Info ~ travel musings for the masses

Posts from the Life Category

The alarm buzzed, I rolled over, shutting off the annoying chime I set it to like I do every morning. I sat up, started to move my feet from the bed to the floor and all of the sudden it felt like I was floating. “I must still be really tired” I told myself as I put my feet on the floor and stood up. Then I was reaching for the wall balancing myself. Straight to the restroom and then back to bed, the whole time feeling like I was falling over. I send an e-mail to my boss: “Not feeling well, will work from home today.”

That’s how my Friday started. It is now Tuesday, four days after I first experienced the worst vertigo in my life, and that vertigo is still around, rearing it’s ugly head any time I try to do something quickly. Turn my head; Falling. Bend over to grab something; Falling. Rollover in bed; Falling. Normalcy seems to have come to a screeching halt on Friday. The doctor’s office was booked full when all of this hit so my wife took me to a non-emergency clinic, neither of us put vertigo into the “critical” column, ruling out the emergency room. I’ll just say the drive there involved a lot of nausea (and its results).

The staff were prompt in looking at me and quickly ruled out a neurological issue. They settled on something I had never heard of, vestibular neuritis. Essentially it is an inflammation of the inner ear, usually caused by a viral infection. There are not a lot treatment options, basically control the vertigo, nausea, vomiting, etc. as much as possible. The staff at the clinic said it could be a week or a month until it dissipates. The vertigo medication has done little to relieve my symptoms but my body seems to have adjusted to the nausea, at least somewhat.

After a short discussion, my wife and I decide a second opinion is in order and I made a follow-up appointment with my family practice for Monday night. We went and the doctor again confirms no neurological worries as well as the vestibular neuritis diagnosis. My vertigo is not dependent enough of direction to be BPPV, which has a few different treatment options. There is also a slight chance that what I have is something called Meniere’s Disease, but the doctor wants to hold off testing to see if my symptoms dissipate.

Today, Tuesday, has been a little worse than the last two days. There is ringing in both of my ears and I don’t seem as “sharp” as I did yesterday. Doing little things like taking a shower have become tedious adventures that require my full attention. I think the only way to describe it is to imagine being on a Merry-go-Round and spinning as fast as you can, then stepping off and trying to do your taxes. Now apply that to everything you do. Even this post is hard to write. Focusing is not easy when you are putting a lot of brain power into making sure you don’t fall over. I am otherwise healthy though, so when we walked down to the car to go to the office, I’m sure I just looked drunk.

I am otherwise healthy. I have to remember that. This puts on hold a lot of things that I had planned and it triples the amount of work my wife is doing on day to day basis but she has taken it in stride. We can hope and pray this dissipates quickly but if it doesn’t, we keep moving together. Well, I’ll probably be a few steps behind her holding her hand, balancing myself.

Portland, Oregon

Houston, I grew up on your suburban streets. You have been my home for the better part of 25 years. But, it is time for a change. We’ve grown apart the past five or six years, my work taking me to Chicago, New York, Atlanta, and D.C. for most of the week. I would return on Thursday evenings and enjoy a fun weekend. That has happened less and less the last couple of years and I blame you. You have grown too big too fast and I long for the Houston of my youth. Not only have you grown, you have become more expensive, yet added little in the way of benefits. All of this, coupled with the heat, has made you less enjoyable.

So, my family and I are leaving for greener (literally and figuratively) pastures in Oregon. We are giving up the 100 degree summers for 80 degree summers. We are giving up Saturday afternoon traffic for Saturday afternoon hiking. We are giving up newscasts where the nightly report is a shooting or stabbing for a nightly newscast where the big story is “What to do with all that cauliflower”. We are slowing down. We are going to enjoy life and our city, not have our city rush us from one place to the next, trying to keep up with the Joneses.

We are giving up this:

Houston Skyline

For this:

Multnomah Falls

Yes, the news is true. We are leaving Houston for Portland come July. With my work being focused on traveling to customer sites, we can be based anywhere there is an airport. We are ready for a change of scenery. We are ready for somewhere where 30 minutes away we can go for a hike and see waterfalls like Multnomah Falls pictured above. I am willing to put up with rain and gray days for the opportunity to have summers that are spectacular and give my family the ability to be outdoors most of the time.

This has been a long time coming. We had our hearts set on moving to Berlin but I was not able to find an opportunity with my company there, so we started exploring cities in the U.S. We have always loved Portland and on our most recent trip back, we knew it was where we wanted to live. It is a big city that doesn’t feel like a big city. The downtown is well laid out, the people are friendly, and the weather, even when it is raining, is pleasant.

Of course, we are sad to leave our family and friends in Houston, but we will certainly be back to visit. This decision was not an easy one but we do believe we are doing what is right for us as a family.

That is all as far as Portland news is concerned. Now back to your regularly scheduled travel post!

