Have you turned on your tap today and had a quick drink of pure delicious water? Do you spend your days thinking about clean water and the issue of single use plastic?
I can count on both hands how many countries and regions we have visited where we can safely drink the tap water; New Zealand, Japan, most of Western Europe, most of the USA, Canada, Scandinavia.
Even here in Mauritius, a fairly progressive and well run welfare state country, visitors are advised not to drink unfiltered tap water. Even though the locals drink it, a visitor will likely have issues due to microorganisms that could cause diarrhea if you don’t have a tolerance built up.
Water borne illnesses can cause a lot of trouble for travelers, including some serious and potentially fatal diseases. Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Cholera, Giardias are some of the serious diseases that are transferred to humans through water. So thinking about clean water and the issue of single use plastic is something that occupies my mind a great deal.
Unfortunately you should avoid tap water in all of Africa, South America, most of Asia and Eastern Europe, according to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC).
We always research this issue before arrival and then on arrival reiterate the question of tap water with locals we can trust. Even if the question of water purity is a bit on the fence, we always side with safety first. We have both experienced the results of extreme dehydration and diarrhea and that’s not fun for anybody.
And so what to do? Here in Mauritius like so many other countries, there is but one answer – bottled water.
As a full-time traveler who REALLY wants to make less of an environmental impact and leave as small of a footprint as possible, the issue of water confounds me.
We have yet to purchase and carry a filtration system with us, but I think we will be doing that soon, because we are really conflicted about the single-use plastic. We have two reusable water bottles that we fill frequently with filtered water, but it still calls for us to use plastic bottles way more often than I am comfortable with.
Here in Mauritius we are purchasing large plastic bottles of water at the grocery store and using it for washing all our fruits and vegetables, making coffee, drinking and brushing our teeth. The good news here on Mauritius is they have a well organized system for plastic bottle recycling. Strategically placed (and loyally used by locals and visitors alike) plastic bottle recycling stations are found around the island. We have seen very little trash here. As a side note they also have a glass bottle deposit system.
We have been really excited to find some countries recently making a huge effort in this area. For instance in Antigua Guatemala the city has instigated a system of clay filtered water stations throughout the city. Free for public use. We also had a clay system filter in our Antigua Airbnb.
Our hotel on Inle Lake (Myanmar Treasure Resort) installed a water refill station for guests while we were staying there. As soon as that was installed we began using it several times a day, even though housekeeping continued to stock our room with single-use plastic water bottles.
Our Airbnb in Cenang Beach Langkawi Malaysia had a wonderful filtration system hooked up to the tap in the kitchen. All water was run through the filtrataion system and we did not need to purchase any bottled water during our month there.
In Hua Hin Thailand you could purchase a large five gallon jug of water, then refill it over and over again at a station on the sidewalk near the store for about .25 cents (USD).
Yet in other places beaches are littered with plastic (Thailand, Vietnam) and children play in piles of plastic trash (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia), and locals burn plastic along side the road (Kenya).
I’ve been doing a lot of research on water filtration options for travelers, and I think I am leaning towards the Steripen, although there are many versions available. We will be adding this to our collection of things we don’t leave home with soon…and I regret we haven’t done so yet. Here is a blog with great information about this.
Meanwhile, more than half the world doesn’t have good, clean drinking water, while others never think twice about the availability of safe and abundant water to quench our thirst and go about our daily tasks.
It’s one of a copious number of things our planet is lacking for the health and welfare of the people of the world.
Do you use a travel water filter? I’d love to hear your comments about what you like and why.
A week or so before we arrived in Langkawi we met a young women who was concerned when we told her we would be on the island of Langkawi in Malaysia for 26 days. She felt we didn’t understand how little there is to do here.
We laughed about it later. Our favorite places in the world are the places with little to do. We particularly enjoy island-time and take it whenever we can get it. And our time here languishing on Langkawi has served us well both physically and mentally.
Although we spent many days doing pretty close to nothing, we also have enjoyed several busy and active days around the island. And after getting to know this small (25 miles long and 12 miles wide) island just off the coast of Malaysia and Thailand, I would argue that there is indeed plenty to do here.
Most people come here for three or four days. Maybe a week. When we told the young man on the beach who peddles the beach chairs we would be here for more than three weeks he was amazed. He said it was unusual. We have also noticed our age bracket here is unusual. Langkawi seems to be an itinerary of the young-backpacker and honeymooners …with a handful of people in their forties and fifties. We haven’t met any other Americans but it seems popular with the Chinese, Koreans, Indians, Malaysians, Germans and Australians.
Our languishing on Langkawi days have often been spent at Pantai Cenang, Langkawi’s most popular beach. It’s a two-minute walk to Cenang (pronounced ‘Chenang’) from our Airbnb and we can rent two chairs for the entire day for $5. The water is ridiculously warm and Cenang is the best place to watch the sunset. Although we did none of these things, it’s very popular (and seems relatively cheap) to go parasailing, rent jet-skis, ride on a banana boat, go island hopping or take a mangrove tour.
