How To Plan Your Trip

Preparation is the name of the game. You can’t go to a foreign country and expect it to be like your home. That would be boring to travel somewhere and it’s exactly the same as what you left.

 

So here’s some things to consider:

  1. Decide how long you can afford to be away from home for.

10 days is an ideal time for a short trip, 6 weeks at the most. Do you really want to use all of your annual holidays in one block? That makes it a really long year! If you can, ask your boss for time without pay if you want a really extended holiday. Most businesses are really good on this one if you’ve proven yourself a good employee. Ten days should be your minimum time away. Allow one day each way for travel and that’s not  much time to see everything you want.

 

  1. Decide what you want to do and where you want to go.

Get it in your head that you can’t do everything you want in one trip. Write out your bucket list and make these a priority for your trip. You don’t want to come back so totally exhausted, but you do want to come back with some awesome memories. Plan out beforehand what is most important to you and go do these.

 

  1. Budget

Remember that your biggest expenses besides the flight will be accommodation and food. Places like Indonesia and Bali have cheap food, but most places are quite expensive to eat at. Try getting public transport over hiring a car if you can, as hiring is quite expensive. Always put insurance in your budget. I cannot over emphasize how important it is to get insurance. While it’s a huge investment, it’s better than getting a bill for a million dollars if you have a heart attack in the US.

 

  1. Save

Set up an account that you absolutely refuse to touch, which is specifically for your travel expenses. You are better to save rather than put everything on a credit card and spend the next year paying off, with huge interest attached to it. You might have to give up extras like buying the latest clothes, music, going to the movies or eating out as much as you would like. You need to sacrifice to get what you really want.

 

  1. Search Engines

To save yourself lots of time use travel search engines such as Webjet, Skyscanner, Travelstart just to name a few. When you find the flight/s your happy with, go directly to the airline website as sometimes it is cheaper and you can save on card fees. Join their frequent flyer clubs and sign up for specials. That way you get points for flying and can use these for reduced flight costs. While it may be a pain getting endless emails, there’s nothing like a delete button! When you accrue enough points you can get extra services and lounge entries as part of the deal.

Once you start saving and searching, you’ll start dreaming about the endless possibilities for your trip. Forty years ago I did a study on the Manyatta of Kenya and who would’ve thought I now live here. A dream has to start somewhere.

 

What are your best tips for travel preparation?

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A Visit To The Aberdares

The Aberdare Ranges is a 160km long mountain range north of Nairobi. It’s only 135km from our place and was easily driven in 3 hours. We’ve wanted to go there for ages but never made the time for it.

Hills everywhere

Hills everywhere

This weekend we had the opportunity because there was a group that needed some advice on growing crops, greenhouse s and irrigation. That’s Pete’s department, as a farmer, he’s pretty good at it. He has a whole lot of knowledge that can help community groups improve their agricultural situation.

You can hear the river from your room.

You can hear the river from your room.

Our host Zack, from the Aberdare Cottages and Fishing Lodge. Invited us up for the night so we could spend as much time as possible talking with his team. We’ve never stayed at a lodge before because it’s way out of our budget.

Zack explaining about the region

Zack explaining about the region

We were quite impressed with the road getting there. It’s the last 12 kilometres that is a bit of a challenge. It’s murram road, most of us would call it a dirt road, but it’s actually murram. It’s not horrendous, but you want to take it slowly. There’s quite a bit of building going on up the road so there’s plenty of machinery and people to contend with. Zack had emailed directions, and they were easy to follow – and correct!

bedroom

One of the bedrooms in the self catered cottages

Zack wasn’t there when we arrived as he was in Nairobi for a meeting. I thought ‘here we go, we’ve just wasted 3 hours driving and he’s not going to turn up’. Moses, the staff member in charge made sure we had cold juice and hot face cloths to refresh while he checked on Zack’s progress. He would turn up later, meantime, Moses took us up to the greenhouse area so Pete could have a preliminary assessment of the situation.

Everything in this area is on a hill. There are very few flat parts, so be prepared to get those legs working. People who live there are amazing how they have terraced out their properties to grow crops.

Self catered cottages, right beside the river.

Self catered cottages, right beside the river.

