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These Kiwis are Off Exploring – Nathan and Sarah’s Next Six Months of Adventures

May 6, 2017

Incase you missed the memo, we’re moving on from Abu Dhabi in June.

The last almost-two years have been amazing, eye-opening and of course, at times, challenging.  We wouldn’t change it for the world though.  We’ve loved emersing ourselves in a new culture, connecting with like-minded people, having the opportunity to travel more and jumping into this crazy-fun world of blogging.  I’ve grown, both personally and professionally (I’ve been teaching here in Abu Dhabi) and making the move has been an awesome reminder that at any age, you can set off on a new adventure.

Since our arrival in the UAE in August of 2015, I’ve been to 32 new countries (and Nathan’s not far behind) which far surpasses anything I’d hoped for.

It’s funny though how, at least for me, opening your eyes to the world doesn’t quench your hunger for adventure, instead it fuels it.

The more I see, the more I want to see.

The more I explore, the more I appreciate how fortunate I am to be able to do so.

As we start on our journey home, it’s probably not surprising that it’s with real mixed emotions.

When we first arrived in Abu Dhabi it was with the understanding that we would probably only be here for two years – Nathan’s job is back in New Zealand and there was never any doubt that he’d rejoin the family business.

When presented with the possibily of adding a third year into the mix we faced the difficult decision of staying put in the UAE or heading off again.  Though Abu Dhabi has become our home the call of the unknown and the possibility of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure was too great to ignore – so, off we go on our way in June.

We’re pumped to see our family, friends and cats and to chow down on some New Zealand treats – I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed steak & cheese pies and lamingtons!  I can’t wait to get back to the style of teaching that I love, to spend some time revisiting some of our favourite spots in and around Aotearoa and to walk outside in the summer-time without melting!

I’ll miss the hussle and bustle of living in the UAE though – the sea of kandoras and abayas in the massive malls here, the call to prayer singing out throughout the day, the attitude towards travelling and so much more.  I’ll miss having friends that have started to feel like family, my awesome workmates, dinner dates to PF Chang’s and Chili’s and picking up fresh caramel popcorn at the movies.

As much as we know we’ll miss it though, there are new adventures to be had.

My confession is I fall in love with so many places. I’m always half broken-hearted by goodbyes, and I don’t believe in non-attachment. There’s no passion inside of that. I believe in burning, and long, and I believe we leave tiny pieces of ourselves in every place we’ve loved.

Victoria Erickson

It’s time to fall in love with new places all over again…

So, what’s next for us?

Europe

We’ll be making multiple stops in Europe over a fairly short timeframe.  Although we would have loved more time there as so much of our travel recently has been up that way, we thought we’d stop into a few of the major cities that we’ve not seen yet to farewell to a continent that we’ve come to love.

  • Paris, France
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Edinburgh, Scotland (where with any luck we’ll make it up to the Isle of Skye!)
  • Barcelona and Ibiza, Spain
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Zurich through to Geneva, Switzerland
  • Kiev, Ukraine

South America

Having never stepped foot in South America we’re a little clueless as to the details of what we want to see and do but we’ve found plenty of inspiration through our friends and our ever-trusty Pinterest account.

We’ll be flying into Buenos Aires in Argentina before making our way over to Santiago, Chile but from there, who knows?

With approximately six months, we’ll be travelling slowly and working as we go.  We can’t wait to have a little more time up our sleeves to to be more responsive with our plans.

Due to the tight timeframe we normally travel on, things have to be super planned-out to ensure we see and do everything we want – this trip will be significantly more relaxed.  Bring it on!

The following places are featuring high on our agenda (but are anything but a conclusive list):

  • Patagonia
  • Machu Pichu and Rainbow Mountain, Peru
  • Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
  • Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia (salt flats)
  • The Amazon Rainforest
  • The Iguazu Falls
  • Christ the Redeemer, Rio, Brazil
  • A cruise to Antarctia or visit to the Falkland Islands – both of these as much less likely but never say never!

Which of these spots have you visited?  Where would you recommend?  What were your favourite things to do?

We’d love to hear your thoughts as we start digging into planning these trips!

