28 March, 2012

Stranded....

Just a quick update.  We are mid way through our Philippine vacation and have been having a great time.   We spent last week scuba diving in Dumuagete, Philippines (Negros Island).  The resort was unbelievable, the people, food, accommodations were beyond our expectations.

Yesterday, we were on the road again...headed to Legazpi, Philippines to snorkel with the whale sharks.  This is where our trip took a turn for the unexpected.  Our flight was first delayed and then ultimately canceled.  We tried without luck to reschedule our flights for today, but were told all flights to our destination were sold out until March 30...the same day we are scheduled to fly home.

So, long story short...here we sit in a hotel lobby in Manila, Philippines - waiting for our rooms to be ready.  This will be the same hotel we will be residing in for the next 3 days....until our flight home.

As disappointed as we are about our disruption, travel is what you make of it and plan on making the best of my time here...and since we are 3 minutes from the 3rd largest mall in the world, I'll let you know how I make out...(*smiles*)

On a side note, the people in the Philippines are FANTASTIC!  I can't say enough about their pleasant manner and respect for a bunch of forlorn travelers.  It's refreshing to know unselfish people still exist in the world.

15 March, 2012

Changes in Latitude...

I’ve posted these lyrics before, but they sum things up quite nicely, as we get ready to depart tomorrow…

Changes in Latitude
Jimmy Buffett - 1977

I took off for a weekend last month
Just to try and recall the whole year
All of the faces and all of the places
Wonderin where they all disappeared
I didn't ponder the question too long
I was hungry and went out for a bite
Ran into a chum with a bottle of rum
And we wound up drinkin all night

Chorus:

Its these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of our running and all of our cunning
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane

Reading departure signs in some big airport
Reminds me of the places I’ve been
Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
Makes me want to go back again
If it suddenly ended tomorrow
I could somehow adjust to the fall
Good times and riches and son of a bitches
I’ve seen more than I can recall

Chorus:

These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
Through all of the islands and all of the highlands
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane


I think about Paris when I’m high on red wine
I wish I could jump on a plane
So many nights I just dream of the ocean
God I wish I was sailin again
Oh, yesterdays over my shoulder
So I can't look back for too long
There's just too much to see waiting in front of me
And I know that I just can't go wrong

Chorus:

With these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of my running and all of my cunning
If I couldn’t laugh I just would go insane
If we couldn’t laugh we just would go insane
If we weren’t all crazy we would go insane

12 March, 2012

Isn't She Pretty?

Allow me to introduce…Stella….

“Stella” is what I am fondly calling my new photo backpack - my Tamrac Expedition 6X photo backpack.




I know what you’re asking – why the hell do I need a photo back? Well, it seems that J thinks I’m getting off too easy when we travel and that I need to start sharing the “load”, so Stella is his way of passing over some of his 30 lbs of camera equipment to me (read: I’m being transformed into a pack-mule).

I must admit that I’m a little sad to be saying goodbye to Juan (photo not included). Juan is a little tired from all of our adventures, but he’s still got it going on…and man he’s ruggedly handsome and holds a lot of stuff and none of it is camera related (read: 4 bottles of rum). If it wasn’t for J needing to carry an excessive amount of photo gear, Juan would be the one venturing to the Philippines with me. *sigh*

Honestly, I don’t mind really since the backpack seems to be made to fit a female frame (read: shorter person). Unlike a lot of the photo backpacks out there – it’s smaller, lighter, has great padding in the shoulder straps and lumbar area. It also has a separate compartment for my laptop and lots of little pockets and compartments for my stuff (aka snacks, sleep mask, chapstick, more snacks, iPod, headset, souvenirs). Although, J has informed me that those compartments are actually intended for camera related stuff. We’ll just see about that…





 



09 March, 2012

The (Latest) Countdown is On...

In less than a week, we are off to the Philippines for two glorious weeks of scuba diving, snorkeling, eating, drinking, relaxing , more relaxing and maybe some shopping.

I’m looking forward to everything - except the journey to get there. The first leg of the trip will see us depart Toronto for a 15 hour flight to Hong Kong. Then it’s another 2 hour flight from Hong Kong to Manila and then another 2 hour flight from Manila to Cebu and then a 2 hour bus ride to the dive resort. Estimated time in transit to get there, including flights, wait time at the airports and bus time = 25+ hours.

A previous trip to Palau was 36+ hours of travel time, BUT we had an overnight stop over in Hawaii, which softened the blow a bit.

All of our travel companions are pretty easy going, but I’m sure someone will have a meltdown before that excursion is over. My money is on one of the smokers in the group. Should be interesting. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

The suitcases are 98% packed. Our 4 pieces of luggage are weighing in at approximately 160 lbs and the carry-ons (filled mostly with camera gear and snacks) are coming in around 15 lbs each.

