GypsyNesting in Your Own Backyard

As much as we love our GypsyNester lifestyle, we understand that chucking it all and hitting the highway is not something everybody can do. Many of us have ties that can make it difficult — if not impossible — to pull that off. With that in mind, we like to periodically point out that there are plenty of great GypsyNesting opportunities right in your own backyard.

A plethora of possibilities are playing out nearby no matter where you call home. You just have to know where to look… CONTINUE READING >>

With the weather turning warm, everybody’s hearts start turning to thoughts of lust.  No, no, wanderlust, so we thought we would replay this post about how to getaway without going too far away.

As much as we love our GypsyNester lifestyle, we understand that chucking it all and hitting the highway is not something everybody can do.

Many of us have ties that can make it difficult — if not impossible — to pull that off.

With that in mind, we like to periodically point out that there are plenty of great GypsyNesting opportunities right in your own backyard.

A plethora of possibilities are playing out nearby no matter where you call home.

You just have to know where to look.

Watch for signs, look for fliers or peruse the local press. Check the newspaper’s Living or Entertainment sections or pick up the area’s free weekly “What’s Happening” type magazine.

Read the ads, not just the articles. That’s how we found the Combine Demolition Derby at The Hillsdale County Fair and that was more fun than any humans should ever be allowed to have.

Sports fans can find diversions in any season, right in the area. Local high schools have “Big Games” almost every weekend. The unbridled excitement of youth is contagious. Just don’t get caught making out under the bleachers. Embarrassing at any age.

Got a college nearby? If so, great competition is happening almost everyday if you look beyond the “big” sports. Check out a track meet, softball game, tennis or golf match, gymnastics or swimming meet, soccer, rugby… who knows, you could even become a fencing fanatic.

The price is usually right too… free. For a fee, the bigger games are a blast too.

Labatt Park in London, CanadaWe have had a ball at NCAA football in the fall, basketball and hockey in the winter and what better way to spend a beautiful spring afternoon than to sit in the sun at a baseball game?

Speaking of baseball, is there a minor league squad nearby? If so, check them out. Quality play at a discount price with the added bonus of close proximity to the umps for ease of sharing “ideas” on the job he is doing.

Live in or near a college town? Universities provide any number of diversions that otherwise may not be available in smaller cities.

The theater and music departments are performing, independent movies are showing and guest lecturers are lecturing right now at schools all over the country.Go to a concert!

College towns also attract concert tours that might normally only hit the bigger cities. In our travels we caught both Bob Dylan and The Eagles in mid-sized, midwestern college towns.

While on campus, pick up a class schedule — something may tickle your fancy.

The Mustard Museum in Mt. Horab, WI

Almost every burg has a museum of some kind, a community theater, historic district and certainly restaurants.

There must be a restaurant around that you’ve never tried — try it or better yet, try several in an “Appy Crawl.”

This is a GypsyNester favorite in any city. Pick two or three interesting establishments and order appetizers and crawl from place to place. We find this a great way to sample several menus in one evening without destroying our credit rating.

Additionally, it forces us to walk between eateries, burning off calories as we go.

How about State or National Parks and Monuments in your vicinity?

They were set aside for a reason — there is something scenic, unique or historic protected there. We have never been disappointed on any visit to any park. Pack up a tent and get back to nature, find a romantic lodge or rent an RV.

Who says camping can’t include soft beds, a full kitchen and a big screen TV? Now that’s roughing it!

If none of these ideas strike your fancy — fear not — we saved the best for last. For a guaranteed good time, just look for an event that has the word “fest” tacked onto the end of it. Nothing says wingding like the suffix “fest.”Crab Fest in Port Angeles, Washington

Close off the streets, set up the booths, bring on the bands and the deep-fried grub on-a- stick, it’s party time!

We prefer food-fests (like Mikey, we’ll try anything) but every “fest” proposes the potential for fun and frivolity. We’ve partaken in flower fests, oyster festspumpkin festsalmon fests, hamburger festbean fests, manatee fests, broom corn fests, magic fests, a gizzard fest and even a testicle festival, or Testy Festy (Rocky Mountain Oysters – ba-by!).

Montreal Jazz FestOn those occasions when organizers may have missed the golden opportunity to slap “fest” onto their name, don’t hold it against them. Fairs, carnivals and bazaars have possibilities too. A street fair can be nearly as funas a fest.

We like to think that these smaller celebrations are just learning to walk before they run. Someday they may well proudly proclaim the title of “fest.”

Our idea is that GypsyNesting is all about experiencing new things and embracing the differences that abound in our world, so here’s one last idea:

Why not hit the big city if you live in the country or kick back with some time in the country if you’re breathing that big city air? Look around, meet the citizenry, try the local fare.

With an open mind and strong stomach, you might just like it.

Your turn:
Did we miss anything? Please leave a comment and share your ideas!