Cenang has lots of hotels, restaurants and shopping. We enjoyed fantastic meals at Happy Happy Chinese Seafood and The Cliff Restaurant but probably my favorite meal was at Yasmine Syrian Restaurant. We also enjoyed several small sidewalk food stalls especially the Lebanese Shawarma Kebab sidewalk cafe and the Warung Cafe for breakfast.
We rented a car on three separate days over our 26 day stay, when we felt ready to get out and see more of the island. The rental car cost us $20 a day while gas runs about $2 a gallon. There really isn’t much public transportation but we found Grab (Uber) to be very efficient and super cheap.
The first day in the rental car we went to the Langkawi Cable Car and rode to the top for spectacular views. It’s relatively expensive by Malaysia standards ($20 pp) but worth it. From the top you can pay an extra $4 pp to walk out on the Sky Bridge. It was foggy when we were there but still a spectacular thing to do. Next we hiked the Seven Wells Waterfall. Free but ouch. It was 600 steps up and boy did I feel that in the morning. But it was worth it. Really beautiful. The waterfall has beautiful pools you can enjoy as part of your languishing in Langkawi efforts. We did not do the Umgawa Zipline, but it seems popular at around $100 pp.
Our second day in the car we drove to Temuran Waterfall in the northwest corner of the island. This is Langkawi’s highest waterfall and it was really spectacular. It’s much easier to access (200 steps) and also has a lovely pool at the base of the falls to cool off once you arrive.
Next we stopped to take a peek at the small but beautiful Pantai Tengorak Beach, but because there was a school field trip there we decided to move on. We enjoyed a spectacular fish-and-chips lunch with view at Scarborough Fish and Chips before heading next door to a much bigger and very beautiful beach called Pantai Tanjung Rhu. We spent several hours here. The water like a bathtub.
Back in Cenang we enjoyed one evening at the Aseania Resort where twice a week they offer a “Cultural Show and BBQ”. Think Luau. Similar to many such shows we have done around the world (New Zealand, Australia, Easter Island, Spain, Portugal, Hawaii), even though it is touristy it’s always fun, informative and delicious. Even though the sound system could use an upgrade, I was really glad we went. At $15 pp and all you can eat, you can’t beat it.
We spent three separate days enjoying day-passes at two beautiful beach resorts. We walked three miles to Resorts World Langkawi at the tip of the peninsula. For $10 we had access all day to their infinity pool, enjoyed pizza and a drink. Two days we walked one mile to Dash Resort. An all-day pass here was $9 and included a drink. It’s a nice way to take a break from the beach and feel a bit pampered. We liked the pool at Dash the best.
We went to the Thursday-only Langkawi Night Market which is tiny but we grazed our way through and had a full-meal for two for about $7. There is also a nightly food truck area right off the main drag- we weren’t overly impressed with the offerings so we never ate there.
Nearly every morning we did a beach and boardwalk run, taking advantage of the flat and beautiful terrain around Cenang to get back into running shape. I really appreciated having the time to do that.
Speaking of running, while we were on Langkawi the island hosted the Malaysia Ironman. What a spectacle that was! It was very difficult to get around during the event as so many roads were closed so we were only able to enjoy the finish line which was very near to our Airbnb. Super fun and exciting to witness an event like this. This is considered the second most difficult Ironman in the world. We saw the top three, all who beat the the course record despite the unusually warm day. It gave me goosebumps to watch them get their medals. What an accomplishment.
The following week we rented a car again for one more day of exploring. We drove around the southern road of the island to the town of Kuah. It’s a big town with lots of shopping and resorts. Not really something we are interested in but we wanted to see it. We then headed north with the intention of going to the Lucky Temple, a Buddhist Temple that accepts visitors. But we couldn’t find it. So next we headed to the Langkawi Cultural Craft Center. I was wishing I had more room in my suitcase for some of the beautiful baskets. I did purchase a beautiful hand painted Kaftan. We spent some time at the beach before heading back to Kuah to the Wednesday Night Market there.
Sunset in Cenang is pretty amazing. Our favorite places to watch sunset was from the rooftop of the El Toro Mexican Restaurant with a margarita in hand, or from the rooftop Flo Lounge on top of the Nadia Hotel. Our favorite beachside bar was Thirstday or we would bring our own scotch down to the beach for a nightcap.
Speaking of Scotch, the entire island of Langkawi is a Duty Free Zone. I don’t know why but lucky for us. We could buy a case of beer for $15, a liter of gin for $9 and a really nice bottle of Aberlour Scotch for $50. Aberlour 12 year in the USA would sell for about $90.
