Tag Archives: africa

Off the tourist path

31 Jan

Check out this podcast interview I just did on Thelma & Louise. I talk about the book and how to travel cheaply. I talk about Cambodia and Taiwan and how I recommend getting off the beaten path to find some hidden gems. It’s short. You can listen to it while going on a walk or doing the dishes.

Thelma & Louise help you connect with travel buddies and plan your perfect trip. I also talk about those things in my book. Here’s an excerpt from Women with Wanderlust, now shipping direct to your Kindle!

Staying with locals in unfamiliar places

What’s a good way to save money on vacation and really immerse yourself as a local? Don’t stay in a hotel in the tourist areas. I know we’ve talked about a lot of options including Airbnb, VRBO, B&B’s, WWOOF, hostels or Couchsurfing. If you want to live like a local, then stay like one. I know it may seem scary to stay in someone else’s space or to stay with someone you don’t know but it can also be an incredible experience. Maybe you’ll cook together or they’ll show you around town. To me it’s worth the risk to save some money and have a richer experience. I love living like a local. I love experiencing the city from my host’s vantage point. You get to see beyond the things in the guidebooks.

Buy the book if you like what you just read…or share it with a friend that you think could use it.

LeaveATrail

2015 in review

12 Jan

What is an annual review for me? A time to reflect on the highlights and the things that didn’t go quite as planned. A time of new goals and visions for the year ahead. 2014 was a quiet year. 2015 was a bit more exciting:

  1. Wrote and published my first photography guide.
  2. Redid my entire website complete with a shop so you can buy my photos and books.
  3. Went to four countries in Africa which included a safari in Kenya—A dream come true.
  4. Traveled to Australia, my fifth continent…officially. Visited my mastermind friends, only the second time we’ve met in person but we’ve talked almost weekly for three years. Country count is now at 40 since I’m counting Taiwan.
  5. Volunteered at my favorite conference, WDS. Even lead the 5k run of 60 or so people. I also volunteered at the sister event Pioneer Nation. Good times!
  6. Attended Camp GLP (Good Life Project).
  7. Went to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
  8. Traveled through 11 new states bringing my total up to 35. (Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota.
  9. Had two epic road trips! One to the southeastern corner of Oregon with a new friend and the other to Yellowstone for my five year anniversary. Five years of marriage is also an accomplishment!…something worth celebrating.
  10. Another amazing road trip took me to my seventh and final wonder of Oregon, the Wallowas. What an awesome place to camp and hike. It was fun to explore more deeply the seven wonders this year. I think I visited or revisited all but one in 2015.
  11. My photo was selected (1 of 10 out of 1,000+) by Lonely Planet to participate in a photo adventure in Seattle.
  12. One of my photos was in the top 9 on a feature page on Instagram. Yeah!

It was a year of many road trips and two big adventures overseas. I saw a lot of growth and transition in my business. I saw a lot of growth in myself as well.

What went wrong?

I lost my sunglasses in an epic wind gust in South Africa. I just wish “act of god” was covered under the warranty.

I forgot some of my own travel rules.

  1. Always bring cash (more than $70!)
  2. Always carry cards from two different banks with chips (preferably a Visa and a Mastercard)
  3. If your card has a PIN, know it well and make sure the card has a chip.

Next year

As always, in the coming year, I have to grow more in my business. I’d like to make more clients happy and be able to save some money. Happiness for all!

Continue supporting my husband and his business goals. If you live and Portland and want delicious hand cooked meals delivered to your door, I must connect you with him. He is the most amazing chef I know. I am blessed.

I’d love to make it to at least one of my top five bucket list countries: Peru, Iceland, New Zealand, Croatia, Turkey. If I make it to Peru I also get to add a 6th continent to my list.

Publish my next book. It’s a travel book! (comment if you want to know when it launches, I’m currently in the editing and designing phase)

In between travel blog posts, you can follow my other weekly blog, my 140 character adventures on Twitter and my photo adventures on Instagram

Wishing you an amazing 2016! Cheers.

Essentials to pack for travel

19 May

What’s essential to pack?

I try to travel as light as possible in a carry on; everything I need to get by for three weeks in just a backpack. What do I consider essentials for a trip can depend on where I am going, but I have some staple items.

