Hope everyone is enjoying this first day of 2013. Our New Year’s Eve was pretty much my fave: dinner at home with friends, a glass of really yummy champagne, and asleep next to my love by 10:00p. It’s really what I’ve wanted for every New Years Eve since I was 20, but now that I have a little one, I didn’t have to explain my desires.
I’ve been playing around with how I can share some of our life (read: life with baby) without losing tons of privacy. The answer: tumblr!
Visit http://housefullofelephants.tumblr.com/. The first picture is up!
Much love to you all!
We welcomed MDH to the world on Wednesday, July 11th.
July 11th, 10:00a:
July 11th: 2:30p:
In honor of our pending due date, here are some photos we had taken a few weeks ago.
We’re ready for you, Baby!
Remember that time that we bought a house and had a baby in the same month?
It’s been month since we’ve posted on this blog.
I’m not quite sure, actually. I still get pangs of photos I’d like to take, of stories I’d like to tell. And yet, I’m enjoying keeping it to myself, to my close friends and family. I’m now encountering thoughts and emotions that directly affect people who actually read (or read, past tense) this blog. I’m not comfortable putting out there my quick thoughts on readjustment, housing, and work. It’s a journey that has been more private.
And yet, funnily enough, it’s been smooth.
I was expecting this intense, crazy AAAAAAAH feeling throughout the readjustment process. In my past travels, the return has almost been the hardest part.
Yet with this trip, and with this return, things have been different.
I’ve been traveling with a partner who I’ve been with for five years. Someone who was with me before, during, and after the trip. A constant companion who can share and who understands (almost) all of my thoughts and emotions. Perhaps Tom is one of my reasons for the calm re-entry?
Also: I was ready to come home. I am savoring all of the good stuff of stability: a clean bed, my own shower, an espresso machine, more than three sets of clothing, friends and family close by, and (dun dun duuuuun) our very own dog.
Last week, we adopted Hank, an 8 year old hound mix from a shelter here in San Diego.
For those of you who have read through this blog, you’ll notice a common photo subject: dogs. We love them, and throughout our travels we sought them out to befriend and play. WE LOVE DOGS.
The other big news of the week: Tom’s new job! Starting Thursday, I’ll lose my house companion. I’ve enjoyed coming home for midday breaks from the yoga studio to have lunch with Tom. Other activities we’ve partaken in during the weekday: walks, beach, and food shopping.
So here we are, jumping off into a new phase of home, dog, work, and stability. It feels right.
You know what else feels right? Hosting couchsurfers. We had so many loving and welcoming hosts throughout our trip, we’ve decided to open up our abode to fellow travelers. A few weeks ago, we had a Spaniard (Juan) spend a few nights with us. The special thing about Juan: he’s currently biking from the southern tip of Argentina up to Alaska. Yup, that’s ALL of South, Central, and North America. Amazing.
And just this past week, we hosted the most loving, amazing family of four from Canada. They’re taking a few months to drive in a monster van from Vancouver, down the West Coast, possibly dipping down into Mexico, and then making their way home in July. JD and Claire: parents extraordinaire to their three year old James and four month old Jasper. Did I mention that in addition to traveling down by van, they’re also sleeping in it? It’s something like an extreme New Zealand camper van experience.
Today we celebrated my Grandma’s 88th birthday in style. It’s just the type of event that we hadn’t been able to participate in during our travels, and it feels so right to be here now, celebrating her life, with loving friends and family.
You may just see me on here a bit more.
And the photos…
We left off here during our road trip up to Oregon. This is our good friend Julie, living the rural life in Western Oregon:
Visiting my college roommate Melanie, and her sweet child Caleb. She introduced me as, “Mommy’s college friend Shooter.” Kinda surreal.
Off to Pennsylvania where we visiting Tom’s family:
And ole Hank:
Several friends have asked us how we went about booking our flights for our trip last year. Well here is the story.
Before we flew out of LAX bound for Argentina over 1 year ago, Blair and I did a bit of legwork trying to determine how we wanted to get from place to place on this trip. Lots of friends recommended looking at Round the World (RTW) tickets, so we priced out a few options. Student Travel Agency (STA), who offers trips to not only students, but geezers like us, gave a quote for our first itinerary, which was actually quite different from what we ended up booking.
STA quoted us at around $4000 each for the following:
Los Angeles to New Zealand – 1 Dec
New Zealand to Australia – 2 Mar
Australia to SE Asia – 13 Apr
SE Asia to South Africa – 8 Jun
South Africa to Kenya – 13 Jul
Kenya to Spain – 7 Sep
Spain to Argentina – 5 Oct
Argentina to Los Angeles – 4 jan
We priced out individual tickets on Orbitz (I think) for the same itinerary and it was about 20% less than STA’s quote. Why use an agency if they aren’t providing some kind of savings? Perhaps this is why online ticketing is so prevalent these days. We looked at another online tool, Qantas’s RTW ticket. Their automated system coughed out pretty much the same price as STA. The problem with Qantas’s pricing was that it was largely based on the number of continents being traveled to. Including our home continent of North America we would be hitting 5 continents: North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Blair investigated Airtreks, which seemed like a viable option, but by the time we found Airtreks we were already leaning towards DIY.
We really had trouble leading up to our trip finding an option where we could book our flights all at once to save money. In the end we decided to buy the tickets as we traveled. It’s a good thing, too, because our itinerary ended up being very different than the one above. We ended up going in the opposite direction! The final price for our exact itinerary without flight points was …<drum roll>… $3277/person. Here’s how it worked out for us in a pay-as-you-go style:
Los Angeles – Buenos Aires $372
Buenos Aires – El Calafate (internal) $249
Buenos Aires – Cape Town $521
Johannesburg – Durban (internal) $47 *side story about this
Johannesburg – Bangkok $443
Luang Prabang – Hanoi $130
Hanoi – Bangkok $83
Bangkok – Melbourne $337 + $127 change fee for the two of us
Melbourne – Christchurch $205
Auckland – Los Angeles $890
Total airfare one person: $3277 x 2 of us = $6554
minus our flight points of $815
plus a flight change to Melbourne $127
gives us our grand total of $5866 (so in our case $2933 per person)
We were glad in the end that planning the trip ourselves both saved us a ton of money and also gave us the flexibility to choose our route as we went. To be honest, before digging up the STA emails for this post, I had forgotten how much our itinerary had changed. We started to seriously plan our route in the summer of 2009. But by the time December 2009 arrived, we had changed the direction entirely. Our starting country of New Zealand had become our finishing country and vice versa for Argentina. The time frames where entirely different. Countries were cut out entirely. I’m not sure what this would have cost us if we had gone with STA or the Qantas planner. I do know that we would have stuck to the original itinerary to avoid fees and, consequently, we would have felt like we had our hands tied.
Our flights were a mix of well-planned legs and more spontaneous ones. Flights within SE Asia were booked with short notice, a few days to a week in advance, adding to the cost a bit. Melbourne was added as a 5 day stopover, adding around $250 to the final cost of getting from Bangkok to Chirstchurch. Most of the international flights were booked well in advance with the aid of Kayak, a handy flight search website. We were able to set up email alerts to keep us from constantly searching for flights. Once a flight hit a certain price, we would receive an email and usually we purchased the ticket that day.
*The South African flight from Johannesburg to Durban was the one nightmare. We waited until January 2010 to book that flight, which was nearly 6 months in advance. I had seen the prices for this flight back in November 2009 and they were running around $30/each. Waiting ended up killing us. By January they had rocketed to $300 due to World Cup demand and shady airlines charging outlandish prices. Through methods (read: “by accident … sort of”) I’ll not publish on the web, we were able to get the tickets at a very steep discount, close to the original price of the tickets before World Cup greediness grasped the airlines in South Africa.
Blair and I are very accustomed to booking our own travel and so our planning method came very natural to us. Websites are constantly making it easier to book the way we did. In the end, we didn’t have to spend much of our time thinking about how we’d get from place to place. And in general I think it’s a stretch to think you can book everything at once an have your flights booked before you leave on a trip like this. Dates and destinations almost always change. Booking legs ourselves, a few weeks to a few months in advance, was the best way for us to deal with these changes.
Ron, Blair’s Dad, snapped a shot of us outside of LAX baggage claim, returning home:
We love Bend. We love the Longs (uncle, aunt, and cousin). We love dogs. We love snow.
Pictures below for proof.
The drive (with new snow chains!):
Uncle Dave and Aunt J:
Our roommates… Bella:
And Cousin Jenny:
Over the past week, we’ve had the pleasure of visiting some amazing and beautiful friends in amazing and beautiful places.
San Francisco has always held a soft spot in both of our hearts, what with the big bridge and all. Add to that best friends, a funky and accessible city, and beautiful surroundings, and boom: we’re sold. I spent countless hours laughing and sharing secrets with my best friend. We ate delicious, homemade food. We drank wine. And we moved our car every two hours so it wouldn’t be towed. Such is life in the city.
After three days, we were off to visit our good friend Lauren up in Humboldt county. Neither of us had ever driven past Napa, and had instead explored the Northwest by flying into Portland or Seattle. And so this big, beautiful pocket of our country, and even our state, was new to us. And let me tell you: it was mind-bogglingly (word?) beautiful. Granted, we were blessed with two sunny days, which may or may not be so common, especially in the winter. But who cares? It was surreal.
It’s amazing to think that many of the feelings of astonishment at natural beauty that we experienced throughout our trip, especially in Argentina, Northern Thailand, and New Zealand, resurfaced here in our humble little state. Well, California is not exactly humble, nor little, but you get the point. I had, in the back of my mind, always wanted to come up here, but never made it happen. And after traveling around the world, it felt like the least we could do was to drive another seven hours north of San Francisco to see not only our friend Lauren, but also the area. Huge, old Redwood trees, rugged coast lines, and elk greeted us. Boo-yeah, let’s do it again some time.
Yesterday, we left on a rainy morning and drove another seven hours to Corvallis, Oregon, where we were greeted by Pete and Becka, who went to school with Tom at Bucknell and were fellow frisbee players. Right after we pulled up, we loaded up their car, and headed for a hike with their two labs Luna and Sola. Thankfully we had some serious hiking boots for some seriously muddy trails, but man: it was gorgeous. With two muddy dogs, we headed back to their house for a delicious meal of some sort of roast. Pete and Becka, apart from being funny, sassy, and seriously intelligent friends, love cooking local, healthy, and happy animals and veggies for their meals. It’s the best of both worlds: we get to play with dogs, hang out with friends, eat delicious food, and learn more about using all parts of a cow. Love it.
One thing I don’t love: when Tom gets hurt. This morning, during a Cross Fit training (and might I add the first training either of us have done over 14 months), Tom tweaked his achilles. We’re not sure how serious it is, but are crossing our fingers for the best.
San Francisco, and Sharon!
Golden Gate Bridge:
Humboldt (frozen roses outside Lauren’s house):
Lauren’s 180lb Neighbor, named Agnes:
Dinner! Local crabs:
Lauren getting ready for her skit in class tomorrow.. with her boyfriend Marco: