Tuesday, January 12, 2016


travel <3
The thing I love most about January is setting goals and planning out the year. Ok, it's really the only thing I love about January. If I didn't have lists to make and a planner to write in, I'd spend the whole month hibernating.

This year, the thing I'm most excited about planning is travel. After a difficult 2015, Larry and I feel a strong need to travel in 2016. Travel is our love language - it is when our marriage is the strongest, it is when we are happiest and get along the best. The circumstances of 2015 didn't allow us to travel much last year, so there's an extra desire to make up for that this year by exploring the world together. Having a trip to look forward to gets us through the challenging times.
travel <3
The problem is, where? I think this is the first time we've faced a year without travel restrictions. Most of the travel we've done over the past few years (including our wedding in Hawaii and our trip to Wyoming) have been last minute business trips of Larry's that I tagged along on, or trips to visit friends or family.

We've never had the luxury of planning out the year's travel ahead of time without restrictions. We can go anywhere. I'm almost debilitated by that decision. The whole world is wide open to us. (Within reason - we still have a tight budget. Unless we win the $1.4 billion lotto...)

We've been poring over travel books and websites this month, but there are just too many possibilities.
travel <3
Beautiful scenery and being in nature are the most important things when we travel. We're outdoorsy, but not extreme. We like biking, as long as it's not too hilly. We also like good food. (Which can be more difficult to find when we travel now that we no longer eat meat or most animal products.) And wine. We like music and sometimes we travel for concerts. We like experiencing different cultures and exploring towns, art and architecture, though we sometimes find big cities to be too overwhelming if we're in search of relaxation. We prefer to get off the beaten path and away from everyone else if we want to truly relax on vacation.

Check out my travel map here. I'm not necessarily opposed to going back to a country I've already been to (after all, it's been 16 years since I was last in Europe!), but I do prefer to explore new places.
travel planning 2016

We've both been to Europe and Larry's been to central Asia, but other than to a handful of Caribbean islands, we've never traveled internationally together. Time to fix that!

We're considering: Iceland, Greece, Norway/Sweden/Finland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Malta, Argentina.

We're huge fans of the National Parks and have been to 15 of them together. We're hoping to explore another one this year.

+ We're considering: Glacier National Park or Crater Lake National Park (plus a road trip along the Oregon coast and a visit to Portland). These two trips have been on our list forever!

Another huge omission in our exploration of the National Parks is the California parks, especially Yosemite. We've also talked about an RV trip through Texas that would include a stop in Big Bend.

When we got married in Hawaii in March 2013, we vowed to go somewhere warm each year to celebrate our anniversary.

We're considering: The Caribbean! But which island? My initial first choice was St. Lucia, but now I'm considering a lesser-visited and more affordable island like Curacao or Guadeloupe. Or maybe we'll keep it simple and go to Palm Springs instead (I know there's no beach there, but sitting around a pool would be nice!) Or Belize...

In addition to the two big trips, we'd love to squeeze in some weekend trips to local-ish places on the east coast and maybe take some trips with our families if we can convince them to travel. (Hear that, MOM? Where do you want to go?)

We're considering: Dog-friendly cabin getaways and exploring state parks in Virginia and West Virginia, a trip to Savannah (have always wanted to go there and even dream of moving there if it meets my expectations), maybe a trip to New England (Larry wants to cross Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island off our list).

travel <3
DECISIONS, DECISIONS! If this seems like a lot - it is. Hopefully, we'll be able to take a couple of memorable trips this year, but the rest of this is just a pipe dream. It's fun to make lists and dream of all the possibilities, right? And I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that they call our Powerball number! ;)
travel <3
Also, we'd love some input! Have you been to any of these places? What's the best trip you've ever taken? What's your favorite foreign country? Favorite Caribbean island? Favorite national park? A best-kept secret/under-rated location? Where in the world should we go (or avoid)? I'd love to know!


Karen Travels said...

Hey! I have never been to Europe, but if I could I would love to visit the Scandinavian countries, along with Iceland. If you decide to go to Glacier National Park, let me know, I went in 2007 and LOVED it. I didn't see Alaska on your list, have you been?

I love Vermont. If I could have a do over in life I would be living in Vermont, not the south. The quaint little towns. The green. The rolling hills. Love.

I have a desire to drive to Sante Fe. Again, probably more likely to happen if I win Powerball. And then I would do it in camper van, with a hired nurse and cook so my mom would not have to do those things. Oh, the dreams.

Weekend getaway suggestion: Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Gorgeous views and you could easily spend the day in Asheville when staying there.

Funnelcloud Rachel said...

We're going to Alaska in 2017 with a group of friends! Crazy, right - it kind of freaks me out to plan so far ahead!

We really want to go to Glacier, but got kind of freaked out that there might be scary steep roads cut into cliffs and we don't do well with heights + driving. One of my closest friends declared Glacier her favorite national park, so I really want to see it.

Love the weekend getaway suggestion, and we've been meaning to go back to Asheville!

Also, you've reminded me that I STILL need to blog my trip to Santa Fe!

little green field book said...

Wait,I didn't see Korea on your list? Haha.

