Luci & Mike at Machu Picchu
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“Marry the right person. My grandmother told me to marry someone you could spend the rest of your life talking to at the breakfast table. I did. “
You met in the third grade. Do you remember what your initial thoughts/reactions were upon meeting each other?
Luci: Mike and I grew up in the middle of nowhere. So when new kids came, it was a big deal. I remember seeing Mike in second grade when he moved to our school and thinking, “What a scrawny looking kid with an ugly head gear.” My first real memory of Mike is him taking a game away that I was playing with during recess in the third grade.
Mike: I can’t remember that far back.
A reader of your blog commented “I’m single, but reading your posts make me hope to find someone to travel and fight with. =)”
Why do you think they said this? What makes traveling as a couple unique compared to traveling alone or traveling with a friend?
Mike: Comments like this make it all worth it. Granted, no one else in the world is going to find someone as perfect as Luci…so just give up. We started our little blog with the hope that our story would inspire more couples to leave their kids at home with grandma, and spend some quality time together discovering a new place. We encourage couples to renew their relationship by exploring together.
Luci: I was so excited to see that post! What a great comment. When you travel by yourself, you get to be the boss. When you travel with friends, it’s all fun all the time. But when you travel as a couple you have to discuss, fight and then compromise about what you are going to see, do, and eat. It’s like real life except you are somewhere different!
You take turns in planning where to go. In what ways are your personal travel choices usually different?
Mike: Luci and I are very similar in our interests. We both have a passion for history, culture and off the beaten path locations. I do tend to pick some of the more extreme locations (see Amazon Jungle & Swaziland). We do recommend that couples take turns picking the locale. If you have to compromise on a location, then both of you end up going to a place you don’t want to go. Be open to new places and ideas, you will learn a lot from your spouse’s choice.
Luci: Well, when I pick the location, we actually stay in places with running water and clean sheets. I don’t like roughing it and Mike has hauled me some places that I would have never picked on my own. Mike tends to be more adventurous in his choices. My criterion is simple: amazing food, breathtaking scenery, historical significance, and ability to walk around without feeling like someone is going to mug you.
What’s the most romantic place you have ever visited? Why?
Luci: Easy. Paris. Everything about Paris speaks love. However, I don’t feel we ever get that when we are there because Mike doesn’t do public displays of affection (PDA). I end up watching a lot of other people have PDA and yell at Mike for not kissing me in public.
Mike:That’s really a hard one. So many choices! I would have to say Tuscany, Italy. We stayed in a little bed and breakfast there. It was out in the countryside, on a cedar lined drive. The B & B was on a hillside overlooking vineyards and orchards. After checking in with our welcoming hosts, we took a stroll at sunset along an old country road. The sunset was incredible! The sights, smells and company were perfect. Words cannot describe the intense beauty of that evening. I wish I could bottle that and share it with every couple.
Thinking back to when you first started dating and your relationship today - In what ways has traveling together impacted your relationship?
Mike: Much like every country you visit, you get a passport stamp, imprinted on my mind forever are these wonderful adventures with my sweetheart. One of our favorite shows is the “Notebook”. Without giving the storyline away for those unfortunate people that have never seen the show. The crux of the movie is the husband sharing with his wife all of the great memories of their life. Luci and I have had some wild and incredible adventures. Memories have been made together that we will never forget…ever.
Luci: It keeps us married. I don’t want to divorce because I’d miss next year’s trip. Seriously, it’s the only time in our year where we can unplug from work, our kids, and life at home. I get to remember why I married Mike and see some great sites at the same time!
What’s one place in the world, where you could see yourselves living for a very, very, long time? Why?
Mike: China. I am little biased. I speak Chinese and love the: food, culture, history, people and food. Candidly, I think that I could live just about anywhere. We chose to live in the Pacific Northwest. It is a great place to raise a family.
Luci: Hmmm. That’s a really good question. I love living in Idaho. It’s home. But if I could live somewhere else for a very long time, I would want to live in Slovenia.
What’s the secret to having an awesome marriage? : )
Mike: The secret to an awesome marriage? I wish I knew. Marriage is a lot of work. I admire couples that have been together for 40+ years. Do we realize what an accomplishment that is? There are a couple things that I have learned along the way: 1) Marry the right person. My grandmother told me to marry someone you could spend the rest of your life talking to at the breakfast table. I did. 2) Be the right person. Marriage takes hard work. You must constantly try to be a better spouse. Never take your loved one for granted.
Luci: Uh, why are you asking us this? I think we have a good marriage, but we are in search of a great marriage. My advice is take time to be together as a couple. Kids grow up. Jobs change. Friends move. But if you focus on your marriage, you can weather life’s changing circumstances. So go take a trip without your children!
Luci & Mike kayaking at Hilton Head.
Doris on a Yak in Tibet.
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”I’m told I was looking at a terrestrial globe when I was about five years old and said to my older sister: “One day I’m going to visit all the pink countries.”
You’re the author of Boomers’ Guide to Going Abroad to Travel|Live|Give|Learn.
What inspired you to write this book?
I wrote the guide when I found there was no information about travel specifically for people in my age group. Most books, websites and travel products were for younger travelers or much older ones.
Also, to someone who might not be familiar with the term “boomer” - could you explain what it means?
I’m part of the Baby Boomer generation — a group of people born between the years 1946 and 1964 — representing 78 million people in the USA and 100 million in the English-speaking Western world. What makes our travel needs different than those of the two groups at either side of us is that we’re somewhere between them in terms of risk aversion, activity levels, and on a whole lot of other points.
For example, we don’t want to go on sedate “Golden Ager” tours and cruises where you don’t do much all day but look at people and things. We need physical activity that provides intellectual challenges while involving the senses (like younger travelers). Don’t take us to a demonstration on cooking: let us shop for the food at the market, cook the food with the help of a chef, and dine on exotic dishes we’ve learned to make.
Another example offering a contrast against younger travelers might have Boomers staying in hostels, hiking in jungles and maybe even partaking of mild adventures such as zip-lining (I have) but most will probably not go so far as to bungee jump or rock climbing (like older travelers).
You’ve visited over 50 countries and lived in 5.
What are the five countries that you’ve lived in?
