Friday, October 30, 2009

Cause this is Thriller!

While it's not a huge trip, we've decided to head out to Burnaby (one town over from Vancouver) to host a black tie Halloween event in celebration of Sarah's 30th birthday. The road off the highway winds around City Hall, the Art Gallery, and the Performing Arts Centre before heading out into the woods around Deer Lake. The lake is owned by the city and this house, Baldwin House, is the only house on the lake so the view from the house is of a tree-lined lake illuminated by the distant lights of the city. It was designed by Arthur Erickson, who is a famous Canadian architect. It was done in the sixties, completely glass-fronted, with a mainly wood interior and lots of fun funky 60s decorations. Here are a couple of shots.

Though we have this good-sized two-story house to play in, at the end of the evening, we laughed at ourselves because we'd spent the entire evening in the kitchen and small dining nook, a space roughly the size of our apartment. Old habits I suppose. Now we've migrated to the living room and I'm typing while Sarah knits on the couch. It's fun to have this much space, but oddly unnatural as we are so used to living in a cramped city apartment.

Anyway, rambling thoughts aside, we had a very fun evening prepping some of the party decorations! I don't think I've actually carved a pumpkin since I was a kid, but turns out it's alot easier with adult-sized hands and sharp knives. Remember those safety knives? I wonder if I was the only kid who was tortured by those damn safety knives. I imagine parents everywhere chuckling tonight at their kids hack away at pumpkins with knives that wouldn't even cut butter. Course I say this having a big scar on my right knuckles from the first year I was allowed to use the steak knives for carving...

Well Sarah's fallen asleep on the couch curled up with Helphy so I suppose it's time to sign off. Very excited for the party tomorrow! Amazing how traveling 45 minutes out of the city feels so far away.

I'll cut you pumpkin! Don't I look tough in my Harry Potter sweater!?!

Using a steak knife...yikers.

The finished product. Happy birthday Sarah!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Like Boston, only freezing cold and full of castles!

Steve here again,coming to you from the chilly capital of Canada! The above shot is from the airport, which was designed by the same architect as the Vancouver. They use alot of the same elements, lots of open space, metal, glass and water. Pretty darn far as airports go.
Ottawa is full of old brick buildings, very much like Boston, and the changing fall colors had finally made it all the way north to sunny Canada. Beautiful time of year to visit. I sprinted around for a couple of hours in between conference activities, got lost, got directions from some very polite Canadians, and took a bunch of pictures. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable visit. Though then again, I did manage to run into a few uniquely Canadian wonders...

I thought we stopped this around the time of the Spanish Inquisition?

The. Best. Happy. Hour. Ever. Seriously.

Canadian Supreme Court. Not sure if I've ever seen a building that says "Don't Break The Law" with more force. Scary. 

One thing to know about Ottawa, they LOVE Canadian flags there. Love them. This massive glass-fronted building had no signs, no numbers, nothing but lots of flags and some beefy security guards. Pretty sure it was the Canadian FBI.

The below shot is of the Parliament building as seen from the bridge to Quebec, across the river. Huge castle up on the hill in the middle of the city. Just for Noah and Peter, I asked if they have dragons there. Sadly. No.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The date is...reset.

Steve here, coming to you from the beautiful capitol of Canada...Ottawa. Come on statesiders, you should have known that :) Much more to come about Ottawa in short order but in the meantime there is a trip update...

Sarah and I sat down on Sunday night and mapped out countries, times, and route for the trip and realized that our planned departure date basically has us following the bad weather around the world. February in Prague. Hmm. Maybe not the best call. Having had enough of the gray Vancouver rain, we've decided to make a change. So! New departure date, Jan 1, 2011. We'll be in California for Christmas for a week or so (and to drop off the furballs) then off to enjoy the southern hemisphere summertime in Australia.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Counting pennies

I feel a combination of pride and sheepishness over the contents of this blog entry.  To some, this might be a pain-in-the-ass endeavor, but admittedly, the tactics I'm about to (and happy to) share have set me and Steve on a fun path and monetary method of travel.

