Two years ago I went on a Mediterranean cruise as part of a study abroad experience with three of my faculty colleagues and about 25 students from my university. We boarded a very small cruise ship of only 250 passengers and went from Venice, Italy to Nice, France with stops at Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia, the Greek island of Corfu, Taormina, Sicily, and along the west coast of Italy.
Every year when graduation ends and I take my summer trip to Europe, I’m drawn back to the same places that I have grown to love so much: always Italy, usually Paris and Greece, Britain or Ireland. But I also try to add a new place to the mix that I’ve never seen before. Last year was Portugal, which I adored. This year I decided to visit Budapest, Hungary.
I recounted by eastbound road trip in On The Road Again, and my beautiful New England Christmas in My 12 Days of Christmas, so technically, this is Part 3 of a trilogy! Hey, it’s not Lord of the Rings, I’m not Tolkien and I’m not a hobbit… but this IS about a great travel adventure, so…
After a successful and enjoyable cross country drive in mid-December, I was back in Massachusetts and I awoke on the morning of the 24th to find a thin coating of snow covering everything outside. As I was taking in the scene from the window of my little rented cabin in the woods, I got a text message from my friend Joanne saying, “You did it again! Where did this damned snow come from?”
My father left my mother and me when I was a baby and I only met him once briefly when I was 16, I become more convinced of the power of genetics when I think about how my father was a long distance trucker for most of his life after divorcing my mother. When I did meet him, he told me how much he liked being out on the road for long periods of time, as was required by his job. So I wonder if other than the red hair that I absolutely adopted from him, I also possess a gene he passed down that explains why I am seldom happier than when I embark on yet another cross-country drive.
At just about this time last year I wasn’t feeling very well. I had chalked it up to the fact that I was fatigued from driving cross country for the holidays and then surviving the bustle and chaos of the holidays. But by the time I’d driven back from Massachusetts to California, I knew something was very wrong and soon thereafter, I was diagnosed with diabetes. I remember the dark days of late January as I started monitoring my blood sugar levels, watching them fluctuate wildly with almost anything I ate, and worrying that if I dared to eat even one cookie, I’d fall into a diabetic coma. With the help of a low dose of medication, some weight loss and a lot more exercise, I gradually began to find that I could continue to eat pretty much whatever I wanted (in moderation) and I slowly got my health back. Nearly a year later, my sugar levels have remained stable and in the completely normal range, and I am infinitely grateful to have come through this relatively unscathed.
February & March:
As my health improved in February, I got back to work and got a kick out of the rare snowfall that covered Bay Area mountain peaks. I even saw hail on my deck! In March, I headed to Rome and Venice for my Spring Break, and learned that given all the walking I was doing, I could pretty much eat all the carbs I wanted… so I did!
In April I got the devastating news that Fleetwood Mac, my all-time favorite band since 1975 had fired guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and hired two new guitarists and vocalists to take his place. Fans on various social media sites almost instantly sided with either Lindsey or the rest of the group, and the arguments between the two camps rivaled the ugliest political debates of our times. As more and more details about what really happened came to light, it became clear that Stevie Nicks, whom I loved more than Fleetwood Mac, was really behind the entire break up, had lied about things in interviews, and I found myself squarely in Lindsey’s camp and for the first time in 43 years, not overly keen on even listening to her anymore. To console myself in these traumatic days, I feasted on the best food that Portland, Oregon has to offer as I attended the Western Psychological Association Conference there with my colleagues and my friends. I sat at the counter in Blue Star Donuts, but it would take more than fresh blueberry and passionfruit-cayenne donuts to help me come to grips with a Fleetwood-Mac-less world.
May & June:
As soon as hats were thrown in the air at graduation and my grades were filed, I headed off to Europe for my annual summer trip. I explored Devonshire, Cornwall and Dorset, three areas of England I had never seen before. I then made a first visit to Portugal, seeing Lisbon and the wonderful coast of the Algarve region and loving every moment of it. Of course I spent a couple of weeks in my beloved Italy and a couple of quick visits to Mykonos and Paris before heading back to the States.
