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Adventure Travel

    Adventure Travel  --  Africa Travel

    Uganda Gorilla Trek

    A Dream Come True

    Location: Uganda

    Do you remember the 1988 movie Gorillas in the Mist based on the life of Dian Fossey? The film takes us to Congo, Uganda and Rwanda where Fossey studied and tried to protect the magnificent mountain gorilla. She gave her life doing so. But to her credit there is no disputing that her work saved the mountain gorilla from extinction and opened the doors for gorilla tourism. Thanks to Fossey, I marked my 60th birthday on a exhilarating Uganda Gorilla Trek.

    Uganda Mountain Gorillas
    Juvenile mountain gorilla

    Most of us have seen lowland gorillas in zoos. But the mountain gorilla has not been able to survive in captivity. Biologists are not sure why they don’t survive. So the only way to see these animals is to go to them.

    And so, for one blessed hour, I sat in the jungle of Uganda and observed up close and personal one of earth’s most noble, splendid and humanlike creatures.

    Ugandan Mountain Gorilla
    Can be mean, but just playing here.

    Expensive

    Unfortunately doing a Uganda gorilla trek is expensive. The cost is mostly due to the permit fees required by the government. The money of course is helping continue to save these magnificent beasts, but at $600 per person for the permit alone, it’s beyond reach for many people. Rwanda’s permit is more than twice as much. You can trek in Congo for less, but you would also be putting you life in danger going to Congo. And so, for us, as a celebratory birthday event, we chose to do our Uganda Gorilla Trek with Achieve Global Safari of Uganda.

    Ugandan Mountain Gorilla
    Two year hanging out

    How it Works

    Through Achieve you can sign up for three day, five day, ten day or however long you want. Achieve can take you beyond the Uganda Gorilla Trek and also show you many of the other wonderful animals and sights of Uganda. But having already done a couple of safaris, our focus was just the gorillas.

    With our guide John

    We arrived at Entebbe Uganda in the afternoon and were met by our guide John. We were so glad to have been assigned John, he turned out to be an amazing guide. John took us from Entebbe about an hour to our Marriott hotel in Kampala for a first night. Very nice hotel. Bright and early the next morning John picked us up for the ten hour drive from Kampala to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.

    The Drive

    It was a very long drive, but we saw some interesting sights along the way, including a stop to have our photo taken as we crossed the equator. This was our first time crossing the equator on land.

    On the equator

    We also enjoyed seeing many beautiful birds, zebras grazing alongside cows, and the famous Ankole longhorn cows praised for the beef and milk. We enjoyed seeing mile and miles of agriculture. Uganda’s mild climate and long days provide a stable growing environment year around for everything from sweet potatoes to bananas, onions to avocado, rice to pineapple. We passed dozens and dozens of villages large and small and slowly ascended into the mountains. At the highest point we were at 7800 feet (2400 meters) but came down to about 6500 feet on arrival at our lodge.

    Ankole Cow

    Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge

    Verandah for our room in the jungle

    If you decide to make this trek we highly recommend using Achieve, asking for John to be your guide, and requesting to stay at the beautiful Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge. Small, lovely, comfortable and possibly the best service of anywhere we have stayed in all of Africa. I wished we had the time to stay longer and linger…enjoying the misty mountain views and relaxing on the verandah. The food was also exceptional. A very nice touch was a hot water bottle placed in our bed every evening to keep us warm as the mountain temps dropped.

    Hot water bottle for a good night’s sleep

    Uganda Gorilla Trek Day

    Overnight I woke up with a frightful headache, and I knew I was suffering from altitude sickness. At breakfast I began to feel very queasy and I was unable to eat anything. Damn. I was not going to miss this! I put on my happy face and we headed to the trek site.

    Ugandan Mountain Gorilla
    Three year old

    In 1981 it’s estimated there were only 250 mountain gorillas left in the world. Thanks to conservation efforts the population is healthy and growing in all three countries where they live. There are 36 gorilla families in Uganda’s Bwindi National Park, with a total of about 650 gorillas, half the world’s population. Of these about 13 families are currently habituated for the tourist trekkers. Habituation began in 1991 and the first trekkers came in 1993.

    The time of our lives

    After a briefing by the ranger and some local entertainment, we were split into groups of eight and assigned to trek to one of the families. The families stay within a general area that is their home, so using advance tracking ranger teams, the guides know approximately where the gorillas are hanging out today.

    Ugandan Mountain Gorilla
    The eldest female of the family

    Our trek group consisted of a German/Dutch family of four, two women from Estonia and me and my husband. Our lead ranger was Phillip and we were accompanied by two armed guards, one forward and one aft. In addition local porters could be hired ($15 US minimum) to assist trekkers with their packs or to help them through the mud. We were the only ones who hadn’t hired a porter and we probably should have, if only to provide a good day’s employment to a local person.

    Mama Gorilla

    Nshongi Family

    Despite my upset stomach I was feeling pretty lucky when we were assigned to the Nshongi Family. This currently is the biggest habituated gorilla family in Uganda with 25 members but more than 10 have left to form another family called the Mishaya Group. The Nshongi group also was in a area we could hike to from the orientation site, instead of driving a distance to start the hike. I started to feel better once we started moving and after the first few kilometers I was no longer suffering the upset stomach. Instead I was focused on what was turning out to be a very difficult Uganda gorilla trek. (read more about all the habituated families here.)

    Ugandan Mountain Gorilla
    The kids at play

    Mud

    Our name was mud. Wow. So much mud. It sucked at your shoes and oozed into your socks. It had rained a lot the day before, and we were counting our blessings for a clear morning, but the weather the previous day left its calling card and it was named mud. There was no chance of staying out of the mud and so we didn’t try. I was very glad to have my hiking poles with me as we trekked along, slurping through the muck.

    Mud

    It took us about two and half hours before our guide was on the radio conversing with the advance trackers. We were feeling lucky since we had heard that sometimes it takes 7-8 hours to find them. The trackers had the gorillas in sight. But the gorillas wait for no tourists and they were on the move. At this point we left what was somewhat of a trail and went headlong into the dense bush. Our guide Phillip had a machete and he hacked as much of a trail as possible for us as we stumbled through the vines and bushes and up the mountain side. The sweat was pouring off of me.

