08 Mar

I Want To ‘Go With Oh’ to Berlin!

Some of the fondest memories of our RTW trip are the five days we spent in an apartment in Berlin. I was already head-over-heels in love with Germany – its cleanliness and orderliness, its undeniable history and steadfast resolve to overcome it, its attention to detail, and its beer….oh, the beer!!

Staying in an apartment, in a regular neighbourhood made our time there even better. We walked to the grocery store, stopping in to The Little Pub along the way. Yes, it was really called that, and it really was little; with maybe a dozen stools, the same bartender every evening and a rotating cast of characters holding court. We did our laundry at the waschsalon, that had small cafe/bar in the front so we could have a beer while our clothes tumbled. We took the U-Bahn into the city to do our sightseeing during the day and returned at night to have dinner on the corner. It was perfect.

How would you go about finding and apartment in Berlin? Go With Oh has hundreds of apartments and hotels to choose from all over the city. Our apartment was in Prenzlauer Berg but there are plenty of great neighbourhoods to explore.

So what if I had the chance to go back? What would I see this time?

The CurryWurst Museum. A whole museum dedicated to the ketchupy, curry-y sausage sensation!

The Berliner Fernsehturm or TV Tower. The tallest tower in Germany offers some great views of the city – what a great overview to see how the city is growing and changing.

The Bauhaus Museum. A chance to learn more about this modern design icon in a building that is worth the visit alone.

It all from a bike. There are plenty of places to rent bikes in Berlin to take advantage of cruising through the nearby parks and maybe catch some weekend markets along the way.

Take a free Berlin Walking Tour. I love walking tours and this one, from Alternative Berlin Tours looks quirky and interesting, taking us just off the beaten path and showing the other side of life in this cosmopolitan city.

Berlin is one of those cities that I could see myself living in. Staying in an apartment while visiting lets me pretend I’m living there now.

**You could win 500 Euros of accommodation with Go With Oh to see Berlin yourself!! They’re also giving a way an iPad, a Panasonic Lumix Camera, and 500 Euro of Samsonite Luggage.**

 

 

 

 

05 Mar

Monday Moment: Bali, Indonesia

Tirta Empul Temple, Bali, IndonesiaBali is infused with beauty and grace. Temples abound, rice paddies fill the valleys, and the volcano Mt Agung — acting as the spiritual center of the island — dominates the skyline.

There is balance is everything the Balinese do. Offerings for the gods, and the demons. Taking care of the water, and the earth. Living their religion, and honouring their culture.

I see them struggling with the onslaught of tourism. Wanting to take advantage but, at the same time, realizing that it is diminishing all that makes Bali beautiful.

It is a truly stunning place. If you’re planning on going, I suggest you go sooner rather than later.

*****

Have you read our review of The Long Term Traveler’s Guide? It is the most comprehensive guide on the subject that I have seen anywhere and, at$25 it’s a great value for those of you looking to get a leg up on researching and planning. The digital package includes resources and planning tools that are worth the price alone. If you are planning a big trip you should definitely check it out.

We’re giving a copy away!! Jeremy has given us a copy of the book and the digital package for us to share with you. All you have to do is ‘Like’ our OneGiantStep Facebook Page. It’s also a great resource for travel articles and great conversation. So come on over, give us a ‘Like’ and be entered to win a copy of The Long Term Traveler’s Guide.

We’ll be drawing a random name from all the ‘Likes’ (whether new or old) on March 15th.

 

01 Mar

How Much Is Enough?

Pile Of MoneyPhoto Credit: RefractedMoments

We struggled with this question when we were planning our RTW trip in 2009.

Back then we were able to look at other traveler’s budget sheets, research costs in each country, figure out air fares and figure out how big the chunk of money would have to be in order to travel for a year. It was a lot of work, and a ton of anxiety, but by the time we came up with a number we were pretty confident that it was the right number. Then all we had to do was save it…piece of cake…right?

Now we find that we are struggling with the same question only the answers don’t seem as obvious.

Our Responsibly Irresponsible plan says that we will stay in Canada, work, and save money for our eventual retirement. Our goal is to save enough money in a very short period of time so that it will grow to be enough by the time we’re too old to work. The idea is that, once we have saved the magic number we can go off gallivanting; making just enough money to sustain us in the short term because the long term will be taken care of.

