Episode 6 – Choosing Where to Travel

I’m building “trip boards” in the VRBO app and website.

These personal on-line folders of destinations around the world allow us to “save” interesting accommodations that we find, and file them for future reference. They are a way to simultaneously daydream about where we’d like to experience living and to focus our research into those places. I can then create electronic notes based on our preferences and interests to help me narrow down where we’ll go next: weather (no snow); local music and seasonal cultural events; historic sites and interesting architecture; walkability and access to public transit; … even availability of reliable internet connections! I can also add notes about food and language, safety, and rules around travel restrictions. (Did you know that spending more than 90 days in a 180 day period in the Schengen zone in Europe requires a visa even if you hold a Canadian passport? That will be important if we decide we want to spend a full winter in Italy and Portugal.)

So far, we have booked our stays through April of 2020, and I have trip boards set up for the Algarve region of Portugal, Calabria and Tuscany in Italy, Valencia in Spain, England, a few regions of Germany, Austria, Mexico, and several U.S. cities in various states. It’s an ongoing project and a great way to while away the hours on a rainy day.

We are returning to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina this winter. The weather in the dead of winter is not tropical, but it sure beats the ice snd snow back in Ontario. Our winter rental is in a highrise right on the beach. I can stroll on the sand even on the coldest days, if I bundle up against the wind off the Atlantic. It’s almost guaranteed there will not be ice to contend with on my walks. I can take Spanish classes at the nearby satellite campus of Coastal Carolina University. There is lots of musical theatre in the area, plenty of restaurants, and great shopping (although we no longer buy “stuff”, we do still buy gifts, and exchange old clothes for new).

The biggest attraction for me, though, was being near my brother-in-law and his wife, who have been wintering here for decades.

Countries’ politics, for the most part, are not part of my notes. This year, many Canadian snowbirds may be choosing not to winter in the U.S. due to a political climate that is more antagonistic toward Canada than most of us can remember. The current U.S. administration is less friendly, and our countries spent the summer and early fall engaged in a trade/tariff conflict, as well as disagreeing on key principles around immigration, socialized health care, diversity, and many other issues. Watching 24/7 U.S. cable news can be scary.

We made our plans to return for a second winter in Myrtle Beach before the escalation in the economic and political issues. We could have cancelled our plans and gone to Mexico (or anywhere else in the world) instead. But here’s the conundrum: are we going to travel only to places where the ideology exactly matches our own? Of course we’re not going to travel into places with precarious or dangerous regimes (frankly, Brazil came off my list this week), those in states of active revolution or conflict, or those where our government has issued travel warnings, any more than we would intentionally put ourselves in the midst of a natural disaster. But do we withhold our travel dollars from all the wonderful individuals and businesses in every place whose politics are not exactly in line with ours? If so, the time we spend researching destinations will have to be focussed on politics as much as culture and weather.

We’ve gotten to know the owner of the condo we’re renting. I like her. Her home suits us perfectly. She treats us well. We would recommend her home to others without hesitation. We have never discussed politics, nor are we likely to. That’s the basis on which we plan to book our stays elsewhere.

I’ll keep you posted as to how that works out.

Photo: February 2017. Myrtle Beach in front of our condo at Maisons Sur Mer, with Apache Pier in the background. This is where we walked every day last winter.