Planning your next vacation.

Is  DIY vacation planning for you?

For me, planning a vacation is almost as much fun as the actual travelling part. Perhaps even more enjoyable. It’s the time when I can have my fantasy vacation. Where money and time are limitless. When I can use the “Beam me up Scotty” machine to get instantly and effortlessly from one place to another. Where there is an easy route anywhere and no barriers or problems. Then, (noise or a vinyl record being scratched to a halt) I need to think about what is really possible.

When I am working on my “next big adventure” I pile all the ideas in and work through the scenarios of where to go and what I can afford to do both in terms of time and money.  My goal is to distill it down to the actual itinerary and a detailed plan. (as an Excel document of course! See my post New York: Here I come!)

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An except from one of my planning spreadsheets. I have attached a template

Just on the quiet, I have heard,  there are some folk that don’t actually like this planning stage! That’s hard for me to comprehend 🙂 This post is for those of you who like DIY travel.

If the idea is too daunting for you, use a travel agent or book through a small tour group operator.

Work out the why before you decide on the where.

In my mind, the first thing you need to work out is not WHERE you want to go but rather WHY. Once you have the why, the where seems to fit more easily into place.

If you just want to sit around and relax and unwind, you could do that almost anywhere.  You could even stay in your own town and be next to a pool, ordering a cocktail within a few hours! Thus saving money and greenhouse gases. If, on the other hand,  your goal is to learn about a new culture, or set a physical challenge to climb every peak over 5000 metres, then you will need to put in a bit more work.

A blue swimming pool on a cruise ship
Go cruising if you want an “all-inclusive-do-nothing-sort” of holiday

There are a lot of decisions to make. I have attached a document that gives you some ideas of the type of travel that might suit you (Page 3)  and the questions (page 2) you should ask before you start planning in earnest. See here:  Planning your trip. I have also included a “thinking points” checklist you might like to work through. (Page 4)

I have spoken about my travel values in a previous post.  My type of holiday is:

  1. Active
  2. Immersive
  3. Deep rather than broad
  4. Offers plenty of opportunity for photography.

I use these values as a starting point for all my plans. For instance, my next big adventure is to Scotland in July 2019. I have already booked a walking tour and will build the rest of the trip around that. Incidentally, giving me a few goals to tick on my 60 for 60 plan.

I have attached an example of my itinerary/planning document which you can use as a template.  I print this out and keep it in my Dropbox as well as in Tripit, so I have all my details in an easily accessible format both  on-line and off-line.

Example planning document

I DO NOT have any affiliate links with the companies listed. There are plenty of other places you could look for information as well. You can even do some fun quizzes to work out your travel style.

Always keep in mind, your vacation should fill some sort of positive purpose. It doesn’t have to be “fun” but it does need to be fulfilling on some level, even if it’s just winding down.


Australian Translation: In Australia, we generally call vacations, holidays. It is not limited to those official gazetted days like Christmas/ Easter etc.  For instance, you might say: “Where are you going these holidays” and  “I am going to Bali for my holiday”

PS Don’t forget to check out my shop!

As a special treat I will give away one of my calendars to my follower Number 430 absolutely free!

 

Snapshot of Sydney: Little Surprises in Lavender Bay

Harbour Bridge – tick!

Opera House  – tick

Ferry to Manly – tick!

Taronga Zoo – tick!

Luna Park – tick!

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Have you got the feeling of “been there-done that” with your visit to Sydney? Trying to save a bit of cash? Here’s a fun, free activity for families. Walking along the Lavender Bay foreshore and discovering some cute little sculptures in Art Barton Park.

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Art Barton is the artist responsible for the original decorative murals at Luna Park, Sydney’s harbourside amusement park. While some of the originals remain in Coney Island most have been replaced with more modern and durable works.

To get to Art Beaton Park, walk through (or beside) Luna Park following their signs to the picnic area and keep going, BUT not too fast, you will miss the little statues of characters from children’s books. The views of the harbour and its landmarks are hard to beat but it’s well worth directing your attention to the concrete plinths and their passengers.

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The Magic Pudding

Blinky Bill, the Gumnut Babies and the Magic Pudding invoke lots of childhood memories for old chooks like me. I remember being tucked up in bed and listening to my Mum read the stories of Dorothy Wall and Norman Lindsay out loud using character voices.

