I may not have firm travel plans for this year yet but the beginning of 2014 was off to a great start when I spent the New Year period in the south west of Western Australia with four generations of my family.
The Margaret River region of Western Australia is a perfect spot for a family holiday with lots of attractions for all ages.
We had three teenagers and a ten year old with us so the worry was that we wouldn’t be able to keep them occupied, but that worry turned out to be unnecessary as all of them got into the spirit of the holiday and enjoyed all that we could fit into the few days that we were there.
This is the first of a few posts that I hope to do about the attractions of the area, there’s far too much to put into one post and far to many photos to choose from.
So – Let’s start at the beach.
They wanted to go to the beach early – so I had them there early. By 7.30am on the first day we were down at the mouth of the Margaret River with their body boards and lots of enthusiasm. While the rest of the adults wasted the best part of the day in bed I was provided with a perfect photo opportunity. The sun shone, the ocean sparkled and the kids had a ball.
The surf here isn’t for the littlies though so watch them carefully if they’re with you.
The following day we were back there with the rest of the family in tow. All children, whether they are four or forty, love rock pools and the lure of the rocks and the pools created here is impossible to resist. The weather this day wasn’t made for surfing but we spent a couple of hours dabbling in the pools and climbing the rocks. I even got in some exercise when I climbed to the top of a steep sand dune across the river.
This is one of the most idyllic bays in Western Australia. I’ve been here several times and each time the colours take my breath away. The array of blues and greens of the ocean contrasting with the white sand is mesmerising. This time the weather wasn’t perfect, the wind was blowing and the water rather choppy but that didn’t take away from the beauty of the place.
One of the big attractions here is that you can get up very close to the stingrays who, for some reason, wander right into the surf at the edge of the beach, you can just about hand feed them.
- You can just make out the stingray here
This little town at the mouth of the Blackwood River is where I spent many camping holidays as a teenager and a then again a few years later when my own children were young. We would pitch the tents in Turner’s Caravan Park by the banks of the river and spend hours fishing, both from the beach and up the river in dad’s boat.
Little has changed over the years and this is one of the safest places for the little ones when it comes to splashing about in the water. For the older ones there’s also kayaks to hire and exploring to be done when they make it across to the other side of the river.
The area around the appropriately named Caves Road that runs down the coast is riddled with caves. The last time I was here I took a guided tour down the Lakes Cave but this time we opted for a self guided tour through the Mammoth Cave. It was amazing and the favourite thing that we did according to Emily, the youngest member of our family.
We were supplied with earphones and a commentary on the discovery and nature of these caves and the children were able to go at their own pace and wonder at the stalagmites and stalactites and all the amazing rock formations deep underground.
Sue over at A Word in your ear delves into her dictionary each week to come up with a new challenge. This week she landed on ‘high’ which is perfect for me.
Sorry people but I win this week – you can’t get any higher than Mt Everest, the highest point on earth. These photos were taken earlier this year when I trekked to Everest Base Camp to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first successful ascent of this mountain by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on 29th May 1953.
If you’re anything like me, when you go on holiday you take squillions of photos. This was particularly true of my recent trip when I trekked to Everest Base Camp, but my European trips are not far behind when it comes to the unbelievable number of memories I captured.
So …. what I’ve decided is that every so often (I’m not committing to a particular time frame as that never seems to work for me) I’ll be posting a photo or two (or maybe three) from my travels that particularly appeal to me.
To start the ball rolling let’s go to Oxford, with such architecture how can you not want to study there? The atmosphere simply inspires greatness.
I’ve travelled a lot in the last forty years but most of the time it’s been with family or friends, so the last few years has been a bit of a learning curve as I gradually get the hang of travelling solo.
I’d never travelled alone when I was young, I hadn’t done the backpacking thing and I don’t even remember having a weekend away by myself, so when I found myself in the position of wanting to head off again but none of my travelling partners was available to go with me I had to think about the whole solo travel scenario and what it would mean to me.
It took a few deep breaths before I was in the right place mentally to set out on my own but now travelling by myself holds no fears for me and there are definitely some benefits to be had.
There’s a lot to consider though when you’re planning to travel alone, particularly as a mature traveller. If you’re anything like me you like to have everything planned, you like to know where you’re going, what you’re likely to encounter along the way and have everything booked in advance.
So here’s five things you should consider before you set off into the great unknown by yourself.
THINGS TO CONSIDER AS A NOVICE SOLO TRAVELLER.
