“Balloons Over Bagan” – Myanmar (Burma)

There is a well-known saying, “Bagan is (the) spirit of (the) history of Myanmar” and to fully understand the importance and complexity of the Buddhist influence over Myanmar then you really should treat yourself to a hot air balloon flight over the ancient city of Bagan. Although not yet awarded a UNESCIO World Heritage listing, this area is home to the highest density of Buddhist architecture anywhere in the world and stretches across 42 square kilometres of the Irrawaddy plain. I had already spent two leisurely days exploring the area by electric moped, where I  was amazed by the craftsmanship of the builders dating back to the 11th and 13th centuries, however, I needed to experience a “birds eye view,” to really appreciate the historic and cultural wealth of this site.

When considering ballooning, especially in a foreign country, it is important to find an operator who is professional; where safety and expertise are uttermost, while still enabling the customer to have a personal fun experience.

The listing description for “Balloons Over Bagan,” a company established since 1999 by Brett Melzer and Khin Omar Win, was as accurate as you could get with text and photos, however, this company provides so much more than just a sunrise flight over 2000 Buddhist temples and pagodas.

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A “Bird’s Eye View” of the Buddhist temples and pagodas of Bagan.

Balloons over Bagan would have to be the most professional team I have ever flown with and I have had the opportunity of ballooning in some wonderful locations around the world. Their pilots are well trained and at all times the customers are made aware of what is going on. I felt safe and secure in the knowledge that my pilot, Gavin, was completely in charge as we floated in the early morning, golden light over the ancient temples of Bagan. He gave us plenty of photographic opportunities, accompanied by his expert knowledge of the history of each structure which captured the true essence of how important and enormous this site is to followers of Buddhism.

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 There are many photographic opportunities as the balloon glides over 2000 Buddhist temples and pagodas.

After a flight of approximately 45 minutes over this historical landmark, the pilot brought us down with a soft landing and we were served refreshments, in a truly luxurious style. The whole experience including hotel pick ups, lasts between 2 ½ to 3 hours.

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A breakfast of champagne, fruit, croissants and cake is served before guests are then transported back to their accommodation.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity of experiencing this unique travel adventure in one of the hottest destinations in Asia. Booking is essential to avoid disappointment and pack a warm jacket.

Thumbs up, “Balloons Over Bagan” – safe, professional and personal.

 

For more information contact http://www.easternsafaris.com/balloonsoverbagan_home.html

https://www.facebook.com/balloonsoverbagan

 

Categories: Adventure Travel, Advice, Ballooning, Cities, Destination, Myanmar (Burma), Rave | 2 Comments

“So Little Time, So Much To Do” – Dust Off Your Backpack!

Do you remember those travel dreams you had when you were young?

Hopefully, you were able to fulfil many of them and have some wonderful memories of holidaying on the Greek Islands or shopping at Harrods in London. For many women they think their travel dreams are over, just because they hit the “magic 60 mark”

P1030752.JPGWomen like to travel for several reasons: memories, adventure, romance, or just to connect with other people and better understand humanity. I travel because I love to learn and have fun experiences.

As you age, you start to understand there is “so little time but so much to do” and being an “older” female has some restrictions often placed on us by society and family.
It is about time that we start to think of ourselves as being an inspiration to others, not only to women of our generation but to our daughters and granddaughters. I like to think of myself as a stylish, strong, savvy and smart, mature woman and with a little planning, I can do just about as much as I did when I was an 18-year-old gap student who set out to see the world.

Women like to travel for several reasons: memories, adventure, romance, or just to connect with other people and better understand humanity. I travel because I love to learn and have fun experiences.
Travelling with someone you get along with is wonderful, but let’s face it: Mr Wonderful may not have the desire, time or money to travel with you!

I am always surprised at the comments I receive from friends who want to travel, but feel they are unable to: school, jobs, commitments, husbands, children, cats and dogs, no one to go with etc. Each friend indicating, “I wish I could BUT…”
Why then, do the women I meet at the airport or on the road all say, “I wish I had done this years ago”?

The solution is pretty simple. The most important thing you have to do is take that initial step and say, “I am going to travel, I may have to travel by myself, but I will do this”. Your trip does not have to mean going on a long, extended overseas holiday; it can be something short and within your area at first, but you have to get used to the idea that unless you make it happen, it will not happen. There is no time like the present and remember, “so many things to do and so little time left”. If you know you may get some resistance from loved ones, start out by saying, “I want to go on a vacation, I would love to see…”

Ask your family about places they have been and get them involved in selecting something with you. Most people who have not travelled only see the outside world via the news on TV, and for that item to be broadcast-worthy, it most often involves bad news. But keep in mind, the chances of something tragic happening while you are on your trip are pretty slim, especially when you consider how may solo people are traveling everyday around the world.
Be strong and don’t waiver. Going to school on the first day was pretty hard too, but we all managed to compete that part of our lives. Consider making the decision to travel, to be another part of life’s journey.
There will be times when your heart nearly jumps out of your chest, but most times it will be because you got to see, The Grand Canyon, The Eiffel Tower in Paris, or the Coliseum in Rome.

I remember learning about Egypt as a small child at one teacher school in outback New South Wales. I tried to imagine how big the Pyramids would be compared to the large old, gum trees outside the school house window and got into trouble for not paying attention in class. My dream was to one day travel the world and sit on one of those big rocks that made up the Pyramids in Egypt. I had so much to do and heaps of time on my side. When I did get to sit on one of those big rocks, I thought back to my time at school and said to myself:
“If I can do this then anyone can!”

So make it happen now, there’s so little time, so much to do!

Categories: Advice, Women solo travel | 17 Comments

Not Just Another Tourist – A Dormant Desire to Serve Others

 A few years ago, I realized that purely being a tourist had lost its appeal for me. I wanted more out of my travels; where I could ‘give back’ to the country I was visiting.  I had a dormant desire to connect with people at a grass roots level and contribute in some way to help those in the disadvantaged countries I often travel.

I soon found out there are volunteer projects to suit every interest, offered by many organizations across the globe and include  education, conservation, building & construction, agriculture,  health, sanitation and water, sport, wildlife rehabilitation and working with underprivileged children. There was no reason why I could not contribute by sharing my knowledge with a broader cross section of society, after all, I was older, wiser and I had a wealth of experience. Age is no barrier when it comes to volunteering but it does require patience, an open mind and heart, and not to be  full of one’s own importance.

Volunteering abroad can be a life changing experience – for you and the people, places or creatures you’re helping. There is something to be said about Confucius’ saying, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” My experiences with volunteering has certainly changed my attitudes and beliefs.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Nepal where I took time out to catch up with some Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) who are doing a wonderful job in Kathmandu working with orphaned children.Stephs-Photos-India-2012-146.jpg

Nepal Orphans Home (NOH) welcomes volunteers. 

There is no welfare system in Nepal and there are many NGOs which have been set up to try to cater for the needs of children who have been abused or abandoned. Most of Kathmandu’s street children are drug addicts and many end up in the sex industry or as victims of trafficking.

One organization who is doing a wonderful job in the area of health and education is the Nepal Orphans Home, (NOH) which is located in Kathmandu.

NOH operates four children’s homes for more than 130 boys and girls in the Kathmandu Valley. The children are orphans or have parents unable to provide for them.

I met with Michael Hess, the founder and chatted with him while he prepared lunch for “his” children and I also had the opportunity to attend a basketball game later that afternoon. Michael is “Papa” to these children and his patience and love for each and every one of them is very evident.

Michael’s vision is simple and reflects what most parents desire for their children. Michael wants his children to feel safe in a nurturing and loving environment with the basic provisions of food, shelter and clothing, as well as schooling and health care. His mission is not just to rescue children from abject poverty, but to enable them to develop and realize their full potential.

