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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Blank Page

"I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it."
Rosalia de Castro 

Similar to the old adage which states that "A Journey of a Thousand Miles begins with a single step", is another truism: every journey starts with a blank page.
Where to go, what to do

Until April of this year we had been planning on a return voyage on the Wind Surf. Through the Baltic and North Seas. Very exciting, but also quite expensive. As a few things reared their financial heads, we had to cancel the trip in its entirety, which was disappointing for any number of reasons. 

(It has resulted, however, in our plans to get to Australia and New Zealand next year, visiting our friends in Perth -- who will undoubtedly show is the videos demonstrating how fun our missed cruise was. The nonrefundable airfare we'd purchased on Air New Zealand is being reallocated to that trip, effectively reducing the costs and keeping us from losing our money altogether.)

Which left a gap in our Fall. On any average year we hit the road twice for big trips, and a half dozen times for smaller things like a weekend in the mountains or a drive up the coast or a couple of days on a photo safari in the desert. The two big voyages are a week or more in duration, and can carry us to Europe, the Hawaiian Islands, the Caribbean or elsewhere.

Flight time is a major consideration
And as noted by the truism above, each of them begins with a blank slate. Where do we want to go? The easy answer, of course, is "everywhere" -- but that's an impractical and not terribly helpful response.

There are a handful of destinations on our Life Lists, so usually we start there. The Amazon, Antarctica, and African safari and Japan dominate those lists, but again are impractical as last-minute plans on both financial and temporal grounds. Because of the cancellation, in this case we have two weeks open in the second half of the year. The question arose whether we wanted to take both weeks at the same time or split them and use them for two wholly separate destinations.

Again, blank page.

This latter decision was the easier of the various ones in this sort of planning. A 'found" week would be perfect for a trip back to visit with my family in Annapolis, Maryland. Spending a holiday is always a highlight, and when budget is a consideration the free accommodations are also attractive. In this case, we get a chance to visit with family and also have a handful of excellent day-trip options open to us. It emerged as a kind of Staples' "That was easy" decisions and we're currently trying to decide if we will go in November or December (Thanksgiving or Christmas as the case may be).
Annapolis. Done and done.

So this leaves a second week drifting somewhere out there in the ether. Where to go, when to go?

As we talked over the possibilities we discussed using the Getaway Vacations -- inexpensive weeks through Interval International -- as the foundation for a trip. We own two timeshares...not necessarily the best decision we've ever made, but it's done so we might as well exploit it...and have the options of purchasing a week at a resort if there are available openings.

Some things immediately entered our thinking. As much as we might be able to grab a week at exotic places like Buenos Aires, Tokyo or Paris, there's the time spent in transit. All wonderful ideas, but we didn't want to commit 40% of the week to being on a plane or in an airport -- when the transit time exceeds 10 hours you have to fight jet lag and general exhaustion, further reducing your "enjoyment time".

Hawaii and Las Vegas, major go-tos for us, were both discarded. We are going to Las Vegas in a few weeks, and have a two week voyage planned for Hawaii in 2014.

That decided we began looking at options in the Caribbean (Saint Martin); Mexico (Los Cabos); Eastern Seaboard (Maine or Cape Cod) and the Pacific Northwest (Vancouver).

With the exception of Los Cabos, each of them represents a return visit. We've been to all of the regions, and therefore know what to expect, as well as being able to plan effective itineraries.

Almost immediately Saint Martin had to be eliminated. The transit time was a little too excessive, and the airfare was no bargain at nearly $2000 for my wife and I to get there.

Los Cabos was deemed a pass. Neither my wife nor I are tanners or partiers, so the overall kind of vacation that implies isn't well suited for the typical Los Cabos resort.
Hmmm. The Sea to Sky Highway is a possibility.

Our decision finally came down to one thing, and that is Airline Time. We found ourselves not really wanting to take a six hour flight any more than we wanted to take one for ten or more hours. This in mind, the decision was a simple one and Whistler, BC, was the winning entry. After that, everything else began falling into. The timeshare resort had openings, and is located right in the center of Whistler's  social district. Booked, done. 

Water, water, everywhere
That decision and booking completed, we began researching air fares, and thinking about the option to fly from Long Beach or LAX. Convenience and ease obviously favor Long Beach Airport, which is by far the nicest of the regional facilities, but it also has the inconvenience of any flight to Vancouver would need to be through SeaTac airport. No direct flights. LAX featured direct flights on a number of carriers, but...well, LAX.

So the second decision was to spend a bit more money -- $45 each -- and take Alaska out of Long Beach. (This may tell you my opinion of LAX as a departure point. 'Nufsed".)

Then, since we were flying into and out of Vancouver, we've elected to check out of Whistler a few days early and spend some time in Vancouver proper, which is uniformly one of our favorite cities in North America. At the moment we're researching hotels, and the mechanics of a rental car for that portion of the trip -- we absolutely need one for Whistler, but it's not a necessity in Vancouver, and in fact costs you at the hotel.

So the plans are coming together. Whistler and Vancouver in October, and Annapolis in November or December. Both are terrific destinations, and we're excited to be heading out on the road again in a few months. As we go along I'll post a few updates, but filling in the blank pages, as I've noted before, is a good chunk of the fun.

Stay tuned.

A world of possibilities


  1. Any chance of a Seattle lay over? I would love to press palms with you both.

  2. Would love to, too, Sandra. I think we're only connecting at SeaTac this time. I'll let you know for sure!