September 10, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Having a Baby at Home in Costa Rica

Greg Rachel Pregnant Costa Rica

Cost/day: $1500

What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened lately?

I’m finally having a baby!! (Our sixth.)

Describe a typical day:

We’re staying in the mountains of the Central Valley, with a gorgeous view of the ocean waaaay off in the distance. Grandma and grandpa have come to visit, in anticipation of the birth of our sixth child. We’ve all been a little antsy just waiting around (which is why we took a trip to the chocolate farm, just an hour from our house, on my due date :)

But now the day has finally arrived. It’s beautiful, the sun is shining and my labor has started. Our new baby will be joining our family soon!

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

Like: The house where we are living has a beautiful ambience. From the balcony of the master bedroom I can see the Pacific Ocean off in the far distance, surrounded by deep, verdant hills that are often clothed with soft, white clouds. Toucans, green parrots and other exotic birds perch in the trees outside my windows.

I feel loved and supported by my husband and children, as well as my cousin, mother and step-dad and midwife who are all in attendance. Pura vida!

Dislike: The only thing I dislike today are my intensifying contractions… but they will result in a miraculous experience, so they are worth the discomfort.

Describe a challenge you faced:

Deciding to have this baby was a huge challenge for me. My fifth birth was extremely difficult, and although I felt that having another child was the right thing for our family, I was scared to death to give birth again!

Now the day is here, and I’m feeling peaceful, confident and surrounded by love and inner power and strength.

What new lesson did you learn?

I did it! She’s here!

She’s beautiful and perfect, and I was strong.

The birth was perfect, and I feel empowered.

Saige Journee Denning, 9lbs and 21 inches long.

Having a baby at home

Saige

Where next?

Staying put here and enjoying the ‘babymoon’.

You can read the full birth story here.

Check out The Mother’s Guide to Funding Family Travel or learn how to create a ‘Freedom Income’.

You can also connect with me on Facebook, or join our Fantastic Family Fridays.

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Category: General, Vagabonding Field Reports

September 6, 2014

A New Yorker goes to the Minnesota State Fair

Butter heads at the fair

Butter heads at the fair

It was December of 2004 when I took my first Contiki trip for two weeks in Australia. On the first night I met two girls from Minnesota and that’s where the love affair with the State Fair began. For years Cara has been teaching this New Yorker about all things Minneapolis and although I’ve now been many times I was never able to hit it at the right time to take part in the festivities. It took just about a decade but I finally made it to the Minnesota State Fair.

I learned a lot from Cara. I learned about ‘Minnesota nice’, throwing my hat by the Mary Tyler Moore statue and the structural brilliance that is the Spoon and Cherry. I’ve spent time making s’mores on Lake Superior, walked across the border into Wisconsin and listened to loons at a few of the twelve thousand lakes. There has been fun at the mall, a visit to the Jolly Green Giant, photos at lock and dam number one which was a first for this ocean loving New Yorker and then a return visit for her wonderful wedding. And let’s just talk about the fabulousness that is an ice-house and an ice party-Oofdah! Minnesota is a wonderful place.

We were finally were able to schedule a trip at the end of August 2011. We were even able to catch up with another travel friend (who also lives in Minneapolis) we met two years prior in Europe. When Hurricane Irene hit our Long Beach shores and the ocean waves were quickly encroaching up the beach nearing our car park and sea wall, we were safely ensconced in the twin cities waiting for the day we would get to head to the fair and finally see the truth behind the heads carved out of butter. Ten years ago I heard of these butter heads and couldn’t come close to picturing what it would be like at all. Would I really get to meet a Dairy Princess?

