Big Island of Hawaii During a Pandemic and Hurricane Douglas with an Earthquake

Let me start out by saying that these are not my ideal conditions for travel, but that being said – it’s sort of nice to be able to wander around the Big Island without the crowds so we came back for a second trip before tourism is scheduled to re-open. We spent an afternoon at the Mauna Kea Beach Resort which has one of the most beautiful crescent sand beaches on the island and there was only one other family there.

The downside is that a lot of what we wanted to do was closed either because of the pandemic or because of the impending hurricane (which thankfully bypassed us completely). We look forward to dining at Merriman’s in Waimea and horseback riding in the Waipio Valley – but those will have to wait.

Our trip this time was super low key – I met with a couple of friends in Waimea, we explored some amazing backroads, and we swam with dolphins. Yes, you read that right! We swam with dolphins. This is usually something that is far outside of our budget but our daughter’s 9th birthday is in a few days and we had a great recommendation from our friends at the Kamuela Inn (highly recommended as your base while you are here – see my full post on Waimea/Kamuela for details ) that because of the pandemic, the rates for a swim with Dolphin Quest had been slashed for kama’aina (residents of Hawaii). We were able to do a 30 minute family swim with the dolphins and a trainer for right around $400 (usually $1600). It was awesome and an amazing pre-birthday present. I’ll write about it in a separate post. On the day we swam with dolphins, Hurricane Douglas was possibly going to hit Hawaii but as mentioned, it passed us by. Locals say it is the power of Mauna Kea that pushes the hurricanes away and meteorologists agree but for different reasons – but really, does that even matter?

On our last day in Kamuela, we even got to wake up to a 4.4 earthquake! The fun never stops on the Big Island! Pandemic! Hurricane! Earthquake! (thankfully the hurricane missed and there was no tsunami from the quake!)

We didn’t plan to come during a hurricane and Southwest Airlines cancelled our flight and extended our stay by a couple of days – which was a bit of a big expense we hadn’t anticipated. So, we rented a car for an additional two days and got an AirBnB near Hilo for the last two (unexpected) days of our last trip of the summer.

 

 

Reasons You Should Travel the World with your Kids

If you want to take your kids around the world but you have some reservations, then you are not alone. So many people are in the same situation that you are in right now, but if you follow this guide then you will soon find that it is easier than ever for you to have the best time without breaking the bank.

Your Kids’ Education Won’t Suffer

People who come from Western countries believe that they are being given access to the best education around. This is understandable, but if you take your kids out of school for a year then that doesn’t mean that their education is going to stop. In fact, it is actually going to carry on for quite some time. They will learn so much when you spend your time travelling the world with them and this is the case for children of any age.

The World is the Best Teacher

No book, movie or even TV show could teach you about what you can learn about the world through travel. A textbook will never give you the same experience of watching the sunrise at the top of the Mayan pyramids, or teaching you how to make a coconut curry when in Cambodia. You may feel as though your kids are too young to appreciate things like this, but this is not true at all. It’s now easier than ever for you to show them the wonders of the world and have them learn a great deal at the same time.

They Can Learn Another Language

Your kids have the amazing ability to learn languages fast. Kids as young as three can pick up on new languages as this is the optimum time for them to be learning. If you are able to teach your kids the ability to learn another language, then this will go on to benefit them for the rest of their lives. You may find that they have much better job prospects and this can work in your favour as well. If you want to travel to an English-speaking country, then you may be wondering “can I travel in the U.S. right now?” and this is understandable, so it helps to do your research so you can keep up with the latest changes.

https://www.pexels.com/photo/two-girls-sitting-on-brown-bench-near-body-of-water-1292006/

 

Kids can Soak up Details

Your kids will soak up knowledge and they may even notice things that you don’t. You may find that your children are able to pick up on obscure facts about dinosaurs, and that they also remember a lot about geography as well. It’s great to watch your kids absorb information without any kind of preconceived idea or prejudice.

Entertainment can be Found without Tech

So many people believe that children need toys every single day, and that they need a lot of them. This is not the case at all. Cell phones, video games and more have become so common that it’s not rare to see one or the other, in every single room in the house. When you are taking off to another country, you can take the opportunity to really pare down and get rid of a lot of the useless items you have around your home. This can be empowering to say the least. If you are able to get out and on the road then you may come to the conclusion that most of the stuff in your life is just tying you down, and that it’s not necessary at all.

The Experience is the Gift

If you want to make your kids have the best time, then it helps to give them their own camera so that they can take shots. This is priceless to say the least, and it’s a great way for you to kill some time while giving them an utterly enriching experience.

Your Memories and Photos are Enough

It’s important that you teach your kids that the experience itself is a gift. Your memories and photos are more than enough to give your kids fond memories for years to come, and when you get back from your trip it’s very easy to make up your own photo albums with your kids’ help. This is a great way for you to show them what a journey they have had in life and it also gives them something to look back on fondly.

There Are More Ways to do one Thing

If you travel the world with your kids, then they will learn that there is more than one way to do something. For example, you may boil rice on a hot hob with a pan, but if you go to another country then they may use a wok and an open flame at the side of the street. This is a priceless experience and you can learn so many new and unique skills by simply being open-minded. This helps them to be open to change and you may even find that it spurs on their curiosity.

