Histoire du Jour

Epic travel movies & shows to inspire your next adventure

EPIC Travel Movies and shows The Tipsy Gypsies

The Tipsy Gypsies are big film buffs and although we don't watch much TV, we love cinema. Here is a list of our all-time favorite travel movies. Get you popcorn, your favorite drink and get watching! 

1. Lost In America

This classic 80's comedy is probably our all time favorite. David and Linda, a couple from LA decide to quit their jobs and travel across America in an RV. They have hilarious adventures along the way, and the topic is still so relevant today. If you are thinking about purchasing an RV, definitely watch this first!

 

2. The Beach

This might not be an Oscar winner, but so many millennials wanted to travel to Thailand, and many actually did, after watching The Beach with Leonard DiCaprio. In this movie Leo, goes on a crazy adventure to Thailand, where he learns about a secret beach. 

 

3. Vegas Vacation

Chevy Chase aka Clark Griswold takes his family to Vegas. Clark wants to renew his wedding vows and spend some quality time with his wife and kids.  Unfortunately for them, things don't go as planned but that means lots of great laughs for us.

 

4. Into the Wild

A beautiful movie based on a true story, about a young graduate, who despite feeling the pressure from his parents to pursue a career, decides to go on a life changing adventure. A beautiful story and imagery. You will probably cry watching this, we sure did. 

 

5. La Gendarme de Saint Tropez

This is a 1960's comedy with Louis de Funès, and it takes places in France. De Funes plays the role of a hilarious police officer, whose task is to make sure the beaches of Saint Tropez remain respectable. Louis de Funes was a comedic genius and after watching this movie you will want to book your next vacation on the French Coast. 

There are also more series of this movie: "Le Gendarme à New York"

*These movies are a bit hard to find. They have never been on Netlix or HBO ect. You might want to buy it on Amazon. It's worth it!

 

6. European Vacation

Another classic with Chevy Chase. This time the whole Griswold family goes to Europe to find out about their roots. What could go wrong?

 

7. Around the World in 80 days 

A 19-th century inventor from England wants to prove that he can travel around the world in 80 days. He goes on a crazy adventure in a gas balloon, but due to the weather ends up in the wrong countries. He constantly has to convince others to help him get back to where he started. This movie is based on a famous novel by Jules Verne. There are re-makes of this movie, but we like the original the best.  

 

8. Rat Race

6 team members need to race from Las vegas to New Mexico. The winner can collect the prize of 2 million dollars. Who will arrive first? *spoiler: It doesn't matter because what happens along the way is absolutely hilarious.

 

9. French Kiss

Yes, it's a romantic comedy, but it takes place in Europe and Meg Ryan, an American who follows her fiancé to France, is learning how do deal with the cultural differences. 

 

10. Eat, Prey, Love

A newly divorced woman decides to step out of her comfort zone and search for what is important to her in life. We probably liked it so much because in her character Julia Roberts, travels to one of our favorite places, India. Also, pretty much anything with Julia Roberts is great!

 

11. Leap Year

Surprise, another romantic comedy! Wanna guess who wrote this post? We would love to travel to Ireland someday, to explore the countryside and drink as many beers at the pubs as we can. 

 

12. 127 Hours

Based on a true story, starring James Frano, about a young guy from Utah, who gets trapped in a canyon, when a boulder falls on his arm and traps him. 

 

13. Wild

Base on a true story, about a woman who hikes along the Pacific Crest Trail, to help her figure out her self-destructive behavior and trying to piece her life back together.

 

14. Y tu Mama Tambien

A fantastic story of two young men traveling with a female companion throughout Mexico. This movie shows a lot of rural areas of Mexico and reflects on life and the political system of this country. Great characters and overall a very well done movie!

 

15. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

The holiday season is usually stressful enough, but when your flight has been canceled it can turn quickly into a nightmare. John Candy who is an easy going, chirpy fellow offers to help Steve Martin get home for thanksgiving, but he quickly gets on Steve's Martin nerves.

Why don't the studios make these types of comedies anymore? They were the best and the humor is timeless!

 

17. Samsara

Incredibly beautiful visuals! You will fall in love with the diversity of our planet.

 

18. Touching the Void

This is a true story of two alpinists, and their survival for life in the cold, icy mountain. We were on the edge of our seat watching it!

 

20. An Idiot Abroad (TV series)

Karl is a good friend of Ricky Gervais, for real, and Ricky enjoys sending his friend to far away places to experience other cultures. Karl doesn't care too much for traveling. You know there is a bit of Karl in you too. It's a funny show!

 

21. Departures ( TV Series)

We got hooked on this show before we even knew that we were going to travel around the world. Two friends from Canada, take you on a beautiful, very honest adventure around the world. We love the interactions between the two men and the locals.

 

22. Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown, or  No Reservations

Oh, our heart aches writing this. Anthony Bourdain had such a huge impact on our life, and definitely the way we travel. To us Parts Unknown and No Reservation were more about travel and life than food.

23. The Trip

A food critic and his best friend travel and dine throughout England's finest restaurants. Their conversations are hilarious and the food looks delicious! 

 

24. The secret life of Walter Mitty

The main character played by Ben Stiller, works for a Magazine and he often days dreams about wild adventures. He finally gets a chance to escape the routine when he is sent on a photo assignment.