For years, Steve and I, well....counted pennies.  Yes, we were "those people" who never have the extra 11 cents to help out the cashier at the used book store - "And your total comes to $8.11", "Sorry, I only have a 10."  "Okay, here's your $1.89 back."  Why?  Because we have always rounded up and....saved the extra pennies!  I think American Express or some bank was doing this for a while to help people save, but we were doing it naturally whenever we used cash to pay for anything.  After each day's spendings, we would drop the loose change in a glass jar and every few months or so, count it up, roll it up, and use that for travel.
We got a boost in our savings when moving to Canada thanks to the loonies and toonies phenomenom.  It's amazing how those little pocket busters can add up to hundreds of dollars in just a few months (after getting our laundry done, of course).  It also turned into a little household game - I (Sarah) have become slightly obsessive about this simple method of saving and because Steve knows how much I (admittedly) enjoy the sound of the "clink!" as coins are dropped into the glass jar, adding to our possibility of adventure - he now leaves little piles of coins around the house for me to find.  Needless to say, finding piles of "trip fund" coins never gets looking for Easter eggs (I think) or the Afikomen. :)

To prove how this OCD method of saving has paid off in the past, before we pinched all of these pennies for our big-ass trip, we used our couple hundreds of dollars every few months to adventure in the following places:

Montauk, NY (two lovely nights at the big swanky hotel)
  (Sorry - no photo as this was pre-digital for us.)
US Southwest (a nifty $-saving hybrid, 3 nights at Zion Nat'l Park, a 2006 Nat'l Park Pass, etc.)

Provincetown during Halloween (think bunches of life-size bananas roaming the streets of P-town)
  (Sorry - no photo as this was pre-digital for us.)
Yosemite National Park
(Sorry - no photo as this was pre-digital for us.)
Montreal, Quebec 
(Sorry - no photo as this was pre-digital for us.)

To name a few...
Mind you, our money saving habits were not able to pay for the entirety of each of these trips, but having worked so hard to save to make even a portion of these trips happen, one has a real sense of pride when instead of swiping that credit card and paying it back when the pay check comes in, you know how you earned that money to buy that nice dinner, purchase that ticket to the botanical garden, get the ticket for the Long Island Railroad train, etc.  We would have made these trips happen one way or another, but the few pinches and cinches and loonies (both monetary and human form) certainly helped along the way.

I've passed onto some friends, whether they've found their own glass jars or wicker boxes (see below) to throw their change into and/or stick their tourist pins into with pride or just laughed it off as a "Oh Steve and Sarah are so silly sometimes" moment - ladies and gents, I'm proud to say I Am A Penny Counter and in addition to more traditional forms of saving, this maniacal sense of saving is contributing to our ability to take on the world in 2010!

So there's my two cents.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Beeeep beep beep beep, beep beeeep beep beep, beeeep beeep beeeep, beeeep beeeep beep

Greetings from the Big Apple! Sarah and Steve here, coming to you from the lovely home of Ari and Kelly in Brooklyn where we are spending a quick evening before getting on the plane. We thought we would practice our blogging a bit as we spent the weekend in Poughkeepsie to celebrate Bryan and Shana's wedding.

The train ride out from the city on Metro-North is like none other, skirting along the east side of the Hudson with colorful tree-covered hills rising from the far shore. There are ancient, crumbling factories and buildings along the way, remnants of an industrial era which has passed. In some places they have been lovingly restored to B&Bs, Starbucks, condos and the like. In some the beauty is in the ruins alone. Sarah spent alot of time pointing these out to Steve to which Steve said "....neat."

The title of this blog ("blog" in morse code) is a reference to the location of the wedding, which was on Samuel Morse's old estate.

The East Coast woods, full of stunning deciduous trees in the middle of the fall color season, were a lovely change from the evergreen pines and mossy undergrowth of the West Coast that we've come to know so well. Sarah reminisced about running through the rural Mass woods as kid, jumping over streams and chasing chipmunks.

There were lots of creepy old buildings, which would have been beautiful and unique had we not been humming the soundtrack to The Lost Boys during our walk through the woods. And had we not located the storied "Pet Cemetery" on our walk...

Apparently the Morses had quite a thing for their pets. So, when in Rome...

Ghost stories aside, the leaf viewing and endless dancing queen moments at the wedding were a welcome change from our Pacific Northwest home.  Bryan and Shana looked amazing, and it was a pleasure to share in their big day. And we went to a beautiful outdoor wedding that was colder than ours!

