No Plans, Only Scenarios!

So one of the first questions everyone asks us about embarking on on vagabond life is “So what’s your plan?” Well, if the past 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that making “plans” is a fools errand in the ongoing pandemic world. So we don’t really have plans, but we’ve done a lot of research on places we’d like to go, but know that most of them are not possible right now, or may not be possible in two weeks….or tomorrow!

So we’ve taken a playbook from the Architects and have a “kit of parts” or travel widgets if you will. Individual ideas that can be implemented based on COVID, floods, fires, locusts, or whatever our unstable planet throws at us. And of course, one scenario is certainly coming back to USA as needed, anytime.

Scenario? The Basque Coast and Camino Del Norte

For example, one scenario is to walk the Camino Del Norte in Northern Spain. I had done some pretty detailed planning for this from pre-COVID “plans”, but now is not the time to go to Spain (hot weather + COVID)…so maybe in October or November…or maybe this waits until Spring 2022.

But we do want to get out there and start supporting the businesses that depend on travel and tourism now, so we are determined to move forward with a viable scenario. Currently, a strong scenario for the start of our travels is to cycle tour from our base in eastern France across Switzerland via one of the many national and local bike routes..maybe continuing to Germany, Czech republic, and Austria. (Currently low COVID) And yes, Switzerland has an amazing national and local bike network with interactive maps . (By the way, you may have already figured out that I LOVE MAPS, especially interactive maps 😊)

National Route 1 – A very pleasant starting scenario

Another driver of our scenarios are the fact that our Schengen “Visa” allows us to be in the 26 country Schengen zone only 90 days out of any 180 day period, so we need to get out of dodge for awhile as the late fall approaches….possible scenarios…..Morocco/Tunisia, UK/Ireland, Balkans, Romania/Bulgaria, Turkey, and hopefully in 2022, more places in Asia and Africa will be safe enough for responsible travel. For now, we have to watch people suffer through Delta prior to widespread vaccine availability in much of the world, and hope that great organizations that we support such as Medecins Sans Frontieres can help reduce the suffering.

Mumbai in 2006 – Northern India was unforgettable, but the South India scenario awaits

So go forth all into the world with your passion and travel scenarios ready! Just don’t make any plans.

Three things that make travel more fun.

For years we’ve been thankful that we live a city life that makes travel less frightening than it is for some travelers. Three things we do on a regular basis here in SF make our trips easier, less daunting, and help us have a wider variety of experiences.

Buses. Being transit friendly makes getting around a joy. My favorite transit app is Citymapper. Citymapper has opened up a world of transit that used to be quite challenging to figure out. In London, like most tourists, we would be tied to the underground, with the confusing but understandable and always available map, but now, with Citymapper we use buses a lot. You can plug in your destination and be directed to the best bus routes, shown where the stop is, and the app will ping you before it’s time for you to get off the bus. No worries about missing your stop. The best part about riding a bus is being above ground and getting to appreciate the city – especially from the top of a double decker.

Riding the bus in Honolulu.
BorisBike on a London bicycle super highway. Now that’s bike infrastructure.

Bikes (of course!). Ever since I first used the Washington DC bikeshare while there for a conference years ago, and had my eyes opened about what a game changer bikeshare is, I believe that bikeshare, especially electric assist bike share, is the ultimate urban transportation. Fast, convenient, clean, space efficient. We’ve ridden bikeshares in SF, Glasgow, London, Washington DC, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Honolulu, Aspen and are looking forward to many more rides in many more cities. Similar to being comfortable on public transit, being a confident and safe urban cyclist opens up a lot of experiences you might otherwise miss. If you aren’t a comfortable urban cyclist I highly recommend taking an urban skills bike course.

We were not expecting bikeshare in Aspen Colorado, it was a welcome surprise, as were the inspirational bike quotes on the back wheel skirt guards/fenders.
On the Camino Ingles with an old friend and a new friend who joined us for a few miles.

Walking. Here in San Francisco we think nothing of walking a mile or two to dinner and home again. Yesterday we walked 1.2 miles to our dentist (Thank you Nikki! You rock!) had a Raman lunch, and walked home again. While traveling we cover a lot of miles sightseeing. Our base level of walking fitness serves us well. Before traveling it’s a great plan to walk a lot so you’re ready to do 6 or 7 miles exploring a new city, and to make sure that your walking shoes are up to the task of helping you explore. And have your Citymapper app ready to help you get home if you need a boost!

A hike in Kep, Cambodia.

Being flexible with your transportation will help you have so many more experiences than when you are limited to driving or taking taxis. And, having those options will give you the confidence you need to get out and explore. Some of our best times have come not from a planned destination, but from a serendipitous find while out on bikes, buses or foot.

A Camino marker in Porto, Portugal.

Happy Travels!

