May 12

My packing list

So here is my packing list. I have abbreviated a few things, I didn’t think you cared if I had a blue shirt or a black shirt – stuff like that. This isn’t my typical packing list it’s just that cruises require much more clothing then my typical trip.

Facial Soap
Nail Stuff
Facial Moisturizer
Hair accessories
Shaving cream
Cotton Balls
First Aid/Medical
OTC meds: Simply Sleep,Multi Vitamin, Advil
Prescription Meds
Aloe Vera

7 dinner outfits
2 Bathing Suits
Cover Up
2 Shorts
3 Caris
10 T-shirts
Windbreaker/water proof thing/Umbrella
2 PJ’s
20 Underwear
Dress Shoes
Pool Shoes
Sewing Kit
Static Guard
Alarm Clock
DSLR Camera
Small Camera
Battery Chargers
Video Camera
Video Camera discs
Ipod wires
Headphone splitter
Memory Card reader
Movies for plane
Magazines, Books
Pen and Paper
Beach Bag
Bug Spray Wipes
Hand Sanitizer
Tea bags
Plastic Bags
Wrinkle Releaser
Little Coach Purse

May 11

4 Days to go…

So this weekend I have started to really push forward with getting ready for Hawaii. I have half my stuff for the trip on my living room floor. The only thing in my actual suitcase are two pairs of shoes. I have chosen 6 of my 7 dinner outfits, my shorts, capris pants, PJ’s, bathing suits, and gotten most of my toiletries together. I still have to narrow down my shirts a bit more and pick which shoes I’m taking.

I’ve also been getting my camera stuff together, cleaning up the memory cards and making sure all my batteries are charged up. I’m also picking movies to bring, I don’t expect we’ll watch many, but since I have my laptop it would be nice to have a couple just in case. It looks like Pearl Harbor, Dirty Dancing, and the Princess Bride. Pearl Harbor since we’ll be going there, and the other two are cute little movies we’ve both seen a bunch of times. I’m also bringing He’s Just Not That Into You since I bought that the other day.

What’s next, I guess actually putting stuff into my suitcase, I’m just trying to figure out what I will and wont need for our night in Honolulu. I obviously don’t want to put stuff that I wont need on the top of my suitcase…

May 10

Bad Lands by Tony Wheeler – A book review

Bad Lands: A tourist on the Axis of Evil.

About a year ago I read this book and really enjoyed it. Tony Wheeler discusses his travels through some of the countries known as “the axis of evil.” Afghanistan, Albania, Burma (Myanmar), Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia. I’ll admit there weren’t too many surprises for me when I read the book since I had heard an interview with Tony Wheeler before reading the book. But still I was surprised that he wasn’t too impressed with Cuba, seemed to love Iran, and I’m not sure if he was as unimpressed as I was with Saudi Arabia.

What I liked about the book was that it wasn’t too heavy. A book about these countries you might expect to be heavy with drama and politics, but it was really about the experience of being there. It’s an unconventional look at these countries, nothing you’ll see on your network news.

So, what was wrong with Cuba? The fact that a tourist could buy anything they wanted, but a Cuban can’t. He didn’t like the double standard that was imposed by the government. The good about Iran – the people, they’re very warm and hospitable. Iranian’s are nothing like you would think based on what you see in the news, but the do have a dramatically different public life then their private life. What’s up with Saudi Arabia, an ally of the United States? I can’t visit until I’m married or an old maid (a 45 year old single female for the Saudi’s.) Well I could go, except that I don’t think my father would go with me and he was my only other in. After reading this book I was more interested in visiting North Korea then Saudi Arabia, maybe I wouldn’t be allowed to take pictures at leisure, but at least I was welcome to go out in public.

May 08

Post Contiki Depression

Several years ago on one of the Contiki messageboards that I visit someone made a post about Post Contiki Depression, I thought it was pretty funny, and very true:

Welcome to PCD (Post Contiki Depression) also known as PTD (Post Tour/Trip Depression).
I’d say about 90% of people on go on a Contiki tour suffer from this illness when they return to reality.