Become Appreciative

When you go to another country, you may find that you are more thankful, tolerant and understanding of the culture. You will be more aware of how things bring people together and how people are also driven apart. This can have a huge impact on your kids throughout their lives.

Your Kids Might be Eager to Explore

A lot of people think that it is selfish to take kids on a tour of the world, but this is not the case. In fact, when you take your kids away from their peers, you may find that they express some discomfort but at the end of the day, you are giving them chance to make new friends and take onboard new experiences. This can give them a new and fresh perspective and it can also help them to become more confident. If you want to get the best experience when travelling with kids, then it is helpful to talk to them about the way that they feel and if there is anything in the world that they would like to see.

Inspiring your Kids

You may have older kids who want to travel with their friends. This is great but you still need to give them a foundation to build on. If you travel the world with your kids, then you can inspire them to go and tackle other destinations on their own or with their own group of people. Your kids can also tell their friends about their adventures, and this can go on to inspire them overall.

Travelling with Babies and Toddlers

If you want to travel with a baby or even a toddler then this can be daunting, but at the end of the day, there are so many people out there who are doing it right now. Sure, your child might not have any vivid memories of their travel as a baby but that doesn’t mean that they can benefit from the travel lifestyle.

Naps and Snuggles

The great thing about travelling with a young child is that you can make more time for them in the day. When you are at home, you may feel as though between chores and work, you have so much going on and you can’t possibly hope to manage it all and spend time with your child. When you travel, you may have 8 hours or so to cuddle your baby, or to talk to your toddler about the new adventure you are going on.

A Sense of Home

When you travel with a young child, you may find that they develop a huge sense of home. After all, your child will learn that home is where family are, as opposed to just being a place. Your child will have more time to be shaped by you, as a parent rather than the environment, which is ever-changing. You may find that your child learns how to walk in Vietnam and reads their first book in Australia. Either way, your child will grow up knowing that home is where you are, and this can come with its own benefits along with a sense of safety.

You can Learn from your Kids

Your kids really aren’t the only ones who are going to be getting an education when you are on a family trip. Giving your kids the chance to learn is great, but at the end of the day, you can also learn as well. Travelling as a family will benefit everyone but in a very different way. Famous sites and even museums will get very boring for kids after a while, but if you go to a child-friendly destination then you may find that this gets old, fast for mom and dad. Having a successful trip is all about changing things up and the more you can expose your kids to new and interesting things, the more likely they will be to enjoy the new sense of travel.

So there really are many benefits to taking your kids with you around the world and if you do decide to take the leap, then you may find that you are able to book numerous vacations for a very affordable price. Just make sure that you focus on going to non-tourist destinations and see how far your budget stretches.

 

 

Descend on Bend 2016 – A Festival of VW Vanagons at Hole in the Ground – Part 2

This is part 2 of my writeup for 2016 Descend on Bend at Hole in the Ground, Oregon – Read part 1 here

photo by Kevin Dempsey
photo by Kevin Dempsey

One of the first things I realized upon getting to Hole in the Ground was that my iPhone wasn’t recognizing my charger. Since I’ve come to use it as my camera and video camera – I didn’t have a backup plan to take pictures. Within two hours of getting there – my battery was dead. This was a bummer – I had a solar charger, a back up battery, and a cigarette lighter charger to keep that from happening…but the problem wasn’t with any of those or the cord – it was with the lightning jack in the phone. Finally on Day 2 Hanane managed to get it to charge, but it never got fully charged again and mostly just sat in the van connected to the cord since walking around with it was killing it. As a result of all of that – I don’t have lots of pictures or videos and so I’m thankful to Kevin and Zelima Dempsey for sharing their photos with us – the photos in this post are theirs.

Photo by Zelima Dempsey
Photo by Zelima Dempsey

The next thing I realized was that there were a lot of 1987 Westphalia Vanagons – and not one of them was the same as another. Infinite variation within a single type. Misefrou is a merlot colored weekender Wolfsburg edition with an add-a-room from Bus Depot, a laminate floor, and custom cabinets from the last owner.Kevin and Zelima’s vanagon (Zesty the Westy) is a silver 1987 Westphalia Full Camper tricked out with LED lights, sweet cargo racks on back, a retractable canopy, and more. Another couple’s 1987 Westy was a shade darker red/purple (cabernet?) than ours and had a bike rack, a rocket storage on top, and a totally different interior. With close to 300 vehicles there – I did not see any two that were identical. And that seems like a pretty good point to segue into the breakdown of VW Vans…

photo by Kevin Dempsey
photo by Kevin Dempsey

From 1949-1979 – Volkswagen produced the VW Bus in a number of different models – microbus, transporter, Westphalia camper, split window, bay window, 21-window, safari window, 23 window, Kombi, Samba, and the list goes on – 30 years of VW bus variations with mostly Type 1 and Type 2 (pancake) engines. There were also a number of aftermarket conversions that could turn a tin-top into a pop-top camper – one of which the ‘Riviera’ I had on my 71 bus on Kauai. From 1980-1992 – Volkswagen produced the wildly different Vanagon. With more interior room, a squared body, and from mid-1983 a water cooled engine which provided more power, real heat, and eliminated the need to adjust the valves with every oil change. There were tin tops, pop tops, weekender (camper without stove & sink) and from 1985-1992 a four wheel drive model called the Syncro. From 1993-2003 VW produced a completely redesigned van and camper called the Eurovan. While offering some improvements in handling and power, Eurovans lack the clearance and quirky feel of buses and Vanagons – and also have a motor in the front. Since 2003, the Eurovan has not been offered in the US – though a newer model – the T-5 is still produced and sold in Europe. Bus fans have been waiting for more than a decade for VW to introduce a new US model…

