Wednesday, December 19, 2012

And home again.....

Ghost Ranch, NM, in December
Ah, back in New Mexico at last. Three and a half months in Europe: Spain, Turkey, and Italy. Not enough time in any of them, many reasons to return.

After an interminable trip - many hours sitting in airports guarding my heavy carry on and toting it from gate to gate, I finally made it to Los Alamos where there is the largest concentration of geniuses per capita in the world.  At the indoor swimming pool, in the warm therapy tank, I had a nice conversation with a fellow about hominids and australopithecines (in English!). I thought "How nice to be back with my people."

It was a great trip experiment that answered a lot of questions. Could I live and travel around in Europe without spending a fortune? Yes, using AirBnB (or some similar website where people rent out a room in their home). Or staying at a "pension" can work well, like in Sevilla.

Is it possible to house and animal "sit" to save money on accommodations and still get to see good parts of a country? That's a tougher one to answer. Certainly the house-sitting in southern Spain was difficult because I didn't have a car and had to explore in a limited area, plus there were more animals than I'd really signed up for, so there wasn't as much time. However, the local Brit expats were wonderful and took me around to see things. It was a slice of rural life in Spain which is not something most tourists experience. On the other hand, the time in Cappadocia allowed for exploration of some very interesting terrain and archeological ruins, some of which were entirely undocumented. The buses were varied and frequent, and I had more time between dog-duties. The whole area is one giant tourist magnet so there was something to see and experience at every turn. A month there saved enough money so that the three and a half weeks in Italy were amply funded.

Another great scary question was about coping in a country when I didn't speak a word of the language. I got some preliminary practice in Spain, where I'd hope to refine my travel Spanish in the "mother country". However, most of the time I couldn't understand a bloody word of their rapid fire slurring of that beautiful language. Time in Barcelona was even worse as they also spoke Catalan and often mixed the two languages in an equally incomprehensible slur! I must say though, the iPad's translator program came in handy many times in Turkey. As long as I had wifi or could tap into a cell tower, I could write my questions, translate it, and the other person could type their answer in Turkish, except of course for that poor clueless cook in Urgup.

Every travel problem was solvable, and more than likely a solution of sorts had been found by someone before I ran into it. There are several great sites for getting answers. I often used the forums on Boots'N'All and AFAR magazine to find out what others recommended for sightseeing on a limited time or monetary budget, and Travel Advisor always has ratings for restaurants and attractions. When two hundred people love a place and two hate it, it's a fair bet the two are either just grumpy or had a beef with somebody. I've even stayed in places that weren't rated very highly, but then, I'm not as picky as some people. I don't mind sharing a bathroom, but I do mind rodents for instance. Thus far, I've shared many more bathrooms than shared any space with mice!!

So this is the last post for a while, until January when I will return to San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.

The next big adventure will be yet another experiment. I've organized a tour for the Los Alamos Mountaineers Club of the state of Chiapas. So far 8 people have signed up and two others are on the stand-by list in case someone drops out. The tour will be a test of my organizational skills and any concept I might have as to what people like to do on an adventure trip. Under the auspices of the Mountaineers, I am covered by their legal documents, as other mountaineers were covered.....when long ago in utter terror, I regretted signing that piece of paper.....the day I lost my Rock Virginity! Hopefully, nobody will regret signing up for the Chiapas trip. So stay tuned.