Cara and Stacey at the fair

Cara and Stacey at the fair

We hopped a bus to the fair, got our tickets and smiled wide as we entered the gates of what could have been many, many football fields worth of fairgrounds. I guess had I been to the New York or any other state fair ever in my life, perhaps I wouldn’t have been as excited, but this was special. My Aussie husband had never been to anything like this either so it was a treat and a half for us both. For Cara, it has been a yearly event for as long as she can remember. When those ten days roll around at the end of August people from all walks of life flood into Minneapolis to take part in, work at, eat at or visit this fabulous spectacle. Concerts take place, competitions are won, farm animals are shown and dairy princesses take center stage in the dog days of summer at the fair. We went, we watched, we ate and we smiled.

First of all, this is one of the best people watching spots I’ve ever seen. Thousands of people wander the roadways and sections and the fashions of decades past forced some of us to raise a quizzical eyebrow-but it was all part of the fair. Our first stop was the Dairy pavilion. Not for my lactose intolerant friends, this is where you can get fresh ice cream & yoghurt, whole milk in abundance and here in all their glory are the butter heads. Children and adults press their faces as close to the panes of glass as possible as if New York City’s Macy’s Christmas windows had come alive. The incredible artist sculptor comes each year to create masterpieces at the fair. She’s an amazing artist and manages to take the exact likeness of these chosen Dairy Princesses and carve their features into blocks of butter. The artist and the princess she’s working on adorn puffy parkas to keep warm in the frozen tundra that encapsulates them so that the butter can stay at a temperature warm enough to carve and cold enough to keep its sculpted form. It’s a huge honour to be crowned a Dairy Princess and after the fair is over the family of the princess gets to keep the butter heads if they choose. We watched in awe of this artistry and marveled at this magical moment that could only happen here in the land of dairy.  And then Cara told me that I too could get my head carved out of butter! You should have seen the look on my face! With the help of the Internet, we went to the butter head station, uploaded my photo and within minutes my face appeared as a butter imprint on a pin that I could proudly wear. After years of wondering, I finally got to see a head carved out of butter-this was a huge check off my travel list!

A taste of Pronto Pups

A taste of Pronto Pups

As with any fair, food is a huge attraction. Mat was the first to get a lesson in all food Minnesota State Fair. Cara, being an expert in all things fair steered us to her favourite pronto pup vendor. You should have seen the look on my husband’s face when she said ‘you have to have one of these’! And just like that we learned the difference between a pronto pup and a corn dog and the magical taste sensation that happens when you put anything on a stick! Her reasoning for the pronto pup was that when dipped in pancake batter the hot dog takes on a whole new flair. I photographed, he ate and all was right with the world. Me, I went in the direction of salty and sweet. First there was an oozy and gooey s’more from the S’mores truck that melted in my mouth and fingers. Next, there was the pickle (on a stick of course) that was bigger than Mt. Rushmore. Then when we wanted some French fries we were steered past about fifteen different vendors to the only one Cara said was good enough to try-and again, of course, she was right. Who could say no to a jumbo sized red bucket filled with salty chips?

Fries at the fair

Fries at the fair

It’s no surprise that the fair lasts ten days since it would take us that long to be able to see every part. I sat on a tractor at the John Deere section and Mat happily adorned some paper animal hat on our way to the animal pavilion. Visions of Charlotte’s Web and the words to ‘Zuckerman’s Famous Pig’ danced through my head as we ventured into the barns to visit the pigs and goats and watched in amazement as we saw baby ducklings born right in front of us. So far, it has been even better than expected. Passing the prize winning vegetables, more rides and playing our own personal games of Frogger as we weaved in and out of crowds, we even got to have a look in the 4H pavilion taking me back to all of those special summers of my youth spent at 4H Camp in Riverhead, New York.

According to our host, no day at the fair is complete without a taste of her favourite squeaky cheese. What? She hasn’t steered us wrong yet, so with perplexed looks on both of our faces, we followed Cara and her then boyfriend (now husband), Wade, into the only food court that she liked for this mid-west delicacy. For us, this was a first. She ordered. We waited. Within minutes a small basket filled with oodles of fried goodness was upon us. Small dollops of fried cheese awaited and as Cara’s eyes lit up she watched as we took our first bite of these fried cheese curds and we all quietly listened for the squeak….and squeak it did!

