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    Oceania Travel

    The Great Barrier Reef Australia

    Just Keep Swimming

    Location: The Great Barrier Reef Australia

    “Hey, Mr. Grumpy Gills… When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming.” – Dory the Fish from Disney’s Finding Nemo

    The Great Barriee Reef

    Nemo

    Finding Nemo is one of my favorite Disney/Pixar movies, and this past week I have had endless Finding Nemo moments and quotes running through my head.  Being

    in Australia and finally snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, my thoughts have wandered to the

    The Great Barriee Reef

    Reef and fish

    adventures of that movie and I have smiled to myself underwater and thought “Just keep swimming.”

    Although going out on a snorkel trip on The Great Barrier Reef took us way over our Grand Adventure daily budget (actually everything in Australia is

    The Great Barrier Reef

    Birdseye view

    taking us over budget), we could not come here to beautiful Cairns and not see the reef.  It’s another one of those “I don’t have a bucket list” bucket list items.  I love snorkeling and I wanted to have that once in a lifetime opportunity.

    The weather on the day we went wasn’t great – grey and overcast and we even saw some rain.  I am in constant worry about my motion sickness

    The Great Barriee Reef

    Colorful

    problem, so I stood outside and watched the horizon the entire hour and half boat trip out to the reef, even when the rain started to come down.  Hey I was gonna get wet anyway right?  Luckily, thanks to massive amounts of drugs, my sea sickness problem did not materialize while on the boat.  That was a good sign!

    “You got a problem, buddy? Huh? Huh? Do ya, do ya, do ya?” Dory

    We booked our reef tour with Reef Magic out of

    The Great Barrier Reef

    Marine World of Reef Magic

    Cairns which took us to the outer reef and a pontoon platform stationed there called Marine World.  We disembarked the boat to the pontoon and here we were outfitted with our snorkels, fins, masks and Lycra “stinger” suits to protect us from

    Great Barriee Reef

    Jellyfish

    jellyfish.

    “I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine and he shall be my Squishy.” Dory

    Reef Magic offers many options from the pontoon, all at an additional charge including snorkel safari, snuba, scuba, glass bottom boat, semi-submersible boat and helicopter rides.  But since

    Great Barriee Reef

    That’s us!

    we had already exceeded our budget (for two of us we paid $426 Australian about $330 US), we were just interested in snorkeling.  We were dressed and ready to go pretty quickly and one of the first people in the water.

    Great Barrier Reef

    Us with Wally

    We immediately encountered “Wally”, one of the biggest fish on the reef.  Luckily Reef Magic’s professional photographer was on hand as we entered the water and she got some amazing shots of us with Wally.  All the photos in this blog are from Reef Magic’s professional photographer.  Since we don’t have an underwater camera we have never gotten underwater photos on any of our snorkel trips on the Grand Adventure.  So, despite the fact my husband almost wet his pants when I told him the price, we bit the bullet and bought the photos for an additional $75 (about

    Great Barrier Reef

    Hey Wally

    $60 US).

    “Ahh you guys made me ink.” Pearl

    Wally is a resident fish of this part of the reef.  He is an amazing species called Maori Wrasse.  This fish is a female for the first eight years of its life.  And then poof.  It’s a male.  I know – what the heck?  Isn’t that nuts?  Some times I think Mother Nature is menopausal!

    Great Barrier Reef

    Coral

    After our encounter with Wally we began to explore the reef.  Marine World has a cordoned off section of the reef for its guests to enjoy.  Within this area there was a huge variety of corals; big, small, blue, green, orange, white.  Some are soft and rounded, others spikey and dangerous looking.  In all the

    Great Barriee Reef

    Coral

    snorkeling I have done, I had never seen coral that waved in the current like it did here.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch.  Most of the coral we see in our lives is dead.  And while its pretty even when it is dead and dry, the beauty of live coral is spectacular.  Yes this is an incredible living

    Great Barriee Reef

    Coral

    creature and we surely must protect it.

    “Righteous! Righteous! ” Crush

    So I loved the corals and kept going back for more of that but of course there were the fish. Many, many fish.  I don’t know all their names, but they really are beautiful to watch.  Some of the fish are very solitary, just going along and doing their

    Great Barrier Reef

    Fish!

    business, feeding and swimming and doing what fish do.  Other fish keep in groups, large schools that move together almost as one, weaving above and around the coral mountains.  There are some fish that are so tiny you don’t even see them until you are swimming right through them, while others

    Great Barrier Reef

    Giant Clam

    are so big that they freak you out a bit.  Many fish are shy and you need to look inside the coral to find them.  There are also beautiful giant clams, sea slugs, squid, eels and rays.  And no we did not see any sharks.

    Great Barrier Reef

    Ray

    From this moment on, you shall now be known as Sharkbait.” Gill

    We swam to the outer edge of the roped off area and we were alone in this section just as a beautiful turtle swam by on the surface.  We

    Great Barrier Reef

    Turtle

    almost missed him because we were looking down and he was swimming right next to us on the surface.  But then he dived and we watched him swim to the bottom looking for a snack.  I believe this was a loggerhead turtle.  We had seen this kind in Sri Lanka. Beautiful brown bodies and not too large.  We watched him swim away beyond the area we were confined to and into the great wide ocean.

