Spoilt Little Traveller

This past week has been a good one for feeling the love on the thoughtful gifts for a traveller front and I’m feeling a little spoilt by the humans in my life. Maybe I’m just a daft old cow, but I have to admit that it feels nice to be carving out a reputation as The One Who Travels instead of just being, you know, that chick who has a lot of cats. Although I don’t really mind being the chick who has a lot of cats.

What was my point again?

Oh yeah: travel themed gifts are the bomb.

The fabulously-blessed-with-all-the-hair Eleanor from JustEllaBella gifted me with the most thoughtful handcrafted jewellery on Saturday. She has a little side business called A Cup of Cute which is basically a cup of adorable handcrafted jewellery (which you can get from my favourite geeky spot Geek World if you so wish) and of course she made my little Cup of Cute especially for me.

You know how you get those people who are not only crazy talented at crafts and things, but are somehow also crazy talented at using their crafting skills to make you feel special as hell? Well Ella is one of those.

She made me a ring with a map of Africa on it, and immediately I knew that it was especially for me to wear on my trips overseas. Why? So that I don’t forget where I come from, of course! And then she made me a pair of gorgeous protea flower earrings. Of course I feel all teary just looking at them. All I can think is: Proteas! How perfectly indicative of this place where we live. How beautiful.

Of course now I feel a little bit protea obsessed. I need more protea things!

Like a handbag… I need a protea handbag…. hmmmm….

I digress!

On top of being spoilt with trinkets I had to have a huge laugh because my husband spoilt me as well.

I posted this update on my Facebook page the other day:

And then what happened?

My husband bought me hiking pumps!

Guys: Life is weird.

And I do quite love that I can be a traveller and still wear pumps. Don’t you?

 

Why I Can Afford to Travel

Can I confess something? Every time I admit that I am planning a trip I am overcome with a mass of guilt. Sometimes I know well enough that I have a bit of a guilt complex in general, so acknowledging that helps, but most of the time I honestly feel like I am just a spoilt brat. I sort of am.

Don’t get me wrong. I do work hard to make our travel goals come true. But it’s the kind of “hard work” that is made possible by a whole lot of pre-existing privilege. I have a pretty good knowledge of what things cost because I’m always looking, and I try really hard to make sure that we can pull things off on a very tight budget. I pour a lot of hours into figuring out how to make a small amount of money go as far as possible. A lot of effort goes into what I achieve. And sometimes what I achieve feels like a damn miracle.

I assure you it is not.

Sometimes it’s tempting to take all the credit. Sometimes it’s tempting to say things like “If I can do it, anyone can.”

But calling my travel achievements “hard work” does not take into account one very inescapable truth:

I’m lucky.

  • I’m lucky because I have a husband who doesn’t mind living a super frugal life at home so that once or twice a year we can splurge on an adventure. We keep “extras” to a minimum. Take-aways. Booze. Dining out. New clothes. Electricity. (that last one is only sort of a joke)
  • I’m lucky because my husband’s salary pays for all of our expenses. Ty pays for all of our day-to-day life and there is zero wiggle room there. He juggles it like a pro though! Because he does this, I can put away the small bits of money that I make every month and save until we can afford to use it on a trip.
  • I’m lucky because my husband can take leave at any time of year and isn’t forced to take it in December like a lot of our peers are. December is high season. Being able to travel in low season makes a huge difference to affordability.
  • I’m lucky because I have a mom and dad who have bought me plane tickets before. And who have loaned me money to go on trips and been patient about the time it takes me to pay them back. They understand that I am far better at diminishing debt than I am at saving money.
  • I’m lucky because I have people who will look after my kids for me. My mom, my sister, and Noah’s paternal grandmother are always accommodating when it comes to Noah. Tom and Bridgette’s mother and grandmothers are the same. Without these people Ty and I would not be able to do this.
  • I’m lucky because I have tenants who look after my home and my animals when I am away. If I had to pay for a house and pet sitter that would be quite a huge extra expense and I wouldn’t be able to afford it.
  • I’m lucky because I have a lot of the kind of privilege that is easy to overlook when you’re scrambling to make things happen. It’s there though. And it plays a big role.

 

So, yes. I work hard. I save hard. I plan hard.  I sacrifice some things to make our travel plans work. But very little of what I am able to do rests solely on me. Very often my trips occur because of a cosmic series of fortunate events , and I would be remiss to ever assume that if I can do it anyone can because we all live different lives and we’re all caught up in different circumstances.

I am, however, grateful to myself for making the decision to use my circumstances to my advantage. I’m grateful to myself for finally admitting what I wanted and for having the courage to go after it despite the anxiety issues that I keep triggering because of it. And while I do admit that I am a spoiled princess who is able to travel because of a whole bunch of luck, I also think that I can be used as an example of how we can sometimes look at what we want and see it as impossible when actually it’s just improbable.

