Tag Archives | couple travel

The Self-Guided Safari: Kruger National Park

On a regular basis we receive glossy travel advertisements in the mail. They show pictures of remote Africa savannahs with robust looking guides driving Range Rovers dressed in Green or khaki. They often are pointing off into the distance at some incredible animal. Our reaction to these appeals: Sign us up! Take our money! Then reality sets in. We don’t have $20k stuffed in our mattress. (we did find a quarter last week!)

Lion in Africa

African Lion

What to do?

After lengthy research, we were able to piece together the idea of doing a self-guided safari. We settled on South Africa as out destination as the flights there are very reasonable and plentiful.   We selected Kruger National Park for our self-guided safari.

Kruger National Park

Kruger park is one of the largest game reserves in the world. The entire park covers 7, 500 square miles and is 250 miles top to bottom and 50 miles wide. Roughly the same size as Massachusetts! It is a massive park. The park is home to the classic Big 5 including: lion, leopard, black rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. Beyond these incredible animals, you will likely encounter hundreds of other animals large and small. The park is home to over 100 species of reptiles and 30 amphibians.

Kruger Park

The Gate to Kruger Park

Getting around the Park

Your first stop for research on the park should be the park’s website (https://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/) The site is extremely helpful, especially keeping current on road closures, conditions and weather.   There are 9 main gates into the park. These entry points are for paying fees, securing maps, and getting current info on park conditions.

Roads in the park are in varied condition. You go from paved tarmac to dusty gravel roads. A good map, and in some cases, even a decent GPS will help you navigate the park. At each of the rest camps you will find a crowd sourced “animal” board where other visitors post animal sightings. This can prove helpful as you quest to see the complete Big 5.

Lodging

There a number of different lodging options for your self guided adventure. The park’s website will give you the option to see photos of the “camps”. You can reserve everything from humble bush camps to the luxury lodge option. Pick the right option for you. Each camp is surrounded by high fences that prevent animals from entering. Each camp has set hours for entry, when the gate closes, it closes for the night. There is a significant fee to open after hours. We nearly learned this the hard way. WE were caught up watching a pride of lions, and lost track of time. Not good. We had to step on it to barely make the deadline. Each area is unique in its food and amenities. Be aware of what is available. Some camps have spartan restaurants. Most offer some sort of food offering. The bush camps do not offer food, they are strictly self catering.

What is the difference?

So what are the key differences between a true-guided safari and the self guided option?

The biggest difference from our experience is the cost. You will likely see the same animals, you will see the same flora and fauna. Many of the guided safari tours are in and around Kruger Park. They both offer very similar habitats for the animals. Top end guides are good at knowing where the animals like to hide out. Not having to drive to see the animals is also a definite advantage of the guided option. Park rangers can help with some information, but would not be able to offer the in person perspective that would be provided in a guided situation.

What to drive

The question we get asked most often about our self-guided experience is what we drove. We rented a basic sedan at the airport in Johannesburg. We would recommend something with a little more ground clearance. A small suv would be ideal. You definitely don’t need a jeep or a range rover to get around Kruger.

African Water Buffalo

Water Buffalo

A Word of Caution

Kruger national park is not a petting zoo. It is wild. The animals reign here. Do not leave your vehicle outside to the gated camps. Do not “hike” the park. Just because you don’t see any animals, doesn’t mean that they cannot see you. You very well could be dinner. It is tempting to exit your vehicle to take the perfect picture. We recommend you position your vehicle to take the picture then use your camera lens to get you close. Regardless if you are on a guided safari or self guided, the rules are the same, don’t approach the animals….ever. Stay on the road. Keep an eye on the weather and the environment around you.   You will have the adventure of a lifetime.

What we wished we had known:

We purchased our first “real” camera and long distance camera lens for this trip. We were glad we did. Candidly, we wished we have invested more in longer range lens. Spend the money. The pictures will be priceless.

Expectations: The second thing we wish we had known, was advice given to us by one of the game wardens at one of the camps. “Don’t expect to see anything…then you will be in constant amazement, you will see everything!”. Such wise advice. Don’t come with a list of things to see, be open to the experience and seeing whatever comes your way that day. This is hard for those of us that love lists. Be open to whatever happens.

Enjoy your Safari!

 

Safaris are wonderful, but if your dream is climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Give our friends at Mojhi a look.  They have a wonderful guide for making this dream a reality.

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7 Questions with: Our Escape Clause

Take the world by a storm?  That’s just what Kate and Jeremy Storm have been doing full time for the past two years!  We put this globe trotting couple to the test with our 7 questions.  If you are wondering if the fight, stay tuned!

Give them a follow:

Blog:  Our Escape Clause

Twitter:  @ourescapeclause

Instagram:  Our Escape Clause

Facebook:  Our Escape Clause

1) Tell us a little bit about yourselves. How did you meet? What inspired you to travel together?

We met 10 years ago at an afterschool job in a fast food restaurant–we were both high school students at the time!

We were both excited about the idea of traveling the world, but neither of us had ever left the USA, and of course, we didn’t really have the time and money to make travel happen at that time.

After we got married and took our honeymoon in the Bahamas (our first time out of the USA!) and quickly followed that up with a trip to Paris, we knew we were hooked: within 3 years we had sold almost everything we owned and set off on a RTW trip that has now morphed into a location-independent lifestyle.

2) If you had to travel with someone else besides your travel partner, who would it be?  (this person can be living, historical or mythical?)

He Said: Ernest Hemingway–he knows all the good bars!

She Said: Hmm… probably my mom, because I’ve been trying to get her to come travel for years! I think she’d love it, and also, I’m picky about who I spend that much time with.

 

3)What has been your favorite destination in your wanderings?  Why?

He said: Koh Tao, Thailand: it’s a laid-back island with lots of great (and cheap) food. It’s also where I learned to scuba dive, a sport I now love.

She said: It’s impossible to pick one, but I will never be tired of returning to Italy. The food alone is enough to keep me coming back!

4)  One of our favorite posts on your site is “Fire on the Utila” Tell us the story!

He said: I remember that we were returning bikes that we had rented, and I suddenly heard people shouting about collecting buckets in Spanish… it took a minute to realize what was going on, but as soon as I did, I ran in to help.