    “Saw the whole thing, dude. First you were all like “whoa”, and we were like “whoa”, and you were like “whoa…” Crush

    After about an hour we went back to the pontoon to have a rest.  Reef Magic served a buffet lunch

    Great Barrier Reef

    Pontoon

    that included salads and fruit, bread, chicken, sushi, lasagna, curry and roast beef.  But I only ate a little cause I continued to worry about my motion sickness.  Arne ate my share.  It all looked good.  Great Barrier ReefCoffee, tea and water was also available and a bar on the boat was open when we weren’t underway.  Clearly they have had motion sensitive passengers before and they were well stocked with ginger beer (like ginger ale, non-alcoholic). My beverage of choice.

    “I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine.” Bruce the Great White Shark

    The Great Barriee Reef

    Fish in all sizes

    We headed back out to snorkel more after lunch.  The water seemed a bit calmer but it was also more cloudy so not as easy to see – but that was okay.  We tried to swim to all the areas and to the far-reaching parts of the swimming area.  We noticed most snorkelers stayed very close to the boat.  Understandably if you are an inexperienced snorkeler or not comfortable in the water.  Reef Magic had life jackets as well as float noodles and other devices for anyone looking for a little more reassurance.

    Great Barrier Reef

    Some are shy

    We snorkeled for about 30 minutes and then decided to call it a day.  We went back on the pontoon and stretched out on a lounge chair for the next hour and a half.  Surprisingly, despite the overcast sky, it was warm and we both got a bit of a sunburn.

    Great Barrier Reef

    My Fab Fifties Life!

    Finally it was time to turn in our gear and make our way off the pontoon and back to the vessel for the hour and half ride back.  Once again I stood and watched the horizon the entire way, including during a deluge about half way home.

    But I did it.  I did not get sick.  I snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef.  I can check that off the “I don’t have a bucket list”

    Great Barrier Reef

    Dory

    bucket list.  And remembered to just keep swimming.

    “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.” Dory

    Thanks goes to the wonderful photography of Reef Magic!

    Read more of our Australia adventure here

     

     

    This post includes affiliate links and I may receive a commission if you buy any of these products.  Any money earned goes to help support the cost of the blog.

     

    Island Life

    Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One

    Location: French Polynesia

    It’s been a weird and wonderful first week in French Polynesia (our 111th country!) where we will be living on the island of Mo’orea for two months. Getting here was no simple task…with ever changing PanDamit rules, overnight flights, weather woes etc., we were filled with gratitude on arrival. Here is our story – Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One.

    The first picture I took in Mo’orea

    PanDamit Hurdles

    As our departure date loomed and Omicron exploded we found ourselves checking the French Polynesia entry requirements incessantly. We didn’t honestly know if we would actually go. But as we have said before, we are approaching travel in the brave new world like a poker game…some skill, some luck, and some divine intervention. Living the gamble and a few prayers for good measure.

    In November FP changed it’s entry requirements to a 24 hour test from time of departure. Our embarkation point was San Francisco so we had to base our 24 hour test on an 11pm departure from San Francisco. This meant testing in the morning before departing out of Seattle. No easy task. We pinpointed three Rapid Antigen sites and headed to the first one in Port Orchard Washington at 8:30am where we found a three hour wait (outdoors). Ugh. Moving on to Tacoma we lucked out at a site that took us in about 15 min. Only 30 minutes later we had our negative results. Hallelujah.

    Thumbs up for a negative Covid test

    Both our flights were pretty full and we were happy to have our newly acquired N95 masks which feel much more secure and more comfortable than what we have been using (KN95 and regular surgical mask). We dozed but didn’t really sleep very well on the nine hour flight from SF to Tahiti so we were pretty dazed on arrival.

    Arrival

    Despite all our research we weren’t really sure what to expect on arrival. One thing we were grateful for was that we had printed all of our Covid documents, entry documents as well as an email we had with correspondence from the French Polynesian President’s office. Although we had all this on our phones it was quick and easy to show the printed documents as we proceeded through the three step process on arrival;

    Step One – showing our documents from our negative Antigen test 24 hours before departure.

    Step Two – Anyone who had Antigen tests (even if negative) had to have a Rapid PCR on arrival. We knew this and got in that line next. There were about a dozen testers and it went really fast. We expected to pay for this but it was free.

    Step Three – Our research had given us the impression we would need to quarantine for up to three days as we waited for the PCR. But instead, step three was to go through to passport control and into baggage, get the bags and then wait 25 minutes. A sticker on our passport said the time when we would be clear to leave the airport. So after 25 minutes and no red flag positive Covid results we were free to leave.

    Sofitel Hotel near our Bungalow

    From landing to taxi was about one hour and 45 minutes. It was well organized and everyone was nice and helpful. So off we went to Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One.

    On to Mo’orea

    It was POURING down rain. We grabbed a cab for the short ride to the ferry terminal to leave the island of Tahiti and head to Mo’orea. We made the 8:10am ferry but got absolutely drenched running from the terminal to the vessel. The stormy weather gave us rocky seas and I was really nervous given my motion sickness history. But, with mama’s little pill, and staring out at the horizon for the thirty minute crossing I made it. Maeva Mo’orea!

    Arriving at the Mo’orea Ferry Terminal

    Avis Rent a Car right at the Mo’orea Ferry Terminal was convenient and very helpful. So we were in a car within minutes. Then we had two hours to kill before we could check in to our Airbnb. Super jet-lagged driving seemed dangerous. But since the weather was crappy there was really no where to go so we ended up stopping for groceries and then driving all the way around the island.