I have to say, the staff have been trained really well at hospitality. Our bags were taken to our room, which was partly a tent backing onto a bathroom. There was a king sized bed as well as a single (for Liz). I couldn’t believe how many blankets were on the bed, I hadn’t seen that for 15 years when we lived in New Zealand. I knew it could get cold at night, but that cold?

While Pete did some homework on the place, Liz and I crashed or an hour before lunch. I was really pleased that the bed was comfortable but I was worried about the road noise we might experience at night as there was the only road in the village outside our room. I didn’t hear one vehicle that night, and I am the world’s lightest sleeper.

Lunch was a small buffet outside under the umbrellas. Apparently there were two other couple staying that weekend but at that stage it was just us.

The first time we've had an indoor fire for about 15 years.

The first time we’ve had an indoor fire for about 15 years.

It didn’t take long to get a feel of the place. It’s not where you rush – you’re taking a breather out from the hectic life in Nairobi. You can do as little or as much as you want. The ideal is just to sit there, talk and enjoy your surroundings. The internet is on ‘E’ for enough so don’t expect to be uploading lots of videos. We found out afterwards that there is complimentary wifi but I think it’s a good opportunity to get off the Net and get connected with life again.

The cottages have a small verandah with chairs and a table to sit out on and relax. There are some cottages that are more like cabins but I quite like the idea of being in a tent – and in comfort. There’s no shortage of electricity and rooms have a couple of power points. I was really pleased to see there were hot water showers. I wish I’d taken my hair dryer but I didn’t know what we were walking into.

You certainly don’t come away from a lodge hungry. There was afternoon tea in one of the many community rooms on the property. There we got to meet the other couples and a nice verandah overlooking the valley. Zack had returned from Nairobi and the first thing he did was to greet all of his guests. To him, the lodge is an extension of himself. The property has been in his family for a number of generations. The rustic look comes from the trees that his grandfather planted. This is the only lodge in the area. There you can bring your own tent, use a cabin or just down the road they’ve built some self-serviced rooms right next to the river.

Looking at the river. The water was cold.

Looking at the river. The water was cold.

What I did like about Zack is that he’s a visionary. He wants to be able to use his property to teach the local community about different ways of farming, crops, business and education. He hires trained staff and gets them to work alongside locals to train.

I wouldn’t want the place to be packed out. With 11 cottages, when it’s full there would be at least 22 people. When we were there it was very intimate and peaceful. That’s the beauty of the place. It’s not an institution, it’s an invitation to tranquility.

Looking from the verandah where we had breakfast.

Looking from the verandah where we had breakfast.

That night the fires were lit, but it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be. Who turns down a good fire while eating dinner? The meals were pretty good. Not over the top flash, but a buffet style, so you could eat as much as you wanted. I’m a coeliac and I was at peace knowing there was food from the garden I could eat. I don’t know if they serve alcoholic drinks because none of us there were into it, but the drinks came out cold and ice was on offer. Pete was happy as he could get a real coffee there.

When we returned to our cottage at night I was shocked (in a good way) that there were hot water bottles in our beds. I was a bit concerned because I had left our laptops and wallets on the bed. Of course, I checked the wallets and found all of the money there. Whew, that doesn’t happen everywhere.

The hills are alive with the view of tea

The hills are alive with the view of tea

In Nairobi I am attacked by mosquitoes at night – constantly. We have to use plug in mossie repellent things to keep them away. Due to the height of where we were staying, I could even walk outside at night and not get eaten. I really thought the 5 layers of blankets would be too hot – but it wasn’t. Liz said she was a bit warm but I’m a hot bod and it didn’t worry me. I did have to throw out the hot water bottle during the night – Pete kept his.

Breakfast was held outside on the verandah. I always take gluten free cereal with me because most restaurants can’t cater for my needs. I needn’t have worried. There was a full cooked breakfast available as well as cereals, juice, hot drinks, toast and fruit. Again, it was a chance just to relax. We were there at 9am, and the first to turn up. Again, don’t come here and be in a hurry.

Liz on the steps of our cottage

Liz on the steps of our cottage

Afterwards Zack invited us all for a guided hike. Too bad I was wearing black jeans, a black tee shirt, no sunscreen nor a hat. It had really warmed up and of course, I took no water. Fool! Zack gave us the history on the place and all he knew about tea. He showed us the self contained rooms which are literally metres away from the river.

Back for lunch (yes, we ate our way through the weekend) it was then time to head home.

My likes:

  • The staff went out of their way to make us comfortable
  • The quiet, relaxed atmosphere
  • Lots or little activities that could be done
  • Comfy beds

My dislikes:

  • We didn’t get to stay longer

We can’t wait to get back in a few months. Maybe you should take time out and spend a weekend at the Aberdares Cottages and Fishing Lodge. You won’t regret it.

You don't see a lot of wildlife here.

Wildlife includes lambs, eagles and rainbow trout.

Check them out HERE

Finally Taking A Break

This week we just passed our second year of completion in Kenya. It was a big goal for us and we’re preparing for even bigger and more impacting work in the next few years. We’ve got our visas until August next year but intend to stay as long as our visas get renewed. We’re on a humanitarian visa which is good because it’s much cheaper than a business one. The downside is that we can’t earn the much needed dollars to continue our work here.

Most people go ‘home’, that would be their other ‘home’ every few years. We’ve decided that this routine is not enough and you need to be continually raising the profile of your work and the money to go along with it.

The last time we were all together was 2012.

The last time we were all together was 2012.

Currently we are $1,000 short in our personal budget every month. That’s not including ministry costs. To give you an idea of rising costs, our electricity bill was 3,500 shillings when we arrived, it’s now up to 12,000. That’s the type of rising costs we see all the time in developing countries.

We’ve had an interesting two years. It certainly hasn’t been dull and boring that’s for sure! You’re always learning something new and have to continually grow bigger in your capacity to handle the challenges that come along. You make mistakes, you advance in what you’re doing, you make lots of friends and are constantly building the vision.

Now it’s time to take a break and recharge our batteries.

Looking forward to being in our old stomping grounds.

Looking forward to being in our old stomping grounds.

At the beginning of this year, if you asked me whether we would return to our home countries twice in 2014, I would’ve said no way. Earlier, Liz and I went back on a 7 week speaking tour. It meant at least 3 meetings a day, early mornings, late nights. It was great, but it was work. In those 7 weeks we had 3 days off.

Now, we’re returning to Australia for 2 days, New Zealand for a month and then back to Aussie for 9 days. The main reason is that our youngest daughter Hannah is getting married, so that’s a pretty good reason to go! This visit will be at a slower pace, catching up with our sponsors and just a couple of public speaking appointments. We even get two days at the beach at our friends holiday home.

We look forward to the beach and being able to walk around at night.

We look forward to the beach and being able to walk around at night.

 

But our main focus will be our daughter. It has been quite hard on her organising a wedding pretty much by herself. As her mother, it has been challenging not to be there for her. It will be the same when they start having babies in a couple of years. We won’t be there to share the experience with them, except via Skype. Hannah has already told me that I WILL be there for the birth of her children. I told her I can do any year except 2018, when we are driving around the whole of Africa (so plan it right you guys).

We're going to be in Sydney for NYE which is also Lizzies 25th birthday.

We’re going to be in Sydney for NYE which is also Lizzies 25th birthday.

 

While we would love to catch up with everyone, it is physically impossible. Normally we wouldn’t come back at this time of year because people are in holiday mode and are making the most of their Christmas vacation, which is totally understandable.

 

I will try and blog as much as possible when we’re away but from past experiences, I can tell you that accessing the internet in those countries isn’t as easy or cheap as here. What three of us spend in 3 months on phones in Kenya, will be the same as what one of us will spend in 1 month in NZ.

We intend to enjoy the beach and Summer weather as much as possible – our beach is 9 hours away! We also have a shopping list of things we just can’t get here, simple things like iron on patches. Most of all, we’re looking forward to sharing the stories about the wonderful young people we work with here.

We will be catching up with our Aussie grandparents in the country.

We will be catching up with our Aussie grandparents in the country.

 

Meanwhile, here’s our itinerary to date. If you’re in that city and we haven’t managed to contact you for a meetup, get a hold of me via Facebook, it’s the easiest way.

Nov 19 – 21 Sydney
Nov 21 – 23 Auckland
Nov 24 – 28 Tauranga
Nov 29 – 30 Auckland
Dec 1 – 3 Hamilton
Dec 4 – 5 Tokoroa
Dec 6 – 7 Auckland
Dec 8 – 9 Tauranga
Dec 10 – 11 Tokoroa
Dec 12 – 19 Auckland
Dec 20 – 21 Whangamata
Dec 22 – 23 Rotorua
Dec 24 – 28 Sydney
Dec 29 – 30 Moss Vale
Dec 31 – Jan 3 Sydney
Jan 4 – 6 Central Coast
Jan 7 – 9 Sydney

 

 

 

We Made A Mistake (a few of them actually)

In February this year I went to New Zealand NZ) and Australia on a 7 week speaking tour in schools, Rotary Clubs and churches. While I was there I had the honour of spending time talking to the pastors who oversaw our wedding ceremony nearly 27 years ago.

Mick & Colleen Marshall were my pastors (Pete went to another church) and over the years they have served both internationally and locally. They’ve now got a brood of grandchildren and instead of retirement are looking at refirement.

Here's Mick leading us through our vows.

Here’s Mick leading us through our vows.

It was so special catching up with them and there were a couple of things they said to me which they were dead serious about:

  1. When you return just be aware that people will put up with you ‘Africa stories’ for a few minutes but after that, they really don’t care.
  1. Whatever you do, don’t get so overworked that you burn yourself out.
Colleen and Mick this year.

Colleen and Mick this year.

I listened to them on Number One. It’s true, the world we live in Kenya is so foreign to even try and understand or explain, it’s just too much for people to hear and understand. When you talk about a traffic jam in Nairobi it is vastly different to that in Sydney. I’ve read where people in NZ complain because they have to get security checked before going into WINZ. Here, we have to avoid shopping centres because of bomb threats. Yep, it’s a bit different here.

Number Two, that’s a really hard one here. It’s not unusual to be chatting with someone overseas at 10pm, doing radio interviews at 2am or working 12 hour days, three weeks in a row. All this leads to burning out.

Here’s a definition of burnout:

Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. Burnout has been assumed to result from chronic occupational stress (e.g., work overload).

We’re not burnt out, but we did come close to it a little while back. Physically and mentally run down we took stock of where we were at and where we wanted to be.

So here’s where we’ve made some big mistakes:

1. Not taking holidays

In the two years we’ve been here we’ve only taken off a week. How dumb is that!! We bought Liz a camping bed for her birthday in December last year and the only time it’s been used is as a spare bed when we have visitors.

A lot of that was because we didn’t have the money. Our plan for 2015 is to take a week off every 3 months just to renew our batteries. Even if we have to camp in the middle of nowhere, leave our laptops behind and sit with the zebras, we will take a break.

We’ve lived here for 2 years and travelling here since 2007 and in all that time we’ve never been to Mombasa on the coast nor Masai Mara. Next year baby, next year.

This might be us, the tent not the motorhome.

This might be us, the tent not the motorhome.

2. Working too many weekends

There’s nothing wrong with working through a weekend if you get a day off some time during the week. However, if you end up working 3 weeks in a row, you’re setting yourself up for an emotional breakdown and big family arguments because of tiredness. We found that we were working three weekends a month. Now, we’ve got it down to two.

At the beginning of the year we thought we could take Wednesday afternoons off. It worked for a while but too many things got in the way.

life3. Lack of sleep

It’s pretty noisy here. Anywhere from 5.30am there are people outside washing their bosses car. Also, no matter what we seem to do, there is at least one mosquito wanting to attack. Someone at the apartment above us seems to like moving furniture late at night. The best day to sleep past 5am is a Sunday – and it is most welcomed!!

Because there’s so much work to be done there’s not so much room for the odd nanny nap. I have to admit though, we’ve both fallen asleep on the sofa, there’s the Facebook photos to prove it.

Pete snapped this one from a while ago.

Pete snapped this one from a while ago.

While we’ve made some mistakes, at least they’re all fixable. As we head into the start of our third year we expect to be working harder and at times, longer hours, we hope that if we change a few of our behaviours we will have even a better year. We’ve set some goals for where we want to head and have even planned a ’round Africa’ trip in 2018.

What about you, what ‘adjustments’ do you need to make to improve both your mental and physical health?