Tag Archives: Travel

Photo Friday – Sweet Treats in La Paz, Bolivia

31 May

We spent a few days in La Paz, Bolivia after our awesome salt flat tour, and every day we’d walk through a market near the hotel to find the woman who made these pastries.  She’d be there bright and early with fresh sugary goodness for us to try.  We must have eaten dozens of these treats over the span of four days.  Delicious!

The Australia Roundup

9 Apr

map_of_australia

The Statistics

Number of days spent in country – 48

Cities/towns visited – Bussleton, Margaret River, Alice Springs, Kings Canyon, Yulara, Cairns, Port Douglas, Sydney, Manly, Melbourne, Hobart, Sorell, Port Aurthur, Coles Bay, St Helens, Pyengana, Scottsdale, Launceston, Westbury, Deloraine, Meander, Chudleigh, Mole Creek, Gowrie Park, Strahan, Queenstown

Number of different lodgings – 20

Flights – 6

Bus journeys – 14

Boat rides – 6

Combi/collective/taxi  journeys – 3

Car rentals – 5

The Budget

Australia roundup

Australia was a challenge on our budget, partly because it’s really expensive, and partly because we were travelling with family for most of the trip.  We took a lot of cross-country flights, which bumped up our budget in a major way (you can see from the chart the travel costs were HALF our budget).  Our accommodation costs were also significantly higher than if we had been on our own, though we did share rooms or get family rooms most of the time and we had two weeks of basically free nights from time share exchanges and hotel points from my mom.

Total US dollar amount spent – $10, 121

Average cost per day, per person – $105.43.  We spent around $121 when we were travelling with our family, $70.53 when we were on our own.

Average lodging cost per night, per person – $39.10  We only had to pay for lodging for 25 of the 47 nights we were in Australia, thanks to some timeshare exchanges, loads of free-camping in Tasmania, some couchsurfing, and the generosity of a few friends of friends.  We stayed in motels with my parents, and spent a week in an airbnb apartment in Melbourne.  Australia had the most expensive lodging, even when looking at the cost of staying in hostel dorm rooms, that we encountered on our entire trip.

Most expensive lodging, per person – $76.50 at the Ayers Rock Resort.  Yikes.

Least expensive lodging, per person – $3.20 for a campsite outside of Strahan, Tasmania.

Average food/drink cost per day, per person – $19.20 With a few exceptions we self-catered. We did have quite a few fish and chips lunches, and a few very nice dinners out.

The Best

travacalmTravacalm – You may know that I have a bit of a problem with motion sickness.  And by a bit, I mean a huge problem.  This is particularly true when the motion involves water, and it is a rare occasion that I escape a boat ride without throwing up at least once.  So, you can imagine my delight when I was introduced to Travacalm, which appears to be the only motion sickness medicine that ACTUALLY WORKS!  I discovered it on our snorkel trip to the Great Barrier Reef (more about that below).  I spent the whole crazy choppy trip out to the reef literally willing myself not to puke as at least 5 people all around me were getting sick.  I could only hold out so long though, and ended up being pretty sick just prior to getting into the water.  Fortunately, being in the water really helps, so I was feeling much better by the time we were ready to head back to shore.  One of the crew members was handing out Travacalm  to those of us with seasickness and for the first time in my life I survived a really rocky ride of nearly an hour and a half back to shore without feeling so much as a twinge of dizziness.  You can’t buy this stuff in the USA, so I promptly went to the pharmacy and bought 10 boxes.  For real.

Wavelength Great Barrier Reef Snorkel trip – If you get all the way to Cairns or Port Douglas, you’d be remiss to not make it out to the Great Barrier Reef.  There are quite a few companies ready to take your money, so you need to really look around for what you want. For us, it was important to have a trip just for snorkeling, and we didn’t want to be on a boat with hundreds of other people who would then be crowding around us in the water and scaring all the fish away.  That’s why we went with Wavelength.  They take only about 30 passengers, are totally snorkel dedicated, and ended up being a great choice for us.  They give you a full-coverage stinger suit (to protect from jellyfish stings) and pool noodles to help you float lazily along.

SmithsSmiths Salt and Vinegar chips – We have a real weakness for salt and vinegar chips, and these were the best flavor we found in all of Australia.

$2 sushi rolls in Melbourne – Another way to ease your budget blues!  You can get cheap and tasty sushi rolls all over the city.  I only needed two to fill me up for a lunch!

