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    Oceania Travel

    A Fond Farewell to New Zealand

    Chapter Six comes to an End

    Location: New Zealand

    Wow.

    That’s the best word I can come up with to describe the last seven weeks in New Zealand.  Wow.

    I hope to be back some day. This little country packs a powerful punch and we have enjoyed our seven weeks here thoroughly.  Thumbs up all around as a visitor to the beautiful island nation.

    People keep asking me what was the best?  What was my favorite?  It’s a difficult question.  If I had to come up with one thing it would probably be our
    three days on the Abel Tasman trail – although I fell in love with so many other places we visited and things we saw as well. Milford Sound was magnificent.  Tongariro Crossing was spectacular.  Cape Reinga was beautiful.  The sun, the rain, the ocean, the lakes, the rivers.  The volcanoes, the valleys, the farms, the mountains, the fjords.   The stars – they are amazing. The sunrises and sunsets.  And in the last days of our visit finally seeing a kiwi in the wild.  Oh my goodness.  How can you choose a favorite?

    And of course the people.  New Zealand is the only country we have been in so far where we were invited into people’s homes.  What a treat that was – new friends on the South Island who welcomed us overnight at their home on a 700 acre sheep farm and new friends on the North Island who made us a spectacular dinner in their beautiful home overlooking a caldera in Auckland.  Two special experiences not every visitor gets to have.  Fabulous.

    We have spent the last five days in the city of Auckland, a bit of a recovery phase after four weeks in the Kiwi Karavan.  Auckland is a beautiful city – sparkling white boats on the sparkling turquoise water beneath the sparkling blue sky.  An easy city to love and to imagine living here….maybe…??  We did a lot of
    walking in the city, enjoyed the adjacent towns of Devenport and St. Heliers and loved the local museum.  But our favorite thing by far was our day
    on Tiritiri Matangi Island Bird Sanctuary where we saw many endangered birds as well as the elusive kiwi.  What a treat.

    New Zealand has made a major commitment to
    conservation, restoration and preservation of wildlife, native species and Maori culture.  They also have great reverence  for their veterans – in particular the entire generation of men who died in WWI leaving a huge gap.   I appreciate all of this and have a great deal of respect for a country that puts culture, arts, nature, sacrifice and history on a pedestal.  My kind of place.

    Our time in New Zealand has been very busy.  In fact we have broken all of our rules about taking it slow and easy and trying to stay in one place for
    extended period of time.  We have been on the go for seven weeks seeing one end of this country to the other.  And now we are looking forward to some real down time.  Chapter Seven will be a complete 180 from our time in New Zealand.

    Chapter Seven begins tomorrow, with what will be a hellish travel day.  Actually it will be nearly 48 hours from the time I wake up tomorrow to the time I lay by head on the pillow on the other end.  Four flights, four countries as we make our way to the very remote, very small, very sunny and hopefully, very relaxing island of Praslin in the Seychelles Islands.

    We will spend 33 days in the same Airbnb.  Downtime.  Ahhhhh.

    But, our Airbnb does not have wifi, and we will likely not have the same access we have had to social media, internet and email.  But I will blog as often as I can, and post on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter when I have the opportunity.  Between gin and

    A bit of a rest.

    tonics that is.

    So with that, we say farewell.  A fond farewell to New Zealand – where I leave a piece of my heart.  Thanks for a wonderful time.

    Seychelles here we come!

     

    Oceania Travel

    Northbound in New Zealand

    Chapter Six – Twenty One Days in the South

    Location: New Zealand

    We leave the amazing South Island of New Zealand today after twenty-one glorious days. We have been truly enchanted by what we have seen and done so far in this beautiful island nation. And the best news is we still have more than three more weeks to explore north.

    We have been prepared all along to have bad weather in this notoriously wet country. But so far we really have only had a handful of days with rain and none of those days did it rain that much. The forecast for the weeks ahead looks a bit wet, as we really begin to get into the New Zealand fall now. But even in the rain we love it here.

    We have met great people and enjoyed spectacular scenery. And as we spend more time we learn more interesting things –

    Road Construction – it’s pretty constant. The roads are narrow with lots of very old bridges. There are no “freeways” and the “motorways” are only near the larger cities. Otherwise it’s two lane and sometimes even two is not exactly quit it. On the South Island a major north south road was damaged so extensively in the 2011 earthquake (that also greatly damaged the city of Christchurch) that there is no estimate as to when it will reopen. In the meantime all traffic is diverted to the other north south road which is currently undergoing extensive expansion to try and handle the load. You just can’t be in a hurry.

    Costs – in an earlier blog I mentioned the high-costs of things in this country. But now that we have been here for awhile I am noticing some things. For instance we have never paid a fee yet to enter any of New Zealand’s abundant national parks. We have never paid for a toilet or to fill our water tank. We have stayed in several free campgrounds. Those costs alone in the USA would really add up. There is no sales tax and that is definitely a savings over the 9% plus in the county I live in. And while many items in the grocery store are more expensive particularly produce, I’m now seeing that other things are ridiculously cheap. Today I bought a bottle of ginger spice that at home would cost me $4-5. Here I paid $2. Today I bought a large jar of dill pickles. At home it would have been $3-4. Here I paid $2. Today I bought a bottle of olive oil that at home would have cost $10. Here I paid $7. And remember a NZ dollar equals 70 cents in US dollars.

    So when all is said and done. It’s really not that expensive after all.

    Green – I thought when I visited Ireland last summer that I would never be anywhere again that was so green. Sorry Ireland. New Zealand has you beat.  A veritable green world pours forth from forests and meadows, moss and ferns, miles and miles of vineyards and even the blue-green of the water.

    Forestry – and speaking of green, the hills are alive with evergreen and deciduous trees.  There is an obvious forestry industry including the clear cutting practice used in my own home state of Washington. But there is also what appears to be a very successful reforestation program and new growth and mid growth are obvious next to old”er” growth.

    The South Island, home to a pretty impressive list of Hollywood film locations, is rugged and mystical and crystal clear from sea to mountain top.  I’m told the North Island is different, but different is always good and I am looking forward to learning first hand what the differences are.

    So halfway through Chapter Six it’s Northbound in New Zealand! Fabulous!

     

    Oceania Travel

    Sheepish in New Zealand

    Chapter Six

    Location: New Zealand

    I know next to nothing about sheep farming. As a matter of fact everything I know I learned in one afternoon on a sheep farm in southern New Zealand.

    When we hiked the Abel Tasman Trail two weeks ago we met three couples – two from New Zealand and one from the states. We were all about the same age. One of the couples graciously invited us to stop into their sheep farm when we were in the area. So we did.

    Isn’t that amazing?  We were nearly strangers and yet they invited us to their home.

    Their home is a 700 acre sheep farm that has been in their family for 140 years.  During that time much has changed on the farm and in the industry but this farm and this family have endured. Endured the depression, world wars, falling and rising wool prices, weather and more.  In 1874 New Zealand was in its infancy. Still today the area around the farm is remote.  The town of Nightcaps only has 180 residents.  Teeny.

    The farm has about 2500 sheep and today the majority of their income comes from lambs rather than wool.  Wool is currently not as profitable as it once was. But lamb is.

    A lamb is a sheep that has not yet gotten their adult teeth.  They usually go to slaughter between six and nine months. The lambs are culled early in their lives and divided. The ones to slaughter (all the boys and some of the girls) are kept together and fed and prepared for this destiny.  The others are kept for breeding and wool.  They spend their days rotating through the paddocks grazing on the grass  in the winter they also eat a turnip like plant called a “swede”.

    Sheep that are not specifically bred for wool produce a rougher texture of wool – mostly sold and used for wool carpets.

    Just a few years ago New Zealand had twenty sheep to every human being. Today it is seven to one. Many sheep farmers have switched to breeding deer for venison (exported to Germany) or dairy cows (dry milk exported to India).  Most of today’s New Zealand lamb is exported to China and Great Britain.

    I enjoyed my crash course on New Zealand sheep farm and my afternoon tooling around the farm. What a special opportunity to learn first hand from these generous Kiwis.

    Asia Travel

    Languishing on Langkawi

    Location: Langkawi Malaysia

    A week or so before we arrived in Langkawi we met a young women who was concerned when we told her we would be on the island of Langkawi in Malaysia for 26 days. She felt we didn’t understand how little there is to do here.

    Langkawi Malaysia
    Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah

    We laughed about it later. Our favorite places in the world are the places with little to do. We particularly enjoy island-time and take it whenever we can get it. And our time here languishing on Langkawi has served us well both physically and mentally.

    Langkawi Malaysia Cenang Beach
    Cenang Beach

    Although we spent many days doing pretty close to nothing, we also have enjoyed several busy and active days around the island. And after getting to know this small (25 miles long and 12 miles wide) island just off the coast of Malaysia and Thailand, I would argue that there is indeed plenty to do here.

    Sunset Cenang Beach
    Margarita at Sunset, Cenang Beach

    Most people come here for three or four days. Maybe a week. When we told the young man on the beach who peddles the beach chairs we would be here for more than three weeks he was amazed. He said it was unusual. We have also noticed our age bracket here is unusual. Langkawi seems to be an itinerary of the young-backpacker and honeymooners …with a handful of people in their forties and fifties. We haven’t met any other Americans but it seems popular with the Chinese, Koreans, Indians, Malaysians, Germans and Australians.

    Parasail at Cenang Beach
    Parasail is one of many activities at Cenang Beach

    Our languishing on Langkawi days have often been spent at Pantai Cenang, Langkawi’s most popular beach. It’s a two-minute walk to Cenang (pronounced ‘Chenang’) from our Airbnb and we can rent two chairs for the entire day for $5. The water is ridiculously warm and Cenang is the best place to watch the sunset. Although we did none of these things, it’s very popular (and seems relatively cheap) to go parasailing, rent jet-skis, ride on a banana boat, go island hopping or take a mangrove tour.

    Syrian Restaurant on Langkawi
    Yasmine Syrian Restaurant
    The Cliff Restaurant Langkawi
    Fresh caught red snapper at The Cliff Restaurant Langkawi

    Cenang has lots of hotels, restaurants and shopping. We enjoyed fantastic meals at Happy Happy Chinese Seafood and The Cliff Restaurant but probably my favorite meal was at Yasmine Syrian Restaurant. We also enjoyed several small sidewalk food stalls especially the Lebanese Shawarma Kebab sidewalk cafe and the Warung Cafe for breakfast.

    Seafood Restaurant Cenang Beach
    Happy Happy Chinese Seafood offers whole fish cooked to order
    Cable Car Langkawi
    High Above Langkawi on the Cable Car

    We rented a car on three separate days over our 26 day stay, when we felt ready to get out and see more of the island. The rental car cost us $20 a day while gas runs about $2 a gallon. There really isn’t much public transportation but we found Grab (Uber) to be very efficient and super cheap.

    Sky Bridge Langkawi
    A walk across the Sky Bridge in Langkawi will be memorable

    The first day in the rental car we went to the Langkawi Cable Car and rode to the top for spectacular views. It’s relatively expensive by Malaysia standards ($20 pp) but worth it. From the top you can pay an extra $4 pp to walk out on the Sky Bridge. It was foggy when we were there but still a spectacular thing to do. Next we hiked the Seven Wells Waterfall. Free but ouch. It was 600 steps up and boy did I feel that in the morning. But it was worth it. Really beautiful. The waterfall has beautiful pools you can enjoy as part of your languishing in Langkawi efforts. We did not do the Umgawa Zipline, but it seems popular at around $100 pp.

