Category Archives: Dad’s Influence

Going It Alone

denmarknorway-1107
Bergen, Norway

As independent as I tend to fancy myself and despite my lack of a built in travel companion since my son reached a place in his life where his schedule rarely affords him opportunity for extended time away, I had never previously seriously considered planning a vacation 100% solo. Looking back, I can’t really understand why this idea hadn’t occurred to me. I’ve traveled for work on my own quite a bit over the last several years, even extending the work trips at times to allow some recreational time tacked on to the work portion of the trip, which I have thoroughly enjoyed.

Strædet, Copenhagen, Denmark
Solo dining on Strædet wasn’t so bad at all.

 

While many people propound to be interested in traveling, I’ve learned that it is not always the easiest thing to find a travel companion. Some don’t have the time. Some don’t have the financial means. Some have scheduling conflicts. Some have their own built in travel companion. Some just like to say they like to travel (or want to travel), but are unwilling or unable for some reason to pull the proverbial trigger and commit to a plan. After myriad failed attempts to plan a trip with a variety of friends, I started to feel the onset of the lack-of-travel-plan-depression that plagues me when I don’t have the light at the end of the tunnel of a vacation on the horizon.

Flåm, Norway
A resting point during my bike ride. Flåm, Norway

So, I did as described in What Did I Just Do, I rather impulsively booked a trip to Denmark and Norway with a departure merely 13 days out from my booking date when I found an incredibly reasonably priced cruise to the Norwegian Fjords. I originally questioned my decision to not only book the trip on the fly, since I am typically such a travel planning nerd, but also my decision to take an 11 day vacation alone.

Geiranger, Norway
Maybe a troll lives in here. Geiranger, Norway

 

However, once I arrived in Copenhagen, I never again had a second thought, other than wondering why it took me so long to figure out that solo travel should not be a last resort. I’ve met many people who have extolled the virtues of traveling solo and have read a variety of works describing the benefits. But, until I had actually experienced a solitary vacation, I truly didn’t appreciate the many positives involved in traveling solo.

  • First and foremost, it no longer remained requisite to rely on anyone but myself to solidify a plan. I was free to pick the date and destination without the need to consult and coordinate with anyone else.
  • I was able to move at as slow or quick a pace as I was inclined at any given moment. I actually purchased the Copenhagen card as an experiment in testing the value of buying a city card. Because I was able to blaze through attractions if I so desired, I was able to visit a good many sights and utilize the inclusive public transport for the duration of the 72-hour card I purchased without having to be concerned with my pace affecting anyone else’s idea of a good time.
  • While I never have trouble whipping up a conversation with strangers (I’m a sales puke, so it’s in my DNA), I discovered that people are much more inclined to start a conversation with you when you are alone – from the kid manning the crepe station, to attraction staff, to the crew and fellow cruisers who were on my sailing, to other travelers trying to navigate Copenhagen’s public transportation system. I had opportunity to visit with a variety of fellow cruisers on the Norwegian Star, and during a variety of happenstance meetings in port stops, even managed to make a friend out of another solo, intrepid traveler.
  • I was able to finish three novels by my favorite author during the cruise portion of my trip, which would have been difficult had I been traveling with a companion.
  • If I “messed up” any of the logistics of my day…making a “wrong” turn in my attempt to find an attraction, if an activity took longer than expected, etc., I was the only one affected by the miscalculation. And, I have learned that some “mishaps” can lead you to an unexpected positive, such as stumbling across beautiful architecture that I might not have found had I made a beeline directly to my intended destination.
  • Traveling solo allowed me to really “enjoy the silence” both while I was wandering around Copenhagen and the Norwegian port stops a well as on the ship. Sitting outside on the ship deck, listening to the sounds of the sea passing by. With all of the noise that comes along with everyday life, having quiet time was an incredibly welcome respite from the bombardment of constant audio clutter.
Mount Aksla, Ålesund, Norway
Climbed all 418 steps at my own pace. Mount Aksla, Ålesund, Norway
Church of Our Saviour (Vor Frelser Kirke), Christianshavn, Copenhagen, Denmark
Church of Our Saviour (Vor Frelser Kirke), Christianshavn, Copenhagen, Denmark

I have always been pretty comfortable in my own skin, with a fairly high level of independence, but my solo time demonstrated to me that being alone whilst traveling can be extremely liberating and fulfilling. Certainly, traveling unaccompanied may not be everyone’s cup of proverbial tea, but I would recommend giving it a go to those who have an adventurous spirit and wanderlust in their heart. Being unencumbered allows for a completely different experience than traveling with the buddy system or in a group, and while traveling solo may not be preferential to traveling with others, it is certainly something I would endeavor upon again.

