Dollars & Sense

I’ve been on the road for awhile. And I imagine many of you are wondering how can this guy afford to traipse around the world. Well, it’s actually more affordable than you think. I’d like to share some things that are working for me. And hopefully explain how this long term trip I’m on is financially possible.

When I started planning my trip a little over a year ago I wondered if I would be able to afford it. I started researching long term travel and stumbled upon a book written by a young man advocating traveling on $50/day. I was intrigued and upon further study realized it was indeed possible.

Fifty dollars a day was a magical figure for me as well. As it was what I felt I could comfortably afford on the funds I had at my disposal on a monthly basis. Let me share how I planned this and how it’s working out.

Internet research was vital for me. I used multiple search engines for transportation, lodging and general travel advice. There is much available and it proved invaluable.

One of the biggest expenses we Americans face traveling overseas are the ridiculous prices in airfare! Once you start comparing prices you soon find out how much we get screwed by our country’s flag carriers! The price of my ticket? Free! Say what? Yes, I used the travel points I had accumulated from my Capital One Venture Card. A few years ago I made a conscious decision to pay off my balance. And then use my card for every purchase I could. Paying the balance off each month. It’s amazing how the points can accumulate! When it came time to purchase airfare I found the best price and then used points to pay for all of it. I still have points left over! I highly recommend this.

Next on my major expense list was the cost of lodging. I had decided that hostels would be the way to go as they offer great affordability. Not everyone’s cup of tea but for the solo budget minded backpacker they are hard to beat. Again I used different search engines to research hostels in the area I was visiting. I used a website called Hostelworld which has thousands of hostels listed. With descriptions and reviews. It was invaluable! I also booked through them as it was easier for me instead of contacting each individual hostel. My reward for booking early. A savings of $5-$10 a night. My average hostel stay is running $15/night most with breakfast included! Now I know sleeping in a dorm with strangers and using communal bathrooms/showers isn’t for everyone. But it’s working for me. And I’m saving a ton of money!

Transportation between destinations can really eat into the budget. But there are budget options that can lessen the impact. One of the tenants of long term travel is being able to slow down. Staying in a area for a longer period than you would normally be able to on a regular vacation. It allows you to explore the flavor of a place. And hopefully a chance to interact locally. One of the side benefits is a savings on transportation. By staying put longer you lessen the impact of bus/train fares. Travel days are expensive. You have the cost of your transport. And lodging. And you do have to eat! Each day I travel costs me money. By staying put longer I get to enjoy the area more and save money.

But when I do travel here is how I save money. Riding buses is a very affordable way to travel. It takes longer but I have the time! In Ireland the national bus provider isn’t dirt cheap but affordable. And goes almost everywhere. My average ticket price has been about $20. But I’ve also been able to use a couple of budget bus providers who serve smaller, local areas. These prices have run between $5-$10. Megabus is huge in the UK and I have a couple of bus tickets booked for $2 each! What!!! I was able to accomplish this by booking early. Most bus/train tickets go on sale online 60-90 days ahead. By building these schedules into my online iPhone/iPad calendars I’m reminded to book the first day the ticket I want becomes available. I have some UK train tickets booked for $5-$10 respectively. It’s all about research and staying on top of things.

Attractions/Tours can put a serious dent in ones budget. But again there are budget tricks available. When I first came to Ireland I purchased a OPW card for $25. Many of the historical sites in Ireland are managed by the Office of Public Works. Many individual sites charge admission and some are free. The OPW card gives you admission to every site managed by the OPW. From my research I was able to surmise I’d be visiting many of the places managed. By my calculations the card is going to save me around $100! Many major cities offer tourism cards similar to this. Usually for a set amount of days. You really have to do your research as some of the places offered aren’t very popular and the major attractions aren’t included. Right now the only major city card I plan to use is in Berlin. I’ve also saved money by buying admission online. Another side benefit of purchasing online is that you get to bypass the ticketing lines and go straight in to the attraction. Bunratty Castle was a good example. I paid $10 online and admission at the gate was $15!