    Seven Wells Waterfall Langkawi
    One of the pools at Seven Wells Waterfall

    Our second day in the car we drove to Temuran Waterfall in the northwest corner of the island. This is Langkawi’s highest waterfall and it was really spectacular. It’s much easier to access (200 steps) and also has a lovely pool at the base of the falls to cool off once you arrive.

    Scarbourgh Fish and Chips
    Scarborough Fish and Chips Langkawi

    Next we stopped to take a peek at the small but beautiful Pantai Tengorak Beach, but because there was a school field trip there we decided to move on. We enjoyed a spectacular fish-and-chips lunch with view at Scarborough Fish and Chips before heading next door to a much bigger and very beautiful beach called Pantai Tanjung Rhu. We spent several hours here. The water like a bathtub.

    Temuran Waterfall Langkawi
    Beautiful Temuran Waterfall is the highest in Langkawi
    Tanjung Rhu Langkawi
    Tanjung Rhu Beach in north Langkawi

    Back in Cenang we enjoyed one evening at the Aseania Resort where twice a week they offer a “Cultural Show and BBQ”. Think Luau. Similar to many such shows we have done around the world (New Zealand, Australia, Easter Island, Spain, Portugal, Hawaii), even though it is touristy it’s always fun, informative and delicious. Even though the sound system could use an upgrade, I was really glad we went. At $15 pp and all you can eat, you can’t beat it.

    Aseania Hotel Langkawi
    Cultural Show at the Aseania Hotel, Cenang Langkawi

    We spent three separate days enjoying day-passes at two beautiful beach resorts. We walked three miles to Resorts World Langkawi at the tip of the peninsula. For $10 we had access all day to their infinity pool, enjoyed pizza and a drink. Two days we walked one mile to Dash Resort. An all-day pass here was $9 and included a drink. It’s a nice way to take a break from the beach and feel a bit pampered. We liked the pool at Dash the best.

    Dash Resort Langkawi
    We loved Dash Resort, Langkawi

    We went to the Thursday-only Langkawi Night Market which is tiny but we grazed our way through and had a full-meal for two for about $7. There is also a nightly food truck area right off the main drag- we weren’t overly impressed with the offerings so we never ate there.

    NIght Market Langkawi
    The Cenang Night Market is every Thursday

    Nearly every morning we did a beach and boardwalk run, taking advantage of the flat and beautiful terrain around Cenang to get back into running shape. I really appreciated having the time to do that.

    Running in Langkawi
    I always felt safe on my runs in Langkawi

    Speaking of running, while we were on Langkawi the island hosted the Malaysia Ironman. What a spectacle that was! It was very difficult to get around during the event as so many roads were closed so we were only able to enjoy the finish line which was very near to our Airbnb. Super fun and exciting to witness an event like this. This is considered the second most difficult Ironman in the world. We saw the top three, all who beat the the course record despite the unusually warm day. It gave me goosebumps to watch them get their medals. What an accomplishment.

    Ironman Malaysia
    Philippe Koutny of Switzerland crossing the finish line takes second place in the Ironman Malaysia event

    The following week we rented a car again for one more day of exploring. We drove around the southern road of the island to the town of Kuah. It’s a big town with lots of shopping and resorts. Not really something we are interested in but we wanted to see it. We then headed north with the intention of going to the Lucky Temple, a Buddhist Temple that accepts visitors. But we couldn’t find it. So next we headed to the Langkawi Cultural Craft Center. I was wishing I had more room in my suitcase for some of the beautiful baskets. I did purchase a beautiful hand painted Kaftan. We spent some time at the beach before heading back to Kuah to the Wednesday Night Market there.

    Cultural Craft Center handpainted kaftan
    My beautiful hand-painted Kaftan
    Kuah NIght Market
    At the Kuah Night Market

    Sunset in Cenang is pretty amazing. Our favorite places to watch sunset was from the rooftop of the El Toro Mexican Restaurant with a margarita in hand, or from the rooftop Flo Lounge on top of the Nadia Hotel. Our favorite beachside bar was Thirstday or we would bring our own scotch down to the beach for a nightcap.

    Sunset Cenang Beach

    Flo Lounge view from the Nadia Hotel

    Speaking of Scotch, the entire island of Langkawi is a Duty Free Zone. I don’t know why but lucky for us. We could buy a case of beer for $15, a liter of gin for $9 and a really nice bottle of Aberlour Scotch for $50. Aberlour 12 year in the USA would sell for about $90.

    Strangely though, few restaurants serve alcohol since the majority of the businesses are Muslim owned. But you can find a drink in hotel and beach bars.

    Scotch at Sunset Langkawi
    Scotch on the beach

    Sometimes we would take a long walk instead of going to the beach. Although the humidity can be tough, there are few cars on the roads and it felt good to get out and just walk around.

    Hiking on Langkawi
    Six mile hike to Resorts World on the Peninsula

    For nightly free entertainment there is never a dull moment down at the beach after sunset. The tiny town really comes alive, and pop up hookah lounges, fire dancers and foot massage studios take over the beach after dark. You can kick back all night in beach bean bag chairs if that’s your thing – definitely fits the languishing on Langkawi theme don’t you think?

    Beach entertainmment at night Cenang Beach
    Fire dancer on the beach after dark, Cenang Beach

    We were on the tail end of Malaysia’s rainy season and during our visit to Langkawi and other parts of Malaysia we witnessed some crazy big tropical storms. But always the sun would return eventually. Other than during the Ironman and the week of the Indian holiday of Diwali, most hotels and restaurants and tourist attractions were lightly populated. High season will begin in November.

