Tuesday, January 28, 2003
Starting to think about going around the world...
We've worked out that there are 4 important things before we can go travelling, and we're setting out to cover them all soon.
1 ) Charlotte's schooling - she's 7 (Year 2) and will be leaving at the end of this year for 12 months. She'll be away for the whole of Year 3, and so we want to make sure that we cover that years curriculum with her while we are away, so that she isn't disadvantaged when she comes back into school.
2) Work - I'll be giving up my job, and then job hunting when I return.
3) Flights - we need to get exactly the right kind of ticket for our Round the World jaunt. It's not going to be tricky, just needs finding!
4) House - we've got a lovely house in Deddington, which we'll need to rent out while we are away. That will make sure it's safe, and we'll also cover the mortgage (phew!). So we need to check out our choice of agents (our ideal is to come back to the house in the identical state it's in now, as we've just finished major interior design work).
Wednesday, January 29, 2003
Work - Yes Boss, I'm leaving!
Done! I've told my boss at work what our family plans are. Although my notice means that I don't need to say anything until the end of March, I've worked there so long that it feels right to tell them as soon as we're sure, so that some replacement planning can be done. There's a bit of surprise, and I'm sure there will be more when the rest of the department hear about it, but I'm sure it'll be mixed with some jealousy!
Thursday, January 30, 2003
Renting the House
Had the first of the two rental agents in today (Hayward & White, of Banbury) and they've suggested we may be able to get a good price monthly for the house. It will more than cover the mortgage and will help build up a buffer when we return. Next agent coming next week.
We'll probably choose the agent based on which one we think will find us the most suitable tenant (quiet! no terrible kids! no pets! no smoking!)
Tuesday, February 04, 2003
House rental Part II
Next agent came along (Finders Keepers of Banbury too) and they've suggested we may be able to get a reasonable amount of money for the house (if you're wondering, it's a four bedroom stone built house looking over a green in Deddington). It will definitely cover the mortgage and leave us with money left over and the end of the month, giving us even more of a buffer. As we've used this agency before (when we went backpacking for 2 years 10 years ago) we're likely to go with them, but will decide next week.
Tuesday, February 11, 2003
We've chosen our route to be:
London-Vancouver-Fiji-Sydney-Auckland-Singapore-Nairobi-London - all in 12 months, starting around 1st August this year.
When we called around flight agents (TravelBag, Trailfinders, Airline Network) today it appears that although it's possible, it's going to be pretty expensive because of two thinbgs - (1) we're doing a bit of a backtrack to NZ after Aus, and much more importantly (2) the Nairobi bit is a bit of problem. There are no direct flights to Nairobi from Asia - we'd have to fly to Joburg, and then fly up, and that racks up the mileage (most Round The World tickets are calculated on a mileage basis) which means we move from affordable (circa £1,200) we go into the £1,800-£1,900 band. So we thought some more, and investigated the prices of a flight from London to Nairobi - and that turns out to be £320-ish this May - if we assumed the same next year, it'll be cheaper for us to do a standard RTW ticket excluding Nairobi, and then when we get to London, turn right around and fly down to Kenya.
We also get another stop option in San Fransisco or LA, so we're going to add that on and have a look at Yosemite. That leaves an itinerary of:
This is it the easy way - on a map
August - Vancouver (Rockies, Seattle etc)
September - San Franisco (Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and then perhaps drive down to Las Vegas & Grand Canyon)
October - Fiji for a week
mid-Oct-mid-Feb - Australia (into Sydney, buy a Holden and drive around the East & Southern Coast)
mid-Feb to April - New Zealand (North Island and north of the South Island)
April - May - Singapore (overland up to Malaysia & Thailand, plus a few day trip over the straits to Indonesia to go and see the Orangutan from Medan
May - Nairobi (for some form of African safari - if the kids aren't travelling well then around Masai Mara - if they are then down to Tanzania fron Ngora Ngora Crater & perhaps Zanibar)
We'll decide this week and then book flights next Saturday!
