May 11, 2024 8 min read

The Traveler, part II: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions: Where to Go; What to Take?

When you want to travel, how do you determine where to go? What to take? Here's some insight.

La Sagrada Família
The La Sagrada Família, under construction since 1882, is due to be completed in 2026

Since we are a new outlet to share traveler and nomad stories, welcome to, “From the Beginning: A Nomadic Tale,” the origin story from one of our writers, and how he started out his life on the road in 2019; at age 64. Norm Bour now has 43 countries behind him, over 50 in total, and is currently in Asia for the year. He’s going back to Square One with this ongoing series, to share how it began and how you might be able to do it, too. You can also check out his initial story and part I, just recently post.

At age 70, he and his wife have visited six continents, and you can learn more about them from their website, TravelYounger.com, and also his books, including Nomadic Life for All Ages, and his new one, The History and Magic of Northern Greece.


When you finally get to that “Yes, I’m going to do it!” place, the next questions include, “Where do I go, when do I leave, and what do I take?

Norm on the beach

If I asked 100 Americans (and I’ll start with my fellow Americans for now), where would they want to go, to move, to travel to, I think 70 percent would say one of the following countries:

  1. Italy
  2. Spain
  3. Greece
  4. Portugal
  5. France
  6. Mexico

Those countries seem to be fantasy lands for many of us, and we have seen scads of movies that show life in these exotic and historic locations.

In our particular case we were primarily driven by two things: weather, and budget, and we identified the region known as the Mediterranean Belt as our main choices.

From Portugal to Turkey was our sweet spot
From Portugal to Turkey was our sweet spot

Since I lived in Southern California, the Golden State with sun year ‘round, I knew I wanted warm(er) weather, and that eliminated several places. Mind you, in summer, most countries are warmish, but that’s all relative.

For me, of thin skin and thin blood, we wanted to stay over 50° F/ 10° C average most of the year. In Orange County, where I lived for 40 years, the temps would get into the high thirties, but it would not stay there. We rarely got frost or snow, but wearing a light jacket in winter was not a deal killer for me.

My wife, Kat, feels pretty much the same, but she is much less tolerant of HOT temps than I am. Humidity and heat I can handle, but I distain the cold.

As we looked at our destination options, and since we had spent some time in the Mediterranean a few months earlier, we picked Spain. We had navigated quite a bit of it the prior summer of 2018, when we trained from Barcelona to Madrid, then onward to Portugal south, then returned to Spain through Seville and Cadiz.

From there we continued onward to the country of Gibraltar, back to Spain to Malaga, and finally, north to Barcelona. So, overall, we caught a lot of the coast, and for our first stop we wanted to stay near the water, so chose Valencia.

spain travel map

A town of about three quarter million people, it looked like a good place to start. It was on the water, and the cost of living looked reasonable. We found a good selection of AirBNB rooms and chose to rent a ROOM instead of an entire unit, one of the few times we did that.

Over the years we usually avoided shared housing and preferred our own place, especially our own bathroom. Our hostess was lovely and did not even live there, but her niece did, and since she was a full time nursing student with a job, we had much of the place to ourselves.

As we set our target for departure for the third week of February, and spring was around the corner, we didn’t think we would need “warm weather” clothing, and we really didn’t.

That meant no heavy jackets, boots, or shoes, and when we actually arrived in Spain we discovered that clothing was CHEAP, certainly by US standards. A $100 pair of shoes in the US was half that in Spain, and most everywhere we lived.

Between September of 2018, when we returned from our six week exploratory, and February 2019, the process was one of figuring out how to get rid of our belongings, and determining our short term plan. In California I had an apartment with furniture, but not excessive.

My leased auto was due to be returned, so car #1 was easy to get rid of, and Kat’s Prius sold very quickly. Full size computers, printers, bedding, kitchenware, etc…all were inventoried and assigned a price tag. And Kat excelled at this! We initially started getting rid of the stuff that wouldn’t be missed, and in the final few weeks held three weekends of garage sales.

That allowed us to eliminate almost everything, and whatever was left was designated to a Salvation Army type outreach. Truly, we were selling up until 48 hours before we left, and we had an agreement with the buyer of the bed that she could get it the day BEFORE we left, and we spent our final California night with our friend who would take us to the airport.

Even with SO much gone, we filled two 28” suitcases, several backpacks, and even the night before we pulled out many more pounds of clothing. We bought a luggage scale since we knew the airline had weight limitations, and because we were knew to all this, we weren’t sure how picky they would be.

This was back in the day when we took WAY too much and checked bags, which we no longer do. The beauty of the suitcases were the wheels, but trying to roll them through the cobblestone streets of Europe soon became a royal pain in the neck!

Over the years we have constantly been amazed at how much stuff we really DON’T need! We have gone through at least four sets of suitcases, several backpacks, countless pairs of shoes, and more purchases and giving away of other clothes than I can mention. Another Senior Nomad couple said the following: “If we don’t eat it, use it to travel with, or wear it, we don’t buy it,” and that has been our mantra as well.

Of course we have waivered many times and got things we really didn’t need, and if we determine that it’s worth keeping, then it becomes part of our inventory. We like our coffee and got a high end milk foam machine, which we carried for quite some time, but, after a while, the weight didn’t justify the enjoyment.

Life on the road forces you to make choices—continually.

I used to give Kat a hard time because she came home with new clothes a lot, but they were not NEW new, in many cases they were from consignment stores. Where we have found KILLER deals over the years! Name brand anything for just a few bucks.

Since I’m a motorcycle guy, I found a new BMW jacket in Greece for $10, which blew me away. It took me awhile to realize that clothing is a commodity—like food—to be used, enjoyed, and eventually, discarded and replaced with something else.

As you prepare your plan, or start thinking about it, here’s my takeaway: you will almost ALWAYS take more than what you need. We find that we re-wear our favorite, most comfy clothes, and some things may just sit for a while, and in many cases, through several moves. Until we recognize that it is time to purge them.

We knew Spain was number one on our list, and got our one way ticket from Los Angeles, and that’s one of the big cost savings as a nomad: if you plan it right, most of your trips will be one way, vs. round trip. Try to visualize six-twelve months out if possible, which is what we did.

So Spain was first, where we stayed mid-February to the end of March. Oh, and we found out that you need to research festival-wise what is happening in the places you go! In Valencia we awoke the first Sunday morning to the sound of bombs going off (we thought), and were fearful that we were being attacked!

We were: with fireworks, as we discovered that we arrived just in time for Las Fallas- The Festival of Fire—which started the week after we got there. You can read more of that on our Travel Younger blogs.

Las Fallas in Valencia, millions of tourists
Las Fallas in Valencia draws millions of tourists every year

As it was, Valencia was a wonderful beginning. We used it as a home base to visit several other cities within train travel distance, and after a week or so I got used to not understanding people speaking around me.

The first few times we went to our favorite coffee shop I felt intimidated and out of place, and sometimes I still can feel that way, five years later. Valencia had the best aquarium (Oceanogràfic València) I had ever been to, along with the Bioparc, which is a user friendly, walk through zoo, where you can get up close and personal with the residents.

The architecture was magnificent, especially the City of Arts and Science (Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias), which is part of what used to be a canal system. If you enjoy history, there is plenty of it in Valencia, including the Santo Caliz Chapel, which holds the purported Holy Grail.

If you are a foodie (I started to become one here), we discovered food markets that were prevalent in many European cities, generally called Mercados. Fresh fish, meat, fruit, vegetables, plus eateries galore, and you can get a sense of feeling like a local.

Most European cities have a Mercado, or street markets
Most European cities have a Mercado, or street markets

Back to our itinerary: Our stay in Spain was intentionally planned to be 45 days, and would be concluding the end of March. That meant we had to decide on stop #2 beginning about April 1, so we settled on Italy, to a medieval town called Tivoli, about 20 miles east of Rome.

After staying there for another 45 days, this silly little law called the Schengen required us to get out of Europe. For 90 days. I’ll cover more of the Schengen in a bit, or you can check out my guide, which is a bit dated, but still covers the basics. Where would we make stop number three? The answer is Croatia, which is usually the top answer when people ask us, “What is your favorite country?” Stay tuned for that.


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