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Five Days

    Africa Travel  --  Everything Else Fabulous

    That’s a Wrap Mauritius

    Long term stay on Mauritius

    Location: Mauritius Island, Indian Ocean, Africa

    The Great Mauritius Experiment comes to an end, a long term stay on Mauritius. That’s a wrap Mauritius.

    Six weeks staying in one place. In one Airbnb. On one island. The longest we have stayed anywhere. Here is what we learned;

    Me: I didn’t feel island fever -the malady of feeling trapped – but I did feel a loss of purpose. I’m not sure how to explain it but six weeks of doing a lot of nothing was too much for me. Some things about a long term stay on Mauritius I loved; I loved unpacking and sleeping in the same bed and feeling at home…and yet…

    North Beach Mauritius

    When I am at home (in the USA I mean), for three or more months during each year I have tasks. Things that need to be accomplished. And although we might often complain about these things, feeling that sense of accomplishment is a good feeling for me.

    While on Mauritius for six weeks I set goals and created tasks to keep myself feeling accomplished. Even if it was laundry, meal planning, writing the blog, hiking, running or researching our next destinations. This provides me some sense of purpose.

    Sunset Flic en Flac Mauritius

    Don’t get me wrong…I had definite enjoyable days of doing nothing. Even though I can’t spend hours and hours in the sun like I used to, the six weeks here included a lot of relaxing, reading and quiet time. But for me, it was too long.

    My husband: He is much less in need of a sense of purpose. In fact, his life goal is no tasks. I’m not saying he is lazy. Far from it. But he prefers a life without a lot of deadlines or pressure. He was and is the driving force behind us moving forward with a travel lifestyle (although most people believe it was me) and continues to enjoy this quiet life without drama that is inevitable back in the USA.

    Sunrise Flic en Flac Mauritius

    You might also be surprised to learn that it is he who loves the heat. He can spend the entire day reading on a lounge chair in the sun. So a long term stay on Mauritius fit him perfectly.

    Me: Moving forward in our planning I think I would want to stay three or maybe four weeks in a place but not longer. We stayed three weeks in Kenya and it was perfect. We stayed three weeks in Antiparos Greece and it was incredible. Much longer I just get ants in my pants. That said, once we leave here we are on a rollercoaster of movement for more than a month (8 countries) and I know when we stop to take a two-week breather in Cyprus we will be ready, tired and irritable. Finding a balance between these two kinds of travel is my goal.

    Gris Gris Beach South Mauritius

    My husband: He would prefer staying in one place for even longer than six weeks. Schlepping the bags is a pain. Driving is a pain. Changing lodging is a pain. Airports and airplanes are a pain. But, he doesn’t want to be back in the USA for extended periods either. The fact we are going to spend the Christmas holidays in the USA in 2020 is all my doing…he would rather not. He doesn’t like the weather, he doesn’t like the chores associated with the holidays (or the house), he doesn’t like the drama and he definitely doesn’t like how much it costs.

    And so we plunge ahead. We have no plans to stop this travel life. It’s been good for our marriage. It’s been good for our health (physical and mental). It’s been good for our finances. We just continue to refine it as we go along…it’s a constant learning process.

    Ile aux Aigrettes Mauritius

    So where to next? We depart Mauritius February 15th and begin country hopping through six African countries. Two quick days in Johannesburg, six days in the Victoria Falls triangle (Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana) five days in Uganda (Gorilla tour), seven days in Rwanda.

    A rough picture of the next five weeks.

    In early March we say farewell for now to the African continent after two and a half months and head to Israel for 16 days (but in 6 different lodgings) before taking a breather in Cyprus in the end of March. In Cyprus we spend the majority of our time in one Airbnb so it should be relaxing and we will be ready.

    I won’t bore you with the details from there, but I will say there is a lot of countries to come as we move north into Europe as spring and summer arrive, culminating in France for a late June wedding and heading back to the USA June 30th.

    And I’m already planning 2021, using all the knowledge we have acquired in our travels so far. What a fabulous life indeed.

    That’s a wrap Mauritius. Thanks for following along. Read last week’s blog about the wonderful foods on this island.

    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.

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    Central America  --  Inspire

    Lessons on the Road

    Lodging Failure and Being Flexible

    Location: Belize

    Lessons on the Road. It doesn’t happen often. And in fact, in our nearly three years of full-time travel this is the first time we’ve had a total lodging failure.

    But it happened and we know the importance of flexibility.  Flexibility in My Fab fifties Life. Lessons on the road.

    Lonely Planet rated them well.  And my Central America Lonely Planet Book is current.  They had what appeared to be an up to date website, although I should have had some suspicion when the online booking didn’t work.

