Category: The World Page 1 of 4

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!

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.

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

Country Profiles: Mexico

Giovanni Battista Ramusio’s map of Tenochtitlán (1556)

Now that we are a year away from the start of our trip, let’s start getting some of our research organized and up on the blog. We will be visiting roughly twenty countries throughout the world. There are a lot of details to understand regarding the logistics of getting to these places, what to do, and where to stay. Here’s how we are organizing each country’s profile:

  1. We start by looking at the travel advisories from Global Affairs Canada and the US State Department.
  2. Are any visas required?
  3. Are there special vaccinations required?
  4. What is the country’s currency and how does it compare to Canadian dollars?
  5. Are there any other special requirements for entering or exiting the country?
  6. Next, we collected a list of books, films, or music for each country to give a quick snapshot of the culture.
  7. Each country profile has a list of phrases that are useful to know.
  8. Then, we made a list of a) places to see, b) places to eat at, and c) places that are free or under $10 to see. These aren’t exhaustive lists, most have about five items. If a country has a certain attraction that requires early reservations, Studio Ghibli in Japan for example, this is noted.
  9. The last item lists possible places for sleeping.
  10. In addition, JBot created a binder of country profile information for the kids that uses CultureGrams. It may be available at public libraries? These CultureGrams provide useful timelines, an understandable summary of history, and general snapshots of modern culture.

Country Profile: México

Travel Advisories: Canada, United States (FYI, the travel advisories are severe for México. However, we are only visiting México City and are avoiding problem areas.)

Visa: Not required

Vaccines: Yellow Fever (Similar to malaria or dengue as it is spread via mosquitoes. A certificate to show you have been vaccinated will suffice. I always thought the name came from the Yellow River for some reason… It refers to the jaundice symptoms. Info on where to get shots in Canada are found here.)

Currency: 1 CAD = 15.0282 MXN peso (08.25)

Other Requirements: Obtain a tourist card upon arrival

THINGS TO READ:

PHRASES TO KNOW:

  • Disculpe – excuse me
  • Es una piña! – Literally “it is a pineapple” but it means “it’s a joke!”
  • Felipe y con tenis – “Felipe and with tennis” means happy and content
  • Voy a perseguir la chuleta – “I’m going to chase the cutlet” means I have to go to work but I don’t want to…
Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954)

STUFF TO SEE:

  • Mexican Wrestling at Arena México
  • Frida Kahlo Museum
  • México City Historic Centre – Unesco World Hertiage site includes the Zócalo (Aztec city centre, large square or plaza in colonial times). There is an archaeology site for the Aztec centre of the world (Templo Mayor), MUNAL (national art museum), the presidential palace, a cathedral, and a really, really big flag. The Palacio de Bellas Artes (iconic), the Museum of the City of Mexico, markets, and tons of other museums and palaces are close by as well.
  • Bosque de Chapultepec – huge park with a Castillo of the Spanish viceroy, the children’s museum. The really fantastic looking anthropology museum is close by as well.
  • Museo Jumex is a funky looking modern art museum in the Polanco neighbourhood.
  • Teōtīhuacān – you can take public transit!! Visit the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun by walking the Avenue of the Dead.

FREE OR UNDER $10:

  • Palacio Nacional – The office of the president, great Diego Rivera mural about the history of Mexico.
  • The Sears building has a cafeteria on the 7th floor that gives a great view of Palacio de Bellas Artes.
  • Free walking tour

PLACES TO EAT:

  • Mercado San Juan – Market in the city centre where you can eat chapulines (deep-fried grasshoppers in a taco) and escamoles (ant eggs)
  • In what I am guessing will be a trip-long trend, there is a Starbucks about three blocks from Templo Mayor
  • Lalo! – funky cafe, pizza, burgers, COFFEE
  • Taqueria Orinoco – dude, tacos.

