If I had to use one word to describe Vienna, it would be fancy. With few exceptions, the art museums, buildings, churches, and shopping districts are all dressed up. It’s not enough to just have great art, it must be displayed in a palace. Most apartment and commercial buildings have gorgeous detailed facades. There are horse-drawn carriages clip clopping around giving tourists an expensive glimpse of old Vienna. And the downtown pedestrian area is filled with upscale shopping and antique stores.
Zagreb is a lively place for a city of fewer than a million people. Not just a stopover for those trying to get to the beach, Croatia’s capital offers numerous attractions. The downtown pedestrian zones were busy with shoppers, strolling tourists, and cafe goers of all sorts. We enjoyed the large daily farmers market, detailed architecture, multiple parks, and sweeping views from the hills above the city.
After a month in Belgrade, I can confidently say that Serbia’s capital is a great stop. I expected it would be a busy, dirty city full of ugly buildings. Instead, what we found was a very livable place filled with friendly people and dotted with beautiful parks. While exploring, we walked down numerous shaded streets lined with cute cafes. There were spring flowers planted everywhere. We even got our “pet fix” from the neighborhood cats, many of whom were happy to be on the receiving end of our love.
Novi Sad is a friendly city strategically placed on the mighty Danube. It has a long history, with records showing that people have inhabited this spot for 7000 years. Today, the city is Serbia’s second largest, with a population tallying a little under 300,000 people. It’s quite pleasant to explore, with dedicated car-free pedestrian zones and many separated bike lanes. It’s also one of the current European Capitals of Culture, so naturally Katie and I had to see what that was all about.
It’s been a few years, but we’re finally back in Europe. We arrived in Budapest on December 30th. This is the first time we’ve been to Europe as retirees, and our first trip to Budapest as well. The last time we were on “the Continent” was April 2018, when we spent 10 nights in Paris. Back then, 10 nights seemed like a ridiculously long time to stay in one place. Our perspective has certainly changed in that regard, as we now plan for at least a month at every stop. But some things haven’t changed much. We still like to walk around our city everyday, taking in all of the old Europe vibe.
2021 was our second full year as retired nomads, and much like the previous one, COVID made things challenging. Our travels took us to just two countries. We lived for months next to a Vietnamese beach that we weren’t allowed to visit. In the US, we crashed in spare bedrooms and slept outside in a tent for 30 days. Many of our plans revolved around avoiding people, receiving three doses of the new vaccine, and staying healthy. All were successful in that regard. We also managed to spend very little money again, albeit not without the generosity of our family and friends.
Danang represents all of the good things about living abroad. It’s a modern city showcasing a beautiful, clean beach with soft sand that stretches for miles and miles. The city is big enough that it’s easy to find most modern amenities, but small enough that there’s no overwhelming traffic issues. It’s also walkable with low pollution by SE Asian standards. This package comes with a surprisingly low price tag too. Overall, Danang is quite pleasant and I hope to never return.
Even if you’ve never heard the term selection bias, you likely already have a grasp of what it means. It’s a staple of our current culture and social media use. People love to post pictures from their great vacation or fancy restaurant meal, but rarely do you see the bill. Cute kids and sleeping dogs are also more fun to share than their crying and barking alter egos. This can easily lead to the idea that other people are living some perfect life, void of the challenges that we all face. Therein lies the bias. You only see the selected information instead of the full data set.
2020 was our first full year in retirement and everything went mostly according to plan. Ho hum, just another year in the books. I’m kidding, obviously. Instead, our resolve was tested, both mentally and financially. We learned way more than we ever wanted to know about coronaviruses and how they spread. And we received a stark reminder of all of the things that we normally take for granted, like freedom of movement.
There are a lot of challenging things about traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although I should probably put “traveling” in quotes, as we’re not moving from place to place right now. We have to deal with standard virus prevention measures like everyone else, but being in a foreign country also presents its own unique issues. While I realize that everyone is experiencing problems during this trying time, I felt like I should document mine.