Strangely though, few restaurants serve alcohol since the majority of the businesses are Muslim owned. But you can find a drink in hotel and beach bars.
Sometimes we would take a long walk instead of going to the beach. Although the humidity can be tough, there are few cars on the roads and it felt good to get out and just walk around.
For nightly free entertainment there is never a dull moment down at the beach after sunset. The tiny town really comes alive, and pop up hookah lounges, fire dancers and foot massage studios take over the beach after dark. You can kick back all night in beach bean bag chairs if that’s your thing – definitely fits the languishing on Langkawi theme don’t you think?
We were on the tail end of Malaysia’s rainy season and during our visit to Langkawi and other parts of Malaysia we witnessed some crazy big tropical storms. But always the sun would return eventually. Other than during the Ironman and the week of the Indian holiday of Diwali, most hotels and restaurants and tourist attractions were lightly populated. High season will begin in November.
At the end of our visit, we had hoped to do a guided sunrise hike to the top of Gunung Raya, the highest point on Langkawi. But the weather did not cooperate so we had to cancel. So instead I booked a spa day at Alun Alun Spa in Cenang. It was really nice. I had a manicure, pedicure and a facial. There are many, many places in Cenang hawking foot massage, manicure, full-body massage etc. BUT since I am very particular about hygiene I decided to go to the more expensive and upsacale Alun Alun. I was really glad I did.
After nearly a month languishing on Langkawi -this tiny island ranks pretty high for me as a great place to both kick back and relax AND find plenty of things to keep busy. We were never bored. It fit our definition of island life pretty well, whether languishing on Langkawi or being on the go.
After forty days in Malaysia it’s time to go. Malaysia now falls fourth in the list of countries we have stayed in the longest (Spain, Thailand, New Zealand are the top three). But Malaysia ties for first place as the least expensive country for our travels – tied with Bulgaria. Coming in third is the Maldives.
Thanks Langkawi. Terima Kasih Malaysia. We have loved our time here.
Next stop Myanmar!
Please note WiFi in Myanmar is very poor. We will do our best to continue to post a Travel Blog each Friday and a Book Review each Wednesday. If you like what we are doing here, we would greatly appreciate you showing your love with a share or a pin!Please invite your friends to follow our blog. Thank you!
I am writing this blog laying on the couch in my SEVENTY-SIXTH Airbnb, my 603rd night sleeping in an Airbnb. Whoa. That’s a lot of Airbnb’s!
With that many houses, huts, apartments, condos, lofts, shacks and cabins under my belt, I feel it’s time to give you a list of our favorites around the world. Because even though we carefully research each and every Airbnb before booking, there are of course, some duds. So we like to give a shout out of the best of the best!
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If you are still hesitating about staying in an Airbnb I really encourage you to try it. We have had outstanding luck using this hospitality model in our travels. Airbnb has changed and grown ALOT since we stayed in our very first one in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood in 2013. The changes are mostly good. For us it has been safe, simple and efficient. We use the following as our guide for choosing an Airbnb;
1. Read the Reviews and look for Super Host and Five Star properties.
2. Check the amenities that are important to you. We always want a kitchen, wifi and good walkable location.
3. Check where it is on the map…BECAUSE if you search Seattle it might show you a house in Seabeck (this happened to us). If you don’t know the area you would be pretty surprised when you try to find your Seattle house.
4. Contact the host if you have ANY questions. We have on a number of occasions negotiated a better price based on our long stay. We have asked many questions such as neighborhood safety, parking, grocery stores etc. We’ve negotiated airport pick up, late arrival, chef service and other necessities.
5. Look closely at the pictures. If you arrive and the unit is NOT what the pictures show contact Airbnb right away. But honestly if you have done steps 1-4 above that probably won’t happen.
We do have one complaint about Airbnb…a complaint I have expressed to the company with ZERO response; As a loyal and frequent customer I would like to see the company AWARD me for my business. Just like an airline frequent flyer program. At the moment Airbnb has more of a focus on rewarding its hosts than its guests – even guests like me who use it almost every day of my life. I hope they will acknowledge users more generously soon.
Click on the image for a larger view
Many of our Airbnb’s don’t stand out for anything in particular, but have served us in an efficient, clean, comfortable and functional way within our budget. That’s all good. That’s the case for the nice apartment we are in right now in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It’s got all the comforts of home; kitchen, washer, two baths, a pool. And it’s in a nice, safe and convenient neighborhood. Our hosts are helpful and even have a car available for us to rent.
So since this apartment is our last Airbnb until next September, we thought this would be a good time to expound on our Favorite Airbnb’s Around the World and what makes those stand out above the rest. We’ve provided link and photos when possible, in hopes that you can consider some of these little gems we have found along our journey. Here is our list;
We just left Guatemala and the Cave House we stayed in on top of a mountain in San Marcos was amazing. It had some quirks, but nonetheless it was amazing. You got your built in work out throughout the day going up and down all those stairs. We give it a big thumbs up.
