All posts by Lis

Snowbirds and Grey Nomads

There have always been migratory birds and animals but with the increase in wealth and age, the migratory instinct has extended to include the baby boomers. The “me generation” have asked “do we have to put up with long cold winters now the kids have left home and we have retired” and answer is a resounding “we don’t”!
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The temporary migrants go by different names in different countries: the “Snow Birds” in north America as those Canadians and Americans from the northern states who migrate south to escape their tough winters, heading towards the so-called sunbelt states or Mexico. In Australia natives of Victoria and other southern states, brush off their RV or caravan, becoming “Grey Nomads” and head north to the tropical areas of Queensland, Northern Territory and Northern Western Australia.

In order to keep costs down a lot of these temporary migrants will often travel in their own motor home or caravan. This is particularly popular in Australia and the US where nomads can camp for free or very little in many places including beautiful National Parks.
The other sub-group of nomads will hop on a flight to a warmer and typically cheaper nearby countries. Favorites for north Americans include Mexico and Costa Rica, while Australians wanted to leave the country have a lot of choice in South East Asia including Bali and Thailand.

The scary thing is that a lot of the younger generation are looking at these fit seniors heading off to the sun and thinking – why not me… but that’s the next post!

For more information check out these links:
The Secret Life of a Snowbird: An Inside Look at Retirement in America’s Sunbelt

RV Education 101

Live or Retire in Mexico a Practical Detailed Guide

Interstate (US) Rest Area Guide and Walmart Directory

Hobbies and Travel

One of the things I find different when I travel long term is that long with slowing down the actual rate of travel I need to do something creative. Although I take photos and write a journal I miss doing a craft with my hands. When I first started travelling my crafts of choice were knitting and crochet. I found the wool too bulky to carry around, and you have to buy all the wool at the same time so I couldn’t buy as I went. I then discovered cross stitch embroidery and was hooked.
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Compact, easy to carry, and the silks are numbered on an international system which means you can buy them in any Western country – handy, although they don’t take much space to carry. My one and only purchase at Harrods, London’s famous department store, was another skein of colour for my current cross stitch!

In fact your hobby can be incorporated in your travels in other ways: lots of people take a class to learn a new skill or enhance a new one: cooking classes in Asia or Italy, language classes, dance classes, the list is endless. We met a group of English women on a small Greek island siting at an outdoor cafe making lace. They were on an organised tour and found it great because all the locals were fascinated and came up and talked to them.

I remember extending my stay at cheap hotel in Sumatra because although the hotel was new and under-furnished it turned out to have perfect acoustics for a a fellow traveller who was a talented classical guitarist – free concerts every night – I don’t think that guy had to pay for his room all week, the owner figured out he was attracting other people to eat and drink in-house at night!

The ultimate travelling hobby though which can also make you money is being a hairdresser -everywhere in the world travelers will pay $5 for a cheap, convenient hair cut at the hotel – pack your scissors hairdressers -just not in your carry on!

The perfect home for travellers

Not every trip is a long one, but even going away for a few weeks over Christmas can cause issues as to how to secure your home.

I have come up with the ideal list of “lock and forget” housing for the frequent traveler.

  1. Decent neighbourhood – it helps not to be concerned about gang warfare breaking out while you are away, help to keep your insurance premiums down.
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  1. Right insurance company – make sure you know how long you can leave your house unoccupied for before you notify them to avoid them voiding your policy.
  2. Non-existent or low-maintenance gardening. I must admit gardening isn’t my thing, but unkempt grass is a not only a fire-hazard in some climates but an advertisement that the house is unlived in
  3. Secure large letter box. Even if you hold or divert your mail you are likely still to get local newspapers and junk mail appearing regularly.
  4. Neighbours who don’t travel, or not as much as you, are handy too, they can keep and eye on your place, clear the mail, park their car in your drive etc.
  5. A house in a live on a cul-de-sac or deaden road. The neighbours will know who belongs and who doesn’t and it seems to enhance security greatly.
  6. Don’t have lots of pots and planters. These dry out very quickly. Move them out into the rain, or group them and get them covered by your irrigation system. Or get a neighbour to water them.
  7. Indoor plants survive a few weeks if placed in a bath with an inch or two of water in it. They need to be getting natural light at the same time too.
  8. Ideally an apartment or flat in a block will solve a lot of issues for you. The supervisor or management company can probably manage your mail, the grounds are maintained and the flat is secure.
  9. Alternatively a townhouse in a small group will give you similar security and you are more likely to know your neighbours.
  10. Friendly climate – a climate with long periods of sub-freezing temperatures present a whole lot of different issues to prevent both your car and your home freezing solid. A super hot climate is not quite as bad but your plants very well not survive.
  11. Secure garage for you car. If you don’t have one it might be worth it, and even cheaper on the taxi fares, if you park it at the long-term parking at the airport.