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Fearless Bucket List Adventures

Whether we display it in a prominent place or keep it stuffed in a drawer, save it on a hard drive or only in the back of our minds, we all have a list of places we want to go before we make our way into the great beyond.
One thing we’ve found in our discussions with fellow travelers is that… CONTINUE READING >> 

Whether we display it in a prominent place or keep it stuffed in a drawer, save it on a hard drive or only in the back of our minds, we all have a list of places we want to go before we make our way into the great beyond. For many people, this is better known as a bucket list.

One thing we’ve found in our discussions with fellow travelers is that the adventures on those checklists tend to take place in some pretty exotic locations. Fulfilling our lifelong aspirations often requires trekking to far-flung outposts in remote corners of the globe.

Planning a visit to some of those isolated regions can lead to a level of anxiety that often prevents people from pursuing the dream. All too often we find ourselves asking, “What if something happens?” 

Turning a once-in-a-lifetime experience into a reality doesn’t have to be a daunting proposition if we take the proper precautions. One surefire way to relieve the apprehension and forge ahead with confidence is to address those pesky “What if?” doubts ahead of time.

What If I Face a Medical Emergency That Is Beyond the Local Hospital’s Ability to Handle?

Accidents and sickness know no boundaries. Mishaps happen, and no matter how cautious we are, some dreaded tropical bug or unfamiliar virus can attack. Usually the local health care system is adequate, but sometimes the only solution is to get to first-rate facilities as soon as possible.

That’s when state-of-the-art medical transport becomes a necessity. It’s a situation that typical travel insurance won’t address, but a MedjetHorizon membership will.

Members have worldwide access to medical aircraft that are staffed with professionals and ready to transport them to the hospital of their choice back in their home country. MedjetHorizon can even arrange special intensive-care aircraft should the need arise, and in most cases a family member can fly along with the patient.

What If Political Conditions in the Country Deteriorate While I’m on My Trip?


Image via Flickr by Meghan Rutherford

These days, political unrest can be a real concern. Many of the world’s wonders are located in regions that are somewhat less than stable. Many times conditions can drastically change between the time we book a trip and when we travel.

We found ourselves in Istanbul during the Gezi Park protests in 2013. Even though our hotel was only a couple of blocks from the action, everything worked out fine. But can we count on always being that lucky? Maybe not, so MedjetHorizon has an international crisis response network designed to perform in those types of circumstances should we not be so fortunate next time.

The Crisis Response Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with experienced travel security experts dedicated to solving problems big or small. They can assist anywhere in the world with everything from finding legal representation and helping sort out passport and visa issues to an evacuation during a coup or terrorist attack.

What If I Can’t Find a Doctor?

Forget the phonebook. MedjetHorizon’s experts can recommend doctors and hospitals almost anywhere and furnish accurate contact information. Not only that, but they can also make sure that the folks back home are fully informed with emergency communication to the family.

What If I Can’t Explain My Problem?

Another thing we’ve learned firsthand is that the language barrier can pose problems, especially when seeking health care. On several occasions, we’ve found ourselves in the midst of elaborate pantomime performances while trying to obtain a remedy whose name did not appear in our handy travel dictionary.

MedjetAssist representatives can provide members with translation and interpretation over the phone in these sorts of situations. This ensures that you get the right medicine and save a lot of time and potential embarrassment.

With this peace of mind, the only “What if?” left to check off of the list will be what if we can travel where ever we want without a care in the world?

Cavorting Along the Camino de Santiago

As we traveled across the Basque Country we came upon the Camino Santiago, known in English as the Way of St. James, almost every day.
The paths originate all over Europe and merge as they go until they all reach their destination in the city of Galicia on the… CONTINUE READING >> 

A big thank you to VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations for providing this adventure, as always, all opinions are our own.

As we traveled across the Basque Country we came upon the Camino Santiago, known in English as the Way of St. James, almost every day.

See all of our adventures in the Basque Country here.

We encountered it on mountain tops, along the seaside, on city streets, and across international borders.

Each year hundreds of thousands of pilgrims make a trek on foot along this famous system of trails. The Camino is a catch all name for all of the paths that originate all over Europe and merge as they go until they all reach their destination in the city of Galicia on the northwestern coast of Spain.

A sign points “The Way” through Hondarribia, Spain on the Camino de Santiago.

The tradition began over a thousand years ago, when the legend spread that the remains of Saint James the Great, Santiago in Spanish, were buried at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.  Just how the apostle ended up on the Spanish coast is a tale that seems to have a few versions.

The stories range from the mundane, with his disciples bringing him back to Spain, to fanciful sagas with the body flying, or sailing on an angel-captained ship. Somehow they all end with him washing ashore covered in scallop shells.

At some point the pilgrims began to identify themselves with the shells as a way to recognize each other, and now it is common to see scallops attached to their backpacks.

