travel adventure


Socialization and Travel

Both in our book and in our presentations, my wife Trisha and I stress the importance of socialization as one grows older. There is overwhelming evidence that a senior’s physical and emotional health, as well as increased longevity on average is directly affected by frequent and continued socialization. Growing older in isolation is one of the worst things we can do in our retired life years.

Obviously, this is more difficult for some than others. I’m sure my friends would laugh and most likely be surprised to know that basically I’ve always been a bit shy. Once I get to know someone, I have no problem, but for most of my life I’ve found it difficult to be “outgoing” and social. Fortunately, I married someone who is probably one of the most friendly and outgoing people on the planet. I continue to learn from her each day and have actually gone through a bit of a change on the social front.

For those who read this blog, you know my wife Trisha and I love to travel. Certainly, our children, grandkids, and friends are the most important components of our lives, but the occasional travel adventure is the extra spice to our retired life. While we love seeing new sights and having different experiences, we have discovered that meeting and getting to know people from all over the world is both a learning experience and great fun. To know it’s also good for our well-being is icing on the cake.

In this case, due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to cancel a previously planned trip with our good friends and travel companions. In just a few days, Trisha put together a completely different trip through northern Europe to experience places we had not yet visited. As usual, she did a great job and we had a wonderful adventure together.

While we were warned weather is always an issue in this part of Europe, good fortune was with us and our weather was glorious. The sites, sounds, food, and most of all, the people were all wonderfully educational and interesting. We were once again struck by how remarkably easy it is to meet, converse, and even strike up friendships with people from other cultures. Not surprisingly, we all seem to want the same things, but politics and power seem to get into the way with our world leaders. I know this is quite a simplistic thought, and there are very real threats in the world, but as it was once said, “can’t we all just get along?”

Here is a brief summary of the places and people we encountered during our trip:

In addition to visiting all the sights of London, we shared conversations with Jerry and Marita at our hotel, and then the better part of a late evening with Canadians Colin and Monie at a local ice cream parlor. They were an extremely nice couple. Obviously, we were curious about the food in London, and I must say the Pub scene is great fun.

We would recommend The Queen’s Arm’s near Victoria Station for fish and chips and a tankard of ale. A real surprise was an Asian restaurant named A.Wongs. It was gourmet food with over the top preparation, taste, and presentation like nothing I’ve ever had before. Perfection would be the word I would use.

Trisha and John Parker at The Queen's Arms

Trisha and John Parker
at The Queen’s Arms

The Queens Arms

The Queens Arms

A. Wongs

A. Wongs

On a flight to Stockholm, I was privileged to meet a terrific man named Urban who provided me with valuable insights into Swedish culture and politics. Our first and lasting impression of this city was entirely positive. It was very clean, the people were exceptionally friendly, and ladies forgive me, some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. Trisha might have called me sexist, but she was very busy looking at all the handsome men. Our first morning at a sidewalk bistro was very enjoyable.

Trisha and John Parker Morning in Stockholm

Trisha and John Parker
Morning in Stockholm

On our first night in Stockholm, we discovered a little bistro called Ristorante 60 with both indoor and sidewalk tables. Next to us were two interesting young musicians and graduate music students named Phillip and Victor. Although we were a bit travel weary and there was a definite age difference, we actually wound up closing the place. Time flies. Here’s Trisha with the manager.

Trisha Parker Ristorante 60

Trisha Parker
Ristorante 60

The next night, at a local pub we met three truly great young men, Joe, Andrew, and Joe (we think he said Joe because he was sure we would not be able to pronounce his name). They had all returned from their second tour as part of a peace-keeping force in Afganistan. They could not have been more interesting and were so humble when we thanked them for their service. It was another wonderful evening.

While we enjoyed everything about this beautiful city, a true highlight was our visit to Millesgarden. This is the estate, now museum of famous sculpture Carl Milles and his artist wife Olga. The estate sits perched atop a hillside overlooking the water and city of Stockholm. While the art is magnificent and inspirational, the serenity was refreshing. We stopped often just to sit and take in the sheer beauty of this truly must-see location.

Millesgarden

Millesgarden

Millesgarden

Millesgarden

I should mention that when Swedish musical legends ABBA needed a couple to fill in for one performance, Trisha and I helped out.

