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After we visited Cianciana to see the family, we both knew the rest of the time in Sicily would be somewhat of a letdown, even though we’d still eat well! So we decided to spend a day in Agrigento, which was home base for the duration of our stay in Sicily. The city isn’t much to brag about. It’s become very popular recently with younger people, who are moving out of the small villages to bigger cities just for the nightlife and employment opportunities. Plus, it’s right near the coast, and you can be on the beach within 10 minutes. Would we visit Agrigento again? No, we covered that city pretty well in one day and saw all the sights that one would want to see, but I’m glad we were there.

ruins of Agrigento

Now, the one thing that Agrigento does have going for it is history. If you didn’t know, about every country has attacked Sicily over its history, but one country left a lasting mark that is pretty identifiable, and that would be Greece. Agrigento looks like the second coming of Athens when you see all the ruins next to the city. And to be honest, the ruins here are preserved much better. The ruins aren’t overrun by tourists either…..yet. I think since Sicily is becoming more accessible to the rest of mainland Europe, the ruins will get a lot more traffic over the coming years, but hopefully they’ll keep them protected so they don’t get abused like the Greek Ruins or the Pyramids.

Pretty intact don't you think?

But as I said, there really isn’t much to the city, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking. We’re glad we saw it, but I don’t think we’ll be back, unless it’s just passing through.

Now, on our last night in Sicily, we wanted to make sure we were closer to Trapani since our flight was out of there, and it’s not really near anything. So, I picked Mazara del Vallo, and yet again, this will be a city we never visit again. Honestly, besides a few things of food we tried, I could have sworn we were in North Africa somewhere, more specifically Morocco. This city was a complete 180 to Cianciana, and not in a good way. As soon we pulled into town to check into our hotel, I knew this wasn’t going to be that great.

random wall art in the kasbah of Mazara del Vallo

The only unique thing about the city that I found interesting was that it had a Kasbah, and that is what reminded me of what Morocco might be like. Never been there before….guess I’ll find out when we visit. The area that the kasbah was in is very tight, and the roads are not meant for cars, although a few do squeak inside the walls, and when I say squeak, I mean rub a little on both sides. I’m not kidding. But they have transformed the whole area into a shopping mecca with bars scattered all around. What was once a pretty sleepy area of town is now the main focus.

Our final day in Sicily found us yelling at the GPS, which we were told is pretty much worthless here, and questioning whether or not we were going the right direction to Trapani Airport. We made it there, albeit 3 hours before our flight, but that’s ok. I was going to take the extra time to call Hertz and let them know they’ll be refunding my entire rental car, since multiple things didn’t work on the car, we had a constant warning light, the GPS died about an hour into the trip on Day 1, and it actually wasn’t the car they told me I rented. And I don’t mean when you rent a car online and it says “Car X or similar.” No, I mean “sir, your XXX is outside, spot 16” and then we go outside and there is no car in Spot 16 and when we finally found our car, it’s not the kind of car they told me it was supposed to be. On top of that, they overcharged me for every extra on the planet, and double charged me on other things. Thanks Hertz, I’ll enjoy that free rental!

Rock the Kasbah

Overall, Sicily was great, and we’ll be back sooner than later, or according to Annemarie, we’ll be going back on our next trip. I look forward to seeing Cianciana again, and spending a few days there just relaxing and talking with all the old guys on the street. Of course I’d have to learn Sicilian first, but that would be something if some random Yank sat down and started chatting with them.

Agrigento & Mazara del Vallo Pictures

Ciao!

I feel uncomfortable unless I have at least one trip planned, either domestically or internationally. With trips to Las Vegas and Charleston, SC in January, I didn’t think I would travel much more. Well, that never seems to work out, whether I plan it or not. American Airlines had some crazy sale to many countries in Central America for about a week, and I found some rates that were hard to pass up. So after going through a bunch of dates and countries, we are heading to Costa Rica in about a month for 4 days. Quick trip I know, but we figure that we’ll try a place out first for a quick trip, and if we like it we’ll come back. So with that being said, and only $230 later, we are headed to La Fortuna, Costa Rica…home of the Arenal Volcano.

