Mountains, Beaches, Koala’s & Kangaroos – Sydney!

Australia was never a place I thought much about visiting. Recently I had an opportunity to travel to Sydney for business and I was lucky to be able to squeeze in a couple of extra days. The city is fantastic and there is always something going on, it’s full of art and character and culture. The Blue Mountains were beautiful and the beaches felt like something out of a movie.

Sydney offers a little bit of everything. My colleagues and I took a day trip out to the Blue Mountains and then to Featherdale Wildlife Park where Kangaroo’s just hop around wanting to be fed and petted! I even got to pet a Koala; I also learned they don’t like to be called bears, who knew! My favorite part was trying to keep up with my young co-worker as we hiked the Cliff Walk. We started in Coogee and walked to Bondi. I will admit the walk was a lot longer than I expected but it offered an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean. We passed several small beach along our way crowded with boats and fisherman and surfers.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House


A Day at the Farm…

Let me set the scene for you so that you have a full picture of why a group of six young women ventured out for a morning to a National Park in search of a cow. It was a beautiful summer Sunday at a group brunch. New friends, old friends, good food, a lot of laughter and plenty of bloody mary’s! A new friend, quickly to be come a good friend, Regina, pulls out this 4 1/2 page, typed, single space bucket list. Originally created before she was even in high school as a to do before she turned 30 list and updated in her college years. This list had sat dormant for a long time., eventually to resurface a few months before her 30th birthday.

Up to that point Regina had accomplished about a page worth of her items. So I started reading through it, as one does, and I get to the item “Milk a cow”. I chuckled as I read it out loud to the group and offered the opinion that this could be done at anytime she wanted. At this point the whole table turned with a surprised reaction of “we can?” Evidently Regina was not the only one with this item on her bucket list. Even though I had grown up in a metropolitan area, this was something I had done several times, along with visiting dairy farms, I even have an Aunt (and late Uncle) who own a milk delivery service… in Long Island NY of all places! Regina on the other hand, grew up near farms… with lots of cows, as her grandmother told her, you didn’t need to move to DC to milk a cow!

Group shot

I live in the DC metropolitan area, and it would only be appropriate to wonder how far do I need to drive to find a cow to milk. Well the answer, from where we were sitting at brunch was “just on the other side of the bridge” that the restaurant is near (literally about 2 blocks from the bridge). Still to quizzical looks I explained that there is a National Park with a living farm in stones throw distance of our bloody mary’s; all we needed to do was show up.

the farm

It took a few weeks to arrange a date, but one beautiful fall morning we headed to the farm. The Park Ranger was slightly surprised to find a group of adults with no children all lined up. But she was very kind and treated us just like the others interested in the same experience. We were just less scared. Our cow’s name was Minnie. She seemed very friendly and at one point when I was a bit close to her head reading a sign, she attempted to eat my long hair!

Jen, Regina, Gerylee, & Kat milking a cow

Although we came only with the intention of milking Minnie, to our enjoyment the farm experience continued. We headed to the chicken coup! Evidently the chickens fight a lot, so they tend not to look healthy, but the rooster seemed happy to be surrounded by so many hens. We feed them and collected their eggs.

Rooster Feeding

At this farm, they don’t let anything go to waste. We took the eggs from the hen’s and feed them eggs to the pigs. The park ranger was aware enough to make sure everyone either got a turn to collect the egg, or feed a pigs. Along our route we were honked at by a huge white goose; then we stopped by to oooh and ahh over the horses. Followed by an awesome picnic lunch. And all this before noon! It was a great day out and a really fun experience to do with friends.

Pig

All of the thoughts, opinions, and bad jokes are my own.

Interesting Links

Oxon Hill National Park

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Travelling with Friends…

It’s not easy travelling with others, everyone has different adventure styles, interests, personality traits, the list goes on. Whether it’s family, friends you have known for a long time, or a group of people, every situation is different. It’s hard to give or seek advise without knowing the parties involved. However, I would never give the advise of “Don’t do it”; which is the advise that I found more then not while researching before a big trip to Spain. With that said, there are people, I know I wouldn’t want to put up with for an extended period of time. However, I am all about travelling with friends, I feel it can really enrich the experience. I hope that some of the things I say will help others thinking of venturing out of town together.

