We’re Back!

7 05 2012

It’s always so bittersweet having to end a holiday and return to real life but alas, it must be done.

We had a most amazing time exploring the streets of Spain & Paris -and explore we did.  I’m positive we walked 20 miles a day as around each corner and down every, tiny side street there was something beautiful to discover.

I’ll be blogging city by city starting with Barcelona just as soon as we’ve had time to settle in and I can sort through photos.  I can’t wait to share it all with you!





Out of West Africa

30 04 2012

Of course, we always get excited to travel but it means something a little bit more to us these days.

It means getting out of West Africa.

Our every day regular life is spent in the third world without a lot of modern conveniences so the thought of visiting a place that has luxuries like McDonalds (which we never eat at when living in Canada but somehow seems a luxury now,) shopping malls, good food, etc. gets us really, really excited.  We write a list of all of the little things we want to stock up on and things we need to shop for because it could be several months before we get out again.

Here are some photos via Instragram of those little things we enjoyed on our first few days in Spain.

Shopping

Nice restaurants

Starbucks

Different beer (for me, a Newcastle – for Joe, Sierra Nevada IPA)

Salads and fresh vegetables & fruit





Au revoir Gabon, Hola Spain

20 04 2012

(via)

Joe & I caught a late night flight to Paris and this morning we’ll be making our way to Barcelona where we’ll start our 2 week tour around Spain.

Don’t worry if this blog is a little quiet over the next couple of weeks – I’ll be eating paella, drinking sangria and soaking up all Spain has to offer.





Expatriate vs Tourist

11 04 2012

I’ve always found great value in traveling — exploring, learning, experiencing different cultures.  There’s nothing quite like stepping outside your box.  Traveling lets you glimpse into a different world.  You get a short stint (be it a day, a week or a month) in a foreign place and you can admire it for what you see.  Typically, you see the best of a country and if you do encounter the worst, it sucks, but you move on. After all, you want to appreciate it, the good and the bad, because before long, you’ll be back in your regular life.

Herein lies the major difference between an expat and a tourist; a tourist leaves and an expat stays.  Things that seem cool and different as a tourist become a fear or a frustration for the expat.  It’s not something they’ll take a picture of and move on, it’s something they’ll face day to day whether they want to or not.  Tourists will choke down less than desirable food knowing that in a few weeks they’ll be back to ‘real’ food whereas the expat has to find a way to make the less desirable, desirable.  Those weird smells – yup, you smell them every time you step out your door.  The particularly funny stories where you are trying to ask something in a foreign language and no one understands you, that is now your normal morning routine.  It can be incredibly tiresome.

However, there are upsides.  You may have to grumble through the difficulties but you also get to reap the positives; that beautiful beach is now part of your home and you can visit it every, single day if you want.  You also get to delve into a culture much deeper than a tourist sees on their short stay in the country.  You begin understand the inner workings of the place and you learn just how complicated a society can be.  You see the good and the bad and create a much fuller and deeper understanding of the culture you’re living in.

It really is quite rewarding.  Every once in awhile I look out my window and think, “I live in Africa.  Oh my god, that is so cool.”  Of course, there are occasions where I think, “Where the hell am I and how did I get here?” too, but I feel like I’ve grown so much in the last couple of years and I’ve learned more than I ever would have imagined.  Joe & I have talked about what a tourist’s impression of Gabon might be – beautiful beaches, jungles, exotic, tropical, poor, dirty, culturally interesting, all of which, it is – but I’m glad we got to delve a little deeper, even if it wasn’t so pleasant all of the time.





Looking Back – April 2011

9 04 2012

Exactly one year ago, Joe and I were in South Africa experiencing the best trip of our lives.  Perhaps it was influenced by the 3 months of hell we experienced prior (robbery after robbery followed by months of homelessness and frustration) but this trip made our move to Gabon seem worthwhile as I’m not sure we would have ever done it had we not moved to Africa.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our time in Africa as we know it will inevitably come to an end and while it has been filled with many highs and lows, I only wish we had more time to travel.  Our safari one year ago has left me yearning for more and once we leave Africa, I’m not sure we’ll be back.  I often think back on it and realise how lucky we are to have experienced something so amazing.





Spring Travel

18 02 2012

When life gets us down, we plan a trip.  It’s the easiest way to pull yourself out of a funk and it gives us something to look forward to.

So… we’re heading to SPAIN!

We'll start off in Barcelona.

And then we'll head to Valencia.

We'll rent a car and head South to visit places like Granada and maybe Seville.

And we'll end our stay in Spain with a few days in Madrid.

Before we return to Gabon, we'll spend a weekend in Paris.

 We depart 2 months from now and we’ll spend 2.5 glorious weeks abroad.

Have you been to Spain?  Recommendations are welcome!

(Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)





Why You NEED to Visit South Africa

20 01 2012

Every time Joe and I visit South Africa, we fall more and more in love with it.  (Read about it here, here, here & here.)  Yes, it certainly has it’s issues and I know there would be downfalls to living there full time however, it is a fabulous place to visit and this is why…

  1. Kruger Park.  One of the most famous safari destinations in the world and it does not disappoint.  If you want the Africa experience that you see in the movies, this is the place to go.  Animals are abundant as are safari lodges ranging from rustic to ultra luxurious.
  2.  The People.  From our experiences, South Africans are so kind and welcoming.  They have had such a vibrant and at times, terrible history but their resilience is inspiring.
  3. There is something for everybody.  Obviously, the animal lover will be in paradise but there’s the wine country to drive through, the posh city life in Cape Town, cage diving with sharks for the adventurers, you can see life in townships first hand and learn about South Africa’s rich and turbulent history.
  4. It’s Beautiful.  The Cape of Good Hope and up the coastline, Table Mountain, beautiful beaches, wine country and many more sites to take your breath away.
  5. The Food.  Delicious.  Fabulous meat, fantastic home grown produce and more restaurants than you could ever want.  To top it all off, it’s not that expensive!  Joe & I constantly revel at the bill wondering how we got all that great food for such a good price.
  6. VAT Refund.  In South Africa if you are a tourist you get all tax money back from your purchases.  Save your receipts and research how it works (it is a bit of a process and you must prepare ahead of time) but you get money back in your pocket at the airport when you leave the country.  Seriously, who else does that?

I know it’s a bit of a trek for those of you residing in North America but I promise you, you will not be disappointed.  Save your money, book your trip, and if you feel so inclined, invite us!