    I emailed them months ago and made a “reservation”.  I confirmed via email a few weeks ago.  But when we arrived it seemed no one was expecting us.  The resort seemed abandoned.  And the house we had “booked” appeared to have not been lived in or cleaned for a very long time.

    I tried to “grin and bear it” for the sake of our two sons who are traveling with us. But when we found the dead rodent I said we were leaving.

    And so we spent one restless night and I couldn’t wait to get out of there at first light. We left money on the counter for one night and sent an email explaining how filthy the house was. And even now, five days later, there has been no response.

    Such a weird experience.  Another travel memory to go down in the book.  We learn.  We have adventures.  Nearly 100% of the time it works out.  But this place was an epic failure. A total breakdown of communication.  A filthy dirty mess.

    And so we moved on.  Lessons on the road.

     

     

    Adventure Travel  --  South America Travel

    Let’s Bungle in the Amazon Jungle

    A Brazilian Dream Come True

    Location: Amazon Jungle Brazil

    It’s  a gigantic place. Huge. Impossible to see it all. But the tiny piece of the Amazon Jungle we experienced was a privilege that will stay with us forever.

    Numbers

    First let’s talk numbers in the Amazon Jungle; 5.5 million square kilometers (2.1 million square miles); one fifth of the freshwater flowing into the Earth’s oceans comes from the Amazon River; there are more than 40,000 different kinds of trees and plants; 2.5 millions kinds of insects; 3000 freshwater fish; 427 mammals; 378 reptiles; 400 amphibians; and 1300 kinds of birds. It is the greatest biodiversity area on the earth.

    Multiple rivers feed the jungle emptying eventually into the giant Amazon, which can be as wide as 20 miles in some places. The Amazon is the greatest river of South America and the largest drainage system in the world in terms of the volume of its flow and the area of basin. The total length of the river from the headwaters in southern Peru, is at least 4,000 miles (6,400 km), which makes it slightly shorter than the Nile River but still the equivalent of the distance from New York City to Rome (source Britannica.com)

    Amazon Jungle

    So many birds

    The Amazon Jungle Basin can average rainfall of approximately 2300 mm (7.5 feet). In some areas of the northwest portion of the Amazon basin, yearly rainfall can exceed 6000 mm (almost 20′), often flooding the civilizations that make Amazonia their home. In 2012 the highest flood level ever recorded in Manaus reached 29.97 meters (93 feet).

    Mosquitos

    Amazon Jungle

    Golden Hawk

    A word about mosquitos.  We were prepared to take malaria meds the entire time we were in the Amazon Jungle.  We began our meds the day before arrival and immediately I suffered from stomach upset.  When we arrived at Manati Lodge we learned that this particular area of Amazonia on the Rio Negro is generally mosquito free.  Due to the decomposing material from flora (which also gives the river a coffee color thus the name) the Rio Negro is naturally acidic, with ph ranging 2.4 – 4.9,  thus preventing mosquito larvae from developing.  Although some people still may want to take the malaria meds, I chose to stop taking them as soon as I learned this information – and me and my tummy were both grateful.  Each person should make their own decision and consult with their doctor.  I did receive a handful of bug bites – unknown to me from what kind of bugs.  They have healed quickly.

    The People

    Amazon Jungle

    Colorful Chief

    Today at least 400 indigenous tribes live in the jungle, much as they have for millennia.  The Brazilian government works to protect the rights and traditions of these tribes, all while also trying to help them find diverse ways to earn and survive.  Additionally a handful of tribes still live untouched from any interference by the civilized world and they wish to remain so.

    Manati Lodge

    Amazon Jungle

    Manati Lodge

    For our visit to this fascinating place we chose to spend five days at the Manati Lodge, a simple but comfortable and very well run small lodge about two hours from the city of Manaus.

    Amazon Jungle

    Manati Lodge

    Manaus (population 1.8 million) is the major city of the state of Amazonas, and the jumping-off point for most visitors to the Amazon. From here you can begin your journey to multiple lodges and resorts inside the protected area. A variety of styles and price ranges are available for lodging. For us Manati was just what we needed. All inclusive (transport, comfortable room, all meals and all tours) for two people for five days cost $1100. We spent an additional $20 on alcohol (we did not drink very much by choice)  and $75 on gratuity. For what we got, an absolute bargain.

    Manati has 6 rooms that can sleep four each. During our five days, guests on two, three and five-day tours revolved  in and out.  We met a nice variety of world travelers from Brazil, Canada, England, Italy, France, Croatia and the USA.

