBO. I have used both successfully. I have never stayed at a place that did not have a number of positive reviews by users on these sites. For the more adventurous/economical, look at Hostels.com and Couchsurfing.org. I have used Hostels.com and been satisfied. I feel the user reviews are critical to my being comfortable staying in a “hostel environment.” Once again, give very close scrutiny to the user reviews. In hostels, I have always stayed in private rooms, which most hostels have in addition to multishare rooms. I have not used, but have met people who have and who have enjoyed Couchsurfing.org. Generally you stay for free, sometimes on a couch but other times in better quarters.

All Frommer’s guidebooks have a “The best of ….” section and suggested itineraries. I pick and chose from them. Not all will be right for you. All the guide books and websites ranked the Russian banyans (baths) as a don’t miss. My daughter rated it a definite do miss and we did not make that site.

Tours or Independent Travel?:
I usually look at both ways and may “mix and match” on the same vacation. Factors in favor of independent travel include: a vacation in one location, i.e. beach, London, or Rio de Janeiro; locations where English is spoken, Sydney, the US, South Africa and most of Europe where English may not be the first language, but it is widely spoken; “safer” countries, i.e., US vs. Canada. Just kidding. The least safe thing that could happen to you in Canada would be to be eaten by a polar bear or get caught up in a hockey riot. But some of the Central American countries might be a little iffy in some areas. I am more likely to travel independently if I am traveling with friends and family rather than traveling solo.

No generalization works in all cases. I went to China and Rio solo. Beijing was for the Olympics. My research helped me find a hostel where English was spoken and a friend correctly advised me that taxis were inexpensive and a simple way to get around. I met some Aussies who I hung out with for the entire trip. I went to Rio alone, which in retrospect I would not do again, because English was not widely spoken. While Portuguese is similar to Spanish when written, it is not at all like Spanish when spoken. My Spanish which is sufficient in Spanish speaking countries failed me in Rio and I was not able to enjoy meeting and conversing with local folks.

As we have gotten comfortable with solo travel outside the U.S., we have added an element. If we are planning on traveling about a country or region, we usually get reservations for lodging for the first day or so. After that, we only get accommodations as we go, either a day or so ahead or as we get to the new town. In 2012, we spent over three weeks in South Africa, starting in Cape Town. We had reservations for Cape Town. While we were there, we talked to as many local folks as we could about where they would recommend we go on the Garden Route along the south west coast and where to stay. The result was a much better vacation than I could have planned from home. We did have occasions where we arrived in town with our prospective lodging full. Our standard approach then was to find the local tourist office or, and this is usually more fun, a bar with internet. It was not unusual that before we got online, a bartender or patron had a recommendation. In the town of Prince Albert, SA, we needed a room and were on a sidewalk on Main Street looking for a bar. The owner of a shop where we were standing asked us if we needed help. We never made it to the bar. He called Esme a block down the street to see if she had a room at her B&B, the Bougain-Villa. She did. We rented it. An hour later we were invited to join her and her husband, John, and some friends for dinner on the Braai (grill).

Sometimes traveling solo is a viable option, but taking a tour can be more fun, equally or more economical and more efficient. In Peru, I had a package that included, hiking the Inca Trail, traversing Lake Titicaca (including an Amantani Island home stay) and a stay in the Amazon Basin. The tour included so many minor added sights and events that the company’s marketers couldn’t get them all in the marketing materials. The tour director was great and my fifteen new travel buddies from all over the world were so much fun that we hung together even during our free time. My new friends and travel companions graciously overlooked the fact that I was thirty years older than the next oldest person on our tour.

For the now postponed South East Asia trip, where I may or may not travel alone for all or part of the trip, I was looking at a tour from New Delhi to Kathmandu, Nepal, trekking in Nepal and a tour from Bankok to Hanoi. Organizing independent travel with all the transportation, lodging, and sightseeing would be more complex than I wanted to handle. On the other hand, I couldn’t find a set tour in Nepal that met my needs. I will set up my own lodging and hiking there. I am anticipating that I will get a lot of info from fellow travelers on the way there, and maybe hook up with some of the India tour travelers when in Nepal.

If that does not happen, I have found through research that there are lots of good hiking companies out of Kathmandu that I can hire when I get there. If none of the above works for you, wait for some of my future blogs. I plan to cover Favorite Cities of the World and Favorite Hikes and Adventures next.

