Month: February 2014

Sensitivity Training Might Be Required

When we return to the US Mike and I might need to get some sensitivity training.  You see we have been traveling for so long now and seen so many beggars on the streets that we no longer even see these people; well we try to not let them irritate us too badly.

I will have to admit that the constant begging on the streets of Sarajevo was too much for me.  Five days of constant bombardment by beggars and I couldn’t wait to get out of the city.  I told Mike to get me out of there in fact that’s how bad the begging was.  It was everywhere; what makes this begging worse is knowing that these are not locals but transplants; in some cases people being brought into the country for the express purpose of begging.

We asked one guide in Valencia why so many beggars and with a look of disgust she asked us to never give any of them any money because they were being flown into her country and her city by the Russian Mafia and they were there solely to cause trouble.

So many of the beggars on the streets are thus; people transplanted out of their horrible situations to live and ‘work’ where there are more tourists; tourists who feel badly that these families are begging for money and who give them coin.

We do not give coin to anyone.  Mike and I live on a budget; if we are walking into a church it doesn’t mean I am going to give money to a beggar because I should feel guilted into giving money.  We don’t give money to someone who is begging just because we are sitting in a café somewhere and they think we have extra money.  And I’ve stopped feeling badly about not giving money or in shooing them away with disgust.

How bad is the begging in some countries?  On the website for the Hungarian Tourism Office they have a section dedicated to the beggars tourists will find on the street and they ask that you not give them money.  They state that their own citizens are taken care of well and no local would need to beg on the street so therefore these people are in the country not only illegally but are not wanted.

Americans by their very nature are one of the most giving nations on earth.  We give more money to charity than any other cultural group.  People love seeing American’s everywhere; we come across as an easy mark.  I will echo the requests of locals and national tourism boards; do not give money to beggars on the street.

All of this constant begging however has had an adverse effect on us.  We have seen whole families out begging together because they use their children as a means to get more money from woman.  I find myself disgusted and angry at the constant bombardment of beggars and honestly to me if a city wants me to return to visit they need to get the beggars out of their country and away from me.  What I remember most about Sarajevo is the beggars on the street and it is an instant turn off for me to ever want to return.  When you say something to a local they say what can we do they are Romanians or Pakistani’s; they are always from somewhere else, never their own.  They are a problem however and someone needs to fix it.

I might need some sensitivity training when we return to the US in order to feel badly for others again.  I guess this might be considered a down side of a life of constant travel.  Maybe…

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince

Whose Quote Is That Anyway…

Create Your Own Voice

I’m not sure why people use famous quotes from other people.  You’ve seen these quotes.  For example, people use the oft quoted travel axiom “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page” attributed to St. Augustine.   They use other famous quotes from others on blogs and on their websites and even on business cards, and I always wonder why.

I started my own blog to have my own voice.  Our company motto for The 6 Monthers: “Don’t make an impact, make a difference” is something I created.  It’s not a statement from someone famous or some obscure website of famous quotes.  I am an intelligent and competent woman.  If I was going to have my own brand and my own blog shouldn’t I be able to create my own motto?

The same holds for creating the content on my blogs.  I have several blogs.  I think most people really need several blogs to talk about the issues and the topics that mean the most to them.  Not everything fits under the mantle of my first blog which is about Travel.  However I find the lines get blurred sometimes within the content on that blog as well. For some reason I think photos in a blog story take over the story, so are you a blog story or a photo essay?  That is why many of my blog postings have no photos, and I take great photos!  The photos should supplement the story; they shouldn’t be the story unless they are the story.

My second blog was created to deal with questions and feedback people have about our lifestyle as The 6 Monthers.  That blog is direct and topic specific.  My travel blog flows to whatever topic and rant I feel like.  I have a third blog going just for sponsorships and brands.  And I’m toying with starting a fourth blog to deal with social and civil rights issues because these topics mean a great deal to me.

My audiences for each of these blogs are also incredibly different.  People seek out blogs for topics with like minded spirits.  I know I do.  I tend to gravitate towards blogs that have a social conscience or photo blogs of real people dealing with real adversity.

Creating one’s own voice therefore takes many forms.  Be it a motto we stand and live by, or a blog where we pour out our passions, we are creating our own voice.  Isn’t it time to also stop quoting someone else and create your own memorable and ever lasting quote?   Try it.  It might not be as hard as you think.

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince

Retire Already!

Mike and I are both Baby Boomers.  Mike is 10 years older than I.  When he decided to retire at the age of 62 and told me he wanted to travel the world now that he could we had to figure out a way to make that work. We mapped out what life would be like for him retired and me still working for another 10 years.  Mike hates being alone and he is not one to be off doing one thing while I’m doing another.  I am also a workaholic and at every job I had I worked in excess of 40 hours a week.  Mike wasn’t going to be happy with me working that hard elsewhere and not enjoying life with him.