Pretty excited seeing that we’ve never been to Central America as of yet, and it knocks out yet another country on our quest to 50 before we settle down. Costa Rica will be #31, and with South Africa and at least 3 other EU countries being added, I’ll hit 35 halfway through the year. Somewhere in there I still would like to find a deal to Iceland, and possibly a trip to South America. My work focus is now to grow enough to give me even more flexibility to travel. I see some results from the work that I’ve done since going on my own in 2002 everyday. I see the car in the garage that was a childhood dream and my first business goal. I see some statues and pieces of art around the apartment, but when I see the pictures of us in all corners ofย  the world I relive memories immediately of what we’ve done and what we’ve seen….so far.

So on to the New Year and hopefully a lot of new countries. I just noticed the other day that if we based our travel off the UN Country List, we have seen 15.3% of the world. We have some work ahead of us for sure ๐Ÿ™‚

After traveling around the world for five weeks back in March, and then hitting Sonoma for a week, I really haven’t traveled much. I actually didn’t even leave Chicago, besides a 3 day road trip to Pittsburgh, during the month of July. Well that’s all coming to an end. In the next 8 weeks, I have quite a few trips, and for a plethora of reasons. I just got back from Boston, and tomorrow I have to head to NYC for a two day conference, which is code name for hanging out with friends in the industry, drinking at the bar, and hopefully drumming up some new business. I hope to see some old friends from high school as well, but that’s usually a shot in the dark since I never know how over the top the conference will get.

After I get back from NYC, I think will be heading back to Rochester for a family reunion on Annemarie’s side. Seeing we have skipped the last 6 reunions, I figure we whould probably go to this one. I’m actually excited for the small detail of actually flying into ROC, since it usualy costs twice as much as it would be to fly into BUF. Rochester is so much more convenient when we fly back to upstate New York, so when it’s cheap, we jump on it. As long as there is time to get a Brueggers Bagel, Wegmans Sub, and a Garbage Plate, the trip will be a success.

For Labor Day, Annemarie and I are hoping to hit Costa Rica for a quick 4 day jaunt. In my random thoughts of moving, I added Costa Rica to the list because………yup, don’t know, but seemed like a good option. So why not head down for a long weekend to see what it’s like, but at the same time hit the beach and do some jungle zip lines. It also knocks off another country, and gets me that much closer to 50 countries visited before we start to have kids…….in 10 years ๐Ÿ˜‰

After getting back from Latin America, I’m off to London again. I try to head over once a year, whether it be for a Spurs match, or for a conference. This time I get to combine the two, with Ad Tech London happening the third week of September. I’ll probably head over for 5 days, see some friends up in Milton Keynes, hit a Spurs match or two, spend some time in London with my cousin and her husband, and hit the conference. Hopefully I’ll get some free time to wander around London again, and hit some pubs with some people I know in the industry….and have some drinks, and drum up some business. Maybe I could even drum up some meetings in Europe while I’m over there, with an intention of hitting some new countries as well. I wonder if I know any potential clients in Luxembourg or Norway? We’ll see.

As soon as I get back from London, we head off to Albany for a family wedding. I think I have only been to Albany once in my life, and that was to watch my brother play in college football game against RPI. So my memory of Albany is a college campus, so it sticks out in my memory as much as………nothing. Oh well, we’ll see if something else makes it memorable this time around.

I jump back from that trip, and then head of to Vegas to celebrate the ending of my brother’s life…othewise known as his bachelor party. About 20 guys are going to make thet trip out for 48 hours of madness, and I hope to remember none of it. I’m not really a fan of Vegas, never have been, but my brother seems to love it, so why not. 48 hours is about all I can take of Vegas, so the trip will be good. I wonder if going to Vegas for a bachelor party and my birthday in the same weekend is a smart idea in the long run? Probably not, but I can sleep on the plane.