P.S. When your friends and family tell you they are going on a great trip, don’t forget to ask them if you can go along.
Thanks; Greg Shelley, -Witches’ Rock Surf Camp; Bruce, – Canada Golf and The Anchor Bar, home of the original Buffalo Wing; John and Karen, -London, Phoenix & the Grand Canyon, Santiago, Chile, Roatan, Honduras (Jeff & Michelle, too), Seabrook Island, and next up, Seattle; Llyod & Wendy -Italy, (try to find Montisi in Tuscany); Martin and Bjorn, – Norway; Mike and Kris,- Mt. LeConte; David and Mary Ann, – Sandbridge, Va.; Mo, – Belfast; David & Walt, – The Masters; Bob and Jan, -Pebble Beach; Bridget, -Barbados; Mike (Captain Mike) and Trish, Nick (of the infamous Columbus Day Regatta) and Libby – the British Virgin Islands; Tara & Sasha, – the British Virgin Islands when your friends forget to show up; Margaret, Dover & the Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon; and the man who started it all, Jack O’Bryan – Freeport, Kamloops, and all of Europe.

P.P.S. Don’t say, “I’ll go next time.”

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This is one of an ongoing series of travel discussions by John Wilson, retired lawyer and trust banker. John was motivated to start this series when he realized that his travel bio was more extensive and interesting than his legal credentials for doing ICLEF talks. He has traveled to forty-five states, over sixty countries and all continents except Antarctica.

If you have travel questions or tips of your own that you would like to suggest please contact ICLEF’s travel expert, John Wilson, by Clicking Here.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

 

Posted in Where's Wilson: Travel Discussions0 Comments

Planning Your Summer Vacation

Planning Your Summer Vacation

Where's Wilson, The Newest ICLEF Blog

In the newest Where’s Wilson 2-Part Series, our ICLEF travel expert, John Wilson explains how to plan for vacations.

Planning Your Summer Vacation, Part 1
By John Wilson

For me, there are three distinct parts to every vacation: planning, the event itself and for lack of a more discreet term, the afterglow. The afterglow is when you consolidate your memories, enjoy your pictures and souvenirs, and take the stories that were interesting and embellish them to amazing. Not many people enjoy planning a trip as much as I do. There are no travel agents who have the time or inclination to work with me in the detail that I enjoy. In this article, I will give you a number of techniques I use working on my own to make a trip more fun, more convenient and less costly. If you incorporate one or two in your planning process, I will consider this writing a success. If you like all of the ideas, we need to have lunch with an atlas….You buy.

How to Decide Where to Go:
Sometimes you decide on the vacation or location and other times it decides for you. I have a piece of paper with about twenty or thirty destinations that I have not been to, but would like to visit. I created it five years ago while sitting in front of a peat fire on a chilly, foggy night in Northern Ireland. My wife and I were visiting our daughter who was in Belfast for a year. I had been traveling a lot to interesting locations and thought I might be running out of places to visit. The exercise proved me wrong. I kept coming up with new places to get excited about in both the U.S. and elsewhere. Since then, I have visited a number of the places on the list, but not as many as I would have expected. Other places keep calling me in addition to those on the list.

On occasion, a family member or I have just wanted some R&R. To us, that usually means a beach vacation. If you need some R&R and beach vacations are the answer for you, take a look at my Where’s Wilson blog article, My Favorite & Least Favorite Beach Vacations.

Don’t have a specific vacation in mind, but want to start the dreaming process? Take a look at these websites which primarily have guided tours. I will discuss the pros and cons of guided tours later. For now look at the trips to see what interests you. These companies are able to offer these tours continuously because they go to some of the most popular destinations world wide. The tours they offer span the gamut from easy, both physically and culturally, to way out there, literally and figuratively. I tend to travel economically both for the obvious reason and because I find the people that travel this way interesting. Sites I look at (and sign up for e-mails on trips and specials) include: G AdventuresGate 1 Travel & Intrepid

Grand Circle Cruise Line and Viking Cruises have some great itineraries for river and other cruises. A little more upscale with mostly Americans over sixty with great itineraries is Overseas Adventure Travel (OATS). These sites consistently discount tour prices if you can travel on short notice. My twenty something daughter and I went on a short notice OATs trip to Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece. The price and itinerary were great. Forty-nine of the fifty people on the tour were over sixty years old. This was not ideal for my daughter who was the fiftieth person. The fact that our tour guide sounded exactly like Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle (and the young international staff of the ship) made up for it. In the category I consider expensive is National Geographic Expeditions. For the purpose of the dreaming exercise, look at all. They all have trips that can stimulate thought.