This Airbnb was three times what we usually try to spend, even while being one of the smallest Airbnbs we have ever stayed in. Oh but that view. Heaven on earth. There is nothing like the crater view of Santorini and it was right outside our door. Amazing.
We have had some really awesome hosts in our 76 Airbnb’s. And we have had some crappy hosts, usually those who leave you to fend for yourself. While we don’t want or need a host to manage our stay, we love it when we have a kind, engaged, thoughtful and hospitable host who is there for our occasional need. We have found that in many locations but the four mentioned take the prize. In Rio our host was incredibly kind with gifts and food and wine. In Exmouth we loved the darling family who provided us fresh ahi, yoga mats and much kindness. Two Airbnb’s in Bulgaria introduced us to the most thoughtful Bulgarians who made sure we had everything we needed including a special oven pan when requested, fresh cherries and Bulgarian roses in our room.
Bulgaria overall is a bargain, and it remains one of our most favorite countries for many reasons including the prices. These two favorite Airbnb’s were very large, multi bedroom units with full kitchen, exceptional hosts and awesome locations. The one in Sozopol included a giant deck with view and a swimming pool. We paid $30 in Veliko Tarnovo and $60 in Sozopol.
We spent two wonderful, relaxing weeks with our friends Randy and Sue in this unique and comfortable house right on the beach in Mal Pais Costa Rica. For fourteen nights in a row we documented the most exquisite sunsets…a wonderful end to each wonderful day.
Having a private pool is a real luxury for us, not something that is usually in the budget. Our two favorites listed here happened because we were sharing a house in these locations, so spending a little bit more for the luxury. The Ocotal pool had an amazing view, while the Koh Samui pool was very secluded and lovely.
Best Shared Pool – Hua Hin Thailand
Hua Hin, Thailand
The largest pool we ever had was the full Olympic size pool in Hua Hin Thailand. Despite the fact the pool was closed for maintenance for an entire week of our three week visit, we still enjoyed it for swimming laps and relaxing pool side.
It’s rare to have breakfast included in an Airbnb, and so we took full advantage at these two favorite spots. Each morning in both places breakfast was delivered to us. In Hoi An it was eggs and fruit with the BEST coffee and in Hikkaduwa it was the local Sri Lankan breakfast of either Roti or Hoppers, both which we really fell in love with.
Best Onsite Yoga – El Tunco El Salvador
El Tunco, El Salvador
Since I try to do yoga most everyday, I love it when we have an Airbnb with a nice open and comfortable place to do our own yoga. But even better is when there are yoga classes available onsite, and Balance Yoga in El Tunco El Salvador was the best. I have only taken yoga classes in Punta Cana DR, La Fortuna Costa Rica, and on a cruise ship, mostly because it has not been convenient anywhere else. But in El Tunco it was right out my backdoor, there were multiple daily classes, it was inexpensive and it was exceptional.
We loved everything about our house on the beach in Mal Pais, but the unexpected and impressive daily nature show was a big bonus. Laying in the hammock each evening watching the howler monkeys was truly fascinating…an activity many tourists pay big bucks to see on a tour. Not us. These monkeys came to us almost everyday and it was an incredible sight.
In Siem Reap we stayed in a historic Khmer home, with the absolutely nicest family living down below. Breakfast was included and the house was beautiful, historic and authentic. In Lombok Indonesia we stayed in an authentic Javenese Historic wood house, that had been disassembled, transferred from Java and reassembled on the site of this very remote and small resort we visited. Very memorable.
Best Daily Service – Asilah Morocco
We adored our full-time housekeeper and cook who came with our Airbnb in Asilah Morocco. Not only was it the first and only time we have had a cook and housekeeper on site, but she was so incredible. I gained ten pounds I think during our ten days there. We would absolutely go back to Asilah again and I hope we will. Latifah was very special.
We have stayed in some pretty rustic places, but Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka takes the prize for the most bugs, snakes, and rodents living with us in our hut. We felt like we were on Gilligans Island. And yet, we absolutely loved our three weeks here for the wonderful hosts, the incredible beach front property, the great weather and the delicious breakfasts all at a bargain basement price.
Best All Inclusive for the Price – Huraa Maldives
We spent three weeks on the itty bitty Maldivian Island of Huraa. We had a small room with bath, access to the beach, a great secluded place to do yoga and three meals a day all inclusive for $90…not $90 per person, $90 total. Our time here was spent just kicking back, running everyday, going snorkeling, hanging in the hammock and all for a remarkable price, especially in the very expensive Maldives.
Funkiest – Funky Truck in New Zealand and Tiny Trailer in Bend Oregon USA
Motueka, New Zealand
Bend, Oregon, USA
There are several Airbnb’s we could have given this award to, but these two experiences were so unique they win the prize. We only stayed two nights in each place. Both had outhouses and outdoor showers. Though tiny, both were comfortable and the hosts for both were helpful and hospitable and happy to have us visiting their unique little piece of paradise.