photo by Kevin Dempsey
photo by Kevin Dempsey

In a nutshell – that’s the history of buses, Vanagons, and Eurovans – but the devil is in the details and the details come from individual (and often multiple) owners. Solar panels, gas water heaters, diesel powered heaters, high tops, low profile, Syncro conversions, replaced VW engines with more powerful and reliable Subaru engines, and the mods mods mods keep coming.

photo by Kevin Dempsey
photo by Kevin Dempsey

And this is a good place to note that it really is a certain kind of person who decides to own, live in, travel in, customize, or just love a VW van. I’d always known this…we wave at each other on the road. There is a little thrill that goes through you when you see another Veedub. This gathering at Hole-in-the-Ground confirmed what I had always known, but never seen in a mass gathering.

photo by Kevin Dempsey
photo by Kevin Dempsey

Here in Reedsport – it’s rare for me to meet anyone who has been outside of the USA. There is one fisherman with a VW bus he painted green with latex house paint – I spoke with him once and he had the same enthusiasm for his vehicle as he would have had for say a Chevy Cavalier…he never waves when I pass with the Vanagon. He is the exception. The people I met at Hole-in-the-Ground were a completely different type. Andrew, in a yellow bus next to us had lived in Cairo, Kevin had been to Egypt, Watson in the sprinter van had surfed in Morocco – and those were just the three vehicles closest to us. Every person I spoke with had a story, had a thirst to see the world, had adventure written on their soul, and as a result had an openness to different types of people and different ways of life. We met people from Wales, from Germany, from New Zealand, from Canada and saw vehicles that had driven from New York, Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma, and everywhere – just to spend time with this tribe.

The Raffle photo by Kevin Dempsey
The Raffle photo by Kevin Dempsey

On Saturday – it was cold and rainy – I mean really cold, really rainy, and really windy. And yet, hundreds of people came out to the raffle drawing, brought and shared food at the potluck meal, and stood around the big fire Silver Moon brewing came out and set up a bar on the crater. There was a huge VW bouncy house. Kids were running around freely – if I were to lump the demographics – I would say that the bulk of people were between 32 and 50, mostly white but there were people of all shades and ages and all were equal – though I will say that the Syncro owners might view themselves as just a little more equal (and perhaps rightly so – van speaking that is).

photo by Kevin Dempsey
photo by Kevin Dempsey

The cold and rain drove a lot of people into their vans as night fell. I was fortunate to sit around a small fire with a group of new friends and share adult beverages as the day ended. And here, I feel the need to share something unpleasant about myself – I drank a little too much. I’m not used to such good company nor to drinking as much. All of that is fine, but when a man came to the fire to share and promote his story – I acted like an asshole when he made a comment that I interpreted as racist/white supremacist. Mind you, I think we all have a duty to stand up to racist/homophobic/religiophobic and other forms of hatred and at the time – I thought I was doing just that – but in hindsight- I have to acknowledge that I may have misunderstood him and my reaction was too strong – charged as it was by alcohol. In any event, I’m glad that he decided to be peaceful and moved along and if I misunderstood – I offer my apology here.

In the morning, the rain was pretty light as I broke the add-a-room down. There was no way to dry it before putting it up – and that is probably the biggest issue I have with it – it is large and not easy to dry out or store. We did a little bit of off-roading to get out and waved goodbye to all of our new friends. On the way home, we drove through our first snowstorm since coming to the USA. Missy handled well, kept us warm, and stayed on the road. Sophia was ecstatic at seeing snow. I was ecstatic at having found my tribe.

A Visit with Dinosaurs in Prehistoric Gardens – A Highway 101 Roadside Attraction

Dinosaur parkSince 1955, drivers on Highway 101 along the Southern Oregon Coast have been able to walk among the dinosarus (23 if I counted correctly) at the Prehistoric Gardens between Gold Beach and Port Orford, Oregon. Being a road-side-attraction-junkie, I thought it important to bring my family there too.  I assured Hanane and Sophia that the dinosaurs would not eat them (but at times it felt like I lied) and off we tramped into the rain forest (after buying a pretty reasonably priced ticket for each of us – $32 total for the three of us to get some photo ops with the dinosaurs). We were there in the off season, so we were alone with the dinosaurs – if there had been crowds, the price might have seemed a little high…so be warned.

I love roadside attractions, not least because they are relics of a bygone age…back in 1953 you could buy a piece of land, move your family there, and start building concrete dinosaurs and charging the public admission (or build Disneyland for that matter) – today, that would be impossible unless you had a team of lawyers and a billion dollars – so there won’t be any new roadside attractions like this popping up anytime soon (unless society collapses).