Symptoms can include, but are not limited to:
* A 24 hour silence virus on your immediate return, because you realize that anyone who isn’t a tourmate, just won’t understand.
* When this virus passes you may then be hit with Myxomatosis, also known as the Rabbit Virus, because you’ll be rabbiting on about your trip so much people will think you have gone crazy. This time is best spent preparing a group email to your tourmates.
* Hallucinations – when walking around in public you may find yourself seeing tourmates in complete strangers. This symptom can also be grouped with the subconscious idea that you should be keeping an eye out for them, as ‘they might be late for the bus and should just only be right around the corner!’
* After a few days of constant storytelling to friends, families, co-workers, anyone who’ll listen, you may start ending sentences midway through saying ‘oh it doesn’t matter, you weren’t on the tour, you wouldn’t understand’.

These symptoms are usually followed by unwilling acceptance. Depression is the next stage when you realize the life you have come back to and that you’ll never see most of your tourmates again. The sense of belonging has gone. But around this time you should start getting the group emails and a flood of memories return. Contiki reunions are marked on calendars.

The best cure is to definitely have a goal, preferably another trip to plan. For some of us the pain is only harder when we find this years travel plans have fallen through and we’ll have to wait till next year instead.

It’s kinda scary, but this is pretty accurate. It always stinks when you return home from a vacation, but something about Contiki makes it a little worse.

One thing that Contiki has done that I think is really cool is that every tour has a “day song.” It’s a song that is played every morning and occasionally on special occasions during the trip. It’s a song that when you hear it after your tour is supposed to remind you of your trip, and it absolutely works. Here are my day songs:
Around the World by Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Hard Rock Hallelujah by Lordi
Rasputin by Boney M
Times Like These by Foo Fighters

I’m considering having a day song for my trip to Hawaii, a song I will play once a day on the trip to get us excited for the day.

May 06

Taking a trip with friends

I’ve traveled several times with different friends and it can be stressful. Figuring out how each person likes to travel and each persons interests and blending them is a challenge. I think all my trips have gone well, no had has said they wont travel with me again… I’m sure I’m not a perfect travel partner, and to be fair my friends aren’t always either. Just because your friends doesn’t mean that your good travel partners. A big part of making a good trip for all parties is reasonable expectations and planning together.

Last year I went to Disney World with Terye, before the trip I probably tortured her with emails about planning. First, I was figuring out a list of restaurants that we wanted to eat at, I was sending a little synopsis of pretty much every restaurant with review information. We were able to narrow that down to a reasonable list and I went ahead and made a variety of different reservations for us for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then we worked on a list of attractions we did and didn’t want to do, but the most important was a list of our MUST DO attractions. This was the list that would allow us to leave Disney knowing that we didn’t miss anything that we really wanted to do. This allowed us to make sure that while we might not get to do everything we wanted, we wouldn’t leave with any real regrets. Terye and I did have one issue, it’s called mornings. Terye is not a morning person, she did ok the first couple days, but towards the end… Lets just say that I had to inform her that she wasn’t allowed to put the TV on in bed when I had already taken my shower. I’m sure she had some issues with me – like me nagging her to get out of bed. In the future we decided that we should go somewhere where getting out of bed in the morning is not necessary for your enjoyment – I’m thinking Las Vegas or New Orleans.

Planning my trip with Tara to Hawaii has also required a lot of planning. I started with the list of what must have been 1,000 excursions and started to break them down a bit and learn what Tara was interested in that I was also interested in. I couldn’t convince her that zip-lineing would be fun, but she’s agreed to take the helicopter tour. As the more experienced traveler I’ve tried to send her information about what to expect when flying and on the cruise. It’s good for things to be a surprise, but not all surprises are good. We still need to discuss the dining options on the ship as I hear it can sometimes be hard to get into some of the restaurants.

Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing travel companions and planning a trip. What are the eating habits of the person you want to travel with? If someone is the make every meal at home type and you like to eat out a lot, then you’ll want to discuss that. My sister’s friend traveled with a family who wanted to make dinner every night, but they wanted to go out every night – not a good combination. If the other person is a beach person and you hate the sand – another thing to discuss. Also, what types of activities do you want to do, art musuem, history museuems, major landmarks, photography. All these things are reasons people travel, and just because someone has different interests then you doesn’t mean that you can’t travel together, but it means that you need to discuss these things and find out if you can each compromise so that each person can get what they want out of the trip. If you want to travel together and have some different interests then consider setting aside time to split uop. Waiting until your on your vacation to have these conversations may lead to the end of your friendship. A friend of mine traveled with a friend once and their friendship barely survived, later on he traveled with a girlfriend of his and that was how he knew they could live together.

May 04

T-Minus 9 days

Since I last posted about getting ready for Hawaii I have “completed” my trip information sheet for my parents. This sheet has all my flight info, hotel info and cruise info, including phone numbers. I’ll leave this with my parents along with a copy of my passport and credit card and banking info – incase of emegency.

I also discussed with Tara some packing issues, like what needs to be in the carry-on vs checked baggage. Also trying to consolidate some of our stuff, which isn’t really working out all that well since we both seem to have gotten a lot of stuff that we needed anyway. I was working on my packing list today, it still needs a bit of work but it’s getting there.

This week I need to work on getting an idea of what type of dinner reservations to make while on the cruise and at what time. I also want to go through my toiletries to make sure I have everything I need. Otherwise I’ll end up buying stuff I already have and have too much of it again. I think I have 4 rolls of travel toilet paper, which I’ve used like once and now it just takes up room in my apartment.

May 01

The ATM is hungry

While in Egypt I learned about the hazards of ATM machines. I arrived on a weekend and the ATM at my hotel was mostly empty, I managed to get about 70 pounds out of it. I also came home to find a $50 withdrawl from my bank account on the same day when I tried to get more money out but when no money actually came out. My bank did reimburse me for that money. I was thankful that I had brought a fair amount of cash with me as well as some travelers cheques. My roommate Tara (not the one that I’m going to Hawaii with) had much bigger problems…

The day she left she notified her bank that she was going to Egypt so that they wouldn’t block her ATM card, they failed to mention to her that they already had a fraud alert on the card and the card was already blocked, opps! She came to Egypt and couldn’t get money out of the ATM, at first she thought it was just the 1 or 2 ATM’s, but finally in Aswan she checked the internet and realized that she had this block on her account.

 I went with her to get a phone card to call the bank and we tried to figure out how to work the thing, but it wasn’t happening. Then we tried Ed’s cell phone, that didn’t work either. Finally she as able to get through using my international phone – the 20 minute conversation only cost $60. The bank straightened it out and assured her that her ATM card would work, though there would be a lower then usual daily limit. We waited a few hours and went to the ATM machine – it ate her card – it went in but it didn’t come out and neither did money.

 Tara took it like a trooper and after figuring out the hours of the bank we went shopping. Back on our ship a little while later we ran into our Tour Manager and one of the ships crew. We were told that “the ATM was hungry,” not an uncommon thing at night in Egypt – ouch! The next day we used our little bit of free time before our ship left Aswan to get the ATM card back. We seemed to be interrupting the bank guy who was counting piles of cash, but we kept nagging him and finally got it back – but not before he made us walk across the street twice for photocopies. But Tara got her ATM card back and the next time she used it she actually got money out, she also got reimbursed for the cell phone call to the bank.

The lesson: don’t count only on ATM machines.

Apr 29

Bethpage Restoration, Long Island

Old Bethpage Village Restoration is an outdoor museum type of place on Long Island, think of visiting Walnut Grove from Little House on the Prairie. The village offers a variety of buildings where you can learn about mid-19th century village life – like running a local store, hat making, or running a farm.