 

25. 

 

Let us know, what are your favorite travel movies? We are always looking for new movie recommendations.

Cheers! 

 

 

"Live a Better Life"-documentary featuring travel director Karl Rhainds

This 20-minute documentary short introduces Karl Rhainds, an independent director on a quest to live a better life. In order to find his greater purpose, Karl quits his job as a director in a large company and takes off traveling for 6 months through several countries. While on this adventure, he encounters many inspiring people, exploring his query with them in an effort to understand their vision of what makes a happy life.

Check out more work by this great filmmaker on his blog Rain & Sunshine

Girls Gone Camping. How my friends and I accidentally crashed the Rainbow Gathering Party

Mt. Shasta, Rainbow Gathering 2017.

I went on my first camping trip with my husband and his family when I was in my mid 20's. My family, who still lives in Poland, was never into sleeping in tents, but as I later found out, I was. Unlike my family, my husband's American family goes camping at least once a year. Their garage is like an REI store, full of camping gear and they have extras of everything. What they call a camping meal, is better than what I ever make at home in a real kitchen, and I am not even a bad cook. We always have plenty of great wine, the perks of living in California and beers, an essential of camping. We tell stories by the fire, listen to live music and play hide and seek in the pitch dark of the night. After a few of these trips, I finally got the confidence I could camp on my own. I invited two of my girlfriends from San Francisco, and we headed on a camping adventure, not knowing what was to come... 

First of all, I never thought three girls could bring more shit with them than a family of 15. By the time we finished loading our stuff in the car, there was barely any space for my friends. We managed to get on the road by 11am, instead of our planned 8 am departure. We headed out towards Mt. Shasta, a beautiful mountain in Northern California that's very popular amongst hikers and hippies from around Cali. 

The First Contact

It was a warm late afternoon, when we stopped to check the availability at the first campground. It was fully booked, and the rest of the nearby campsites either had no bathroom, running water or we just missed the last spot. Of course, we didn't make any reservations in advance because online it looked like there were plenty of campsites. We decided to drive about 40 minutes up the road, to the last campground at the base of the mountain. As we raced towards our destination, the sun was setting and the cold wind blowing from the mountain was signaling the cold night ahead. Our journey came to a screetching halt when we reached a barrier blocking the road. All three of us in the car read the sign out loud, spelling it slowing syllable by syllable, like a preschooler "RO-A-D CL-O-SED", followed by an adequately appropriate adult response, "FUUUUCK!!!". Apparently, the road and the campsite ahead were closed due to the cold weather and snow still lying on the ground. We felt devastated and as we were about to drive off to the nearest town, just a few yards from the road we spotted some people in the woods, who clearly had been camping there. They explained that we could pick any spot that we wanted and could camp there as long as we wanted. No fees or reservations were required and as a bonus, dry bathrooms near the parking lot. Free for all? Well that was good enough for us, plus returning to look for another camp so late was out of the question. With the last remaining light, we quickly set up our tent and started a fire. We sat comfortably near the warmth, passing a bottle of Capitan Morgan and laughing how lucky we were. In the distance, somebody with an angelic voice was singing "The Dog Days Are Over", and after drinking a bottle of Cpt. Morgan, we didn't need much encouragement to introduce ourselves to the neighbors. We climbed over a deep ditch and we saw about 50 plus hippies (perhaps our drunken double vision multiplied them...) dancing around a huge bonfire. It is not often that you see a group of 50 people camping together, but having been to Burning Man before, this gathering looked totally normal to me.

 

The Glorious Morning

"We love you..., we love you..." is what I consider a strange wake up call, especially when you wake up hungover and are trying to figure out why the hell you are in the forrest before you remember it was your idea to connect with nature. I crawled over my friends to unzip the tent and saw a bunch of naked people making this commotion. My girlfriends woke up just in time to hear the nudists calling everyone in the forest to come for coffee and oatmeal. No questions asked. We grabbed our coffee cups, stripped naked, and ran to join the nudists, at their campsite. Just kidding. We didn't take our clothes off but we DID join them for coffee! Everything and everybody looked different in the daylight. What appeared to be a dance floor around a bon fire the night before, was a kitchen area with a huge pot of slushy oatmeal cooking over a firepit in a large medieval pot. A lovely man dressed only in his birthday suit with a friendly smile, served us some coffee and was kind enough to answer our many questions. What seemed to us like a bunch of hippies camping in the woods, were in fact the Rainbow Family and apparently, we just crashed their annual gathering in the woods (technically they were on their way to a much bigger festival). For the next 3 days, the Rainbow Family and the three of us girls, became good friends. 

Somewhere over the Rainbow

The Rainbow movement started in the 70's, and somehow I'd never heard of them before. In my defense, I grew up in communist Poland and we didn't get the memo... The Rainbow gathering is now a worldwide project and the "family" meets once a year, each time in a different place but alway close to nature. The general movement carries a beautiful message of love, peace and creativity. The Rainbow People believe that the mass media, and our culture that's dominated by capitalism, creates an unhealthy and unnatural life style. The movement went through many changes since its start, for example it's not as strict on being vegetarian as it used to be, and it's more open to mainstream ideology but the general idea of love and peace is still at its core. Of all the places we could have camped, we just happened to be there, to learn and participate in this interesting event. Nudism... peace... parties... drugs... nature... What's not to love???

