September 16, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Escaping to the real Hawaii

Catnip to adventure travellers in search of an authentic Hawaiian escape, Molokai is often referred to as ‘The most Hawaiian island’. With little other than true Aloha on offer, those who board a tiny turboprop plane in Honolulu should expect to step back in time when they land in Ho’olehua.

Unlike its neighbours Molokai does not cater for the package holiday goer. There are no major chain hotels or supermarkets, no luxury resorts and very few tour operators. Without the usual selection of restaurants, activities and tours to occupy your time Molokai encourages you to connect with the heritage of the Hawaiian people, to drink in the lush landscape and immerse yourself in the tropical waters.

Cost/day

Hawaii is not a low cost destination however there are a number of ways you can keep your travel expenses to a minimum

Connections to Molokai – $98 – $140 return

With no major airlines flying into Molokai a connection is essential, this can be obtained via Mokulele Air on Oahu or Maui, or via the Hawaiian Ocean Project Ferry on Maui.

Accommodations on Molokai based on double occupancy – from $120/night

Despite the closure of the island’s only resort in 2008, there are plenty of places to lay your head. Self-catered options are by far the most popular, with limited dining options on the island kitchen facilities provide the flexibility to be budget and health conscious should you wish.

During my week on Molokai I rented a one bedroom Vacations-Abroad.com Wavecrest Condo which offers self-catered accommodation, a private lanai with views over the ocean to Maui, and use of a private pool. It was also equipped with snorkelling gear, beach towels, games and a small library of reference books detailing various aspects of the island and its heritage.

If you’re feeling adventurous check out Pu’u O Hoku Ranch. Offering a rather more rustic retreat this biodynamic and organic ranch and farm is set on 14,000 acres of protected land, immersed in the transcendent beauty of forest, sky and ocean.

Transport on Molokai – from $40/day

There is no public transport on the island so a rental car is a necessity if you are to avoid high taxi fares throughout your stay.

For international visitors Alamo offer standard car rental packages, I paid around $280 for one week rental of an economy class car however on arrival I received a free upgrade to a convertible sports car as the depot were sold out of economy options.

If you hold a valid US car insurance policy of your own, you can rent from local resident Pat who operates Mobettah Cars.

Describe a typical day

Although to some it may appear as though Moloaki has little in the way of entertainment there’s ample to keep you occupied during your stay.

After a breakfast of tropical fruits and pancakes it’s time to hit the beach, and at just 38 miles in length you can be at any beach on the island with ease.

I spent a number of afternoons exploring the island’s coastline, lazing on Papohaku Beach and diving on the fringing reef which runs like a marine highway between Molokai and neighbouring Maui.

Action & Adventure – from $100pp

If outdoor adventure is your cup of tea then head to Molokai Outdoors who will outfit you for guided sea kayaking, scuba diving and hiking excursions. I chose to dive the fringing reef and had a close encounter with some of Hawaii’s turtles!

History & Heritage – $199pp

Molokai is renowned for its rich cultural heritage and breathing in the island’s past is an integral itinerary addition.

Those keen to immerse themselves in Molokai’s darker side can take a guided mule ride or hike down through the Kalaupapa National Historical Park to a remote peninsula that was once home to those islanders afflicted with Hansen’s Disease. As I was on a restricted budget I opted to visit the spectacular Kalaupapa Lookout which offers a dramatic view of the peninsula and the island’s vast sea cliffs.

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

There are no traffic lights on the island!

Molokai is home to just 8,000 people. There is one major road which links the east and west coast and another which links the north and south. In all honesty there’s just no need for traffic management.

For a brief snapshot of my week long stay on Molokai check out this video or refer to my handy Molokai travel guide for more information.

Have you explored the island of Molokai? Share your trip report with me below.

 

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Category: North America, Vagabonding Field Reports

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 3, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Relaxing on Cambodia’s coast in Kampot

Cost/day:

$25 per person

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

It was strange watching fisherman on the river covered from head to toe, including a sort of ski mask, in scorching heat.

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Describe a typical day:

Work and homeschool in the early morning, as always. Breakfast would be at our guesthouse.

We spent a lot of time simply relaxing at the beach or on the river. Our days were spent exploring the region by motorbike. We rode over to Kep, a nearby beach town. Other days we found caves, salt fields, little bars with docks we leapt off of into the river below, a national park we biked through and a pepper plantation, a local crop that is renowned the world over.

Evenings we usually spent in the small town, along the river, eating at one of the local restaurants.

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Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:

I talked with one local about her experience living in Australia for two years and her return to Cambodia. She explained that for years she wanted to return to Australia to live because there were far more opportunities for her.

However, she was very happy to report that this slowly began to change, for her, about eight years back when tourism began to take off. She said twelve years ago the idea that she would have more opportunities in Cambodia than in Australia was unfathomable. But for her this was now true.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

I really like the laid back pace of Kampot. After the heaviness of Phnom Penh it was just what we needed. It’s a small town so everything is easy, e.g. finding food, parking, accommodation. People are very friendly and the river is beautiful, especially at sunset.

There was little I disliked about Kampot. If I had to choose something it would be that a lot of the roads are under construction, so, depending on your location, the air can be extremely dusty.

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Describe a challenge you faced:

Getting lost on the motorbike in the midday sun with no water, Google maps being inoperable and an inability to speak Khmer. There were very few people we could even stop to ask directions and no real way to explain the main road—any main road—we were looking for.

We finally found a small gas station and were able to get our bearings and make it out of there. Three people crammed on a motorbike in that heat, with that much dust and no water is something we can luckily now laugh about.  Not so at the time.

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What new lesson did you learn?

We’d already learned this lesson before, but I guess we needed to learn it again. When venturing outside of town be sure to bring a paper map in addition to a map on your phone. Being able to point to any spot on the map will save if you have no way of telling a willing person where you want to go. Oh, and bring more water than you think you need.

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Where next?

Bali, Indonesia

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Category: Asia, Vagabonding Field Reports

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 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

July 9, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: flat tires and bumpy road adventures (while pregnant) in Costa Rica

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Cost/day: $50/day

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

We left the beach life in Nicaragua and are housesitting in the mountains of Costa Rica, above San Jose.

I’m 8 1/2 months pregnant, but that doesn’t stop us from taking a trip to the beach after we’ve been here a couple of weeks. You can see the ocean from our house in the mountains of Costa Rica, but it appears deceptively close. What we think will be a short drive to enjoy the sun and waves, turns into a 2 hour bumpy, off-road adventure and a flat tire.

I hope I don’t go into labor. ;)

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Describe a typical day:

Our days have been spent at home at the mountain house, preparing for the birth of our sixth child.

But today we decided to take a trip to the beach today. Two bumpy hours and a flat tire later we finally arrived. The beach was large, the sun shone high, we picked fresh coconuts from the tree and found sand dollars in the sand.

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What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

Like: Costa Rica is a beautiful country. We love being back (we lived here in 2007-2008). We’re excited to explore it once more — the beaches, rainforests, oceans, waterfalls and rivers.

Dislike: After living in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua for the last 1 1/2 years, Costa Rica is comparatively more expensive — housing, food and activities… but I think we’ll adjust. We’re loving it here.

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Describe a challenge you faced:

I’ve had all my babies at home (except for my adopted daughter ;) ) I’d like to have this one at home in Costa Rica, but we’ve been working out logistics… can the midwife make it in time? Is there a hospital nearby?

Greg Rachel Pregnant Costa Rica

What new lesson did you learn?

Every travel experience offers joy and disappointment, pleasure and pain, beauty and the unsightly. Traveling well is learning how to embrace both… still true.

Where next?

Staying put here for a while… I’m sure you can guess why. ;)

Learn how to become location independent this year, connect with me on Facebook, or join our Fantastic Family Fridays.

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Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

July 2, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang, Laos

Cost/day:

$30/day per person

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

A stroll through the Luang Prabang morning market brought something different to my senses every time. One morning, I saw a woman with a pile of chickens on the ground for sale. I thought the chickens were dead, but one of them started to get up and the woman shushed it like a dog and it laid back down. A little further down, a large tub of massive frogs awaited purchase next to huge cuts of fish and pig faces staring back at me. Most of the food lay on the ground on tarps.

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Describe a typical day:

After breakfast, homeschool and work are completed in the morning, we head out to do things like swim in the Mekong, visit the unexploded ordinances center, take a hands-on class in traditional weaving and natural dyeing or rice farming. We did a lot of wandering around the beautiful, quiet town just getting lost and finding little gems as well as riding a motorbike on the outskirts of town.

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Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:

It was interesting talking with our guide from the rice farming course. He graduated from college, spoke English very well and told us he could have chosen to work in an office. In fact, for a time he had worked in an office. But he grew up near the farm and the idea of being able to work outside everyday was more appealing to him than sitting in an office, even if it meant he would be paid less.  (more…)

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Category: Asia, Vagabonding Field Reports

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!!!

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Category: General, Vagabonding Field Reports

June 11, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Living the beach life in Las Peñitas, Nicaragua

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Cost/day: $30/day

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

After crossing two borders in one day, and hanging out in León and Las Peñitas, we’ve finally found a place to stay for a little while.

My oldest son discovered a bat on the floor in the room where’s he’s staying in our rented beach house. He tried to let it go outside, but it doesn’t fly. It crawled up a coconut tree, then glided into the attic of the neighbors house… oops. Sorry neighbors.

Describe a typical day:

In the morning we do study time with the kids, then they spend a few hours working on their projects (like creating with clay or drawing and coloring) while my husband and I do our work (with breaks for meals, which we eat together). Every evening we take a walk on the beach and watch the sunset. When we need groceries, we drive into the colonial city of León.

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What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

Like: Loving this beach. It’s great for beginner surfers (like my husband and kids — I’m not surfing, because I’m 7 months pregnant). It has beautiful sunsets, great sand and is good for wading and swimming at low tide.

León is a quaint city, with dozens of cathedrals. Doing our shopping there is a pleasure.

Dislike: Mosquitoes. Bats. We moved here in November and it was mosquito season. We were eaten alive. Hundreds of mosquito bites. Ahhhhh! And there’s a couple of families of bats that have taken up residence in the roof.

Las Peñitas has a great beach, and a great surf, but the town itself is run down. It’s up and coming, and there are a couple of nice rentals, but many of them are sketchy.

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Describe a challenge you faced:

Dealing with the mosquitoes was an annoying challenge, until we moved into a house that was on the beach. The ocean breezes helped to eliminate them, although we still put on pants and long sleeves in the morning and evenings, and slept under mosquito nets.

Oh, and I’ve had to take multiple cold showers per day, and sit in front of a fan from 10 am until 5pm. That’s what comes of living on the coast while 7 months pregnant.

And where will we have this baby??

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What new lesson did you learn?

Every travel experience offers joy and disappointment, pleasure and pain, beauty and the unsightly. Traveling well is learning how to embrace both.

Where next?

A housesitting opportunity has come available in Costa Rica. I think it will be a good place to have a baby.

Learn how to become location independent this year, connect with me on Facebook, or join our Fantastic Family Fridays.

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Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

June 4, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Experiencing life on a river in Nong Khiaw, Laos

Cost/day:

$20 per person.

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

Both strange and incredibly, incredibly sad was seeing the many uses of empty US cluster-bomb shells. Laos was shelled continually by US planes during the Vietnam War. Injuries and deaths are still occurring to this day due to unexploded ordinances from these bombs, mostly cluster munitions. Seeing the use of the empty bombshells for flower pots, tables, etc. was shocking. Learning of this continuing–and mostly silent–tragedy was disturbing to put it mildly.

LaosVG

Describe a typical day:

After breakfast we usually do some work and homeschooling. We then head out to explore the area. We may hike to a cave that was used by the local people, including government offices, during the bombing mentioned above. Or we take a boat upriver and tube back, stopping along the way to relax on little islands in the river and watch the water buffalo. We may ride bikes to other caves and explore them with the help of the on-site ten year old guides. Or we may take a boat with a guide and then hike up 100 Waterfalls.

Exploring during the day was generally to a new place, but we always made sure to be back near the river around sunset. Watching the sun go down as the river came alive with children playing and adults coming down for various chores was a highlight. The river was the ultimate meeting point for the town.

laosvag4

laosvag5

Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:

It was fascinating listening to our guide from the 100 Waterfalls hike. He had been a Buddhist monk for nine years before leaving that life two years prior. Apparently that was enough time outside for him. He was planning to soon reenter the monastery.

Even though he wasn’t quite back in the monastery, he told us that once that decision had been made he once again took a vow of poverty. All money he made being a guide was sent home to his mother.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

I like that it is a small town. I like that the river is the lifeblood of the town. The people are kind and welcoming. The sheer-walled mountains abutting the river create such dramatic beauty. The Lao food is a welcome surprise; so healthy, unique, fresh and flavorful.

The only thing that I didn’t like was the accessibility of the town. The road from Luang Namtha was akin to being on a dusty roller coaster for six hours.

Laos2

Laos1

Describe a challenge you faced:

If I had to pick any challenge in such an easy and peaceful place it would be the minivan ride over. The roads in Laos are notorious for causing motion sickness. They are both winding and full of potholes and ruts. Often the road turns from potholed to dirt and it creates a pretty unpleasant, dusty and jarring experience, hour after hour.

Just sitting back and accepting that this experience was going to be at the very least six hours was a bit of challenge. Not having any control over the situation is hard for me. Traveling full-time has challenged me in this area and after nine months on the road I think I’m marginally better now than when I started. Progress. All in all, though, if that’s the biggest challenge, life isn’t too hard, and it wasn’t in Nong Khiaw.

What new lesson did you learn?

Just remembering to slow down and revel in simple experiences. The majority of my most memorable travel experiences haven’t been seeing the big sites that we all travel so far to see. Many of my favorite moments have been things not listed in a guidebook or shown on travel shows. Simple things in Nong Khiaw like sitting by the river every night, swimming with my wife and daughter, making mudballs with local kids that we kicked around, and just watching and listening as a little town comes alive by the river at dusk. The beauty of the place and those experiences are treasured memories now.

River

Where next?

Luang Prabang, Laos.

 

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