But, back to 1953 – that’s exactly what Ernie Nelson did. He was a mill equipment supplier in Eugene who dabbled in sculpture, but he decided instead to bring dinosaurs to life and create a theme park.  Each of the dinosaurs were created by hand and most of them took years..the brachiosaurus (brontosaurus back in the day) is 86 feet long and 46 feet tall!

 

 

Trees of Mystery – A Northern California Coast Roadside Attraction featuring Giant Testicles

I’ve never been one to pass by a roadside attraction – many of them disappoint – but not Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California.

I remember visiting it as a child when my family went camping in the Redwoods – the giant fifty-foot statues of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe made an impression that never went away…so when I got the chance to take my family there – of course I did not demure, even though an ox is generally castrated and Babe has the largest pair of testicles in North America (I’m guessing). There is a control room inside Bunyan that allows an operator to move the head and arm and interact with guests…rumor has it that there is a sign inside that forbids asking women for their phone numbers – probably something that would be a huge temptation for a teenager working a summer job.
Trees of Mystery
Founded in 1931, this historic redwood landmark about 35 miles south of the Oregon border was first conceived as a natural history park, but the addition of the two giant statues turned it firmly into a roadside attraction.The first Paul Bunyan statue was made in Long Beach California and melted in the rain after only a season. and the The second, at a mere 24 feet tall was designed and built by the park’s owner, Ray Thompson and lasted until 1962. It wasn’t until 1951 that Babe the Blue Ox joined Paul and the current 49 foot statue of Bunyan came on the scene in 1962. The statues get you to stop, but there is more to Trees of Mystery.
trees of mystery
Inside the gigantic gift shop, your admission ticket will also get you into their gigantic collection of Native American artifacts. It is one of the largest private ethnographic collections of Native American dress, tools, and art in California. For me, the museum collection was worth the price of admission and the actual attraction itself, the winding trail through the Trees of Mystery (aka impressive very old Redwoods) was a bonus. The last part of the trail has recordings and carvings which recount the many tall tales of America’s most famous lumberjack (Paul Bunyan, in case you don’t know) and his many exploits. Bunyan was a sort of Maui demigod who harnessed forces of nature.
trees of mystery
Finally, don’t pass the Gondola ride through the trees to a glorious view of the Pacific – it’s worth the cost, because seriously, when are you going to do it again? Finally…is Trees of Mystery a tourist trap? Absolutely…and you shouldn’t miss it – at least once in your life…and by the way…the fudge in the gift shop is pretty good too.

The Fully Integrated Backpacker Treehouse Resort – Kadir’s Treehouses

Treehouse Hostel Turkey OlymposThe most surprising thing about Olympos is the huge volume of choice when it comes to places to stay. Since Thailand, I haven’t seen this many bungalows, backpackers, or pancake stands – perhaps the hardest part of coming to Olympos is picking where to stay.

Since we wanted to come here for four days, we opted to split our time between two of the most famous tree house resorts. The first, Bayram’s tree houses, I should point out that this is the off season, so it was pretty calm and quiet, but even so there were some serious drinking sessions around the nightly campfire.

Treehouse Hostel Turkey OlymposAfter two very fun days there, we moved up the road to Kadir’s Treehouses.  While there are tree houses and bungalows here – it would be more appropriate to call it Kadir’s fully integrated backpacker tree house resort and bungalow complex and village – but that might be too much of a mouthful. We had plenty of opportunity to meet with Kadir himself and to explore the property –

Kadir came here 25 years ago when there was nothing in Olympos but farmhouses and shepherd camps. He left a career in economics in Ankara behind to tune in, turn on and drop out – well after the hippies of the 60’s but well before the hippies of the now. His parents and friends told him he was crazy but he bought a piece of land next to a stream in Olympos, built a tree house, and carried what he needed from up the mountain or bought it from the nearby farms.

At this point, a few backpackers started coming to see the ruins at Olympos and a couple of them asked if they could rent his tree house for the night. Then it happened again. And again. So he built a second tree house – but more backpackers came. So he built more. And within a couple of years he had tree houses, bungalows, and even a couple of bars to satisfy the thirst of the the backpackers.

Turkey Treehouse HostelThe nearby farms saw his success and they copied the model. Now, while I didn’t hear anyone say this overtly, there seems to be some bad blood between the farmers and Kadir these days – on the one hand, Kadir is the stranger in a valley filled with family – and on the other, people stole his business model and then – according to one source – when his property caught on fire while he was away – just let it burn and didn’t notify anyone until it was too late. Kadir says that when he arrived his tree houses, bungalows, bars, and even the trees were completely gone. I’m assuming that no one was here when it happened since Kadir said that nothing was saved.

So Kadir built again. Today, his sprawling complex still has a few tree houses – including one built on a huge 750 year old cedar stump that Kadir bought from the government and then trucked down here! It’s his log-o now.

