Travel, the gift that keeps on giving

I love traveling.  I love phase one: thinking about places to visit, planning the trip, learning the history and culture, and deluding myself into thinking that I might actually learn a little of the language.

I love phase two: experiencing the actual adventure, which is frequently different from what I had envisioned…not better, not worse, just different.

And I love phase three:  creating the photo book or slide show (or both) of the trip, so that I can relive the experiences over and over, whenever I want. If I’m lucky, in addition to the memories, I end the trip with some new friends

The VBT (Vermont Bike trip) was particularly noteworthy because our entire group was so  very compatible.  And I have been VERY lucky, because that trip was the beginning of several new friendships.

Recently Jim alerted us that Damjan, one of our guides, was in New York City.  Jim’s daughter not only showed Damjan around, but also lent him a bike.  As luck would have it, Diane was up from Boston visiting her daughter, so I made the trip from New Jersey and we all gathered for drinks at the Waldorf=Astoria (No, that is not a typo.  That’s the official name.  Don’t ask me why.)

Here we are, standing in front of the very famous clock, in the lobby.  Notice the white shawl I am carrying.  Before the night was over, I managed to spill a full glass of red wine on it, but that’s another story for another time.

The plaque on the base (quoted below) provides almost everything you need to know about the clock:

“The Waldorf Astoria Clock was executed by the Goldsmith Company of London for exhibition at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. It was purchased by the Waldorf Astoria and was the focal point outside the Rose Room of the original hotel at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. This clock weighs approximately two tons and stands nine feet tall. Around the eight sides of the base are likenesses of Cleveland, Harrison, Washington, Grant, Lincoln, Franklin, Jackson and Queen Victoria. Under these are bronze plaques depicting various sports and scenes. Westminster chimes ring on the quarter hour.”

It doesn’t mention what WE observed to be the most important feature.  But don’t worry, we captured it.

Tribute to bikers

After drinks,  we went to Tutuma social club, a restaurant with Peruvian-African jazz.  In keeping with our VBT tradition, I photographed the food, which every bit as good as it looked.

We ended the night with fond farewells to Damjan, who was wrapping up his whirlwind tour of the USA and heading to Paris for a VBT meeting with the other tour guides.

Our next VBT trip will be to Italy, next June.  So far, Diane, Karen, Sally and I have all signed up and Phase One for that trip is currently under way.

Counting the days?

I’ve been asked so many times whether I am counting down the days until my retirement.  My cousin gave me a little display that does the job for me, so I know the answer:   35 days from today.

But the reason I named my blog “Destination Now” is to remind myself to fully enjoy the present moments, and not be so eager for a future event to occur.  And quite honestly, I’m not looking to speed up the calendar.  I will definitely miss my “village”.  I’ve been fortunate to have many of the same customers for the past 10 years, so what started as a business relationship has evolved over the years into a friendship.

Of course I will miss my colleagues.  The office has been a central gathering place where I could always find smart, interesting people with whom I shared common goals, celebrated successes and commiserated with when things didn’t turn out as planned.  I’ll definitely miss the camaraderie.   I’m  realistic enough to recognize how hard it is to maintain friendships when the central reason for the relationship no longer exists.  I also know how busy life is for someone with a full-time job and family responsibilities.  So, while MY time for relationships will be expanding, my work buddies will have the same intense schedules that consumed my waking hours for the past few decades.

So, no, I’m not rushing for the end of my MetLife career.  I’m fully enjoying these final days and am stockpiling the memories.

The best laid plans…

“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans”.  John Lennon

Well, John, I think you were on to something.  If things had happened according to plan, I’d be using up my remaining vacation days right now, serving on a Global Volunteer Project in Italy.  Instead, here I sit in New Jersey, typing away, with one eye swollen shut.   Five days before departure, I discovered I had a detached retina.  Emergency surgery performed the next day clipped my wings.  No flying anywhere for 8 weeks!

Guess I’ll have to wait till 2012 to find out whether a woman with few real skills and limited talents can make a meaningful contribution.  I’m hoping that abundant enthusiasm will make up for said lack of skill.  In my youth, I had fantasized about a stint in the Peace Corp, but my aversion to any possibility of discomfort proved to be a rather formidable barrier.  That, plus a mountain of student loans made work without pay impossible.

Anyway, here I am, decades later, getting ready to retire-reinvent-recreate by sticking my toe into volunteer waters.  Although Global Volunteers offers programs throughout the world, I decided my first experience would not be Africa, Vietnam, China, India or even Mexico, but Southern Italy.  Good food, good weather, and I even have a shot (albeit a LONG one) at deciphering the language essentials.

I chose Global Volunteers because I love their overall philosophy.  As a ‘servant learner’ I will to do whatever I am asked to do, within my limitations, working under the direction of local leaders.  Global Volunteers’ object is to empower and support the local people to complete their chosen projects. The local community decides how the volunteers will be used and everyone works together.  For some locations, the chosen projects require physical work, such as building a school, or digging a well.  It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I would not be a good choice for those projects.   Instead, I decided on teaching conversational English.

I was assured that my not knowing Italian or having any teaching experience would not be a hindrance.  My main contribution is my English speaking ability.   Yep, I can do that.  So despite my very deep disappointment in the delay, I’m feeling so fortunate that my eye problem didn’t occur while I was in the middle of the project.

So, other than healing and regaining my eyesight, nothing interesting will be happening for a while!

Thoughts on Retirement

When I tell people I’m retiring the end of this year, the most common reaction has been “what will you DO”?  And no wonder.  The word itself sounds dreadful.  Re-tire.  Become tired again?  Here’s a dictionary definition: to withdraw from office, business or active life, usually because of age.  Oh dear.

I recall reading Erik Erikson’s book “Childhood and Society” in college.  He describes the eight stages of psychosocial personality development.  As I remembered it, I would be entering the ‘generativity versus stagnation’ stage,  during which energies  focus on future generations and  contributions to the world.  My memory check,  via the internet, sure burst THAT bubble.  Instead, I learned that I am rapidly approaching the ‘ego integrity versus despair’ stage, which extends from age 65 to death.  How encouraging.  And it gets even better.  During this stage all you do is look back on your life,  and are either happy with what you have accomplished, or are cranky and bitter.  Hmmm, ol’ Erik lived to be 92.  I wonder if HE spent 27 years sitting around contemplating the prior 65?  Darn, guess Erik is not going to help me define retirement more positively.

I think I need a new word.  There are so many other ‘re’ words that I like better:  reinvent, reconnect, renew, recharge, rejoice.

So maybe that’s what I’ll be doing:  I’ll be reinventing myself, while I reconnect with important people in my life, recharge my batteries, renew interests that were neglected because of lack of time.  Best of all, I plan on rejoicing in my new-found freedom!


Karen, Diane, Victoria, Kathleen, Jim and I all opted for the additional two day post trip in Venice.  What a perfect ending for a perfect trip!

Here are Beth and Victoria living large in the back of our water taxi, as we make our way to the Hotel Giorgione.

Meanwhile,  I’m up front, keeping my eyes on the back of our driver, who seems to be making quite a few waves.  He could teach the NYC cabbies a thing or two…

The Venetians sure know how to live.  The traffic doesn’t stress THIS guy out!  I will confess, though, I’m glad he wasn’t driving OUR taxi.  Something about steering with his foot just didn’t feel reassuring.

Quick turn down a side canal and we’re almost there.  Hope Victoria and Beth duck before we get to that low bridge.

Are you ready for some Venice sights?  Here goes:

San Marco as seen from a vaporetto

San Marco seen from the ground

Okay, so I’ve done land and sea.  How about air?  Well, this is about as close as I could get to an aerial view.

That’s all for today’s post.  More Venice shots tomorrow.