Always in my pack

  • External battery charger for my phone, tablet or other small electronics
  • Printed and digital copies of my passport, credit card numbers in case of being lost or stolen, Visa pictures (if required), flight itinerary and anything else I have booked ahead like hotels and excursions.
  • Saved maps for the places I am going or an app on my phone like Triposo.
  • Small finger nail clippers, file (I’ve broken more nails in airports than anywhere else…ever) and scissors (not sharp, under one inch) or just bring a Swiss Army knife if you are checking your bag
  • Go Toob’s for all my liquids (shampoo, body wash, face wash)
  • Upset tummy meds, sleep aids and Emergen-C
  • Extra memory cards for my camera (I take a lot of photos…everywhere I go) and a small tripod
  • Scarf / shawl and compression socks for the plane
  • Plug adapters for every country I’m going to (I don’t bring anything that needs a converter)
  • Noise canceling ear buds (for the flight and anytime I need some peace and quiet) and the in flight two prong adapter (some flights just don’t have the one prong option)
  • TSA lock (this comes in handy even if you don’t plan to check your bag)
  • Snack bars or trail mix (quick pick me ups for in between meals or when you get lost and can’t find food)
  • Three pairs of shoes, light weight walking shoes that double as running shoes, comfortable sandals and cheap flip flops (they come in handy for beaches, showers, plane travel and double as house slippers)
  • Undergarment bag (if someone has to go through your bag for security they don’t have to touch them, plus, it keeps them all together and they don’t fall out anywhere embarrassing)
  • Sleep sack if I am sleeping somewhere in transit or couch surfing (acts like a barrier for anything unclean and it can take the chill off if it’s cold)
  • Face wipes and hand sanitizer
  • Two credit cards, one Mastercard and one Visa (I learned this the hard way that sometime only one or the other is accepted), and a debit card. Make sure they all waive foreign transaction fees (no need to pay more than you need to for things)
  • Cash (just a small amount, you never know when you will need it and any currency can do in a pinch)
  • PacSafe day bag (or equivalent bag that is cut proof and has RFID protection)
  • Kindle stocked with several books to read (and my reading glasses)
  • Phone stocked with sleep music and a couple shows to watch (just in case I need entertainment on the plane, more than a couple times the TV’s haven’t worked on flights)
  • Aspirin (if its a long flight it helps, assuming you aren’t allergic)
  • Sunglasses (Always! Even if it doesn’t call for sun I wear them almost everyday with my sensitive eyes)
  • Tissue/Toilet paper (sanitary items for women, because it always comes when you’re not expecting it)

Seasonal items I pack

  • Lightweight, water repellant wind breaker (if where I am going has any heavy rains in the forecast. I may also bring a small umbrella if it shows rain everyday but usually just my rain jacket.)
  • Sunscreen (if I am going somewhere sunny)
  • Hat, gloves and scarf (if I am going somewhere cold)

I usually pack three times. I put out all my stuff a week or so before I go, then pack it lightly. With a few days to go, I sort through and get rid of some stuff and fill in if I have forgotten anything. Then when I pack the last time, the day before I go, I get rid of more stuff.

Clothes I bring

I never wear all the clothes I bring so I bring less than I think I need, and I usually, still, have too much. I bring one comfy pair of pants that also doubles as PJ and running pants. I bring at least one pair of jeans and a comfy pair or two of linen pants. I bring one pair of shorts if it’s going to be nice. I bring one shirt for every two days, or less! I also bring long sleeves that double as sun protection and layers for warmth.

Also, wherever I go I usually like to buy an item of clothing.

 

Cape Town: wine, wonders of nature and whoops

28 Apr

Cape Town surprised me by its hospitality and its beauty. I had heard it before but seeing it for myself, solidified it. I could live there, for sure. However, it would be a long way to come home to see my friends and family. 30 hour flights aren’t something you want to do all the time. Eek! There’s only so much stretching and walking you can do to stay limber. Cape Town is about as far away from Portland as you can get, or at least one of the farthest places you can go.