India-2012-195.JPGNOH operates four children’s homes for more than 130 boys and girls in the Kathmandu Valley. The children are orphans or have parents unable to provide for them.

I can vouch for the wonderful work Michael and his staff at NOH do to support the children in their care. The majority of the children are girls who have been rescued from the Kamlari System of indentured servitude, prevalent in western Nepal. If you would like to volunteer  in some way, a work visa is required (even if work is unpaid) It is best to contact the Nepal Embassy for more information about visas and make sure you amend your insurance, as any form of work voids your “tourist” travel insurance. Nepal Orphans Home can always do with school stationery, such as pencils, erasers, rulers etc.,  and would be grateful for your support.

While there are aspects of Nepali culture which will be confronting to western travelers it is always important to go with an open mind and more importantly, an open heart when you are considering volunteering.

Volunteers provide a wealth of badly-needed expertise which is desperately needed in developing countries throughout the world and your contribution in any small way is always appreciated.

Safe Travels.

Categories: Volunteerism | 4 Comments

“Shh! If the Rhino Charges, We Climb a Tree” – Hiking In Nepal

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal, offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Asia. The park, which is situated approximately 150km southwest of Kathmandu, is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, Sloth Bear, Clouded Leopard, Striped Hyena, One-Horned Indian Rhino, wild boar, deer, monkey, Gharial (crocodile), over 450 species of birdlife and can all been seen in their natural habitat.

 

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I had gone to southern Nepal to photograph the Indian rhinoceros, which once roamed the entire northern part of India. It was late afternoon, my legs were tired and the mosquitos were busy, but I could clearly see a huge, “armour plated” rhino with wart-like bumps on its legs, neck, shoulders and rump,  munching on grass in an open clearing, nestled within the woodland. My research had revealed that Chitwan, “The Heart of The Jungle,” had also been a favorite hunting reserve with British royals but they were not into “shooting” with cameras. On one safari in 1911 they managed to kill 39 tigers and 18 rhinos!

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After 2 days of hiking through the jungle and traveling by canoe, I stared in amazement at this rhino who was one of only 500 One-Horned Indian Rhinos left, with rangers and armed guards spread across Chitwan National Park to protect it and its 499 friends from poachers. Local communities benefit financially from employment and also from licenses from tour and lodge companies, entrance and park fees, in hope to curb and stop poaching.

“Shh! whispered our guide, “If the rhino charges, we climb a tree.”

As the rhino sensed our presence, I stopped photographing him to quickly survey where precisely I was to climb; if he did decide to charge!

With renowned poor eyesight, but with a good sense of smell and hearing and also the ability to run very quickly, I hoped this animal would find it difficult to see the only tree worth climbing and focus its attention on the other members of our tour group who were busy chatting.  It did cross my mind that an Indian Rhino charging some western tourists would make an excellent photograph, but I was not about to try my luck and instead, retreated to the safety of the woodlands.

Now was a time to sit in silence and watch this magnificent animal go about its business of eating the sweet, fresh grass.

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 I wondered how people could continue to kill and slaughter this animal; this time not as a trophy to have stuffed and placed on a wall but for a horn used in traditional medicine in Asia.

Hopefully, this One Horned Indian Rhino will be worth more alive than dead.

 

Penny travelled with Intrepid Travel.

http://www.intrepidtravel.com/india/delhi-kathmandu-83758

 

Categories: Adventure Travel, Destination, General, Hiking, Photography | 2 Comments

Travel Partners with Benefits – Can the relationship last the Distance?

 

“The value of a relationship should not be measured by the length of time the relationship lasts, but by the strength of the bond that exists every moment you are together. When you eventually say goodbye, you need to appreciate the moments you had, more than you dread the moments you won’t have.”P1100872

 

“Guess what!…I’m sort of, engaged!” my friend announced excitedly as I collected him from the international airport arrival’s lounge.

Like many thousands of people, David had travelled overseas for a tropical holiday, ready to explore a new culture, do some diving and, maybe, ‘get lucky’: meet someone and have a wonderful summer romance. ..The sugar coated stuff of great books and movies!

The smell of tropical, frangipani flowers and a few glasses of wine will make even the most hardened traveler a little weak at the knees when they meet someone new and there is that instant attraction. Wrinkles, and a few “wobbly, flabby bits” rate second only to a great personality and the desire to have some companionship on the road, far away from home. Some people are able to live in the moment, enjoy what life has brought them, and accept that most things are not permanent. That means they are willing to create a relationship despite the limited time.

Before embarking on a holiday romance with your new travel partner it is important for both parties to understand the “Rules of Engagement” and NOT to have huge expectations.

Both travelers need to do a check on their expectations and ask themselves a few questions.

1. What are we hoping to get out of this?

2. What will the future hold?

3. Is physical intimacy, something we can accept, even though the relationship may be over when the vacation ends?

Most “vacation flings” will end very soon after the last kiss and with no hard feelings by either party.

David, 56, from Brisbane, certainly didn’t think marriage would be in the cards when he initially boarded his flight to Bali; just a nice little “uncomplicated” fling would suit him fine. However, once in his island paradise, and caught up in the moment, David fell head over heels in love with a young lady. After three weeks of vacation romance, he was ready to make a long term commitment to his new found love. The fact that David’s “sort of fiancé” is 25 years old, should not cloud my judgment when it comes to his desire to make their relationship work.

Obviously, there are some who travel to Asian countries purely for sex, and are not worried about age, looks, personality or the ability to hold a decent conversation with any partner. With one in three marriages ending in divorce, and the huge surge in overseas travel for the baby boomer generation, an important and rarely mentioned aspect  is the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Make sure safe sex is practiced at all times, and especially after those glasses of wine!

There is that old saying, “Love Conquerors All” and these days there is no reason why a holiday fling cannot make the transition to a “real relationship.” With the assistance of social media and the huge advances in communication technology, such as Skype and FaceTime, it is easy to stay in touch and plan more vacation meet ups. As with all relationships there needs to be trust, honesty, communication and commitment if it is going to survive the distance.

Despite the odds, a small percentage of holiday romances do end up in long term relationships and even marriage. Back in the 80’s, some of my dearest friends met while they were traveling on overseas holidays, when they were young and fancy free and had the whole world at their feet. Subsequently, their marriages have stood the test of time, despite the initial emotional and financial hardships of living on different continents.

Tropical islands seem to play a big role when it comes to holiday romances and sometimes, “the best-laid schemes Of Mice and Men often go awry.”

Ann, 54, from Toowoomba,  Australia, explained that she and her travel partner initially set realistic expectations, (The Rules of Engagement) to live life in the moment and enjoy each other’s company while they travelled in Asia.

“The physical attraction was immense,” blushed Ann, “and we had a wonderful time. When you travel with someone, you learn to rely on each other and a close bond develops.”

Ann is now facing the reality that a long distance relationship is out of the question with someone she really cared about.

“An ocean separates us and he doesn’t see how we could maintain a ‘real relationship’. I feel a bit silly really, I should have known better. I made a mistake and fell in love.”

As David and Ann found out there is nothing wrong with traveling with ‘friends with benefits’ and having a holiday romance and yes, sometimes you could get lucky and just meet the love of your life. However, it is important to remember to have realistic expectations, practice safe sex, treat your travel partner with care, but guard your heart, because once it is broken, it’s a bit hard to mend with duct tape!

When I asked Ann if she had learned anything from her holiday fling, she thought for a moment and gazed off into the distance.

“I had the best time of my life and I have some great memories and photos to prove it,” she smiled.

Names have been changed in this article.