There's something special about squeaky cheese!

There’s something special about squeaky cheese!

We could have stayed forever. There were endless rides, countless pavilions filled with amazing sights, vendor after vendor of fried deliciousness and people as far as the eye could see. Sadly, we only had one day to spend at the Minnesota State Fair, but in that one day it far surpassed all of my expectations that started when I first heard about it on a boat in the Great Barrier Reef all those years ago. For a girl who has smiled every time I’ve landed in the dairy land, the fair was a huge success. For me, the end of the official summer season is always showcased by days at the beach listening to the ocean and saying goodbye to our friendly lifeguards-but, I always look forward to hearing Cara’s stories and reliving those moments when I got to meet a real life Dairy Princess at the Minnesota State Fair.

Have you been to the Minnesota State Fair? What’s your favourite thing about state fairs?

For more of Stacey’s travels check out her website.

 

 

 

 

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Category: General, Notes from the collective travel mind

August 31, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Michael Hodson

Michael Hodson 7117_708396211287_13609822_41749872_709257_n

 
Age: 46
 
Hometown:  Fayetteville, Arkansas
 
Quote:  Improve or go backwards, there is no standing still.

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Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

August 29, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Ligeia and Mindy

Ligeia and Mindy Mindy-Ligeia-1

boundingoveroursteps

Age: 33 and 41

Hometown: Baltimore and Toronto respectively

Quote: I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.

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Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

August 27, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road

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Cost/day
The Great Ocean Road and it’s scenic tourist hotspots come without cost. What we found was fuel was expensive and will eat in to much of your daily allowance. We estimated at least $150 was spent in 2 days. The particular campground we stayed on was around $35 bucks for a pitch. This would probably rise in peak season.

Describe a typical day
The great ocean road is nothing more than a spectacular scenic drive. A 250 kilometre road along the south coast of Australia. 250k is by no means a long drive in terms of driving across Australia which made it hard not to rush it.

We set out from Torquay a small town at the foot of the Ocean Road. Replenishing our food stock and refilling the petrol tank we set off. Putting pedal to metal we began our journey.

It is a hard task not to slow the driving down to a minimum as you peer out the window at the vast Ocean that separates Australia and the Antarctic. Within an hour we had pulled up at several viewing spots. Each spot offering a new perspective of this Vast coast. Our aim was to reach some of the more renowned landmarks but each twist and turn of the road would reveal a new outstanding view that just had to be savoured.

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A few kilometres under our belt we pulled into to our first destination, a beautiful vantage point that looked out over the Twelve Apostles. These great natural monoliths stand tall and mighty from the ocean. The towering Rock formations are the result of years of erosion, proof of Australia’s natural beauty.

Although the rocks were once twelve standing spires only 8 remain. Remnants of the other four can still be seen led across the ocean below. A bare footed walk along the quiet beach allowed us time to stop and appreciate the pillars. An ample opportunity to take photos and dip your feet in the water.

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We took our time and enjoyed our surroundings before moving on. Hopping back into our camper we carried on down the road. We were in no rush and refused to cram too much into a single day. So we travelled further on and for one last point of interest, the London Bridge.

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This scenic rock formation was no longer standing but is still a sight to behold. It was once a free standing arch created by years of erosion. It had collapsed and left behind a small island and remnants that lined the ocean floor. We listened to a local story teller tell a humorous tale of the rocks collapse With an hour taking in this picturesque sight we decided to make tracks.

In no particular hurry we stopped for a fish and chips at one of the many small towns along this drive. Relaxing by the water we researched a place to stay. A campsite 10 kilometres down the road and only a short drive to Airlies Inlet our first destination of our list for day 2.

Settling down we sparked up the barbecue, grilled ourselves some steaks and sat and enjoyed a glass of wine savouring the quiet relaxing surroundings. The stars filled the night sky as the sun fell away. The sound of the ocean gently soothed us as we reminisced on our amazing day.