I grew up in Canada and immigrated to the USA as an adult so those are my first two countries: the first by birth and the second by choice because of opportunity and the Southern California weather. After traveling around the world for 42 months, I lived in Mexico, Costa Rica and China where my husband taught English as a foreign language while I wrote travel blogs, travel tips and my book.
What was it about each of the five countries individually that made you want to not just visit them but actually live in them?
Mexico is my all-time favorite country in the world despite the problems it’s currently experiencing. The people are warm and friendly, the culture is so inviting, the country itself is beautiful and much safer than you might think from reading media reports.
Costa Rica is an oddity because the capital of San Jose, where we lived, is crime ridden and poverty is obvious everywhere. The beaches and mountains are beautiful but it’s an expensive place to live considering the level of development.
China was an incredible experience especially since we don’t speak Mandarin (the Latin countries were easier as I’m fluent in Spanish) and most of our communications were carried out using charades. Being in China during this time of tremendous change was interesting and experiencing the culture first hand was something not to be missed.
How did your love of travel start?
I’m told I was looking at a terrestrial globe when I was about five years old and said to my older sister: “One day I’m going to visit all the pink countries.” It was my favorite color and Canada was pink. Growing up in Northern Canada with its long winters gave me a lot of time to lose myself in books where I traveled the world through my imagination. I left the North at 17 years of age and started by traveling across Canada several times, later traveled through the USA, then Europe, and eventually went around the world twice.
What’s some of the best travel advice you’ve ever received?
To not worry about every detail, have confidence that you can take care of issues as they arise, and just go.
What’s one country that you haven’t visited and would like to visit and why?
The history fascinates me—the time of the tsars, the Russian Revolution, the fall of the Wall. As the largest country in the world—twice as large as Canada—it would be great to color all the countries I’ve visited on my terrestrial globe and see that most of the world was covered!
What would you like to do/see there?
I was in Hungary about 10 years ago and saw a society that hadn’t developed much under the USSR and would like to see the remnants of that in Russia before it completely disappears. I’d also like to go to Saint Petersburg to see the Hermitage Museum, maybe attend a performance of the ballet or philharmonic orchestra, and do a canal tour to experience the city the way residents did for hundreds of years before roads became the main way to travel.
Marilyn at the Plitvice National Park in Croatia
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“The world is a beautiful place, go out and see it.”
How did your love of travel start?
I guess in college when I went to live and work in Antwerp one summer, and when my job was over I traveled down the Rhine and through the Black Forest to Switzerland, went hiking in the Alps and then explored along the Loire, staying in hostels.
When I say…travel, what’s the first thought that comes to mind?
You’ve been the Chief Researcher at National Geographic Traveler Magazine for 10 years, what’s one of your favorite travel stories that you’ve covered?
It’s about Andrew’s quest to travel by public buses from National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, DC to the tip of South America, in order to board a boat to Antarctica, tweeting and blogging all the way.
It was fun to work on because I’d been in on it from the beginning, when Andrew first proposed the crazy scheme to our editor Keith Bellows and he (amazingly) agreed. It was a tremendously exciting project, and I followed Andrew’s tweets through some pretty hair-raising adventures, not all of which made it into the magazine story.
Thinking back to the person you were 10 years ago, in what ways has travel and being part of National Geographic Traveler changed you?
Working at Traveler has greatly expanded my knowledge about places and has made me insanely hungry to go out and explore more.
Favorite travel book?
I am absolutely floored by Freya Stark’s books, especially “The Valleys of the Assassins”, about traveling in Persia on foot as a single woman in the 1930s.
I also enjoyed “The Orchid Thief” by Susan Orleans, who I think is a terrific travel writer.
In your experience, what qualities/characteristics make a good travel writer?
Someone who is curious, observant, adventurous, and humble. Who does a lot of background reading before going on a trip. Who has a story idea in mind before going, even if that story idea doesn’t pan out. Who takes the time to talk to people. And who loves telling stories. And as a fact checker, I really appreciate a writer who takes good notes and tells the truth!
You’re a very active twitter user. What do you think about Twitter? Specifically, the impact it has on the news and journalism?
When it comes to breaking news, I usually find out about it on Twitter before I read it in the paper or hear it on the radio. It’s an incredibly fast and handy tool for finding out information on the ground.
If you could tell the whole world one thing - - What would you tell them?
The world is a beautiful place, go out and see it.
The Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia.
Mike & Jürgen in Bolivia.
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“It gives us four locations in a year, which is enough to be exciting, but not overwhelming.”
You’ve just arrived in Cochabamba, Bolivia - initial thoughts & feelings?
The city feels a lot more affluent than other places we’ve visited in Bolivia — clean streets with wide sidewalks, nice houses and a lot of expensive cars. Not too many tourists make it to Cochabamba, which is surprising, since it’s fairly huge. It’s known as Bolivia’s breadbasket, with its best food and most markets — on our first day, we got lunch in a marketplace. An incredible plate of meatballs, pasta, rice and potatoes. All the carbohydrates you could ever need, for 15 Bolivianos (€1,50).
“We’ve lived in quite a few countries, but I don’t think we’ve ever encountered such compelling faces as in Bolivia.” Can you elaborate on this?
The trials and tribulations of life are etched into the indigenous people’s faces here. Most of them have been hard at work since childhood, often in dangerous professions such as mining, and their faces are weathered and rough. At the same time, there’s an exuberance, or possibly defiance, that comes across in their eyes. Also, there’s a lot of variety in the faces of La Paz — in La Paz, you see rich whites of Spanish descent walking their dogs past criollo (mixed-heritage) businessmen and indigenous Aymara women in traditional dress selling sweets.
When did you two fall in love with travel?
Mike: My family moved around a lot when I was young, and I probably got infected with restlessness during childhood.
Jürgen fled a future career in insurance by moving to the States as an au pair — a sudden decision which surprised everyone, including himself.
When we met in Boston, we immediately recognized in each other the love of travel, and embarked on a lot of adventures — China, biking through Scotland, exploring Lanzarote, Christmas in Moscow. The more we see and do, the more addicted to traveling we become!
You move to a new city, once every 91 days. How did you decide on 3 months?
Three months felt like the right amount of time to really get to know a place, and also not get bored by it. It gives us four locations in a year, which is enough to be exciting, but not overwhelming. Also, it’s useful in terms of Visas, which are often 3 months in length.
