* Dream of Italy is offering a 10 percent discount to residents of metropolitan Washington on its Tuscany Visioning Retreat to Italy Oct. 21-27. The six-night trip includes accommodations at La Foce, an estate in southeastern Tuscany; group and individual life-coaching sessions; all meals; a day trip; and a cooking lesson. Cost after discount is $2,880 per person double, plus $125 to $150 for required travel insurance. Book by Sept. 7. Info: 202-237-0657, http://www.dreamofitaly.com.
* Rancho de los Caballeros, a 20,000-acre guest ranch in Wickenburg, Ariz., is celebrating its 60th anniversary with $60 room rates (plus 22 percent taxes and fees) on Oct. 31, Nov. 30, and Dec. 15 and 16. The discounted rates are tied to several special events, including a Halloween costume contest at the ranch and performances at the Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts. Rates typically start at $400 a day, which includes meals (valued at about $60 per person per day); the $60 room rate does not include meals. Info: 800-684-5030, http://www.sunc.com.
* The Reef Resort in Grand Cayman has launched a Hurricane Season Sale, with 25 percent off rooms, free room upgrades (when available) and complimentary Hurricane Eraser cocktail. After the discount, a studio starts at $154 a night (plus 10 percent tax) for stays through Nov. 30. (Thanksgiving blackout dates apply.) The beachfront resort also offers a generous hurricane guarantee. Book by Sept. 6, and request code DEAN. Info: 888-232-0541, http://www.thereef.com.
I’ve been flummoxed in France, miserable in Sweden, scared in Mexico, bee-stung in Borneo, and ready to revolt in Moscow. I also had near-death experiences in Panama and Tahiti. But I’d never dream of staying home.
Despite what I hear about no one reading books anymore, the best travel journalism seems to involve a warts-and-all picture of the world. There’s cantankerous Paul Theroux, Hunter Thompson enduring fear and loathing in Las Vegas, and George Orwell down and out in Paris and London. What can you learn about the world from pap about chocolates on your pillow or a story by someone whose total experience involved checking into a hotel, admiring the bedspread, or ordering a beer?
Still, I think I could have done without trudging through that torrential rainstorm on a leech-infested trail to nowhere in Borneo. And after three hours, I arrived at a shelter, my legs streaming blood from bites, only to be attacked by swarms of yellow jackets. It was a sleepless night as rain drummed on the roof like a hail of bullets. I still curse the tourist agent who charted that trek.
* Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas has a Fall Into Savings special at Lake Powell, on the border of Utah and Arizona in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Rent a standard houseboat ranging from 46 to 54 feet for at least four days and receive a free day and a gas credit of up to $350. For example, a 46-foot Expedition that sleeps up to six is now $3,012 for a five-day rental, including $352 taxes and fees; usual price is $3,766. Deal is available Sept. 4-Oct. 31. Book at 888-486-4665, and request promo code NOPROB. Boat and marina info: http://www.lakepowell.com.
* Take a seven-night Mediterranean cruise aboard the Costa Victoria next month and receive savings of up to 64 percent. For example, the Oct. 29 round-trip cruise from Civitavecchia near Rome, with stops in Sicily, Greece and Turkey, is now priced from $599 per person double -- a savings of about $1,070. Sailings earlier in October range from $649 to $799 per person double. Taxes and fees are an extra $168. Info: 877-882-6782, http://www.costacruise.com.
* Celebrity Cruises has a deal on an Eastern Caribbean cruise departing Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Jan. 27. A concierge class cabin with balcony is now $1, 049 per person double (plus $62 taxes); brochure rate is $1,399. The seven-night cruise docks in Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Info: 800-647-2251, http://www.celebritycruises.com.
Nor do I have kind words for the Aeroflot airline clerk who, without explanation, canceled our group’s seats on the plane from Moscow. She remained as steadfast as long-dead Stalin until, after cell phone appeals seeking help from the Russian tourist agency in Moscow, which is miles from the airport, we were finally permitted to plunk down into the last seats available.
Swimming from a sailboat off Tahiti, I was not warned of the strong current that began sweeping me out into the open ocean. No one seemed to notice my plight. Luckily, I was able to grab a line trailing off the boat’s stern.
