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20 Observations in Vietnam – Scooters, Coffee, Critters and More

Sol 109

Going into our fourth week in Vietnam. Arrived in Hanoi by an eighteen hour overnight train from Da Nang. We have found a place that is the nicest and most comfortable we have stayed in in awhile. The washer machine actually dries clothes too. We haven’t had that since Australia!

It’s the Christmas season and we are adjusting to being in a place that is not full of our usual holiday extras. I’ll write more about that later but, firstly I wanted to share some thoughts and observances I’ve had since arriving in this amazing country.

Things I have noticed in Vietnam. A random list.

1 – People selling things on their motorbike will have a recording      announcing what they are selling and will play it over and over while driving around. You can flag them down and buy whatever it is they have. Usually, it is some meal. The scooter may even have a glowing hot oven on the side.

2 – Vietnamese people really, really like kids. Our boys are smiled at and coddled over almost everywhere we go. Oakley being least likely to want attention does have some discomfort in this and for Canyon, it depends on his mood. Sometimes he laps it up. Other times, he gets exasperated. It must be similar to what it is like if you are a famous person in other cultures. They are consistently told they are ‘so handsome’! People (usually a woman) will drop whatever she is doing and come over to touch their cheeks.

3 – There is construction constantly going on somewhere. It never ends. Never, ever, ever.

4 – There are at least 30 different ways you can get your coffee. They certainly give Starbucks a run for their money.

5 – It is easy to forget this is a communist country but, remember when you see the political posters everywhere, very little advertising (except outside a local cafe) and handing over your passports every time you stay somewhere new.

6 – The Vietnam/American war was not that long ago and there are plenty of reminders of this intense history. Yet, for the Vietnamese it is a blip on their several 1000 year old history. There seems to be no hard feelings about the war.

7 – The beaches here are amazingly beautiful even in the rainy season.

8 – If it floods, we are told, ‘you just go to the 2nd floor’. Not a lot of worries about that here as it seems to happen a lot.

9 – The garbage/refuse system seems to be is that people just put their bag of rubbish on the street and someone will come along and pick it up. It seems randomly coordinated but, bags don’t stay long. And, as I cringingly found out, sometimes a rat will be getting his take on the trash as it sits there.

 

10 – The bread here is amazing and likely has to do with the French colonial influence. The mini baguette is a staple for many breakfasts with eggs and are sooooo airy inside and crunchy on the outside. Delightful.

11 – Scooter, motorcycles and mopeds are EVERYWHERE. People can carry almost anything on a scooter and the bikes are often driving right into people’s living rooms for the night for safe keeping.

12 – This is a tropical country so, you get to see some big, little critters. In the last days, we’ve had a cockroach in our flat (which Oakley terrifyingly mistook for a tarantula) and many, many in our train carriage, a super fat rat (my phobia) munching on our buildings refuse pile, the praying mantis that guarded our bathroom for a week and would leap on your feet when the water flowed (to have a drink?), beautiful butterflies, dragon flies and your requisite flies, ants and mosquitos that come around pretty frequently.

13 – The blend of traditional (straw hats, bicycles) to the high tech (smart phones everywhere, apps on tablets to order drinks or check you into your berth on the train) is fascinating to observe.

14 – If you want to buy something you will need to bargain for it. Even in the markets the granola bars or bottled water will change prices depending on who is working, what is going on with the weather.

15 – Massages in Vietnam are a whole body experience. The masseuse will literally climb onto your back and legs will use their feet, knees, elbows and hands to work out your kinks. It is not for the faint of heart and if you have any IT band issues consider them ‘worked on’ after they are done with you. You will be sore for days to come.

16 – You are strongly discouraged from any public display of affection with your loved ones. With parents to children it is okay but, a very, very big no no to kiss or canoodle in public.

17 – You will have to get boiled or bottled water for any tasks or thirst. Much like everywhere in we have encountered in SE Asia. You are not encouraged to drink from the tap. We are in the habit of going to the bathroom with a bottle of water to brush our teeth and if water is set on the table while we are out, the boys immediately ask what source it came from. Don’t take your clean, tap water for granted!

18 – You can get any item of clothing made in a couple of hours for a very reasonable price. The tailor work is impeccable and remarkable. You dream it, they will sew it.

