Travel Replenishes the Writer’s Soul

Jordan Dane

I have my first real vacation coming up in October. It’s been a long time since I’ve traveled to another country. When my husband was alive, he had his passport but never wanted to travel outside the U.S. I wanted him to see some of the countries I visited after high school but he never had the curiosity for international travel. It’s a shame. I would’ve liked to experience another adventure with him. I lost him in 2014 and have missed him every day. It’s been a process of redefining who I am without him, but with every day that passes, I feel stronger and more hopeful.

I didn’t write for two years after he died. I was in a fog for a long time. Faced with selling my large home and an extra car and downsizing was a daunting task, but I had lots of support. After a friend contacted me to write for her Amazon Kindleworlds, I finally got back into writing and that helped me deal with my grief. I wrote about it. In the many characters I developed in my Amazon novellas and in the novels I’ve written after my husband died, I explored my emotional frailties through the eyes of my characters. Writing helped me heal. I will never be whole again, but through hardships, you develop strength and you see how important friends and family can be. In many ways, I’ve been blessed.

This trip is more than exploring the world and meeting new people. It’s an awakening for me. It’s as exciting as it is frightening but I can’t wait to get the first stamp in my passport and I have more trips planned over the next two years.

This year, my travel plans will be to the Lakes District of northern Italy and Milan. The area is nestled into the Swiss Alps, on the border with Italy, and covers beautiful lakes (Lake Como, Bellagio and Maggiore) with quaint villages, shopping and restaurants on glistening waters. It’s picture post card scenery when you see the idyllic images of this beautiful part of the world.

I will also visit Milan, the fashion district of Italy, and there are other daily excursions to different islands using a ferry system. A rail system can also get me into Switzerland on my free time, between organized day trips.

I’m looking forward to seeing the LAST SUPPER by Leonardo da Vinci (housed in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan) and the iconic La Scala Theatre and its Opera museum.

I’m traveling as a solo traveler with a small 28-person tour organized by the Traveling Aggies (an association of former A&M students, but you don’t have to be alumni to travel with them) through AHI Travel. It may be a little intimidating to travel solo, but I am looking forward to meeting the group under the guidance of an established travel guide and Texas hosts.

This is my first adventure, but I have friends and family lined up as travel companions for trips in 2020-2021. I’m planning a river cruise with some dear friends in 2020 into Europe and have a Germany trip in the planning stages with my older brother and his wife for July 2020.

I feel very unprepared for travel these days, but would like to ask help from you seasoned travelers.

I’ve learned that I can get TSA pre-check for US domestic flights–to avoid the longer security checks by obtaining an early background check for ease of travel–or I can also get something more global. GlobalEntry.Gov is geared more for international travel, but also covers domestic flights. For those unfamiliar, the GlobalEntry.Gov application costs $100 but also pays for TSA Precheck on domestic flights. I had already paid $85 for TSA precheck when I could have paid $100 for the Global Entry and gotten both clearances for worldwide travel. Live and learn.

I purchased Rick Steves’ book on Milan and the Lakes District and he has a video on Youtube. Lots of tips. Steves suggested I acquire a credit card that doesn’t charge for currency conversion with charges. I did my research and have done that. In addition, Italy is part of the European Union so EU currency is what I’ll need.

I’m also acquiring travel accessories, like electrical outlet converters for Europe, neck support & eye mask for sleeping on the plane, money belt with RFID protection, and I’m considering the purchase of a good theft-resistant backpack for the day trips.

Other things I have done to prepare ( in no particular order):

1.) Notify my credit card company of my travel dates, so my transactions aren’t flagged or stopped.

2.) Notify my bank of those dates, in case I need a wire or expect an ATM transaction.

3.) Expand my cell service for international coverage.

4.) Check health warnings for the country I’m traveling to, if any. Get any vaccinations I may need.

5.) Set up email alerts for my country of travel through Smart Traveler Enrollment Program – to get State Department advisories via email.

6.) Purchase trip cancellation insurance.

