June 30, 2014

Two ways to live

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

-Einstein

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Category: General

June 27, 2014

Enjoy the ride

 

Chris Plough - Guadalupe Mountains - 2014

(Riding past the Guadalupe Mountains)

I was planning to write about learning to throw axes during my last trip to Toronto. About how it reminded me to get out of my head and flow in the moment. That the moment I started laughing, that’s exactly what would happen and my throws became more accurate. I’ll write about it another time, though, because today I learned that my grandfather has passed away.

He had an incredible impact on my life and is a large part of why I’ve become the man I am. Though he was a great man, I’m not going to write about him either. First – it’s much to fresh and I don’t have perspective yet. Second – this blog is about us, learning about how travel has made our lives better.

Instead, I’m going to write about why I’m grateful that I’m able to ride my motorcycle across three thousand miles of this beautiful country. Right now – I can’t imagine anything better than cruising through the incredible landscapes of the Southwestern United States, then up the Pacific Coast Highway.

I don’t know about you – but for some reason, I’ve always found driving and riding to be almost meditative. After a few hours on the road, it always seems that the gates to my subconscious pry open and I’m flooded with thoughts, ideas… emotions. All those things that we seem to seem to suppress during our minor-crisis and Facebook filled days.

How about you? When do you find that moment? I know some people who find it when running; others when meditating; and more than a few after a judicious portion of psychedelic drugs.

This is one of the main reasons that I love traveling. I mean, aside from meeting interesting people and seeing/smelling/hearing/feeling a new place. The act of traveling – of being on the road – brings me a sense of contentment. Of course, even that has its limits. After 14 hours in a truck, I’m usually beat and need to pull over for a nap. On a bike, anything over 7 hours makes my butt ache – a lot.

Again – how about you? Do you seek the destination or the journey? Both? Think back on your last few trips – which memories burn the brightest? Were they from the destination — or from somewhere along the way?

All I know is that I’m grateful that I get to spend the next couple of weeks in the saddle, flying across long stretches of highway. Right now it’s about the journey.

Chris Plough writes and podcasts at oznog.com, where he shares stories and advice from his adventures and from the incredible people that he’s met along the way. You can also follow him on twitter: @chrisplough.

 

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Category: General, North America, On The Road, Solo Travel, Vagabonding Life

June 25, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Jervis Bay and Huskisson: Grey nomads and toe licking possums.

Cost/day
Green Patch camp in Jervis bays Booderee National Park is cheap as Chips, there is nothing here that asks you to spend money, only the camping pitch which is around $30 to $40 a night. This is money well spent for a beautiful haven of wildlife, woodland and beaches. If you have yourself a supply of food, you won’t find yourself spending a cent more. Barbecue areas exist but may need a good hose down before cooking!

Huskisson however is a small fishing town with various Whale Watching and Dolphin tours around the area. Various restaurants and shops line the Main Street. So you might find yourself spending a little more enjoying the area.

Describe a typical day
Jervis Bay is not a roller coaster of excitement which is the beauty of the National Park. It is a calm, tranquil, secluded piece of New South Wales.

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From our camper we cooked ourselves some bacon and eggs and sat at our camping table and submersed ourselves in our surroundings. Wallabies bumble about undisturbed by your presence. Various parrots and other colourful birds swoop around the green canvas of the trees that make up the woodlands. We entertained ourselves for a while before grabbing a towel and heading for the beach.

Jervis Bay has many walking trails around the different sections of the National Park. We wandered for a good hour taking in the fresh air and luscious greenery and calm before settling on the beach.

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We were told that it was the whitest sand beach in the world (although I’m sure many other beaches may say the same) and it was certainly the whitest sand we had ever seen. It seemed so pure and clean, untouched by any other elements. The sand crunched under our feet, reminiscent of fresh snow fall under boots. The beach stretched across the cove from the rocky edges that held several fisherman to the merging edge of the woodlands. The beach was almost deserted and blissfully quiet. So we sat watching the waters lap the white sands, we let the sun beat down and read our books.

