One of the oddest aspects of being a blogger is that strangers meeting my husband for the first time tend to say things like, “I feel I know you already, and I really share your love of duct tape and ice cream.” If you're new to my blog, don't be alarmed, I’m not revealing some sort of kinky sexual fetish, these just happen to be things Rich considers indispensable for civilized journeys. Having spent a lifetime studying the art of adventure, he always has some new nugget of practical advice up one sleeve and an outlandish travel idea up the other. Moving to Spain, luggage-free vacations, an Albanian restaurant where your lunch is delivered on horseback — I never know what he’s going to spring on me at the breakfast table.
Are these random brainstorms or is there an underlying logic, however quirky, to his madness? I decided to ask the man himself.
Karen: When I first met you, my idea of a big vacation was a week at the beach. Now we’re galivanting all over the world, most recently on our five-month Mediterranean Comfort Food Tour of 2019. Why are you so addicted to long-term travel?
Rich: I need a sense of adventure in my life. Actress Regina King likes to say, “Your comfort zone is where dreams go to die.” Travel is all about dreaming up new possibilities and looking forward to the future.
Karen: It took you twenty years to convince me to try luggage-free travel. And OK, I’ll admit it’s fun — once in a while, for short jaunts. What sparked your obsession with this crazy form of travel?
Rich: First, because nobody thinks you can do it. But mainly, I like luggage-free travel because it gives a great amount of freedom — freedom from worry about where the bags are, how you’re going to transport them, what you’re going to wear tomorrow. These days a lot of us are embracing a more minimalist approach to life. Luggage-free travel is the ultimate minimalist way to go.
Karen: Travel writer Pico Iyer said, “Serendipity was my tour guide, assisted by caprice.” And that’s you all over. You’re an incredibly organized person yet you hate advance planning when we're on the road.
Rich: Too much advance planning locks you in; it kills spontaneity. Some people think that not having lined up a whole series of advance reservations would make you more uptight, when — for me at least — the reverse is true; it makes me more relaxed. If I like a place, I can stay longer; if I don't, I get to move on. I’ve never come into a town where I couldn’t find a place to stay — even hot tourist destinations at the height of the season. And when you’re flexible, you walk into things you had never anticipated. As you know, some of our best stories come from unplanned excursions and last-minute detours.
Karen: You turned 75 this summer while we were in Thessaloniki, Greece. Did that inspire any profound thoughts about life or travel?
Rich: I still want ice cream on my birthday.
Karen: Obviously, that’s a given. And I always make sure you get it!
Rich: Aside from that, has age changed the way I travel? Yes, to some extent. I still need a sense of adventure; mentally it challenges me to stay sharp and pay attention. Recently I have become more aware of my physical limitations. Heat gets to me more, so I try not to go out at the hottest time of day — which made extra sense last year, during the most sizzling summer in Europe’s history. I no longer climb mountains, volcanos, the highest castle parapets, or the towers of cathedrals. I did walk 750 miles during our five month trip, about five miles most days, which is still pretty easy for me. And I do a half hour of yoga every day.
Karen: When we got back, everyone seemed astonished that we’d spent five months eating our way around the Mediterranean rim but somehow failed to gain any weight.
Rich: Mostly that was the walking and the yoga. And the fact that we told everybody up front that we were light eaters; people respected that. When we were filming someone making incredibly rich food — that moussaka in Thessaloniki comes to mind — afterwards we split a portion. Which, as you will recall, was more than enough!
Karen: I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, “I couldn’t travel with my spouse for more than a week without wanting to kill them.” Any advice for those folks about how to get along on the road?
Rich: I believe the key is to stay flexible. Remember you’re both in unfamiliar territory and doing the best you can. Talk stuff out. Be courteous. And be very forgiving if the other person has a bad day or a meltdown. Not that you would ever do that, Karen.
Karen: Me? Of course not. But speaking hypothetically … ?
Rich: One time when I was skiing, I watched a couple having this huge fight, and he ended up throwing her skis over the railing of the outdoor bar at the ski lodge. I kept thinking, “What are you actually accomplishing? In what way is throwing her skis over the railing going to resolve your issues? You think that’s going to de-pressurize the situation? Show a little common sense!”
Karen: Any big ideas for travel in 2020?
Rich: I've had this thought rattling around in my head: anybody can go to France, Italy, or Spain. But what about those experimental micro-countries that were born from some outlandish philosophy, flourished for a brief, shining moment, and disappeared into oblivion. Like the Republike Peščenice, created twenty years ago in a suburb of Zagreb, Croatia by irreverent comedian željko Malnar. Last August we were lucky enough to meet one of his compatriots in the car wash that served as the mini-nation's capital. There are dozens of lost countries like this all over the world. Why not visit them and see if we could become ambassadors?
Karen: If I’ve learned anything in 33 years of marriage, it’s that Kurt Vonnegut was right when he said, “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” I think these dancing lessons occur all the time, wherever we are, whatever we're doing — and we’re wise to be on the alert so these transcendent moments don't slip by unnoticed. To quote Kurt Vonnegut again: “So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is. So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
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1/7/2020 05:51:27 pm
Rich and I must be brothers. Every trip we take I fill up one carry on size bag, plus a small carry on Baggalini. Most of the time I don't wear half the stuff in my carry on. Like rich, I just turned 75 and am looking for smaller, lighter ways to travel.