7.) Verify that my present health insurance covers foreign travel. Will I need more?

8.) Set up Mobile Passport in advance, the app for U.S. Customs and Immigration to make my border crossings run smoothly.

9.) Make copies of all my important documents & emergency contact information (keeping them in a separate & safe location – ie locked in my hotel safe) for reference if they are stolen and I need to report it.

10.) Send out my travel itinerary to family (with contact information) for emergencies.

11.) Record emergency contact phone numbers in my cell phone contact list with a hard copy backup if my phone is stolen (ie embassy info, hotel phone number and instructions on how to make a long distance international call).


Any tips that I’ve missed? I would appreciate advice from you more seasoned travelers.

Should I get local currency (Euros) before I leave? How much should I bring? I plan to see my bank this week.

Has anyone been to the northern Lakes District of Italy & Milan? Any recommendations for restaurants or fun places to see?

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About Jordan Dane

Bestselling, critically-acclaimed author Jordan Dane’s gritty thrillers are ripped from the headlines with vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense novels to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag, naming her debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM as Best Books of 2008. She is the author of young-adult novels written for Harlequin Teen, the Sweet Justice thriller series for HarperCollins., and the Ryker Townsend FBI psychic profiler series, Mercer's War vigilante novellas, and the upcoming Trinity LeDoux bounty hunter novels set in New Orleans. Jordan shares her Texas residence with two lucky rescue dogs. To keep up with new releases & exclusive giveaways, click HERE

33 thoughts on “Travel Replenishes the Writer’s Soul

  1. My sympathies on the loss of your husband, Jordan. It is obvious that you loved him a lot and no doubt treasure your memories of him. I admire your courage in stepping out of your comfort zone and pursuing your travel dreams.
    You’ve made a good list. I would add use a medium size suitcase, so you’re not lugging around a big, heavy one. I use big plastic ziplock bags to separate clothing, eg. Shirts in one, underwear in another, etc. It keeps everything organised and easy to find. I also put a coloured ribbon on the handle, so the suitcase is easy to pick on a luggage carousel.
    The trip you have planned sounds amazing – have a wonderful time!

    • Thank you, Linda. Grief never goes away. It evolves. I’m thankful for my outlet of writing.

      I appreciate your travel tips. After I watched another Rick Steve’s video, I ordered a carry-on size pack. Steve’s recommended NOT to check bags. If a flight is cancelled, I would not have to chase down my bag. I can be more flexible. I’ll pack light & I can carry my new bag on my back with hands free. Europe transportation transfers can involve walking or hauling bags over cobblestone to get to & from my hotel.

      I’ll have to be efficient on what to pack & keep comfort & simplicity in mind. I can do that & I’ll learn what works with layered clothing & travel-sized toiletries.

      The clothing bags you mentioned, I found online. The bags compress the clothes for more space & keeps wrinkles out.

      Thanks for your tips, Linda.

      • Jordan, that is true about luggage getting lost, so what I do is take a backpack as carry-on and include a change of clothes and a toiletry bag in it 🙂

  2. You’ve done your research! A small suggestion: I like to have at least 100 € (euros) in my pocket on departure. One can be a little fuzzy in the head after an all-night flight, and it’s comforting to know you have some ready cash for whatever pops up on arrival. Good travels!

    • Good tip, Harald. Thank you. My bank has an online app that allows me to order currency in advance. They send it to my house via a courier service requiring a signature.

  3. I’ve never traveled outside the country, so I can’t add to your list. Sounds like a wonderful trip. Italy is on my bucket list. You’re so brave traveling solo. I have no doubt you’ll end the trip with 28 dear friends. The group will see your loving, funny, kind, and all around awesomeness and immediately be drawn to you. <3 Can't wait to see the pics! I'll be living vicariously through you.

    Big hugs to you, my dear friend. xoxo I'm so excited for you!

    • Thanks, Sue. I’ve not been to this part of Italy but I love the country & its people. I can’t wait.

