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    Europe Travel

    Why Bulgaria?

    Choosing Carefully our European Destinations

    Location: Bulgaria

    Chapter Seven ends – Chapter Eight begins

    And so it’s farewell to Seychelles.  It has really grown on me.  When we first arrived and I realized how remote, how humid, and how little fresh produce there was I wasn’t pleased.  Further realizing we maybe needed a car after all didn’t help.  But after 33 days the place has really grown on me and I love it.  It has been a wonderful opportunity to once again see how much of the world lives – simply.  Life does not end if you can’t find a ripe tomato or that perfect cheese or that good bottle of wine.  This is life for much of the world and being reminded of that once again, is part of the Grand Adventure.  Thank you to the gorgeous Seychelles and the unassuming and kind Locals and expat community of this island for reminding me.

    Eastern Europe

    So as we begin Chapter Eight we finally head to Europe, but skirt the Schengen (see explanation below) for the next two months.  We spend all of June in Bulgaria and July in Croatia.  So why Bulgaria you ask?  Here is my explanation –

    First off, I am very interested in seeing more of, for lack of a better term, the former Eastern block countries.  Those countries that were not so long ago under one of the communist rules. At first we were going to visit Bulgaria and Romania in June, but after studying  decided we needed at least a month in each country.  So Bulgaria is first and we will hit Romania next year.

    But let me take a minute to explain what the

    Schengen countries are purple and blue

    Schengen is for those of you who don’t know (I’ve written about this before, so apologizes for repeating).  It’s a bit complicated but has been a very important factor in our travel planning over the past several years.  And because of the Schengen Agreement, we will have spent the first eight months of our travel in non-Schengen countries (Asia, Africa, New Zealand, Bulgaria and Croatia).

    The Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985 and went into effect in 1995, opening borders between certain European countries.  A handful of countries in the beginning, the Schengen has expanded greatly over the past 22 years and now includes 26 countries with common borders.  The first time I visited Europe in 1988 our passports were checked as we drove between countries with manned border patrols.  That no longer happens.  Free traffic flows between countries such as France, Germany, Belgium, Poland etc. – those countries that are part of the Schengen Agreement.

    The catch however, for travelers like us, is that you can only remain in the Schengen area for 90 days within any 180 days.  So if you want to spend six months in say, France, you must apply for a complicated and expensive visa.  Otherwise, your time in France or any of the combined Schengen area countries can only be three months in any 6 month period.  You can’t go out and come back in and have your 90 days start again.  Only after another three months can you re-enter the Schengen area.

    We were well into our travel planning before we learned what the Schengen was.  I had never heard of it.  It certainly was a surprise and put a bit of damper on our plans.  Particularly because we are planning to walk the Camino de Santiago in September and we wanted to allow six weeks to do the 500 mile walk.  Six weeks out of our 90 days is a big chunk.  And so this is how it came to pass that we will have been on the Grand Adventure for 8 months before we finally enter a Schengen country on July 25th when we will cross the border from Croatia into Slovenia.

    At that point the Schengen clock starts ticking.  Our ninety days will start in Slovenia, continue in Portugal, then onto Spain and end when we fly from Barcelona to Tunisia on October 19th – just shy of 90 days.

    Neither Bulgaria or Croatia are currently in the Schengen, although Croatia is next on the list for admittance.  Stability, both financial and political is a big factor as far as how the decision is made for entrance into the area.  So if you ever plan to travel for an extended period of time, be sure to study up on your Schengen countries.  Read more here.

    I’m not sure Bulgaria would have made the list if I hadn’t been forced to research more about Eastern Bloc countries.  We spent time in Hungary a few years ago and loved it.  We have also been to Northern Croatia and the Czech Republic and found both absolutely charming.  And the food is wonderful.  So I expect Bulgaria to be similar and I am excited to explore yet another country few Americans consider visiting.  It has become a tourism destination for Russians and Europeans, similar to so many of the places we have already been, I expect to be the minority American.