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Later that day we had booked ourselves on a trip out into the waters with the promise of some Humpback Whale Watching, so we took our camper for a quick drive to Huskisson. A large speed boat waited for us and we climbed aboard and set off out to sea. The rough nature of the waters made for a great deal of fun on our search for sea life.

A very knowledgable tour guide talked us though the story of the bay – yet another discovery of Captain Cook. For a while it seemed we had paid for nothing more that a boat ride. Everyone’s eyes were peeled and eager to spot something but to no avail. The odd wave gave a little excitement of a possible whale spot here and there. Then after a long wait and from out of the blue a large juvenile male whale wanted to give us a show. For almost twenty minutes we watched from almost 50 feet away this beautiful creature diving from the waters and blowing water to our amazement. Many of the tourists clambered over each other for a good picture.

Before long the whale had grown tired and moved on as did we. We were on our way to a small rock that was home to a large family of seals which again we were excited to see. At about five minutes into our journey a small asian lady spotted some unexpected sea life, from each side was the fantastic sight of a pod of dolphins as they followed the boat at great speeds. They threw themselves from the water in synchronised acrobatics. We watched for a good ten minutes before another magnificent show was over. The trip was turning out to be more than we had expected!

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To end the tour we approached the seal rock where we found many seals sunbathing, unaffected by us being there. We watched as they went about there buisness; it was great to observe them as they dived into the sea and swim happily. We listened to their playful calls and snapped many photos. Before long It was time to head back to shore.
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Back on land we had ourselves a fish and chips by the sea and bought some meat for our evening barbecue.

On our return to Jervis Bay,
we settled for the night and enjoyed a beautiful unblemished sunset. We sparked up a barbecue and enjoyed the company of an elderly Australian couple that had pitched next to us. After a long day we retired to bed.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

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The local wildlife here has to be the tamest I have seen in Oz, or anywhere for that matter! The local parrots were very fond of our bananas and would gather in the trees around our camp. At any given opportunity they would swoop in numbers and attack our food bags. Watching a brightly coloured bird try and fly off with a banana is amusing in itself. However even after sundown there was no escaping the hungry undeterred wildlife. As I sat tucking into a burger I couldn’t help ponder what the sensation was around my toes. With a torch in hand I had a startling moment when I noticed a possum happily licking my big toe! To say I was quick to leap up from my chair was an understatement! Although as quick as I was to jump up, so were the surrounding gang of possums just as quick stealing a loose sausage from our plate and running off for a late night snack. They were just as cute and amusing as they were devious rascals so we had a good laugh with them.

Describe an interesting conversation you had:
We were very fortunate to have been pitched next to a lovely elderly couple Steve and Leslie. You couldn’t have found a happier pair of folks. We spoke for sometime about our travels, England and other general chit-chat.

What was interesting was they described themselves as the “Grey Nomads” part of a generation of retirees who, in their own words, wanted to “spend our children’s inheritance on ourselves”. They had quite simply sold their house, bought a camper and hit the road.

They had more knowledge than we could take in. They gave us great places to visit, taught us some great amusing Aussie lingo and they shared many stories and made us chuckle all night. The beauty of meeting this great couple was their firm idea of choosing not to live out retirement as a pensioner with nothing more to contribute to the world. They made sure every penny and every piece of hard work and graft in their nearly 70 years paid off. They made sure they had earned the right to be happy and enjoy their freedom.

This really opened my eyes to the Australian culture. On reflection it seems that the English culture seems to be that you work your entire life, grow old and die (not all English OAP’s live like this but a large percentage) and hitting retirement means you hang up your hat and become useless and boring.

The Grey Nomads of Australia are abundant and it seems to be the best years of many of their lives. Steve and Leslie were full of life, happy and above all seemed unburdened by getting old. I wish them many more happy years. A truly inspiring couple.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
It was peaceful, calm and full of amazing wildlife. Our trip to Huskisson was an amazing day out and shouldn’t be missed by any travellers to the area.
The only dislike is the lack of clean BBQ areas.

