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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

On the Road . . . Still . . .

This post features stuff that is important to bring along. These are items considered long-time necessities after traveling around the world to 30 countries including Japan, Thailand, French Polynesia, Australia, France, Greece, Italy, England, Ireland, Turkey, Costa Rica, Mexico, kayaking through the San Juan Islands and the Sea of Cortez, and floating on cruise ships throughout the Carribbean and in the Mediterranean, . . . mustn’t forget the Channel Islands — both of them — off the coast of California and in the English Channel.

Most Important: Your Feet

Find and test the most comfortable shoes you can find before leaving home.

Teva-SandalBe POSITIVE that they suit your foot shape. If you have not walked a lot, you may not realize the type of support you need for your arches. If you have really high arches, without the correct footwear, i.e. excellent arch support such as that of Teva Women’s Zirra SandalMerrell Shoes., or just about anything by Merrill, you might be uncomfortable.

Friends, on the other hand, have much lower arches and need to find a more moderate solution. One generally travels with shoes of varying heel heights and changes according to immediate need(s).

Whatever you are most comfortable in around your own city will probably be what will work best on the road . . . unless you are covering terrain new to you, walking more than usual, and/or unless you’re like ladies who wander around in 4″ heels. (Although I did tour much of Europe in stacked heels during the ’70s ’cause that is what I was used to. No problems!).

On the Road Again . . .

FIRST . . .

Think about your absolute basic needs to make you comfortable.
During a summer at Oxford in England, an elegantly dressed classmate travelled impressively minimally. Her method was layering . . . cashmere sweaters. She had about four of them with her, along with a rain jacket, Levis, dress slacks, couple of T-shirts, water-proof boots and well-made sandals. If I saw her packing, I would have thought her, uh, impractical. However, it worked so well, that we’ve adopted some of her ideas and that now pretty much how we now travel. Additions include a Mandarin silk jacket for evenings; it packs flat. Oh, and a bathing suit.

We learned from the classmate and while we travel exceptionally light, there are a few things necessary for comfort and for safety. Being flexible also opens up last-minute opportunities because you will not be carting lots of unneeded stuff around. The historic Singel Hotel in Amsterdam has a store room for those who decide to hop trains for a few days or weeks without having to lug around their stuff.


Compass, food and water containers, storm shelter such as the Kelty Salida 2 Person TentKelty Salida Tent. (winner of Backpacker Magazine Editor’s Choice Awards), Kelty’s Grand Mesa (a free-standing design) or Acadia, REI’s Half-Dome 2-person tent, or The North Face Talus 4 TentNorth Face Tent.. All important, especially if you are hiking into any region new to you or if it’s an area known for its dramatic climate changes, i.e. anywhere in England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Oregon or Washington in the U.S. . . .


Always have a waterproof jacket with you. Our outer layers are lightweight and waterproof; everything else can be layered. I’m still wandering around with a 30-year-old Banana Republic jacket (made by the Ziegler’s, the original owners). The jacket is light weight, has sufficient pockets, IS waterproof, and folds inside itself so it can be used as a travel bag. Closest to it is Columbia’s Men’s HydroTech Packable Rain JacketPackable rain jacket., which looks good and has it’s own stuff sack. Other possibilities: Outdoor Research Men’s Horizon JacketWaterproof outdoor jacket.Kathmandu., Columbia Sportswear Men’s Evapouration JacketColumbia Sportswear., Puma Track Jacket from The North Face.


There are enough versions to pretty much get a one-size that works for everything.

Well worth checking out: Black Diamond Anthem BackpackBackpack. which weighs about 2.5 pounds.

Suggestion: If you have friends who offer to loan you their 30-year-old favorite backpack, politely decline. Newer designs are lighter and mold better on your upper body, which makes wandering around much easier.



The Right Shoes.

Hiking-BootsHi Tec Hiking Boot.Think about where you are going, your plans, and expected the unexpected: You might come across a mountain you want to climb.

Buy new gear, especially foot wear, 30-60 days before you leave home, spend lots of time wandering on terrain similar to where you will be going if possible. Our favorites include Hi-Tec Men’s Altitude IV Hiking BootHi Tec Boots., TevaTeva., and just about anything by Merrill.

Be sure any shoes, boots or sandals are REALLY comfortable and fit well. If you don’t have a favorite for casual walking around try TevaTeva. with selections to cover just about any terrain. They are among the world’s leading sport-lifestyle companies. Something like the Teva Women’s Zirra SandalTeva Sandals. will take you just about anywhere in the world. Be sure they are REALLY comfortable and fit well.

