It’s a Small World After All

(Travel Dates: June 28, 2016 – March 22, 2020)

This is my last blog post. I’m now fully settled in Portland and it’s time to recap my travels. Eventually I’ll archive my blog. It has been a habit that when I complete a project I like to provide a recap that includes a few statistics, lessons learned and personal insights. And I decided this recap should have a name: It’s a Small World After All. (Because it is.)

The purpose of writing this blog was two-fold. Primarily to document where I’ve been, what I saw and experienced, and include personal thoughts as well. The other purpose was to share this adventure by having my posts available to anyone who might be interested in my travels. No advertising or promotion. The idea was that I would write daily (as possible or necessary) postings. This resulted in 915 published posts.

Preparing to leave on this adventure took several years of planning. First to test the feasibility, including a travel budget, before I made a final decision. I didn’t have a roadmap to follow, since few people have traveled this extensively for multiple years, so I developed many scenarios and contingencies. I had to answer questions such as: destinations, length of stay, where to stay and cost per night, food costs, medical insurance, transportation costs, etc.

The big question to answer, and this was the toughest, was: Why am I doing this? The idea started one Sunday morning in Spring of 2012 when I read an article about people moving to Ireland after they retired. How is this possible? This began a process of discovery. “Why not?” was my response each time I continued the discovery process. It became clear over the next several months that I could make my vision of living abroad a reality.

Once I made the commitment to proceed it was time to set a goal of when I would leave. This is when I started to develop a series of budgets, cash flow estimates and contingencies. I established the initial goal of leaving soon after I turned 62 (March 2016). Could I retire at age 62? I was working on a contract at the time and didn’t know where I would be working when I turned 62. As it turned out I began a permanent full time position at OHSU in 2014 and I could retire from there.

The next big decision was what to do with my condo and the house I inherited from my dad’s estate. Thankfully, the housing market, including condo properties, was improving and if I sold the condo I would have a good chunk of equity. The option of renting out the condo was not attractive since the income was not necessarily dependable plus I was already renting out the home in Hood River. Having two rentals to manage while traveling would be a distraction. At the time I was conservator of my cousin’s estate so I needed to confirm that I could still act in that capacity as I traveled. Much to be considered.

As I approached my 62nd birthday I made the decision to retire June of 2016 if I could sell my condo before I planned to retire. This action was to be the final trigger that would set into motion my travel adventure. I put the condo up for sale in February and it sold in March just a few days after I turned 62. The next step was to announce my retirement.

By now I had developed a project schedule that contained every activity that I needed to complete before stepping on the plane. Each day I reviewed the schedule to make sure I was on track. The two items that I was most concerned about was selling my car and finding someone to adopt my cat.

Because I knew finding just the right person to adopt my cat was going to be difficult, and most likely time-consuming, I set the date to complete this task a couple of months ahead of when I was planning to leave. At first I wasn’t having much luck and decided to change strategies and to market the cat, like a company would advertise a product. This concept worked and I was soon contacted by the perfect couple to adopt Buddy. The couple who eventually adopted him were very gentle and when they met the cat for the first time he rolled on his back and allowed his belly to be rubbed.

As for the car, initially I didn’t have much luck finding a buyer. It wasn’t until my workplace going away event, and sitting next to a co-worker, I discovered that she and her husband were looking for a new car. While enjoying our drinks I sent a picture to her and she immediately sent to her husband. Within 15 minutes we made arrangements for them to test drive the car the next evening. They made an offer after the test drive. This was just short of two weeks before I was scheduled to leave.

Then the real fun started as I made flight and lodging reservations. I kept a spreadsheet where I recorded the reservation information. I was diligent about keeping the spreadsheet current for the duration of my travels. I can now look back and see where I was each day, how I got there and how I was getting to my next stop. As I started traveling in earnest I usually mapped out travel plans in detail at least a month in advance.

My last day in Portland was frantic at times. I still had a few items left in my apartment and I still needed to pack my suitcase. Thankfully my flight to New York City was scheduled for later in the evening so I had all day to finish. I’ll mention here that I rented an apartment for three months while my condo was being sold. When I selected a realtor to list my condo I asked that they stage my condo as part of the deal and as a result I needed to move out. Eventually, on my final day in Portland, I was able to meet friends for a going away party later in the afternoon and had arranged for a friend to take me to the airport. As it turned out my flight was delayed and by the time I boarded the plane I was ready to begin my adventure, starting in New York City.

During my first few months of travel I found myself on a steep learning curve. I must have looked so out of place but I tried to stay focused and open to learning. Establishing phone service seemed to be my biggest obstacle since I was accustomed having easy access to internet service with my Verizon contract. More on this later, but suffice it to say that it was a struggle for the first few months.

Glad my first destination was in London since I wanted to reduce risk by being in a country where the language and customs were familiar. Like putting your foot in the water before swimming. I also eased into London by booking my first night’s stay in a nice hotel in the Kensington area, and by nice it was very nice and found myself staying in a full-sized suite.

