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    Asia & Oceana 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.

     

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Night Ship by Jess Kidd

    This was an audible book for me while we were on the island of Maui. It was an easy and interesting story that would work well in audible, kindle or paper. I enjoyed it. Here is my book review The Night Ship by Jess Kidd.

    Parellel Storylines

    Like many historical novels, The Night Ship is told in two parallel storylines. First we meet 9 year old Mayken in the year 1629. Mayken’s mother has recently passed and she is about to set sail to find her father who she has never met. Her guardian Imka is sailing with her on board the Batavia as they leave Holland heading to the Dutch East Indies (now Jakarta Indonesia) . Mayken has had an interesting childhood so far…with an unconventional mother, Mayken is curious, feisty and intelligent. She is naive about the coming long voyage, and her imagination, fueled by Dutch folklore propels her into lots of adventures onboard the ship.

    In alternating chapters we follow 9 year old Gil in the year 1989. Gil is a lonely, young boy struggling with his gender identity. His mother has recently passed after a battle with substance abuse and mental illness. Gil is sent to live with his grandfather on Beacon Island off the west coast of Australia. The tiny island doesn’t offer much for a nine-year old boy, and friends are hard to make particularly because many of the islanders dislike his grandfather. Gil’s one friend, is an ancient tortoise named Enkidu who offers a humorous respite to this grim story.

    The Batavia

    The real life wreak of the Dutch East Indies flagship The Batavia in 1629 is the basis for this fictional novel. Wreaked near Beacon Island, the horrifying experience of the survivors of The Batavia is some of the most barbaric ever recorded. Kidd brilliantly chronicles the events in both fact and myth through the eyes of two small children in The Night Ship. I enjoyed this book very much. Thank you for reading my book review The Night Ship by Jess Kidd.

    Four stars for The Night Ship by Jess Kidd.****

    See last week’s book review The Whiskey Creek Water Company by Jan Walker

    See our Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022 here

    We love it when you comment and share on our book reviews. Thank you.

    Inspire

    Becoming a Traveler

    Full Time, Nomad, Solo or Just an Adventure

    I get asked a lot of questions regarding our travel life. The most often question is what is our favorite country? Answer – I don’t have a fav…but I do have a top ten (Bulgaria, New Zealand, Myanmar, Guatemala, Vietnam, Namibia, French Polynesia, Cyprus, Malta, France). The second most often asked question is about getting started. Many people just can’t figure out the steps needed and need a little nudge to help.  People we meet often show interest, surprise, envy, jealousy, horror and confusion over our long term travel life. But most of all they are curious. And the curiosity is about becoming a traveler. How to make the leap?

    We began our travels in Thailand

    Getting Started In Travel

    There are as many kinds of travel as there are travelers. Our long term travel (longest 18 months, shortest two months) fits our comfort level, tolerance and budget. But it’s not for everyone. Other people are more suited to solo travel, short-term travel, organized tour travel, female group travel, or niche travel such as yoga or bird-watching or food travel.

    So before I can help you in getting started in travel, you need to do some personal soul searching to narrow down what kind of traveler you think you are. What is your tolerance level?  Consider everything from beds to cultural customs when considering your personal tolerance for traveling outside of the United States.  Do you have phobias? Afraid of bugs? Snakes? Rodents or people not like you? Are you afraid of cultures where everyone isn’t white?  Are you willing to eat new foods, communicate in languages other than English and squat to go to the bathroom? Give it a think because, even if you aren’t traveling full-time, you still gotta be open, willing and fairly fearless while being smart, observant and adventurous.

    Hard to answer questions to a travel nomad
    We spent a lot of time in Spain

    What Kind of Traveler are You?

    When the idea first sprouted to become full-time travelers, I knew immediately we would do it.  Without a question I knew it was right for us.  All while knowing it isn’t right for everyone. That’s why you need to find your comfort zone. Only you can do that. And realize you may start out as one kind of traveler and morph into another as you broaden your horizons. That’s a good thing.