    We will fly from the Seychelles on the 29th, which marks our six months on the road.  We fly to Doha, Qatar and spend one night there.  Then it’s onto Sofia the capital of Bulgaria for three nights.  We then will travel by car to the mountain region and town of Veliko Tarnovo for ten days where we will do a lot of hiking.  Then it’s onto Sozopol on the Black Sea for 16 nights.  Sozopol is an ancient trade city from the Ottoman era.  The Black Sea region has become a huge tourist destination.  It should be very interesting.

    So why Bulgaria?  This is why and how Bulgaria became part of the Grand Adventure. I look forward to learning more history, meeting the people, and eating their food, which includes a lot of fresh vegetables, grilled meats and stews.  Yum.  I suspect I will find plenty of blog material along the way.

    Look out Bulgaria – the Lund’s are coming!

    Everything Else Fabulous

    Six Months on the Road

    Our travels create alot of data!

    SIX MONTHS DOWN – Interesting Statistics to share

    Well we made it to the sixth month mark.  It hardly seems like it.  I think about where I was six months ago – I had shingles, I was miserable and stressed trying to get everything done to leave the country.  When I think of that it seems like another person.

    Here we are now, our final days in the Seychelles Islands, Chapter Seven of the Grand Adventure.  It’s summer now in the Northern Hemisphere, so it’s

    Koh Samui Thailand

    time to head back that direction and spend some time in Europe.  The months ahead are full, and I have no doubt it will be a blink of an eye before I am writing about the one year mark.

    How has it been for six months you ask?  Nearly perfect.  There have been a few bumps.  Two colds and two tummy disorders but nothing earth

    Hua Hin Thailand

    shattering.  Oh and one dog bite.  Grrrrr.

    Here are some fun statistics for you –

    181 days

    9 Countries (*two are airport touchdowns only); United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia*, New Zealand, Australia*, Seychelles

    20 airplane takeoffs

    20 airplane landings (phew!)

    15 Uber rides

    12 Taxi rides

    10 Tuk Tuk rides

    12 Songthaew rides

    Siem Reap Cambodia

    16 Boat rides (including six days and five nights on board the Mekong Sun – Mekong River and one night onboard the White Cloud Halong Bay)

    130 nights in 13  Airbnb’s (most expensive: Koh Samui for 4 people at $187 per night with a car and private pool.  Least expensive: Hua Hin for two people for $43 per night)

    13 nights in 7 hotels

    27 nights in the Kiwi Karavan

    3 nights on overnight flights

    2 nights ‘glamping’ on the Abel Tasmin

    1 night at a sheep farm

    31,800 miles flown

    4250 miles driven

    923  miles walked (an average of 5.1 per day)

    40 books read (Laureen’s list  Arne probably has about the same but he isn’t tracking  we mostly read the same books but not always).

    150 games of Scrabble (estimate)

    Siem Reap Cambodia

    1 dog bite

    Millions of bug bites

    We went over budget in New Zealand but have been able to stay under or right on our $200 a day budget everywhere else.  Asia was cheap.  So even in Thailand where we spent more in lodging for four people it averaged out. Europe will be more expensive, except for Bulgaria.  It’s cheap. One of our Airbnb’s in Bulgaria is only $35 per night.

    Hoi An Vietnam

    When we break out our budget we are averaging per day $86 on lodging, $39 on food (both groceries and dining out) and our airfare expenses average out to about $25 per day.  That’s $150 average per day for essentials.  Leaving $50 per day for other stuff.  This is much cheaper than our daily expenditures living in Gig Harbor.

    Hoi An Vietnam

    Speaking of money – after six months we often need to stop and think what country are we in and what is the current conversion?  I am constantly asking Arne to tell me how much something is, in US dollars, because I can’t seem to keep it straight in my mind.  From Thai Baht to Vietnam Dong to

    Luang Prabang Laos

    Seychelles Rupee it’s a continuous game of “what is the real cost of this orange?” (the answer has varied from 10 cents to 4 dollars). Here’s the rough mental conversions we used;

    One Thai Baht = 3 cents

    8000 Laotian Kip = $1

    20,000 Vietnam Dong = $1

    One New Zealand Dollar = 60 cents

    One Seychelles Rupee = 15 cents

    Hmong village Laos

    In Cambodia they use the US Dollar so that was perfect!  Although strange.  It’s still not clear to me why they no longer use their local currency of Riel.  US dollars came out of cash machines and were excepted everywhere.