    Mo’orea by the Numbers

    Bigger than Praslin in the Seychelles and smaller than Maui, Mo’orea is about the same size as Orcas Island in Washington State. About ten miles by 7 miles. The ring road is about 61 km (38 miles) and encircles the island. A few roads go inland off the ring road but it is the main road for most of the traffic. The area is 134 square kilometers and the population is around 18,000. The highest point is Mont Tohi’e’a is 1207 m (3960 feet). It’s very mountainous!

    Mo’orea has six communes (villages) scattered around the island. We are in the commune of Teavaro, home to about 2000 people.

    French Polynesia is 60% vaccinated and a mask mandate is in effect for indoors, although many people where masks outdoors as well. FP had a huge Covid spike in August which dropped off to zero for early winter, but began a gradual climb again over the holidays. But nowhere near what it was in August. Mo’orea has one hospital and several clinics that service the population, which currently is very light with tourists. We feel quit alone in the tourist category. We feel safer from Covid here than we do at home.

    The island rises right up out of the sea

    Parlez Vous Francais?

    Francais

    French is the official language but most people speak excellent English as well as the local Polynesian language Tahitian. Our Airbnb host, who lives on Tahiti but is here one day a week, speaks excellent English. I know bits and pieces of French but not enough to carry on an intelligent conversation. Of course through all our travels we have learned to use Google translate to read information on packages and signs. Even with Google it took us 20 minutes to figure out how to turn on the washing machine. Oh la la.

    Our bungalow in Teavaro

    Meanwhile our darling little bungalow in the village known as Teavaro is a fabulous space, with a kitchen, large covered porch, tiny pool and beach front. Less than a mile to grocery and restaurants and large public beaches. We feel very comfortable here and our host is wonderful. Merci!

    Tsunamis and Celebrations

    We arrived on January 13th and I celebrated my birthday on January 14th. Still incredibly jet-lagged we enjoyed a quiet birthday at the bungalow, and watched it rain nearly two inches in 24 hours (more on that below). It was an uneventful but nice birthday. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, 1200 miles West a giant volcanic explosion near the island of Tonga created tsunami warnings all around the Pacific. We didn’t learn about this until nearly 12 hours later when we awoke on the 15th and read it in the news.

    Birthday dinner fresh Ahi which is abundant and cheap on the island

    Although Hawaii (due north of us 2600 miles) as well as the West Coast of the USA, Australia, New Zealand and even Japan all went into Tsunami alert, we heard absolutely nothing from the FP government or warning systems. What the heck?

    There were no visible signs of anything unusual on our beach, which is only about 30 feet from our front porch. This experience however prompted us to take a good look around at what our evacuation options are. When we first started traveling we used to do this regularly, but I admit I have gotten a bit lax about it. I still am that girl on an airplane that pinpoints my nearest exit before settling into my seat…but tsunami evacuation route isn’t something I think about…until now.

    The reality is, no matter where we are, or what disaster might present itself, we will be on our own to save ourselves. This is true at home or abroad. A little preparation goes a long way.

    Monsoons and Mosquitoes

    Well we are here in the rainy season. However, everyone we meet, including our host, says this sustained rain is extremely unusual. If you have any doubt about climate change spend a few years traveling around the world. Because EVERYWHERE we have gone over the past five years we have heard these words about the weather, “this is not normal”. Not normal is the new normal from what we can tell. And the incredible amount of rain we have seen since arriving on Mo’orea is not normal. Not much to do about it though, and so we are okay. Hopeful it will clear eventually.

    Wet and rainy birthday

    Meanwhile the rain and floods have brought out the mosquitoes in droves. Mosquitoes generally find me exceptionally tasty anyway, but at the end of week one I am covered in bites. C’est la vie!

    Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One

    After a week of pretty much doing nothing but reading, playing scrabble and watching it rain, we have some plans for the week ahead. We have a reservation to do both a street food tour and a Polynesian dinner and show. With improving weather we also plan to get out to some of the beaches and restaurants. But we have enjoyed a relaxing week and have been perfectly fine just hanging out and doing very little for our Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One. We may or may not blog each week…time will tell.

    Warm and muggy

    Thank you for joining us in this weird and wonderful week.

    See last week’s annual blog post Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021 here.

    Check out our earlier blog My Favorite Islands Around the World here

    And see this week’s top performing pin My Self Care Journey with Noom here

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    Inspire

    My Favorite Gardens Around the World

    Enjoying Gardenss for Education and Beauty

    In our travels we have been blessed to visit a lot of gardens; botanical gardens, native gardens, home gardens, arboretums…even sculpture gardens. Fun and educational, I always look for these places in cities and countries as we travel. So today I will share with you My Favorite Gardens Around the World.

    singapore
    Singapore

    I sat down and tried to remember all the gardens we have seen. Because I enjoy gardening back in my home state of Washington in the USA, I always want to check out gardens in other places. My husband also enjoys looking at gardens, especially ones with native species we may not be familiar with. Lately Arne and I have become amateur bird watchers, and my favorite gardens around the world are always a great place to see birds.

    My Favorite Gardens Around the World

    As I have been working on my own tiny garden this spring I’ve been dreaming of starting to travel again and some of the world’s most beautiful gardens have been floating through my head…and thus this idea to blog about them has bloomed. I don’t have photos of all my favorite gardens around the world, but I do hope in your own travels you can find your way to some of these enchanting locations….some big, some small, all beautiful.