19 – You can buy outdoor gear that would put REI and Sportsman Wearhouse to shame. I found the exact Osprey backpack I got for my birthday at the market and I cringed when I say that I paid 70% more for it in the States. Shoes, coats, backpacks are all really marked up when they leave the country.

20 – The confluence of religions here is notable. It is a communist country and we were told that if you have a religion you were discouraged to apply for a government job (or at least say you don’t have a religion). Yet, there are a number of Christian charities that operate cafes hiring people with disabilities. People practice any number of various religions including Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism to name a few.

I have many other observations to share and will but, first wanted to share these thoughts from my perch in Hanoi. Until soon. Be well and thanks for reading.

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Malaysia on My Mind

Sol 74 

We are on week two in Malaysia and just left Kuala Lumpur for the south. We came  to be near a big city to find some Halloween experiences for our sometimes homesick boys, buy some supplies and to make some plans. 

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Halloween party at Jump Street

IMG_7256It has been a delightful place to see albeit a bit further removed from our more hands on experience in Bali. A bit of an adjustment after Bali as we are on the 16th floor of a shiny apartment and not even a third of the scooters we have been used to seeing whizzing past.

We have been introduced to a large, multicultural city which is predominately Muslim and full of dining, entertainment choices and other big city options. We have spent some time planning our next weeks as well as taking care of some tasks. Kuala Lumpur is known for ‘medical tourism’ and I decided to try it out.

I have hypothyroidism for 10 years and have been managing this by getting blood tests every couple months and taking an appropriate dose of daily medication to balance it. When I left Portland, I had a three month supply of my medication and our last prescription plan wouldn’t let me have anymore. Which is not usual, but annoying. So, I knew I would need to get a new supply from the road. 

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Check out the hours. He is almost always here.


So, I went to a doctor here in Kuala Lumpur. The host of our Airbnb helped me find one and my experience was pretty interesting, at least from the point of view of an American used to our complicated medical/insurance institutions.

The Doctor, Dr. Anthony Samy, was everything I needed including kind and no-nonsense.

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Dr. Anthony

I had to show up and wait (no appointments allowed) but, only waited about 30 minutes. He chatted with me, asked what I needed and took a blood sample. His assistants spent a lot time calculating prices of medications and we got it all sorted out.

Two days later I came back for the results, another consult and then was given four months of medications. My only concern was that the sense of privacy is different there.

They took me in a room to be weighed and there was the doctor at his desk talking to another patient.

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Paying for my medications.

“Oh, excuse me!” I said, but, they were indifferent, shrugged their shoulders and went back to their conversation.

The medical office also takes you on without a lot of information. My script has my first name only on it. It reminded me of Dr. Fleishman in Northern Exposure when Marilyn would just number the people in the waiting room.

While I was a bit worried about the process, it turned out fine. In the entire process with two doctors visits, blood sample, lab work/results and four months medication the total cost was $61. Wow…

In Kuala Lumpur we also visited the tallest twin buildings in the world. The Petronas Twin Towers  and  KL Bird Park an amazing bird park with an outdoor aviary several acres big. We also visited the National Mosque of Malaysia and they proudly told us that Obama had visited there just last year.IMG_7392

fullsizeoutput_9dc8In our world-schooling lesson we had a long lesson on mosques and Islam. It is always fascinating for Kelvin and I to see things and think they are a big deal and then have the boys just accept all as ‘normal’. People doing their everyday tasks, working as a nurse, checkout person at the grocery store, kids jumping on trampolines or on school trip at the park – all in their hijibs. So many colorful varieties.

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The other Twin Tower and I

Normalizing plurality. Always a good world-school lesson.

We are in Malaysia for one more week then are heading to Vietnam with a two day visit in Singapore. We made to Johur yesterday via bus from Kuala Lumpur. From our current place we can see across the river into Singapore and the kids love being able to say. “Hey, I can see into another country over there!” and then they collapse in a pile of giggles.

As usual, thanks for following.

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National Mosque

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School on the Bus to Johur.

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Camper Van Beethoven up the East Coast

Sol 29 – Starting our fifth week. The last 10 days have been filled with vast views outside and some tight living quarters inside. After our first pet sit we ambled into the world in a camper van affectionately named ‘Beethoven’. Any lover of indie rock from the 90s might know what I am taking about.