During peak times, Kadir hosts as many as 350 backpackers! His complex has a nightclub (The Bull Bar), a Pizza House, The Hanger Bar, an activity center, a volleyball court, a huge fire pit, and the downstairs restaurant/bar where dinner and breakfast are served which feels like it could have been imported directly from Alaska. This is even including the bartender Simon who wears a red plaid lumberjack shirt and even though his English is very good always replies “Thank you very much!” even when it doesn’t fit. (As in Alaska – the odds are good but the goods are odd)

Kadir is usually playing backgammon, snapping photos on his Galaxy Note, or wandering around. The bungalows and treehouses are colorfully painted and built in a haphazard, Tom Sawyer treehouse way which includes half bent rusty nails and railings that feel as if they might break under your hand. If there is a downside to Kadir’s – it is that the size and numbers create a sort of junkyard feel to parts of the complex with disused furniture being piled in unused corners and piles of broken plumbing or wood scraps tumbled around devil may care – but then, that adds to the overall feel of the place. Sanford and Son meets Tom Sawyer. Kadir’s is about a 20 minute walk from the beach but the stream and mountain views make that a pleasant journey.

Treehouse Hostel Turkey OlymposWe stayed in a deluxe bungalow facing a gorgeous rock face and the beautiful clear water stream. It was big, clean, had AC and heat, hot water and was comfortable. We found the included breakfast and dinner to be tasty and filling. All of this for about 25 Euro per night, is a steal and one of the best deals going in Turkey, if you ask me. If you want to go even cheaper – you can rough it in the treehouses or sleep in the dorms, but honestly – the lack of comfort and privacy wouldn’t be worth it for me. Still, the backpackers we spoke with who were doing that, loved it.

What’s next for Kadir? He told me he has found a new location where no one goes yet and this time he is going to open an eco-resort. It will be his fourth property – he now has a family resort, Kadir’s Garden, Kadir’s treehouses and then Kadir’s Eco-Resort – the moral of the story? Sometimes it pays to drop out and go live in a treehouse!

5 Fun Family Activities in Istanbul – Turkey with Kids!

Family Fun Istanbul

Istanbul may not be the first place you think of to take a family vacation, but the city that bridges two continents is an extraordinary place to take a family vacation. While there may not be an Istanbul Disneyland (yet!), the city abounds with activities that are worthy of inclusion in any magic kingdom.

Istanbul AquariumFishtanbul!

The Istanbul Aquarium is filled with more than fish. Educational multi-media displays, 4-D films, hands on exhibits, and then there are the tons of fish, tunnels, old boats, and everything a kid of any age could want. (http://www.istanbulakvaryum.com/en-US/)

Koch Transport Museum

The Rahmi M. Koch Transport Museum has collections of just about everything you can imagine from dolls to bicycles, baby carriages, motorbikes, classic cars, boats, boat houses, locomotives, engines, toys, Rahmi Transport Museumand even a submarine. Plenty of hands on exhibits and you can even schedule a boat ride and a submarine tour. (http://www.rmk-museum.org.tr/english/index.html)

Dondurma Clowns

Go to Sultanahmet in Istanbul and you will pass brightly dressed guys who offer Turkish ice cream, called Dondurma. The price is a bit high but this is an especially delicious treat on a hot day. Of course, the real treat is the way they serve it. Expect to be tricked, but in a good way. Laughter can’t be contained around these guys.

Cruise Up the Bosporus

Family Fun IstanbulCould there be a better family excursion than a trip up the waterway that divides two continents? You can make stops in Europe and Asia and visit the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea before coming home. Plenty of treats along the way like the special yogurt of Kamlica and the delicious hamsi (Black Sea Sardines) at the Anadolu Kavagi village at the top of the Bosporus just before the Black Sea.

Turkish Dance Extravaganza

This family friendly dance show has something for everyone. Belly dancers, Black Sea folk dance, and even a little bit of Sufi sacred music. This show is more kid friendly than the Whirling Dervish specific show but both are great.  

Who needs Disneyland when Istanbul awaits you?

 

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland

OMSI Portland OregonWe love spending time in Portland, Oregon. It has a little bit of everything.

Last trip, we spent nearly the entire day at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry – OMSI for short. We went all in for the ultimate explorer package so we got to see a planetarium show, an Imax movie, explore the exhibits, and take a tour of the Blueback submarine.

It made for a full day with the two story outer space explorers exhibit, the gingerbread architecture show, and the regular exhibits plus the extras. For the three of us, the bill including lunch and popcorn came out to right around $100…which was quite a deal. We opted for the Sesame Street planetarium movie – which was safe and fun for Sophia, but probably she could have enjoyed one of the more advanced shows just as much – she’s five but inquisitive and already knew most of what Big Bird and friends taught.

For lunch, we left and grabbed a pizza at the Lucky Labrador Beer Hall , a huge family friendly beer hall with ultra-cheesy delicious pizza and home brewed root beer (plus plenty of adult -beverages and a varied menu and I’ve been told special events on a regular basis) – a super cool, laid back place. Then we went back to Omsi.

OMSI Portland OregonWe watched the Exploring Space IMAX which was a great introduction to the two floors of space related science exhibits and hands on displays. The Blueback tour was interesting if you are interested in military history or life for military submariners but since none of us were – we could have easily skipped that one – the smell of diesel while comforting to me was overwhelming for both Hanane and Sophia and the tour was only mildly interesting for any of us.

OMSI Portland OregonWe were very happy to see a Dr. Who themed Gingerbread house – Tardis actually- and the rest of the space themed structures were equally impressive. Finally, we didn’t spend nearly enough time just playing with the general science areas and hands on experiments – areas in physics, lasers, design, and more. It was a full day and we left feeling like we got much more than our money’s worth.

10 Ways to Travel Internationally with an Infant

I wrote this back in 2012 – still smarting from my wife being unable to get a visa to France in time to our first family trip abroad – my wife was not an American yet at that point and the visa restrictions were far more onerous than we later found traveling with our infant daughter to be. We traveled to four continents and quite a few countries with our daughter as an infant, so this advice is travel tested!

Traveling with infantHaving a newborn baby can completely change any life – probably more so if you travel a lot than if you don’t.

But then again, a life disrupted is a life disrupted – no matter how joyful the disruption itself may be.

To be completely honest, my wife’s nationality (Moroccan) gets more in the way of our traveling as a family than the fact that our daughter needs to be cared for. Our daughter has a U.S. Passport and is free to travel just about anywhere without a visa, the wife- yeah- look at what happened with going to Paris – a month wasn’t enough time to schedule even a visa appointment!

Here are ten tips to make things easier, more fun, and less of a headache. Long distance travel with kids can become a nuisance and if the child is newly born, it can be dangerous. Most people will avoid traveling along with a newborn infant. Yet, sometimes, it may become necessary or just be desirable. There is no reason to worry about traveling with an infant child.

1) Infants less than 4 weeks should not travel by air. Their delicate systems have not yet become capable of adjusting to the air pressure. It is also not advised (or allowed) for late term pregnancies to travel by aircraft. After 4 weeks, all systems are go.

Traveling with infant2)Book in advance and make certain you ask about baggage allowance. While trains and buses often let children travel free and with no notice, you must notify aircraft and often buy an infant ticket. Also, infants are often not allowed a baggage allowance which is idiotic considering you need to bring the nappie bag, clothes, and baby things.

3) You are better off sitting in the front of the aircraft or bus. Find a seat that offers extra legroom. Just trust me on this.

Traveling with infant4) Baby travel documents. Just because she or he is a baby doesn’t mean that the governments of the world don’t want to see identity papers, visa’s, and passports. Get all the baby’s paperwork in order ASAP.

5) Contact the airline you are flying with and ask about changing facilities, if you are allowed to bring a pram/stroller, and other services/options available for those travelling with kids.

6) Pack more diapers, baby wipes, bibs, and what-not into your bag than you think you will need. Ever get stuck in the airport longer than you expected? Ever done it with a screaming baby and no clean diapers? Yeah, be prepared.

7) Dress yourself and the baby in layers and dark clothing. Expect to be spit up or spoiled on. Taking off a layer is easier than changing…

8) Breastfeeding during takeoff or landing helps the infant cope with the pressure changes. A bottle with formula also works.

9) Bring extra bottles, extra formula, and by all means get a pacifier (bobo) – even if your infant strictly breast feeds, you will be glad to have the formula when your wife needs to take a nap (assuming like me, you are a man and don’t lactate)

10) Finally, like me, you may find that this one nulls and voids all the above hard won knowledge – make sure your wife has the visa before you book the tickets because if she doesn’t – you can be sure the baby will be staying at home with Mama while you travel without your family – which by the way, isn’t so different from how things used to be, but it sucks to lose those tickets so travel insurance is a great idea.

Overall, just enjoy the time with your baby and happy travels.

Mummified Love in Andong, South Korea

To celebrate Halloween, here is another monster story, but this one with a twist – it’s a mummy love story. I first shared this back in 2011. Enjoy!

Andong MummyWhen you travel the world you come across wonderful things, but some of them touch you more than others. The story of an ancient Korean mummy and his heartbroken wife hit me hard as I traveled and thought of my wife at home, pregnant with our first child. My own journey here was very random as I had come to Andong with no idea of what to do or see and when the bus passed by Andong National University, I figured it was a good place to wander around since Universities tend to have free libraries, galleries, cheap food, and interesting people who speak English.

It was my good luck to find the free archeology museum where the Andong mummy lives so that I could discover this story. It’s a famous story by now, but maybe you haven’t heard of it yet. Everyone in Korea knows it though and when the mummy was found and the letter with it was read, it touched hearts around the world. On this day, it touched my own.

Andong Mummy Love LetterThe 16th century mummy was found by archeologists in Andong City and identified by researchers at the Andong National University as Eung-tae, a member of the very ancient Goseong Yi Clan. Eung-tae was in a wooden coffin in a earth hardened tomb. The archeologists were very excited to have found a male mummy, not a common thing in South Korea. His beard and clothing were still preserved and they found that he was fairly tall at five feet nine inches, which even today in Korea would put him above the average. On his chest, much to their surprise, they found a letter from his wife, which is actually how his identity was revealed.

The letter was heart-breaking and over the next few years led to novels, films, and even an opera. Here is the text of the letter translated to English:

To Won’s Father
June 1, 1586
You always said, “Darling, let’s live together until our hair turns gray and die on the same day. How could you pass away without me? Who should I and our little boy listen to and how should we live without you? How could you die before of me?
How did you bring your heart to me and how did I bring my heart to you? Whenever we lay down together you always told me, “Dear, do other people cherish and love each other like we do? Are they really like us?” How could you leave all that behind and die ahead of me?
I cannot live without you. I want to go to you. Please take me to where you are. My feelings toward you I cannot forget in this world and my sorrow knows no limit. Where can I put my heart now and how can I live with your child missing you?
Please look at this letter and tell me in detail in my dreams. I want to listen to your words in detail in my dreams and so I write this letter and put it in with you. Look closely and talk to me.
When I give birth to the child in me, who should it call father? Can anyone fathom how I feel? There is no tragedy like this under the sky.
You are in another place, and not in such deep grief as I. There is no limit and end to my sorrows and so I write roughly. Please look closely at this letter and come to me in my dreams and show yourself in detail and tell me. I believe I can see you in my dreams. Come to me secretly and show yourself. There is no limit to what I want to say but I stop here.

