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…

Flamingoes in the Bay

DSCN4658I had a bit of a daft experience last week. Every time I drive back into Port Elizabeth from the Grahamstown side of town I peer through the car window and look longingly into the Cerebos salt pans, searching for flamingoes and wishing I could get a closer look at all those beautiful pink spots and photograph them to my hearts content. After returning from our trip to Port Alfred a couple of weeks ago, the husband and I actually tried to get closer – much to the polite annoyance of the security guard at Kouga – but we failed.

DSCN4681Well, last week when we set out on our little #larteradamsroadtrip I didn’t expect for there to be flamingoes on the menu, but as we drove along the road between Port Elizabeth and Redhouse, we came across the salt pans situated on the side of the road and guess what? FLAMINGOES! And yes, I know maybe it’s silly, but I didn’t know they were there so it was kind of exciting to stumble upon them by accident. Of course, I finally got to photograph them and made an absolute mess of the whole thing because it was really cold and windy outside so I just shot them from the car. Them’s some bland pictures!

It’s ok though. I know they’re there now, and I’m trying to get to know my town better, so I’ll definitely be back there to explore a little more closely. Next time I might even look up some interesting facts to share with the kids so that I don’t have to just point and go “Look at the pretty birdies, guys!”

Flamingoes, you guys!!

It’s so damn cool!

 

Selfies in India

12670061_10153728745466117_2390198794477463461_nWe’re halfway through April already and I barely remember March happening at all. What a strange year this is turning out to be. New things falling into place. Old things falling away. Sanity a thing of the past. You know how it goes.

Anyway:

I promised my friend Tammy that I’d give her the details of our itinerary when we were in India and, once again, figured I might as well blog it instead of just emailing it. Here I can add pictures and things and go all memory laney on myself if I want. Right?

Honestly though, I can’t stop thinking that what we did doesn’t really matter. It’s what you choose to do on your travels that matters. (more…)

A South African in India

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I’ve been back home for well over a month now after our somewhat impromptu trip to India in Feb, and I have been so overwhelmed by the happenings of life that I actually haven’t gotten around to blogging a single thing about any of it. Of course now it seems kind of pointless and a bit back-tracky which I hate, but I did promise a friend that I would put together some tips for her so I thought maybe I could do that in the form of a blog post and then I can pretend to myself that I do actually write about nice things as well as things that are…well…less nice.

Of course one of the biggest factors in us choosing to go to India was the fact that our Rand stretches a little further there than it does in other parts of the world. I will, however, admit that this particular trip cost well over twice as much as the next trip I have planned. So, I’m learning. I’m learning how to work things out in a more cost-effective way, and all the while feeling exceptionally grateful to have somehow managed to wangle one of my favourite yet seemingly unattainable things into this life of mine.

Travel. Is there anything better? (more…)

Post Indian Blues

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Folkies I am bluesing so badly since getting back from India almost two weeks ago! I have my next trip brewing in my head already which is probably not good. How do I even fix this? How do I find balance between my love for exploring the world and the rest of my life? Do other travellers experience this angst? I was looking forward to being home but I gotta admit it’s been one overwhelming trial followed by another ever since I got home. If it wasn’t for shared glasses of wine with a good friend (and a happy-I-met-her new friend!) I would probably be a lot battier at this point.

Will it help to actually start planning the next trip? Despite the financial limitations? This real life crap is a bummer. Thank God Tim Burton is bringing out Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and that Alice Through the Looking Glass is about to hit the big screen soon. Colour to look forward to.

I might need to hide under my duvet with a pile of books this weekend. I need to get this damn reset button to work.

Maybe that’s the problem though… Maybe I need to stop expecting that it will…

How to Plan an Impromptu Trip to India

1024px-Taj_Mahal,_Agra,_India 

In eight more sleeps Ty and I are going to India. Three months ago I wasn’t planning to go to India. Going to India was never on my main travel list. To be perfectly honest with you, India has always been on my in case of divorce travel list. Thanks, Elizabeth Gilbert. I blame you. My comfortably married self who is currently not in need of an ashram, has been considering other destinations though. Germany, for one. And Italy. But not India.

