Trip Planning in 3 Parts: Vienna

Trip Planning in 3 Parts: Vienna

Part 1: How I Plan a Trip-Vienna October 2019

The most important question I ask myself during trip planning is “why am I going?” Followed closely by “given my intent, how and where will I spend my time?”

After the initial two weeks through Germany and the Netherlands, (with a somewhat organized group) I will strike out alone to Vienna.  There, I will revisit the history of Inge’s life through photos. She was our family’s high school exchange student, living with us for the academic year . I’ll focuse on her life during that school year as well as my “gap” year two years later when I worked and traveled in Europe.

In addition to visiting with Erich (Inge’s widower) I want to sample the vegan scene. I requested Erich’s help in defining neighborhoods that were both convenient to his location (on the U2 line) and near the many vegan restaurants.  He responded with the map pictured here,including his hand printed additions.  Vegan options are in red.

Map matching is key for trip planning as maps come in all sizes and scales.  I’ve learned:

  1. To pattern match the arch of rivers,
  2. The location of bridges and transit tracks.
  3. The distinct patterns of roadways and parks.

As will be true with Erich’s map, I will hand note the locations of other desired attractions on his map, giving me a consolidated version of my “trip plan” on one large page.  While there are likely apps which will do all of this, I never learn as much context about location unless there is a paper version involved, it’s something about being “hands-on!”

Once the above steps are complete, the next step is accommodations:

I spent a few hours researching AirBNB locations.  After years of use, an obvious choice did not emerge for two reasons.

  1. There is always a cost:  Regardless of and in addition to the severity of the cancellation policy an AirBNB owner requires, the customer will always pay the “service fee” on cancellations after 48 hours from booking.  This can range from $25 to nearly $100.  Hotels don’t charge a fee if you cancel prior to 48 hours of check in (occasionally longer).
  2.  You often don’t know what you are getting:  It often takes work to determine the genuine perceptions of past customers.  Perhaps due to the early e-commerce precedent established by Ebay, it’s customary to give hosts ratings of 5 almost across the board.  Then, if you are lucky, an honest guest will give you the real story in their comments about excess street noise, a noxious odor, a seemingly unsafe neighborhood, a location that is not as described. You have to read all the comments.  All of my target places had disqualifying traits and a service fee penalty should I cancel.

I switched my strategy to include apartment hotels which are plentiful and with a more realistic set of reviews.  I found one that seems appropriate: its on Erich’s map, a short walk from the airport train terminal and has all the features I need (kitchenette and laundry facilities).  Since my Vienna trip duration is still fluid, I can adjust my dates without penalty up until 2 days prior to visit.

This choice also enabled me to check the walking distances to transit stations, restaurants and attractions.  You can’t do that with AirBNB until you have made the purchase, often finding that your location is not really within walking distance as described by your hosts.

Part 2: How will I spend my time?  My next stop is usually Trip Advisor, Expedia or the “36 hours” feature of the New York Times to determine which attractions might offer the right mix of history, art and culture.  What historic events put Vienna “on the map” of world history?  Certainly the numerous wars with the Turks, as well as the Nazi occupation and their ransacking of museums for art and antiques.

Since both Trip Advisor and Expedia are in the business of selling tours, it’s likely their rank ordering of venues is partly cued to potential sales.  What I prefer (and have done this time) is to purchase slightly older tour books off of Ebay, Paperbackswap or at local thrift or library book sales.  I’ll review them and then cut them up to provide concise take along content with its own set of maps.  Easy to toss or pass along to other tourists once heading to my next stop.

I scored an Eyewitness guide to Vienna for about $5 from Thrift books.com  Since I also found books on Switzerland and Lyon (all totaling about $11) I was able to avoid a shipping charge.

While I await delivery, I have determined that the only Vienna history museum of interest, for a short review of historical significance, is the War museum.   Lurking in the fine print of museum reviews are many “only go here if you…” admonitions.  Given these hints, It appears that the only art museum of interest is the Belvedere Palace which houses several of the Gustav Klimt masterpieces as well as contemporary art.

Using Klimt as a cue, I searched for historical novels that reflect his era and found 2 including the book basis for the Helen Mirren film “Woman in Gold.”  The other is a fictitious account of the painting of that piece and the possible romance involved.  I intend to have that paperback in hand while visiting Belvedere Palace.  I anticipate finding reading nooks where I can take a breather, while taking in the majesty of those priceless paintings and reading key passages that make paintings come alive.  Both are part of an additional Thriftbooks order en route.

The final element are live music venues and events as well as parks and forests.  I’ve found that these are best sourced on site.  As Vienna has live music most days, I will be able to find some appropriate Mozart or Beethoven to help complete the cultural context.

City Tour Cards: Once you start to search venues in any city you will immediately start seeing ads for “Target City Tour Cards”.  These cite the “savings” you will experience by purchasing a multi-day pass which usually includes local transit.  I almost never spring for these “deals”.  The numbers only work if you plan to spend all of your time moving from museum to museum (the route of the less experienced) and their cost never accounts for senior pricing for museums or transit.  These are rarely worth it if you are north of 60.

Part 3: Putting It All Together

Once I have completed the above, I like to place everything of interest along with their opening hours (and closed days) on one of the giveaway maps available at tourist offices and hotels.  It’s my final hands on perspective building exercise and is quickly completed the first evening in a new city.  At that point, the weather for several days is known and I can determine which will be walking tours, or rainy museum days.

My final plan for Vienna has me staying there for 4 nights,  leaving me with one less day than originally anticipated.  All of a sudden my expansive two and a half weeks “on the lam” is filled up.  Oh yes, and all but three of those days will include access to a kitchen so my minimalist food kit will earn its place in my one bag.