    Before we embarked on the first phase of the Grand Adventure in 2016 we spent several years preparing.  We had to sell our house, get organized, and figure out what we wanted out of this new lifestyle. It took some soul searching, and frankly it continues to evolve each and every year. But in the beginning our choices had a lot to do with budget.

    We fell in love with New Zealand

    Budget

    Once you know your tolerance level and have some idea of your comfort zone, that in turn will help you determine your budget.  If you are only willing to stay in upscale American style hotels, then your budget will need to look very different from ours. To sustain our travels we travel very frugally. We don’t need fancy hotels with room service. But if you do, put it in your budget.

    Bulgaria was a wonderful surprise

    Who Do You Want to Be?

    Our travels have us staying in primarily Airbnb’s that average about $70.  And honestly if you are only willing to stay in American brand hotels with 700 thread count sheets and someone to cater to your every whim – well, you should just stay in the USA. Because you will miss the most rewarding part of international travel – getting out of your comfort zone and expanding your world view. However, if USA travel is your desire…go for it. There is a lot to see in the United States. One good way to do that is to become an RV Traveler. So before we tackle budget let’s talk about some of the different kinds of travelers;

    500 days of summer
    Astonishing and unexpected Namibia

    Retired Traveler

    Like myself and my husband, many retired folks go all in on travel…either long term or short. If you are new to travel and retired you might consider starting out with a group tour or a cruise to “get your feet wet” before launching out more broadly. My friend Linda and her husband are retired travelers from Canada and I recommend Linda’s blog and social sites to learn how they make it work. Follow Linda and reach out to her at Retired and Traveling.

    Christmas in Kenya

    Solo Female Traveler

    As a blogger I have had the opportunity to become friends with other bloggers and there are many solo female travelers out there. As a solo female it can feel a bit daunting to get started, feel safe and not get lonely. I recommend getting to know my friend Sue. Sue has a wonderful backstory as to how she became a solo female traveler when she lost her husband. I recommend for anyone considering adventure travel, solo or not, to engage with Sue on her website and socials. Learn more at Sue Where Why What.

    Guatemala was one of our favorites

    Lightweight Travels

    Packing for travel is one of the questions I get so often! It can seem overwhelming trying to figure out what to pack for either short term or extended travel. So meet my friend Katherine. She is a Kiwi (New Zealand) solo traveling light and she blogs about it and has a book coming out next month called Dare to Travel Solo! Learn how she pulls it together here at The 5kilo Traveller

    Packing is an education

    Full Time Traveler

    Full time travel is not everyone’s goal, however once you get comfortable with travel you might find the concept appealing. Becoming a nomad, especially in this day and age where you can work remotely from nearly anywhere, a life of full-time travel is more accessible than ever. My friend Heather left the corporate world to become a full-time traveler and she never looked back. In addition to her blog and socials, she now teaches others how to make it work as a full time traveler. She has a very active Facebook Group called Full Time Travelers and Nomads and a Ted Talk. Find out more about Heather at Heather Begins

    5
    Australia is a great place to begin your travel life

    How to Budget.

    We have a daily budget of $220 all-inclusive for two people (transportation, lodging, food, entertainment and misc).  At first glance that might seem like a lot, but flights alone over the years have averaged $40 per day (amortized). This budget is enough for most places (Asia, Africa, Latin America) and not enough for a few places (parts of Europe and the USA), but we are frugal and hope it all evens out. To stay on budget we plan ahead, look for discounts and deals, fly in economy and often don’t rent a car. We cook most meals, eating out about once a week. And the remarkable thing is, we live significantly less expensively while traveling than we did in the USA before we embarked on this new life.

    Now in year seven of our Grand Adventure (despite putting everything on hold for an entire year during Covid) we have learned a lot about how to long-term travel efficiently. Some of this knowledge can be applied to any kind of travel, not just long-term. So listed below are some “details” on getting started in travel. Most of these things we have had to learn on our own – so if this list can alleviate any work for someone else considering traveling abroad full-time or traveling solo or just taking a trip then our work here is done.

