I love fall travel. Hot summers are all well and good, but I’d take fall over summer most any day. We stick close to home for much of the summer, except for a couple of weeks in August. There’s just so much to do at home in the summer. There’s the garden to tend, trails to walk and ride, the deck to loll upon with a book, reading and watching the boats go by. Besides, the world travels in the summer. Or seems to. And now that we’re retired, we don’t need to travel when school is out, during high season, when everyone else seems to want to do exactly what we want to do.
This morning over our cups of tea, Hubby and I put our heads together, and here are our top five reasons for loving fall travel.
#1 Fewer Crowds
Crowded destinations are often empty, or at least less crowded, in the fall. Since the kids are back at school, and the world of work has geared up again after summer vacation, many, many people have to stay at home. And that’s good for us. If you love sleeping in the great outdoors, fall is the best time to camp, at least in Canada. The beaches are virtually empty midweek. There’s almost no one on the hiking trails. The campground is almost empty too, except for a few of us retired folk. Everything is lovely and peaceful. Just like you imagine a camping trip should be.
But be warned. The rest of the retired folk, those who are not camping, are travelling to other places, taking cruises, visiting famous landmarks. So you can’t assume that fall will be low season everywhere, or even shoulder season. And it seems that some places are crowded year round.
I guess we should have realized last year when we travelled to Italy that if we love to travel in September and October lots and lots of other people do too. But we were surprised by the crowds in Venice and Florence. We were told by our guide in Rome that October is still very busy at popular tourist spots in Italy. Still, we loved Rome; it’s so big that we were able to easily remove ourselves from crowded areas. But in Venice we were very glad that we’d decided to stay on the little island of Murano. It was lovely, especially in the evening when it was as if we had the island to ourselves. And later in the trip, when we’d veered off onto roads less travelled, small places like Urbino and Vieste were blissfully uncrowded too.
So, we learned our lesson. This fall we’ve planned our destinations with the idea of avoiding crowds if at all possible, and we are staying away from many of the most popular spots.
#2 No Bugs.
Okay, this might NOT be a big one for you, but it is for me. Besides crowds, the one thing that can spoil a summer camping or walking or hiking trip is the bug situation. If at all possible, I avoid high season for bugs. Ha. I react badly to insect bites. Hubby gets bitten and they itch for a day, if at all, then disappear. I’m plagued for weeks by some bites. A trip to the Cook Islands enroute to New Zealand, one year, was marred by sandfly bites. We’d walked the beach on our last day, and I didn’t realize I was being bitten. Only later did I find that the tops of my feet were covered with bites. The night flight to New Zealand a few hours later was agony for me. And those darned bites bothered me for weeks.
We still chuckle about how, weeks later, Hubby awoke at 3 A.M. to the sound of water running, and found me sitting on the floor of the bathroom at our accommodation with my feet stuck in the cold shower. I can tell you I was NOT chuckling then. But fall travel usually means no bugs. And if we are able to hike and bike, walk the beach, or sleep in a tent, without the accompaniment of droning mosquitoes and black flies, or whatever bug is native to wherever we are, I am a happy traveller.
#3 Fabulous Weather
The weather in September and especially October can be wonderful. Warm sunny days, cool evenings. Or even cool sunny days, and cooler evenings. That’s my kind of weather. First off, the air is usually less humid. And less humidity means I don’t have to worry so much about my hair. Frizz plagues me in the humid weather. I know I should just slap a hat on my hair and forget about it. And that might be okay on a camping trip, but not anywhere else. I know that’s shallow. But I am who I am.
When we travel, we walk a lot. And summer walking means that my feet swell because my sneakers or hiking boots are so hot. I’ve never yet found a pair of sandals that fit my feet, and in which I can walk for long periods. And trust me, I’ve looked. And looked.
Two years ago I made yet another attempt to find comfortable walking sandals in which my narrow foot would stay put, and not slide out when I walked. My friend Susan took me to her favorite shoe store, here in Ottawa, which carries all sizes and varieties of lovely, fashionable, and comfortable sandals. Ha. Even the very knowledgeable lady who served us was stymied. So when the weather cools, and I can put my sneakers or hiking boots back on and not feel too hot in them, I’m happy. Ditto long pants, light jackets, and scarves. Fall wardrobe planning is a joy for me. And fall travel packing floats my boat so much more buoyantly than summer travel.
#4 Spectacular Scenery
Depending on where you travel, the scenery can be spectacular in the fall. Here in Canada, and in lots of other places in the northern hemisphere, the leaves on trees and bushes turn red and yellow and orange, and formerly green hills and valleys are even more beautiful. Hubby and I love to drive back roads wherever, and whenever, we travel. But the scenery along back roads in the fall is even more amazing than at other times of the year. We loved the Scottish highlands when we visited there in July 2005, pootling down single track roads, waving merrily at other cars from the “passing place” where we’d stopped to allow the other vehicle room to get past. I remember we wondered at the time how much more spectacular those same hills would be in the autumn.
And it’s not just the fall colour that makes the scenery more lovely. There’s something special about a sunny fall day. Maybe it’s the quality of light. The cooler, less humid air seems more clear, more something, and everything looks better. But maybe that’s just me, and the fact that my hair isn’t frizzy, and I’m all relaxed and cosy and happy in my scarf and sneakers.
#5 That Feeling of Freedom.
There’s something indefinably wonderful about fall travel. Being out in the work-a-day world, but not of it. I feel like a kid playing hookey from school. Stealing time from the responsibilities of real life when everyone else is going about their daily business.
Most teachers I know feel something similar. Not being at school on a fall day makes us look around and think, “So this is what goes on in the real world.” Eating lunch in a restaurant midweek, strolling a downtown street… anywhere, even at home… makes us feel this way. To be footloose and out in the world in the fall feels amazing. No bells (except church bells.) No cafeteria duty, yard duty, or hall duty. My bag is not laden with a huge pile of marking to take home. In fact, the only homework I have is the research on what we’re going to do tomorrow. Where we’ll eat. What wine to choose. What book to read next.
Of course this sense of freedom is felt by people who weren’t teachers. The lightness that enjoyable travel can engender, the weight of responsibilities being lifted, at least for a time. But I must say that being on the road in the fall for a couple of former teachers is kind of nirvana. We feel like teenagers let loose with the family car on Friday night. That feeling of freedom and anticipation, that anything can happen, makes me want to crank the car stereo up full blast, shout “yee haw,” and squeal the tires as we pull out of the driveway.
This week, Hubby and I have been busily preparing for our next trip. We’re off to the Balkans soon. He’s been picking apples, stripping the garden, and giving fresh produce to anyone who will take it. I’ve been finishing our itinerary. Doing packing research and planning. Trying on outfits. Shopping. But I’ll tell you more about all that later this week.
Then we’ll pack and be off. On another fall travel adventure. We can’t wait.
And while it might look as if we’re proceeding sedately to the airport, inside we’re actually squealing our tires. And cranking out the tunes. Ha.
How about you, my friends? Do you love fall travel?