Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Advice on places to travel, retire from uncommon travelers

Times Staff Writer

Hard as it is to imagine, people with common interests managed to find each other long before we all carried mobile links to the world in our pockets and pocketbooks.

Sometimes it was by sheer luck, as it was 19 years ago when a dozen people — but no instructor — showed up at an adult learning center for a class on international travel. Meanwhile, down the hall, a class on travel and culture had an instructor but no students. You can probably guess where this story is going. They found each other and the "Uncommon Travelers" club was born.

While the club is now for anyone who likes to travel, it was originally for people who had lived abroad or traveled extensively, like Mike and Judy Butler, who retired in Tampa in 1999 after living in Saudi Arabia for 17 years.

The Butlers, who are originally from Ohio, visited more than 100 countries while living in Saudi Arabia where Mike, a physician, worked for an oil company. Judy said they would often buy around-the-world plane tickets so they could stop and visit all three children when they were in different boarding schools and colleges.

"I have always said I could drop any of my children out of an airplane anywhere in the world and they would know what to do to find their way home!" Judy said.

Here's some travel advice from two seasoned wanderers as many of us make holiday travel plans of our own:

1 If you could retire anywhere in the United States, where would it be?

Right here. Florida. After living in the warmth for 17 years, we could not go back to "winter," as much as we loved living in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Also, many Buckeyes retire to the west coast of Florida, including several of our relatives. (Judy said she thought she had died and gone to heaven after her first visit to Florida when she was in eighth grade.)

2 If you could retire anywhere outside the United States, where would it be?

We wouldn't retire outside of the U.S. because we don't want to be more than a four-hour flight from children, grandchildren and relatives and, as we age, we want to have access to medical facilities here.

We do, however, travel outside the U.S., sometimes for long periods of time.

3 What is the biggest misconception people have about traveling?

That unknown or strange places are something to fear. Visiting a country where they speak a foreign language can be intimidating but we have learned that sign language works pretty well. People are the same all around the world and are generally very helpful to visitors to their country. Plus, most people in foreign countries who deal with tourists speak English.

4 What's your favorite travel destination and why?

Asia and the Middle East. This area of the world is interesting to us because it is so culturally different from our European backgrounds. Different foods, customs, religions, housing and histories give us a lot to learn about.

5 What's the most valuable piece of travel advice you can give?

A good traveler must be flexible and roll with the adventures, good or bad. Coping (especially with bad things) is a true test of character. Instead of grumbling or complaining, think of a Plan B. It could end up being more interesting than the original.

For example, when we were coming home from Saudi Arabia in April, our flight out of Dhahran was delayed, making us miss our connecting flight out of Amsterdam. We had to wait to fly out until the next day — and we didn't have our luggage. But instead of staying in our hotel room complaining about the cold, we went to see the tulips, taking turns wearing a blanket we had on the plane to keep us warm. It was a cold and wonderful outdoor show!

Another good piece of advice is about what not to take on a trip: an outdated guidebook.

Once, when traveling in Munich, Germany (with Judy's grandma), we found ourselves locked in what our 10-year-old Frommer's said was a bed and breakfast.

We'll only be a minute, we told her as we left her in the rental car and went in to check vacancies.

Once we got in, it was apparent the place had been converted into private residences, but when we went to leave, we couldn't get out. The door had locked behind us (which wouldn't have been so bad except we left Grandma in the car).

It was 40 minutes before someone came through the door so we could get out.

We bought a new guidebook.

Patti Ewald can be reached at or (727) 893-8746.


For more information on Uncommon Travelers, visit

Advice on places to travel, retire from uncommon travelers 12/13/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 13, 2013 5:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs have chance to beat Vikings in their third stadium


    Here's a cool sign that the Bucs are getting up there as an NFL franchise: If Tampa Bay can win Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, it will mark the first time the Bucs have posted road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.

    TIMES ARCHIVES (2012) | Bucs RB Doug Martin runs during Tampa Bay's 36-17 win at the Vikings in 2012, in what was then called Mall of America Field. If Tampa Bay wins Sunday, it will mark the first time they have road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.
  2. Memorial for Snooty the manatee, postponed because of Irma, to be held Sunday


    A public memorial to celebrate the life of 69-year-old Snooty the manatee will be held at the South Florida Museum on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

    Snooty , the world's most celebrated manatee, begs for another slice of apple in his pool in the Parker Manatee Aquarium at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton in 2008. Snooty was 60 then. [Times 2008]
  3. Residents wade through a flooded road after the passing of Hurricane Maria, in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Friday, September 22, 2017. Because of the heavy rains brought by Maria, thousands of people were evacuated from Toa Baja after the municipal government opened the gates of the Rio La Plata Dam. [Associated Press]
  4. NFL commissioner, players' union angrily denounce Trump comments on national anthem


    SOMERSET, N.J. — The National Football League and its players' union on Saturday angrily denounced President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national …

    President Donald Trump walks off the stage after he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. [Associated Press]
  5. New earthquake, magnitude 6.1, shakes jittery Mexico


    MEXICO CITY — A strong new earthquake shook Mexico on Saturday, causing new alarm in a country reeling from two still-more-powerful quakes this month that have killed nearly 400 people.

    Locals play pool at a venue in Mexico City's La Condesa neighborhood, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, four days after the 7.1 earthquake. The upscale Mexico City neighborhood was one of the hardest hit, with more than a half-dozen collapsed buildings in the immediate vicinity. The few Condesa residents who ventured out Friday night said they were anxious for relief from an anguishing week. [Associated Press]