Categories: Advice, General | 9 Comments

Discovering Cambodia’s Temples by Horseback

This was my opportunity NOT to see another tourist for the next four hours!

The sun was low in the eastern sky and all I could hear was the clip-clop of my horse’s feet, as I rode along the dusty tracks on the outskirts of Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Not many tourists equate riding horses in Asia to their typical holiday pleasure, but for me, after 2 days of conquering the temples of Angkor it was the perfect way to connect with the rural people of Cambodia – people who are just like me; farmers.

Horse riding is also a very quiet experience, a time when it is easy to gather thoughts and take in the sights, sounds and smells.

 

112.JPG                                                                    With the sun rising I rode through the villages just outside Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I had been warned by friends, about the possibility of being “templed out” before my trip to Cambodia to see the UNESCO Angkor Archaeological Park, which is one of the most important archaeological sites of South East Asia.

The complex contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. I was fascinated by the story behind the “rediscovery” of these ancient ruins and had seen movie, Tomb Raider.

I was also prepared for the heat, the countless steps and I carried plenty of water as the humidity can be quite demanding, even in the “dry” season of January. But I never considered the people!

Tourists; people like me, from all over the world, climbing, complaining; a continuous conveyor belt of humanity who all want to see a huge pile of beautiful rocks, reminiscent of a past civilization and popularized by a movie. In fact, according to Cambodia Tourism, 2 million people visited this archaeological site last year and they are increasing by 20% year on year…That makes for a lot of tourists!

Peopled-Out” is the term I like to use now, which best describes when I want a little peace and quiet, however, I must consider that all those tourists visiting Cambodia are providing much needed revenue to a very poor country. Approximately one third of the Cambodian people are living on less than one dollar a day. I cannot even buy a can of food for my cat for under one dollar!

 

After two days of channelling Tomb Raider actress, Angelina Jolie, I was ready to escape the hordes and find a little peace and quiet in the Cambodian countryside. I wanted an authentic taste of the real Khmer lifestyle and what better way to see the villages, farms and some more temple ruins, than a sunrise horse ride!

Like many Asian countries, agriculture plays an important role in Cambodia. More than 70 percent of the population is engaged within the industry, especially rice paddy farming which is the stable food.

 

I always love connecting with farmers, no matter what country they come from. Clean air, shelter, water and food are a basic to the survival of humanity, so farmers are doing their bit to keep huge populations alive on this planet when most people have “lost” their ability to grow something from the earth.The early morning air smelt earthy – a mixture of mud, buffalo/chicken manure and smoke as I rode through villages where people cooked their breakfast and prepared for the day ahead.080.JPG

Riding through the rice paddies of Cambodia

Weaving my way through the lush green paddy fields, farmers were already planting rice seedlings, ankle deep in slushy mud. I passed small children on their way to school who waved and greeted me in their “best” English. Large, white oxen pulled old wooden wagons, carrying people, chickens in cages and timber along the well-worn tracks to villages in the distance.

A friendly wave, a dip of the head was all that was needed to acknowledge my presence.

Without the crowds I got to explore Wat Althea, which is an active Buddhist temple and Wat Chedai, a contemporary pagoda built on the foundations of a much older Angkorian structure.

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Young children play among the temple ruins.

Unlike Angelina Jolie, I did not have to race against time and villains to find Pandora’s Box – it was there waiting for me on that leisurely, early morning horse ride in the Cambodian countryside.

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 Cambodian girls stop for a rest and on their way to school. By visiting some of the lesser- known temples, I am able to meet  the locals.

As I rode back to Siem Reap through the paddy fields, I reflected on my sunrise temple experience.

Cambodian temple ruins are well worth the visit but temples by horseback are even better!

Happy Travels.

For further information on horse riding in Cambodia –

The Happy Ranch Horse FarmSiem Reap Province: Group 4, Svay Dangkum Commune, Siem Reap District

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Adventure Travel, Cambodia, Destination, Horse riding, Nature, Photography | Tags: | 4 Comments

Nepal – Mountains, Monasteries and Marriages

Nepal - Front Page Glam Today Dear Penny  My sister and I have been invited to our friend’s Hindu wedding in Kathmandu, Nepal, in September. We have been told that Nepal can be quite confronting and want to be well prepared. We are considering booking an “adventure tour,” as we both like hiking and photography. We are also interested in helping or volunteering at an orphanage. Do you have suggestions? We have only 2 weeks’ vacation and want to make the most of our trip to Nepal? Eliza

Nepal can only be described as “sensory overload”. Breathtaking images of the Himalayas and Mt Everest surround you, compete with cultural rituals, the smell of incense at Buddhist monasteries & Hindu temples and the constant noise of the traffic in Kathmandu. I recently visited Nepal and was so unprepared for the impact this small landlocked country would have on me. I opted for a small group tour, as traveling within rural Nepal can be quite demanding, especially for western visitors. I also had limited vacation time, so this was definitely the best option. The most confronting aspects of Nepal are the pollution, poverty, and for many people, just the daily struggle for life. The Nepali people are welcoming and go out of their way to be friendly and courteous. The photographic opportunities are just incredible; I could stand on one corner in Kathmandu and shoot for hours. Nepal is a country of celebration and festivals, which is connected with religion, tradition and social events. There is no better way to experience the culture and get to know the locals than to be invited to a wedding! Being a well informed traveler is a safer traveler. Nepal is not for the faint hearted! In saying this, it is also one of the most rewarding traveling experiences you and your sister will ever have.

TRAVEL Nepal is not the easiest country to travel in – the roads are narrow, rough, dusty or muddy, depending on the seasons. Dogs, pigs, cows, cars, motorbikes and people all vie for their right to share a piece of it. To top this all off, deep ravines show ample evidence of wrecked vehicles who got a little too close to the edge! Take a very deep breath and remember Buddha’s quote – “The greatest prayer is patience.” Tourists traveling in Nepal have to be prepared to “go with the flow,” especially when dealing with weather conditions. Flights will often be delayed and so will other forms of transportation. As with any overseas travel, it is a good idea to register with the Smart Traveler Program, to receive the latest updates and information. Always make sure you are aware of strikes, blockades or curfews, which occur frequently in Nepal. Marches can quickly turn violent and you do not want to find yourself being deported for being in the wrong place at the wrong time! September is a great time to travel in Nepal, as the air is crisp and dry and the vegetation is lush and green after the rain. Culture and tradition play a huge part in the festivals held throughout the year, with spring wedding season a definite highlight. Brass bands, street processions with decorated cars and even horses make an appearance. Think Bollywood with a Nepalese touch and you will not be disappointed!

HEALTH It is recommended that you seek medical and dental advice at least six weeks before traveling and all your vaccinations need to be up to date. Basic medical services are available in Nepal and there are several international standard hospitals for emergency treatment in Kathmandu. When traveling in less developed countries, it is best to bring an ample supply of any prescribed medicines from your home country. Make sure these products are clearly marked and you have a doctor’s letter supporting your medical need. It is best to pack a good supply of sanitary products too, as shops are few and far between in the countryside. Avoid eating dairy products, especially ice-cream, or unpeeled fruit and always drink sealed bottled water (which is available everywhere). If you end up with a belly bug, the pharmacies in the Thamel area are use to dealing with these issues, however I would always suggest you travel with your own medication, as belly bugs usually do not ask if the time is convenient for a visit! Altitude sickness can also be a problem to those unfamiliar with the symptoms. It usually begins as a headache, dizziness and feelings of nausea. It is recommended that you don’t ascend to higher altitudes until your body has adjusted and the symptoms are completely gone. Make sure you have adequate travel insurance with evacuation cover. Only recently, a nurse from Australia had to be flown home after she stepped on a viper, as anti-venom was unavailable in the country. Always carry wet wipes and hand sanitizer – and note, public toilets may require squatting (so practice those 30 second wall squats!). As I said, Nepal is not for the faint hearted!

ACCOMMODATION Thamel is vibrant, noisy and the most popular area for tourists to stay while in Kathmandu. The streets are extremely narrow and the traffic is crazy. During peak trekking season, which is autumn and spring, hotel rooms may become scarce, so it is a good idea to have something booked for at least the first couple of nights. I can thoroughly recommend Kathmandu Guest House , which is a converted Rana dynasty mansion. The guest house prides itself on being affordable to all budgets, is centrally located and the staff are very helpful. They organised day trips for me as well as finding a SIM card to fit my cell phone. Thamel has some small grocery stores which are convenient for buying water and snacks. ATM machines and money exchanges are also located in this area. Like many Asian countries, there is an intermittent electrical supply and brown outs are common. To guard against your electrical equipment being “fried”, always carry a surge protector. Electricity on treks outside of major cities can become scarce, so expect to pay to recharge your appliances and take extra batteries. Have a flashlight handy at all the times. Nepal uses 220V.

EATING Kathmandu is renowned as the “budget eating” capital of Asia, with tourist restaurants selling a wide variety of Western, Middle Eastern and Asian style fast food. Go where the tourists are queuing in Thamel and you will not be disappointed. I had no idea what I was lining up for one day, but the falafels I received were the best I have ever tasted! Traditional food can be hot and spicy, so if you are like me, just ask for the milder version. Rice is generally served with dal, a lentil dish, and tarkari, a cooked vegetable. Why not include a half day cooking course in your trip, where you visit a local market to buy ingredients, before learning how to cook Tibetan Momos? Tibetan Momos are a dumpling of meat or vegetables and cheese, served with a pickle sauce and are a staple of any diet in Nepal. Note — as in many Asian countries, your left hand is considered just as dirty as your feet, so don’t accept anything with your left hand. Use your right hand or both hands when accepting food.

SHOPPING Thamel is the home of “faux” and if you are looking for travel/hiking clothing and goods, then you have found the right place. Most shop keepers speak English and are very helpful. If they don’t have the item in stock, then it will only take 5 minutes for the article to come from another shop! I can guarantee you will have the song, “Oh Mani Padme Hum,” by Tibetan Monks, firmly implanted in your brain by the time you leave Nepal! It is constantly played by shop keepers and you will not be able to go home without a copy of the CD! For gifts, you cannot go past the great scarves, children’s felt toys, boxed tea, wooden carvings and Tibetan jewelery. The lacquer wear, depicting erotica, will make a great conversation piece (but maybe leave it off the gift list for Grandma!) Note — it is expected that you bargain, so don’t be afraid to take your time and check out the prices first. Most times you can cut 40% to 50% off the starting price.

CLOTHING It is best to dress in layers in Nepal, as the temperature varies greatly, depending on the season and weather conditions. Be considerate in your dress selection, as the women in Nepal dress conservatively. No low cut tops, short skirts or exposed midriffs and keep your shoulders covered. Wear a scarf, as it is handy when you enter temples or monasteries. Comfortable shoes are a must; the pavements are often uneven or cracked and there are plenty of steps to climb. Kathmandu is not known for its clean streets or non-smoking policies, so make sure your wardrobe is easily laundered and quick drying. Note — if you are considering wearing a traditional sari to your friend’s wedding, then Kathmandu has many good tailors who will produce an outfit within a couple of days at reasonable prices.

TOURISM, HIKERS AND CLIMBERS Nepal relies heavily on tourism, as it is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Many tourists venture to Nepal for the purpose of trekking to Base Camp, or for the super achievers, climbing Mt Everest. Nepal is rich in bio-diversity. Where else can you experience the highest point on earth, Mt. Everest, to the sub-tropical and tropical jungles, all within a distance of about 150km!

Novice hikers are also easily catered for in Nepal and once you escape the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu for the countryside, you will be surprised by how warm and welcoming the Nepali people are. The safest option for female trekkers is to join an organized group or use a reputable trekking company, that provides experienced guides and porters who communicate in both Nepal and English. Meaningful Trip, which is a leader in responsible tourism, offers mixed and women’s-only hikes, using specially trained female trekking guides. A portion of the proceeds from these treks help support Empowering Women of Nepal, which is a non-profit organisation. I hiked in Chitwan National Park, which is located in southern Nepal. This park is World Heritage listed and offers the unique opportunity to see rhino and tigers in their natural habit. Just remember, western health and safety policies are virtually non-existent in Nepal, so just make sure you keep yourself safe and only go with reputable companies. If you don’t white water raft at home because you are afraid of water, then don’t do it in Nepal! Drink plenty of water, carry snacks and be conscious of not adding to the existing litter problems. One of the highlights of my visit to Nepal was an early morning scenic flight to see the Himalayan Mountains and Mount Everest — it sure beats having to climb it!

TEMPLES, MONASTERIES AND CEREMONIES  While approximately 80% of the population are Hindu, there has traditionally been a great deal of intermingling of Hindi and Buddhist beliefs. The birthplace of Gautama Buddha, is located in Limbini, southern Nepal and there are other important religious pilgrimage sites throughout the country. Foreign visitors are expected to pay to enter religious sites and some temples are strict about not letting non-Hindus see their rites. When photographing people, always ask their permission first. If in doubt about the appropriate etiquette, it is always better to ask than to be embarrassed by a cultural mistake. There are many aspects of Nepali culture which are confronting, especially when it comes to visiting the cremation ceremonies. Remember, it is someone’s loved one who is being farewelled by their family and it is a privilege for you to be able to attend. Pashupatinath is one of the oldest Hindu temples in Nepal and its burning ghats are the main cremation site for Nepali Hindus. If you see someone wearing all white, they are in mourning and should not be touched. Always take your shoes off before entering temples, shrines or houses and avoid pointing with a finger at someone or a statue. Do not step over offerings of food, coloured powder or flowers. Beware of the monkeys and stray dogs which inhabit Swayambhunath Temple, also known as the Monkey Temple. With fluttering prayer flags and spinning prayer wheels, the temple has beautiful views across the city and to the mountains on a clear day. My favorite Buddhist temple is Baudhanath, famous for the huge eyes painted on the white round stupa. Always make sure to walk around temples and stupas in a clockwise direction. Attending a Nepali wedding is such a huge privilege and you will gain an insight into their culture, which many tourists don’t often get to participate in. I received a random invitation to attend a wedding while in Kathmandu and figured with 600 invited guests, I would not be intruding! Traditionally, weddings are arranged by families, however, the wedding I attended was a love marriage as both the bride and groom had studied and worked together overseas. Even for a love marriage, horoscopes of the couple still have to be analysed by a priest and the wedding will usually take place at one of the special times of the year. A Nepalese bride will dress in the bridal color red, with the adornment of gold jewelry. The wedding will take place over a number of days, so it is important to have a few outfits for each occasion. Ask your work colleague for guidance as to the clothing she would like you to wear for the wedding celebrations.