Next up:  the Chateau where I worked for two months when just 20 years old.

 

 

Plantstock 2019

Plantstock 2019

My journey as a WFPB advocate began at Plantstock 2016.  This year’s event was my fourth in a row! During those three full years, I have lost over 50 pounds, become as fit as I’ve ever been and completely shifted my lifestyle.

Every year I say the same thing and I’m always right:  this was the best event I’ve ever attended!  It continues to improve.  What made it even better this year?

The Black Mountain facility was ours alone.  We did not have to share space, parking or food service with another group. This contributed to a more peaceful atmosphere and  eased parking and shuttling items to/from cars.

The schedule was designed to provide three choices of programming for each of five time slots.  This broke up the crowd, got us moving between sessions (with 15 minute breaks) and we were able to choose among many worthwhile options.

As a result I missed two thirds of the choices, so I  purchased the just released video streaming coverage at Teachable.com. To access click here https://bit.ly/31Mhrsa.  It is well worth the additional investment covering all but two of the presentations.

There was a sense of impending breakthrough this year:  “The Game Changers” film (https://gamechangersmovie.com/) is scheduled for release on September 16, which will create more buzz about the WFPB connection to optimal health and athletic performance.

During his remarks, John Mackey (CEO Whole Foods) was quite optimistic about the implications of current national interventions like The Blue Zones, and Team Sherzai’s work on Dementia and Alzheimer’s.  Finally, Burger King introduced a plant based burger to all of its 6700 U.S. locations the week of August 1st.

I can’t seem to get enough of the Engine2 magic.  I signed up for my 5th Plantstock to be held in Black Mountain, N.C., August 14-16, 2020.

Finding Compatible WFPB Travel Companions Part 2

Finding Compatible WFPB Travel Companions
Part 2 
Among my travel companions, many of us have adopted a Whole Foods Plant Based Lifestyle. (WFPB)  This is the combination of plant based nutrition with limited or no salt, sugar or added oils.
We seek like minded travel companionship as it’s easier to plan and prepare for a few, than for a solo traveler.  We also seek to connect with those who have similar ideals because it limits our ability to find the right mix of self catering and targeted restaurants.  Dietary differences can lead to conflict.
Here are some criteria for WFPB travel compatibility.  Much of the success/failure of adopting a lifestyle change can be attributed to a few predictable personality traits.
Intellect:  Does the person have the intellect to understand the benefits of changing to or maintaining their WFPB lifestyle?  Can they postpone/delay gratification for the requisite 2-4 weeks needed to forge new habits?  Do they grasp the longer term but highly predictable future state of their health if they hang onto the typical traditions and patterns of the SAD (Standard American Diet) (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, cancer)
Social conformity:  Does this individual feel compelled to “go along to get along” in their social circles?  Do they cringe at the thought of not eating what is served them, or worse, asking for what they need/want in advance?  Will their lack of resolve tempt you to make choices you try to avoid?
Problem solving:  Can he/she anticipate future events and possible outcomes and make immediate contingency plans?   If not, are they sufficiently trustful of your experience to let you take the lead on those occasions or will they attempt to second guess or out-smart?   Would they end up getting on the right train heading in the wrong direction?
Planning:  Does this person anticipate the likelihood of late day hunger, arriving at a destination where there are no restaurants open or being on a delayed flight where the only options are packaged junk?  Are they prepared by having ideal food choices with them or does this become another excuse for reverting to SAD?  Or creating unnecessary group drama due to lack of preparation?
Compatibility Test #2:  How well do your “scores” on this list of criteria match up with those you are considering as travel companions?  Food choices are a major part of every day, and traveling requires more advance planning than  home life.  How willing are you to become the responsible one, the default “tour guide” if others don’t anticipate and  plan in ways similar to your’s?
Traveling with Friends
Long term friends can often become compatible travel partners but it’s not a guarantee.  For those with whom I have traveled we have almost a secret language.  Plans are made in advance but the option to change and flex is always present.  There is no pressure to “keep moving and see it all” as we know that the ideal day is a sampling of choices, paired with a good mid day meal and the option to slow down for a couple of hours when needed (those siestas have their place!)  We often factor in movies or film events at museums as a way to take a breather.  If someone needs to drop out for any reason, the attitude is always one of acceptance.
Compatibility Test #3:  Have you discussed planning for the events of the day/days/weeks that you will be traveling?  Do you have similar views on how much to see, how long to spend in any museum or sites that will meet your collective needs?  Are you all similarly punctual?  Have you reviewed a comprehensive list of potential activities and roughed out a general outline of possibilities factoring in days of the week (most museums closed Monday or Tuesday) and the need for advance purchase tickets?
Are you traveling with the concept of being “friends” when you might be better off using a roommate model?  Friends feel compelled to do everything together; room mates make some together plans along with sufficient solo or dyad plans to break it up?
If you are heading to London, have you looked up the dates for “half-term” school holidays when museums and attractions are bursting with locals keeping their children occupied?  Looked at Bank Holidays for additional closures?  Most attraction websites will list closures.  A quick “school holidays target city” will help you avoid travel when school is out.
Reviewing this list its easy for me to understand why so many friends have dubbed me “an excellent planner” when I think of myself as horrible on detail.  What they might mean is that I’m strong on anticipation and optimization in the moment and for that I agree.  I leave the details to tripit.com or the ever handy spreadsheet.  Or my great virtual assistant Kim with whom I have joyfully worked for years!
Finding WFPB compatible travel partners is a long term goal.  If you resonate with Traveling Plant Powered and our topics, follow me on social media. On Instagram @travelingplantpowered. 
Watch for posts of future destinations in 2020.  I already know where I’ll be in late June and early July 2020. Lets connect. I welcome your comments. Happy Traveling!