It was a bit chaotic at first, but once we got the bucket line going, things started to progress.

It was definitely strange see a fire somewhere without a proper fire department–it was quite the reminder of how vulnerable places can be.

She said: Jeremy spotted the fire first, and immediately jumped in to help. It’s was all a whirlwind, but within a few minutes we were both on a bucket line, hauling water and trying to help get the fire put out as fast as possible.

Luckily, it wasn’t too scary of a situation–everyone was calm and helpful–but I remember we were all concerned about nearby buildings catching fire and causing the fire to spread.

 

5)  We love one of the themes of your blog is traveling on a budget.  So important for couples! What are your best tips for traveling with limited funds?

He said: Try to remember that not everything has to be organized or cost money. One of my favorite things to do in cities is to pick up some local street food and wander around aimlessly. We find tons of cool spots when we do that, and also end up having some of our cheapest days on the road.

She said: Track everything! The easiest way to go over budget (or to stress about being over budget when you’re actually under budget, which can happen too) is to not know exactly where your money is going. I write down our purchases every day, and it helps us stay focused.

 

6) If you could solve one problem in the world what would it be?

He said: Hunger. It’s a travesty that given how much food that we produce as a planet that we have failed at managing it so badly that there are still hundreds of millions of food insecure people in the world.

She said: Wow, that’s hard. I would say making sure all children are in quality schools until the age of 18–I believe a lot of problems in the world could be solved via a ripple effect if we address that issue.

7)You knew it was coming….What has been your greatest travel fight/disagreement?

He said: It’s cliche, but we spend a lot of time arguing about what we’re going to eat. It can be hard for both of us to make decisions, and we often crave different foods on the road.

She said: It’s hard to remember one in particular, but I’m sure it had something to do with getting lost. Not knowing where we are is always a big stress point for us, and sometimes causes us to bicker.

A huge thanks to Kate and Jeremy for sharing their story!  Give them a follow!

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Belize for Couples

The best things in life are the perfect mix of two ingredients:  strawberries and cream, jam and toast, peanut butter and jelly.  We have found the perfect combination of the carefree Caribbean and the flair of Latin American:  Belize.

We’ve put together the perfect couple’s itinerary for your visit to this paradise.  We found 10 days was ideal to relax and see the key sites.

The exchange rate with United States dollar is set at one dollar for every two Belizean dollars. This makes monetary conversions very simple. Most places take American dollars and credit cards.  English is widely spoken, it doesn’t hurt to have a little Spanish in your back pocket.

Getting There

Belize has one major airport in Belize City.  It is easily accessible from just about anywhere in the lower 48 states.  Major departure cities include: Miami, Dallas/Ft. Worth, and Houston.  We elected the three-hour flight from Dallas.  It could not have been easier.

Once you arrive, take a taxi into Belize City. The airport is a ways out-of-town, about 10 miles.  It should cost US $25.  Don’t pay more than that.  (You are already paying double what the locals pay.)  Candidly, we didn’t find much to see in Belize City.  There are some rough spots, make sure you take precautions for personal safety, especially at night. Have your taxi drop you off at the boat terminal. From here you can purchase tickets and board boats to the many island locations. We elected to take a boat to Ambergris Caye.  If time is an issue you can also book a short flight from the Belize City to San Pedro. The boat takes roughly an hour and a half.  The flight will get you there in 30 minutes. The boat ride can be a little rough depending on weather.

Costa Blu Belize

Costa Blu Belize

Resort Life

We highly recommend that you start your vacation on the beach. Select from one of many resort locations along the ocean. You can get everything from simple accommodations to five-star resorts. Definitely pick one with the pool.  We elected to stay at the beautiful Costa Blu Resort at Ambergris Caye.  It is an intimate resort that focuses on providing world-class diving.  The staff is friendly, and the food on premises is really good.  We highly recommend the conch ceviche!

Snorkeling

Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world.   Definitely bring your Go Pro camera!   Your resort can help you in booking snorkeling trips. We elected to use Tuff N Nuff. We went out for two different half day excursions: shark alley, and Mexico rocks. We would recommend both to you. The excellent dive masters were so helpful and patient. Eric was especially nice to Luci who had trouble with her mask at first. They provide all the gear that you need.  They also offer insights into the flora and fauna you will see. If you are scuba certified or would like to become so, there are so many places that offer this service. Again they provide all of the equipment and excellent dive masters. On our visit to Mexico rocks, we swam with nurse sharks, turtles, and even an moray eel.  It was incredible.

 

Chill at the pool/beach

Arriving in Belize you immediately go into relax mode. Whether it’s sitting by the beach or enjoying the sun by the pool, you cannot help at leave all your worries behind.  We elected to have a couples massage right on the beach. Our resort arranged it and the cost was reasonable. We paid $90 for a 90 minute massage with the sounds of the sea and breeze tickling our faces.

Shopping at San Pedro

The major town located on the peninsula is called San Pedro. This rough and tumble beach town gives you access to a wonderful restaurants, souvenir shops, and more T-shirt shops and you can shake a stick at. We highly recommend Elvi’s restaurant for lunch or dinner. You’re not going to find high-end retail shops here. Just the sort that offer fun little trinkets to remember your trip.

Once your stress has melted away when you’re ready for adventure hop on the boat or plane back to the mainland. Here you’re going to need to rent a car. After doing our research there’s only one place that could offer the border transfer documents into Guatemala and that is Crystal Auto.  They have a solid selection of vehicles, it is not a bad idea to rent a jeep   Buy the GPS.  Cell service is a little spotty there. The main roads in Belize are fine, but you have a lot of large speed bumps and potholes the size of Texas or a German Shepherd. There is one major road running north and south and east to west.

Tikal Mayan Ruins

Tikal Mayan Ruins

Day trip to Tikal Mayan Ruins

We highly recommend a side trip to Tikal, the ruins in western Guatemala. It is a beautiful four-hour drive from Belize City. Well worth the travel. You will need to have a rental car that allows you to leave Belize and enter Guatemala. Crossing the border is a bit of an adventure.  The Belize side is fairly straightforward, the Guatemalan side not so much. You will need to trade some Belizean dollars into Guatemalan dollars. Keep in mind, border agents only speak Spanish on the Guatemalan side.  Be prepared for a lot of gestures and pointing.  There are a lot of teenage boys and men more than willing to help you figure out the border procedures, especially if you have a car. We let them help us and tipped them afterwards.