We have hit a bit of a conundrum when it comes to planning a birthday trip for my wife and I. We are looking to travel in March and are torn between splitting our time in Seoul, South Korea and Osaka and Kyoto, Japan, spending the entire time in Korea, spending the entire time in Japan, or going somewhere completely different. We both like the idea of a beach but know that we would both go stir crazy after about three days. Now, if there’s a beach destination that also has some city exploration close by (within a 2-3 hour flight) then we may just be sold on that.

I have gone back and forth on the different options and just need to make a decision. Any ideas or suggestions? I am open to ideas and would love to know how other folks have explored Asia. If you are asking “why Osaka?”, after a bit of reading, it is definitely a food city and I love the possibility of exploring a town by simply eating my way through it.

“The mass is cancer. Ringo has one or two months left.”

At first I stared at the text message, still trying to focus on the conversation that had suddenly started sounding like faint background noise. Then, my mind grasped the meaning of the message and I felt my eyes water. Wait, what? I’m in the middle of a client meeting, why am getting choked up over a dog? He is not just a dog, that’s why. He is a family member, a friend, and my little buddy.


Ringo has been a member of our family since I was in high school. Right off the bat he and I were friends. We did not do the stereotypical dog and young boy things that you see in movies. No, he would lay under my feet while I was reading or on the computer. He would follow me around the house, sometimes coming close to knocking me over when I did not realize he was behind me. But most often, we played a game of chase. Ringo loves showing off and a chase is the best way to get him to strut his stuff. At the same time, Ringo is an ornery guy. A sprinter. He loves to wait for the front door to open just to take off and explore the neighborhood.

Sure, to most people, dogs are dogs. But Ringo, and other family pets for that matter, represent something else. Ringo is a confidant, a silent friend. As I type this, all of the memories I have had with my friend are overwhelming my thoughts. My one hope, to be home and with him when it is time for his final rest.

A delay. We’re sitting in the Bremen train station trying to figure out what is going. We have run down one set of stairs and up another to get to a new platform and now it looks like our train will actually leave from a completely different platform. Welcome to regional train travel to remote parts of Germany.

Originally, the goal was to make it to Bremerhaven, a port city on the northern coast of Germany west of Denmark, before 2pm. Why you ask, are we going to Bremerhaven? It is the city where my wife was born. Her parents were stationed there as Air Force personnel and we wanted to see the city, the barracks, and just visit a little bit of our family history.

Everyone is standing around a Deutsche Bahn employee. I try to listen with my minimal German skills and hear what is keeping us from making it to our destination. Sadly, it sounds like an accident on the tracks to Bremerhaven ended in a fatality. The official assures us that the train will leave in 15 minutes.

Sure enough, 15 minutes later and we are onboard a train and moving toward Bremerhaven. The train is packed with all of that day’s passengers to Bremerhaven being onboard. We stop at two or three stops and everything seems normal. At the last stop, in a town called Lunestedt, an announcement is made that this is the final stop and everyone must leave the train. What I had missed in the earlier discussion with the Deutsche Bahn official was that from Lunestedt all passengers would be required to take a bus the rest of the way to Bremerhaven.

The tiny train station in Lunestedt is overflowing with people, a light rain driving them to take cover under the shelter for the bicycles. It becomes clear that only one bus is in use to shuttle passengers to Bremerhaven and the roundtrip for the bus takes 30 minutes. There is no queue for the bus, when it shows up people just scramble for it.

I start asking around to see if anyone speaks English and happen upon a woman about our age. She explains that it is going to be a long wait but that her boyfriend is coming to pick her up, then taking pity on us, asks if we’d like a ride. Normally, I would hesitate, but she seems like a nice lady and the line for the bus is overwhelming.

Twenty minutes later and the woman’s boyfriend drives up. At first I do a double take, then a triple take. The car is a four dour sedan with a hatchback but there are three other people already in it, the boyfriend and his two friends. The hatchback area is stuffed full of luggage, clothes, and other small items. The boyfriend gets out of the car, kisses his girlfriend, then shakes my hand and takes our suitcase, shoving it on top of the stuff in the back of the car.

I look at my wife. I am sure she is trying to telepathically communicate her uncomfortable feeling but at this point, we’re committed. We stuff ourselves into the car and the music starts. No one in the car is talking, just listening to death metal as we drive through the northern German countryside. My brain was trying to do the math on how to escape should these good Samaritans turn out to have nefarious plans. It, my brain, came to the conclusion to push my wife out of the car then quickly follow.

Thirty minutes later and we’re arriving in Bremerhaven and the first real conversation with us is started. “Do you know where your hotel is?”. “What’s it called? Oh, we know that place”, and five minutes later, there’s the hotel. We get out and I am trying to figure out the proper thing to do. I pull out 30 Euros and hand it to the boyfriend, thank him for driving us and my wife and I breathe a sigh of relief.

Looking back at this experience a couple of years later, I wonder if I would do the same thing today. In one word, probably. We were desperate. Was it the right thing to do? Probably not. But we have a funny story to share with you and our kids. And last but not least, these were actually really nice people who went out of their way to help us, who would have otherwise been stranded in a small town in northern Germany.