      My tour company sent info on my fellow travelers, things everyone agreed to share. 2 are in my city & Ive6 reached out to them. I won’t be the only solo traveler.

      I’ll have plenty of pics. xxoo

  4. Jordan,
    None of my friends wanted to travel to Australia and New Zealand so I went by myself last year. I designed the itinerary and worked with a travel agent on hotels and excursions. It was wonderful. A very safe place to travel alone as a female. Don’t hesitate to dine out by yourself! I was in So. Italy two years ago and sadly stamping of passports has mostly gone away for electronic verifications of your passport. I have Global Entry so with your TSA-precheck comes up for renewal in 5 years get it then.
    As for money, since you’re going to be in the Eurozone, I’d leave with $300 in Euros. Once there, you’ll want coins if you’re going to use some public bathrooms. Also, check with your bank and credit card companies to understand foreign transaction fees and exchange rates. One card is likely better than another. Getting additional cash from an ATM is easy in Europe. Don’t exchange at the airport – those guys are bandits. Spend any Euros you have left at Duty-Free before you fly home – but beware when I was in Auckland, the Manuka Honey was cheaper from Costco than duty-free for the exact same brand. Finally, a note about Italy- pickpockets abound. I’ve never worn a money belt – I’ve carried a cross-body purse with my hand on the purse. If I’m walking down a street, I keep my purse away from the street and I listen for scooter thieves – they like to rip off purses from unaware idiots. Also, be aware of who is around you. I was with a tour group standing in front of La Scala and watched a young man hovering on the edge of our group seemingly listening to our tour guide talk. I thought he was scanning our group to decide who to rob, so I turned and called out to him, “Are you here to rob someone?” He scampered quickly to the subway station, lol. I’ve been to Italy 5 or 6 times and have never been robbed, but I know other people in my groups who were robbed. Half the battle is just being aware!

    • I want to travel with you, Alec. Ha! I would’ve gone “down under” with you. I’ve always wanted to go.

      Coins for bathrooms? Wow. I never would’ve thought about that.

      Great insights. I’m not bringing a purse. I bought different sizes of document holders so I can store important items in the hotel safe & only carry what I need for day excursions.

      My brother had his credit card compromised & his card company suspended his acct. He had a backup business card to use but since I only have 1 credit card (by design), I set up my ATM debit card as a backup. Minimizes fees & acts like a credit card or can be used to acquire Euros. I’ll keep them separate in case I run into trouble.

      I hear there are scams or incidents on the street, designed to get tourists to stop. Or street beggars wait for a handout to see what you have. Best to walk & ignore but keep a watchful eye as you did. Gutsy, girl.

  5. I’m excited and happy for you, Jordan!

    You’ll collect an overwhelming amount of info–research, history, places, personal impressions, people you’ll meet. How are you going to record memories of your trip? Handwritten travel journal? Memos on your phone? Emails to yourself and friends at home?

    Whatever method you use, suggest you have a back-up. A friend used his camera for a photographic record of his once-in-a-lifetime trip. At his last stop, the camera was stolen. Poof. All memories gone.

    Wishing you a great adventure to inspire your writing for many years!

    • Ha! Glad you mentioned recording my trip. What a good idea. Just yesterday, I received a packet from my travel company. They included a small notebook for journaling. I kept a journal of my travels when I was younger but stopped writing after I got into my trip. I hope that doesn’t happen again. A journal is a great idea.

      Emails to myself is another great tip I wouldn’t have thought of. Thank you.

      I’m only bringing my cell phone. It takes amazing & panoramic photos. I have 2 backup services online in “the cloud” and my cell has passcode security on it. It’ll be stored in my money belt & I won’t hand my phone over to a stranger offering to take photos. It’s my lifeline.

      Thanks, Deb.

  6. I can empathize with you on the loss of your husband. I’ve lost two. 🙁 It’s tough to recover. They are your best friend, your partner, and are not replaceable. However, as you are discovering, life gets easier as time goes by. We learn how to adjust.