Travel Light.

To make your trip enjoyable, unless you are going on a cruise ship where you do not have to pack/unpack/pack, or unless you have your own personal sherpa, travel light.

We spent two months on the road starting in Tahiti and ending in Japan (with Roratonga, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand in between) with this type of set up and did not feel inconvenienced at all.

If you are on a long trip, do what Europeans do: Ship home any items you no longer need or that you purchased enroute and don’t want to carry around.

If you travel where the dollar is still strong, consider purchasing needed items as you travel and follow the examples of European travellers: Ship it home. Don’t lug around things you don’t need.


If it doesn’t wheel, don’t travel with it. Wheeling your stuff around is MUCH easier on you, your friends and family. Make sure it can be picked up if need be, but roll it the rest of the time.

Luggage-Eagle-CreekNested or stack-on luggage with wheels is particularly practical if you’re wandering through countries by hopping trains and using local transportation to get around.

If you are using various modes of transportation Eagle Creek Luggage Load Warrior Wheeled Duffel 22Eagle Creek Luggage. is particularly useful. Airplane aisles are getting narrower by the year, they are the width of food/beverage carts, which is narrower than lots of carry-on bags, i.e. less than 17 inches. I just returned from a trip where in order to fit down the aisle, two little side pockets had to be emptied. Luggage smaller than L14″ x W9″ x H22″ is typically referred to as a carry-on bag and will meet most domestic airlines’ carry-on size standards, but know that “puddle jumper” flights anywhere in the world might be on smaller aircraft; USAir between Arizona and Texas is so small that some carry-on won’t make it.

We were a 14-passenger flight from Ochos Rios to Kingston, Jamaica some years ago. That plane did everything but roll.

Be sure to measure and count your camera bag and/or laptop bag and/or purse/briefcase as separate carry-on items. Airplanes are getting stricter.


Where Are You From?

Odds are your ancestors travelled by sea or via extensive overland routes during the 1400s, 1500s, 1600s, etc.

Do you know your family history? Discoveries are fascinating. 
Find out what your DNA says about you.
23 pairs of chromosomes define you. Through today’s DNA testing, you can bring your ancestry to life.

Find out what percent of your DNA comes from populations around the world, ranging from East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and more. Break European ancestry down into distinct regions such as the British Isles, Scandinavia, Italy and Ashkenazi Jewish. People with mixed ancestry, African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans will also get a detailed breakdown.

You’ll likely discover dozens or even hundreds of people who share DNA and ancestors. The matches you’ll get can range from close family to distant cousins.

Preserve your family’s history by highlighting names, dates, events, and more.

Genetic testing for genealogists has gone mainstream, with costs plummeting as private companies refine their techniques and improve the accuracy of results. For as little as $99, anyone can order a do-it-yourself kit that comes in the mail, then submit their spit for analysis and receive results within six weeks.

Genealogy hobbyists compare locating family tree to a scavenger hunt, laden with clues, surprises and dead ends.

Recently, scientists used the technology to confirm the identity of a skeleton buried beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England, as King Richard III, who died in battle in 1485. The scientists matched the bones to two living maternal-line relatives, according to the University of Leicester, which conducted the analysis along with radiocarbon dating and a skeletal exam.

Closer to home, not everyone is excited about the DNA technology, as some remain cautious about privacy or simply don’t see the need. But for others who are adopted or are trying to explain a gap in their family tree, the tests may provide a crucial breakthrough, experts said.

“I think a lot of people find it of use to them, personally, especially if they are searching for a form of identity they are able to uncover in this way,” said Noah Rosenberg, associate professor at Stanford University’s Department of Biology and expert in evolutionary biology and genetics.

“Many people have a missing relative or have a parent die young and are searching for some kind of connection,” he said. “We see a significant trend where African-Americans are searching for some understanding of the populations from which their ancestors originated from Africa.”

There are no federal regulations that govern the direct-to-consumer ancestry tests, said Hank Greely, a Stanford law professor who specializes in the ethical, legal and social implications of new biomedical technologies. Basically, both state and federal regulation only cover tests sold or done for health purposes.

Popularized in recent years by its use in high-profile criminal investigations and paternity cases, DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, is most commonly used to prove a relationship to an individual.

New tests created in recent years, however, have also turned DNA into a popular tool for determining ancestry. As DNA is passed down from one generation to the next, some parts remain almost unchanged, while other parts change greatly. This creates a link between generations and it can be of great help in reconstructing our family histories. While it can’t provide you with your entire family tree or tell you who your ancestors are, DNA testing can:

  • Determine if two people are related
  • Determine if two people descend from the same ancestor
  • Find out if you are related to others with the same surname
  • Prove or disprove your family tree research
  • Provide clues about your ethnic origin
Genetic testing.
Genetic Testing

DNA tests have been around for many years, but it is only recently that the cost of genetic testing is becoming affordable for average families  interested in tracing their roots. It is now possible to Map your global origins with the most complete coverage of your DNA. through home DNA test kits which can be ordered through the mail or over the Internet.

America’s Lighthouses

The Fyddeye Guide to America’s Lighthouses
The Fyddeye Guide makes your travel planning easier by showing you hundreds of fascinating lighthouses you can visit today on the east coast, Great Lakes, Gulf Coast, and the west coast, including Alaska and Hawaii. From remote islands in Maine to the metropolises of southern California, you’ll discover the towering historic structures that have inspired travelers for millennia. You can get close to virtually all America’s lighthouses, and many allow you to climb to the top and stay as long as a month in historic buildings.

  • More than 750 lighthouses, conveniently organized by coastal region and state
  • Brief histories and complete contact information, including website, email address, and phone
  • Three maps with suggested itineraries for discovering lighthouses in New England, Michigan, and California
  • Notes on whether you can stay overnight on the lighthouse grounds, possibly in the keepers’ historic quarters
  • Chapters on lightships and historic life-saving stations, including availability of overnight accommodations
  • More than 40 images of lighthouses from coast to coast

With a foreword by leading New England lighthouse photographer Jeremy D’Entremont.

America’s Lighthouses

Books, DVDs, Postcards, Puzzles, Paintings, Water Bottles, Mouse Pads . . . Right: Lighthouses of North America: Beacons from Coast to Coast by Sylke Jackson, a freelance writer with a BA cum laude in Literature from Yale University. Her passion for architectural preservation has led her to work on historic buildings in this country and abroad. Jackson teaches high school English and writing. She also races Lightning sailboats on the Hudson, and always keeps a grateful eye on the lighthouse at Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Globes and Navigation

The first record of boats large enough to carry goods for trade is around 3500 B.C. and this would mark the birth of the art of navigation. Early navigators generaly stayed close to shore and navigated by sight of landmarks or visible land characteristics. Usually they traveled by day and sought a calm harbor or anchorage at night. They did not have charts but lists of directions, similar to today’s cruising guides.

Navigation of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the China and Australian Seas.Navigation of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the China and Australian Seas: With an Account of the Winds, Weather, and Currents Found therein … Extensive Extracts from the Nautical Magazine

The first ocean voyages were dramatic – a vessel blown off course by a sudden storm or error by the helmsman could destroy the ship and crew. However, Vikings regularly sailed to Iceland and Greenland between 900 and 1000AD, apparently using only the sun, stars and wind as their guide.

Early navigators had to be creative in compensating for their lack of technology. Viking explorer Floki Vilgjerdarsson, credited with the discovery of Iceland, carried aboard a cage of ravens. When he thought land should be near, he would release one of the birds. If it circled the boat without purpose, land was not near, but if it took off in a certain direction, the boat followed, knowing the bird was headed toward land.

One of the earliest man-made navigation tools was the mariner’s compass, an early form of the magnetic compass (c.13th Century). Initially used only when the weather obscured the sun or the North Star, these first compasses were very crude. The navigator would rub an iron needle against a lodestone, stick it in a piece of straw and float it in a bowl of water. The needle would point in a northerly direction. Early mariners found the compass inconsistent – most likely because they did not understand that it pointed to the magnetic north pole, not true north. At the time, they could not explain these variations and could not put much trust in the readings when navigating an unknown area.

Shop Rand McNally Travel StoreAt this time, mariners began to realize that maps would be helpful and began keeping detailed records of their voyages that land-based mapmakers used to create the first nautical charts called Portolan Charts (c. 13th Century).

The charts, created on sheepskin or goatskin, were rare and expensive and often kept secret so that competing mariners would not have access to this knowledge. What they lacked in accuracy they made up for in beauty, which you can review by visiting Geographicus. Lands and ports on the chart were highly decorated with depictions of buildings and flags.

The size of lands on charts were more a reflection of their importance to trade routes than their actual geographical size and, of course were not very accurate. The charts did not have latitude or longitude lines but did have compass roses indicating bearings between major ports.