SUPPORTING LOCAL ORGANISATIONS Many tourists would like to connect with the people at a grass roots level and contribute in some way to help those disadvantaged in Nepal. There is no welfare system in Nepal and Non-Government Organisations (NGO) have been set up to try to cater for the needs of children who have been abused or abandoned. Most of Kathmandu’s street children are drug addicts and many end up in the sex industry or as victims of trafficking. One great organisation is the Nepal Orphans Home, located in Kathmandu. I met with Michael Hess, the founder, and visited Nepal Orphans Home. I can vouch for the wonderful work his staff do to support the children in their care. The majority of NOH children are girls who have been rescued from the Kamlari System of indentured servitude, prevalent in western Nepal. Nepal Orphans Home can always do with school stationery, such as pencils, erasers, rulers etc. If you would like to volunteer in some way, a work visa is required (even if work is unpaid). Contact the Nepal Embassy and make sure you amend your insurance, as any form of work voids your “tourist” travel insurance. While there are aspects of Nepali culture which will be confronting to western travelers, there are so many reasons to make sure you include this wonderful country on your travel wish list. Away from the pollution, noise and street poverty of Kathmandu, Nepal lives up to its name as the “roof top of the world”, with breath taking mountain landscapes and tropical jungles ready to be explored. By connecting with the people through their culture and celebrations, you and your sister will have a wonderful vacation ahead of you.

Namaste and safe travels!

Penny

Categories: Adventure Travel, Destination, Nepal | 4 Comments

Why Women Want To Travel And Men Want To Lie On The Couch And Snore

Nathan Lake OMG Photo

Nathan Lake OMG Photo

As a member of a generation commonly referred to as a “Baby Boomer,” I have grown up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time. Things might have been tough at different stages in my life but I had faith. With a bit of hard work and determination, payday would eventually come in the form of being able to travel and see the world for myself. It seems I am not the only one with these dreams because according to industry sources, Baby Boomers spend $157 billion each year on travel. With children educated, mortgages nearly paid off and retirement looming on the horizon, we are cashed up and have travel dreams – “our bucket list”- to fulfill.

Unlike our backpacking children, we would prefer to have a little luxury when it comes to accommodations, meals and side tours.

Unfortunately, life can throw a curveball, and ill health may mean travel plans will have to be put on hold. Many couples do not consider a few other things might have changed within the marriage arrangement itself. Sometimes, there is one partner who doesn’t want to be bothered with the hassle of traveling and would much prefer to stay at home in familiar surroundings. Resentment can often fester when this situation arises, especially when people have had their dreams squashed.

There is a reason why divorce is often instigated by a wife and this usually happens after the children have left home. Husbands are left dumbfounded when their once cooperative and reliable wife wants to see the world, experience new cultures and take up new interests. And she doesn’t seem to be at all too worried about doing it by herself!

Ladies, you don’t need to get a divorce if your old man wants to just stay at home and be a couch potato. These days, I am no longer surprised by the number of ‘Over 50’ women I meet, who are travelling solo or on ‘girl power’ tours. Recently, I met up with 5 “young” ladies in Dubai, who had been to college together in the 1970’s. They had just completed a European River Cruise and had left their spouses at home.

One of the ladies, Christine said, “My husband can stay at home, lie on the couch, watch TV and snore – that is as much as he wants to do these days. That does not mean I have to stay at home and listen to him!

So why do women want to travel and men want to lie on the couch and snore?

Hormones?

Hormones get a bad rap. They get blamed for kids going through difficult stages in their teenage years, premenstrual syndrome, post pregnancy blues and then finally, menopause. Someone forgot to tell men, that for many women, menopause means empowerment.

Hormones do not forget men either but they are not embracing their new found freedoms as much as women, especially when it comes to travel.

Nevertheless, many couples still manage to travel together and start to tick off that bucket list when it comes to “must see before you die destinations”.

For those less adventurous Baby Boomers, who do not want to travel independently, there are group tours  specifically designed for the over 50′s age group.

Baby Boomers have an ability to travel during the shoulder or low season for longer periods of time and can take advantage of some great offers on sale when resorts are less crowded and queues are shorter.

Travel has never been so affordable and our bucket list needs some serious attention before we kick the bucket ourselves!

My best friend has been preparing her bucket list for 29 years.  When Deb married she wanted a honeymoon in Paris but such an extravagant vacation was out of the question.

Instead, the newly married couple settled on a honeymoon in an inexpensive hotel at the beach for a week. Deb always said, Paris could wait  – until they had the time and money for the honeymoon she dreamt about.

A house and four children quickly followed and our lives mirrored each other’s.

Our kids grew up, went off to school and left home for jobs in the city.

Just when we finally thought the kids had settled into their careers and become independent, they wanted to come home!

But why now?

…they wanted to travel!

Hadn’t we always told our children to travel while they were young, before marriages and mortgages?

Yes! It seems, they had taken some notice after all.

Our kids reasoned they could save money for travel by living at home, rent free, with clean sheets, dinner waiting on the table, wide screen TVs and a resident maid, called, “Mom”.

Suddenly, we both found ourselves wanting to break away from our old priorities of being “chief cook and bottle washer” for children and husbands.

We wanted to find new paths to follow, and for Deb, Paris was sending her mental road maps!

Like many Baby Boomers, Deb and I feel we now want to start ticking off our own bucket list…after all we have worked hard to get to this stage in life and this will be “guilt free.”

It is time to travel while we still have our health and enthusiasm to accomplish a few dreams of our own.

Unfortunately for Deb, her husband of 29 years was not so keen on the idea of traveling to Paris. He took a little convincing but finally  realized their adult kids would be fine at home, and with a little planning, their honeymoon would not cost him the fortune which he had imagined. Deb did all the planning because after all, she had mastered Facebook and many of her “friends” could offer support and advice about traveling in Paris.

These days, over 50′s women are the ones heading to the airport and they don’t need a  husband  to fulfill their dreams of travel.

What Deb’s husband doesn’t know, is that she also wants to learn to paint and pursue a few more dreams which have been quietly percolating on the back burner for 29 years.

Next spring Paris, next summer, painting in Peru!

Happy Travels.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Advice | 2 Comments

Are You Up To The Challenge of Being a Tourist? – A Walk On The Wild Side With Penny

 A walk on the wild side - creek (640x480)So you have decided on a wonderful holiday in 2014. That is a great idea!

You have found the type of vacation you want, researched the tours, booked the flights and hotels – but have you thought about your personal fitness level?

Are you really up to the challenge of being a tourist?

Travel can be hard work and very stressful. Long flights, jet lag, disrupted sleep, a tropical climate, unfamiliar food, standing on your feet for long periods of time and carting your luggage around, all places stress on your body.

Personal fitness, like all investments needs research, planning and regular contributions to make the outcome worthwhile.

In this case, you need to be fit enough to take advantage of all the activities on offer.

Consider Your Destination

If you are thinking of joining a professional adventure racing group or trekking to Mt Everest, then you really need to hire a personal trainer, do some serious gym work-outs and get into shape – months before the trip. For most of us however, a moderate fitness level is good enough to scale the ruins of Ankor Wat, snorkel The Great Barrier Reef or do some serious shopping in LA.

If you do not already have a regular fitness program in place then now is the time to start.

Traveling overseas or have a pre-existing medical condition?

You should consult a medical practitioner and dentist at least 6 weeks before departure.

HOW I KEEP FIT FOR TRAVEL

Exercise has always been important to me and just because I live 25km (a little over 15 miles) from the nearest gym, doesn’t mean I cannot do something which will not only benefit my body but my soul as well. I am also not fond of vigorous exercise, so I simply walk for 30 minutes each day, which will ensure I have an adequate fitness level for my upcoming trips abroad.

Just half and hour of walking each day has shown to increase cardiovascular fitness, reduce body fat, strengthen bones and boost power and endurance. My regular routine of an early morning walk, sets the pattern for the day.

I think more clearly and it gives me time to plan my busy day ahead. I never have to worry about not being able to fall asleep at night, because getting up early regulates my sleep pattern.

We all have stress in our lives and it is important to know how to deal with it effectively. I find walking each morning, incorporated with a healthy balanced diet, not only keeps my body toned, but the biggest benefit is it allows me the time to concentrate on being grateful for what I have – not the things I don’t have!