Then we looked at life living on his social security.  To make that work we knew we would have to sell everything and live in countries where we could live more economically until I can file for social security in 10 years time and we can breathe a little easier.  There was no way to live in the US on his $1500 a month social security; this is a sad statement, but true.  To family and friends who do not even have a passport option one seemed like the safer bet. And then they realized that I had never lived my life going for the safer bet and we went with option two.

During the time we have been traveling (3 years this coming June) we have both read article after article warning baby boomers that they won’t have enough money to retire; that they need to work until they are in their 70’s and perhaps beyond; how they shouldn’t loan money to their children; how baby boomers are the ones keeping the travel industry afloat since they are the ones paying for family group travel and more stories all with the boogey man standing behind them warning them that retirement in the style they are currently living or want to live is not doable unless they have millions stashed away in the bank.

Enough already!   Let’s put some balance into this mix.

While you were building your family and having children you increased the size of your home; some of you to almost 5,000 square feet of living space.  This means you also filled a house with all the things that made you comfortable.  That was great.

Now it’s most likely just you and your spouse and its time for the tough questions.

How often does anyone come to spend the night?  Once a month; once a quarter; ever?

How often are the five bedrooms full?  Once a year; never?

Can you make do with a two bedroom place?  Be honest. Answers to questions one and two will answer this.

What should you do with all the ‘stuff’ you’ve accumulated during your life?  Sell it or give it all away!  If your kids want that stuff make them responsible for it now, not later.  We did that.  More surprising was how much of the stuff we thought so highly of no one else wanted.  Do not assume that the stuff you hold dear your kids will want.  You might be surprised in what they decide to do with the things you think they will hold on to.

You know what I regret the most now that I look back at my life?  I regret all the money I spent in accumulating things.  I wish I had known what life could be like and I wouldn’t have lived in a large home with lots of furniture and lots of clothing and other things I really didn’t need. I’m sorry I had a home that slept nine and clothing that filled three closets and a TV in every room.  I wish I had some of that money back now so that I could travel to more places and meet more people.  I’m sorry I didn’t buy lots of investment property and have lots of tenants to help me keep the money flowing and I’m sorry I didn’t live in a small one room shack someplace with a bed and a table and nothing else because that is all I really needed.

I feel sad when I see articles that say that seniors won’t be retiring until they are in their 70’s, if at all.  I mean if you love what you are doing that’s great.  If you are working in order to be comfortable in retirement you have the wrong idea of retirement or in my opinion you are listening to the wrong folks.  Everyone works to have money for shelter, food and warmth. Nothing else really matters.  What is the real magic number of how much money you need to retire? What is the real number you need every month to be comfortable?  It might not be as high a number as you think.

Reports say that the Millennials are actually living a minimalist’s life.  They aren’t interested in buying the big homes and filling them with stuff.  They want a smaller footprint and to do more meaningful things in life and they want to travel more.  In this instance perhaps they are the ones who have it right.

We are however the Baby Boomer Generation.  We are the generation that demonstrated for change in civil rights, women’s right and gay rights.  We are the generation that changed the music scene bringing the sounds of rock and roll, Motown, Disco, pop and rap into the mainstream culture.  We did nothing like our parents before us and we have never let others tell us what to think, what to do or what to say.  I’m proud to be a Baby Boomer.  I’m even happier as a retired Boomer.

Florence Lince

www.about.me/florencelince

* Sigh * – A Place to Call Home

Riding the bus the other day through a residential neighborhood made me sigh.  I was looking inside windows of homes where people were gathered at dining room tables, fires were going in the fireplaces and neighbors were walking on the street.

Periodically I wonder what life would be like again if we had one place to call home; a place where we could go and build a fire, a place to unpack our suitcases and a place to have a garden where we would grow our own vegetables and Mike could have his fuchsia’s again.

We have been traveling and moving around since 2011.  That really isn’t that long a time but in some regards it is a lifetime.  Mike’s second grandson was born while we’ve been away and he’s only seen him once.

I don’t know if this periodic longing for a home is the female nesting syndrome rearing its ugly head. I do know that as the bus stops at our next destination I get an excited tingle and I wonder what great new adventures await and the wistful thoughts of having our own place are gone like the ‘will o the wisps’.

I know the *sigh* will come again as we travel from country to country.  I will know when its time to really call our lifestyle quits when I can’t get the sigh to turn into a new tingle; when I can’t take one more photo; when I can’t even bear the thought of packing one more suitcase.