Food/Beverage can bust a budget rather quickly. So far I’ve kept it in check. As I mentioned most of my hostels have a free breakfast. And I do take advantage of it! Usually cereal, toast, jam, tea and coffee. But some have included fruit, oj, yogurt and rolls. A great way to start the day! I then usually have a late lunch at a local pub. Lunch is cheaper than dinner and I get to have my daily pint. I’m usually spending between $8-$15. If I’m hungry later I’ll have some fruit or yogurt or maybe a cookie. Hostels allow you to use their kitchens and refrigeraters to store food you have bought. Some days if I’ve spent more for a attraction or something I’ll eat in at the hostel. I’ll have a ready to microwave meal! There are plenty of grocery store options and I buy a little food wherever I go. It really helps the budget! They have great Aldi’s over here. I’ve also ate a little take out. Fish and Chips the other night for $5! Don’t get me wrong I didn’t travel 5000 miles to eat TV dinners and McDonalds. I’ve had plenty of Irish stew, seafood and bangers and mash. I just try to stick to the $50 overall budget for the day and see what the day dictates as far as eating. I’ve been very happy with the food budget so far.

These are the major areas that have impacted my budget. I’ve also used a few groupons and local coupons. Many of the hostels offer discount coupons to selected pubs, travel discounts (Ring of Kerry tour cost $17 instead of $25 by going through the hostel)  and some hostels even have a once a week communal meal compliments of the hostel!

So what is the bottom line. Have I been able to stay at $50/day? No. Not everyday. But a day where I go over the next day I will go under. The ramifications of this. My first month I was $112 under budget! Now this is a good thing because when I get to the UK it’s going to really stretch the budget. The exchange rate is not very favorable and my $50/day will look more like $35/day. Ouch! But I’ll make it work and look forward to getting back into the eurozone when I arrive in Paris!

The real story here is that long term travel doesn’t have to bust the bank. But you do have to make some compromises. And change the way you think/approach travel. But I think the rewards speak for themselves.

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A Month In…..

I decided this rainy day in Killarney that a blog update was in order. But the topic escaped me. So, since it’s been a little over a month since I arrived in Dublin. I thought I’d share some thoughts and observations on my travels so far.

Hostels really aren’t that bad. Sleeping, eating and living with others dormitory style definitely makes one much more tolerant! My first experience in Kilkenny was wonderful. The staff were amazing. Facilities fine. And I met, interacted with some interesting people. Waterford and Cork weren’t that great. Nothing wrong with the stay but not much chance to interact with other travelers. I’m finding many hostels cater to long term clientele. Offering weekly and monthly rates. This really impacts the opportunity to meet fellow backpackers. My stay in Killarney has been much better in this regard. And as I travel west and north I’m hoping that the smaller hostels I’m staying in will promote more interaction.

I LOVE riding buses! The public transportation, buses, I’ve used have been wonderful. The buses have been clean, modern and on time. Most have free wifi and several with power points as well. No security lines. Baggage fees. Or elbow to elbow seating! For the most part they are quite affordable. Some of the more popular routes are more expensive. But there are some smaller regional carriers that offer amazing value. It’s so nice to sit in a very comfortable seat looking out a huge window watching the countryside scroll by. You also get the added entertainment of watching these professional drivers navigate the tight, twisty Irish roads. Worth every penny!

I’ve seen some amazing things! It’s hard to describe in words the things I’ve experienced. And my photos I’m afraid at times simply don’t do justice to the sights I’m seeing. It seems surreal at times to actually be here. I feel like I need to pinch myself to make sure it is all real. Let me just say the reality is far better than the dream!

I’m doing it! When I planned this journey I had high hopes that I’d be able to pull it off. But one never knows until you are in the situation whether you really will be able to do it. Find a pharmacy when you have a horrid cold.  Get on the right bus. Find your hostel in a strange, new city. In a foreign country. Be able to sleep and live with seven strangers in one room. Not get lonely. But so far it’s working. And I don’t see any reason it won’t continue. I’m gaining confidence every day. And finding new resiliency within me I didn’t know I had. So I won’t be coming home early!

I appreciate so very much all my family and friends who are supporting me. You can’t fully understand how much it means to me when you post a like or a comment on Facebook. Being thousands of miles away. A stranger in a foreign land. And knowing you have the support of so many back home humbles me. Thank you all! I’ll be in touch…..

A Few Irish Observations

Ok, so I’ve been in Ireland for almost a month. And here are a few things I’ve noticed since arriving.

Irish cold is well cold! Not in a numbing, wind chill, below zero manner. But in a chill you all the way to the bone kind of way. I think it feels like a wet cold. If that makes any sense. In Ireland’s defense it was 80 degrees the day I left Texas. So perhaps my thin blood will thicken!