    Tropical Storm Cenang Beach
    Storm rolling in makes for a beautiful shot, Cenang Beach

    At the end of our visit, we had hoped to do a guided sunrise hike to the top of Gunung Raya, the highest point on Langkawi. But the weather did not cooperate so we had to cancel. So instead I booked a spa day at Alun Alun Spa in Cenang. It was really nice. I had a manicure, pedicure and a facial. There are many, many places in Cenang hawking foot massage, manicure, full-body massage etc. BUT since I am very particular about hygiene I decided to go to the more expensive and upsacale Alun Alun. I was really glad I did.

    After nearly a month languishing on Langkawi -this tiny island ranks pretty high for me as a great place to both kick back and relax AND find plenty of things to keep busy. We were never bored. It fit our definition of island life pretty well, whether languishing on Langkawi or being on the go.

    Beautiful Langkawi
    A beautiful view of a beautiful island. Thank you Langkawi.

    After forty days in Malaysia it’s time to go. Malaysia now falls fourth in the list of countries we have stayed in the longest (Spain, Thailand, New Zealand are the top three). But Malaysia ties for first place as the least expensive country for our travels – tied with Bulgaria. Coming in third is the Maldives.

    Cenang Beach Langkawi Malaysia
    Cenang Beach with my guy

    Thanks Langkawi. Terima Kasih Malaysia. We have loved our time here.

    Next stop Myanmar!

    Please note WiFi in Myanmar is very poor. We will do our best to continue to post a Travel Blog each Friday and a Book Review each Wednesday. If you like what we are doing here, we would greatly appreciate you showing your love with a share or a pin! Please invite your friends to follow our blog. Thank you!

    Languishing on Langkawi
    Adventure Travel  --  Inspire

    My Favorite Islands Around the World

    Just Call Me Island Girl

    After three weeks on Malaysia’s island of Langkawi, I’ve been thinking a lot about all the islands we have visited around the world. It’s a lot of islands. My favorite islands around the world are usually remote and small. But I have also loved some larger, populated and sometimes touristy islands. We are headed in January to the island of Mauritius – I’m looking forward to six whole weeks there! Just call me Island Girl.

    Langkawi Malaysia
    Langkawi Malaysia

    We have been working on our travel plans for the rest of the Grand Adventure 3.0 and have just booked two weeks on the island of Cyprus in April and more than three weeks on the island of Malta in May. There are several other favorite islands around the world that are high on our bucket list we hope to visit over the next few years including Madagascar, Sao Tome, Cuba, Jamaica and Guernsey…to name a few. Ahh my bucket list never seems to get any shorter.

    Prince Edward Island Canada
    Prince Edward Island Canada

    So in today’s blog I thought I would share some of my favorite islands around the world, and a brief description of why they make my fav list. There are several other islands we have visited I don’t mention here…I had to narrow it down. But if you have ever considered traveling to any of these – here are my recommendations;

    Langkawi Malaysia

    • Visited in October 2019 for 26 days
    • Average Temperature 84 F
    • 25 miles long by 12 miles wide
    • Population 65,000
    • Best time to visit November -February
    • Where we stayed Airbnb
    • Quiet and super inexpensive. Beautiful, clean beaches, lots of restaurants and great sunsets. Grocery accessibility is average. Very friendly people.
    • Don’t miss sunset at Cenang Beach
    • Learn more
    Langkawi Malaysia
    Langkawi Malaysia

    Praslin Seychelles

    • Visited in May 2017 for 33 days
    • What we wrote
    • Average temperature 80 F
    • 15 miles long and 7 miles wide
    • Population 7500
    • Best time to visit April, May, October, November
    • Where we stayed Airbnb
    • Very quiet but also expensive. Beaches are nice but having a car at least part of the time is a must if you need to shop. Groceries are very expensive and produce is difficult to get. The people are quiet but nice and it is just beautiful. Boats available to visit other islands.
    • Don’t miss swimming at Gold Beach Anse Volbert-Côte D’Or,
    • Learn more
    Seychelle Islands
    Praslin Seychelles

    Antiparos Greece

    • Visited in October 2018 for 21 days
    • What we wrote
    • Average temperature 70 F
    • Size 23 mi diameter
    • Population 1190
    • Best time to visit April to October
    • Where we stayed Airbnb
    • In October Antiparos was really quiet as the season ends in September. But we had exceptional weather. Some restaurants and businesses in the tiny town were closed for the season but we found everything we needed at reasonable prices. Ferries available to surrounding islands.
    • Don’t miss hiking out to Panagia beach
    • Learn more
    Antiparos Greece
    Antiparos Greece

    Huraa Maldives

    • Visited in February 2018 for 21 days
    • What we wrote
    • Average Temperature 85 F
    • Size 1 mile by 0.5 mile
    • Population 550
    • Best time to visit November to April
    • Where we stayed Airbnb
    • By far the tiniest island we have been on, this very low lying Maldivian island is actually an atoll, made up of coral. The weather was incredible and we had the most relaxing three weeks of our life here. Best one day snorkeling of my life off of Huraa. Very little to do, and nearly no shopping. Note that there is no alcohol on this Muslim island!
    • Don’t miss snorkeling at Sand Island
    • Learn more
    Huraa Maldives
    Huraa Maldives

    South Island New Zealand

    • Visited in February 2017 for three weeks
    • What we wrote
    • Average Temperature 55 F
    • Size 150 X 500 miles (12th largest island in the world)
    • Population 1.3 million
    • Best time to visit December to May
    • Where we stayed – we rented a caravan and traveled around
    • New Zealand is downright amazing. We loved both the North and South Island and we would really love to go back and visit again. This is not a laying in the sun island. Rather it is an island for all things recreational: hiking, walking, cycling, bird watching and more. Absolutely stunning. And ridiculously expensive.
    • Don’t miss hiking the Abel Tasman Trail
    • Learn more
    South Island New Zealand
    South Island New Zealand