Fish n’ Chips – As a former colony of England, Australia really has nailed the art of fish n’ chips.  We sampled this classic favorite all over the continent, and it rarely disappointed us.  It was also pretty easy on our budget, especially compared to the high cost of restaurant meals.

Bondi to Coogee Beach walk outside of Sydney – We spent the better part of a day strolling along this famous coastal walk, and it was totally worth it.  Especially when you end at a rooftop bar overlooking the ocean.  Bliss!

Getting out into the wilderness – Australia has some serious nature.  From the Outback to the Gold Coast, to the rugged mountains of Tasmania, to the wine valleys, to the rain forests north of Cairns… this continent has it all.  I highly recommend reading Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country
to get a real sense of just how wild Australia really is.

Wine Tasting – Australia is famous for a lot of things, one of them is fantastic wine.  You can visit a variety of different wine regions, but we spent most of our time in the Margaret River Valley, which is south of Perth.  It was awesome, and most of the tastings were FREE!  Just make sure you have a designated ‘skipper’.

Tasmania – If you like nature and hiking and camping and beautiful scenic vistas, then you should go.  Really, just go.  Make sure you have at LEAST 10 days to really do it justice.  We had 16 and we could have easily spent twice as long.

The Worst

Australia was great, and the only part we really disliked is that the US dollar is not so strong at the moment…which made it a very expensive trip.  Still, that’s not Australia’s fault, but just be prepared to drop more cash than you might have originally planned for.

Photo Friday – Snacking in Bangkok, Thailand

5 Apr

Mmmm….fried bugs.  You can find carts full of fried bugs all over SE Asia.  Apparently they are not only filling, but can be really healthy for you.  Some seem like they’d be more horrible to eat than others (see the giant cockroach?) whereas others are so crispy that they just taste like a very well done french fry.   One thing I didn’t know about eating bugs is that in Thailand, most of these critters are raised in captivity for the sole purpose of being sold as snacks.   Yum!

Reflecting and Moving On

1 Apr

Fabulous shot of our new home city by vandan desai on Flickr

A year ago today I wrote a post about the heart of why we decided to take our career break to travel around the world.  Part of me wanted to write it to answer some of the questions we’d gotten about why we wanted to take this kind of a trip in the first place.  Another part of me wrote it as a way to recognize some of the terrible moments of loss that caused us to re-evaluate our path in life.

We’re done with the trip, and in a bit of a state of limbo.  We’ve returned to my home state of Colorado, and are in the middle of the hurricane that is searching for new jobs after not working for nearly two years.

Now that we’re home, people want to know if we think we’ll miss all the travel or if we think we’ll be happy here.  I’ve learned to not anticipate how I will, or will not feel about something.  Right now I’m very happy.  I was ready to come home and see my family and friends.  I have been longing for my own space, a garden, the intellectual challenge that comes with my line of work.  Right now I don’t miss travel, but that’s partly because I know our travel will never really be done.  We’ll always have a strong sense of wanderlust, and I’m sure we’ll be travelling as frequently as we can, just as we did before this trip.

One thing I do know for sure is that we are much more focused on living the rest of our lives with as little regret as possible and we’ll continue to listen to what burns inside of us because really, those are the things our dreams are made of.

Below is our post from April 1, 2012
‘Living The Dream – Why We Chose To Leave It All Behind’

Recently we met a young couple who genuinely didn’t understand why we embarked on this huge journey.  They wanted to know why we didn’t seem to miss our clothes, our home, our ‘regular’ lives.  Why aren’t we worried about what happens when we go back, or when we run out of money?  Why aren’t we worried about our careers? Why would we choose this unstable sort of life?

These are all valid questions, and some can be answered at least partially by checking out our “About Us” section.

We’ve been on the road for almost five months and we’ve thought a lot about the things that motivate us to travel, and the reasons behind the decisions that have landed us where we are in life.

I’ve started this post a dozen different times and discarded every attempt at an answer until now.  It’s a complicated answer because life is complicated.

