Tag Archive for: travel

Travel: A Path to World Peace

By Barbara Plum aka AB Plum

“Travel is fatal to
prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness …”  (Innocents Abroad)

On the other hand, there’s no
place like home.

After a summer of living in
Denmark, with side trips to Iceland, Scotland, Finland, and Estonia, I boarded
what I hoped was my last airplane for a while on August 31. We stood in line to
clear security at Kastrup, and I wondered if any other country besides our
Scandinavian haven had withstood such an onslaught of tourists.

Despite the hordes—and my
being patted down at the airport—the multitudes and I proceeded to our flights
without incident. Standing in front of Customs, I felt a frisson of tension.
(We learned before departing the US that Iceland is part of the Schengen Area).

So? You might ask.

Schengen Agreement … 

This Agreement allows people
and goods to cross 26 EU borders without visas or other kinds of border controls.
US citizens can remain in the entire area
a total of 90 days within a 180-day period. Pretty straight forward. (My husband traveled on his Danish passport and so avoided the “rules).

Yes, but …

I knew about the restrictions
before leaving the US on May 27 for Iceland. Iceland is part of the Schengen
Agreement. Six days there before going to Denmark meant I would exceed the 90-day allotment. I called
the Danish Consulate near my home in late April and got the reassurance that I could go to
any police station in Denmark and receive an extension of my 90 days.

Once upon a time, yes. In June 2019 …
I had to go to Danish Immigration with a long form filled out by my husband’s
lawyer-cousin. The clerks who handled my request warned us I would very likely have
my request rejected. (About a hundred people—Mid-Eastern women, mostly, with
small kids and babies—queued up to other lines to submit their papers). I never
learned the outcome of their petitions, but I realized my extension mattered
nothing compared to immigrants seeking asylum.

Ever optimistic about my own
case, I thought playing the “family” card would over-ride
bureaucracy. Family is a very big deal in Denmark. My husband’s family had
planned a major reunion for us and dozens of cousins on August 25. Our adult kids
were coming from the US to take part in the festivities. Et cetera. Et cetera. Etc.

Nothing personal … and no narrow-mindedness …
just the rules …

In less than a week, we received
the official word, delivered by Priority Mail. I had to leave on the 24th
or risk a hefty fine and exclusion from the EU for an unspecified time if I
violated the rules.
A trip to the American
Embassy resulted in no hope. Naively, I assumed someone in the US Embassy would
take up my case. Denmark, I learned, now has some of the strictest immigration
policies in Europe. And no, I could expect no help from US personnel.

A loophole …

A light shone at the end of
the tunnel though. One loophole existed. I could leave Denmark for 6 days (the
number by which I would exceed my stay) and then return to Denmark, giving me a
total of 90 days in the country.

But … but … where could I go?

The UK or Croatia. Or, of
course, back to the States. Choices, choices.
Brexit mania was all over the
European news in mid-July. Did I really want to go to London under those

After five minutes of
discussion about cheaper airfares, shorter flights, and another visit to
Croatia, my husband and I chose Scotland for our sojourn. I’d always wanted to
tip-toe through the heather—if I could visit during a rain-free period.


Raindrops keep dancin’ on my head …

Sunshine shone on us every
day except for our bus trip to Stirling to visit the castle. Since we’d enjoyed
perfect weather at Edinburgh Castle, we didn’t complain. Dozens of Scotsmen
told us how lucky we were not to have to resort to rain-gear, and we agreed.

Our six days in Edinburg flew
by. We missed the heatwave that hit the week after we left, and we returned to
Copenhagen almost glad for the need to make the side trip.

And yes, we tried haggis—almost
edible with a couple of cold local beers.

Our trips to Finland and
Estonia, planned before our imposed trip to Scotland, proved uneventful. Great
weather. Manageable crowds. Quiet and relaxing.