Thursday, February 13, 2003
Sarah and I went to see the head at school today - to talk about taking Charlotte away from school for the year. Because we're effectively moving out of the UK for a year, then we don't have to fulfill any legal obligations about providing education (amazing what you can learn about the subject from internet, from sites like TigerChild and Education Otherwise). Our biggest concern is to make sure that for the year that Charlotte is away, she keeps pace with the Year 3 work (8 year olds) that everybody from her class will be doing - that way when she comes back to join Year 4 she'll be able to keep up. We're also interested in doing some stuff with the school to help keep her involved with her class while she's away. There are lots of possibilities - the curriculum is stuffed full of things in different subjects which require some form of comparison to other places (Geography about holiday destinations and climates; our village compared to other villages) as well as all of the multicultural studies that get linked in (how about Charlotte sending back a video report about rice growing while she's away - that will link directly into other work of the class, and provide a good link).
There was genuine interest in that idea, so over the next few months we're going to have to pin down some ideas, linked to when & where we'll be in different continents, and talk it through with next year's teacher.
We talked about literacy and numeracy - the major issue is to make sure that she learns the numeracy principles as we're going, so that she keeps up. Literacy is less of a worry - with her diary and the range of reading material that we're going to have available, coupled with no TV for a year - we think (and the school agrees) that things will develop well in that area without making it a hard slog. Numeracy will require some planning and preparation, and some formal "lesson time" put aside on a very regular basis. As we plan to take a laptop, and I work for a company producing a wide range of numeracy software designed for primary school children, then we'll have a head start.
All in all, a good meeting with the school, some positive ideas and offers of help - all systems are go!
Monday, February 17, 2003
Our RTW Route
Now that we know that our first country to visit will be Canada, it's time to start researching what we can do as a family in Canada for a month. Having brought the Rough Guide (interesting - last time we travelled RTW we used Lonely Planet almost everywhere, but this time when comparing the two, it seemed that the Rough Guide had the edge on information which would be useful for family travel, whereas the LP seemed aimed at singlies) we're surprised about the accommodation costs in some of the parts of Canada - which may mean that our budget gets stretched in our first few ports of call. Our aim is to fly to Vancouver, then head inland for the inevitable visit to Banff national park, then back to the coast, before heading south for a trip to Seattle. Then head back up to the islands off Victoria, before flying out to San Fransisco. How realistic? Well we won't know until we plan a bit more detail, and then until we get there!
Sunday, February 23, 2003
More about educating the children
Since we started looking for home education resources, we've come across loads of information. One of the really useful sites is the Government's own site which contains the Schemes of Work used in primary schools. Although they aren't compulsory for teachers to use, it has become more common for teachers to base their whole plan of work around these in primary schools - at the very least they are extremely widely used for literacy and numeracy.
Although it might be a bit to direct for a teacher to be told what to do when, it's really useful for us when we're thinking about what we have to cover for Charlotte. All of the subjects are covered on the DfES Standards Website . The most detailed plans are for literacy and numeracy, but there are also less detailed plans available for every subject.
Friday, February 28, 2003
The House goes on the web
Having chosen our rental agents, Finders Keepers, they've now posted our house up for rent on the Internet. (Got money and clean feet? Take a look at Finders Keepers). They were fast workers - they only took the photo's yesterday, and today they've put it online - must be using some blogger software!
Anyway, they came along while we were out this afternoon and put up a "To Let" board. Which should have been fine, but when we got back at 3pm we found that the house didn't have any electricity. After getting out the electricity company (whatever anybody tells you about Southern Electric's poor service, our experience was great - within 40 minutes they had a man and a van on site, trying to sort us out). Anyway, three men later at 5 o'clock ("Oh no, I'm a linesman, you need a joiner") they found out that the line had been interrupted 16M away from the house. And guess what was put up before 3 approximately 16M from the house - yes, you guessed it, the nice sign board. The electric cable can't have been that deep, and the Metpost must have gone straight through it. (So now there must be a guy walking around Finders Keepers with a hairstyle like Don King!). Overnight the electric company have hooked us up a line from the local street lamp (I though they only did things like that in the slums of India), and tomorrow there will be a hole in the road outside the house (Hmmm, that will make it attractive to rent!).
