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Everything Else Fabulous

    Everything Else Fabulous

    My Fab Fifties Life Travel Awards

    And the Winner Is…

    Location: Travel Awards

    And the Winner Is…

    Oscar nominations this week!  A big week if you are a movie fan – which of course I am but since I have not stepped foot in the United States in more than 14 months I haven’t seen any of this year’s big films.  But instead I have seen a world of real life drama, fantasy, comedy, mystery and animation.  Enough to last a life time.  So in keeping with the announcement of this year’s Oscar Nominations, I give to you our picks for World Travel Awards, Best and Worst of 2017 and 2018 – My Fab Fifties Life.

    And the winner is…

    World Travel Awards 2017 2018

    Hoi An Vietnam

    DESTINATIONS

    Favorite City – Hoi An Vietnam

    By far our favorite destination in Vietnam with it’s colorful old town, beaches, rice fields and fabulous food.  We loved this place and the airbnb we stayed in here.

    Most Surprising – Namibia

    We came to Namibia practically blind, allowing our tour guide from Wild Wind Safaris to hold our hand and we were not disappointed.  A spectacular destination I think everyone should visit.

     

    Best Value Destination – Bulgaria

    We loved our month in the friendly, beautiful and historic country of Bulgaria where we didn’t

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Bulgaria

    meet any Americans.  Put this inexpensive and great country on your bucket list and go!

    Best Overall Scenery – New Zealand

    Jaw dropping scenery no matter where you go or which way you look, New Zealand is an

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Abel Tasman New Zealand

    outdoor enthusiast dream  and is stunningly beautiful.

    Most Crowded City – Hanoi

    The scooters alone make this wild city that never sleeps total chaos.  Then add the cars, trucks, carts, pedestrians, vendors and well – its pretty wild.

    Most Beautiful City – Split Croatia

    Whether you are perusing the mega yachts in the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Diocletian’s Palace, Split

    harbor or wandering through Diocletian’s Palace, Split is a magical place and my favorite Croatian city.

    Most Interesting City – Fez Morocco

    Around every corner as you get lost in Fez there is something interesting and amazing and I enjoyed this maze of a city

     

     

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Fez Morocco

    Most Disappointing City – Tangier Morocco

    Getting lost in Tangier is easier but nowhere near as fun as getting lost in Fez.  We found Tangier a bit of a disappointment.

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    Best Airbnb for Service – Asilah Morocco

    We adored our “mom” Latifah during our ten days

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Latifah unveiling the Tajine

    in Asilah and wanted to put her in our suitcase and take her with us.  The food and care she gave us was unparalleled.

    Best Airbnb Overall – Koh Samui Thailand

    We had a lot of discussion over this one.  We have been, frankly, so lucky with our airbnb’s.  And even this one had a few quirks.  But we loved it for the view, the private pool and the car that came with it.  It was however, also our most expensive Airbnb. https://myfabfiftieslife.com/sweet-samui/

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    We loved our private pool in Koh Samui

     

    Most Authentic Airbnb – Siem Reap Cambodia

    Staying in an authentic Khmer home in Siem Reap was a treat in itself, but then adding the wonderful breakfasts and services our host provided us made this place one of our all time favs.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Cambodian Khmer House

     

     

    Most Unusual AirbnbMotueka New Zealand

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Funky Truck

    We spent two nights in a funky old truck/camper with an outhouse and it was a hoot.

    Most Rustic AirbnbHikkaduwa Sri Lanka

    We nicknamed this place Castaway Cottage and it was like living on Gilligan’s Island – complete with lots of critters including rats, snakes, mongoose, monitor lizards, gecko and BUGS!

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    View from our Sozopol Airbnb

    Best Value Airbnb – Sozopol Bulgaria

    We loved this top floor unit with a huge deck and amazing view.  We think we might return to this place some day, only $55 a night.

    Best HotelLuang Prabang Laos

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Luang Prabang Laos

    We spent three nights in the beautiful Maison Dalabua hotel in this darling and historic city on the Mekong River and it was one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in.  From the comfortable and spacious room, the food, the pool, the flowers and the service, everything about it was first class on a budget.

    FOOD

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Because noodles always put a smile on your face.

    Favorite Overall Cuisine – Thailand

    This is the best food in the world.  Simple, healthy and so flavorful I can’t get enough of Thai Cuisine.

    Best Restaurant Meal – Ceverjaria Ramiro Lisbon Portugal, Honorable Mention to Ladja Podlanica in Piran Slovenia

    I’ll never forget the dinner we had at Cervejaria Ramiro with our son Erik and his friend

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Lisbon Portugal

    Salvador who lives in Lisbon.  It was a gluttonous evening and I loved every bite.  Someday I will go back.  In Piran Slovenia with our friends Raymond and Marbi we gorged ourself on the most amazing anchovies in oil followed by spectacular spaghetti

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Ladja Padlanika Restaurant in Piran

    con vongole.  We loved it so very much we went twice.