We drove up the East Coast and boy, it is a BIG country. This seem longer because it is written in kilometers but, also they list cities that are 1700 kilometers away! It makes you feel that you are really on the long haul. Then there are the serious but, somehow seemly cute signs warning you of Kangaroos and Koala bear crossings.

We spent a lot of time checking out different beach fronts and finding the magic of Rainbow Beach where the colors of the sands are a painters dream. So many hues.

We camped at 1770 Holiday Park, in 1770, the town with the historical significance of  the only town to be named a number and after when Captain Cook landed in….you guessed it 1770.

Then to Hervey Bay where the tide rolls in and out for 100s of yards (or meters!) and the sea life is majestic. We stayed at a place called Scarness which Kelvin kept saying was ‘scariness’ which made us giggle as it would be an odd name for such a beautiful place.

We made some great connections in the holiday parks and the boys made some friends learning some ‘footie’ i.e. rugby, a smattering of cricket and taking part in delightful discussions of favorite candy bars and breakfast foods while swimming and diving for Australian coins. We were kindly and generously served Australian wines and given some great insights of places to go and very kind inquiries of our travels. Thanks Fiona and Tony!!

Oakley seems to be having the toughest transition. Every time we have ‘world school’ he melts as if he’s lost his bone structure into a small puddle. He has some sniffles about missing his friends. We soothe with Legos, familiar songs and hugs but, it is hard for him at times. It is hard to see him sad and we work to help.

Canyon seems to be a bit more resilient but, is up and down lately especially the closer we get to his 10th birthday (on the 24th) which he is simultaneously excited for and worried that no one will remember.

Since we are on a pretty tight budget we have to be really thoughtful about where we spend our money especially when it comes to experiences. We decided we needed to have some experience out on the water since we were at the Southern end of the Great Barrier Reef and when would that happen again? Also, we so wanted to go to Fraser Island but, it was just too cost prohibitive for us.

But, we did find a gem in our experience on the Pacific Whale Foundation . They are not profit putting their earnings back into research which they were conducting while we where onboard. We saw an amazing array of whales, mommas, escorts and babies, who seemed to be just flirting with our boat all afternoon doing all the activity described on the phamplet.  Even our guides seemed to be impressed with the activity.

We also saw jumping tuna (our cat back home would have been out of her mind!) and sea turtles. The captain even took us close to Fraser Island to see white sand coast line and search for dingo sightings.

We have been frequenting the grocery stores to plan our meals. I think we have only eaten out as family three times since arriving in Australia. One was a fish and chips delight, another a pub dinner that was okay and another the first day at the shopping center food court in our jet lagging weariness.

Being married to a chef has its perks. We did take advantage of one of the countless free BBQs all over in nearly every park. It is such a great idea to be able to cook up whatever you want nearly wherever. We have seen people laying out high teas complete with champagne and several tiered cake trays, hot plates with kettles and a ‘civilized’ spread that would challenge most high-end dinners out. These folks know how to enjoy the out-of-doors!

We start our second pet sit with three dogs in North Brisbane while completing our second stay with the kitties near the Gold Coast. It was a sight for sore eyes to have hot water, wifi, a couch and rooms that one could shut by themselves and be alone for at least a bit. Again, loving our connection with Trusted Housesitters.

Keep tuned as we head into the last third of our time in Australia and prepare for Bali. We hope to create a birthday to remember for Canyon. He’ll be a decade old!

Kelvin bravely feeding the Lorakeets in Forest Glen

Boys playing dream chess ala Harry Potter?

Our humble home in the woods.

Room with view at Hervey Bay

Boys enjoying the sunset at 1770

Actually finding a Koala in a tree on the side of the road.

Dinner time at Rainbow Beach!

The introverts in the quiet carriage in Brisbane.

Cosy sleeping arrangements or claustrophobic. You decide.

Sunrise at Rainbow Beach

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Roos, Koalas and other Dreamy Aussie animals.

Week two in Australia and we are moving on to camping after a luxurious stay at Deb’s home with three fuzzy roommates named Patrick, Marley and Gracie. We have been enjoying the personalities of each as we navigate their home and their human’s house.

We have loved having a kitchen, washer, dryer, two bedrooms  and even the use of a car. Albeit our trials of driving a manual shift were fraught with tense laughter and Oakley occasionally covering his eyes! We found this gem of a connection on Trusted Housesitters which allows us to connect with folks who want their house and pets cared for while they are on vacation.

