Globetrotters Writer Spotlight — Ronald C. Flores-Gunkle
An “expatriate” American in US Puerto Rico
Hi, Globetrotters. My name is Ronald C. Flores-Gunkle. I hyphenate my surname to keep people (especially hotel front desk personnel) from calling me Mr. Gunkle. Also, there are millions of people with the last name Flores in the world, especially the Spanish-speaking world. Adding my mother’s maiden name helps make me unique. Adding to the confusion, my Flores isn’t Hispanic, it’s German. The Gunkle helps clarify it. It’s hard to explain, but I tried in What’s in a Name.
I love to travel because I already live in the perfect destination for me, Puerto Rico. By traveling, I get to prove I’m right. Yet, there have been visits to wonderful places where my firm belief has been challenged. After my first trip to this complicated tropical island more than 60 years ago, I have found it impossible to leave for long!
My number one travel activity is photography. I am a former tourism magazine editor/photographer, and nothing excites me more than the attempt to distill the essence of a destination in a few (or many) well-composed images. (See: Travel by the Book.)
I work at being retired. It isn’t easy. My first career was in academia. I was a high school teacher, a college professor, a university dean. Then for a second career I worked for a publishing company as a photographer, editor and ultimately a VP. My third career has been retirement: I’m a writer, photographer, artist, gardener and procrastinator.
The best place I’ve been is…almost impossible to decide. Hiking from hut to hut in the Alps with my son when we were both younger is at or near the top of the list. Floating on the Danube from Budapest to Vienna (and back) is high up there, especially for my wife. Sailing on a yacht on the Adriatic from town to town, island to island, in Croatia is a contender. Touring Andalucia and Morocco with friends in a luxury coach was a highlight of our senior years. There are too many “bests.” No way can I decide!
In my spare time, I like to paint large canvases, bake bread and cook dinner, tend my tropical vegetable garden — but mostly, read in bed on my Kindle.
My top travel tip is from my wife: don’t go anywhere you can’t fit all the clothing you need in a carry-on.
If I could live somewhere else, I’d live in Old San Juan. If I had to live somewhere else. I hate to leave my property in the eastern mountains of the island. If I were younger, and had to leave Puerto Rico, I would choose somewhere warm with great food and culture — southern Italy, probably, or southern Spain.
My favorite way to travel is with tours and friends. It was not always like that (I once insisted on doing everything on my own), but I am too old and too impatient to deal with the complications of airlines, ground transportation, itineraries, hotel and restaurant reservations, museum hours, opera tickets, etc. Give me an all-inclusive organized by and with colleagues or friends or a first rate travel agency and I am happy. Most recently (after two years at home hiding from Covid) we did that in Panama (See Escape to Panama). Loved it.
Three lessons I’ve learned from traveling are:
1. Trips are usually too short.
2. You never get to meet as many people as you would like.
3. You almost always want to return.
Bonus lesson: You always need more memory cards for your camera.
I had a friend who spent the last decades of his life on cruise ships — it was easier for him and his wife than maintaining a house and staff. They loved circumnavigating the world (countless times) and visiting hundreds of ports. Full time travelers!
I prefer solid ground, but I have been talked into a (very) few cruises with family or friends. It is nice living in a floating resort, not having to pack and unpack, and have the destinations come to you, though they disappear in a flash. There is the overabundance of (often unremarkable) food, drink and entertainment — and people. Yet I have proposed one for our 60th wedding anniversary next spring. It is not really traveling, but an exercise in self-indulgence. I think I am ready for it!