The Fine Art of Fantastic Family Road Trips

One of the great things about being back in the United States is the opportunities it presents to engage in that greatest of American pastimes, The All American Family Road Trip. Like the Griswalds, I can load my family into the car with a minimum of explanation, make sure the tank is full of gas and we’ve got a credit card with a bit of mileage left on it, and then we can hit the road for parts unknown.
Personally, I like to engage in as little solid planning as possible – which leaves plenty of opportunity for that most wonderful of road trip wonders – improvisation. I like to think of myself as a bit of a Miles Davis when it comes to catching everyone off guard with a new and sudden direction – and like Miles – I have the skills to make those improv moves work. It’s a little hard on my wife – she still likes to pack for a specific situation and bring everything that she might need in any eventuality – which is hard when she doesn’t know if we will be going to a theme park, staying in a posh resort, spending time in the city or the country, or even leaving the country. I will give her credit though – she’s starting to get it – bring a rain coat, a swimsuit, a passport, a sweater, and sandals. And what you forget, can usually be found along the way in a thrift shop, a mall, or at a garage sale. Yes, it’s these trips that I love most about the USA.
Over the coming days and weeks, I will share some of the trips we’ve taken since landing on these shores back in 2013 – but for right now, I’ll give you a little teaser. We’ve camped up and down the Oregon Coast and into the Redwoods, the San Juan Islands, and the Olympic Peninsula. We’ve also made spontaneous trips to Seattle, Portland, Astoria, San Francisco, Sacramento, Redding, Bandon, Florence, Yachats, and Eureka. We’ve explored the deserts of Arizona and the streets of Victoria, British Columbia along with traipsing through the Coastal Redwoods, hitting the Las Vegas Strip, and of course, seeing the lights of Los Angeles. I don’t want you to misunderstand – these are fast trips with lots of road time, lots of driving, and a relatively short amount of time spent at our destinations. That’s the thing with road trips – they are as much about the road as they are about the destination. The time spent singing in the car, the games we play with other people’s license plates, and the mystery of where we will stay in a given night – whether with friends, in a nice hotel, or a roadside dive.
I will begin with our most recent trip – which we just returned from day before yesterday. It was an epic jaunt from Reedsport to Roseburg then down to Redding, straight down the I-5 to Anaheim, a visit to Disneyland, then a trip to Southern Arizona near the Mexican border before journeying straight through Phoenix and Tucson to Las Vegas, then turning back westward to the Central California Coast where we went though Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and straight through the Redwoods back to Oregon and where we started in Reedsport. It was a crazy 3000 mile figure-eight shaped road trip in which we almost never drove on the same road twice. I’ll start telling you about it in the next post…stay tuned.

The Opposite of a Vagabond and the Opposite of a Vagobond

Happy 2016 – almost. It’s a few days off. An interesting question was posed by a long time reader several months ago. She asked “What’s the opposite of a Vagobond?”

It’s been bouncing around in my head through the holidays this year. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, my 44th birthday, and now on to New Years – I didn’t really have an answer. Or perhaps, I didn’t have an answer I was ready to give. Now, I think I can provide an answer – please don’t be too shocked.

The first thing we need to do is define what a Vagobond is – I spell it differently for a reason. A vagabond (normal spelling) is a person who wanders from place to place with no home or job. A Vagobond (my spelling) is someone who travels in such a way that they don’t need to have a huge budget (but can) and they come into close contact with the people, cultures, and landscapes they travel through. So, the opposite of a vagabond (normal spelling) is someone who does not wander from place to place and has both home and job. The opposite of a Vagobond (my spelling) is someone who needs to have a huge budget and avoids close contact with the people, cultures, and landscapes they are among. So, the anti-vagabond is a working/family person – someone who is settled and has both home and job. The anti-Vagobond is essentially, an ugly traveler – the type of traveler who has to travel first class and five star and spend a significant budget, complains the entire way, and does not leave the safe confines of the resort, try new things, or expose themselves to the people they are among.

Opposite of vagabond – person with steady income and settled home
Opposite of Vagobond – ugly traveler

To wit – and this is perhaps why I took so long to think this through – the past several years I have been quite the opposite of a vagabond but not once have I fallen out of being a Vagobond despite the stable life I have built for my family here on the Oregon Coast of the USA. While we have settled a home and built a life in the USA, we have, thankfully, not become ugly travelers. That being said – the transition from Vagobond to non-Vagabond has been an odd one. For those who don’t know, here is the story in brief:

In January of 2009 I left the USA without an intention of returning. I met and fell in love with my wife in Morocco. We were married and lived in Morocco and Turkey and were joined in our adventures in August 2011 by our daughter who we like to say was made in Turkey by a joint Moroccan and American partnership but was born in Morocco with USA citizenship. In 2013, we emigrated from Morocco to the USA because children in the US have many structural and societal advantages over children in Morocco or Turkey – where we also considered living.