What new lesson did you learn?
That getting old is inevitable but life is to be enjoyed how ever many years you’ve seen. Steve and Leslie really opened my eyes to the idea that even in my golden years there shouldn’t be a reason I can’t still be living the life I’m leading now. Just be happy and enjoy the fact your still breathing.

Where next?
Phillip Island!!!

Follow me on Instagram: Evolvedsky

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Category: General, Vagabonding Field Reports

June 22, 2014

Roadtrip: Czech Republic to Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, and back

I recently had the experience to travel by car from Czech Republic to Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, and back. I was in the company of my fiance and his mother, the latter speaking only Czech, while I speak almost only English. Our situation had an interesting dynamic, but we had a lovely week camping, walking around cities, passing time in the car, and trying out local food. Unfortunately the weather was colder and rainier that we had hoped for, and camping in thunderstorms and snow was quite an unexpected adventure.

We started in Prague, and headed south to Austria. We didn’t have much of a plan, just a week to spare for traveling, and our first night we wound up camping on the side of the road. We cooked a small meal and went to bed somewhat early to get a quick start the next day.

We stopped briefly in Mariazell, Austria, but other than that we were in a rush to get to Slovenia. We found a campsite in near Lake Bled that was really really nice. They had showers, a pub/restaurant, free wifi, and the grounds were well kept and clean. A few miles walk through the woods and along the road would lead you to Lake Bled. The weather was perfect.

Lake Bled was probably one of the most picturesque places I’ve been. There are swans, castles, a thick forest, and the sunset over the lake was perfect. The campsite near by was fun, but I can imagine that staying in a hotel right on the lake would be a very nice experience as well.

After a couple of days in Slovenia, we headed to Croatia. Our first stop was at the waterfalls in Plitvice. The entrance fee was around $30, but the views were worth it. We only had a couple of hours because we got there later in the day, but again, worth it. We camped in Plitvice for the night, where it stormed non-stop.
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Category: Europe, General

June 19, 2014

Keep calm and collect miles: Miles, points, and last minute plans

My husband and I are not very good planners but we like it that way. Many times we are minutes away from checking out of one hotel and have not yet made a plan for our next one. It happens quite frequently in fact.

Or, as is the case today, our Thai visa is days away from expiring and we don’t yet have a plan of where to go next.

 

How can we be so care-free and unplanned?

For us the answer is frequent flyer miles and hotel points.

Flights

Last minute plans can get expensive, especially when you’re talking about flights. But the convenient thing about frequent flyer miles is that not only are the prices fairly fixed and consistent, there is also a likelihood that availability suddenly starts to open back up last minute.

You see when award flights are concerned, you’ll find the best availability either a few months before you plan to travel or mere days before you plan to travel. This is because some people will book tickets speculatively, then cancel the tickets when the time approaches if they realize that they are unable to travel. This means that last minute planning can actually reveal similar availability as advanced planning.

However, there are a few down sides to this last minute planning strategy. Most airline mileage programs will charge a fee of around $75 for last minute award bookings. In this case “last minute” refers to bookings made less than 21 days in advance.

$75 and a handful of frequent flyer miles is still more affordable than paying for a thousand dollar or more flight, not to mention more affordable than a full-fare ticket with minimal restrictions for post-booking adjustments. And if we think of that $75 fee as the price we pay for flexibility, in our opinions at least, it’s worth it to be able to make our plans as we go.

The other down side is that it can be a bit of a gamble.

For instance on one occasion we had plans to meet friends in Chile. Because of a few changed plans we didn’t book our tickets until the very last minute (a day or two before traveling). Unfortunately in this instance, availability didn’t open up by the time we knew we’d need to leave, so we ended up routing all over the place. We flew from NYC to Toronto to Asuncion to Buenos Aires and then finally to Valparaiso where our friend was waiting for us. While at the airport in Toronto we saw that availability was opening up for a direct flight from Toronto to Santiago. So we attempted to change our flights to this more convenient option, but alas, our layover wasn’t long enough for the necessary process and we had to follow through with our miserable series of connections.

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Still, it got us to Santiago affordably and at the end of the day, that is our goal. We’ll sacrifice some comfort for affordability and flexibility when we need to.

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Lets contrast that less-than successful anecdote with a more successful one. In another instance we arrived in Thailand quite ignorant of the visa details. Just by chance I thought to glance at the stamp in my passport and realized that because we’d entered via land (from Malaysia) rather than by air, our visa only allowed a 15 day visit. This realization was made a few days before our visa was to expire and we did not feel like we’d seen much of Thailand at all, so we had to plan a “visa-run” quickly.

We wanted to do this visa run by air so that we’d get the 30 day visa on arrival rather than 15 days so we hopped online and booked a roundtrip award ticket to Sri Lanka and back.

We ended up loving Sri Lanka. Without miles, our visa-run options would have been minimal. Again, in this scenario British Airways technically charges a fee around $75 for bookings made less than 21 days in advance, but in our opinion, it was worth it to visa-run somewhere we were truly curious to see and return for another 30 days in Thailand.

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Hotels

The last minute planning strategy is much easier when it comes to hotels. We’ve made award bookings online ten minutes before check-in with no greater hassle than needing to show the reference number to the hotel if the booking hasn’t yet showed up in their system.

 

The value of “last minute” planning

Sometimes there’s a deal you just want to jump on or sometimes there’s a place you hadn’t realized you’d love so much and you want to extend your stay. The nature of travel is that you just don’t know all the pieces of what’s ahead. Still, planning is not impossible. It’s quite possible.

But is it preferable?

For someone who feels anxious without a plan, perhaps it is. But there are certainly some people for whom the greater anxiety comes from a lack of flexibility. For these people, it’s nice to know that flexibility doesn’t have to break the bank.

As far as hotels are concerned, last-minute planning is rarely a problem. And where flights are concerned, it may cost you ~$75 and an extra half day to follow the last-minute route. So it’s all a matter of what that flexibility is worth to you. But at least by keeping a collection of miles on hand, last minute plans are not going to cost you hundreds as would easily be the case with paid tickets.

 

How do I keep miles on hand?

The “how” of keeping miles on hand does require a little planning but luckily there are resources.

For instance this Complete Guide to Miles Earning with Credit Cards is the perfect how-to to start with.

I recommend visiting the complete guide but the basics are as follows. Provided you have a credit score in the 700′s, you may consider applying for a variety of travel rewards cards.  Some of these cards will earn miles directly into your mileage program account and others will earn points that can transfer to a variety of hotel or airline programs.

But all of the recommended travel rewards cards generally come up with a  sign-up bonus to get you started out. In most cases the bonus is enough for a round-trip international flight. And if you learn how to use your miles wisely, perhaps you can go even further with those bonuses.

 

Application Strategies

The reason I’ve said that this can take some planning is because keeping a healthy credit-score requires spacing out credit-card applications. The credit bureau has reason to worry when a person looks desperate for credit. And applying for a slew of cards all at once will definitely make you look desperate.

That’s why we recommend spacing applications out by no less than three months. Ultimately, credit score does matter and is definitely worth intentionality.

You can find out all the details about how travel rewards cards relate to this in our post about improving your credit score.

 

Conclusion

Ultimately, keeping a “safety fund” of miles is much like keeping a “safety fund” of money. If you are budgeting in such a way that you have money set aside for those occasions where a last minute plan is needed, than that puts you in a position to keep calm and care-free.

But maybe you can make that monetary “safety fund” last even longer by also having a “safety fund” of miles and points on hand. After all, that is the currency of travel and thanks to travel rewards programs and credit cards, you can save them up simply by spending on the cards that reward you.

