December 14, 2014

Traditional Christmas in Europe

Of the many things Europe does well, it’s the continent’s magnificent Christmas festivities that can charm this cynical traveler every time. From Scotland to Switzerland an extraordinary spirit of festivity, connecting this generations to others long since passed, can be felt in the wintertime air. The traditions of the season are still strong in this thoroughly modern part of the world, where bustling Christmas markets fill the main square of big cities and bucolic, half-timbered villages alike. In the cathedrals, choirs singing the great medieval Christmas hymns fill the cavernous spaces with angelic harmonies, their melodies carried to the rafters on frosty puffs of breath.

One of the most interesting aspects of Europe is the subtle variations to each country’s celebratory traditions. I find them fascinating. Here’s a sampling of those variations from three different cultures: The German, French and English traditions.

Germany, despite being a progressive powerhouse not known for sentimentality, is actually one of the most magical places to experience the season. Old traditions die hard and Germany reaches far into its medieval past to embrace and celebrate the season. From the Bavaria to the Baltic, from the Black Forrest to Berlin, its people break out the gingerbread recipes, the carols, and the colors of the season.

Christmas in Munich

Christmas in Munich

Performances of the Nutcracker are to be found in theatres across the country, while well-built manger scenes adorn the cobbled public spaces of both the Catholic South and Protestant North.

Sprawling Christkindle Markets fill the squares of communities across the country, bursting with music and food and seasonal décor. Traditional favorites such as gingerbread and sweet prune-and-fig candies are served at stalls under a kaleidoscope of Christmas colors. It’s not unusual for a small chorus to be serenading bundled-up shoppers and sightseers with classic Germanic carols.

But the singing of carols is especially beloved and ingrained in the Christmastime traditions of England. In fact, they’ve been a staple of the holiday in England since at least the sixteenth century, as many of the country’s Christmas traditions are. The great cathedrals of Salisbury, Westminster, etc. hold spellbinding choral events by candlelight and colorful outdoor Christmas markets buzz with activity.

Do you like your Christmas tree? Thank England, where the tradition of the Christmas tree originated. The custom originated when pagan-era Druids decorated their places of worship with evergreen trees in the dead of winter, which to them represented life that could not be extinguished despite the cold and the dark. The later Christians appreciated this symbolism, as it reminded them of Christ’s promise of eternal life, and adopted the custom.

The holiday dishes are of course a pivotal aspect of any celebration, and the diversity in food served on the big day is one of the widely most varying customs of Europe’s Christmas celebration. In England the regulars like turkey and veggies are served, but desert is the real treat: The all-important Christmas pudding, a fruity desert usually made with figs and brandy, and mincemeat pies, both fixtures since the sixteenth century.

Another particularly English tradition also includes the wearing of a colorful paper crown—everyone is a king or queen at Christmas. Needless to say there is tea involved on this wintry day as well, often at 6pm on Christmas to warm the soul.

France revels in its ancient cultural traditions as it celebrates the Noel with that classically French combination of style and joy. Gift giving is less emphasized than gathering and celebrating simple rituals with family and friends—and sharing a fine meal with good wine, of course.

Paris, the City of Light, celebrates in a less ostentatious way than big US cities, but its neighborhoods often host popular Christmas markets that are as festive as any.

Notre Dame at Christmas

Notre Dame at Christmas

In the countryside, where the culture of any people really resides and thrives, the traditions are stronger and richer. The warm tones of local choirs singing medieval carols can be heard emanating from candle-lit, thirteenth-century churches. Many families will attend the midnight Mass and return home to enjoy le réveillon, or the “wake-up!” meal.

And that meal is fantastic. Being France, the food is an integral part of the celebration—in fact it’s the culinary high point of the year for many. Delicacies like foie gras, oysters and escargots are popular aperitifs, while the entrée tends to be more straight-forward dishes like goose (popular in Alsace) and turkey (more popular in Burgundy). Meat (including ham and duck) is paired with a good red wine and served with the ever-popular chestnut stuffing, a French favorite for generations. Chubby truffles are another beloved feature of most dinners.

While the use of the actual Yule log has diminished somewhat, the French make a traditional Yule log-shaped cake called the buche de Noel. It’s a sugary delight of chocolate and chestnuts.

After the Mass and le réveillon, the children put their shoes in front of the fireplace hoping that Pere Noel (Father Christmas) will fill them with candy, nuts, fruit and gifts. As the kids drift off to sleep, the adults sit up late, hang goodies from the tree and polish off the Yule log. Before they turn in for the night, a softly burning candle is are left on the table in case the Virgin Mary passes by, a long-standing custom of this Catholic country.

 

 

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Category: Europe, Notes from the collective travel mind, Travel Writing, Vagabonding Field Reports

December 10, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Sharing a Simple Meal with a Humble Family

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Cost/day: $0

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

The most memorable and life-altering experiences of travel don’t usually happen on tour groups or fancy hotels. They take place in the quiet, humble homes of the people, or in the simple, candid interactions between human beings, especially if they have differing culture and language, yet can discover ways to connect based on common human-ness.

Give the background on the experience:

We lived in Costa Rica in 2007 as our first ‘abroad’ experience as a family. Our four children were young then, between the ages of one and five. They were adored by many of the ticos and Nicaraguans that they encountered, because Latin culture places high value on families and treasures children. (Many Nicaraguans come to Costa Rica looking for work.)

One Nicaraguan woman in particular worked for friends doing cooking and cleaning. She was a sweet soul, who was called Alba, which means ‘dawn’. On our return to Costa Rica in 2014, when we had our sixth child, we were able to get in contact with Alba and let her know we were back. She was thrilled to hear from us, and made us promise to come to her house for lunch, as soon as we were able after the birth of our baby.

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What happened?

On a Sunday afternoon we met up with Alba in Escazú, Costa Rica. It’s an upscale, affluent area in the Central Valley. She rode with us and gave directions to her house, the place where she was living with her sister and brother-in-law and their children.

Nestled between large, gated estates was a simple wooden structure with a tin roof and a dilapidated front porch. The house sat back from the road, among banana trees, and was enclosed with a simple barb wire fence.

The living room was a modge-podge of furniture — a battered couch, a shabby chair, a table in one corner, a beat-up armoire standing against the wall. Off this small space was an even smaller kitchen and bedroom.

As ‘honored’ guests, we were served first, and the family waited to eat until we were finished (this is also in part due to the lack of sufficient bowls and spoons for everyone).

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Describe a challenge you faced:

As much as we love interacting with the people in genuine connections like these, we often have a mix of feelings, sometimes conflicting — gratitude, humility, guilt, joy, unease.

Gratitude for their willingness to share the ‘widows mite’ with us. Humility and guilt from realizing that we’re often unwilling to do the same. Joy at connecting and sharing with others, across boundaries of language, culture and race. Unease at being treated with deference and honor that is undue.

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What new lesson did you learn?

It’s impossible to spend time with beautiful people who have less than you, yet are more generous and giving, without feeling the need for deep introspection.

How can I give more? How can I show more kindness, respect, and courtesy? How can I make others feel important and special?

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Where next?

To be determined…

Learn more about Worldschooling, Education and Funding Travel here.

You can also connect with me on Facebook: DiscoverShareInspire and WorldschoolFamily

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Category: General, Vagabonding Field Reports

November 26, 2014

Vagabonding field report: The great people and of Robe SA

Towards the sea

Cost per day?

For us it could have been cheap, very cheap but we decided to splash out. We hadn’t found a campsite to park on but decided to park on the sea front. Granted this wasn’t a designated spot but in such a small town no-one battered an eye lid at us. If you brought your own food then Robe has no expense.

Describe a typical day

Our stay in Robe was far from typical in any sense of the word, the town like most coastal towns in South Australia thrive on its fishing port. We rolled into town from the Princes Highway just for a place to stop for the night. A small port location with panoramic views of the ocean. Today was going to be the day that we put our heads together and plan the next steps in our trip. We also had postcards to send and books to read. Above all we had every intention of exploring some of the local sites and attractions. As we had simply stumbled upon this quaint town we knew we needed to gain a little insight.

on the road

The trouble with being on the road and sometimes almost a liberation but Wi-Fi can be hard to come by. We searched the local area to find a small café to sit and drink coffee and browse the web and check emails. Feeling like I had stepped back 30 years most outlets didn’t provide Wi-Fi. The local library and information center was closed for the weekend. Fortunately and gratefully the local pub The Caledonian Inn 5 mins walk from our camper had the only internet we could use. So we snuck in to this old very cozy but very rustic public house. The structure was made up of wooden beams and old brick. We felt like we had stepped into an old country pub in Britain.

Tummies rumbling we order in a Chicken Parmagana. Australians love there parmagana you won’t fail to find a pub that does this chicken delight. Chicken in breadcrumb top with cheese, sauce, meat, veg on a layer of chips. In Australia drinks glasses are smaller, Schooners and Midis are just two names given to minature glasses, what we had been missing on our travels was a full size British (imperial) pint. It just so happens that this pub were prepared for two British backpackers to wonder in. From the top shelf they dusted of these pint glasses and filled them up with sweet nectar. The landlady was lovely we spoke about the difference between English pubs and Australian pubs and what life in robe was like.

Then the rain started.

The list of all we wanted to see had just become null and void, we couldn’t wander around Robe in the pouring rain, as the wind picked up it was coming in sideways. So we did nothing more than carry on drinking. By this point we had found a new friend in the landlady who in turn introduced us to her team. Each young person behind the bar had become fascinated in our worldwide expedition. None of them had ever strayed very far from robe or beyond a state border. A holiday for them would be a couple of hours drive in a UTE (pickup truck) and surfing for a weekend up or down the coast. Each had been to the same schools, had the same friends and hung out in the pub they worked in. Unlike us and our small-town upbringing they were happy with this small town mentality and found comfort and solace in living in a tight community.

Kate in Robe

As the night went on we were passed around each local as the new thing on the block, old women to young men each wanted to meet and talk. They all tried their best pommie (British) accent on us, many failed miserably taking to sounding more like Dick van Dyke than the Queen herself. We sank more and more drink from our imperial pints. A log fire roared and the music began. We danced in a crowded room with many strangers who had become passing friends, swapping more stories jokes and alcohol shots. Hours felt like minutes but we had found friends in Robe and staggered out the doors together into the pouring rain. The caravan rocked with the mighty winds but the Alcohol had set in and we fell right to sleep.

On a schedule and the continuing to rain the following afternoon (once we were legally able and safe to drive) we set off on our road trip

 

Describe an interesting conversation you had?

As I mentioned before it was great to meet then young men and women who worked behind the bar. What really struck me was there attitude to the simple pleasures in life. For me I love the sense of community that comes from a small town, having friends on your doorstep and being close to your family. The downside of a small town is the secluded nature of it and from an early age it was engrained into me that there is more to the world than the place you were born. This is why I am doing what I am doing today and travelling the world. However I look at small town life objectively, the eye opener for me was the idea that all these young people were adamant that if you have all the comforts you need and friends and family to share it with what else do you need. As much as I learned from them and their level of intrigue I hope that my stories and ambitions rubbed off on them and maybe one day they will set out on their own adventures.

What did you like? Dislike?

The rain was a dislike as it was unfortunate that we couldn’t make our way round to visit much of the Robes history. What I liked is the my fresh outlook that you don’t need to see the biggest monuments or the most beautiful beaches, in order to explore a country, meeting an Australian doesn’t let me qualify the right to know an Australian. That night gave us great insight into what the rest of the population outside of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth etc. do and how they live. We shared in the similarities of home blended with the many interesting and sometimes quirky differences. It opened our eyes to the warming nature that Australians have and to quote Jerry the guitarists, A man is a man until he’s an ar*****e then you can call him your mate.

A little advice

If time is on your side which it often is when your travelling, turn off once in a while, Robe was one of many great place we simply stumbled upon. You’ll never find the whole experience in a cosmopolitan enviroment, the diversity of Sydney or any big city even that of Uluru is not the authentic reality that we all desire. So once in a while pick a signpost and follow it, you can always turn around but you may never know what you may find at the end of that road

Where Next: Port Lincoln!!!!

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Category: General, Vagabonding Field Reports

November 5, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Children’s Museum — San Jose, Costa Rica

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Cost/day: $2 for adults, $1 for children

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

We recently had our sixth child, at home, here in Costa Rica.

Today was our first outing since she’s been born. We went with grandma and grandpa to the Children’s Museum (Museo de los Ninos) in San Jose.

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, for the birth of our sixth child.

Before she was born, we took a trip to the chocolate farm.

It’s been a couple of weeks since Saige Journee was born, so we’re ready for another (little) adventure — the Children’s Museum in San Jose, about 45 minutes away.

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What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

Like: This is our second time living in Costa Rica. It’s a beautiful country with beautiful, friendly people, idealized in their most common saying, ‘Pura vida’ (pure life).

It’s a country with a lot to offer — mountains, beaches, cities, country. Living in the mountains, we’re not too far from all the conveniences of a major city.

The museum was wonderful. So much to see and do, and lots of learning — chemistry, biology, natural history and tons more. An old helicopter to explore, a ‘banana plantation’ to work, a big mouth with teeth chairs… a great time was had by all.

Dislike: The mountain roads from the house down to the city are windy… I feel a little nauseous.

Describe a challenge you faced:

There was some confusion about how to get to the museum, but after asking directions a couple of times, we found our way.

And we should have gone earlier in the day… we didn’t have enough time to see everything before the museum was closing up!

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What new lesson did you learn?

Sometimes we put labels on countries — first world versus third world. But all countries have cities, towns and ‘states’ that are in varyied levels of development.

Culture, refinement and fantastic infrastructure can be found in many countries that are labeled ‘third world’.

And the worst internet we’ve found in our travels (so far) was in Homer, Alaska, USA — a ‘first world’ country. :)

Don’t be too quick to judge.

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Where next?

Staying put in Costa Rica, but we’re having a humble lunch at the home of a Nicaraguan friend.

Learn more about Worldschooling, Education and Funding Travel here.

You can also connect with me on Facebook: DiscoverShareInspire and WorldschoolFamily

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Category: Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

October 22, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Magnetic Island and Barbie Cars

Cost/day

There are 2 significant expenses with Magnetic Island. The first is the ferry that takes you to the island which is $32 for an adult. The second is just as much a necessity as it is a luxury and that is the Mokes. For around $80 you can hire one of these miniature petrol cars to take you around the must see island. Food can be pricy also, but a picnic could see you through the day.

Mokes 2

Describe a typical day

We boarded the passenger ferry in Townsville, a smooth but breezy cold ride took us to Magnetic Island. We first stocked up on water and sun cream at the local IGA supermarket. Then we made our way to hire a moke. Parting with $80 we had picked up the keys to our new ride. The car was nothing more than an oversized Barbie car. Pink and white and just enough room for the two of us. So we took off on a tour of the island. Magnetic Island is scenically beautifully.

We pulled our car up at several look outs. The luscious green foliage stretched down the rolling hills into the sea. Each point we took in was a pleasure and a treat for the eyes. We watched the wildlife of exotic bird and marsupials fluttering. hopping. crawling out of the many bushes and trees that stretched the steep roads.

Soon it was time to park the car on the shore line and start walking one of the many walking tracks that weave around the Island. We removed out shoes and dipped our feet in the sea. Boulders lay at the bottom of the cliff face immersed in water. Here is where a keen eye could spot much of the islands aquatic wildlife amongst the cracks and crevices. The track was beautiful and secluded. We were aloud our own private peace as we looked out to sea watching the wave’s crash against the shore

. Magnetic Island beach boat

Our stomachs grumbled to let us know it was time for lunch. After a quick read of a local pamphlet that spelled out where to eat we decided to settle for a Mexican feed. With directions in hand and a small road map it still took us almost 45 mins to find the eatery. This however was wasted 45 minutes, the restaurant looked like a dilapidated unkempt old shack that was in dire need of a bulldozer. We imagined a buffet at a wake would have better ambience. So we gave up on Mexican and headed back to the dock to eat at Peppers. We sat on the veranda and took in the view. A rather over enthusiastic waitress took our orders and we sat and drank lemonade whilst talking over the mornings highlights. The food was great but with a substantial price tag to suit. I tucked into an Angus burger and chips with all the bacon and cheese I could want. My mouth is watering just at the thought of just how beautiful that meal was.

After lunch we decided it was time to relax on the beach so with a few essentials in hand we made our way to Magnetic Island’s paradise beach on Nelly Bay. We led out on the beautiful golden sands and took an occasional swim in the sea. It was quiet but we shared the beach with a couple of family’s holiday making. Before long it came time to hand back our miniature motors and climb aboard the ferry. A downside to Magnetic Island is the first and last ferry don’t run early or late enough, as this was a day trip we had to abide by those times. So we set off back across the water and back to Townsville for the night.

Magnetic Island me on pier

 

Describe an interesting conversation you had:

There wasn’t really a chance to get to talk to the locals but along the way we did pick up some interesting information. Magnetic Island got its name from exactly that a Magnetic force, which probably doesn’t come as a big surprise. The interesting element is that it was the only island around the area and further down the coast that would put the old ships off course as it would interfere with the ships compasses, and hence the reason it took the name Magnetic Island.

What did you like? Dislike?

I loved the Island and there is a great element of fun in driving the mokes around to explore. My dislike is the ferry times, they no doubt accommodate for the 9-5 workers who work on or off the island, and it felt we couldn’t cram in enough in such a short span of time. The island has so much more to explore and provides a huge amount of entertainment all year round. Next time around I think I would book in to stay at a hotel and give more time to exploring more of the beautiful island

Where Next? Robe!!!!!

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Category: General, Vagabonding Field Reports

October 1, 2014

Slowing down in Ubud, Bali

Cost/day:

$28 per day per person

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

There are many interesting and strange things to see on Bali, but if I had to pick just one it would be the statues you come across in seemingly random places.

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Describe a typical day:

Our morning routine stays the same wherever we are. We wake up, make breakfast and do work and homeschool.

After that we typically would go explore an area, temple, mountain, beach, etc. via motorbike. The countryside in Bali is so bright green and beautiful that we would often take longer routes to our intended destination just to see more of it.

Evenings we would relax, make dinner and simply enjoy the tranquility of being surrounded by rice fields.

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Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:

I went to a birthday party for an eighteen-year-old local, Wayan. I talked with his friends and teenage family members for a while and had few shots of whatever local drink they were consuming. Unlike the other times when I’d been with Wayan, where we talked about an array of things, I barely spoke with him.

When I arrived, he sat me down with his cousin, gave me food and a drink and explained that he now would be attending to the others at the party. For the rest of the two hours I was there he spent that time making sure everyone, including me, had enough to eat and drink. He served people at his own birthday party. I have no idea if this is normal in Balinese culture, but I found it incredibly endearing. Certainly a drastic difference to how I, ahem, behaved on my eighteenth birthday.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

There is so much to like about Ubud. I liked the people. We met so many kind and smiling people. I liked the amazingly beautiful temples and natural environment. I liked the traditions that were on display with so many aspects of life, from daily offerings (see picture below), to decorating temples, parades and ceremonies, one of which  happened in the middle of the rice field where we stayed. After being in southeast Asia for several months, I really liked the ability to get clean, organic food.

I disliked the traffic in Ubud. It is horrendous on some days. Too many buses on tiny streets causing massive traffic jams. It is not fun inhaling diesel exhaust on a motorbike. I disliked how touristy Ubud is. It is touristy in a different way than is the south of Bali, which is a beach destination, but it is touristy nonetheless.

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Describe a challenge you faced:

We planned to spend a month in Ubud. It actually took about a week of settling down to enjoy the slower pace of life. After having moved every 3-5 days for so many months, being able to relax and not plan our next destination took some adjustment. I guess it was just a feeling of being restless. But in the second week I settled in and had no problem whatsoever enjoying my time there.

What new lesson did you learn?

That I need a break from traveling sometimes. It is so easy to try to see everything in a country. I just had to except that I cannot see it all and to attempt to do so will only lead to burn out, which I was until we recuperated in Bali.

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Where next?

Penang, Malaysia

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Category: Asia, Vagabonding Field Reports

September 24, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: Blue Mountains and a full English

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Cost/day:
We chose to do the blue mountains as a holiday getaway, so we invested a little more in accommodation and opting to eat out each night.

We found an affordable accommodation about 6 kilometres from central katoomba, The Skyrider Motel. It cost $100 a night a little over our usual expenditure but worth it for the luxury of one of the comfiest beds I think I may have ever slept on.

We searched some of the local bars and restaurants for a good meal, again lossening the belt around our budget. Most meals per person could range from a $15 pub grub special to upwards of $40 for a sit down dining experience.

Describe a typical day:
It felt like a chore getting out of such a beautiful an comfortable bed but we rose nice and early and set out for breakfast.

A small independant cafe in the heart of Katoomba offered a range of breakfast dishes from a bowl of muesli to a full English breakfast. So I opted in for the latter which I washed down with a fresh cappuccino. The cafe had a great vibe, the walls pasted with old rock posters and bank notes from around the world. It was run by what seemed to be fellow travellers, who kept the eatery lively and vibrant. It was Coffee with smile.

Once stuffed on sausage, beans and eggs we went in search of the local tourist center. I weighed up the idea of taking a tour or going it alone. Later choosing to make our own way round the scenic mountainous site.

So we purchased an all day pass for the Scenic World, this allowed us on the several attractions that offered the many views of the valleys and mountains.

A tip for any would be travellers to Katoomba from Sydney, it’s worth buying a 3 day public transport pass. Not only can you use it around Sydney on all public transport but it can take you out to Katoomba by train and allow you to use all public transport here also.

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So we hopped on our designated bus and took it to Scenic World’s Skyrail. This is a cable cart with a class bottoms that takes your over the beautiful gorge. Be wary the cue was long for little reward however it did give a perspective of the depth of the gorge below.

Jumping off the other side we chose to walk along the footpath that takes you along the Gorge with a promise of a view of the 3 sisters, A trio of rock spires that stand out from the cliff face. It’s a long walk but many vantage points give a beautiful view of the blue mountains. A tremendous vastness of green forestry, rock faces, all clouded in a blue haze of which the area gained its name.

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The beautiful sight of these 3 three rock formations didn’t disappoint, we stood and took in the moment for some time. Taking in every crevice, jagged rock that made up theses 3 sisters of rock.

Once finished a short bus ride took us to another beautiful site, only this time we would have to walk for 45mins down into the gorge. We were making our way down to the Katoomba Falls waterfall. For us we knew this would be a beautiful picturesque platform but what we found was more astonishing than we could have estimated.

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The platform was a flat rock that led to a cliff edge. On one side if us was the beautiful cascading waterfall, spin 180 to an amazing panoramic of the blue mountains. Just when we thought we had seen a beautiful view from the top of the gorge, suddenly it felt like we had been transported to a secluded paradise. The long steep boggy walk down made this spot quiet with only a small many sharing the spot with us.

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We splashed around the water for a while enjoying the relaxing soothing sounds of the crashing water. We could have stayed here all afternoon but we had to make our way back to the top. We stopped at several lookouts along the route back up. Then finally reaching the the busy road above we set out for a nice eatery.

The bus dropped us outside the old City Bank. This quaint 2 story pub was bustling with travellers and boasted a bohemian atmosphere. Before we stepped through the door we had decided where we would spend the evening. With a little taste of home Guinness flowed from the taps and helped wash down the delicious homemade burger. Bacon Cheese and a 3/4 pound if meat, complimented by the hand cut chips and a touch of BBQ sauce. We drank until the last bus that took me back to the comfort of that beautiful bed.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
The Skyrider Motel was a complete surprise, from the outset it seemed like a pay by the hour Bates motel. However once inside, the room is a cosy well equipped room. The couple that ran the motel are also friendly and very helpful.

The blue mountains and the surrounding areas themselves are a beautiful sight to behold and was worth every cent and every second spent there.

The only downside is the World pass. The glass bottom Skyrail we did on the first day and the Skytrain really aren’t worth the money. Long waits in quiet season for crowded bustling carts gave little reward. Above all of this, once you reach the bottom of the valley you can only walk back up, there is no option to return to back of the cue. As able bodies explorers we were happy to walk back up but for anyone who may be impaired I could imagine this to be a burden.

Describe a challenge you faced: We really underestimated the walking trail to the Waterfall, it is very steep and in some places boggy and flooded. Our real mistake was deciding to wear our flip flops. We struggle more than most but we never gave up and it was worth the struggle

What new lesson did you learn?
Always be prepared, a good pair of walking boots will never fail you no matter how much you like the wind between your toes.

Where next?- It’s magnetic island

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Category: General, Vagabonding Field Reports

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.

Sept4

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.

Sept1

Sept2

Sept5

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.

Sept6

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.

Sept3

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.

Sept7

Where next?

Bali, Indonesia

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Category: Asia, Vagabonding Field Reports
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