When choosing your next place to live 3 months in, what things do you consider?
There are definitely practical matters (such as our account balances!) that come into consideration. We choose Asturias first, because we were already in Spain, and it was an easy place to start. Likewise, since we were already in South America, Bolivia felt like an easy jump after Buenos Aires. Weather, too, is a big consideration… we want to avoid cold winters as much as possible. But mostly, we go for places that have captured our imagination, for whatever reason. Buenos Aires had always had a strong pull on me, for example, and I knew we’d go there during our first year.
You’re 6’6”. In what ways does your height make your travels a bit different, compared to someone who’s 5’6”?
Jürgen: Well, living in Bolivia is tough!! Mike is 5’11”, and even he feels like a giant here. I don’t know how many times I’ve hit my head, and there are times when I’ve refused to get onto a bus because it’s too tight. Also, I tend to cause a commotion in countries where being so tall is rare. In general, though, it’s not something that causes a lot of stress — I’ve lived my whole life at this altitude and am used to dealing with things.
What’s one of your absolute favorite travel memories?
Mike: Ice skating in Moscow’s Gorki Park the day after Christmas is something I’ll never forget.
Jürgen: The Lucha Libre fight here in Bolivia was crazy — I’ve never been a fan of wrestling, but I just had a blast here. The image of La Loca throwing a chair into the crowd will never leave my mind.
What’s an interesting meal you’ve eaten while traveling?
Mike: Just the other day, I ate cow tongue. I mean: the whole tongue. It was delicious, as long as I closed my eyes and didn’t think about a cow licking the inside of my mouth.
Jürgen: Chef Jerome’s Old School Diner in Savannah, GA! That was such a great experience, not just the food (all fried, of course), but being able to meet the Chef and hear his stories.
James in the Philippines
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“Think of secret lagoons, unexplored coves, sparkling turquoise waters, fine white sand, spectacular limestone karst, fresh seafood and lovely people.”
You’ve been backpacking all over the Philippines. What are some things that make the Philippines special to you?
Well, obviously, it’s my home country. Other than that, I think it’s an underrated Southeast Asian destination.
One of your goals is to write a book called Backpacking the Philippines: The Cheapest way possible.
Without giving away all your budgeting secrets, what are some ways you’ve managed to save money while traveling the Philippines?
Yes, and maybe a travel show someday! Who knows?! I always do couchsurfing, the absence of it; I bring my hammock where I sleep. I just ask some locals where I can set it up. Food is very cheap here in the Philippines, a dollar is enough for a meal.
When and how did your love of travel start?
It started when I was on my college years; I’m always drawn on the small Philippine map that I bought. I always say to myself, that someday I will be traveling the country. I also have a map of Asia, so maybe that’s my next destination.
What’s one of your absolute favorite places in the whole world to visit? Why?
Abroad, I would say it’s the Angkor Wat Complex in Cambodia. It was magical and the temples really turn to gold during sunset. Scenic is an understatement.
Here in the Philippines, hands down, Palawan! Think of secret lagoons, unexplored coves, sparkling turquoise waters, fine white sand, spectacular limestone karst, fresh seafood and lovely people - these things are just a fraction of what you can experience in El Nido.
What’s the most delicious thing you’ve eaten while traveling? What were the ingredients?
Oh, there’s a lot! I guess I always love fresh seafood. We “kinilaw” in the Philippines where the fresh catch, usually fish is de-boned and soaked in vinegar with spices like chili, pepper, garlic, onion, calamansi and salt.
What would you say to someone who’s thinking about visiting the Philippines for their next adventure?
C’mon over! You are very welcome here. Choose from any of our 7,107 islands. If I have time, I can even show you around. Choose your adventure (except for snowboarding)! Water sports? Mountain Hiking? Diving? Our beaches are out-of-this-world!
Salamat po ng marami! (thank you very much)
James in El Nido.
Robert in La Paz, Bolivia
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“Well to me, photography is about what I see more than what is there. So if someone looks at a photograph of mine and his comments even hint at what I was going for when I captured the photo, I know I hit the mark.”
You’ve visited and documented more than 30 countries since 2005. If you were able to spend 2 weeks in one of those 30 countries, which one would you choose?
That’s an extremely difficult question! This would be all expenses paid or not?
All expenses paid : )
Brazil then, definitely. Although Brazil isn’t my very favorite of the countries I’ve visited, I would love more time to enjoy it without dealing with its exorbitant costs. Brazil was more expensive than anywhere else in Latin America by a long shot and as an independent traveler, high costs limit what you can see and how much you can do.
With two free weeks there, I could much more easily gain an understanding of the country than I could on my own, at this stage.
What are some things you would do/see during those 2 weeks?
Well, I would head up to Salvador along the northeastern coast, somewhere I didn’t get visit the previous time due to logistics. I’d also head to the Amazon Basin, having already gotten Rio and São Paulo out of the way. If I had time I’d probably also visit the capital of Brasilia, known to be one of the best-planned cities in the world thanks to its having been built mid 20th century.
When and where did the travel bug bite you?
As an adult, it happened the first time I was in India, in March of 2009. The U.S. was still reeling from the first stages of the recession and being unemployed myself (I traveled there on savings I luckily had), I was reeling too. In any case, I often climbed up onto a cliff face at the north end of Palolem Beach in Goa state. One night I climbed up there, and something about the rhythm of the tides coming in made all the imagined bullshit of the real world fade away the whole time I was watching and listening.
Wow…must have been a moment you will always remember.
Yeah! It was very profound. It calmed and comforted me in a way even my closest loved ones couldn’t.
Although I’d taken a few trips to Europe before then, it wasn’t until I started craving conscious serenity and transcendence that I knew I needed to roam the world.
But to be honest I flew on a plane before my second birthday and had lived in four houses by the time I was 10, so I’ve been wanderlusting almost my whole life.
In addition to being a travel writer, you are also a photographer. What is your favorite subject to photograph?
That’s difficult because as anyone can see viewing my photos, I photograph just about everything. But if I had to narrow it down, it would be people and children, specifically. While adults tend to put on a “Facebook” face and be super aware when they’re being photographed — more so in the developed world but increasingly in other countries — children are generally more expressive and real and often not even conscious of the camera. I practice photography to capture the present moment as accurately as possible, and human children are by far the most present and conscious creatures in the world.
Right before you take a photo, what are you usually thinking?
Well, it depends. If I am shooting a landscape or something that is otherwise still-life, I’m extremely conscious of the composition, how I’m framing the shot and the lighting aspects of the shot. If someone or something is moving past me, I think about what shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings I should use, very haphazardly adjust them and get immediately to capturing the subject, knowing that I can always tweak technical problems, but I can never re-capture something once it’s already passed.
So I guess the long answer to the short question is: “What am I photographing and how long do I have to photograph it?”
“I can never re-capture something once it’s already passed.” A good thought on really living..
What to you makes a photograph special?
Well to me, photography is about what I see more than what is there. So if someone looks at a photograph of mine and his comments even hint at what I was going for when I captured the photo, I know I hit the mark. I also have a soft spot for photos that portray motion, emotion and ordinary people living their daily lives.
Best meal you enjoyed while traveling?
You are a tough interviewer! The 33-course, home-cooked dinner extravaganza I enjoyed at Yu’s Family Kitchen in Chengdu, China, without a doubt. Although individual meals I’ve had may have been tastier or more enjoyable, I have never experienced anything of such a spectacular scale elsewhere, food or otherwise. Selections included both traditional Chinese fare like Peking Duck and regional Sichuan specialties, as well as Yu’s signature puff-pastry-and-pork “paintbrushes,” which were delightful. It was difficult for my dining companion and I to even walk to the taxi waiting area, but totally worth it.
I could see why!
Yeah, it was uncomfortable. I imagined it was what a pregnant woman must feel like.
What were the desserts like? As far as ingredients?
Very much like the main courses — a mix of traditional Chinese elements as well as some Western. I was pretty dazed by the time dessert rolled around — I was drinking tea, mostly — but I do remember a red bean dish and one with cold, white rice and a sweet, colorless gel on top.
The desserts certainly weren’t as show stopping as the mains — and they probably don’t spend as much time on them knowing most people will be too full to enjoy them
What’s a travel memory that you have, that to you is a good example of why you love to travel?
I visited Israel in September 2010 and I’m not going to lie: It was a terrifying experience. I will leave my personal politics out of this interview, but let’s just say that I felt pretty attacked as a solo, male, non-Jewish traveler, being held up by the border and questioned almost everywhere. To make matters worse I got to Jerusalem so late at night that the hostel I’d booked was closed for the night and I couldn’t find any others with open reception. So, I took to the streets and began taking photos. After a few hours of that I found a spot to sit near Jaffa Street, the city’s main road, and got to writing. A young woman passed by me a few times and eventually came back and asked me what someone like me was doing on the streets. I half-expected her to report me to the police but instead, she invited me to her and her boyfriend’s apartment, made me a ridiculous quantity of food and allowed me to shower, all while telling me about her life and how she views the world. If it hadn’t been for this girl, whose name was Nilly, I’d have written Israel off entirely. This situation illustrates one of the most important lessons I’ve learned on the road: travel is about individual experiences more than it is grand trips. And more about people than about governments, ideology or borders, something I also learned while traveling through Israel’s neighboring Arab states, favorite targets of the American media.
What would you say to someone who really has a passion for photography and is just getting started?
Buy a DSL-R. The camera you use isn’t everything, but being able to shoot in manual mode gives you a level of control over photographs a point and shoot never will, which allows you to impose your perception onto your subject — and hopefully onto your viewers. Beyond that, I’d say photograph everything and take your camera everywhere. Don’t be afraid to photograph people as they pass by and even if they’re not looking. Learn photography by photographing and you will gain an intuitive knowledge of what actually makes photos good, rather than what the textbook consensus on what a good photo is.
Don’t get delusional and think everything you shoot is good, but don’t be afraid to show off your best shots. Learn to differentiate quickly and easily between good and bad shots. And to drive the point home: Take as many photos as possible of anything and everything you see.
How you portray something is way, way more important than what you’re portraying.
A good photographer should be able to make a piece of white paper look interesting.
Robert in Singapore.
The Hamori Family (from left to right): Alfonz, Angelina, Daniel & Eva.
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“I want the kids to learn to roll with the punches. Self driven interests and learning the things they encounter through experience. Life is beautiful but learning it from a book is boring! I want them to gain a love of travel, and experiencing the world we live in my immersing themselves into it. And language. They speak Hungarian and English and soon French. I hope the list goes on for all of us.”
In less than 3 weeks, you will be moving to France with your two school-aged children and your husband.
Can you tell me a bit about where you’ve been living and what you’ve been doing up to now?
Our family has been in a temporary townhouse, not 25 yards from the house we sold. Totally lucked out, and we are house sitting for friends of friends until we leave Aug 2nd. We have been preparing ourselves, selling off the last bit of things, and setting up our kids with homeschooling. Finishing up my work, 6 shifts to go, and loads of going away parties. Keeping it simple.
What made you decide to sell all your belongings and make this move?
Time Currency! We want to live our life as if it were our last years to live. We want to be together for the crucial years of the kids being small. This is the plan that made the most sense to us. Have a viable income that keeps us together.
What things made you choose France?
France has an amazing tourist drive. Number one visited place in the world, boosting 320 days of sun on the Med Sea each year.
We needed a place that has enough of a commercial drive to sustain a B&B and produce an income to support a family of 4.
Were you considering any other places in addition to France? If so, where and why?
We have a home in Budapest Hungary, when we are not there it is rented out. But mostly summer income with the occasional New Years and Christmas visitors. Not enough to sustain a family of four. I love Budapest, my family is amazing, and our social life there is rich with culture. They have 4 distinct seasons, beautiful seasons however not tourist rich all year round.
I would have considered anywhere. I’ve never been to France but Alfonz sure has. And it he says this is the place, I believe it.
What do your friends and family think about the move?
Most of the people that love us support us. Some close friends say we are crazy.
We did give up a great life for the pre retirement plan of living now and not waiting until retirement, time currency, spending as much time together as possible while the kids are young, and lastly hanging out with my best friend, Alfonz, while we are healthy enough to play with the kids and each other on some well deserved adventures.
I will miss my circle of friends but the world is getting smaller, and options are readily available for travel and staying in touch. It’s not as scary as when our parents came here. We are not escaping danger we are going on an adventure.