    In no particular order, here are my favorite gardens around the world.

    United States

    Palm Springs, California – I enjoyed our recent seven week visit to Palm Springs area where we particularly enjoyed learning about the flora of the desert at the tiny Moorten Botanical Gardens and Sunnylands. Sunnylands is one of my all time favorite gardens anywhere.

    Palm Springs
    Palm Springs

    Tucson, Arizona – Our recent two weeks in Tucson had us falling in love with this area, including the Tucson Botanical Gardens and the Arizona Sonora Living Desert Museum, our favorite thing in Tucson.

    Phoenix, Arizona – the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix is not large but it is laid out beautifully and makes a beautiful and interesting garden to stroll through.

    Sunnylands
    Palm Springs
    Phoenix

    Portland, Oregon – The Portland Japanese Gardens is one of the most unexpected gardens I have ever been to. A hidden gem right in the heart of beautiful Portland Oregon

    Seattle, Washington – Volunteer Park Conservatory. I have only been here once, and it was on a blustery cold winter day, and stepping into this warm and alluring conservatory was a perfect activity for a winter day. I loved everything about this place and hope to return soon.

    Spokane, Washington – Manito Park and Botanical Gardens is one of my most favorite things to do when visiting Spokane. The sprawling park offers so much plant beauty, including a Japanese Garden and a beautiful Rose Garden.

    Spokane

    Boston, Massachusetts – Boston Public Gardens is the oldest botanical gardens in the USA and offers 24 acres of beauty to stroll through in any season. One of my favorite Boston sites in a town full of amazing sites.

    Kula Hawaii
    Kula

    Kula, Maui, Hawaii – Kula Botanic Gardens is a hidden gem on the slopes of Haleakala. I visited this privately owned garden for the first time this past year and it was such a pleasant surprise. Don’t miss this hidden gem when you visit Maui

    Bainbridge Island, Washington – practically in my own back yard, Bloedel Reserve is a 150 acre historic property and gardens whose mission is to enrich people’s lives through a premier public garden of natural and designed Pacific Northwest landscapes. Timed entrance tickets available online.

    Bloedel Reserve

    San Marino, California – The Huntington Botanical Gardens is so much more than just spectacular gardens. This historic site is home to an Art Museum, Library, events and lectures…and of course one of the most beautiful gardens in the USA.

    Huntington

    Canada

    Victoria British Columbia – The Butchart Gardens is one of the most outstanding gardens anywhere in the world. No matter the season, it is a jaw dropping and magnificent 55 acres to behold.

    Butchart Gardens

    Montreal Quebec – Jardin Botanique de Montreal was not on our radar when we set out to visit beautiful Montreal, we fortunately just stumbled upon it. We were there in the fall and it was truly first class, one of my favorite gardens ever.

    Montreal

    Australia

    Sydney – Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney we only had four days to explore the beautiful city of Sydney and we made the most of our time from beach to hiking, performance and food. But one of our favorite discoveries was these phenomenal gardens, home to both flora, fauna and feathers.

    Sydney

    Singapore

    Singapore – Gardens by the Bay. Amazing. I could have spent a week in this place, an astonishing futuristic garden in one of the most astonishing cities in the world. The super tree structures and skywalk were incredible (especially at night) but my favorite was the cloud forest and flower dome. Worth a trip to Singapore just to see this.

    Singapore

    Mauritius

    Pamplemousses – Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens. Often referred to as the SSR Botanical Gardens, this beautiful garden is named for Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, Mauritius’ first Prime Minister and a leader in Mauritius independence. The gardens were begun in the late 1700’s during the French occupation and today incorporates fruits, flowers and trees from all over the world in its 33 hectare site.

    Mauritius

    Sri Lanka

    Kandy – Royal Botanical Gardens. Our visit to Sri Lanka was so wonderful and this country remains one of our favorites. The Royal Botanical Gardens in Kandy is one of three botanical gardens in the country – each unique. This garden was beautiful, very large and home to a great many species of trees, flowering plants, orchids, birds and bats.

    Kandy

    China

    Shanghai – Shanghai Botanical Gardens is the largest botanical garden in all of China. It encompasses more than 81 hectares and includes beautiful strolling paths and water features as well as thousands of trees, flowers, shrubs and more. Shanghai is a beautiful city, so different from Beijing.

    Shanghai

    Israel

    Haifa – Baha’i Hanging Gardens this was a surprising place in the heart of Haifa. These gardens aren’t actually “hanging” but the crawl up the hill and present a spectacular site for many vantage points. The gardens are the home to the shrines where the founders of the Baha’i faith are buried. A site to see.

    Touring gardens when you travel provides a peek into local culture and customs, while also enriching with beauty and education. I encourage you to support these beautiful places everywhere you go.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

    I’ve been reading some really amazing, but pretty depressing books lately. I recommend all of them, but indeed they were intense. So when I stumbled upon The Rosie Project I was gleeful. Here is my book review The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

    This book has been around for a few years, published in 2013 it has come in and out of my consciousness but for some reason I never read it. Until now. And I’m so glad I did.

    This is the uplifting story of Don Tillman, an Australian Professor who has extreme difficulty with social interaction, because of his own autism. Don is a genetics professor, and leads his life with a very rigid schedule he doesn’t like to deviate from.

    Don has never had a serious relationship, and thinks his good job, intelligence and even financial status should make him an attractive mate. He believes the problem is with the women. So he embarks on the Wife Project, creating a list of criteria for the perfect women.

    This of course leads to a hilarious set of events, women and activities. Don finally meets Rosie, who defies all his criteria. But he enjoys her company. Of course you can imagine how things unfold.

    It’s a delightful book. Laugh out loud and sweet. An easy read. I’m so glad I found it.

    *****Five Stars for The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

    Read last week’s review of A Burning.

    See this week’s top performing Pin here – 2020 World Travel Awards.

    Inspire

    It’s the Little Things – Thirty Eight Years of Marriage

    Today my husband and I are celebrating our 38th wedding anniversary. It was a dark rainy day when we married in November 1982. But it was still a glorious and happy day.

    1980

    We were young and our wedding was nothing special, certainly nothing like the huge and expensive weddings that take place today. I was naive and thought it was great. And that is how our life has gone. We have lived simply, worked hard and made a lot from a little. It’s the little things – 38 years of marriage.

    Here’s our story;

    1975

    1975

    I am fifteen when I realize Arne exists, even though in hindsight I know we have met several times before. He is nearly seventeen. We meet on a ski trip. My life is changed. Even at a young age, there was something there.

    What is happening in 1975? Gerald Ford is President. The Vietnam War comes to an end. Captain and Tennille are singing Love Will Keep Us Together while we are standing in long lines to see the movie Jaws. Pet rocks, mood rings and Rubik’s Cubes are in our Christmas stockings.

    Arne and I date for nearly a year. He is my first date ever. But then we stop dating. I am crushed. Him not so much. Life goes on and we manage a nice friendship for many years; it’s the little things.

    1979

    1979

    Arne is away at college in Boston but the summer of ’79 we rekindle our relationship. My memories of that summer are of me dating different guys in my hometown, but then all of those guys seem to fall off my radar and there is Arne. It’s a summer of water skiing, drive in movies, concerts, taking the ferry to Seattle for dinner. It’s also the summer I am preparing to leave to go to Washington State University, after spending one year at the local community college. I am working three jobs. I have no idea how I’m going to pay for school. Until miraculously I receive a giant financial aid package.

    What is happening in 1979? Margaret Thatcher becomes the first woman Prime Minister in Britain. Hostages are taken at the US Embassy in Iran. The Hood Canal bridge sinks. ESPN is launched. We are loving Candies heels and wearing overalls and tube tops. If you are lucky a walkman is in your Christmas stocking.

    Arne returns to Boston for school and I head to WSU feeling like my life is beginning. We part knowing life is about to change. In the year ahead we both see other people, have some serious but short relationships but keep in touch.

    1981 & 1982

    1982

    Arne has graduated from MIT and taken a job with Boeing to be close to those he loves…me! I’m still in school but we live together in the summer of ’81 in Seattle, but I return to WSU to finish my senior year. We are engaged in June of ’82 and married in November.

    What is happening in 1981 and 82?. We are introduced to Aids. Anwar Sadat is assasinated. The Space Shuttle Columbia has its first flight. Post-it Notes are invented. Michael Jackson’s Thriller is released. Epcot opens. Hollywood is on a roll in ’82 with blockbuster films including E.T., Gandhi, Chariots of Fire and On Golden Pond. If you are lucky you might find a digital watch in your stocking this year. Pac Man is all the rage.

    Arne and I live in a tiny little rental house in West Seattle and begin our married life.

    1992

    1992

    Our first ten years of marriage has flown by. We built a house in Issaquah and added two beautiful sons to our family. Arne has now been at Boeing for twelve years. I have received my second degree, from the University of Washington, and began my career climb. I worked on a political campaign, then KIRO-TV, then the Issaquah Press and then become the Director of Salmon Days. But then we make a major decision to move to Virginia for Arne’s job and I become a stay at home mom with a five year old and a one year old.

    What is happening in 1992? The first George Bush is President and Bill Clinton becomes a candidate for the office. Mall of America opens. Los Angeles is riotin after the Rodney King verdict. The first McDonald’s opens in Beijing. Barney is on our television and A Few Good Men and Unforgiven are on the big screen. Kids are finding Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in their stockings.

    We will spend 18 months in Virginia absorbing the incredible history there and take our first cruise to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary.

    2002

    2002

    Ten years later life is flying by. Our children are now 16 and 12. We have built a beautiful home in Gig Harbor, lived there 8 years and then sold it to move to a run down old house on the water. This house will be our little project for seven years. Arne is still at Boeing, celebrating 22 years. After being a stay at home mom for four years I return to television and work at KSTW TV and then take the position as Tourism Marketing Director for Gig Harbor. This will be my final job of my career.

    What is happening in 2002? Americans are in shock from the 9-11 attacks. Terrorism is a constant word in our vocabulary. We are introduced to the No Child Left Behind Act. The winter Olympics are held in Salt Lake City Utah. Lord of the Rings is on the big screen and Eminem is everywhere. If you are lucky, there will be a flip phone in your Christmas stocking.

    This period in our life is stressful. We are both working full-time, managing typical teenagers and their endless needs and activities, and remodeling an old house inch by inch.