    Worst Food Overall – Camino de Santiago

    When we really needed the sustenance the most, our 41 days on the Camino de Santiago provided the least inspiring of food.

    Best Cooking Class –  Chiang Mai Thailand with Honorable Mention to Cape Town South Africa

    I try to take a cooking class in most of the countries we visit, and I do it as much for the cuisine

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    My favorite Chiang Mai Noodles

    and culture as to meet local people who love their food and want to share it.  My classes in Chiang Mai (two full days) and my evening class in the home of our instructor in Cape Town South Africa fulfilled what I am always looking for.

    Best Beer – Cape Town South Africa and Honorable Mention Piran Slovenia

    Capetown because they had a vibrant micro brew scene and good non-lager beers available in most stores and restaurants, and Piran because here my husband had the single best beer he has had since leaving the USA.  Don’t know what brand it was but it was a spectacular Slovenian IPA.

    Worst Grocery Availability – Seychelles

    Hands down the most difficult place to find decent produce and healthy ingredients for day-to-day cooking, we learned to eat a lot of rice, lentils and beans during our month in the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Hmong Village Laos

    Seychelles Islands.

    CULTURE, NATURE AND EXPERIENCES

    Best Authentic Cultural Experience – It’s a tie between Hmong Village Laos and Himba Village Namibia

    Seeing these two places will stay with me all my life – when you think about opening your mind to understand cultural

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Himba Women and Children

    differences, embrace and learn from living hand to mouth and become more tolerant of other cultures – visiting these two places had all that and more.

    Best Beach for Scenery – La Digue Seychelles

    No wonder Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition has shot here several times.  This place with it’s unique rock formations, sparkling white sand and out of this world blue water is about as spectacular as they come.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    La Digue Seychelles

     

    Best Beach for Spending the Day – Meia Praia, Lagos Portugal

    It helped that our condo was a short walk to the beach, where we went everyday during our three weeks in Lagos.  Golden sand, lots of room to spread out and easy and safe swimming made this our favorite.

    Best Day Hike – Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand

    An experience I will never forget, climbing the mountain, seeing the volcanic crater and lakes and just accomplishing this feat will always hold a special place for me.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Tongariro Crossing

    Most Difficult Day Hike – Climbing Down Table Mountain, Cape Town South Africa

    We thought down would be easier.  It wasn’t.  There were times where I literally didn’t think I was going to make it.  My body gave it all I had, and it was

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Table Mountain Hike

    more than a week before I didn’t hurt.

    Best Outdoor Experience – Able Tasman New Zealand

    Our three-day Glamping Tour on the Able Tasman was one of the highlights of our time in that country.  We were blessed with spectacular weather, met new friends and were introduced to the wonders of New Zealand.

    Best Historic Sight – Angor Wat, Siem Reap Cambodia

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Angor Wat Cambodia

    It was a lifelong dream for me to see Angor Wat and it was not disappointing.  The fascinating ancient story that unfolds in these ruins set amidst the friendly and persevering Cambodia people is not something I will ever forget.

    Fewest Tourist at a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Dougga Tunisia

    Nothing like having an entire UNESCO site to

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Tunisia

    yourself, and that is exactly what we enjoyed at the beautiful Dougga Roman Ruins in Tunisia.  Not many tourists in Tunisia, but slowly they are returning, and we loved our time in this ancient country, cradle of civilization as we know it today.

    Best Tour – Namibia

    Our ten-day tour with our amazing guide “Seven” introduced us to this unknown country so full of natural wonders and spectacular animals.  I love Namibia..

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Etosha National Park Namibia

     

    Worst Tour – Three day bus tour of the Mekong Delta Vietnam

    This tour was cheap but it wasn’t worth it still.  Terrible traffic, over pitched and very touristy.  Sorry we went.

    Most Unique experience – Camino de Santiago Spain

    Even though the food was bad, the experience is now branded on my soul. It changed me and I loved it.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    On the Camino

    Best Live Performance – Tie Violin Concert Piran Slovenia and Carmina Burana outdoors in Dubrovnik; Honorable Mention to Kandy Cultural Show, Kandy Sri Lanka

    Front row seats in a tiny historic theater in beautiful Piran Slovenia made for a special night as we enjoyed a beautiful violinist accompanied by a guitarist.  It was just so pleasant.  Just as mazing the spectacle that was hearing Carmina Burana performed outdoors in historic Dubrovnik

    Carmina Burana performed outdoors in Dubrovnik

    town center.  Spectacular!

    Kudos also to the very authentic Sri Lankan dance, music and firewalker show we enjoyed (also front row seats) in Kandy Sri Lanka.

    Best Nature and Animal Experience – Etosha National Park Namibia

    I’ve said it before – this country was such a surprise and this National Park was the bomb.