IMPORTANT:  You also need some Guatemalan dollars in order to enter in the Tikal National Park. We made the mistake of not having cash, we had to drive all the way back roughly an hour each way to get cash. Do not make this mistake.

There are two hotels in the park.  Accommodations are not stellar. Both are a bit rustic. We recommend staying inside the park as travel in and out of the park takes a lot of time. There are many guides that are available via your hotel.  Please visit with them before you book your tour. The command of good English is not widespread.  If you keep walking at a good pace you can see the entire complex in one day. You will definitely want to take pictures in the morning and evening, as the light is best. Pack gallons of mosquito spray and sunscreen: both will be an issue.  We elected to take the sunrise tour. This was a mistake. We did not check the weather. Eight out of ten days you will not be able to see the sunrise. The fog is too thick. Have your hotel check the weather forecast for the morning.

There is definitely a different feel in Guatemala. The language barrier is significant at times. The culture is remarkably different. With that said, well worth the adventure.

ATM Cave

Hands-down our favorite activity in Belize was visiting the ATM cave. You will need to book a trip in advance with a tour company that leads small groups through to Cave. You will need to be able to: swim, climb, and be ready for a significant hike.  The ATM cave complex is ancient Mayan religious site.  The cave is filled with archaeological artifacts and geological formations. Cameras and video cameras are not allowed in the cave. Sorry we don’t have any pictures. You begin the morning about 8 a.m..  Your guides will pick you up from your hotel.  From the main parking lot, your guide will take you on a short jungle hike, which includes a river crossing. There is a rope stretched across the river to use your crossing.

At the mouth of the cave you guide will give you a short introduction of what you will see in the caves and the will emphasize importance of staying together. The company will supply you with a helmet and a flashlight for your helmet. There is a moderate creek that runs through the cave. At the mouth of the cave your swim roughly 50 yards   The rest of the journey will be hiking and climbing.

Toward the end of the hike you will climb a ladder remove your shoes and walk into the main sacrificial chamber. There you will see a well-preserved skeleton of a sacrificed Mayan as well as interesting pottery and other ancient artifacts.

The entire experience was impressive.  It was unlike anything we have ever done.   We highly recommend it. It is a bit on the expensive side running roughly US$100 per person.  The guide service provides lunch, and transportation to and from your hotel in the area.

Caracol

If you’re up for another day of exploring Mayan ruins. We highly recommend Caracol ruins. Getting there is a wonderful adventure. You will need a high clearance or a jeep type vehicle to get there. There are several small river crossings as well as some jungle jeeping to get to the location. It is roughly 2 hour drive on a rough unpaved road. Toward the end of the journey you will need an armed guard to get to the ruins. Each day the Belizean army runs an armed guard service from the army base into the ruins. There’s no cost for this service but you have to be on time. There’s a sign in & out location there. Don’t let this scare you away, it is really straight forward and safe.

Caracol Mayan Ruins

Caracol Mayan Ruins

Make sure you have plenty of fuel as well as food as there are no services on the entire road into the ruins. There are guide services that can take you on this trip if you would like. Candidly, the drive in and out of Carocol is a lot of fun.  What makes the ruins better than Tikal would be the number of people.   There were only other 15 people at the entire complex during our visit. This makes for great pictures and you can take your time and seeing each of the ruins.

Enjoy your trip to Belize! The country offers something for the body and soul.  Relax on the beach, swim with schools of fish, then explore the ruins of an ancient civilization.

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Seven Questions with Roamaroo!

Have you ever wondered how to stay fit while on the road constantly?  The couple we are featuring this week are pros!  Not only do they keep their bodies healthy, they also work hard on keeping their relationship strong.  Meet Scott and Collette of Roamaroo.com.  They recently penned a great article for Elite Daily titled:  “10 Ways My Husband and I Keep Our Spark Burning While Traveling.”

Give them a follow:

Blog:  www.roamaroo.com

Facebook:  Roamaroo

twitter: @roamaroo

Instagram: Roamaroo

Lets get to know them better:

1) How many countries visited between the two of you?

We’ve visited 45 countries together! Collette has visited 66 countries. Scott has visited 46 countries.

Scott and Collette of Roamaroo

Scott and Collette of Roamaroo

2) If you had to travel with someone else besides your travel partner, who would it be?  (this person can be living, historical or mythical?.)

She said: Mike Rowe for his witty banter, incredible vocabulary, and carpe diem personality.  How cool would it be to be included in an epic Mike Rowe story? Maybe he’d even sing it in his Opera voice…

He said: Superman – I wouldn’t have to worry about paying for plane tickets again.  Also, he could fly me around to get some cool “Drone” shots of all the great places.  

3)What has been your favorite destination in your wanderings?  Why?  Any tips for someone that has never been?

She said: It’s a toss up between South Africa and New Zealand. When we visited South Africa, we went on a safari in the Sabi Sands area of Kruger National Park. There is nothing more primal than being surrounded by nature’s greatest beasts.

New Zealand will always have my heart for its pure beauty. We road tripped around the south island for 2 weeks, sleeping in a van and cooking beans and rice. It was romantic, it was intimate, it was exploration at its purest. No frills, no fuss, just two explorers finding meaning in Mother Nature. If you find your way to New Zealand, we highly recommend renting a campervan to explore the country. Don’t make too many plans and leave your options open to chance!

He said: Istanbul and Iceland.  Istanbul is such a culturally rich city with a fascinating history. The Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque are some of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen.  A great thing to do is to take an Uber boat down the Bosphorus.  We took one to Reina restaurant at night.  There’s nothing fancier than arriving to a turkish club/restaurant on a boat.  

  Another favorite location of mine is Iceland.  The vast beauty, dramatic waterfalls, and welcoming people make Iceland unforgettable. We drove a campervan around Iceland for a week.  Every morning we woke up somewhere new and beautiful.  My favorite experience was when we cooked breakfast in our camper while overlooking the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Watching the brilliantly blue ice while enjoying our morning coffee was something no hotel or restaurant could offer.  

