Naps & Books

After a busy day of checking out what the little towns around the Port Alfred area have to offer the ambling traveller,  Im happy to be snuggled up in my hotel bed, fresh from a nap (husband says you cant have naps after 5pm – pffft!) and ready to get stuck into some coffee and rusks and this little book I brought with me. It was kind of tough to decide what to pack to read for such a short weekend trip, but I reckon I made a good choice. A collection of short stories means that I get to do some decent reading without having to worry that my adventure will steal me from my book or that my book will steal my adventure.

Maintaining real life and book life is a balancing act sometimes,  my friends. Now if I can just get my husband to stop trying to discuss the rugby game with me then my content will be complete…

As for the travelling stuff? Ill tell you about that later!

New Instagramming Material

imageI was glancing through my Instagram this morning and holy monkeys on tree swings there are way too many selfies with cats on there at the moment. So… I’m definitely looking forward to a bit of A Short Road Trip with the husband tomorrow because at least I’ll have some new things to take pictures of. Knowing that I tend to enter all the accommodation competitions that I find, a friend pointed out that The Royal St Andrews Hotel in Port Alfred is having just such a competition so I entered it. Then I thought, oh buggerit I don’t have time to win competitions I need to go somewhere NOW so now we’re going there now. If we win then double yay because we’re going on our Anniversary Road Trip in August so we could use it then.

Anyway: the point is that I’m eager to get a little exploring done between here and Port Alfred over the next two days. I’ve been through Port Alfred on the odd occasion but I’ve never really meandered through it much at all. And to be perfectly honest: we need it. Gosh this real life this is an ass boil sometimes and this last week needs to be lanced!

Now if I can just get this slight little flu tickle to GO AWAY! (read that in Moaning Myrtle’s voice please) then I can move on and get packing and be ready to leave here as early as possible in the morning…

Travel Plans and Crazy Schemes

Anniversary Road Trip

I’m not even kidding a little if I tell you that over the weekend, in an attempt to get a little better at this whole travel thing,  I spent about 15 hours fiddling on flight and hotel apps. I’m 97% sure that I did nothing else over the weekend actually. I watched….something. What was it? Oh yes… The whole of the IT Crowd series. It’s funny. When you pay attention between apps.

You see….

I made the decision this year that my salary (and it is not a big one) is now exclusively travel money. I am paying for absolutely nothing in this house. Nought. Nada. No.

That sounds terrible.

But…

We love to travel.

So. We decided that if we can make Ty’s salary work hard enough to cover “life” then my income can be used exclusively for fun. It’s hard. But we’re making it work.

Anyway,, my new “rule” is that whenever I pay off my credit card I’m allowed to buy flights to somewhere. We are trying to keep flight costs under 10k per person (not so easy when you have to add PE- JHB flights to any international flight) but we are determined to live the life that we want to live instead of constantly making excuses for why we can’t have what we want.

I had big plans to take us to Zanzibar for our Seven Year Anniversary this year (gotta combat that seven year itch!) and I had even found us super cheap flights on Fast Jet which I was more than excited about. But I didn’t want to get the tickets before I’d managed to properly pay off my credit card. Well, it’s almost done, but when I checked for tickets on my very specific dates, I discovered that the flights I was planning to use were full.

DEVASTATION!

This has been on my mind for a month. All the scheming. All the figuring out how to make it work. All the eating of lentils and chickpeas and turning down invitations for drinks because “I’m saving for a trip”. GAH!

Ok fine. Try other dates. Nope. Nothing around our anniversary works. At least not in the kind of time-efficient way that you need to employ in order to make the best of the husband’s leave.

So…

I decided to give my credit card a tiny little break and we are going to celebrate our first 7 years together with a long as hell road trip from POrt Elizabeth to Mozambique and back.

Why?

Because the bug has bitten, babies. And it’s not leaving any time soon.

 

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

 

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

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

Well, 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.

They’re silly, perhaps. These trips my husband and I have committed to taking. This one is 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!

 

Wanderlusting

DSCN8551I’m currently on a bit of a road trip through the Western Cape with my husband. We like to do this for ourselves from time to time. At the moment we’re a bit broke, but it was our anniversary on the third and I guess sometimes love needs to trump questionable bank accounts. As much as I adore being in my home (anyone who knows me well knows that I tend towards being a bit of a hermit sometimes) I do admit that combatting cabin fever becomes a delicate balancing act, which is best performed by leaving our fair city behind. These little road trips have healing powers. They have restorative powers. And to be a little too honest: they have marriage saving powers!

So my husband and I are road tripping, and we’ve been to an array of strange places over the last week. Letting my husband take control of the planning has lead to far stranger experiences than if I had been in charge. His relaxed approach to life is certainly more conducive to adventure than my uptight and systematic need for control is. Again, you see: balance. Last week we stayed in a tepee. This is a decidedly un-South African way to spend the night, of course, but it was a new experience nonetheless, and new experiences are the point. We even got to have the strange experience of stumbling upon a (possibly) biker bar in the middle of Prince Alfred’s Pass where the owner had a stuffed springbuck’s hind quarters set up on the wall (instead of a traditional hunting trophy head) and if that wasn’t bizarre enough, he had, for reason’s known only to the infinite cosmos, rigged it up so that whisky could be tapped from the poor creature’s lady bits. I learned of myself that evening that I am quite the prude and that there are some authentic experiences that I am happy to skip out on. The indignity of it all still haunts me, days later.