Hopefully by this time tomorrow, I won't have to pedal the exercise bike to get enough power to write this diary!
Friday, March 07, 2003
Today was the day when my boss told my department I'm leaving to go around the world. Although I won't be leaving work until the end of June, we are going through a departmental reorganisation and so it made sense to tell everybody now, so that somebody could be hired to replace me, and leave no gap in the department.
Everybody was really excited for me - over the day lots of people congratulated me on making such a big decision, and wanted to hear all about it. (Makes me worry if I've done the right thing - hadn't realised it was such a big decision as everybody is making it!). I'm sure over the next few weeks the message will get around the business, and I'm sure others will be wanting to know why I'd be so dumb to give up a good career for a backpack (but once it's in your blood, it's difficult to shake it). We're definitely born travellers - Charlotte our eldest at 7 years has already visited 17 countries, so she's going to have the same travel bug as we've got.
Sunday, March 09, 2003
Cameras, Cameras everywhere, but how to decide!
Well, it seems that for this trip, its the right time to go Digital with the camera. Last time we hit the backpacking road (10 years ago exactly) digital photgraphy didn't exist, and so we travelled with a brilliant Canon EOS 1000FN and a small Olympus mju-1. Both of them performed magnificently (and they are both still our everyday cameras). The Canon had a couple of lenses, that allowed us to go from wide angle landscape shots, to a 300mm zoom lens for the kind of shots that allowed us to catch people shots without the subjects becoming aware. It led to some great photograps (one day I'll scan some of the best and post them). This time, weight is going to be critical, because I'm going to be carrying the clothes & stuff for me and both girls), and we want to be able to keep everybody involved with our travels (family, friends and Charlotte's classmates) - web publishing /emailing photo's is going to be a big thing this trip. That means that digital will be best, but with digital cameras changing every five minutes, what do we do?
I was loaned a year old Epson 3.3 megapixel by a journalist (who had it for review and Epson didn't ever ask for it back), but wasn't overwhelmed - the 3.3 mega pixels meant that quality was okay, but not great for enlargements (and let's face it, in a year I'm likely to take a couple of shots worthy of enlargement). It was also heavier than the old Canon, and battery hungry. I don't really want a rucksack loaded with heavy camera, loads of heavy spare AA batteries, heavy battery charger etc etc).
And so, I started to read the magazines. The one I ended up drooling over is the Nikon 5700 - 8x zoom, 5.5 mega pixels, and seemingly well reviewed. And then I found out that a colleague had just bought one - so I'm now road testing that, and so far it meets my wishes - it is very light (about 400 grammes), has a reasonably long batter life, has a great zoom, and the battery charger weighs almost nothing (which seems odd, because most transformers weight a ton). So knowing that this hits almost my requirements, I've started to search for pricing. With a list price of £999(ish), seems that I could buy it on the web in the UK for about £820. But if I waited until Canada (first country to be visited) I could buy it for £700. And then I discovered, if I waited till the US (second country on the list) I could buy it for £600. (But then I'd have no digital photo's of Canada).
Haven't yet decided what to do! If I buy it in the UK I'll get to play, test and be sure it works well, but I'll pay £120 for the privilege!
(Huh, decisions, decisions - have to decide later!)
Started to research what we intend to do, and where we should go in Canada. We'll be flying into Vancouver early August (when the whole place will be heeeeeaaaaaaving with visitors). Although we've found lots of information about travelling around Canada, we've found little that gives hints or good ideas for Canada with children. Anyway, what we have found is....