Trisha and John Parker

Trisha and John Parker

Should anyone be planning a trip to Stockholm, Trisha and I highly recommend the Miss Clara Hotel. It’s an eight story former girl’s school that has been remodeled and transformed into a bright and modern place to stay. It has a beautiful restaurant and a great sauna. Obviously, many hotels have similar amenities, but it’s the warm and professional staff that sets this hotel apart from the others.

Traveling to Copenhagen, we had the pleasure of meeting Christian and Caroline and their beautiful family while having lunch on New Haven Street along the canal. Each of them warm, friendly, and with a great sense of humor. We had many different servers at our outside tables, and only one of them did not seem to speak English. Finally, while Christian was helping me figure out my bill, I asked him if the tip was included. He said, “Yes, I believe the tip is included.” Our non-English speaking server was just walking by the table, and in a very loud voice in perfect English said, “The tip is not included!” We all laughed hysterically at this very funny moment.

Trisha and John Parker Copenhagen

Trisha and John Parker
Copenhagen

Of course, among the dozens of amazing sites in Copenhagen, a tourist simply cannot miss the Little Mermaid.

Trisha and John Parker  The Little Mermaid

Trisha and John Parker
The Little Mermaid

In Amsterdam, we had the pleasure of meeting Doug and Joan, and Jim and Judy while visiting the Anne Frank house. It was a moving experience and afterward we all found a canal-side restaurant with the best Panini I’ve ever tasted. These folks turned out to be wonderful company and after lunch we actually wound up walking through various parts of the city together. The next morning, along a canal we had morning coffee for Trisha and the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. The sightseeing then continued. O. K., we did share that pastry.

Trisha and John Parker Morning / Amsterdam

Trisha and John Parker
Morning / Amsterdam

 

For our next stop we headed to Brussels and on the train met a very interesting young Frenchman and world traveler named Stephane. It so happened that while we were there, the G7 leaders were meeting which gave the city an extra sense of activity with helicopters, limos, and lots of police escorts flying through the city streets. On our last day there, while boarding a bus to visit the Atomium, the last site on our list, the driver said he did not take credit cards. Not having enough Euros left, and getting near the end of the day, our plans would have been crushed. Total strangers Denny and Mary spoke up and offered their own money to buy our tickets. Obviously, we later reimbursed them, but what a wonderful gesture. The Atomium was the high point of the 1957 Brussels World Fair and it was a stopping point recently on T.V.’s Amazing Race. We loved it, especially the rocket ship feeling on the high speed elevator to the top.

Trisha and John Parker Brussels Atomium

Trisha and John Parker
Brussels Atomium

After our days in Brussels, we traveled through northern France and then crossed the English Channel at the same time the Allies had done exactly 70 years before. Of course, we were going the opposite direction toward London, but it still gave us a bit of a chill, especially knowing Trisha’s father was one of those D-Day heroes.

Just one more mention of kindness from others we received on this wonderful adventure. On our original flight from San Francisco to London aboard Virgin Atlantic, the flight crew was sensational. Trisha noticed several of the women had their hair in beautiful tight bun-like configurations. She asked one of the attendants how their hair was styled so perfectly. It turns out it’s with the simple use of a mesh “doughnut.” Flight attendant Claire asked us about our travel plans and we gave her our dates. Two and a half weeks later, when we arrived at the gate at Heathrow in London, Claire was there waving at Trisha. They embraced and then Claire gave Trisha a bag with a hair “doughnut” she had purchased for her.

The answer to the question is, “Yes, we can all get along.” Thank you to all the special people who made our trip so much fun. It’s clear that socialization, maybe even especially while traveling makes our lives much richer and far better.

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Trisha and John Parker

 

Tips For Seniors Traveling Abroad

Having recently returned from an incredible travel adventure to Italy and France, I thought it might be beneficial to share a few travel tips for those considering such a trip.

1. If you plan on driving while in a foreign country, make sure you check in with your insurance agent. In most cases they will advise you to purchase additional coverage from the rental car company in the country you are visiting. This is important because when renting a car in the U. S., if your coverage is like mine, the rental car’s coverage is typically not necessary.