I could hear those voices in my head as I walked along the path in search of treasures. I know I missed some and I did not recognise them all. They were characters that were not part of my family’s anthology.

Allow about 30 minutes for the walk. If you have a bit longer you can follow the path and then the signs to all the way around to Blues Point for some stunning head-on uninterrupted views of the Bridge. The walk from Luna Park to Blues Point return is around 4 km.

If you work up an appetite, walk over to Kirribilli and enjoy a bite at one of its cafes. I can recommend the Fitzroy Café on Ennis Street. Very friendly staff and an interesting menu. I enjoyed some homemade granola with yogurt for breakfast. Grab a gelato and walk down to the park above the Jeffery Street Wharf and watch the big cruise ships come in and out. Not a bad way to end the day!

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A film crew were making an ad at the wharf

How to get to Luna Park: The closest railway station is Milson’s Point. The route to Luna Park is well sign posted. Alternatively, catch the ferry to the Milson’s Point Wharf from Circular Quay.  For those who like to be more active it’s an easy walk across the Bridge.

Mothers’ Day

Bah humbug! Today is Mothers’ Day in Australia. The second Sunday in May. I don’t “do” Mothers’ Day. I have told my only daughter not to worry about gifts, or breakfast in bed and all that jazz, because in my honest opinion it is just a marketing beat up. A bit like the diamond lies in this story[1] that is doing the rounds of Facebook.

Mothers’ Day more than any other day epitomises to me the overreach of marketing and consumerism. Hang on, hang on! On second thoughts there is also Easter (buy more chocolate), Christmas (buy gifts nobody really wants or needs because they might get you something), Fathers’ Day, Halloween, Back to School, Valentine’s Day…. the list goes on.

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I don’t think there is a time in the calendar when we are not bombarded with messages to BUY things for the one(s) we love. But more and more scientific and psychological research shows that STUFF is not how we get happy. We get happy by DOING things for and with people.

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Part of an exhibition at the New York Public Library

I have written before about my quest to spend my disposable income on experiences rather than stuff. See my blog post entitled A consuming interest. https://wordpress.com/post/oldchookenterprises.com/1845

 

However, if we stop buying things our economy will come to grinding halt and we will all be in dire straits. What to do? It’s an issue I don’t know how to answer but I am trying to do my bit by not buying stuff. My year long challenge to not buy anything new comes to a close at the end of June. I have not succeeded, as I have bought some new things but for the most part  I have stuck to my rules of nothing new unless it was a replacement for a broken or worn out thing and essentials.

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I ‘spent’ my Mothers’ Day pottering around, not doing much. My Grandson and I inspected the beetles that live in a nearby tree. I rang my own Mother and chatted with her. I wrote a couple of future blog posts and I answered some emails all before cooking a big pot of tasty soup. All in all, a very nice day.

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I am glad to say no flowers were killed in preparing this post!

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oh dear! Spelling and apostrophe fail!

[1] https://www.facebook.com/todayeyewatched/videos/199952127459890/UzpfSTE2NTgwMTU1Mzc6MTAyMDk2ODYyODI4NjgwMTE/

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PS: I certainly I don’t want to devalue the effort of others in celebrating or valuing their mothers. I think we could celebrate it without all the marketing hype and make it more genuine.

 

PPS (Added after publication) one of my friends told me about this article where the founder of Mothers’ Day try to stop the commercialisation pf the day.  https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Family/mother-started-mothers-day/story?id=47333654

 

A very public proposal

There I was minding my own business sitting on the basalt steps at the Pebble Beach between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges waiting for sunset and along comes a man and woman carrying a double sized white rocking chair. They plonked it down and started rocking in the last rays of sun before it dipped behind the skyscrapers.

The sign on the fence said “No pets or furniture can be brought into the park.” When I first saw that sign I thought “goodness who would bring furniture” but obviously it’s a thing.

Next along comes the Photography Tour Group. They set up their forest of tripods in front of the rocking chair. The rocking chair people moved their chair to one of the lower steps, but to the side of the camera group. At first I thought they were together but no, just there at the same time.