I’m appalled by the amount of trash I see. Along the roadways. In the rivers. Along the streets. I wasn’t prepared for that. Quite frankly this country needs a good house cleaning!

Which brings us to the dogs. The Irish love their dogs. And you can find them out walking them frequently. Which is handy as they have miles and miles of beautiful multipurpose trails. With lovely doggie do stations spread out along the way. Unfortunately NO one uses them! I’ve yet to see one person pick up any dog crap! And I’ve walked a lot. I’ve learned to keep my eyes focused on the trail immediately in front of me.

Another dog related phenomenon I’ve noticed is the number of signs posted stating all dogs are to be kept on leash. I’m not sure if this is a Irish inside joke but the norm as I’ve witnessed is that dogs are allowed to run free! Very, very few dogs are on leash. Imagine how happy and excited I was to see a extremely large wolfhound come bounding towards me. I stopped in my tracks as he blew by me. A petite young woman who had been hidden by the “bear” followed behind. After checking my drawers and catching my breath I decided I’d had enough walking for one day!

It’s amazing to see the number of men pushing strollers and taking care of toddlers. With no women in sight. I’ve seen several walking with their children during the week and at all times. One day I asked a father who was sharing a bench along a trail with me about this. He explained that there is a much more liberal attitude towards men helping with the care of children in Ireland. If a child gets sick or one of the parents has to be gone for a work activity it is much easier to get time off from work. It just doesn’t automatically fall on the women’s shoulders. And men can be granted several weeks of maternity leave. It isn’t all paid but they don’t have to worry about their job. I like it!

News Flash…I think the Irish haven’t gotten the memo that cigarettes are bad for you. There are a tremendous amount of smokers over here! And all ages! This was surprising for me. But I’ve been told I will see much more cigarette use overseas in general.

I’ve fallen in love with Irish stew! Makes me wonder why we don’t eat more mutton in the states. A close second would be the Guinness and Beef stew. No explanation needed! The food in general is quite good. I’m definitely not wasting away…thus the walking!

I picked up a nasty cold since I’ve been here. But I must say if you have to get sick Ireland’s not a bad place to be. The pharmacys have been wonderful. So helpful! They spend a lot of time asking you questions and then suggesting many different options. In fact after I made my purchase I announced I’d get started as soon as I got back to my hostel. Why wait? They got me a cup of water and I took my first pills right there in the pharmacy! Now that was a first!

Irish people seem to be very patient and helpful. At least to old geezer Americans who seem a bit unsure. In the grocery store when I tried to ram my credit card to far into the machine! My first bus ride. Oh my bus is the other side of the street. Good to know! Digging through all these damn coins at the convenience store. “That’s ok sir, you’ll catch on”…Bless you young man!

These are just a few observations that have stood out in my short stay here. I’m sure I’m just getting started!

 

Dublin and Kilkenny…..

Well I’ve been in Ireland for two weeks and so far it’s been grand. St Patrick’s Day in Dublin with Sarah and Rachel was wonderful. Our day trips to Belfast and the Giants Causeway. Along with the trip to the Cliffs of Mohr, The Burren and Galway were amazing. And of course spending time in Dublin with the two of them made for a unforgettable time. I will admit though saying good bye and then watching them from the apartment window disappear around the corner as they left for the bus was tough. Knowing I won’t see them for over eight months or anyone I know made this trip become very real in a hurry. But that’s why I’m here…..right?

Dublin was a frenetic, busy city. Gritty but in a good way. I wouldn’t say it would be everyone’s cup of tea. But definitely should be experienced once in a persons lifetime. A very walkable city, we didn’t take any public transportation while there. The sites and attractions can be taken in quite easily in three to four days in my opinion. I’d say five days is plenty and a week to much. You’ll never tire of all the pub choices. And the food was generally good. And for a big city the people are outgoing and friendly. Dublin is a bit pricey. But pub grub is affordable and we cooked a few meals in the apartment. It’s all relative.

Next it was off to Kilkenny. The bus ride from Dublin took about a hour and a half. But it seemed to fly by. I hadn’t ridden a bus in probably forty years. It was a wonderful experience. Seats very plush. Nice big windows to watch the countryside. And it was on time. All for $11.00! Kilkenny is known as the medieval center of Ireland. It’s easy to see why. The streets are narrow and still have some cobblestone in them. Many, many shops line the streets. It’s nice to see mens and women’s wear, family jewelry stores, shoe stores, butchers, bakers, etc. I even looked for a candlestick maker…:) But having local businesses was nice to see. They have large chains but they tend to be far from the city center.

Kilkenny Castle looms over the city and its easy to see why it is the centerpiece of the community. It’s in wonderful condition. And has been painstakingly restored. The grounds are beautiful. It was an amazing day spent there exploring.

The city also boasts many fine cathedrals. Some date from the 1100’s!  There are a couple of old Victorian style homes that have been wonderfully restored. And of course the Smithwicks Brewery Experience is not to be missed. I’ve been on a lot of brewery tours and this one may have been the best.

Kilkenny has a extensive network of walking trails. Many are along the river. They wind through some gorgeous scenery. I’ve walked along some portion of them every day! Walkers, joggers, moms/dads and strollers, dog walkers, it seems the majority of the populous takes advantage of this treasure.

There are many fine pubs and restaurants available. Pub grub, pizza parlours, Indian kebabs, French cuisine they’re all here. I even stumbled upon a all you can eat Chinese buffet!…:)

I’ve enjoyed my trip so far and have already experienced much. But much more lies ahead of me. And I’m excited about seeing it!

The End To A Very, Very Long Day

Well the day finally arrived. Thursday, March 10th a day I had been intently planning on for over a year. But actually had been pointing towards for most of my adult life. My big adventure was about to begin. Although I had planned and done my due diligence in preparing for my trip I knew there would be bumps in the road. What I didn’t know was just how soon one of those bumps would appear.

After a fitful nights sleep I was up at 6:00 am. Cleaned, dressed, breakfast and another check of my bags found us out the door by 9:00. A short trip to Brownsville International Airport (yes, we do have flights to Mexico…:) Said my goodbyes to mom and Bob, hard but we got through them. Then it was time for my Embraer 145 United flight to Houston. Very good flight or as good as it can be flying in a Pringles can with wings! Damn those things are small! Pretty uneventful at Houston. Checked in at British Airways. Actually a smooth trip through TSA security, YEAH! And a couple of hours to kill at the gate. It was then time to board. All I can say is wow! I was on a Boeing 777, the largest airplane I’d ever been on. Hard to describe the feeling after riding “regional” jets most of my life. Cabin so spacious. Seat was wonderful. They had a pillow and blanket waiting on the seat. And my own tv! Nine hours was going to go by pretty fast. But no it gets better. A tasty craft beer about a half hour into the flight. A very good meal with wine followed. I then watched “Creed” and then the lights went down. I tried to sleep and maybe got a hour. Oh well, watched “The Big Short” and then lights back on. Breakfast and final preparations for landing. It went by fast and was a wonderful flight!

Heathrow Airport is a interesting place. One of the busiest in the world. But really pretty easy to get around. I negotiated passport control and in the process got my first passport stamp! Then it was off to find my gate for the flight to Dublin. The gate hadn’t been posted yet and I had a couple hours to kill. So I found a good seat and did some people watching. I have to say judging from some of the sights this place has the Iowa State Fair beat! But in a upscale, worldly way. No mullets, scooters or people walking around with food on sticks. But fashionistas, rolling suitcases and kebabs were out in force. All was good until my phone buzzed with the first update. And the beginning of the rest of the story.

Things had gone so well up to this point. I was starting to pat myself on the back. When the update about the Dublin flight being delayed arrived. Oh, oh. But it was just a hour. Wheels up at noon instead of 11:00 with landing at 1:15 instead of 12:15. Not bad still plenty of time to get through the airport and to my lodging. With time left for a stroll and my first Guinness. Well that was just the beginning. My flight kept being delayed and delayed and delayed. Until I was just hoping I’d get to the apartment before dark! Well we finally took off at 3:30 pm. We arrived at 4:30 ( good tail wind I guess!) Going through the airport went well. (I’ll tell you more about my trip through immigration in a later post. It deserves its own story!) Found my express bus into the city. Sat down in my seat on the upper level of the double decker bus in the very front! Breathed a sigh and settled in to enjoy the scenery on my way to the city center stop. Now this is where the real fun begins!

I had booked an apartment off AirBnb. Great location and nicely appointed. A very good base for the girls and I to explore Dublin. Cathal, the owner, and I had been corresponding in the months leading up to my trip. The plan was he would meet me at the apartment and give me the keys. I would email him from the bus as it had wifi when I left the airport. He contacted me a day before I was to leave and informed me his son was in the hospital and we would have to make other arrangements. No problem. So the new plan was one of his mates would meet me at one of the bus stops before my apartment stop and hop on the bus and give me the keys. Since his mate couldn’t meet me at the apartment. And he didn’t know which stop he would be at until after lunch we couldn’t set up the meet until I arrived. He’d let me know which one when I emailed him from the bus. Great!

So I’m on the bus settled in and I send the email “I’m on my way”. Wrong! Sorry your mail can’t be sent at this time. WHAT! My phone showed a good strong signal. Tried again. Same result. I tried and tried and tried. Same outcome. It dawned on me. I’m screwed! I had no way to contact Cathal and I didn’t know which bus stop his friend would be at. I’ve got to say folks I was a little down right about then. Plus add in the fact I had been awake for 25 hours straight and you have all the makings for a melt down! But I held it together. I just reminded myself that I knew there were going  to be challenges and this wasn’t the end of the world. I decided to go to the apartment building. And if no one was there I’d try to find a Internet cafe or pay phone as I had Cathals phone number.

I get to the apartment and nobody is around. It’s a secured building so I couldn’t even get in the lobby. By this time the street lights are coming on and it’s getting dark. Walking from the bus stop I didn’t see any Internet cafes and the only pay phone had the receiver ripped out! I’m standing there on the sidewalk with my backpack planning my next move when it came to me. What do you do in Dublin when you need help? Why go to the nearest pub of course! It just so happens right across the street was John Fallons pub. So I walked in. Man, I must have been a sight. A old man with a backpack and a searching look on his face. This is a real local pub folks and the locals must have wondered how lost is this guy! I go to the bar and the barkeep asked me what I needed. A couple of things I said. A pint of Guinness but what I really needed first was some help. He smiled and said something that was music to my ears….”I can help you with both”. I explained my story and asked him if there was a pay phone nearby? He said no but I’ve got the bar phone you can use! And the guy sitting next to me added if you need it you can use mine to! Wow! Talk about a feeling of relief. I called Cathal who was worried about me and would have his friend meet me at the pub. His friend Adrian arrived with the keys after walking about 20 minutes! I thanked him and offered something for his trouble. But he declined stating again they were all worried about me and was glad to do it. And after two pints of Guinness I thanked Jerry the barkeep. And left to goodbyes from all around. When I finally crawled into bed I’d been up for 32 hours. As I drifted off to sleep I knew two things that I didn’t know 32 hours previously. One, was that I think I’m up for any bumps in the road. The other, the hospitality of the Irish people is grossly understated!

Where’d He Go? Where Did Who Go?

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“Talk to me Goose”….Top Gun is one of my all time favorite movies. My title is borrowed from a locker room scene where the pilots are discussing the details of a less than successful “hop” I’m using it to describe the details of my journey. I touched on my planned travels briefly on Facebook. But thought perhaps greater detail might be in order.

First let me give you some background on how I came up with my itinerary. My first stop was a no brainier. Ireland has always fascinated me. The beauty of the land, combined with it’s rich history captivated me. Add in the fact I have an extensive Irish heritage and that the Irish people actually like us. It seemed to be a logical choice. Oh, they also speak English. Albeit with a bit of a flair! Ireland is widely recognized as a very good choice for first time international travelers. And why not start in Dublin during St Patrick’s Day week! I’ll be in Ireland for almost three months.

The U.K. is up next. Why? Well its next door! And for many other reasons. Perhaps no other country in the world shares as much common history as the U.K. In essence we are them. They are our closest ally. From prehistoric, to Roman, medieval and Victorian. There is so much to see. I plan to be here for about two months.