We have had access to a lot of beautiful beaches in our travels. Our favorites listed here though all are because we could walk right outside of our door and enjoy a beach. These three though were all very different; Mal Pais was a beautiful but unique beach just steps from or house made up of rocky pools that provided natures hot tub all day long. Seabeck Washington was a stunning beach on the Hood Canal with spectacular Olympic Mountain view and although a bit chilly, great summer swimming. And finally Hikkaduwa was a long beautiful stretch of golden sand beach with a bar right next door and our hut only steps away. Perfect.
Both Antigua and Malaga are gorgeous, historic and fairly compact cities and our Airbnb’s provided us a great location in the center of these towns to enjoy all the splendor they had to offer, along with the comforts we enjoy like kitchen and wifi. In Antigua we also had a magnificent patio where we could see two amazing volcanoes and do yoga or just sit and enjoy our morning coffee.
Flat and safe are my requirements for running around the world, and we have run in nearly every country but not in every location. Often there are dogs, cobblestones, snakes, mountains, crazy drivers or questionable characters that make running unsafe. But while in El Tunco, Placencia, Seychelles, Split and Punta Cana we ran every single day – safely and with wonderful scenery to enjoy!
Number One Out of Seventy-Six, Our Favorite Overall – Antiparos Greece (Cover photo at top of this page is Antiparos)
There are a few other’s we considered for this BEST OF moniker, but our three weeks in tiny Antiparos in this beautiful home with stunning view on the side of a mountain with a kind and lovely host is definitely our favorite experience, so far, of all our Airbnb’s. It is the one place that we think we will definitely visit again some day. As we go forward with our Grand Adventure next fall we have Airbnb’s booked all over; Asia, Africa, Europe. Time will tell if this favorite in Antiparos can hold its position as Number One.
If you have questions about our Airbnb adventures feel free to contact me. Other blogs that might be of interest to you on this topic are listed here;
This week marks three years since we walked away from our house of 15 years in Gig Harbor Washington and began our nomad life.
Bunk beds in El Salvador
Three years. Holy Cow the time has gone by so fast. When we began this crazy adventure we didn’t know if it would last six months or six years. I guess six years is looking pretty likely.
I’ve said all along this lifestyle is not for everyone. There are times where it’s not for me. But in general there are more positives than negatives and it now feels like a normal way to live. For us anyway.
Concrete Tub in Bali
Bed & Kitchen all in one in Sri Lanka
There are definitely challenges, and one of the biggest challenge is sleeping in so many beds. Along with all those beds comes all those bathrooms. Sometimes if I wake up in the middle of the night and gotta go…I need to take a minute and really think about where I am and what is the path to the potty?
As of this writing, we have slept in a total of 197 different beds over the three years. That includes the ten weeks we stayed in a condo after we sold our house (the longest we have stayed anywhere in three years) as well as all the different albuergues, hostels, hotels and pensions we slept in on both of our Camino walks.
That’s a lot of beds. The best part? We have yet to encounter bed bugs anywhere.
Last week we stayed in, well let’s say, “rustic” accommodations in Guatemala. Mind you Guatemala is one of the poorest nations in the world and has only been open to tourists for ten years. But the mattress sagged, the horrible satin sheets refused to stay put and the shower head kept falling off.
The worst bed in Hanoi
However, overall most of the beds we have slept in have been comfortable. My requirement in a good mattress is harder is better than softer. I have memories of two horrible mattresses, each so soft I could barely get out of bed in the morning. The worst one was in Hanoi, the second worst in Ladyville, Belize.
Had to go outside to the bath in Santorini
And, coincidentally (or maybe not), one of the worst bathrooms was also in our Hanoi apartment. We have learned that bathrooms throughout the world vary widely. Flushers on toilets are different in nearly every country. More than half the time you cannot flush toilet paper. Showers often have no hot water. Some times toilets are raised up on a platform (we call those the throne), or are in a separate room from the sink and shower. Showers might be huge and elegant or so tiny you can’t bend over. Some showers are open and get the entire bathroom wet, so keeping towels and toilet paper outside of the bathroom is required. Oh and bugs, centipedes and geckos sometimes enjoy our showers too. I learned the hard way to turn the light on for middle of the night visits to the loo.
Often the septic or local sewer is well below what we take for granted in the USA. In Placencia, Belize our Airbnb was at minus sea level and this made for interesting and usually incomplete flushing.
In New Zealand we stayed in a cabin with an outhouse. Also in New Zealand we spent four weeks in a camper with a port-a-potty. Very tricky at night.
Of course kitchens and other things vary as well. It’s all part of the ongoing adventure.