While at this house, we made friends with nearby kids big and small. The boys playing footie with Joseph and his family who are West African immigrants to Australia.

James using his amazing grill sheet for the Kabobs

Meat, meat and meat.

We also enjoyed being invited to a real Aussie BBQ. Kelvin’s search for a butcher

work with ended up at Arundel Meats which serendipitously connected us to another neighbor. The butcher he worked with just happened to live across the street. Small, friendly Australian connection.

The Menu: Pre-course of sausages, then kabobs, then steak then salads and of course beer and wine. We did have some strawberries too! All for good measure to balance out our fruit and veggies was we are not currently lacking for protein.

Then Kangaroo and Koala Bear encounters. A dream to experience and a 50 before 50 bucket list item for me. The Roos were so close and just in the neighborhood. It seems like what running into deer is like for us in the NW. These Kangaroos are smart, sweet and strong.

They are so much bigger than I imagined. Just as the Koala bears are so compact like a favorite teddy bear and all curled up like a new-born human baby, but with so much more fur. It was sweet. 

So, so sweet. There are not many animals you wish to immediately cuddle upon the first time seeing them. These wondrous creatures meet the bill. I was transformed into a place of wonder and amazement. Feeling a bit voyeuristic watching them as they graze and nap. But, they are good teachers of helping us slow down and take it in.

The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary was recommended to us by our Aussie connections and it was a great place to see Koala, Kangaroos, Salt-water crocodiles, Wallabies, Wombats, Dingos, Echidna, birds of prey, Emus, many snakes, and water rats (which was NOT my favorite encounter).

The non-profit place protects the animals and uses the funds for entry to support further care for animals. It felt good and worthwhile. Even getting to make silly photos for grandma at home! Canyon is our ham!

We also returned again and again to the parks along the water to the Bouncy Pillow, time one the beach and riding bikes along the water front for a couple of miles enjoying the giant Pelicans seeking snakes and brown snakes waking up after a long winter and sunning themselves on the beach.

It is never a dull moment. We couldn’t have spent many more days here and the boys connection with local kids playing make it a winner on many fronts.

We are settling into our regime of world schooling in the morning and it is hard transition some mornings but, enthusiasm builds with new animals to discover and research. Canyon wholeheartedly wrote up a report on the Red Kangaroo and was over the moon to see them at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. He felt so proud to know his work had taught us more information than we might have learned on our own.

So, we are doing our laundry, watching an educational program on Australian ABC telly, repacking our bags to get ready for the train, bus rides to get us to our camper van rental. It will be one of the first longer treks with our gear on our bodies.

We can do it! Stay tuned and we will let you know how it all turns out. Wifi will be limited but, we are talking with friends via What’sApp as we can call, text and video on the encrypted platform pretty seamlessly.

I am on Instagram with tid bits from time to time at audsjoy_simple_expectations a bit more frequently so, please do follow me there too.

Loving sharing this adventure with you. Please stay tuned and toss us some questions. We love to hear from you all!

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We are Doing it! Location Independent at Last!

I’m sitting under a Plumeria tree and a cactus-like bush listening to the roosters crow and I think, we have really made it. We launched on the road on Wednesday and now it is Sol Four. It is a down day as we work to figure out our travel/international life. We are officially Location Independent.

First Plane Ride They Remember

We are figuring out how to manage our online Traveling Mailbox where we ‘receive’ our mail everyday. Still sorting out the ends of our responsibilities in Oregon. Paying the last of our utility bills this way gives a whole new view of mail sorting, for sure.

I went for a sunrise walk and Kelvin went to the farmer’s market for dinner supplies. The boys are adjusting

to our schedule of writing, math work sheets and reading, reading, reading on their kindles.

It will take a bit to sort out the best balance to assure we keep up with our goals and living tasks (remember that I have been worried about getting enough learning in?). I feel confident we will figure it out.

So, the first days. The boys took their first plane ride that they remember, an afternoon swim with Green Sea Turtles, a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor(free!), take out at  Barbeque Kai

We made it!

(local recommendation) where you get an amazingly yummy cheeseburger for $2.75 and many locals came in after the local high school footbal game to get theirs too. I felt we were in the right place.