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Category: General

June 13, 2014

Working on the Road: Austin, TX

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(Working on this article in Austin – Vintage Heart Cafe)

My last couple of articles have been a bit higher-level (How lessons I learned while traveling have helped me through family tragedy and Becoming a better person via the kindness of strangers). Today, though, I’ve decided to post something much more tactical – the places I’ve enjoyed working over the past couple of weeks while in Austin, TX.

I’m riding my motorcycle across the western United States, in order to catch up with friends and interview them for my upcoming podcast. That means balancing a lot of work with a lot of fun. Austin seemed like the perfect starting point, since I’m considering moving down here. It was also a central place to meet up with my dear friend Stephen Blahut, so that we could decompress and brainstorm on our upcoming creative projects.

While I was here – I started looking for places to work. Coffee shops are always easy to find and Yelp reviews help – but I couldn’t find the info I was looking for: Internet speed, access policies, likelihood of finding a table, power outlet options, …); so I decided to start compiling it myself. In the process, it’s made me aware of the specialties of each place. Bennu is great for late-night work because they’re open 24/7. Hot Mama is a great place to record podcasts and to upload videos. Vintage Heart is a great place to come download a bunch of media. Cenote is just plain cool.

Now, this is by no means a comprehensive list – hell, it doesn’t even cover a fraction of Austin. If you’re caught on the east side, though and are looking for a place to work, here’s the places I can recommend. Got a favorite spot? Leave a comment and recommend it.

(Note: I’m not affiliated in any way with these shops – just appreciate what they offer.)

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(Cafes in Austin – click to enlarge)

Chris Plough writes and podcasts at oznog.com, where he shares stories and advice from his adventures and from the incredible people that he’s met along the way. You can also follow him on twitter: @chrisplough.

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Category: General, North America, On The Road, Travel Tech, Vagabonding Life

June 8, 2014

There’s never a perfect time

“I just graduated from college.”
“We just bought a house.”
“We just had a kid.”
“My son just started middle school.”
“I just started a new job.”

“Now just isn’t the right time.”

We’ve all heard it. Hell, we’ve all probably said it.

When making any decision that will result in a drastic lifestyle change, “Now just isn’t the right time” is an easy sentence to utter. Change can be hard. And even if you are really unhappy with your current lot in life, changing that is much easier said than done.

“Now just isn’t a right time” is actually a true statement in most of those cases.

But here’s some more truth for you:

There will never be a perfect time to make that change you so desperately want to make.

Whether it’s leaving a comfortable life to travel the world or finally quitting that job that makes you miserable, at some point, you’re going to just have to bite the bullet and do it.

There will always be an excuse not to do it. There will always be a reason to rationalize staying in your current situation. There will never be a checklist of items for you to tick off and say, “Well, everything’s done now, so we can go ahead and do it (whatever ‘it’ may be).”

Maybe you need a kick in the pants? Maybe you need someone, or better yet, a group of people, who have been in your exact situation?

The beauty of the age we live in is that we’re not bound by the walls of our house anymore. We aren’t limited to the city, state, province, country, or even continent we live in.

The world is literally at our fingertips.

And if traveling the world is something you’ve dreamed of doing but have always said, “Now just isn’t the right time,” then maybe you should reach out to others who have made it happen?

There are countless blogs and websites out there that provide inspiration, tips, and advice for how to go about vagabonding. But BootsnAll is one of the oldest and largest communities out there that deals solely with long-term travel. If you’re looking for more than that 1 or 2 week vacation but don’t know where to begin, or you don’t have the support network at home to make it happen, then join us.

Our goal is to help you stop making excuses and make your travel dreams a reality.