Another huge consideration for seeing these two countries is much more mundane than their choice as great tourist destinations. Although both are members of the E.U. They are independent of the dreaded “Schengen” rules. I will touch more on this later. Goggle it if you are interested. The main benefits being I can stay in Ireland for 90 days. And the U.K. for 180 days both without a visa. And neither of these stays count against my 90 day Schengen visit. Which most of the European continent follow. I’ll talk more about the visa reciprocation rules that are in force between these countries and the U.S. later. But now without further ado here is the itinerary for the “Eurotrip”

IRELAND:

March 11-20 Dublin:

March 20-28 Kilkenny:

March 28-April 1 Waterford:

April 1-8 Cork:

April 8-14 Killarney:

April 14-20 Dingle:

April 20-25 Ennis:

April 25-May 5 Galway:

May 5-8 Sligo:

May8-13 Donegal:

May 13-17 Aras Ghleann Cholm:

May 17-20 Letterkenny:

May 20-23 Buncrana:

May 23-27 Malin Head:

Northern Ireland:

May 27-31 Derry:

May 31-June 5 Belfast:

SCOTLAND:

June 5-June 6 Glasgow:

June 6-8 Isle of Skye/Highlands:

June 8-12 Glasgow:

June 12-19 Edinburgh:

ENGLAND:

June 19-24 Newcastle:

June 24-29 Carlisle:

June 29-July 3 Kendal:

July 3-6 York:

July 6-11 Manchester:

July 11-16 Liverpool:

July 16-22 Birmingham:

WALES:

July 22-26 Cardiff:

ENGLAND:

July 26-30 Bristol:

July 30-August 5 Bath:

August 5-9 Oxford:

August 9-12 Canterbury:

August 12-19 London:

FRANCE:

August 19-25 Paris:

August 25-28 Lyon:

August 28-31 Marseille:

SPAIN:

Aug 31-Sep 6 Barcelona:

Sept 6-10 Valencia:

Sept 10-14 Granada:

Sept 14-17 Malaga:

ITALY:

Sept 17-23 Rome:

Sept 23-27 Naples:

Sept 27-Oct 1 Florence:

Oct 1-5 Trieste:

SLOVENIA:

Oct 5-9 Ljubljana:

CROATIA:

Oct 9-13 Zagreb:

HUNGARY:

Oct 13-17 Budapest:

SLOVAKIA:

Oct 17-21 Bratislava:

AUSTRIA:

Oct 21-25 Vienna:

CZECH REPUBLIC:

Oct 25-29 Prague:

GERMANY:

Oct 29-Nov 4 Berlin:

NETHERLANDS:

Nov 4-9 Amsterdam:

BELGIUM:

Nov 9-14 Brussels:

Nov 14 Paris-Oslo:

Nov 15 Oslo-JFK:

Nov 16 JFK-DSM:

Whew! Sometimes I look at this and wonder if I’ve bit off more than I can chew. I’m looking to get out of my comfort zone. And I think I’ve accomplished that! I’m excited and I look forward to sharing with you all.

 

 

 

 

“Shiver Me Timbers”

image   Well now that you know I’m planning on globetrotting around Ireland, the U.K. and Europe for the next several months. I imagine many, if not all of you, are a bit curious as to the funding stream for this endeavor. Well since I’m about 500 years to late to approach Queen Isabella on bended knee. I’ve had to secure alternate backing…..😀

As I mentioned in my previous post since last January 9th, 2015 I’ve been retired. My employer, the U.S. Postal Service eliminated my job and offered, if available, another position. Let’s just say 3000 job seekers and a handful of jobs just doesn’t quite add up. The other avenue for a “soft landing” was to retire. If you qualified. I must have been born under a lucky star because as I researched the possibility. I found that during 2014 not only would I reach my minimum retirement age. But my minimum number of years of service. I took this as a sign or more accurately a kick in the butt to get out! In all seriousness I’m lucky. I get that. But I also won’t apologize. Over the years I’ve worked nights, weekends and more holidays than I can count. For the majority of my postal service I worked the 7:00 pm to 3:30 am “tour”. With Tuesday/Wednesday as my days off. Not exactly family friendly or conducive to a social life. But I don’t blame the postal service. I signed up for it. And in reality they didn’t treat me that badly. I just wanted to give you a little background on how I reached this point in my life.

Ok, so I still haven’t told you how I’m planning on funding my little soirée. From a variety of sources actually. My main source of income is my postal pension. I’m not going to divulge the amount. Let’s just say I’m not getting rich! I also am fortunate to have affordable health care. As a retiree I’m able to stay in the postal group and pay group rates. It’s a godsend and quite frankly makes all this possible. I also get another pension. Before I began my postal career I worked several years in the cooperative farm system. I’d forgotten all about their retirement  until I got a call a couple of years ago asking me how I wanted my pension distributed. Suffice to say I get a small amount every month for life. Not bad for something I didn’t know I had coming!