Gulf Islands - off the coast from Vancouver, there's Victoria Island (big), and lots of other little islands which collectively make up the Gulf Islands. They're served by a network of ferries drifting back and forth, and from some travel writing we've read over time, it seems that they are a great place to relax and get away from urban hustle and bustle. One of the hostels that we like the look of is on Salt Spring Island, called (amazingly not) Salt Spring Island Hostel. In addition to the normal hostel accommodation, there's a couple of tree houses, plus a genuine Tipi (but sadly, not for children under 14).
Although it's closed for the winter, it will re-open shortly for bookings. I think we may well make this the first stop in Canada - perhaps stay for a few days after we arrive, so that there's time to relax and wind down, and the children can adjust to travelling, without too much hassle around them. I guess the last couple of weeks before we leave will be hectic, with all the last minute preparation and packing (how many times can you repack three rucksacks!) plus all the last chance visits with friends and family to get in.
Other hostel sites that look interesting include:
- the SameSun Hostels, who promote the idea of family accommodation (pretty important to not end up in too many hostels full of gap year, late night drinkers - something that we'll use our judgement on, but always useful to have pointers about!)
- Central Station Hostel in Vancouver, which has got rooms that would be ideal for us - C$35 a night for the whole family, and right in the centre of the city. (There's also a link here to lots of other links!)
- this Shaughnessy Village accommodation seemed really curious. Seemingly good value rooms, but reading it makes me think it's attached to a hospital or something similar - now why would I want to stay in a lifeless hostel that smells of disinfectant? Anybody know anything better?
This Vancouver and Whistler website was really useful, with lots of links and handy hints. Run by an individual who is an experienced traveller, it contains the kind of info that will help us make the most of our time (and it's always great to find an unofficial website where you can get a feel for who's opinions are expressed!). Sadly, no specific family section, but hey, travelling the way we will be is a puts us a bit outside the mainstream!
Saturday, March 22, 2003
Wonder why we'd be mad enough to give up a (promising) career, nice house and fast car for a backpack and a peripatetic lifestyle? Well, one of the principle reasons has to be related to my diet - and it's remarkably unsuccessful influence on my waistline. Compare:
Travelling last time (the WeightWatchers way, or 5 months in India.) And now - in need of a bad diet
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Technology on the road
Today's dilemma - if we're going to be taking technology on the road with us, what kind?
With our aim to ensure that Charlotte continues her education, and stays in touch with family, friends and school while we're away, our aim is to take a laptop computer, along with a digital camera and a digital camcorder. Then we can make short films to mail home (or host on the web somewhere), and be able to keep everybody instantly up-to-date with our latest adventures (and see them as well as read about them).
The key question is: What will it weigh? What with my clothes, plus those of the girls, plus 3 sleeping bags, I'm likely to have a rucksack resembling a small mountain, so everything has got to be very, very light. This means that the technology has got to be light too. A conventional laptop weighs in at around 3 - 3.5 kilo's, which is quite a lot to carry with everything else. A Tablet PC weighs 1.8 kilo's, which is much better, but we're likely to need a keyboard for some things, so you add that into the weight, then add a disk drive etc etc. Fortunately, there's a whole new range of laptops appearing weighing in at under 2 kilo's, and including wireless support (which means that in some parts of the workd I can sit on the pavement outside of StarBucks/ANOther coffee shop, and use their internet connection for free/cheap. That'll be really useful when we want to email home pictures (we don't want our only digital copies of the pictures to be inside our rucksack - imagine if the laptop is stolen and you lose all of your trip photo's). The even better news is that there's a new Centrino chip from Intel that might mean the laptops become even smaller, lighter and run on batteries longer. Hopefully they'll arrive before June, when we've got a last chance to pick the technology.
We're also keen to make sure that we can link into schools projects while we're away, so that Charlotte can still feel part of the class, so email will come in really useful (I can forecast hours sitting in the Canadian/Californian/Australian equivalent of EasyInternetCafe to keep diaries updated!)