We are really trying to keep our budget in check by making pack lunches and snacks. We are trying to spend about $40 a day (after accommodations and car rental). We know that Hawaii is likely to be on of the more expensive places in our trip. We brought a zillion Cliff Bars, a jar of Adam’s No-Stir Peanut Butter and have wandered the aisles of local grocery stores to get some basics.

We are staying in a house (AirBnB) and have a kitchen, washer, and while it is cozy we love the lizards in the yard and the three-minute walk to the beach. Our neighbors rock out to reggae, zoom by on their scooters (one holding his beloved chicken) and hang out their wash as we nod to each other across the fence.

Last week, at the last-minute, I realized we would not be able to make it to the airport in time by bus (none leaving at the needed 3:30am) so, rather than endure a costly Uber ride we rented a car from Turo .

Swimming with the Green Sea Turtles

It’s like Airbnb for cars. For $17 a day we have a trusty Toyota and the owners meet us right outside baggage to deliver the car and an offer to meet up later in the week for a swim at the North Shore. I don’t think that can happen at Hertz.

So, the next steps. I am wrestling to sort out my to-dos, wants and needs. I am trying to follow my own advice in setting a low expectations so I don’t get overwhelmed with the FOMO. Here is to the next steps.

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Moving on Out! Lightening up the Load! On the Road!

We have been counting down the days until we fly out on the 23rd but, we realize that our first big departure day is tomorrow when we leave our house. We have been scurrying around for weeks trying to get all in place. The packing, sorting, donating, selling, scrapping and now, the cleaning.

For me, it feels like one of the most emotional parts. Packing up our lives means going through all the things that are around us daily. IMG_3120The regular coffee cups, the choices of shirts to wear, the boys Legos, that favorite pillow or cuddle blanket. Even going through shampoos, a lucky necklace or board game. We have been reducing our possessions to the smallest of piles to take with us.

 

The pack list is rather minimal. Pack what you can carry. IMG_3129
We still have some honing down to do and we will, however, it is certainly a fraction of what we have had access to everyday.

I have been impressed to see how our kids have been coping with the change and they have shown us, over and over again that they are very resilient kids. Most kids are. They live in the moment better than most adults. They are playing with what is in front of them even if it has been reduced to that last box of Legos and their Kindles.

These last days we have been feverishly cleaning surfaces and taping up boxes. Now the pod is gone (much to our

Good bye Pod!neighbor’s relief, I am sure) and our halls echo with our voices, we are aware that it is really us that makes a home. We ever we are, we will be fine.

We did have one of our two Bon Voyage parties. We had a give away area where folks sorted through some of the items we couldn’t yet donate or dump. It was a fun night where we also drank some of those really nice bottles of wine we have been saving for how long? Literally decades for some of them.

Lightening up the load. Today, we take our kitty to her new home with a long time friend, Ace. We pass the keys over to our patient renters. We return that final batch of library books. We use that borrowed vacuum for the last time.Growth chart measurement! Last for awhile We check the mail. Return keys to my office, measure the boys growth on the wall for that last time for a while and return that leftover dish from our Bon Voyage party.

Tonight we sleep the last time on our pile of blankets on the couch and the last bed left  in the house.

Tomorrow we drive to Idaho for a week of visiting family and friends. Our renters move in and we are officially on the road. Our journey in the contiguous 48 States starts our journey.

Bon Voyage! IMG_3077

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The Let’s Go Checklist – 3 Month Marker – Part One

Memorial Day weekends are often a time to catch up with family and friends for a BBQ, remembering love ones who have passed and gear up for summer. In our family, either turkey hunting and sorting out the garage are also on the list!

Last week Kelvin and I got a rare Saturday night alone and we went through a long list of things to do and really me, off loading my worry list! So, what do we have to worry about? Well, I am a worrier and so, it comes second nature to make lists, while trying to solve and turn over sticky issues in my head. Sometimes, it’s a really annoying place to be!

So, one thing I do that helps is to dump out those worries. Write them down so, I can effectively look at them and not just the strands of them floating around in my head along with my emotions. As my dear husband knows, if they gave out ribbons for experiencing anxiety I would be a blue ribbon wearer! Thus, the need for talk and planning was so helpful for me.

So, at the end of our lovely evening, we made a list. A list to guide us over the next months. This is what we are working on (at least as of today!!).