    Best Free Experience – Free Walking Tours 

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Our Free Walking tour guide in Sofia Bulgaria

    In nearly every major city  you can take what is known as “Free” guided walking tours.  These are awesome and we love them because it is always a local guide, someone young and enthusiastic.  You tip them at the end – so its not really Free – but it is worth it and we have done this at least ten times.  A great value.

    Friendliest People – Sri Lanka

    Hands down the kindest and friendliest people we

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Monk in Sri Lanka

    have met – despite all the hardships they have been through; colonialism, monarch assassination , civil war and tsunami.  Still they smile.  Love them.

    Worst Drivers – Vietnam

    There are several runners-up here, including Sri Lanka (and we haven’t gotten to India or Bangladesh yet), but still Vietnam takes the prize for the craziest drivers, most dishonest cabbies, scooter

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Scooters in vietnam

    mania and absolute lack of any pedestrian rights.

    Worst Experience – Dog Bite Koh Samui Thailand

    Hands down the worst day has been the day Arne was bit by a dog in Koh Samui.  The one saving grace is it could have been much worse.  But still it makes me angry and the overall feral dog situation in Thailand makes me question whether I will ever visit again.

    Experience I liked More Than I thought I would – Camel Ride, Erg Cheba, Sahara Morocco

    The colors and the light of the desert at dusk, the animals, the other guest from around the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    On the camel trek in Morocco

    world and having this experience with our friends Sarah and Steve all added up to a very fun two days and one night camel trek in the desert.

    Least English Spoken – Spain

    Only in the last decade has English been taught in schools, so few adults are fluent.  Especially in the small towns and villages on the Camino we did a lot of pointing and hand charades to communicate.  It was fun!

    WEATHER

    Hottest – Seychelle’s and Honorable Mention Doha, Qatar

    We saw some rain in the Seychelles but it was never

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Seychelle Islands, Praslin

    under 85 degrees and the water was like a bathtub.  We only spent one night in Doha Qatar, but it marked the hottest one day on the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Doha Qatar

    trip at 113 F.

    Coldest – New Zealand

    We were in New Zealand in the fall and we had a few nights were the temperature dropped in the 30’s.  Living in the Kiwi Karavan we wore hats and coats and wool socks to bed to stay

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    New Zealand

    warm.

    Worst Rain Storm – Tie between Hua Hin Thailand and Koh Samui Thailand

    After a two hour taxi ride turned into a five hour taxi ride in a monsoon we arrived in flooded Hua Hin Thailand not sure what we had gotten ourselves into.

    More than once the sky opened up in Koh Samui, accompanied by flashing lighting and booming thunder.

    Best Sunrise – It’s a tie between Napier New Zealand and Galicia Spain

    I’m a sucker for a good sunrise, and we have seen

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Napier New Zealand

    some amazing ones but these two stand out above and beyond for the sheer majesty of the experience.

    Best Sunset – La Digue Seychelles (see cover photo)

    Mother’s Day Dinner in La Digue we watched the sunset from a beach restaurant and it was a religious experience.

     

     

    TRAVEL

    Favorite Airline – Emirates

    They know how to treat their passengers, even those of us in Coach

    Least Favorite Airline – Air Maroc

    The only airline (after 37 flights) to lose our luggage.  Eventually it was found.  Plus the smell of something (not cigarettes) burning during approach.  Ack.

    Best Airport – Hamad International Qatar

    A very user-friendly and beautifully designed airport.

    Teeniest Airplane – Air Seychelles 

    Eight seats.  ‘Nuff Said.

    Most Expensive Visa – India

    We haven’t even arrived in India yet, but it was hands down the most expensive Visa we have purchased and one of the most difficult online applications.  Hopefully when we arrive tomorrow everything will be in order!

    Easiest Airport Entry – Capetown South Africa

    We breezed through passport and customs so fast in Capetown we were totally surprised.

    Worst Airport Entry – tie between Siem Reap Cambodia and Carthage Tunisia

    In both cases we got in the wrong line.  The line with the guy who was arrogant and pompous and was going to make every passenger know he was the boss.  Any sign of dissatisfaction could get you pulled out of line and make your life hell.  And so we waited.

    Lucky Girl. Fabulous Life Award.

    So there you have it.  The winner of the Fab Fifties version of the Oscars for 2017-2018.  But you do know, the real winner is me.  Me and my husband.  The luckiest people on the planet. Who needs a little gold statue when you have a Fab Fifties Life?

    What a fabulous life it is.

    Everything Else Fabulous

    We are back – New and Improved

    Starting 2018 with Upgrades for the Blog

    Location: My Fab Fifties Life

    Over the past month we have been working hard on some upgrades to My Fab Fifties Life and now with the new year we are back fresh and new!

    Most of the changes, you as a reader will not be aware of, as the changes are technical and behind the scenes. But there is one important change you will notice.  My Fab Fifties Life now has all new categories/topics, creating a more user friendly blog.