I don’t think that time is coming soon.   I’m still looking at our schedule and wondering what exciting things I’ll get to see 10 years from now and how many more photos will I take, how many amazing people will we meet along the way, will I do okay with language barriers in new countries, when should we think about replacing warn out clothing…

*Sigh* I guess I’m not ready to settle down…just yet…

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince

Couchsurfing

Or, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Rarely have we been able to find a one bedroom apartment.  Most places unless they are a studio are at least two bedrooms.  What this usually means is that we have an extra bed for guests.  Since most of the people in our families won’t be coming to visit, or hop around the globe with us, this means we have the unique opportunity to offer our extra beds to couchsurfing guests.

This does a couple of things for us.  One it breaks up the monotony of it just being the two of us and two it gives someone who needs a place to stay a comfortable place to crash for a night or two.

Never done the couchsurfing thing?  Here’s the dope.

  • You have an extra spot for someone to crash.
  • You expect no payment and do not charge for the room.
  • You sign up on the http://www.couchsurfing.org site and fill out a complete bio.
  • You hang your ‘available to host’ sign on the website and wait for people to send you an inquiry if you have availability to host them.
  • You review their couchsurfing site; read all the reviews people have written about them; send emails back and forth on a secure service and then decide if you want to host or not.
  • Decided to give it a try?  Then send them the info on where you are at or at least where to meet to check them out one last time before you let them enter your place.
  • Be prepared to make a new friend.

We have now done this in a couple of different countries and we have enjoyed it every time we have done so.  We have received more inquiries than we could accommodate from those interested in crashing with us but we don’t host more than one person at a time and we move around so much that many times we just are not home when someone needs a place to crash.

If we are available and feeling like we need company we go for it.  We’ve had people from the US, Canada, Spain and Austria stay with us in various countries.  It’s fun to get to meet new people and to learn more about where they have traveled too and what they have seen.  In some cases it has also given Mike a touring buddy.  He gets to leave the house and show someone around the city we are living in.  Most are impressed he’s learned so much about our new home.

Our couch surfing friend HD and Mike at KRKA National Park.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Our couch surfing friend HD and Mike at KRKA National Park. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

We have even stayed in touch with some of the guests we have hosted and even been featured on each other blogs. One couchsurfer has now joined us in two countries and is looking forward to meeting up with us in a third.

Thinking that language barriers might exist?  Most people using the site speak English.  In fact most speak a plethora of languages and English is just one of them.  This is a great way to give younger folks in your house a taste of a different culture without doing a full semester hosting obligation.  Most couchsurfers stay one or two nights.  Some will ask to crash longer but you can keep the obligation to however many days you wish.  Veteran couchsurfers have learned to be flexible.

Doing the couchsurfing thing was just something that happened.  I had heard about couchsurfing and thought it might be a good outlet for me and Mike.  I had also liked the idea of helping out a fellow traveler who wanted to see the world but who didn’t have a lot of money.  So far, mostly because we are so careful with weeding out the good from the bad couchsurfers, we’ve had a good time with the folks who have crashed at our place.

What it is exactly that makes a house a home?  The people in it of course!  And we love having a house where the whole world literally comes to visit.

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince

STOP the Lists, I want to Get Off

I cringe when I see them; those headlines that say “Ten Best Places to Eat”, “Ten Bucket List Ideas”, “Fifty Best Beaches in the World” and the several dozen more articles and stories that come out what seems like daily where some travel expert is telling others where to go, what to see, what to do, what to eat and more.

Travel bloggers are so desperate to churn out content they are constantly writing, some about nothing.  So many people think that they have to post an article daily or they will fade from the public mind.  If you are skating on such thin ice posting constantly is not the way to build an audience.

I do not read any of these lists.  I do not compare how I travel and where I want to go to someone else.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been traveling so long on my own and been to so many places that I’m not inclined to think that someone else’s idea of what I should see interests me.  I have been able to decide for myself where I want to go and when and even how to get there.

Travel writers and bloggers are not going to someplace that others have not been.  We are not pioneers who are exploring unknown territories.  Others have been there before us and more will come after.  I will not tell someone the top ten beach’s to visit or the best places to buy wine or the best hotels to stay at.  I will give you my shakedown on the service I received and the tours that I can go on and take photos of the things I have seen.  It is not my job as a travel writer to tell you what to do and where to go and what to see.  It is my job to give you information to make your travel easier and to give you my advice on what to expect and perhaps even what pitfalls to look out for.   What you do with the information after that is up to you.

To me the sign of a good travel writer or blogger is someone who makes the reader react to a story or their writing makes others want to travel someplace new.  Telling someone what the 10 Ten Restaurants in Rome are certainly won’t make me want to travel to those 10 Restaurants.   Who do we think we are anyway?

I have been traveling for over 30 years.  I know how to travel and pack my suitcase and buy airplane tickets and how to book hotels; hostels and resorts.  Stop trying to prove you are an expert in travel by telling me where to go and how to do things.