How to resign my job?

How do I resign questions on travel forums tend to encourage responses such as – just tellthe b.t..d’s what to do with the job! In fact for most people, particularly those in a professional job, it’s difficult to resign. Resigning is telling the world “I’m taking the road less traveled”. I’m leaving and I don’t have a job to go to. Its the moment of no return and you are informed the group of people least likely to understand your motivation – your colleagues and bosses!

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How to actually resign – the actual answer is of course professionally:

  • try asking for unpaid leave or a sabbatical first. Even if you know the company doesn’t normally allow this it means that you have given them every option to retain you. If you subsequently resign they cannot pretend to be surprised!
  • try to give as much notice as possible; if you know it will be hard for you to be replaced this is particularly difficult, it may give your employer a chance for you to help train your replacement.
  • remember the person you are handing your resignation letter to may be your future referee, or you may even need a job back in the company when you return from your trip of a lifetime! Don’t burn your bridges.
  • explain that you are leaving for your reasons, not because you hate the company, the job or the people!
  • Don’t just drop an email to your supervisor. Ask for an interview, at a time that’s not really busy for him/her. Resign verbally and politely briefly explaining your future plans, the boss will probably be relieved that you haven’t been headhunted by the opposition. You will probably need to follow up the interview with a printed/signed resignation letter.

Make sure you get contact details of potential referees, you can never be sure when you particularly if its possible that you will end up working while traveling. Make sure you keep in contact when you’re traveling as a courtesy.

How to save for your big trip?

Having dreamed your big trip: how do you turn your dream into reality? Unfortunately the answer is often about cold hard cash, unfashionable I know but basically there is no substitute for being in a financial position where your outgoings are less their your income. If you are not in the position to be able to pay off your credit card from one month to the next its not really likely that you can abandon your paid employment for a number of months to have the wonderful RTW trip that you are dreaming off.

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I always remember being invited around to a friend’s home years ago when I was due to leave on a 6 month trip -she said that she really envied me the opportunity, I know we earned similar salaries, but the conversation occurred while we were seated on her gorgeous leather lounge suite which probably cost the same as 3 months travel in India I’m not saying there is anything wrong with nice furniture, a new car or a extensive wardrobe, its just those aren’t my priorities – which I guess is why I keep getting “lucky” with my travel plans! Continue reading How to save for your big trip?

Starting to Plan a RTW Trip

One of my most popular pages is my Travel FAQ which I think reflects people’s confusion as to where to start with all the information bombarding them when they start to plan an extended trip. The amount of information out there is just too over the too and although the Internet is great for research tool you can end up going down endless dead ends.

Step 1: Brainstorm where you want to go

I’d suggest that you don’t initially hit the big travel forums and the airline sites. Instead turn the computer off and get out a blank bit of paper and a pen (quaint eh!) Write down the places or countries that you’ve always wanted to see, think about the activities you’ve always wanted to do! Don’t worry about whether its possible, whether you can afford it on any other practical detail – just brainstorm your ideal places to go. You won’t be able to do it all but it gets you focussed on what you want to do – not what everyone else thinks you should do! If more than one of you are going on the trip – why not both do this exercise, separately and then compare notes – the overlap should be a good starting point, if there isn’t an overlap maybe you have some other discussions to have! Rank your lists to see what is more important than others.