2. When possible, book a hotel in the middle of the cities you want to visit. Most foreign countries have rapid transit much better than ours and you can travel easily through most of them. Often, the entire country is connected by efficient rail systems. On our recent trip to Italy, we became very familiar with the Milan train station as we traveled through it several times. Of course, the way most foreign cities have been centrally designed, once there, you can walk to most of your destinations.

3. Because we are all connected to our smart phones, don’t feel you have to get expensive extended coverage while abroad. Most hotels, restaurants, coffee houses, etc., have free Wifi. To stay in communication back home, we simply sign up for a $10 universal texting plan. It gives you peace of mind in case you need to contact a family member or friend. Otherwise, forget you have a phone and enjoy your trip.

4. As a senior, there is a registration program the U. S. government offers that will also provide an extra sense of security while abroad. Here is the link for registration. This will give your family members an extra way to communicate with you in case of emergency. Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

5. Take your personal safety and security seriously. In most countries you will visit, you probably won’t have to worry about major crime. The fact is, petty crime such as pick pockets, etc., exists in all cities. Keep your passport, credit cards, cash, travel tickets, and I.D. in a hidden travel belt. I have always resisted this suggestion, but during our long recent trip, I decided to wear one and found it quite convenient.

6. If you have any other questions about your health and safety in a country you plan to visit, here are two more links that will keep you informed:

Current Travel Warnings and Current Travel Alerts

Bon Voyage

 

Family Roots Can Inspire

As we grow older we can easily become very set in our ways. Routine makes life simpler and therefore more predictable and easier to navigate. Sometimes it’s beneficial to shake things up a bit. Over the last week plus, my wife Trisha and I took an opportunity to explore our family roots in the mid-west and found it to be an inspiring adventure.

The family of Trisha’s late mother was having a family reunion in Kansas. It’s not a part of the country we often visit, but this was a special event and we took full advantage. The pace of the mid-west is much slower and the scenery much different from what we’re used to seeing. Where else can you see a train track that simply stops in the middle of nowhere or a state road that actually comes to an end.

As we settled in, we began to enjoy the lifestyle and at the reunion got to visit with scores of family members, some of whom we had never met. We also got to know many of their children and grandchildren. It was truly a mid-western experience. If you’ve lived in the mid-west or have family there, you know what I’m talking about. These folks have little pretense, say what they mean and mean what they say. They are short on fancy, big on family, and generous with their time and good food. Only a few of the grandkids had their faces in iPhones. Conversation and simple games were plenty for most everyone. Sunday was church and then back to the reunion. The only difficulty encountered was after the reunion ended when we had to find a place to eat after 8:00. The sidewalks really do pull up pretty early.

Beyond the reunion, Trisha and I had great fun exploring our roots by trying to find locations where the past generations of our families lived. It was extraordinary traveling gravel and dirt roads for miles and miles hoping some of the wood farm houses, brick schools, and old churches had survived. With the Memorial Day weekend in the middle of our visit, it was heartwarming to see the way in which these wonderful people celebrated and honored those that served and their many loved ones who had gone before. We got very caught up in the patriotism that was on display.

In Trisha’s case, one of her uncles helped us locate an old farmhouse many miles out-of-town that was the birthplace of her great-grandfather. He had stayed and raised his family there. His two brothers eventually had farms just off that same road.

 

Even more interesting for Trisha was finding a very small one-story building that seemed to have just been dumped at the intersection of two gravel roads. We found out this small box of a building used to be a general store in another town many, many years ago. It was transported to the location we discovered and used as a home by her grandfather, grandmother, and their eight children. Trisha’s mother being the oldest. 

In my case, my father was also born and raised in Kansas. Trisha and I decided to try to find some of the little places he used to live and go to school. Again, we were back on gravel and dirt roads. Having lived in California for most of my life, its still hard to believe there are actual towns located on dirt roads in the U. S. We found what was left of these little towns, although almost all the businesses are now gone. In fact, in one of the small towns, we discovered the bank that was founded in 1900 was closing it’s doors the day after our visit. I remembered the stories my father had told me about the small town and how, when he was one year old, the bank was robbed by one of the famous gangs of the time. It’s a story I have been able to verify.

 

I stood for a long time in front of the brick building that was my father’s school. The interior has now collapsed, but the brick structure still stands. I could envision him being dropped off from the family horse-drawn wagon in the mornings. I imagined the laughter coming from the basement where he played basketball, a respite from his hard chores on the farm. I walked around the tall weeds in back where I know he used to run the bases of their improvised baseball field.   

