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October Surprise!

We previously posted about our well-thought out, detailed, and frankly fantastic 2020-2021 family around-the-world trip plan. Spreadsheets! Research! Well-greased cogs in a perfectly coordinated machine!

A post covid travel plan resembles a grade four science fair project with still wet school glue… Something held together temporarily with chewing gum… Flying in a plane while building it!

In other words, you hope for the best but expect it to fall apart at any time.

Jbot spent a few hours this morning working on a spreadsheet to help us plan for future travel. He started by collecting data on various destinations that are open for Canadian tourists. For example, he created columns for the total number of covid cases, tests, and deaths. If the country was worse than Canada their cell was coloured red, if better their cell was green.

That gave us a good starting visual representation.

Next, he created a quick column on the average cost of living in comparison with Canada, again color coded red or green.

Finally, we looked at the rules that each destination has in regards to quarantines and tests. These are highly variable and will most likely change again. Some countries require a negative covid test three days before arrival, for example, some two days prior, and others don’t require any prior testing at all. One country even had a requirement for 10 days prior?! Many places test tourists at the airport, but not all. Some require 14 day quarantines, some do not. Some have rules about getting second tests a certain number of days after arrival…

You get the picture. The rules are all over the place! We’ll need to be vigilant about keeping updated.

We will still need to research flights, weather/climate, and insurance. But our quick n’ dirty plan of the day is:

Cuba – 1 month
Costa Rica – 1 month
Thailand – minimum 90 days for long-stay tourist visa
Europe – 3 months max for Schengen area

Previously, our main attractions were Japan and New Zealand. They are still very much closed to Canadian tourists. But the Olympics are on the horizon and New Zealand has just opened their border with Australia this week. Fingers crossed!

We are also keeping an eye on which countries are allowing Americans in… Maybe avoid those ones?

The future is very much a giant fog we will keep trying to find what lighthouses we can.

Resources:

Worldometer

Budget Your Trip

Travel Off Path






Huh.

Well.

That was unanticipated.

I mean, we had planned on getting sick, getting robbed, or random natural disasters…

But not this.

I was doing okay when I started cancelling our reservations for the Mexico leg of our trip that was planned for August. I did that in late March. However, after getting an email from the Hobbiton movie set this week advising us that they would be closed in September, I have to say I got pretty bummed. Celebrating our son’s birthday at Hobbiton on the same day as Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday was going to be really special.

What can we do? No point stressing over things that are out of our control. We are healthy and managing well. Let’s focus on the positive and what we can do.

I think the kids will go to physical school in the fall. Again, not 100% sure but that is what we are guessing. In that case, our son can do one semester of grade 9 in a physical school and grab any credits he hasn’t completed at Virtual High School. No big deal. The fancy IB program school says that we can’t go on their wait list as we missed their deadlines. C’est la vie.

Maybe things will be okay for travel again in February? Maybe?

Maybe we’ll just travel Canada in an RV? Maybe?

I can honestly say with all sincerity, I DO NOT KNOW.

Things may open up slowly but then who knows what different countries will plan for traveller requirements… There are just so many variables that are impossible to logistically plan around.

I sold one thing on Kijiji, tapping elbows with a stranger, before covid-19 was declared a pandemic. My to-do list of further items to sell has been put aside. My list of things to pack for storage also is paused.

Probably our biggest worry is that our lease for our car is done at the end of July. We’ll need to figure out some sort of temporary solution to tide us over til….. whenever?

In the meantime, homeschool, Just Dance marathons, and lots of video games around here!

Country Profile: Japan

Tokyo 2020 Olympic poster “Wild Things – Hachilympic” by Tomoko Konoike
Tokyo 2020 Paralympics poster – “The Sky above The Great Wave off the Coast of Kanagawa” by Hirohiko Araki

Travel Advisories: Canada, United States Visa: Travel visa not required for less than 90 days. You should have your outward ticket, accommodations, and proof of sufficient funds organized. Vaccines: Yellow fever is not required, you may want to consider Japanese encephalitis.

Currency: 1 CAD = 84.30 JPY (2020.01.18) A quick way to convert is to just take the last two zeros off of the Japanese price, should get you close enough.

Things to Read:

Phrases to Know:

  • Sumisen – “Excuse me.”
  • Hai, wakarimashita – “Yes, I understand.”
  • Dōmo arigatō – “Thank you very much!” Domo can also be used as a casual way of saying “hi!”
  • Arigatou gozaimasu – “Thank you.”
  • Onegaishimasu – “Please.”

I feel like, growing up in Canada, we are exposed to Spanish a lot more than languages from Asia and Southeast Asia. Probably all of that American tv… Living in Japan for a few weeks feels much more challenging than living in Mexico. At least we know some Spanish numbers and how to say yes or no!