4)    You both are uber healthy!  We are not brave enough to try Crossfit.  Tell us, what are you secrets for eating and exercising on the road?

She said: For me, exercise is both a mental and physical necessity. Exercising is my own moving meditation. It clears my mind, keeps my body in tip top shape, and makes me a better person. I even wrote a book about staying fit while traveling called Passport to Fitness!

He said:  I love to do Crossfit and it’s a great way to meet locals.  We’ve made some great friends at gyms who have been nice enough to show us around or take us to dinner.  One of my healthy travel tips is to fast on travel days.  Most people hate the idea of fasting, but new research is showing some amazing anti aging benefits benefits to fasting.  If we have a travel day filled with sitting on trains or planes, it’s easy to fast for the day since they’re no caloric need for large meals.  

Collette in Cambodia.

Collette in Cambodia.

5)  We really enjoyed your posts on Cambodia.  Tell us what your impressions were?   Any recommendations?  How was the food?

She said: Cambodia was one of the most memorable experiences we’ve ever had. From a 4:30 am cotton candy sunrise over Angkor Wat to visiting local Khmer villages on the Mekong River, it was one of the most gratifying and eye opening trips of our journey. One memory stands out above the rest and that is when we were cruising down the Mekong River and stopped at a remote village. We ended up having a dance party with the locals under the glowing Cambodian moonlight. Although we don’t speak Khmer and they didn’t speak English, we were all able to communicate via dance.

He said: Cambodia was a great country to visit, I especially loved Siem Reap.  Climbing the temples of Angkor Wat with our local tuk-tuk driver was an unforgettable day.  Due to the horrible actions of Pol Pot in the 1970’s, the people of Cambodia are struggling to rebuild the country.  You can see this in everyday life as many people live without basic technology of developed countries.  Tip for Angkor Wat:  Most hotels will organize tours of Angkor Wat, but if you want to save money, book directly with a tuk tuk driver.  You’ll save 75%.  Just ask any tuk-tuk driver (who has a nice tuk-tuk) if they do tours of Angkor Wat.  Then negotiate a good price.  It’s best to ask a few drivers to find the best price.  

6) If you could solve one problem in the world what would it be?

She said: I would love to absolve the fear that people have of other cultures, religions, and differences. Travel is about celebrating and accepting differences, learning other beliefs, and co-existing.

He said: As cheesy as it sounds, it would be world peace.  If we didn’t spend the billions of dollars, time, and resources on defence we could solve countless problems within the world.  We could dedicate resources to the hungry, creating better communities, advance society, and space travel.  Call me selfish, but I would like to visit the moon!

Roamaroo

Roamaroo

7)You knew it was coming….What has been your greatest travel fight/disagreement?

She said: Setting the alarm! I am not a morning person, especially when you mix in jet lag. Sometimes I like to wake up naturally and not have to worry about an alarm waking me up everyday. Scott likes the regimented alarm, but he hardly ever wakes up from the noise. I however, always wake up from his alarm and have to wake him up.
He said: Every time we board a flight, Collette likes to be the first one in line.  I’m a little more relaxed when it comes to getting on the plane. This always caused a rift between us in the beginning.  Now, Collette just gives me my ticket and we meet on the plane.

 

1000Fights:  Thanks again to our friends Scott and Collette for sharing a little about their adventure!  Give them a follow!

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Seven Questions with SimplyTravelled.com

In our continuous quest to bring you couple travel ideas, we want to introduce you to Rob and Kim of SimplyTravelled.com.

How to give them a follow:

Blog:  www.simplytravelled.com

twitter: @simplytravelled

Facebook: @Simplytravelled

1) Tell us how you met? What inspired you to travel together? How do you make couple travel work?

They said: Kim was finishing her MBA in Tennessee and randomly met two guys from Australia at a conference. She asked them what it’s like to live on an island (yes, she’s part  londe!), and kept in touch via email for 8 months. She clearly made an impression, as then she was invited to head over to Oz for a 3-month working holiday. She met Rob at work,  here he fixed her computer. They fell in love, and now he fixes all her problems ;)

We were inspired to travel because we just knew we weren’t living the life we dreamed of. We were “stuck” – not that we were miserable – we were comfortable with good jobs and great friends and family near by. We just knew there was something more to life, so decided to act on it! More on this in question 6.

We definitely haven’t mastered couple travel yet, but we make it work by being open, learning and adapting along the way. Arguing, fighting, forgiving and moving on, It’s part of the fun of it all (most the time anyways).

Kim and Rob of Simply Traveled

Kim and Rob of Simply Traveled

2) If you had to travel with someone else besides your travel partner, who would it be? (this person can be living, historical or mythical)

He Said: If it was long term it would have to be my mate Hearschy. We’ve known each other for over 10 years, lived together and both love adventure.

She Said: My beautiful sister, Jennifer! She’s a bit more organized than me, yet enough spontaneous to go with the flow. We see-saw from keeping each other on the straight and narrow to letting loose, knowing there’s a time for everything, so it’s a great balance. In the couple of trips we’ve been on together, we didn’t want to kill each other, so I think she’d make the perfect travel companion!

3) What has been your favorite destination in your wanderings?

He said: It’s a close one but I’d have to say Hawaii. We only spent two weeks there, but it was an awesome place. I love being outdoors and Kauai especially tailored to this passion with stunning beaches, amazing hiking and picturesque landscapes. Oh and I had the best pork burritos ever!

She said: Ahhh, such a tough one! I’m absolutely in love with New Orleans – the food, music and culture are the perfect combination for a sublime getaway! Outside of that, the Philippines completely stole my heart – I’ll elaborate on this one in question 5 ;)

4)  I know you guys recently went to the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh.  Tell us a little more about the experience. 

He said: It’s a sobering experience and definitely worth visiting. I found the S-21 audio tour and museum to be the more moving of the two sites to visit. The stories are gut wrenching and it makes you question how man can be so evil.