 

We had found some of our roots and I know we are better for it.

 

 

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Back from Down Under

If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit New Zealand or Australia, I suggest you make every effort to place it high on your “life list.” My wife Trisha and I, along with good friends Lyn and Herb just returned from a great travel adventure down under. The scenery is spectacular, the people genial, the rich history fascinating, and the iconic landmarks surreal. I should also add, these countries have the most complex diversity of cultures I’ve ever experienced, but there is a commonality of spirit and attitude that permeates throughout. Virtually every person you talk with or ask for information greets you with a “No worries,” or a “Cheers mate.” It was a very uplifting and encouraging experience when compared to our “diversity” which seems more like division. I could go on, and probably will in future blogs, but several have asked me to share some photos from our trip. Here are just a few of the many hundreds we took.

(Lady Knox Geyser, Waikato Territory, Lyn luging down Mt. Ngonogotaha, with musician friend Maurizio in Tauranga, swimming with dolphins in the Tasmin Sea, out for dinner at a club in Rotorua, Trisha in the Conservatory garden in Melbourne, top of Taieri Gorge, Lyn and Herb on a moutain gondola, having fun at Captain Cook’s home in Melbourne, my two new friends from the Netherlands, the iconic Sydney Opera House, and Herb the Maori Warrior)

        

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Travel Suggestion

If you’re looking for an interesting place to visit right here in the good old U.S.A., I suggest you think about southern Arizona. Having made several visits to this part of the country in the last few years, my wife and I have come to love the area.

Southern Arizona has so many fascinating places to visit, I’m not sure any one person could visit them all. We try to take in one or two each time which gives us plenty of reasons to return. Here are just a few of the places we have recently enjoyed. For more information simply click on the links.

Kartchner Caverns State Park 

Arizona State Parks: Kartchner Caverns: Home

 This is one of the newest and most interesting attractions in the U. S. It was discovered in 1974 by two explorers. Only revealed in 1988, the state of Arizona spent millions of dollars and opened it to the public in 1999.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Titan Missle Museum

Titan Missle Museum

My wife Trisha and I visited this location and took the guided tour a few weeks ago and it was fantastic. As seniors, we all remember the days of our nuclear standoff with Russia. The U. S. maintained many Titan Missle sites during those years and they were all manned 24/7 by the military. The sites were eventually destroyed, but this one was left in tact for historical purposes. It is the only publicly accessible site remaining from that era. There is a museum, gift shop, video room, and a guided tour for your enjoyment. I was surprised to see an actual Titan II Missle in the silo and our guide took us through a simulated launch. Quite breathtaking.!

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tubac

Tubac Arizona > Southern AZ Artist Colony & Travel Destination

Here is an all-in-one place to visit. This historic Spanish settlement has become a true resort. You can find art gallaries, gift stores, wonderful food, golf, spas, and much more. Most of all, the relaxed and peaceful environment is worth the visit by itself. We love the beautiful hand painted pots and other crafts. On our last visit we purchased three more for our outdoor area. Quite beautiful and unique. Whatever your pleasure, you will find it here. Below is Trisha with good friend Susan at the main entrance.

 

Vitamin Warning

This one is for the guys. We live in an era in which people take lots of vitamins. I admit to taking them myself. Unfortunately, we often think more is better. A new study warns that taking too much Vitamin E can increase a man’s risk of getting prostate cancer. Because there are vitamin products out there with very high units of Vitamin E, men are being warned. The new research results were published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The multi-million dollar study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.  As with any medical information, check with your doctor.

Grandkids

A long time ago, when dinosaurs walked the earth, October was my special month. It is the month of my birth. The fact is, birthdays were never a big deal in my family. I mean, everyone has one, so what’s the big deal. Well, so far this October, four of our grandkids have had birthdays. It is my greatest gift and a wonderful blessing. Happy Birthday each and every one. 

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

 

Let me begin by saying I’m probably one of the most patriotic people you will ever meet. My father served in WWII and his father in WWI. I served four years in the U.S. Air Force during the Viet Nam war. I also consider every first responder and all civilians who gave assistance on 9-11 to be true heroes. Additionally, I was and still am heart-sick for our country and everyone who suffered the loss of a loved one in the cowardly attack on innocent life. I didn’t, however, participate in the cultural and media-created grief-fest over the last month.

As a typical young man growing up in this country, I took my share of blows. As a skinny 7th grader, I was punched by the biggest 9th grader in school when I accidentally stepped on his foot. Pretty sure I broke some ribs but I never told anyone about it. Later on as a high school senior, I took out the catcher while scoring the winning run that gave my baseball team the league championship. Guess which one I choose to celebrate? What has happened to our culture when we create a spectacle to remember taking a horrible cheap shot from a bunch of lunatic fanatics? And why have we spent so much time building a monument to, lets face it, our biggest defense failure?

I can predict some of the answers. One would be we are doing this to honor the victims. Yes, I’m sure that’s part of it. But we won’t forget those people. They were the murder victims of heartless criminals. What I believe we should have done was build a new set of buildings twice as high on that site. What has happened to our can-do spirit in this country? We cry and moan over every mishap and wallow in collective grief. Remember when Princess Diana was killed in a car accident? For days the media brought us images of people around the world gathered in mass laying down flowers and crying. I felt bad for her and her family, but to be honest, I had never met her. I certainly didn’t break down or have a desire to gather with my neighbors to grieve. We all suffer the loss of loved ones. It’s the most difficult and emotional aspect of life. But if something happens to me on the highway, I sure don’t want my family to gather at the place of my demise and build a roadside memorial to visit each year.

When 9-11 occurred, I was so proud of our nation’s great resilience and defiance despite suffering such a horrifying attack. Now I feel we have been shown to be a nation of weak and powerless wimps, wallowing in a collective sea of pity and self indulgence. I truly honor those who lost their lives on 9-11, but seriously worry our culture has lost much of its grit and spirit.

North to Alaska 

 

Last week my wife Trisha and I, along with my mother Marty, sister Sharon , and good friends Madelynn and Juan, had the good fortune to explore the great state of Alaska. It was our third visit, and for those of you who have traveled to this scenic wonder, you already know its indescribable beauty. Fortunately for us, the weather proved to be just cold enough at the glaciers to meet expectations, offered a few brief showers in some locations, and provided the most glorious days even the locals and our ship’s crew described as the best weather they had ever seen. 

 If you’ve never been to Alaska, do yourself a favor and make plans to see one of the most spectacular places on earth. Here are just a few of the hundreds of photos we took on our plane, train, and ship travel adventure:

  

 

As we grow older, to be blessed with grandchildren is truly a joy. My wife Trisha and I are fortunate to have several of these wonderful young people in our lives. Ever since our oldest granddaughter Lucy was old enough to travel with us we take her on one trip each year to somewhere exciting. This year was no exception.

We first planned to go to New York, but the upcoming 9/11 anniversary had packed the hotels and those kinds of crowds didn’t seem too inviting. Having recently visited Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, a place we have always enjoyed, we decided it would be perfect for this year’s adventure. After the plans were made, we got a couple of last-minute calls from Lucy’s mom. She told us her friends were advising her not to allow her daughter to go to Mexico. The second call came after Lucy’s friends began to scare her about the trip. Long story short, we assured mother and daughter and went through with our plans. It was a great trip and we had a ball.

Better yet, it was an opportunity to share a good life lesson. Are there places in this world especially dangerous to visit? Yes. In fact, there are several not too far from my home. The point is: life itself is a risk. My own aunt and uncle were murdered in their own bedroom. Several years ago I would never have imagined traveling through China meeting people and making friends with whom I would continue to communicate. Are there places in Mexico I would not visit right now? Absolutely. At this point, Cabo was much less a risk than our ride home from the airport. Lucy loved the scenery, boating, para-sailing, swimming, dancing for the guys at Senior Frogs, and shopping.

Growing older does not automatically give you more wisdom. It should, however, give you perspective. I personally drive more slowly and cautiously than before. On the other hand, I also try things I never would have done when I was younger. I admit to enjoying the adrenaline. Trisha is the same way and we both have our “list” of exciting things to try. Up till now, I haven’t added skydiving to my list, but I know it’s on hers. Maybe we’re just getting a bit crazy in our old age, but this is our life, not a dress rehearsal. Bottom line: you want to do something in this life, you better get to it. 

  

 

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