    Ugandan Mountain Gorilla
    One of the females

    And Then There They Were

    My heart stopped as the first gorilla, a small juvenile, came bounding across the path right in front of me. But he was gone in a flash. We continued, hacking with the machete through the bush. Suddenly there were four gorillas, two females and two two-year olds. The kids were playing and the mamas were resting after their lunch. I was taking photos and switched to video just in time to have this little fella get up on a branch and pound his chest. Chest pounding in a large gorilla can mean an attack, but this little guy was just acting tough and I was smitten.

    Ugandan Mountain Gorilla
    Baby playing

    Our guide led us down a little incline into a clearing where two more juveniles (a three year old and a two year old) were wrestling. This is both a form of exercise and play, but also a way for the older gorilla to teach the baby. We were watching this playtime and our guide had me step a little to the right and pointed ahead about twenty yards. And there I saw him. A resplendent silverback gorilla.

    The Silverback

    King Kong comes to mind. This beautiful creature is twenty-four years old (they live as much as forty) and weighs nearly 500 lbs. We never saw this beast stand up but mountain gorillas can grow as tall as 2.25 metres (7.5 feet). The mature male sports a crest of fur on his head and the magnificent silver fur on his back.

    Ugandan Mountain Gorilla
    Just chilling

    Our new friend seemed quit content as he laid there snoozing, then grazing, then watching the littles play. Unlike many in the animal kingdom, the patriarch of the family is intricately involved in the lives of the young. The little gorillas crawled all over him, banged on him and cuddled up to him as he lay. He rolled over into a half sitting position (he seemed to be posing for a centerfold) and watched us watch him. He addressed the kids with a gorilla grunt, which sounds more like a pig grunting than what you think a gorilla would sound like.

    Ugandan Mountain Gorilla
    Papa and little one

    Slowly, slowly, my heart returned to it’s normal rhythm as our hour with the Uganda Mountain Gorillas came to an end. Phillip said it was time for us to take our final photos, as our hour was nearly up. As if he understood, the Silverback sat up, looked us in the eye and we snapped our final shots.

    Farewell.

    Ugandan Mountain Gorilla
    Watching us

    Final Thoughts

    On our trek back we had to ford a couple of high running streams. We were soaked, muddy and exhilarated. I don’t think anybody was thinking about how hard the trek had been…only thinking about how rewarding.

    Once in a lifetime. I feel so grateful.

    Ugandan Mountain Gorilla
    Wrestling for fun and learning

    I should point out again that the hike was very difficult. Occasionally there are trekkers who just can’t go on. The porters provide another service, but for a price. An additional $300 USD and they will literally carry you in a kind of rickshaw up the mountain. They call this the gorilla helicopter.

    Ugandan Mountain Gorilla
    Lunchtime

    On our return ten-hour drive back to Entebbe for one final night before our flight out of Uganda, John took the time to really share his gratitude to us for choosing to visit Uganda. He elaborated on how many jobs are created through gorilla tourism – not just the guides, the rangers and the porters, but all the staff at hotels, restaurants, shops and gas stations. This on top of the money we invested into the conservation of the gorilla through the work done by the African Wildlife Foundation.

    Ugandan Mountain Gorilla
    Silverback sleeping while toddler waits

    Our five day tour included four nights lodging, all our meals, a personal vehicle and our guide John, park entrance permits and all the staff it took to get us up the mountain to the gorillas. We tipped everyone generously. Total for all of this was $3100.

    Ugandan Mountain Gorilla
    What a day

    We were sorry our visit to Uganda was so short. It’s such a green, friendly country with UNESCO recognizing it’s biodiversity. Certainly Uganda still has political challenges, and the Entebbe airport is in need of signifcant upgrades. But as a visitor, there are so many exciting options for wildlife viewing, Uganda is poised to be the next big safari destination, although currently still flying under the radar. Your dollars help both the people and the animals, and help save the habitat of these incredible creatures. Just like in Borneo when we visited the Orangutans, loss of habitat is the greatest threat.

    If you can afford it I highly recommend a Uganda Gorilla Trek. Come now…before the secret gets out. Come for the gorillas. Come for the beauty. Come for the people of Uganda. Uganda, the Pearl of Africa.

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    Adventure Travel  --  Africa Travel

    FALLING FOR VICTORIA FALLS – Mosi oa-Tunya

    Location: Victoria Falls, Zambia - Zimbabwe

    I am admittedly a bit of a waterfall geek.  There is something about the free fall of water that literally takes my breath away.  I always find myself trying to watch a single drop…and thinking about how far that drop has traveled.  One drop of precious water, suddenly falling, falling, falling…SPLASH.

    Be still my heart.

    Rainbow over Victoria Falls
    My first breathtaking view

    Breath. Taking.

    Last year I was enchanted with Iguazu Falls in Brazil…a stunning waterfall that at the time I couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful.  Oh but wait…there is.  Bigger, badder and more beautiful…the wondrous Victoria Falls.

    We came here just to see it.  It’s a tall order, particularly with all the travel we have done, it’s hard to impress us anymore.  But impressed we were.  We could hear it long before we could see it…and then there it was.  My first look…breathtaking.

    Victoria Falls
    Cascade

    Locals know it as Mosi oa-Tunya, meaning smoke and thunder. The name Victoria Falls was given by David Livingstone, the first European to lay eyes on it, in 1855. The falls straddle the border of Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) and Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) in South/Central Africa.  The falls are generated from the Zambezi River, flowing some 2700 km (1700 miles) from the headwaters in North Zambia. The Zambezi is joined by several tributaries such as the Luena, Chifumage and the Chobe before reaching the falls where the vast amount of water plummets 100 metres (360 feet), creating the biggest curtain of water in the world. The river then flows on, eventually reaching the Indian Ocean. On this journey the Zambezi flows through six countries; Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Angola.

    Victoria Falls
    From Livingstone Island

    See. It. All.

    The falls were formed over thousands of years as the basalt plateau eroded from the pounding water.  Today the thing that makes the falls so magnificent  is the width.  Spanning 1700 meters (5604 feet – about mile and a quarter), you can view the spectacle from the Mosi oa-Tunya National Park on the Zambia side and the Victoria Falls National Park on the Zimbabwe side.  We did both. And a whole lot more.

    We were told by many people that the view is better on the Zimbabwe side.  I wouldn’t say better…but I would say there is more variety of viewing on the Zimbabwe side. It’s easy to see both sides in one day.

