The Beginning of the End (of the year)

I was just going through some journals and notes, and found this in one of my saved files.  Kinda sums up my feelings as we got ready to head home.

May 11, 2018

We have been sailing for the last 5 days, and have just spotted land this afternoon. We were supposed to arrive in Victoria tomorrow morning, but due to a passenger medical emergency, we are arriving this evening instead.  It kind of hit me that we are nearing the end of our amazing year of travels.  And I am sad.  I don’t want it to end.  I want to keep exploring and forget about “real” life.  I would make sure to check in and visit home more than once a year, but I would love to keep travelling forever.  I don’t know what it is about it, but I love it.  I am excited to see family and friends; to have regular hangouts again, and the social aspect of being with people I have a history with….friends you don’t have to work at getting to know, but can just hang out and talk about anything and everything.  The boys are excited (especially Isaac), to get back home and see friends, and get a little bit of their independence back.  But travelling has become our new normal.  We had our ups and downs, but it was a way of life for us for the past year, and it has become comfortable being uncomfortable. What I mean by that is things that used to make us uncomfortable are now comfortable:  picking up a new rental car, packing up after only two nights in a place, not knowing where we’re going in three days time, going out for coffee with friends we just made.  These are the realities of long term travelling.  I’m going to miss it.  I’m going to miss exploring new places and seeing them through Isaac’s and Jo’s eyes. They see things a little differently and with a little more magic than we do.  I’m going to miss learning about different cultures from local people while actually living in those cultures.  I’m going to miss travelling with other people.  There’s a bond that forms that you just don’t get through regular life. I know we were blessed to have this year together.  I know we were blessed with all we got to see and do.  I know our friends and family are waiting at home to hear all our stories and see all our pictures.  But it still hurts saying goodbye to a year that was a little bit magical, a little bit challenging, and a whole lot memorable.

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I’m so very grateful to have had this experience, and that we got to share it with all of you.  Thanks for riding along with us.  I am forever grateful.

Hawaii

Hi there!  Remember me?  It’s been awhile 😉  We have made it home, and I am waaaaay behind on this blog.  So here’s a quick catch up from our time in Hawaii.  I will post some more on our return and homecoming in the next week.

We spent a week on the island of Oahu.  We decided to stay in a less touristy area, and ended up at a nice condominium gated area in the northwest side of the island.  We fell asleep listening to peacocks cawing and the wind blowing through the palm trees.  We spent a couple days on the beach, snorkelling in Hanauma Bay (a volcanic crater with tonnes of tropical fish….we even saw an octopus!!!), and then, picking up Papa Mike.  He started the year with us as we left Canada, so it seemed only fitting that he would fly to Hawaii and help us end the year travelling back to Canada.  It was great to see my dad, and have some time with him in Hawaii before heading back home.  (My mom was not able to join us as someone had to stay home and make money to pay for his trip 😉 haha).  We had shave ice every day, and just enjoyed Hawaiian life.  I’m glad we stayed outside of Honolulu, as we were able to experience a more authentic Hawaiian lifestyle.  Lots of family picnics and barbecues on the beach, lots of local food, and less food chains.  We drove around the entire island, spent an afternoon at Pearl Harbor, and learned a lot about Hawaii’s history.

Then we hopped on another ship that took us to each of the Hawaiian islands before heading across the ocean to Vancouver.  From the beginning, we had always planned to end the year in Hawaii.  Originally we thought we would spend a month here.  I’m really glad we didn’t end up doing that.  Hawaii is gorgeous, and it was awesome to explore, but I think we were all ready to start the journey home, and felt like a week on Oahu was enough to see and explore all that we wanted to for this visit.  We ended up finding a cruise that went from Honolulu to Vancouver, stopping at 4 other Hawaiian islands along the way.  After pricing it out and realizing that we couldn’t fly to all these places and explore for the same price, we booked it.  We went to Lahaina, Maui and took a city bus up to one of the local beaches, where we snorkelled and I got to see my first turtle in Hawaii.  Nathan and I were out in the water, and all of a sudden I saw this turtle waaaay down below me.  When I popped my head up to tell Nathan, the turtle swam up right next to me and popped his head up too.  So cool!  We rented a car on Kauai and drove to Waimea Canyon, and then drove around the south of the island a little bit.  And finally, we went to Kona, on Hawaii (the Big Island), and took a bus tour a little up the coast, before getting off at another local beach and snorkelling for the afternoon.  I think I mentioned we had bought our own snorkel gear for the last leg of the trip, and we put that equipment to good use.  The islands are beautiful, and I can see why so many people go there to relax and get away from it all. It was really fun to have my dad along, and the boys enjoyed hanging out with him again, and doing sightseeing with “papacrossi.”

