travel


Journeying with My Father

In the midst of such dark and omnipresent stories from around the world, I want to share some very pleasant and uplifting thoughts.

Recently, on Veteran’s Day, I wrote about my father and the men he served with in Guadalcanal during WWII. Their unit was CASU 11, an acronym for Carrier Aircraft Service Unit. To my great surprise, not long after writing that article, I heard from a man whose father also served in the same unit. Not only that, he sent me pictures of my father and his buddies during their time overseas. I had met many of these men as seniors, but had never seen my father nor them as young men during their duty on the island. What a wonderful gift that brought tears to my eyes. This is one of the photos of my father.

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Just recently I heard from another man whose father also served in CASU 11 during that time and he also had great information and photos to share. The three of us are now in contact and learning more about our father’s service and experiences. I know our fathers and their buddies would be very pleased.

If you read my last blog, you know my wife Trisha and I recently returned from a wonderful travel adventure to Australia. Every day, and more so when I’m given the chance to do something special such as traveling to a foreign land, I give thanks to my late father and mother for their efforts in providing for our family. My father worked both days and nights for thirteen years to establish his business. I was thirteen when we took our first vacation, a trip to my aunt’s house in the northwest. While in Australia, I wondered each day what my father would think about such an adventure, and I often silently thanked him for providing me the opportunity of education and confidence to pursue my dreams.

For those who travel, you know one of the best things about it is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. This last trip was no exception and we met several wonderful folks. In one such instance, as my wife and I were walking around the Circle Quay toward the Sydney Opera House, we stopped to sit on a bench and take in the sights. In just a moment an Australian couple named Chris and Kathryn sat down next to us and a conversation ensued. They were a very charming and energetic couple and we seemed to have much in common. At one point, Chris began to tell us about his father. It was as if he was describing my father. He then expressed his gratitude for all his father had done to give him opportunity to live such a wonderful life. He was expressing the very thoughts I have always carried about my father.

As we said good-bye, we exchanged emails and learning about a poem Chris wrote about his father, I asked for permission to share it with the readers of my blog. He graciously accepted. I know many of you will appreciate and relate to his eloquent words.

 

Journeying with My Father

 

I wish my Father, now long gone, was on this journey with me,

to show him all the sights which I am privileged to see.

As a young man he departed his birth land, on a great adventure,

and settled here, as a dedicated Australian, until his life was over,

never, even after 41 years, returning to his town of origin,

nor fully exploring his adopted land within.

 

I feel sad for my Father because he missed the opportunity

to travel about, with his wife, in this contrasting country.

He saw only some parts of it before he settled down

to spend his life working hard for us, in a new hometown.

No matter how difficult it was to raise all his progeny,

this Dad kept striving to be better, so he could help his family.

 

My Father would love to see the crocodiles and birds,

describing them with his flourishing style and descriptive words.

He would explain to all of us, these wonderful sights we saw

because he would have read and learned of them some time before,

using his inquisitive mind that searched for what was good

until he knew what to say concisely, as only he could.

 

I would show my Father all the gaps and gorges

that are fractured by, then carry, the water of the rivers.

He would marvel at the coastline that is sculptured by the ocean,

and look across these seas to remember his immigration,

giving him closure to his wandering journey,

and allowing his curiosity to appreciate this country.

 

He searched for meaning, St Paul his favourite, by doing lots of reading,

and encapsulated what he learned in cryptic little sayings.

His best, I often heard, and one I try to live by too

was, “Duty before Pleasure,” which I agree is wise and true.

So to show my Dad these sights I’ve seen, and have him hear each sound

would help him be effusive to his children gathered round.

 

When I think it’s only me who is seeing all there is,

he would no doubt remind me with these wise words of his,

“I see with your eyes now because you are my son

who has done his duty, as I tried, and now our pleasure can come.

In your leisure I live my time afresh, seeing you as a man,

and I rest in peace journeying with you, as now I can.”