Interestingly, because I work with journalists in my job, there's some interest in following this story, from a technology and out-of-school education angle. I've been offered an irregular column in at least one of the educational journals, so perhaps things might suddenly be interesting...
Monday, April 07, 2003
The shopping begins
This weekend was the first S-Day - Shopping - having looked around London last weekend, and browsed through Ellis Brigham, Snow+Rock, Field & Trek, Blacks, and a few other smaller stores, we had a good idea of the kind of gear we wanted to get first. The key item is of course the rucksack. These are all measured in "Litres" - which is a measure of how much gear you'll get into them. Last time we went travelling (10 years ago, 2 years round the world, and just the 2 of us) we had one pack each - Sarah's was 35L (basically what categorises as a day pack now) and mine was 55L (basically a small rucksack for week long trips). We'd managed to do this through our drive to carry as little as possible, and make do with what we have (something we still do today when we go on holiday - four people, two weeks holiday - one suitcase!). Anyway I digress. We did our research and decided that Sarah will use my 55L pack from last time (needs a good wash!) and I'd get a new 75L pack. Lots of questions, trying etc led us to the Osprey Packs rucksacks. We also looked at sleeping bags.
Another Digression: Last time we sold our sleeping bags in Delhi before coming home, to two Israeli's who were heading to Tibet. It was 41C in Delhi, and they were heading up below zero. We knew our bags weren't great at that temperature, but they'd do - the Israeli's were just fixated on getting the cheapest bags possible. They tested the bags by getting in to them, and they thought they we warm enough (should have been - the room was 36C!) and so we parted with two sleeping bags and we got $60. (I bet they were cold in Tibet though!)
For sleeping bags we wanted them to be lightweight, pack up small (because there's going to be four of them split between two rucksacks), and be warm enough for summer use (basically, when it's cold we're going to be staying in hostels, so they won't have to cope with mega-cold temperatures). We ended up going for Mountain Equipment Firewalker Ultralites, because they packed down smaller than anything we'd seen (26x18cm)
We also considered all of the different shops and decided that we would buy from Ellis Brigham. We were also going to get a pack for Charlotte, so wanted her to come along with us this weekend. We ended up at the Ellis Brigham shop in Milton Keynes, which is in the Xscape building. We'd never been there before - it was a wow for the outdoor stuff - some great clothes shops for outdoor gear, a climbing wall that Charlotte's keen to try, and a of course the SnowDome.
In the shop one of the sales assistants did the usual "Can I help you", and off we went - a rucksack for Charlotte, a rucksack for me, a daypack for me (which clips onto the rucksack), Sigg water bottles for the kids and us, 4 sleeping bags, some PacSafe security stuff (to keep the rucksack safe, plus the laptop), Motorola two-way radios (for keeping tabs on the kids when we're out and about, or they're playing around a campsite), LED torches (much, much better than the Maglites we used to use - they seemed to eat batteries too quickly, which meant they were always flat when you wanted them), travel towels (smaller, lighter & quicker drying), etc etc etc. The sales assistant was brilliant - it turned out to be Simon, one of the managers, and he kept up a steady flow of really good advice, gave us loads of options and useful advice from his own experience. We looked at clothes (but didn't buy any), and I also looked at the shoe/boot options (we're all going to have a single pair of shoes + a single pair of flip-flops) because I want something I can comfortably wear all year, and that won't give up on me, and don't look totally like I've just hiked in from the mountains. (No joy - something for the future). In the end we spent 2 1/2 hours there, got some great advice, spent £500 and went away very happy. Top marks to Simon!
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Making people jealous
Over the last few weeks, since it was announced at work that I'm leaving to go on our little family trip, I've noticed that I've been getting lots of jealous remarks. Along the lines of "I wish I could do what you're doing". Of course, the obvious answer is "You can". Because, lets face it, if I can give up a nice house, a lovely car, a steady salary, a good career and all of the other stuff, then I guess many of the others that say "I wish I could do what you're doing" could too. Especially as most of them don't have kids, and therefore don't gave to be anywhere near as responsible as us (as grown ups). And I bet some of them are reading this blog, thinking "I wish I could do that".