Are your children excited to move?
Daniel is more aware of what it means to leave. He has friends from kindergarten that he is very blessed with, and saying goodbye might be hard.
But with the internet and Skype he can stay connected and we will come back to visit. Angelina adapts far easier. But both are bright and adventurous and once we are having fun and exploring Europe I believe they will get more value out of it than they will appreciate until they are older.
What did they say when you told them?
Daniel negotiated a place he wants to go. Africa! So our family has to pay the debt. Darn eh? Poor us have to go to Africa to make things ok with my boy!
Where does your love of travel come from? Have either you or your husband traveled much before?
Alfonz and I have travelled each and every year since we were born. Our families are Hungarian, and with all the countries so close together, it was never a question.
Alfonz travelled Europe with his family even in the communism era. They would have been huge adventurers if not for the restrictions back then.
Myself growing up in BC Canada, we would take camping trips all over BC, Alberta, down into the States along the coast all the way to Mexico. And each year we went back to visit Hungary. Once I grew up my first paycheque went to my first vacation to Europe, then Mexico, Hawaii, Cuba, each year a different destination.
Since married we go away each year somewhere. And to Hungary via Germany as often as finances allow and try to hit a different country each time.
By making this move, what kind of experiences and memories do you hope to gain for yourself and your family?
I want the kids to learn to roll with the punches. Self driven interests and learning the things they encounter through experience. Life is beautiful but learning it from a book is boring! I want them to gain a love of travel, and experiencing the world we live in my immersing themselves into it. And language. They speak Hungarian and English and soon French. I hope the list goes on for all of us.
You’ve downsized all your belongings to just a few suitcases each.
What are some belongings that have been rather hard for you and your family to give up?
Nothing surprisingly. I have learned over the last few months that things are only things. Even the dishes and knives, paintings that I thought would be hard, all have nothing really to do with us so much as the value we put on them.
My computer has our photos, the kids are at an age where most of their interests are DSI computer related and quickly out grown. A few items they cannot part with are sleepy bear, and kitty stuffy. Not bad for a life time.
Part of your children’s home school curriculum includes blogging their travels. Do they understand what blogging is? What is their definition of blogging?
They see mommy blogging. I explained it to them as a way to talk with their friends online. Budapest is our first stop towards France, and their first entry with be then. Wish them luck! They are way ahead of their ages, and completely technology savvy. They’ll have some fun with it.
What would you say to someone who’s reading this right now, someone who has school-aged children, maybe has a mortgage or a long-term rental and wants to travel and see the world with their family?
You have to live your life. Some people’s goal is to own a home, someone else’s might be to travel around for a year. I’ve met people who travel around each year all year for 10 years. We are all so different. But if you can take the time out, and travel with the kids even for a weekend, or a week, or a month, or a year. Do it! They will never forget it. And neither will you.
Start living your life today and everything else falls into place. I believe this.
Alfonz & Eva Hamori.
Ann (dark blue shirt, red glasses, right, in the back) guiding a Tour.
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“Catch the travel bug and you’ll come home happier, refreshed, and ready for another vacation sooner than you think.”
My parents were members of the ATL Council for International Visitors and we had lots of international visitors in our home when I was young. Those visitors motivated me to travel. Expo 67 in Montreal made a huge impression on me in my youth, and I dreamed about traveling far and wide. A few years later, one day I walked into a travel agency and asked how could I train to be a travel agent. The owner signed me into the airline computer for self-paced lessons. The rest is history.
I had the misfortune of making a hair appt in Seoul the same afternoon and in the same neighborhood as the student unrest was gearing up. I decided to go outside for a whiff of fresh air while the hair stylist was giving someone else a very strong-smelling perm. Needless to say, the perm was nothing compared to the tear gas fumes. I was literally all alone right in the middle of armed police on one side and the shouting students on the other. My first reaction was to get the heck out of there. Made it back into the salon in the nick of time before the real action began. The tear gas was bad news.
I’m the queen of (mis)adventure. But the person upstairs gives us only what we can handle.
Group travel is helpful for travelers who are hoping to have a very organized, tightly run trip with very few if any curve balls. Economically, group tours often make sense for folks wanting to get a good overview of a place and then use that info to come back later and spend longer exploring on their own. The tours are usually a pretty efficient way of covering alot of ground in the least amount of time. But experienced travelers often prefer the freedom and serendipity of doing what they want when they want. On a group tour, if you like a city but your bus is scheduled to leave out at 7 a.m the next morning, unless you break away from the tour, you have to follow the tight schedule.
What advice would you give travelers who opt to travel solo?
Smile. Be patient, flexible, and open. Pack light. Strike up a conversation or use hand signals with locals. Go to a restaurant without an English language menu. Ask students for suggestions. Couchsurf or try Servas or 5W homestays for a taste of the real culture. Use common sense and a well-honed sense of adventure. As a solo traveler, you can have experiences those on big group tours can’t come close to.
5 W = Women Welcome Women Worldwide (also open to spouses and friends of female travelers. I love couchsurfing.
Honestly I would prefer those under-the-tourist radar places remain undiscovered for as long as possible so I and my friends, family, and globetrotting clients can enjoy them a little longer in their semi-pristine states.
Some of my undiscovered gems remain closely-guarded secrets. But one I would like to share is the lesser-traveled Alto Adige/Sued Tirol bilingual area of Italy that used to be part of Austria. There’s plenty of space in the Dolomites for everyone to enjoy! :)
The Dolomites are the best of Italy and Austria rolled into one. The food, the transportation infrastructure, the culture (traditional folk festivals, wine, etc.), and scenery are just super. The trains run on time, and there’s a wonderful regional train/museum combo deal available at a rock bottom price for tourists. Also, no traveler should miss seeing the amazing ancient “Ice Man” Oetzi in Bolzano. Absolutely fascinating…
You’ve explored 85+ countries; which country could you see yourself living in?
There’s not a country I’ve visited that I wouldn’t consider living in for at least a few months. Long-term, it’d have to be New Zealand, Argentina, the South Tirol region of Italy, or my top choice: the first country I ever visited outside North America - my beloved Switzerland.
Switzerland has stolen a lot of travelers hearts - including mine!
While many travelers prefer the French-speaking part of Switzerland, I am a huge fan of German-speaking Switzerland, especially the dreamy alpine villages of the Bernese Oberland. I actually worked on a Swiss farm so I could pick up some of the Bernese Swiss German language. With a train/postal bus/lake steamer transportation system that is the world’s best, an extremely well-prganized tourism infrastructure, cheese and chocolate (and great wine too..they just don’t make enough to export), drop-dead gorgeous scenery, four national languages, and a variety of colorful traditional markets and events, and modern cities which still protect their ancient quarters, endless opportunities for boating/hiking/running/cycling and more, Switzerland packs a huge punch in a compact country. I love it. P.S. And I forgot ..SKIING!!
Every year we take at least one small group to Switzerland and home-base in one tiny alpine village. They we make day trips from that cozy base. Everyone on our trip comes home saying “I want to move to Switzerland.”
Can easily understand why they’d all say that.. : )
It comes in cycles. This year we’re getting more and more requests for Germany, Switzerland, and South Africa. Last year it was Italy, Spain, England, and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. France, I’ve heard, is the world’s most popular travel destination, and I’m sure the people with whom I biked and barged in Burgundy this past May would agree! La France est magnifique!
That’s interesting - the way travel requests change every year.
Travel comes in waves. More and more North American travelers also are heading to places where they get more bang for their buck, i.e. destinations where the US Dollar is still relatively strong. That means South America, eastern Europe (esp. Bulgaria, Romania, and other destinations not well-traveled by the typical North American vacationer.
Mark your calendar today for your vacation dates and follow through. It’s good for your mind, soul, and overall physical health. The USA has the western world’s highest rate of lost “use or lose vacation” and that really needs to change. Catch the travel bug and you’ll come home happier, refreshed, and ready for another vacation sooner than you think. As The Trip Chicks say, “Put vacations on life’s front burner.” Get out there and discover the great planet we share!
Exactly! Love the saying. : )
Ann (red jacket, flower print shirt) in New Zealand.
Anna & Dave at the 10,000km mark
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”We came around a bend in the thick of the forest and Dave saw ahead of him Anna stopped and mumbling something and pointing at the side of the road and there it was! A gorilla! One of the 300 or so left in wild! It was unbelievable.”
Church bells are ringing in Guadalajara, it must be 9:00…
Yup! : )
Thanks so much for letting me chat with you this evening.
Your about us page says that you two met in Mongolia. That “We were on the same plane from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar and we fell in love when, across ten rows of sleeping Mongolians, 35,000 feet above the Gobi desert, we made eye-contact and smiled.”
Who approached who and what did they say? : )
so, we made eye contact on the plane, and smiled at each other - I (Dave) smiled at Anna and she smiled back.
Then at baggage claim I was looking all around to find the cute blonde, and I didn’t see her. i saw her backpack go around the carousel and then disappear though, and then finally I spotted her in the corner, reading her Lonely Planet…
I went over and talked to her and asked her if she knew where she was going - I didn’t.
So I talked to her first, but what I later learned was that she was faking reading her LP so that I would talk to her.
Anna knew exactly where she was going and was just pretending to stall for time.
So I spoke first, but only thanks to her ruse…
lol! That is too cute.
Yeah, it’s a funny story, we forget it sometimes.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie “Before Sunrise”?
Nope! Should I netflix it?
It’s a couple who meet on a train and then spend the night in Vienna wandering the city talking. He is American (Ethan Hawke) and she is French and when we got back everyone made us see that movie.
it’s okay, nothing exceptional, but they are in Vienna, where we lived after we first met, so it’s a funny film for us to see. And it is eerily similar to our own story…
You spent 16 months cycling through twelve countries – How did cycling vs. driving a car or taking public transportation, change your overall travel experience?
Tremendously! There is nothing like cycling and we could go on for hours about what makes it so great. In general though, you are traveling on the same level as the local people - especially in Africa where few people can afford private cars.
And so people are much more open to you and approach you and since they generally think what you’re doing is totally crazy they’re curious and ask lots of questions.
And then also, when you’re cycling you’re limited to how far you can pedal in one day -100km maximum for us really - and so you stop where you need to stop, not where the guidebook says to stop.
As a result, you spend a lot of time in areas where tourists usually never go - and for good reason of course, there’s nothing “to see” there. But what you realize pretty quickly is that “nothing to see” doesn’t mean anything, there are people living there, it’s their whole universe, and most travelers miss it totally.
Anyway, if you haven’t cycled somewhere, you don’t know it really, that’s our feeling on travel!
Did you meet other cyclists?
We only met 5 other cyclists in our whole 16 months in Africa.
There are lots out there in other parts of the world, but Africa isn’t so popular in the cycling crowd.
But the ones we met were very hardcore - three of them had done over 100,000km, one of them had been living on his bike for 9 years at that point.
Oh my goodness..just finished an hour run and am feeling like a slacker…
An hour run is hard! Cycling is easy compared to running! And besides, no one starts out saying you will bike a billion kilometers.
Every day you just make it to the next village and soon you find it’s a bit easier, the hills aren’t so steep, and you roll along.
And then you realize you’ve had 6 hours of exercise, you’ve been outside all day, and that in the space of 24 hours you’ve had the best and worst moments of your life.
Must of been incredible.
it’s incredible, yeah, totally.
You must of worked up an appetite!
oh yes, we ate a TON!
Favorite meal you enjoyed?
In Mozambique, they make a stew of casava leaves, coconut milk, peanuts, and sometimes shrimp. and it’s served with “sima” which is a sort of hard maize meal cake (like a thick polenta), which is a staple all through eastern and southern africa.
Matapa it’s called! it’s delicious, best food we had the whole trip
A big part of what you two are doing while traveling is trying to understand issues facing the world right now and then trying to make a difference - - In your opinion, what is a big problem, that most people aren’t really aware of?
Hm, interesting question…
Anna thinks that most people don’t really appreciate the degree of the destruction of the environment. This is what struck us most in Africa, seeing that in the least developed continent, where you would think things would be relatively preserved, that still the forests were being cut down, the fields were becoming deserts. And then you realize, once you know what to look for - once you know what a healthy ecosystem is and what an unhealthy one is - you see it everywhere. The planet is sick, and most of us live lives that are so divorced from nature that we dont realize it. For us, this was the biggest revelation of our time in Africa. (Dave agrees - like a good husband).
The environmental destruction we saw there is present everywhere, in every continent, we just need to learn how to see it. Traveling through the southern US you see kudzu growing everywhere, and there is a massive drought now in texas, and the list goes on and on. It’s not just Africa, it’s everywhere…
What’s a phrase that you learnt in Africa and used quite a bit?
There are a few phrases we picked up that we still use actually. One is Mzungu, which is a Kiswahili word to refer to foreigners and white people in general. You hear this constantly in the parts of Africa where we were. “Mzungu how are you!” is like the national anthem in some countries. We got used to it though, and now we say Mzungu all the time, which is nice since most other people don’t understand it.
The other phrase is “pole pole” which is also Kiswahili and which means “slowly slowly.” It’s something people will say whenever you need to be careful, or just to say there is no need to rush. Pole pole is for us such the African approach to life - work hard, take things seriously, but no need to rush, things will happen as they happen, when they happen. A great mantra for travelers!
How is traveling as a couple different than traveling by yourself?
We have both traveled independently, in fact we were traveling alone when we met. Since then though, it’s been mostly traveling together. I think we couldn’t say one is always better than the other, but they work for different phases of life. When we were younger and wanted to go out and see the world and sort of “find ourselves” I think traveling alone made more sense, it’s more intense and pushes you in a more personal way. Now though that we’re older and our interests are more in understanding the political / environmental situations of the countries we’re visiting (and especially now that we’re meeting and filming environmental organizations on our way down to Rio), it’s much easier to be in a couple. It gives you someone to talk to about what you’re seeing, a sounding board for ideas and the like. It also makes traveling for long periods easier in general - we’re each other’s family, so we’re always home when we’re together, so it’s not so bad to be on the road for 16 months, or now 20 months. It’s like that song: “Home is wherever I’m with you…”
What is one travel memory from your time in Africa, that’s particularly special to you?
A memory that is particularly special to us… There are so many! Every day, especially when you’re cycling, is so intense that there are moments of bliss and moments of horror sandwiched together.
There are many people who offered us hospitality and kindness along the way out of nothing but the warmth of their hearts, and we remember each of them with such fondness and gratitude. I suppose though that if there was a sort of “epic” moment that we will never forget, it was in Uganda, biking on the worst road ever through the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. This is where Uganda’s gorillas are, and tourists come and pay about $1,000 all together to see them, which is way beyond the kind of budget we have. We thought we would take the public road across the park just to see the tropical forest though, which is spectacular. Everyone we met assured us that we wouldn’t see the gorillas of course, they are so few, and they would be on the other side of the mountains at this time of year, and on and on. Some people who lived there had only seen them once in their lives, so we assumed we wouldn’t and just went to bike through the park. But the roads are atrocious and the local people, who know that tourists spend more money than they will see in their lives just to spend 45 minutes with a gorilla, were not very welcoming, chasing us and grabbing at our bags and demanding money. It was the hardest cycling of the trip, though the forest was so beautiful that the moments we were thick in it we forgot all the difficulties. It was raining too of course, it always is at such moments.
Anyway, on the second day, we came around a bend in the thick of the forest and Dave saw ahead of him Anna stopped and mumbling something and pointing at the side of the road and there it was! A gorilla! One of the 300 or so left in wild! It was unbelievable.
We parked our bikes farther on and watched from a distance and took some photos. There was one by the road, and then another up in the hillside above us, and another we could hear downhill a ways. They were all grunting to each other and eating leaves. It was amazing, and we were alone there with them until the park rangers came and shooed us on - Mzungu can’t see gorillas without paying $1,000 it turns out.
We didn’t mind though, it was such an incredible experience.
Dave & Anna at the southernmost point of Africa
Apache Lake, Arizona
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“The premise is this…the slower we go, the more we see/experience. In other words…if you fly…how much do you see?”
On your about me page, you mention that you lost your house and sold everything before starting your adventure.
Yes, that’s correct.
Can you tell me more about that - what you were up to before you started Mike’s Road Trip?
My background is in marketing…I had been offering freelance web development and online marketing services for the prior six years.http://www.ShubicWebDesign.com
Business really started to fall off with the economy and all. My house dropped 50%+ in value.
Had you traveled much before?
For sure! I love to travel! I’ve been to Europe three times, S.E. Asia, all over Canada, Mexico and of course the States.
You capture a lot of your travels by filming short videos - what equipment and editing software do you use?
I just upgraded a few months back from a Kodak Zi8 to a prosumer Canon HD S-10 I think it is. I have just been using iMovie for my editing, but am hoping to get a new Mac at some point…then I want to learn how to use Final Cut Pro.
I also purchased an upgraded mic, Manfrotto tripod and a number of batteries.
Your road trip takes you all over the US, what’s one state that you don’t think gets enough praise as being a travel destination?
It’s hard to get to Montana from here/there (by air), so most people have to drive and it’s can be a trek.
Open spaces, the landscape is just awe-inspiring…so many rivers, snow-capped peaks and outstanding accommodations
What are some things you’d recommend doing in Montana?
Well, Yellowstone for sure…although it’s so crowded that kinda of sucks, but there is so much to see and do in the park that it’s worth the effort. Whitefish, MT is a really cool small town with a great ski resort and outstanding recreation. Whitefish Lake is great in the summer for skiing, kayaking, hiking, etc.
Flathead Lake is also very cool…lots of small towns surrounding it…many with great lodging, restaurants, etc.
Oh, fly fishing of course is big in Montana…so many rivers and lakes. I was just there at the Grey Cliffs Ranch just outside of Bozeman and caught a number of nice 20” trout on one of their own private lakes.
Your road trip car is a Ford F-150 truck, does it have a name? : )
LOL…no, funny enough it does not.
Maybe I should have a contest? :-)
Would you be open to a truck naming contest?
LOL…we’re on the same wave length…
For sure! A “name Mike’s truck” contest.
I’d be down. You’d have to put a limit on the amount of entries per person..because I’d submit quite a few… : )
I need to think of a prize.
If you weren’t driving an F-150, what car would you be?
Well, I’ve been trying to secure an RV. I put together a comprehensive proposal to the GoRV’ing folks, but things are not moving as quickly as I’d like. I do like my F-150 and would love it if I could do some sort of social media campaign with Ford. I also really like the full size Toyota truck.