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Category: General

May 31, 2014

Embracing the online travel community

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Out there in the world of the Internet, there’s a community of people. Whatever your focus in life, you can find a twitter chat, blog post, Facebook page or Instagram feed to showcase your interests and connect with others who have a similar concentration. Today’s online world has pros and cons just like everything else. Often it takes sorting through drivel to find truth-but isn’t that true in anything we do? There’s that feeling of connection just waiting and although we might be sitting in our own homes instead of sharing meals in a hostel breakfast nook, making those travel connections can still take shape. When traveling we try to be safe, keep valuables close and protect ourselves-remember the same goes for the world of travel on the web. Find a new friend about to embark on that same tour, grab advice for the perfect time to stop at a natural wonder or connect with those who share dreams that your ‘home friends’ just can’t quite grasp-it’s all available in the online travel community.

I love meeting people who have a travel mindset. Many are those who work whatever job necessary to save to travel or keep the same old couch just a little longer to book that ticket. There are those with that same desire to embrace new cultures and step into a world different from their own. Trying to find adventure around every corner whether leaving home or not; for many of us, travel is the center point from which all other decisions are made. Returning from a journey is always difficult as the adventurer within is constantly nudging the subconscious and what once felt familiar now possibly foreign; so the online travel community of like-minded individuals staring at similarly faced screens has been a welcome delight. Finding and connecting with others on similar paths (that are very possibly different from the norm) is just another of travel’s gifts. There are those who dream of journeys not yet taken, those in the saving and planning stages of an expedition, those in the middle of their bucket list and ones who are happy to reminisce. They may be faces hidden behind an ‘at’ sign or a ‘hash tag’, but they are available to talk, share, hint, tip and be there with their keyboard to share dreams in the moment’s travel urge.

 

Pros of the online travel community

 

Cons of the online travel community

 

There’s a variety of social media, blogs, and websites within the online travel community. There are tourism boards, travel bloggers, twitter chats, visitor centers, Facebook pages and Instagram feeds and so much more to find, read, like, follow and connect. For those who want the details without the huge conversation or connection, it’s there. For those who are looking to join the community, it’s available at any and all hours. As is true with any voyage there are a few things to remember: trust your judgment, don’t share everything at the start, protect yourself, embrace the culture and you’ll find a community out there just waiting for you to join.

How do you feel about the online travel community?

To hear more about Stacey’s thoughts, advice and journey follow The Gift of Travel.

 

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Category: General, On The Road, Vagabonding Life

May 28, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays, in the heart of a Cyclone

Cost/day
Airlie Beach is a small town but quite competitive from business to business. All camping pitches we tried were no more than $25 which is very affordable compared with other campsites around Australia, but all vary in quality. The same competition goes for the bars and taverns that run the main beach street. Every bar on this strip seems to offer some sort of happy hour and in typical Australian style alcohol is cheap and abundant all day on Sundays. Expect to pay about $5-$10 for a pitcher of beer and some include a free BBQ. The most costly element is the tours that run around the Whitsundays. You could pay upwards of $60 but anything worth seeing would be $110 or more.

Describe a typical day
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What would have been a typical day, turned into a 3 day stopover. We had hit Airlie Beach in the midst of a cyclone warning so it was batton down the hatches. All boats were land locked or stranded on the Islands. We did what any good traveller would do and snuggled up at a bar and drank!

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The atmosphere was high at the local sports bar where we sheltered from the storm. A local band played an array of music from Johnny Cash to Guns and Roses. It seemed every disappointed and stranded traveller had made their way here bringing with them the booming atmosphere, so we danced sang and drank beer until our hearts content. The night is a vague memory but from what I gather it involved building 6 foot beer pitcher towers, at least one table dance and singing Bon Jovi as loud as my vocals would allow! I would happily recollect the end of this night if ever I remember!

After a lot of high winds and torrential downpour, two days later the boats were back on the water and after a long wait we finally boarded a ferry trip around the Whitsundays. Despite the cyclone, the weather had become clear and sunny.

We had researched several trips that ran from Airlie, each of them with their own unique take on a Whitsundays tour. We chose the calm Cruise Whitsunday ferries for half a day on Hamilton Island and half a day on Whitehaven Beach. The tours can also be done over two to three days, again they are competitive so each come at varying prices and qualities.

