Saturday, August 24, 2013

6 things about me and Kalaloch camping

You guys... I just survived my first week as in full-time-in-a-office week, and it totally kicked my ass. Hence the lack of blogging action around these parts. It's going to take sometime to find a new rhythm. The kind of rhythm that allows for dreaming up blog posts, taking happy pictures, reading my blogs, and magazines and books, cleaning my house, time with my favorite person and other such lovely life things that suddenly need epic prioritization.

My darling cousin and one of my favorite bloggers Nino tagged me in a '6 things you should know about me' challenge. So I'm going to roll with that today. Also, I'll share some photos from our road trip, camping on the Olympic peninsula coast at Kalaloch campground. So if I'm boring at least delight in my sunset pictures will you.

What is something we may not know about you?

You might not know that I once briefly worked as a clown for children's parties... and yes I could fold one mean doggie balloon as well as swords and flowers. Another thing you might not know about me is that I won Miss Personality in a small beauty pageant back in 2005... which has always left me thinking I'm that girl that get's described as "well she has a really great personality" in blind date setups. Not to worry, I don't need to go on blind dates anymore, found me a husband that thinks I'm beautiful. So it's all good. 

 If you could see any artist/band live, who would you choose?

Frank Sinatra, in his younger years. There's a few technicalities that won't ever allow that, so I'll just choose a Coldplay concert. Always.

 Who or what inspires you?

People who find beauty. Not only find it but have the gifts to capture and share the beauty they find. I'm often drawn to photographers that do just that, or people who write beautifully. I'm in love with Wildflowers Photography. I adore how Something Concerning, Everything Occurring shares beauty in sweet little present sometimes mundane moments, Bright Continent's writing and photography inspire me something crazy. 

 If you could meet any blogger in person, who would you pick?

 If you've been reading Lanlettie for a while you'll know I'm going to say Geraldine from The Everywhereist. I have such a blog crush on her blog. I imagine I'll run into her at an airport someday, I'd like to think that I'll be really cool about the whole moment, but I probably won't be. I'll be all like  "You're so cool, please sign my laptop" and blush and mix up my words. Oh it would be a disaster...  okay never mind.

 When you struggle in life, what keeps you going?

My ever growing Faith and passionate Hope in God Almighty. I often find myself in the Psalms when I'm in a dark place. Also verses like this: "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." Philippians 1:6. Also, my patient and understanding husband, he understands what I need in difficult times. (Also, he's hot)

 If money wasn't a problem… what would your dream destination be?

If money wasn't a problem I would be booking an around-the-world ticket for two and take a trip that lasts forever. Wouldn't that be the best. If you're forcing me to pick one place I'd have to say the Middle East, I've always been drawn to places like Petra, the Sinai Desert, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea. Even before I knew just how bad of a travel bug I have, I've dreamed of visiting these places.

So that's me. I'd like to tag Tamarin Total Tamnation, with the hope of getting her back into the blogging world. Also Erica from The Bartletts Abroad, because she's also a newly wed living abroad like me. Answer these questions or make up your own. Have fun. x

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

We drive through Forks WA...

...and couldn't find Katniss anywhere. (laughs at own nerd joke)

We drove through the town twice, which is not something I'd usually blog about, I also know that limits my tips and sights to share here. But, you guys! It's where Bella and Edward live! I wish I didn't know that, but I do.

The town is of course a major tourist attraction to fans of the popular Twilight books and movies.

We are not these fans, but we did find the tourist attraction to be a tourist attraction in itself. These were just a few photos I snapped as we drove through and stopped at the tourist information center.

What we learned and noticed was the following:
-The sun does shine sometimes.
-This doesn't make it easier to spot sparkly people.
-Finding a motel on a late Saturday afternoon in high season is hard.
-There are several Twilight tours available.
-If you're a female between the ages of 14-35 you're assumed to be there because of the books.
(especially if you pose in front of the 'Welcome to Forks' sign like a dork.)
-The small town of Forks had to build extra bathroom facilities because of the influx of visitors.
-It's possible to stay in Twilight themed rooms.
-This is probably the most you'll ever talk about supernatural chick flicks with your spouse in your life. (hopefully)
-Mixing up your famous books/movies is very entertaining (see opening line).
-There are camping sites towards the beach from Forks. Thankfully!
-The forest that surrounds the town is simply breathtaking.

It actually reads "will keep the vampires away"

I was not the only young-ish female around waiting to get this picture taken...
Linking up with the lovely ladies from A compass Rose and Found Love, Now What for Travel Tuesday.

A Compass Rose

Sunday, August 18, 2013

That road trip and other thoughts

Reflecting on;

Just how different things are going to be for a while.
a Short while or a long time, both scare me equally.

The past week's road trip through the Olympic peninsula...
The long drives,
and long conversations,
big evergreen trees,
the gift of beach side campsite in high season,
washed up logs and dead crabs,
watching the moon set over the ocean for the first time in my life,
that thunderstorm,
wondering how everybody got to the other good campsite before us,
the 'check engine light',
how much we ended up talking about twilight,
tsunami escape route signs,
the scariest bunny encounter ever,
camp food,
West Coast sunsets,
how to be present,

Trying to cultivate the kind of life that doesn't live for one adventure to the next, planning road trips and counting off days to the next travel date. This is hard, and I'm not sure I'm getting it just right, but I want to. Don't let me miss the wonder of even ordinary days.

For now these iphone vscocam photos, I'll share some more soon.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

My humble tips for 'Europe on a budget'.