Anyways, as is sometimes the way, things don’t always go as planned, and we missed one of the Hawaiian ports due to a Volcanic eruption.  The captain came on the PA system to tell us that we would be skipping that port for safety reasons, and they added in Victoria, Canada as an extra stop in place of Hawaii.  We were disappointed that we couldn’t get to the volcano national park, but totally understand the reasoning.  Guess we’ll have to go back and check it out another time 😉  So, we had another 5 days at sea, which actually turned into 4, as partway through day 2, the captain came on with another announcement that we would be sailing full speed ahead and getting into Victoria a day earlier than planned due to a sick passenger on board.

As usual, we attended the lectures the ship offered, and learned so much about Hawaiian history, and their traditions, music, and more about Pearl Harbor.  It was a really great education that we all appreciated, and looked forward to going to each day.  The boys had a blast at kids club, and we did some trivia, rock climbing, and mini golf.  Again, it was nice having my dad along to enjoy the trip with.  As we got closer to Canada, we saw some whales and dolphins in the water.  And also as usual, we got to become friends with some pretty cool staff and fellow passengers.

Thanks for checking in, and sorry for the delay in posts.  We appreciate you all travelling along with us via the blog 🙂

 

Just Do It

I think Nike had it right when they decided on “Just Do It” as their slogan.  You can apply it to more than just sports and athletics though.  It’s something that applies to all areas of life.  Jobs, dates, travel, hanging out with new friends….things that require a lot of thought for most people.  Things that require, to a degree, some risk.  Do the things you’ve been talking about doing.  Accept the invitation to lunch with that acquaintance.  Apply for that job you’ve been thinking about.  Go on that trip you’ve always wanted to. Life is short.  It’s so easy to talk and dream, but when it comes down to just doing it, it’s hard for a lot of us.

You can only plan so much.  You can only imagine so much.  What it comes down to is just putting one foot in front of the other, and doing it. Who knows; that acquaintance you go out for coffee with may just become one of your best friends.  That job you apply for may become the career you dreamed of. Then again, that acquaintance may remain just an acquaintance.  And you may not get that job you applied for.  But at least you’ll know because you did it…. You said yes.  You put yourself out there.  You did it.  And you learned more about yourself by doing, than you did by sitting and wondering.

I know we are in a unique position in being able to travel for a year.  We talked and thought, and planned and schemed.  And there were lots of questions and doubts about how the year would look and if we could make it.  But in the end, we just did it.  We went to places we’ve only seen in books and on TV.  Yes, some places were not as expected.  But some places blew us away.  And most of the people we met will stay with us always. And the only reason we got to experience any of it, is because we just did it. We weren’t always sure what we were getting ourselves into, but we did it!

So whatever it is that you’re thinking about trying or doing….Just do it 🙂

 

*Obviously common sense needs to be used when “just doing it.”  Don’t take a trip if it’s going to put you deep into debt. Start working and saving and planning to “just do it.”   Don’t quit your job until you’ve accepted that new position 😉  Work, plan and save before you “just do it.”

South Pacific

Aloha everyone!  We have made it back into Canada after spending 5 days on Oahu, getting on a ship and spending three port days at three of the other islands (Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island (Hawaii) ), and then five days at sea.

So, firstly, I got into trouble for not posting pictures from our time in the South Pacific.  We got on a cruise ship in Sydney, Australia and had 16 days of sailing through the South Pacific over to Honolulu.  This cruise was the only one that we had booked waaaaay back last January before we left home.  We started with 2 days at sea, which was a nice way to get to know the boat and our fellow travellers.  We had a really nice group of people to travel with on this boat.  Everyone (except one grumpy old man), was super nice, friendly and easy going.  And the itinerary was awesome.  We stopped in Isle des Pins, New Caledonia; Lifou, New Caledonia; Port Vila, Vanuatu; Lautoka, Fiji; Dravuni Island, Fiji; Pago, Pago, America Samoa; and crossed the International Dateline, getting to live April 21 two times.  We also got to take part in a “swim across the equator,” which is for first time sailors crossing the equator.  We swam across the pool and then kissed a fish at the end…salty and gross, but fun.  I washed my mouth out with soap after getting the pic 😉  At the different ports we snorkelled, hiked, checked out local markets, and hung out with friends from the ship.  We spent the days at sea going to lectures on the history of the islands, and learning about the different geology and animals found on the islands.  One of the things we really enjoy about the long cruises are the speakers they bring on board.  There was also a cultural team onboard for the first week from the French Polynesian Islands, who taught us different words, dances and some of their traditions.  The cultural team for the second week were native Hawaiians who taught us the history, dances, songs and traditions of Hawaii.  We learned a lot, went to trivia (yes, the boys answered quite a few questions that we had no clue what the answer was), watched the world go by, and made some good friends along the way.  As you can imagine, the scenery was impressive, but I think we enjoyed the friends we made even more.