1. Destination – If you’re new to solo travel you’re probably best off heading into this exciting but possibly scary experience in a familiar environment. My first solo flight took me to the UK, I flew into Heathrow, an airport I’m very familiar with and then dealt with a familiar public transport system, hired a car and drove on the correct side of the road and stayed in bed and breakfast accommodation that I’d booked beforehand.
I’m not saying that’s the way to go for everyone, you may want to leap into solo travel rather than testing the waters first, but be aware that by going to an unfamiliar place on your first solo trip, particularly if you don’t speak their language, it may be a struggle. You’ll be dealing with the new concept of being in a strange place alone with no one to rely on or bounce ideas off. It took me a couple of trips before I got to the point of stepping into totally unfamiliar territory on my own but once you do it it does have a certain liberating feel to it.
2. Budget – As a solo traveller I think this is a crucial consideration. Again this is a personal perspective but I like to know that my money is going to last me the time that I’m away, I’m not good at winging it when it comes to money. I’m good at stretching the dollar and I tend to allocate a certain amount of money per day and can generally stick to it, what I save one day can be added to the next.
Be realistic and be sensible, know what you can achieve on your budget and plan accordingly.
3. Money Dramas – When you’re travelling solo you won’t have anyone on the spot to bail you out of financial difficulties if the ATM chews up your credit card in Kathmandu or if you have your cash stolen in Rome (sorry, but these things happen, don’t let it put you off though), so make sure you do have a back up plan. Maybe a contact back home you can make a frantic phone call to who can transfer money to you or at the very least the international phone numbers of your credit card company.
4. Accommodation – there are so many different options here for the solo traveller but you need to know what you’ll be comfortable with if you’re there alone. Also take into consideration what you want out of solo travel. Do you want to meet up with other travellers and hang out with them or are you in it for some solitary time? Your answer to this question will determine your accommodation options.
Try backpacking hostels, youth hostels and couchsurfing for meeting people, these are also cheap options if that’s what you’re after.
If you want a bit of space to yourself try self catering, you can shop locally and immerse yourself in the culture of the place. You could rent a studio apartment in Paris or a caravan in the Lake District – the options are endless and if you travel in the off season the savings can be quite significant.
5. Luggage – remember that there’s only you to carry everything and sort out documentation at airports, train stations etc. If you’re pulling a suitcase with one hand and a hand luggage sized case with the other and maybe you’ve got a large handbag or backpack over your shoulder and a camera slung around your neck, it’s going to be difficult to juggle everything. I get flustered in situations like this, I come over all sweaty, forget where passports, tickets etc have been put for safe keeping and then I’m sure I’m looking guilty of all sorts of international misdemeanours.
In other words, pack lightly, really think about what you’re going to need and ditch everything else. I find it difficult to follow my own advice on this one but remember that you can always buy anything you may need while you’re away, particularly toiletries which take up a lot of space and can weigh a tonne.
Not everything goes according to plan.
Above all else remember that not everything goes according to plan, planes are delayed, traffic jams hold up the taxis, things get lost or misplaced, you can get sick and there will be times when you feel down and miss everyone. But these times are hopefully few and far between and the positives of solo travel with the right attitude can be amazing.
Solo travel can help you to grow as a person, realise your capabilities and enrich your life regardless of your age.
Have you travelled solo as a mature traveller? What tips would you have for a first timer?
Comfort Zones – where do they come from, why do we feel compelled to stay within them and what occasionally makes us break out of them?
I discussed stepping way outside my comfort zone when I made the decision to trek to Everest Base Camp this year to celebrate my 60th birthday but, although I understood that I was breaking through my boundaries to do this, I didn’t really stop to think about those boundaries and how and why they were in place.
STEPPING OUTSIDE MY COMFORT ZONE
The boundaries of my comfort zone have taken a bit of a battering over the last few years. For a long time I was content to sit within the walls that society had dictated should be there, those walls that created a barrier beyond which I wasn’t expected to go.
Being one of the Baby Boomer generation I grew up in the fifties and sixties believing that a girl would finish school, work for a few years, marry and have children. So ingrained was the concept that at the age of sixteen I clearly remember being in floods of tears one day because I didn’t have a boyfriend and I believed that no one would want to marry me and I’d become an old maid. At sixteen for goodness sake!
I did exactly what I believed society expected of me, I married, I had children and a lovely home and I was perfectly happy. I have absolutely no regrets about the choices I’ve made in life, at the time I was happy with what I had, the question is, was I actually being me or was I being what society expected me to be?
STEP ONE OUTSIDE MY COMFORT ZONE.