Andong MummyThe letter and the mummy made me suddenly aware of the risks I was taking by traveling and being away from my wife and the child she carries. It was at that moment, that I just wanted to go home, to be with her. From there forward, my journey held no joy for me. Certainly I met wonderful people, saw interesting things, and yes, I enjoyed myself, but my heart was no longer in it. I just kept thinking of this woman, weeping upon learning the death of her husband, weeping as her child was born, and struggling through life as a single mom and without the man she had come to depend on.

Perhaps it was for this reason that I didn’t have a desire to take any great risks, to test the limits of my endurance, or to push the limits of my already very limited budget. It would be several months before I would be able to permanently be at home with my wife and our unborn child, but upon meeting the mummy, I made a promise that I would make certain to be there for them. And so, from Andong to Busan, back to Seoul, back to Kuala Lumpur, to Singapore, Jakarta, and back to Turkey I walked carefully and kept in mind that there were two people waiting for me and relying on me. And now, I am home- back in Morocco with my wife and our child will be coming in a month or so. Suddenly, I can relax and much of the tension I felt while away has melted since I know that my wife and child have me with them at this very important time.

5 Free Things to do in Hawaii that Should Cost a Fortune

5 Free Things to do in Hawaii that Should Cost a Fortune

They say that in life the best things are free, but we all know that usually is a crock of malarky. Food, housing, travel, clothing, family, medicine, eductaion – all of these things cost money. The thing is, though, sometimes you find that there is some truth to that old saying after all. Here are five things in Hawaii that are free to do but should cost a fortune.

Going to the Beach

Going to the beach in Hawaii

The beaches in Hawaii are among the best in the world. That’s the reason people are so surprised when they come to Hawaii and find that public beach access is a right that is protected by law. You don’t have to pay to go to any beach in Hawaii. They are all free and everyone is welcome.

Hiking in the Rainforest

Rainforest Hawaii

You can pay for a guide if you want to, but the truth is that you can find plenty of information online about where to hike in Hawaii and it won’t cost you a cent. You can hike all day in public rainforest with no entrance fees, no charge for the guavas, and no charge for the bird watching.

Swimming in a Tropical Waterfall

Hawaii Rainforest Hike

You need to pay atteintion to the signs and learn about Leptosporosis, but while you’re sweating on that hike in the tropical rainforests of Hawaii, don’t be surprised to come across a waterfall in the jungle. Falls like Mauawili and Manoa falls are fantastic for swimming and wading. Let the warm water wash over you and imagine yourself in a soap opera.

Seeing Giant Sea Turtles and Hawaiian Monk Seals on the Beach

Giant Sea Turtle Hawaii

Nobody will charge you to see the wild life in Hawaii, but if you harrass the animals you will get charged a hefty fine so remember not to approach too close to the sea turtles or Hawaiian Monk Seals while they are lazing on the shoreline.

Watching the Sunrise and the Sunset over the Pacific Ocean

Sunrise

Because the islands aren’t very big, you can watch the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean as if you are in Japan and then watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean as if you are in California. My favorite spot to watch the sunrise is from the bunker in Lanikai on  Oahu’s Windward side. My favorite sunset spot is from Sunset Beach – it’s called that for a reason.

The Enchanted Forest Theme Park of Oregon #FlashbackFriday

Back in 2016, I finally had the chance to take my wife and daughter to The Enchanted Forest. A wonderfully quirky and crumbling roadside attraction that still doesn’t charge you college tuition for a few hours of theme park enjoyment. As we sit here on Maui where even the worst attractions cost you $30 per person, I have a great appreciation for this place looking back. 

Enchanted Forest Oregon

I cannot count the number of times I’ve driven by The Enchanted Forest theme park – just south of Portland next to Interstate 5 – it’s a roadside attraction that has called out to me for my entire life…The theme park, built by highway worker Roger Tofte was built the year I was born – and being a west coast kid who used to answer the question “Where are you from?” with “I-5” – it seems to have always been there – which for me it has…finally, earlier this year, I decided it was time to stop – as we walked through the slightly decaying concrete ‘amusement’ park – I felt a creepy sense of familiarity that told me I must have come there as a child…it was like walking back into a house you had lived in which had gone from bright and shiny new to moldy and falling down…the rides were a half step up from a county fair and the concrete storybook and Alice in Wonderland structures all felt like stepping back into the Disneyland of the 1950s – homemade attractions painted brightly but faded.

Enchanted Forest Oregon

The log ride is the largest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest (not a region known for amusement parks, I am afraid) and the western town and English village are fun. The whole thing is fun, actually – I don’t want to sound like a wet Nelly in my description. And the price is right – that’s for sure. Right around $10 to get in and then additional fees for the rides. We were there early in the season and the park was not fully staffed or crowded.