Why do writers write?  Why do athletes compete?  Why do artists create?  Most of them will tell you that it’s because it is their passion.  There is something that burns inside of them and says “This is what you must do”, and so they do it.  If you ask Justin if he has a burning passion for travel he’ll say no, but he does enjoy it.  If you ask me, I’ll say yes, I have a passion for travel, but it’s not all encompassing.   We have a love of the world, a desire to see new things, to immerse ourselves in different cultures, to meet new people.  Yes, it can be frustrating  to not have a huge wardrobe selection, or to have to move every few days, or to have to sleep in dorm rooms with 20 other travelers, but the benefits of what we are doing far outweigh these minor issues.

This alone might be answer enough for most people, but there is more behind it.

We’ve lived fairly comfortable lives.  We had the opportunity to earn university degrees, we had careers that we enjoyed, family and friends we love, and we could have settled comfortably into a nice routine in Colorado and lived out our lives pleasantly…but…there’s always a ‘but’.

People talk about living life to the fullest, taking advantage of every moment, every opportunity.  Most people don’t follow that philosophy in their everyday reality though.  Life is busy, things get in the way.  All those responsibilities build up and we have a hard time looking through them to where those moments and opportunities might lead us.  I’m as guilty as anyone else of living like that.  The conventional wisdom tells us to work hard.  Save money.  Plan for the future.  We were on that path.  We were saving money for a down-payment on a home. I was pushing myself professionally to make sure my career path had an upward trajectory.  We were diligent about putting money aside for retirement.

Then, over the last few years, a number of things started to jolt us out of that cocoon of complacency.  A close friend’s mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  My mother was hit hard financially and lost her home to the bank.  A schoolmate from when I was a child died from a brain tumor.  A classmate from high school died from melanoma.  Three years ago today, one of my most dear friends was murdered by her ex-husband.

Everyone knows life is precious and fleeting, but these events sucker-punched me.  There were things that had been left unsaid, regrets, and ‘should-haves’ and the weight of them felt terrible.  We came to realize that while we had a great life, we weren’t actually taking advantage of what it could be.  It became painfully clear that despite the best of plans and the most careful of arrangements, it can all be gone in an instant.  We took a good long look at ourselves and asked,What is it that we dream of?  Why don’t we follow that dream and see where it goes?

That burning passion that writers and artists and athletes have for what they do?  Well, I don’t exactly have that, but the thing that burns inside of me says take the chance.  So we did.

Photo Friday – Temples in Nepal

29 Mar

Today’s photo comes to you courtesy of Justin.  He snapped this awesome temple-top and prayer flag photo somewhere just outside of Kathmandu.  While I was busy burning up in the hospital, I insisted Justin head out for some sightseeing with a friend we made while trekking the Annapurna Circuit.  I really wish I would have been able to go with him, but we at least have some photos of the places he visited.  Unfortunately, he didn’t bother to write down where they were going…so we don’t know exactly where this was.  Do you know?  If you do, let us know in the comments!

Photo Friday – Uluru at Sunset

8 Mar

A few months ago I posted one of our Uluru sunrise photos.  Today we have a more traditional view, the sunset and a clear blue sky.  I really expected the rock to turn a very bright red, as per all the postcards…but clearly those have been super photoshopped.  Still, it was really lovely.

Photo Friday – Coffee Culture in New Zealand

1 Mar

We could not find a decent cup of drip coffee to save our lives in Australia or New Zealand.  Down under, they are all about the ‘long black’ or the ‘flat white’ or any other variety of fancy espresso based coffee, non of which really satisfied my need for a basic morning cup of black sludge.  That said, they really have perfected the art of the fancy coffee, as evidenced by the multitude of patterns you are sure to discover in your milk foam at any decent coffee shop.  We particularly liked this one, the New Zealand silver fern.

 

Photo Friday – Street Art in San Francisco

15 Feb

Graffiti is not what it used to be in San Francisco.  We spent some time there earlier in the week and stumbled on this colorful alleyway down near Mission St.   It reminded me so much of Valparaiso, which, totally reminded me of San Francisco…it’s a cyclical thing.

Photo Friday – Bananas in Mysore, India

8 Feb

It’s bananas. B.A.N.A.N.A.S.

For some reason, bananas have been pretty expensive in parts of New Zealand.  It seems like they might grow well here, so it’s a tad confusing.  In any case, it made me think of the time we were walking through this huge market in Mysore, India.  It’s hard to tell just from this picture, but this entire section was filled with bananas, including the three sections behind this, and all the stalls opposite of it.  Seriously, there were millions of them.  I kept thinking, “How can they possibly sell all these before they rot?”