Here’s what is on my mind all shaken out for your reading pleasure and my sorting.IMG_2345

1- Completely sort out our monthly expenses for when we are on the road. Identifying which subscriptions to shut down (we will need some Netflix from the road if can find the wi-fi!), bank transfers that we won’t be doing the road, etc.

2- Figuring out how to manage our money from the road. I have heard some great things about Trail Wallet to track expenses. I also talked to a friend who recently travelled in Vietnam and Thailand about the need for cash and how frequently bank cards get jammed up due to theft or other such annoyances.

3- We need to sell our mini-van before we go. We have a lease and need to sort out our financial obligation to that.

4- Rent out our house. We need to be out of our house by 15 August. We want to rent it partially furnished to save on storage but, would happy to rent it to folks that will take good care of our little parcel of earth while we are traveling. If we rent to folks we don’t know then we have to involve credit checks and in any case, we need to have a lease drawn up.

5- Where to store the things we have decided to sell, donate or dump? Kelvin is working on some Tetris magic in his mind as the boxes accumulate in our garage and evaluating what kind of square foot space we will need.

6- Work on house repairs. Those little things we have been avoiding to fix and now, will need to before we rent out.

7- Sorting out health insurance. Our insurance ends at the end of June along with Kelvin’s job so, figuring out what we will need to be compliant but, also not too expenses as we are unlikely to be able use this insurance while we are traveling.

8- Buy the travel supplies; packs, shoes, travel kits by a certain date.thomas-martinsen-2158 We have a couple of requests out to businesses to see if we can receive any donations and we will write about these products from the road. A real road test!

9- Setting up a safe deposit box at bank to hold important documents and valuables while we are on the road.

10- Getting our inoculations needed for travel. This one is tricky as it hard to convince our boys about extra ‘shots’ but, hopefully seeing us all get them together will make this a great bonding experience! ha!

11- Doctor’s and dental appointments. We are often scrambling to make sure the kids have their check ups but, as the grown ups we don’t always check in unless something is wrong. We need to have a basic check up to make sure all is clean and shiny (teeth) and all in working order!

12-Make digital and paper copies of all the documents we will need access to from the road and packets of information for each boy in the unlikely and, hopefully, never happening situation in which they need to reach out for help without our guidance.

That is the first dozen. There are more than a dozen more but, I am taking it a bit at a time.

Thanks for bearing with me and let me know of other things you would want to take care of if you were leaving for a significant amount of time.

 

 

 

 

 

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OMG! We ARE really doing this!!

The last couple weeks pieces of our plan have officially fallen into place. Kelvin’s new passport arrived. Yay!! Then we had a flurry of activity as we set up two house/pet sits in September in Brisbane, Australia. And we got our tickets to fly!

So, here is a rundown of recent events. Over the last months, I have been searching for a good fit for a house sit in Australia. Trying to make sure that where we choose or get chosen is where we want to be but also, logistically a good place to be.

In the US, we are used to driving long distances but, it is a big deal to try to drive 1400 kilometers between housing opportunities. hugo-villegas-174015And an even bigger deal when we try to do it in three days in a country we haven’t driven in together (Kelvin was there on his own in 2001), driving on the ‘other side of the road’ for us Yanks and in a camping vehicle we have yet to rent or even select. The situation gave Kelvin and I some pretty funny conversations as we were trying to rationalize a mammoth drive to get in between locations for a place to stay.

The organization we have been working with Trusted Housesitters to find the best matches. We have had lots of conversations, Skype chats and emails with potential matches and I was beginning to feel like I was online dating as I was proposing matches for our family as being the ‘best match’ for others on the other side of the world.

We finally sorted a match with a woman near Brisbane, Australia to care for her three kitty cats and bird. She is also, generously, allowing us use of her car while we are there. She is actually going on two trips with an eight-day break in between and she asked us if we could do the first leg as well. jesse-collins-92501It sounded good but, we were coming from Hawaii and wouldn’t be there for the first two days of her trip. She, again kindly, offered to make her trip work with ours so we can be her support and she ours.

I then started scrambling to figure out our tickets to Australia from Honolulu. I have been playing around online with searches for the ‘perfect’ ones and had yet to officially commit.

This is where things got really interesting for me. We have been planning this trip, at least in theory, since last August. A good eight months ago and just like a woman in denial of her pregnancy, I didn’t actually believe it was all happening until I had visual proof. For me, it was the tickets.