While in London I booked accomodations in three different Airbnb listings. The first was where I had the whole flat to myself, the next was a private room where I shared a kitchen and bath with several other people but had my own bedroom and the third was where I shared the flat with the flat owner. I wanted to see how far I could stretch my comfort level. When I arrived in Brussels, my next stop, I confirmed that sharing a kitchen and bath with strangers was not for me. And it only worked out well when I shared the flat with the owner because we got along so well. By the time I reached Amsterdam, my third city, I started to only book Airbnb accommodations where I had use of the whole flat. It was my first lesson learned.


Speaking of “lessons learned”, a project management activity I’ve carried over to my travels. I’ve been keeping a list of those lessons learned as I traveled. Below is a list of those lessons I considered to be the most significant.

Take note of where you’re staying In addition to the address, pay attention to the surrounding buildings and streets. Note any landmarks, businesses or street signs. There were several times I was so tired upon arrival, when I went out later and returned to the flat I had trouble finding the entrance to the building.

Shuttle service from airport to hotel A few times I neglected to ask if there was a hotel shuttle service from the airport, usually at a reduced or free service offered by the hotel. Best to email the hotel at least three days ahead of when you’re arriving. Recommend a private car to the hotel if you’re visiting a location such as Egypt or India that does not have defined and dependable mode of transportation from the airport.

Confirm the taxi fare before getting into the taxi Even commercial taxi drivers may try to charge extra. Once you’ve given the taxi driver the address, ask for an estimate of how much the fare might be. Then confirm back the amount the driver provided as a quote. This will require that you are aware of the value of the local currency is to the U.S. dollar. I never had a taxi driver who did not know how to quote amounts in English. Also, if you’re not comfortable in any way with the driver, politely apologize and ask to be let out at the next stop. Do not be intimidated. Always smile and never argue.

Make sure to document your reservations If you’re making your own travel arrangements, make sure to double check your reservations. I double booked lodging once because I had the wrong dates reserved. My biggest error was trying to catch a flight from the wrong airport. Though all were resolved satisfactorily, I wished afterward that I had double checked travel plans to spreadsheet.

Ask for a quiet room when checking into a hotel Being disturbed at night or in the morning, if you’re a light sleeper like me, you prefer a room a where you can expect the fewest interruptions. I ask for a room that doesn’t face a main street, a back alley where rubbish is collected in the early mornings or near an elevator. I’ve also asked if a large wedding party is scheduled during my stay since, in some countries, these parties can last until the next morning. (I know from personal experience.)

Obtain a SIM card only from a company store This Lesson Learned only applies if you don’t have a SIM card that works in the country you’re visiting. Do not be tempted to obtain a SIM card from a convenience store but find a company location, such as Vodafone, where my SIM card is from. The main reason is that the convenience store only sells the card and may not have staff that can set it up for you and confirm that it will work.

Always have a Plan B, or even a Plan C When you travel you’re away from home where daily tasks are predictable, for the most part. When in new surroundings, not everything works as you might expect. What if you miss a train? Forgot your ticket? Can’t get a wifi connection? No one speaks English? My solution was to always expect the unexpected and to keep an open mind or have a backup plan. Most of all, keep calm and maintain an open mind and a sense of humor.

More people speak English than you’d imagine When in a foreign country you may run into people who claim they can’t speak English. I was a bit bold and asked my question anyway when all I needed was a simple answer. Maybe ask using a single word, such as closed, open, good, bad, okay, up, down, today, tomorrow, etc. Showing your ticket, a map, a store name, a street name might be helpful too. And always end the conversation with a thank you, preferably in the local language, and of course a smile.


Favorite Places I was frequently asked about my favorite locations to visit. They were: Scotland (Edinburgh), Switzerland (Zermatt), Egypt (Cairo and Luxor), England (London), France (Nice, Bordeaux), Cyprus (Larnaca), and Malta. Mostly because I enjoyed the local sites, people, history, weather, and sometimes just because I did. I especially enjoyed places where I met up with friends and family. Overall, I enjoyed every place I visited and would go back to any of them if given the opportunity.

Traveling Solo Though I’m far from being considered an introvert, I did enjoy traveling solo most of the time. I seemed to meet a variety of people as I traveled and enjoyed conversations with drivers, fellow passengers, Airbnb hosts, hotel staff, waiting at train stations or airports, shopping, or in a restaurant. As a result of my gregarious nature, I now have friends in many different countries. I never felt alone or bored as I traveled. Of course, friends and family from the U.S. were always welcome to join me over the years.

Grocery Shopping One of my favorite activities was to go grocery shopping. At first I was a little intimidated buying food in different countries, especially if I couldn’t read what was printed on the package. When I turned the shopping process into a game it became more interesting. I also learned about the local customs and food preferences through my shopping adventures. For instance, it was very apparent that Hungarians liked Chicken Paprika since I could find in each large market vast quantities of chicken parts in the meat department, displays featuring several varieties of paprika, and the diary case would have ample quantities of sour cream.