    On the edge of Victoria Falls
    A sheet of water from the Zimbabwe side

    It’s also quit easy to see both sides without a guide.  Unless you are looking for someone to provide you with wildlife, birdlife or geological details, a guide is not necessary.  

    We started our Victoria Falls day taking a taxi from our hotel in Livingstone, about ten minutes to the entrance of the Mosi oa-Tunya National Park on the Zambia side.  It’s $20 per person to enter the National Park.  Consider bringing a poncho or raincoat but make sure it’s not one of those cheap plastic throw-away kind – because those are not allowed.  One small effort the park is making to eliminate plastic.  If you don’t have a poncho there are plenty of vendors willing to “rent” you one and to sell you all kinds of other things as well.  

    Victoria Falls

    Our visit in February had the falls running pretty high and that means the mist was high too.  Low season is August to December and high water is March to June.

    We purchased our tickets at the entrance and did an easy self guided tour on the Zambia side.  We walked all the paths and stopped at all the viewpoints and marveled over and over again at the majesty of it.  We also did a hike down to “Boiling Pot”, more difficult going down than going up, but worth the view of the “boiling” river just below the falls.

    Victoria Falls Bridge
    Victoria Bridge from Boiling Pot

    Border. Run.

    We had planned to go to the Zimbabwe side on a different day, but after thoroughly seeing the Zambia side it wasn’t even noon yet so we decided to walk across the border.  There are lots of taxis and rickshaw drivers who want your money to take you across the bridge, but as walkers, we wanted to do the walk.  From one park entrance to the next it’s about 2.3km (1.4 miles).  First you exit Zambia and there is border control there.  We had purchased the KAZA Visa before arriving in Zambia, a special visa that allows visitors to this region to easily cross the borders of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.  After exiting Zambia we marveled at the hundreds of big rig trucks filled with copper waiting to be cleared to cross the border.  As we walked we had to ignore all the men aggressively trying to sell us carved wooden figures, copper bracelets and drinks.  Arne calls it running the gauntlet.

    Victoria Falls
    Looking up the river from the Zambia side

    Eventually we arrived at the Victoria Falls Bridge which provides another beautiful view of the falls on the right hand side and down river on the left hand side.  This bridge also is home to both a zipline and bungee jumping operation.  No thanks.

    On the opposite side of the bridge we had to clear Immigration to enter Zimbabwe.  This included a medical check and having our temperature taken.  Moving on to the entrance to the park the fee was $30 per person.  Wow expensive.  I was surprised that the two countries can’t come up with some way to do a combined ticket.  Currently Zimbabwe has a worthless currency and they are using USD as their currency.  But we used our credit card to buy tickets on both sides of the falls.

    Poncho style at Victoria Falls
    Bucketlist

    Once we were in the park we realized it was much bigger and the views offered are really lovely.  We had shed our ponchos because they made me sweat so much I was getting wet anyway, so we just let the mist cover us.  The temperature was warm so it felt good. An interesting fact about the Victoria Falls Rainforest is that it is the only place on earth that it rains 24 hours a day.

    There seemed to be more visitors on this side, but overall we enjoyed a very sparsely populated park.  Comparing to our visit to Iguazu the week of New Years 2019 where we could barely move because of the crowds, we were pleasantly surprised by the lack of tourists.  

    As we walked we encountered a film-crew from ABC News doing a live shot for Good Morning America.  We learned later that the story is a combined nature series with National Geographic.  

    Walking to Zimbabwe

    The Zimbabwe side offers some pretty amazing up close and personal moments with the falls – nothing like feeling like you are on the edge of the abyss.  The massive flow of water made my fantasy of following one drop of water pretty difficult….but I tried.  But later we got even closer to the edge, actually a little too close for me.  

    Just. Plain. Crazy.

    Before arriving we had booked a tour through Victoria Falls Guides to do what it called the Angels Swim.  OMG.  I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.  First of all let me say that there are two separate pools that visitors can “swim” in on the very edge of the falls.  Devil’s Pool is only safe during the dry season and requires a walk/swim across the river holding on to rope.  Say what?  Angel’s Pool is accessed via Livingstone Island, a small island in the middle of the river on the Zambia side.  It is only available for swimming during medium water flow because when the water is at its highest level, Livingstone Island disappears underwater.

    Angels Pool Victoria Falls
    Balancing on the edge

    So we signed up to do the Angel’s Pool swim.  I knew the pool was close to the edge of the falls because I had seen photos but holy cow.  We were right on the ledge.  This activity is not for someone faint of heart, afraid of heights, afraid of water, or sane.  Seriously this was crazy.  At first I told my husband I didn’t think I could do it when I saw how close we were getting…. but of course I ended up doing it.  Absolutely heart stopping.  I don’t think you could ever get a permit to operate something like this back home in the USA. Too many lawyers.

    Angles Pool Victoria Falls
    Angels Pool

    But now I can add it to the list of crazy, fun exhilarating travel stories…one for the record books. Worth the $230 price for two people. 

    And by the way, the water was surprisingly warm.

    Angles Pool Victoria Falls
    Angels Pool

    Most visitors come here on full-tours but we rarely do  group tours and had no problem enjoying the area on our own.  We made all our own arrangements.  We stayed at Ngoma Zanga Lodge, a lovely oasis in Livingstone with a full restaurant.  From Ngoma Zanga we were able to easily take a taxi ($6) to the falls.  

    Much. More. Fun.

    In addition to swimming at the edge of the falls the region offers a wide variety of other activities for both the thrill-seeker and the more subdued.  There is bungee jumping, ziplining, ultralight and helicopter rides.  You can also go to a crocodile park, have a candlelight dinner on the edge of the falls, walk with rhinos or have breakfast with elephants.  There are jet boat rides, canoe trips and whitewater rafting.

    Chobe National Park Botswana
    Magnificent. My favorite animal in the world.

    We didn’t do any of those, but we did choose to do the following;

    Chobe National Park – Using Victoria Falls Guides, we booked a full day tour in Chobe National Park in Botswana.  Door to door service provided us an amazing opportunity to cross the border to Botswana, spend the entire day in Chobe on a morning river cruise and an afternoon land safari drive with lunch in between.  We saw amazing animals including hippopotamus, crocodile, water buffalo, antelope, giraffe and hundreds and hundreds of elephants.  This full day was worth the $340 price for two people. I would certainly do it again.