The Indonesia Roundup

5 Feb

map_of_indonesia

The Statistics

Number of days spent in country –  30

Cities/towns visited –  Kuta, Bali; Ubud; Bali, Padang Bai, Bali; Gili Air, Lombok; Sengigi, Lombok; Kuta, Lombok

Number of different lodgings – 7

Flights – 0

Bus journeys – 4

Boat rides – 3

Taxi  journeys – 5

The Budget

indonesia chart

Total US dollar amount spent – $2054.14

Average cost per day, per person – $34.24

Average lodging cost per night, per person – $7.45

Most expensive lodging, per person – $12.50 for a private cabana with bath at Banana Cottages on Gili Air.  It was an ok value, though it would have been better if it included breakfast.  The cabanas were brand new though, and were cleaned every day, which was a huge treat for us.

Least expensive lodging, per person – $3.65 for a private double with bath (cold shower, toilet, no sink) including breakfast at Tri Putri homestay in Kuta, Lombok.  It’s a basic surfer compound but we had our own room with a fan and bathroom, unlimited banana pancakes (really crepes) for breakfast, a little patio area with a  drying rack, and it was just on the edge of the village.

Average food/drink cost per day, per person – $12.20 – We ate out exclusively, everything from $1.00 Mie Goring (the local cheap noodle dish) to more Western style meals, mostly on Gili Air.  We also drank copious amounts of beer.

The Best

Chill Out Bungalows and Bar on Gili Air – This was the most consistently decent Western food we had in Indonesia.  It’s beachfront and they have free wifi that actually works.  They have tables inside, little surfer decks (most have some cover) outside, and lounge chairs on the beach that you can use all day if you order something, even just a bottle of water.

Cheap cheap cheap Magnum ice cream bars.

Corner Warung, in Ubud, Bali (on the corner of JL Raya Ubud and JL Sugriwa) – Really great food for cheaper than comparable places.  The Thai beef salad and the BLT’s are the best.

Tude’s Family homestay in Ubud, Bali (on Sugriwa St not far from where the street branches off from JL Raya Pengosekhan.  There’s also an entrance on Gang Menda.  Call ahead – 081 338 227 008) – It’s walkable from the Perama bus stop and the town center, but far enough out to have a real neighborhood feel.  He’s got two rooms, one with a double bed, one with two twins, both have their own bathrooms.  The rooms are new and spotless, and come with breakfast , afternoon tea, and towels.  Prices vary, depends what you negotiate, but we paid around $7 per person in the shoulder season.

Paying a few dollars to spend the day lounging around at fancy hotel pools.  Lots of places will let you do this, just ask around until you find one you like.  Biyukukung Suites and Spa, on JL Sugriwa #89 near Tude’s is great because it feels like you are in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rice fields.  There’s an upper and a lower pool, the lower is much more private.

Super cheap local food – you can get a plate of Nasi Campur (rice based dish) or Mie Goreng (noodle based dish) for a dollar or two at many local places.  Quality varies, so ask around about good places.  This particular plate we found at a tiny little place in Ubud for $1.  It was pretty good, and Justin ate a total of 3 full plates in one sitting.

We took a cooking class at Casa Luna one day, and we were very pleased with the value.  It’s a group class, so you don’t get to do everything, but there’s TONS of food and it’s really interesting to see the curries made from scratch, especially since they take a fair amount of effort if you are hand grinding all the ingredients.  We took a class on a day with the market tour and it was great to be able to wander around the local market with a guide who could tell us a little more about the food and spices that we were buying to cook with.

The Worst

The never-ending calls of ‘taxi/transport/massage?!?’ you get while walking down the street.

Kuta, Bali.  Wow.  I mean, we somehow just had no idea that Bali is to Australians what Mexico is to Americans, meaning a place to get crazy drunk for super cheap, or a place to stay in nice resorts for a fraction of what you’d pay in Australia.  We were expecting paradise, but Kuta just reminded us of Cancun…only tackier.    It’s the place to be if you want super cheap t-shirts/sarongs and a souvenir penis in the form of a bong, bottle opener, lamp or just about anything else you can imagine and you can get them in wood, plastic, aluminum, or disco ball style.  You can also find a full range of some of the most offensive stickers I’ve ever seen.   Most people end up here for at least a day since the airport is here, but it was our least favorite place in our entire 15 month trip.

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