We noticed this on our first day in San Sebastián, and then later found the shell symbol used on many markers showing the way.

Read more about San Sebastián.

Many of these pilgrims walk hundreds of miles, over weeks or even months in a physical, as well as spiritual, journey of self-discovery. There is even a movie, The Way starring Martin Sheen, about how walking the Camino affects the lives of those who make the pilgrimage.

Compared with these dedicated voyagers, our experience with the Camino was much less dynamic. We made our most extensive hike one afternoon along Mount Jaizkibel near the city of Hondarribia on a part of the coastal route that is considered to be the oldest of the trails.

This particular path dates back more than 1,000 years and is believed to be the first established route used by religious travelers.

Unfortunately, the weather was less than cooperative for our hike. It was almost impossible to keep things dry.

Low clouds and heavy rain completely obscured our view of the surrounding mountains on one side, and the Bay of Biscay on the other.

Basically, the only thing we saw clearly was that we were glad we had trekking poles in these conditions.

We did have the chance to meet and speak with some heartier voyagers from Canada who were making the entire trek from France.

As impressed as we were, after a couple of miles we were soaked and ready to opt for motorized transportation. I know, I know, we’re wimps.

Luckily, we had the chance to return to this section of the Camino a few days later on a gorgeous clear day. It was amazing to see what we had missed.

From the ridge we could look out all the way down the coast of Spain and see where it makes a hard left turn to the north, becoming the coast of France. This “L” of shoreline is what forms the Bay of Biscay that stretched out before us.

Our next encounter with the Camino was around the city of Tolosa, high in the Pyrenees Mountains. We followed it along the Oria River through town, and then up into the countryside nearby.

At the end of our journey we had one last rendezvous with the road in Bilbao, the unofficial capital of the Basque region. They Camino runs directly through the Casco Viejo, the city’s old quarter, as an ancient cobblestone street.

It passes several churches, the main one being the Santiago Cathedral from the fourteenth century.

The name is in honor of the Camino de Santiago, because the northern branch of the Way of Saint James was already here when the church was made.

Read more about Bilbao.

All in all we figured that we walked about a dozen miles along the Way, not even close to qualifying as a pilgrimage.

It was enough for us to know that we are glad we did.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in the Basque Country here.

See all of our adventures in Spain.

A big thank you to VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations for providing this adventure, as always, all opinions are our own.

This post contains sponsored links.

A Collection of Castles in Germany

Cruising along the Moselle and Rhine Rivers unveils an unbelievable concentration of castles.

It seemed as though we never traveled more than a mile or so before spotting the next fortress… CONTINUE READING >> 

 Written aboard the Longship Odin on her river voyage with stops in Paris, Luxembourg, Trier, Cochem, Heidelberg, Wurzburg, Rothenburg, Nuremberg, and Prague. Thanks to Viking River Cruises for inviting us along and providing this adventure! As always, all opinions are our own.

Read about our entire Viking river adventure here. 

Cruising along the Moselle and Rhine Rivers unveils an unbelievable concentration of castles.

It seemed as though we never traveled more than a mile or so before spotting the next fortress. In fact, much of the time we were never out of sight of at least one castle.

Beginning in the Moselle valley, where some of the best Rieslings in the world grow, we would spend the next few days casting our eyes from riverbank to riverbank seeking the next fortification.

Landshut Castle

In the charming medieval village of Bernkastel we docked for a night time visit directly under Landshut Castle. This classic was constructed in 1277 but burned, along with all of its treasures, in 1692.

Imperial castle Reichsburg

The city of Cochem is overseen by the imposing Imperial castle Reichsburg on the hill high above. Actually, saying castle Reichsburg is redundant, like saying castle Reichs castle, because burg means castle.

But by any name it is a fantastic sight looming over the town.

Thurant Castle

Beginning in the mid-13th century, Thurant Castle was the bastion of the archbishops from Cologne and Trier, which is why it looks like two castles stuck together.

Since the 16th century the double castle has gradually fallen into disrepair, until the last hundred years or so when it has been partially restored.

Marksburg Castle

Marksburg Castle is one of the few castles in Germany, that has never been destroyed.

When we looked down from its perch high above the river it was easy to see how no invaders ever managed to ransack this stronghold.

Inside we found eight-hundred years of well-preserved history, and even though most of the artifacts were brought in from other places, they provide an excellent look into life in the middle ages.

Among them, eye-opening displays of torture, no wait, let’s call them criminal punishment devices, that harken back to the days when Marksburg served as a prison. Certainly looked as though harsh sentences were the order of the day back then.

Schönburg Castle

Schönburg Castle stands guard above the medieval town of Oberwesel in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley and dates back as far as the year 911.  As with many of these strongholds, the idea was to levy customs upon the traffic on the river.