    I vowed never to marry again, and then I met my current husband through friends. He lost two wives to cancer and also thought he’d spend the rest of his life alone. We’ve been married 17 years now.

    Having been married multiple times, we decided to elope, and we ran off to Africa. We were married in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. A watering hole teaming with elephants, zebra, buffalo, and many other animals formed our backdrop. Beyond that lay the African bush and the Zambezi River. We spent a month in that country and South Africa. I’d go back in a heartbeat!

    It’s been awhile since we traveled and it sounds like you have some great tips already. One thing my husband always emphasizes, whether we are here at home or abroad, be situational aware. Sad that we must be on guard for thieves.

    One thing I would do differently the next time I travel is to relax more, just roll with the situation and not get too uptight over things I can’t control. It all works out, eventually. 😉

    • I love this, Cecilia. Every word.

      I like your idea of rolling with the punches & staying flexible. Exactly. I’m vowing not to be the ugly impatient American.

      Your African wedding sounds enchanting. You are living large, girlfriend.

  7. Jordan, my sympathy for the loss of your husband.

    When I was in Germany many years ago, at one location, we had to tip the restroom attendant to get a towel to dry our hands. Just be aware that you’ll want coins and some low denomination bills in your pocket for when you run into unexpected European customs.

    You don’t want to end up with hundreds of pictures and not remember where or when you took them. When you take photos, find time before the day ends and write down the date, the location, and what inspired that shot. It helps to pick up a few brochures from each place. When you get back to your room, you can use those to jog your memory as you make your notes. Once you get home, you’ll have a progression of photos and anecdotes that tell the story of your trip. And they’ll be more meaningful when you share them with family and friends. (Hmmm, sounds like a travel book to me.)

    Don’t be afraid to try new foods, offbeat adventures, and meeting local people. You’ll treasure your adventure for the rest of your life.

    Have a glorious trip, Jordan!

    • I love these ideas, Suzanne. When I lived in Alaska, our friends would have a party after their trips & show slides of their adventures. I really want to do something like this again. Find a way to show my pics thru my TV & make a party of it. Thanks for the tips.

  8. Right now, we’re in Glasgow, with another week on vacation, which will be in Ireland. We started in Belfast where my daughter lives, so we did a bank transfer to her account and she cashed it so we had cash shortly after we arrived. Most places take credit cards. Now we have to change our Pounds for Euros because we go to Dublin tomorrow.
    Have a great trip. We got Global Entry last year because we knew of 2 international trips; it was great returning from Quito to Atlanta for clearing customs. Precheck is only good in the US, so we had to deal with all the security at the Belfast airport to get to London, including rather thorough pat-downs, but that was probably because, being used to pre-check, weren’t quick enough with shoe and jacket removal, etc.
    Have a great trip!

    • I remember those “pat downs” from when I was younger. A little shocking. Ha!

      I’ll have to check your instagram for travel pics, Terry. Have fun. Thanks for the advice.

  9. Good luck! Seems like you are quite prepared. Do not forget your journal, a small one you can carry everywhere. I’d advise to dress in layers, light wool and natural fabrics — they’re most comfortable, and then after you’re packed, take half of it out of your suitcase. We always pack too much. Pay attention to shoes, one or two of the most comfy.,,,also atm’s are everywhere and you can count on them to give you ready local cash at a decent rate of exchange. And try to eat local, off the beaten track, in the small mom and pops. ,,, I remember seeing The Last Supper, and will never forget it. Worth the trip. Get tix for this and other visits far ahead of arrival, or you will face long lines, and worse, you won’t get in. ,,, one security tip ,,, keep a pouch under your shirt with cards, passport, money. Naples, for example, and environs are notorious…bon voyage!!! Sounds wonderful!

  10. Very sorry for your loss. I lost my husband suddenly in 2002 while pregnant (ugh) and I turned to writing to get through it. Which was a great thing. I just dropped our “baby” off at college for her freshman year and I can say it was purely wonderful (not bittersweet) which was a nice change from all the milestones I sniffled through. Life goes on. Slowly but it does! Travel is a wonderful way! Drink a tall liter of water on the plane (buy it after you clear security). Drink it all and will ease the jet lag so you will hit the ground running. Bon voyage! You will have a blast. And get a Blue Guide (British) very dense they are like a history lesson but worth it for Milan.