As I watched the wedding parties and engagement photo shoots all looking for a divine sunset to silhouette the bridge and provide a perfect back drop, I forgot the chair people.

My attention came back to the them when I saw the original couple slink off away and leave the chair empty. It was soon taken up by another man and woman who sat there chatting, when all of a sudden, he got down on one knee with a ring. The camera club turned in unison and quickly adjusted their focal lengths. At first, the girl looked a bit confused. She seemed oblivious to the hoard of people watching them. Then tears, hugs and kisses. Many, many kisses. She had obviously said yes. The crowd all around burst into spontaneous applause and cheers.

The couple suddenly became aware that they were the centre of attention. More tears, more hugs.

The original chair carriers appeared out of the crowd. There was backslapping and thank you’s from the groom-to-be and “Did you now about this??” from the bride.

It was obvious then that the man had planned this very carefully with his friends. Perhaps he hadn’t expected the camera club to be there but in the end they had better photos than the friend who had tried to take shots from a distance, so emails where exchanged. These photos are a re-enactment. They decided they needed some more photos of their own so turned the chair around and did it again. A bit of over-acting, but still very touching.

The tear-jerking moment for me though was when the girl called her Mum to let her know. You could see (and hear) her waiting for mum to pick up and the call going through to a message bank. She looked so disappointed. Then seconds later mum calls back. More tears!

Floods of happy tears.

There was no spectacular sunset that day. It ended up very overcast and cold, but I felt a little warmer for watching this bit of love. I wish this happy couple lots of luck and hope that the groom stays as thoughtful for the rest of their marriage.

You light up my live: Take 2 – Lighthouses of Maine

A few months ago I wrote about the lighthouses in my home town and my desire to photograph all the lighthouses in Australia. I have not added to my Australian tally, but this week I have been busy looking at the lighthouses of Maine, USA. Here are a few photos of these undeniably grand photographic subjects.

When I have posted my photos of lighthouses on instagram in the past, I always get more likes than usual. I don’t think it’s because these photos are any better than my other ones. I think the solitary and remote nature of lighthouses appeals to something deep within us. That struggle against nature. The idea of the weather and the sea bearing down and making life dangerous and unpredictable. I think we harbour a not-so-secret jealousy for the lonely lighthouse keepers who live in places where the trees are growing prone in response to the relentless wind. (Even through there probably aren’t any lonely lighthouse keepers these days)

So anyway here are a few of the lighthouses of Maine, USA. ( I will caption them when I get home!)

The changing soundtrack of my life

My ex was a musician. Not professional and certainly not full time, he was in a few pub bands doing OzRock covers. He played drums and guitar, wrote songs and we would sit around and sing. I enjoyed being the musician’s wife and lugging drums and the vicarious fame. When a little chickkybabe in the crowd once asked me if I knew the drummer’s phone number I laughed and said “Yeah sure, it’s the same as mine!”

My one and only public singing performance at a school concert
Teachers band at the the school concert. The one and only time I have sung in public. Image by David Croft

 

The music was a happy place. We had a vast record/CD collection. Our house was never silent with some form of music either being played or performed.

We went to lots of concerts, Elton John (twice), Bruce Springsteen (x3), Cold Chisel (at least 3 times if not more), Steely Dan, Dire Straits (x2) Mark Knoffler, Bowie (x2). The Eagles (x2) to name a few. We went to see Bob Dylan when my daughter was just 6 weeks old. We had a few hours on a “pass out” and had to co-ordinate everything between feeds including an hour drive there and back. I slept right through it! Bliss for a new mum!

Snowy Mountains Country Music Festival

The only day I jigged school was in Year 11 when we went to Rockarena, one of the first of the all day music festivals at the Sydney Showground back in November, 1977. I still remember the sun setting as Santana played Black Magic Woman – it was magic. They, along with Japan, Kevin Borich Express, and the Little River Band were back up for headliners, Fleetwood Mac.

One of the first items we purchased for our home after we got married in 1984 was a CD player with a remote! Imagine that! It was around $900 and the most expensive thing we owned. We progressed to a surround sound Bose system with the subwoofer under the lounge and the little speakers mounted on the ceiling 25 years later.

