After a six-month hiatus, it feels strange to be posting on my travel blog again. In retirement, long-term travel has become my lifestyle, and intervals between trips are a time for contemplation and rejuvenation.
Life in Oregon during spring and summer is gloriously GREEN! The area is thick with lush foliage, including colorful wildflowers and giant rhododendron and azalea bushes in full bloom. The spectacular emerald scene is draped in a canopy of mini-skyscraper-sized deciduous and evergreen trees. It’s like living in a treehouse.
In spite of the peaceful environment, I’m feeling a pull toward another foreign travel adventure! Some say planning is half the fun of a trip – not for me. The obstacles to overcome in order to arrive at your destination(s) – airplanes and airports, accommodation bookings, packing, security, visas, etc. – are a tedious but inescapable part of travel. If ignored, they can cause frustration and ruin your trip…
Landscaping Despair and Repair
For years, I’ve returned from my travels to find unkempt landscaping – the result of disappointing gardening services. In my absence, did the gardeners do anything at all – other than collect their fee? The area isn’t a fancy, manicured garden, but even natural landscapes require regular maintenance – especially with the constant accumulation of fallen branches, leaves, pine needles, and other tree debris! Living in the hills means using fancy footwork when maintaining trees and bushes growing on a steep incline. For some reason, leaning into the hill came naturally to me. Sometimes slips are inevitable and usually harmless if you “go with the fall”. We had a rainy spring in Oregon and slipping in the mud was almost a daily occurrence. The squirrels and chipmunks must have had a few good laughs watching me fall on my bum. Hired NEW gardeners to help, but I did much of the cleanup work myself.
A benefit of strenuous gardening is getting a good physical workout. I planted about 30 small, hearty lemon juniper bushes to replace dead plants. Low-maintenance, drought-tolerant vegetation is a must, and deer resistant plants (ha ha ha) are ideal. Digging the holes was hard work. Had a pile of fir mulch dumped at the bottom of the cul de sac. The process of schlepping and spreading it uphill was grueling, but there wasn’t room to dump it anywhere else. Finally, everything is weeded, pruned, fertilized, planted, and mulched, and I have the commensurate bruises and scrapes to prove it. I planted corn poppy and lupine seeds and am waiting to see them bloom. Hope the new landscaping company takes better care of things during my upcoming trip…
Old or New?
August is my departure month, with the goal of bypassing frenzied early-summer crowds and avoiding high-season airline delays and pricey accommodations. The choice is either returning to favorite places previously visited or exploring new countries and cities. I find it difficult to get a “true feel” for new locations without spending a month or more there. The first time in a new city or country is challenging, and requires patience and focus, while you roll with what’s happening around you and sometimes stumble through a substantial learning curve – but it’s worth the effort.
Of course, familiar places are easier, since you have a basic understanding of the local culture, lay of the land, and transportation. For me, learning is an important part of travel, but the older I get the more appealing “easier” locations are.
My last trip (May 2021 through January 2022) was during Covid’s heyday. The experience was both exhausting and exhilarating, but one I probably wouldn’t choose to repeat… That said, in spite of everything, it was still a beautiful, fulfilling experience – Serbia, Turkey, Czech Republic, Greece, and Romania.
Hanoi and Vienna
For this trip, I’ll try for a mix of old and new, starting with two somewhat familiar places visited in the past – Hanoi Vietnam and Vienna Austria. After that, who knows?? I’m educating myself about what’s happening in Vietnam and Austria and planning the upcoming trip – leaving room for last-minute changes and trying not to overthink the possibilities. Energy shortages in Europe, war in Ukraine, transportation delays, and a myriad of other travel disruptions are worth consideration, but they won’t keep me at home.
Vietnam’s new Bach Long glass bottom bridge (aka the White Dragon) was built in the Son La Province jungles of Moc Chau District. It’s about a five-hour drive from Hanoi. During my last trip to Vietnam in 2012, I visited indescribably exquisite Ha Long Bay. After kayaking in the bay, I spent the night floating on a Vietnamese junk. Later, I enjoyed several days on the Reunification Express, a famous train that travels the length of Vietnam from Hanoi to Saigon and vice versa. The train makes multiple stops along the way, including Hue, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Phan Thiết. Everything about that train ride was truly an adventure. I was mesmerized by the friendly, accepting Vietnamese people and never-ending thick, luxuriant jungle scenery! It was winter then. This time, late-summer weather will be hot and humid during the middle of monsoon season.
Vienna’s extraordinary classical music performances occur all year in palaces, cathedrals, churches, halls, and parks. During a visit in 2013, I remember getting lost in the garden hedge maze while touring Schönbrunn Palace. I’m considering several interesting day trips, including Hallstatt, a gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage site in Upper Austria. Of course, Viennese coffee, pastries, and cafés are the best, and there are so many different recipes, you could try a new sweet every day!
More from Hanoi…