The way I figure, the best way to get over moving on from a place you love is to plan the next adventure…

Thanks to Time Wheel, SCMP, Askideas, Keyword Suggests, Traveler Corner, The Bohemian Blog and World for Travel for providing snaps before we have our own.

Activities Adventure Africa Eco Tourism planning Tours

How to Pick an African Overland Tour – A Guide to Booking the Trip of a Lifetime

February 26, 2017

Overlanding in Africa is a once in a lifetime trip – one that I had been dreaming of since I was a young girl collecting promotional wildlife cards from the petrol station.  Fortunately for me I was able to live this reality last year, spending seven weeks overlanding  in Africa, exploring nine countries, and getting a taster of what the truly incredible continent of Africa has to offer.

The biggest challenge I faced before for departing on this amazing journey was choosing what overland company to book with.  There are so many options, all offering amazing destinations, different price brackets and similar itineraries and it was a little overwhelming, to say the least.

If you’re looking at overlanding in Africa without spending a fortune, this post is for you!  Read on to find out my top tips on how to select the perfect budget overland trip for you and your needs.

Flexibility

Being flexible with the duration of your trip and your start and end dates, opens up staggering possibilities of trips, routes and options, often saving you money in the process.  Many of the overlanding operators in Africa offer similar routes and itineraries and though it’s hard to tell from many of the websites, a lot of the companies operate a looping system – this means that there is flexibility when selecting both your route and start locations.

Keep an Eye on Your Budget

Really look into every detail of what is included in your overland trip.  There can be a lot of added expense and Africa can be surprisingly expensive (especially tourist activities).  Commonly, overland trips are divided into two payments, one for the tour and one as a local payment (which can be nearly as high as your tour payment).  The local payment is for your day to day expenses in Africa (such as groceries, petrol and campsite fees).  When setting your budget, do not only account for your flights, trip payments, and additional tourist activities, include a budget for nights that meals aren’t included at the campsites (these add up), upgraded accommodation (you will have the opportunity to upgrade from your tent to other guest accommodation in many locations), lunches (if not included in your tour) and any other day to day expenses – small expenses can add up over a period of months.

Check the Included Safari Adventures

The main priority for most people overlanding in Africa is to see the amazing wildlife. Safaris are brilliant – the knowledge of your game driver is mind-blowing and it’s an experience not to be missed.  Unfortunately the harsh reality is a lot of the safaris are not included in your tour payments.  Be sure to research what safaris are included as part of your tour and the costs involved in the game drives that aren’t included.  Safaris are relatively expensive and the added costs of the game drives will quickly add up.

Contributing – Consider How Much You’re Willing to Do Yourself

Traveling at the best of times is exhausting work and an overland trip is definitely not an exception!  The cheaper your trip the more you will have to contribute towards the day to day running of the tour and that can be hard work.  Your responsibilities might include setting up and putting down your tent (you will be a pro in no time), packing the truck with all the gear (tents, luggage and cooking facilities), setting up the cooking facilities, cooking dinner (for a large group), cleaning the dishes and the truck (obviously not all at once, there will generally be a rota).  This can be challenging work, and generally where the tension and conflict amongst the group will playout.  Be aware of these factors and the required responsibilities before selecting your trip – if you’re looking to relax after a day out on the road, then chances are, you’ll want a more inclusive-tour.

Dig Into Reviews

Reviews are always an extremely helpful consideration and whilst obviously these are all down to each individual’s personal preferences, if there is common opinion across the reviews it can really show the difference betweenc companies/routes.  I would recommend reading the reviews with a focus on the company itself, tour guides, outside operators (for game drives) and reliability of vehicles as all of these factors will impact your trip significantly.

 Research, Research, Research

While this can be a tedious task it’s one that will ensure the best adventure for you. I found the best place to start was determining a rough time frame for my trip and the places that I couldn’t miss (for me this was the great migration, trekking with the mountain gorillas, visiting a local village and fitting in as many game drives as possible).  Once I had decided on these factors I started the research process.  What was the best company for me, the best route to take, what was included in the tour and the optional activities?   Eventually by changing my itinerary and starting and ending in different locations I was able to see everything I wanted plus a tonne more.

Reach Out!

Don’t be afraid to contact tour companies for advice and options.  All of the companies I had contact with were extremely helpful and also gave me options that weren’t listed on their webpage.  They’re the experts and are there to help – be sure to reach out.

Ready to Begin Planning your African Overlanding Adventure?

To get you started with your planning, here some popular budget African overland companies.  All have fantastic reviews and offer a range of overland tours to suit different needs and budgets.

Tucan Travel – Absolute Africa – Intrepid Travel – G Adventures

Happy planning!


Headed to Africa or want to help someone that is?  Pin this post now!

A guide to booking an amazing African overland trip - on budget and on point! Booking an African overlanding trip can be overwhelming - this guide will help you come in under budget with an amazing trip!

Must have apps planning tech stuff Travel Gear

How to Avoid Loneliness on the Road: HerePin – Your Essential Travel App

February 11, 2017
Skaftafell Glacier Iceland winter South East Iceland Itinerary Ring Road Kathmandu driFILL jackets

Travel opens endless doors, of that there is no doubt.  It pushes comfort zones, challenges complacency and rewards in all manner of ways.

When you travel, you come to realise that people the world over are remarkably similar, whilst also reminding you of how fortunate you are to be in a position to travel in the first place.  Spending a significant period of time overseas makes you that little bit prouder of your heritage and culture but leaves you with a newfound understanding and appreciation for different ways of life.

Travelling obviously makes up a large part of our lives and though we adore discovering new spots and the personal growth that comes with new adventures, nothing impacts us quite like the people we meet on our adventures.

Sounds pretty amazing right!  Could it get any better?

Well, yes.

Travelling can also be hard – sometimes you get lost, run out of money or end up in an uncomfortable situation – it is after all, still life.

Sometimes when you move on from place to place (and everyone around you is doing the same thing), you feel like you’re surrounded by people but know no one.

Whilst at times it’s easy to meet likeminded travellers and locals, other times, it can be difficult to connect with people.  Though every traveller sets off with great intentions, sometimes it just ends up being difficult to meet others on the road – that’s where HerePin comes in!

HerePin travel app

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles” – Tim Cahill

HerePin is an app sets out to connect likeminded travellers on the hunt for information, local insight and friendship – it’s like the Tinder of the travelling world, but with none of the seediness (and the added bonus of being a great resource of helpful hints).

Designed in New Zealand, a country know for its entrepreneurial spirit and desire to see the world, the team has managed to centralise exactly what travellers need.

HerePin travel app

Getting started is easy – just download the HerePin app for free, sign yourself up (we linked our account to Facebook so the photos load automatically – too easy!) and away you go.  You can choose to either set your location automatically or plug in a specific spot (maybe where you’ll be travelling next so you can start gathering some tips?) and straight away, you’ll be able to connect with others locally and see past pins that have been dropped, offering local insight.  If your question hasn’t already been answered, go ahead and ask one yourself.

It’s almost like having your own personalised travel guide in your pocket for free!

HerePin travel app

Right now the majority of users are based in New Zealand but global use of the app is spreading and with more users comes more information and opportunities to connect in meaningful ways.  This app functions based off its community so jump in and join us – let’s get it cranking!

Whether you’re a traveller off to check out somewhere new, a local looking to make some new friends or someone that’s just moved to a new city and on the hunt for the best hidden treasures, HerePin will help you on your journey.


How to Avoid Loneliness Whilst Travelling - HerePin App

This post was brought to you in collaboration with HerePin.  As always all thoughts are our own.

Though there aren’t many users in Abu Dhabi yet, we’re signed up for HerePin and love it.  Don’t forget to connect with us on the app  if we’re in the same part of the world (we’re @ExploringKiwis).  We can’t wait to see you out there!

Activities Adventure day trip Europe Iceland Itineraries planning Scandinavia/Nordic Countries Tours

Bring on the Snow! Planning our Iceland Trip…

November 24, 2016
Iceland itinerary planning

Iceland – the land of puffins, fluffy wild horses, natural geothermic pools, towering waterfalls and giant glaciers.  In less than a month we’ll hit this winter wonderland and I couldn’t be more excited!

We’ve got the most amazing itinerary lined up, some accommodation locked in and an awesome Jeep with our name on it.  Snuggly warm clothes have been purchased and (with a little luck), the DJI drone that we’ve got on order might make it to us in time – we’re about as ready as can be.

I’m in the process of finalising our plans and practically burst with anticipation each time I see photos pop up on my Instagram feed.  As Kiwis, we’re pretty accustomed to beautiful scenery and exciting activities but there’s something about Iceland that’s really calling to me.

I know we aren’t the only ones obsessed with this island national though – I’ve already spotted countless fellow travellers announce plans to visit for themselves in the coming six months so thought I’d put together this list to help people undertaking their research.

So, if you’re looking to book a trip, let us save you some time – these are the best of the best that we’ve come across so far.  Each and every person that I’ve emailed has gone out of their way to help us and they all have reviews that speak for themselves.

Bring on December when we can bring you our own personal thoughts!

As if you needed any more reason to visit Iceland – here’s a set of fantastic wanderlust-fueled Icelandic photos to help get you excited too!


Adventure Activities

Ice Caving – Glacier Adventure

When winter sets in and the ice caves stabilise, adventurer seekers have the opportunity to go exploring under the ice.  The way the light defuses through the ice is absolutely mesmerising – I can’t wait to see it for myself!

Snorkeling in the Silfra Rift – Scuba Iceland

If you’re looking for an activity that’s unique to Iceland, check out the Silfra Rift.  This is the only place in the world where you can dive or snorkel between two continental plates.  Done a dry suit and jump in – you’ll struggle to find water clearer than this anywhere!


Sight-Seeing Tours

Snæfellsnes Peninsula & Golden Circle Tours – Moonwalker

Known for their adventurous, go-anywhere attitude, Moonwalker organises both private and group tours through the best parts of this Nordic country (and seriously, check out those 4WDs!)  Bessi has been awesome to deal with and we’re excited to meet him in person.

South Coast Tour – VIP Tours

Specialising in personal tours around the Southern and Western Coasts, Hörður, a born-and-bred Icelander crafts tours to suit the needs of his guests.  He’s lined up some awesome spots for us and with any luck, he’s told us we might be able to spot the Northern Lights as we head back to town too!

VIP Tours Iceland Exploring Kiwis

Northern Lights by Boat – Special Tours

When tossing up between visiting Iceland in December or March the main factor we considered was the likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights.  Everything we read said that they’d potentially be backing off come March so we promptly booked for December.  Of course, nothing’s set when it comes to mother nature but we wanted to give ourselves the best chance of catching them.

There’s the option of heading out of the city by car/van/truck but to make things a little more interesting, we decided to join Special Tours on their boat trip to hunt down the Northern Lights.  It will be nice to get a different view of the capital, whether or not we manage to catch the lights.


Relaxing in Iceland

Geothermal Spa – Blue Lagoon

Swimming spots don’t come much more iconic than the Blue Lagoon!  Though it isn’t cheap and there are other geothermal pools around the country (each town has at least one of their own), there’s something impressive about the sheer scale of this one.

Have you planned your winter yet? #BlueLagoon #Iceland

A photo posted by bluelagoonis (@bluelagoonis) on

Foodies Tour – Wake Up Reykjavík

When it’s cold outside is there much better than warming up inside with delicious local food?  Iceland is known for it’s traditional food (rams testicles, fermented shark and sour sheep heads anyone?) and though that doesn’t appeal to us so much, the idea of popping into Reykjavík’s most popular restaurants (alongside the local best-kept-secrets) certainly does.  Renowned for showing everyone an awesome time, we can’t wait to chow down!

GOOD MORNING from REYKJAVIK ??? What is your favourite about Iceland?

A photo posted by Wake Up Reykjavík (@wakeupreykjavik) on


The Essentials

Warm Clothes – Kathmandu

Having spent the last year-and-a-bit living in Abu Dhabi, we’ve been caught noticeably short on clothing designed to keep us warm but Nathan’s about to bring some awesome adventure gear back from New Zealand for us and I can’t wait to try it on and get snuggly!  Kathmandu is one of my favourite shops back home – camping gear, hoodies, jackets –  whatever the product, we always find it fit for purpose and well-made.  I can’t wait to get my hands on some quality Kiwi-designed products again – especially my new jacket!  The technology they’ve managed to incorporate into it is seriously impressive.  They’ve taken the best of down and managed to waterproof the jacket which should result in us being snuggly-warm regardless of the weather.

Snow has fallen! ? @thompsonfilm

A photo posted by Kathmandu (@kathmandugear) on

Transport – Geysir

Iceland as a country is fairly compact but to make the most of your time, you’ll definitely want to get out of the capital.  We’ve booked on a number of tours (and they’re very kindly picking us up) but to get out to the ice caving (+ the abandoned DC10) and to enjoy the Northern Lights out of Reykjavík, a car was on our ‘must have’ Iceland list.  Geysir have some awesome options – lots of late-model 4WDs to make getting about really easy.

Full on moody skies. ? by @donalboyd #GeysirAdventure

A photo posted by Geysir Car Rental Iceland (@geysircarrental) on


Accommodation

Galaxy Pod Hostel

Our first night we’ve booked into a quirky little hostel in Reykjavík – far better than bunk beds, we’ll each be sleeping in a little self-contained pod.  With accommodation prices in Iceland being relatively high, we’re more than happy to be staying here.  It looks like the perfect way to save some money, meet other travellers and enjoy a unique accommodation whilst retaining the privacy that we’re used to.

Hali Country Hotel

Part of the appeal of Iceland is the ability to get out into the back-country and heading out into the wilderness means finding a spot to stay.  The Hali Country Hotel tick all the boxes for us – a great restaurant, comfortable rooms, wifi and a beautiful, remote location.  It looks like it’ll be a great place to unwind after our day out in the ice cave!

Radisson Blu Saga

After a marvellous stay at the Radisson Blu in Sohar, Oman, we’re very excited to experience the Blu hospitality again on our upcoming visit to Reykjavík.  We’ve already booked in for dinner and can’t wait to relax here between tours and activities.

Kex Hostel

Recommended by another travel blogger, Kex is known locally for being a fantastic hangout spot, popular with musicians and those looking to have a good time.  With industrial, quirky styling, Kex looks like a hostel with a real sense of character.


Stay tuned for updates from Iceland along with our experience visiting Amsterdam for the first time and touring Southern Norway in an RV.  Bring on Christmas!

Update: We’re in Iceland and absolutely loving it!  Check out our post detailing how to find Sólheimasandur’s abandonded DC3 – an absolute must-see on the South coast.  Also, our review of Wake Up Reykjavík, the Galaxy Pod Hostel and our amazing Kathmandu jackets.

Unfortunately our ice caving was cancelled due to bad weather but we managed to visit the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach along with the Skaftafell Glacier – all of which were fantastic alternatives on the South-East Coast.

Have you visited Iceland, Norway or Amsterdam before?  If so, we’d love your recommendations – especially for Norway and Amsterdam!


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Bucket-List Moments in Iceland - Plan your itinerary 8 Activities not to miss in Iceland

Africa Itineraries Kenya planning Tanzania Uganda

We’re off to Africa!

January 23, 2016

Since moving to the UAE, we’ve already been fortunate to travel to a new continent (Europe, we’re talking to you!) and I’m excited to say we’ll soon be venturing to another… the wild vastness of Africa!

We’ve pencilled together an itinerary that looks something like this:

  • Tanzania – Zanzibar for some beach time (snorkelling, diving etc)
  • Kenya – leaving from Nairobi for a three day safari to Maasi Mara (and possibly Lake Nakuru?)
  • Uganda – Murchison Falls for a three day safari (inc. a rino sanctuary) and then either a 3 day trip to trek with the gorillas or 4 days with the gorillas and chimps.

Our flights into Zanzibar and out of Entebbe have been booked and though I’ve got information on the other things we’re looking at, we are flexible there.

Have you been to any of these spots?  What did you love?  Is there anything you’d avoid?  It’s our first time in Africa and we’d very much like any guidance you can offer!

xx Sarah

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