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bulgaria begs…..those unasked questions

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Biser, Bulgaria

We have heard murmurings of questions people want to ask, but can’t bring themselves to. So we thought we’d just tell you. If we miss anything, do feel free to ask us outright – we are very hard to offend, and we’ve invited you, so you’ve nothing to lose. There are also some other questions that we get on a fairly regular basis – we’ll answer them here too. You can guess which ones people ask us and which ones they ask others about <wink>

How can you afford it?
This one requires a multi-pronged answer.
Partly, real estate. We bought a cheap flat years ago and then just before we came away (unfortunately AFTER the market had dropped somewhat), we sold it. Fortunately we’d had it for long enough that it made a tidy profit and has financed the trip. We’ve used up the living room, kitchen and bedrooms now and have the bathroom and hallway left to go!
Secondly, we are not signing up with tours that cost $3,000 per person, as you might do if a) you had fewer children and b) you were travelling for a shorter time. In fact, we have only done three “tours” on the whole trip – the trek in Thailand, the trip to Halong Bay and one day we hired a guide and van in Phonsovannh where there was no public transport to use to get to sites ourselves. Everything else we have seen independently.
If we had booked the Trans-Siberian train in New Zealand  the cost for ONE of the children would have been more than what we ended up paying for *all* of us – waiting to purchase seats locally, in our experience, has always been cheaper. (In part due to the fact that overseas agents can only purchase first or second class seats, whereas we travel third class whenever possible). Likewise, a girl who was on the Mekong boat with us had booked and paid for her trip in England – it cost her over two hundred pounds. We didn’t tell her it was only a few dollars if you bought your tickets beside the river!
Accommodation costs have also been skimped on. We have only stayed in one hotel, and that was in Laos and was in a worse state of repair than any of the hostels – it was hotel in name only. In Asia we primarily stayed in guesthouses and hostels, often top-n-tailing on eight or even six beds. We also ventured into the world of couchsurfing, which costs no more than a gift and some cooking-n-cleaning as an expression of thanks.
Once we got the vans our accommodation costs dropped significantly. In Greece we paid not one euro cent. In England we stayed in one campground in five weeks, and only a few times needed to put a couple of pounds in a parking metre. Similarly, France was almost free, Italy not much more.
Foodwise, we are frugal at home, and we continue to be on the road. Sometimes this means not buying local delicacies that most tourists might, but we certainly do not feel deprived. With our bulk purchasing power we can buy a box of icecreams from a supermarket for the cost of one cone on the street. And remember, food in Asia is dirt cheap. A feast of mountains of rice with two different heaped platters of vegetables for breakfast cost only a couple of dollars. We could share half a dozen dollar plates of food for lunch. In Cambodia (and again in Italy and Greece) in season inexpensive local fresh fruit became a staple.
Tourist destinations are identical in that they are overflowing with everything from nick-nacks to enormous items tempting you to take them home. Having to carry everything on our backs for the first six months was a great motivator to NOT BUY. By the time we had the vans we were in the habit. Our souvenirs have been as frugal as our eating, and many have come from not-souvenir-shops…..a decorated tin full of oregano was bought in Greece – the oregano we ate, and the tin will go home stuffed full of undies. Chopsticks. A handmade cloth elephant. A rattan ball, which will probably not make it home, it’s been used so much. A scarf. A communist flag. Journals. A sticky rice basket (which was not so much a souvenir as an essential piece of cooking equipment while we were in Laos, and we I cannot bear to part with it).
The children have bought things too, but that’s their money, not ours! A flute, a crossbow, a chess set and Carcassonne game, a couple of hammocks, a patchwork backpack, wooden dominoes, soapstone signature stamps and rubber band guns (for clearing the farm-we-don’t-yet-have of unwanted rabbits when we finally get it).
We have seen big Turkish rugs and Italian pizza ovens and a whole library of books, all of which would have cost a pretty packet, but even if we could have carried them, we would have had to cut the trip short to be able to afford them, and we preferred to save our money for experience.

How do you stay sane?
Who ever said we were sane?


How do you do your pictures?
We use a freebie collage creator that is quick and easy to use. It is very limited in its application and reduces the quality of photos, but we haven’t had time to come to terms with Photoshop, so we make do with the highly-originally-named “Arcsoft Collage Creator Version One”

I can’t see the pictures in your posts – is there some other way to view them?
If you look at the Captured on Camera page (either click on it here or in the right-hand sidebar), you will see an album for each country and then a few more too. Clicking the country name will take you to the album. You might have more luck seeing them this way – but be warned, some of the albums have A LOT of photos in them!

Is Rach pregnant?

Would you do it again?
We wouldn’t hesitate for even one moment. We could be packed within a day. We might do one thing differently though….it would be much easier to follow the sun to eliminate the need to lug thermals and woollens all round the world. But if someone wanted to send us to the snow, we’d go. In fact, we’d go anywhere.


Saturday, December 6th, 2008

Luang Prabang, Laos

A simple graphical journey of reflection on our trip so far, two calendar months on
(actually, just an excuse to use some of our favourite reflection photos)….

Singapore Quay Area 002



Malaysia: Melaka

China town_28

Thailand: Bangkok Chinatown

trek 058

Thailand: Mae Tang

Mekong River_17

Laos: Mekong River

Luang Prabang_086

Laos: Luang Prabang


Laos: Luang Prabang


Laos: Luang Prabang

If you would like to see the rest of our photos so far, you can click on the following links (and if you do take a look, would you mind posting a comment to let us know whether they are working or not – we’ve heard they’re not, but from our end everything looks fine, so we are wondering if it’s just their computer or a bigger headache for us to sort out!)

* Singapore *

* Malaysia *

* Thailand *

* (the trek) *

* Laos *

* Room With A View *

scenic new zealand

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

say cheese!

Monday, April 14th, 2008
We've just updated/added photos to almost every page of the blog (except the Enduring Traditions pages, which will need to wait until we have some on-the-road pictures to use).

travel journals

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007
When we're away we are all going to keep a journal. The kids don't know it yet, but I've managed to pick up some nice not-too-little-but-not-too-big ones to tuck in their packs and be discovered on Christmas morning. Rob hasn't ... [Continue reading this entry]