If you want to prove to me that you are a great travel writer or blogger then tell me a compelling story about your travels.  Tell me about meeting a local and sharing dinner with them.  Tell me about working or building an orphanage in a country not your own.  Tell me how the locals deal with rising costs of living and what they think of us.  Tell me how the economy meltdown has affected people in a place you love dearly.  That’s what a good travel writer or blogger should be doing.  So stop the lists and the how-to’s and show me what makes you a great travel writer.  Tell me the stories that set you apart from everyone else out there.

Creating lists only gets you a one line post on a search engine.  Creating a compelling story or blog post gets you noticed and an audience of loyal followers.  That’s why I’m writing and posting; to share my life’s travel adventures with others.  Not to tell someone how to pack their suitcase or rent a car or where to get the 10 best hamburgers in the world.

Join me, I dare you.  Let’s give travel blog readers what they really want; compelling stories about travel and about the real people in the world around us.  Let’s join the Walter Winchell’s, Edward R. Murrow’s, Ernest Hemingway, H. L. Mencken, Bob Woodward’s, John Steinbeck and others and leave a legacy of travel writing we can be proud of.

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince

Madrid

Or, I Like What You’ve Done With the Place

We liked Madrid.  From the first drive through in our taxi to the first walk around from our hostel, we knew we were in a city with a great vibe and feel and it was someplace that we wanted to be.   I think our taxi driver was a little surprised to have two such people oohing and aahing in the back seat but he got into the act and told us about the buildings as we passed and what else there was to see and do in the city.

Neither of us had been to Madrid before and no matter how much research you do or how many guide books you read nothing beats being somewhere and experiencing the sights and sounds for yourself.

Madrid is the capital of Spain with a population of 3.3 million.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Madrid is the capital of Spain with a population of 3.3 million in its city center. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The Royal Palace is not lived in by the Royal Spanish Family.  They live elsewhere in a larger place.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The Royal Palace is not lived in by the Royal Spanish Family. They live elsewhere in a larger place. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Madrid is the third largest city in the EU after London and Berlin.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Madrid is the third largest city in the EU after London and Berlin. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Madrid is a very walker friendly city.  It's a good thing too since they love their chocolate!  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Madrid is a very walker friendly city. It’s a good thing too since they love their chocolate! © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Due to its economic output, high standard of living, and market size, Madrid is considered the major financial center of Southern Europe.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Due to its economic output, high standard of living, and market size, Madrid is considered the major financial center of Southern Europe. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Madrid is the 10th most livable city in the world and is considered the among the 12 greenest European cities.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Madrid is the 10th most livable city in the world and is considered among the 12 greenest European cities. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Some of the business establishments are decorated in tiles.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Some of the business establishments are decorated in tiles. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

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Statue of Queen Isabella I of Castile. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Madrid is the fourth most visited city in Europe with over 7 million visitors a year.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Madrid is the fourth most visited city in Europe with over 7 million visitors a year. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Madrid has a modern infrastructure but it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighborhoods and streets.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Madrid has a modern infrastructure but it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighborhoods and streets. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The King in Spain has no government power.  He is a leader in status only.   © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The King in Spain has no government power. He is a leader in status only. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The nerve center of the city is the Puerta del Sol, starting point for the numbering of all city streets and all the country's highways.  If you stand in the middle of the square you are also standing in the center of all of Spain.   © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The nerve center of the city is the Puerta del Sol, starting point for the numbering of all city streets and all the country’s highways. If you stand in the middle of the square you are also standing in the center of all of Spain. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Cibeles Palace: City Hall of Madrid, cultural center of capital and iconic monument of the city  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Cibeles Palace: City Hall of Madrid, cultural center of capital and iconic monument of the city. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Eating Tapas is a big deal here in Spain.   © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Eating Tapas is a big deal here in Spain. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Madrid was founded in the 9th Century.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Madrid was founded in the 9th Century. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

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Madrid is a major center for international business and commerce. It is one of Europe’s largest financial centers and the largest in Spain. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The Cathedral of Santa María la Real de la Almudena is the episcopal seat of the Archdiocese of Madrid. It was built during the 19th and 20th centuries.  It was consecrated by Pope John Paul II on his fourth trip to Spain on 15 June 1993, thus being the only Spanish cathedral dedicated by a pope. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The Cathedral of Santa María la Real de la Almudena is the episcopal seat of the Archdiocese of Madrid. It was built during the 19th and 20th centuries. It was consecrated by Pope John Paul II on his fourth trip to Spain on 15 June 1993, thus being the only Spanish cathedral dedicated by a pope.
© Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

We only spent four nights in Madrid and we already know it wasn’t enough.  We will return.

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince