Travel Resolution: Stay Home

So I told you last week (ok it might have been the week before…what happened to last week anyway?)  that I have a resolution to do a few staycations around town with my husband this year. Well, aside from sleeping in hotels in a town where I already have a bed, I also want to tour the town where I already live.

A recurring thought to me these days has been this:

Wherever you are is somewhere.

Now I get that sounds a bit obvious, but here’s the thing. To me, Wanderlust is a bug that bites and then contaminates your blood so that you can barely consider life without being immersed in either planning or executing the latest adventure. I do recognise that for others, it might be different, but for me I’m quite enjoying living life between travel plans.

But what happens when there are no travel plans?

One of the most delightful side effects of the exploring that I have done over the last couple of years is that it has really made me find it possible to love wherever I am. And that is such a great thing.

I have gone from:

Oh my gosh America is amazing.

Oh my gosh England is amazing.

Oh my gosh Spain is amazing.

Oh my gosh Thailand is amazing.

Oh my gosh India is amazing.

Oh my gosh Zanzibar is amazing.

To:

Oh my gosh earth is amazing.

So I’m exploring earth. And right now Port Elizabeth occupies the little bit of earth that I’m situated on so I’m going to explore her flat.

She deserves it.

Because she is amazing too.

Things to Do: Food Truck Friday

Our little seaside city is undoubtedly becoming quite the foodie mecca these days and it seems that one of our more quirky foodie events is here to stay. The first Food Truck Friday happened back in November and was so popular that the event pretty much ran out of food. Of course, now it’s running a little more smoothly and more trucks and entertainment have been added. It seems that the tasty extravaganza is here to stay.

The next one is being held on Friday the 20th, and this month they’re running a competition where you can win a whole bunch of yumminess as well as two Nelson Mandela Bay Passes (those things are the bomb, you guys!) so you should probably pop over to Facebook and enter that.

The cool thing about Food Truck Friday is that meal costs are capped at R45 so you can tickle your tastebuds without breaking the bank too much. Seriously: for foodie food this is actually ok. I once paid R70 for a foodie food pork skewer that had like three pieces of pork on it. It was amazing but the only reason I could afford it was because someone else paid for it!

Just a tip though: if it’s possible get there early before the crowds arrive. That way you get to skip the queues and just chill and take in the good vibes.

Travel Resolutions: Staycations

Believe it or not one of my biggest resolutions for this year is to spend more time “away” in my own city. This seems mad, I admit, but the thing is that I cannot help but believe that it can also be a kind of investment in our sanity. No, we can’t go away to fancy places all the time. We can afford neither the money nor the time to do so. But an un-fancy little stay on just the outskirts of town? Or even up the road? We might be able to do that.

Why, you ask? Because it kind of makes a difference. It’s a break without a big commitment, which is a great way to take a proper break.

Planning trips is an exciting endeavour, don’t get me wrong. But SO MUCH goes into them. Sourcing the funds. Finding hotels. Considering possible challenges. The list doesn’t end. And that’s just the list for the trip itself! You also have to organize how your home is going to function without you. Where are the children going to go (if they’re not coming with) and who is going to feed the cats and water the plants and meet the alarm company if the alarm is activated.

So, yes. I want to try this. One night at a time. Two at most. Almost no driving time (and low petrol costs). Just relaxing and exploring different parts of my city and sleeping in a room that is actually tidy for a change. Possibly getting rid of my phone for the duration (can I live without Instagram?) And having an awesome breakfast!

My first staycation is taking place on the 28th.

I can’t wait.

Something to Do: Listen to Untold Stories on a Township Tour

Have you ever been so impressed by something that you don’t actually know how to start talking about it? I’ve wanted to share my experience with the Untold Stories Tour that I took through Calabash Tours a couple of weeks ago ever since I said goodbye to our tour guide, Xholani. I’ve gushily spilled my enthusiasm over my family members, had lengthy discussions about it with my husband, and spent many hours contemplating the brilliant simplicity of it all.

And yet here I sit feeling like I am at a loss for the right words.

So, I’m going to put it to you simply, and hope that my message comes across regardless.

The Untold Stories Tour is one of the most important tours I have ever been on, and it excites me that this is something that is being offered to tourists in our city. Basically, we went on a township tour, which in itself is exceptionally enlightening and filled with important history that all South Africans should be aware of. But, most importantly, the tour included having dinner in the home of Mamma Gwen. Mamma Gwen prepared a very South African (and delicious) meal for us, and while we ate, she told us about her life.