There’s a lot to see and do in and around Cape Town. We kept our rental car an extra day (see previous posts on the road trip and adventures on the Garden Route) so we could drive South and see the penguins near Simon’s Town. That was a lot of fun. You see tons of penguins sitting on the beach and frolicking in the water. They’ll walk right up to you and pose for a picture. They’re super cute. It was hard to refrain from wanting to pick them up and snuggle. Simon’s Town also has a lot of cute shops for souvenirs and great coffee shops to grab a snack.

Penguin Audience

From Simon’s Town we ventured down to Cape Good Hope to do some hiking and checking out the views from the South-western most point in the continent. Not to be confused with the Southern most point. That’s further East. We did that on our way in.

To finish off our last day with the rental car we ate and watched the sun go down in Camps Bay. That area has some of the best beaches in Cape Town. Plus it’s great for people watching.

Wine

North and East of Cape Town is a great wine scene with delicious, cheap bottles you can bring home with you. If everyone in your party wants to drink, like we did, I recommend a tour company. You get to venture out and meet some new friends, drink great wine and see more of the countryside. Plus, you have a local there to point out all the cool things and answer all the questions you’ve been dying to ask someone.

Wine Tasting

Cape Town has a lot of art sculptures in town which makes walking around that much more interesting for me, as an art lover and photographer. There are a ton of good places to eat. If you love Indian food like I do, you’ll be in heaven. For less than five American Dollars you can have a feast. Cape Town also has a lot of shops and markets. There are a lot of good deals to be had if you are into bargaining. I personally love bargaining. It’s fun and it’s usually a win-win scenario. You get a good deal and the seller gets a good sale. So much more exciting than shopping in the states, in my opinion. Paying full retail is just not as interactive.

Wonders of Nature

There’s hiking on Table Mountain and Signal Hill. We chose to go up to Table Mountain for sunset, where I met a friend from home. Crazy right?! We rode the cable car up and down. It was spectacular and so much fun. We felt like we were sitting on the edge of the earth as the sun went down. If you didn’t know it, Table Mountain is part of the new 7 wonders of nature. Not to be confused with the 7 wonders of the world. See them all if you can! I know I’m trying.

Sitting on the Edge of the Table

Whoops, you ask?
Of course. Every trip has some mishaps.

I’m giving you a fare warning that it can be windy, really windy on the Cape. I was walking along the V&A waterfront wearing a skirt and I was trying to keep it from flying up and being inappropriate in public. I was also wearing my lightweight pair of Maui Jim’s. As I was trying to keep my skirt down in this particularly strong gust of wind that came out of no where, my glasses were ripped off my face. I could not believe what was happening. Life went into slow motion and I screamed. Tried to run after them and poof they leaped into the Atlantic. I ran and peaked over the side of the pier and they were no where to be seen. I was sooooo sad. I thought about jumping in after them but I refrained. I was already a spectacle with everyone in the restaurant that was watching through the wall of windows.

Act of God is not covered under warranty. I asked, just to make sure. But the Westin was nice enough to help drown my sorrows in some treats and champagne. Good thing it was my last night, as I wouldn’t be able to see without my trusty shades. We went everywhere together (see below).

All-in-all my trip to Africa was amazing, even with the couple of bad things that happened. By bad, I mean losing my expensive sun glasses and my converter. I also had a bit of an upset tummy for a few days. Not too shabby for a three week trip.

I still do miss my Maui Jim’s, my favorite sunglasses, ever! (and I’m not even paid to say that)…we went to so many cool places together like Cambodia twice!

Power Posing in my awesome Maui Jim's

 

If you haven’t already you can read previous posts on my journey to Cape Town: On the road in Lesotho, Garden Route and five star service, Zanzibar a coastal gem, Kenya and my dream safari.

Also, loved my new travel shoes! They outperformed and I would highly recommend them.

Merrell Travel Shoes

What’s on your list?

 

Five star service and adventures on the garden route

14 Apr

While doing our road trip along the Garden Route I reviewed two hotels. They were both wonderful places to stay and I can’t say enough good things about both of them to anyone that will listen. So, I’m going to tell you too. Along with some other fun things we did along the way, between the hotel stops.