Then, in November, I met Shobha. Shobha lives in Hyderabad, India, and she stayed with my folks for a couple of weeks while learning more about their business and she and I got along really well. Of course, she kept saying you should come and visit us in India and I of course kept thinking if only impromptu trips to India were part of my homeschooling housewife lifestyle.

You know how sometimes you go to your favourite online shopping store and you put a bunch of stuff into the cart before laughing at yourself and then closing the browser? I do that too. But with trips.

So, I thought maybe I should share what happened, because I’m kind of overwhelmed at how it worked out. Travelling is a luxury denied to most. As someone who barely makes ends meet, I must admit sometimes I don’t feel like I deserve this thing that makes my heart soar so high. But maybe, just maybe, it’s a little more doable than we allow ourselves to believe. As soon as you make it a priority, somehow it works itself out.

Play With Flight Apps

Out of curiosity about what kind of costs we were looking at for a trip to India, I decided to play around with a flight app on my phone. I was shockingly surprised to find that flights around the dates that I had randomly chosen were not that bad. Those are now the dates that we will be travelling. If I had chosen other random dates, we literally might not be going right now, because on further inspection, I fiddled around with other dates and the tickets went up by 4 to 6 grand. If those had been the first numbers I had seen I would have put my phone down, so don’t give up if the first numbers you get are bad. Play around a bit and you might come up with something you can afford.

Check Out the Sights

So I knew that the Taj Mahal was in India, but after that my knowledge was limited. Obviously ashramming was not an option (you go to those things solo, otherwise there’s no point as far as I’m concerned) so I had to figure out what the actual options are. Let me tell you, as soon as you start Googling India, you realise that you need to take off at least 6 months to get a proper feel of the place. Figuring out how to spend a mere 3 weeks is hard. I already know that when my kids are grown I’m going back for a proper amount of time.

Chat to a Tour Guide

 So, a lot of websites that I visited offered tour packages and I was curious about them but there were no prices. Finally, at one random site, I put in my details and hit send. The confirmation email arrived in my inbox, and I suddenly sobered up. How ridiculous! I don’t need a tour operator to contact me! I’m not going to India! That’s madness! So I deleted the email without confirming anything.

Well, the next day I received phone calls from three different tour companies. This was a little embarrassing as I wasn’t a serious potential customer, but I was upfront about my simple curiosity and none of my unconfirmed email follow uppers seemed offended by this or ever treated me like I was wasting their time. Soon I had three different quotes for what I wanted. The number was high, but it seemed reasonable.

 800px-A_man_in_traditional_attire,_RishikeshDo Your Own Research

 Not wanting to accept the high quotes on blind faith I started doing my own research. I tried to figure out what things would cost if I set about doing all of it on my own, and also contemplated just rocking up in India and going with the flow. The go-without-a-plan thing was easy enough to do in Thailand. Honestly, I’d happily send my kids to Thailand with a backpack and zero plans and feel pretty confident that they’d manage ok. But it doesn’t work like that for all countries. London and Spain, for instance, are scary as hell and it’s hard to make any sort of decision in those places without fearing that your weakly valued SA Rands are going to disappear way faster than you expected.

Anyway, I did the research and started to understand pretty well what things did and didn’t cost. I am almost 100% sure that just going with the flow and doing things on your own is probably the most cost effective way to go. But for this trip I decided that I’m ok with paying a little extra for a bit of piece of mind. We need a good break, so splurging on a few unnecessary extras seems like a good way to go.

I turned down two of the quotes I got and then worked with the tour operator who gave me the third. Together we changed a few things and managed to get it down by quite a few thousand Rands. I have to admit that a LOT of work went in to all of it, but I’m happy with the idea of what we’re getting (not sure if the idea and the reality will measure up but here’s hoping!) and I’m glad I put in the extra work because now I know that I have made the choice that I am most comfortable with.

Buy the Tickets

 If you’re comfortable purchasing tickets online then go for it! Personally I was a little weary that I was missing some sort of fine print so I contacted my travel agent. She managed to get me tickets close to the price that I had found online but with less travel time so I was super happy about that.

Get the Vaccinations

There are no compulsory vaccinations needed for India, although there are a couple of recommended ones. If, however, you are travelling to India via Ethiopia like I am, you need to get a yellowfever shot. The shot is valid for 10 years so keep that card they give you in case you need it for your next travel adventure.

Get the Visa

The visa application process seems to be a lengthy one with many forms and hoops, but at least it’s not too expensive. You’re looking at an overall costing of less than R500 per person which is pretty low compared to some costs.

Dream About Packing and Then Get Started

I haven’t started packing yet but I’ve packed in my head a thousand times already. I’m so excited I can barely contain myself any more. The anticipation of this trip, though very spur of the moment, has kind of kept me ticking for the last couple of months, a fact for which I am exceptionally grateful. 

800px-Lotus_Nelumbo_nucifera_Flower_Close_2048pxRemember That Things Are Possible

I feel like an ignorantly privileged jerk making sweeping statements like all things are possible, but I think pulling something like this off (and I assure you – the kind of wangling that had to take place in order to make this happen was a feat of talent!) reminds me that things like this can be pulled off. And it makes me feel hopeful. I pulled off a trip to Thailand in 2013. Then in 2014 I managed to pull off another trip to Thailand, this time with my husband. I spent 2015 feeling like our travels might be behind us for a very long while, and it felt a bit like a stone in my stomach. But we’ve done it, again. And I think I might be figuring it out that we can do this. We can live this way, over and over. We just need to do the wangling thing. We need to prioritise.

 

Image Credit:

By Yann (talk) – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11204972

By Photo (c)2007 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) – Own work (Own Picture), CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1608505

By Ken Wieland from Philadelphia, USA – Rishikesh man, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7317554

 

 

 

 

 

On Going to India

20160119_122445-02Well, a little while ago the Fedex man arrived with our passports complete with our tourist visas to India. This means it’s finally real. It means my husband and I will definitely be going to India in February and I can barely express my relief. I cannot wait to board a plane and lean my head against my husband’s shoulder while we decide which in-flight movie to watch together. I can’t wait to race through the airport in a rush to make our connecting flight in Ethiopia. I can’t wait to land in Mumbai and meet our first tour guide. I can’t wait to arrive at our first hotel and flop down on the bed for a minute before indulging in a shower and getting ready to start our adventure.

It’s silly, perhaps. These trips my husband and I have committed to taking. It’s only our second so far, of course, but we are hoping to make travel a regular occurrence. I always feel the need to justify this though. I always want to explain that yes we are not wealthy people, but travelling is so important to us which is possibly a ridiculous notion since in truth what we decide to do with our lives is irrelevant to anyone but us. Perhaps it is the small town girl in me still tries to steel herself against harsh judgements and gossip. How dare we do such a thing for ourselves! 

But then I realise: we are wealthy. Because we have the option of choosing to travel over choosing to purchase more material things like new cars or fancy toys or working towards owning our own home. We are able to live frugally on one salary while the other admittedly small salary can be saved for travel – albeit budget travel.

So instead of paying mind to judgements and subtle condemnations of my parenting, and instead of allowing my own guilt to berate me for choosing what I can only describe as a balm to soothe the many cracks in this otherwise hard life, I am going to indulge in this happiness. And I am somehow going to teach myself to focus on the happy stuff more often than I do the not-so-happy stuff. Because my God life is long, and the happy stuff at least helps to speed it up a little.

To my husband Ty….I can’t wait to go on this adventure with you. Thank you for being the kind of partner that has helped to make travel a reality. Thank you for being on my side and by my side and thank you for being such an amazing travel partner. I love you so damn much!