    Mackinac Island, Michigan USA

    • Visited twice in the late 1990’s
    • Average Temperature 60 F
    • Size 2 x 3 mile
    • Population 500
    • Best time to visit May through September
    • Where we stayed Hotel
    • It’s been a long time since I visited magical Mackinac and I sure would love to go again. It is so unique, especially in the USA, to find a place with no motor vehicles. Both times I was there in the summer with beautiful weather. Renting bikes and riding around the island is a highlight.
    • Don’t miss a romantic horse drawn carriage ride
    • Learn more
    Mackinac Island Michigan
    Mackinac Island Michigan USA (photo from Canva)

    Maui Hawaii USA

    • Visited more times than I can count, the last time in June 2016
    • What we wrote
    • Average Temperature 80 F
    • Size 25 x 50 miles
    • Population 145,000
    • Best time to visit Year Around
    • Where we stayed Condo
    • I’m lucky to count myself as one who has visited every Hawaiian Island that isn’t privately owned, and hands down Maui is the best. It is expensive but beyond that everything about it is perfect – the weather, the water, the beach, the food, the activities and the fact for people who live on the west coast of the USA, it’s really easy to get to.
    • Don’t miss whale watching for humpback whales in the winter months
    • Learn more
    Maui Hawaii USA
    Maui Hawaii USA

    Lombok and Bali Indonesia

    • Visited in March and April 2018 – two weeks on Bali and one week on Lombok
    • What we wrote
    • Average Temperature 80 F
    • Size Bali 40 x 90 miles Lombok 50 x 50 miles
    • Population Bali 4.2 million Lombok 3.1 million
    • Best time to visit May through September
    • Where we stayed Airbnb
    • We loved our time on both of these beautiful islands. Bali is very popular with tourists for its beauty, beaches and vibe. Lombok on the other hand is a unique, tiny and non-touristy island where we spent six glorious days doing nothing but laying in a hammock.
    • Don’t miss an authentic Balinese Cultural performance in Ubud
    • Learn more
    Lombok Indonesia
    Lombok Indonesia

    Zanzibar Tanzania

    • Visited in September 2009 for five days
    • Average Temperature 90 F
    • Size 20 x 50 miles
    • Population 1.3 million
    • Best time to visit June through December
    • Where we stayed Lodge
    • I visited Zanzibar with my sister after spending a week on a safari in mainland Tanzania. It remains one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It is also the second worst sunburn I have got. The white sand beaches are amazing. The people are quiet and kind. The seafood delicious.
    • Don’t miss a ride in an authentic Zanzibar Dhow Boat
    • Learn more
    Zanzibar Tanzania
    Zanzibar Tanzania

    Rapa Nui, Chile (Easter Island)

    • Visited in January 2015 for six days
    • What we wrote
    • Average Temperature 75 F
    • Size 7 x 15 miles
    • Population 5761
    • Best time to visit April to June or October to December
    • Where we stayed Lodge
    • Definitely one of the most interesting places I have ever been. This tiny island out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is difficult to get to and expensive but worth it. We loved our time here learning about the Moai and the history of Rapa Nui. I highly recommend.
    • Don’t miss touring with an authorized tour guide to understand the amazing statues and history of this island
    • Learn more
    Rapanui Easter Island Chile
    Rapa Nui (Easter Island) Chile

    Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka

    • Visited in January 2018 for three weeks
    • What we wrote
    • Average Temperature 81 F
    • Size 120 x 250 miles
    • Population 21.44 million
    • Best time to visit December to March
    • Where we stayed Airbnb
    • We did a five day tour with a guide around the major sites of Sri Lanka seeing some of the most amazing things including the astonishing Sigiriya ancient mountain fortress. Then we kicked back for more than two weeks in a tiny hut on the beach in Hikkadua, which ended up being “interesting” but super fun and the weather and the beach were perfect. The Sri Lankan people are some of the kindest on the planet.
    • Don’t miss Sigiriya Fortress one of the most incredible things I have ever seen
    • Learn more
    Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka Sri Lanka

    Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

    • Visited in May 2010 for one week
    • What we wrote
    • Average Temperature 75 F
    • Size 50 x 80 miles (Isla Isabela, the largest of the archipelago)
    • Population 25,000
    • Best time to visit January to June
    • Where we stayed – we were on a small 12 person cruise
    • My first dip into my bucket list was this trip to the Galapagos Islands to celebrate my 50th birthday. Living on a boat for five nights we saw many islands and the most amazing collection of wildlife and sea life. We loved every minute of it and although it’s expensive, we recommend it to anyone!
    • Don’t miss swimming with sea lions
    • Learn more
    Galapogos Islands
    Wildlife is abundant on the Galapagos Islands

    Singapore, Singapore

    • Visited in February 2018 for three days
    • What we wrote
    • Average Temperature 81 F
    • Size 721.5 km
    • Population 5.6 million
    • Best time to visit February through May
    • We only had a couple of days in Singapore, the teeny island city/state that is one of the most expensive places in the world. It is also one of the cleanest and most colorful, particularly at night. I hope to return.
    • Don’t miss the Singapore Gardens by the Bay at night and the amazing Singapore Botanic Garden
    • Learn more
    Singapore
    Singapore Singapore

    Nantucket Island, Massachusetts USA

    • Visited in April 2002
    • Average Temperature 55 F
    • Size 5 x 12 miles
    • Population 11,229
    • Best time to visit May through October
    • We only had a couple of day on Nantucket but we were traveling with our young children at the time and it was a great little place for a family vacation. We were there in spring before the hoard of tourists descend in the summer and it was peaceful and beautiful and historic.
    • Don’t miss a Clam Bake and riding bikes around the island
    • Learn more
    Nantucket Island
    Nantucket Island USA (Photo from Canva)