Anyways, I hope you are all doing well, and as always, thanks for taking the time to read and travel along with us.  It’s hard to believe we are almost done with this year of travel. Your emails, messages, and comments have truly helped us along the way as we felt like you were with us, and not far far away.  I have a few more things to write about, and if there are any questions or topics you would like me to write about, please email me or let me know in the comments here.

Happy Spring, and enjoy the weekend 🙂

 

 

Kiwi Land

Another month has passed; I can’t believe we are almost at the end of our year already. There were weeks that flew by, and there were weeks that seemed to drag on forever.  Two and a half weeks in New Zealand were some of the weeks that flew. 2.5 weeks was not even close to enough time to experience all that beautiful country has to offer….we didn’t even try.  We decided to slow down and really explore the north island.  We debated going down to the south as well, but in the end decided it would be too rushed; and even 18 days on the north island was not near long enough to see all the sights they have, but we sure did try.  We also debated renting a camper van, but in the end decided to rent the car and stay in hostels and baches (Camping cabins) as much as possible.  We also like being able to  leave our bags and take off for the day without our things with us (if that makes sense).  In the end, we really enjoyed doing it this way, as we were able to connect with a lot of other travellers at the hostels.  The other nice thing was that we found the car easy to maneuver through some tighter areas and smaller roads that would have been doable with the camper van, but a little more nerve wracking.  But that was our experience and reasoning.  We saw LOTS of rental camper vans on the roads and those people seemed to be enjoying exploring NZ that way just as much 🙂

So, we arrived by boat in Auckland, and picked up our rental car immediately.  We headed out of Auckland after a quick stop for some groceries, and headed over to the northeast side of the island and a place called “Hot water beach.”  We timed it just about right, and hit Hot Water Beach at low tide.  There is a lot of thermal activity in NZ’s north island, which leads to hot water running just under the sand here. At the beach, we rented a shovel, and set about digging a hole.  If you dig in the right area, you will hit super hot water, which mixed with cooler water, makes a nice little natural hot tub.  We unfortunately did not dig in the right spot, but a group of people leaving their pool told us we could use it.  Jo made friends with everyone around us, and three “hot tubs” turned into one when he tore down the “walls” between all the pools.  We then spent about an hour hanging out and talking to everyone around us. It was a lot of fun, super relaxing, and a good start to the trip.

From there, we made it to our hostel just after dark, and decided to run out for some food.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to New Zealand, but the roads are tight, twisty, and go up and down.  We felt like we were on a never ending roller coaster ride most of the time we were driving.  Every one of us got car sick at some point in the driving.  All that is to say that our hostel was on a bay, in a really quiet area…no houses, no street lights, no stores.  It was awesome.  But we were also really hungry.  So we drove about 20 minutes down the dark winding road and made it to a town, where we wondered why there was so much noise and lights. We discovered they were having a beach hop with old American cars.  American flags were everywhere, American cars were everywhere, and we felt like we had been transported back about 60 years and into another country.   It was really weird and familiar feeling being in New Zealand but seeing cars cruising down the main street that we would see at a antique car show at home.   It was a lot of fun.  I don’t think I enjoyed it as much the first night because I was a little hangry and more interested in finding food, but the boys loved it!

That was our first night in New Zealand.  From there we drove down to Tauranga, which is a neat seaside-ish town, and we drove around and explored Mount Manganui nearby.  Then we headed down to Rotorua for 5 nights.  This is a very active geothermal area, and the town smells a lot like rotten eggs because of all the sulfur in the air.  We explored lakes, beaches, bubbling water, geysers, redwood forest, and stayed in a really nice, comfortable, spacious Airbnb.  It was really nice to spread out, have a backyard, and meet people at the local park.  And we learned about the Maori culture.  They are a beautiful, welcoming, and gracious people, and we loved spending time with them and learning about their culture.  (I also really love Maori/NZ accents; I could listen to them for hours).