    We have removed several categories that were no longer  relevant as My Fab Fifties Life has evolved.  But most importantly we have created new topics for all the travel blogs based on world regions.  A much simpler and easier to use system.

    If you are new to My Fab Fifties Life you can look at the topics and click on regions of interest such as Fab Africa Travel or Fab North America Travel. If you are a long time follower and now you are planning a trip, say to Croatia, you can click on Fab Europe Travel, put Croatia in the search bar and pull up everything we have written on that topic.

    And if you have been away from the blog for a spell (shame on you!) you can click on Fab Asia Travel and catch up on where we are right now!

    You’ll notice in addition to the travel categories there is still Fabulous Reading Wednesday (because I love to read) and Fab Food (because I love food!).  Also the My Fab Fifties Life junk drawer category (everyone needs a junk drawer) Everything Else Fabulous.

    To find our categories go to the TOPICS drop down box at the top of this page.  Or if you are on  a PC or laptop the topics are also listed on the right column.

    Easy and quick and more reader friendly.

    We’ve also made some upgrades to the photo library to help present the photos better in each blog.

    If you follow on Facebook you’ll notice some new videos related to the blogs and a new cover shot each time we visit a new country. If you are following our Instagram account you will see even more beautiful photos and videos daily.

    We want to keep you engaged and enjoying the work we do with My Fab Fifties Life.

    So we have a few favors to ask of you- our valued followers. First and most important are you receiving the blog in your email inbox?  Because if you are relying on Facebook only, then you are only seeing about a quarter of our blog posts. I encourage you (beg, plead) to sign up right now to get My Fab Fifties Life via email. It’s easy to do – if you are reading this on a mobile device there is a email sign up at the bottom of this post. If you are reading this on a PC or laptop there is an email sign up in the upper right hand corner.  I would be very grateful for your support via email.

    Are you on Pinterest? We are building our presence on that valuable search engine tool and expanding
    our reach through Pinterest is one of our new goals. Please pin and repin our blogs as often as you can which would help us a lot. Just hover on any photo in any My Fab Fifties Life blog and you will get the Pinit save button. Snap it’s done.

    We encourage you to coment inside the blog, rather than on the Facebook comment section. This is another way My Fab Fifties Life gets pushed to the top of the very crowded Google ladder.

    Next month My Fab Fifties life celebrates its 5th Birthday! My baby is growing up!  Thanks to all of you for your help and support. It takes a village and you are my village!  Fabulous!

    Everything Else Fabulous

    Observations from an American Abroad

    The Funny Things the Travel Books Don’t Mention

    Location: An American Abroad

    Observations from an American Abroad (or things the travel books don’t mention). I’m very observant.  My husband ignores me for the most part because I’m always asking out-loud questions like – who the x%#&  is in charge of determining time zones?  Why are there no cats in South Africa?  Where is the mango gelato?  Very important stuff.  But as a full-time traveler, and an American abroad, certain observations stand out to me in this nomad life.  Some just don’t make sense – no matter how hard I try to understand.  For instance;

    KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN – What the hell is up with KFC?  Everywhere we go, in every country,
    Kentucky Fried Chicken is far more prominent than Starbucks or McDonalds.  Now I’ve had my share of “finger liken good” over the years.  Sure it’s good at a summer BBQ.  But as an American abroad I can’t comprehend why is it so popular around the world?  I totally believe there are far fewer Kentucky Fried Chicken stores in Kentucky than in Cape Town South Africa and most other big cities we’ve been to.  I don’t get it.

    Which brings me to another iconic American brand – THE NEW YORK YANKEES.  Since we landed in Bangkok at the beginning of this odyssey I have
    noticed and wondered about the phenomenon that is the NY Yankees baseball cap.  There are more NY caps outside of the USA than in it (well, I’m speculating, but I feel pretty confident based on my “scientific” research).  Absolutely everywhere we have traveled since day one I have seen people donning the cap.  At first I was like “well okay, maybe they are also Americans abroad.”  It didn’t take long though to realize these are not tourists.  That logo has some American symbolism for people around the world.  In fact, our tour guide in Namibia wore one.  I asked him if he was a fan.  He didn’t know anything about the team – he said he just thought the logo was cool.  And, I admit it, it is a cool logo – but there are lots of cool logos out there.  For me personally I like the Starbucks logo, NBC News, Nike and of course Washington State University.  Then there is the AMAZING City of Gig Harbor logo (a bit biased here). But still New York Yankees?  Just weird.

    As weird as it is that the Yankees cap is a major fashion statement world-wide – it’s even weirder that there are only three countries IN THE WORLD who are not on the metric system: The United States, Myanmar and Liberia.  Yeah we are in good company – way-to-go-USA!  This American abroad says time to make the switch people, I mean really, how backward can we be?