    We have been to 3 countries that drive on the left side of the road (Thailand, New Zealand, Seychelles)

    Milford Sound New Zealand

    and 4 countries that drive on the right side (Vietnam, Laos, UAE and Cambodia).  So it’s been a constant struggle to remember which way to look when crossing the street (although in Vietnam you need to look both ways all the time! They drive crazy!).

    Abel Tasman New Zealand

    There are things I miss -well of course family and friends- but it’s the everyday conveniences that I notice.  A good can opener. My French press. My cast iron skillet. Reliable wifi. A screwdriver.  Solid deodorant.  Ovens.  Hot water in the kitchen. And definitely my bike.

    Everyone asks what has been our favorite place and with all honesty we can’t say.  Every place has had its pros and cons.  I wasn’t a big fan of Hanoi – too crowded, noisy and busy- but it still offered interest.

    Seychelle Islands, Praslin

    I loved New Zealand – but even there we dealt with chilly weather and high prices.  So the reality is, it’s all been worthwhile, interesting and amusing.

    We still meet people and hear from people at home who can’t believe we are doing this.  Words like brave, ballsy, adventurous. I don’t see it that way.  Surely it’s not for everyone, but it is not hard, it’s very interesting, it’s exciting and relaxing at the same time.

    Seychelle Islands

    I often think about the times in our lives when we discussed Arne changing jobs and moving our family to places like Chicago, Huntsville, Oklahoma City and even Australia. Had we made any of those choices we would have left everything behind – it’s not all that different to be out here traveling –  in fact it’s easier. We have very few cares in the world, except the occasional online issues and occasional banking or credit card issues.  We have no bills to pay, no house to maintain. We live cheaply and

    Time together as a family

    don’t need much.  It’s a very simple life.  We are making memories and enjoying experiences that we find very valuable.  We couldn’t be happier.

    We enjoy each other’s company and don’t take that for granted – it’s the best part about the adventure.

    Time together as a couple

    So, time to say farewell to the Seychelles, by far the most remote destination we have been too – a little too remote in all honesty.  But it was fun and quiet and beautiful. And ever so relaxing.  Chapter Eight – Bulgaria, here we come. We depart on May 29th.

    Note – in this blog I have chosen to include two favorite photos from each country.  Wow was that hard to do! 

     

    Everything Else Fabulous

    The Littles

    Mapping the Grand Adventure

    As we near the end of our stay in Seychelles (one week to go) we near the end of our seventh country that we have stayed in (add two more that we have passed through)  since leaving the USA in November.  And following along at home are my darling great nieces and nephews.  I’m probably having more fun sending them things than they are…but I hope they are learning something as we traipse around the globe.

    When we were in England last August I had this idea to encourage the littles at home to follow our journey on a map.  Since I don’t have any

    Isaiah and Elsa

    grandchildren, I get my little kiddy fix from my great nieces and nephews.  I actually don’t see them that often, and knowing we would be gone for several years I thought I wanted to help them remember us, and also encourage them to learn something from our travels about the world.

    So far they have received flags and jewel boxes from England (Chapter 3), Navajo dolls from the Grand Canyon (Chapter 4), cards from Thailand, Fans from Vietnam and cards from Laos (Chapter Five), books from New Zealand (Chapter Six) and cards from Seychelles (Chapter Seven).

    Lily and Landon

    Three families are following our travels with maps posted on their walls (one is not old enough yet for a map).  My mom is also following us with a map of her own, where she posts postcards that we send to her.  Meanwhile the littles receive a postcard, card or small gift for each country we visit.  And then they find the country on their maps at home and mark it.  Of course they aren’t old enough to follow the blog, but I actually prefer to hand write notes to them anyway.  I sure hope as they get older they will have fond memories of following our adventure.  And

    Porter, Weston and Henry

    maybe they will be inspired to travel and learn and appreciate the unique and vast planet we live on – just like we do.