I had what didn’t seem to be unrealistic expectations that as a seasoned travel writer, blogger, editor, and international hotel consultant, I would be able to land a job in the San Francisco Bay area. Yeah, right. I hadn’t considered the fact that I was a 40-something self-employed guy with a Bachelors degree and no job history in nearly a decade that wasn’t ‘self-employed’ which meant I had no Fortune 500 pedigree and I wanted more money than fresh graduates. We also had no housing references and quickly realized that we could not afford the insane California rents with first/last/deposit.

So we ran to the cheapest coastal town we could find so I could build something to support us. Since 2013 we’ve opened an antique shop and started publishing a small local events newspaper. Between our shop, the paper, Ebay, the flea markets, and a bit of writing/blogging income (it’s not what it used to be, that’s for sure) we’ve been making it here. It’s been a struggle, but we have a steady income and a settled home with a garden, furniture, and even a couple of luxuries. We haven’t had enough time or money to do very much traveling. Since 2013 we’ve explored the Pacific Coast from Victoria, British Columbia down to San Francisco and along the I-5 Corridor from Sacramento to Bellingham. I’m going to finally start writing about some of these adventures. In addition I did a no frills trip from Eugene to Tucson by air and then driving mostly non-stop from Green Valley, AZ to our home here in Reedsport.

It’s time to start revisiting some of my travels and photos from the past and I feel confident that 2016 is a year that we will again be doing more travel – maybe it’s just a hope, but when you start feeling that itch on your feet (and you’re like me) it means that great travels are coming. In the next weeks – I’m going to start sharing some of the gems of the Pacific Coast with you. And soon, I have that feeling, there will be exciting travels to share with you again.

In the meantime – I hope you enjoy the site and I wish you a Happy New Year for 2016.

Christopher Damitio aka “Vago”

Cyprus – An Unexpected Christmas Destination

When most people think of taking an international trip at Christmas they either think of someplace balmy like Hawai’i or known for Christmas like Germany’s Christmas Markets – a less expected place is the middle of the Mediterranean in winter – Cyprus, for example.
While the Med can be stormy in winter, the temperatures in Cyprus actually are quite nice – hovering in in the 60s through most of the Christmas season and rarely dipping into the 50s. Some days are in the high 70s and 80s (these temperatures in Fahrenheit – the temperature rarely dips below 20 C in the Christmas season). It’s not just the climate that makes Cyprus a great destination though.

Cyprus has a long Byzantine Christian history and the season is festive with age-old traditions unique to the region. Among them are plenty of eating and drinking of local delicacies. Cypriots traditionally eat dried figs, nuts, and special loaves of bread called ‘Christopsomo’ (Christ Bread) on Christmas Eve. Honey cakes, walnut cakes, pies, roast lamb, stuffed Turkey and other familiar seasonal delicacies are also eaten on Christmas day.
Visitors will likely see crosses wrapped in basil which have been sprinkled in holy water and adorn the doors of villagers. These aromatic wards are to keep gnome-like creatures called the kallikantzari away during the holidays. Cyprus is steeped in magic and ceremony with processions, performances, and traditional celebrations leading up to Christmas itself (Christouyenna). The most important festival is held in Eleftheria in the city of Nicosaia on Christmas Day.

Perhaps the best reason to visit Cyprus during the holidays is to take advantage of the cheaper prices for hotels and flights to Cyprus. Visitors can get steep discounts during the winter months and even car rentals tend to be heavily discounted which makes exploring the island an activity that won’t break your bank.

Cyprus is known for it’s wineries and even has the world’s oldest wine – so don’t forget to sample the vino while you are there. Wine tourism has become a favorite activity in the last few years and there are well established wine routes and tours available – so no need to assign a designated driver.

Finally, as if there weren’t already enough reasons to visit Cyprus during the holidays – spa breaks are the gift that keeps on giving as you get to relax and return home from your holiday in better form than that you went in. Whether you choose to soak in mineral rich waters, enjoy a traditional steam bath, or get a massage worthy of a Greek hero – you will go home feeling refreshed and ready to come back for your next holiday.

The Art of Travel

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