Out of respect, we didn't take any photos of the Rainbow people, but imagine a bunch of people looking like a cross between The Kelly Family and The Rednex bands. Although many were naked, most were wearing something in the boho, grungy style. 

We thanked them for the coffee and went back to our campsite. A few minutes after, we heard some people getting in an argument about the sanitation and clothing rules around the kitchen, which was to be discussed during a circle meeting, a type of hippy a conference. 

Over the next couple of days, the Rainbow people frequently stopped by to chat, or to trade various goods. We traded some of our "adult" gummies for "magic rocks". When they said "magic rocks", we were hoping for something more than literal rocks, as we have yet to find their magic... oh well...

We also met some odd characters. A strange male visitor, dressed all in camoe clothes came to our camp with a huge white dog. The interaction started normal and quickly became a bit scary, when he started talking about secret passages in the Bible warning of the End of Days. Also its not the best idea to pick up chicks while you wear cameo clothes because you look like you might be hunting them instead...

Luckily, there was no armageddon that night, but we did dance till the break of dawn at the coolest dance party with an old school bus, DJ, and laser lights, all in a parking lot overlooking Mt. Shasta with its white peak, shining in the moonlight. I don't know what your summer plans are, but I sure am going camping in Shasta again this year!

Cheers!

 

Chasing the Sun with Peter and Michelle. A story of two expats who have been living the dream life on a small island in Cambodia.

One of our favorite things about traveling is meeting new people on the road. But lets face it, most backpackers are in their 20's, and we are waaaayyy older than that. When people find out our age, they always ask us about kids. Nate and I have been together for nearly 14 years, and we decided a long time ago, that having kids was not our lifetime goal. Even some of our friends, and family back home can’t understand why a "healthy" couple would choose to live childfree. The answer is simple: Not everyone wants to have kids!

I recall the time, when we used to live in LA. Every year our circle of friends with no kids became smaller. Friends, we could hang out with and do adult things like day drinking and vegging out on Sundays. Sorry, parents. We still love you, but your sexy stroller, baby and bottomless mimosas just don't pair well. Prove me wrong, but somebody might call child services on you.

The reality was hitting us harder everyday and we decided to do what every other adult couple in their late 30's would do. We sold our belongings, packed our backpacks and well, ran away. 

This is a story dedicated to those who love to wander the world, to the powerful women that prove that having kids is not their only role in life...and to the believers in unicorns!

Michelle +Peter

When we arrived in Cambodia and met Michelle and Peter, a couple much older than us, living a nomadic life style for more that 25 years, without kids, we felt like we found two unicorns. We needed to capture them (at least in pictures), and share their story with the rest of the world.

Maybe it was the 4 hour long boat ride from the mainland to Koh Rong island, or the homemade Baileys that Michelle welcomed us with at the restaurant, but I (Marta) felt immediately connected to her. She was extremely nice, happy and she was just the right person to be greeted by.

I assumed she was in her 50's. Every time I spent time around Michelle I was wondering if she had any kids of her own. I fell into the same stereotype that I hated so much, where people assume that a woman obviously has kids. One day, I finally got the courage to ask her about it, and to my "relief" I found out not only that Michelle didn't have any kids, but she also is like me and she never wanted to have them.

I realized that I had much more in common with this woman than with most women I meet. We both loved Baileys and don't want kids! Like Michelle, I also have always been very career driven and loved working. Michelle is responsible for overseeing the house keeping staff at the resort, amongst many other miscellaneous jobs. 

 

From Germany and England to Africa

In 1964, a 20 year old Peter moved from Germany to Zimbabwe, to work in a refinery. He said, “it was an exciting time to make money quickly there” and as a young guy, he grabbed the bull by its horns. He said that he was able to afford a new car after only working at his new job for only 3 weeks. Peter recalled, “I was so proud to buy my first car and there was only one problem… I didn’t know how to drive.” Luckily, his two colleagues were former taxi drivers, and taught him how. Peter said, “It took them the whole night to teach me how to reverse and drive forward and the next morning, only driving 20 miles, I drove to home.”

Peter was quickly promoted at work to a CEO, and was making great money. He married his first wife and had 2 kids, but his family soon fell apart. He admitted the reason his first marriage failed was because he was a workaholic, and wasn’t a good father or husband.                                                   

Michelle is originally from England. She moved to South Africa, with her parents when she was a teenager. Around 1991, a grown Michelle lived with two roommates, one of whom worked for Peter. The roommate decided to set Michelle and Peter up on a blind date. 

At that point Peter was in his 40’s, and although his career was at its peak, his romantic life was pretty much non existent. Michelle on the other hand was a brilliant, young woman with dreams of her own. She wasn’t exactly looking for the company of another man, but she agreed to go out on a bind date that her roommate arranged. Despite the 18 years of age difference, the two clicked right away. They were a great match because they both had similar passions for traveling and neither of them wanted to have kids. Disclaimer: Peter had already fathered two kids with his first wife, but Michelle made it clear that it wasn’t her dream to ever become a mother.