    Prince Edward Island, Canada

    • Visited in July 2007
    • Average Temperature 50 F
    • Size 30 x 100 miles
    • Population 157,000
    • Best time to visit July and August
    • We drove up to the Maritimes from Boston and enjoyed the drive as much as the islands. Prince Edward Island was still at that time very quiet and we enjoyed riding bikes, eating lobster and learning about history.
    • Don’t miss searching for sea glass at Souris Beaches
    • Learn more
    Prince Edward Island Canada
    Prince Edward Island Canada

    Honshu Japan

    • Visited in 1999 for five weeks
    • Average temperature – Honshu is a big island with multiple climates but Tokyo average summer high is 80 F
    • Size 150 x 500 miles
    • Population 104 million (2nd most populous island after Java Indonesia)
    • Best time to visit – March to May and September to November
    • We spent five weeks exploring the island of Honshu. Our kids were little and it was a magical time for us as a family. Japan is one of the most unique and beautiful places in the world. I hope to go back some day.
    • Don’t miss Tokyo, Hiroshima and Osaka
    • Learn more
    Japan
    Honshu Japan (photo from Canva)

    San Juan Island, Washington USA

    • I have visited these islands many times as they are in the backyard of where I grew up
    • Average Temperature 55 F
    • Size – there are nine islands in varying sizes. The two largest are Orcas and San Juan
    • Population 6900
    • Best time to visit – Summer months
    • We have traveled to nearly all of the islands over my lifetime growing up in the Pacific Northwest. The islands are a great place for family camping or romantic getaways. Hiking, cycling and kayaking are popular.
    • Don’t miss getting up close and personal with the famous J-Pod of Orca Whales on a whale watching tour.
    • Learn More
    San Juan Islands USA
    San Juan Islands Washington USA (photo from Canva)

    And that’s our list! We hope you have been inspired to find your own “island time” adventure. You might enjoy this article about The 26 Largest Islands Around the World.

    We thank you for reading and for sharing our blog!

    Maldives
    Inspire

    Our Favorite Airbnb’s Around the World

    76 Airbnb’s Under Our Belt

    I am writing this blog laying on the couch  in my SEVENTY-SIXTH Airbnb, my 603rd night sleeping in an Airbnb.  Whoa.  That’s a lot of Airbnb’s!

    With that many houses, huts, apartments, condos, lofts, shacks and cabins under my belt, I feel it’s time to give you a list of our favorites around the world.  Because even though we carefully research each and every Airbnb before booking, there are of course, some duds. So we like to give a shout out of the best of the best!

    Click on the image for a larger view

    If you are still hesitating about staying in an Airbnb I really encourage you to try it.  We have had outstanding luck using this hospitality model in our travels. Airbnb has changed and grown ALOT since we stayed in our very first one in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood in 2013.  The changes are mostly good.  For us it has been safe, simple and efficient. We use the following as our guide for choosing an Airbnb;

    1. Read the Reviews and look for Super Host and Five Star properties.

    2. Check the amenities that are important to you.  We always want a kitchen, wifi and good walkable location.

    3. Check where it is on the map…BECAUSE if you search Seattle it might show you a house in Seabeck (this happened to us). If you don’t know the area you would be pretty surprised when you try to find your Seattle house.

    4. Contact the host if you have ANY questions.  We have on a number of occasions negotiated a better price based on our long stay.  We have asked many questions such as neighborhood safety, parking, grocery stores etc. We’ve negotiated airport pick up, late arrival, chef service and other necessities.

    5.  Look closely at the pictures.  If you arrive and the unit is NOT what the pictures show contact Airbnb right away. But honestly if you have done steps 1-4 above that probably won’t happen.

    We do have one complaint about Airbnb…a complaint I have expressed to the company with ZERO response; As a loyal and frequent customer I would like to see the company AWARD me for my business.  Just like an airline frequent flyer program.  At the moment Airbnb has more of a focus on rewarding its hosts than its guests – even guests like me who use it almost every day of my life.  I hope they will acknowledge users more generously soon.

    Click on the image for a larger view

    Many of our Airbnb’s don’t stand out for anything in particular, but have served us in an efficient, clean, comfortable and functional way within our budget.  That’s all good.  That’s the case for the nice apartment we are in right now in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  It’s got all the comforts of home; kitchen, washer, two baths, a pool.  And it’s in a nice, safe and convenient neighborhood. Our hosts are helpful and even have a car available for us to rent.

    So since this apartment is our last Airbnb until next September, we thought this would be a good time to expound on our Favorite Airbnb’s Around the World and what makes those stand out above the rest. We’ve provided link and photos when possible, in hopes that you can consider some of these little gems we have found along our journey. Here is our list;

    Most UniqueSan Marcos la Laguna, Guatemala

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    San Marcos Guatemala

    We just left Guatemala and the Cave House we stayed in on top of a mountain in San Marcos was amazing.  It had some quirks, but nonetheless it was amazing. You got your built in work out throughout the day going up and down all those stairs.  We give it a big thumbs up.

     

     

    Best ViewSantorini Greece

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Santorini, Greece

    This Airbnb was three times what we usually try to spend, even while being one of the smallest Airbnbs we have ever stayed in. Oh but that view.  Heaven on earth.  There is nothing like the crater view of Santorini and it was right outside our door.  Amazing.

     

     

    Best HostsRio de Janerio Brazil, Exmouth Australia, Veliko Tarnovo Bulgaria and Sozopol Bulgaria

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

    We have had some really awesome hosts in our 76 Airbnb’s.  And we have had some crappy hosts, usually those who leave you to fend for yourself.  While we don’t want or need a host to manage our stay, we love it when we have a kind, engaged, thoughtful and hospitable host who is there for our occasional need. We have found that in many locations but the four mentioned take the prize.  In Rio our host was incredibly kind with gifts and food and wine.  In Exmouth we loved the darling family who provided us fresh ahi, yoga mats and much kindness.  Two Airbnb’s in Bulgaria introduced us to the most thoughtful Bulgarians who made sure we had everything we needed including a special oven pan when requested, fresh cherries and Bulgarian roses in our room.