    So here’s to the littles, my great nieces and nephews; Isaiah, Elsa, Lilly, Landon, Olivia, Audrey, Porter, Weston, Henry and Holden.  I think you will like the countries we are headed to over the next few months!

    Africa Travel

    Settled into a Fab Fifty Routine

    Chapter Seven

    Location: Seychelles

    There is one really good thing that has come out of our relaxed and remote month on the Seychelles.  Fitness.  We have the time, the desire and the space.  We have used it wisely.

    We wake up most days without any plans.  It was harder in New Zealand, where everyday had a plan that involved moving to the next destination.  Not to mention pretty hard to do yoga in the Kiwi Karavan.  Here in the Seychelles we have nothing but time – and plenty of space.

    So on the second day we arrived we began an

    Yoga on the patio

    intensive workout schedule, hopeful that after a month, we would be able to keep it going as we move forward in the adventure.  Our daily routine has developed into a mix of fitness, tanning, reading and scrabble.  Pretty awesome.

    I usually get up before Arne and sit outside with my coffee (instant Nescafe – miss my French Press but I’m getting used to it).  He joins me about thirty minutes later for coffee. Arne then makes our breakfast each morning – yogurt with fresh fruit.

    Running in our neighborhood

    Usually papaya, mango or sometimes apple.

    We then spend ten minutes doing a cardio program from an app on my phone, followed by 20-30 minutes of yoga led by yours truly.  I’ve taken enough yoga classes to be able to lead us through some of the asanas that are good for runners – particularly runners with sciatica issues like me.  We both have noticed a big difference in how we feel now that we have done the yoga everyday for nearly three weeks.  I’m certainly no yogi-master.  But we do pretty good considering.  We tried an app for this too, but it was too fast and hard to follow and we just decided there was no reason we couldn’t just do it on our own. I studied up online and refreshed on some poses I had forgotten and found some new

    ones for hip flexors and lower back.  And that is how I became the Yogi Un Master.  I now require Arne to call me Master.

    After yoga we plank.  Arne is up to four minutes!  I am struggling to get to 1:30.  I’m close.  We are doing straight arm planks now and geeze it’s hard.

    Then we run.  Unless it’s a hike day – then we hike.  Most days I run 3-5 miles and Arne does about six.  It’s hard in the humidity but we do it anyway.  I am much slower than I used to be – perhaps it’s the humidity.  Or my age.  Or the sciatica.  I push on.  Put in the miles no matter the time is – that’s my theory.

    Hiking in the Seychelles is a sweaty business

    We haven’t hiked as much here as we did in New Zealand, but we are trying to continue our training for the Camino.  I feel that I could do the Camino now – but I continue to worry about the sciatic issue – so we train, and stretch, and train.  And take a lot of ibuprofen. We plan to hike a lot in Bulgaria in June.

    We rented bikes here at the Airbnb but they are not in the best condition so I don’t love riding them.  But we do – a couple of miles to the beach or to the store.  That’s about it.

    Of course we go to the beach or hang here on the patio in the sun most everyday.  I make lunch which is usually sandwiches if we are headed to the beach or left overs if we are staying here.  And then everyday like clockwork we play Scrabble and drink two gin and tonics at 3pm.  I look forward to that part of the fitness plan!  My scrabble goal now is to beat Arne four games in a row.  So far I’ve only managed three in a row.

    Beachtime

    We have only eaten dinner out once, and although challenging I have enjoyed creating healthy meals from the meager supplies available.  Some dinners have turned out better than others – but my darling husband will eat anything.  A good sport that one.

    I have no way of knowing if I have lost weight.  I

    haven’t stepped on a scale since we were in Bangkok two months ago.  At that time I had dropped about 14 lbs since leaving the USA.  Another ten would be good.  However it’s also a good thing not to have access to the scale and not be a slave to it.  I’ve tried to learn to be more aware of how I feel than what I weigh.  I’ve never been a teeny girl and it certainly isn’t going to start now.  I just keep doing my thing.  I feel pretty fit and some of my clothes certainly hang different, making me think I’ve dropped a few more.  But the goal is really to feel good right?  And this old broad is feeling pretty good.  I’d probably

    drop ten pounds in a minute if I gave up those two gin and tonics each day.  But really, some things are just not worth the sacrifice.