So…what’s the magic number?

It’s actually two magic numbers, one being dependant on the other. I guess the ultimate magic number is the amount of money we would want available when we won’t be working any longer. The other magic number is the amount of money we have to save in order for it to grow to the ultimate number between now and then.

And that’s where the How Much Is Enough question comes in.

So, how much money do you think two people will need for retirement?

*****

Have you read our review of The Long Term Traveler’s Guide? It is the most comprehensive guide on the subject that I have seen anywhere and, at$25 it’s a great value for those of you looking to get a leg up on researching and planning. The digital package includes resources and planning tools that are worth the price alone. If you are planning a big trip you should definitely check it out.

We’re giving a copy away!! Jeremy has given us a copy of the book and the digital package for us to share with you. All you have to do is ‘Like’ our OneGiantStep Facebook Page. It’s also a great resource for travel articles and great conversation. So come on over, give us a ‘Like’ and be entered to win a copy of The Long Term Traveler’s Guide.

We’ll be drawing a random name from all the ‘Likes’ (whether new or old) on March 15th.

27 Feb

Monday Moment: Fishing From The Galata Bridge, Istanbul, Turkey

Fishing Off the Galata Bridge, ,Istanbul, TurkeyThe Galata Bridge in the heart of Istanbul is a gathering place for both locals and tourists.

Locals set themselves up for hours at a time fishing off the upper deck or tucking themselves away in the lower decks cafes and restaurants. Tourists stop off at the boats selling fish sandwiches on one side and stroll up the hill on the other side to the Galata Tower and Istiklal Caddesi; the pedestrian mall filled with fashionable shopping and great dining.

It is always lively and interesting and affords some of the most stunning views of the city.

*****

Have you read our review of The Long Term Traveler’s Guide? It is the most comprehensive guide on the subject that I have seen anywhere and, at$25 it’s a great value for those of you looking to get a leg up on researching and planning. The digital package includes resources and planning tools that are worth the price alone. If you are planning a big trip you should definitely check it out.

We’re giving a copy away!! Jeremy has given us a copy of the book and the digital package for us to share with you. All you have to do is ‘Like’ our OneGiantStep Facebook Page. It’s also a great resource for travel articles and great conversation. So come on over, give us a ‘Like’ and be entered to win a copy of The Long Term Traveler’s Guide.

We’ll be drawing a random name from all the ‘Likes’ (whether new or old) on March 15th.

20 Feb

Monday Moment: Waiting For Elephants in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

Khao Yai National Park, ThailandWe had seen elephants at the elephant camp near Chiang Mai but I really wanted to see them in the wild. We headed out to Khao Yai National Park in central Thailand specifically for the hike through the jungle and grasslands where a pack of elephants were known to live.

The hike was beautiful but oh-how-it-rained! We took refuge in a wildlife viewing platform where we peered out into the rain for a couple of hours willing the elephants to show. Turns out it didn’t matter how much I wanted to see an elephant; it just wasn’t in the cards for that day and we returned to town with no elephant sightings.

16 Feb

Help Wanted: Do You Know Of An Expat Blog I Should Be Following?

Maybe you can help me.

When I was looking to travel the world I scoured the web for personal blogs of people just-like-me who were doing it. Mostly to prove to myself that people-just-like-me could do it but also to learn how people were doing it.

How did they save the money? How much did it cost them? Where did they go? How did they decide? Did they get sick while traveling? Did they get along? How did they know to catch that bus right there? What did they eat? Where did they sleep? Did they like it? What if they didn’t? What made them take off to travel the world? Was it easy to meet people? Was it what they expected? Were there lots of bugs? What were they doing to do when they got back? Were they ever scared? What was their favorite meal? Why did they choose that particular island? What about retirement? How did they keep in touch with friends? Did they take malaria medication? Were they quitting their jobs? How did they get their India visa? Is the beer in Germany really that good?

Endless questions.

I have so many of the same questions now only, this time, it’s about becoming an expat and, while there seem to be bucket loads of travel blogs now I’m having trouble finding expat blogs that resonate with me.

Here’s the part where maybe you can help.

