What is your International Travel Quota?

Ten day trip to Spain sorted out the adventuers from the mere travelers. There wasn’t a tourist with us

I am traveling with my family through Spain for Thanksgiving week, a total of ten days. We spent three nights in Madrid, three nights in Barcelona and today we flew to Bilbao for three nights before flying home on Monday to Boise. There are three of us in our group; my husband, Peter, my daughter, Kayla (age 16) and myself. My son, Scott is spending a semester in Bilbao with the University of Idaho exchange program. He is a senior majoring in finance and accounting with a minor in math.

When he was getting ready to leave Boise, he warned us that he might not have time to see us. But it turns out he only has classes Monday through Wednesday with four day weekends. He has used his long weekends well traveling with friends to Portugal, Barcelona, and Amsterdam.

Last weekend he took a five hour roundtrip bus trip from Bilbao to meet us. He stayed in a hostel near our three star hotel.  His visit led me to the theme of this week’s blog. To travel well and happily you need to know yourself.

Scott is a true adventurer, traveling through Spain, Portugal, France, and Denmark on a limited buget. He uses public transportation, hostels and carries everthing in a backpack.

Scott has turned into an adventurer. He carries what he needs in a backpack. He is facile with apps on his phone for directions, tickets and other travel necessities. He uses mass transit or Uber everywhere he goes. He finds ways to do things on the cheap utilizing hostels or crashing with friends. He has made trips all over Europe on a limited budget.

Pete, Kayla and I are travellers. Kayla and I have travelled extensively, Pete not so much. But a traveller has a distinctive style. We all carry a single bag that meets airport boarding standards and a backpack. The rule is that you have to be able to handle your own luggage easily. The three of  us spent 13 days in China with a large group. We managed with our roller bags while others piled up massive suitcases to load on the buses. Pete and I actually put everything in the overhead when we went to Prague and Vienna a number of years ago.

Pete, Kayla and I are travellers. We spend unstructured days but stay in nice hotels and have our travel booked.

Travellers have some explorer in them. They will take off without a firm schedule. But unlike the true adventure, a traveller wants to know they have a room at night and  skip the line tickets for the big tourist showcases such as the Vatican.

The final category is tourist. This is the individual who wants every detail planned to the last second, excursions planned before you leave home and no worries about transportation or luggage size. Most foreign travellers are tourists. We see buses full of tourists where ever we go. The cruise tour is the ultimate luxury for the tourist, one doesn’t even need to move their baggage during the entire journey. I doubt I will go on a cruise in my lifetime. As a traveller, I would find it confining.

All of us have a little of each of these wanders in us. When my family went to China as tourists, I felt confined by the buses but would have been uncomfortable in the jammed streets with the  foriegn language and street signs without a guide.

Last spring in England, my sister and I rented a car and drove through England, Whales, and Scotland. We were mainly travellers because we had a destination each night but during the day we were adventures left to the mercy of the GPS. Fortunately, we know English.

My sister Jane and I on a driving trip of England, Whales, and Scotland. Here we are a Loch Ness. The winding narroe road tested our adventurer spirits.

I am thrilled my son has turned into an adventurer. He plans on skiing in Southern France for 4 days for $200 to $300 Euros including room, lifts, equipment before returning to Idaho for Christmas. He will borrow clothes though he owns some of the best ski equipment in the world back in Boise. As an adventurer, who knows what places he’ll go or sights he’ll see.

I am pleased to be a traveller. I savor the freedom of an unplanned day where we can take a siesta, eat late, outside on a Spanish square with heat lamps going.

But I understand the tourist with their need to control their trip and keep their possessions with them.

The key to successful foriegn journeys is understanding: “Are you an adventurer, a traveller, or a tourist?”

Putting an adventurer on a tourist excursion will lead to great discontent for the tourists and adventurer.   A tourist on an unscheduled adventure will probably suffer great anxiety. There is no correct adventure quota but knowing who you are and the styles of your fellow travel partners will result in a much more successful trip.

Puppy at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. Who knows what dites you’ll see!
















Neck Boxing the Washrag Brigade Response to Winter Boredom

Winter arrived at 775 N Ashtree Way with the first snowfall. Even on brisk days, His Highness Satch takes a daily stroll through his territories cloaked in a heavy fur coat and wearing an electric collar.

His Highness Satch finds electric collar undignified

We live in fox and coyote country. One hiker found a fox den with 17 cat collars inside about two blocks from Ashtree Way. While Satch finds the electrical collar demeaning, the collar also represents freedom to be outside without becoming fox bait. The household compromise for traipsing in the backyard is His Highness’s acceptance of security measures. When Satch first got the collar, he ran at the electric fence like a bull until he hit the current. He suddenly pulled up on his haunches, started pawing the air and fell over backwards in the grass (very undignified for a king). A quick study, he now recognizes the controlled boundaries but always pushes the limits. One day when the battery went down, he was over the fence into the open fields behind Ashtree Way in a blink of an eye. Fortunately, his mistress watched this maneuver from the window and thwarted the planned escape by running in hot pursuit. Even though Satch spends hours contemplating freedom, the cold air means that he becomes more demanding and less tolerant, when said mistress doesn’t answer his yowls to come in promptly.

I called and you didn't come
His Highness yowling for entry

The entire Brigade adapts to the cold by spending more hours indoors, even Private Shani who has hair enough for the entire Brigade. The Brigade spends a lot of down time in sunny spots scattered throughout the house and basking by the fire. But the Brigade is an energetic group and too much down times leads to trouble. Several raids have occurred on unmanned trash baskets filled only with Kleenex—tearable, shredable, tasty what could be more inviting on a cold day.
The Brigade has begun engaging in more indoor horse (dog) play. Sergeant Violet, fighting as a lightweight, routinely bests Private Shani, the welterweight at their daily chase and neck biting battles.

Capt. Violet takes on Shani





These contests begin in the kitchen, rapidly move through the great room, into the front hall and finish in the kitchen with a quick gulp from the water bowls. The cats watch these antics from afar.

Angel watches dog fight from afar




Not to be bested, Sergeant Angel has been known to pounce on the unsuspecting Highness. This is always a mistake. His Highness swats and bats Angel’s meager efforts at supremacy back with a couple of quick moves. He finishes each skirmish with a growl and flicks his tail as he walks away to claim his throne.

James Bond in Spectre; a solo kite dancing in a hurricane!

Spectre has gadgets, violence, and plot twists.
Spectre has gadgets, violence, and plot twists.

I was introduced to Ian Flemming’s James Bond, British Secret Service agent 007 at our 1969 high school graduation party. Sean Connery played the tough, elegant Bond in Dr No (1962).

Released in 1962, the first of the continuous Bond franchise.
Released in 1962, the first of the continuous Bond franchise.

My primary memory of the movie was: 1. We had to get parental permission slips to attend because Mr. Bond had a tendency to jump into bed with almost every woman he met; 2.  Sean Connery was good looking but not desirable because he smoked;

Sean Connery the first Bond set the tone for future Bonds, aloof, womanizing, narcissist.
Sean Connery the first Bond set the tone for future Bonds, aloof, womanizing, narcissist.

3. There were wonderful wild gadgets to surprise and amuse; 4. There was substantial violence (tame by today’s standards) and 5. The plot was really convoluted.

Over fifty years later (24 James Bond films and 8 James Bonds), Spectre (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) is still taunting Bond.  Daniel Craig has now played Bond four times (Casino Royale 2006; Quantum Solace 2008; Skyfall 2012). For anyone born in the 1980s or later, Craig is James Bond.

Daniel Craig, thank to Bond is one of the most recognizable faces from Britain.
Daniel Craig, thank to Bond is one of the most recognizable faces from Britain.

For those of us who have seen the other Bonds, Craig is by far the grittiest, toughest, enigmatic, and athletic of the Bonds. Craig’s Bond is impeccably dressed. In fact, the Wall Street Journal recently touted Spectre’s Bond as a premier fashion icon for men.   But Craig’s clothes are just a veneer for Bond, the consummate loner who uses and abuses his fellow agents, has street-smarts, is capable of daring feats and whose moral compass is out of sync with bureaucracy. After 50 years, Bond is still able to get any woman into bed.  Craig makes a great male lead in an action movie; he not only looks the part but he has the ability to bring to film this sense of isolation and total focus.  For me, his most memorable performance was in  A Girl with a Dragon Tattoo as the reporter trying to find a child who disappeared many years before.  His best Bond was his first, Casino Royale.

2015 has been a hard year for counter intelligence groups in the movies. As I reported in an earlier blog, the Mission Impossible team was disbanded by the CIA.  The British government suspends the 007 group under the leadership of M (Ralph Fiennes).   In Mission Impossible, the team regroups outside the boundaries of their agency.  In Spectre, M orders Q and Moneypenny to disengage because their efforts will hinder Bond.  The film further reemphasizes the solo nature of Bond, when Mr. White, a long-term Bond nemesis tells Bond that he “is a kite dancing in a hurricane.”

Monica Bellucci at 50 is Bond's oldest and possibly quickest female conquest.
Monica Bellucci at 50 is Bond’s oldest and possibly quickest female conquest.

Spectre, as promised, is a gargantuan spectacle, a good way to spend a rainy afternoon. Viewers are treated to a visual feast of exotic locales across the world; Mexico City, London, Rome, Austria, Morocco.  There are action scenes with a uniquely equipped spy car (a Bond signature item), airplanes, and many helicopters (apparently the preferred mode of travel for 2015 good guys and bad guys). There are formulaic gadgets and violence aplenty. Bond always a womanizer seduces two beautiful women, one with literally only an introduction.

There are layers upon layers of storylines from previous Bond movies amazingly circling back to an old family connection.

Ultimately, Spectre is not one of the great James Bond movies.  The movie feels bloated as if the writers felt compelled to include every imaginable plot twist and the cost to make of over $300 million reinforces this failure to edit.

All 24 Bond movies showcase a special spy car.
All 24 Bond movies showcase a special spy car.

The car chase goes on and on, the train fight occurs on a train where everyone has disappeared including the kitchen staff, drills into Bond’s head have no impact on him; amazingly he seems energized by this torture.

I personally have never found the Bond franchise as appealing as some other action movies, partially because the movies are so-o-o sexist.  In the 60’s when Bond came of age, women jumping in and out of bed seemed risqué but not totally implausible, partially because Bond was such a male stereotype.  As the world has changed, Bond has evolved into a strong, energetic, complex man.  Given fifty years of women’s rights, AIDS and STDs,  Bond women have not transformed appropriately. Does anyone think a 50 year old widow on the day of her husband’s funeral and who just escaped two assassins would be so sexually starved or find Bond so attractive that she would allow herself to be seduced standing up on first meeting.  This woman exists only in men’s fantasy worlds.  Ultimately, Mr. White was right.  Mr. Craig in Spectre is a kite dancing in hurricane, an exceptional actor dancing in a plot that is awhirl with nonsense, noise, and flash.

Update on the Washrag Brigade

Professional Portrait of King Satch ruler of Ashtree Way
Professional Portrait of King Satch ruler of Ashtree Way

Prelude: You may remember that the last we saw Satchel; he had promoted himself from Colonel to his Highness by staking out the baby grand piano.

Deposed from the piano with the completion of the wood floors, Satchel is no longer a defrocked ruler. 775 N Ashtree Way has acquired a native Alaskan baby basket covered with ceremonial rabbit fur and Eagle wings. The basket is strategically placed by the gas fireplace.

His Highness surrounded by Eagle Feathers and rabbit skins, warmed by the fire
His Highness surrounded by Eagle Feathers and rabbit skins, warmed by the fire

With the advent of colder weather, the basket and warming fire provide a comfy hiding place for His Highness.  Unnoticed, unless he sticks his head up, Satchel continues to control his surroundings from his new weaved throne.

Meanwhile, Captain Violet and Sergeant Angel have defied the cooling weather by joining their sick mistress on  a heated blanket, serving as stomach warmers.

Captain Violet and Sergeant Angel on sick duty.
Captain Violet and Sergeant Angel on sick duty.

Hours of unstructured time can be spent curled in  two furry balls without any movement.

Porcelain cat on shelf
Porcelain cat on shelf

When not masquerading as a blanket, Sergeant Angel has established a perch over the mistress’s desk where she pretends to be a porcelain kitty.

Captain Violet, all bark and no bite.
Captain Violet, all bark and no bite.

Captain Violet remains in charge of the inside barking and whining at any perceived noise (real or imagined).

Not to be outdone, Private Shani has promoted herself to Corporal. Still assigned to outside duty because of her heavy coat, she has taken over the patio chairs.

Promoted to Corporal, Shani has taken over patio chairs for fall guard duty.
Promoted to Corporal, Shani has taken over patio chairs for fall guard duty.

She suns herself while watching for squirrels and horses to chase.

In the last few months, the Brigade has developed a new hobby, rug surfing. Satch runs at top speed towards the bathroom mats and when he hits them correctly, he rides the tile wave across the floor.  He has become so accomplished at this trick he can move the rugs all over the bathroom (see examples below).

Master bath after cleaning team leaves
Master bath after cleaning team leaves
Magical cat carpet ride
Magical cat carpet ride
Cat at full throttle rides rug across entire floor.
Cat at full throttle rides rug across entire floor.