PLACES TO SLEEP:

  • Gran Hotel Ciudad de México – too expensive but the interior is gorgeous! (Set for the James Bond’s film Spectre)
  • Hampton Inn and Suites México City Centro Historico – perfect location (2Q $118 USD 09.12)
  • Hotel Diligencias – They have a family room, $550 CND for the week, great location
  • Puntu DF – hostel that supports local arts. They have private rooms (with bath) that sleep two in a queen. $962 MXN per night ($66 CND)
  • Casa Eufemia – Hostel, we may be able to rent a 4 bed room. Cost for one bed is about $20 CND a night. Great location. They don’t have their own website though?
  • Hostal Regina – has a private loft room with 4 beds, however they are a party focused hostel, probably too loud. $1100 – 1300 MXN ($75 to 90 CND)
  • Hostal Suites DF – private room with 2 singles $740 MXN ($50 CND). A private bath as well.

12 More Months!

We’re at that phase of summer vacation where “back to school” starts to put the pressure on. One last trip to the beach, one last visit or road trip, one last lazy day before the hustle and bustle of school.

This school year will be different though. I have a feeling that our sense of excitement for the trip will be ramping up. There may be a lot of “hurry up and get here already!” sentiments. Pressure about route planning, to-do lists, and logistics will also be ramping up as well.

This weekend we spent a lot of time looking at the trip and trying to finalize our route. I think we may finally have an optimal plan. Fingers crossed!

Our major “tent poles” haven’t changed. Visiting Japan, for example, will never come off our route. But we have gone back and forth over the first leg of our trip several times. Several, several, several times! ^_^

Here are some of the tools that we use to help make decisions:

Budget Your Trip – This site allows you to look up a destination and see the daily cost of living, average housing, food, transportation, and entertainment costs. We used the feature that shows the values in Canadian dollars and then used those numbers to make our own spreadsheet. That way we could see if we were on target for our total trip budget.

Numbeo – Another useful site to get an overall sense of the cost of living in each destination. We used the comparison feature to compare with our home city.

Flight Connections – This site is really helpful. Search for a city and then see a visual of what places the airport flies to and at what frequency. Click on a route and see a typical flight duration. Does Cairns, Australia have flights to Alice Springs, Singapore, or Tokyo for example?

Google Flights – The map is not as intuitive as Flight Connections, but the general prices for a given month help to quickly compare flight itineraries to see what might be faster and/or cheaper.

Skyscanner – We used this to get a overall sense of the price of airfare.

AirWander – This is useful tool to find stopovers that are worth checking out, or if you’ve made an optimal route. For example, Muscat, Oman to Cairo, Egypt shows several cities (like Amman, Jordan) as potential stopovers that would actually make the trip cheaper. It’s not perfect, but it’s worth checking out.

We look at travel blogs and YouTube accounts with skeptical eyes as many of them are sponsored. However, Lonely Planet and Expedia have some YouTube videos that give a nice and quick overview of different destinations. This was helpful for getting feedback from the kids.

Okay, drum roll please, here is our current plan for our round the world trip:

Canada > Mexico City > Lima, Peru > Buenos Aires, Argentina > Auckland, New Zealand > Sydney, Australia > Alice Springs, Australia > Cairns, Australia > Tokyo, Japan > Seoul, South Korea > Singapore / Kuala Lumpur > Bangkok, Thailand > Katmandu, Nepal > Muscat, Oman > Amman, Jordan > Cairo, Egypt > Athens, Greece > Rome, Italy > Munich, Germany > Paris, France > London, UK > Back Home!

Should take about 190 days ^_^

How To Save Our Planet

Excellent short from WWF narrated by Sir David Attenborough (via Kottke)

(Definition of environmental justice – the fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens, the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Environmental justice is an important part of the struggle to improve and maintain a clean and healthful environment, especially for those who have traditionally lived, worked and played closest to the sources of pollution.)

There are so many new electric cars driving around Ottawa recently! I mean, hey, the provincial government cancelled a plan to plant 50 million trees and vaguely stated “something’s going on” when commenting on record flood levels in Ottawa but the citizens seem to be shifting towards action.

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