    Our Guide

    Amazon Jungle

    Isaac, right, shows me how to weave

    Our guide Isaac was wonderfully full of enthusiasm, stories and wisdom about his native region. Some days we had Isaac all to ourselves and other days we shared him with other guests.

    Amazon Jungle

    New Years Eve

    Isaac made sure we saw and did so much. We began with a serene and beautiful tour by boat to enjoy the jungle from the water. There is green, and then there is Amazon jungle green – an indescribable range of hues I never knew existed on the planet. Throw in the remarkable rainbow and it was such a pleasant way to start our adventure.

    A special celebration on our first night for New Year’s Eve was totally unexpected and so wonderful. The staff decorated with palms and flowers we ate and toasted with sangria and champagne and even had midnight fireworks. Not at all what I expected in the middle of the jungle. It was wonderful.

    So much to see

    Amazon Jungle

    Piranha catch

    Over the next four days we had a huge variety of experiences, but also plenty of downtime to relax and read. I had neither WiFi or cell service over the five days which turned out to be a blessing – giving me a news and social media break I didn’t even realize I desperately needed.

    Surprise Encounters

    Amazon Jungle

    Sloth trying to hide

    A visit to a local village provided us our first spotting of a sloth in the wild – a lifelong dream for me.  Going piranha fishing had never been on my lifelong dream list but it turned out to be very entertaining and fun.

    Medicine

    Amazon Jungle

    Jungle hike

    I really enjoyed our three-hour jungle walk, where we were introduced to a fascinating variety of flora, including dozens of plants that are used in medicines we know and use regularly from Vick’s Vapor Rub to Milk of Magnesia. We saw wild acai, Brazil nuts, palms used for roofs, plants the indigenous people used for poison and hunting and other plants used for survival in the Amazon jungle.  And some in our group even ate butterfly larvae.  I declined the offer.

    Animals

    Later that same day, under thankfully sunny skies we swam with the famous Amazon pink dolphins.  The government allows the dolphins to be fed four days a week, this is how the tourists get to see them.  The rest of the time they are left alone so they do not grow overly dependent on humans.  They are not in a pen.  They swim freely and come to the platform when fish is available. They were large and incredibly strong, but also gentle.  They enjoy being petted.  And they smile.

    Amazon Jungle

    Pink dolphin

    I swam with dolphins once before, in Zanzibar.  But this was different.  In Zanzibar we did not touch them.  I enjoyed both experiences for different reasons. The dolphin skin is soft like a baby.  Their eyes are so tiny.  Also known as botos, they are born grey and become pinker with age. As they mature its skin becomes more translucent allowing the blood to show through. When excited, they will flush to a bright pink , like your face might when you get embarrassed or excited.

    After saying farewell to our new dolphin friends we took a beautiful boat ride to another part of the river.  We parked the boat on the river’s edge and watched as dozens of inquisitive little squirrel monkeys cautiously approached and then, when realizing we had bananas, jumped right on board.

    I’ve seen monkeys big and small all over the world, and generally am not a fan.  They can be mean and smelly.  But the Amazon Jungle squirrel monkey was by far the cutest and sweetest I have met.

    Amazon Jungle

    Squirrel mo key

    We ended this amazing day with a sunset swim in the warm Rio Negro before returning to Manati.

    The next morning we woke at 5am to clear skies so we groggily (before coffee!) headed out to watch the sunrise. It was beautiful and worth getting up for.

    Plants

    Amazon Jungle

    Water is life

    Amazon Jungle

    Sunset swim

    After breakfast we visited a local family home where we learned more about plants used for medicine in the jungle.  We also learned all about the staple native food of manioc, a tuber that is the source of tapioca as well as numerous other products.  Manioc is part of the daily diet not only of the indigenous people but nearly everyone in Brazil.

    Snake

    Amazon Jungle

    One big snake

    We ended this day with a visit to another local home.  Here an anaconda that was  accidentally caught in a fishing net is being nursed before being released back into the wild Amazon jungle.  Those who wanted to were allowed to hold the beast.  It was about eight feet long.  Damp.  And strong.  Another once in a lifetime experience.  I think once is enough.

    Indigenous Tribe

    Our final day dawned stormy so our hour-long boat ride to visit an indigenous village was down right painful as we crossed the giant Rio Negro in a healthy wind and serious chop.  But I’m glad we did.

    Amazon Jungle

    The tribe we visited

    The village of the Dessana people accepts visitors as a way to earn money and to share their culture.  Originally found in their ancestral home 600 miles (965km) away in the dense remote jungle of northwestern Brazil, they came to the Tupe region for a better life to fish and farm. Dessana began benefiting from tourist who were curious to see their ancient traditions (source theCultureTrip.com.)