I was on fire to go to Mongolia. By looking at popular tour company itineraries, I realized that Mongolia would have amazing sights and experiences, but would require much more time riding buses than I wanted. I also wanted to go to Morocco. Looking at organized tours on G Adventure’s website, I was able to determine feasible routes, places to visit, and that it was economically within my range.

South East Asia is on my mind now. Reviewing the sites above, I was able to determine there are more areas of interest and itineraries than I could experience on one or more vacations. India, Nepal for trekking, Thailand, Laos, Viet Nam and Cambodia for culture, and some beach time. Then down to Malaysia and Indonesia, Bali and Java. Borneo? Who knows? Reviewing the cost of the trips on the sites, allowed me to extrapolate that the costs in the area were within my budget, whether I traveled independently, on a tour, or did a mix of both.

Air Travel:
Next I studied airfare to South East Asia and time of travel. It’s a long way. Distance will not put a quietus on a trip for me, but cost will. Even though many tours include airfare (and my have the best price), I check air fare separately and on multiple sites. For international travel, I like Yapta, Skyscanner, and Kayak. I also use Orbitz, Travelocity, and Expedia, more for the US, Caribbean and Central America. Yapta is good because it can track the change of prices for specific flights going forward and alert you to those changes. Southwest Airlines does not show on most sites and should be checked separately.

If you are planning late for a trip and having trouble finding a reasonably priced room and/or flight, look at packaged vacations on Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia. They may have inventory that you cannot get to separately.

Be creative in checking flights. For example, even if you want to start your trip in Hanoi, also check the flight to Bangkok, because it’s a hub. It may be cheaper to fly to Bangkok and get a regional flight to Hanoi. On my recent trip to Sochi, flights on the above sites were all showing around $2500. By breaking up my search to be Indy to Moscow, $950, and Moscow to Sochi, $300, the flight came within my means. (I did also check reviews for the Russian airline I was using, S7, which turned out to be on time, with new planes and flight attendants right out of the 50’s of U.S. air history.) For trips from Indy, I also check flights out of Chicago. Recently, a flight to Quito, Ecuador from Indy was around $1200. From Chicago, it was $750.

I have airports that I like and others that I avoid. I do not fly to Chicago from Indy. In my unproven, but strongly experienced opinion, because Indy is so close to Chicago, when backups occur in Chicago, Indy is one of the first airports from which flights are delayed. The weather can be fine here, you can be on the plane and still not get to Chicago for hours. I do not want to risk missing the only connecting flight to Kathmandu because I can’t get to Chicago. If Chicago flights are too good to pass up, I drive there. I will consider returning through Chicago because the long distance flights into Chicago will not be cancelled. However, flights to Indy, even though there are a bunch of them, can be frustratingly delayed also. If you fly through Newark, I will not respect you in the morning. – And that will be the morning you are still in Newark because your flight-in was delayed and you missed your connection.

My favorite airport is Charlotte which is relatively small, convenient to navigate, and from which you can catch a surprising number of connections to Europe and the Caribbean. For connections, I also like Detroit (you don’t have to go into the city), Minneapolis (in the winter, they know how to handle snow), and Cleveland. Atlanta and Houston are larger airports, hence I plan a little more time between connections, but I have had good luck there. I have had a lot of burgers in the Friday’s at Hartsfield International in Atlanta after coming off a week of great seafood in the islands. Others may disagree, but I will also travel out of Boston and Philly. The New York and Miami airports are not my favorites, but I will fly out of them when other options are not working.

Join us next week for Part 2: Where to Go and Accommodations and Things to Do

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This is one of an ongoing series of travel discussions by John Wilson, retired lawyer and trust banker. John was motivated to start this series when he realized that his travel bio was more extensive and interesting than his legal credentials for doing ICLEF talks. He has traveled to forty-five states, over sixty countries and all continents except Antarctica.

If you have travel questions or tips of your own that you would like to suggest please contact ICLEF’s travel expert, John Wilson, by Clicking Here.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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