Congrats to Bryan and Shana, we hope you enjoy thawing out in Bermuda!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I get the news I need from the weather report

Sarah here!  Upon launching this blog - a fun way for our nears and fars to feel like they're abreast of our travels, travel plans, daily head-scratchings, and general excitement over this wild trip - it's been fun to think back on some of the ongoing ideas about this trip.  Below are just some of the thoughts that have surfaced:
1.)  Steve and Sarah have yet to go abroad together.  Silly, huh?  Granted, that could be questionable seeing as they (um, we) managed to up and move to another country a little over three years ago, but we all know that Canada isn't what a worldly traveler would call "abroad" by any sense of the term.  Granted it is a broad expanse of land, of which we've only seen a mere mini-chunk, but visas, citizenship applications, and strange politics aside - we've hardly "upped and moved" to an exotic place.  That being said - we are booked for a great trip to Europe for December into January and will practice our bloggish tendencies there.  Still, though, never traveled abroad together?  That's just silly.

2.)  New York Times - for those referentially-inclined, the title of this post is from a little ditty by a guy named Paul about being the only living boy in a big city.  I digress.  Yes, the New York Times - our continual news report of choice, our #1 iGoogle link, and forever our tie to the city that was and always will be one of our many homes.  Back in 2006 (so says my gmail archives), Steve started emailing me articles from the New York Times Travel section (ironically enough, the lead article in today's Travel section is about Squamish, BC - a sweet little stop off on the way to the big, bad Whistler/Blackcomb resorts and - hence the irony - about an hour+ north of our home sweet home in the 'Couv).  The play-by-play went like this: Steve reads about a really cool place in the Travel section, Steve emails it to Sarah saying something like "this is cool, let's go there!", Sarah skims the article and replies, "this is cool, let's go there!", Sarah files it in a folder titled "Honey Trip (aka Honeymoon + World trip = Honey Trip).  For years now, I've been putting these aside thinking that I'd return to them waaaaaaay in the future when it comes time plan our big-ass trip, but now, I can *actually* return to these articles and start sorting through which places we should visit!  How cool is that?

3.)  Having a date in mind is scary, yet a darn good thing to have.  Bottom line - I fear change.  I'll be the first to admit it, whether it be change in laundry detergent (you never know when you're going to get a rascally rash), moving (okay, does anybody really like moving even if they're moving to a place with windows that actually close?), employment (although, going from no employment to employment is a very positive change, it's still wicked scary), or something as huge as packing all cares and woes aside to change longitude and latitude again and again and again.....big changes coming up.  Several of them, if you count all of the places we're going to hit over our 6 month travels - but (here it comes), having a departure date set somehow lifts some of that fear and allows for one of my only tried-and-true change-soothing actions to take place: planning.  Yes, change is scary, but planning make that scariness not so scary.  I'm sure there will be plenty of commentary on that throughout this blog.  But now, especially since we're starting to spread the word that come November 1, 2010, we'll be on the road, I can start that much-needed journey of planning, thus quelling some of my fears of change.  After all, I can plan to get my plane right on time.  Da-n-da-da-n-da-da-n-da-da....

More soon - and thanks for reading my first ever blog post.  Wasn't too bad, eh?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Our Little Black (and green, yellow, and red) Book

So, traveling around the world sounds like a great idea in concept - yea! amazing places, people, culture, wow!  - but, I have one word for you. Visas.

It's a depressing realization that as freely as we all travel around the States and Canada, that does not mean it will be that easy everywhere. Fortunately there are books like the one on the left to help out. We picked The Traveler's Handbook up recently and I've got to say it's invaluable. It details when you need visas, what to do to get them, and how long in advance you need to make the arraignments. Also gives you a little bio of each country, some dangerous areas to watch out for, a few spots not to miss, and other such relevant travel-related info. Excellent.

If anyone had come across any other books/resources for world travelin, we'd love to hear about them!

A caution. Do not read this book at work, in traffic, or in any other situation in which you feel trapped, tied down, or bolted to the ground by any other means. It will make you want to run to the nearest airport, train station, or submarine and just pick a destination you've never heard of off the wall and go.

The date is set!

Ok, now that we got that wedding nonsense out of the way, trip planning can begin in earnest. So, as our first official trip decision and first blog post, we'd like to annouce - It's official. Novemeber 1, 2010.

Here is a rough itinerary:

Czech Republic

Much much more to come.