    The Chief explained in detail (through an interpreter) many of their rituals about boys initiation to manhood, marriage, leadership, food, hunting and celebrations.

    Amazon Jungle

    Dancing with the Chief

    The Chief and about twenty-five people from the tribe including men, women and children then  performed for us several ritual dances and songs with handmade instruments.  We then were invited to dance with them.  The Chief took my hand and he was amazingly strong as he led (well, dragged) me alongside him as I tried to follow the intricate steps of the dance.  Arne was also dancing, although I was too busy to see him trying.  Luckily Isaac snapped a few photos.

    Amazon Jungle

    Arne dancing too

    Before leaving we purchased a few handmade items from the tribe and thanked them for sharing.  It was a great way to end our amazing Amazon visit.

    Farewell

    Amazon Jungle

    One of my fav photos

    After lunch we headed back to Manaus and civilization, forever changed by the experience.  Just one more remarkable memory and a spectacular way to begin 2019.

    Fabulous! 

     

    South America Travel

    Ancient Mysterious Easter Island

    Location: Easter Island

    Ancient Mysterious Easter Island.  Worth the effort it takes to get here.

    Everything about Rapa Nui was stunning, but like most visitors I had my favorites. And like most visitors my two favorite sites were the Ranu Raraku quarry site and the Ahu Tongariki.   Upon laying your eyes on these two sites for the first time you conjure a list of adjectives; breathtaking, fascinating, interesting, surprising, remarkable. At one point I had to just stop and breathe deep – and remind myself how

    The Quarry Site

    The Quarry Site

    remarkable it all was, and how remarkable it was that I was standing there.

    A lifelong dream – It did not disappoint.

    In all the years I had seen pictures of Easter Island, it was the photos of the scattered moai of the Ranu Raraku quarry that struck me most. I honestly didn’t understand the significance of the quarry site until I was standing there. Up until that point I thought the moai I had seen photos of were placed at this site for a reason. Not the case.

    All the moai at this site, nearly 400 statues, were in some stage of carving. It was the moai factory and it’s clearly evident there was significant work going on in the “tuff” – the volcanic stone found on this IMG_8557mountain. Today as we stand among the discarded statues in various stages of completeness the question that goes through your mind is why? What happened for the moai carving at the quarry to end so abruptly? Why are these hundreds of unfinished statues here? Where were they meant to eventually go? Including the largest moai  carved out of this mountain, the 69 foot tall giant that sits abandoned in his bed of stone.

    A lifelong dream – So many new questions.

    Walking among the stone statues you see the carved faces standing at different angles. Some were already on the move. Others toppled face down. Others still attached to the mountain, never given the opportunityfor the carver to finish the job. Fascinating.

    The largest moai ever found - 69 feet

    The largest moai ever found – 69 feet

    Archeologists believe all tribes shared this quarry and that each moai could take up to 2 years to carve. A master carver would work with a crew, perhaps family members of the person the moai was memorializing.

    All statues were carved face up, with the carver doing the facial features of the moai before finally chipping it away and releasing it from the mountain. The moai would then be slid down the mountain before being lowered over a ledge and tilted up right. At this point final details on the back of the moai would be completed before the statue would begin the “walk” to its destination. If the moai toppled, either in the quarry or along the route, the “mana” would be released and it would be abandoned – the family would need to begin the process all

    Seeing the quarry as you approach from the road

    Seeing the quarry as you approach from the road

    over.

     

    One of the most interesting facts we learned from our host and guide Paul (http://www.tekarera.com/accommo.htm) was that these statues, which seem to just be heads, all have full bodies under ground. Over the hundreds of years the moai have stood at attention waiting patiently, the soil has eroded and moved and covered their lower bodies, nearly up to their necks. Archaeologists think it is better to keep them buried to preserve them longer from the harsh elements of the island.

    Walking near the highest point of the quarry you survey the scene below; scattered moais all about; the ocean in the near distance; and then you see it – Ahu Tongariki and your breath catches. From on top the quarry, Ahu

    The view of Tongariki from high up on the quarry site

    The view of Tongariki from high up on the quarry site

    Tongariki looks like chess pieces for a giant’s chess game, in the valley below.

    A lifelong dream – A surreal image.

    Ahu Tongariki is the largest ahu that has been restored on the island, and one of the most recent, being completed in 1996. The massiveness of this site is mind-boggling. Clearly a powerful family history memorialized  in these 15 restored moai and the surrounding unrestored statues, petroglyphs and site. Ahu Tongariki is the largest ceremonial altar anywhere in Polynesia.

    A lifelong dream – We visited this site three different times during our time on Rapa Nui.

