Who am I and what’s the point of this blog?

About me: I’m a 50-something American woman who’s spent the vast majority of my adult life planning travel. At 23, post-law school, my first big trip-planning project was a multiple month backpacking trip through Europe with my brother. Later travels in Europe, North and South America, and the Caribbean with my 1st husband fell to me to plan as well…not a chore; just something I love. When I found myself widowed with two young sons (ages 5 and 9), I moved with them to Paris and spent the next 3 years maximizing that wonderful French holiday schedule exploring Europe and Northern Africa. (As a friend said, I was renting apartments when renting apartments wasn’t cool. It’s a great way to experience a city, especially with children.) We also explored as many nooks and crannies of our beloved Paris as possible. After 4 years back in the States, my younger son and I moved back to Paris for another year at his request. (Some “sacrifices” of motherhood are easier than others!) I traveled in 40+ countries with my boys on 5 continents, mostly on our own, but sometimes mixing in tours or cruises. On last count, I’ve visited 70+ countries…and there’s still so much to see!

After 12 years of widowhood, with my boys now young men, I’ve remarried the truly awesome David, who’s my companion in life and wanderlust. David took early retirement in 2013. We put everything in storage and began what we call our “vagabond period.” We kicked it off with 5 months in Paris, followed by a month in a little house on the beach in Barbados. Since then, we’ve traveled 40-60% of each year, interspersing our own travels with house- and pet-sitting, something we really enjoy and a wonderful way to be more than a tourist. I’m a meticulous travel researcher, both by nature and because I know we get the best value, have the least hassles, waste less precious travel time, and get to do/see the most intriguing things when we plan ahead. This doesn’t mean I plan every second; it means I try to anticipate the must-do practical stuff [currency, transport, allowing for local holidays, a roof over our head, local internet/phone, etc.] so we can get that out of the way as quickly as possible. I am ever grateful for all the kind people on the Internet who take the time to post their experiences and advice. My own pleasure in sharing tips I learn along the way has resulted in my being a top 1% TripAdvisor reviewer, a top AirBnB guest, and the recipient of a fairly steady stream of requests for info from friends and friends of friends.

My goal here: The idea of a blog to make all this travel info more easily shareable has been bouncing around my head for awhile. I’ve found there’s somewhat of an information gap on the Internet for those of us who are beyond backpacking, not likely to stay in a tent or hostel (again), and yet want more than an American/Western-style “bubble” experience in a chain hotel or nothing but high-end luxury. We can afford to splurge when we want, but darn it, we want value for our money and a more authentic experience! “Value” to me means more than maximizing your money; it’s maximizing your experience, too. We want time to do things on our own; shop, dine and sometimes travel like a local; cook a little; slow down when we want; move along when we’ve had enough. And, as much as we love a deal, if “local” gets a tad too rustic or if we’ve just pushed it too much, we’re happy to give ourselves a break and go for a little luxury.

Extensive research for an upcoming (2016) 2.5-month Asia ramble–and the usual frustration of being unable to find some information that would sure make things easier–finally inspired me to get this blog started. I love sharing pics on Facebook with family and friends, but I wanted somewhere to share the practical stuff, too. It seemed a shame to let all my research (and our soon-to-be-gained, on-the-ground knowledge in Asia) go to waste. Hopefully, there’ll be something here for travelers and armchair tourists alike.

[Since I’m new to this blogging thing, I decided to work out some of the kinks pre-Asia-trip by posting some of our recent (March-April 2016) travels through the Balkans. After a 3-week Caribbean-to-Mediterranean trans-Atlantic repositioning cruise (one of my absolute favorite ways to maximize value if you’ve got the time), David and I spent a month exploring Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, a bit of Albania, and Croatia (a 2nd visit to this last for me, but hitting some highlights I’d missed the first time with my boys). These posts are retro-blogs, reconstructed after the fact by my new-to-blogging self with the aid of photos, the internet, and my failing memory, so be kind. I hope to do better in the future.]

From time to time, I may post links to products or services for which I get some benefit. I’ll never post such links I don’t believe in or think worthwhile to pass on. Of course, you’re under no obligation to click on any such link I post, but I appreciate it when you do. I’ll also post plenty of links for which I get no benefit whatsoever.

Looking forward to sharing,

Tamara

August 12, 2016

updated March 24, 2017; August 2, 2018

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February 7, 2018 Update: So what’s up with the beer posts? Wanderwiles has evolved to include more than a few beer posts. By way of explanation, David and I have been spending 1 month+, twice a year, in Belgium for the last few years house- and cat-sitting. (You can read more about that in the post I did on house- and pet-sitting.) Belgium has made real beer fans out of us, especially David, who borders on obsessive. Belgium did for us with regards to beer what France did for me with regards to wine. Now thoroughly intrigued by the art, science and history of brewing, we look for interesting beers and beer venues when we travel and have been fortunate to visit some of the most famous breweries in the world. We’ve brewed our own beer, brought home cases of rare Westvleteren 12 Trappist beer (named “the best in the world” year after year) multiple times, attended open brewing day at sour beer icon Cantillon in Brussels, roamed back farm roads in Lithuania looking for elusive kaimiskas (unboiled-wort) beer, sipped craft brews on 3 continents and on and on. Anyway, we find beer friends wherever we go, we’re fascinated with beer and know lots of others are, too, so we thought we’d share here. Cheers!