She said: An utterly heartbreaking reality! I’m reading the book now, and I still can’t wrap my head around how something so horrible happens. And the fact that history keeps repeating itself makes me incredibly sad. But, without harping on the obvious negatives of genocide, the Cambodian people were some of the loveliest people I’ve met on my travels, so it was great to see the country and its people getting back on top!

Couple's cooking school

Couple’s cooking school

5)  Tell us about the Philippines.  It is on our list.  What were some of the highlights?  Sights?  Food?  Culture?

He said:

Highlights/Sights: Luzon in the North was amazing. The word famous rice terraces were unbelievable and I loved the hiking along the narrow pathways. Apo Island was an authenticate island experience and the snorkelling with turtles was really fun.

Food: Garlic rice with corned beef and fried eggs became a staple. I had it at our homestay and it was some of the best food I ate in the country.

Culture: I can’t think of anything specific but the people were very welcoming, helpful and had great English skills.

She said: Ok, to start on a negative, the food is not amazing (sad but true) – but it’s not horrible either, and actually, the mangos are to die for! The rice terraces in Northern Luzon were phenomenal, and definitely a highlight. Sagada was one of my favourite towns for the quaint nature and laid back mountain vibe. My favourite island was Cebu – we travelled top to bottom, learning to dive on Malapascua Island (home of the thresher shark), before heading south to Moalboal. Pronounced “mwoal-bwoal,” it is a beautiful beachfront town, where you can snorkel with sea turtles and thousands of sardines. I can say I found my real love for the water in the Philippines!

6) If you could solve one problem in the world what would it be?

He said: Pollution/rubbish. You really notice how bad of a problem it is when visiting Asia. A more sustainable way to fuel society and better practices around waste disposal would benefit everyone.

She said: Oooh, good one. Previously I’ve always thought of this question in the context of poverty. However, due to reflections on our current journey, I’ve got a different perspective on this one. The problem I’d solve is two-fold: 1. People realizing their potential and 2. Not being afraid of using it! I see so many people with the brains, the means and the support network to do incredible things that often just “settle” and it drives me crazy! I’m pretty certain if these same people (and I’ve definitely been one of them before) followed their dreams, the world would be a much better place!

Love birds!

Love birds!

7) You knew it was coming….What has been your greatest travel fight/disagreement?

He said: Generally our worst fights are after we have had a few drinks. Nashville springs to mind. I’m not sure what I said, though I dodged a bottle of water being thrown at my head whilst I was making my way to the vending machine. The next day it was all a big laugh!

She said: Haha, is it bad that I’m completely oblivious and didn’t actually see this question coming at all!?! Ok, let me think…it’s probably not our biggest fight, but it was recent, so timely. We took a 4 hour bus ride to Ho Chi Minh. Instead of getting organized  for where we’d stay when we arrived (yes, we had free wifi on the bus), we read our books and listened to music instead. When we arrived, it was raining and Rob suggested we take a minute at the station to work out where to go while we had a signal. I was like – are you kidding? Hello! we just had 4 hours to get organized, but you want to do it now? Nope – lets start walking. So off we went. An hour and a half later we were still circling around the city trying to find District 1. To stop from killing each other, we decided to take a break to fuel our bellies and connect to wifi to get a grasp on where we were. Attempting to defuse the situation, I suggested to Rob we just ‘agree to disagree.’ He said, “Nope!” I called him some choice words and walked away. I returned to him and apologized, we ate, walked the 30 minutes to our final destination and lived happily ever after!

1000 Fights:  A huge thanks to Rob and Kim for sharing their love story and a few tips for traveling together.

 

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The Perfect Maine Roadtrip

This is a guest post from our friends Chris and Laura of Trailsunblazed.com.

 

Laura and Chris’ Maine Roadtrip

The fact that we now have a blog dedicated to our trips and adventures is evidence that traveling has become a big part of our lives together. Every couple has their thing. Jay-Z and Beyonce have music, Hill and Bill have politics, Tom Brady and Gisele have human perfection. For us it’s traveling and getting outside and taking advantage of the great outdoors. So let’s take it back to where it all began: Maine. Before we even knew each other, we had spent our entire lives traveling with our families to South America, Africa, Europe, and every corner of the US. Since we’re from Massachusetts, a road trip to our northern neighbor may seem like the least exotic destination imaginable, but this is one of the most memorable trips for us since it was the first time we hit the road together.

Maine one

First Stop: Acadia National Park

After we sat in endless summer traffic on I-95 and made the requisite Chipotle stop along the way, we finally arrived at our first destination. Acadia is probably #1 on everyone’s list of places to visit in Maine, and for good reason. Although, we only spent two days in Acadia, we took advantage of most of what we hoped to see and do while we were on Mt. Desert Island.

  • Camp at Seawall Campground
  • Climb Mt. Champlain via the Precipice Trail (below)
  • Watch the sunset from Cadillac Mountain (below)
  • See a bunch of seals at seal cove
  • Eat dinner in Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor

We easily could have spent a full week in Acadia, and lucky for us we live close enough that we probably will in the near future.

maine two

Second Stop: Bold Coast

After leaving the most popular destination in Vacationland, we continued the journey north to a place that most people even in New England have never heard of: Cutler, Maine. Cutler is about as remote a coastal town as you will encounter on the east coast. It is located just across the Bay of Fundy from Nova Scotia and looks out across some New Brunswick’s Grand Manan Island. Our phones actually thought that we were in Canada so we immediately turned them to airplane mode to avoid getting destroyed by Sprint and Verizon. The reason for venturing to this faraway, unknown coastal town was to hike along the Bold Coast in the Cutler Coast Public Reserve Land, which ended up quickly becoming one of our favorite hikes in the US. The trail, meandering along the rugged cliffs overlooking the ocean, is unlike any other hike we have done in New England. Not to mention, since it is so remote, and “unblazed” if you will, we only ran into a couple other hikers throughout the entire day.