  11. Sorry to hear of your loss and grief.

    I am blown away by your trip preparations. I have travelled to over 70 countries on every continent except Antarctica, mostly as a solo traveller, and I haven’t done that level of preparation, especially this far in advance. Even if your insurance covers you overseas I advise buying a short term travel medical insurance policy with evacuation coverage. The reason is that you may have coverage as far as your insurance company is concerned, but an overseas provider may not see it this way. You may be expected to pay any provider, including hospitals, up front and fight about it with your insurance company later. I have known people who have gone through this hell. You want evacuation insurance in the exceedingly rare case you are seriously injured and need to be evacuated in a medical jet, etc. These policies typically also cover someone from the US needing to fly overseas to take care of you. Your regular health insurance will not cover these things. Very rare, but if such an event happens you’ll be glad for it. These policies are not expensive. I always buy them when I travel.

    If it will make you feel better to order Euros in advance, ok. But if not, or you forget, don’t worry. There are ATMs at Malpensa and pretty much every airport these days. I never buy foreign currency in advance because exchange rates here are a total rip off. Changing cash at the airport is a bargain compared to some of the rates I’ve seen here.

    I suggest carrying some US cash with you. The amount is up to you. Keep a couple of large bills plus some small ones. They can always be exchanged or even used in a pinch.

    Last but not least do not feel intimidated as a solo female traveller. Most travel I’ve ever done is as a single. If I waited around for someone to go where I want when I want I would never go anywhere. You will meet more people as a single. You have so much opportunity. I hope this trip builds your confidence for solo travel in the future.

    • I found good insurance coverage to supplement my own to cover evacuation & repatriation etc. I went through my supplemental carrier. For the one trip. $63 is a small amt to pay for peace of mind. Thanks for the tip, CF.

  12. Jordan-
    I’m not an international traveler, so no help there, but I am ahead of you on that other sad journey you’re on. The hardest realization is that two people have died, the person you loved, and the person you were when you were with them. Because you will never be that exact person again. I’ve always said you never truly understand the meaning of forever until someone you truly love dies.

    That said, I envy you your spirit and gumption, as my aunt always said. Good luck in your travels.

    • What a touching & meaningful way to express what we both have experienced, Justine. Exactly.

      We were married 37 years. I had known him since I was 19.

      My whole life, I’d been a “we.” The hardest thing to say is “I” now.

      You know that, don’t you?

      Cyber hug.

      • Back at you, because yes, I do know. I’m about ten years ahead of you, so from down the road…I won’t lie and say it gets easier, it doesn’t. What it does get is different. When the pain hits, it hits just as hard, but eventually it won’t hit as often, and when it does it won’t last as long.

        But I think your trip will do wonders for you, creating new memorie. Even though you will wish every step of the way he was with you.

  13. My heart goes out to you. It has to be like loosing a part of you. I can’t imagine.
    One more item. An extra memory card for your camera. You can get them all over Europe but you could miss a great pic while you’re getting to a place that sells them.

    While we were exploring the ruins at Tulum in the Yucatan, I only got one photo before the message “your memory is full”. The bone-head that I am, I didn’t bring an extra card.. I missed a lot of great photos. Also, a connector so you can own load to your computer is important, too.

    • This is a good thing for me to check into. I wasn’t planning on taking a camera. My cell phone takes amazing images, including panoramas. Also, I’m backed up to the cloud on 2 services. I also found that with 1 simple click, my LG phone links to my TV instantaneously. I can have a slide show party with buying special cabling or downloading. Thanks, Brian.

      My brother told me about a traveler who lost all their memories when their camera was stolen. I hope I won’t lose my phone, but everything is backed up & all apps are secured by passwords. Fingers crossed.

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