Twin beds in Santa Domingo Spain
So like I’ve said – it’s not for everyone. You really have to have a sense of adventure and approach each place with low expectations. That way, you are usually pleasantly surprised. Only once, has a place been bad enough for us to leave (read it here).
Glamping in New Zealand
We have a month of travel left before we return to the USA for a four-month visit. During our time in the USA we will settle into a condo we bought (sight unseen) a few months ago. This condo will become our home when we are in the USA, but we plan to continue to travel for a majority of each year, at least for a few more years and maybe forever.
Because, well, there are a lot more beds and baths we haven’t seen yet! Fabulous!
For the past two weeks, the nightly show the sun has put on here in Malpais has been nothing less than astounding. Each evening we watch breathless as it dips into the blue
Hawks Bay New Zealand
ocean dressed in a beautiful pink and orange gown. Some nights the show actually gets better after sunset – as the sky extends the celebration with a spectacular rainbow of hues of pink, purple, orange, yellow and indigo across the western sky.
Watching the sun each night from Malpais Costa Rica has been a glorious part of our day. A reminder each evening of how lucky
Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka
we are. A romantic interlude of breathtaking beauty, mixed with awe for our planet. A planet that loves to share the most romantic sunsets around the world.
As we celebrate this annual week of love I thought what could be more romantic than watching a sunset on Valentine’s Day? Or how about on any day? Watching a sunset with the one you love.
Nile River Egypt
Our travels have presented many sunset opportunities to us, some better than others, but many very memorable. So in honor of
Valentines week, I give you our most romantic sunsets around the world – memorable moments of the Grand Adventure.
Note – double-click on any photo in this blog for a larger view
Seabeck Washington USA
Etosha National Park Namibia
Mekong River Laos
Wishing you and all those you love a Happy Valentines Day! I love you all!
Follow my blog with Bloglovin Note – at the request of one of my friends, I have updated this blog, originally posted in November 2016, with fresh new information. Enjoy it again.
“How exactly do you prepare to leave the country and travel full-time?”
As our departure day to leave the USA again grows near, this is the recurring question. People we meet often show, interest, surprise, envy, jealousy, horror and confusion. But most of all they are curious. How exactly do you prepare to leave the country and travel full-time?
The Grand Adventure Thailand
So over the past couple of weeks I have been pulling together some details to share again. A lot of details. In fact, I would answer the above question with a simple sentence. “It’s in the details.”
Before we embarked on the first phase of the Grand Adventure we spent several years preparing. A younger person, like my son, can prepare more quickly, in a matter of months. But for Fab Fifty rock stars like me and my husband, it took more time.
For us about three years.
The Grand Adventure Morocco
When the idea first sprouted, I knew immediately we would do it. Without a question I knew it was right for us. All while knowing it isn’t right for everyone.
In fact, making a major life change like this should take some serious soul searching – are you cut out for a life of travel? What is your tolerance level? Consider everything from beds to cultural customs when considering your personal tolerance for living outside of the United States. Do you have phobias? Afraid of bugs? Snakes? Rodents or people not like you? Are you afraid of cultures where everyone isn’t white? Are you willing to eat new foods, communicate in languages other than English and squat to go to the bathroom? Give it a think because, a life of full-time travel isn’t for sissies or intolerant people. You gotta be open, willing and fairly fearless while being smart, observant and adventurous.
Once you know your tolerance level that in-turn will help you determine your budget. Because if you are only willing to stay in upscale American style hotels, then your budget will need to look very different
The Grand Adventure Vietnam
from ours. Our travels have us staying in primarily Airbnb’s that average about $70. And honestly if you are only willing to stay in American brand hotels with 300 thread count sheets and someone to cater to your every whim – well, you should just stay in the USA. Because you will miss the most rewarding part of travel – getting out of your comfort zone and expanding your world view.
We have a daily budget of $200 all-inclusive (transportation, lodging, food and misc). This is plenty for most places and not enough for a few places, but we are frugal and hope it all evens out. Because the
The Grand Adventure Spain
reality is if we can’t stay within our designated budget then the Grand Adventure will be over, sooner rather than later.
Speaking of timeline – we don’t have one. This of course would not work for everyone, but for us it fits. We will continue the vagabond life as long as we are having fun. As soon as it becomes anything other than fun, we will wrap it up. But so far, 99% fun.
So listed below are some “details” on how to prepare to leave the country and travel full-time. Most of these things we have had to learn on our own – so if this list can alleviate any work for someone else considering traveling abroad full-time in retirement, use it well.
PURGE – we started our purge process more than two years before we put our house on the market, as we let go of nearly every bit of fluff we owned, including house, cars, boats, trailer, furniture and more. We have a 10×12 storage unit now that is holding what remains of our stationary lifestyle and life’s memories. During this same period we worked to purge my Dad’s house, remodel his place and get it on the market as well as move him to a smaller place. It was a big goal to get him out of his large house before we left. It was a huge job but it needed to be done.