Credit Cards I always carried a few credit cards as I traveled. The primary card was my Bank of America card because I wasn’t charged extra for purchases outside of the U.S. and also because of their generous travel credit. I figured that I received between $800 and $1,000 in travel credits each year from B of A. I had a credit card for about a year which gave me travel miles when I made a visit to the U.S. in 2018 and saving nearly $2,000. The debit card from my Credit Union I used to get cash and it worked in every ATM in every country. During the last year of travel I started using Google Pay since more retail locations allowed you to tap and go to make a payment. Much better than reaching into your pocket for a credit card. I seldom carried much cash.


Airbnb and Hilton Hotels Early on I decided to only book with Airbnb if I wasn’t staying in a hotel. After I understood what to expect, the process of booking and staying in an Airbnb flat became easier. As for hotels, I tried out several hotel companies but eventually settled with Hilton. As a Hilton Honors member I received preferred rates, frequently was upgraded to an Executive room (sometimes a Junior Suite), and earned points that I used to book free nights. At last count I stayed in over 90 Airbnb flats and estimate 50 different Hilton properties.


Typical Travel Day Not sure if I had a “typical” day while traveling, but I can generalize given three different scenarios: Travel Day, Touring Day(s), and Rest Day.
Travel Day: When I’m leaving one place for another I’m awake early, clean up wherever I’m staying, pack, leave early for the train or plane, secure transportation to where I’m staying, check-in to my lodging, quick nap, go to a local market (even if I stay in a hotel) to buy food, have a meal, write a blog posting for the day before, answer emails and texts, watch TV, and plan for the next day. My evenings are fairly standard, except when I stay in a Hilton I have breakfast in the hotel in the morning and visit the executive lounge in the late afternoon or early evening for dinner, which are complementary.
Touring Day: Once I’ve settled in and ready to see the local attractions I usually plan for something to do in the morning and the afternoon. For lunch I find a sandwich shop or a Starbucks, then continue on until mid-afternoon. I most always return before dark. I edit the pictures I took during the day before going to bed.
Rest Day: During my first year or so, I felt guilty about not getting out to see attractions every day. I needed to keep in mind that I was retired and there wasn’t a job to return to after a couple of weeks. This being the case for me, I took time off and rested or just walked around the neighborhood. And started my day later, because I could. This is why I began to plan my trips to include one day of rest wherever I stayed. I had many visits where Day One would be arrival day, Days Two and Three were touring days, Day Four would be rest day, and Day Five would be a travel day. I would add more days to my stay if there were more places to visit in the city or nearby towns.


Meeting People and Making New Friends I met so many people while I traveled. From taxi, Uber or hotel drivers, hotel staff, Airbnb hosts, people riding with me on a train or plane, or sitting next to me in a restaurant. Some of these encounters have led to friendships. During the final months of travel I slowly said goodbye to many of these interesting people. Maybe we will meet up again, but for now, we will keep in contact via email, Facebook, or texting. I hadn’t taken into account that I would meet so many dear people as I traveled, which is interesting because that is one of the main reasons which drew me to this adventure – to meet new people and be acquainted with different cultures.


Traveling with Friends and Family Was also fortunate that I met up with friends and family from the U.S. in various locations. When you see familiar people in unfamiliar locations it is quite different than when you visit together in the U.S. To observe their reactions and impressions as we made discoveries was the most interesting. This gave me insight and an opportunity to better know them and perhaps see them in a new light. Though to coordinate travel plans I needed to sometimes adjust my own travel plans. During one month I traveled from Germany, stopped in Switzerland then travelled on to Italy then to Egypt and then back to Germany was perhaps more effort than expected, but in the end it was well worth it. To share travel experiences with others is the best!


Conclusion: On March 22nd, when I landed in Portland, I realized I’d accomplished what I set out to do. It’s spelled out in my blog’s name: Travel, Explore, Learn and Share. This adventure was more than I expected in so many ways. Perhaps the events that necessitated my return were unexpected, but the unexpected often happens when you travel. In any case, I returned healthy, under budget, with a suitcase of memories.


What’s Next? As I wrote many times at the end of a daily post, “We shall see.”

Sunday, 5 April 2020

The John Ross (Portland, Oregon)

Thought I’d better write about the move into my permanent living space in Portland. Thankfully, it was one of those efforts where everything came together, for the most part.

On Monday, March 23rd, I signed a one-year lease on the apartment in the building where I lived for 8 years before leaving for my extended stay in Europe. Now I’m on the 17th floor with a view of the Willamette but in a studio rather than a one-bedroom. As I was signing the lease I was thinking about how to buy furniture to fill up the space. Stores were closing down and I couldn’t find anyone to drive me out to where they make the desk/bed piece of furniture. That night (actually about 3:00 in the morning) I decided to rent the furniture, including a TV. By 4:00 a.m. my furniture was ordered.