So, come on, what's stopping you? Can't just give up a job? What about the war/SARS/safety/money etc etc etc. If you want to do it you can.
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Finally done it - booked the tickets. We are now the proud owners of tickets to fly around the world (GULP!). Having handed in my notice, put our house up for rent and arranged to take Charlotte from school for a year, it made me nervous that we didn't actually have a flight out of the country organised. But now we do..
Heathrow - Vancouver - 16th July 2003!
Vancouver - LA - 13th August
LA - Fiji - 18th September
Fiji - Sydney - 1st October
Sydney - Christchurch - 14th February 2004!
Auckland - Singapore - 14th March
Singapore - Heathrow - mid-May 2004
And the cost? A whopping £4,500, but still you only live once, and you can't take it with you(I should explain that's an England expression about taking your money beyond the grave, not about how much you can or can't get in a rucksack)
So now I can stop worrying about that, and start worrying about the outbreak of SARS in Vancouver, how unfriendly customs can be to get into LA, whether Fiji will really be as nice as people say, what a car might cost in Australia, how to fill a month in New Zealand, and can the kids really hack it in SE Asia without us all going mad.
Saturday, April 19, 2003
Vancouver with Kids
We've been reading the guidebooks, and using the web for our research, and are starting to build up a good picture of what's where, and what we want to do. Today I came across a brilliant web site, called FindFamilyFun, which is absolutely brilliant. It's full of fun things to do with the children in Vancouver, and around the city. Everything from free things to do, to days out at theme parks etc.
Thursday, May 01, 2003
MP3 Players (road-kit)
We also want some music for the road, in the form of a personal player. Again, I started by reading the reviews, searching the web etc etc. And pretty quickly came to the conclusion that want we want is something small and light, and that had reasonable music quality (let's face it, when you're sitting in Bangkok on a bus, high fidelity would be a total waste). And the winner was... the Freecom Beatman. It's amazingly small, only takes a single AA battery, and will be really easy to lose (it's so small, that you start to think that ear-bud earphones seem quite large!)
Having sooo nearly decided on the Nikon 5700, with it's amazing zoom and resolution, I started thinking and reviewing what I'm looking for a digital camera to do. What we want is something to take our photo's on this trip, that are good enough to be enlarged a bit, and that are likely to be lots of pictures of us in far away places. Last time, we took a Canon SLR with 28-300 zoom lens, and we took lots of interesting shots of people from across the street etc. The zoom lens was really helpful to get the shot we wanted, without having to disturb the scene.
But this time, it's likely to revolve around lots of photo's of the family, and when we thought about that, I realised that "small is good" - we need a camera that can just slip into a pocket whenever we go out, and which is always available...and the Nikon doesn't really do that too well. Although it's a lot smaller than a standard SLR, it's a lot bigger than all of my pockets! So I looked some more, sought some more advice, read a few reviews, and then ordered a Canon Ixus 400. It's got 4MP resolution, 3x zoom, and it's very small. So it'll take the pictures we want, and there's much more chance of it being in my pocket when I want to get a shot of something fun.
All that time, all that testing, all that going round the houses, and then doing it all again to change my choice!
Thursday, May 15, 2003
A year without Television - or so we thought
Saltspring Island - our first accommodation booking
Well, we've started to book some accommodation. Although we'd been excited by the SaltSpring Island Hostel, unfortunately the tipi and tree house reservations were grabbed right at the opening of the booking season, and we were too late to book!
However, instead we've found a lovely camping site Lakeside Gardens on a lake, where we can reach a lakefront (literally three feet out of the front door) cabana, big enough for all of us. It costs us $70 Canadian - which is about £30, which is expensive compared to what we may pay elsewhere, but it's worth it to start with a few relaxing days before we dive into the hurly burly of our Canada adventure. It's a 2 hour ferry from Tsawwassen (gulp, I've got no idea how to pronounce that!), which is a 1 hour bus from downtown Vancouver, so it'll be an adventure getting there.