Rheinstein Castle

Rheinstein Castle goes back to the late 13th century, when the archbishop of Mainz decided to collect some tariffs from the commerce on the river.

Of course it also provided protection from the other castles down the river.

Its heyday ran until the 16th century, before falling into ruin.

Pfalzgrafenstein Castle

Pfalzgrafenstein Castle has one mouthful of a name, so it is usually known simply as the Pfalz. This was another toll castle erected by King Ludwig the Bavarian in 1326.

To extract the fee, a chain was pulled across the river to block the boats. Traders who refused to pay would be thrown in the dungeon until they coughed up… or maybe croaked.

Heidelberger Schloss

While Heidelberg is on a different river, the Neckar, we included it because the Heidelberger Schloss found itself in the middle of much of European history. This palace / fortress has been occupied by kings and emperors of Germany, Bavaria, and the Holy Roman Empire.

See more about charming Heidelberg here.

Read about our entire Viking river adventure here. 

Find the rest of our escapades across Germany here.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

 Written aboard the Longship Odin on her river voyage with stops in Paris, Luxembourg, Trier, Cochem, Heidelberg, Wurzburg, Rothenburg, Nuremberg, and Prague. Thanks to Viking River Cruises for inviting us along and providing this adventure! As always, all opinions are our own.

To Drive or Not to Drive, That is the Question

Renting a car and taking off across a foreign land can be daunting even to the most seasoned travelers.

Before the days of the internet we had to hunt down… CONTINUE READING >> 

Renting a car and taking off across a foreign land can be daunting even to the most seasoned travelers.

Visions of confusion at the counter mingle with the dread of ending up lost, or worse, crashed.

Then there is the prospect of finding a hotel in a strange land. The first time we tried it, over twenty years ago, we certainly suffered from those anxieties. But now it is much easier, thanks to deals like these Travelodge Offers.

Before the days of the internet we had to hunt down one of the very few companies available for international rentals at that time, then called, faxed, and even overnighted documents across the continents to secure a rental.

Once we were driving, we would simply hope to find a good place to stay along the way, and hope even more that we could find a good deal.

Now, thanks to the internet, all of the reservation process can be handled online in one short sitting. That still leaves the driving of the car though. Here we found most of our fears to be unfounded.

Other than the difficulty of reading signs in unknown languages, safely operating a vehicle is about the same on either side of The Atlantic. The same basic principles apply, obey the laws, pay attention, be careful, drive defensively. (see our guides on driving in Italy and the Czech Republic)

There are a number of big advantages to renting a car to visit Europe as opposed to other modes of travel. Driving is often the best way to see some of Europe’s most famous sites. How else could we have traced the route of the Monaco Gran Prix, or motored over magnificent mountain passes in The Swiss Alps?


The perfect vehicle for an alpine crossing because he had the biggest windshield of any car we’d ever seen. It extended all the way up to the middle of the roof. Kind of a sunroof / windshield combo. Perfect for viewing the mountainous majesty.

WATCH: A beautiful drive though the Alps

WATCH: We traced the route of the Monaco Grand Prix!

A car has also allowed us to experience all sorts of treasures off the beaten path. Places we never would have seen if we stuck to the regularly scheduled modes of travel. Hidden gems like Wangen in southern Germany, the tiny principality of Liechtenstein, or a festival day in Castelletto d’Orba, Italy.

Staying in these smaller towns can be a real money saver. Hotels are generally much less expensive away from the tourist centers, and gassing up a small car sure beats buying train and plane tickets.


Our lovely, affordable hotel in Wangen, Germany

We’ve found that the simple act of driving through a country has given us a much better view of what everyday life there is really like. Whether pulling into an Italian truck stop or wandering around the Czech countryside, the connection is something no organized tour can provide.

WATCH: Italian “truck stops” are far fancier than their U.S. counterparts!

WATCH: The countryside in the Czech Republic is a beautiful drive

We must admit that one of our biggest apprehensions about driving in Europe was entering into the big cities. We’d heard horror stories about the traffic and it turns out they are mostly true.

In Rome, every signal is treated like starting lights for a Vespa and Fiat drag race to the next one, and in Paris the motorcycle mayhem on the freeways will frazzle the steadiest of nerves. In fact, navigating through city traffic can be difficult even in the smaller urban areas, so we generally just don’t do it anymore.

In the small and even medium sized cities it is much easier to simply park the car and walk to all of the sights, and when it comes to wading into the insanity of major metropolitan traffic, we have learned to stay on the outskirts of town and use public transit to explore the big cities. Subway, tram and bus systems have always served us well throughout our travels.

Then, when the time comes to find our way to our next destination, even getting lost on the way out of town can be an adventure.

WATCH: We got lost in Prague. Seriously lost.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: Have we inspired you to take a European roadtrip?

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