    More crazy backward stuff I’ve noticed includes the dozens of different electric outlet styles.  What a giant pain in the ass.  We carry with us many ADAPTORS adding several pounds (err….kilos) to our luggage.  And for some cray cray reason South Africa has its very own.  Just an entire special South African version.  I suppose it’s a little late, but wouldn’t some universal system have made life a lot easier for everyone – or at least for me? Call me demanding.

    Since we are talking about differences in designs, it’s always a surprise wherever we go, to see WHAT KIND OF FLUSHER you’re going to get.  Some times it’s a push handle like in the USA.  Sometimes its on top of the tank and you push, or on top of the tank and you pull up.  Some times it gets wild and crazy and it’s on the wall behind the loo or even a chain above.  And then there is that hose sprayer you find often attached to the toilet.  I really try not to think about what that’s for.  (Oh well, at least most places HAVE flushers these days…)

    And as long as we are on this bathroom topic – there will be DIARRHEA.  It happens.  End of rant.

    BEETS are very popular in most countries and I like beets too. But don’t order beets cause no one will know what you are asking for. Around the world these bulbous beauties are known as beetroot.  Zucchini is courgette, eggplant is aubergine, cilantro is coriander and fries are chips.  Cake is pudding, cookies are digestives, and potato chips are crisps.

    Sheets.  Yes I mean BED SHEETS.  It’s just really not a thing in most countries.  There is always a covering on the mattress (sometimes fitted, sometimes not) but there is very rarely a top sheet.  Rather just a duvet cover and 99% of the time it’s plain white.  I have really grown to like this because it gives you the ability to hang your legs off the edge of the bed during one of my numerous nighttime hot flashes.  No doubt a fab fifties woman came up with this way of making the bed.  If you want your bed to keep you swaddled and tucked in nice and cozy well stay home and hunker down.

    Rarely do you pump your own gas, or have your fruit weighed by the checker (there is a person in the produce department whose  job it is to weigh your fruit), or FIND BEER in a grocery store.  Sometimes there is wine but no beer…why?  I do not know.  Hard alcohol usually comes from a bottle store but mixers from the grocery store.  It’s enough to make you stop drinking. Well, not really-just kidding.

    Then there are the amazing PHARMACIES.  Everywhere we have traveled pharmacies play a very big role in health care.  Pharmacists have the ability to provide many remedies and drugs if you just tell them what your symptoms are.  No need to go to the doctor first.  Certainly there are some ailments that only a doctor can address, but for the most part a pharmacy is your first stop.  On the road for 13 months I have been to a pharmacy at least once in every country but I have not been to any doctors (except for the clinic in Namibia where I just took a long nap).  I wish it was easier in the USA but apparently it’s gonna get even harder now.

    We have become acutely aware of the ECONOMIC DIVIDE in most countries and (again with our very “scientific” research) have confirmed that 25% of the people in Asia work feeding the other 75%, 25% of those who are actually employed in South Africa earn a living in the Security industry protecting the 1%, and in Tunisia and Morocco, 25% spend their days teaching the other 75% to drive.

    As I travel to each new and interesting place it’s always like The Price is Right – you never know what’s behind Door #1, #2 and #3.  What surprises will each new country afford?  How many NY Yankee fans?  How many Kentucky Fried Chickens?  And for goodness sake will I have the right electrical adaptor?  I’ll just order a beetroot salad and pour a beer from the bottle store and keep my sense of humor.  It is after all the grandest of adventures!

    Everything Else Fabulous

    Flying Without Fear

    How to manage and learn to fly without fear

    Location: Sri Lanka

    NOTE – Hi Everyone!  Still working on our blog upgrades but today we are flying without fear to Sri Lanka and this will be my 36th and 37th flight in the past 13 months!  Which reminded me of this blog (below) I wrote nearly four years ago, after the mystifying disappearance of Malaysia Air Flight 370.  So I thought it would be a good reminder to any of you who suffer from the fear of flying.  We will be back soon with new, fresh and fun blogs for 2018!  Thank you for following!

    It may come as a surprise to many of you, given how much I travel, but I have a fear of flying. In fact there was a period in my life when I couldn’t get on a plane.  I have worked really hard, not to overcome this fear, but to learn to manage it.  But this past week as I have waited with the rest of the world for news about Malaysia Flight 370 I have definitely had a set-back in my continual goal of learning to fly without fear.

    There was a specific moment, a specific flight, when my flying fear was born.  I had never had fear like this before; I had aspired to be a flight attendant; I had parachuted  from a tiny airplane; I had traveled by air tens of thousands of miles.  But in January 1993 on a flight from Puerto Rico to Washington DC my fear was born.

    About half way through that flight we lost an engine.  I knew immediately something was wrong.  I could hear something had changed and I could see on the flight attendants faces things were amiss. Eventually the pilot announced the engine had failed and we were going to continue on into D.C. on one engine.  What?  One engine?  What if that ones goes? I was totally no longer flying without fear!