The Grand Adventure Cambodia
DOCUMENTS – we updated our passports even though they were not expired, so we would not have any issues with needing to do that from abroad. We also updated our Washington State Drivers License. We will carry a copy of our marriage certificate with us but not our birth certificates because the passport is sufficient. We have researched every possible country we think we might visit to learn the entry/visa requirements. We are carrying extra passport photos because some countries require obtaining a visa on entry with photo. We also carry International Drivers License, even though we have NEVER been asked for one.
SPREADSHEET – we created a spread sheet, which is evolving constantly and we can access via Google Drive, to track all of our travel including air and ground transportation and lodging. This spreadsheet includes notes regarding entry rules for countries. It’s also a fun tool for tracking so many things from miles traveled to beds slept in. The data we have is incredible.
MAIL – we are using a PO Box that belongs to my Mother-in-law, but we are trying hard not to receive
The Grand Adventure Croatia
any mail. We have notified our friends and family not to snail mail us, we have contacted magazines and catalogs to eliminate junk (not very successful however) and we have changed all of our banking, retirement and property related mail to online only. I canceled my 35 year subscription to Bon Apetit.
TECHNOLOGY – we have new smart phones, an iPad and my Brand new light weight Mac Book that will travel with us. In addition we will bring our old flip phone. For our smartphones (we each have an iPhone) we buy a sim card in each country for one of our phones to enable the phone to have a local phone number and data. We then also use our iPhones with wifi for things like blogging, Facebook and Instagram. The flip phone is programmed with our old Verizon phone number from the states. Although we don’t plan to use that number often, it keeps it active for emergency.
The Grand Adventure Seychelles
We also have our Bose noise-canceling headphones and our Bose SoundLink Mini speaker that measures about 6 in x 3 in. We carry this with us and it allows us to listen to music using Spotify and listen to Audible or other books.
APPS – We have a few travel apps we like especially Airbnb, Expedia and Google Maps. We also have a Google translate which is really cool. You can point your phone at a sign or menu item in another language and it will show you what it says in English. Love it. We use WhatsApp, an app that allows you to make overseas calls via the internet, this is primarily the way we communicate with our kids. To call our parents, who aren’t on WiFi, we use an app called TextNow which allows free phone calls from anywhere to the USA. We also use Kindle, Yelp, Uber, Get Your Guide and Trip Advisor.
The Grand Adventure New Zealand
CORDS AND CHARGERS – I honestly don’t understand why there isn’t a universal cord for all electronics, but alas wishful thinking. So we have organized and sorted all our cords, charges and adaptors to travel along. We research ahead to make sure we know what adaptors we need in each country. We have one packing cube we use for all of these items.
CREDIT CARDS – don’t you hate it when your credit card company announces suddenly that you are being mailed a new credit card because your card has been compromised? Well that would really screw us up if that happens. So we have FOUR credit cards. One is our primary and three are backups. Three cards have no foreign transaction fees (which is a killer). We also have multiple ATM cards. All credit and debit cards are chipped. VERY IMPORTANT is that we do not carry all these cards together in one place. That way, if our wallet or purse is lost or stolen, we will have back up cards available in a different location. We have contacted all of the card companies for both credit and debit and let them know we will be traveling abroad for an extended period. We have put a reminder on our calendar to do this again periodically. We carry several hundred US dollar in cash for emergencies.
The Grand Adventure Portugal
PRESCRIPTIONS – I take two prescriptions regularly. It’s been a challenge to get enough of my meds stocked up. My insurance company will allow, with a special doctor’s note, two 90 day vacation overrides. I have been stocking up in other ways too, but it’s not going to be enough. I will need to find access to these meds to fill the rest of the time, because we won’t be back in the US for a visit until next summer. Shipping prescriptions abroad is illegal. We have some people coming to visit us, so I may have them bring me my pills. But I am confident I can find the meds or an equivalent. I will need to pay cash for those at the time. I have also 12 months worth of contact lenses and we each have our glasses plus a back up pair.
DOCTORS – during the three months we have been in the USA we have had a ton of appointments; family physician for full physicals, new prescriptions and precautionary antibiotics; eye doctor for new contacts and glasses; dermatologist for annual check up; dentist for cleaning and some work; gynecologist for check up; and annual mammogram. I had my updated yellow fever, and DPT shot and did a round of typhoid and got a two month supply of malaria meds.
MEDIVAC INSURANCE – considering our age, we felt there was value in purchasing evacuation insurance. This insurance covers expenses to transport us back to the USA in case of a medical emergency that can’t be handled locally.
The Grand Adventure Spain
EXPEDIA AND AIRBNB – we love how these two
online websites allow us to keep files of all your bookings. This eliminates the need for printing and gives us easy access to our bookings. We use them both frequently.