This week was spent ordering and picking up Philippine Pesos, as apparently US currency is not widely accepted. Thank goodness the lady at the currency exchange provided me with an exchange reference sheet; otherwise what I perceived to be a large amount of 200 PHP is only equal to 63 cents. One of my main rules of traveling – don’t undervalue those that provide a service or else they might spit in your food. This is also my life lesson for today…

I have to keep telling myself, that getting there is half the fun, BUT right now, I’m not buying it…

07 March, 2012

Travel Vacations...

Let me first start by saying that I have no experience in this area, but am slowly gathering some knowledge through my research while trying to help The Boy “discover himself”. Truth is - I’m trying to get him out of my house and into the world…

Although, I joke about his wasted college days, I don’t see anything that helps you decide the things you DON’T want to do in life as a total waste. Yes, money has been spent on school that could have been better spent elsewhere. Enough said… I’m not dwelling on that. Moving forward…

So, The Boy is once again at a crossroads of what he wants to do with his life. He’s tried three separate college programs (broadcast television, business marketing and most recently, culinary management) and none seem to be fulfilling a need in his life. While he enjoys culinary, it’s not something he can see himself making a long term career out of. He’s a hard worker, but just doesn’t have the passion for it.

With all that being said, it’s been discussed (and strongly suggested by me) that perhaps before he jumps into another misguided college program, he needs to get out into the real world and experience something beyond his doorstep. This is where getting him out of my house comes along…

He wants to travel to Europe with a buddy in the Fall, but he has suddenly realized that he owes a lot of money on his student line of credit and while he has the money saved for Europe, he’d rather not spend it frivolously and this is causing him some anxiety because he doesn’t want to let his buddy down by backing out of the trip.

I’ve suggested on numerous occasions that perhaps he should consider a work-abroad exchange program and on numerous occasions, he has turned the idea down…until yesterday!

Suddenly it’s a path he’s decided to go down. He’s started to research the programs available to him, the countries participating in the programs, jobs available, visa requirements, etc. He’s still got to convince his buddy to go along with him, but I don’t foresee that as being a problem.

I couldn’t be happier. I think this may be just the opportunity he needs to find his niche in life. Don’t get me wrong – the idea of him traveling and working abroad freaks me out a little, but not as much as the prospect of him living forever in my basement does.

06 March, 2012

Be A Thoughtful Tourist...

Back to travel basics... 
When traveling always remember, that you are a merely guest in someone else’s village, city or country.  You are visiting their home.  Stop and ask yourself - how would you want visitors to behave in your home? 


Making responsible choices before and during your vacation can help protect communities and the environment around the world.

Know Before You Go


Do your homework before you go.  Know where you’re going, what to expect, acceptable practices and most importantly, the cultures you will be experiencing.  It doesn’t hurt to learn a few words of the local language – words like “please” and “thank-you” will go a long way in any culture.  The internet is a vast source of travel-related information – use it.  Ignorance is not an excuse.

Go Green
  • Remove all excess packaging before you leave home.  Understand that proper waste disposal can be difficult or non-existence in remote places and developing countries.
  • J and I, as photographers and scuba divers, take along extra batteries with us for use in our flashes, underwater flashlights, dive computers, etc.  Keep in mind that hazardous waste disposal may be non-existent in developing countries, so if do you take extra batteries with you, make sure you take the used-up extra batteries home with you for proper disposal. 
  • Water - Be mindful of your water consumption.  Fresh water resources are precious – especially in developing countries.
  • Travel with a refillable water bottle.  While you might not have access to potable water everywhere you go, be sure refill your water bottle where ever you can – airports, restaurants and hotels are a good starting point.  Every time you use of a refillable bottle, you have helped eliminate a plastic bottle from a landfill. 
  • Similarly, if you’re staying at an all-exclusive resort, take along a travel mug.  This will save you many, many trips to the beach bar and will also save hundreds of those tiny plastic cups from ending up in the landfill.
  • Shopping – be sure to take along one or more reusable shopping bags.  These will come in handy for carrying all your goods purchased at the local markets, as an impromptu beach bag and can also double as a “carry-on” for the return flight home – especially when your suitcase is overstuffed with all of those fantastic souvenirs.  Best of all, you are eliminating the use of a plastic bag.


Support Local Establishments, Experience the Place
  • Talk to the locals.  They are a great resource for those “can’t miss” sites, beaches, restaurants and shopping. 
  • Get off the beaten path.  Try something new.  Challenge yourself to visit a site or try a restaurant that you wouldn’t otherwise try at home.  You’ll be surprised at the memories you’ll make along the way. 
  • Shop where the locals shop.  Unless you’re looking for a souvenir t-shirt, find out where the locals buy their clothing or groceries.  By doing so, you will see new things, find a unique item and I can guarantee you will get a better deal than you will from the corner t-shirt cart and your souvenir will have a story to go along with it.
If you accept travel for what it is....experiences and memories, you will not be disappointed.    


02 March, 2012

TGIF...


Make each day of the week like Friday and your life will take on new enthusiasm.
- Byron Pulsifer