Enchanted Forest Oregon

The history of the park is part of what makes me love it. A highway worker bought the land for $4000 and built it one bag of concrete at a time. It’s the kind of thing that would be impossible now, but in the 1960s we weren’t living in such a regulated society and people could decide to build amusement parks, castles, or ski resorts and do it on a dime…if Walt Disney tried to build Disneyland today…it just wouldn’t happen. Roger Tofte built the park and continued to build. His children, and now his grandchildren continue the work. What started as a hobby…is now a 45 year old icon along the Interstate 5. It is worth the price of admission.

Enchanted Forest Oregon

Enchanted Forest is the kind of place that everyone can enjoy….it’s also the kind of place that can be written about tongue in cheek over and over because I’m not sure there is anyplace on the planet filled with more innuendo…I mean look, it’s not an over the top phallus filled piece of land like The Penis Park but there is a lot of adult fun to be had in The Enchanted Forest that the kids just won’t even notice…have fun there…but not as much fun as the writers of this Portland Mercury piece had…they may have gone too far.

Enchanted Forest Oregon

Enchanted Forest Oregon

Disneyland on Less Than a Grand – Barely

imageI’ve been to Disneyland a handful of times in my life. The first trip I was just barely old enough to remember it, but I remember riding the Dumbo Elephants with my dad and spinning in the Mad Hatter Teacups with my mom and brother. This was in the mid-1970s and I remember having a book of tickets – my mom, who worked in her teens as one of the mermaids on the submarine adventures – always spoke of E-Tickets as something close to admittance to heaven. Back in the mid-70s – Disneyland was something like $10 per person with individual tickets for rides costing an additional $10 or so. The parking lot was massive (now it is Disney’s California Adventure Park). Parking was a couple of bucks – so a family of five could look at around $100-$150 for a day at Disneyland without food or lodging.

I went to Disneyland again sometime around the period before it switched to single entry in 1980. The price had jumped to $12 per person and the E-ticket ruled supreme. In 1984 I went with my entire 8th Grade Graduating Class – and every other 8th grader in Southern California (it seemed) – I don’t recall how much it was for us – but I think it was something like $25 for the experience – Captain Eo was the newest and most excitement building attraction. The last time I went to Disneyland before this year was in 1988 – I’m pretty sure that tickets were still in the $20 per visit range. Star Tours was a brand new ride and we waited in line to go on it seven or eight times. We loved that there were no individual tickets but of course, that did make lines longer.

image

Prices have changed. In January of 2016 I took my family of three to Disneyland. We paid approx $100 each for a one day pass to the Disneyland park only. A nearby hotel with parking cost us just about $430. We snacked on various foods in the park and kept souvenirs down to a pair of plush Minnie Mouse ears – that was another $100. Meals outside the park set us back another $150. And that brings us to $980 for a family of three to stay two nights near Disneyland and have one very full day in the Disneyland park only. Just barely under $1000 not including the trip to get there, the gas, hotels on the way etc. I felt like we did pretty good. Could we have skimped more? Sure – we could have gotten a cheaper hotel at a further distance with breakfast included. We could have snacked less in the park. We could have made sandwiches for dinner and used public transportation to get to and from the park and saved on parking – but even so – it still would have cost us $600 at a minimum – and frankly – the convenience of crossing the street to get to Disneyland was worth it, the snacking in the park was part of the fun, the souvenir we bought was essential, the meals were fun and part of the vacation experience. It was worth every penny.

image

Before going on this trip – I looked at as many options as I could find. Multi-day park hopper tickets cost more but seem to be a good value – you can’t buy single day tickets anywhere but at Disneyland ticket booths. I bought them the night before and we were in line good and early – so it was a little bit galling to see the magic morning hour folks enjoying the park for an hour before us – that wasn’t an option available to us. You can get the magic morning hour if you purchase 3, 4, or 5 day park hopper tickets in advance – starting at $235 per person. So it wasn’t available to us because we didn’t have the time or money to spend that much time at Disneyland. So a 3-day park ticket (one park per day) with magic hour on one of the days would have cost us right around $700 – which is a pretty good deal for a family of three. To make those park hopper tickets would cost you an addition $120 – I’m not sure that would be worth it – unless there were a very good reason.

image

I downloaded the Disneyland app for my iPhone and it was awesome. It told us wait times, which rides were closed, and gave us a great tool to help us make the most of our day in the park. Since we knew our phones would be getting heavy usage for photos, videos, and the app – I bought a rechargeable battery and a solar panel before the trip – these were lifesavers. Not once on our entire trip did we have to put away our phones and take no pictures due to battery drain. By the way, we left the solar panel behind but brought the fully charged battery with us and it gave us four full charges through the day.

image

Initially, I had no idea Disneyland had become so expensive – I went to the Disneyland website thinking to create a simple Disneyland Vacation – the bill for a simple vacation staying at the Disneyland Hotel for three nights, with 3 day park hopper, a character breakfast, and not including snacks, souvenirs, or parking came to over $2400! I knew I could do better – and so we did. And it was awesome…more about the specifics in my next post.

%d bloggers like this: