A rainy afternoon is one of the best times to plan your next trip. I just reserved a rental car down in Napa for a drive through wine country.
Although flights are important, they’re certainly not the only thing required for a successful trip. Scrolling through the photos from friends and family, it’s fun to see how they get out and explore the world.
Hiking: Friends recently returned from a three-week hike on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. In English, it’s called the “Walk of St. James.” This walk started out as a religious pilgrimage through northwestern Spain, but it’s not limited to the faithful. A couple of the popular routes are listed as world heritage sites with UNESCO.
The closest I’ve come to walking with the pilgrims is seeing them cross the road while we were on a wine tour in Spain’s popular Rioja region near Pamplona. But friends have returned time and again — sometimes hiking a different route, while staying at different inns along the way. You can definitely plot out your route on your own. Several of my friends prefer to have some of the details arranged in advance. They’ve used an Irish company called Camino Ways. The company can arrange to transport some of your luggage and book your inns in advance. There also are guided tours you can join.
Some travelers tackle their chosen Camino route in one trip. Others walk parts of it and return another time for the final hike to the shrine of St. James at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
Biking: I just got off the phone with my sister, who is planning to go up to Crater Lake, Oregon, this weekend. It’s one of two weekends every year that the National Park Service shuts down the rim road so cyclists and pedestrians can take the whole road. The weekend events are called “Ride the Rim.” The 24-mile road is considered a strenuous ride.
Several years ago (OK, 44 years ago) a friend and I pedaled from Eugene up to Crater Lake. It was a net gain of 6,800 feet and we were in no mood to do any more pedaling around the rim. But my sister and brother-in-law will be driving up and parking near the road. I remember one year the ride was canceled because of snow, but they’re hoping for clear skies this year.
If you want to stay on the flats, consider a trip with Backroads in Holland or Belgium. There’s a six-day tour that begins with a bike ride to Edam (like the cheese). You actually start the tour in Amsterdam, where you’re outfitted for your bike. The tour route heads south, ending in Bruges, Belgium. This is a lovely city — and flat.
Backroads includes your bike, accommodations and many meals. It’s just one of several itineraries, including some mountain rides in Italy’s Dolomites range.
Cruise: There are many different ways to cruise around the world. My favorite was a live-aboard dive boat in the Cayman Islands. Our itinerary consisted of cruising around a small, 2-mile-wide island and diving different sides of a giant coral reef.
Our next cruise could be on a barge poking along the Canal du Midi in southern France. This is a 330-year-old canal through some of France’s best wine country. European Waterways is one company (there are several) that offer individual berths on barges — or you can rent the whole boat. There are bikes on board so you can take a ride into town between meals on board.
Train: There are some special rail journeys you can take on private cars through some spectacular country. Tours like the Venice Simplon Orient Express or the Eastern and Oriental Express offer deluxe accommodations and fancy meals. You won’t be traveling with the locals on these trains. They’re just for tourists.
But you can catch some incredible rides when you’re in France on the TGV. TGV stands for train à grande vitesse, or high-speed train. These are certainly novelties for travelers from the U.S., where there are no high speed trains like these. We traveled from Avignon to Paris in about three hours — faster than taking a flight.
You’ll find high-speed trains all over Europe, Japan and China. There still are “regular” trains scattered around the world. I recently took a night train from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Hue. It was a 19-hour ride. I chose a two-berth cabin because I didn’t want to trip getting up or down from the bed during the night. There was very limited service on board. It’s best to bring your own toilet paper (since none was available). In comparison, the Alaska Railroad is positively glorious!
Real adventurers still are planning a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Bus: Because I traveled by Greyhound Bus quite a bit as a kid, I shy away from the modern buses. But in Mexico, it’s the way to go. The seats are big and comfy. Often, the on-board Wi-Fi works. If you go for the first-class buses, there are separate areas in the terminals to wait that are super-clean and uncrowded.
Some of the best bus companies, like ADO, only have Spanish websites. But the experience is completely different from any U.S. bus. There are restrooms on board and everyone gets a snack. There are shades on the windows and seat-back TVs for movies. It’s a great way to travel in Mexico.
Fall is here, so there’s a good chance you can get a bargain airfare to the Lower 48 or Europe. From there, you can decide how best you and your fellow travelers can see more of the world!