Describe an interesting conversation
When we stopped at London Bridge a local story teller told the story of the day the rock collapsed. A man and a women had taken a stroll together across the rock to the island. After spending sometime here, the “bridge” had plummeted to the sea below. Both parties were fortunately safe but in need of rescue. With helicopters and sea rescue assisting the couple off the island it had stirred media interest. This was last thing the gentlemen had wanted. His intention was not to let anyone know where he had been that day. He had just so happened to become stranded on the island with his Mistress, an affair he would have rather kept under wraps. Instead he had made headline news and been exposed for all his infidelities. A true test of Karma.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
There isn’t really anything strange to see down this beautiful road.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
The best part of the journey for me was the scenery. It had been the picturesque dream I had imagined Australia to be. Enjoying the road with the windows down and the breathing in the cool sea air. The dream had become a reality

A minor dislike is the road is very short, we had hoped to travel for a few days, this is hard to do as campsites are few and far between. You will find yourself having to cover more distance in order to find a place for the night.

Where next?
Blue Mountains!!!!

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Category: General, Vagabonding Field Reports

August 20, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Paul Farrugia & Karen Sargent

Paul Farrugia & Karen Sargent globalhelpswap mongolian steppe b

globalhelpswap

Age: 39 & 36

Hometown: Birmingham, England & Malta

Quote: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

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Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

August 17, 2014

A week in Nepal

Not too long ago my friend and I went to Nepal during our 8 month round the world trip. It was a last minute stop-over (escape) during our three weeks in India, and we were pleasantly surprised with how beautiful and easy it was compared to the chaos we were experiencing in India. We were supposed to take an overnight train and bus from New Delhi, but after missing the train had to book a last minute flight to Kathmandu. We took a cab to Nagarkot, a village in the mountains, and stayed at a cute hotel.

After resting for a day, we decided to go on a three day trek that our hotel helped arrange. We had a great guide named Bikram who works for a Territory Himalaya (we highly recommend him) and left the next day. It was considered one of the easier treks you can do, but it was as hot as can be and by the end of the three days I dropped a few pounds for sure.

After hiking all day up and down and through the woods then back into the sun, we made it to a small hotel for the night. We were hiking towards Chisapani, where we would stay our last night before hiking and then getting a local bus back to Kathmandu.

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Category: Asia, General

August 15, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Johnny Isaak

Johnny Isaak Putuoshan.

Age: 54

 
Hometown: Pocatello, Idaho
 
Quote: “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” — William G.T. Shedd
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Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

August 13, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Organic Chocolate Farm in Costa Rica

Chocolate Farm and Swimming - 83

Cost/day: $20/person

What’s the strangest thing that’s happened lately?

Yes, I am nine months pregnant (today is my due date). But instead of sitting at home waiting around, we decided to visit an organic chocolate farm (and swam in a tropical river on the way. Okay, I just took pictures, I didn’t swim.)

We had to travel along the same bumpy, dirt road that we did to get to the beach just a few weeks ago, but only part way.

Chocolate Farm and Swimming - 24

Describe a typical day:

We’re staying in the mountains of the Central Valley, with a gorgeous view of the ocean waaaay off in the distance. Grandma and grandpa have come to visit, in anticipation of the birth of our sixth child. We’re all a little antsy just waiting around, so we decided to have an adventure. Enter the trip to the chocolate farm, just an hour from our house.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

Like: This chocolate farm is run by a family who has been in business for decades. They have volunteers who come and live and work to help out during harvesting. Learning about the entire process of making chocolate from cocoa bean to indulgent treat is very fascinating.

Dislike: The cicadas are in town, and they are very loud. It’s hard to hear our guide as he gives the tour. Oh that, and the biting ants. Don’t stand in one place for too long.