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Step 2: Join the dots

So taking the list you created from step one – lets add the countries to it.

  • Taj Mahal (India)
  • Everest (Nepal)
  • St Peters, Rome (Italy)
  • Antarctica
  • Easter Island (Pacific)
  • New Zealand’s South Island
  • learn to cook Thai (Thailand)
  • Mandalay (Burma)
  • Timbucktoo (Mali)
  • Ayers Rock(Australia)

For the purposes of this exercise lets decide that you live in the UK.

To cover the above wish list we are looking at Europe-Africa-Indian Sub-continent- SE Asia-Australia-New Zealand-Easter Island-Chile-Antarctica-South America-UK

Where did South America come into it – well that’s the only way to get to land anywhere near Antarctica, actually South Georgia, is by cruise ships which depart southern Chile or Argentina. You happily go off to price this routing from your friendly travel agent, I hope you are sitting down because between the expensive Antarctica trip and including Africa and South America in a RTW airfare its not going to be cheap! You also discover that flying into Mali is a bit problematical and the only options most RTW airline tickets offer are via southern or western African countries.

Step 3: Check the weather!

Yes the weather can be a problem in some places of the world – for our itinerary:

  • Rajasthan best time to visit is considered December – February
  • Antarctica ships can only run in the southern hemisphere’s summer: December – February.
  • Australia’s deserts are best between season when its neither very hot or very cold – March – May would be good time to visit
  • You will only get views trekking in the Everest region from December to April avoiding the monsoon.

Step 4: Fit your budget to your destinations.

Is it important to see what you want regardless of the cost? Can you only afford the cheapest destinations? Or like most people are you somewhere in between?

Lets do some research on the prices involved on our wish list :

  • Antarctica – is going to be expensive – we have to go on an organised trip and the cruise is at least 10 days because of how far south we have to go.
  • Australia and New Zealand will be cheaper than Italy especially if we have £ to spend.
  • India and Thailand are very cheap destinations and great value for money too. You could stay in an ex-Maharajah’s Palace hotel for less than a 3 star hotel in Italy – that appeals! Burma is cheap too – a quick flight from Bangkok and train from Rangoon will get you to Mandalay.
  • Mali is going to be expensive because of the lack of tourist infra-structure.

Conclusion:

  • Drop Antarctica – it can be a once-in-a-lifetime trip some other time;
  • Drop Mali – it just seems too difficult and you have some safetly concerns too.
  • Drop Italy – its close enough to home to do another time

Step 5: Fit your time-frame to your Itinerary

Now how long do you have to do the trip – for this exercise lets assume you have 6 month’s leave of absence from your job and you have to be back home by August for a family wedding – so you are traveling February to July. The logical order of countries that you have left, flying east, or the reverse flying west, is:

  • Taj Mahal (India)
  • Everest (Nepal)
  • learn to cook Thai (Thailand)
  • Mandalay (Burma)
  • Ayers Rock(Australia)
  • New Zealand’s South Island
  • Easter Island (Pacific)

Unfortunately February is the ideal time to be in New Zealand as well as northern India – so you have a conflict! What to do – you are probably going to have to choose one. You realise too that you want to spend at least 1 month walking to Everest base camp, a month in India, 6 weeks in Burma and Thailand, and a month in New Zealand so that would only leave 6 weeks for Australia which seems too little – again you need to drop something!

The final itinerary – well that’s up to you – its the process which is important not the final result! Leave me a comment and let me know how you did with your itinerary? Was this post helpful?

Independent Travel: Ballyvaughan to Cork

First we went to the Barren Experience Centre – audio visual show at €5/person which was a good introduction to the neolithic stone tombs of the area and the limestone karst geology that made them possible. A few wild flowers were out and it was remote and beautiful in the area. Then we drove over the Cliffs of Mohar – here’s a hint if it costs €4 to park but the site is free – its well on the tourist circuit!

Cliffs of Mhoar, Western Ireland Photo: Martin O'Connell via flickr

Frankly I’ve seen better cliffs – notably in South Australia and Victoria – these were nice enough and the weather was fine – but I wouldn’t put them on your must see list unless you have never seen the water meet the land before (head up to Northern Ireland for the Giant’s Causeway for something much more interesting).