My pensions are my main sources of income. I do have a 401K which I don’t plan on touching for several years if possible. But I do have some regular savings as well. I had tried to put a few dollars away over the years with varying degrees of success. The big push came over the last two years. As I began to plan my life after work I decided to make some adjustments. I made a commitment to simplify my life. Downsizing seemed to make the most sense. So over the course of several months I either sold, gave away or disposed of most of my possessions. By the time I was ready to move I’d condensed my life down to a half dozen plastic totes. It was so freeing! I don’t plan on ever owning another home. Or accumulating “stuff”. I want to be free to pack up and move whenever the mood strikes me. The proceeds from the sale of my belongings I put into savings along with the funds from the sale of my house. Leaving me with a nice little nest egg. Hopefully I won’t have to dip into savings but it’s there if I need it.

Now that you know where the money is coming from how do I plan on making it stretch over several months. With great planning and a bit of luck! Many of the places I plan to visit aren’t known as being budget friendly. But I have a plan which I think will help me stay on track. I’ve set my daily budget at $50.00/day. Say what! Yep, and I believe I’ll spend less on certain days. And how do I plan on doing this? I’ll outline my plan in a upcoming post.

 

 

Why oh Why

imageOk, so as I mentioned on Facebook I’m going to Ireland for three months. Then the UK for another three months. And finally the European continent for another three months. What you might ask prompted this lengthy excursion. And did Gilmore win the lottery? Come, find a comfy chair and let me try and explain the background behind the wanderlust. And more importantly the mechanism driving this journey.

The beginnings of all of this can be traced back to my early teen years. In the early 1970’s I read a book that had a profound influence on me. It was titled ” The High Adventure of Eric Ryback”. It chronicled the journey of a young hiker, Eric Ryback who purportedly was the first person to hike the length of the 2600 mile Pacific Crest Trail. The western cousin to the eastern Applachian Trail. (On a side note it has been widely reported that along certain parts of the trail Eric may have hitchhiked. And thus his image is a bit tarnished. But I’m still going with it…:)

This book enthralled me. It captured my longing to see and experience things way outside my comfort zone. Dreams of upcoming hikes and travels to far away places danced in my head. I longed to hold the magic ticket of a eurorail pass in my hand. And a backpack was picked out. So what happened? Life happened! You know, responsibilities that weren’t present before suddenly appeared as a road block. The need to become educated. Find work. Become a productive member of society. Followed by marriage, kids and all that entails. Trumped my desire to follow the yellow brick road.

So I packed away the guidebooks, filled my hand with happy meal vouchers and bought tiny Barbie backpacks for my daughters school days. Travel dreams took a backseat to reality. Now let me just say reality has been pretty good. I’ve had a good life. Helped to raise two girls who have become amazing young women. Enjoyed, for the most part, my work. Lived in a couple of wonderful communities. Had the opportunity to serve and volunteer. Made some mistakes. Hopefully took ownership of those mistakes. And found time to travel to every state in the continental United States except two. (Don’t ask me how I missed New Mexico and North Dakota)…LOL! I’ve seen a lot. But except for some border crossings to Canada and Mexico I’ve never been outside the US. I’ve never been outside my comfort zone. And those dreams. The ones of great adventure. Well they’re still there.

And now through the good, or depending on your view, the mis fortune of having my job eliminated I was able to take a modest early retirement. Giving me the time and rekindling my travel dreams. Now, it’s my turn. My turn to live out my dreams and make my own reality. My turn to set off on the great adventure I’ve always dreamed about. My turn to get out of my comfort zone. I have to say some days my doubts creep in. Can I really do this? Will I get lonely? How the hell do I ask to use the restroom in Slovakian! But those doubts are replaced by the overwhelming excitement I feel about this trip. I’ll say one thing after this is over I expect two things to come of it. One, I should be able to handle anything life throws my way. And two, I should have some great “hostel” stories!

Now that I’ve given you some background on the why I imagine most of you are curious as to the how. As in where is the money coming from! This is a bit complicated and involved. And much better suited for it’s own story. I’ll share that a bit later.

I hope you enjoyed this and will follow along as I journey down the road. I will be sharing thoughts and observations from the places I visit. Along with practical advice. If nothing else maybe you’ll find some humor in a late fifties man dealing with the realities of getting out of his comfort zone! “Let the Crazy European Odessey Begin….:)”