 A WALK WITH GRATITUDE

I am fortunate to live on a farm in country Queensland, Australia. A small creek runs through my property and this provides the backdrop to my early morning walks. Sometimes this creek can be a raging torrent or stone dry, just depending on the time of year. It is also home to many native animals. A stroll down by the creek also provides me with a wonderful sense of adventure and takes me back to my childhood, when I so badly wanted to live in a cave and tame wild creatures.

With my two cats, Able Sea Cat Simon, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and a little white, fluffy dog, Marley, we set out after sunrise to walk for 30 minutes each morning. This is not a power walk but it does powerful things for my mind.

There are some winter mornings when I would rather stay in my warm bed and not crunch through the frosty grass down to the creek , but then I remember there are 3 animals outside waiting for their morning adventure. For Simon, Buffy and Marley, it is a “Walk on the Wild Side.”

I take my camera and I view the world through their eyes – a water hen darting across the steaming water, a fox looking for mice in the barley paddocks, a kangaroo munching on fresh, dewy grass, a deadly brown snake crossing our path or just another beautiful sunrise over the mountains, heralding a perfect day ahead.

When I walk with my animals I think about all the things which make me appreciate the amazing life I have experienced so far. Living in a free country, having an education, not having restrictions placed on my desire to travel independently, great friends who inspire me to be creative and my four independent children, who are making their way in this world with a passion to reach for the stars, but also with a compassion for those less fortunate. I feel better already and my day has only just started!

Yes, we all have so many things to be grateful for.

sunrise emu valeSunrise on my farm in Queensland, Australia.

I love traveling, exploring new cultures and finding out for myself what makes this planet Earth, the unique place it is – but I have to be fit to enjoy the experience!

An early morning work does wonders. Try it and hopefully, you will find the rewards will outweigh the desire to stay under the covers and groan about how bad your life is. You have invested a lot of money to go on holidays, so make sure you will be fit enough to get a good return.

Walking is fun and simple but also take the time to reflect on what you have to be grateful for.

marley and simon at creek for storyAn early morning walk is not only important for my well-being but also for my animals, Marley and Able Sea Cat Simon.

Happy Travels.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Advice | Leave a comment

Family Road Trip 101

Does the idea of a road trip leave you with thoughts of the Griswold’s misadventure to Wally World?Road Trip 101

The good news is it doesn’t have to!

Whether it is traveling to the beach, theme parks, visiting friends, relatives, national parks or cities, a road trip is often the way that most people get to experience the sites and beauty of their own country.

Road trips appeal to all ages and range from overnight stays to more extensive cross country treks. For many young families, a road trip is a convenient and cost effective vacation option. Parents are able to control the itinerary, departure and breaks, as well as arrival times. These are very important factors when you have a couple of kids in tow!
Passenger expectations, planning and the ability to cater for the unexpected, are all important aspects in making the most of road trips with your partner or family. This valuable time can be spent bonding and learning about each other; although, it will take a lot of understanding (and patience).
If you are planning a family road trip, make sure the journey is just as important as the destination. Having experienced many road trips (and survived!), here are my Top 10 Tips to help make your next adventure enjoyable for everyone.
EXPECTATIONS 
Just like all relationships, expectations play an important part in making this holiday work. As long as two people have the same expectations, the relationship (or road trip) is a success. However, when the expectations are different, someone will end up unhappy. Be honest and truthful about what you want, as communication is the key for a successful family road trip. My idea of a road trip is about exploring all those little antique shops on country roads and taking photographs of interesting landscapes — not sitting for endless hours in a cramped, overpacked, hot car, with bored children fighting in the backseat! Be prepared to compromise.
PLANNING
Plan your trip before you start setting out. It can be as cheap or expensive as you like and take advantage of the different trip planning websites available.
If your children are a little older, include them in the planning process. The best road trips we did as a family, were when the kids got to choose something special in a particular town or state. Their wishes ranged from a visit to a football stadium, science and military museums, panning for gold, to a ferry ride on Sydney Harbour.
When traveling with very young children, it is advisable to drive when they are due for a nap — this way, everyone will be fresh when you arrive at your next stop.
SAFETY
– Have the car serviced at least two weeks in advance of the trip.
– Make sure you have a roadside assistance plan.
– Check that the GPS is working as well as paper maps with the route marked.
– Have a tool kit for any car breakdowns.
– Include a well stocked medical kit with ginger tablets for upset bellies.
– Be familiar with the territory and the weather conditions, especially if traveling in extreme heat or cold.
– Consider the road safety dangers of driving into the early morning or late afternoon sun.
– Sometimes, cell phones don’t have coverage or get lost or stolen, so make sure you have important numbers written down.
PACKING
Always pack the car the night before with the majority of the luggage. Only keep out the items you will need in the morning before the trip, such a toiletries and a set of clothes. Everyone should have enough room to be comfortable, so don’t overpack the car.
ACCOMMODATION
When traveling in school holidays, accommodation is often hard to find, so book ahead to avoid any stressful situations. Plan two consecutive nights in the same accommodation every couple of nights. This will enable you to do some washing, rest and re-organize the luggage and car.
REGULAR STOPS & EXERCISE
On long road trips, we always try to leave home very early in the morning for two reasons. Firstly, we beat peak hour traffic and secondly, the kids in the back seat will hopefully sleep for the first few hours before a planned stop. Please understand the need for regular 2 hourly breaks when driving. There is no need for speed and if the driver is feeling tired, then stop the car and have a break. It is more important to “arrive alive, than dead on time.”
A “pit stop” should be for at least 30 minutes, where the kids can run around and let off some steam. Regular exercise is a must at the end of a day’s travel, so consider our family favorite – the late afternoon, leisurely walk.
Try to see the road trip and rest areas through your children’s eyes. Not only will you grade towns by the standard of their public bathrooms, but also child friendly parks and rest areas. Playgrounds are a great place for the kids to meet new friends for a play and they also enable parents to talk with locals and other road trippers.
FOOD
Pack chopped, firm, fresh fruit, raw vegetables, trail mix, savory biscuits and plenty of cool water in child friendly water bottles. A small cool box with a frozen brick will keep snacks and sandwiches fresh and appetising. Forget the candy and sweet drinks!
BORED KIDS – TECHNOLOGY – BOOKS & GAMES
As parents, we are all familiar with the term, “Are we there yet?” Bored children will ask this question about  10 times before the car is backed out of the garage!
Attaching a “stick it note” to the car’s clock with the expected time of arrival works wonders (from personal experience). This way, your children will be able to understand how long it will be before the next break and they will also learn to tell the time.
 On The Go Bingo, is a great game older IT savvy kids will love.
– Pack the movies, music, audio books or any electronic gadget your children enjoy playing with (turn the noise down). There are also lots of great game apps now available for iPhones/iPads that will keep the IT savvy kids entertained.
– A big book of games with coloring-in pages (often available at the Dollar Shop) will give some welcome quiet time. Remember to include colored crayons.
– Save up toy shopping catalogs, as kids always love dreaming about their “wish list”.
– Don’t forget the old standbys – “I Spy”, “Counting the Colored Cars” and the “Number or Licence Plate Game”.
Let the kids use their imagination and you will be surprised by their creativity. My children made up a wonderful road trip game, where they would take turns to tell a story about the adventures of their animals at home. One particular little bird hosted a party and invited all the neighbors pets — with disastrous consequences!
Also remember to pack zip-lock baggies to keep precious collections of post cards, pamphlets or small mementos safe.
DON’T FORGET THE CAMERA 
Take plenty of photos. Your children will be reminded for years to come of the times they had on the family road trip. Make sure you get all the photos printed when you get home, so that you can relive the fun moments!
CATER FOR THE UNEXPECTED
Remember to “slow down”, as there definitely will be times when you will hit some “speed bumps”  — car sickness, toilet stops and grumpy kids all go hand in hand with the family road trip.
Pack the sick bags, wet-wipes, a change of clothes and any medication in a small bag, which you have at your feet for easy access. Keep the air conditioning turned up and include a small blanket and neck pillow for naps for each child. Remember, road side truck stops often provide restrooms with showers for a major clean up.
Take a detour if you see something which might interest the kids. Remember,  a road trip should be about the journey and not just the destination!
Best wishes for your family this holiday season.
Happy Travels!
Penny
Categories: Advice | 2 Comments

2014 – The Year of Travel – Making a New Year’s Resolution

Making a New Year’s Travel Resolution is easy – achieving it is much more difficult. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be!
Most often, New Year’s Resolutions fail because people don’t believe they can actually achieve their goal – to many, it is just a dream.
The key to accomplishing your New Year’s Resolution is by planning how you can unlock those travel dreams and make them a reality.

Goal Setting, Budgets, External Help and Support and finally, your own personal commitment  are  going to determine how you can achieve your New Year’s Travel Resolution for 2014.

1. SET YOUR GOALS 

We all need meaning, purpose and challenges in our lives.
I need to have a travel destination to look forward to, and I love planning my journeys.
I want to see interesting places, connect with different cultures and take great photographs but most importantly, I want to understand myself a little more.
All too often, I hear of friends who have put travel on the back burner, as something  they will do in their retirement. They talk of taking a cruise, buying a Winnebago and “doing” Australia and following the Grey Nomad trail when they are 70 years old!
Unfortunately, when retirement finally arrives it is often followed by an ambulance and a funeral cortege.
So, start planning your travel now and don’t put it off for something, which many people see only happening in the long term future.
The List -This is the easy part, just don’t self sabotage and be realistic about what you can achieve.
Break your goals into sub goals.
  • Travel Location: Where do you want to travel to?
  • Time: How long do I want to be there?
  • How much leave from work do I have owing?
Don’t be afraid to fine tune – of course, I would love to spend 10 days on Bora Bora Island in a luxurious chalet, but in reality, Fiji is less expensive but still a Pacific Island!
2  BUDGET
If  finance is the biggest issue for not being able to travel then you will have to start by making some serious adjustments to your expenditure. There is a big difference between a “need” and a “want”
I am like any other traveller who has to work hard to budget for an important vacation destination.
There is no use dreaming about a very expensive Photographic/Writing trip to Myanmar unless I put some money aside each week to pay for flights, the tour, travel insurance and other incidentals, like eating!
I am usually working on my travel plans 6 to 12 months in advance and I love the sense of achievement I get when I see my bank balance growing.
  • Start a separate bank account purely for travel – use an online bank account which will direct debit from your savings account. Just make a deal with yourself you will not take money out of that account unless it is for progress payments for your trip.
  • Research and calculate how much the trip will cost.
  • Determine how much you will put away each pay and add a little extra when you decide not to go  away for that expensive weekend with your friends.

Most trips end up costing much more than you budget for.  Always remember to take advantage of some of the recommended “extra” activities while you are in the country. Unlike many other Asian countries, Myanmar is an expensive country to travel in and it makes good economic sense to take advantage of the hot air balloon ride (at dawn) over the ancient city of Bagon, as I am unlikely to return in the near future.

  •  Is there any other way I can add to my budget contributions?

There are so many areas where you can save money and it will be up to you to decide whether you can do without racing out to catch the sales for a “bargain” or just packing your lunch and not buying a coffee every day. Don’t forget about “eBay” and get rid of some of your junk!

2. SET MILESTONES 

  • Dates and timeframes. Lock in your holidays with your work. By making regular contributions to your travel saving bank account it will not be long before you can book and pay for your flights. Have a visual image and a calendar to remind you that everyday, is one day closer to realising your dream.
  •  Do some research to start to make your “dream” vacation seem more “real”.

3. SHARE

Tell your friends and family  about your goals and you will be amazed how supportive they will be which  will give you more incentive to continue.

Seek the advice of a travel agent who will be able to answer any questions you might have about your trip. If you feel confident in what you are planning, you are more likely to believe you are going to achieve your travel dream.  If you want to post a sticker on your forehead or on your fridge about your travel goals for 2014, then do whatever you think will keep you focused on achieving them.
Personally, I want to tell the world!
4. THERE IS NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT 
If you are serious about traveling this year then make a start today – do some research about your destination, pack your lunch for work tomorrow, use public transport or take a bottle of water to work instead of buying that Starbuck’s coffee. Get your mind into believing you are going to travel, not just wishing you could travel.
BE RESILENT and PEREVERE
You might get a few glitches in your travel plans but the most important thing is to keep aiming for that goal.
For me, I have been planning my trip to Myanmar for almost 2 years and someone always keeps changing the goal posts.  So don’t give up, I haven’t!
Happy Travels.
Categories: Advice, General | 2 Comments

5 Tips for Travel During The Festive Season

Travel can be stressful at the best of times so consider this little check list to make your Christmas travel enjoyable and stress-free.

1. Have Realistic Expectations

Don’t expect the rest of the world to run on your schedule. Consider flight delays due to weather conditions, long lines, traffic and people being tired and stressed.

2. Be Organised

Use a checklist and don’t leave things to the last minute.

3. Tech Savvy

Make good use of your smart phone. Take advantage of e-tickets, apps and checking in via your phone. This may help you skip long lines at the airport.

4. Get to the Airport on Time.

It sounds simple, but the number of people I see each Christmas having a meltdown because they missed their flight is lengthy.

5. Drive and Revive

When driving, stop every 2 hours for a break. Keep some coffee in a thermos and protein bars for energy. Pack food/snacks/drinks/video games for the children.

Happy Holidays!

Categories: Advice | Leave a comment

Making The Big Decision

Bike Picture

Whether you are a young, solo, 18 year-old departing on a Gap Year or a ’50- something” single woman, we all face a time in our lives when we want to travel.

Women like to travel for several reasons: memories, adventure, romance, or just to connect with other people and better understand humanity. I travel because I love to learn and have fun experiences.

Traveling with someone you get along with is wonderful, but let’s face it -“ Mr Wonderful” may not have the desire, time or money to travel with you!

I am always surprised at the comments I receive from friends who want to travel, but feel they are unable to: school, boyfriends, jobs, commitments, husbands, children, cats and dogs, no one to go with etc. Each friend indicating “I wish I could BUT…” Why then, do the women I meet at the airport or on the road all say, “I wish I had done this years ago?”

The solution is pretty simple. The most important thing you have to do is take that initial step and say, “I am going to travel, I may have to travel by myself, but I will do this.”

Your trip does not have to mean going on a long, extended overseas holiday; it can be something short and within your area at first, but you have to get used to the idea that unless you make it happen, it will not happen.

Let your journey begin…

STEP ONE THERE IS NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT!

If you know you may get some resistance from loved ones, start out by saying, “I want to go on a vacation, I would  love to see…” Ask your family about places they have been and get them involved in selecting something with you. Most people who have not travelled only see the outside world via the news on TV, and for that item to be broadcast-worthy, it most often involves bad news. But keep in mind, the chances of something tragic happening while you are on your trip are pretty slim, especially when you consider how may solo people are traveling everyday around the world.

Be strong and don’t waiver. Going to school on the first day was pretty hard too, but we all managed to compete that part of our life. Consider making the decision to travel, to be another part of life’s journey.