    When I was running this morning I was thinking about the fact that it has been almost four years since I retired from my job (June 6th).  I was thinking about all those people (there were a lot of them) who said I would be bored.  Those people who really didn’t know me as well as they thought.  They thought I would be bored…LOL.  What do you think about me now?

    Onward. Fabulous.

    Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday

    Dirty Chick. Hilarious.

    Dirty Chick by Antonia Murphy ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

    It’s been awhile since I read a book that made me guffaw out loud and laugh until tears rolled down my cheeks.

    What a fun read Dirty Chick by Antonia Murphy was.  My friend Jan Hein recommended this book to me while we were in New Zealand because the story takes place in New Zealand.   But I couldn’t find it at the library so finally purchasd it on Kindle to read here in the Seychelles.

    The story is a rollicking recounting of how Antonia and her husband became unlikely farmers in the New Zealand bush. From California girl to Kiwi farmer Antonia’s writing style brings to life the sometimes sweet, often gross, and simultaneously hilarious life of dealing with livestock, children, disability, neighbors and husband in Purua New Zealand.

    I loved it.  I’ll be watching for more from Antonia Murphy.

    Note – no book review next week  I’m focused on my cross stitch this week. 😊

     

    Everything Else Fabulous

    Can You hear Me Now?

    Chapter Seven – No wifi

    Can You Hear Me Now?

    We haven’t had wifi in the Seychelles and as a result we have been spending a small fortune on data.  It’s currently our only way to connect.  I’ve been typing my blogs in text edit so as not to use data while developing the blog, then when I’m ready I cut and paste.  But it still uses data as does every time I check Facebook.  Talking to my kids who are both still abroad also requires data – Dane is in Germany and Erik in Burkina Faso.  We started a four-way chat on WhatsApp – using data.

    Arne used FaceTime to have a video chat with all of his pledge class brothers at their five-year Sigma Chi MIT reunion the other day.  That was well worth the money.  I used WhatsApp to check in with my wonderful book club while we were in New Zealand and Thailand too.

    Up until the Seychelles we were calling the United States frequently, using the Text Now app.  With wifi it gave us free-calling to the United States.  So we have been able to call family and check in, call friends on their birthdays and I even got to call in to the Martini Mamas.  But this only works for calls to the US – and here in the Seychelles it devours our data.

    Of course we will call our Moms on Mothers Day.  Even if that uses data.  It’s just one of the unexpected expenses of our Grand Adventure.  But keeping in touch is important to us.

    Can you hear me now?

    Everything Else Fabulous

    Living Climate Change

    Chapter Seven

    A pattern has emerged.  I’m not sure why I am surprised but I am.  A pattern of climate change has emerged in our travels.

    I am not a scientist, a climatologist, or a meteorologist.  Just a travel girl who observes.

    And the observation is, everywhere we have traveled in the past five and half months the locals have lamented on the unusual weather.  Including here in sunny Seychelles.

    In Thailand we saw some incredible and unseasonal floods.  In Vietnam it was rain and unusual chill.  In New Zealand they bemoaned the fact that they never got a summer.  Well, I guess they did for one week.  And here in the Seychelles, the rainy season has arrived earlier than is normal.

    What is normal?  Is there a normal when we speak of the weather anymore?  I know my friends back home have experienced one of the snowiest winters followed by one of the wettest springs on record.  That’s not normal.  Or is it the new normal?

    Even those who used to dispel climate change as fact are coming around to the reality.  Even though they still don’t believe it’s human caused.  It’s hard for me, as a travel observer, to look at a glacier in New Zealand that has receded ten miles in the past century, (since the industrial revolution and the burning of fossil fuels began) and not connect the two.  That seems pretty easy to see – for normal people anyway.

    So our travels continue.  The world continues to spin.  The naysayers continue to argue.  And I continue to observe.  It will be interesting to see how the summer develops.