    Chobe National Park Botswana

    Sunset Boat Cruise – Our hotel booked an evening sunset cruise for us on our final night in Zambia. The boat could probably hold 100 people but there was only about 30 people on board so it was not crowded. Live African music, snacks and open bar was included in the $150 price for two people. The cruise also included a naturalist guide who pointed out hippopotamus, giraffes and so many birds along the shore. And of course we enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

    Hippopotamus
    Hippo in the Zambezi

    Seeing Victoria Falls checks another item from my never ending bucket list.  It was worth the effort to get here.  I continue to love this continent chock-full of surprises  – the never ending wonders of Africa.  I know there are still a lot of people who fear traveling in Africa.  We found these tourist areas of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana all safe, welcoming, and beautiful. And though the days are long gone where animals roam freely and abundantly, conservation efforts and National Parks offer the most astonishing opportunities for visitors.  The natural beauty, lovely people, and incredible history (we all came from here) makes Africa one of the most fascinating places in the world.  Our three months enjoying the African continent continues…watch for more adventures coming to a blog near you.

    Zambezi Sunset
    Sunset on the Zambezi

    I’m so glad we came. 

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    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
    Adventure Travel  --  Inspire

    The Grand Adventure – Around the World 3.0

    Off For Another Nine Months

    Location: Around the World

    Here we go again. When this all started in June 2016 we said we would either be gone for six months or six years. Well, it looks like we have found a way to make this travel life work, and I expect we will continue well beyond six years. It’s time for our around the world adventure year four.

    Belize

    I have learned so much since we started this adventure. But it’s probably not what you are thinking. Sure I’ve learned how to get good deals, how to maneuver public transit, how to pack and how to say thank you in ten languages.

    But those are all technicalities. Not the soul of the journey. Because really, what I have witnessed, experienced and felt the most blessed about is the way this adventure has changed me deep inside. Serendipity.

    Spain

    Watching the sunrise and the moon set at the same time on top of the most peaceful and serene mountains in Galicia, on the final days of my walk across Spain – I experienced deep gratitude.

    Conversing without sharing a language with a tiny and precious old man in a backwater village deep in Bangladesh, a man who had nothing to give but wanted to serve us tea – I was humbled.

    Having a monk come out of the temple and invite us in for a special tour in Sri Lanka. Sharing with us his temple as his pride for it beamed light out his fingertips and then him blessing us quietly and sincerely for our continued safe journey – I was exalted.

    Meeting a tiny Himba girl in Namibia and watching her smile up at Arne with her face full of wonder and awe. I was in love.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world
    Sri Lanka

    We have watched people so different from those in the USA embracing their cultures, their foods, their history with love and understanding of each other – I was astonished.

    One rare Bangladesh
    Bangladesh

    I am secure in my belief that you can never understand the world, or its many problems, unless you travel. You cannot pass judgement on anyone, anywhere on this earth if you are doing so without ever leaving your own country.

    I know this as fact. And more than anything, this is why we continue. Do not fear for us, we are careful. Do not question us we are smart. This lifestyle is not for everyone, but if you wanted it, you too could do it … and you would never be the same.

    500 days of summer
    Namibia

    So once again we depart. Time to say farewell. It’s time for our around the world adventure year four. Our first leg was 22 months. Our second was nine months. And this one – 3.0 – will also be nine months from September to June.

    After that – who knows?

    We’ve seen a total of 96 countries (some of those before we started the Grand Adventure) and we have rarely returned to a country. With 3.0 itinerary nearly complete, it’s clear to us that we are now tackling less touristy countries, more remote and more exciting – those are our favorites.

    We can’t wait. So for all of those who have been asking the where, when, why, and how of our itinerary, here it is. We hope you will follow along. We welcome your questions.

    Note – we are usually booked about six months in advance. We are not spontaneous travelers. That is not our style. We are in a constant state of planning as it is, one of the more difficult parts of our journey.

    China – September – Booked

    China

    We have been to China before and we loved it. Five years ago we traveled to South Korea and China. Visiting Beijing and Xian I was enchanted with the history, the food and the mystique of China. So it’s time to go back. We will visit Shanghai first, then take a river cruise on the Yangtze. We had reservations and plans to spend a week in Hong Kong, but this week we cancelled those. This is the first time on our Grand Adventure that we felt it was unsafe enough to change our plans. Hopeful we will visit Hong Kong in the future.

    In Shanghai and on the Yangtze we are on a private tour.

    Instead of Hong Kong we are headed to…

    Taiwan – September -Booked

    COUNTRY NUMBER 97

    Taiwan

    We actually had discussed going to Taiwan early on in our planning, but the flights were expensive. Funny though, booking flights today it was quit inexpensive. So Taipei here we come. The time we would have had in Hong Kong (6 days) will now be in Taipei. We plan to book a food tour and a cooking class- exactly like we had planned in Hong Kong. I don’t know that much about Taipei, so it will an adventure.

    Malaysia – October – Booked

    Malaysia

    We have only ever transited through Malaysia but have heard such wonderful things about this country we can’t wait to spend an entire month there. First we visit northern Malaysia and Borneo to see the orangutans ( a bucket list for me). Then we have a week in Kuala Lumpur followed by almost three weeks on the island of Langkawi.

    We are in hotels in Borneo and Kuala Lumpur and in an Airbnb on Langkawi.

    Myanmar – November – Booked

    Myanmar

    COUNTRY NUMBER 98

    Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has only been open to tourists since 2012, and the tourism industry has been slow to grow due to all the much bigger Asian players out there. But this is exactly the kind of destination we are interested in…experiencing the history and culture before it gets run over by tourists.

    We will be in four different locations over an entire month, taking our time to really slow travel in Myanmar. We have two weeks in a hotel perched on famous Lake Inle. It may be too much time, but if it is we will sit back, relax and read.

    Oman – December – Booked

    Oman

    COUNTRY NUMBER 99

    Oman is consistently showing up in lists of where to travel now – particularly where to travel if you don’t want to be with hordes of tourists, tour buses and cruise ships. And that sounds right up our alley.

    We will spend ten days in Muscat, the biggest city in Oman, with some day tours planned as well as renting a car to do some exploration on our own of this small, beautiful, historic and safe Middle East country.