That about wraps it up over the next 8 weeks, and hopefully by that time we’ll have our house sold and decide on a few more trips, including one out of town for about 6 months. Should we move to Vancouver and enjoy the Winter Olympics and some great winter sports for 6 months, or hit up Spain and travel around Europe every weekend for 6 months? I look forward to that choice being available.

Ok gotta pack for NYC!

Besides some travel plans that could be planned in September, this is a possibility for a place to crash for 6 months….or longer.

aerialmap

After being back in New York in this last week, I’ve been thinking about more travel. This summer is a busy travel season for us, but not really pleasure. I have to be Detroit, New York City, Rochester, Buffalo, and Boston. All of those weekend trips will bring us up to Labor Day weekend, which hopefully we’ll find something to do just for us. Annemarie will have some vacation days built up, so I was thinking of going on a quick 4-5 day trip somewhere. There have been some incredible travel deals lately, but mostly to places that I have been, and I like to rack up the new countries if you can’t tell already from my previous posts.

That also brings me to the point of relocation. For about the last year or so I’ve been pondering the idea of moving. I have moved quite a bit in my life, and I have lived in Chicago now for 7 years, which behind Rochester, is the longest I’ve ever stayed in one location. While I love Chicago, and the network that I have here, I think it’s time for a change. We can always come back to Chicago if we don’t like the change, so why not try something else out, right?

One idea we had was to split our time between Chicago and some other city around the world. Spend the summer in Chicago, and then try something else out when the weather is not that favorable here. We could try a different city each year, as long as we could find a gig for Annemarie that would allow her that kind of flexibility. I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on different places to either live all year or just during the 6 months of winter that Chicago now has. The strange thing is I like seasons, and would kind of miss winter, but at the same time the weather has been so bad in Chicago over the last 2 years during the winter, that I need something else, or at least give me a benefit to being stuck in such crappy weather for 6 months out of the year.

That brings me to our first possible place: DENVER. I’ve always liked Colorado, but have only been there a handful of times. I’ve actually never spent any time in Denver per se except in a restaurant where I introduced Magic Hat to my buddy Beef. I’ve been in the ski area 3 times, and love it out there, and the fact that it’s so close to a major city. Some of the best skiing in the world only 90 minutes away from a major city that has similar winters to Chicago, except the tallest hill in Chicago is the one formed by ants in the nearby alley. Staying with the “cold season” theme, we have spoken about moving to Vancouver, BC. I had never been before we went on our trip, and after only being there for about 36 hours, we both fell in love with the place. It never gets really cold, but also never gets really hot. The city is on the water, and is surrounded by mountains. Easy trips to Whistler to go skiing, or if you need to be in the United States quick, Seattle is only a 2 hour drive away. We never thought that we would consider living in Canada, but Vancouver won us over, and has been given a place on the “possible” list. To round out the “cold” places, I still wouldn’t mind moving to Oregon. I have been there about 7 times, and love it more everytime I go. Now, I’ve only been to Portland twice, but have been down to Bend about 5 times. I think I could live in Bend, just because of the outdoors, and the fact that the “slow” season is the ski season, and they have one of the best mountains in the country, yet it’s never that crowded, Mt. Bachelor. I don’t like the fact that the airport after flying into it for 7 years is expanding, and now going to allow bigger planes to land there, which will only make Bend more crowded, but I guess that’s what eventually happens to every place. Annemarie has yet to visit Oregon, but I would like to take her to both Portland and Bend to show her why I love it there so much.