Illawarra Folk Festival
From the Illawarra Folk Festival

When we split, he took the physical artefacts of the music. I had already copied what I thought I wanted to my iTunes account. I had the music, the problem was it wasn’t my music. It was his. Every time I played something it would bring back memories of him. I needed to find my own playlist. My own music that didn’t come with memories.

Ruby Boots - Illawarra Folk Festival
Ruby Boots

In the raw days of the wine and wedges phase (see my previous post) I had a list I called “single girl anthems” which consisted tunes like Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough”; Dixie Chicks – “Not Ready to Make Nice” and a favourite “If I could turn back time” by Cher. You know, the one where she wore the gown-less evening strap on the battleship.

I would crank it up on my little iphone dock and belt out the songs in my finest style. It was a combination of angry, strident songs of independence and weepy wailers. By the end of the 2 hours and 32 minutes (if I made it till the end) I would be either crying or punching the air depending on how it got shuffled.

But still it was mostly stuff we had had in the “ours” collection.

After giving it some thought and analyzing my favourite tunes, I came to the shocking conclusion that I liked country rock. Shocking because this was a genre essentially ignored and at times even vilified by my ex.

I borrowed CDs when I could and added Johnny Cash and downloaded the likes of Morgan Evans to the collection. OMG I even bookmarked all of Keith Urban’s anthology on Spotify. Now I sing and dance along to Kasey Chambers or Catherine Brit while I am cooking and on road trips Busby Marou and John Mayer keep me company. I have since moved on and I have expanded into other genres enjoying some new talent like Fanny Lumsden, The Audreys and Aoife O’Donovan.

Now that I am more settled and confident and “have my shit together” I have been able to return to my old favourites without the tears and regrets. The memories are still there but I have come to terms with them and they have a different edge. No longer so sharp or harsh, they are like glass that’s been washed up on the beach. The edges have been polished and worn by time and I can hold them in my hand without them hurting.

While my guitar gently weeps....

A small life.

For those of you who have been reading my previous posts you would already know that I live in Australia and that I am divorced. You know my only daughter lives in Israel and that my only grandson lives there too. (Of course!) For the last 3 1/2 weeks I have been in Israel doing heavy duty Grandma time.

Having only parented once myself it’s easy to forget how small the life of a two year old is. My usual travelling day involves walking at least 25km and taking 750 photos. I stop and eat when I want and generally just live the life of a travelling photographer.

Not on the Grandma trips! My day consists of getting up early. Early enough to be the first up and then a 5km run, back in time for the waking family. We make porridge. We watch some youTube cartoons. We take 45 minutes to walk to the corner shop and stop and look at every single stick along the way. From the 4th floor window we watch with great interest and a running commentary, the truck empty the big garbage bins. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we go “riding in the car” to take mum to Uni. We spend the whole day exploring Bar Ilan University and have worked out where all the easily accessible powerpoints are, where the best wifi is and which of the cafes sells the best coffee at the best price.

We play in fountains and chase the birds. We just do what Ahu wants to do. It’s in sharp contrast to what fills my day back home. Where my time is scheduled down to the half-hour. The life where I run two calendars. The work one and the “me” one. Where I have to be sensible and in charge, the 2IC of a workplace with nearly 1000 inhabitants. Where I spend time writing and processing the photos I have taken. Here in Israel I am just “gram-ma” and my job is much simpler. We literally stop to sniff the roses.

I remember as a 30 year old mother, I would also schedule my day to the nth degree. I would wait for nap times to get the million things I “needed” to do, done. I was desperate to get back the “real” world of work and thought my life was not complete without a paid job. I was not keeping up my end of the “sisterhood” bargain being a stay at home mum. I returned to work when my daughter was 18 months old. My (then) husband stepped up and became a stay at home dad. This was a groundbreaking move at the time. It allowed him to study and complete a Bachelor’s degree, then Honours and finally a PhD. We were trailblazers and our friends and family thought we were crazy.

I look back now and regret my impatience. I missed a lot. Now even though there IS still a million things I could be doing – Grandmas don’t, at least not when they’ve clocked on for Grandma. Duty. I marvel at how Ahu learns new words everyday. He is eager to chatter and share his ideas. He explores his world with precise and deliberate actions.

