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What a Difference a Year Makes

What a Difference a Year Makes

on Jun 11, 2014

A year ago today, we were sitting in my brother’s kitchen with a bottle of wine to celebrate the closing of a chapter and the start of our new adventure. It was a crazy few days. I can still vividly remember feeling a whirlwind of emotions including fear, anxiety, nervousness and excitement … all at once. Everything had happened so fast and I was feeling unprepared for all the changes that were unfolding. In the previous three days we had: finished packing all of our possessions into boxes moved everything we owned into storage (i.e. my brother’s basement & garage) turned over possession of our home sweet home to a tenant bid farewell to Kevin’s place of employment for the past 15 years In a matter of three days, our “norm” was no longer concrete and defined. It was turned completely upside down. We were no longer employed. We no longer had a house to call our own. Nearly everything that we owned was either sold, packed away or stowed. Yes, this was officially the start of a crazy, new adventure. Exciting? Sure. Liberating? Maybe. Scary? Most definitely! As I sit here in the same place a year later (coincidentally trying to establish a “big plan” for the next 365 days), I think back to that day and remember all the raw emotions that I could not put into words. I could have never imagined what the year would hold for us: new friends, incredible memories, beautiful sights and eye-opening experiences. We learned a lot about the world, cultures, people, each other and even ourselves. We had lots of great times and some not-so-fun times. It all makes me thankful that we decided to embark on this journey. However, today is bittersweet. I celebrate all that we experienced in the past year. I am thankful for quality time with family and friends over the past few weeks. Yet, I find myself starting to miss our life on the road! The next 365 days are unknown and I hope that they will be filled with even more challenges, new experiences and amazing life lessons. What a difference a year can truly make! We’re back in the same place we started but in such a different...

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Packing Hits & Misses

Packing Hits & Misses

on Apr 28, 2014

Packing for long term travel can be difficult. I know I personally debated for a long time over what I should pack. To see exactly what I packed see my previous post about packing for long term travel. Looking back, I spent most of my time searching for the right clothing and shoes to bring, and probably not enough time thinking about the “other” non-clothing items that we might need. Now that we are over ten months into our journey, here is a reflection on some of the items we have been happy to have on our journey, the items we wish we would have packed, and a few items we wish would have left behind. Wise Packing Selections 1) Handheld Tripod Kevin gets full credit for this contraption. Our handheld tripod resulted in lots of funny stares, looks and comments from strangers. However, it is the secret to our “selfies.” We use this retractable wand daily and love the results. It’s lightweight and compact and has enabled us to capture ourselves in our pictures—something we have never been able to do before. This definitely tops our list of best packing selections! 2) Duct Tape If you follow our blog than you already know that we have found countless uses for duct tape. Our uses have included patching a beer can, re-sealing packages, keeping our GPS charged, bug-proofing our room, sealing a door and even as first aid! 3) Lightweight Re-usable Bag A few days before our departure, I made a list minute stop at REI to pick up some additional packing cubes that were on sale. In doing so, I ran across a compact lightweight bag. The bag expands to a nice size and holds up to 40 pounds of weight. It compresses down to nearly nothing and weighs mere ounces. We have found countless uses for this bag including: a beach bag, a grocery bag and even a laundry bag. It has been far more durable than plastic bags and holds a lot more volume and weight than one too. 4) Unlocked Cell Phone Getting cell phone coverage is really quite simple around the world. In my opinion, it is far more simple than it is in...

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Graceful, I Am Not

Graceful, I Am Not

on Apr 25, 2014

My middle name definitely is not Grace. I often wonder how I ever managed all those years skating on a quarter of an inch of steel and avoided any serious injury, outside of the compulsory stitches in my chin. These days, basic activities like riding a bike, walking a bike and simply walking have all left me with a few unexpected aches, pains, and bruises! I don’t ever remember so clumsy! Walking My Bike Yesterday, we arrived on the third largest island of the Seychelles, La Digue. The island only has a handful of cars and thus the best mode of transportation for both locals and tourists is bicycle. Nearly everyone traverses the island on a bike. It is almost like a mini Copenhagen. After spending the day at the beach, we stopped at the store for a few basic necessities before returning to our accommodation. We secured our purchases into the grocery-like baskets on the back of our bikes. It was a short ride back and Kevin informed me that I was carrying the most precious cargo: the Seybrews for happy hour on the patio. About 100 yards from our accommodation, the road was closed due to construction. I choose to apply my breaks and dismount my bike to walk around the construction zone. I quickly realized that I had now become an additional road block for the locals who saw no difficulty in “off-roading” on the shoulder though the road block. I apologized to one local as he applied his breaks and swerved to miss me. I scurried through the construction zone, looked back to assess the situation and in doing so, lost control of my bike! It is all a blur now, but I found myself holding on for dear life to the bike handles and supporting part of the weight of my bike with the inside of my right calf. I called out to Kevin to help. If I would have let go, then our precious cargo would have tumbled onto the pavement. All I could think of as I held on for dear life was shattering beer bottles in the middle of the road…and it would have all be my fault. As Kevin got...

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Resealing Packages

Resealing Packages

on Apr 24, 2014

One of the items on my packing list for our trip was “chip clips”. I had read somewhere that clips or clothes pins can serve multiple purposes during long term travel, including: hanging things to dry, keeping things together (like window coverings to block out light), or even sealing food products for storage or transit. So, I tossed in three for good measure.

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Seychelles Bottle Deposit

Seychelles Bottle Deposit

on Apr 23, 2014

I am known to be compulsive about recycling. In my mind it is one small and easy thing that we all can do to make a small difference in the world for our future generations. So, when I saw crates containing empty beer bottles at the local market in Seychelles, I took note. It meant we could recycle our empty beer bottles at the local market! Somewhere in our first five days in the Seychelles, I read something online about a 2 Rupee bottle deposit on the local beer, Seybrew. This prompted my search on the label for any indication of a deposit or refund, but I found nothing. Of course, if we would have received an itemized receipt for our purchase, I would have looked there too. However, receipts are virtually non-existent here in the Seychelles. The deposit turned out to be less than $.25 USD per bottle. So in the grand scheme of things, it’s mere pennies compared to the high cost of everything in the Seychelles. However, the budget conscious, coupon-cutting side of me thinks that every little bit helps! Regardless, my mind was set on returning our empty Seybrew bottles for the greater good. If we received money back, then it would just be icing on the cake! Praslin Local Market On the island of Praslin, the local market was only a few meters from our accommodation. After a long day of fun and sun at the beach, we stopped here to grab a few Seybrews and some snacks to satisfy us until dinner. I must say that after a day in the heat and humidity of the Seychelles, a cold local brew can be quite refreshing. The cashier at the local market “rang up” our purchases by typing the costs into his handheld calculator and then flashed us the grand total. Seeing a credit card machine on the back counter, Kevin attempted to pay via credit card, but was denied. The clerk said they didn’t accept cards … so what was the machine for? Confused, we dug deep into our pockets to find some of the local currency, Rupees. The cashier made change, we collected our purchases and made our way back to our...

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South African Hamburger Joints

South African Hamburger Joints

on Apr 10, 2014

We were pleasantly surprised to find that South Africa has not been inundated with the American fast food chains. Yes, if you are in dire need of some American-based grease and in a large town then you will most likely be able to find a McDonalds or a Kentucky Fried Chicken. However, the two local hamburger chains, Wimpy’s and Steers, seem to far outnumber all other chains. Since we definitely love a good hamburger, we could not pass up the opportunity to conduct our own independent taste test to see how each chain’s burgers would stack up.

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Duct Tape: Use #911

Duct Tape: Use #911

on Apr 4, 2014

Another day, another use for duct tape. As we concluded our sand boarding session in South Africa, we made one final run down the “Dragon Dune” lying flat on our stomach clinging to a plastic belly board. The guide instructed us that it was best to use bare feet to steer and slow down. So we proceeded to take off our shoes and socks in preparation for the ride down the 240 meter run. The steep course combined with ideal sand conditions allowed us to pick up ample speed as we torpedoed down the hill. Our guide cautioned us about the bend in the course about two-thirds of the way down the hill. He instructed us to drag our right foot to help steer through the bend and then added that we had to dig both feet into the sand to slow ourselves down at least 10 meters before reaching the end of the course. If we didn’t stop, we’d have an unfortunate encounter with rocks. Based upon our sand boarding experience in New Zealand, I knew exactly how to drag my feet and legs to control my speed. So, I laid down on my board and the guide gave me a little push to get started. The slope was steep and the curve was approaching so I almost immediately started to drag my feet to slow down. I made it easily through the bend and remembered the advice from our guide to apply breaks early. So, I started to dig by feet in even more. I did not feel my pace slowing, so I instinctively dug in even deeper and, of course, managed to stop with plenty of room to spare. Relieved that I had completed the run safely, I jumped up and celebrated! Barefoot Was a Bad Idea As I started to make the long, steep climb back up the hill, I felt a burning and stinging sensation on the top of my feet. I looked down to identify the source. Not only were my feet covered in sand, but the nail polish was missing from my big toes. That is when I also noticed the blood soaked sand on the top of my left foot and...

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Riding the Dragon

Riding the Dragon

on Apr 3, 2014

One of my favorite activities during our month long stay on the North Island of New Zealand was “riding the sand” at the Te Paki Sand Dunes. Thus, when I saw another opportunity to sand board in South Africa, I immediately added it to the top of our list of things to do.

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Swimming with Sharks

Swimming with Sharks

on Apr 2, 2014

The coast of South Africa is home to one of the world’s largest populations of great white sharks. Sharks feast on seals and thus can often be sighted near one of the many seal colonies along the South Africa shores. Although the sharks are present year round, a sighting is never guaranteed. With so many sharks in South Africa, cage diving has become one of the most popular tourist activities in the Cape. While researching things to do in Cape Town, I found a highly rated outfitter offering cage diving from the marina at Simon’s Town, a small town just outside Cape Town. With minimal hesitation, I secured the only two spots available in the coming week. I was feeling lucky and a bit excited about our excursion and the prospect of seeing a great white shark up close in its natural habitat. However, I wasn’t fully committed to getting in the water  with these giant creatures. I’m not fond of any sort of fish in the water while I’m swimming, and everything that I read said the best viewing spot was from the boat! So I felt like I could go on the excursion and watch safely from the deck of the boat. Unfortunately, due to weather and adverse sea conditions our initial tour was cancelled. We re-scheduled for two days later, but unfortunately it was cancelled too. Our time in Cape Town was running short and we sadly couldn’t reschedule.  We still really wanted to see the sharks, so we had to look for an alternate plan. Mossel Bay is a popular destination on the famed Garden Route. There’s a seal colony less than one kilometer off shore which also means there’s a healthy population of great white sharks! We planned to pass through Mossel Bay on our road trip in the western cape, so we decided to make a booking. We hoped the third time would be the charm! If the trip were to be cancelled, we’d have to move on and skip shark diving altogether. When we arrived in Mossel Bay, the sky greeted us with clouds and the weather forecast called for rain. Nonetheless, we received a confirmation from the tour company that our...

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Self Drive Addo Elephant National Park

Self Drive Addo Elephant National Park

on Mar 30, 2014

We read mixed reviews about Addo Elephant National Park. As a result, we heavily debated whether a visit to the game park was even worth our time and effort. We almost decided to skip it entirely since we had already booked a four night safari in Madikwe Game Reserve at the end of our time in South Africa. Ultimately, since we were so close, we decided to experience Addo for ourselves and were happy that we did. As the national park’s name suggests, elephants are the main draw. Although not guaranteed, it is highly likely to see elephants in the park and on arrival, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that dozens of other animals can be found in the park too—all endemic to the region. Most of the roads are asphalt or gravel and visitors can drive them all at their leisure to view the animals in their natural habitat. For an introduction to the park, we elected to take a “sundowner” game drive in one of the parks organized tours. Although we saw a few noteworthy animals like a water buffalo, Addo’s oversized vehicles—they seat more than 20 people—simply can’t provide the same caliber of animal viewing that we experienced in Amakhala and Shamwari. If you’ve been following our journey, Amakhala is where we had a run-in with an aggressive elephant, and that encounter left me debating whether we should even attempt to drive ourselves through Addo. There’s no way we wanted to repeat that encounter without a qualified guide. Even though Addo’s organized game drive was disappointing, the one thing it did do is put my mind at ease about what we could expect inside the park.  So, we ultimately decided to embark on our adventure and  do a self-drive the next day … and we’re now convinced this is the best way to see Addo. An Early Morning Self Drive We learned from our previous game drive in Shamwari that early mornings provide some of the best opportunities to see animals such as lions and cheetahs. So, we woke up before sunrise, equipped ourselves with binoculars, cameras, sunglasses, water and snacks and made our way into the park. Since we were staying at a lodge...

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