Capture the Moment!

Fontana Trevi, Roma, Italia
A crazy man in the Trevi Fountain makes for a unique photo opportunity (Rome, Italy 2009)
Towel Animal, Independence of the Seas, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines
Attack of the towel animal aboard the Independence of the Seas, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (May 2012)
Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy
Tossing a coin for good luck, Fontana Trevi (Rome, Italy 2009)
Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pisa, Italy
Obligatory pic holding up the Leaning Tower (Pisa, Italy 2009)
Carrer dels Tallers, Barcelona, Spain
Devan loving the music stores on Carrer dels Tallers (Barcelona, Spain 2009)
Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain
You need to pick up schnauzer poop at Park Güell (Barcelona, Spain 2009)
Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain
Gotta love Gaudi at Park Güell (Barcelona, Spain 2009)
Cannon, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Another cannon makes a comfy seat (Dubrovnik, Croatia 2009)
Nice, Cannes, Monaco, Monte Carlo, St. Paul de Vence, Eze,  France
Baguette and gummy bears to devour in the back of the rental car in Nice (France 2009)
Statue of the Fallen Angel, Parque de Retiro, Madrid, Spain
Mooning Satan at the Statue of the Fallen Angel, Parque de Retiro (Madrid, Spain 2009)
Parque de Retiro, Madrid, Spain
Interesting statuary at Parque de Retiro (Madrid, Spain 2009)
Stockholm, Sweden
Swedish food…. MMMM (Stockholm, Sweden 2008)
Stockholm, Sweden
Excellent warning (Stockholm, Sweden 2008)
Fortress of Suomenlinna, Helsinki, Finland
Peek-a-Boo at Fortress of Suomenlinna (Helsinki, Finland 2008)
Fortress of Suomenlinna, Helsinki, Finland
Taking aim at the Fortress of Suomenlinna (Helsinki, Finland 2008)
London, England
Love how the Brits tell silly folk not to bash their heads on low ceilings (London, England 2008)
Dublin Skate Park, Dublin, California
Skate stop at Dublin Skate Park (Dublin, California 2008)
Dublin Skate Park, Dublin, California
Dublin Skate Park (Dublin, California 2008)
Petrified Forest, Calistoga, California
Petrified at the Petrified Forest (Calistoga, California 2008)
Muir Woods, California
Muir Woods (California 2008)
Lombard Street, San Francisco, California
That’s quite a flagpole (Lombard Street, San Francisco, California 2008)
Chinatown, San Francisco, California
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil (Chinatown, San Francisco 2008)
Deadwood, Monterey, California
Monterey deadwood (2008)
Hawaii, Family Vacation, NCL Pride of America
The face says it all (Hawaii 2007)
Hawaii, Family Vacation
Someone liked his first Hawaiian adventure (2007)
Cadillac Diner, NCL, Pride of America, Norwegian Cruise Lines
Family time in the Cadillac Diner aboard NCL’s Pride of America (2007)
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, Kauai, Hawaii
Ready to swoop over the Na’pali Coast with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters (Kauai, Hawaii 2007)
NCL Pride of America, Norwegian Cruise Lines
Classy tea drinking aboard NCL’s Pride of America (2007)
Parker Ranch, Waimea, Hawaii
Devan’s new friend at Parker Ranch, Waimea, Hawaii (2007)
Funny street names, Oahu, Hawaii, Peepee Falls
Gotta love the street names in Hawaii. I know it’s pronounced peh-eh-peh-eh, but it’s still funny 🙂 (Oahu, Hawaii 2007)
Mauna Loa Nut Factory, Hilo, Hawaii
A bunch of nuts at the Mauna Loa Nut Factory (Hilo, Hawaii 2007)
Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii, Human Sacrifice
Human sacrifice at Volcanoes National Park (Big Island, Hawaii 2007)
Norwegian Cruise Line, Pride of America
A boy and his uncle (NCL Pride of America 2007)
Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii
Horror at the Bishop Museum (Honolulu, Hawaii 2007)
Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii
Two statues at the Bishop Museum (Honolulu, Hawaii 2007)
Musclemen, Honolulu, Hawaii, Waikiki Beach
Three musclemen at Waikiki Beach (2007)
Pali Lookout, Pali Highway, Oahu, Hawaii
Blown away at the Pali Lookout (Pali Highway, Oahu, Hawaii 2007)
Skateboarding, Grandma Tarzana, California
Teaching his “Nanny” (grandma) to skate (Tarzana, California 2006)
Boating, San Diego, California
Someone’e having fun (San Diego, California 2006)
Brasstown Bald, North Carolina
Working hard at Brasstown Bald (North Carolina 2006)
Brasstown Bald, North Carolina
Devan making a new friend at Brasstown Bald, North Carolina (2006)
Fort Myers Beach, Florida, Mini Golf
Bear Hug (Fort Myers, Florida 2006)
Torture Museum, Tallin, Estonia
Ouchie at the Torture Museum (Tallin, Estonia 2008)
Archery, Tallin, Estonia
Funny how a pretty Estonian girl incites an interest in archery (Tallin, Estonia 2008)
Norwegian Cruise Lines, NCL Jewel, Towel Animal
Happy times with a towel animal aboard the NCL Jewel (2008)
Berlin, Germany
Ruminating over his time in Berlin (Germany 2008)
Copenhagen, Denmark
My now Army Soldier was a toy soldier just a few years ago (Copenhagen, Denmark 2008)
Backpack, Copenhagen, Denmark
That’s one heck of a backpack (Copenhagen, Denmark 2008)
Denmark signs rock, Copenhagen
Why don’t we have signs like this in the U.S.? I love it! “Shut up, you monkeyface. It is good!” (Copenhagen, Denmark 2008)
Berlin, Germany
German love for America (Berlin, Germany 2008)
NCL Jewel, Norwegian Cruise Line, Towel Animal
Devan and one of his many towel friends (NCL Jewel 2008)
Norwegian Jewel, NCL
My Superman, aka Super Travel Buddy (Norwegian Jewel 2008)
Hard Rock Cafe, London, England
Good to know (Hard Rock Cafe, London, England 2008)
Royal Guard, Buckingham Palace, London, England
Making friends with the Royal Guard (Buckingham Palace. London, England 2008)
Hyde Park, London, Naptime
Weird place for a businessman to take a mid-afternoon nap (Hyde Park, London 2008)
Coco Cay, RCCI Private Island
Monkey Boy at Coco Cay (2012)
Key West Key Lime Shop, Key West , Florida
Devan never saw it coming at the Key West Key Lime Shop (Key West 2012)
Towel Animal, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines,
Taking out the towel animal (Royal Caribbean, Independence of the Seas 2012) NO TOWEL ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS PHOTO SERIES
Towel Animal, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines,
Taking out the towel animal (Part 2, RCCI Independence of the Seas 2012) NO TOWEL ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS PHOTO SERIES
Towel Animal, RCCI Independence of the Seas
Taking out the towel animal (Part 3, RCCI Independence of the Seas 2012) NO TOWEL ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS PHOTO SERIES
Senor Frogs, Nassau, Bahamas
Universal Truth at Senor Frogs (Nassau, Bahamas 2012)
Fort Fincastle, Nassau, Bahamas
That’s quite a cannon ball (Fort Fincastle, Nassau, Bahamas 2012)
Palace of Versailles, France
Devan as the Masked Man of Versailles (France 2010)
Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine, Florida, Indian Trace Elementary Field Trip
Fourth grade boys being fourth grade boys at Castillo de San Marcos (St. Augustine, Florida 2003)
Nassau, Bahamas
Public Service Announcement (Nassau, Bahamas 2012)
Nassau, Bahamas
Karate Kid meets Nassau (2012)
Senor Frogs, Nassau, Bahamas
Truth at Senor Frogs (Nassau, Bahamas 2012)
Nassau, Bahamas
My pirate (Nassau, Bahamas 2012)
Graycliff, Nassau, Bahamas
Fending off the statuary at Graycliff (Nassau, Bahamas 2012)
Nassau, Bahamas
Giddy’up (Nassau 2012)
Nassau, Bahamas
Discouragement, Bahamian Style (Nassau 2012)