    Kenya – December – Booked

    Kenya

    COUNTRY NUMBER 100

    We have skirted Kenya on our African travels, not intentionally, but for some reason have not stepped foot there. So we plan to spend our Christmas holiday lounging on the beach in Kenya.

    We have done two safaris in the past (as well as two additional Elephant safaris) so we will not do a safari in Kenya. Instead we have a beach Airbnb and we plan to relax and enjoy the side of Kenya fewer people visit.

    Mauritius – January – Booked

    Mauritius

    COUNTRY NUMBER 101

    Well we love a remote island and have had some of our best travel experiences on tiny islands in the Indian Ocean (Seychelles, Maldives) and so this time we will venture to the teeny island nation of Mauritius. Here we plan to really get ensconced in the community, spending six weeks enjoying an Airbnb, the pool and not a whole lot more.

    Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana – February – Partially Booked

    Zambia

    COUNTRIES 102-104

    Our plan is to visit Zambia to see Victoria Falls, one of many bucketlist waterfalls I am working my way through. We will be staying in Livingstone Zambia but the falls border Zimbabwe and it’s easy to walk across the border.

    Not as close but close enough for a day trip is Botswana, and we will take a guided to tour to Botswana while we are in the region.

    Uganda – February – Booked

    COUNTRY 105

    Uganda

    Ever since I saw Sigourney Weaver in Gorillas in the Mist I have dreamed of trekking to see the Mountain Gorillas. Mountain Gorillas are NOT FOUND anywhere in captivity in the world, and they are endangered. The only way to see these magnificent primates is to hike into the mountains of either Uganda or Rwanda.

    Instead of having a 60th birthday party for me in 2020, I chose to spend the money and go see the Gorillas. I doubt I will regret it.

    Rwanda – February – Not Booked

    Rwanda

    COUNTRY 106

    Well, we are in the neighborhood, so why not pop over for a quick visit to Rwanda – the safest country in all of Africa. Following the genocide in 1994, Rwanda has made a remarkable comeback. Twenty five years later Rwanda has a growing tourism industry, thoughtful memorials and museums explaining the atrocities and a welcoming culture. We will visit the cosmopolitan city of Kigali and spend several days on Lake Kivu.

    Israel – March – Partially Booked

    Israel

    COUNTRY 107

    When I was a little girl I went to summer camp. My young and fun camp counselor had just returned from visiting Israel and she told us so many things about the country, which at the time I knew nothing about. Fast forward fifty years and I am finally going to see it for myself – a dream come true.

    We plan to spend 16 days in the country, about ten days with a car traveling to both ends of this small country and then another six days in Jerusalem. We want to take our time and really experience this remarkable land.

    Armenia, Georgia – March – Not Booked

    Armenia

    COUNTRIES 108 & 109

    Like Oman, Armenia and Georgia are two countries few people visit and yet both are safe, welcoming and full of remarkable history. It’s time to discover them.

    Our plan is to spend about a week (maybe a little less) in each country and travel by overnight train from Armenia to Georgia. The weather may still be cool in late March, but we are excited to see more of the former Soviet Union and learn how these resilient people have recaptured their culture, religion and history.

    Cyprus – April – Not Booked

    Country 110

    Cyprus

    Gonna kick back for a couple weeks on the island of Cyprus another underrated destination of glorious beaches and remarkable history – and the birthplace of Aphrodite.

    Very inexpensive with few tourists, this island off the coast of Turkey should be a wonderful respite.

    Malta – April – Not Booked

    Malta

    COUNTRY 111

    We will spend April and May relaxing on the island of Malta, another up and coming tourism destination we want to see before it gets too crowded. This beautiful island is autonomous and has sat peacefully and often unnoticed in the Mediterranean just off of Sicily and Tunisia.

    We will stay in an Airbnb here and hopefully have warm late spring weather to enjoy the sand and sea.

    And then what?

    Okay – that is as far as we know for now. Following Malta and as summer emerges in Europe we are considering a car and train trip throughout much of the Eastern European countries we have yet to see; Serbia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Albania, Macedonia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. This should take up all of May. But details are still developing here.

    The Grand Adventure Laos

    From Estonia we hope to head to Finland and spend time exploring the northern areas. By this time it should be middle of June. We are currently debating our options from here…Greenland perhaps? Or maybe a Rhone River cruise in France. Perhaps hiking in Scotland. It’s too soon to know.

    Our plan is to be back in the USA and our Villa by the third or fourth week of June. And then we start planning for The Grand Adventure 4.0.

    Count down to lift off…five days. Yes indeed it is a fabulous life. My Fab Fifties Life.

    We welcome your ideas and comments. We encourage you to PLEASE subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss our news! You can subscribe by clicking here.

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    Adventure Travel  --  Everything Else Fabulous

    Travel Wardrobe for The Grand Adventure 3.0

    My Wardrobe for Nine Months of Travel

    It’s almost time to go again. I’ve been very busy restocking all my travel needs, including refreshing my travel wardrobe. After three years of traveling, I still feel I can do better with my clothing choices and pack less. So once again as we depart for the third time, I’m narrowing down the travel wardrobe. My goal is to carry the perfect mix and match wardrobe that fits my style, my schedule and my budget.

    Travel Wardrobe
    Black shorts (JJill) Black linen pants (Nordstrom) anchor many looks. White tank from TravelSmith, Black Duster from Sierra Trading, Black striped t-shirt from Macys. The teal sleeveless linen top is last year from JJill and the orange tank with crochet embellishment is this year from JJill. Red cardigan has been in my closet for years.

    Last year, my Travel Wardrobe blog was a big hit, so I thought I would write again about what I am bringing with me as we embark on our fourth year of travel. When we left the first year I had way too many things with me. It was a hard lesson learned. Last year for the Grand Adventure 2.0 I based my wardrobe around black and white with splashes of colorful mix and match items. But I’m doing it a bit differently this year.

    Travel Wardrobe
    Khaki linen shorts and khaki rayon blend linen pants both from JJill. Denim jacket is returning again, red sleeveless linen top JJill. Orange long sleeve linen top JJill. Coral floral top (lined and acrylic) JJill. Navy print t-shirt from JJill .