Tuesday morning I bought a new phone and now have a U.S. phone number. I had to buy the phone because my European phone (same make a model) wouldn’t work with Verizon. Only cost $15 extra each month for the new phone, but now I have a phone for when I visit Europe again. I’ve got to think positive and not about the cost.

During the remainder of Tuesday I was arranging for delivery of the furniture for Friday and picking up my boxes from my brother. As it turned out my friend Scott was available to drive me to my brother’s and a rented van to Hood River. I can’t drive because my drivers licence has expired, which wouldn’t be a problem except car rental places require a valid and current license. At the end of the day I had everything arranged to completely be moved in by Saturday night.

Though I had a nice junior suite at the hotel, I had to keep going out to get food. Eventually I used Uber to fetch my food. The only people that seem to be walking around the hotel’s Lloyd Center neighborhood are homeless people and/or people who were drunk or high on some drug. I made one trip a day to a nearby store then scrubbed well when I got back to my room. On Thursday I picked up the key to my apartment so I was now ready to return at 9:00 a.m. Friday to meet the furniture movers.

All the furniture fit very well and was in good condition. I’ll eventually get new furniture, but this will do very well until I do. I was having problems getting the Internet service to work and arranged to have someone from Comcast come in on Sunday.

Scott and I made a quick trip to Hood River on Saturday and picked up the boxes at my brother’s in Parkdale. We waved to them as we were loading the boxes and drove away. I was anxious to get the last elements of my move into the new apartment. Finally, no more suitcase! I unpacked enough so I could have breakfast in the morning and slept fairly well Saturday night. Thankfully my brother packed a set of bedding, towels and toilet paper.

The fellow from Comcast showed up on time Sunday morning while I was unpacking boxes. When he left I had full Internet service and a device that will make my TV into a Smart TV. I won’t need a HDMI cable anymore. By late Sunday afternoon I had unpacked everything I need to cook and the remainder of my clothes hung up. I have about 7 boxes filled with stuff that I need to give away, sell, or keep – the stuff that I put in boxes before I left because I ran out of time.

Since Sunday I’ve been to Zupan’s a few times and filling up my cupboards and the fridge/freezer with food. I’ve written how much I missed shopping at Zupan’s and now I’m satisfied. Also have been going through a few of the boxes, changing addresses and phone numbers, talking with family and friends over the phone and going for a few walks. Also looking at various job opportunities.

I’m still planning to write a summary of my travels, but still mulling over what I should include in this write-up. I know it will come together when I’m ready to write.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

DoubleTree Hotel (Portland, Oregon)

On Friday I was up early to prepare for my flight to London Heathrow. The flight was at 11:30 but I needed to eat breakfast, shower and shave, finish packing, check out of the hotel, take a taxi to the Queen Street station in Glasgow to catch train that will deliver me to the Edinburgh Haymarket station and from there to the Edinburgh airport. I kept thinking “one step at a time” and eventually I found myself resting in my Heathrow Hilton room.

I was able to have a good hour nap, and that was about the best sleep I would have for the next 36 hours. Later, I was able to contact someone in Portland who has a rental in the John Ross where I want to live. My friend Scott had sent me the floor plan and a few pictures of the apartment as well. A little small but has a great view of the Willamette River. I will meet the owner Monday afternoon and review the lease. I also contacted a local company that builds furniture that converts from a desk to a queen-sized bed. In between all of this I secured a U.S. phone number that I can use with my Viber app. Also ate dinner in a restaurant on the ground floor of the hotel.

I did get a little more sleep that evening but I didn’t feel rested. I woke in time to talk with the apartment owner, but this was at 2:30 a.m. I tried to sleep a little more but didn’t have any luck. I was able to book a flight from NYC to Portland for Sunday. By then I knew it would be impossible to get any more sleep before it was time to get up in time for my early flight to Kefvlavik, Iceland. My taxi would be waiting for me at 4:30. The hotel concierge thought I should be at Heathrow three hours before my flight, but I had a hunch the airport wouldn’t be that busy. I was right.

Once I arrived in Kefflavik, where I would have nearly a six hour wait, I decided to take a taxi into town and have lunch in a local restaurant. This turned out to be an excellent idea. I walked in before the restaurant was open for lunch and sat next to the restaurant owner and a couple of his friends. We had a great time talking about travel, politics, of course, the impact of the coronavirus. I ordered fish and chips and found myself stuffed when I finished. Would have loved to take a nap.

While at the restaurant I completed the online application as part of the leasing process for the new apartment. Also posted to FB and IG as well. I was there for three hours. The restaurant called a taxi to take me back to the airport. On the way to the airport the driver informed me that they were not supposed to drive people from the airport who were in transit and not residents of Iceland. He was gracious and said he would take me to the airport.

I still had more time to kill so I spoke with my brother, checked my account balances then took a quick peak at the financial market daily performance. Because my investments were so conservative I’m still in fairly good shape. Just will have to wait for the market to improve, which it will.