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Bavaria, Germany, Tyrolean Hat, Bavarian Hat
Devan thought he looked like an authentic Bavarian with his tourist version of an Alpine / Tyrolean Hat (Germany 2005)
Schloss Ambras, Innsbruck, Austria
The Tyrolean hat made its way to Austria with Devan (Schloss Ambras, 2005)
Manhattan, New York City, New York
The parking enforcement officer reinforced what the sign clearly stated (Manhattan, New York City 2005)
Las Vegas, Nevada, Excalibur
Devan joining King Arthur to claim Excalibur (Las Vegas 2004)
Mount Charleston, Las Vegas, Nevada, Dummkopf
Devan greeting one of the Dummkopfs at Mount Charleston in Las Vegas (2004)
Maui Tropical Plantation, Maui, Hawaii
My mom’s husband finding his way through the ginger at Maui Tropical Plantation (2007)
Top of Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii
My mom pretending the revolving Top of Waikiki restaurant spins a lot faster than it really does (2013)
Hawaii, Caves
Dev was disappointed not to find any cave monsters at Hawaii’s west coast (2013)
Rainbow Drive Inn, Honolulu, Hawaii
My mom was sick of me taking photos during our trip to Hawaii in 2010. This later became her Facebook profile picture. (2010)
Hawaii
I don’t believe he was playing John Travolta, but it looks like he was (Hawaii 2010)
Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii
Devan being sucked into the volcanic crater (Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, 2007)
Thurston Lava Tube, Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Dev as the Thurston Lava Tube Monster (Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, 2007)