    For the Grand Adventure 3.0 I’ve chosen bottoms (both long and short pants) in black, khaki and navy. These staples will be the basis of most of my wardrobe. I have t-shirts, tank tops and blouses I can mix and match in dozens of ways with these bottoms. I have chosen bright colors that compliment my skin and hair color such as red, navy, coral, orange and turquoise.

    Travel Wardrobe
    Navy linen shorts returning from last year (Travelsmith) and Navy cotton elastic waist crop pants JJill. Navy striped t-shirt Macys. Long sleeve linen and rayon boho print top JJill.

    Because I wear dresses a lot, especially in hot weather, I have purchased four new dresses. These are also in blue/chambray tones, bright oranges and corals and one black plaid dress.

    Travel Wardrobe
    The best thing about this plaid black and white linen dress from JJill is it has pockets! Wide brim hat from The Vermont Country Store

    Our itinerary this year (blog coming about this next Friday) has us visiting several Muslim countries as well as Israel where thoughtful conservative dress is both important and respectful. I have chosen some dresses with longer sleeves and some long sleeve but lightweight tops that I can wear with the navy, black and khaki pants.

    Travel Wardrobe
    I already know this is going to be one of my favorites this colorful and comfortable bright print linen sundress is from JJill as is the orange blouse.

    As always my suitcase will include hiking clothes (long and short pants and tops), running clothes for both hot and cool weather, and yoga clothes, as well as a coat, sweatshirt, hat and gloves. I have one cardigan sweater (red), one pashmina (also red) and one scarf (teal blue).

    I often get asked why I like linen so much for travel, considering how much it wrinkles. But for me, in hot climates, linen is the most breathable and comfortable fabric on earth. I sometimes steam wrinkles out in the shower, iron them, or hey just wear them wrinkled. Because my own body heat works the wrinkles out in no time. Linen is the fabric for me and my Grand Adventure wardrobe.

    Travel Wardrobe
    I love this teal beach coverup (Nordstrom) and the colorful Kaftan

    I didn’t buy a new swimsuit, because both my one piece and my two piece are in good condition. I have a new swimsuit coverup that I love and a new Kaftan to replace the one I wore until it fell apart. The Kaftan and the coverup serve like a bathrobe or lounge wear, in addition to beach wear. Both are colorful and comfortable. I also pack one cotton nightgown.

    Travel Wardrobe
    I love this 100% linen chambray colored dress with ruching by Crosstree Lane. It’s lightweight and comfy and has pockets! I know I will wear it often.

    Underneath it all I have two running bras (Wacoal from Nordstrom) that are new. I have four everyday bras (Dominque and Victorias Secret). I purchased Chantelle lightweight quick dry panties from Nordstrom. I also have two pairs of bloomers (one from Bikie Girl Bloomers the other from Undersummers). I love both of these for wearing under dresses in hot weather to avoid that horrible thigh chafing so many women deal with (including me).

    Travel Wardrobe
    I can mix and match these items for yoga, running and even hiking. Shorts and pants are Brooks, yellow and pink tops are from REI and my Washington State Cougar shirt is from the Cougar Store in Gig Harbor

    And what about the feet? Well, as usual, deciding what shoes to bring is my most difficult task. I have my running shoes that also serve as hiking shoes. I have a very comfortable tan colored walking sandal by Vionic that I can wear with most things and is great for my plantar fasciitis. I have a black flat sandal and my Keen’s which are great walking shoes and can also be worn in the water. That’s four pairs. Pretty sure that is all I am taking. That’s the fewest pairs I have ever packed.

    Travel Wardrobe
    This coral crepe dress by Eileen Fischer is going to be my go to for dressier events but I could also wear it to the beach. Cool and comfy and I love the color!

    To top it off I have a wide brimmed straw hat, a cloth floppy brimmed hat, my hiking hat and a baseball cap. I also have several headbands that I like to wear for running or to the beach.

    So my entire wardrobe for nine months consists 29 pieces to mix and match (pants, shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, dresses, blouses, sweater and jackets), 7 workout pieces, 5 hiking pieces, 4 pairs of shoes, 4 bras, 7 panties, 1 coat and one sweatshirt. In one suitcase. Boom.

    Travel Wardrobe
    This Chambray linen shirt dress can be worn when I need to cover my arms but the weather is hot – cool and comfortable it also serves as a duster. By Eileen Fischer

    I’m packing fewer earrings and necklaces too…I have just a couple of each that are my go-to for both comfort and style. Everything else will stay behind this year.

    We’ve added a few new non-clothing items this year including a travel yoga mat, an REI nylon hammock that folds up tiny and a travel steamer/iron. These are all things we have discussed in the past we would like to have. These items join several other wonderful travel essentials such as our collapsible cooler, our titanium french press and battery charger. To see the entire list check out our newly updated blog What’s in My Suitcase.

    Travel Shoes
    The chosen shoes

    Speaking of suitcase – The Grand Adventure 3.0 continues with the REI roller bags we purchased more than three years ago. We had to replace the wheels on one bag but other than that these bags have been worth every penny, serving us well on 95 flights so far. In addition Arne has his backpack (also three years old) and I have a carryon roller bag that I purchased last year. I also have a large “purse” that I stuff full on flight day but use a small over the shoulder bag for every day. And finally we really like our day pack that folds up tiny and weighs nearly nothing.

    Travel Jewelry
    Five earrings and four necklaces. Significantly fewer than last year but I found I only wore a handful of the ones I brought with me last time. Simple.

    We depart in less than two weeks and I have begun to organize and sort all of the above as well as our medicines, first aid, toiletries and other items that we will take on our journey.

    PLEASE watch for a blog next Friday for our FULL ITINERARY for The Grand Adventure 3.0. We are so excited to share the incredible places we are going. Countdown to lift off 11 days!

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    Travel Wardrobe
    Adventure Travel  --  Inspire

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Add These to Your Bucket List

    Location: Around the World

    It’s blog bonus day! Enjoy this one once again.