I was not looking forward to being on a plane for over six hours. I hope that I have enough activities to keep me busy. When I walked onto the plane I almost forgot that I upgraded my seat to have more leg room. That was a very good idea. Also, this second flight was not even a third full. The first flight might have been around 20% full. The affects of the virus on air travel were very evident. We are some of the last Americans returning to the U.S. I spoke with a couple who were visiting Iceland and cut their vacation short. They had seen the writing on the wall and decided to quickly return to the U.S. or they might get trapped in Iceland for the next few weeks.  

The cost of a taxi from JFK to the hotel, a five minute ride away, was $30. Welcome to New York! The hotel had seen better days but I didn’t care I was so tired. An interesting change to my morning breakfast was that they required that I use a takeaway container and take my breakfast to my room, which was okay.

The taxi to LaGuardia on Sunday morning went well. The taxi driver was nice enough to point out some of the interesting sites along the way and we had a good conversation. This fare was $40. But I got to the airport in good time and made my flight to Minneapolis, my layover city. I had it planned where I could break down my trip across the U.S. in two segments. NYC to Minneapolis and Minneapolis to Portland. All was going well until my flight to Portland was cancelled. The alternative was a flight to Seattle and another to Portland. This worked out though but when I got to Portland I learned my suitcase was still on its way from Minneapolis. I wasn’t surprised.

From the airport I took the Max tram’s red line to the hotel and checked in. Once I got to my room (was given a junior suite) I tried to take a nap but it wasn’t happening. I decided to return to the airport later to retrieve my suitcase. In the meantime I ventured out to see where I could buy some food. I eventually found a Safeway that had some sandwiches. I saw very few people on the streets and those I did see were on drugs, drunk, or a combination of the three.

Rather than take public transportation to the airport I called for an Uber. Once there I was pleasantly surprised that the woman who helped me earlier at lost baggage area knew my name. She retrieved my suitcase and I was on my way back to the hotel.

By now it was getting late this Sunday evening and I was dead tired. I sort of unpacked, ate dinner and recharged my phone and laptop using a power plug converter I bought at the airport. Tonight I expect to get more sleep so I’m ready on Monday to sign my lease. I also want to go furniture shopping later.

Earlier I started to make my project plan that contains all of the activities I need to do over the next month or so. It is turning out to be an extensive list. In the meantime I will not be updating my travel log. Perhaps I’ll write an update next week. One of the items on my plan is to write a trip summary, but that will happen after I’ve had time to process my being back in the U.S. It was nice to receive many notes welcoming me back to the U.S. from Facebook friends and family. Too bad I won’t see them for the next couple of weeks, which is fine. I’ve got a lot to do during this time, if I’m able to, since most everything is shut down.

As I often say, “We shall see.”

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Hampton by Hilton (Edinburgh, Scotland)

My morning started about 4:15 a.m. when I woke up for a potty break. I noticed an email from KLM that informed me that my flight had been cancelled. This flight would have taken me from Edinburgh to Keflavik Iceland. For the next hour I cancelled my hotel for Friday night in Edinburgh and rebooked for London Heathrow Hilton and will take a flight from London to Keflavik. Then I went back to bed.

On the way down to breakfast a guy got on the elevator on the 7th floor and on the way down coughed, and didn’t cover his cough. I held my breath until we got out of the elevator. He didn’t look well.

I was planning to take an after breakfast nap but decided I should take the train into Edinburgh and pick up my passport. I called ahead to make sure the Russian Visa Service Center was open. I tried to book an Uber to the train station but the application wouldn’t take my request, so I took a taxi.

Once I arrived in Edinburgh I took another taxi to the Russian Visa Service Center and had a good conversation with the taxi driver. He mentioned his sister works at a hospital in Manchester and said that because more people are washing their hands and staying home the number of people coming in with colds and flu (non-coronavirus) had dropped by half. He waited for me to get my passport and then he took me to get my haircut. I tipped him well.

Nice to get my hair cut. It was looking a bit shaggy since I hadn’t had it cut since I was in Cyprus, almost a month ago. The guy who cut my hair asked where in the U.S. I was from and knew about Portland, Oregon. I continue to be impressed how well people outside the U.S. know our cities and states.

My taxi driver in Glasgow told me how his number of fares has dropped dramatically. More so this past week. He said there was nothing he could do and plans to get by the best he can. I gave him a hefty tip as I left his cab. Talking to people that are affected by this virus is heartbreaking. When I walked into the hotel the lobby was empty, and this is a big hotel with 20 floors. (I’m on the 19th floor.) At breakfast there were only a handful of people in the dining room so think that hotel has very few guests.

After my afternoon nap I double-checked that I hadn’t made any mistakes booking and cancelling flights and hotels earlier this morning. Discovered that KLM may not refund my ticket for the flight they cancelled. But good news is that there are places in the John Ross, one that looks really good (and within my budget) that’s available. Not large, but I can make it work for the next year. Also, hotel prices are dropping in Portland so I’ll have a place to stay while I find permanent place to stay. (A Hilton hotel of course.)

I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the “travel adventure tunnel”. But still need to take it one step at a time. Tomorrow, weather permitting, I’ll walk down to the River Clyde and take in the view. Yesterday I did a little clothes shopping (shopping therapy) and it gave me a chance to walk around the shopping district of Glasgow.

Just need to remember: One step at a time.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Hampton by Hilton (Edinburgh, Scotland)

On Friday I made the decision to return to the U.S. I’ve been reading about the many closures, travel restrictions, flight cancellations, and the increase in reported cases here in Scotland, though still quite low compared to other countries.

I will stay in a Hilton in Glasgow from tomorrow until Friday the 20th, then will stay in a Hilton at the Edinburgh airport. My flight on Saturday morning will take me to Amsterdam then to Keflavik, Iceland where I will catch a flight to JFK. A direct flight to JFK would take over 8 hours, which is too long for me to be on a flight.

I was right when writing that I had stayed in my last Airbnb. I spoke with my brother tonight and told him how many places I’ve stayed. Almost overwhelming when you think about it. I plan to do a more comprehensive debrief once I get settled in Portland. Like I do when I finish a major project, I conduct a “Lessons Learned” and will write about what I have learned from my travel experiences.

The most difficult part of returning to the U.S. is saying goodbye to those who I’ve met here. Perhaps not a final goodbye, but it will be most likely a couple of years before I return. I have so many people to thank. Some I don’t even know their names, like the Uber drivers, people I met on flights or trains, and hotel staff. I must now focus on how happy I’ll be to say hello to those who have waited for me to return.

As I said to my brother this evening, I’m going one step at a time. I can’t get too far in my thinking at this time. I know the path to Oregon and next Saturday I’ll take my first step. Just one of many. Soon I’ll have a place of my own where I can start the next phase of my life. Will I work again? Chances are I will, but that step will happen after I get settled. First, I’ll board the flight that will take me to the U.S.

Monday, 9 March 2020

28 Dublin Street (Edinburgh, Scotland)

The weather hasn’t been too pleasant for the past few days. Today included. I haven’t felt like walking around in the cold so I didn’t. Nor did I feel like taking the train to Glasgow.

I’m still on hold regarding future travel plans, but I’m not very concerned. Thankfully I haven’t made any plans that I can’t change. I would like to finish with my doctor appointments (last ones are on the 11th) and have my Russian visa in-hand before making any plans. Today I made a reservation to stay in a Hilton property here in Edinburgh and can add days to my stay if necessary. I’ll move over there when my time at this Airbnb is over, which will be on the 12th.

With the financial markets taking a tumble I have been confirming that my conservative and insured investments are still hanging in there, and they are for now. My financial adviser reached out to me today and we talked over how the current market might impact my investments. I was just thinking about her today and then received an email from her. How about that? We talked for nearly an hour.

Because we talked so long on the phone I just finished putting a chicken in the oven. Looks like I won’t have dinner until 9:00. I doubt if I’ll starve, but I’m sure to be hungry once the chicken comes out of the oven. Now if I can just stay away from making toast as a snack.

I went to the grocery earlier to buy the last few items for my stay in this Airbnb. If I don’t stay in an Airbnb until I return to the states then it could be quite a while before I’m cooking again. I will probably stay in an Airbnb, while in New York, that is near a friend who I’ll visit while there, but that will be in Queens. Will plan to visit friends who live in Manhattan as well. In fact I heard from Ginny today after I sent her an email last week. She and her husband Alan are doing well (met them last year while traveling in southern Italy) and she looks forward to catching up while I’m in town.

I forgot to write that I finally saw the Downton Abbey movie. I happened upon it while looking through available movies via YouTube. For whatever reason I have to VPN to the U.S. to make payment then switch back to the U.K. connection to watch movies. Not sure what had changed so that I have to do this but it works so I’m okay. Another reason to get back to the U.S. so I don’t have to finagle purchases and “stand on my head” to conduct normal business. Even today, to access one of my accounts, it is required that a code is sent to my phone in the U.S., which I don’t have but use a friend’s number. I text him to expect a text with the security code and he then sends the code to me.

I’ll use the extra days while I’m here in Edinburgh to make a few day trips. The hotel is almost next door to the Hay Market train station and I expect the weather to improve over the next week or so. In the meantime I’ll continue to be lazy and rest.

Isn’t that chicken done yet? Yes, I’m now becoming quite hungry.

Friday, 6 March 2020

28 Dublin Street (Edinburgh, Scotland)

For the past two days I’ve been researching several different travel contingencies as I mentioned in Wednesday’s update. Yesterday I received a text from a friend who is traveling next month to Asia, Italy and then the U.K. and it helped me feel more comfortable about traveling as we learn more about the virus that we’re hearing so much about. Now I’m once again becoming more comfortable with traveling in France. In any case, we will see how this pans out over the next few weeks.

