Let’s Talk Travel Plans!

I can guarantee that WenYu's desk will not look like this . . . it's too organized!
I can guarantee that WenYu’s desk will not look like this . . . it’s too organized!

I almost can’t believe (or maybe I don’t want to) that in just a few weeks it will be time to escort WenYu back to Massachusetts to begin her college career at Wellesley. I am both extremely excited for her, and so proud that I could burst, but I’m also growing increasing sad about her upcoming departure. We are all going to miss her calm, steady, and easygoing presence in our home.

I'm looking forward to getting to explore the Wellesley campus while I'm there.
I’m looking forward to seeing all of the beautiful Wellesley campus while I’m there.

The trip will be a bittersweet one. I am already dreading the day I have to say good-bye to WenYu and let her go, but I am also looking forward to reunions with good friends (during our San Diego layover) and former childhood neighbors who now live very close to Wellesley in Massachusetts. On the way home I will spend a couple of days with my mom before heading home to Kaua’i. I’ll only be away from home for eight days, but there’s a lot packed into that short period of time.

SO excited about getting to spend time with this little guy, and meeting our new granddaughter!
I’m already SO excited about getting to spend some time with this little guy next year, and meeting our new granddaughter!

We’re currently in a holding pattern on our Spring 2017 trip to Japan. We’ve got our hotel reservations, but airfares are still not down to where we’re ready to buy. It really is too early anyway right now, but we should see lower airfares starting to appear in September and October. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that Hawaiian Airlines offers some good fares this fall as we’d love to add to our mileage accounts, but we’ll go with whomever offers the best deal. Brett and I have been talking about what we want to see and do there with YaYu when we’re not spending time with our son, daughter-in-law, grandson and new granddaughter!

The path around the Imperial Palace is 3.3 miles - last year our son walked 12 laps!
The path around the Imperial Palace is 3.3 miles – last year our son walked 12 laps!

However . . . a second trip to Japan has been added for 2017! Meiling, WenYu and I, along with some of my friends, are planning a June trip to Tokyo. WenYu has wanted to go back ever since she went last year, and Meiling has always wanted to go but hasn’t had the chance, so I came up with the idea of forming a team to walk with our son in his “Imperial Challenge” next year (walking as many laps as possible around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to raise funds for charity). Currently I’m waiting to hear from him with the date for next year’s Challenge, but once I have that planning can begin in earnest. I’m shooting for a week’s stay for our group, using AirBNB for lodging. The girls and I will be responsible for setting up breakfast for everyone in the morning, as well as ‘happy hour’ in the evening, and I will be taking our little group out for sightseeing and shopping excursions in the Tokyo area as well as coordinating a couple of celebratory group dinners (and of course getting together with our son and family whenever possible). Some expenses will be paid by participants upfront, but the rest they will be responsible for covering on their own, including airfare, meals other than those provided, and all in-country transportation. WenYu has already almost saved enough from her work this summer to cover her expenses, and Meiling is also on her way to meeting her saving goal. I’ll post more details as they develop.

dreamstime_m_31478558-e1446053993687Finally, I have come up with a fabulous plan for another Mystery Vacation™ in 2017!! Hawai’i public schools take a week-long Fall Break every October, and it’s the perfect time to visit the destination I have in mind. I’ve done a bit of research into costs and it’s very doable and affordable. Brett told me after last spring’s trip to the Grand Canyon that I wasn’t allowed to plan another Mystery Vacation™, but both he and YaYu are once again on board and looking forward to being surprised. I’ll leave you all to start guessing where we might be going!

Rotorua, New Zealand - one of the places we hope to visit in the fall of 2018
Rotorua – we plan to visit New Zealand in the fall of 2018

Although 2017 looks to be a big year for travel, after we’re home from next year’s Mystery Vacation™ we will be taking nearly a year off from going anywhere. In the fall of 2018 it will be time to get YaYu off to college, and then Brett and I hope to visit New Zealand for a couple of weeks. We will not be able to go to Japan at all in 2018 as the first of our annual three-month visits will begin in 2019 (mid-February through mid-May), and Japan only allows visitors to be in country for 90 days in any 365-day period (unless you can get a special long-term visa, which is very difficult to obtain). We’re hoping though that our son and family will be able to make it over here sometime during the year. And of course, in between our travels we will be saving, saving, and saving so we can get up and go again!

Where In the World Should We Go: The First Three Journeys

Early this month I posted a query: Where in the world should Brett and I go on an annual fall sojourn? Our goal is to stay for three months every spring in Japan to be near our son and his family, but we also want to spend two months every fall slow traveling in another part of the world.

We were given LOTS of good suggestions of places to visit (thank you!!), so Brett and I spent time this month talking about where we each wanted to go and why. It turned out we pretty much agreed on where we wanted to visit, but disagreed on the order we wanted to wanted to see them. We eventually worked that out, and came up with a list of the top three places we’d like to visit:Florence

1. Italy: Placing Italy at the top of our travel list was not as easy as one might think. Brett has been to southern Italy several times (Naples and Sicily) courtesy of the navy, but this would be a first-time visit for me. I was (and still am, to some degree) concerned about spending two months on our own in a country where we do not speak the language, but Brett feels that if we play it safe and initially go somewhere where English is spoken we might never be eager to venture to a place where it isn’t. He believes we need to takes risks earlier rather than later. We still haven’t completely decided on exactly where in Italy to stay as there are so many wonderful areas to explore. We have some ideas, but nothing definite yet. So, there will be lots of reading and research over the next couple of years to help us make a firm decision about where to stay and what to see. The target date for this journey is the fall of 2018.bath_CNT_12feb13_alamy_b

2. England/Scotland: I have wanted to visit England and Scotland for as long as I can remember – this is where my ancestors come from (and some of Brett’s as well). Again, Brett has visited some of England (Portsmouth and the surrounding area) via the navy, but it will be a first for me. At least for this trip we agree on where to stay: One month in Bath, and one month in St. Andrews. No, we don’t play golf, but St. Andrews is less expensive than Edinburgh, and it’s near enough to be an easy commute to the city for visits and touring. We think we’ll rent a car for the month we’re in Scotland so we can take drives into the Highlands. We’ll fit in a short visit to London when we’re in England, but the city of Bath will be our primary headquarters. It’s a fantastic location all on its own, but also convenient to Wales and other places in the southwestern part of the country that we’d like to experience.

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3. New Zealand: A visit to New Zealand was high on both our lists, and we are definitely in a more convenient location for getting there. However, to take advantage of all there is to see and do there may actually require more planning than our first two trips and probably cost us more as well, so we will wait and see how our savings are holding up before we commit to a full two months down under.

If we decide to continue our travels after these first three years, then we’ll come up with another list. But we’ve got enough now to get us started and are feeling quite motivated.

It’s all very exciting to dream and make plans, but now the real work begins in order to make our dreams and plans come true. Until we leave it’s all about getting the girls off to college, saving, reading and researching, saving, saving, researching and reading, and more saving. We will continue to study Japanese to prepare for our annual stays there, but as we get closer to traveling to Italy we will try to learn a bit of that language as well.

Here we go!