I have flown around the world many, many times, however, I have never been responsible for two little humans in the process.john-cobb-14130 It’s one thing to throw things in a backpack and dig out my passport but, an entirely different kettle of fish to be arranging four flights to another country with visa applications, baggage requirements, thoughts about timing, food accessibility, world schooling plans, accommodations and time changes for all of us.

We were up very late at night. It was the only time Kelvin and I could effectively talk about these plans without the’ regular’ day logistics happening around us. My brain froze as my hands hovered over the ‘Click to Purchase’ button.

This is after several more searches in Google Flights and Momondo as well as the airline Jet Star where we eventually bought our tickets. I was breathing heavily. I looked at Kelvin and my eyes grew big. He looked at me questioningly.

“Yes….?”, he gently asked. “What’s going on?”

I stared at him and said, “Are we really doing this?”

Here is where my very patient and kind husband could have said any number of unhelpful things. Instead, he just said, “Yes, we are and it is all going to be okay”.

At that moment I had all the details of our trip that I have been pouring over in my mind, on paper and on the internet swimming around in my head and I thought, ‘Where is the adult around here that we can check with?”

Then I realized, WE are the adults! Yikes! This just got real.

I had a similar brain freeze when I was seven months pregnant with our first son, Canyon and my friend Wendy was driving me home from michael-waters-105757Baby’s R Us with the crib my in-laws had bought us.

I knew it was going to happen. That baby was going to be coming soon.  But, I didn’t really know it until that moment. I was looking like I was nine months pregnant as it was but, it was that crib being brought into our home that really hit it home for me. It was real.

Wendy was reassuringly hilarious as she calmed and comforted me that we would get through this, the baby was indeed going to be here in about eight weeks and, that it would all be okay.

So, that night last week, we officially bought our international tiIMG_2002ckets that will transport our family to the other side of the planet.

And it will all be okay. Right? Of course, right.

The day after we bought our tickets my husband left me a bunch of flowers and a note that read, ‘Australia, here we come! I love that we are doing this!’

He is my elixir, yet again.

Onward and upward to the planning…. more to come. Thanks for joining us on this journey and we prepare for our journey.

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5 Things to Do Before We Skip Town-Cleaning out the Mental Cobwebs

We hit the six-months-to go mark yesterday. Whoa, yikes!..I just caught my breath when I wrote that. That means about 180 days to ready, steady, go. In my whirling life I realize I have a lot of loose threads I am constantly picking at. Some are reasonable and others are just plain, annoying time sucks. So, while I am trying to ‘clean house’ literally I also need to do it figuratively.

These are the things I am working on.

Kicking Toxic Relationships to the Curb! I am a human, non-sociopath (thank goodness) but, that also means I am a deeply feeling person. While this is not a bad thing, I find that I invest in relationships that are clearly not helpful, kind, symbiotic or healthy for me.kristopher-roller-188180

I spend a lot of time trying to craft a response from someone I care about and ache for them to like me back. I spend too much time, energy and, quite frankly, pieces of my soul in the output of others without receiving a balanced, authentic connection in return.
I am practicing turning towards the ones that have shown up and have earned the right to hear my story.

Say No When I Feel I Should say ‘Yes’. How many times a DAY do I mumble out an ‘okay’ or squeak a ‘yes’ when I know, in my heart of hearts, this request is not what truly aligns with my value much less, even have time for. It feels like a must but, at what cost?
dikaseva-34987Now, I don’t mean shirking my responsibilities but, rather saying yes to a time commitment that ever shrinks my sliver of ‘me time’ that have on my calendar. No one is making me do this. I do it. And I need to cut it out. Now.

 

Paying attention to the ‘shoulds, oughts and musts’ that rattle in my head.  Or otherwise said, stop ‘shoulding’ on myself. I say this to my clients all to time and like other  psychotherapists, I don’t always practice what I suggest (shock!). I think of these words as threads from someone else’s rule book, goals and they hijack my own dreams, hopes and intentions.

jared-erondu-15318I find myself surveying the room to find the ‘best’ choice or solution for all involved and meanwhile my voice, and often, my values get muffled.