    Okay so everyone remained calm (except me – nearly hyperventilating.)  We had to travel at a lower speed due to having only one engine.  Finally we were on approach.  No additional announcements came from the cockpit.  My fear was under control and I was ready to land. BUT the fear of flying was born after we landed.  Although the crew did not prepare the passengers in any way, when we landed we were met and chased down by multiple emergency vehicles and as soon as we came to a stop (well away from the terminal building) with sirens blaring, the firetrucks doused the plane with white foaming fire-retardant.  Unprepared for this unexpected foam bath, most of the passengers, including myself, were frightened near to death.

    How simple it would have been to have schooled the passengers in what to expect upon landing. With a little preparation, I may not have developed my fear.

    When we finally stepped into the terminal we learned from our waiting friends that all the people waiting for this flight to arrive had been moved from the gate (this was pre-9/11 when you could still wait at the gate) to a holding area away from the windows but also kept in the dark as to why.

    In 1993 I had two small children ages 2 and 6.  In the days and weeks following this incident I began to have fears about traveling, fears about something happening to my children, and fears about me and my husband dieing and leaving our kids behind.  It developed slowly but eventually consumed me.

    It was two years before I got an another airplane.  During that time I planned family vacations that revolved around car travel.  We went on a cruise that left from Vancouver BC, where we could easily drive.  I pretended this didn’t have anything to do with my fear, but it did.  My husband knew it did too.  I needed help to learn how to fly again – how to fly without fear.

    And a fact I haven’t yet mentioned has to do with my husband.  My husband works for Boeing.  He is a mechanical engineer for the largest airplane manufacturer in the world.  But his wife couldn’t get on an airplane.

    My husband, as in most things, tried to use logic with me.  He spewed statistics on air safety, compared highway deaths to airplane deaths, explained away all the safety features on modern jets.  All that just pissed me off.

    Because my fear is not logical.  And all the logic in the world cannot, will not help.  My fear is emotional; without logic.  And I knew back then, and I know now, the only person who can come up with a solution for my fear, is me.

    I started the process with a simple book “Flying Without Fear” by Duane Brown, PhD.  I still have this book, it is sitting next to me as I write this blog.  I haven’t pulled this book out of my library in a very long time.  But my renewed fear this past week had me go in search of it.  The very best thing about this book; the thing that helped me the most both 20 years ago and now, is a section that takes you step by step through the flight process.  The book explains what to expect from smells, sounds and feel from the minute you step into the terminal to when you arrive at your destination baggage claim.

    • Why do you smell diesel?  I used to fear that smell.
    • What do the ringing bells mean?  I always feared the bells.
    • Why does the plane slow down after about three minutes in the air?  I’m always sure we are crashing right then.
    • What is the clunking noise under the plane?  I’m sure the plane is breaking up.

    These are just some of the things the book “Flying Without Fear” helped me with.  The book also helped me learn to breath deeply and do relaxation exercise during take off ( the time I fear the most). The book helped me emotionally, with some logic thrown in, to manage my fear of flying.  It didn’t take the fear away, it just helped me live with it.

    My children are now grown and I don’t have the same fear of leaving them motherless that I used to.  In fact, I am, in my fabulous fifties, much less afraid of dieing.  I know I will die, and I know it could happen tomorrow.  I no longer let fear keep me from traveling, even if I still feel a pang of it each take-off.

    But the strange and mysterious disappearance of Flight 370 still gives me pause.  I can’t help but think of each and every one of those innocent souls; did they fear?  Did they suffer?  I hope not for all of them.  I hope they had peace in their hearts and no regrets.

    Just like me.

    Everything Else Fabulous

    The Happiest of Holidays to You

    Thanks for a great 2017

    Location: South Africa

    What a remarkable year it’s been. My blog is a labor of love and I want to thank those of you who follow it so religiously. It means so much to me.

    As I wish you a Happy Holiday from me and my family, I also want to let you know the blog will be quiet for the next couple of weeks (except for Reading Wednesday). As we approach the 5th anniversary of My Fab Fifties Life it’s time for me to do a little housekeeping with the blog. I plan to do that in the days ahead leading up to New Years.

    Please don’t forget about us while I do this work.  I’ll be back soon.  You can keep up with our adventures in the meantime through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. The links to all of these are on the top of this page.

    In the meantime – be mindful and present this holiday season wherever you are and whoever you are with. Be thankful and joyful for your one fabulous life. I am.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    Love Laureen

    PS Our travel schedule for the first half of 2018 is; Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Singapore, Guam, Australia, Bali&Lombok, Cross Pacific Cruise and USA.

    Everything Else Fabulous

    One Year of Travel

    The Grand Adventure Abroad

    One full year.  On the move.  Out of the USA.  Living the Grand Adventure.

    Yes it’s already been a year.  So very much has happened. So many miles we’ve traveled.  And I am not the same.

