Tag Archives: European Travel

Auf Wiedersehen

Greetings from Salzurg, Austria.  I am sitting in the breakfast lounge at Pension Elizabeth, where Abba is playing on a loop, the Internet is super slow, and the hotel staff are having some kind of meeting with a salesperson at the next table.

I’ll leave for the airport in a few hours to fly to Ethiopia, where I’m told I’ll have no Internet.  I would love to say I’m going to write enough posts to take you along with me, but that’s a fairy dream.  Complications are following me, and I can’t say I’ve really had one day off since I left 11 days ago.

I’ve got 200 emails in my work inbox.  The June 1 payment from my renters back home hasn’t shown up in my checking account.  I am getting texts and phone calls from someone who needs to know something about the sale of my condo and I have no idea who they’re from or what they’re about.

The most “exciting” complication happened when I flew from Copenhagen to Amsterdam.  I received a reminder from Expedia the night before to check in.  Norwegian Air’s website didn’t recognize the routing number but I got a message that said, “Don’t Worry! We’re still working on our website.”  Really?  Did Norway just get the Internet?

The train to the airport the next day left late and stopped twice to let other trains go by in the other direction.  In general, I think this is good, but not when it keeps you standing still for 20 minutes at a time. Finally, we were told to get off and take another train.  I had, as they always advise you, allowed plenty of time to get to the airport early but got there about an hour before my flight was to leave.

And Norwegian Air had no record of the flight.

It’s a long story, but I ran from one terminal to another, then back again, then back in the other direction, and was quoted up to $800 for a new ticket.  I did all this with my big bag full of books, since I hadn’t been able to check it.

In the end, I was lucky to get the last seat on a Scandinavian Airlines flight for $406.  Expedia says their records show I took the Norwegian flight.  They are telling me to call Norwegian Air id I still think there is a problem.  Call?—as in make an international call that will cost me $1 a minute to sit on hold?  I protested, but Expedia hasn’t responded.  If anyone has advice to doing battle with Expedia, please let me know.

Four hundred bucks is a lot of money to lose, but also in the mad rushing around in the airport, I must have dropped my bag on my foot.  Once I arrived in the Netherlands and took my socks off at my friend’s house, I saw an alarming gold-ball sized green swelling on the top of my left foot.  I immediately thought of the American journalist Miles O’Brien, who had a freak accident where something fell on his arm.  The incident seemed mild, but it caused something called Acute Compartment Syndrome.  He had to have his arm amputated.  Boy, is he good looking—you really should check out that article.

My foot swelling went down that night, but my whole foot has been black and blue for a week.  I showed it to my friend and we went down a check list: it’s not numb.  I can bend my toes.  It’s tender to the touch but not painful to walk.  The swelling is gone.

Good to go to Ethiopia, right!?

Other than the potentially fatal foot injury, $406 loss, and the nonstop rain that follows me everywhere, I’ve had a great time so far.

Okay, I’m off to bring the rain to Ethiopia.

I’ll write more when I get to Cornwall, England in a week or so.

A Summer Abroad

This is the last in a series of posts about Belize that starts here, and the first in a series of posts about spending the summer abroad.

When I returned from Belize, my legs were so itchy from bug bites and I had to run to the bathroom so often that I didn’t get a good night’s sleep for a week.  Going to a developing country with an experienced tour provider is no guarantee of protection; you still have to look out for yourself.  I should have clocked on to the water situation sooner—that Jungle Jeanie’s was filling our “drinking water” jug with tap water.  I’m not saying that Jungle Jeanie’s was trying to hoodwink us.  Maybe they were dropping chlorine tablets into the water and thinking that was sufficient, but it wasn’t.

I don’t think there was anything I could have done to prevent the bug bites.  We all had different kinds of repellant and none of them worked.

Post-trip, we went around and around about how to share photos. We tried Dropbox but quickly ran into the storage limit and no one volunteered to pay for a higher one.  I created albums on Facebook and shared the links to them.  Others sent photos the old fashioned way, via email.

I think some tour companies create websites on which customers can share photos, but Wilderness Inquiry doesn’t offer that.  There could be a great business opportunity for someone who contracted with tour companies to manage their groups’ photos—editing, curating, and making them available to technology-averse oldsters.

I have thought of friending Emily on Facebook but can’t find her.  I searched for her exact name in my email just now and found this photo she took in a gas station bathroom which demonstrates our shared interest in foreign signage.

Would I go on another Wilderness Inquiry trip?  Absolutely.  Would I recommend it to others?  Yes.  This is the 4th time I’ve traveled with a group.  I went to England with Volunteers for Peace, to Israel with 175 Jews from Minnesota, to Portugal with a British company called Newmarket Tours, and now to Belize and Guatemala with Wilderness Inquiry.

In general, tours are less stress because they do all the planning and take care of almost everything for you on the ground.  They vet your accommodations.  They get your bag from the airport to the hotel, pay the bill at the restaurant, and communicate with the local guides. I haven’t done the math, but I’m sure this trip cost a lot less than if I had arranged everything on my own—especially taking my time into consideration.

You have to be open to being with other people 24/7.  You have to be willing to skip a day of activities if you need alone time. If you are traveling solo, you have to fork over the single supplement—which is substantial—unless you go with an outfit like Wilderness Inquiry that will match you with a roommate.  Overseas Adventure Travel is the only other company I am aware of that doesn’t charge the single supplement (on most trips).  However, I recently tried to be taken off their mailing list and their website makes it almost impossible.  In fact, a week after submitting my request, I got this catalogue.

It’s like porn for travelers, but it makes me wonder about their customer service.

As I write this, it’s 12 hours til I get on a plane to London.  From there, I’ll fly to Copenhagen, Denmark and spend a few days there.  When you read this, I will be in Utrecht (the Netherlands) with my friend Ingrid who I met on that Volunteers for Peace trip.  After spending time doing fun summer Dutch things, we’ll take a train to Salzburg, Austria.  Salzburg is famous as the “Sound of Music” city and I’ve heard it’s cheesy but I don’t care.

From Salzburg, I’ll go to Ethiopia for work.  After that, I’ll spend the rest of the summer in England and Scotland.