One morning some years later, as usual, Peter was making tea in the kitchen when he saw a blooming rose outside the kitchen window in the garden. At that moment, Peter decided he wanted to propose to Michelle. While Michelle was still in bed, he served her the freshly brewed tea, with the rose in his mouth, and for a final touch of romanticism, he was completely butt naked. But as he bent his knee he saw how surprised Michelle was, and at the last minute he chickened out turning the whole thing into a joke. Peter said that from that moment on, he knew in his heart that he wanted to be married to her but he was afraid of rejection.

Finally on June 4th 1999, they both decided to get married. There was no formal proposal, it just happened naturally and mutually. Their wedding was small (only 5 people), but it was perfect and it didn’t cost them anything. There was no big dress and fancy diamond rings. Michelle wore white pants and a top she borrowed from her friend. Their only wedding gift was a honeymoon vacation from all their friends at work.

“Home is where I put my head on the pillow”

Some time after their wedding, Michelle and Peter both got tired of their corporate life and decided to follow their passion of traveling. They both wanted to work in hotel service. Michelle took a job as a head of service in a hotel in Cape Town, and Peter was pursuing a career as a professional chef.

Eventually South Africa became too dangerous as crime was rising, and after losing too many friends to that very crime, in 2000 the two decided to move to Scotland, where they worked in a castle and later on, they managed a pub near Liverpool. They also went to the Butler Academy to become professional butlers.

After a while, they get got sick of the dreary weather in Scotland, and decided to find some sunshine. With the last of their money, they bought an old Audi at an auction for 400 pounds. The car wouldn't start shortly after they bought it, but somehow they managed to drive it all the way to Spain.

In Costa del Sol, they bought a local newspaper and found an ad: “an a English man and his dog looking for management to look after him and his villa.” They applied and got the jobs right away! They worked for him for 2 years.

Their jobs were always exciting and sometimes even dangerous. While working for an American businessman in Granada, they discovered that his bookkeeper was fudging the books. There was a lot of hostility towards Americans in Granada during that time and the newspaper quickly picked up the sensational story about “an American, who hired two South Africans to help with his shady business”. Michelle and Peter were held hostage in the house where they worked, but luckily a local friend helped them to escape potential jail time or even death. They fled in a boat and hid there till it was safe to buy a flight to Venezuela.

Nowadays, Michelle and Peter are living quietly in Cambodia on the small island of Koh Rong. Besides their work at the resort, they also run a small school for kids from the nearby village. They teach young kids the basic subjects: English, geography, math and train the older teenagers to work in the hospitality business.

When I asked them how long they will stay in Koh Rong, their answer was, "how long is a piece of string”? and that was followed with, “we are not planning on a family, so instead we are just committing ourselves to each other. We don’t have to prove anything anymore. We are trying to help other people to achieve their goals”.

Meanwhile The Tipsy Gypsies are currently still traveling the world, staying in cheap hotels, eating street food and measuring time by "beer o'clock". You might be at home, cooking dinner or cuddling with your kids. We clearly live our lives differently but no matter what you do or where you are in your life, with or without kids,  I want you to remember: Never stop chasing your "sun"!!!

How This Frugal Couple Booked a Trip to FIFA World Cup on Points and Miles

Guest post by FBZ Elite and Travel Points

FBZ elite travel and points

My wife and I are well-versed in traveling for cheap – in fact, it’s kind of our thing. Using points and miles, we’ve been fortunate enough to visit over 57 countries without forking over a lot of cash.

Now, we’re on our way to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia using points and miles and couldn’t be happier! Seeing this part of the world has been on our bucket list for a while and we’re excited to explore it.

As for total costs, we’re planning to spend less than $900 in total.

Now I know what you might be thinking, and you’re right! Attending the World Cup usually costs a small fortune (somewhere in the ballpark of $5,000 or more) but since we travel almost exclusively on credit card rewards, we never spend that type of money.

Plus, it helps that we like to explore off the beaten path.

It’s takes time to learn how to travel around the world on points and miles, but for us, the time invested is completely worth it.


I want to share some of the details of our trip with you, but before I jump in, I think it’s important to mention – if we can do this, anyone can do this. Traveling on points and miles isn’t rocket science, but having the right resources to learn what you’re doing can go a long way.

Here’s what I estimate we’re saving:

  • Airport Parking – $96 (friends will drop us off/pick us up)

  • Flights – $3,2000

  • Entry Visas - $320

  • Transportation - $200

  • Hotels - $400

  • Total savings = $4,216

 

Finding Flights

Our flights could have cost $3,200 altogether, but after redeeming a stash of American Airlines Miles, we paid around $225 out of pocket (taxes and fees).

We always fly economy to keep costs low. And, since American Airlines offers economy Award Saver tickets (tickets purchased with points) from the West Coast to Europe, I focused my search on finding airfare to Europe to start.

Booking Flights

After narrowing down our dates, we booked our tickets to Poland because it offers two easy layovers and helped us avoid some large fuel surcharges.

Here’s my valuation of the flights we booked – I was happy to be able to book them for over 2.5 cents/point.

$1,400 (flights value) - $23.76 (10% instantly credit back to my rewards credit card) = $1,376.24/54,000 miles = $.025xx/point

In case you’re curious, here’s a step-by-step walkthrough of how we found the flight deal, along with some other details.

My wife and I each earned 60,000 miles from signing up for the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and earning the signup bonuses (we both signed up).

Poland to Russia On Points

After booking our flights from the U.S. to Poland, I worked on finding airfare from Poland to Russia.

One of my favorite resources to use is Momondo because it features a +/- 3 day search feature, which in this case, scored us flights to St. Petersburg from Krakow for under $200 one-way.

Since we had already decided to take a train from Gdansk to Krakow to explore along the way, this option was perfect for us.

For round-trip, these flights came out to just over $600, which we paid for using points from my Capital One Venture card. It’s not a credit card that’s often top of mind for a lot of travelers, but in my opinion, it’s a solid card to have around. You can easily redeem points by making any travel-related purchase with the card and then “erase” the expense on your account.

World Cup Visas (For Free)

Our visas could have cost $320 ($160 each), but since we have FAN IDs for the World Cup, our visa fees were waived! We put the savings towards buying our soccer match tickets.

Usually, the visa process for Americans entering into Russia can be difficult and expensive, so we really lucked out on this one. We learned from a Russian couple we met in India that people heading to the World Cup would receive waived visa requirements by the Russian Federation.

Buying World Cup Tickets

World Cup match tickets start at $105 and using the money saved from the visas, we purchased tickets to watch England vs. Tunisia for $105 each. The cost was further justified since transportation is included in the cost (more on this in a bit).

After our tickets were issued and sent via email, which took a few hours, we registered our FAN IDs which entitles us to a Russian Visa upon arrival, plus free public transportation between the cities hosting World Cup matches.

We’re planning to use the free public transit a lot, and already have plans to visit and explore Moscow during our trip!

Where We’re Staying

Going along with our philosophy of traveling for less, we don’t typically spend a lot of money on high-end hotels. Since it’s our first time in Russia, however, I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as hotel rates go – especially during peak season.

Reading through reviews on Tripadvisor led us to the Original Sokos Hotel Olympia Garden at $51 per night. It’s in a good, walkable location, close to the airport and railway stations, and offers free Wi-Fi.

We booked the hotel using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points directly through the Chase Travel Portal.

Getting Around Russia


Since free public transportation is included with the match tickets we bought, getting around should be a breeze.

Our T-Mobile ONE plan offers unlimited text and data (yes, even abroad) and we’ll use Google Maps to help us navigate to wherever we want to go.

Getting Home on Points

We haven’t fully booked our flights home yet, but purposely chose a longer, windy route to stretch our trip across a few more place we’ve wanted to visit. Thankfully, booking one-way tickets using points typically costs the same as booking a round-trip ticket, so it’s easy to plan out each step of your route without paying more.

So far, we’ll be flying from St. Petersburg to Estonia and then make our way up to Prague for a few days.

From there, we’ll fly American Airlines from Prague to Washington D.C. using my wife’s stash of 60,000 miles earned with her AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard.

These flights cost us 54,000 miles plus about $186 in taxes and fees. Taxes and fees are higher since we couldn’t flight flights avoiding the U.K., which usually has higher fees.
From Washington D.C., we’ll travel around the East Coast for two weeks, then jump on a Southwest flight home to Portland for $5.60, thanks to the Southwest Companion Pass I earned earlier this year.

Is Russia Safe For American Tourists?

People have asked us if we’re crazy for traveling to Russia. Our answer? We’re super excited! The ease of booking the trip helps as well. The fact is, we’ll probably spend less than $900 on this one in a lifetime event and that makes the minimal risk worth it to us.


If you’d like to follow along on our trip, we’ll be posting a lot of pictures in the FBZ Elite - Travel and Points Community. Hope to see you there!

RIDING OUT MEXICO'S BIGGEST EARTHQUAKE IN A CENTURY

  Doctors recommended dose: take 2oz. per shake.

Doctors recommended dose: take 2oz. per shake.

It was probably 20 minutes after checking into our 10th floor Airbnb in Mexico City when Marta asked her obligatory, "can this natural disaster happen here?" question. This time it was earthquakes. Previous choices have been tsunamis, hurricanes, landslides and of course, volcanoes. 

"Yes, I believe Mexico does have earthquakes" I replied, but I couldn't say for sure. A quick google search by Marta and our question was answered as she stared in horror at photos of the devastation from the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. The death toll from that quake varies wildly from 5,000 - 45,000. Regardless of the actual number, it was catastrophic. 

Marta then expressed concerns about us staying on the 10th floor of a building whose design she questioned. Naturally I brushed her off and said everything was fine. 

A few days later we were exploring the city with our local friend Rodrigo and the '85 earthquake came up. He reassured Marta that most buildings since then were either built or retrofitted to withstand a powerful earthquake. I'm not exactly sure how much this reassured her, but throughout the next few days she kept talking about her feeling that there would be an earthquake. I of course thought she was crazy. 

Then on the evening of September 6th we heard a loud siren blare and a message in Spanish blasted over a speaker. It reminded me of the tsunami and hurricane sirens I heard growing up on Kauai. We had no idea what it actually meant so I began searching for "Mexico City sirens" and discovered that it's a sophisticated earthquake warning system that can give you up to 60 seconds to evacuate before the quake hits. At this point it was too late to leave but luckily nothing happened. I then read further that these sirens go off all the time as false alarms and residents of Mexico City now suffer from "alarm fatigue" and so basically everyone just ignores them. None of this reassured Marta any more while we lay in bed of our 10th floor apartment.

Moving on to the night of September 7th... it was probably about midnight and I had sipped a bit of delicious tequila that evening so I was just heading off into a mariachi slumber when.....

"RRRRREEEEEEEERRRRRRR...... Atención! Something, something in Spansish...."

I looked over at Marta and told her it was going to be another false alarm and that it happens all the time so she had no need to worry. Again, she was not convinced. So I rolled back over and closed my eyes and just as I did I heard her say, "the building is moving". I opened my eyes and I definitely felt something.... but was it the building, or the tequila? 

Then I saw the suspended light start to swing. Okay... it wasn't the tequila. No worries, it will just be a small tremor. Again, I was wrong. Then the building REALLY began to sway and you could hear the walls creaking and cracking. Marta ran into the living room to find our roommate there. She asked him if he had ever experienced something like this in Mexico and he said, "never". 

I threw on a towel and joined them in the living room. As the building continued to creak and sway, we lay on the floor next to the wall. Finally, as things began to ease up, we all decided to vacate. 

So down ten flights of stairs we flew and out onto the street were we were greeted by many other frightened people. As it finally became clear that the tremors were over, I got a few giggles and laughs from those passing by as I realized I was still in just my towel. Safety before clothing right? 

After returning to our apartment and finding paint chips from the wall everywhere, we saw the damage was minimal. Looks like Rodrigo was right! Our building held up well. 

IMG_0883.PNG

As we lay sleeplessly in bed watching the news unfold online, we would learn that Mexico City did quite well. But unfortunately the states south of us were not so lucky. Oaxaca and Chiapas received heavy damage as they were closer to the epicenter of the 8.2 earthquake. This was the largest earthquake to hit Mexico in a century!

I must say, I am now absolutely terrified of my wife and her confirmed ability to see disasters coming. Now if she ever questions a flight we take, or a place we go, I'm going to be left shaking in my boots. 

We have since sadly watched the death toll rise from a few to almost a hundred over the last few days and now seen the pictures of the catastrophic damage to the region. Unlike Mexico City, the construction in the south is not as sophisticated and I don't think they have the early warning system either. Many people were fast asleep when the quake hit. 

But what was most surprising to use was the chance to witness this warning system they have in place in Mexico City. Coming from Los Angeles we have heard the debates of trying to build a similar system for years, yet nothing has been done. And here we are in a FAR more impoverished country than America and yet they are LIGHT YEARS ahead of LA or even San Francisco when it comes to preparedness for this type of event. 

Seeing the potential it has for saving lives I cannot fathom how this hasn't been budgeted and implemented YEARS ago. And the only answer I can come up with is yet again, politics have trumped social wellbeing. And that of course, makes me sad. So I bid you adios until next time, as I I take another sip of Cazadores and go back to playing, "Is it Tequila, or is it Tectonic?"

 
giphy (1).gif
 

How I Almost Lost My Ear in India

The Addiction

I got my first piercing when I was 14. Like many other teenage girls in the 90’s, I chose to pierce my belly button. It was my summer break and my parents were away on holiday. I had about $8 in my pocket and I chose to spend it on a piercing. My mom was furious when she found out, but the piercing stayed and everybody forgot about the whole thing. At one point when I got older I took the belly ring out because I thought it was uncool.

Fast forward to 2016, when I was 33 and together with my husband we started our travel adventure. Call it a midlife crisis, but I wanted to get some cool piercings. So when we arrived in Lisbon, Portugal I instantly started to look for a piercing studio. I found a perfect place and I scheduled an appointment for placing a new piercing in my bellybutton and new upper lobe piercings.

The procedures were done in a very sterile environment by a professional, and I never expected to have any problems with it.

First signs of infection

A few days after the piercing, we arrived in Morocco. It was hellishly hot, about 45 C. My ear started to hurt and the color resembled a sunset on a desert. Perhaps it was the hot, dusty weather or not having been properly cleaning my fresh piercing but a small infection started. I got some over-the-counter medicine and continued to properly clean it for the rest of our stay in Morocco.

Indian Healers

By the time we got to India, I knew that my infection was not going away. I had to take some antibiotics. The day we started our journey in the Himalayas my year was better, but it was still bothering me. It had been almost 4 months at this point since I had been dealing with this chronic infection. As you can imagine lot of people told me to take the earrings out, but I desperately wanted to keep them. I believed it was just taking a while to heal and soon any signs of infection would be gone.

After few days of traveling in the Himalayas we arrived in Mudh, a small village. There was no pharmacy in the village, and the closest medical center was about 10 hours away.  In the evening my ear turned red/purple, doubled in size and I was in pain. At the dinner table I met a doctor who insisted that the earrings be removed. He explained that the bacteria was trapped inside and the infection would not go away. Because the ear was so swollen I wasn’t able to take the earrings out myself. I turned for help from our host lady, whose name I am unsure of but I just called her Tara. India is famous for piercings and most Indian women have at least their nose or ear pierced. Tara looked at my ear, made an “ooouch” noise that confirmed all my worries. She told me to come back in the morning.

As soon as I woke up, I ran down the street to the guesthouse to have my piercings removed. Tara was in the kitchen prepping food for the arrival of the Lama. It was a big day for Mudh, but she still had time to help me. We walked outside the house where I sad down on the warm, sun soaked cement stairs. I could not wait to have the earrings removed already! The screws from the earrings where jammed so tight, that no matter how hard Tara tried to unscrew them it wasn’t doing anything. Then Tara's husbands decided to bring some old rusty plyers from the garage and used some force. Do you see where this is going? Yeah… Mind you this was all happening very fast and I didn’t understand anything these people were saying. I didn’t resist the use of the plyers at first. I thought Tara’s husband was going to unscrew the stubborn piercings, but instead he decided to pull on both ends of the earrings as hard as possible, which caused extreme bleeding and almost tore my ear off. I swear the Lama, who was about to visit the town heard me screaming my heart out. I can usually tolerate high levels of pain, but this was beyond what I could handle. I started to cry, the blood from my ear was dripping on the ground and Tara was screaming at her husband for causing this mess. When I finally calmed down, a few young girls from the village showed up to help. It was funny because when they came over they still had pieces of dry dough on their hands from making rotis. I think they must have heard me screaming and crying and came to the rescue. One of those girls, with her tiny hands very quickly removed the earrings one by one. The relief was almost instant.

The Indian girls also put small pieces of neem wood where my piercings had been. That way the holes would not close. Neem wood has natural antibacterial properties and it is widely used in medicine. They also told me to apply hot oil with turmeric. For the next few weeks my ear was oozing with puss, blood and crust, but it finally got better. This time for good!

I seriously don’t know what I would have done without the help of these girls from Mudh. I felt like maybe they saved my life and my ear for sure!

Burnt Out...

It's been 8 months on the road. And I (Nate), am spent. I knew this was going to happen at some point, I just didn't know when. The first question I always asked long term travelers before leaving was, "don't you get tired of it?". 

Well, I can answer now with confidence, yes, you do.

The grass is always greener on the other side right? You're stuck at your desk job and all you do is dream of sandy beaches and adventure. Well I've had plenty of sandy beaches and at this moment, all I crave is routine. Predictability. MY bed, a LIVING ROOM, and OH MY GOD, an American supermarket with all the goodness and variety it has to offer.

I knew it wasn't going to be easy before we left but I didn't know exactly how hard it could get. I'm seriously one click away from an Expedia ticket home right now. My wife Marta is a natural extrovert. Adventure comes to her easily. She is the sole reason we have had so many amazing experiences along this trip and for that I'm grateful. But it also exhausts me! I crave mundane!

But this is part of it right? Pushing your boundaries. Stepping outside your comfort zone. It allows you to discover a side of yourself you never knew existed. Before, when I wasn't comfortable or didn't know what to do I could always go home. I was always a natural home-body, a couch potato. Now, I have no home and it's through this process that I'm forced into new experiences, new opportunities that I would never have sought out otherwise.  

As I sit here writing, with a second browser tab open and exhaustedly DREADING the purchase of our next tickets to _______, it is with those tickets that I also know new inspiration, new stories, new friends and a new me will arrive. And THIS... is the reason why I'm not coming home yet. 

"Coconut Juice" aka "Slow Poison"

Screen Shot 2016-12-18 at 2.55.58 PM copy.jpg

It was a beautiful evening in the coastal town Malvan, and we were sitting at Chivala beach watching the sunset. Early on we had befriended a local fisherman named Bhi and we would see him working every day when we went to the beach. He barely spoke any english and we didn't speak any of his local language but that didn't stop us from having a good time. 

As we watched the sunset and sipped our freshly opened ice cold King Fishers, we heard a motorcycle pull up. It was our friend! He wanted to take us on an adventure but we had just opened our beers so we almost said no. But finally after some convincing, we agreed to go. 

We finished our beers and the two of us hopped on the back of his motorcycle. This might sound crazy outside of India but we've easily seen 4-5 people on one bike so this was actually quite comfortable. 

First he took us to an amazing view point where we finished watching the sunset. A place we never would have found on our own so thanks for that Bhi! But after that he took us somewhere even better. 

His bike pulled over on the side of the road and we had no idea where we were. The only thing we saw was a tiny makeshift shack. We went inside and there was a group of men sitting on the floor clearly having a good time. "Coconut juice!" they said enthusiastically. We decided to take a sip and it was absolutely delicious. It clearly tasted fermented so we asked if there was alcohol in it. "NO!" the men said in unison. But after hearing them later call it "slow poison", and doing a little research we later learned it was definitely alcoholic. They must have meant there was no ADDED alcohol.

The drink is formally called Madi, which you can read more about here, but we definitely prefer "coconut juice" :)

 

 

Money Problems

It's not every day that a country decides to scrap two of it's most popular currencies, the 500 and 1000 rupee, let alone scrap them and tell everyone the night before.

Yet this is what happened to us while we were in Bombay. In order to cut down on blackmarket money and counterfeit bills, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to pull this bold move.

The government announced they would put a limit on how much cash you could turn in without imposing major penalties and fines up to 50% of your money. Luckily for us we had limited money to exchange. It still took us about an hour and half of chaos at the bank turn the old currency in.

Once we exchanged what we had, our problems weren't over. All ATM machines were down for several days and when random ones started reopening they would have lines around the block and run out of cash within hours. On top of that, few businesses accept credit cards so needless to say we had to be careful with our money.