DECIDING WHERE TO GO – After two years of non-stop travel we feel much more comfortable with our movement around the planet. It feels natural. We usually agree on where we want to go and make our decisions based on budget, weather, safety and interest. We love to go new places, but have a few favorites we return to. We take turns planing the itinerary, often taking a country each.
Although we aren’t completely booked yet, we have a plan for August 2018 through June 2019 that includes; Denmark (visiting Arne’s cousins), Belgium, Germany, Poland, Romania, Greece, Egypt &Jordan (the only countries currently where we are doing a tour), Portugal & Spain (where we will walk our second Camino de Santiago), Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru & Chile (these five countries on a cruise with Arne’s Mom), Brazil, Costa Rica (joined by our friends from Washington), El Salvador, Belize (joined by our two sons), Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Cuba.
The Grand Adventure Tunisia
GIRL STUFF – I’ve learned some things about myself over the past two years. Despite how easy it is to have long hair and wear it in a pony tail everyday, I just hate the look on me. So the budget will need to include more haircuts. Mostly I do my own nails and wear hardly no makeup, but I still like to have my eyebrows waxed from time to time. I have just a handful of earrings and necklaces I wear and of course the charm bracelet. I’ve just purchased a jewelry case that’s I hope will help my jewelry not take such a travel beating.
The Grand Adventure Australia
PACKING – this topic is by far the one most people ask about, and indeed one of the hardest. We will continue to use two large REI rolling bags. Arne will continue to use his backpack as a carry on. But this time my backpack will stay home and I just purchased a new rolling carry on. And packing cubes have changed my life. Organized and categorized I love using packing cubes.
It helps that we are traveling, for the most part, to warm climates or to areas during their warm season. We may see cool and rainy in Portugal and Spain in the late fall. Honestly the clothing choice has been easier than the shoes. And the bulkiest items are not clothes or shoes it’s toiletries and
The Grand Adventure Namibia
medicines. I just purchased a flat style toilette bag to replace the larger boxier cube style one we have been carrying. I’m hoping this will free up some space in the suitcase.
Without a doubt I am bringing twice the clothes as my husband, but I have learned so much this past two years for what works for me and what is comfortable and easy to maintain.
The Grand Adventure Laos
I threw out almost all the clothes I used the past two years and have replaced them with fresh, new and comfortable. Watch for a blog soon all about my new travel wardrobe. I think you’re gonna love it.
In addition we have our electronics and documents and toiletries, first aid and meds. We have our Scrabble game, our hiking poles, a selfie stick, an REI titanium French press, a can opener,a small knife, collapsible small cooler and colander. I have a new “butt cushion” to hopefully alleviate sciatic pain on long flights. I’ve thrown in some pens and pencils, scotch tape and packing tape, a bungee cord, cloths pens, plastic bags (multiple sizes) our headlamps and some extra batteries. Of course I don’t leave home without my Washington State University flag, my Seattle Seahawks flag and THE MUG.
So there you have it. The details. I’ve probably forgotten something. We feel more prepared and less anxious than when we left two years ago. We are looking forward to this next phase.
Ready to launch year three of the Grand Adventure! T minus 33 days.
Today marks 500 days on the road – and our grand adventure living 500 days of summer. Coming from the often grey and misty state of Washington in the Pacific Northwest, 500 Days of Summer was the goal.
When we started planning our grand adventure, we set an itinerary
that kept us away from cold and rainy places. And not just because we love the sun – but also because it’s easier to pack for these climates.
And so it has gone along this way now, for 500 days. Waking each morning and opening my eyes and saying “hey, it’s still summer.” Nice.
Now we can’t say we haven’t seen some cool, even cold days. We were in New Zealand as
summer turned to fall and we had some pretty chilly nights. Even in North Vietnam the nights were cool and in Halong Bay the mist hung low and we never saw the sun. In Morocco the wind was brisk and our night in the Sahara Desert camp was downright nippy. Here in Indonesia, our time in the
mountains brought thankfully cooler temps, but certainly not cold.
But mostly it’s been warm to hot to REALLY hot as we have navigated this summer life. More than 16 months on the road and I’m on my third (and a half) swimsuit and needing a fourth. I’m on my
Sunny New Zealand
third sun hat, second pair of sunglasses, second set of beach towels and second pair of flip-flops. I’m on my third selfie stick, my tenth bottle of sunscreen and my fifth water bottle – misplacing
four somewhere along the way. My sundresses are tired and faded from sun and sweat and constant washing. I will retire all of these soon and go on a big shopping trip for fresh and new when
we get back to the states.
Because after our visit to the USA (May 14-Aug 7),where we hope it will be summer, we head off on the next phase of the grand adventure, at least
another 500 days of summer.
But until then, summer continues here in Indonesia.
And life is sunny and fabulous!
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