Monthly Archives: March 2010

Why I Do What I Do

1.  I make crazy travel plans because it makes me happy–even the insane spreadsheet part.

2.  Planning makes me happy because it makes traveling easier, and traveling makes me happy.  Traveling makes me happy because I know wherever I go, it will change me–hopefully for the better.

3.  I want to change for the better because, well, everyone could do for some betterment.  Especially me.

4.  We are going to London because we are nerds–there’s a lot of nerd stuff in London.  The British Museum alone is enough of a reason.  Add to that the Tower of London and a side trip to Oxford–the nerd capitol of the world–and you have two happy nerds.

5.  We are going to Paris because I’ve always wanted to go there–period. (And because my husband wants only to make me happy.)  I took French for six years hoping to go to France some day.  I had posters of Versailles and Mont Saint Michel on my walls in middle school.  I’m 30–I get to go now.  Also, my love of food quite possibly trumps my love of travel–thus, to Paris we shall go.

5.  I am taking a trip alone because I need to know I can do it outside of the US.  I may ‘need’ to do it next summer–and I will, if the husband cannot come with me.

6.  I am going to Barcelona because I watched one 23 minute Rick Steves Europe episode and was smitten–I then did 23 hours of research, and decided it was, in fact, what I wanted.  It seems so different from London or Paris–it is exactly what I did not know I was looking for.  And really–how hard can it be to learn Spanish…in three months?

7.  I am writing this blog because maybe there is someone out there thinking of doing this, too.  And I want them to know–whoever they are–that other people share the same goals.  Because there are so many ways to live.  I want to be part of someone’s personal un-limiting.

8.  I am writing this entry because I fully realize that this blog is quite self-indulgent, especially considering how many posts I’ve already written.  But this is one of the few things I do for pure enjoyment–so I will continue to do it for as long as I can.

9.  I do things for pure enjoyment because, well, what would life be without senseless, fun things?

10.  I am writing this final reason because I need the list to have ten entries.

Barce-ALONE-a

Anyone with OCD will tell you that numbers are important.  My particular breed of OCD requires that things come in threes; thus, I feel much better now that I will be visiting a third city/country/culture this summer.  But aside from satisfying my compulsion, I’m super freaking unbelievably psyched that I will be going to Barcelona.  Barcelona.  Who knew?  Thank god my OCD also makes me research every single possibility before making a decision.

In case you can’t tell by the ‘super freaking unbelievably psyched’ above, I officially booked my solo trip transportation and lodging.  I will be flying from Paris to Barcelona and then Barcelona back to Lonodon on Easyjet and staying at The Hotel Caledonian for seven nights. I’m actually having trouble forming sentences because I am so excited.  Really.  It is that bad.

But I shall struggle on.

I feel that I made two very good decisions.  One, to stay at a hotel–a reasonably priced hotel and a hotel with an en suite bath–for the entire time.  And two, to book my flight back to London.

The hotel decision was a good one because I know myself–I’m an only child (with OCD) and I don’t think a dorm room would mix well with an experimental trip in a foreign country.  Plus there’s the whole safety issue–changing lodging would require walking around with all of my possessions for at least an additional afternoon (and dealing with hostel lockers).

The return flight decision was even better, as it totally rules out the (very real) possibility that I would try to extend the trip even further.  I’ve already cost-compared flights from Barcelona to London to flights from Barcelona to Edinburgh or Dublin–the cities I’m giving up to see a bit of Spain.  And really–I’m doing enough this summer.  I will be gone for four weeks.  That is more than enough.  So I will fly back to London a week after my husband flies home and fly back home to meet him.  Or, at the very most, I will fly back a few days AFTER I return to London.  I’d really like to see Bath.  And Canterbury.

Damn.  I have serious, serious issues.  Oh well–who cares.  I’m going to Barcelona!  Now–how do you say ‘issues’ in Spanish?

To Book or Not To Book

‘To be or not to be?’ is lame…my question is ‘when should I stop planning and start booking?’ I’ve done oodles of research and introspection, and I super want to go to Barcelona.  And I’ve done oodles more research and oodles more introspection on where to stay and for how long, and I feel I have come up with the perfect plan.

The decision before was ‘hostel vs. hotel’, and I’ve decided that the best way for me to pick is to try out both options.  This makes the most sense, as this is an experimental trip to begin with–I’m practicing traveling alone, practicing traveling to a place where I do not speak the language, testing out a scary small European budget airline–I might as well practice staying at both a busy hostel and a lonely hotel.

So I shall stay for four nights at the Urbany Hostel, well located near all of the ‘stuff’ I want to see and do, and then when I’m sick of sharing a dorm with eight to sixteen women from around the world, I’ll be off to the Hotel Barcelona Princess (yes, that’s a terrible, terrible name) to have my own room with fancy bathroom, rooftop pool, and a five minute walk to the nicest beach in Barcelona (or a five minute walk to the metro, which will get me back to all of the afore mentioned ‘stuff’ in under twenty minutes).  And I shall do all of this for a total of $62 per night.  Which is not bad at all, in my humble opinion, and keeps me under my self-imposed budget for my solo trip–by four measly dollars.

I feel this is a good plan. Now all I need to do is BOOK IT ALREADY.  I’ve found the flight there, the rooms, the flight back to London for the return flight home.  So why haven’t I hit ‘book this now’ on any of these?  I honestly don’t know.  Must…stop…planning…must…start…doing.

Backpack Verdict

Because one of the purposes of this blog is to provide info that I’ve looked for but could not find, here is my next installment of ‘The Search for the Perfect Backpack’.