Pushing others agendas to the front of the line will get me nowhere and often, it is not reciprocated

Resetting my Expectations of Others. Also, something I talk a lot about with clients. I am trying to do this more in my own relationships and, luckily, I have a very supportive and intuitive husband that often takes me by the shoulders and tries to redirect me to the more realistic path.

When we have an event, gathering or interaction coming useemi-samuel-15564p, my husband and I will talk about what the minimum expectations are (seriously shooting as low as possible), what is reasonable and achievable and then, the dream scenario.
All the while, becoming abundantly aware that I can only control myself as I am hoping for some crazy, magic, Jedi mind trick to get others into knowing and doing what I want. Often without saying it out loud.

Minimum : Low, low, bottom of barrel e.g. I show up at an event, I have a coffee
Reasonable and Achievable: e.g. I see the person, have a couple of connectingwords. 
Dream Scenario, aka, Lottery, Bonus, Gravy: The names says it all, expecting the best!  

unknown
I am setting simpler expectations. Dream Scenario will not likely happen but, if it does, what a pleasant surprise! It’s a lot shorter fall from high expectations and landing splat in a pile of disappointment and resentment to saying ‘that was unexpectedly awesome’.

 

Slow down and Look People in the Eye. In our technologically focused society we are often bumbling around the streets, coffee lines and even traffic lanes with our eyes angling down at a device. We are missing connections around us that are as authentic as anything we desire from those we are following on social media. jon-tyson-77013Simple eye contact is a deeply personal, human experience.

Now, I am not saying I am trying to see into stranger’s souls. No, I am merely saying we often feel so alone while surrounded by dozens of people. And a simple head nod and eye connection can boost our serotonin and release a few healthy hormones in blood stream to battle the anxiety and cortisol spikes we get while scanning click bait online.

 

Whew…so, what are you working on? Is this helpful to you?  These are not going to be accomplished immediately. These are all practices that are like pulling the car alignment into place. It takes attention and management. Saying them out loud makes me more accountable for them as well. So, how about you? No high expectations, just the minimum please.

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New Year, Travel Plans, Ready, Steady Go!

The calendar has turned over to 2017 and we are that much closer to our plan to wander out in the world with our seven and nine-year olds. These next months are chock-a-block with plans to get ready. There is so much to do! 3oiymgdkj6k-dariusz-sankowski

I’ve decided I am spending any free time on these goals as well as personal wellness and to avoid unnecessary lurking on internet sites of click bait news stories that boil my blood. Check out what I find here as I find little gems to share.

This blog is going to help me be accountable for our plans as I share them with you. I love accountability! (mostly). I will still write other adjacent musings as appropriate as my life as a counselor brings many issues to the forefront of conversations.

However, here we go… to get on the road we have to

  1. Pick a departure time: Mid August
  2. Buy tickets. Gasp! This is a biggie as we are still debating the benefits of round the world tickets and one-way as you go. I have found myself hanging out on the site Bootsnall which has such lovely eye candy for travel dreamers.
  3. Decide destinations: So far – SouthEast Asia, including Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. There was a vote for China (big country) so, we may add that. Then to Southern Africa to S.A, Mozambique and Rwanda. Big hopes for a stop in Israel  as we head back to the Northern hemisphere where we will go to Croatia, and into Western Europe to call upon all my good friends for floor space from Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, England, Scotland and a few other assorted places.
  4. World schooling strategies.
  5. Sort out insurance.
  6. Plan my sabbatical from work and Kelvin’s next steps when he leaves Le Cordon Bleu.
  7. Sort out finances (this should be on top, really). Save, save, save… Getting some advice from this amazing family.
  8. Set up ways to rent house and pay bills while gone.
  9. Sort out other ways to have income or access resources while we travel. So far our jack of trades include: counseling, chef-ing, writing, house/pet sitting (check out house sitting resource), volunteering, teaching.
  10. Sell our stuff! Getting rid of our ‘extra’ stuff that we really don’t need or want to put into storage. Kelvin’s big project is centered around this. We are hoping to clear out our heads as we clear out house. Already feels good thinking about it.

This list is not exhaustive. There are many, many parts but, it is a good round up of the current tasks. 1-29wyvvlja-andrew-neel

So, I hope you will metaphorically join us as we move forward with our goals and plans. I’d love any feedback on travel suggestions and those of you overseas let us know what tasks we can do for a place to lay our wee heads!

Ready, Steady, Go!

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