One important tidbit worth noting about this trail is that there are only three official campsites along the way. With so few fellow hikers on the trail, we expected that snagging a tent site would be easy…we were mistaken. It didn’t end up being an issue, however, because with so many comfortable-looking rocks on which to pitch our tent, we had myriad options. I try to give credit where credit is due, and camping on the edge of a cliff over the ocean was 1,000% Laura’s idea. Other than the rocky surface and swarming mosquitos that forced us into our tent prematurely, camping on the cliff ended up being a far more memorable option than camping in the woods at a boring campsite. Seals swam below us, we watched the sunset from the tent, we woke up to the sun rising over Canada, and successfully survived the night without getting blown into the sea.

maine three

Third Stop: Mt. Katahdin

From Cutler, we drove inland to Baxter State Park to look for Moose and hike Mt. Katahdin. We spotted two moose down the road from our campground on our first night. It’s difficult to spend any time around Baxter State Park without seeing at least once moose.

maine five moose

The hike up Katahdin is no joke. This is one of the most challenging day hikes in New England and by the time we finished scrambling up boulders to reach the summit, we were exhausted. We were fortunate enough to have climbed on an extremely clear day, so the breathtaking views were a well-earned reward.

The descent down Katahdin is equally spectacular, at least for the first stretch along the Knife Edge (below). Neither of us fell off the edge of the knife; however, Laura did fall and then proceed to roll down the mountain shortly after we made it safely off the ridge. She had some bumps and bruises but managed to save the camera like a champ. By the time we made it back down to the car, we were completely kaput and made a b-line for the only restaurant we could find. Being in the wilderness of Maine, we had limited options and our tired, hungry minds clouded our judgement to the point where we ended up buying at least three pounds of Chinese food which tasted about as good as you might expect Chinese food from northern Maine to taste.

Maine six new harbor

Fourth Stop: New Harbor

After the challenge of Mt. Katahdin, our fourth and final stop was much more relaxing. We drove back down the coast and took a puffin cruise out of New Harbor. Unbeknownst to us at the time, most of the Maine puffins have already migrated out to see by mid-August, and the naturalist onboard announced that it was very unlikely that we would even see a single puffin. Of course they announced this after the boat had already left the harbor. However, in what can only be described as a miracle, we spotted 11 puffins, two bald eagles, and won a free ticket to go on another puffin cruise. A fitting end to an amazing trip.

Maine seven harbor pic

Although Maine is a long shot from being on par with places like Patagonia, Kenya, or Macchu Picchu, this trip will always be one of our favorites.

maine map

 

A huge thanks to Chris and Laura for sharing this amazing post.  We cant wait to follow this path!  Give them at follow at www.trailsunblazed.com

 

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Bali for Couples

As we travel the globe searching for the best couple destinations for you, we have discovered one place you must add to your list, Bali. The delightful island is located on the southern end of Indonesia in the Indian Ocean. Getting there is simple. There are a number of direct flights right into Denpassar, Bali, or as we did, connect via Singapore or Bangkok. Balinese hospitality matches the weather: warm and inviting. English is widely spoken, and getting around is straight forward and affordable. Here are our 7 hints for driving in Bail.  Bali offers you a perfect setting to reconnect with your lover.

Beautiful Bali

Beautiful Bali

Bali Beaches

Where to start? The beach of course! The warm blue waters with their white sandy beaches offer couples an ideal setting to relax or if inclined, engage in snorkeling and other world-class water sports. We elected to make Kuta, on the southern tip of the island as our base. There are so many different options for hotels in Bali.   Of course if your pocketbook can handle it, a resort right on the water is highly recommended.   Here are a few beach ideas. The great thing about Bali, is you can wander and find your own Best Beach!

Bali Beaches!

Bali Beaches!

Kuta beach-Perhaps the most popular on the island. Can be crowded, but undeniably one of the best on the island.

Pemuteran– This dog-bone shaped by offers some of the best snorkeling and diving. The sea life and fauna have no rival.

Balian beach-If surfing is you thing, Balian is you place. With its ruckus waves, it is a grandstand to some of the best surfing on the planet. If riding waves is not your thing, there is no charge to enjoy the show as a spectator.

Ubud-An Artisan Paradise

One of our favorite places in the world is a little town in central Bali, an enclave of craftsmen and shops called Ubud.  Ubud is the craftsman capital of the island. To the north of town is a street line with handicraft artisan shops. You can purchase glass works, ceramics, and some the best woodworking we’ve come crossed. There’re items for every budget. Perhaps the most tempting is the intricate jewelry that the island’s craftsmen create. Each creation is a work of art.

Bali Cuisine

After playing all day in and the sun and sand you would likely have worked up an appetite. It’s time to take in some of the world-class Bali cuisine. The wonderful thing about Bali, is that it’s perched on the crossroads of the Asian Pacific area. There number of Thai and Vietnamese influenced restaurants. Fresh fruit and seafood are almost always on the menu. We highly recommend taking in the street food that is available on almost every corner of the island. We also unexpectedly had some of our best curry there as well.

Hiking

If hiking and exploring are your thing, Bali will not disappoint! There is a long list of trails and hikes for beginners to the more adventurous at heart. Every inch of Bali was made for Instagram. The lush green jungles and rain forests beg to be explored. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water as the islands tropical heat can certainly melt any advanced trekker.   Here are a few ideas for day hikes:

Mount Agung– This mountain is one of the most sacred sites for the Balinese. The trails are a bit rough and on the confusing side, but so worth it. If you have the cash for a guide, it would be a good idea. The views from the top are stunning!

Mount Batur– One of the “newest” attractions in Bali, it was formed by a volcanic eruption in 1917. The sunrise view from the summit is breathtaking. There is a caldera lake called Lake Batur in the crater. This is a great day hike… don’t forget to pack you lunch!

Side trips

The beauty of Bali is that it is centrally located and there are a number of wonderful side trips just a short flight away. One of our favorites is Borneo.

We elected take a short flight to Borneo. While we loved the ocean and culture of Bali… Borneo’s biodiversity is second to none. You can take in the orangutan park or if you’re little more adventurous head deep into the jungles of Borneo. There’re a number of resorts and camps you can go out on. We’ll like to go to the little lake in the center the island called Battang Ai. You have to take a boat across to an island in the middle of the lake. There are a number of different nature hikes and aboriginal village experiences. Our favorite was taking a waterfall adventure. The trek was pretty grueling but the reward was swimming under our own waterfall.  Check out our Borneo for Beginners post for all the details.

Beautiful Batang Ai

Beautiful Batang Ai

We given you a few ideas on how to make Bali your next couple vacation. There is so much to offer traveling couples, and with that the affordable costs it is a great selection for your next couple holiday.

Have you been to Bali? If so we’d love to hear some feedback on what your favorite parts. Just leave a comment below.

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20 Places You Are Saying Wrong

1) Nice, France      WRONG: Nice    RIGHT: Niece.

Trust us, Nice is Nice!

 

2) Phuket, Thailand      WRONG: Fu-ket   RIGHT: Poo-get

Read our post on skipping Phuket and visiting Krabi.

Thailand and Cambodia 2012 -2 097

3) Thames River, UK      WRONG: Th-AIMS    RIGHT: TEMs

Don’t know about you, but I could listen to Benedict Cumberbatch say “Thames,” All…day…long!

 

4) Nevada, USA       WRONG: Nev-AH-duh    RIGHT: Ne-VAD-Duh

Don’t worry too much…Americans on the east side of the USA don’t know how to say it either.

 

5) Copenhagen, Denmark      WRONG: Co-pen-hay-gen    RIGHT: Co-pen-hog-gen

Hey you! There is not no “hay” in Copenhagen!

 

6) Beijing, China       WRONG: Pee-King    RIGHT: Bay-JING

This one harkens back to very poor translation spelling.

 

7) Reykjavik, Iceland       WRONG: Ray-ka-vick    RIGHT: Ray-kia-vick

Ok…we struggle with this one.  Think of the car brand?

 

8) Taipei, Taiwan       WRONG: Tai-PAY    RIGHT: Tai-BAY

Home of one of the tallest buildings in the world, Taipei 101.

Taipei 101.

A view from Taipei 101.

9) Ibizi, Spain       WRONG: eye-BEE-zuh    RIGHT: eye-BEE-thuh

It sounds a little too much like I beat her.

 

10) Moscow, Russia       WRONG: Moss-COW    RIGHT: Moss-CO

No mossy cows in Moscow.

 

11) New Orleans, USA       WRONG: New Or-Leans     RIGHT: New Or-Luns

The faster you say it, the better it sounds.

 

12) Qatar       WRONG: cut-TAR    RIGHT: Kuh-TER.

There is plenty of tar in Qatar, just not in the name of the country.

 

13) Bangkok, Thailand       WRONG: BANG-kock    RIGHT: Bang-Gowk

This is another common mistake we hear.   Anyway you say it, one of the best cities we have visited.

 

14) Budapest, Hungry       WRONG: Budda-PEST    RIGHT: Budda-Pescht

If you are headed there, drop us a line. We know the best goulash place. Mmmmm.

 

15) Iraq       WRONG: Eye-Rack     RIGHT: EYE-Rock

Watch the evening news, and at least half of the local reporters will get it wrong.

 

16) Versailles, France       WRONG: Ver-sillys     RIGHT: VER-Sigh

This is a great drinking game standing in line for tickets to the palace.

The Grand Palace

17) Dubai       WRONG: Do-Buy    RIGHT: Do-BAY

Please do buy the duvet, not the Dubai.

 

18) Newfoundland, Canada       WRONG: New-Found- Land    RIGHT: Nyoo-fn-Land

Ok…we cant say it right either. Here is a Canuck to help us:

 

19) Gstaad, Switzerland       WRONG: Gee-STAD    RIGHT: Sch-TOT

Theres no G in Gstaad.

 

20) Cannes, France       WRONG: CANS    RIGHT: CAN

Saying it right vs. saying it wrong will cost you a good seat at any good Cannes restaurant.

 

How many did you get wrong?  Leave a comment below.

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The Do’s and Dont’s of Darwin

Known as Australia’s only tropical capital city, Darwin welcomes visitors with the best weather, beaches, and activities every adventure seeker would love.   Perched on the very northern coast of Australia, the area doesn’t see the attention of its sister cities Sydney or Melbourne.  This lack of attention is actually a good thing.   It is one of the few places that live up to what you envision the land down under being.

Visiting Darwin was our first visit to Australia, we learned a few lessons from our visit.  We want to pass on a few of the basic do’s and dont’s for the area to ensure a problem-free and enjoyable vacation.   We want you to have the insiders guide when going to the northern territory of Australia.

Do Plan for Adventure 

Darwin offers visitors plenty of activities they can do from daytime to nighttime.   There are two amazing national parks within driving distance of Darwin: Kakadu and Litchfield.  Both are must sees for any visit to the “Top End.”  There are many tours that leave from darwin and take you to on a day trip.   The tour we elected to take gave us passage on a croc viewing cruise and a day swimming in the waterfalls of Kakadu!  There are many multi day camping excursions into the national parks if you wish to get a more involved adventure.   For the history buff, there are many World War II sites in Darwin.  You can take a harbor cruse that highlights the different points of interest.  There is also a WWII museum which has many interesting exhibits just outside of Darwin.

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

Once the sun goes down in Darwin, the fun continues!  We highly recommend visiting the Mindil Beach Sunset Market.  It lines the beach with art, food and fun vendors.  We absolutely loved just people watching along the path.  You can also check out the Deckchair Cinema for an outdoor film viewing while resting in a reclining chairs under the stars.

Don’t Overspend on Accommodation 

There will be plenty of things where you can put your money in, and accommodation shouldn’t be one of it. To fully experience the authentic atmosphere of Australia’s Northern Territory, consider signing up for a house sitting instead. According to a popular house sitting platform Trusted House Sitters, many homeowners in the area are in search for a loving home sitters to look over their humble abode including their pets while they are away. You get to stay in their homes for free, while enjoying the rest of your trip in Darwin. It will save you plenty of cash that you commonly spend on hotels or inns. This is highly beneficial for those planning to stay in the destination for a long period of time.

We stayed at the Bromeliad Bed and Breakfast and had a great time.  The innkeepers are so kind and will definitely help you make your visit to Darwin an enjoyable one.