    Best Bang for the BuckSozopol Bulgaria and Veliko Tarnovo Bulgaria.

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Sozopol, Bulgaria

    Bulgaria overall is a bargain, and it remains one of our most favorite countries for many reasons including the prices.  These two favorite Airbnb’s were very large, multi bedroom units with full kitchen, exceptional hosts and awesome locations.  The one in Sozopol included  a giant deck with view and a swimming pool. We paid $30 in Veliko Tarnovo and $60 in Sozopol.

     

     

    Best Sunsets–  Mal Pais Costa Rica

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Mal Pais, Costa Rica

    We spent two wonderful, relaxing weeks with our friends Randy and Sue in this unique and comfortable house right on the beach in Mal Pais Costa Rica.  For fourteen nights in a row we documented the most exquisite sunsets…a wonderful end to each wonderful day.

     

     

    Best Private Pool–  Ocotal Costa Rica, Koh Samui Thailand

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Koh Samui, Thailand

    Having a private pool is a real luxury for us, not something that is usually in the budget.  Our two favorites listed here happened because we were sharing a house in these locations, so spending a little bit more for the luxury.  The Ocotal pool had an amazing view, while the Koh Samui pool was very secluded and lovely.

     

     

     

    Best Shared PoolHua Hin Thailand

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Hua Hin, Thailand

    The largest pool we ever had was the full Olympic size pool in Hua Hin Thailand.  Despite the fact the pool was closed for maintenance for an entire week of our three week visit, we still enjoyed it for swimming laps and relaxing pool side.

     

     

     

     

     

    Best Breakfast IncludedHoi An Vietnam, Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Hoi An, Vietnam

    It’s rare to have breakfast included in an Airbnb, and so we took full advantage at these two favorite spots.  Each morning in both places breakfast was delivered to us.  In Hoi An it was eggs and fruit with the BEST coffee and in Hikkaduwa it was the local Sri Lankan breakfast of either Roti or Hoppers, both which we really fell in love with.

     

     

    Best Onsite YogaEl Tunco El Salvador

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    El Tunco, El Salvador

    Since I try to do yoga most everyday, I love it when we have an Airbnb with a nice open and comfortable place to do our own yoga.  But even better is when there are yoga classes available onsite, and Balance Yoga in El Tunco El Salvador was the best.  I have only taken yoga classes in Punta Cana DR, La Fortuna Costa Rica, and on a cruise ship, mostly because it has not been convenient anywhere else.  But in El Tunco it was right out my backdoor, there were multiple daily classes, it was inexpensive and it was exceptional.

     

     

     

    Best Nature WatchingMal Pais Costa Rica

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Mal Pais, Costa Rica

    We loved everything about our house on the beach in Mal Pais, but the unexpected and impressive daily nature show was a big bonus.  Laying in the hammock each evening watching the howler monkeys was truly fascinating…an activity many tourists pay big bucks to see on a tour.  Not us.  These monkeys came to us almost everyday and it was an incredible sight.

     

     

    Most Historically Authentic –  Siem Reap
    Cambodia and Lombok Indonesia

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Lombok, Indonesia

    In Siem Reap we stayed in a historic Khmer home, with the absolutely nicest family living down below.  Breakfast was included and the house was beautiful, historic and authentic.  In Lombok Indonesia we stayed in an authentic Javenese Historic wood house, that had been disassembled, transferred from Java and reassembled on the site of this very remote and small resort  we visited.  Very memorable.

     

    Best Daily Service –  Asilah Morocco

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Asilah, Morocco

    We adored our full-time housekeeper and cook who came with our Airbnb in Asilah Morocco.  Not only was it the first and only time we have had a cook and housekeeper on site, but she was so incredible.  I gained ten pounds I think during our ten days there.  We would absolutely go back to Asilah again and I hope we will.  Latifah was very special.

    Most RusticHikkaduwa Sri Lanka

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka

    We have stayed in some pretty rustic places, but Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka takes the prize for the most bugs, snakes, and rodents living with us in our hut.  We felt like we were on Gilligans Island.  And yet, we absolutely loved our three weeks here for the wonderful hosts, the incredible beach front property, the great weather and the delicious breakfasts all at a bargain basement price.

     

    Best All Inclusive for the Price –  Huraa Maldives

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Huraa, Maldives

    We spent three weeks on the itty bitty Maldivian Island of Huraa.  We had a small room with bath, access to the beach, a great secluded place to do yoga and three meals a day all inclusive for $90…not $90 per person, $90 total.  Our time here was spent just kicking back, running everyday, going snorkeling, hanging in the hammock and all for a remarkable price, especially in the very expensive Maldives.

     

    FunkiestFunky Truck in New Zealand and Tiny Trailer in Bend Oregon USA

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Motueka, New Zealand

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Bend, Oregon, USA

    There are several Airbnb’s we could have given this award to, but these two experiences were so unique they win the prize.  We only stayed two nights in each place.  Both had outhouses and outdoor showers.  Though tiny, both were comfortable and the hosts for both were helpful and hospitable and happy to have us visiting their unique little piece of paradise.

    Best BeachMal Pais Costa Rica, Seabeck Washington USA and Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Seabeck, Washington, USA

    We have had access to a lot of beautiful beaches in our travels.  Our favorites listed here though all are because we could walk right outside of our door and enjoy a beach.  These three though were all very different; Mal Pais was a beautiful but unique beach just steps from or house made up of rocky pools that provided natures hot tub all day long.  Seabeck Washington was a stunning beach on the Hood Canal with spectacular Olympic Mountain view and although a bit chilly, great summer swimming.  And finally Hikkaduwa was a long beautiful stretch of golden sand beach with a bar right next door and our hut only steps away.  Perfect.

