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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Where next?
Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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Category: General, Vagabonding Field Reports

August 1, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Diana Edelman

Diana EdelmanDSC_7968

 
dtravelsround.com
 
Age: 34
 
Hometown: Rockville, Md.
 
Quote: Life’s not about living happily ever after, it’s about living.
(more…)

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Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

July 31, 2014

Easter Island with miles

In 2012 it only cost 40,000 British Airways miles (now Avios) to fly from the US to Easter Island and back. A roundtrip ticket to Easter Island for only 40,000 miles. And British Airways offered unlimited stopovers for award tickets.

Of course my husband and I took advantage of that and made a trip from the U.S. to Chile hitting both Valporaiso and Santiago before then flying to Easter Island for almost a week, then on to Peru to finish up with a visit to Machu Picchu.

easter island

It was an incredible trip. Easter Island has a mysterious mood that hovers around the place like luminous gray clouds, eerie and beautiful at the same time. But if I ever want to include Easter Island in my travels again, I would need a totally different strategy. Why? Because the rules have changed.

How the rules have changed:

Why I recommend Easter Island:

Even though part of our motivation for visiting Easter Island had to do with the great deal we recognized in its only costing 20,000 miles, I still definitely recommend visiting it at least once. And here’s why.

How to go about it now:

So now that you can’t fly roundtrip to Easter Island on a meager 40,000 British Airways miles (Avios), here are your other mileage options. (Note that all of these options will require a layover or stopover of some kind in South America, but the price will still be as noted below.)

 

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Category: General

July 30, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Mariellen Ward

Mariellen Ward11312765965_4a28229541_c

breathedreamgo.com

Age: 54

Hometown: Toronto

Quote: Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. Joseph Campbell

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Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

July 28, 2014

Maximilian I on the journey of life

“Live, don’t know how long,
And die, don’t know when;
Must go, don’t know where;
I am astonished I am so cheerful.”
–Inscribed with chalk (circa 1500) on a cellar wall of Schloss Tratzberg by Maximilian I; quoted in Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts

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Category: General

July 23, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: The Penguins of Phillip Island

Cost/day
If you want to really enjoy Phillip Island then be prepared to spend $150 or more a day. It’s a tourist hotspot, you can expect busy bars and great eateries. Street side camping is a no go, you can expect to be moved on. Big4 is Australia’s leading campsite franchise so we found one on the island. We found them very clean and friendly – expect to pay $35 for a pitch for the night.

Describe a typical day

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Our visit to Phillip Island was more than a sightseeing expedition, I had decided to put myself through Tough Mudder. This gruelling obstacle course was far from a holiday! The Phillip Island Circuit had been converted into a ceremony of fitness, endurance and a pinch of stupidity. After a morning of being zapped by electricity, diving into ice baths, crawling through muddy ditches of water, cramping calf muscles and covering ourselves head to toe in mud, we ventured to the local Koala sanctuary.

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I dare anyone not to fall in love with Koalas. The cutest, walking, eating, pooping teddy bears that climb trees and just sleep and eat. This sanctuary takes you through a small exhibition that insights you with the simple facts about Koalas. It all seemed to be very child friendly and easy to understand. After a quick walk around we made our way to the conservation area.

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Boardwalks raise you above the foliage of the ground below. Jetties stretch out to the abundant eucalyptus trees. We took to standing out on the observation decks Koala spotting. We needed a keen eye but we got our fix of Australia’s cutest national animal.

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During the afternoon we took the van for a spin around the island, sightseeing and picture taking. When the stomach was rumbling we stopped at BEANd (yes the D is supposed to be small) a small franchise coffee house. The cappuccino here is beautiful and the blueberry muffin melts in your mouth. The comfort and service make you feel homely and entices you to put your feet up and relax.

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After lunch we took to checking out more of the island; we were biding our time until the Penguin Parade. Here on the island for as long as the locals know, come sundown, hoards of Penguins swim to the island’s shore and make their way home for the night. A permanent auditorium was built for tourists to spectate this amazing event. We sat as the sun fell over the sea.

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Before long several Penguins could be seen riding the surf to the sand and within time the small black and white creatures were hitting the beach several at a time. It was a fantastic experience, these Penguins were oblivious to the hundreds of eyes watching them go about their buisness. Many watched as they waddled their way home. We walked along the raised walkways, mesmerised by these beautiful birds strutting into the night. We took the tour through the gift shop and moved off to find a restaurant for an evening meal.

We stumbled on Pino’s on Phillip Island’s main strip. A flamboyant Italian restaurant with a running theme of motor cross – plenty of helmets and leather jackets were displayed across the walls. We opted for Gnocchi and Pizza. It was a carb overload but well deserved. You may pay a little more here than from competing restaurants up and down the high street but you pay for the quality and service (which was outstanding).

Filled up and worn out, we jumped into the van and headed back to the campsite. We reminisced on our day and made our plans for the drive to Melbourne the following day. I slept well that night!

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
Our heart strings were pulled as we watched one Penguin stumble, he seemed either old or unwell, struggling to walk the distance. He stopped at the foot of a rock as all the other penguins walked on. It was sad seeing him left lonely as the healthy many left him behind. We wanted to climb down and help him on his way but we had to let nature take its course. We would like to believe he was just resting but sadly I don’t think he made it home that night.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
I suppose a minor dislike is that Phillip Island is beautiful and busy but could be anywhere in the world. It fails to have a distinct character. Also the Koala Sanctuary could be missed. These adorable creatures are abundant along the coast, you will find them amongst the Eucalyptus trees in natural habitats. So much so you could get bored of stopping for photos. The Sanctuary exhibition didn’t bring anything to the table that a quick Wikipedia search couldn’t offer.

On the flip side the Penguins are an absolute must, it is such a beautiful and natural wonder and Penguins won’t fail to melt the heart. The experts on site have a wealth of knowledge and their input adds to the experience.

Where next?
The Great Ocean Road!!!!

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Category: General

July 20, 2014

My top beaches around the world

Since it’s summer and the beach is on my mind, I thought I would do a recap of my favorite beaches I’ve visited over the years. I’m not really one for the crowded party beaches, or cold weather beaches, both of those seem to have made my list because of how beautiful they are. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that there’s nothing much better than walking a quite beach at sunset, reading a good book in the shade, or enjoying a tropical drink with the ocean in view. Most of these beaches took a bit of traveling to get to but they were worth it.

We’ll start with Italy, specifically the Amalfi Coast.

A friend and I made the trip here a few years ago and I was amazed at how picturesque it was. We rented a car and had to drive up along the coastal cliffs, which for me was a bit nerve-wrecking. The roads were narrow and windy and people drive insanely fast. In September we were able to find a last minute hotel for around $40 a night, with a beautiful ocean view. To get to the beach you had to follow steep switchback stairs for about half an hour through charming coastal neighborhoods. Some parts of the beach are crowded, others very secluded.

Beach number two, Gili Meno, a small island in Indonesia.

Getting here required a flight to Bali, then a flight to the island of Lombok, then a taxi to the harbor, and then a long boat to the second island in the Gili chain. My friend and I were dropped off on the beach after sunset with no hotel reservations and no plan, but as we walked the coast we easily found a hotel with friend staff right on the beach (as are all of the hotels there). You can walk the perimeter of the entire island in one hour, and the sunsets are supposedly world famous.

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Category: General, Images from the road, On The Road

July 18, 2014

Vagabonding Case Study: Denise Diamond

Denise Diamond

kids

adiamondabroad.com

Age: 36

Hometown: Texas

Quote: Be more awesome and do the things you’ve only been talking about doing until now. (more…)

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Category: General, Vagabonding Case Studies

July 17, 2014

Locked in or locked out- when switching it up means going home

I have this theory that I’d like to share. It’s somewhat personal, but I wonder if it’s something others will be able to relate to…

dogfromchile

Have you ever seen a dog pacing inside the confines of a small space, restless to escape?

Sometimes I feel like that.

But…have you ever seen a dog returning from its play outside, waiting for someone to open the door for it so it can come back inside?

Sometimes I feel like that too.

There are times I’ve tried to live the stationary life and after awhile, I feel locked in by the routine. Trapped by a 9 to 5 job or trapped by the feeling of monotony. But likewise there are times in my nomadic life that I feel locked out, a day’s worth of transit away from my parents or my friends. Locked into a timezone difference that keeps me from feeling like home is accessible, even in the form of a phone call.

I talked to a friend the other day who is in the middle of a hitchhike project, interviewing everyone who picks him up as he hitchhikes around the country playing music. (You can check out his fascinating hitchhike interviews here.) He was taking a break in his hometown for awhile when I asked him how it felt to be back. He responded saying he missed movement. And I knew exactly what he meant, but from the opposite application. He missed the movement of being on the road and I was beginning to feel as though the road was monotonous.

You see, we are growing, changing, evolving creatures. We adapt and adjust and we are satisfied by the mental activity that change requires, whether we realize it or not. We move. We need movement even if it’s not literal movement. We need things to change now and then.

In my case we had been on the road so long that it became sedentary-feeling. Our were constantly moving and we were constantly packing and unpacking from one hotel to the next, but the routine was so ordinary that it was not engaging us as movement anymore. We checked out of hotels. We checked into hotels. We checked out. We checked in. And that is when I knew it was time to fly home. (Where “home” is could be a whole blog post of its own). Because at that moment, sitting in the old coffee shops I used to frequent and chatting with old friends would be movement- it would be new again.

Until it becomes sedentary…then I’ll move on..

It sounds endless, doesn’t it?

So when does it end? Does it end?

Tell me what you think. Do you feel locked in? Do you feel locked out?

 

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Category: General

July 12, 2014

How to be a traveler in the everyday

Flying in anti-gravity yoga in Long Beach, NYFrom the very first time I ever went on a trip, I never wanted to leave. Friends used to tell me they thought I feared reality and wanted to live in a permanent state of holiday. ‘What’s so wrong with that’, I’d reply. It has only gotten worse with age, I’m afraid. I used to think it was because I didn’t have to handle any chores at that time. Since then I’ve gotten sick while traveling, have had to pay bills while on the road and deal with other disheartening realities, but, even to this day, I never want it to end. How do I transfer those travel feelings to the everyday?

Free. Unencumbered. Happy. At Ease. These are just a few of the terms that travelers often use to describe how they feel when in their happy place. On the road we can be ourselves, be the person we always want to be and not feel as if we have to fit into any specific boxes or deal with any expectations. We can change direction with the wind, be spontaneous or try new things that we’d rarely do in our ‘normal’ setting. Go to the beach on a weekday, hike that mountain you were once afraid of or eat ice cream twice a day-all of these special things take place when we leave the nest. Things are only part of it, but more significant are the changes within that we discover. A different perspective arises, new hobbies take shape, varied taste buds develop and a whole new world opens up that perhaps we never knew-how do we harness those feelings and bring them back ‘to reality’?

There’s not always time or money to go on that much desired adventure. If we can find a way to bring the happiness found in travel to the daily routines of life-the everyday can sometimes feel like a holiday! Happy travels.

For more of Stacey’s writings visit her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com.

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Category: General, Notes from the collective travel mind
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