I have to admit this was one of the most enlightening experiences of my life. I’ve always sort of thought that “tourism” is not a particularly authentic way of getting to know different parts of the world. Oftentimes it isn’t. Often tours kind of show you the fancy sugar-coated parts of whichever part of the world you find yourself in. That’s ok, of course. Because it’s fun regardless. But unless you actually move somewhere for a couple of months, it’s kind of hard to get a real glimpse into the lives of the people who live there. This Untold Stories Tour, however, gives you such a real experience.

Forgive my over-enthusiasm, but I do highly recommend doing this. Even if you already live here. Possibly I recommend it especially if you already live here.

I know some people might find the idea of a township tour to be distasteful. I have felt this way myself. In fact the only reason I even went on a township tour in the first place (I’ve now been on two – both were great) is because I wanted to formulate a more informed opinion on the practice. The thing is, though, that a better understanding of the experiences of our fellow citizens is so exceptionally important. Mama Gwen’s stories are so important! And so I have come to believe that these township tours can be quite significant.

So I’d like to say thank you to Calabash Tours for this experience. Thank you for bringing tourism opportunities to people who might not otherwise think to find their place here. Thank you for showing how important they are to this industry! I truly hope that this endeavour is supported and that it grows to include even more beautiful people like Mama Gwen.

Do yourself a favour and check out this tour. You won’t regret it.

Travel Tale: My First Flight

After two disastrous flight experiences to and from Zanzibar this year, I found myself (in the throes of Novemberitis) placating myself with promises of only local travel for 2017. Nothing wrong with that, of course. In fact I have had occasion to feel quite content with the idea of exploring only my immediate surrounds for a little while.

The plan: Play around here for the year while saving up for a nice international trip to be taken after my plane weariness has had time to subside.

I expected it to take a year. It took a month.

So now, as I find myself back in the habit of perusing my Cheapflights app during almost any given lull,  I cannot help but think back the first time I flew. Flying with children is quite a tiresome endeavour these days, especially for a mixed family. On the odd occasion I consider it (a flight to Vic Falls sometime, perhaps) but then I come to my senses and remind myself of the home affairs nightmare this would entail.

When I was a wee little thing though, my brave and probably naive mother, set out on a trip to the States with three children under the age of five in tow. I remember it being a bit of a challenge that culminated in me dropping the cold medicine and having it shatter on the floor of what I assume was the Minneapolis airport.  Apart from that I remember countless packets of peanuts, not being able to sleep on uncomfortable chairs, movies projected in the front of the plane that I could not see, kind hostesses, and a very travel-weary mother who probably regretted her decision to attempt to travel alone with three children almost immediately.

As tiresome as the entire trip was, though, it did give me my very first taste of somewhere new, a taste which I am beginning to fear will never be satiated. It seems too that this is a feeling can only be reached by plane, as mad as that may sound.

When I arrived, as a five year old in the States, I thought we were in the sky. I still feel a little like that after flying. Planes take us away to strange places where people speak in strange tongues and with strange accents. Even television does not prepare us for the differences between us. And nothing prepares you for that feeling of being somewhere entirely new. Nothing prepares you for how much there is to learn out there.

I don’t love planes, I admit. Even the 5 year old me found little to be enchanted by inside these large tubes of discomfort that hurtle us through the sky while our bodies react with dehydration and a greater susceptibility to illness. And yet I cannot deny that planes do two of my absolute favourite things in the world:

They whisk me away to faraway places.

And, most importantly, they bring me home.

I’ve broken up with myself…

When the new year rolls around you inevitably find a slew of folks suggesting that you leave bad relationships in the past. This, of course, is sound advice, and I have followed it myself on quite a few occasions (it gets easier to do with practice). This year, however, the person I am parting ways with is myself.

Of course, the only reason I am putting it this way is because it sounds very dramatic and it will make you roll your eyes.

What I really mean though, is that my travel-loving adventurous self and my introverted curl-up-with-a-book-and-never-leave-home self are parting ways. But only in the blog sense. Unfortunately in the real world we share a body so we’re stuck with each other.

That’s right: I have finally listened to all the experts and I’m splitting my home-schooling blocked-author mom persona and my travel persona up, because honestly the combination doesn’t make sense even to me so I can only imagine how many raised eyebrows occur when folks land up here.

The travel self is being spoiled, because even though she is relatively new, she is still being allowed to keep the Passing the Open Windows url. The older self, that some of you might still know and love, will be adopting her namesake as a url and will be pondering life and sharing her facts and fictions over at Nadine Rose Larter. For now, you’ll have to forgive both sites for being stuck in a bit of a transition period. I like to think they’ll soon find stability.