From there, we headed south to Napier, where we rented bikes and rode 30km through some gorgeous farmland, ocean trails, and vineyards.  It was a really good day out, and we all enjoyed stretching our legs and having fun on the trail.  We wish we could have had more time here, but two nights was all we had.  Then in was back up to Turangi, where we did a 25 km hike called the Tongariro crossing. I will post a separate piece on that, as it deserves its own 🙂  We stayed in another hostel and had a lot of fun with the people there; hanging out, chatting, and sharing that camaraderie that you do with fellow travellers.

Carrying on from there, we headed up to Hamilton, and then over to Raglan Beach. We chose Hamilton because it was central to Hobbiton, and the Waitomo Glowworm caves, both of which we explored on day trips out of Hamilton.  Hobbiton was definitely cool to see.  We really felt like we were there, not just on a movie set.  We took an early tour and almost had the place to ourselves.  Loved it! And to add to the awesomeness of Hobbiton, we ran into some friends from home.  We had no idea each other would be there, and I did a double take as I pulled into the parking lot and saw one of my friends from Ultimate standing there.  We couldn’t believe it!  And we took a really small tour of some of the glowworm caves in Waitomo. Jo especially was intrigued.

After Hamilton we went to Raglan, where we stayed at a campground and just chilled. Raglan is a good place to do that. Jo fished every day.  We played Frisbee and swam in the sea.  And we watched tv and read books.

We ended our time in New Zealand attending a rugby game in Hamilton.  The Chiefs won and the boys got to meet some of the players after the game.  They really treat their fans well.

So to sum it up, New Zealand was unexpected.  I have heard a lot of people like NZ better than Australia.  And I went there expecting to love it right away.  But it kinda took it’s time and grew on me.  We met a LOT of tourists, but really enjoyed the few Kiwis that we got to spend time with.  And after getting over the feeling of being car sick every time we drove, we really enjoyed the scenery and sights we drove past.  New Zealand is a gorgeous country….very spread out, and diverse.  We will definitely be back to explore more of this wonderful country that has stolen a little piece of our heart.  We love you Kiwis and your beautiful country 😉  Thanks for having us.

Holland America Noordam

To Our Fellow Passengers on Holland America’s Noordam (from Sydney, Australia to Honolulu April 2018):

As most of you know, we have been travelling around the world for the last 10 months.  This cruise was one of the only things we had booked months before we left home.  We thought it would be a nice way to start winding the travels down, see the south pacific, be a little bit extravagant, and make the trek over to Hawaii.  After booking, we didn’t give it much more thought, as we had so many other things to think about and plan.

I just wanted to say thank you for making this trip with you way more enjoyable than we had even imagined it would be when we booked it a year and a half ago.

I know a lot of you are retired, and enjoy travel with others in the same age bracket. (I’m not sure how many of you cringed when you saw the boys at the beginning of the trip, thinking “there goes the peace and quiet 😉 )  One of my favourite comments was from a friend who said “When we started, I was hoping there wouldn’t be any kids on the boat.  But if they’re all like your boys, bring on a thousand of them.”  And the other one: “Excuse me….I just wanted to tell you that your youngest son is a great kid.  He kept us entertained and talked to us at the bay and we really enjoyed it.  I’m not saying your older son isn’t great, we just didn’t get to talk to him yet.” (That was from a day that Nathan, Isaac and I went snorkeling in New Caledonia and Jo stayed on shore talking to everyone and anyone who ventured near the water).

Thanks for welcoming us into the group, and making us feel like we belonged.  Thanks for sitting, chatting, laughing and listening. (We sometimes talk a lot, as it has been awhile since we have hung out with other people for a long length of time). Thanks for treating our boys like you would your own children and grandchildren.  And most of all, thanks for taking the time to stop us in the hall, at dinner or by the water to tell us how good the boys are, and how well behaved they were.  (We made sure all the fighting and wrestling happened in our cabin behind closed doors 😉 ).    We saw some beautiful places along the way, but I think what we enjoyed the most about this cruise was the people we got to travel with, and sit and visit with along the way.

We wish you all a safe trip home, as well as continued travels for those still exploring. We miss you and are grateful to have travelled with such a classy, friendly group of people.