After the night of strange taxidermy and authentic American tenting, we spent the night on a lovely farm that is completely off the grid. This of course excited Ty no end because he just wants to live off the grid. Having a proper off-the-grid experience was a nice reminder of the possibility of it all.

We’ve actually been having a lovely time. We’ve driven through farm after farm. We’ve admired exquisite protea bushes and gasped at the beauty of the wine lands and marvelled at the brownness of the Cederburg area. I’ve taken a thousand photographs of clouds. And all the while I have been reminding myself: we are nothing without our farmers. These folks who make this all happen are our unsung heroes. We should thank them more often. I can barely grow tomatoes in my veggie garden, never mind feed a whole country.

And yet…there is something that is missing…

Please don’t get me wrong. I love our country. Our country is beautiful and magnificent and we probably have the best weather in the whole world. We have this beautiful diversity, which makes me smile. We have great food. We have our odd colloquialisms and our specific brand of humour. I love all of those things. And I miss them when I go away.

But when you’re road tripping in your own country you never really properly feel like you have left home. You never experience that exquisite spark of fear that is brought about by being faced with the unknown. You never get to stand still for a moment, look around you and tell yourself, “I have absolutely no idea where I am”. I must admit, I am addicted to that feeling.

I tried to tell myself the other day that I need to stop having lofty and impossible dreams about trips overseas that I cannot afford. I should just be quietly content to explore my own country. Exploring my own country is doable. But my other self only started to laugh at me. Because as much as I do love exploring the wonders of right here, my other self knows that there is something far more empowering about that feeling of not knowing where you are. Of feeling un-findable. Of being no one in the midst of everyone.

If you’ve ever read The Alchemist you might have noticed that there is a quote by Madonna on the back. It says “The Alchemist is a book about magic, dreams and the treasures we seek elsewhere and then find on our own doorstep.” To me this is a gross misinterpretation of the book. To me, The Alchemist is about how you should seek out adventure despite the fact that everything you need might be on your doorstep.

My own interpretation of the story sticks with me and causes my mind to scheme constantly. It is why, even though I am not wealthy, I have begun to stick small amounts of money away in a “flight fund”. And it is why I am constantly on websites like webjet checking out what it costs to fly where. Because it is important to know these things. It is important to know that if you don’t get yourself the latest iPhone, you could actually afford to purchase a ticket to Vietnam. It is important to know that if you save x amount of money for y amount of months that you could give yourself a trip to Prague.

Because you know what? As healing and restorative and marriage-saving as a road trip through the country might be, a plane ticket to anywhere holds within it a thousand times more power. And yes, everything I need might be on my doorstep, but the world outside of my doorstep is calling me. And I will keep checking on those ticket prices. I will keep working out how much to save. And soon I’ll be on a plane again.

Train Trippin’

Once upon a time I watched a Bruce Springsteen DVD and thought to myself “I hope that one day I can see ol’ Bruce live”. A weird thought perhaps for someone barely familiar with the man’s music, but then again, it is quite hard to deny the man’s charismatic presence. With only the idea that I would like to see him live one day, I was very quick to decide on a trip to Joburg to see the man perform when it was announced that he would be gracing our primitive shores. And so it was that on Friday I found myself on a train headed for a mere 24-hour stay in Johannesburg. Of course trains are not really part of my every day life. But then again, neither are planes or busses. No…. We drive everywhere. Usually. Usually when petrol doesn’t cost three arms and several legs. Driving is fast becoming a luxury to be set aside in favour of essentials like food and sanity.

DSCN0093Anyway, I’m quite pleased to be able to announce from experience that train rides in South Africa do not suck too much. Hubby and I found ourselves quite comfortable in our small compartment made for two (though I must admit – two average sized people would be comfortable – two large people maybe not so much) and it was quite nice to just veg out a bit and read without being distracted by life. The train was clean. The staff on board were all pleasant. The bathroom didn’t make me want to refrain from liquids.

Unfortunately though…. both our trains were hopelessly late in getting to our destinations. This I find particularly sad because it seems that it is a typical issue and not one that we were unfortunate to encounter due to shoddy timing. It is something that seems to happen  a lot and I must admit that not being able to rely on this kind of thing bugs me. The signalling systems at the stations pack up and once that happens, you’ve got an issue where several trains need to be guided to their destinations by a single “pilot”. This takes forever. Our train was so late in getting to Park Station in Johannesburg that we eventually had our friend pick us up in Germiston. Then on the way home we got stuck in Germiston again. We ended up getting home four hours later than expected.

Was it worth it? Yeah I guess it was. A little quality down time with the hubby was nice. The train food was a bit “meh” but it could have been worse. Travelling for 48 hours in order to watch a concert is possibly a little silly though. Perhaps the trip might feel more worth it if a little more than 24 hours passes in between…