 

Chris T Relf

 

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Travel Tip: Avoid Airline Luggage Fees

I recently wrote a blog in which I described how I was able to avoid paying an extra fee for my luggage on several overseas flights. In case you missed it, airlines, especially foreign airlines, have very tight weight restrictions for both checked and carry-on luggage. They also have zero-tolerance policies and extremely high fees for going over their limits. In my blog I described how I wore a jacket with a number of inner and outer large pockets in which I stuffed underwear, t-shirts, camera, etc.

O.K., the word cheap comes to mind (I prefer frugal), but the fact is I saved some real money by employing this clever idea. After writing the blog, I heard from people who thought my concept was great. At that point, my entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and I set about to research and design my new line of “travel luggage.” Unfortunately, like most of us who have great ideas, we often discover others have beaten us to the punch.

While I’ve now found several types and styles on the internet, let me share my favorite with you. It’s called the Stuffa Jacket. I like its concept and design. Other travel luggage I’ve found simply looks like horse blankets with pockets and even the most frugal among us would probably be embarrassed to wear something so grotesque.

For what its worth, and I believe you will save enough on your first flight to cover the cost of the jacket, here is the Stuffa.

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Features:

Capacity: 3/5

The Stuffa is designed more as an additional storage space rather than a replacement for a bag, but the 12 pockets concealed within the lining of this bodywarmer (which can hold up to 5kg of clothing) along with the two external pockets for your phone, passport or tickets, offer a considerable amount of supplementary storage space, allowing you to travel lighter.

Ease of use: 5/5
The bodywarmer’s mesh pockets can be stuffed full of clothes very easily, then just slip the jacket on: simple.

Durability: 5/5
The Stuffa is a well-made and nicely designed product that looks the part and should stand the test of time.

Style Factor: 5/5
By far the most stylist garment in our test, this looks like a normal item of clothing (rather than a bin-bag) and you could happily wear this out and about without getting any odd looks.

Value: 4/5
It’s twice the price of the Roo – but for that extra money you do get a stylish jacket, albeit one with slightly less capacity.

Best for: stylish light-travellers
If you want to save money on airline baggage charges, and look good whilst doing it, the Stuffa is the luggage jacket for you.

I haven’t purchased mine yet. My wife Trisha says she might not stand next to me when boarding the plane if I’m wearing this thing stuffed to the brim. We’ll see how this one turns out. Saving money is something she is really good at so I think she’ll eventually go along with it. If you see somebody at the airport that looks like a giant hot dog, it just might be me.

John and Trisha Parker

John and Trisha Parker

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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

 

 The Bucket List Boomers

 When a person loses such a good friend as my wife Trisha and I did last week, it makes you stop and re-examine your own life. That’s a good thing. At any time of life, but especially as a senior, its beneficial to assess where you are and make the necessary changes. Here is a chart I created to make my own assessment:

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Alright, it’s a funny chart, but it does have some validity. As one ages, and/or retires, it becomes very easy to fall in to ruts, misdirect energies, and even disregard  passions. While it’s often complicated at this time of life, given family and other responsibilities, Trisha and I have formalized the process planning and pursuing our personal bucket lists. I guess you could call us “The Bucket List Boomers.” 

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On our lists we have a number of places in the U. S. and the rest of the world we would like to visit. We also have a number of “crazy” activities such as paragliding off a mountain in Brazil, and more free base jumps as the one we did in Auckland, New Zealand last year. But we also have other interesting activities. We have a couple of great charities we love and set personal goals for our participation. I’ve also made a list of all of my childhood heroes that are still living and have been actively trying to communicate with them in the hope of meeting them in person. I’ve already met and/or communicated with a few and its been great fun.

Other personal items on my list includes becoming more proficient on my guitar, and possibly learning another language such as Italian. I use the term “another language” loosely because I’m not exactly fluent in Spanish, but can make it work when in Mexico. 

A bucket list can be whatever you want it to be. Such a list is beneficial because it helps you focus your time and energies in a productive way, and Trisha and I have found it to be very motivational. As C. S. Lewis once said, “You are never too old to set another goal, or to dream another dream.”

Let’s all become “Bucket List Boomers.”

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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.

 

 

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

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. 

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