Sincerely,

Nathan, Riann, Isaac and Josiah

OZ

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie….If you are a sports fan, or an Australian, you know what comes next…. Oy Oy Oy 🙂  We heard the cheer a few times, and automatically joined in as we travelled through the East coast of Australia.  We LOVED Australia.  Most of the Australians we met were super chill, laid back, and soooooo nice.  It was hard to leave. But, we had almost a whole month there, so I will fill you in on what we did.

We flew into Brisbane from Singapore, and I hate to say it, but remembering our welcome into Australia makes me cringe.  The customs officials and airport workers were great, but we had an issue with the taxi drivers at the airport.  It was 130am, so taxis were slim pickings.  The first guy didn’t want to take us because he said we wouldn’t fit with all our stuff in his car.  He left us standing on the sidewalk while he took another fare.  So a mini van taxi got called, and that driver complained and told us we should be in the car, and kept complaining the whole drive (10 minutes) about the other guy not taking us, and how he had to take us for such a short drive.  He charged us $36 for a 5km ride.  I think we were a little tired, still in Middle East/Asia mode, or used to “tourist taxes,” so instead of getting his name and number and making a complaint to the company, we paid him, and shuffled into our hotel room.   Luckily, we found out the next morning that it was indeed an anomoly, and the two shuttle drivers we had that took us to the car rental place were more than nice and made up for our bad experience the night before.  Chalk it up to a bad night for the drivers, or who knows what, but I did look at Nathan and say “I thought Australians were supposed to be nice…”  Anyways, every Australian that has heard that story has apologized to us and are very sorry that was our initial experience.  I only share it here because it’s what I remember of our first thoughts and experience in OZ.  I am happy to let you know, that it was our only negative experience….the rest has all been AMAZING!!!

We picked up a rental car in Brisbane, and the good news is that they only charge $15 total for an additional driver, instead of $15 a day like in Europe and the UAE.  So I was able to share the driving load with Nathan.  Someone asked me how it was driving on the left hand side of the road, and from the right hand side of the car.  Honestly, it didn’t take long to get used to it.  You just mentally remind yourself as you start the car which side you are driving on, and go from there.  For the most part, you just follow the cars in front of you, and remember to turn into the left side of the road.  It did take a day or two to remember that the turn signal is on the right side of the steering wheel.  I can’t tell you how many times the windshield wipers went off when I was trying to put on the turn signal 😉  Anyways…..I digress.  We drove from Brisbane up to a town called Bundaberg.  Initially we were going to try and see some turtles hatching, but it was a rainy day, so we decided to just hang out in the hotel and….watch the OLYMPICS!!! In English!!! Asia didn’t really cover the Olympics like we do in Canada.  Australia felt very similar to home with the Olympics on at least two channels all the time.  Woot woot!

From Bundaberg we headed up to a quiet little town called 1770.  We spent a week up there in an amazing condo with a pool right outside our patio, and the beach a 5 minute walk away.  We had rain come in spurts on and off, but for the majority of the time it was sunny and hot.  The ocean was 26 degrees, and we were in it every day.  Nathan and Isaac took surfing lessons, and Jo and I tried it out afterwards when we rented a board for the day.  Jo got in a lot of fishing, and Isaac got in a lot of swimming.  It was a nice, quiet, relaxing week.  We had kangaroos for neighbours in the field across the road.  And had a “barbie” with some of the other vacationers staying a few doors down.  Good times.

Then it was back to Bundaberg for a couple of nights, where we did get to see the turtles hatching one night.  It truly was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.  We lucked out by seeing one of the biggest nests hatch as well.  It was a long wait, but soooo worth it.  We sat in the centre for about 3 hours before a ranger called in that he had seen a turtle starting to crawl out…so off we went to the beach.  So cool, and the boys really learned a lot that night as we watched how the turtles took off, but then also stayed after while the ranger counted the shells, turtles that didn’t make it out, and eggs that didn’t form.  Very interesting! We spent a day in Bundaberg area touring around, made a stop at the Australia Zoo on the way, and then down to Brisbane to visit with some friends we made on one of the cruises.  The boys were over the moon to hang out with their buddies, and we had a really great visit with their parents.  It was nice to be in a home again, and have friends to chat with, and show us around their city.