In the 25 years that have passed since my baby was a baby, the women’s movement has moved on – a little. Now the sisterhood lets you have a bit more flexibility. You don’t have to be a super-mum if you choose not to be. You can stay at home, work part time if you want. (If you can) Stay at home dads are more common and parental leave can support that. We still have a long way to go. On top of that, the reality is that our consumerist lifestyle means that both parents have to work to be able to pay the bills and children, although loved and desired, need to fit into the hectic schedule of the grown ups.

If I had my time again I don’t know I would do parenting any differently. I think I did the best I could at the time. My goal now is to the do the grandparenting right. Not Grand-parent over my daughter’s parenting. Not quibble about how I would have done things. Not to give advice where it’s not wanted.

I can take this time to recharge my own batteries. And look inside and think. For this short period of time, the the most important decisions are what picture book to read, and making sure little Ahu knows the Australian word for everything in his world!

(Once again this post prepared on my iPad so the photos are a bit wonky. Back to normal programming next week! No photos of Ahu as he doesn’t do facebook/blogs)

My first blog – a countdown to 50

Back in November 2010, I started writing my first blog. 200daystill50. It was all about my 200-day countdown to my 50th birthday. It’s archived and private now but when I go back and read it over, it makes me laugh and I feel grateful for my plucky spirit.  I am aware I have many failings but I also know I have a few good qualities. One of them is optimism and another is stick-to-it-ness. I had made a grand plan for my birthday – to drink champagne on the upper deck of the Eiffel Tower with my 20 year old daughter.

Sick of the wine and wedges[i] diet I had been sticking to for the past year, I decided it was time to quit wallowing in the self-pity that had consumed me after (semi)separating from my husband of 27 years and get my life back on track. I knew I needed to break the shackles of the past by doing new things; meeting new people and going to different places. So, I challenged myself to do something new every day for next 200 days. The blog was my accountability partner.

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So (nearly) every day I posted about the new things I had done. Sometimes the new things were very small, like trying a new brand of breakfast cereal. Other days they were substantial like flying to France and crashing the hire car within the first 10 minutes of picking it up. The blog challenged me! Some days I hated it. I couldn’t think of anything new I had done. I pressured myself to do something new – anything – so I could write a post!

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By the third day, Day 197[1]  I was already scratching around for new things! I settled on having lunch with different people. But by Day 183 I was  reporting feeling more positive about life.

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My musings where usually matter-of-fact. Did this – did that.  Other times I got deep and meaningful:

 

Day 97: More than half way through the challenge – probably more than half way through my life. I think that’s the difference between being old and young. When you’re young you have lived for less time than you have left to live. As you get older there comes a time when you realise you are not going to double your age. That you have had more time than you are going to get.

 

During the time I kept the blog I wrote about 5 natural disasters including floods and cyclones in Australia, an earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand and a tsunami in Japan. I went to Bateman’s Bay; Bellingen; Armidale and Western Australia. I watched several movies; completed three subjects for a law degree. The Americans killed Osama bin Laden. I ruminated on my own thoughtlessness and the thoughtfulness of my friends. My Ex moved in and out of my life.

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My posts got a few comments every now and then and at times it got over 100 views. I don’t think that mattered. The point was to push through. To keep myself sane in my own mind. When a failing relationship was being kept afloat with equal measures regret and hope. When even though a thousand times before I had slammed the door, and declared it was over, I hoped it wasn’t. When he lived in two places. When life seemed like a revolving door. The blog let me think out loud in the noisy space of the internet. Even if no-one did read it they could…it was possible.

 

I love reading the last few entries. Too busy to post properly as we drove (in the smashed car) from Bordeaux to Reims via the Loire Valley and back to Paris, staying in castles and ordinary hotels; my daughter’s high school French helping us along the way. The sense of joy in my (written ) voice still buoys me now. The Ex ended up meeting us in Paris on his way to a conference in Stockholm, two days after my birthday. A massive fail in the independence stakes perhaps but it seemed right at the time.

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It would take another three years till I finally changed my name and really lived my own life.

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That blog was a stepping stone. This blog? We’ll see where it takes me.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] I was counting backwards

[i] Big chunky potato chips or oven baked fires.