Almost everyone we've talked to here is supporting this crazy strategy despite the major inconveniences many are facing. India is largely a cash based economy so there are millions who will be affected by this including the massive wedding industry. Many families pay for the weddings in cash and spend years saving for it. The restaurants in Goa are empty because so many people canceled their trips to avoid the hassles so we're sure the tourism industry is taking a huge hit. Also, remote poor people who live too far from a bank can have piles of cash saved up that may now be worthless.

Anyway, it was interesting to witness a country thrown into financial chaos for more than a month. Considering the stress it's causing so many people we sure hope the long term benefit is worth it and does what their hoping. Only time will tell... 

BFFs

For our last few nights in Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh, we moved to a nice little hotel in the Laakar Bazaar district in order to be more central. 

The hotel was decent enough and everyone who worked there was quite nice. But there was one employee who went above and beyond the call of duty. 

He was kind of like a bellhop, but also worked in the restaurant and just kind of helped out with whatever needed to be done. As we were checking into our room he began to converse with us. "What country are you from?" "What are your names?" etc. 

He was quite nice and so we indulged in some light conversation with him. At the end he wanted a selfie with us, which isn't unusual. We've taken millions at this point. But then he asked if he could meet us in the evening because he wanted to talk with us more in English.

We said okay, he left and we went on with our day. Sadly by the time we got home from touristing it was quite late and we honestly had forgotten to look for him (he was working anyway) and we went straight to our room.

The next day we saw him and there was a sad look on his face. Turns out he waited for us until midnight! We felt terrible.

We weren't actually able to meet with him until the last day. It was actually just me (Nate), who met with him. I agreed to talk with him in the restaurant and I brought my computer armed to show him some pictures of our trip and our blog etc.

As soon as I sat down the first thing he asked me was, "can you get me a visa for the UK?" I looked at him shocked and said I was from America. He then asked if I could get him one for the U.S. Sadly, I told him I couldn't for reasons obvious to anyone from there. I explained that the process was quite complicated and expensive and that I had no connections or authority.

After that we chatted a bit more and he insisted on giving me a gift which was quite sweet. I tried to refuse but he wouldn't have it. He also invited us to his village to stay with him and his family and said it would be "his greatest honor". At the very end he told me "we will be best friends and I will write you on Facebook every day". Well he's kept his promise. 

I've received messages almost every day ranging from, "how are you?" to "where are you?" to "I love you", "I miss you" and "please come back to Shimla!". Marta and I were a bit worried and quite shocked that we might have an actual stalker.

But since talking with other Indian friends we think it's a combo of things. One is a "lost in translation", two is a cultural difference, and three, he's never been treated this way by a foreigner before. The hotel we stayed at was really a locals place where Indian tourists stay. I don't think many westerns have stayed there. And the fact that two exotic foreigners walked in, talked with him gave him probably far more respect than Indian tourists do, he couldn't help but wear his heart on his sleeve.

With that perspective in mind, we're still in touch and he think he is a great guy. His messages still "weird" me out a bit but I try to remember they are coming from a good place. And although we don't always get it, we have to say the people of India are some of the sweetest, most sincere people we have ever met. 

... and that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Too Close For Comfort

6A3A7742-2.jpg

It's 3am and the alarm goes off. 

Time to get up and out the door in 15. Uber is on the way.

We load into the car and I (Nate) take a look at the driver. Something doesn't seem right. Is he sleepy? Is he drunk? I whisper to Marta to keep her eye on his driving. No napping for us on the way to the train station because who knows what this driver could do while we're out. 

The first half of the journey, things are fine. He's driving a bit slow which is weird for India but he isn't swerving or anything. We make our way onto the major freeway headed from Gurgaon to Delhi for a 5am train departure.

All of a sudden in the middle of the freeway, the driver starts slowing down. Actually more like coasting to a stop. He says nothing to us. Marta and I look at each other, then we look at him and ask, "what's going on?". He doesn't look at us and he doesn't say anything. 

My mind starts scrambling. I didn't hear an engine noise, I didn't hear any stutter, we just stopped. Is he trying to kidnap us? Is a van going to pull up in the dark and masked men whisk us away? Finally we start screaming at him "What's going on?!" That wakes him up and he finally gestures that the car is broken. 

At that moment a giant semi-truck flies by in the other lane. Great. We are in the middle of the freeway, in the fast lane, in the dark, in a stalled car. I instantly think one of these giant trucks could plow into us. Not more than seconds later, BAM!!!! My life flashes before my eyes (not literally...that would have been cool though) and we look back. A motorcyclist has just hit us. The motorcyclist gets up, and is miraculously okay. I don't think this was his first time. This is India after all where people drive INSANE! That's when I tell Marta we have to get out of the car and onto the side of the freeway. We grab our bags, exit the uber and move to the shoulder. 

At this point 2-3 Auto Rickshaws have pulled up. They offer us rides which at first we refuse but soon we realize time is running out to catch our train, and we don't have time to wait for another uber. So we negotiate the price, jump in the Rickshaw and he speeds us to the station just in time to catch our train.

The whole experience was so surreal and fast that it took us a few hours on the train to finally calm down and process. We were lucky this time but if that motorcyclist had been a large truck, we would probably be dead. 

That's my story and I'm sticking to it....