    Thailand

    58,000 Miles

    Living outside of the United States as an American creates such an amazing opportunity to really understand privilege and gluttony and consumerism.  These words I use not only because I am guilty of these things but it is how much of the rest of the world sees Americans. Not flattering.

    Cambodia

    What is a surprise is when we are able to spend quality time with someone we meet in our travels and change their view of the average American.  This means more to me than most anything else over the past year.

    My eyes have been opened, looking back to the USA and my friends there, I now clearly see two kinds of people – those who embrace this image of Americans and cultivate it greedily, happily and knowingly, and those who acknowledge it but want to change it.

    To each his own.  I know both kinds.  But as for me and my travels, there is only one way to

    Vietnam

    move forward in our travels and that is to do anything and everything to debunk the image.  In my own little way – one human at a time. One country at a time.  This is not what I expected when I started this journey but it is important to me now more than ever.

    23 Countries

    New Zealand

    We get asked the same questions over and over, and always the first question is “what has been your favorite so far?”.  It’s become a little joke.  We keep telling each other we need to come up with an answer to this question.  But we honestly don’t have a favorite.  We have favorite things about every place we have been.  We have things we disliked about many places.  Mostly our favorite thing is the surprises and education we get from staying a long

    Laos

    time in a place and really feeling the culture, the food, the religion, the life of the place.  That by far is our favorite thing.  I’ve changed in my travel goals – loving the days we truly are not tourists, the days we are able to haltingly communicate in someone elses language, the days we blend in.  Not the things I was expecting – but definitely

    New Zealand

    the most meaningful of all our “favorite” things.

    We’ve learned most people are sincerely nice and helpful and interested in telling us about their country.  They are proud and patriotic.  And yet so many countries are oblivious to trash and litter and pollution and it can really be astonishing.  Feral cats and stray dogs another big problem in so many countries – as a visitor you notice these things, all while being acutely aware that many people have very little and live on the street as well.  In some countries people just can’t worry about dogs and

    Portugal

    trash – they are just trying to find their next meal. It would be nice to see governments addressing all these issues.  But, none of these things stop us from visiting these places. It is part of the Grand Adventure.

    I’ve become more aware of the negative impact tourism has on many places and I am uncomfortable contributing to that.  Europe is very different in 2017 than the first time I visited 1988. We are tourists some days, while other days we steer away to less traveled and under the radar destinations.  But in a global world things begin to

    Bulgaria

    feel the same – tchosky souvenirs start to look the same in Bulgaria and Morocco. Locally handcrafted? Not likely.

    We’ve learned to sleep in beds hard and soft and eat every imaginable cuisine.  We’ve learned food is a great introduction to culture and a great conversation starter but also a comfort when we feel a bit homesick.  A good taco makes me happy when I miss our old life.

    6 Mexican Restaurants in 4 countries

    We embrace technology for communicating with our children and parents and for tracking so

    Seychelles

    much of our travel details.  I do miss my kids but speak with them frequently and marvel at their own personal journey each is on.  I think the coming Christmas season I’ll feel their absence the most.

    Speaking of holidays, they go by in a blur.  Other than Christmas last year in Thailand, most places

    Bulgaria

    we have been,holidays have shown little consumerism and celebration.  In the USA we embrace every little holiday from St. Patrick’s Day to Halloween and have our own unique set of holidays that we make a big to do over such as Thanksgiving and Fourth of July.

    19 holidays abroad

    Croatia

    Holiday celebrations in countries we have been in so far focus mostly on family and religion and food and almost not at all on buying things and decorations or gift giving.  I think it used to be this way in America, but our focus is different now.  As for me, I no longer want the gifts to give or receive.  The experiences we are having are the best gift of all.

    Slovenia

    Sometimes a holiday sneaks up on us.  Because we spend much of our time not even knowing what day or month it is.  When it’s 85 degrees in February or 32 degrees in April my brain and body get confused.  Am I above or below the equator?  Is it winter or summer?  What country am I in?  What day is it?  It’s actually a bit scary how often we have to stop and think about these simple questions.

    I’ve learned how little you need in a day-to-day life

    Portugal

    to feel satisfied.  Although I did get pretty tired of the three sets of clothes I wore over and over on the Camino, in general I don’t desire more than what we currently have in our suitcase.  It’s enough.  I have what is comfortable and works for our life. I still have one pair of shoes in the suitcase that I’ve only worn twice in a year – the low black heel.  I keep looking at those thinking I should throw them away.

    Lost luggage once. Found luggage once.

    I’ve learned to live without a clothes dryer and sometimes without a washing machine. No dishwasher, no movies, no American TV.  Don’t miss it. Don’t need it.

    I’ve also changed as far as what I would describe as “beauty ritual”.  Water conservation in most

    Camino

    countries makes me realize I don’t need to shower and wash my hair every day as I used to.  I no longer wear makeup (except on a rare occasion) and my hair is easy and manageable with a washing every few days. And nobody cares.  Really.  One more thing I can let go of for now at least (and I still get so many compliments on the grey).

    3 hair cuts 

    Occasionally I have a nesting urge – when I miss my

    Spain

    house and garden – but it’s rare.  Sometimes I see things I’d like to buy for a future home but I check myself.  Sure the Moroccan rugs are stunning – but, I really don’t know what my next house will look like so I walk away.  Save my money for an experience instead of a thing.

    Our “home” over the past year, and actually over the past 19 months since we closed the door and walked away from our house in Gig Harbor, our home has been wherever we are at the moment.  When people ask where we are from we say the United States, Washington or Seattle, depending on who we are talking to.  And if we meet someone from the Pacific Northwest we say Gig Harbor.  But really none of

    Tunisia

    those places are home.  Where is home?  Right this minute as I write this it’s Morocco.  In a few days it will be Namibia. On Christmas it will be South Africa.  Home is where I am with Arne at this moment.

    27 Airbnb’s 

    63 other lodgings (boats, hotels, apartments, Kiwi Caravan and Albergues includes 41 nights on the Camino)

    I read more than I ever have in my entire life.  I walk more than I ever thought possible. Yoga is a very important part of our lives to keep us going. I challenge myself at almost 58 years old in ways I could never, would never have even considered at 28 or 38.  I see myself in an entirely different way than I did just ten years ago.  I am better, stronger, smarter, happier and more relaxed than at any other time in

    Morocco

    my life.

    This is not a coincidence.  It is entirely by design.

    I want to influence and encourage other people to seek happiness for themselves.  Not my kind of happiness but yours – whatever that is. I ignore those who push negativity towards me – and yes they are out there. Masquerading as “friends” on Facebook while criticizing our life, our message, our politics our choices and our success.  I don’t ask or expect everyone to understand this journey I’m on.  But it’s not about you is it?  It’s about us and it is exactly what we needed and when we needed it.

    Morocco

    62 books read

    20 pounds lost

    2446 miles walked

    And every day of this journey, nearly every minute of it and every mile has been spent with my best friend Arne.  People have asked if we get tired of each other?  Nope.  In fact the opposite.  We find we are the best companions – encouraging and collaborating better now than ever in our entire lives.  It’s both a test and a testament to our relationship and how we have developed it and defined it over the years.  We celebrate our wedding anniversary tomorrow as a matter of fact.  Yes we do, it seems like we have been married forever, and

    Vietnam

    I hope forever is how long we will be together.

    35 years

    And now year two begins.  Can I do this forever?  I doubt it.  Some times it’s exhausting and frustrating.  Those times are infrequent though so I think I can do it for quit a while longer.  So for the next six months we have ten more countries before heading back to the USA for a two and a half month visit.  Then we will finish year two back in Europe and Africa.  We are already toying with ideas for year three.  But it’s a bit too soon.  Let’s not get

    The family last Christmas in Thailand

    ahead of ourselves.  Take it just a few months at a time is best.

    Thank you for sticking with us this past year and continuing to love our blog because the blog is a labor of love for me.  Tomorrow we fly to Namibia for ten days then on to South Africa where we plan to really relax for three weeks as we end 2017. A year for the record books!

    One year. One fabulous year!  Year two here we come!

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Everything Else Fabulous

    Cats of the World

    Chapter Eleven – The Cat Lady

    I did not intend to become the Cat Lady. It just happened. The Cats of the World have intrigued me and now I’m hooked.

    Of course there are dogs.  Remember the dog bite in Thailand?  But cats are much more patient than dogs – aloof As well and therefore easier to

    It all started with this picture in Bulgaria

    photograph.  And so I do.

    It all began by accident, while traveling in Bulgaria.  It was here where I first began to see many feral cats.  Hadn’t seen cats in Asia (opps let’s not talk

    Croatia

    about why…), New Zealand or Seychelles.  But there they were in Bulgaria sleeping in the sun, rubbing against my leg, strutting down the street.

    The first cat

    Slovenia

    photo I posted on Instagram was a surprising hit with my followers.  So then there was another post, and another and next thing I knew I was stopping to take photos of cats around the world;Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Portugal, Spain and the Camino, Tunisia and now here in Morocco.

    Portugal

    I’m hooked.  But, it’s also sad.  We don’t see the stray dog population like we saw in Thailand and Vietnam (although Thailand was so much worse than Vietnam).  Where are the dogs?  Are they using spay

    Spain

    and neuter practices for dogs and not cats?  We do see some dogs, but the cats outnumber the dogs easily 50 to one.

    Some of the cats look cared for, but many do not.  In fact, clearly some are ill and won’t make it.  The smallest babies seem to be fending for

    Camino

    themselves.

    And so I have become a cat whisperer.  A little kindness and love to the creatures of the world.

    Morocco

    Cats of the world – what will the next countries bring?