Roadtripping with the Hen House

The San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge peeping out from the fog typical of the bay area

The San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge peeping out from the fog typical of the bay area

I am moving to the east bay area in California to complete some courses at UC Berkeley, and my family decided to make a family vacation out of it by renting a Chrysler Impala, and shoving me, my 2 sisters, mother and ancient grandmother into it. Of course we came with all our luggage, my life in boxes, a cooler full of home cooked food, a rice cooker, and uncountable bottles of water. Yes, it was a tight fit.

The newest addition to our family is our GPS system, affectionately named Disa, and she told us where to go, how long it would take, and to “Drive Carefully” once in a random while. Sometimes she was wrong, and I’d have to override her instructions, and my mom would get totally distressed trying to figure out what direction she should take. My grandma was a skeptic, because during every long stretch of I-5 highway we drove and Disa had no turns to warn us about, she would ask something to the effect of “why isn’t this thing talking to us? She’s supposed to tell us where to go. Must be no good.” We did do things other than drive, but out of the whole weekend, we were stuffed like sardines in that car for the majority of the time, fighting over butt space in the backseat and reluctantly taking turns to sit in the middle. At one point, my sister spilled half a water bottle AT my face, like, almost bore out an eye socket with the spout of the open bottle, and that created quite an uproar since there was nowhere for me to turn to fix myself, nor for my sister to run.

We made it to California with a stop in some random highway side Motel 8, and stuffed all 5 of us in one room (poor Ruth got the floor), and mom decided to cook corned beef and rice for us at 11 pm with all the windows shut (so we couldnt get in trouble for cooking in the rooms) and thus we all ended up smelling like fried onions by the time we fell asleep. Once we got to the bay, we dropped off my grandma at family friend in Stockton, and took a couple days to explore Cal campus, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and the highway 1 along the west coast of norcal. We survived off the curry and rice from our cooler and In-n-Out burger, and made alot of stops to Target and WalMart to bargain hunt for miscellaneous, unneeded cheap stuff, what we Adals do best together. There was never a silent moment, and all-in-all a wonderful trip, but its nice to finally be settled in one place and able to hear myself think again 🙂

As alway, is at your service offering cheap flights to California.

Getaway to Vancouver Island

bc ferries

I have been semi-stranded in Vancouver for almost 2 weeks now, which is both unfortunate and awesome because I only got to spend this much time at home since I ran out of money, but enjoyed every moment back with friends and family. However, being in one place for two weeks in the height of summer and travel time, I still ended up restless and had to come up with some sort of getaway.

Me and Steph, a friend from wayyy back in high school, discussed trying to do a roadtrip to the Okanagan, Montana & Idaho, Whistler, or Vancouver Island. The first two involved too much driving time for the only 2 day weekend Steph could take off from work, and Whistler is almost too close to Vancouver to be its own holiday…and besides, Whistler is at its best during mid snowboard season.

So, we went to Vancouver Island. We took BC Ferries to Victoria where we met a friend of mine I had made in Montreal earlier this summer. He was the perfect host and a kind chauffeur, driving to and from ferry terminals, all around Victoria, and up to Nanaimo with a beautiful lake stop on the way. We stayed with his parents, two wonderful people who we joked and drank with more comfortably than I have with my own parents! The ferry ride back was a highlight, since we sat out on the top deck suntanning and taking in the scenery of untouched forests and far away blue mountains. The ferry ride to the island was a little less fortunate; we were befriended by two Persian brothers who came off really nice at first, but after buying us lunch we realized they just wanted to buy our company for the weekend in Victoria, and Steph’s silent retaliation was “No, I will not prostitute myself to you!”

It was such a great vacation because the cost of traveling with the ferries and benefiting from such generous hospitality made the entire trip cost about $50! We lucked out with great weather and enjoyed the nature saturated island beauty to its fullest. Life is beautiful in Vancouver city too, but people are too stressed and moving at a hundred miles an hour. But on the island, life just seems to slow down and city life becomes secondary to nature.

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What to do when you're Homesick

me and my sisters in Vestmannaeyjar in 2005... they're two people I miss alot when I travel!

me and my sisters in Vestmannaeyjar in 2005... they're two people I miss alot when I travel!

I’ve come up with a check list to identify homesickness, and what I do about it. I hope it helps you fellow travellers…

1. You start missing friends and family from back home unbearably: Try calling, emailing, or Skype-ing someone back home to chat and get caught up on small talk and find out how everyone is doing and hear a familiar voice. If you dont have technology to facilitate that, keep a diary you can share later or write an old fashioned letter and use snail mail.

2. You stop trying to submerse yourself in the place you’re traveling: If you stop learning bits and pieces of the local language, or stop being adventurous about trying the local food or experiencing local customs, then you are probably missing the familiarity of home. The only way to get over that is to realize that you aren’t home and you should decide to make the best out of where you are instead; don’t miss out on any unique opportunities or the possibility of meeting an amazing local!