    It’s unknown when the moai of Ahu Tongariki were first toppled, but it is known that a massive 9.5

    The entrance to Tongariki

    The entrance to Tongariki

    earthquake in 1960 in Chile resulted in a tsunami wave as high as 11 meters that engulfed this side of the island and carried the moai that were laying face down, even further inland. When restoration began in 1992 (incredibly funded by the Japanese government and a private Japanese businessman but conducted by the University of Chile and Archaeologist Claudio Cristino) the moai were in bad shape.

    Today, looking at this beautiful exhibit of historic significance nestled in this incredibly gorgeous setting; it’s hard to imagine what it must have looked like back then. The 2 million dollar restoration has created one of the most iconic sites I have ever seen.

    During our week on Easter Island watching the sunrise at Tongariki was a highlight. Well worth the vacation alarm clock. A once in a lifetime view.

    Sunrise at Tongariki

    Sunrise at Tongariki

     

    A lifelong dream – Everyone should try to see it.

    I know not everyone has the means or even the desire to travel to Easter Island. But if you do I recommend staying at least five days. We were there six days and wished we had a couple more days to do more hiking. You want to see the sites on “island time”, and slow down and enjoy the laid back Rapanui lifestyle. I can’t imagine visiting for only 6 hours as part of a cruise ship – it just would not be worth it. Stay for a week, visit our friend Paul at Tekarera Hotel, and slow down to Rapa Nui pace.

    A lifelong dream.

     

     

     

    Asia Travel

    When the Dog Bites

    Location: Thailand

    Note – Hi Everyone!  We are still on a blog sabbatical as we work on some upgrades and cleanup of My Fab Fifties Life.  In the meantime, here is a repost of a blog I posted a year ago today from Thailand.  That was a memorable day to be sure! We will be back with some fun, new, fresh blogs real soon!  Happy New Year!

     

    Well as I’ve said before, Mama said there will be days like this.

    We had an excellent Christmas Day here on the island of Samui, Thailand.  Very relaxing and lovely.

    Today, December 26th, we vowed to get up and run, since we had taken the last five days off from running.  We headed down the hill to a flat area near the beach.  I told Arne I wanted him to stay with me until we passed a house where three dogs had growled at us the other day.

    So as we walked down the hill, we passed another house with three dogs, one very nasty and viscous  looking, but all behind a tall secure fence.

    About 20 yards past the house, suddenly we heard a noise and turned to see all three dogs flying down the hill, the vicious one in the lead teeth barred.  Someone had opened the gate and released them and immediately they came after us. In clear attack mode.

    At the hospital emergency room for the first in a series of shots

    The mean one took a bite. Leaving a broken wound on my husbands thigh.

    The dogs retreated and we stood there in shock and shaken.  My husband was not gravely injured, but the only way back to our apartment was to walk past that house again.

    We both got a big stick.

    As we approached the house the three dogs were back behind the gate.  We hollered and yelled trying to get someone’s attention but no one came.  We walked back to our apartment and immediately went to find the proprietors of our Airbnb.

    Of course they were horrified. They told us there had been some problems with these dogs in the past.  They walked with us down to speak to the owners.  The conversation, which was in Thai, seemed to lean towards the fact that we shouldn’t worry because they had vaccination records for the dog.

    That didn’t cut it for me.

    I asked for an explanation as to why they let the dog out right as we walked by? The answer was the dogs needed to poo.

    That didn’t cut it for me.

    They offered to pay for the doctor.  Duh.

    Our Airbnb owner told us where to go for the doctor so we headed out.  After three tries we ended up at the Koh Samui hospital emergency room where Arne was treated by beginning a series of both rabies and tetanus shots that will take place several times over the next month.  At a total cost to us of around $150.  I expect the dog owner to reimburse us.  Time will tell.

    Additionally our Airbnb owner wants to go with us to the Tourism Police to help us file a report. This will start a process against the dog and the owner.

    We will go there tomorrow.

    Here is my philosophy on this – Dogs shouldn’t bite. Plain and simple. I don’t care what country it is. I am as much of a dog lover as the next guy, but owners need to be responsible to train and monitor their animals.  And there are no second chances.

    Here in Thailand elephants and monkeys are regularly trained and used for both work and entertainment.  I know many people feel strongly against such uses of animals. You won’t see me riding an elephant for tourism purposes, but  I am also not going to condemn something that is a centuries old practice in a country where I am only a visitor. That doesn’t mean I will participate or support the practice.

    But when it comes to dogs that bite, in a neighborhood with pedestrians, children, scooters, cyclist – I draw the line.  Even as a visitor from another country. There is no room for error and no second chances. This dog must to go.