Feels like limbo, looks like pelicans.

Watching the brown pelican migration.

After 3 weeks working flat out getting our condo ready to show and sell we’re now waiting. Most of our stuff is in the storage unit, the condo is as clean and tidy and minimalist as it can be, and we wait for someone to fall in love and buy it.

The upside is that we can go back to doing what we love to do in this city, walking, eating, and seeing friends. Our walk along the Batteries to Bluff trail was enhanced with flocks of California brown pelicans flying by above, below, and at eye level. They are migrating from the breeding grounds on the Channel Islands to British Columbia, apparently, even those these pelicans seem to be going south, or south west.

Batteries to Bluffs trail.

California brown pelicans were listed as endangered by the federal government in 1970, but their rebound has been robust and they were removed from the list in 2009. It’s very impressive to see so many flying along the SF coast. I remember as a child in SoCal in the 70s when these big birds were a remarkable and fairly rare sighting.

Sunny day for hiking.

This is the month locals call Fogust, and SF lived up to its name this year with cool grey days that make us the coldest place in the US, but we got a sunny day for our coast walk.

SF looking almost … tropical?

And now, back to waiting and hoping our condo will sell quickly and our flights to Europe will not be canceled.

Took a break from packing, it was lovely.

When your home looks like this, maybe it’s time for a break?

Before we made our long discussed but quickly implemented decision to sell our flat we had booked a trip to Chicago to see friends and family. Not great planning, we thought at first, but it turned out to be a perfect break from sorting, packing, and purging. It also allowed some painting work to happen while we were gone, which was nice.

Train and bus from O’Hare airport to Ravenswood neighborhood.
Friends! We’re lucky to have fun and wonderful friends who kept us busy and kept our minds off what waited at home. More packing.
We discovered that it is indeed a thong the whale is wearing on his head, but never discovered why?

Places where you never need a car to go out and have fun are high on our list of what makes a trip relaxing and successful. The Blue Line to the 81 bus got us from O’Hare airport to our friends. Our feet carried us out to dinner in Andersonville. And so it continued, walking, busses, the L, and eventually Metra to get out to visit family. The only car trips were in the suburbs with family to dinner, our hotel, and getting dropped off at the airport.

Waiting for the bus on a rainy Sunday morning.
That underwear on head whale makes a mean pizza.

To get to visit family in the suburbs we needed to take Metra downtown and then switch stations to go out. There is always the challenge of what to do with your luggage while trying to enjoy a day in the city. There is no left luggage in the train stations unless you are a ticketed Amtrak passenger, but thankfully there’s now an app for this. Vertoe lets you find a local business, book and pay on line, $6.00 per bag, to leave your bag.

Tags through your zipper for reassurance and tracking. Nice shot of my new Ecco sandals!

Our bags relaxed at a shoe repair shop while we walked around downtown Chicago and had lunch. It was a great solution to that age old traveler problem – what to do with your bags while you sightsee. Thank you Vertoe!

Make room for awesome.

The posters at our storage facility are giving us advice as we move the first load in to our new space.


Elevator selfie.
Master of the dolly.

Selling and moving is a lot of work. It’s exhausting and exhilarating, and in an hour moods can range between joy and snappish cranky. We are doing what we can to make our lives easy, not much cooking since our kitchen is in a state of disarray for cabinet painting.

The auxiliary kitchen. Everything from the lower cabinets is in the bike room.

We keep reminding ourselves how good it is to cull your stuff – so much to GoodWill already! We’ve been in our lovely flat ten years. That’s a good long time to accumulate stuff. So now, we cull, save what we love, send the rest out for others to use.

Making room for awesome. As advised.

The signage game at this storage facility is strong.

The packing challenge begins.

July 3, 2021 If you catch a glimpse of us this week, the slightly panicked looks on our faces is because we’ve decided to sell our flat before we leave to go traveling. And we are just now remembering how much work it is to sell. Lots to get done but we’re up to the challenge.

Colorado

We fly to Europe on August 13th. (Hopefully.) All our stuff, minus that we purge, will be in storage, and when we come back to SF we’ll plan on finding a rental. We love this City but the world is calling and we must go…

Getting ready to travel.

Hiking to the bus, to bus to the hike.

Like many people, the pandemic made us reconsider our lives. Pre-pandemic we were ready to rent out our SF flat and travel, knowing we would have a place in San Francisco to eventually come home to. Now, we have decided to sell our flat and be unemcumbered as we travel. We did this in 2006, so it’s familiar to us. The packing, the purging, the considering every object’s worth and emotional weight.

We spent a month traveling in Colorado with a rental car and camping gear. That helped us realize how much we love traveling lite, and traveling without a car.

Crested Butte, Colorado

So, here we go. House free, car free travel.

Above Half Moon Bay, California.