But it looks lovely...
Cameras - again
Well, as you'll have read, we decided to go for the Ixus 400. By looking around on the Internet I saved around £100 on the high street price, and order from Digital Camera Company - but then discovered I wouldn't get delivery until the end of May - and then not even guaranteed. Although they didn't tell me this, I saw that 2 days after I ordered their web site was quoting looong lead times for delivery. And when I called I got a complicated story about a worldwide shortage of 3&4MP chips, and how nobody had them.
So then I looked around again, and discovered that Amazon were selling them at a lower price, had a quicker delivery time, and threw in a free 64MB Compact Flash. And so, I cancelled my order and re-ordered with Amazon. That was yesterday, so now I'll wait to see what turns up - but I'm a lot more hopeful because Amazon have not let me down before.
Things to do...things to know...things to wear
This week has been *bliss* We have been away for a few days, to firstly see some of our friends Up North, and then to drop the children with my brother's family in Chester. Then we went to Birmingham for a few days, to stay in a hotel and just act like adults. It's also been the chance for Sarah to do her "big shop" - for the right clothes to wear at the right times, and all to be crush-proof, non-iron, and backpacking practical - three things that don't normally appear in Sarah's vocabulary.
And it was a success - Sarah has now got some good backpacking trousers (how did I manage to convince her that North Face was good for her to wear?), plus some tops (aha, although some came from 'sensible' brands, we did both end up getting some other stuff in Fat Face, which was incredibly comfortable to wear. Sarah has also got some practical shoes (again, something which is a miracle!). Anyway, we've now got all the clothes we're going to need, and have nearly got the girls kitted out (now that the postman has puffed up the drive with a HUGE Boden box.
We'd certainly recommend Birmingham for shopping - we'd not been there before, and it benefited from sunshine. We hit the shops, strolled the canals, and stopped every 10 minutes for a drink & snack.
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Every day things get more real - we've just passed the "two months to go" mark, and are starting to think about really boring practical things - like how much can you fit in a rucksack, where to get travel insurance (we tried lots of different places, but the cheapest by miles was Insure and Go who offered a really good deal with the insurance for the girls included for free - so 12 months worldwide insurance, with luggage cover, has cost us just under £500. Lots and lots of other insurance didn't believe that backpackers could be over 35, or charged quite a bit for the girls, or offered pretty poor cover.
We've also just picked up our Australian visa's - because we are going to stay there for longer than 3 months we couldn't get the ETA (a kind of electronic visa) sorted, so had to get them the old-fashioned way (it involved a queue at Australia House before opening hours, to be at the front of the queue) - it brings back memories of our last round the world trip, when we queued up for visa's to Jordan (small embassy in Holland Park, for a very expensive pretty stamp), India (long, long queue, with quite a bit of chaos and lots of administration - very similar to India itself) and Australia (same process, same brightly coloured sticker in the passport).
Facing the man at the window, behind thick 'bank counter' glass made me a bit nervous. It was a bit like walking through customs - although you know you've done nothing wrong, the walk makes you feel as if you have. Well, the visa window was the same - although I knew there would be no problem, I still felt nervous knowing that the assistant could NOT issue a visa - and bang would go the roaming-campervan experience! But of course, nothing of the sort happened, we got lovely visas issued quickly, and we're one step closer to travel.
Friday, May 30, 2003
The Holiday programme have confirmed that they do want to cover some of our trip, and plan to join us for a week in Canada, just two weeks into our trip. As you can imagine, Sarah's panicking already - "what will I wear?" (aha, suddenly those practical North Face things seem slightly less attractive to her!), "but I won't have got a tan by then" and "you won't have lost weight by then" are three thoughts that surfaced immediately. I wonder what the last six weeks in England will be like? I suspect I'll be on a diet, in the sun, and going round the shops with Sarah again to find practical and beautiful backpacking clothes.