After Brisbane, we headed down the coast to another beach town called Surfer’s Paradise…I don’t know if you’ve heard of it?  haha.  We spent a couple days there; again, just enjoying the laid back, relaxed culture of Australia 🙂  Continuing down the coast, we spent a week in Port MacQuarrie.  We spent a lot of time at the different beaches in the area.  Again, it was really hot, and the beaches were amazing!  We also went to a koala rescue hospital, and learned about the koala bears and how they are being taken care of there.  Jo really liked learning about them, and I’m sure if you ask him, he’ll tell you all kinds of stories from the bears there.

From there, it was down to Sydney, where we stayed for almost a week in the northwest area, about an hour from the blue mountains.  We did two day treks up to the mountains, and a day trip to downtown Sydney to meet up with some other friends from one of the cruises.  Again, it was awesome!  We enjoyed the mountains, and the bush walks through the rainforests, waterfalls, and mountains.

So, to sum it up, Australia was amazing.  It really felt a lot like home.  That being said, I think we all experienced a bit of reverse culture shock the first couple days.  We walked into one of the malls and all kind of stood there…everyone spoke English.  Everything was in English.  It was quiet, and not super crowded.  We honestly didn’t know what to do at first.  It took a little bit to remember what that all felt like.  But now it’s the new normal again.  We are back to both having cell phones.  Both being able to drive.  Being able to ask someone a question and know that they will likely understand and speak English as well 🙂  Australians are truly nice people.  They are so relaxed, laid back, and friendly and if it wasn’t so far away, I would come back and visit every weekend 😉 hah.  It is a beautiful country (and we didn’t even see a quarter of it!!!)  Based on what we did though, I can’t wait to come back and explore some more.  It was an awesome month, and we wish we had more time.  But, we had a boat to catch over to New Zealand.  So we returned the rental car, and climbed on board to cross the Tasman Sea to Auckland.

Now that we are on the other end of the year,  I can’t believe how fast it has all gone…less than 2 months and we will be home.  With the help of friends and family, the boys are registered for hockey, and we are in the process of registering for camp.  I told the boys since we will be home at the beginning of June, I could register them for the last month of school, but they didn’t want to for some strange reason 😉  haha.  Anyways, we still have a month of cruising through the South Pacific, and then Hawaii; then we will end with a couple weeks in Canada visiting family and friends out west.  So looking forward to seeing family and friends and hanging out with everyone again!  Can’t wait 🙂  But we still have a little more exploring to do in the meantime!

Thanks for checking in, and Happy Easter to you all!

 

 

Things You May Remember…

Just like any other “milestone” in life, when I think back over the past 9 months, there are things that I remember easily, and things that I really have to think about and am reminded of only when I look at pictures or read through my journal.

I just thought I’d share a few thoughts that you too, may remember if you travel (long term or short term).

You will remember the people you met along the way. Old friends, new friends, and even some angels; (I truly believe we met some angels along the way who helped us out a few times in our travels). You’ll remember meeting and making new friends over a drink of coffee; and you will remember sharing laughs, adventures and making new memories with old friends and family. You will remember sitting on trains and watching the world go by, and marveling at how beautiful it is. You will remember trying new food…some good, some not so good, but you will remember at least giving it a try, and you will also remember the foods you are going to miss when you get home.

You’ll remember hearing your kid say “it’s beautiful,” over and over again as he looks out the car window in different places. You’ll remember watching your kids go up and order food from people who don’t speak English, or pay for an item, or ask them a question. There is no hesitation for these two boys to go up and ask someone a question. (Today, a gentleman staying at the same hostel as us was wearing a rain jacket with hockey pads on over it…Jo immediately went over to ask why he was wearing the equipment. To which the man replied: “You must be Canadian, no one else knows what this is.” Which then led to about a half hour conversation between all of us, the man and then his friend, who just happened to live about a half hour away from us in Canada). Other times, the person doesn’t speak English, but they have a “conversation” anyways.

There are also quite a few things you won’t remember.

You won’t remember how much things cost. (Until you get home and see how much the line of credit is at 😉 hahahah.

You won’t remember going for two months without having a laundry machine, and handwashing your clothes for that entire time (well, Nathan might, since he’s the one that did all the washing….I did the hanging and drying 😉 )

You’ll forget thinking you’re going to die as you hike up the side of a mountain….5km straight up (okay, clearly I haven’t forgot that one….seriously….I thought we would never reach the top).

You’ll forget the frustration of trying to book transportation, sort out hotels, airbnbs, and all that fun stuff. Along with that, you will forget how you managed to communicate in a country where you didn’t speak, read or understand one word of the language. You just know you did it.