Heading home …

By the last week of August, despite
an amazing summer, we were ready to go home on the 31st.  An eleven-hour flight lay ahead of us so we
decided to check for lounge availability and pay for a more quiet place to
relax before takeoff. Pay, because Norwegian Air no longer provided free lounge
entrance for Premium passengers. If we upgraded to Premium-Plus status, then we
could stay for the 2-hour wait time for free. Another thousand dollars seemed
excessive …

As we checked with the desk
attendant regarding available space, she told us the charge would be $40
each.  We hesitated. Then, a young woman
behind us, offered to make us her guests. Surprised, but quite happy, we
accepted. We thanked her and discovered she’d grown up in Silicon Valley. She
now lives in Boston, but the world is a small place.

We settled in with coffee and
comfy chairs and marveled at our good luck. “Travel [really] is fatal to
prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

How about you. Do your travel
experiences support Twain’s statement?
When not traveling the world,
Barbara Plum and her alter ego, AB Plum, live in Silicon Valley. Her latest
romantic comedy, Crazy Daze and a Knight
is available FREE through Thursday. 


by AB Plum

Everyone would probably agree:  travel requires flexibility.
Moving to another country for three
months demands a lot of flexibility.
As I am learning during my three-month
great adventure in Copenhagen. (It’s not all about the pastries).
The first big flex point for me came
as soon as we reached our apartment.
As a walker, I always check out
places to walk. Quiet streets, little traffic, and sidewalks on both sides of
the street appeared promising.
Until … I realized bicyclists had
their own routes running parallel to the sidewalks. And cars could park halfway
up on those same sidewalks. Which, by the way, were blocks of two rows of cement
blocks side by side, separated by three-by-three cobblestone squares running
down the middle. Grates, front steps, and boutique displays occupied the space
next to the buildings. Another walker coming toward me left about two inches to
navigate. Damp or dry, those cobblestones were treacherous.
Time to flex.
Luckily for me, a cemetery is about
a quarter of a mile from our apartment. I figured out if I walked early in the
mornings, I avoided most pedestrians, bikers, and parked cars. When I walk to
and from the train—about half a mile from the apartment—I still clench my teeth
a lot. Nonchalance comes with time and practice.
Another flex point came with
settling into an apartment without a dishwasher in a kitchen about half the
size of my own. Hey, I grew up with my sisters as co-dishwasher. I could cope.
Hands in sudsy water might even generate conversations with several stubborn
Cooking with a minimal number of
utensils (as in 1 skillet and 1 sauce pan) tapped some ingenuity as did a
refrigerator with frost on the walls. (Yes, I contacted the apartment owner. He
suggested turning the temperature from 2 to 1 not worry). Okay …
Elevators have never appealed to me.
In a building over a hundred years old, they creep me out. On the other hand,
the two days the elevator stopped operating and I climbed sixty-six stairs to
my penthouse apartment, I could hardly wait to test my claustrophobic fears.
Now, I step into my vertical coffin,
compartmentalize my terrors, and bend my knees each time we lurch to a stop.
Flexibility is good for the body and the soul.
My biggest challenge?
My new laptop. The touchscreen
drives me crazy. I realize this technology has zip to do with living in Denmark
or anywhere else. But … I feel as if I’m in hell every time I try to access my
email, touch the wrong note, and end up looking at something I intended to delete.
I have seriously begun to doubt that I do, in fact, possess opposable thumbs.
Flexibility only extends so far.
Plum aka Barbara Plum is spending the summer in Denmark, putting the finishing
touches on her latest romantic comedy, Crazy Daze and a Knight, due for release
in mid-August.

When Writers Travel

Who else loves to travel?

We just returned from Southeast Asia. I’m not sure if this
was a bucket list trip or simply an area of the world we were curious about.
Both my husband and I were too young for what we call the Vietnam War, but I
remember the protests and the horrors of the war shown on the nightly news. Soldiers
being spit on and called “Baby Killers.” The MIA bracelets. Four Dead in Ohio. (My blogmate’s books are set in the era, by the way.) The guys in the deli where I worked during college
with their bravissimo: “I was stoned the whole time,” and our church youth advisor,
a then, newly-minted lieutenant, who would not talk about his time in Vietnam. My
brother-in-law, a medic during the war, who also does not discuss his experiences
I could go on, but I think you get the drift. Or maybe you
Then there’s Cambodia. A close friend’s daughter served there
with the Peace Corp and kept me intrigued with a running series of Facebook
posts. And who isn’t moved by the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge?