Driving south back to Cork – we stopped off to see the ruined Abby at Ennis. Trying to get around Limerick in the middle of the afternoon involved about 40 minutes in traffic jams on the ring road – I’d avoid it like the plague at anytime when it was supposed to be busy – like rush hour! That said the good thing about Ireland is that it really is a very compact place and you can see a lot with your own vehicle.

I can’t help much with rental rates- we borrowed a little yellow van from relatives and paid for the extra drivers on the insurance. The van was small – had limited visibility out the back and only 2 seats up front – but it was just fine. You don’t need a big vehicle – a sub compact would be just fine – and an advantage on some of the B-roads off the beaten track. This entire trip got more and more touristy as we headed north – so if you want to get off the beaten track get out of Dublin and the “big sights” close to it and head to Cork and the south.

Independent Travel: Galway to Ballyvaughan via Corcomroe

Weather a lot drier and warmer today. We drove the loop around Corcomoroe. Stopped at Kylenoc (sp?) house €10 to see the grounds and the house – hardly worth it. But they did have a nice gift shop – I bought a jade dolphin to add to the collection – and they tried to charge my credit card in US$ – hmm excuse me what country is this again – I’m surprised its even legal – but its definitely a rort – always make sure your card is charged in the currency of the country you happen to be in!

The barren Burren, Limestone Country - Ireland

We had a pub lunch in Clifden – actually the first time we’ve bought lunch. Quite a few more tourists in this part of Ireland – far more than we saw down south. We had to drive back around Galway to get the the Burren – remote and wild limestone country – covered in simple Neolithic tombs – its the history of the place that gets me. The standard B&B in town was charging €60/2 – though we are managing to stay under budget at around €140/2 per day.

Independent Travel:Dingle – Galloway

The weather turned nasty so our attempt at long distance walking ended in failure. Its interesting compared to the UK Ireland is really not set up for walking. The concept of common ways doesn’t exist in Irish law and tracks seem very poorly marked – you really need to have the detailed topo maps – which of course we haven’t got. I think we need to save our walking dreams for England – in the summer, a hot summer.

The sure do know how to make these old stone building waterproof though – the tenth century Gallarow Oratory was still very watertight!

Connor Pass Dingle: Photo Cristina de Fontao via flickr

Change of plans with this rubbish weather and we are off to Galloway. The Connor Pass was – of course -covered in cloud – but was spectacular anyways as the sun broke through as we got over to the other side. We took a vehicle ferry over the Shannon river for about €15.  Got a nice B&B in Salthill in Galloway for €65/2.

We like the town centre of Galloway which had lots of pubs and a nice pedestrian area and waterfront.

Independent Travel: Kilkarney to Dingle

In the morning the weather wasn’t so bad so we went to see the grounds of Muckross House in town. Walked to the bottom of the Torc Waterfall which was about 4km return – and on the return it started raining again. Still cold with snow on the hills. Didn’t go into the house – not sure on the cost – but expensive I should think. Also skipped the pony traps.

Muckross House, Kilkarney, Ireland Photo: What's the Rush via Flickr

Drove to Dingle via Inch Anaeul on the South Coast. At Dingle bro had paid for a very nice fancy B&B – had all mod cons such as TV, ens suite , fantastic views, window seat, tea and coffee in the room and even a phone! Luxury at  E87/2. Walked into Dingle town for a cheap meal. Basically anything under E10/main is cheap – and the best place to find it is in the country pubs – which aren’t bad so long as you aren’t bored with Shepard’s Pie, Scampi, Fish & chips. You’d be out of luck as a vegetarian or other odd religion though! Had a spectacular hail storm and found a tiny local pub which at one time had been a shoe repair shop – in one 1/2 and a pub complete with snugs which sat maybe a dozen people in the other half. Ki

Independent Travel: Killarney and the Ring of Kerry

Raining still in the morning but it did improve during the day. There had been snow on the hills overnight and it was a lot colder and windy compared to what we had been having. Drove the Ring of Kerry the Ring of Beara’s more famous sister. We took a €5 car ferry over to the island of Valentina – the loop around the island showed off some really wild coastline.