You’ll forget trying to find clothes that fit your growing kids in towns that don’t have malls or department stores. You will forget that after 9 months of wearing the same clothes, you got tired of them and wanted to toss them all, but kept them anyways, because it was the responsible thing to do (well, I don’t know if I’ll forget that, but I’m hoping I do 😉 )

And you will forget the long waits, the border crossings, and the transport delays that you encountered. You will only remember that you made it, and you did it, and it all worked out.

And after all that remembering and forgetting, you’ll want to do it all over again 🙂

Malaysia & Singapore

Hello everyone.  Hopefully you’re not tired of the updates 😉  Just on our way to New Zealand, so I am catching up on the blog, and then can relax and enjoy the ride 😉

We were on the “overnight” (or half night, whatever you want to call it 😉 ) train from Surat Thani, Thailand, to the border of Malaysia.  I woke up to the sound of Asian chatter coming through my curtain.  Fell back asleep until the train attendant came through and said he would be making the beds back into seats.  Dang.  Had to get up and face the day. We were travelling during Chinese New Years, which was one of the reasons we ended up leaving Thailand a few days earlier than planned.  Originally we were hoping to go back to Phuket to spend some time on the beach.  Then decided on Koh Samui, but by the time we got around to booking train tickets, all dates were booked after February 13. So we left Thailand a few days early and decided to check out Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for a few days.  We rented a nice Airbnb apartment with great views of the downtown area.

Anyways, back to the train.  We met a lovely young gentleman who led tour groups all around the world.  He was heading home to visit family for Chinese New Years.  He told us most people travel home to visit family for the weekend, and they bring presents and money, and it is a big family reunion.  It was very cool to hear about the holiday from a local.  When we got off the train in Thailand, and crossed the border into Malaysia, we met a few other tourists who were training it.  Unfortunately, they were heading west, and we were going south, but it was nice to have a coffee and chat with them while we waited for our train.

We boarded the Malaysian train, and again, were the only white people on it.  Definitely felt like the odd men out 😉  And can I also tell you that the air conditioners work quite well on those trains!  Seriously.  We had to dig out our blankets and sweatshirts because we were all freezing on that train!!!  We arrived in Kuala Lumpur, and were quite excited to see some North American coffee and fast food joints….I picked up an Auntie Annes pretzel, and we  grabbed a “grab” car (like uber), and headed to our apartment. So because we were heading closer to the equator, it was getting hotter and hotter outside!  We spent most of the time in KL walking around and checking out the local markets, malls and watching fireworks.  The boys didn’t go to sleep before midnight most nights because the fireworks were going off left, right and centre.  Very fun.

After 4 nights in KL, we took a bus down to Singapore.  We were only there for 3 nights, but met up with friends from a previous cruise the first day, and then hung out with family from my side on the second day.  It was cool seeing sights that were recommended by our friends, and enjoying hanging out and visiting while the kids played and had fun. Thanks for meeting us and taking time to show us around your beautiful city!!

Jo also had his 10th birthday on February 19.  He woke up to the hotel room being decorated by the birthday bunny (a family tradition), and even had some presents and cards to open from home.  He had a lot of phone calls, emails and WhatsApp messages to answer.  Thanks everyone for all the bday love you sent his way.  We managed to squeeze in some time at a waterpark, and then met up with my cousin and his family for dinner, a swim at their place, and then the night zoo.  It was an awesome day/evening, and we had a lot of fun catching up and hanging out with Greg and his fam.  Thanks for hosting us!!!  Can’t wait to see you back in Canada sometime 🙂

So that’s it for now.  After having an “easy” time of two cruises almost back to back, then having most things booked in Thailand, we were really not looking forward to getting back to “work,” and going solo down to Australia and New Zealand.  The thought of researching, booking, and trying to figure out rentals and such was really not appealing. We seriously debated heading back home on two more cruises through Asia and then home, but decided to stick with the original plan (after lots of discussion and talking with friends and fam) and head down to Australia.  And boy, are we ever so glad we did.  We have had a month of rest and relaxation, and have fallen in love with OZ.  Stay tuned for pics and posts from here.  Honestly, it felt like coming home….except for the driving on the opposite side of the road thing 😉 haha.