1/8/2020 08:09:18 am
Sounds like you and Rich are twins separated at birth, Duane! He's dedicated — OK, let's be honest, obsessed — with finding lighter ways to travel. I remember on our honeymoon we both brought all sorts of fancy clothes ... and spent most of our time in the jungles of Costa Rica, where formal meant a clean t-shirt. It takes a lifetime for any of us to figure out what we truly need and what can safely be left behind.
1/7/2020 06:06:41 pm
I feel that I was sitting at your table with you. Nice to visit!
1/8/2020 08:10:16 am
Good to have you in the conversation, Milt!
1/7/2020 06:13:38 pm
Great article Karen and Rich! I love spontaneity. I don't do plans very well. I am a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl. It can drive others crazy because I don't commit well. I have gotten Matt to be that way too. It's fun! No plans, no expectations and I also LOVE to travel light!
1/8/2020 08:14:57 am
You are my kind of traveler, Andrea! And you're lucky that Matt is so flexible, too. I can't tell you how many people write to say they like to travel light but their spouse requires 17 suitcases and a year of advance planning for a weekend getaway. It's great when couples can work out a common approach, whatever it is. Miss you guys too and look forward to seeing you in a few months.
1/7/2020 06:31:01 pm
Love the dialogue concept Karen. It made me smile as I could hear you two! See you tomorrow!
1/8/2020 08:17:13 am
Glad you liked the concept, Sandra. I wanted to give a feel for the way we talk about this stuff — as you know, there's always a lot of back and forth with us. Looking forward to hearing all about your latest adventures over a bottle of vino!
1/7/2020 06:57:44 pm
Loved this look into your thoughts. Glad to see that he has reigned in some of the more physically demanding activities and we have had to do the same because of our limitations. Now we are looking for newer ways to enjoy travel, but respect our abilities. We're just a tad older than you guys.
1/8/2020 08:25:12 am
Aging is a very zen experience, as you no doubt know, Phyllis. We really have to be open to the moment and get to know ourselves in new ways. As my older brother always says, "Getting old is not for wimps!" But we're all so lucky to be aging in an era where travel is easier than ever, technology supports us in a thousand handy ways, and we do not have to settle for predictable, cookie-cutter retirement. Those are blessings I'm happy to count on.
1/7/2020 07:18:35 pm
Portugal...thats your next adventure..find out why so many ex patriots..are moving there in droves... count the cork trees....hang out in Brit dive bars..go pet Portugeese water dogs however learnnto say nice dog in Portugese before petting..buy a condo on the beach so we can all come annd visit,,,greet refugees from africa as they come ashore...what fun indeed
1/8/2020 08:27:41 am
Portugal is very, very hot with expats right now, Bradley. But as you know, Rich and I are not the types to do anything that people are doing in droves. I'm afraid you'll have to buy your own beach condo there, and let us come to visit you and your Portuguese water dogs!
1/8/2020 02:04:07 am
What a great article—looking at his staff for 2015 he could delete the kindle since he can have it on his ipad. Because of reading about your trips my sister and I did 30 days in Iceland, Scotland and England last year and only took one carryon each!! AS for the food—I might eat 3 of those with carrots being one of them!!
1/8/2020 08:32:32 am
Well done to you and your sister, Susan! Not everyone believes they can manage for 30 days with a carry-on, but once you've done it, you realize it's actually quite easy. And far more convenient. Electronics are at least half the weight and you're so right about reducing them. Rich has now ditched the iPad and does almost everything on his phone. We both still like the spaciousness of Kindles, but for luggage-free trips we have downloaded the Kindle app onto our phones and find it surprisingly comfortable to read.
1/8/2020 06:48:54 pm
I love this “interview” with Rich,, Karen! I have to admit, though, I could hear your voices in my head as I read each of your comments! Miss you two.
1/10/2020 08:02:11 am
We miss you too, Nicole! Glad you liked the interview. We had fun doing it, and Rich, who is usually helping with info and background on my posts, enjoyed being able to talk directly to everyone for a change.
1/10/2020 01:12:57 am
Love this post Karen & Rich! Love the freedom and spontaneity U two enjoy,
1/10/2020 08:05:27 am
Sounds like you know a thing or two about freedom and spontaneity yourself, Faye! Tours can be great fun, offering companionship, convenience, and access to places you couldn't otherwise go, but it's also fun to break away once in a while. Sometimes you just need a crepe with ice cream more than a third look at the Mona Lisa. Well done you!
3/18/2020 07:31:09 pm
Lovely conversation.You said you were convinced " luggage free "travel.Is it possible a luggage free travel?Actress Regina King's saying, “Your comfort zone is where dreams go to die.”is very touchy. Thank you.
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Winner of the 2023 Firebird Book Award for Travel
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TO I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain.
Wanderlust has taken me to more than 60 countries. Every week I provide travel tips and adventure stories to inspire your journeys and let you have more fun — and better food — on the road
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