3. You are sick of living out of a backpack: Backpacking usually makes travelers realize they don’t have enough stuff, or that they have too much stuff and get sick of carrying it. Either way, remember that the only thing you need for an amazing travel experience is yourself, the clothes on your back, your passport and some money! So be glad to have what you have, or downsize if you can since “stuff” is superfluous.

4. You’re getting bored: Go somewhere else! Change the perspective you have of a place by seeing it from a different point of view, or just go somewhere new and exciting.

5. You’re lonely: Talk to anyone and everyone you meet, share stories, make new friends, get out of your comfort zone and try communicating without words if you experience a language barrier since body language and simple gestures are an amazing cross-cultural communication tool.

6. You are sick of being treated like a walking wallet wearing a “tourist” label: Try to blend in as much as you can, by dressing differently or acting differently, so that people can’t tell if you are local or not (if possible).

7. You just want to go home: Then, really, your homesickness has taken over completeley and the only way to cure it is…to go home! Thats the beauty of travel, you can always travel again after a short visit home, and plan your next trip for shorter or longer depending on what kind of traveler you are.

There’s No Place Like Home

You know how they say you can never truly appreciate something until you lose it? Well, its kind of like that with home when your away from home. Its probably just a psychological thing, but the further away I am from home, in geographical distance, the more homesick I feel just because of the physical separation. Then, depending on where I am, sometimes I get more or less homesick depending on how close to home the place resembles. For example, in Copenhagen, you don´t really miss Iceland that much since things are still familiar, or when you’re in any North American city, it still runs and functions the same way as most other major North American cities. But, if you’re in the middle of Burma, out of touch with phone lines, internet, and the regular commodities like clean running water or flushing toilets, home seems soooo much further away! The more difference a culture has to what you’re used to makes homesickness worse, and makes you appreciate home that much more when you return.

downtown Vancouver, the ocean and the mountains; where else can you have all that in one place?

It´s been so nice to come home to Vancouver after living out of a bag for 3 months with no sense of home or locality anywhere! Stuck in transit between Montreal, New York, Mexico and roadtrips in between has made the comforts of home priceless to me. The familiarity of people and places instantly gives me a sense of belonging, and knowing where to eat, where to go out, and how to navigate the streets and public transport just makes the city feel like the back of my hand again. Meeting up with good friends seems like absolutely no time has passed apart, and these are the same friends I’ve been dying to see for so long, and now they’re only a phone call away! What luxury 🙂 As for my family, home cooked food is another amazing luxury, and I can not seem to get my fill of mom and grandma’s cooking. Its nice not to carry my life on my back, not worry about getting lost or missing a flight, and especially nice to sleep in my own bed.

But now I have this strange identity dilemma where I don´t know if Im rightfully homesick for British Columbia or Iceland, (or both) but now Ive found that as soon as I satisfy a homesick feeling for Vancouver, I start to miss Iceland!  I want Icelandic hot dogs, nightlife that lasts all night, long days and stinky, hot showers. It’s certainly confusing and annoying… but I guess having two places to go home to isn´t all that bad 😛

All-inclusive Mexico, Excluding the swine flu

Me and my older sister wanted to go somewhere for a week, but we were booking it with short notice and small budgets. So of course, all-inclusive Mexico was the perfect choice, since all that swine flu hype has certainly helped drop vacation prices. I don’t get the flu craze anyway: poor Mexico is suffering, so is the tourism industry in general, and even the pork meat industry is reporting declines in sales because of the politically incorrect name. I heard a statistic somewhere that you are more likely to get hit by a car in Mexico than get the swine flu, and though I cant provide a reference, trying to cross streets in Puerto Vallarta gives me faith its true.

Kristjana and I eating dinner by the pool

After our family members repeatedly warned us not to touch or eat anything mexican (obviously impossible) and avoid all sick people, we left for the Hacienda Resort & Spa, and ate and drank our moneys worth for 7 days straight. While my sister never drinks alcohol, she decided to “sample” all of my fancy cocktails (which all tasted the same: sugary, limey and alcoholic), and once one of the bartenders, Alfonzo, found out about her sobriety, he wooed her with a specialty coffee (coffee, Kahlua and rum) that he made for her almost every night. Kristjana, my most conservative family member, also shocked me one day when we were walking home from the beach; she decided to do the walk in her bikini, justified by the fact that the construction workers enroute “have been working all day and deserved a show. Besides, they whistle, so I know I look good!”

We did nothing all day but laze around, only deciding between poolside or oceanside, and both were so warm that they were more comparable to a cool hottub than a hot pool. We didnt even have to move to shop, since the sellers walked from beach chair to beach chair selling everything imaginable, the most impressive being a live, 3 foot iguana. Two other Canadian girls were entertaining to watch since they baught something from every single one of them, with 2 or 3 surrounding them at once at any given time.  It was so warm every day that I managed to sweat off everything I drank (plus some), but somehow I still managed to break 3 of the chairs built for extremeley overweight north american tourists?!

While I always criticize packaged vacations and much prefer the thrill of backpacking and hostelling, once in a while its nice to be that spoiled tourist living out of an airconditioned hotel room and not worrying about enjoying anything but the great weather.