It’s already late March. Where does the time go? The grand adventure has been underway for 16 months now and the flights and airports all blur together in my head. But there are a few memorable ones, for both good and bad reasons, so we thought it was time to write about the Best and Worst Airports of the World – according to My Fab Fifties Life.
Seattle on the day we left the USA
My favorite airport used to be Schiphol in Amsterdam. And I still love it. It’s like a small city and can keep you entertained for days (hopefully you don’t spend days there). On our world tour we have encountered some similar airports, mainly the hub airports that are so spectacular in Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Qatar. In these beautifully designed airports you can enjoy
fantastic works of art, delicious dining, designer and convenience shopping as well as usually a fine hotel. You can also find spas and salons, quiet zones, kids zones, smoking zones, charging zones and sleeping zones and often showers.
Almost all the comforts of home.
The Dubai Airport, a giant megatropolis is about to be closed because another even bigger one is
Coming in to Praslin
slated to open very soon. From a distance it looks like something from the future. Huge, artistic and from another world. When finished it will be largest airport in the world. Can’t wait to see it. I was told they will just tear down the other one…weird.
We have had some good experiences in some small airports too. Cape Town, South Africa was the quickest and easiest airport we ever went through. Dhaka, Bangladesh, though rundown and old, was one of the friendliest airports with helpful police who escorted us around the passport control so we could get some local currency to pay for our visa on entry.
Sunrise flight out of Perth
Small airports have a big advantage in that you can be off the plane and in your taxi in 15 or 20 minutes. No long lines, no walking miles to get to baggage claim. Arrival in Alice Springs and Cairns Australia was so quick. Maldives airport was beautiful and easy to maneuver. The teeny Praslin Island airport in the Seychelles was more like a bus station. Off the plane and on our way. Just botta bing botta bang and you are out the door. Nice.
Boarding in Marrakesh
In Koh Samui Thailand the tiny airport had a beautiful area for waiting for departure and it included free popcorn, chips, coffee and juice. I’ve never seen that anywhere else. However the approach by car to Koh Samui was poor – winding in a van through one lane residential streets weaving in and out of kids and dogs and bikes. Yikes.
In Praslin Seychelles there are so few flights a day there is a traffic light to hold traffic when a plane is landing. The plane’s approach is over the road. But usually it doesn’t matter. There is very little car traffic either.
Many smaller and medium size airports look very much the same. It’s difficult to distinguish
On board we always try to have aisle seats across from each other
between them. Dubrovnik, Madrid, Santiago, Cape Town – all the same.
We landed in Guam at 3:40 in the morning. In a daze we maneuvered to the car rental area, happy to find them open and waiting for us. Hallelujah!
Less impressive experiences were in Manila, where the waiting area on the concourse was so tiny and crowded we had to sit on the floor. There was no ATM machine and the unimpressive food kiosks only took local currency. In Casablanca, the airport was fine but the baggage handling with Air Maroc was the worst. Our bags on our short flight from Marrakesh disappeared and no one could find them. When they were found, it was because I went and searched every luggage carousel in the airport and found them myself.
Passport control was horrible in Tunisia and Siem Reap, Cambodia where we stood in line for more than hour for no reason other than one passport control guy wanting to be an ass and seem important.
In Sofia Bulgaria, the small but new and nice
On the tarmac
airport was marred by the unfriendly and unhelpful tourist information desk and the fact that there was not a single ATM at the airport.
In Ho Chi Minh City the airport was okay but it was the dishonest taxi driver who put a bad taste in our mouth. Trying to trick us and drive us in circles and tell us a 100 bill was a 10.
On departing Delhi India the service at the check in counter was so slow that even though we allowed three hours we barely made our flight. And we went through security intending to find a cash
machine on the concourse only to be told ATM’s were only in the check-in area. What?
Our beautiful hotel in the Singapore airport
Sometimes when we have really long-haul flights we will break the up with overnight (and sometimes a day) at an airport hotel. SInce we aren’t pressed for time we find this a great way to avoid jet-lag. We have done this in Dubai, Qatar, Bangkok and Singapore.
We only have a few flights left before we board a cruise ship for our final leg back to the USA. We have learned a lot – how to pack and plan, prepare and endure all these flights. We’ve also learned to just relax because most of the time it’s all out of our hands.
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…
Hoi An Vietnam
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
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
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
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
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.
Best Airbnb for Service – Asilah Morocco
We adored our “mom” Latifah during our ten days
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.
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/
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 Hotel – Luang Prabang Laos
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.
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.
I’ll never forget the dinner we had at Cervejaria Ramiro with our son Erik and his friend
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
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
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
Seeing these two places will stay with me all my life – when you think about opening your mind to understand cultural
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
Even though the food was bad, the experience is now branded on my soul. It changed me and I loved it.
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
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
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
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.
The colors and the light of the desert at dusk, the animals, the other guest from around the
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!
Hottest – Seychelle’s and Honorable Mention Doha, Qatar
We saw some rain in the Seychelles but it was never
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
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
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
I hope forever is how long we will be together.
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!
For the past month here in Bulgaria I have become very cognizant of everything that goes into my mouth. I have been cutting back on so many things, including alcohol, as we step up our preparedness for our 500 mile Camino de Santiago hike.
Nine weeks till lift off.
We are training for this hike pretty much everyday with our 8-15 mile hikes 3-4 times a week, my 4 mile run 3 times a week as well as yoga daily.
But I knew I needed to do more so I’ve upped the protein and veg and reduced the carbs and sugar (all easier to do in Bulgaria than in the Seychelles) and drastically cut back on the alcohol.
Haven’t had a G&T since leaving the Seychelles. And in this heat that isn’t easy. We have had a little beer and some wine but only when we dine out.
Hiking several times a week.
Clearly this reduces calories and also saves money. But mostly I am striving to be in my best possible condition nine weeks from now – both body and soul. Because the most important thing is to avoid injury or sickness on the trail. So starting out healthy is key. And being mentally and emotionally ready for the journey is important too.
Although I am not a particularly religious person, I’m excited for the spiritual journey that is the Camino de Santiago. I read a lot about pilgrims on the Camino and everyone’s experience is different. For me spirituality is staying present and grateful all while opening myself to new and sometimes a bit frightening experiences. I can do it .
We purchased some scallop shells the other day to
Urban hiking in Old Town Sozopol
hang from our packs marking us as pilgrims. This is tradition and says “Buen Camino” to others. We expect to meet and greet a lot of pilgrims. This too will be a new exercise for us, as we spend the majority of our days right now only with each other. The Camino is a community in which we will participate for five or six weeks.
This too will take practice in the weeks ahead.
Camino ready! Focused now and preparing for the challenge. Fab and Fearless.
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