There will be times when your heart nearly jumps out of your chest, but most times it will be because you got to see The Grand Canyon, The Eiffel Tower in Paris, or the Coliseum in Rome.

I remember learning about Egypt at a small country school. My dream was to one day go and sit on one of those big rocks that make up the Pyramids.

When I did get to sit on one of those big rocks, I thought back to my time at school and said to myself:

“If I can do this then anyone can!”

So make it happen!

 

Happy Travels

Penny

 

 

 

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How to Travel With Children – Airport Stop Over

Dear Penny,

I will be traveling with my 3 & 4 year old children soon and have a four hour airport stop over. Can you please give me some tips on how I can survive this!

– Holly

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Thanks for your question Holly!

From personal experience, my advice when it comes to traveling with children (whether it be to the shops or international travel) is the same:

They get hungry, bored, tired, restless and need the washroom frequently – and this usually follows a pattern every couple of hours.

With a little preparation, traveling can go from a stressful experience to a great adventure for all! Here are some of my top tips for surviving lengthly airport stopovers.

IDENTIFICATION

Always make sure your children are aware of what to do if they become lost within the airport and how to seek help. I have seen some small children wearing a lanyard which has their name, age, address and a contact cell phone number tucked inside their t-shirt. If you are worried about being separated in crowded areas, you can purchase wrist band devices which will sound an alarm when your child is either out of range or it is removed.

TRAVEL BUDDY

Traveling with children provides you with the opportunity of seeing things in a new light, so take it slowly and remember you cannot expect little children to be seen and not heard. Your children may become frightened and anxious at times, so don’t forget their favorite teddy or blanket when they get tired and frustrated.

VIP CLUB

Are you a member of the airline’s frequent flyer or VIP Club? If not, check if you can buy a pass to use their facilities. Free food, TV and spacious washrooms will be appreciated by any mom traveling with toddlers.

PLAY AREAS

Check the airport website and print out the map. Some airports offer children’s play areas which can be a great help!

DIAPER BAGS

There are some great looking nappy/diaper bags out there which have lots of little pockets to hold everything from pain relief to a spare pair of clothes. Your children may be past the nappy stage, but these bags are built with kids in mind.

FOOD

Pack small zip-lock bags of food. Chopped fresh and dried fruit, vegetable sticks, savory biscuits and little sandwiches will be a godsend, not only to your pocket, but also the convenience of having them available when you hear those words, “I’m hungry.”

WATER

Take small plastic water bottles, which can be filled at the water fountain.

COMPANIONS

Find other families to sit with. Your children will appreciate some new playmates and it is amazing how much mothers share in common.

TOYS

Pack a few favorites, but don’t give them out all at once. Kids are tech savvy these days, so pack the iPod and iPad and download a few new programs. Coloring books with some thick colored crayons will not go astray.

WALK

Go for a walk around the airport lounge. Plane spot and look for anything interesting in the shops. If you can find an area for your children to have a run and let out some energy, all the better. Just make sure that this is out of the way and doesn’t annoy staff or other passengers.

CLOTHING

Dress your children in comfortable clothing. Remember, airports can be cold, so t-shirts, track pants and fleece tops are great choices. Pack a spare pair of clothes in case of accidents.

WIPES

Don’t forget the wetwipes for noses, hands and clothing spills.

MEET AND ASSIST

Take advantage of the Meet and Assist services which can be provided by the airport, if staff are available. Airport staff will assist you at check in and you will be given priority to get on and off the plane.

Above all, approach your stopover with patience and consideration to your children, as well as to other passengers. With a little preparation and creativity, you can travel with your children and enjoy the experience.

Happy travels!

Penny

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Categories: Advice | Tags: | 1 Comment

Escape to Paradise This Holiday Season

Many Australians travel to Thailand each year because it provides great value for their dollar. Increasingly, Thailand is becoming a top international holiday destination for families.

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Dear Penny,
I need your help. This year I am going to get in early and plan our family vacation, so that I can take advantage of the travel specials offered for early bookings. I would like to take my family to a tropical destination, however have no ideas outside of Hawaii! I know you have been to lots of exotic locations so might have some ideas on family-friendly and affordable vacation spots?
Trish
It’s never too early to start planning a warm, exotic getaway, to escape the upcoming cold weather blues. Sunshine, crystal clear waters and golden beaches are a great way to relax and unwind for the whole family. With four young children myself, I will always remember those wonderful holidays where I had a break as well, away from planning meals, making beds and entertaining small children. Being able to have a massage, or just lie on the beach and read a book are “simple” but memorable pleasures for a full-time mother.
Now let’s spin the globe and find the perfect vacation destination for you and your family! Spain, Turkey, Jamaica, Mexico, Malaysia or Thailand.
The Land of Smiles
With a combination of a tropical climate, beaches, history and friendly people, Thailand is a great choice for a family holiday. 
Located in Asia, Thailand is more developed than its close neighbors: Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. With cultural origins dating back to ancient India, there are many ethnic groups that vary in culture, tradition and languages. As well as beaches, Thailand can offer family holiday escapes to mountains, forests and jungles. The people are very friendly and welcoming and Buddhism is practiced by 95% of the population. There are historic temples (known as “wats”) and royal palaces to visit, which will inspire young inquiring minds. Thai food is renown for its freshness and “fussy” eaters will find something to delight their taste buds. Shoppers will be in their element, as there is an array of bustling markets or upscale department stores in western style, shopping malls.
Accommodation
Luxury is not lacking in Thai beach resorts and they are more affordable than you would expect. Some resorts offer a complete family package where everything is included, from accommodation and meals to Zumba dancing classes — not forgetting the “Kids Club,” which is reassuring for the budget conscious family. These facilities are a welcome addition to making sure that all members of the family can experience a great holiday. They are often run by a team of professional “activities” staff, who give parents the chance to relax and rejuvenate and also have a little “grown up” time together. There is nothing like enjoying the culinary delights and a romantic walk along the beach after dinner, without the worry of your 2 year old’s tantrum! My children also enjoyed having someone new to play with and trying activities they would not normally get a chance to do, while my husband could just relax away from the pressures of work. Teenage children are not forgotten either, as these resorts are very experienced at catering for this age group, often providing expert tuition in water sports, snorkeling and beach activities.
 
If a package holiday is not to your liking, why not book a resort where you just pay for your room. Eating and entertainment is not expensive in Thailand and your family will get to experience a little more of the culture and daily life of this wonderful country. Most resorts offer a Kids Club, gym, restaurants, Wi-Fi, cable/satellite TV, refrigerator and tea/coffee making facilities. Remember to inquire about washing facilities/costs, as this will dictate the amount of clothes you pack for your family’s vacation. 
 
Resorts are also able to offer extra activities including elephant rides, jungle treks, family cooking classes, scuba diving and island hopping adventures.
  
My personal family friendly Thai beaches are Karon and Kata, where you will find some luxurious resorts and hotels at prices which will just amaze you. Check out the “early bird deals” now available for your Thailand winter escape.
Penny’s Top 10 Tips For Selecting A Family Friendly Resort
1. Must specify “family friendly.”
2. Security/Safety – fenced areas/professionally trained staff/babysitters/Kids   Club facilities. 
3. Large rooms/cribs supplied.
4. Refrigerator in room.
5. Washing facilities.
6. Child friendly swimming pools/playground.
7. Close to outside restaurants/cafes.
8. Close to small “supermarket.” 
9. Away from heavy traffic.
10. Away from loud nightclubs.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask for a room which will suit your family’s needs.
Thailand is a great choice for your next family vacation — there is a reason why most Australian’s choose it as their “go-to” spot for a little piece of paradise!
Safe Travels!
Penny
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