It’s a nice place, but I’m not in love with it. I liked it more the first time I visited. There was talk of closing it because of budget issues. As a history buff, I think that would be a shame. Here is what I don’t like about it – it’s a village which means it’s quite spread out. It’s a long walk to the village from the entrance and then everything there is fairly spread out. While I understand that this is a part of village life, it’s a lot of walking in the direct sunlight and on a hot day it makes it a long day. I’ve been there twice and felt drained when I left both times. What is good about it is seeing how people lived 100+ years ago. Also, they have a lot of nice events – period baseball games, civil war battlefield reenactments, and other period things. If you’re interested in going I would highly suggest going on a day when there is an event scheduled as it will make your visit worth while. I do see some more promise at the village, there are quite a few buildings that haven’t been developed yet. Unfortunately, I wonder if they will ever have the money to actually develop them.

It’s a nice quaint place, good for children and families. Once you pay for admission their are little costs inside the village – unless you want to buy a drink, cookies, or candies in the period shops. I suggest wearing sneakers as the paths are dirt, apparently they didn’t pave them in the 1800’s.

Apr 27

Getting ready for Hawaii

With Hawaii less then 3 weeks away I thought it was time to start checking on some things.

I went to book the final excursion Tara and I are going to take while in Hawaii, the Helicopter tour of Kauai. I was debating between a 9:30 am and a 10:30 am flight, and decided to go with the 10:30 flight. It will be one of our only “late” mornings of the trip. When I went into the booking system it showed that Tara and I were scheduled for the Wailua River and Fern Grotto on Thursday, I was sure I booked that for Friday. I scrambled through my papers and found that I did book it for Friday. A bit nervous I called Norwegian to check on this, apparently there was a problem with the website and I was booked on that excursion on Friday. The girl then booked Tara and I on the Heli tour and emailed me a confirmation of everything.

I also called Continental to find out if it would be an issue for Tara and I to arrive at the airport at different times. While speaking to the woman from Continental I realized that we would actually be checking in online from home. We just have to make sure that we each end up with the correct boarding passes so we can get through security and check our bags.

Apr 24

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

The Berlin Wall…

I heard something recently that I thought was quite ironic, they’re fixing the Berlin Wall. I wonder what Ronald Reagan would think? The restoration is scheduled to finish before the 20th anniversary in November. Has it really been that long? I vaguely remember it happening, I was barely a teenager at the time, I certainly didn’t understand it. But I do now, or at least I like to think that I do.

In 2006 I had an opportunity to visit the Berlin Wall, I must admit that our stop there was overshadowed a bit by the World Cup which was in Berlin. About the same time we arrived at the East Side Gallery fans were getting out of the Germany vs somebody game and Germany won, the city was celebrating, the city was electric that day. We only had a few minutes to visit the Eastside Gallery of The Wall and if not for the fact that we were told the history of the wall before arriving, it might have just been a photo op. As a group I think we all looked at it as a symbol of the Cold War, and the evils of Communism.
 The following morning we took a tour of the city and visited the Checkpoint Charlie museum which brought it home. A saw a poster there which I think epitomizes the Berlin Wall, I’ve included a picture, but it has the Berlin Wall in the middle. On one side is green grass, a tree, happy people, people playing ball, flowers. On the other side there is no grass and dead people. Whether it was drawn by a child from the East or West does not matter, the sentiment is there, the wall was bad and it divided people and countries. The world and Germany is better for its fall. I think the world is also better for having kept part of the wall as a reminder of what it symbolized.

The Checkpoint Charlie Museum was very good. The layout of the museum isn’t the best, but it’s filled with so much good stuff that it makes up for it. It tells the story of the wall and the story of those who tried to cross it, these were people who were thinking outside the box.

While doing research for this post I ran across an interesting article, and something totally up my alley. An apt was just opened that had been abandoned just a few months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and has been left as it was left almost 20 years. Do I smell a museum opening? Or maybe just some things that can be taken to a museum.