Valentina Island, Ring of Kerry, Photo:Passetti via flickr

The Skellig Experience Museum on Valentina was doing at €4.4 pp – the film on the famous Skellig Monastery was excellent – we didn’t get over there though because the rough seas had stopped the boats. Those early Irish priests really liked their remote locations. We looped around some very minor roads – moss growing in the middle of the road minor – to Portage. We went to Derryrane Park – didn’t pay to go inside but wandered around the grounds. Stopped at Staigie Fort as well – another Iron Age fort a the top of a valley with a nice view down. Driving back took us across the Kerry Peninsular over some very narrow roads – scary if we’d met an American driving on the wrong side of the road coming the other way!

Independent Travel: Glengariff to Kilkenney via the Ring of Beara

Well this was supposed to be the highlight of driving the Beara Ring – less famous than the Ring of Kerry but apparently arguably even better. Unfortunately I can’t really comment – because through the mist and the rain we didn’t see a lot. And the roads were very narrow so the driver really had to keep their eyes on the road! Its certainly less touristy though  – we hardly saw another car. Given the cloud line we didn’t bother with the high road!

Beara Peninsular, Cork Photo: Dondersteen

We’d planned on staying at the youth hostel at Kilkenny – but it was full – so ended up in a B&B on the outskirts at €60/2. Went out for an Indian meal (really tired of eating “Irish” food all the time) – but expensive at €34/2 once we added up the extras.

Independent Travel: Baltimore to Glengarif

Took the short ferry trip over to Sherkin Island – 15 minutes and €7 pp. Walked the length of the island – three hours. Quiet with very few other tourists – warm and fine weather. Got back to Baltimore about 3pm just as it started to rain. Skibbereen was a bit wet – but did have a supermarket. Stayed at a nice B&B in Glengariff – with a seaview. I think we were the only guests at €28pp. Had a good pub meal and drinks for €34. From the B&B we had a track right to the beach – beautiful sunset. So far we are under budget – the big help is self-catering – and we are surprised at how little we are paying in entrance fees.

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Sherkin Island Abby - photo: netdance

Independent Travel: Cork to Baltimore

Skipping over the whole family visiting – kid focused activity bit – we are finally off out of Cork for a tour of the west of Ireland. We are boring a dinky little 2 seater van my brother owns so I can’t tell you much about the cost of hiring a vehicle – but I can tell you you will need your own wheels for this part of the world. There is very limited public transport and we wouldn’t have seen a fraction of what we did if we hadn’t had transport.

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Dromberg Stones near Clonkilty

We left about 9:30am heading south to Kinsale and then on to the southern coast road. Absolutely no tourists to be seen, and lucky that we had been to the supermarket before leaving Perth because there was nowhere open to eat for lunch until we got to Clonkilty. And then  2 soups and 2 coffees cost us E12. From there we carried on to Roscareberry and then on to the Dromberg Stone Circles. These were surprisingly impressive – just in a field, in the middle of nowhere – no major tourist shop, no charge – way, way more impressive than Stonehenge. We then carried on to Baltimore (no not the one in the US). Cute little town where we were staying at a somewhat upmarket B&B given to us as a birthday present- E60/2 plus another E7 each for breakfast. However it was pleasent in that overblown country theme styel with a great sea view and the luxury of an ensuite.

Kinsale, Ireland – Is It Worth A Visit?

I’ve been to Kinsale several times over the years – the first time because my brother decided to hold his wedding reception there – which included booking out a local restaurant and paying for a B&B for the night.  Kinsale is about an hour’s drive south of  Cork in Ireland’s south.

Kinsale, Ireland - photo: sjrowe53 via flickr

If you are new to Europe and are not over the “cute village” thing yet – Kinsale does cute very well – obviously better on a nice day – but still pretty good year around. Kinsale gets a lot of day trippers in the “season” – so you might want to overnight to avoid the hoards. Kinsale has a local reputation for excellent food and produce so it gets pretty busy on the weekends with the locals too.