We'll tell you more when we know ourselves...
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
One month to go...
Suddenly time is creeping up rapidly - in a month's time we'll be waking up in Vancouver, on day one of our year-long trip. And suddenly it doesn't seem to be such a distant pipe dream, and it's all too close. Things are well in hand - we've pretty much got everything we need to go in our rucksacks, including all of our clothes, and all of the technology has finally come together - so we should be able to stand around street corners and other places in the cities, sending and receiving our emails.
That's really quite exciting compared to last time we travelled, where the gap between sending a letter and receiving a reply was typically 4 weeks. The Internet has changed everything. It also means that we're more prepared to go than we would have been.
In the next few days we'll finalise every aspect of our Canada trip, and then move onto some practical steps - seeing whether everything fits in the rucksacks will be interesting. We've also started to pack up our house, ready for the tenants to move into it (although, at the moment the agents haven't found any tenants, so that's a bit of a worry - but these things aren't worth worrying about, because we can't do anything about it now).
Saturday, June 28, 2003
Well, we now know how much can fit in a rucksack (or three). On Saturday we laid everything out on a sheet (to take this picture...)
And then we packed it all into the rucksacks. Amazingly we had more space in our pack than we had thought, and we could actually all lift our packs!
Tuesday, July 01, 2003
Media Media everywhere
On Sunday we received an email from a programme editor working for Channel 4 - they are preparing a series about people taking adventurous trips and wondered whether we'd be interested in doing a video diary, and then being joined by a crew for a few days. However, we don't really want to turn the trip into something where we have to work all the time, but want to first prioritise the travelling and the experience for the girls.
So we said "No" - but maybe we'll wonder whether that's the right thing or not in the future...
No more work...
I finished work today, so that's it - no more working for a year. Or at least, no more sitting at a desk in an office. However, I do have my first deadline for my TES column to meet - it's got to be submitted by 11th August. That shouldn't be a pressing deadline, compared to normal deadlines, but it gives us a short time to get used to travelling before I have to submit our first experiences and impressions.
Everybody at work said very nice things, and all said that they expected to see me back next year...but what happens if we really love somewhere along the way and decide to stay? Only time will tell
Monday, July 07, 2003
Next week, next week
Suddenly everything seems sooo close. On Saturday we received confirmation
that we've successfully rented our house out for the year - suddenly we
don't have a choice of coming back early, as it's in the hands of a tenant
for 12 whole months! And we also sold Sarah's car to our window cleaner -
and he took it away straight away. Oh no - the harsh reality of doing this
hits home - suddenly down to one car (which isn't ours and goes back on
Tuesday morning), having to pack all of our belongings so that the tenants
can move in straight after we leave. It's all a bit nerve wracking.
But hopefully next Wednesday, when we go, it will suddenly all calm down and
we can concentrate on enjoying travel for a while...
Saturday, July 12, 2003
Bags packed, house sorted...all pigs ready to fly
With such a short time left, and so much to fill our time between now and then, we're trying to squeeze in a lot. On Saturday we've got the local BBC TV station coming to film an interview with us, to be shown on BBC South Today on Monday - how depressing will that be - me seeing myself on TV, which will make me look fatter - and for other people, who've just had a 'Monday morning', realising that some people have escaped the rat race (temporarily).
We also had a reporter round from BBC Radio Oxford on Wednesday, and apparently they've edited that into a report that's going to be broadcast on Monday morning at 7:50. Time to set up the tape recorder. Charlotte is beginning to enjoy her role as 'roving reporter', even though she hasn't done any roving yet!
5 days to go
Gulp - there are now only 5 days to go before we finally leave the country for a year. This last week has been hectic - packing all of our possessions away into boxes, ready to move to the storage unit next Tuesday, and making all of our last minute arrangements. I think I'm going to run out of time to keep this up-to-date!