I’m looking blogs of people who have left their home land and are living somewhere new and different for them. As I was with traveling, I’m drawn to personal stories rather than magazine type sites. I’m interested in hearing how they made the decision, what struggles they overcame and how their new life is now.

Do you know of an expat writer that I should be following? A blog that is hiding away that I must read? I need to know!

13 Feb

Monday Moment: Argentinian Gauchos

Argentinian Gaucho

Much of central and northern Argentina is pampas…long stretches of flat, flat grassland punctuated by estancias (ranches) and small towns. In the late 1800’s these fertile grasslands were ruled by gauchos. These South American cowboys are held in folklore much like their North American counterparts.

Quiet, stoic, and proud, they were nomadic cattlemen back in the day. Today, they still work the land and maintain some of their mystique, but less so.

We met these two while visiting an estancia outside of Argentina. Although more of a ‘dude ranch’ now they hinted of a by-gone era as they showcased their talents and jauntily posed for pictures.

11 Feb

The Long Term Traveler’s Guide

It’s no surprise that most people take small vacations to visit their favorite places but what if you’re interested in something more? Something longer term? Where would you even start planning something like that?

Enter The Long Term Traveler’s Guide.

Long Term Travelers Guide

It is the most comprehensive guide on the subject that I have seen anywhere and, at $25 it’s a great value for those of you looking to get a leg up on researching and planning.

Jeremy has not only mined his own experience as a long term traveler (having visited 34 countries and counting) but has also tapped into many of the relationships he has fostered with other long term travelers (including us!) to provide a well rounded view of deciding, planning and undertaking long term travel.

The Long Term Traveler’s Guide is geared towards those who are dreaming of long term travel but just haven’t been able to see their dream come true. It answers questions you maybe didn’t even know to ask and provides a great framework of how to go about making that dream a reality.

The Table of Contents shows the extent to which the book goes in helping you decide to travel long term, how to plan a long term trip, what being on the road might be like, and how you might feel on your return home.

This guide will not tell you how to buy a train ticket in Italy, what the best hostel is in Rio de Janeiro, or what the iconic foods of Singapore are.  Instead, The Long-Term Traveler’s Guide will inform you on the various styles of transportation, accommodations, and eating establishments the world has to offer and will introduce you to various resources you can use to find out those details.

But the best part, in my opinion, is the rest of the digital package.

  • Planning Spreadsheet. When we were planning our RTW trip I would have paid $25 for this alone! It took me weeks of research and tweaking of spreadsheets to come up with what Jeremy is including in this package. It is the single best resource in the entire package. It includes spreadsheets for budget planning, pre-trip savings plan and a spending tracker as well as a pre-trip checklist and the start of a packing list too.
  • The Best Blog Posts From Around The World. If you’re like me you’re probably scouring the inter-web looking for other travelers and blogs to read to get a sense of what it’s really like out there. I want to know details. I want to get recommendations. I want to hear stories. Jeremy has curated more than 100 blog posts about traveling in various regions of the world and has listed more than 200 independent travel bloggers in a directory that should keep you happily reading for hours on end!
  • City Planning Tool. The city planning tool will link you to all the information you need about the places you are interested in seeing.
  • Weather Charts. One of the first things we did once we had a short list of places to go was to create a weather chart to help us decide when to visit each country. You don’t want to end up in Thailand during monsoon season or in Europe during a winter deep freeze. Jeremy has done all the work for you here including high and low temperatures and whether it is dry or wet season making it easy for you to chase summer the whole way!
  • Photography Tips. Some great tips in here on how to better your photography while you travel.
  • Personal Travel Advice. Access to Jeremy himself! Have a question about route planning? Want a hostel recommendation? Wondering if that tour is worth it? Ask Jeremy. He is one of the most helpful people in the blog-o-sphere and, if he doesn’t have an answer or an opinion, he has access to a tremendous number of other travelers that might. Personal travel advice; it doesn’t get much better than that.
  • Future Downloads And Updates. Jeremy has great plans for this book and digital package. Kindle and Nook reader downloads. iPhone and iPod apps. Emergency Information Cards. Chapter expansions. You get access to all this future development too at no extra charge. You pay once and Jeremy keeps working and adding to your purchase.