Of course I dream of flying into Paris first class, limo service to the Ritz and then champagne, my companion, as I take those private tours through the city of love. That's just not possible right now.

However, I have traveled to Italy, France (twice), Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Scotland over the last few years. What I'll tell you is this: If I had to wait until I could afford hotel rooms that serve breakfast (never mind champagne) and take taxi's and be able to do every touristy thing that the Lonely Planet suggests I do, I'd never have set foot off on the European continent.
Here are some of my ways that I managed these glorious trips on a tight South African Rand budget:

Flights: Book early, go low season, be flexible, shop around!

Pack that extra scarf and jacket and go low season, if you're wondering when high season is look at the school calender. So if you can, try to get your Europe swirl in before the entire Northern hemisphere go wild for summer vacation. It might be cooler yes, but you'll pay less in airfare and have a more pleasant time in the tourist hot spots (that will be too hot later on anyway).
Also, don't just rely on Kayak and Skyscanner to produce the cheapest airfare. It's time consuming but well worth your while to check a few individual sites. (Try all the middle Eastern flights!)
Don't be afraid of stop overs, not flying direct is almost always cheaper. See it as part of the adventure.
(My stop over in Saudi Arabia sure was)

Accommodation: Look beyond the Hilton and Holiday Inn!

We've mostly traveled using Home4Exchange, basically like the movie 'The Holiday'. So basically, accommodation is free, provided that you'll offer free accommodation in your home or summer home. This is also a great way to be in part of the culture, away from the tourist area bubble.
My favorites;  the cutest Parisian apartment two blocks from the Eiffel Tower view, a cozy cottage in rural Scotland with the greenest rolling hills I've ever seen, an art studio in Bern Switzerland. 
The best part is you'll have your own kitchen, score. Self catering is the only way to go if you want to afford Western Europe!
If you don't have a home to swap out, then look into Couchsurfing.

Fine Dining: Pack a few Cliff bars and nuts. Go self-catering and plan a few splurges in between.

Part of my European experiences have been to wonder around the local grocery store, doesn't sound as exciting as wondering around a palace I know, but you'll be surprised at what you can find (and can't find).  My mom and I once spent a good half an hour searching for eggs in Antibes.
Another time in a Paris grocery store we heard Mariam Makeba's Pata Pata blasting through the speaker. If you don't know what song I'm referring to then YouTube it right now!
Also, embrace the street food! The sausages I had in Zurich was probably some of the best meals I had on that trip.
Keep in mind there's no shame in a McDonald's happy meal if it means wine and creme brulee at a sidewalk cafe of lovers and poets the next evening.

Side note on grocery stores: Buying Scottish shortbread as gifts for those sad souls who stayed home is much much cheaper at the local Scottish grocery store than in the Souvenir shop next to a Castle. Same goes for Swiss chocolate, but don't tell anybody that's what I did!

Attractions of Touristic value: Research and plan plan plan! Let go of what you're 'supposed' to do.

I've traveled through Venice without taking the gondola ride, I only went up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower, I only saw the outside of Edinburgh  castle.
And you know what, I'm so totally okay with that! Not doing those few things meant that I could do dozen other lesser known things.
This also means more time to do said other things because you're not spending your precious time in zig-zag-forever queues to do one thing.
Side note: Eiffel Tower- Get in that line before they even open! It's the only way people.

Do your research, there might be days or times that certain places are free or closed, and you'd like to know about both right?
Example: Not sure if this is still true but the Louvre is free one Sunday every month. So get all over that if you'd like.
It helps to know what you'd like to see, make your priorities and then only price out if a 'city pass' or 'tourist pass' is worth it.

Getting Around: Brave the public transport and pack your comfy shoes (and no! not Crocs! never ever Crocs)

Taking a taxi is just so unbelievably expensive that I cry a little just thinking about it. So, say hello to the Tube or Metro or what ever it is at hand. Don't be afraid, just do it. If you're not sure ask a few people for direction until you feel confident.
Besides, getting on the wrong train in Europe at least once is basically a mandatory experience.
If you're fancy is to be traveling through the smaller towns then consider car hire.
Keep in mind: Check their one-way drop off fees, adding another driver fees and if you need unlimited miles or less per day. These things can add up fast. 
Lastly:  Take advantage of the free stuff that will enhance your experience. Like:

Being intentional about being in the moment.
Travel with all five senses. Take time to stop and smell the roses, or fresh baked French loaves, listen to the lovers quarrel in Italian two tables away, with both hands splash some cool water from a fountain on your face, taste something you've never tried before, look down alley ways and observe the old lady water her windowsill flowers.
Go for long walks around the city, take the long way back.
Talk to locals whenever you can, test you're 'how are you' in Spanish,  keep a smile on your face.
(It's always funny to me to see how miserable tourist look at times, even on gondola rides?!? why?)
Go hang out in the parks.
Take as many photos as your memory cards will allow, but then also put the camera away and just be there. This is always the hardest part for me. 

Oh wait this is lastly lastly: Rethink souvenirs! Especially if it's 'made in China' (expect of course if you are buying souvenirs while in China).
Also, be sure to leave a lot (I mean a lot) of extra space in your suitcase. Paying excess fees at the end of your trip for all the magnets, Venice masks, chocolate (because there will be chocolate), I-was-here-t-shirts is just no fun. No fun at all, I tell you.   

So there you have it, from my experiences. I'm dreaming of the day when I get to go put these tips of mine to use again.

Linking up with Found Love, Now What and A Compass Rose for Travel Tuesday.

Found Love. Now What?