Improbable is something that I can work with. It took me a long time to learn that. But I know it now.

A Life Saving Trip to Hlosi Game Lodge

whatsapp-image-2016-11-15-at-12-41-56-pmAt some point in the last two months I entered a competition to win a weekend stay at Hlosi Game Lodge which is situated inside the Amakala Game Reserve just outside of Grahamstown. I don’t remember entering this competition at all due to the fact that my wanderlusty self tends to enter any and all competitions that have anything to do with accommodation these days. Thank goodness for that.

Now I must admit, I was super thrilled to win the competition, but at the same time I was a little overwhelmed. Folks that frequent these places are fancy people. And we’re not fancy people. We’re choose the cheapest option for accommodation on booking.com people. That’s who we are. So going to such a fancy place, while exciting, made me a little anxious, but I have to admit that by the time we arrived at Hlosi I didn’t even care how unfancy we were in the fancy fancy place. I just wanted to crash and be anywhere outside of real life.

And that’s exactly what we got.

Hlosi ran the competition to promote their new tented accommodations. Of course a tent sounds mad, but glamping is fab! (I can’t believe I just typed that)

Hlosi GiraffeEven though it’s just a 40 minute drive from home, Hlosi felt like it was a whole world away and acted as a sort of quiet sanctuary for my tired soul this last weekend. We spent a total of 12 hours (2 morning drives, two evening drives) exploring the Amakala Game Reserve and falling even more in love with this beautiful country of ours. I cannot help but envy travellers who get to come here and experience this all for the first time. Aside from beautiful game drives and spectacular sightings (despite the cold, rain, and wind) we were spoilt with wonderful food, drinks aplenty, and an incredible room overlooking the open veld where wild animals roamed past. We even had a bath with a view!

Look, in real life places like Hlosi are not really an option for us because of severe budget restraints *stifles an uncomfortable giggle* so I am extra grateful for this particular experience. Despite being crazy far out of our league, I will admit that being at Hlosi inspired me even more to step outside of my own doorstep and take in the wonders of right here.

I think perhaps we need to start bringing our adventures in a little closer to home for 2017. 2016 was an incredible year of travel for us but it was a little too indulgent and the credit card is a bit upset right now. We need to figure out how to make these sorts of experiences more doable. If we can figure out how to take trips to strange lands across the world, we can certainly figure out how to enjoy the land right under our feet to the fullest.

Yes. I think we’ll do that.

Pics: #nayesexploreshlosiamakhala

What Zanzibar can learn from Thailand

OutriggerThe travel bug properly bit me in 2013. I blame Thailand. The bug has always kind of been there. I’ve always had a travel list. But before I went to Thailand, my travelling wants seemed to be in the same impossible league as my very real wish to attend Hogwarts or fly around with The Doctor.

But I went to Thailand and suddenly going places became possible. It became this thing that I could do for myself if I really tried, even if I don’t always feel like I deserve it.

And guess what? Three years later I am now someone who travels. Ok so I’m not one of those people who only travels, but I reckon managing to be a homeschooling mom of three who only ekes by on a few freelancing gigs every month but still manages to get out there into the world a little bit is still kind of cool. It counts, right?

I digress… (more…)

Zanzibar and the question of our duty as travellers…

I didn’t go to Zanzibar because I wanted to go to Zanzibar. I went to Zanzibar because the plane tickets were cheap. That’s the truth of it. I’ve never felt any need to go there. In my head it was just another island with tropical fruit and possibly a good snorkeling scene. Lovely, yes. But essential? Not really.

My Travel Bucketlist (in no particular order) is as follows:

  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Prague
  • Iceland
  • Israel
  • Egypt
  • Turkey
  • Cambodia
  • Vietnam
  • Japan
  • Morocco
  • The Philippines
  • Scotland
  • Ireland
  • Alaska
  • A Roadtrip from SA to Kenya

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Those are my must sees. So why did I go to Zanzibar? (more…)

On Zanzibar and the Joys of Being Home

zanzibari-sunriseI’ve been home from Zanzibar for two weeks and I’m only just now starting to feel “normal” again. I’ve spent my days processing, and watching too much television (which you’ll probably hear about at a later stage) and just contemplating the madness of this year. Being home with no immediate plans – or even plans to make plans – feels exceptionally good.

Does loving being home make me a bad traveller?

I don’t actually consider myself a traveler  so much as I consider myself just a regular person who likes to travel and who has recently made a commitment to taking this love more seriously.

Every now and then you might see that meme on Facebook. It says:

Make a list of the things that you love.

Make a list of the things that you do every day.

Adjust accordingly.

I’m trying to do that. Although I admit I haven’t actually written a list. Maybe I should.