Leaving the United States is also a strong possibility for us. I’ve always wanted to live abroad, and if my business stays the way it is or better, I’d be able to do that with no issue really. I think living in Europe for a few years would be great, and would give us accessibility to visit tons of countries during the time that we lived there. I would love to see every country in Europe before I start a family, but I think that would require me living there for a bit to make tha that happen. We mutually agree that Barcelona is one of the nicest cities we’ve visited around the world. The weather, the people, the culture, etc. are all incredible. Even though unemployment over there is about double what the United States is right now, I think the future is great for Spain. Something about being there was very comfortable. Other than Spain, there are other places we have enjoyed in Europe, but none that have stuck out to the point that we’ve said “We could live here for a while.” Italy would be great, but there is no industry there, and unless you are a professional athlete or an heir to a food fortune, there is not a lot going on business wise in Italy at the moment. We also like Amsterdam, Budapest, Prague, Copenhagen, and Paris, but none of them stuck out like Barcelona. I’d gladly live in Paris, other than the fact it costs twice as much to live there than almost every other city in Europe, sans London and pretty much all of Switzerland.

Then we have the Carribbean and Latin America. We’ve been to a few islands down there, which include the USVI, BVI, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Barbados and the Grenadines. It would be quite a lifestyle change to live down there, but quick trips back to the states if you need to are there, the timezones are similar, and the weather is fantastic. For those that know me, I hate humidity, so it’s strange that I would even consider living in the islands, but I think if it’s something that is a constant, I could learn to live with it. Just takes time to acclimate I suppose, and probably a bit longer for me than the normal person. As far as Latin America, honestly, we have never been. I can’t count Mexico, as I’ve only been to Cancun, and honestly, I would never live there, but that’s not true Mexico, nor Latin America.ย  From all my reading, I’ve had a strong interest in Buenos Aires, Argentina. From the culture, the French inspired architecture, to the cost of living. From what I’ve read, it still seems relatively “undiscovered” as a major travel destination around the world. Not sure if it’s because of it’s location, but I don’t know a lot of people that have been there. Plus, there aren’t a lot of major cities close to each other in South America, and no train network like you have in say Japan or in Europe. I think the train problem alone keeps many tourists out of South America, because they don’t want to fly all that way just to see one place, whereas in Europe, you can easily hop countries/cities on a train or cheap flight with no issue.

That being said, I think Buenos Aires would be a great place to go for Labor Day weekend. The flights down there are overnight, so we wouldn’t lose anytime there, and the weather should be pretty similar to Chicago at the time. It’s a hike (about 8-9 hours on plane) but then again so are most places when you fly to Europe, so that really doesn’t concern me. Unless we stayed in the continental United States or Vancouver (which would take 4.5-5 hours to get back), every place is going to have a longer commute time back to Chicago. I’ve been searching for people I know that either know people or they themselves have lived in any of the cities to give opinions. I hope to rack up a lot more info before we decide what we are going to do, but would like to see us pursue a new location before the year ends.

Only time will tell.

Some pictures from the trip…

Here is just an assortment of pictures from the trip that we’ll always remember.

tipped over tree in Vancouver

tipped over tree in Vancouver

phew, I was a little lost with the translation

phew, I was a little lost with the translation

hey dad, these things are not that unique are they?

hey dad, these things are not that unique are they?

Asahi Brewery...that building is supposed to a beer with foam on top

Asahi Brewery...that building is supposed to a beer with foam on top

Conveyor Belt Sushi

Conveyor Belt Sushi

the Great Wall from a unique view

the Great Wall from a unique view

had to find one turtle, and we did

had to find one turtle, and we did

this kid kept getting in the way, argh

this kid kept getting in the way, argh

this place saved us one day in China...thank you Sue Earle

this place saved us one day in China...thank you Sue Earle

dried meat sheets...these were damn good

dried meat sheets...these were damn good

I think picture shows my abilities with the camera...lucky ability that is

I think picture shows my abilities with the camera...lucky ability that is

our Hong Kong hosts....Simon & Melissa

our Hong Kong hosts....Simon & Melissa

Hubbly Bubbly at dinner....yes, Ill have that

Hubbly Bubbly at dinner....yes, I'll have that

out in the Arabian Desert

out in the Arabian Desert

Sunset in Dubai

Sunset in Dubai

He was pretty adimant on me taking this picture of him...Whats up!

He was pretty adimant on me taking this picture of him...What's up!

hey Mr. Sphinx, come here for a kiss

hey Mr. Sphinx, come here for a kiss

night in Athens

night in Athens

thought this was a great shot

thought this was a great shot

Finland

Finland

Leaving Christiania

Leaving Christiania

MP3 Player in Swedish?

MP3 Player in Swedish?

Iron Boy in Stockholm

Iron Boy in Stockholm

More travel to come, domestic and abroad!

We got back to Chicago a few days ago, and within the first 48 hours, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. It’s like people knew to wait the whole month, and then hit me with loads of problems as soon as I got back. Yup, that’s great, thanks. It’s starting to sink in that we actually took 33 days and flew around the world, although some other bloggers did point out to me that if it was truly around the world, we would’ve hit every continent (we hit 4). To each their own I guess.

Each country and/or city we went to had it’s own charm, or showed it’s true colors to us and we grew a dislike towards it. For example, Tokyo, a place that neither of us ever thought we’d go, but loved, and will definitely go back. I miss the vending machines already. Convenient, price controlled, and always there when you need it. We miss the sushi, that was so fresh it was almost talking to you. The flying noodle soup, which I had about 6 times while in Japan, and could eat it everyday if I had to. The cleanliness of the city, the great public transportation, and the friendliness of the people all stick out in my memory. Japan was a great choice for a stop on our trip.

On the flip side, Cairo! Safe to say we will never venture back to Cairo again. I would love to see other parts of Egypt like Abu Simdel or Sharm El Sheikh down on the Red Sea, but you’d be hard pressed to get me to ever step foot in Cairo again. If it weren’t for the Pyramids and the fact that I ate pigeon for the first time, I don’t think we would’ve enjoyed our time in Egypt at all. Not every city is for every person, and Cairo was not for us. It’s definitely an acquired taste, and just a tad too bitter for us. We felt the same way about Beijing. I was kind of disappointed that the city was not great, and the fact the Olympics made it look like a great destination, made it that much harder to accept that we didn’t like Beijing. I’m glad we saw the Great Wall, it was incredible. I’m glad we saw Tianamen Square, the Forbidden City, Lama Temple, and the Temple of Heaven. But I won’t miss the beggars, the yelling, or the women pulling at you on the streets to feed their baby. I won’t miss the cab drivers who rip you off every chance they get, or the smog that clouds the city. We will miss the Peking Duck, the fruit on a stick, and our crazy tour guide who got us to Mutianyu in the half the time it should have.ย  I gave China a second chance, and it will be the last.

There are some cities that you build up so much in your mind that you are bound to be disappointed once you get there. For us, I think that city was Dubai. While it is the “Sim City” of the world, I’m now glad I didn’t take the job over there I was offered a few years back. There is no character to Dubai, and until all of the construction gets done, if it ever gets done, the city looks like an unfinished Lego project. Then again, Copenhagen was a city where I didn’t expect much and it was awesome. Right on the water, everyone outside, very walkable, clean and friendly people. Although the city is expensive, I could see myself spending a lot of time there.

We also were blown away by Vancouver, and could see us living there at some time in the future. It would be a great time to live there now, especially with the city gearing up for the 2010 Winter Olympics, so you never know. It feels just like a big American city, but it’s Canadian colors show all the time. From the currency to the accents, Canada is unique. I never thought that there would be a time where we would live in Canada, but Vancouver won us over.

I thought the blurry effect made it look cool

I thought the blurry effect made it look cool

We are looking forward to getting some of our pictures blown up and framed, and displaying our unique trinkets we bought on the trip to remind us of the travels we’ve done thus far. We have now been to 32 countries in about 4.5 years, and want to see much more. After a month or so, we just want to plan something else and go see something else. I promised Annemarie that we would make it to Sicily in the near future, so she can see her family roots, and enjoy some more time in the atmosphere which she loves. The food, the wine, and the people made us both love Italy, so going back will be great. I’m already looking at another trip, possibly in July, schedules permitting. Maybe a quick jaunt over to Iceland (they need all the tourism they can get right now) or trip down to South America to knock off a couple of countries. We also have a trip planned to South Africa next year, and hopefully have some time to see Zimbabwe, Botswana, and possibly Mauritius. I always wanted to see at least 100 countries before I slowed down, so I have to keep moving.

Month long trips can definitely knock out quite a few countries at a time, but how often we will be able to do that? Probably never again, but 4-5 day trips over to Europe, or down to Latin America are very possible, and I’m sure we’ll do our fair share if we can.

Out for now.

So for those that know us, you know that the last two years has been a nightmare in one way because of a little real estate investment I made about 2 years ago. Well that nightmare finally came to an end yesterday, as we finally unloaded the “money pit” as Annemarie would call it. I also think we finally got our package that we shipped home from Egypt releases from customs in Newark. That was quite a nightmare as well. But at least the day came out to a good close with getting a property off our hands, and eating some reindeer at a local restaurant here in Helsinki.

Our other home will go back on the market in May, as we want to dump that one as well and hopefully just get a loft in downtown Chicago that could easily be rented out. None the less, we have decided not to return to the United States on April 7th as previously planned. With all the hotel stays that we’ve had on our trip, we have been given an additional month of free hotel stays and airplane tickets for free, and we are going to take advantage of them.

So, we are headed to Africa once again as soon as our time is done in Stockholm next Tuesday. We are going to hit Morocco, Algeria, Senegal, Namibia, Cape Verde, and then finishing off in the Azores off the coast of Portugal. Our dog will hate us, and Mike and Rich unexpectedly will be spending another month at our condo, but what are you gonna do, come and get us in Africa? Yeah right.

The road has been fun, and we are able to carry on life as we did back in Chicago, sans hanging out with our dog. We’ve also decided to cash in our retirement plans early and only stay in penthouses at all these hotels in our new month of travels. I mean, they give you free hotel rooms, but that just won’t do, we need the best. We will also be getting private cars, butlers, and trained pet monkeys while we travel throughout the continent. I hope this post finds all that we know well and confused, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We wish you all the best, and enjoy the 1st day of April. Cheers

Had no access to the blog while in Beijing, they censor everything there. I will post a little round up to Beijing tonight if I can, and have pictures uploaded. Otherwise everything will be done on Thursday when we get to Dubai and we’ll follow up on Beijing, Hong Kong and Macau.

Cheers

So we leave in two days for Vancouver, and you’d think that we were preparing for the end of the world based on how hectic it is around here. Between getting the house ready for closing (small, yet annoying punch list to finish), taking our house off the market and getting it ready for our friends to stay in, and getting all my work stuff ready for the road, it’s been a hectic last week.

I don’t think I’ll actually be excited for the trip until we land in Vancouver, which won’t be until midnight on Friday night. The minute I see Vancouver from the plane, I’ll start to be excited that the trip has started. To top it off, my old pal Andy is going to be in Vancouver this weekend as well, and should start our journey off with some laughs and analogies that will take days to understand.

The weather on our trip will be all over the place, but for about 10 days the weather will be warmer, averaging 70-80 daily, which will be quite a break from Chicago and this terrible winter. But is it just luck or karma that we are leaving town on a day where it’s supposed to be 65!! Good thing it will be 30 degrees colder within a week again, or I’d be really ticked.

Here is the picture in my head that I’ll need to see out the window before I get excited..

Vancouver, BC

Vancouver, BC