Tag Archives: vacation

Way Down Under

Having its merits, traveling is great but there’s nothing like the comforts of home, even if “home” is 7,000 miles away from your real hometown. Relaxed and rested, Diane and I returned from Australia a week earlier than planned. Having experienced our first attempt at a “working vacation”, we discovered three things we already knew but rarely admit. First, cubicle life is a piece of cake compared to most physical work. Second, those vendors you see at the local farmer’s markets work harder than anyone sitting behind a computer (yes, financial advisers and lawyers may work longer hours but they don’t set up the office and then take it apart again ). Finally, they call it “work” and not “play” for a reason. Many workaway hosts remind potential candidates that those seeking vacations and tourism opportunities should look elsewhere. Before the 20-something crowd that forms most of the work exchange volunteers rips us apart as being old farts, let me clarify. As assignments go, this one is certainly not challenging like creating a new water source for third world villages or grueling like planting and picking crops in the hot tropical sun and it doesn’t need much brain power like forming lesson plans for kids in English classes. Quite the opposite, this place is actually fun and I’m telling you up front you’ll probably never get two hosts as generous as Ann and Bill who keep the beer and wine flowing and gave us home cooked meals that rival any bed and breakfast. But for us, it was still work and ten days was just perfect for us.

Our first look at “Tassie” from the airport

Fresh off a week of tourism in Melbourne, we had no idea what to expect as we boarded the plane for the short one hour flight on Jet Star, the discount arm of Quantas. Noting one major difference from what we’re used to, security on domestic flights in Australia is lax at best. Unbelievably, other than the x-ray machine for carry on luggage, nobody asked for any form of ID or even a boarding pass right up until boarding time. Obviously not caring what happens within their country, transporting liquids, gels, plants, food or anything else is perfectly fine as long as your flight doesn’t leave the Australian continent. Making the return much easier, we simply carried all our liquid condiments we bought from TassieTasteBuds (our host’s business) in a plastic bag before repacking them in our main luggage in Melbourne for the flight back to Malaysia.

Continue reading

A Dirty Little Tourist Secret (Serenity)

After watching enough episodes of House Hunters International, Diane and I began to wonder if we should give equal consideration to a Caribbean Island in our quest for an early retirement destination. As two very poor swimmers, we love the beach but water sports are usually limited to shallow water snorkeling, pools and an occasional kayak trip if the water is calm enough. Thinking we’d be bored sipping drinks with friends and reading books every day, island claustrophobia seemed likely before too long. Not wanting to spend too much time in New York City on one of our rare visits to see my family, we looked for an excuse to sneak in an Expat Destination Research Vacation anyway.

Aruba's rocky coastline

Unfortunately, September is the peak of hurricane season and Caribbean Islands are usually best avoided unless you enjoy standing out in the gale force winds like a CNN weather reporter. Lo and behold, the solution lies in the islands known as The Netherlands Antilles and Aruba is a favorite with folks from the Eastern United States. Lying closer to South America than all the other popular destinations, the islands are out of the hurricane belt and there have only been a few isolated cases of destructive storms ever recorded. Thinking we solved the problem of how to extend the vacation and simultaneously preview an island as a possible retirement home, we said goodbye to The Big Apple and headed down for a bit of Dutch Caribbean hospitality.

Continue reading