I love photography and wish I had more time to dedicate to learning how to become a better technical photographer. For the time being, I do the best I can with my mediocre skills, camera and lenses. But, I’ve learned that an eye for aesthetically pleasing composition, a fancy camera and high end lenses are most definitely not requisite for capturing special travel moments on film (or really, the digital equivalent).

Some of my favorite photos from my travels aren’t of beautiful scenery or spectacular buildings I’ve beheld, but rather many of my favorite trip pictures capture a feeling, random silliness, a facial expression or an unusual finding during my vacations shared with loved ones and friends. I do love beautiful photography of amazing sights and sites I visit, but anyone can take a pretty picture; I could buy a postcard with spectacular photography in hi-gloss hi-resolution far superior to any snapshot I could grab. However, I would look at that photo and, while appreciating the beauty, still be left cold.

Yet, when I look back at photos I’ve personally taken, whether they be of my son having fun hamming it up for the camera, of some peculiar sign we happened past or of some other fashion of a random moment that was too special not to capture for posterity, my heart is warmed with the fond memories of the travel time shared with my son, friends and family in a way that an aesthetically pleasing photo can’t possibly evoke.  Remember – those moments are fleeting. Do what you can to freeze them in time and hold on to the special emotion those memories instill forever. I can’t remember the last time in recent history that I smiled as much as when I went digging through the droves of my photographs to dig up the pictures contained within this post.  A picture really does convey MORE than a thousand words. They project so very much more than simple words could hope to express.

 

Bull of Wall Street, Manhattan, New York City, New York
Look out below! Devan in a precarious position with the Bull of Wall Street (2005)
Lady Liberty, New York City, Manhattan, New York
Devan as a gangsta Lady Liberty (NYC 2005)
Devan had to have the silly touristy version of a Tyrolean / Bavarian hat, and the graphic depiction of what a dog isn't allowed to do at one of Ludwig's palaces made this photo particularly special
Devan had to have the silly touristy version of a Tyrolean / Bavarian hat – and he wore it in almost every photo I have of him on this trip; the hat and graphic depiction of what a dog isn’t allowed to do at one of Ludwig’s palaces made this photo particularly special (Schloss Linderhof, Bavaria 2005)
United Nations
Sign at the U.N. If they couldn’t manage to keep track of the Oil For Food Money, we shouldn’t expect them to be responsible for our wallets.

Americans Really CAN Be Ugly

On a literal level, I suppose the title of this post merely states the obvious. However, I’ve witnessed firsthand too many times the reason why the pejorative terminology “ugly American” came into being. It boggles my mind and sensibilities as to how visitors to a country and culture foreign to their own arrive with expectations that their destination should closely resemble that of their place of comfort back home and that the residents of said destination should speak their language or readily understand customs of the visitor’s place of origin. With that expectation, it belies common rationale for undertaking a trip to a foreign destination in the first place.

Have you ever heard a fellow traveler overseas exclaim with indignation, “Nobody here speaks English!” My goodness, what a shock, given that you’re in Spain or Estonia! It irritates me to no end when visitors to South Florida (or worse yet, long time residents of SFL, but that’s an entirely different issue!) ramble to or at me rapid fire en español on account of the fact that I have a light tan and dark hair. While I may very well understand 91.5% of the gist of what they are saying, I tend to return a vacant gaze and a response formulated in my remedial German. When they return my glazed stare as if I have three heads, I calmly explain that I thought it was “Pick A Language Day” wherein they chose Spanish and I chose (grammatically incorrect) German.

Since I become quickly annoyed at such rude, presumptive behavior, I would readily expect inhabitants of non-English speaking countries to possess a similar attitude when Americans wrongfully presume that everyone should speak English. How many times have the French, or Parisians in particular, gotten a bum rap as being arrogant and rude? Well, frequently those who label the Parisian locals as being impolite approached them with a question or statement in English (oftentimes with an arrogant air), without so much as prefacing their inquiry with, “I’m sorry I don’t speak French….” Whether that introduction be in English or French, at least one is not making the automatic assumption that a Parisian ought to speak English just because the American traveler does.