So we went.

And we loved Saigon. 
The locals call District 1, which is
the old town, “Saigon” while the sprawling city is referred to as Ho Chi Min
City. There’s energy and optimism, friendly people, and 6 million scooters
(mostly being driven by young, texting locals). 
One of the things we did was a
street food tour – vendors set up, legally or not so much, wherever there’s an
open spot of pavement. Hygiene may be optional for some of those vendors. 😉
Our guide for the tour said Saigon is in to “Capitalistic Communism.” They
relate to Cuba, consider Russia a socialist country, and think North Korea is a
disgrace. By the way, they still don’t like the Chinese, even as China pours
investment money into the country, and the French… well…the south doesn’t hate
them as much as the north. But you know, we never ran into anyone who openly disliked
Americans. Instead they all wanted to practice their English on us.
Go figure.
Although the War Remnants Museum, chronicling the “American
War,” was a sobering reminder of what a horrible war this was for both sides.
We worked our way north with stops in Hanoi where we checked
out the Hanoi Hilton and learned it was a massive torture prison built by the
French (see “they hate the French” above, along with the 95 years of French
Ironically enough, the Vietnamese have huge respect for John
McCain and his decision to stay with his men rather than using name and
position to bail himself out. (cough, cough, bone spurs.)
But damn, the coffee and cheese were French and amazing.
On to Halong Bay, which was awe inspiring. Seriously. I thought it would be water, a small bay, with a few of those rock monoliths. A picture may be worth a few words here.

And on we traveled, through Cambodia and down the Mekong, back to Vietnam. So many glimpses of a different lifestyle. A third world country struggling to move ahead. Pride in the remnants of a kingdom in the past. Something beyond tolerance for the religious practices embodied by hundreds of temples. The quiet serenity of sunrise at Angkor Watt. 
Terrifying safety issues in manufacturing. Health and hygiene issues
that made us cringe and wonder why we obsess over plastic straws. 
The sadness of
the long-term impact of the Khmer wiping out every person in the country who
could read and write and the current struggle of the Cambodians to find their footing. 
The search for foreign investment in the face of those struggles. Quiet disdain
for the puppet government put in place by the Vietnamese, who also installed 8
million landmines to keep the Khmer out of Vietnam. (There are roughly 4
million mines still hidden in the ground. They pay children $1 for each turned
in mine – people also use the explosives to blast fish in ponds, but that’s a
separate story – and many bear the missing feet and hands as a sickening
reminder of how dangerous those devices are.)

What can a writer learn? 

A sensory overload? That iced Vietnamese
coffee is wonderful? An appreciation for friends and a zest for life? A
sobering realization three generations of Vietnamese live in an area roughly
the size of my living room. An appreciation for air conditioning (gah, I grew
up in the South and yeah, Robin Williams had it right. Vietnamese weather? Hot
and damn hot.)

Maybe it’s getting outside our own heads for a while. Trying
new things. New experiences. Learning about a new-to-me ancient culture. Meeting
new friends and recapturing a curiosity about the rest of the world.
Whatever you want to call it, I’m glad I went. And I’m
already eyeing another area of the globe…
What the most interesting place you’ve visited lately?

An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.  Visit her at http://cperkinswrites.com or on Facebook 

Sign up for her new release announcement newsletter in either place.

She’s hard at work on sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, which was recently presented with the Claymore Award. 

Travel Plans aka Adventures

by Sparkle Abbey

What’s that saying about the best laid plans? Oh, right…the full quote is “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” From the Scottish poet, Robert Burns.

It seems that particular quote is often true for us. And especially when it involves travel plans. Or as we like to call them travel adventures.

More times than we can count we’ve had flight delays, road construction delays and bad weather (ice, snow, thunderstorm) delays. Heck, we’ve even had a tumbleweed delay on a flight into Denver. Now, there have been a few times when the travel plans gone awry, were out own fault. We may or may not have missed a turn and ended up in Michigan. Twice.

Has anything like that ever happened to you?

We have, more than once, completely missed mystery conferences or apperances because our rebooking couldn’t get us on-site in time. Not good. So you can understand our trepidation as we booked our flight for the Malice Domestic conference at the end of this month. We love attending Malice Domestic. We love meeting readers, reconnecting with friends and fellow authors, and hanging out with book people. So, we’re thinking positive travel thoughts and hoping for smooth sailing…er…flying.

If you’re planning to be at Malice we look forward to seeing you there. In fact, if you see us at Malice we’re happy to share a cocktail or a coffee and hear some of your travel adventures. Or perhaps you’d like to share here?

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter. They’ve chosen to use Sparkle Abbey as their pen name on this series because they liked the idea of combining the names of their two rescue pets – Sparkle (ML’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog).

The authors co-write the best-selling Pampered Pets Mystery Series which focuses on the wacky world of precious pedigrees, pampered pooches, and secrets in posh Laguna Beach, California. The main characters and amateur sleuths are Texas cousins, Caro Lamont, a pet therapist, and Melinda Langston, a pet boutique owner. The two would join forces and work together if they were speaking, but they’re not.  Midwest Book Review calls the series “A sassy and fun mystery!”

At Malice Domestic this year Sparkle Abbey (aka Anita and Mary Lee) will be on the Murderous Wit panel at 3:00 PM on Saturday along with Paula Gail Benson, Ginger Bolton and Lida Sideris.

Traveling in the Spicoli Way

by Bethany Maines
Next week I will be making, what is turning out to be an
annual pilgrimage to New York City to visit my editor and watch a friend
graduate from Columbia (Goooo… Lions?). When I started this whole writing thing
I specifically targeted LA agents because I thought it would be a heck of a lot
easier to fly from the Evergreen State to the Golden State. I was absolutely
correct, of course – travel out to the Empire State (that’s your nickname New
York, seriously?) kind of bites, particularly since some dude invented the shoe
bomb. Or the Underwear Bomb.  Next
thing you know there’ll be the Hair Bomber and we’ll all have to shave. And I
swear the 3oz liquid debacle is fully sponsored by the water vendors on the
other side of security, but that is beside the point.
The point is that I didn’t want an agent in New York, but
Fate, as per its usual modus operandi, had other plans and now mocks me with
every trip to the East Coast. Which isn’t to say I don’t heart my agent with
big googly eyes (little hearts going pwap! over my head), and I’m not extremely
grateful to be able to visit NYC, because I am. I just keep thinking that maybe
year my vacation will be someplace
more palm tree oriented than the Big Apple. I miss palm tree vacations – they
come with coconuts and beaches and sometimes giant turtles (See the picture? That turtle swam right by me!).
But there are benefits to visiting a place repeatedly. For
one thing, you know when it’s being faked on television. OK, maybe that’s not
the primary benefit, but it is a good one (Don’t think I don’t remember you Ally McBeal and all your fake Boston sets). Traveling is always a window onto
another place and by visiting it repeatedly you start to really understand the
cultural ecosystem of that town and how far that ecosystem spreads.
It wasn’t until my second visit to New York that I
understood just how very New York Sesame Street was. From Oscar’s crappy garbage can, to the street sign, to the Brown
Stone houses, the main street in every toddlers life is a New York street.  Or the bizarre rubber boot fetish that
currently holds sway in fashion. The that makes a lot more sense when you
realize that even in the summer, New York City is home to a billion disgusting,
fetid puddles waiting to envelop sandal clad feet. Each visit reveals some
further facet of how New York is different, but also how it’s connected to
me.  And while it may not have a
lot of palm trees, the mai tais still taste good, and as Fast Times at Ridgemont High pointed out – “Wherever you are, that’s the place to be.”