Do travel with insurance

Whether you are traveling to Darwin from another Australian location or internationally, the need to have a travel insurance will be highly helpful to you, especially when going on a trip with your family. A typical policy, based on the information shared by this travel insurance guide, can help you avoid any travel risk, such as:

· Hefty medical costs

· Airline and accommodation cancellation

· Lost, stolen or damaged items

· Legal liability

The same article also showed the ins and outs of making a claim, when the need arises, making it easier for you in case an emergency strikes.

Don’t Visit During the Wet Season

Given the plenty of outdoor activities you can do in the city, the best time to visit Darwin is during the dry season, which lasts from April or May until September or October. It’s the most beautiful weather to get around the city with clear blue skies, warm days and balmy nights. During the wet season, you have to endure storms that sometimes led to cyclones and floods. The temperature is less humid as it gets close to the wet season. The wet season starts around October to November, but rain falls more between January and March. According to resource page Outback Australia Travel Secrets, the wet season may still work for travelers who are more adventurous and flexible as it’s the time when wildflowers are blooming and waterfalls are raging.

Darwin’s geographic location made it a highly popular destination for travelers in search of peace of mind without the need to leave the city life. We hope this post presented you with all the preparation and safety tips you need before going to the capital city of Darwin. Feel free to add more tips to this list, by leaving a comment below.

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The Fighting Couple’s Holiday Gift Guide

The trouble with travelers is they are so hard to shop for!   The Fighting Couple comes to the rescue. We have put together the perfect gift guide for your wandering colleagues. Trust us, a few of these items under the tree will have your traveler beaming like they just avoided a long TSA line!

The Perfect Pillow

Travelers are always dreaming of the lovely locations they have visited. Their homes are filled with pictures of the Colosseum in Rome and selfies at Machu Picchu. Ok… maybe that is just us… Regardless, the first stop you should make on your traveler shopping quest is to Finch and Cotter for a Custom Travel Pillow.   There you will find a great selection of travel themed throw pillows. We get lots of comments on ours! It lists all of our favorite places. We can’t count the number of conversations that have started when our friends looked at the pillow. Each destination is a memory to us. Be a traveling friend’s hero! Simply start your customized pillow by listing at least seven of your favorite destinations.   Finch and Cotter can make custom pillows in a week! How cool is that?  Facebook: Finch & Cotter

Pillow talk

A Little Pillow Talk

The Traveling Pouch

Travel these days takes a bunch of stuff: Passport, ID, itineraries, phones, Visas, boarding passes, ect, We have found the perfect solution. The Leather Travel Wallet from House of LH.   This handsome and useful travel folder keeps all of your travel goodies sorted and organized.   They are the perfect size to handle your cards, papers and even a special pocket for your passport. There is even room for one of Mike’s spreadsheets! This handy item is a must have. They are handmade out of real leather so they are tough enough to hold up any traveler’s demands.  Bon Voyage!

Leather Travel Wallet

Leather Travel Wallet

 

The Tough Bag

One of the most embarrassing situations we have had while traveling was our trek into the Amazon jungle in Peru. We were trekking novices. We showed up at the river bank with our roller bag suit cases. (Don’t do this.) Did they get wet? Yes. Did our clothes smell musty and river-ery? Yes. Were we happy about that after a week in the jungle? No. Since then, we have discovered the Dry Duffel from Lewis N. Clark. This handy bag looks small, but it is huge! There is plenty of room for your entire trip’s wardrobe. The best thing? It’s completely water-resistant. This bag is perfect for trips where weather can be an issue. Headed camping or in our case “glamping”? This bag is going to be your new best friend. While you are on their site, they offer loads of great stocking stuffers. We highly recommend a toiletry pouch. It is one of those TSA friendly bags that every traveler covets. Twitter: @lewisnclarkgear

Dry Gear Duffel

Dry Gear Duffel

 

A Tale of Two Cities

Just because you are traveling does not mean that you have to look scroungy. The challenges for every traveler is what to pack? You want to pack light, but you still want to look good. Actually, you want to look better than good, you want to look fabulous. One of the requirements we have for our clothing is that they serve more than one purpose. We give you the Book Scarf from Storiarts   Not only does this little number make you look smart, you actually are smart! Each scarf displays a passage from a classic novel. Luci picked the Tale of Two Cities, which is her favorite book. Again, this is another perfect conversation starter. These are easy to pack, easy to wash. and can be worn with different outfits. The perfect compliment to your traveling wardrobe.  Twitter:  @storiarts

book scarf

The Classic Book Scarf

The Gnomes

One of the hardest parts of being a couple on the go is the times when you are apart. Yes, we miss fighting with each other.  Both of us travel a lot for our day jobs. Recently our friends at Gnoments asked us to give a Gnoment a try.  Ok… at first we were a little bit skeptical. A talking gnome is a little out of the ordinary. I am sure the TSA agent that went through all of our unmentionables was wondering why in the world we were smuggling gnomes?   So this is how it works. With your smart phone, you create a message, pictures, or even a map for your loved one. Next step, hide your gnome when only your lover will find it (suitcase, briefcase, car, ect). Once they find the little gnome, they scan it with their phone and up pops your message. Cool huh? This is the perfect gift for couples that spend time away from each other.  Twitter: @gnoments

They created a little video on how it all works:

The Perfect Print

The traveler’s home is a museum of their adventures.   We are always looking to surround ourselves with inspiration from our previous adventures.   We recently added a new print to our “palace”: A World Travel Map Print from The Oyster’s Pearl.  The thing we love about this little shop is that it is run by a husband and wife team!  (Wonder if they fight?)  Their work has been featured in: Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Southern Living, Country Living, Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine, Buzzfeed & more!  They can do custom prints of just about any state. Isn’t that cool?  What we love most about their store is that everything is custom designed.  We love gifts that are personalized just for us.  Be a winner this season and have something unique made for your loved one.  Twitter: @theoysterspearl

Adventure print

Follow your own adventure!

Aren’t these some amazing ideas? This time of year is a wonderful season for friends and family. A thoughtful gift to your traveling loved one will mean more than you know. A word of warning. Many of these items are handmade and are in short supply. We strongly encourage you to not delay your order. We would love your feedback on any and all the items above!

A number of the items listed above were supplied for us to review. Does this affect our honest review and impressions? Not one bit. Happy Holidays!

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