Life Where I’m From shares some good advice about ordering food with little to no command of the language:

Stuff to See:

  • Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum (advance tickets required)
  • Tokyo – Robot Restaurant (advance tickets required)
  • Tokyo – Imperial Palace (surrounding gardens open to public)
  • Tokyo – Disneyland + DisneySea (Touring Plans and TDR Explorer guides). We’ll be using our experience planning a Disney World trip here!
  • Tokyo – Ueno – National Museum, Museum of Nature & Science, Zoo, Shitamachi Museum, the Metropolitan Art Museum, and the National Museum of Western Art. Not to mention, the beautiful park itself, the pond, and the temples! You can get a “Ueno Welcome Passport” at any Tourist Information Centre for 2000 yen. This gives you admission to many attractions plus a cool passport, a map, and a stamp game. (Without the pass the attractions cost about 4770 yen.)
  • Tokyo – Odaiba – Miraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Technology) looks really great! There are lots of attractions for kids in Odaiba, like Legoland, which our kids have kind of aged out of, Joypolis, Leisure Land, the giant Gundam statue, weird techno art installations at Team Lab Borderless, and the, ahem, poop museum. Oedo-Onsen-Monogatari (hot spring baths) is also a popular attraction in Odaiba.
  • Akihabara, Shinjuku, Harajuku in the Shibuya district…. Phew! So many neighbourhoods in this mega-city! That’s 13 million people in the core and 37 million in the metropolis, in case you were curious. This is the biggest city in the world!
  • Kyoto – Temples! Palaces! Gardens! Time to knock 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites off your to-do list baby! I’m hoping that we can see Kyoto with fall leaves?
  • Animals – Deer in Nara Park, rabbit island (Ōkunoshima), and cat island (Ao Island). And don’t forget Hachikō!
  • We plan on travelling to Osaka to feast on delicious food. I love the fun, oversized signage at some of the restaurants.
  • We’re not really sure how much the 8 year-old will understand about Hiroshima but we plan on going nonetheless.
  • We plan on crossing at Fukuoka to travel to South Korea by ferry.

The Hangry By Nature Youtube channel has been helpful for us in planning:

PLACES TO SLEEP:

Life Where I’m From shares an excellent break down of the different accommodation options to consider on a trip to Japan:

We took the kids out for ramen this past weekend. Oh my goodness! What a hit! Their excitement for travelling to Japan is “over infinite and the scale broke,” as TRex says.

Which countries drive on “the wrong side” of the road?

Our to-do list is getting tackled this week! We have an appointment with a travel clinic to begin the vaccinations we’ll need, we have a possible property manager coming to the house for an assessment, and we have an appointment with AirTreks in order to compare their price for our itinerary. The kids just got their new passports… It’s getting real!

One small item on the list was to take a class for driving a car with manual transmission, or “learn how to drive stick.” ProShift looks like one of the best local options here in Ottawa. I don’t know how much this will be needed to be honest. Will we be renting a car in Europe? We’ll most likely just get a Eurorail pass. And lots of Southeast Asian countries will most likely see us renting a scooter rather than a manual car.

Supposedly, it only takes a few lessons to get the hang of stick shift. But you know what really scares me? The countries that drive on the “wrong” side of the road!!

Source

Looking at you Australia, New Zealand, UK, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Malaysia!

Elevation and Altitude – Where is the highest place on Earth that we will go?

South America was, at one point, a destination in our travel planning. Therefore, I researched various places, such as Argentina, Peru, and Chile, in order to make country profiles. I don’t think we’ll need to use them for our 2020/2021 trip. Fingers crossed for a trip to South America in the future!

However, during my research I kept coming across the possibility of “altitude sickness.” I was kind of surprised. I thought that was only an issue if you were climbing mountains or something? Silly Canadian. Visiting Machu Picchu is climbing a mountain!

However, the possibility of altitude sickness, or at minimum a negative reaction to thinner air levels, came up as a possibility in guide books to Mexico City as well. I was curious. What are the altitudes of our travel destinations?

My son GMan has been really loving using Desmos for his grade 9 math class. I asked him to whip up the following chart to show the elevation data that I found for each travel destination:

https://www.desmos.com/calculator/lma5dfhlcc

We found that almost all of our travel destinations are below 100 m of elevation. This also includes our home city of Ottawa! The exceptions are places such as Munich (519 m) and Wellington (495 m), which fall in the mid range seen above. And then there are the two greater anomalies of Mexico City (2250 m) and Reykjavík (2110 m).

Altitude sickness typically manifests when you are above 2500 meters. The symptoms are: shortness of breath, fatigue, headaches, nausea, trouble sleeping, and other symptoms resembling flu. Drink lots of fluids, take an advil, and slow the rate of your physical activity seems to be the general consensus for remedy. Add some Montezuma’s Revenge and you’re golden baby!

