I've always liked Philosophy and studied it as an undergraduate. So, I try to think about fundamental things such as the nature of our existence, metaphysical issues (God, afterlife), and questions of ethics. These questions usually lead me to ideas. Often, though, the answer is that I don't have a clue. Sometimes ideas just seem to pop into my head.
It's not easy. I spend almost all mornings Monday through Friday at the Dickson Senior Center attending classes involving Yoga, Aerobics, Line Dancing, and Zumba as well as working out on the weight lifting machine. And I have a seemingly endless list of other things I love to do, such as learning foreign languages, becoming a better chess player, ball room dancing, and reading. I have a wonderful, amazing daughter and three grandchildren I love to visit. Add to that several close friends and my sometimes feeble attempt to have a relationship with my girlfriend and you can understand why I ask myself this question all the time.
Travel independently using a smart device (I like my Android tablet) and keep a daily journal. It will always be your best souvenir. And take lots of digital photos and videos. You can cull out the better ones later. Stay in hostels – not just because they're less expensive but also because the experience is much better than staying in a hotel.
Travel is for me intensified living. I get to experience different cultures, people, food, and sights. It is life on steroids. When I visit a particular place for longer periods of time, say weeks or months, rather than the usual short trips almost all Americans make, say a few days or a week, the spirit, the soul, or whatever you want to call that intangible nature of a place, has time to seep deeply and fully into my brain. I begin to feel somewhat like a native inhabitant of the place – not just a visitor.
The experience is so thoroughly impressed on my mind, my brain, that I am likely to never forget it. That's why I advocate and show this way of traveling in My European Adventures.
Rarely do I feel lonely. It seems that I always make many temporary friendships and it is very satisfying to hang out with them. I have felt the pang of loneliness a couple of times. One time I mention in the book was when I watched embracing couples gliding along through the canals of Venice in the gondola boats.
Surprisingly, for me, I was almost never afraid. Since I believe that I learned from my mother to be fearful of many things as I grew up, I was very happy about not being afraid in any of the countries I visited.
Being wary, however, is a part of situational awareness, which I certainly always recommend and try to maintain myself. You should be wary in the sense of not being gullible or a Pollyanna, that is, don't see everything through rose-colored glasses. Don't put yourself in a compromised situation when you have control over it. For example, I mention in the book that in one city I ran into a large group of police in tactical gear similar to SWAT teams in the states. I immediately started walking in the opposite direction. I said that heads could be knocked and you don't want yours to be one of them. This advice concerning situational awareness is something I believe should be practiced by everybody at all times and at all places anywhere in the world – even in your home town in the USA. But never go around being afraid all the time!
The most historical cities for me were Rome and Istanbul followed closely by London, Paris, and Berlin.
Only occasionally do I have an active nightlife. I love to dance but I've never been one to go to a rave and stay until the wee hours of the next day. And I also really enjoy a late dinner with a friend or a gathering with a small group of friends for drinks and socializing in the evenings but again, I'm just not a big party animal. So, for me, the aperitivo in Italy that I talked about in the Florence section was perfect. Festivals, music events, and things like the Cirque du Soleil are often held in the evenings or nights in many European cities, especially in the warmer months. I always thoroughly enjoyed these kinds of events. I've read about the extensive nightlife in cities such as Berlin but generally I had walked so much during the day in Berlin that I was usually asleep by ten in the evenings.
I think what would constitute "the obvious ones" for different people would be different cities. For me, many smaller European cities, which have large, famous universities in them and also are full of charm with large pedestrian zones and beautiful parks, have great appeal as a place to live. Heidelberg, Germany, is a good example.
If Medicare is your primary health insurance provider, you need to know that its coverage does not extend outside of the United States. Some private insurance plans do but you have to research them for what they cover and their limitations and costs. Many of the Medigap plans cover foreign travel emergency care but only during the first sixty days of your trip. You can buy various levels of health insurance for travel outside of the states. The most comprehensive plans will cover 100% of everything you might need: emergency services, out-patient and inpatient services, dental services, life insurance, emergency return to the U.S., and other support. You will have to research to find the right plan at an affordable price for you. Some internet research by me showed the cost of a comprehensive plan for a 69 year old for 93 days to be about $370 and for 305 days to be about $1,211. The longer trip works out to about $100 per month for ten months.
If you are in good health and have the money to buy a one-way ticket to fly back to the states in an emergency, like I did, then you can just go on your trip to Europe without further worry. I figured if I suddenly fell over dead as a doornail in Europe, my daughter would make arrangements for my body to be flown back (I've donated it to a university medical school) and she could pay for it with my money. And I was certain that in that case, I would not be concerned about any of it in the least!
If you must take a prescribed medication, then I recommend taking enough with you to last through your whole trip. If that's not possible, then you may have to make arrangements with a friend or family member to mail a supply to you when needed. It can be very difficult, or impossible, to get a U.S. prescription filled in Europe. I talk about this situation in the book when my Atavan went missing.
I tested the water with a thirty day trip to Quebec City, Canada, and was very glad I did. I talk about this test run in the book. A shorter test trip isn't required, of course, but I recommend it before plunging into a long transatlantic journey.
You don't! But there are common sense guidelines to follow. Areas where there are other travelers and tourists are probably safest. In today's world, sadly, there is no such thing as a totally safe place. Natural disasters, tornados, hurricanes, floods, pandemic outbreaks as well as man-made disasters, terrorist attacks, accidental explosions, plane crashes, can happen pretty much anywhere at any time.
The best bet is to travel, see the places you want to see and experience, have fun, and not worry. Use common sense and situational awareness and you will be fine. The excessive worry about terrorism is uncalled for. Look at these statistics:
- odds of being killed in a car crash: 1 in 19,000
- odds of drowning in your bathtub: 1 in 800,000
- odds of being struck by lightning: 1 in 5,500,000
- odds of being killed in a terrorist attack: 1 in 20,000,000