Today I was okay with staying in the flat and not going outside. Colder and overcast too. Just to rest and consider future travel plans. Also to do a load of wash. Nice that this flat has a drying rack that you lower from the ceiling, then pull it up again so the hot rising air dries the clothes. Helps to have high ceilings.

U.S. politics and the financial markets are also on my mind as well. Perhaps I keep hoping that after I wake from one of my naps these areas of concern will work themselves out. Wishful thinking. I know that eventually they will indeed go one way or the other and I need to be more patient. I suppose going outside and walking in the fresh air would help, but I’ll save that for tomorrow. By then I’ll have grown tired of being inside.

No news regarding my Russian visa. I’ve been checking every other day and the status still says that the application has been forwarded to the Russian Embassy. No news is good news. I did hear that my tax forms were accepted by both the Federal and State and I should receive my very small Federal refund in the next few days. I owe the state and will pay that next month.

I’ve been working towards changing my diet. My hygienist lectured me (in a nice way) about how sugar weakens my teeth’s enamel. A likely cause for the recent chipping of teeth. I expect when meeting with my GP next week, I’ll hear how I need to continue maintaining a more balanced and nutritious diet to reduce my BMI and eat foods to improve my cholesterol levels. More dark green vegetables, more fruit, and lean meat.

I’m now realizing that staying in Airbnb flats is close to coming to an end, at least for now. If I don’t go to France, I’ll most likely stay only in Hilton’s until I return to the U.S. At last count, I’ve stayed in 88 different Airbnb flats so far. And if the non-Airbnb flats were added, the total would be well over 90. Wow! To be honest, I will not miss walking into another Airbnb and acquainting myself to a new place to live. I don’t mind hotels so much since they have pretty much the same layout, but Airbnb flats are a little more work and it takes more time to get settled in.

Tomorrow I’d like to visit Glasgow again. Haven’t been there for a couple of years. We will see.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

28 Dublin Street (Edinburgh, Scotland)

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how much sunshine there has been. I keep seeing rain and overcast skies in the forecast. Nice when the forecast is wrong. But it is still very chilly. I was concerned about how much I’ve been using the heating in this flat but noticed there is a display on a desk that shows how much it costs per day for electricity. This display has been consistently showing that the cost per day is around 1.5 UK pounds, so now I’m not too concerned.

Finished with my dental appointments and now my chipped tooth is repaired and teeth cleaned and polished. The appointment with the hygienist was around $50. And this is in a highly rated dental clinic. Would cost over $200 in the U.S.

My annual physical is done and will learn the results next week when I meet with my GP. Next up will be to visit the dermatologist and ophthalmologist. I’ll have Parts A & B coverage from Medicare when I return to the U.S. but need to figure out Part D and supplemental coverage when I return. I’m honestly considering making an annual visit to Edinburgh each year for my basic medical needs and get any prescriptions filled.

Travel planning is still in limbo until I receive my Russian visa. While I’m not too concerned that I’ll get the virus as I travel, I’m more concerned about upcoming travel restrictions. I’m planning for three contingencies. 1). Visit western France after I leave Edinburgh around the 16th of March, then travel to Moscow on the 15th; 2) Leave for the Netherlands, Germany and Finland before Moscow; or 3). Leave directly for the U.S. if travel becomes too restrictive around Europe, which would be the worst-case scenario. Though I’m reading that people are still traveling to Milan, which is in the middle of the most affected part of Italy. Though I’m not much of a risk-taker.

Today I discovered that Google Maps has restored their high-level map feature that shows red dots on where you’ve traveled. It apparently was not working as Google was making improvements to Google Maps, but found that it is now fully restored. Nice to see a visual representation of where I’ve been for the past 3+ years. Perhaps I should post the map again to Instagram and Facebook.

I’m thinking that I need to take a few day trips while I’m in Edinburgh. Perhaps down to York or to the north of Glasgow. Rain is in the forecast but that can always change as I’ve been finding out. We shall see.

Friday, 28 February 2020

28 Dublin Street (Edinburgh, Scotland)

It was a cold night and I turned up the heat in the flat during the early morning hours. Too bad I can’t control the heat in rooms I’m not using. I did sleep very well and felt rested in the morning. I even had enough get-up-and-go to finish unpacking.

My first appointment was with my dentist. This was the third year that I’ve met with him and he remembered me from before. He was able to patch up my broken tooth and said that my back molar doesn’t need to be removed yet, but it will need to be sometime in the future.

From there I withdrew money from a nearby ATM to pay for the Russian visa then ordered an Uber for a ride to the service center. It was near freezing outside and a ride in a warm car was preferable to walking in the cold and misty weather for 30 minutes.

At the Russian Visa Service Center I didn’t have to wait and was immediately met by someone who would review my application. Her only concern was my temporary passport, but after confirming with a colleague she said it was fine and all my documentation was complete. I paid the fee and was told my visa would be ready on the 16th. This will require that I say a few days longer in Edinburgh, but I was prepared for this delay so it wasn’t a problem.

I called for another Uber and asked to be taken to a Tesco Express to purchase food for the next few days. I can easily walk from the Tesco Express to where I’m staying. This shop was the same one I went to when I stayed on Great King Street the last few years so I knew where to find the items I needed. I had forgot to mention in a earlier post that I tried to book with the hosts from the last few years but they don’t seem to have any flats available, but they had said last year they may list their units for sale.

I walked through the cold and light rain back to my flat with two bags of groceries then up the three flights of stairs. Felt good to have the dentist and Russian visa appointments out of the way. I look forward to a relaxing weekend.

For dinner I roasted a chicken with a side of spinach seasoned with balsamic vinegar. I’m having the opposite problem with this kitchen that I have with others. Rather than not enough cooking supplies and equipment there is actually too much. So many cupboards packed with everything you might need. The kitchen shelf with many cookbooks confirms that this Airbnb host likes to cook.

I didn’t watch too much TV and was in bed before 10:00. No plans for tomorrow. Just rest and relax.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

28 Dublin Street (Edinburgh, Scotland)

Not sure when I’ll return to Cyprus so it was a little difficult to say goodbye to Paschalis, Kris and my Airbnb hosts (Nicos and his parents). I truly meet the nicest people as I travel. So glad I found this island getaway a few years ago. Thankful that I connected with Paschalis who taught me so much about Greek history and culture as well as his experiences growing up on Cyprus.

Yesterday, Paschalis drove me to the airport and we shared our last cup of coffee together. He bought me a book by Neville Goddard and I bought him three books that he had on reserve at his favorite bookstore. We each added inscriptions in the books while we drank our coffee. Our final topic was that of faith. So happened that I had just watched a Flash episode the night before that gave examples of how faith, not necessarily religious faith, once you’re committed to it, knowing that “this, or something better” helps smooth out the rough spots. Not sure if we talked long enough about this concept but perhaps something for each of us to ponder over time.

The flight to London took over five hours and I was ready to get my feet on the ground as we landed at Heathrow. Five hours on any form of transportation is just about my limit before it becomes uncomfortable. I’m still working on the concept of being stationary for long periods of time. But we landed pretty much on time, got through Passport Control without any issues and picked up my suitcase.

Getting to the hotel wasn’t too complicated. I could have taken a taxi but thought I would try one of the buses that take people directly to the nearby hotels. By the time I bought a bus ticket, waited for a bus, and the drive to the hotel I probably should have paid the extra money for the taxi.

I was given a very nice room at the Hilton and glad I didn’t try to take the train to Edinburgh the same day. I used points to pay for the room and the only expense was room service that I paid for when I checked out. Had a good nights sleep too. In the morning after breakfast I printed out the documents that I’ll need for my appointment with the Russian Visa Service Center tomorrow.

To travel into London to Kings Cross where I’ll find the train to Edinburgh I decided to take the underground rather than the Heathrow Express train. At first I wasn’t sure if the underground would get me to Kings Cross on time but I had more than enough time when I arrived there to hop on the train. Was funny that as I walked into the hall were the departure boards are located I heard an announcement that told me which platform my train was located. Of course I double checked the departure board to ensure I was headed in the right direction.

We got off to a late start, by about 20 minutes, but eventually we headed north to Edinburgh. I love the scenery along the route, especially when we get closer to Edinburgh and we have great views of the North Sea. The day turned out to be sunny as we got further from London, where it was snowing early in the morning and rain as I headed toward the underground station from the hotel. Was lucky there was transportation, provided by the hotel, that took me to the underground station.

Once I arrived in Edinburgh it was an easy walk to where I’ll stay for the next two weeks. Was a little concerned that lugging my suitcase up three flights of stairs would be a bit much, but I actually did pretty good once I reached the third floor.

The flat has three bedrooms though only two are used for Airbnb guests. Overall, the flat is very large and takes up half the third floor and has a great view from the kitchen and main bedroom. All the rooms are large and the kitchen has all the conveniences. I thought I might have to make a trip to the grocery store but I found enough food, left by the Airbnb hosts, to make a nice dinner. Also there was beer in the fridge and I had one before I took my usual post-travel nap.

Once I woke from my nap I made a fried egg sandwich and discovered raspberry jam (my favorite) in the fridge as well. I only watched an episode of Star Trek Picard and an episode of Twilight Zone before going to bed. I was still a little cold when I went to bed so I turned up the heat. The heat comes from registers that are heated by the flat’s boiler. Not easy keeping a place this size heated, but I managed.

Tomorrow I have my annual dentist appointment and hope that he can fix a tooth I chipped while eating almonds a few days ago. He fixed a tooth last year due to eating a Snickers bar. (Maybe it’s time I eat only soft food.) After the dental appointment (I’ll have my teeth cleaned next week) I’ll visit the Russian Visa Service Center and submit my request for a Russian Visa.