The first hotel I reviewed was Tsala Treetop Lodge. It’s a quiet, serene place to stay away from the city. Plus, my own private pool. Woohoo! Ok, I had to share with my friend, but still. This is the second time in my life I’ve had my own pool. I thought the first time was a once in a lifetime thing, but I was happy to be wrong, on that point, at least. Tsala is a great place to unplug and connect with nature or your travel companions (even though there’s wifi and TV—you don’t need it). To me, this was a great rest stop after two weeks of being on the road or in the air. The suites are set up so that the lines between outside and in are blurred. It’s truly a great nature escape and a good spot to stay and explore the nature that surrounds the area. You can read more about the hotel in my review, plus there’s a link to book your stay! If I’ve convinced you enough that Africa is now on your bucket list.

Tsala Living Room

Bridge adventures on the Garden Route

Things to explore near Tsala include the tallest bungee jumping bridge in the world, Bloukrans Bridge. Even if you aren’t going to jump you can still go out on the bridge. If that’s too scary or it’s raining, like when we visited, you can watch from the viewing area (indoors or out). It’s really cool to see people jumping. I was wishing we had more time and I had a better back so that I too, could jump.

The other cool bridge to see in the area is the Paul Sauer Bridge, also known as Storms River bridge. I almost caused my friend to veer off the road as I shouted when we drove over. “Holy crap that’s beautiful!” Good news, there’s a rest area near by, with a walk way under the bridge. There’s also a sidewalk on the bridge so you can walk out on it and observe the beauty of the gorge. Stick your toes off the edge, take photos, you know, the crazy things I do. Tsitsikamma National Park is just down the river from Storms River Bridge with fun hikes, suspension foot bridges, a waterfall and beach access. You could even stay there on the beach if you wanted to. Alas, we did not stay, we had our night in the trees.

If you haven’t seen any elephants on safari check out the elephant park near by Tsala. Or maybe you have, so you go anyway because you love elephants. We passed on that this time around since we had our fair share in the Mara.

Storms River Gorge

I know what you are thinking, “Holy crap, that’s Storms River? That’s beautiful!” But there’s so much more beauty to be had in South Africa. This barely scratches the surface. I couldn’t take enough photos to capture the beauty to be had in Africa.

Storms River

The edge of the Earth

Before you get to Cape Town, make sure you detour to the southern most point in Africa, where the Indian and the Pacific Ocean meet. It’s a fun place to stop, complete with a lighthouse, rocky shore, boardwalk and commemorative plaque. We gazed at the water, snapped some goofy photos and then hoped back in the car so we could get to Cape Town before it was too late.

Far from Home

Arriving at our last stop in Africa

Coming into Cape Town we had quite the welcome. An absolutely stunning sunset on the mountains. We had to stop driving a couple times just to capture it’s changing beauty.

Sunset On Arrival

The other hotel I reviewed was close to one of the best beaches in Cape Town. You can walk there from the hotel. The hotel is on a quiet street with great views of the water. The service is stellar and there’s a great breakfast, spa, pool and work out room too! You can read more about it on the review site, plus there’s a link to book your stay or share it with your friends! I highly recommend it as a place to stay if you like personal service.

O on Kloof Lobby

Up next: Cape Town and my travel mishaps.

Previous African adventures: my dream safari, wandering through Stone Town in Zanzibar, detouring through Lesotho, five star service and Garden Route adventures.

An African path less traveled, through Lesotho

31 Mar

When I think of Africa I think big, really big. It’s a huge continent with so much to see and so much diversity. What’s a good way to see a lot of things? A road trip! So many people would say this is crazy, but I usually do the crazy things that my friends don’t do. That’s just who I am, always have been.

After safari in Kenya and a few days in Zanzibar we flew into Johannesburg for the last leg of the trip. We rented a car and drove down to Cape Town on the Garden Route. But before getting to the Garden Route we detoured to Lesotho, one of two landlocked countries in South Africa. Oh man, was that a great detour. Lesotho is so pretty and not touristy. It’s even hard to find a place to stay outside of a B&B or as they call them, guest houses. The villages are quaint with thatched roofs and nice people. The scenery is incredible with it’s mountains and fields of grass. The city names may be hard to pronounce and the roads curvy but it’s worth the detour. No Visa required, just go!