In Panama’s San Blas Islands, everyone else on the Windjammer was swimming in the crystal-clear waters, so I jumped in too. But the current began carrying me toward Cuba. The only thing that saved me that day was being able to hook one finger into a tiny indentation on the boat’s hull until my son Barclay hollered for help.
When a group of teenage Mexican soldiers with automatic rifles as tall as they were stopped our minivan and ordered the men out and the women to remain inside, we got very nervous. But the lads were just looking for contraband guns and drugs, and for cigarettes to bum.
The day I was preparing to leave for Australia, I got a frantic call. Had I obtained a visa? No, no one told me to. I threw on my clothes, packed, and caught a plane to San Francisco, where the accommodating Aussie embassy opened for an hour that weekend so I could present my passport.
Driving through an endless rainstorm in Sweden, I finally had to stop at the only motel on the road, only to find — in that clean, spotless nation — the filthiest bed this side of you-name-it.
It wasn’t fun when, upon arriving at LAX on my way to Britain, the clerk notified me that my tickets weren’t there and my name wasn’t on any list. My frantic calls to an airline official on the East Coast finally got me aboard, but the plane was late and I missed a glorious dinner at the London Ritz. I was starved and — I have never told anyone this story — ended up eating alone at a McDonald’s.
* Fly Korean Air from New York to Bangkok for $1,104 round trip, including $86 in taxes. Travel Sunday-Thursday, Sept. 1-Nov. 30; pay an $80 round-trip surcharge for Friday or Saturday flights. Fare on other airlines starts at about $1,383. Purchase by Sept. 10 at http://www.koreanair.com.
* Rex, a discount regional air carrier in Australia, is offering a Backpackers flight pass. The pass, which costs about $408 for a one-month pass and $777 for two months (including taxes), entitles the traveler to unlimited flights between any of nearly 40 destinations in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. At check-in, passengers must produce a non-Australian passport and membership card for any of five backpacker travel organizations (VIP Backpackers, Youth Hostels Association, International Student Identity Card, International Youth Travel Card or Nomads). Info: 011-61-2-6393-5550, http://www.rex.com.au/backpacker.
Then there was the time Barclay and I ran barefoot though the Panamanian jungle behind a guide who spoke no English or Spanish, in search of monkeys. The bug welts on our legs lasted for weeks, but no rare tropical disease resulted.
As for watching the train from Paris to Champagne pull away just as Sue and I ran up, bags in hand, I can only blame myself, not the French.
I drive a car with 200,000 miles on it so I can afford to travel. But I know people who harbor such an intense fear of the outside world that they’d never dream of leaving the continental U.S. — with the possible exception of Hawai‘i. They have a thousand reasons: People Out There speak weird languages; it’s dangerous (almost as bad as some sections of L.A.); the French are rude; the English are snobbish and serve tasteless food; the Chinese are Communists; the Scots are too hard to understand; Mexican food is too spicy, and so on.
Besides, Those People just don’t like us, so why should we spend our hard-earned dollars there when we can go to Disneyland? Out There, the beds are too hard and the bathrooms are down the hall and have to be shared with foreigners, young backpackers, and people who might want to talk to you.
* Dooley Vacations is offering an Ireland Luxury Castle package for travel Nov. 1-Feb. 29. A group of four pays $499 per person, plus about $145 taxes; couples pay $699 per person, plus taxes. Deal includes round-trip airfare from Washington Dulles to Shannon on Aer Lingus, six nights in a two-bedroom townhouse at the five-star Adare Manor, full-size rental car and daily breakfast. Book by Sept. 7. Priced separately, airfare is about $699, lodging about $369 a night and the car about $300. Info: 877-331-9301, http://www.dooleyvacations.com/vacations/luxury-castle-package.
* A six-night trip to Portugal's Azores Islands starts at $669 plus about $120 taxes per person double. The Azores Express package includes round-trip nonstop flight from Boston to Sao Miguel, the main island in the Azores archipelago, and six nights with breakfasts at the Vila Nova Hotel. Cheapest prices apply to Tuesday departures Nov. 6-Dec. 11 and Jan. 8-March 26. Priced separately, airfare in November is about $565 and the hotel $98 a night, for a savings of about $140 per couple. Info: 800-762-9995, http://www.azores-express.com.
Carol Sottili by WP and