In the meantime I’m contemplating Zanzibar and what I need to say about it. It was a rather educational trip, I must admit. I suppose international travel often is. Or perhaps any travel has things to teach if you’re open to learning. But as beautiful and exotic as Zanzibar is, I left there feeling a bit…well…heartsore…

I know I’m supposed to share all the wonderful things about travelling. That’s what travel blogger do. And yet I feel like I want to talk about the Zanzibari people, and their less shaky political situation. I want to talk about how teachers in Zanzibar can expect to earn as little as $77 per month as a salary. And how the people of Zanzibar are without adequate medical care or family planning services.

It’s so hard to talk about “oooh snorkelling” when these are the things that stick in my mind the most. So forgive me, for a little while. So many folks have been saying to me I can’t wait until you tell us all about Zanzibar. I’m afraid it might not be the pretty picture you expect. At least not all of it.

There are lovely fun wonderful things out there. But there are humans, too. And I cannot help but feel the need to tell their stories first.

the-zanzibar-cow

 

Home for Hibernation

Processed with Snapseed.

Yesterday the husband and I, along with our three cretins, got home after a long family trip to the Free State followed by a quick pop-over to Zanzibar. And all I can think is please Lord can I just sleep for three days! Holidays are supposed to be rejuvenating, aren’t they? Relaxing, refreshing. All that.

But no.

I’m exhausted! I’m happy!! But I’m exhausted. And glory there is so much un-packing to do. All I want to do is hibernate. Like a real bear. For 6 months.

I can’t brain. I can’t focus. I can’t anything. I just need sleep. Please.

Tomorrow I will be better.

No. Make that Monday. On Monday I’ll be better. But maybe only next  Monday. Not this one around the corner. You can’t only hibernate for one day. It needs to be more.

So I have to have the quiets for a little while before real life comes back again. After that I’ll be back to tell you about Zanzibar and our own friggen awesome country. Because our country is awesome. And every time I go away I realise it just a little bit more.

Hakuna matata, my friends. I’ll be back. With pictures. And details.

I finally got to see a happy lion thanks to SANParks Open Week

img_2194Every year SANParks have an open week in September where it is free for all South Africans to visit any of our national game reserves. I have to admit that as homeschoolers we kind of love Open Week. If nothing else it always serves as a reminder that hey we have game reserves around here and we should visit them! This year, we are sadly going to have to give Addo a skip as a family…but on a happier note the reason we have to skip it is because next week we are road-tripping to Clarens!

I was, however, lucky enough to be invited to tag along with Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism on their trip to Addo Elephant Park yesterday – along with some crazy people, I might add – and I’m so glad that instead of being reasonable and declining the offer due to this month being chaos from (nice*) hell, I accepted the invitation and tagged along.

Sarah Dirsuwei from Chasing the Rainbow told me yesterday that if she is feeling particularly stressed due to work pressures she and her family will come out to Addo and just spend the day marvelling at the elephants. I have to admit I think she has a point. Spending the day out there in nature, allowing yourself to be taken in by the existence of such fascinating creatures, is cathartic to say the least. And if nothing else, it certainly makes you ponder the world, instead of yourself.

img_2221As we started our journey through the park, I found myself wondering – not for the first time – about why we even bother having zoos. This right here is how we learn, I thought. It is so hard to get on board with the “reasoning” that zoos need to exist because they are how our children learn about animals. Nonsense! Conservation is how our children learn about animals. And sanctuaries. And nature. And the circle of life. There I was, at 34, listening intently and learning so much as our game ranger tour guide shared all his wisdom with us. Explaining why there are no giraffes in the park (no tall trees – guys we should have concluded this with our own logic) and telling us about all sorts of wonderful and interesting things. I felt cleverer just listening to him. Don’t take my kids to the damn zoo. Take them on a game drive!

And then, almost as if nature herself was thanking me for that very observation, our vehicle turned left and right there napping on the grass were two beautiful male lions. I’ve never seen them out there in the wild. I’ve seen them in cages, looking bedraggled and weary. I’ve been on so many game drives, but not once have I ever been fortunate enough to spot the lions. One time there was one very far away and I could only see him by using the telescopic zoom on my camera, but that didn’t count. There they were though, napping in the shade, content as kittens. It’s such a pity that attempting to cuddle them would lead to certain death…

All I have left on my game viewing bucketlist is a hippo. I’m pretty sure that means that I had a damn successful weekend! I wish I could take even more advantage of SANParks Open Week this week. I wonder if I can convince the husband to take a day off work?

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*nice hell is when you’re super overwhelmed but the reason you’re overwhelmed is because you’re working towards something awesome. In this particular case: Road trip to Clarens with the kidlets followed by 6 days of bliss in Zanzibar with the husband. The impending breakdown will be worth it. I’m sure.

