One Bus Two Trains

When on the go traveling with multiple stops, you’re either tucked in at your B&B or in transition. Once settled, everything is peachy for the most part. Yeah you have to figure out the washing machine or the shower knobs, but things are relaxed. However, when you have to pull up stakes and find the next place, it’s a bit stressful. After a cappuccino and a sweet, as is the custom in Italy, it’s on to the bus schedule. Sounds easy, but we just changed to Italian from Spanish and it ain’t the same. Thank goodness I’m with Cheryl who loves the challenge of booking airlines, trains, buses and taxis in different languages. Now don’t get me wrong, it is extremely stressful and I have blushed on more than one occasion as she has cursed when things don’t go as planned.“Mi scusi!” I offer to the casual passer-by, who is unaware of the necessary de-stressing comforts of a good curse. Once figured, we have to find the merchant (this time it’s a bar) that sells billettos for the bus.

Off to Bergamo. The buses are modern and relatively new in this area, so it’s an enjoyable ride. Once there, we cross the street, admiring some awesome architecture on the way, and find the train station. Oh no, another schedule! “Mi scusi, piccolo problema.” (I got your back Cheryl). The check-in at our next place is 7pm and it’s lunch time, so we have some time to kill. Soda, wifi and a place to sit and write this entry. There’s a library here, but we have to find it. My iPhone skills always improve geometrically in these scenarios and that is always a good thing as I’m an “old guy” (as pointed out by several former friends.) There’s a wifi sign on a pole and we gather around it and pull up “Around Me” – an app I use to find stuff. No soap, can’t hook up for some reason. So I ask a student in black with backpack, “Dove biblioteca?”. Hot dang! He speaks Inglese and directs us in the right direction. Five or six blocks later, we find it and it doesn’t open till 2:30. “Mi scusi,” I say to the Italian woman who scowls from under her scarf as Cheryl blurts out yet another necessary curse. We settle for a cafe with wifi and cappuccino. “Cappuch!” yells the person behind the register to the barista as I order another cup of ambrosia. I must admit I’ve never had a poor cup of coffee or cappuccino in Italy. They all have those machines with steamed milk.

So here we sit in Bergamo typing at a table in a cafe while waiting for the train and I like it. We’ve been in Europe for 42 days and I‘m not homesick. We’re even in that rough transitional period of relocating and still content. Now that’s amore! I’ll make this a two-parter as I’m sure there will be more story on this one bus two train sojourn. Arrivederci.

Americans in Spain

I know this is a travel blog and I try to avoid politics when writing these articles. But as I was halfway in to writing this, I asked Cheryl her opinion. “Is this appropriate for Travel Morsels?” With knitted brow and increased volume, she exclaimed, “TRAVEL IS POLITICS!” Cool! I take that as a yes.

Guinness Storehouse, Dublin 2014

Having lived exclusively in the U.S for the majority of our lives, we found through traveling that our view of the world had been quite narrow. During these past 20 years of increased globetrotting, we’ve unknowingly widened our perspective. This realization first occurred in October of 2004 just before George W. Bush won his second term. Cheryl and I traveled to Lahinch, Ireland with some friends to play golf and sample some of the Emerald Isle. It seems at night you hang in the pubs, drink a Guinness, and possibly catch a futbol (soccer) match. As we settled in at a pub, a brave

spokesman from a group of locals approached us and in his thick brogue asked, “So what do ya think of your president”? Not being fans of the current regime, we truthfully unloaded our disdain. I think within five minutes, our entire group was staring at a new Guinness sitting before us, purchased by the inquisitive Irishmen. We were a bit surprised they were so tuned into American politics. I didn’t know the name of their… Well wait a minute what do they have, a Prime Minister, a President? I didn’t know. For the same reason I speak only one language, I’m aware of only one country’s politics. Blinders are the reason which, by the way, slowly dissolve as you add stickers to your backpack. Looking back from afar, you can actually get the lay of the land. The big picture.