    We love Paris like everyone else.  But really that’s the problem.  EVERYONE loves Paris (and London and Rome) and so you find lots of crowds and high cost.  In our travels around the world we have really tried to find new places that few tourists go.  Often these destinations end up being our most favorite.  And the more we travel the more we want to encourage everyone to consider stepping out of their travel comfort zone, and exploring the unknown – the favorite destinations no one goes.   Finding your way to the lesser traveled destinations creates less impact on the planet while bringing greater cultural awareness to the traveler.  We ask you to consider these options:

    Bulgaria

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Bulgaria

    Instead of Croatia consider visiting  Bulgaria, one of our favorite countries we have ever been to.  Bulgaria has so much to offer, and yet we did not meet a single American during the entire month we were there.  We did meet lots of Russians, Germans and some Brits.  Bulgaria has a remarkable coastline along the gorgeous Black Sea as well as great mountains for hiking.  The food is amazing, the wine is cheap and the 5000 year history is astounding.  And the people are so amazing, welcoming and proud. They have endured a great deal in their history, and they have a “come what may” attitude that is infectious. Go visit Bulgaria.

    Slovenia

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Slovenia

    Instead of Italy go to fascinating Slovenia. From Trieste, Italy it’s just a hop across the border to Slovenia, the tiny country once part of Yugoslavia.  We have been to Slovenia twice and I suspect we will be there again.  Slovenia has a tiny coastline on the Adriatic, and our favorite town of Piran is a perfect place to visit and get some local flavor.  But don’t stop there, Slovenia has some of the most beautiful mountain towns and lakes.  Much of Slovenia is still agrarian and the people are welcoming and patriotic and friendly.  Oh and the seafood.  So darn delicious. Go visit Slovenia.

    El Salvador

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    El Salvador

    Instead of Mexico go to El Salvador.  We just spent two weeks on the Pacific Coast of tiny El Salvador and we absolutely loved it.  There are some Americans coming here, but mostly 20-year-old surfers. The media has made us believe El Salvador is a dangerous place, and yet it is no more dangerous than Mexico and Americans flock to Mexico.  Come to El Salvador where the water is warm, the people are welcoming, the food is delicious and the history though brutal and bloody – is fascinating.  El Salvador will soon come out the shadow of its violent past, so visit before the secret gets out.  Go visit El Salvador.

    Poland

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Poland

    Instead of Germany go to Poland.  Poland is just beginning to step out of the shadow and become a tourist destination.  And it should.  We fell hard for Poland spending three weeks there last fall.  Poland has some of the most astonishing history anywhere in Europe.  The food is fantastic.  The people are warm and happy to meet you.  The historic villages are well-preserved and beautiful.  And it is cheap and easy to get to.  We loved Krakow as well as all the other places we visited and using the train in Poland was a great way to travel.  You really should visit Poland now.

    Bangladesh

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Bangladesh

    Instead of India go to Bangladesh.  I loved our time in India too, but if you want to push yourself and visit somewhere no tourists go, visit the remarkable, tiny country of Bangladesh.  Our short visit to Bangladesh provided us some of the most rewarding moments we have ever had in our travels. It’s difficult to visit Bangladesh without a guide, and we were lucky to find Deshguri, one of the few tour operators in the country.  Through Deshguri we able to meet so many Bangladeshi people, who greeted us with more kindness than anywhere we have ever been in the world.  We certainly stood out in both crowded Dakar as well as the beautiful villages and countryside, since almost no Western tourists come here.  We learned so much during our time in Bangladesh, and left our heart with its beautiful people. A remarkable experience that everyone should have. Visit Bangladesh soon.

    Sri Lanka

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Sri Lanka

    Instead of Thailand go to Sri Lanka. Thailand is overrun with tourists anymore.  So if you are looking for beautiful beaches, mountains and more, visit Sri Lanka instead.  The young backpacking set has found Sri Lanka, but few American visitors of the Fab Fifties era are traveling here.  Why not?  It is amazing.  We spent three of our most favorite weeks in Sri Lanka, one of the friendliest countries we have ever visited.  The Civil War is over and Sri Lanka is safe and inexpensive.  The food is the da bomb. Hiking and history is around every corner and the beaches are incredible.  We saw elephants and leopards, monkeys and snakes.  Oh my.  It’s Sri Lanka for me.

    Namibia

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Namibia

    Instead of South Africa go to Namibia.  Our ten-day tour in Namibia with Wild Wind Safaris will go down in our travels as one of the most remarkable places.  This country that nobody has heard of is one of the most beautiful in the world.  We had an amazing private guide during our time there, but you can also see the country easily with your own 4×4 vehicle (careful though, there is a high traffic fatality rate in Namibia). Namibia has a gorgeous Atlantic coastline, dry mountainous region that is like a moonscape, and multiple fascinating cultures such as the Himba, Damara and Herero people.  And to top it off Etosha National Park – single-handedly the best wildlife viewing we have ever encountered.  I absolutely fell in love with Namibia.  If you have ever considered a safari in Kenya, Tanzania or South Africa take a moment and research Namibia.  You will be so glad you did.  Go see Namibia now.

    Seychelles

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Seychelles

    Instead of the Maldives go to the Seychelles.  First a word about the Maldives.  We loved our time there, and luckily we found a very inexpensive place to stay.  But in general the Maldives are expensive and there is no alcohol! So consider the Seychelles instead.  A beautiful set of small islands out in the middle of nowhere off of east Africa.  We spent a month on the tiny island of Praslin and loved every minute of it.  Groceries were expensive and the variety was less than desirable, but the rest of the experience was very positive.  The islanders speak French/Creole mix, and the shy people are friendly and religious.  If you are looking for a place to kick back and relax with the warmest turquoise waters in the world, visit Seychelles now.

    Portugal

    Our Favorite Destinations No One Goes To

    Portugal

    Instead of Spain go to Portugal.  I hesitated about adding Portugal to this list because Portugal does have a thriving tourism industry.  But we met very few Americans while we were there.  Perhaps more Americans go to Spain because Spanish is a language more Americans can handle.  But during our time in Portugal we had very little difficulty with the Portuguese language.  We loved Portugal so much we would consider living there.  The food is incredible, the cities are beautiful and the beaches are fantastic.   It’s a remarkable place with such a variety of geography.  Historically Portugal was once a powerful country of explorers and merchants, colonizers and tyrants but today, this quiet and beautiful country is laid back and relaxed and fun.  Visit Portugal.

    What is next for us?

    We are now into a full-fledged planning phase of our next chapter of the Grand Adventure. We will spend May-September in the USA then depart again.  Without really trying, we have noticed

    Hard to answer questions to a travel nomad

    Portugal

    a trend in the countries we are planning to visit next, a trend towards less touristy.  A trend towards staying longer in one place.  A trend towards trying to make less of an impact and remove ourselves from the fray.