One of my most fave places I've ever traveled was South Africa. Like mind blowing in terms of nature. And seeing animals up close in their natural habitat is just crazy. If you center yourself ard Cape Town you can hit up badass beaches, wine country, and some of the best camping + cabins I've ever experienced. Food wise outside of Cape Town (which has farmers markets and artisan everything) = slim pickings. But there are always grocery stores.

SEAsia is also great bc you can get a lot for little and eating vegetarian is pretty easy (and tasty). There are def touristy backpacker hot spots but even within those areas it's been easy to get away from it all. Plus there's lots of beaches and general outdoorsy stuff to do that can require as much or as little effort as you want. And everyone speaks English more or less.

Depends on what you want though: warm/cold, english speaking/not, euro/not euro, etc.

Colombia, esp. Cartegena, has been recommended to me quite a few times by quite a few people. Before we moved out here we were planning a trip to the Dominican Republic/Haiti. Is that considered Caribbean?

Palm Springs: very hipster-y nowadays but I still liked it. Bonus is Joshua Tree isn't too far away.

Big Bend: of course I'm championing this location being Texan and all. Marfa/Big Bend, if you're off the beaten track people this is definitely that. But with amazing (amazing) art. Food wise, you might be better cooking for yourself though Marfa has become hipster-y in the past decade = probably more food options. I am very partial to this part of the world though so I don't want to oversell it.

I'm sure whatever country/state/park you pick will be amaze - just throw a dart on a map. FIN.

I'm *hoping* to make it to Burma/Myanmar, Nepal, Cambodia, Laos and India while out here. Throw in Australia too. I also want to go back to Thailand, JP, and VN. Sigh. I want to see EVERYTHING...TWICE! Dare to dream, right?

Where are y'all going in Alaska? AK is still one of my most fave places ever.

Jonathan Hopwood said...

Safari. Safari. Safari.

Amber said...

If you come to Sweden, you can stay with us in Gothenburg! It's Sweden's second-largest city and it's pretty cute, though relatively short on must-see tourist things. Three hours to Oslo or Copenhagen.

Caribbean: I loved Grand Cayman. Lots to do besides sit around at the beach - bioluminescent algae kayak tours (must do), snorkeling / scuba, swimming with the stingrays and/or sharks, wildlife reserves

One of the best places on the road trip was Natural Bridge, Virginia. We saw the bridge, but also Virginia Safari Park was hilarious and strange. Foamhenge is there. And there's lots of really nice stuff nearby - beautiful scenery and if you go down US11 instead of 81, you pass through lots of lovely little towns.

Funnelcloud Rachel said...

Amber - I am anxiously anticipating your photos as you explore Sweden! Honestly, Scandinavia was never really on my travel radar, until Larry brought it up the other day, and now it seems like such an obvious choice for us! Plus, the airfare is pretty affordable thanks to all the Icelandic airlines!


We will probably end up in the Natural Bridge are again this year - we hope to stay at our favorite modern cabin again (Luminhaus). Last time we went to Foamhenge, but didn't have a chance to see Natural Bridge.

Funnelcloud Rachel said...

Veronika - South Africa is definitely on my bucket list! So is Australia (and NZ, too), though I think we need to save up a bit more for any of those trips. I'd like to do Asia someday, too, though I feel like I'd be more comfortable traveling with someone who has lived in Asia/is a native Asian! I have zero language skills and I suck at using chopsticks! HA! (But I LOVE all the food!)

Dominican Republic/Haiti are definitely Caribbean! Though I'm a little nervous about crime/poverty on those islands, though truly I think it's a problem in most of the Caribbean, and we didn't have a problem on the other islands we've been to.

I think you're right - I should just throw a dart at a map, because I want to go ALL the places! We really do like a little bit of almost everything (except tourist traps!)

For Alaska - we are taking a cruise. Planned by a friend, so I actually have no clue where we stop!

little green field book said...

South Africa is not as bad as you would think pricewise unless you book one of those luxury safaris. We found tix from IAD for about $800 (expensive, but not bad for international travel esp. that distance) that allowed us to fly in Jo'Burg and out of CT. We rented a car, drove around, and camped or rented apartments. You just have to keep your eye out -- tix are usually cheapest during their shoulder months. One day I'll blog about it...one day...

DR I think is a lot 'safer' than Haiti, but I was really drawn to Haiti's hidden fortresses and pristine beaches. Plus, didn't the Clintons go there on their honeymoon?

Asia - I think you would be really surprised by how easy it is to get around and how accommodating people are to foreigners. There's also so much more info out there. When I first came to VN ages ago there weren't even any guidebooks! Seriously, everyone speaks English (very well), even in 'off the beaten track' sort of places.

AK - I bet y'all will be doing the inner passage? If you have the option you need to definitely try to get to Denali. Next to SA I have never seen so much wildlife...being wild...

Iceland was on our list when we were in DC bc you can find pretty good deals. We were either going there or DR/Haiti next but were leaning towards DR because a lot of the roads were closed in Iceland at the time or yr we wanted to travel.

Can't wait to see where you'll end up -- the good thing is that there aren't really any 'wrong' or 'bad' choices.

Funnelcloud Rachel said...

Good info, Veronika! I will definitely look into South Africa flights now - I just assumed they were $$$, but $800 is less than we spent to fly to Hawaii! The flights I looked at to Argentina were shockingly reasonable, too. Mainland Europe was actually the most expensive, which was shocking.

Yeah, I would love to do the AK national parks - not sure what options we will have with the cruise, but even just cruising around with a view of mountains and icebergs should be awesome.

I've wanted to go to Iceland FOREVER. The flights are so cheap and short, it just seems like a no-brainer to finally do it. Though I hadn't really considered the rest of Scandinavia, but I bet there's some awesome hiking in Norway & Sweden.

So many decisions!

little green field book said...

For SA - we flew on SA air (sign up for their emails). If I remember correctly the shoulder months are on either side of our summer -- spring or fall (we went end of Nov). You could honestly spend all your time in Cape Town, wine Country, and Garden Route but as I mentioned we flew into Johannesburg so we could camp in Kruger (totally worth it) then made our way down to CT. Had we flown in/out of CT I think the tix would have been even cheaper. Crazy, right? I really want to go back and explore more, I loved it so much there.

We also found pretty cheap tix to NZ on the NZ airline -- I want to say they were like $750? But this was from SF where we lived at the time. But again we went during their shoulder months, right before their summer and it was a)about half price normal ticket b)we rarely saw any other tourists unless we were on a tour/activity.

Another tip, esp for Central/South American countries is to travel during/around their "rainy season." I have been to Costa Rica and Peru both times during rainy season and it was fine and the tickets were so cheap. It rained only once in Peru and I think it rained a couple times in the morning when I was in CR. Otherwise it was perfect weather. People just get really scared off by rain, I guess. Even out here we found super cheap tix to Thailand bc it was rainy season and the weather was fine. It rained but it wasn't like visiting Seattle or anything. I get that when people travel they want the weather to be sunny every day but I prefer cheaper tickets/hotels/everything and a lot less people.

You should totally go to Iceland. Actually, if I remember correctly there are some deals through Iceland Air (whatever its called) that allow you to stopover in Iceland on your way to one of the other Scand. countries. I think we found a winner.

Funnelcloud Rachel said...

We like to travel during slightly off-season, too. In fact, until 2014, I don't think we had ever flown anywhere during the summer. We did Zion and Bryce in late March and it was great. Driving through Zion is actually one of my favorite travel memories. A few weeks later, the only way you can go through the park is on the shuttle.

You're right that tix to S. Africa are around $800. But the 30 hours to get there...WHOAH. I thought 10.5 hours to get to HI was long! I almost feel like if I'm forced into a 12 hour layover in Europe that I should explore the layover location for a few days!

little green field book said...

We flew direct (or sort of direct, the plane stopped in Senegal to refuel and pick up some peeps but nobody was allowed off the plane) from IAD to J'burg. Africa itself is huge, which you don't really comprehend until you're there. From Senegal it was 9 hours to J'burg. I think our flight was like 20 hrs or something "direct." In some weird way it worked out. We arrived in the evening and got a good night's rest in JB and then drove to Kruger the next day. It didn't really feel too bad in terms of jet lag. If you do end up going to SA and need any recs, let me know!

But yes if you can extend your layover it can be two trips in one! Bonus trip!

little green field book said...

oh wait I just looked at your 'places you've been list' - you haven't been to Puerto Rico yet? Yeah go there (in addition to whatever other country you plan on visiting). You can use miles to fly there domestic. I didn't think I'd like PR but we loved it - good food, Euro feel in the older parts of town, beaches, nature (you can even check off a National Forest), and if you stay away from the resorts, it's not too crowded or touristy. You can also island hop to go to the more remote beaches (we didn't). Also: rum. You can bring a crap load of it home via the duty free shops and nobody seems to mind. Bonus points if you go: there are a lot of rescue dog groups that you can contact that arrange for you to escort a doggy back to the US so that they have a better chance of being adopted. It's all handled on their end(s) point to point - they just need a human escort so the pup can fly!

Funnelcloud Rachel said...

Hmmm...I'd never really considered PR when trying to decide on an island. We flew to PR to board a cruise ship in 2005, but the airport/port are all I've seen.

I'd probably end up with a third dog if we escorted one back! I wonder if they have Potcakes in PR? (It's a dog breed from the Caribbean and they are SO cute!)

little green field book said...

My friends rave about Vieques (I think they have wild horses there?) but we stayed on the mainland and found more than enough to do. Western coast has some hippie/surfer towns where we stayed in a tree house and ate from fruit stands every day. It's a pretty easy place to get away.

I hear you about the dogs - in PR so many roam the streets bc nobody neuters their animals. Kitties too - there's an entire feral cat population that roams around the old fortress and is actually lovingly cared for by save a gato. I swear if we didn't have our kitties I srsly would have adopted a million animals from various Asian countries by now. I really love korean jindos. Unfortunately most Asians seem to prefer tiny (brand new!) dogs bought from breeders so the med - large breeds/mutts/dogs that are no longer puppies are rarely ever adopted. :(

I googled Potcakes...need one of those too.