My decision to return to study at the age of forty was the catalyst that set off a chain reaction, the spark that lit the fire within me. I was doing something unexpected, I was doing something that required determination and strength, I was doing something that society wasn’t sure I should be doing. Step one outside my comfort zone.
From there my future was determined like the snowball that picks up speed as it hurtles down the hill. Making that one move gave me an understanding of the possibilities that life afforded and the strength to be me.
It was a struggle, the next few years saw births, marriages, divorces and deaths in the family, but after fifteen years I emerged from university with a PhD in my hand and a bewildered look on my face, what the hell just happened?
A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES
That one step, that one foray out of my comfort zone opened up a world of possibilities.
I made a huge decision to disband my marriage of thirty years, I took Tai Chi lessons and met someone who has become a friend for life, I bought my own home and renovated it and for the first time I bought a car in my name, not that of a husband.
Travel took me places I hadn’t been before and I travelled solo. Bali was somewhere that I‘d never had the urge to visit, I’d never liked the idea of a culture far removed from my own. Only a couple of years ago though, as I sat by myself at a table, very close to what passes for a footpath in that part of the world, drinking a beer that I’d just bought from the bar and watching the chaos in the street, I realised that the me sitting there was not the me who had travelled to Europe thirty years previously with a husband and young children.
It was not the me that had to search out ham sandwiches in Venice rather than eat the local food and it was not the me that spent evenings in the campervan alone on that trip because I was too uncertain of myself to socialise with other travellers.
And then of course there was the step that actually shattered the remaining barriers of that comfort zone, my decision to trek to Everest Base Camp only two months before my 60th birthday.
Ultimately my choices in life have made me who I am today and I like who I am today but I’m struggling with society’s expectations again, with what I’m expected to be doing right now versus what I want to be doing.
So what is it that gives us the strength to refute society’s expectations? From childhood all our thoughts, all our feelings and all our actions are dictated and defined by that small section of the world in which we live, by social convention and the barriers of our own making.
We get so tied up in the minutiae of our own lives and our own social groups that we don’t even begin to think of our place in the world as a whole. We know where we stand in our own society, as husbands, wives, mothers and fathers, employees and employers, and we know how we’re expected to behave in that role. What does it take though to create a new role for ourselves?
WHAT ALLOWS US TO TAKE A LEAP OUTSIDE OUR COMFORT ZONE?
What is it that allows us to explore the boundaries of our mind and break through to a world that stimulates and excites us? What evokes that passion in us that no amount of negativity from others will quench? What impels us to broaden our horizons and take that leap outside our comfort zone?
If I could answer those questions I guess I wouldn’t be struggling with the concept right now. I’ve made that leap beyond my comfort zone before and I know I can do it again but it’s going to take some serious conversations with myself.
Have you crawled, jumped or barged your way through the boundaries of your comfort zone? Let me know, it may help me here.
When we travel to new places we do so with preconceived ideas of what we’re going to see and experience.
When we think of Paris we think EiffelTower, The Louvre and Notre Dame. When we think of Rome it’s the Colosseum and with Venice it’s St Marks Square, the Bridge of Sighs and the Grand Canal. That’s what we think before we go and undoubtedly we do remember those iconic places but what do we as individuals bring away from visits to world renowned places?
I’ve been lucky enough to visit Paris on three separate occasions and what do I think of when I think of that city? I remember camping in the Bois de Bologne campsite with two young children, I remember witnessing a marriage proposal during a meal half way up the Eiffel Tower and I remember
being scared experiencing the thrill of driving around the Arc de Triomphe in a campervan.
When I think of Switzerland, it’s the walk through the forest that we took the day we free camped in a car park, it’s throwing snowballs in the shade of the Jungrau and it’s the free apricots we were given as part of a festival of apricots in some rural area of the country.
Rome brings to mind our 2 year old chasing pigeons at the Vatican on Palm Sunday and grumpy teenage daughters some years later when we visited for the second time on a very hot August day. We headed straight for the Adriatic coast after that visit.
In Venice in 1979 I remember my two daughters aged two and five sitting on the ground, with their backs against the wall, outside the Venetian equivalent of a lunchbar munching on ham sandwiches, it wasn’t easy to find something so simple for their lunch. And I remember the green glass horses we bought from a glass factory in Murano. We would have loved to come away with something more fancy but we couldn’t afford anything more than the practice pieces they made. We had them for years and they moved house with us several times, I wonder what happened to them.
The monuments, the museums, the ancient ruins and the natural wonders lure us to far flung places but it’s the personal memories that take us back there.
What memories do you have that would take you back?