    2012

    2012

    We have now completed all the upgrades to our waterfront house and gotten our first son through college. Our second son is in his final year of Architecture school. Arne has now been at Boeing for 32 years. We spend a lot of time talking about retirement and how we would like that next phase of our life to look. We have done a lot of travel in the past decade, and know that we want travel to be a big part of our future. I am in my final year of work and will retire at a young 53 the following year.

    What is happening in 2012? Americans have weathered the recession and things are looking up. We are all introduced to Facebook when it goes public and life will never be the same. We learn about Gangnam Style. America’s first black President Barack Obama is running for his second term. The Sandy Hook shooting kills 26. Taylor Swift is everywhere and The Hunger Games has us obsessed. The iphone 5, E-Readers and gift cards are what we want to find in our Christmas Stockings.

    We celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary in this year and take stock of our blessings, and the little things. We are aware acutely of how short life is having said goodbye to many people too young and begin focus on what’s next.

    2020

    2020

    Pandemic. It has taken over our lives. It has changed everything that we believed we had control of. But we are safe and healthy. When the pandemic hits we have now been traveling the world for four years, nearly full time, returning to the USA each summer. We have sold the waterfront home and purchased a small villa. Our kids are employed and healthy and we are free to move about the world. Until we are not. So we return to the USA to wait it out and see what will happen next. We are still in the USA seven months later when we celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary on November 27th.

    What is happening in 2020? Donald Trump is President and he lacks the ability to deal with the Pandemic. On November 3rd America chooses Joe Biden to lead them. Wildfires plague many parts of the world including Australia and the USA due to the growing climate change crisis. Jeffrey Epstein, George Floyd and Kobe Bryant each in their own way create a shock factor in the news. IPad, Airpods, Bluetooth and anything to do with technology is on the Christmas list. Joke gifts in reference to quarantine are also popular such as toilet paper, flour, face masks and funny pandemic T-shirts.

    2020

    My husband and I celebrate our 38th Anniversary with a hopeful heart. Our married life has been a collection of little things that have combined to create a wonderful life together. We look to 2021 and our 39th year of marriage and hope to be healthy, travel, and see our sons successful. It’s not a lot to ask. Just the little things – 38 years of marriage.

    Thanks for joining me on this little walk down memory lane. It’s the little things – 38 years of marriage.

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    My Epic Adventures Around the World

    Just under four years of nearly non-stop travel, as well as many adventures earlier in my life, has left me with an unbelievable collection of epic adventures around the world memories. Lucky me.

    I’m not giving up on resuming our travel life…however I expect we will sit home for a year before we set out on anything too epic. And even if that never happens, what a life we have led.

    In my living room I have a large book case that I call “The Museum”. Here I display my world treasures. There are not alot, given the fact that we travel light and I try not to do too much shopping as we travel, but I rarely leave any country without picking up something special. I love looking at “The Museum” and although I appreciate when guests look too, “The Museum” is really for me, a reminder of my blessed and adventurous life.

    The Museum

    As I wait to determine what my next chapter in my life is going to look like, I spend a lot of my brain cells reliving some of my life’s greatest epic adventures. Therefore it seemed like a perfect blog to pull together and share. My Epic Adventures Around the World. I hope you enjoy.

    The Inca Trail and Machu Pichu – I don’t have a blog about this experience, it was before I began blogging about my travels. But it was a defining experience in my life, opening my eyes to my own physical capabilities. The five day hike on the Inca trail to Machu Pichu took every thing my body had to give, while also providing some of my all -time favorite zen moments. Life changing.

    epic adventures around the world

    Galapagos Islands – Everything about the Galapagos Islands is unique and memorable – both on land and in the sea. One of our favorite trips of all time.  The day we snorkeled in the Galapagos was the only time I have ever swam with seals who danced a playful ballet around us as we swam. We also encountered baby seals, beautiful turtles and small sharks.  Just one remarkable event in a very remarkable place.

    epic adventures around the world

    Weekend with the Monks South Korea – spending the weekend at a Korean Buddhist monastery was a unique and slightly painful experience. Living as a monk, mostly in silence, sleeping on the concrete, up before the sun and hours of meditative prayer was certainly memorable. But my favorite part was meeting the female monks at this monastery, hearing their story and gaining such an admiration for such a devout life.

    epic adventures around the world

    Easter Island Chile – Everything about Rapa Nui was stunning, but like most visitors I had my favorites. And like most visitors my two favorite sites were the Ranu Raraku quarry site and the Ahu Tongariki.   Upon laying your eyes on these two sites for the first time you conjure a list of adjectives; breathtaking, fascinating, interesting, surprising, remarkable. At one point I had to just stop and breathe deep – and remind myself how remarkable it all was, and how remarkable it was that I was standing there.

    epic adventures around the world

    Namibia – Arne and I both have Namibia on our top five list of one of the most beautiful countries and most incredible experiences ever. That is saying a lot in 110 countries. Unspoiled, incredibly diverse and still remarkably authentic, Namibia is astonishing. I have two excellent blogs about our experience there. The link above is the first one. Here is the second.

    epic adventures around the world
    Sunny Namibia

    Burkina Faso – who goes to Burkina Faso? Well apparently I do. I didn’t really want to go, but in hindsight spending three weeks there visiting our Peace Corps son was one of the most remarkable and eye-opening travel experiences of my life. And doing it with my grown sons made such fantastic family memories. I will never regret having gone.

    epic adventures around the world
    Burkina Faso

    Inle to Kalaw Hike Myanmar – I don’t have a blog about this experience, but it did win one of our 2019 Travel Awards for it’s uniqueness. This two day hike was longer and harder than I thought it would be (I should read the fine print) but the experience was amazing. Our guide was great, the food was surprisingly abundant and delicious and even sleeping on the floor in the home of a local Myanmar family with no electricity or running water was a memorable experience.

    epic adventures around the world

    Camino de Santiago Spain – Hands down one of the best, most spiritual, most life affirming experiences of my life. Walking 500 miles across Spain – 40 days, thousands of memories, one incredible experience. I hold this memory very, very dear.

    epic adventures around the world
    The Grand Adventure Spain

    Gorilla Trek Uganda – a life-long dream for me to trek to see the elusive Mountain Gorilla, for me this has also become a marker for the Corona world-crisis. Doing this tour was the last “normal” thing we did, before the world spiraled out of control, and came to a screeching halt. I will be forever grateful that Covid-19 did not stop us from doing this experience, and I will remember these creatures fondly.

    epic adventures around the world

    Tiki Tour in New Zealand – who knew living in 90 square feet could be so much fun? What a remarkable way to see one of my top favorite countries, New Zealand. I would do this again…and have also considered doing it in Australia. To really see all that is fabulous about New Zealand, a Tiki Tour is the way to go.

    epic adventures around the world

    The Great Barrier Reef Australia I had to really convince my husband that snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef off of the east coast of Australia was worth the money. But I wasn’t visiting Australia without seeing the reef, and despite a crappy weather day, our experience in the ocean was amazing. A pinch me moment, in a life of pinch me moments.

    epic adventures around the world

    Alps Hike Switzerland – with total honesty and without hyperbole, this day hiking the Schilthorn was one of the best days of my life. The physical challenge of it was astonishing, the beauty of it was heavenly and the satisfation on a travel scale of 1-10 was a million. Blessed day.

    epic adventures around the world

    Camel Trek in Morocco – incredibly painful, incredibly memorable. Our overnight camel trek in the dessert of Morocco was quirky and special, despite how uncomfortable riding a camel can be…who knew? But I’m so glad we did it; overnighting in the Bedouin camp, drinking wine around the camp fire in the chilly dessert night air, then rising again and clamoring back onto the beast for the trek back. I’ll never forget it.

    epic adventures around the world
    Sunny Morocco

    Bangladesh – we would have never gone to Bangladesh, except our friend Natalie was teaching there…so why not? A quick stop in this untouristed country to see what we can see. Wow. I would never imagined that we would have enjoyed it so much and have one of the most authentic travel experiences of our life.

    epic adventures around the world
    Beautiful Bangladesh

    Above it all – we paid a ridiculous amount of money to have two separate experiences in our travels – both taking us high above it all. It’s always hard to know if these things are worth the money, especially when we travel on a fairly strict budget. But for me, both of these experiences were worth every penny. Climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Sydney Australia and flying in a Hot Air Balloon over Bagan Myanmar. These both will go down in our travel life as phenomenal.

    epic adventures around the world
    The Grand Adventure Australia
    epic adventures around the world

    So the Grand Adventure is on sabbatical until further notice. I continue to hope we will travel again…but the brake is firmly set until further notice and we turn our attention to other inspiring adventures…stay tuned, and don’t give up.

    Thank you for continuing to support our blog – we promise lots of interesting and inspiring articles coming your way. Be safe. Be healthy.

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    The Surprising Things You Learn From Full-Time Travel

    Location: Cyprus

    I never ever imagined the word pandemic or quarantine becoming a part of my daily vocabulary. And yet it is. Wow. So many surprising things you learn from full-time travel.

    A world pandemic is at the top of the list of surprising things you learn from full-time travel. I’ve said it many times, despite all the preparation and planning, reading and studying – there still are so many surprising things you see and learn and experience that you never ever imagined. Pandemic one of many.

    Planet in Pain

    So today I thought I would share some of these things, since we are still stuck indefinitely here on Cyprus (currently day four of a new three-week total lockdown), it’s a good time to write a blog about the things you don’t realize you will learn from full time travel. The lessons keep coming but here are a few that stand out for me;

    How the World Views America

    America view

    We try to be good ambassadors for our country, but it can be really hard. Because many people have a view of Americans as loud, selfish, gluttonous and most of all ignorant and misogynistic. The view also extends to American media as biased and unreliable.

    Where are you from?

    My hometown of Gig Harbor

    So we get this question a lot. Sometimes the question is phrased like this; “Where are you from? Australia? England?”

    This always cracks me up because anyone who is a native English speaker is very in tuned to the nuances of those who speak English in the USA vs England, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland etc. But for those whose first language is not English the subtleties are often lost. It’s rare that we get asked if we are from the USA. I believe that is because the countries we are visiting for the most part aren’t often visited by Americans. We are often surprised by how surprised people are to meet someone from the United States.

    But the other odd thing when we get asked this question is how the answer goes. We answer “From the United States”, and 95% of the time we get a blank uncomprehending stare. So we rephrase our answer and say “From America.” Ahhh light bulbs come on and faces light up, “Amerikah!”. Despite the fact there is no country called America…much of the world refers to the USA as America.

    Metric System

    Metric (Canva)

    The USA is only one of three countries in the entire WORLD still not using the metric system (Myanmar and Liberia are the other two). I mean honestly people this needs to change. I have no choice but to learn the metric system as we travel and although I don’t have it down perfectly, yet it is an integral part of everyday life from cooking to driving to filling up the car with petrol. We think in Celsius and kilometers, meters and liters. You should give it a try.

    Holy Days and Holidays

    I left my heart in Guatemala
    Semana Santa

    In the 110 countries we have now visited we have not visited anywhere that celebrates holy days and holidays by spending the amount of money Americans do on holidays. Most holidays are about family and church with minimal decorating and gift giving. One strange thing…they often leave the Christmas tree up (artificial) until spring.

    Airplane Etiquette

    Flying

    Here is a win for the USA. I have been horrified by how some cultures behave on airplanes – ignoring and harassing flight attendants, barging up the aisle on landing and not letting other people get out into the aisle, as well as other rude behavior. We have found this particularly the case in Asian and African countries. In the USA this would be almost unheard of.

    Dogs and Cats

    Dogs and Cats

    It never occurred to me before beginning our travels that we would witness often horrifying conditions for dogs and cats around the world. I can’t and won’t describe some of the things we have seen…things I try to put out of my mind.

    English Speakers

    Do you speak English? (Canva)

    Before embarking on this full-time travel we had visited many countries in the nearly 40 years we have been married. Some of those countries we found communicating easy and others not so much. But in the past decade most countries have begun teaching English in schools and I can’t think of anywhere we have been in the past four years where we have not been able to speak in English to just about anyone we encounter. English is definitely becoming the world language.

    Oh My God

    Sunrise over Rabanal

    This has become a travel joke for us. Everywhere we go, whether or not the place we are in speaks good English or not, the phrase “Oh my God” is used. It is sometimes the only English words some people know. It is used to express frustration and surprise. I’m not sure if most people even know what they are saying – it’s just a colloquial term used around the world similar to Uff Da or Oi Vey or Gesundheit. Oh my God.

    Water

    Drinking water

    Boy oh boy I sure don’t take clean drinking water for granted anymore. It is to me the biggest problem around the world, and it generates another gigantic problem – what to do with all that single use plastic?

    There are some countries and cities making a huge effort. In Antigua Guatemala there are free filtered water stations. In Thailand you can refill giant water jugs for just pennies. Good on ya. I’d love to see this expand.

    Germs and Hand Washing

    We are all now washing our hands more than ever before. But one thing I have witnessed in most countries is very consistent hand washing already…way more than what I see in public places in the USA. Particularly in Muslim countries but in most other places too people wash not just after using the bathroom but frequently throughout the day, before and after meals and in both public and private places.

    Green Africa

    Rwanda

    Hey guess what? Africa is really, really green. So many Hollywood movies and even NatGeo portray it as a barren brown place – and there are certainly some deserts and dry areas. But most of it is so beautiful and green and big and diverse. You really should go there. Any country…just choose one. They are all great.

    Risky Business

    Dangerous Hippos

    I find myself in situations often while traveling that make me pause…what the heck am I doing? Things like being in a sinking boat in a hippopotamus infested lake, swimming next to the edge of Victoria Falls, hiking on a snowy mountain without clampons, standing 4 meters from a wild Silverback gorilla …crazy stuff. Stuff I wouldn’t be allowed to do in the USA because of much tighter laws and a litigation culture that keeps us away from danger. In most of the world, that is not the case.

    Mangos

    So many mangoes (Canva)

    You might think this is a funny category…and it is. But how did I never know how many kinds of mangos, bananas and so many other kinds of tropical fruit were waiting out there for me? There are 500 kinds of mangos for heavens sake! There are 1000 different kinds of bananas! Have you ever eaten a custard apple? How about a dragon fruit? What about a pomelo or jackfruit or langsat? I’ve been living a sheltered life.

    Left or Right

    Left side driving (Canva)

    Although most countries of the world drive on the right hand side of the road, it still is surprising how many countries drive on the left (including here in Cyprus, a former British colony). Even more surprising is a country like Myanmar, which switched from left-hand driving to right-hand driving in 2015 BUT 90% of the cars still have the steering wheel on the right side. Talk about disconcerting.

    Toilet Paper

    What can I say?

    As toilet paper has become such a valuable commodity in the USA I’ve chuckled about how different Americans view the little white squares compared to the rest of the world. Many cultures don’t use paper…the sprayer attached to the toilet does the job. Many countries you must bring your own paper if you want it, and most countries you aren’t supposed to flush it. Including here on Cyprus where flushing is a no no. Systems are not designed to handle paper, and so it goes into the bin next to the toilet.

    It may seem very strange if you haven’t lived somewhere like this but just like anything else you get used to it. I always have TP in my suitcase (and paper towels too) and always have some kind of tissue in my purse.

    Have You Learned Anything

    Have you learned anything crazy and surprising on your travels? Have you learned anything crazy and surprising from this blog? I could go on and on because there is so much more (cheap medical care, free universities, corrupt governments, government supported community days) that most Americans can’t comprehend.

    For me it’s one of the absolutely best things about travel…an eyeopening experience to how the other 96.25% of the world lives. Because get over yourself…the USA is not the center of the universe and we should all try to be more neighborly and interested in our entire planet and the diverse peoples and cultures that make it such a wonderful place.

    Don’t give up on travel…we will all hopefully be back traveling again in a few months. Just wash your hands.

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