    Flights can be expensive, we always shop around

    Purge

    PURGE – we started our purge process more than two years before we put our house on the market, as we let go of nearly every bit of fluff we owned, including house, cars, boats, trailer, furniture and more.  We put our remaining possessions in a 10×12 storage unit for three years. After three years we purchased a small condo to have a place to come home to in the summer. That was a blessing when Covid hit. When we leave our condo we sometimes have a house sitter but not always. We forward our mail to our son.

    Letting go of too much stuff

    All the Documents

    DOCUMENTS – we updated our passports even though they were not expired, so we would not have any issues with needing to do that from abroad.  We also updated our Washington State Drivers License.  We carry a copy of our marriage certificate with us but not our birth certificates because the passport is sufficient.  We research every possible country we think we might visit to learn the entry/visa requirements. We carry copies of our passport, extra passport photos because some countries require obtaining a visa on entry with photo. We also carry International Drivers License, even though we have NEVER been asked for one. We sign up with the US State Department Smart Travel Program and list every country we plan to be in and when.

    Documents are important

    Create a Spreadsheet

    SPREADSHEET – we created a spread sheet (using Google Sheets), which is evolving constantly and we can access via Google Drive, to track all of our travel including air and ground transportation and lodging.  This spreadsheet includes notes regarding entry rules for countries. It’s also a fun tool for tracking so many things from miles traveled to beds slept in.  The data we have is incredible after six and half years.

    Google Drive Photo Storage
    Tracking expenses and other data is part of our travel life

    What About the Mail?

    MAIL – we have worked really hard to NOT have any paper mail and do 95% of everything online. But we forward to our son’s house in case mail does show up.

    Thank Goodness for Technology

    TECHNOLOGY – we have new smart phones, an iPad, a Kindle and a light weight Mac Book Air  For our smartphones (we each have an iPhone) we buy a sim card in each country for one of our phones to enable the phone to have a local phone number and data.  We then also use our iPhones with wifi for things like blogging, Facebook and Instagram. We keep our Verizon number active so when we return to the USA that number still belongs to us. I definitely recommend getting a SIM card in each country and not paying the daily international fee your provider will offer you. SIM is simple and inexpensive.

    We also have our Bose noise-canceling headphones and our Bose SoundLink Mini speaker that measures about 6 in x 3 in.  We carry this with us and it allows us to listen to music using Spotify and listen to Audible or other books.

    Photo Library
    Technology makes this kind of life so much easier

    APPS – We have a few travel apps we like especially Airbnb, Expedia, Booking and Google Maps.  We also use Google Translate which is really cool.    We use WhatsApp, an app that allows you to make overseas calls via the internet, this is primarily the way we communicate with our kids.  To call our parents, who aren’t on WiFi, we use an app called TextNow which allows free phone calls from anywhere to the USA. We also use Kindle, Yelp, Uber, Get Your Guide, Viator and Trip Advisor. We do our banking online with an app and our taxes online. We use a weather app, a plant identifier app called PictureThis and a bird watching app called Merlin. I follow news on the NPR app and the BBC app.

    CORDS AND CHARGERS – I honestly don’t understand why there isn’t a universal cord for all electronics, but alas wishful thinking.  So we have organized and sorted all our cords, charges and adapters to travel along. We research ahead to make sure we know what adapters we need in each country. We have a really cool little case that keeps all of our electronics organized and in one place. I usually carry some packing tape, post it notes and paper clips in there too.

    Money Money Money

    CREDIT CARDS AND CASH – don’t you hate it when your credit card company announces suddenly that you are being mailed a new credit card because your card has been compromised?  Well that would really screw us up if that happens.  So we have FOUR credit cards.  One is our primary and three are backups.  Three cards have no foreign transaction fees (which is a killer).  We also have multiple ATM cards. All credit and debit cards are chipped.  VERY IMPORTANT is that we do not carry all these cards together in one place.  That way, if our wallet or purse is lost or stolen, we will have back up cards available in a different location.  For most credit credit companies it is no longer necessary to let them know when you are traveling abroad. But check with yours to be sure. We carry several hundred US dollar in cash for emergencies. We never “exchange” US Dollars for local money. Instead to keep from paying the exchange rate fee we take money from a local ATM when we arrive at the airport.

    Money and Credit Cards need to be taken seriously

    Staying Healthy

    PRESCRIPTIONS – I take two prescriptions regularly.  It’s been a challenge to get enough of my meds stocked up.  My insurance company will allow, with a special doctor’s note, two 90 day vacation overrides.  Check with your insurance company to see what their policy is. We carry a first aid kit and a few Covid tests.

    DOCTORS – each time we return to the USA we have had a ton of appointments; family physician for full physicals, new prescriptions and precautionary antibiotics; eye doctor for new contacts and glasses; dermatologist for annual check up; dentist for cleaning and some work; gynecologist for check up; and annual mammogram. We have our Covid shot and boosters and we keep track of all our other vaccinations and update as needed.

    Taking care of you is an important part of travel

    STAYING FIT – we eat very healthy everywhere we go. We used to drink a lot more alcohol than we do now…I only have a drink about once a week. In nearly every country we create a running route, do yoga everyday and hike once a week. And we walk and walk and walk.

    A Little Pampering

    GIRL STUFF – I get a haircut about every three months, and have my nails done about every two months. In between I take care of my nails myself. Depending on the country, I sometimes allow myself a massage or facial. In many countries these things are incredibly inexpensive and very nice. I do not carry a hair dryer but I do carry my skin care products and a very small amount of makeup which I hardly ever use. Because many countries have a lot of minerals in the water that is very hard on hair, I bring really good hair care products from the USA. I have a flat jewelry case with a few earrings and a couple of necklaces.

    Splurge a little from time to time

    Let’s Go!

    DECIDING WHERE TO GO – After six years of long-term travel we feel much more comfortable with our movement around the planet.  It feels natural.  We usually agree on where we want to go and make our decisions based on budget, weather, safety and interest. We love to go to new places, but have a few favorites we return to. We take turns planning the itinerary, often taking a country each. We have been to 123 countries so far! By the way I use a little app called BEEN to keep track of all the countries we have been to.

    Tracking our countries using BEEN

    PACKING – this topic is one most people ask about, and indeed one of the hardest.  We will continue to use two large REI rolling bags.  Arne will continue to use his backpack as a carry on. I have a small roller bag carry on and a large bag that slides under the seat. And packing cubes have changed my life.  Organized and categorized, I love using packing cubes. All that said, I still habitually over pack. But I am better than I used to be and have created a travel wardrobe that works for me. Once you are on the road for awhile you will get a feel for what you actually need and what you can do without.

    AND OTHER USEFUL STUFF – We carry a Scrabble game and I carry my fold up hiking poles. We have a hammock that folds up very small. We have a collapsible hot pot for heating water and I love it! We carry some refreeze ice packs, a tiny fold-up cooler, a fold up beach bag and a fold up yoga mat. I carry a few spices and olive oil, some can koozies and reusable water bottles. I also pack flat laundry sheets (such a great invention) a cord and a few clothes pins. My husband has an all-purpose utility knife. Freezer bags and packing cubes – both so useful.

    Happily married 40 years and loving our travel life

    Getting Started in Travel

    So there you have it.  The details. This is what we have learned when getting started in travel.  Start slow or take a leap of faith….but get out there. Alone or with friends or make new friends on a tour…getting started in travel just takes a little faith. Take a few trips, get a feel for it, and then your confidence will soar! Ask me questions! I want to help.

    There is plenty of information out there to help in getting started in travel! Fabulous!

    Check out a few of my other blog posts about travel life; Making Sense of it All, The Surprising Things You Learn From Full-Time Travel, Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To and Travel Wardrobe for Multiple Climates

    See last Friday’s post Maui Best Restaurants 2022 here. Also see our special Thursday Travel Tips post from yesterday Top Twenty Blogs of 2022.

    We have lots of great things in store for the coming year! Be sure not to miss a thing by signing up to receive our blog posts in your email inbox. Sign up here.

    We love it when you pin, comment or share on our posts. Thank you.

    Inspire

    Most Romantic Sunsets Around the World

    Celebrate Valentines with a Sunset and your Honey

    Most Romantic Sunsets Around the World

    Today I share a blog from the past as I am still in transit.  Next week we will have a new blog about our travels to Guernsey and Jersey.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Malpais Costa Rica

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Guam

    For the past two weeks, the nightly show the sun has put on here in Malpais has been nothing less than astounding. Each evening we watch breathless as it dips into the blue

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Hawks Bay New Zealand

    ocean dressed in a beautiful pink and orange gown.  Some nights the show actually gets better after sunset – as the sky extends the celebration with a spectacular rainbow of hues of pink, purple, orange, yellow and indigo across the western sky.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    AntiParos Greece

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Huraa Maldives

    Watching the sun each night from Malpais Costa Rica has been a glorious part of our day.  A reminder each evening of how lucky

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka

    we are.  A romantic interlude of breathtaking beauty, mixed with awe for our planet. A planet that loves to share the most romantic sunsets around the world.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Exmouth Australia

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Cairo-Giza Egypt

    As we celebrate this annual week of love I thought what could be more romantic than watching a sunset on Valentine’s Day?  Or how about on any day?  Watching a sunset with the one you love.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Nile River Egypt

    Our travels have presented many sunset opportunities to us, some better than others, but many very memorable.  So in honor of

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Praslin Seychelles

    Valentines week, I give you our most romantic sunsets around the world – memorable moments of the Grand Adventure.

    Note – double-click on any photo in this blog for a larger view

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Seabeck Washington USA

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Etosha National Park Namibia

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Mekong River Laos

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Sydney Austalia

    Wishing you and all those you love a Happy Valentines Day! I love you all!

    Please share our blog.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Horse by Geraldine Brooks

    Yes this book is about a horse. In fact a real historical horse. But it is about so very much more. At the heart of this book, it is a story about racism in America past and present. I really loved it. Here is my book review Horse by Geraldine Brooks.

    Personally I am not a horse person, and the horse portrayed in this book called Lexington is not an animal I was familiar with. But if you are a horse person you might be aware of the historical lineage of Lexington. That in itself was a fascinating part of this book, but not the most fascinating to me.

    This beautiful novel follows three different storylines all connected to the Horse. First we meet Jarret in 1850 Kentucky. A Negro slave who becomes the groom to a bay foal. This relationship will form the base of the novel and follow Lexington and Jarrett and their owners through record-setting races, unimaginable profits and into the US Civil War.

    Next we meet Martha Jackson a New York City art gallery owner whose mother was an accomplished equestrian but died after a mishap on a horse. Martha becomes enamored with a painting that seems so familiar and yet how could it be?

    Finally, Washington DC 2019. Pre-pandemic and we meet Nigerian born Theo an art historian and Jess an Australian born scientist at the Smithsonian. Jess and Theo are unexpectedly thrown together when Theo finds a piece of artwork in a rubbish pile.

    I really enjoyed Brooks’ ability to connect multiple story lines to Horse – Lexington – both through amazing historical research as well as brilliant fictional development to build the plot. Throughout the book you will find both real life historical figures entwined with fictional ones, both human and equine.

    Using a thoroughbred horse to teach us lessons in racism is a brilliant play by Geraldine Brooks. I loved it. And learned a lot. Thank you for reading my book review Horse by Geraldine Brooks.

    *****Five stars for Horse by Geraldine Brooks

    Read last week’s book review Bewilderment by Richard Powers here https://myfabfiftieslife.com/book-review-bewilderment-by-richard-powers/

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    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.

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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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