Currently in Spain, Cheryl and I picked up a four week house sit (as we did the year before) to escape the cold Pennsylvania winter. We arrived at Mary’s place a day early so she could introduce us to her dogs and go through the systems of the house before she left on holiday. OMG, a solar unit on her roof, as it should be. We were invited to dinner that night with Mary and her two friends, Pete and Jackie. All three are British expats. Over dinner the discussion turned to politics. BBC had been airing the Trump inauguration for days. Our British compadres were as informed as we were, if not more, on the issues. We became educated on the impact Brexit will have on their interests. Specifically, if Great Britain secedes from the EU, British citizens will no longer be residents of Western Europe and may have to leave after three months, like us on a tourist visa. They have all been here in excess of 10 years or more and own their own places. Wow! I thought we had problems. Great Britain seems to be as divided about Brexit as we are about Trump. During the same time, the EU Council has sworn in a new president and the labor party lost.  Another split issue.

Brexit series for FT.

At timers in Spain as well as South and Central America, I watch the local news. Yes in Spanish, but sometimes with English captions. I see the people of these regions protesting regularly. Masses of people gathered to hold their governments accountable to the will of the people. It must be our turn. It’s always our turn. As they say, freedom isn’t free. One thing’s for sure, through our regime change with it’s aggressive start up, it sure has mobilized the masses in the U.S. The millennials with all their tech savvy ways have finally been shaken hard enough to pull their noses out of their phones and realize only through protest and the persistent calling of Congress members can the will of the people be brought to the foreground. Wait, maybe they didn’t pull their noses out of their phones. Only with the advent of social media are we able to connect and share our accounts of daily happenings unencumbered by paid pundits spouting whatever they are paid to say. Vive la Resistance.

2017 Travel Challenge

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Cheryl: Budget travel is our passion! A passion born of necessity! Our travel addiction coupled with our limited incomes creates this need. As many of you know, we try to escape the winters in Pennsylvania. This is our third annual escape! With each subsequent year, we have extended our time away from the US. We continually sharpen our travel hacking skills.

Mitch: I hafta interject and say that we have the funds to travel at a more luxurious level. It’s in the savings account and we’re not interested in giving to the airlines for cardboard food or stowing a big American Tourister that we’d have to hire a taxi to haul it to a hotel. Which brings a story to mind….

Cheryl: Ok, Mitch – quit hijacking my post and write your own story!! Everyone knows that even tho you may have the funds to upgrade your travel, you are too damn tight to spend it!!! You know it’s like the sound of the newly fallen snow crunching as you step on it – squeak, squeak!

Home – January 2016

This winter we are traveling for almost eight weeks.  The challenge —  live on $40 a day/person! That will include all transportation costs (airfare and rental car), lodging, food and entertainment!  A tall order to be sure!

We are on Day 21! With airfare factored in, we have spent a daily average of $16.16 each! Two factors that have helped keep our costs so low so far are housesitting and cheap airline tickets! You all know my “hobby” is searching for hot deals with the airlines! Last year, we started playing the credit card points game.  We each signed up for a Bank of America Travel Rewards card that awarded 20,000 frequent flyer miles after we spent $2,000 in the first 3 months. No problem! We charge our gas, groceries, some household bills and anything else we need. We carefully put aside the cash as we charge and then pay off the balance when the bill arrives. We also earned an additional 1.5 points for each dollar charged. I found tickets on Norwegian Air for $363.80 round trip from NYC to Malaga, Spain.  Then we cashed in the points!

Final price for our international flights:

  •  Mitch $111.39
  • Cheryl $60.83

When we landed in Malaga, we had a free room for two nights courtesy of some old points I had earned on my Citibank card.  That card is now retired! Those two nights were at the Hotel Zen in Torremolinos, Spain. It is a short distance from the airport and they offer a complimentary shuttle. There is a nice little restaurant/bar on site. What a welcome sight after our transatlantic flight. A pizza with a few beers and we were ready to tuck in to our room for some seriously needed zzzzz’s.

We paid $33 for our third night’s lodging at the Hostal Sol y Miel in Benalmadena. Clean and located in a more Spanish neighborhood as opposed to the beach which is very touristy. Since then we have been house sitting. Needless to say, this saves a lot of $$! Free lodging in exchange for caring for the dogs and watering the plants!

I will post occasional updates on the budget. At the end of the trip, I will let you know how it all turns out!