February 13, 2015

Vagabonding Field Report: Wandering the streets of Paris

Cost/day:

As far as European cities, Paris isn’t the cheapest, but there are some simple tricks and strategies that can keep your Paris budget to around $60 a day within the city.  For instance, I stay in hostel dorms, walk whenever I can, and alternate between eating out and cooking my meals.

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

I went to a French film in Paris. It was a very odd experience. I didn’t understand the plot and unfortunately, they had no English subtitles so I found myself guessing throughout the movie.  In truth, French Cinema is very strange compared to what I am used to. Even the atmosphere of a theater in Paris has a strange feel to it.

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Describe a typical day

Today I woke up with the number one goal of walking to the Eiffel Tower, a formidable feat from my hostel on Crimée Street.   Now, I realize that you are probably asking, “Why walk?”.  The answer is simple.  There is no better way to get a feel for a city and culture than by walking it.

So I wake up early and begin my leisurely stroll through the quiet cobblestone streets and tiny alleyways. The scent of world-renowned fresh bread and doughy pastries fills the air, instantly sending hunger pains into my stomach.

I step into the first open cafe  and order a frothy cappuccino and delicious chocolate filled croissant; a breakfast meant for savoring.  Eventually, the urge to beat the massive crowds spurs my feet into action, and I start walking until I reach the river, Seine.

Following the river, I am soon greeted by one of my favorite sights in Paris: Notre Dame. This gothic cathedral is a marvel, towering over every building in the area.   Every time I am in Paris, I happily get stuck at this wonderful monument.

Nortre-Dame

 

Each time I visit, my mind travels back in time to centuries past and all the history that happened here.  Although I’m eager to get to the Eiffel tower, there are two more stops I can’t pass up on the way.

The first is the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, where personal literary heroes of mine including legendary Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce would often gather to sip brandy and discuss life.

The next stop is the Louvre and the gorgeous gardens surrounding it. Every time I look at the Pyramide du Louvre, I imagine future travelers visiting this glass pyramid and standing in awe, much the same way I do today as I fly around the globe looking at historical sights such as the Collosuem.

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The gardens surrounding the Louvre are filled with Greek statues and modern art.

It is a beautiful clash of the ancient with the modern and appeals to the history buff inside of me. I could stay here all day, but I know it is time to move on so I start on the last leg of my journey, an hour walk to the Eiffel Tower.

Louvre-Garden

Although I don’t have any other major stops along the way, I do briefly pause to browse the wares in the stalls along the river.

Approaching the Eiffel Tower, I can’t help but be impressed once again by its size and beauty.

It is the middle of the afternoon now, and while I didn’t make it to the Eiffel tower as early as I planned, I still can’t resist the urge to wait in line to take the elevator to the top.  You see, from the top of this beautiful metal wonder, you get an overwhelming view of this grand city.

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Paris is a city that holds a lot of charm and romance even if you are traveling solo, and I can’t help but visit the city over and over again.  It has become like meeting an old friend that I embrace with great fondness every time I visit.

Conversing with locals. 

Most of the magic that happens while traveling is in the unexpected conversations. Some of the best use no or very little common language and is conducted simply by body motions.   Personally, I like eating at hole-in-the-wall diners, shopping at local street stands, and getting off the tourist track.  I soon discovered how important it was to know how to communicate without words.

The last interesting conversation I had with a local was in a small restaurant in France trying to ask directions.

The older gentleman didn’t speak any English and shamefully, I don’t speak any French. Thus, we had about a ten minute conversation that involved me trying to explain where I wanted to go and him drawing me a map covered with French writing.

Believe it or not, he was more than willing to help.  He laughed a lot, made a few jokes, and wished me well all through body language.

I love communicating this way because it shows that language doesn’t have to be a barrier.  Locals want you to enjoy their country and even though this man knew I did not understand his words, he found a way to communicate. I walked away smiling; humanity did not disappoint.

I cannot tell you how many friends I’ve made in countries all over the globe where I do not know a person’s name.  I do not know if they are married, have kids, or what they do for a living; however, I do know their kindness and their character because they have helped me when I needed it the most without a second thought. Traveling shows you the goodness of people despite language barriers and culture differences.

What do you like about where you are? Dislike? 

Paris isn’t about the sights.  It is about the food, the people, and the wine. Things I like about Paris are strolling the streets, shopping at the stands, sitting in coffee houses, and kicking back with the locals.

One thing I hated at first, but now enjoy, is the rude waiters. Paris is known for its rude waiters, something I didn’t know at first and found rather confusing.  Soon though, I realized that it is just part of the culture and now I just smile when I experience it.

What was your latest challenge?

This wasn’t my latest challenge but one worth mentioning since it involves Paris.  In all honesty, the first time I visited Paris was horrible. I showed up on a late night bus in a bad part of town with no place to sleep and nowhere to go during one of the most chaotic times for the city.  Luckily it all worked out, but the first few days where rough.  Plus, it was my birthday and after the first night, I felt like I wanted to be anywhere but Paris.

It took me a while to feel out what the city was about.  Of course, once I did, I fell in love. 

What new lessons has Paris taught you?

Paris has taught me a few things. One being to always book accommodations ahead of time as it is a massive travel hub for the UK and Europe.  Many hostels are booked out all year round.  Travelers should book accommodations a least a month in advance or might risk taking a train to the airport just to get a safe night’s sleep.

Take my advice; I have done that on more than one occasion and it is an experience I don’t want to repeat.

Where next?  

Next I am headed to my all time favorite country in the world, Italy. I am a history buff and what better place to visit than a country that was the center of the world for two thousand years.

Stephen is a long-term traveler and city wanderer  You can check out more of his musing of life on the road at his website A Backpackers Tale, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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Category: General, Vagabonding Field Reports

February 4, 2015

Vagabonding Field Report: Ao Nang, Thailand

Many people head to southern Thailand for beaches, islands, and the relaxed vibe of coastal life. Ao Nang is a bit more relaxed than larger cities like Phuket but still has a vibrant tourist draw and is an easy jumping-off point for many activities like rock climbing, island tours, beach lounging, hiking, and diving.

Cost of living:

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A cost breakdown for the month using our budgeting app.

If you’re trying to save cash and are settling down for a while, a monthly rental can be found here for about 9,000 baht if you’re willing to stay a few kilometers away from the main beach area. Doing this will save you cash and the restaurants and shops get cheaper as you move farther from the beach. A scooter rental will cost you 250 baht per day or only 3,000 baht per month. If you were to eat all three meals a day at restaurants, your daily food allowance would need to be between 350-500 baht per person. However, stocking up on groceries and eating breakfast and/or lunch at home can save some cash and drop your daily food costs down to 150-250 baht per day. Prices at restaurants can more than triple when you get to the main beach strip and the quality of food isn’t any better. Sometimes you have to give in and spend 200 baht on that piña colada so you can watch the sunset at a beachside bar.

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Category: Asia, General, Vagabonding Field Reports

January 16, 2015

Field Report: Port Lincoln, Australia

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Cost per day?

We camped at the Big 4 campsite which was a fantastic campsite, but you can pay through the nose in peak season. We paid $40 a night but were reasonably central. There are various other sites but if you want to enjoy a drink or just a short stroll into town then you could find yourself too far out to walk. The campsite also had great kitchen and BBQ facilities, so cooking was cheap, however part of the appeal of Port Lincoln is its various bars and restaurants, as well as its entertainment. I would say $100 a day would get you a great day out.

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Describe a typical day?

Port Lincoln is beautiful and needs to be explored, so I put on my running boots and ventured out. The local council seem to have invested a lot of money in taking care of its water front. The agriculture is well maintained from the great pines to the grassy lawns, everything feels fresh and alive. The great weather gave a fantastic glow to the area and the aroma of fresh sea air allowed you to grasp what makes this town truly fantastic. Rolling hills stretch up to the skies and made for a good run which gave astonishing views of the town. Unintentionally I found myself lost, however that was half the joy. I didn’t need an excuse to explore further and found myself running the beach track back to the campsite.

Catching up with my better half, we decided to make our way out to the various viewpoints that look over Port Lincoln. The walking trail was quiet, which was a great opportunity to take in the beauty of the town below. It’s not a long walk but is worth it for a romantic stroll. We took many pictures to capture these beautiful moments.

Time to undo all my hard work, we strolled into town for afternoon lunch. A pub on the local green served chicken parmagana with unlimited salad bar which we washed down with a beer. We sat out on the terrace looking out on the green. The lawns of the town centre were busy with various families, tourists, and locals gathered eating picnics and ice creams. The mood was joyous as we sat and watched the world go by. A small funfair was in town so rides lined the waterfront, the sounds of laughter and excited screams filled the air.

Well fed, we took a look round the various shops. Like most Australian seaside towns the shops would sell merchandise that would let you know just how great they thought their town was. Every other shop would sell various t-shirts, fridge magnets, bumper stickers etc. tagged with Port Lincoln insignia – we bought a sticker for the camper and strolled back to the lawns. Treating ourselves to an ice cream we sat on the grass and lapped up the sun.

Stopping by the local butchers it was time to grab some burgers and sausages and head back to the campsite. We watched the sun go down by the pool. The Big 4 put on a film each night through its outside cinema. We sat back and enjoyed a BBQ and a film. The night was mild and various holiday makers sat around the pool and BBQ area eating and drinking. So we night capped with a glass of wine before retiring to bed.

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What did you like? Dislike?

I couldn’t find anything I didn’t like, if anything there is little in the way of tours but this wasn’t an issue, the appeal is the town itself. However, there are various activities to enjoy. I loved the great atmosphere and the friendly service we came to find. The great couple that ran the campsite were lovely and had a lot of time for guests. It was obvious they had invested a lot of time in bringing up the standard of the site. The town was beautiful.

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Describe an interesting conversation?

The couple that ran the campsite had settled some years ago after leaving England in order to tour Australia. A spontaneous decision had led them to turn their whole life around and eventually to run this campsite. He had been a lorry driver that was struck off and out of work, with little else to lose they had decided they would to take the risk to move to the southern hemisphere and neither have ever looked back. It was inspiring as you could clearly see their happiness shine through and above all you could see they were a truly happy couple. It just goes to show you can find happiness if your willing to take a risk for it.

Where next?

Sydney for New Year!!!!

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Category: Oceania, Vagabonding Field Reports

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.

DSC03373

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.

DSC02963

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
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