Horseback riding in Germany
We managed to make riding reservations in German!

When traveling to foreign locales, part of my pre-trip preparation is to ensure that I either learn in advance or bring along with me a few handy phrases in the tongue indigenous to my destination country(ies). Practically universally, I’ve encountered nothing but polite treatment by locals, oftentimes with a smile and reply to my poorly pronounced attempt at pleasantries in the native language ensuring me that I don’t need to butcher their language further since he or she speaks English quite well. When locals don’t speak English, they typically will play along with my pantomime and my limited knowledge of their language with a helpful willingness to answer my question or accomplish my purchase.

My dad led by example during travels of my youth. Even though he didn’t speak any language besides English, he never failed to make friends while traveling in Europe or elsewhere and somehow managed to communicate with locals, even if he had to play a game of charades or draw pictures on a paper place mat in a restaurant.

Skateboarding with locals in Barcelona
My son made friends in Barcelona with a simple “hola.”

Of course, in America or points beyond, grumpy, unfriendly people exist everywhere, and at some juncture we are all going to encounter them.

 

But, just like in life in general, The Golden Rule applies to travel. Give it a try. It works.

Another Nugget of Dad’s Wisdom: Capturing Travel Memories

During the 26 years my dad was in my life prior to his passing, my dad proffered a good amount of unsolicited advice as well as inspirational conversations that stuck with me for a lifetime. Some of these little treasures were deeper than others regarding life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness types of stuff; others were not necessarily life altering, but still powerful and lasting nonetheless. One such topic of discussion arose just prior to his passing in 1995 when my son’s and my closest friends, actually “adopted family” as I call them, invited us over to hear about and see photos of their recent family trip to Italy.

My dad was eager to hear about their trip and live vicariously through their travels, as his health had for some time impeded his ability to travel where walking was involved, relegating him to only van accessible explorations close to home in Florida. As our friends shared their stories, experiences and photos with us, my dad mentioned how much better their trip photos were than ones he had taken in the past. When they asked why he thought their pictures were so special, my dad simply replied that they WERE special photos because our friends were in the photos along with the lovely background scenery; my dad noted that too often during his prior travels, he would snap photos of just a building or a scenic landscape without members of our family in the pictures.

Interlaken, Switzerland
Interlaken, Switzerland is gorgeous, but would have been lovelier in this shot if my daddy were in it (1986)
River Thames, London, England
River Thames, London sans me or my dad (1986)

 

Seeing our friends’ photos of the family enjoying the travels and each other’s company made my dad realize that, without people in the photos, he may as well have just purchased a smattering of generic postcards. While our friends’ photographs were not taken with the highest quality equipment or even necessarily consisting of the best technical composition, to this day, those photos inspire a sense of nostalgia and warm recollection of the experiences shared during those beautiful , irreplaceable moments together.

Coloseo Rome Italy
Eric at Coloseo, Roma (1995)
Family photo, Alto Adige: Val Senales, Italia
So much more special than a shot of a mountain top (Alto Adige: Val Senales, Italia 1995)
Coloseo, Roma, Italia
Even a trash can as a prop doesn’t detract from family at the forefront (1995)

Since I do have an interest in photography, although I’m hardly a photographer, I’ve attempted to incorporate my dad’s observation into my photographic escapades and combine decent composition with personal touches to allow the photos to inspire fond memories of people and experiences to go along with the pretty setting. Architecture and landscapes oftentimes contain such beauty and detail that they warrant a photograph without anyone blocking the view, so in those instances (which in truth are frequent during my wanderings), I try to be sure to also snap additional shots with my friends or family – and even occasionally ask for someone to get behind my camera so I can be included in the photo as proof that I was present, too – to stamp that moment in time as an experience we shared, rather than just collect pretty pictures that you can find on Google images or some stock image database.

Both architectural / scenic travel photos along with those which include my son, other family members, and me that I’ve taken over the years (and ones that my son shot) adorn my home and populate my external hard drives and online photo albums. While the photographs of lovely objects and places remind me of travels past, the photos which are augmented by inclusion of loved ones inspire a feeling of wistful recollection unmatched by more impersonal shots, no matter how stunning the scene contained within may be. Love and warmth trumps sheer beauty in travel much the same way it does in an individual’s personhood. Nothing beats capturing the best of both worlds.

 

Nice, France
Nice is pretty…. (2009)
Nice, France
But, Nice is nicer with my son front and center (2009)