After a few days’ pit-stop in San Francisco to celebrate the 4th, I went to Honolulu and then spent over a week at Napili Bay on Maui at a condo where I’ve been staying for many years. I’ve begun to realize that when I travel, I have a tendency to try to pack too much into my trips, wanting to see too many different places and only spending two or three nights in any one spot. As I get older, I’m finding that hectic schedule to be more difficult, and so I plopped myself down on Maui for 8 days of total and utter relaxation, spending hours in the water, taking naps, driving a half an hour to the remote village of Kahakuloa to simply hang out and “talk story” with my friend Lorraine and her husband guy. The only big decisions I made were whether to have ahi or mahi for dinner. I have to say it was one of the most rejuvenating trips I’ve ever taken, and I hope this will push me to do more of this type of trip in the new year.
After all that relaxation, it was time to hop in the car and head cross country again, spending late July and much of August on the road, seeing friends and family in New England, Virginia, and Tennessee, and trying to deny the reality that the start of a new semester at school was imminent.
September is a month in which I rarely travel. School is in full swing, I’m still paying off my credit cards after a summer of travel, and so I am usually just back to my routine. However, I was invited to speak at a conference about Natural Disasters in Naples, Italy over Labor Day weekend and so with some funding from school and setting up some assignments for my students to work on in my absence, off I went to chaotic and crazy Napoli for a week, scoring a phenomenal AirBnB apartment with a million dollar view of Vesuvius and making a good impression at the conference speaking about the Natural Disasters course I developed and teach regularly at my university.
Like a salmon that has to swim upstream and return to its home, I simply must return to New England in the Fall to experience the colorful foliage, crispy apples, cider donuts, and festive Halloween decorations of my native land, as well as spending time with family and friends I’ve known for most of my life. I caught the foliage at its peak in New Hampshire, there was a dusting of snow, and there were hours of shared meals and fun with all my New England “peeps” – I couldn’t have asked for a better visit.
Within three weeks of returning from my fall foliage tour, I was on a plane back to Boston for Thanksgiving break. California was suffering the horrendous fires in the far north and near Los Angeles, but smoke from fires almost 200 miles away were making San Francisco and environs look like something out of a science fiction film, with a dimmed sun trying to penetrate layers of smoke and classes at my university canceled due to the extremely unhealthy air conditions. It was a relief to breathe in the cool fresh air off the Atlantic when I arrived at Logan Airport. Thanksgiving was great, and then just 4 days later I turned the big 6-0, and celebrated the big event with a big group of friends over Italian food, of course!
And now, it is December 31st, 10:30 PM Eastern Standard Time. I again made the cross country journey to New England last week via Salt Lake City, Denver, Chicago, and Pittsburgh and giggled like a child when I awoke on Christmas Eve morning to find a thin layer of new snow covering everything and intermittent flurries for the rest of the day. Friends soon texted me to ask how I seem to be able to bring the snow with me every year, much to their consternation. I had a quiet and restful Christmas, and have been making the rounds visiting everyone, walking in snow in New Hampshire and on beaches in Massachusetts, and dining on New England cuisine. I’m taking time to be thankful for everything that 2018 has given me, and am hopeful that 2019, now less than two hours away, will be kind and gentle with us all.
Thank you so much for visiting my site and reading my posts this year. Happy New Year to all of you!
Back in 2003, during a sabbatical from my university, I made a circum-Pacific trip that took me to Thailand, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, and Tahiti for the first time. My adventures during the last three stops have been documented in separate blogs here on my website, but I thought it was time to resurrect the Thailand and Bali parts of the trip. I’ve decided to post them in the form of the travel diary I kept and which I sent to friends and family via e-mail while I was on the trip. So here were my impressions of these two amazing travel destinations.