    Best Location for HistoryAntigua Guatemala and Malaga Spain

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Antigua, Guatemala

    Both Antigua and Malaga are gorgeous, historic and fairly compact cities and our Airbnb’s provided us a great location in the center of these towns to enjoy all the splendor they had to offer, along with the comforts we enjoy like kitchen and wifi.  In Antigua we also had a magnificent patio where we could see two amazing volcanoes and do yoga or just sit and enjoy our morning coffee.

     

    Best Place to RunEl Tunco El Salvador, Placenia Belize, Seychelles, Punta Cana Dominican Republic, Split Croatia

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Placencia, Belize

    Flat and safe are my requirements for running around the world, and we have run in nearly every country but not in every location.  Often there are dogs, cobblestones, snakes, mountains, crazy drivers or questionable characters that make running unsafe.  But while in El Tunco, Placencia, Seychelles, Split and Punta Cana we ran every single day – safely and with wonderful scenery to enjoy!

     

    Number One Out of Seventy-Six, Our Favorite OverallAntiparos Greece (Cover photo at top of this page is Antiparos)

    Our favorite Airbnb's Around the World

    Antiparos, Greece

    There are a few other’s we considered for this BEST OF moniker, but our three weeks in tiny Antiparos in this beautiful home with stunning view on the side of a mountain with a kind and lovely host is definitely our favorite experience, so far, of all our Airbnb’s.  It is the one place that we think we will definitely visit again some day.  As we go forward with our Grand Adventure next fall we have Airbnb’s booked all over; Asia, Africa, Europe.  Time will tell if this favorite in Antiparos can hold its position as Number One.

    If you have questions about our Airbnb adventures feel free to contact me.  Other blogs that might be of interest to you on this topic are listed here;

    Tips & Tricks with Airbnb

    Sleeping Around – Our Adventures with Beds, Baths and Beyond

    Preparing To Travel Full-Time

     

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    Adventure Travel

    Sleeping Around – Our Adventures with Beds, Baths and Beyond

    Location: Around the World

    This week marks three years since we walked away from our house of 15 years in Gig Harbor Washington and began our nomad life.

    Adventures with Beds Baths and Beyond

    Bunk beds in El Salvador

    Three years.  Holy Cow the time has gone by so fast.  When we began this crazy adventure we didn’t know if it would last six months or six years.  I guess six years is looking pretty likely.

    I’ve said all along this lifestyle is not for everyone.  There are times where it’s not for me.  But in general there are more positives than negatives and it now feels like a normal way to live.  For us anyway.

    Adventures with Beds Baths and Beyond

    Concrete Tub in Bali

    Adventures with Beds Baths and Beyond

    Bed & Kitchen all in one in Sri Lanka

    There are definitely challenges, and one of the biggest challenge is sleeping in so many beds. Along with all those beds comes all those bathrooms.  Sometimes if I wake up in the middle of the night and gotta go…I need to take a minute and really think about where I am and what is the path to the potty?

    As of this writing, we have slept in a total of 197 different beds over the three years.  That includes the ten weeks we stayed in a condo after we sold our house (the longest we have stayed anywhere in three years) as well as all the different albuergues, hostels, hotels and pensions we slept in on both of our Camino walks.

    That’s a lot of beds.  The best part?  We have yet to encounter bed bugs anywhere.

    Last week we stayed in, well let’s say, “rustic” accommodations in Guatemala.  Mind you Guatemala is one of the poorest nations in the world and has only been open to tourists for ten years.  But the mattress sagged, the horrible satin sheets refused to stay put and the shower head kept falling off.

    Adventures with Beds Baths and Beyond

    The worst bed in Hanoi

    However, overall most of the beds we have slept in have been comfortable.  My requirement in a good mattress is harder is better than softer.  I have memories of two horrible mattresses, each so soft I could barely get out of bed in the morning.  The worst one was in Hanoi, the second worst in Ladyville, Belize.

    Adventures with Beds Baths and Beyond

    Had to go outside to the bath in Santorini

    And, coincidentally (or maybe not), one of the worst bathrooms was also in our Hanoi apartment.  We have learned that bathrooms throughout the world vary widely.  Flushers on toilets are different in nearly every country.  More than half the time you cannot flush toilet paper.  Showers often have no hot water.  Some times toilets are raised up on a platform (we call those the throne), or are in a separate room from the sink and shower.  Showers might be huge and elegant or so tiny you can’t bend over.  Some showers are open and get the entire bathroom wet, so keeping towels and toilet paper outside of the bathroom is required. Oh and bugs, centipedes and geckos sometimes enjoy our showers too. I learned the hard way to turn the light on for middle of the night visits to the loo.

    Often the septic or local sewer is well below what we take for granted in the USA.  In Placencia, Belize our Airbnb was at minus sea level and this made for interesting and usually incomplete flushing.

    In New Zealand we stayed in a cabin with an outhouse.  Also in New Zealand we spent four weeks in a camper with a port-a-potty.  Very tricky at night.

    Of course kitchens and other things vary as well.  It’s all part of the ongoing adventure.

    Adventures with Beds Baths and Beyond

    Twin beds in Santa Domingo Spain

    So like I’ve said – it’s not for everyone.  You really have to have a sense of adventure and approach each place with low expectations.  That way, you are usually pleasantly surprised.  Only once, has a place been bad enough for us to leave (read it here).

    Adventures with Beds Baths and Beyond

    Glamping in New Zealand

    We have a month of travel left before we return to the USA for a four-month visit.  During our time in the USA we will settle into a condo we bought (sight unseen) a few months ago.  This condo will become our home when we are in the USA, but we plan to continue to travel for a majority of each year, at least for a few more years and maybe forever.

    Because, well, there are a lot more beds and baths we haven’t seen yet!  Fabulous!

     

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