    I think this is what we always intended to happen on this journey, but it just took us a while to get there.  But when we look back on our favorite places we have been so far, it’s always the places with the road less traveled.  It’s always the places with few western tourists.  It’s always the places the cruise ships don’t go.  The authentic and relatively untouched destinations.

    One rare Bangladesh

    Bangladesh

    Our favorite destinations no one goes to.  Fabulous.

    Note – we have committed to the following destinations from September to January; China, Malaysia, Myanmar, Oman, Kenya and Mauritiaus. Not confirmed but in the works for 2020 are;  Zambia, Uganda, Israel, Cyprus, Malta, Albania, Serbia, Macedonia,Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovakia, Belarus, Estonia, Finland and Greenland.

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    Adventure Travel  --  North America Travel

    On the Geoduck Trail – Quintessential Puget Sound

    Summer in Washington State

    Location: Key Peninsula Washington USA

    Growing up on and frankly IN the Puget Sound, I’m very aware and appreciative of the unique, beautiful and delicious bounty this body of water provides. A true Washingtonian loves seafood of all kinds from clams to salmon, oysters to Dungeness crab. Don’t ever try to tell me East Coast crab is better. Delusional.

    Geoduck harvesting
    Low summer tide in the Puget Sound

    As you know if you follow this blog I eat just about anything, and I’m not afraid of seafood or shellfish. When I was a child we dug steamer clams right in my front yard. We traveled to Ocean Shores to dig razor clams every spring. And each summer we harvested dozens of Dungeness crabs from the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

    geoduck harvest
    Huge monster clams

    But for some reason, despite how delicious it is, I had never harvested geoduck, the giant, funny and phallic looking clam unique to this part of the world.

    geoduck harvest
    That’s a big boy

    Until now. Thanks to our friends who invited us, along with several other couples to try our hand at geoducking during a recent extreme low-tide (Puget Sound experiences extreme low-tides in the summer creating a perfect opportunity to hunt the giant clam that usually bores into the sand in deep water.)

    geoduck mouth in the sand
    Finding the mouth peeking out of the sand

    Geoducks can be found buried very deep in the sand, as much as four or more feet deep. At low tide, you can carefully walk around the beach and look for a tiny “mouth” sticking out of the sand, usually less than an inch. Depending on how long the geoduck’s neck is, the body of the beast will be found deep in the sand below where you spot the mouth. A geoduck neck can be four feet long. They can live more than 150 years.

    geoduck harvest
    Working the tube down into the sand

    Non-commercial harvesters will dig deep after spotting the mouth. Our friends used a large metal tube placed over where the mouth was found. Digging down inside the tube to locate the body of the geoduck, increasing the depth of the tube into the sand as you dig. Commercial geoduck harvesters have other methods (a very lucrative commercial market serves the Chinese insatiable appetite for geoduck). Read about it here.

    how to harvest geoduck
    The ungraceful grab of the geoduck deep in the mud

    As soon as you start digging the geoduck will pull its very long neck back down from the surface. But, despite what some people think, the geoduck cannot “run”. It can only retract the neck but its body will stay in place. Digging dip to find the body without hitting the body with the shovel makes for a delicate process. But the next part is neither delicate or graceful.

    On the hunt for the Pacific Northwest geoduck
    Our hosts Jeff and Dayl know how and where to harvest the geoduck

    Lying on your stomach you must reach deep into the muck inside the hole and grasp the giant clam by the shell….not the neck or you might pull the neck off. Loosening the clam from the deep mud where it has embedded itself securely takes some strength (and a few choice words). With luck you will come up with a giant geoduck weighing anywhere from one pound to as much as four pounds!

    crazy and funny looking geoduck
    Watch out for the squirt

    The next step is to take lots of funny pictures of these decidedly phallic looking creatures and spend some time wondering about Mother Nature and her sense of humor.

    Our harvest

    Then it’s time to clean them. First rinse of all visible mud and sand. Next they need to be dipped in boiling water for about 30 seconds. This loosens the outer skin (sometimes referred to as the condom) around the neck. It’s not edible until that skin is removed. Next clean the guts and stomach and rinse again. See a video here.

    how to clean geoduck
    Remove the tough membrane from the neck after a quick blanche in boiling water

    Finally it’s time to eat. Our friends prepared an amazing geoduck sashimi with three dipping sauces. Eating the sweet and fresh as it gets delicacy couldn’t have been more delicious. Our efforts rewarded.

    Sashimi, as fresh as it gets

    After our wonderful day on the beach with friends we brought home three good size geoducks. I prepared geoduck ceviche – a perfect way to serve the fresh uncooked, tender body meat. I highly recommend this recipe I found on Pinterest. I used Mango in place of Papaya and it was amazing. See it here.

    Geoduck Ceviche

    Next I used my food processor to grind the necks (which are tougher and more chewy than the body). Grind in small batches so it doesn’t get too mushy. I used the ground meat to make geoduck fritters served with a delicious dipping sauce of siracha, mayo and lemon. I found a recipe for Conch fritters that I adapted easily. See the fritter recipe here.

    Geoduck Fritters

    Finally I put the rest of the ground geoduck in a freezer bag and put it in my freezer. A week later it was used in a delicious geoduck chowder. When making chowder with geoduck you can use about half the usual amount of meat ratio to potatoes and other ingredients. I used both clam juice and chicken stock as my base instead of just clam as mentioned in this recipe. It was delicious.

    The geoduck team
    Everyone had a great time!

    To harvest any shellfish in the Pacific Northwest you need to have a shellfish license. See the rules here. It’s important not to over harvest, so that these delicious Puget Sound creatures will be around for generations to come, just like they have been for generations in the past. The name geoduck is derived from a a local Native American word from the Lushootseed (Nisqually) people gʷídəq. Puget Sound Native American’s harvested local shellfish and seafood long before any of us were here.

    Don’t fear the Geoduck despite it’s unusual look. Respect and enjoy this delicate, sweet, not fishy tasting and delicious giant clam of the Puget Sound.

    Summer in Washington State – Fabulous!

    Sincere thanks to Kameron Minch for many of these photos in this blog and to our friends Jeff and Dayl Minch for such a fun day.

    From Bloomberg News – Geoduck facts

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