Doug’s ‘backpack’ selection, the eBags Weekender, arrived today.  After deliberating for about an hour, he decided to send it back.  He asked me for my opinion, and of course I shared it with him–as I will with all of you.  First , I did actually consider returning my Kelty and getting one for myself.  I considered this for about two minutes, based only on the fact that yes, it did seem larger and thus could ‘fit more stuff’–see pictures below.  But then I tried it on, and my original assumption was correct–it felt exactly like carrying a suitcase on your back.  And this was trying it on totally empty.  But the real reason I decided against it–and the reason he decided against it as well–was the way the ‘convertible’ straps hooked on to the bag–see photo top left.  I tried to show perspective by including my hand in the picture, but the thing that holds the straps on to the bag (and thus, the bag on to your back) is a tiny little paper clip looking thing.  I just didn’t feel good about it, and neither did he.  So we will be sporting matching Kelty Redwing 2650s this summer.  But that’s ok, because we already know we are dorks–we might as well celebrate it.

Difference in thickness (or 'maybe they'll make a wallet?')

Kelty Redwing 2650 vs. eBags Weekender

How I will wear it in Spain. No, seriously.

Screw It Some More

I’m going anyway. And I will be just fine. I spent the last half hour continuing my highlighting of the Barcelona book. I am very excited. I will book the flight and hotel on Wednesday, and commence with spreadsheet itinerary making. I will be in my nerd glory. Yes…yes I will.

Another One Bites the Dust

Screw it–I’m done doing research.  It only leads you to sites like THIS–more than the content of the blog, it is the comment section that really bothers me.  I will be posting a question on Rick Steves about ‘safety in Barcelona’–but this particular site makes it sound really, really really bad.  Oh and please please please click on the link ‘surefire way to avoid pickpockets’–warning, it is disturbing, but in the funniest of ways.

I’m sitting here looking at my Lonely Planet Barcelona and sighing.  And another one gone and another one gone…another one bites the dust.

And I didn’t even post a Barcelona picture as my wallpaper.  Sigh.

An immediate edit…

ARRRGH!  Yes, it seems I research too much.  Because no matter what I look for, I can find it.  For example, when I google ‘Barcelona Crime’, I get sites like the one linked above.  If I look on Rick Steves, I find thread like THIS ONE–which are very reassuring.  So screw it some more–I’m going.  I bet if I googled Vermont Crime I’d find some scary things, too.

Comfort, Convenience, and Cost

I have a rule about trip planning–I can’t officially start ‘planning’–that is, making spread sheets and tables and charts and notes on things to do and how to get there–until I know that I have somewhere to stay.  Which brings me to the new decision I have to make about my solo trip…I shall call this decision comfort vs. convenience vs. cost.

I cannot have all of these things.  I can have some of these things–I’d say, at most, two.  I can find a well located place to stay that is reasonably priced–in a dorm (so comfort goes away).  I can find a nice place that is somewhat reasonably priced–several metro stops away from anywhere I want to be (bye bye convenience).  And I certainly can find many places that are both nice and close to the action–I just can’t (and won’t) pay over $200 a night, because that is just stupid.

My choices have been narrowed down to THREE:

1.  The distant but very nice, very safe, caters-to-business-men-and-cruise-patrons hotel that has fantastic views of the beach, a rooftop infinity pool, and giant clean rooms with marble baths and wifi (and that offers great rates on Expedia).  This is my husband’s #1 pick because of the safety aspect.  I don’t know if he’s considering the long-ish metro trip to anywhere–in a non-English speaking country–but whatever.

2.  A middle of the road hotel that is ideally located a walkable distance from most ‘sights’–and close to public transport for farther trips.

3.  A bed in a hostel that is well located, clean, and CHEAP–half the price of the two above.

After writing that, it seems #1 should be off the list.  I appreciate that my husband is trying to look out for my safety, but when I point out the possibility of me being lost on a metro–that could very well result in wandering around scary places–he’ll see my point.

So the decision is single room for more money or hostel for half the amount.  If the decision were only about money, there’d be no contest–I’d just pay more and have my own room (and my own BATHROOM, which, let’s be honest here, is the issue with a dorm!) But I also have to take into account the fact that I’ll be traveling alone.  And this could very well be an incorrect assumption, but it seems easier to meet people staying in a dorm–with communal everything, including a kitchen (and, oddly, at this hostel, a pool and a gym…?)–than it would be in a hotel.  In my head, I see me going back to my nice, private room in the more expensive place every night having not talked to a soul (other than some random questions in broken Spanish); in comparison, I see myself making friends in the common room at the hostel, going out to tapas bars with said friends, and adding them on facebook when I come home (though I’ll likely never see or hear from them again).  It is this mental picture that makes me think that the hostel is the better bet.  However–I very well could be very wrong.  And beyond that–I know me.  Please see my post, Shared Housing Sucks, from last summer’s stay at Breadloaf–and that was a room shared with one other person in a very nice house (though, to be fair, there were only two bathrooms for ten women, which is not even near enough!)

What to do?  I do not know.  But I’ll take suggestions.

In related news: The Tracy Extension trip must be shortened.  I fully realize I’d like to have some time in my own house this summer, so here’s the new plan–I shall ‘practice’ traveling alone in ONE place–and then come home.  If I end up on a solo trip next summer, then I can go crazy planning a route.  But this is supposed to be practice–not an epic journey.

I’ve decided on Barcelona because, well, I’m just as excited about it as I am about London and Paris.  I even bought a Lonely Planet Barcelona city guide, travel book number seven or eight, after Iceland, Florence, Paris, London, Great Britain…among others.  But it is sitting there, barely opened, because I first need to book a room and an Easyjet flight.  Then I can finally start planning this leg of the trip–and finish planning London and Paris.  My poor Paris ‘Table of Sightseeing Fun’ is only partially finished.  Thank goodness we don’t leave for over three months!