Country Profiles: Australia

Source

We’ll come back to this country profile in the future. In the meantime:

Donate to the Australian Red Cross here.

Donate to WIRES, which helps wildlife in Australia, here.

Donate to the NSW Rural Fire Service here.

Donate to the Country Fire Association of Victoria here.

Donate to the the South Australian Country Fire Service here.

Thinking About Packing…

Guide books, travel blogs, and YouTube videos will devote a large portion of their energy to a subject that brings many pre-world travellers stress and, dare I say, TERROR!

WHAT DO WE PACK?!?!

What is the right bag? Do I need clothes with special wicking fabric? Should I roll or fold? Do I need packing cubes? What tech doodads do I need? And on and on…

JBot and I have always kept the Rick Steves mantra “pack light, pack light, pack light” in mind in all of our previous trips. And we plan on doing the same again. Everyone gets a bag (carry-on sized), a few days of clothes, and… that’s pretty much it. It is not really a source of stress for us.

The one big item that JBot researched was cameras. Buying a new camera just didn’t make sense. Neither of us has photography training. I really don’t like the idea of having a large and expensive bulky item that flashes with similar fashion to a neon sign: STEAL ME. We both also prefer living in the moment and grabbing quick shots. Therefore, we decided to upgrade our cellphones. JBot found that the camera quality on a Google Pixel 3a was pretty much equivalent to a fancy camera as well, cool! The cloud aspect will be helpful to keep an extra backup of all our photos. He also purchased a two year warranty which will be a good safety net during travel. And for some of us who are a bit dropsy when it comes to cell phones. Ahem.

However, the big reason for wanting to post was to share this video from Lefie. She has a YouTube account in which she talks about the philosophy of minimalism. Her challenge of “what’s the worse that can happen, you will feel slight discomfort?” is an essential question. Especially for us pampered Westerners.

Country Profiles: New Zealand

Photo credit: 2il org/Flickr

Glow worms!

Hobbits!

The How-to-Dad guy!

Suffice to say, we are VERY excited about travelling to New Zealand. It is our second most anticipated place, after Japan. Unfortunately, like Japan, it is also a very expensive place to visit. We will try to do our best to plan well and to have a great time without breaking our budget.

We will be arriving after Mexico City. Most likely flying from LA, unless the situation in Chile improves we switch back to our original route. We have gone back and forth many, many, MANY, times with how to get to New Zealand. We even considered a re-positioning cruise ship! The Pacific Ocean is just too dang big and there is just no easy and quick way to get across.

The number one goal for our trip to NZ is to celebrate our son’s birthday. As per his request, we will be visiting the Hobbiton movie set. It looks really cool!

Travel Advisories: Canada, United States

Visa: Not required

Vaccines: Yellow Fever

Currency: NZD (0.88 CDN) as of 2019 07 02

Other Requirements: Onward ticket with visa. NZ$1,000/month

THINGS TO READ:

PHRASES TO KNOW:

  • Rattle ya dags! | Hurry up!
  • Just popping to the dairy. | I’m going to the convenience store.
  • I’m knackered. | I’m tired.
  • Wop-wops. | Middle of nowhere.
  • Get your A into G! | Rattle ya dags! (Get your arse into gear)
  • Pakeha | Fair-skinned.
  • It was choice, bro! | It was good.
  • Kia ora | Be well.
  • Yeah-nah | No thank you.

STUFF TO SEE:

(Source)

PLACES TO EAT:

FREE OR UNDER $10: (https://www.aucklandnz.com/visit/events)

  • Auckland Museum, Auckland Art Gallery
  • Hiking (Mt. Eden, tallest volcano, or Cornwall Park/One Tree Hill, large Maori settlement)
  • Beaches (Muriwai Beach)
  • Ferry to Devenport, explore North Head (1800s fort)
  • Ferry to Rangitoto Island, climb the summit (1 hour)
  • Goat Island & Ambury Regional Park (day trip, glass bottom boat/kayaks or snorkelling)
  • Manukau Heads Lighthouse (free, donation accepted)

WHERE TO SLEEP:

Is traveling to South America a safe option?

The end of September saw protests begin in Santiago, Chile.

Santiago or Buenos Aires are the only two options for flying from South America to New Zealand.

If civil unrest continues, we may need to change our route and fly via the US.

Waiting and watching.

One million march to protest inequality, October 25, 2019 (via Santiago Times)

Amnesty link

Why is our daughter so excited about Mexico?

It could be the Mexican wrestling.

It could be tacos.

But, no. Its Los Espookys.

JBot read the subtitles out loud to her for the WHOLE SHOW (he glazed over the few swear words). It is funny and cute and cool. Check it out!

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