Chocolate Farm and Swimming - 32

Chocolate Farm and Swimming - 37

Chocolate Farm and Swimming - 46

Chocolate Farm and Swimming - 42

Describe a challenge you faced:

My biggest challenge was simply trying to get around with this very large belly!

What new lesson did you learn?

How chocolate is made, and that hands-on learning (worlds-schooling as we like to call it) is one of the best ways to learn, and some of the best experiences you can have. Plus we’re creating memories.

Chocolate Farm and Swimming - 60

Chocolate Farm and Swimming - 69

Chocolate Farm and Swimming - 75

Where next?

Staying put here for a while for sure… we’re having a baby!

I’ve recently written a post — The Mother’s Guide to Funding Family Travel, check it out here. You can also connect with me on Facebook, or join our Fantastic Family Fridays.

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Category: Central America, Destinations, General

August 6, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: the two sides of Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cost/day:
$40 per person if visiting Angkor Wat. $20 if not.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
The various temples of the massive Angkor Complex, the hordes of tourists that descend upon them, and the mass of children selling trinkets at each entrance and exit.

AugVag3

Describe a typical day: About half of our days were spent exploring the many temples of Angkor. On those days we would wake early to get out before the sun was too intense. We would spend the next several hours jockeying for position with other tourists in an attempt to get a picture or try for a near-impossible quiet moment of reflection. We usually headed back to the hotel around 2:00 where there was thankfully a pool so we could cool off. Afternoons and evenings were spent homeschooling and working until we’d head out to dinner, walking along the beautiful tree-lined river walk.

AugVag1

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Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local: I talked to one local about the tuk-tuk profession in Siem Reap. According to him, Siem Reap is a bit of destination for people throughout Cambodia to come and try their hand at driving a tuk-tuk. Relatively, they can make good money by driving tourists around the Angkor Complex for the entire day or even over three or more days. Cambodians come from other cities or villages with the hope of doing well. Hearing this was not surprising considering the amount of drivers we saw there.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
There are two sides to Siem Reap for me: the insanity of the main buildings of the Angkor Complex and the town itself. Angkor was certainly worth seeing but really frustrating due to the amount of tourists. Leaving your hotel around 5:00 a.m. is the only way to get around this. Or you can visit the less popular buildings, which are generally not crowded and really peaceful.  As for the city itself, I actually liked it quite a bit. I liked being able to find anything I could ever need or want in a small space at the market. The walk along the river is really peaceful and the restaurants were good and cheap. Locals were kind and helpful. Outside of the city and the main temple complex there were a lot of beautiful hikes and natural scenery. The only thing I disliked was that it was incredibly touristy, but it was expected.

AugVag4 AugVag7

Describe a challenge you faced: I don’t really want to call it challenge, but I was confronted with a well known scam in Siem Reap. This one involves a lady or child asking for assistance while holding a baby. She holds up a baby bottle and tells you she doesn’t want money, only milk for the baby. If you oblige and follow her to the store that is close by,  she simply goes back later and returns the formula and gets the cash.

I’d been traveling long enough to know that something seemed off with the request so I declined. It was hard, though, to have a mother holding a baby pulling on your arm asking for help and then refusing. Even though I knew it was some sort of scam, which was later confirmed when I read about it online, it was still a haunting image. Despite it being a scam there was still a sadness to it all.

What new lesson did you learn?
I have a hard time enjoying anything if there are too many tourists, travelers, whatever you want to call them/us. Sometimes, though, if you want to see a place you just have to deal with it. I was able to actually enjoy some places in Angkor despite the huge amount of tourists surrounding me by accepting that it is just part of the deal. I can’t expect that a place so renowned is going to be free from tourists and disliking my time or hoping for something different is pointless. I had to accept that part of the Angkor experience is dealing with other people (a lot of other people). It was nice, though, to get to some of the less known spots in the complex where I could be alone and contemplate the grandeur and wonder of such an amazing place.

AugVag2

Where next?
Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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Category: General, Vagabonding Field Reports
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