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So we set sail! It is about 45 minutes from Airlie to Hamilton Island. The captain engaged us with several stories about the islands and pointed out any great photo opportunities. However, hold on to your hats when on the top deck the wind and waters can be a bit choppy!

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Soon we were docking on the beautiful Hamilton Island. To describe my first emotion, it was like stepping into the pages of an Ian Fleming 007 novel. The Island set the perfect James Bond scene – palm trees, exotic villas, yachts I could never afford, alongside bars and restaurants that line the Island front. As the hills stretch up from the bay, various hotel and holiday homes were set amongst the luscious greenery.

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We wanted to explore the Island as best we could so we utilised the local transport. Other than the buses, no cars are allowed on the Island; all residents and tourists alike have the use of golf carts. This gave a quirky character to this holiday island. Rental was tempting but not worth the $80 a day rental we would have spent for only a couple of hours use. We opted for the free bus service that tours the island. This is ideal if you don’t mind a 5 minute wait here and there. All three routes will drop you off at all relevant spots each taking a different course around the Island. As Hamilton is relatively small it doesn’t take long to get to any particular area you desire.

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We stopped at various look out points to enjoy the beauty of our surroundings, taking in the vibrant greens and blues that radiate from the Island and the surrounding waters. All of this beauty is illuminated by the beautiful golden sunlight of the cloudless skies above.

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After many selfies and 101 scenic photos later we jumped back on the bus to stop at the Island’ s hotel! Here we found a beautiful family friendly pool. It was busy but calm. A pool bar served us a couple of beers and we relaxed poolside taking in the sun and enjoying relaxation time. It all felt very tropical, the palm trees hang over offering some much needed shade. However, do bare in mind you have to keep an eye on your watch as it is too easy to let time slip away and miss your ferry!

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We rinsed off and jumped back on the bus to stop off at a local eatery. What you will find on the right tour is that a meal would be included in the ferry cruise. So we headed down to the local tavern. We found there is a great selection of great quality food. I do consider myself a somewhat burger connoisseur and so I opted for the double bacon burger and chips. I was not disappointed. I swigged it down with a beer and sat and watched life go by. Before long it was time to climb back aboard the ferry and onwards to Whitehaven Beach, 30 mins from Hamilton.

At this point the seas had become a bit choppy. This gave us a lot of amusement watching the unfortunate few become drenched with passing waves. This also brought about a few green faces as the boat swayed from left to right and also with great force the boat found itself rocking backwards and forwards. After enduring this roller coaster boat ride before long we had reached our beach destination.

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Stinger suits were handed out, these give protection from the deadly Box Jellyfish that were in the waters for the summer season. We were dropped off at the shore by a barge and made our way onto the beautiful white sands. If we wanted to find paradise this was it. The beautiful sands stretch for over a mile without any disruptions or eyesores to spoil the view. Other than the tourists brought in from the ferries, this island was uninhabited which made it peaceful and calm. I proceeded to scream Wilson in my best Tom Hanks castaway re-enactment, something that apparently only I found funny! So swiftly moving on, it felt good to see a piece of the world that hadn’t been spoiled by a Hilton Hotel or beach condos.

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In our very unforgiving stinger suits we made for the crystal clear waters. It felt good to just lie back and float, staring into the vast blue sky above. We headed back to land, peeled off our suits and led out, topping up our tans and enjoying the warmth of the beautiful sunshine.

The short amount of time on this beach shot by yet again before we soon had to climb back aboard the ferry. We enjoyed a familiar English cream tea with scones, jam and clotted cream, along with various fruits. The only fault with this is trying to devour a cream covered scone and drink a hot cup of coffee with a ship almost doing backflips off a choppy sea. This was a messy affair!

Back on terra firma and after a long day it took all of ten minutes to fall off to sleep in the comfort of our campervan.

Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local
The best conversations were with the knowledgable pilot and hosts on the ferry. We were given a detailed history of Captain Cook’s discovery of the Whitsunday’s and the reason it was named so. The trivia is this, Cook discovered the passage on the Christian day of Whitsunday. The Sunday after Whitsun, interesting. We were indulged with brilliant facts of island prices and the vast fortunes spent on developments in various areas. It seemed for a small dent in a billionaire’s fortune you could obtain a small holiday island of your own. I can but dream!

Describe a challenge you faced:
The only challenge for us was waiting and biding our time during the cyclone. We were unlucky to have reached Airlie at this time. We sat watching every detail from the weather reports and talked to locals asking what they predicted. We had our hearts set on seeing the Whitsunday’s and this was put into jeopardy. We had to make a decision as time was not on our side and our schedule was slowly becoming disjointed. Fortunately we stuck it out and despite having to sacrifice other elements of our trip we didn’t regret waiting and exploring the islands.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
I thoroughly enjoyed the Whitsundays, it feels like no other part of Australia. The feeling that you have escaped to a small pocket of paradise. The only dislike was the little amount of time spent on Whitehaven Beach. As we were fortunate enough to have taken the half day trip to Hamilton, we felt we had seen as much as we could have done in the time given. I felt that those who had only paid for a half day trip to Whitehaven were short changed with only 45 mins spent here.

What new lesson did you learn?
Good things come to those who wait!!!

Where next?
Jervis Bay!!!

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Category: General, Oceania

May 21, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Brasov, Romania

Cost/day: $30

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

Probably the strangest thing one sees in Brasov is some of the food, at least if you’re from a country like the US. Seeing stuffed pig stomach and intestine sitting next to smoked whole heads is just something you don’t come across every day in many countries.

Smoked pig heads

Describe a typical day:

Brasov was a place we used as a short-term base for a few months, so our daily routine will be much different from a typical visitor’s. Market day usually consisted of at least a couple of stops—farmers market for produce and raw milk and the supermarket for other things. We found some of the best produce we’ve had anywhere in the world while in Romania.

Farmers market

When we wanted something a bit more out of the ordinary, it involved an almost 30-minute bus ride to the outskirts of town so we could shop at the giant Carrefour. In fact, that was the only store that sold whole turkey, which we had for our Thanksgiving dinner.

I never really got tired of walking around the historic area. The old buildings, streets, and fortifications made me feel like I was in another time.

Brasov

Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:

Probably the most interesting conversation was with a taxi driver outside the train station. Anywhere else in town the drivers will use the meter without asking, but the taxis at the train station will try and take advantage of you if you aren’t Romanian. One time we were returning from a trip to another city, and this driver was trying to charge me more than double the metered rate. I explained that we lived there and know the right amount. He tried to justify it by comparing the metered rate for my trip to the cost of buying a pack of cigarettes. My favorite line from him, and one my son remembers as well, was when he said “You’re a man. You should understand what it’s like.” My response left him speechless: If I was Romanian, you wouldn’t be charging me that rate.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

I love the friendliness of the Romanian people, the flavor and freshness of the food, and the general feel to the area. It has a great, chill vibe. The area has a lot of natural beauty which combines well with its man-made side. It’s easy and inexpensive to get around and explore the country by train.

While it’s a place we loved living, and it felt like home, there just isn’t enough to do once you’ve been there a couple of months. You can only explore the same sites so many times.

Brasov and its mountain

Describe a challenge you faced:

Really, my biggest challenge was learning numbers in Romanian. Most people speak basic English, but you want to be able to communicate in their language as well. I remember being so excited when I understood a complicated number in Romanian.

What new lesson did you learn?

When we came to Brasov, it was with the idea of making it a long-term base. After two months, we were chomping at the bit to leave. I realized later that the biggest mistake we made was not getting involved more with the community. Granted, that was a bit more difficult because of the language barrier, but I think we could’ve done some things that would’ve enhanced our experience.

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Category: General
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