Alrighty, the boat is leaving the harbour, so I will post this before I lose my signal.  Have a great weekend everyone.  And happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

 

Thailand Part 2

So we are in Sydney, Australia right now.  We are currently staying about an hour from the CBD (central business district).  We’ve had a rental car since being in Australia (3 weeks so far).  Today we met up with some friends that we made on one of the cruises, and decided to take public transit instead of driving down and trying to find/pay for parking.  As we were on the bus heading back home, I was zoned out in my own little world when I was surprised to find that I understood all the chatter and talking going on around me.  It was kind of a funny realization: I have gotten used to being on public transit and not understanding the language spoken around me 😉  So I guess it’s going to take a bit longer than 3 weeks to readjust to being back in English speaking countries.

Anyways, back to the second half of our visit to Thailand.  From Chiang Mai we took the train down to Bangkok.  It was a longer one (12 hours), but it was sooo pretty going through the jungle, mountains, rice fields, and then into Bangkok.  I also really enjoy travelling the way locals travel.  We were definitely the minority on the train, and it was cool to be served a meal of canned herring (some of us tried it, some of us didn’t try it, but I don’t think any of us finished it), meat and rice, and snacks of taro buns, coffee, soda, or water.  We arrived in Bangkok and stayed there for 5 nights.  We took taxis, rode commuter boats (they pack you in those suckers like sardines), walked and walked, and ate and had fun exploring with the Kinnis and Turners.  We had a day at the zoo, a day travelling up and down the river and checking out the markets, a day of chillaxing at the park and pool, and a day walking around downtownish….

Then it was on to another 12 hour train ride, this one overnight.  We booked second class tickets, and were each assigned our own berth in an open train car (not open air, but open seating).  Because the train was late leaving, as soon as we got on the train, the attendant was making up beds, and we were more than happy to climb into our selective bunks and have some nice down time.  It was really nice having our own space (hahah, you know you’ve been travelling a lot when you consider a bunk in a train car with a curtain around it a nice private space).  I pulled that pink curtain shut, started to write in my journal, only to wake up 11 hours later almost at our stop.   Gotta love being rocked to sleep by a train 😉  We took a bus, then a ferry, and then a taxi to an amazing little hotel/resort on Koh Samui, an island on the east side of Thailand.  It was gorgeous.  Amazing. place.  We ended up having two full days (arrived at 10am and left at 5pm the next day), and spent a few hours of each day at the beach.  We also walked around and checked out the area we were in (the quieter side of the island Mae Nam), which was awesome.  I would go back there in a second.  We had the beach almost to ourselves, and it really felt like a piece of paradise down there. A very nice rest before hitting the road again and heading to Malaysia.

The only train to Malaysia that we could find left the Surat Thani train station at 1am.  So we booked it and hoped we would still be awake when the train came through, and the station would be safe.  We considered renting a hotel until midnight, but Surat Thani is a small town, and there weren’t any hotels close to the train station.  I looked up tonnes of reviews of the station, and found a few by single females travelling who said it was safe, and they had no problems.  So  after leaving Koh Samui at 6pm, we got to the train station at around 9pm, and settled in for the wait.  It was HOT…open air train station, old station (no air conditioning, so electric outlets, no vending machines, open air toilets).  Just some plastic seats out in the open with some stray dogs wandering around, locals waiting for trains to come in, and lots of bugs.  It was a long wait…we didn’t have our usual electronic entertainment, since our iPads and phones were running low on juice and there was nowhere to charge them.  But we felt safe.  And it was kinda fun.  The police did a regular walk by, and there were guards on the other side of the tracks.  Every time a train was a few minutes away, one of the guards would run across the tracks and ring this HUGE bell and yell that the train was coming.  No automatic boards updating times here.  There was a chalk board that was updated by a lone female worker every hour or so.  Our train didn’t end up arriving until 3am.  We made some friends with a group of “kids” in their early 20s.  They weren’t sure if their bus was picking them up at 4am or 6am.  Jo had a nap and then chatted with them while we walked around in circles and tried to stay awake.  One of the policemen asked if he could get a picture with Jo (this has happened a couple of times in Thailand…the same with Jo’s cousin Roscoe).  I can’t tell you how tired we were when the train finally arrived.  We stumbled onto the train, crawled into our beds (yep, pink curtains for privacy again), and were asleep before the train even left the station.

So final thoughts on Thailand: We loved it.  We loved the food.  We loved the people we met.  We loved the flora, fauna and amazing, gorgeous beaches and water.  We loved meeting other tourists, but also loved meeting locals.  We loved bartering.  We had taxi drivers who spoke a little English, and some who spoke zero English (we used goolemaps and cellphones a LOT).  We can’t wait to go back and experience Thailand again some day 🙂