RV’s are fun!
Yeah, plus it would allow me to stay on the road for longer durations as I would have an office in which to do my video editing, blogging, etc.
Favorite meal you’ve had while road tripping?
I was going to say you’re going to have to be more specific, but something came to mind…
lol..tough question, I know : )
I had the most amazing dining experience in Cannon Beach, OR last year…it was a “dinner show” by EVOO. It’s a cooking school, but in the evenings they offer a “dinner show” for say 20-25 people. It’s like being on the set of a cooking show. There are several courses and wine with each course. It’s spectacular!
If your truck were to be parked in any state in the US and you were told that you have 6hrs to go and explore….Which state would you wish you were in? What would you try to see in the 6hrs?
Hummm, is this a state I’ve never been or one I’d like to return to…to hit places I’ve not “explored?”
There are only 14 states I’ve not yet been to…I think I’d pick a small one like…Vermont! I think I could see a lot in six hours. :-)
Probably! Any particular things you can think of?
Ben & Jerry’s factory…LOL.
Yes!!! A must. lol
Why should travelwiggle readers consider a road trip? You’ve traveled before..what makes a road trip via car or RV special?
I just wrote a blog post on this very topic…well, sort of. The premise is this…the slower we go, the more we see/experience. In other words…if you fly…how much do you see? If you drive on the Interstate vs. the Highway, how much do you miss? If you’re on a bike vs. a car, how much more to you experience? The more we see, the more we experience. Slow down…smell the roses and you’ll be living life rather than letting it pass you by. I think I articulated this more effectively in my blog post. :-)
Thanks so much. Have a great night!
Top of Whistler, B.C.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
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“But I had only two months left on my lease and I thought to myself “is this TRULY where I want to be. Not just for another year on the lease, but in my life, am I doing something I love passionately enough to stay.” And the answer was no”
Hi Shannon! Thank you for letting me chat with you about your travels today. : )
You’re most welcome! Looking forward to it :)
Reading over your blog, one of the posts that really jumped out at me was the post where you talk about why you started traveling when you were 24 in May of 2008 - can you tell me a bit about that moment?
Sure! I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and I had been there for nearly two years.
But I had only two months left on my lease and I thought to myself “is this TRULY where I want to be. Not just for another year on the lease, but in my life, am I doing something I love passionately enough to stay.”
And the answer was no - although I loved acting, I had always wanted to travel, I was miserable living with all of the traffic in LA.
I was in some debt from the expenses living in the city, and I already had an internet based job so I made a VERY snap decision after reading the Lost Girls blog to buy a one-way ticket and leave.
I bought the ticket the same week I had my breakdown/revelation.
What did your friends and family think?
My best friend out in LA egged me on, and then hugged me when I *freaked out* 20 minutes later that I had actually bought a one-way ticket!
My dad has always been very supportive, and although he had his reservations about my safety, and that sort of thing, he was on board the whole way.
I joke that he’s been my personal assistant as well, I am very fortunate that I am allowed to stay at home between travels, he collects my mail, and handles things when I do something stupid like lose my US debit card : )
lol - I’m sure the post ticket purchase freak out is very common. : )
Oh yes, I think especially if you do it spontaneously like that. A bit terrifying! I still had a whole apartment in LA, no plan, and hadn’t told a soul besides my friend about the plan when I booked it!
Very cool - your dad sounds really awesome.
He is wonderful. : )
Thinking back to the person you were in 2008 and who you are today, how has traveling changed you?
I have more time to listen to people. On the road I’ve learned everyone has a story, it’s unique to them, they have hardships, love, and losses. And that’s easy to say and easy to dismiss, but really think about that, and when I lived it on the road, meeting other people, it took me further out of my own bubble of self-obsession (which I think we all possess to an extent).
I was very busy with *my* career in LA, now even though I’m further away, in some ways I’m more connected with the people back home because I listen to them more.
Couple that with a LOT more patience and a complete belief in my ability to survive on my own wits, which I know because it’s been tested, and I am stronger and more confident now.
What advice would you give to folks who feel the same way as you did in 2008, who are saying “this is not my life”?
If you truly want change, you can live life however you choose. A hiker on the Appalachian trail is quoted as having said something along the lines of “All you need to know is it can be done.” He said this in reference to how he travels with nearly nothing, but it goes wider than that. I can’t tell you HOW to do it, but it can be done, I did, others have found a way to travel, or change their life in some meaningful way, and knowing it can be done is the battle. The fun part is figuring out how it’s going to work best for you!
Which place in the world could you see yourself living in for awhile?
Thailand. I was just living there this spring and I hope to head back there in the fall. Also, foreigners are allowed to buy land in Guatemala, and I’ve always thought that would be an amazingly lovely place to have a getaway house at some point!
Thailand comes up often as a place many travers would love to live. Why do you think that is?
The quality of life! You can live very well for a small sum of money, and yet you don’t have to trade any of the Western conveniences you enjoy. Thailand has US speed internet in many places, grocery stores, and a is *relatively* stable politically, so it’s a good bet. A lot of expats are my age, but also retirees head there too.
I did a Thailand Cost of Living breakdown that went viral a few months ago because people were amazed by the value and the lifestyle you can live there.
I’ve heard that folks in Thailand are incredibly welcoming and friendly.
Thailand bills itself as the “Land of a Thousand Smiles” and it really is true.
Favorite meal while traveling?
Favorite meals get a hat tip to India. I loved nearly every single meal I ate all seven weeks in the country. It was like an orgy of delicious foodiness and I salivate at the thought.
What kind of ingredients were in a typical meal you enjoyed in India?
curries with paneer are a win every time. I’m a sucker for palak paneer, which is finely ground spinach with paneer chunks served with deliciously warm garlic nann to scoop the goopy dish into your mouth.
Oh wow… : )
Sounds like it!
For my last question today…if you could tell the whole world one thing, what would you say?
Do what that you love, the thing that makes you smile to consider, your heart beat a little fast to think about. Do that and be happy.
It sounds like you’ve done exactly that. : )
Thank you so much for your time this morning!
Thank you too! Good luck with this new site, :) If there is ever anything I can do to help as well, let me know.