Road Trip Scenery

A word of caution about the border crossing. We had a bit of trouble because our friend traveling with us had a pretty full passport and the pages that were empty were in the middle. Apparently, not every border believes in stamping all over the place. Lesotho would rather have it orderly and all the blank pages in the back. Or at least this was his excuse for at first rejecting my friends passport. We were able to get a second opinion and he let us in. Whew! Crisis averted and back on track for our detour.

When we arrived at our, out of the way B&B, the view was great as it was perched on the side of a mountain. And it was perfect timing for one of the most incredible sunsets. It was stunning orange on one side with a pink glow the other direction. 360 degrees of stunning, if you ask me. Plus, shortly after sunset there was a lightning storm. I’ve never had the chance to photograph lightning, so I gave it a try. I was able to capture a couple strikes, but it was certainly a challenge. One that I’ll gladly take on again given the chance. So rewarding to do something you’ve never done before even if you weren’t perfect at it. The journey is the fun part.

The food at our B&B was a home cooked vegetarian meal. A bit overpriced but delicious. I would highly recommend knowing the cost of the food before saying yes to a meal at a B&B. But we were famished and tired from the drive. We were ready to settle in for the night with a full tummy.

On the way through South Africa and Lesotho the scenery reminded me of so many places I’ve been including Oregon, Arizona, Utah, Kansas. Wherever you go, you’re never far from home, it becomes a part of you.

After staying the night in Lesotho we drove down to Port Elizabeth to check out the beach and begin the true Garden Route. The drive was long to get there and not the best food* on the road but we made it in time to see the sun setting…again. Found some great comfort food and a comfortable bed to sleep in. The next morning we checked out the beach, had another wonderful meal, coffee with a smiley face on it and made our way along the green, mountainous garden route, partly skimming the sea.

*Like the states, a lot of the food you see on the side of the road or at gas stations is “fast food” or Denny’s style. Not my choice, being the Oregonian that I am I’m used to farm fresh produce that caters to my select-etarian tendencies.

Want to see more of my photos on a daily basis, check out my Instagram feed.

Next on the blog: Garden Route adventures, Cape Town and my travel mishaps.

How to find good travel companions

15 Mar

Do you want to travel but you don’t want to do it by yourself? Or perhaps your spouse doesn’t have the time off and you do? There are so many ways to find good travel buddies. I’ve tried several things that have worked.

How did I get a four continent friend?! I just asked. Sometimes that’s all you have to do. Ask.

It all began…

Years ago, I was single and wanting to travel more. I didn’t really want to do it all alone and some of my friends just didn’t have that much vacation outside of family time. I had just met someone on a volunteer board. I heard she liked to travel so one day I asked her, “Would you want to do a trip together?” Then we started talking more and more. Soon we had planned our first adventure: a european road trip! After that, we toured a few SE Asian countries during two different trips and most recently we met up for a safari in Africa.

Friends on safari

Meet travel buddies while traveling

Not only have I had some amazing trips with friends and family but I’ve also met some really cool people while traveling. Wandering the streets of Gothenburg I was a bit lonely so I went in to the tourist office and overheard another woman asking about the same places I was looking to visit. So, I asked her if she wanted to roam around together. In the Philippines, on a trip with my husband we met two awesome sisters. Traveled to another city, had some great food and shared a hike.

Make new new friends from your home town

Recently in Africa, I met up with an acquaintance from home. I overheard her saying she was going to be in Cape Town the same time I was there and so I thought, I must meet up with her and get to know her. I mean, she does have good tastes in travel destinations, right? Well, we did meet up, on the top of Table Mountain (of all the awesome places!) and we are quickly getting to know one another. We have so much in common, it was meant to be!

Life on the Edge

 

Also, just because you don’t live in the same town doesn’t mean you can’t travel together. You just meet up at your destination. I’ve done this a few times. Works great!

Travel websites

There are also websites out there where you can find travel companions or people to stay with (Couchsurfing for example). You never know who your next travel buddy will be…just get out there and look. Ask around. Make new friends.

I love travel and I love meeting others who share my same passion. By reading this, I’m guessing that’s you too.

If you have any fun stories of meeting new friends on the road, feel free to comment. I love telling travel stories to anyone that will listen, but I also love to hear them as well.

Happy travels, my friends!