Here’s what others are saying:

“I really really love the book. I finally finished it over the weekend (so hard to find the time) and there is just so much in there I never even thought of. It’s been a great book to have and I have already told some of my travelling friends about it!”
Annie N. 
Whether you’re just starting to think about long term travel, or are bogged down in the details of all-that-must-be-done, this guide will help you research and plan, give you some great resources, and will save you tons of work!

 

09 Feb

Finally Becoming Myself

 

Reflection

Brushing the hair back from my face I stare at the clock and realize that it’s midnight already. My eyes are burning but there are still a few pages left in the chapter on covalent chemical bonds that have to be read by class tomorrow morning.

Pulling the kitchen chair up closer I’m careful not to knock one of the sawhorses that is holding up the door acting as the horizontal surface of my desk. I drag the table lamp closer to take advantage of more of the yellow glow on the pages.

…for the second- and third-period elements, the n=2 and n=3 s2p6 sets comprise the octet. Some of the third-period elements (Si, P, S, and Cl) can bond to more than four atoms, and thus need to involve more than the four pairs of electrons available in an s2p6 octet. This is possible because at n=3, an additional set…

The spare bedroom cum office door swings open with a crash. Looking up into the face of my husband I can tell that he is angry again that I have spent the entire evening holed up with my chemistry text book rather than with him.

Since returning to school at the ripe age of 25 I have been doing very well. I do, however, put a lot of time into it and work very hard to get the marks I think I will need to continue on. This going back to school thing is new to me and, although I am very proud of myself for doing it and for doing so well at it, I am still very insecure about what it all means and where it might take me. I study hard to cover my insecurities; it’s a trait I still have.

It is turning out to be very hard on my marriage. As I gain knowledge, and confidence, my husband feels left out and worries that we are growing apart. He is concerned that I am meeting people and having conversations that he isn’t part of. He fears that I will realize that I am capable of so much more and that I will leave him behind.

He is right.

Our argument turns into an ultimatum of sorts where it’s clear that I will have to choose. It is in that moment that I realize that nothing will ever be the same for me again. I don’t say the words that night but suddenly I realize that I have been trying to fit my life into a mould that is just not working for me.

I want to go to school. I want to live in a city; right in the middle, in a high-rise where I can walk out and be right in the center of everything. I’m not sure I want to have children. I’m not sure I want to be married. I want to travel. I want to have interesting conversations. I want to speak another language.  I don’t want to be beige. I want to be unconventional.

Not long after this I moved to Vancouver to really go to school.

On a day I was feeling lonely, overwhelmed and somewhat scared I remember walking across the parking lot thinking to myself ‘Well, Gillian, this is what you said you wanted. This is what you gave it all up for. It’s up to you now to really make it happen. You can do it.’

So I did.

*****

This is when everything changed for me. When the trajectory of my life became undeniably obvious. When I realized that life was living me rather than the other way around.

I am living that life now. The one that I dreamed of in that moment. The one that seemed so impossibly far away.

I’ve made course adjustments since but it is that moment, sitting in that room arguing with my husband, that I always come back to. When I remember fearing that giving up everything would mean having nothing; and then realizing that giving up everything would mean having nothing but potential.

______________________________________________________________

Don’t want to be bothered with glasses or contacts while you travel? Check out Laser Sight to get your vision in ship shape before you leave. Thanks to them for sponsoring this post!

06 Feb

Monday Moment: Berlin U-Bahn

I used to have a somewhat recurring dream as a teenager.

Hearing the drone of engines overhead I look up to see a pattern of bombers heading towards me. The first wave of bombs drop just as the leading line of planes block the sunlight overhead. A heartbeat later the  second wave drops. Then another and another until the sky is filled with planes and falling bombs.

I dodge the bombs and resulting explosions one after the other, my legs moving at half time in my paralyzed dream state. Willing them to move faster I jump from one side of the street to the other watching the destruction around me but, somehow, miraculously staying just ahead of it all.

It was the early Eighties. The height of the Cold War when we all feared the Soviets would push their ‘red button’ and rain nuclear war down on us. The imagery must have come from old war movies I had watched but the fear was very real every time I woke up.

We came upon this graffiti in the U-Bahn (Underground) in Berlin. I hadn’t thought of the dream for many years but was stopped dead in my tracks as my mind raced back to what was illustrated right in front of me.