Ok fine I’ll go camping…

IMG_1746My husband made me go camping last weekend, even though he knows I hate it. Why do I hate it? Well because I’m a 34 year old woman who has three kids (I’m tired!) and a penchant for living out of her own league. That’s ok, right?

Ok fine it isn’t…

Don’t tell my husband but I kind of didn’t hate camping too much. He’ll get all enthusiastic and go oh my gosh remember how much you moaned about this to everyone and he’ll totally not understand that I moaned about it so much because I couldn’t think of another topic of conversation at the time.

Anyway, we took a trip to the Baaviaanskloof last weekend with some friends(#nayesexploresbaviaanskloof) and then camped out at Bruintjieskraal. Don’t get me wrong, roadtripping and then arriving at a destination where you still have to build your own house will never be my favourite way to do things, but I do have to admit that the affordability of it has this addicted-to-adventure queen kind of reconsidering.

As long as it doesn’t rain.

Or it isn’t cold.

Or the wind doesn’t blow too hard.

Or there isn’t a bathroom.

And I still have to be allowed to moan about it all a little…

Don’t let hypothetical future plans ruin your current actual plans!

IMG_0994I have this thing where I tend to be either all in or all out when it comes to pretty much all the things. I have no middle ground. No balance. No chill. And I suffer quite a bit (okay like 100%) from a phenomenon called state dependency which adds to all that no chill and no balance stuff. Seriously. How do balancy people do this life thing anyway? Because I am failing so hard!

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve become a little travel and photography befok. This is sort of a midlife crisis I suppose. A nice one, though. It’s just that I suddenly woke up and realised that I don’t want to wait to do the things that I love anymore. And I actually for once and for real set about fixing that. During this process I came to acknowledge that while I will be busy being a mom for the next ten years at least, after that I’m going to pretty much be on my own with no career or idea of what to do to keep me busy.

And so I came to decide that while I educate my children, I should begin educating myself in a field that interests me: travel. Which will inevitably lead to taking more pictures and writing more stories. Three of my favourite things. Right there. Oh my god I am SO excited about my future for the first time ever!

So what’s the first thing I do after making this decision? I decide that I must go to a travel conference in Jerusalem in March. This I somehow need to finance on an unpredictable salary while still making sure my family doesn’t starve.

Nadine: chill. (more…)

A Sanity Saving Staycation at the Plantation

13934945_10157366918415094_3507844175433383530_nI’m sitting on my bed right now watching TV and feeling grateful that I’m in a should I nap or read? mood rather than a if I don’t nap for seven hours right now I might as well set myself on fire mood. Last weekend had a weird suck factor to it that I don’t really want to get into right at this moment but it did and it left me feeling out of sorts and perhaps a little irrationally wounded. Anyway, sometimes I have to wonder if The Universe somehow conspires to apologise for these things by injecting a little goodness just when you need it.

13906895_10157366918850094_535266262889412620_nOn Tuesday night Ty and I got to stay in the bridal suite of The Plantation which is situated just outside of town and it was more glorious than I even imagined it would be. Ty won the night for us in a little competition that he entered back in April, I think,  and we decided to use it on Monday night because Tuesday (Women’s Day) marked our 7 years together anniversary. Now of course, such places are usually way out of our league. We humble folk don’t usually indulge in such fancy things, but my goodness it was a welcome treat! We were fed the most incredible picnic right in our room. I think I squeaked and oohed and aahed through that entire meal! Cheese and crackers-type food is kind of my favourite thing to eat. But this was over the top! Homemade pate and a cranberry salad with salad dressing that I all but ended up drinking from the bottle! The luncheon meats were obviously bought from places I would never consider stepping foot in. All of it: so beautiful! And we got to wash it down with the most delicious bottle of champagne! And then blissful sleep with no real life to bother us until morning. (more…)

On Depression, SAMREC, Cape Recife Lighthouse, and why are all the snails dead?

13686700_10157312362800094_8714966834069855283_nCan I confess something just quickly? I’m feeling absolutely depressed today. Like cry-about-the-undone-laundry depressed. Worry-that-I’m-not-enough-for-the-kids depressed. Holy-crap-I-need-to-work-more depressed. And it’s damn hard to get anywhere when I’m feeling like this. It’s hard to not want to do anything but sleep. I get that it’s not real. I get that it’s in my head. But it’s here today.

So I need to try and think of something that brings me actual joy. And I need to damn well remember that even though 2016 has been a shithole of a year for the world, in many ways it has actually been a kind of awesome year for me.

Remember that, Nadine! Dammit! Remember that this is the year that you started to take your love of travel seriously. You made it work. You ARE making it work. For the first time you have moved from that’s not possible  to  how can I make this possible? And that’s a big deal. And even though the state of the world pains you to no end, it has also served as a very grave reminder that life is to be lived now because later might not exist. And you’re getting better at it. Which is something. (more…)