Here’s wishing you all a great new year of positive changes and progressive happiness. I hope your 2017 is filled with the exact adventures that make your hearts sing!

 

Thinking about tourism…

As it turns out I am currently sitting on a bed in a hotel room in George thinking about tourism. Probably I should be out there exploring a bit, but instead I am sitting here feeling zen and contemplative. And what am I contemplating? Not even George tourism and what I might manage to get up to while I am here, but Port Elizabeth tourism and how I might manage to play a small (or big!) role in moving the industry forward.

shark rock pier

Lately I’ve been asking myself what I personally think is a really important question:

What makes people come to visit Port Elizabeth? (and by extension, the Eastern Cape)

img_5270I was visiting Hlosi Game Lodge when this question first occurred to me. Of course we won our weekend there, otherwise we would never have had the experience. These game farm experiences – and they are experiences – can be quite costly. Worth it, most definitely, but that doesn’t quite change the fact that I can’t afford them! Anyway… Of course when we were visiting Hlosi, we were the only South African visitors there. The rest of our fellow guests were from all over the world. England, of course, but also Germany and Sweden if I remember correctly. So as I observed these guys (who got really excited seeing giraffe in the far distance) I could not help but wonder: how did they end up here? (more…)

Sharing the Bay by Being a Hometown Tourist

img_36002016 has been an incredible year for me. I feel almost guilty saying that because in the grander scheme of things it has been a pretty scary year. Especially that part where the Apocalypse is coming and The Hunger Games are probably going to be a real thing now. And even more especially that part where too many folks seem to be on board with this madness.

I digress. We accidentally got spoilt this year. I somehow found myself overseas twice, exploring places vastly different from home, and I began to fall more and more in love with the idea of somehow getting it right to balance my homebody self with my adventurous self. This year kind of showed me that out-of-the-ordinary things are possible in even the most ordinary of lives.

Of course going overseas twice in one year plus getting a little over-enthusiastic on the roadtrip front has inevitably lead to a little more credit card debt than I am comfortable with, and of course the husband has over-extend his available leave, which means that next year is looking a little travel-skint for this wayfaring duo. Perhaps it may have been a little wiser to spread things out a little bit more. Oh well, too late for that.

img_3316But you know what? I’m kind of excited regardless. All this exploring in faraway places has kind of drawn me home a bit and inspired me to explore around here in a more intense way. I am determined to spend 2017 sharing the bay while I discover all the secrets our beautiful city has to offer. I can’t wait to start, so I’ll probably be sharing some of my favourite things about around here over the next couple of weeks. But I’m most excited about going out there and treating Port Elizabeth as a foreign place that I have the added bonus of oodles of time to explore.

I’m a Port Elizabethan Blogger, folks! I should have been doing this ages ago!

(First order of business: figure out how to take a really cool picture of the pier…)

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

Why is there a monkey in my tree?

img_4920I’ve lived in Jutland Crescent, overlooking Baakens Valley, for going on twelve years now, and not once have I ever seen a monkey here. Yes, we’re overlooking the valley, and it almost even makes sense that monkeys might make their way here. I suppose you could call our little hill an extension of Settlers Park if you wanted. So yeah. There’s plenty of wildlife here. We’ve had dassies, guinea fowl, grouse, mongooses, tortoises, genets, way too many snakes for my liking, and even a couple of duiker in our yards before (when I say “our” I mean my yard and my mom’s yard – we live next to each other) but never ever have I seen a monkey.

And yet there she was: eating a locust in my tree.

So, I have to ask the question. Why is she here? Why is there a monkey bouncing though the trees in my yard? And why does she seem so impossibly terrified every time she sees me point my camera at her? And why is she, a vervet monkey, alone? Vervet monkeys are social creatures that travel in tribes.

She’s lost.

And she’s really scared of my camera.

Is it silly for me to wonder if she’s been shot at? It seems to be a logical conclusion. I’ve never seen a vervet monkey who was more afraid than curious. They usually just kind of look at you when you look at them. They’re usually cheeky as hell. So maybe somebody shot at her and her family members. Maybe that’s why she’s lost and so far from home.

And there I was pointing a “gun” at her. Luckily by the time I sort of figured out that the gun was making her scared, she also seemed to realise that I wasn’t shooting at her. So she calmed down a bit. Ate a locust. And then vanished into the valley.

I never did manage to get a decent pic of her. But I hope she finds her people soon.

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…)