Some of what I find to me the most important tips:

  • Communication
  • Listening
  • Open mind and willingness towards other peoples needs and wants
  • Concession
  • Knowing that you don’t have to spend every minute of everyday together
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Trust

Aside from the “Don’t do it” advise I found, communication was the biggest suggestion out there. Talk to each other and listen to each other, before you go and while you’re there. Make a point to say your piece, but realize that this is a shared adventure, and so listen to those you are travelling with as well. If the whole adventure you want to do what you want to do, then maybe you shouldn’t travel with others. However, if you’re willing to give and take, you might find yourself having a good time. Even though you would have preferred seeing or doing something a different way, at a different time, or not at all.

Realize that you don’t need to spend every minute of every day together. When you’re in a location, venture apart and see what you want to see instead of feeling forced to go to a museum or park that you don’t want to go to. Just have a plan of where and when to meet back up, and respect your fellow travellers enough to abide by it. There is nothing better then regrouping over dinner and a bottle of wine to share your day’s adventures. If you are going away for a long enough period of time, plan to have a day apart or a day of pure relaxation. Speaking from experience, I would recommend doing this half way through a trip. That way you have time to reflect and re-energize.

Roles and responsibilities seems very formal, but I couldn’t think of a better phrase for now. I read on someone’s blog, I think it was a couple who travel full time, that they each have their own responsibilities. For instance the room key, the car key, location of where the car is parked, the ticket holder. This will help ease everyone’s mind and cause less issues when it’s late and everyone thought the other person had the key!

Trust. Lets face it, if you don’t trust the people you are travelling with, that can cause a lot of issues. Solo travellers have to make decisions about trusting all the time. If you’re going to be travelling with others, trust is important, if you don’t trust the people you are choosing to go on adventures with, then that can create problems.

My Experience

In October 2011, I ventured on a 10-day trip with two of my best friends. They are a husband and wife team, I have been friends with them respectively for 15+ years and almost 30 years. All three of us have our differences, in every way possible. However, we have managed to remain great friends. I knew from the beginning there would be challenges. But all of us seemed up for the challenge, so I began my research.

friends

The value of space and communication.

Several months before we headed out on our journey, I invited them over for a “Spain” night, we had Spanish food and wine and we discussed our thoughts. I started by sharing the information I had found. Mainly being that we needed to be open and communicate. Share when we are tired, bored, want to do something different and we need to not get on each others nerves by doing so. We need to be comfortable enough to walk our separate paths, but share the journey.

Immediately following our adventures in Spain, I am sure all three of us were ready for the break from each other. I know I had my moments of frustration and irritation as did they. I did completely loose it with my friend one night over dinner. She is very pick about food, the menu was in Spanish, I just wanted to eat, we were both tired. I wasn’t the nicest at that moment, and she recognized my frustration and her own. Somehow, she amazingly remained calm, and communicated back to me her own feelings and thoughts. In the end we stayed and had a fantastic meal thanks to our awesome waiter who ordered for us. The point is, that we discussed it, laid our feelings out on the table instead of getting into a heated argument or storming off.

friends

Dealing with important issues with friends around.

I do recommend that if there is a couple + solo (or couple + couple) involved in the travel, that the couple recognize that the others among them need not to be in the middle of the couples personal business. I love my friends and very willing to offer a helping hand, or hear their horror story about the time their house flooded, the dog ran away, their car was stolen. But current situations that need that couples attention while travelling, should be handled separately, complain to the others over dinner, but don’t have that conversation in front of the others if it can be avoided.

I can only write this from my perspective. And I know how important of an email my friends were attempting to draft to deal with an important situation at home; and that it was time sensitive. However, it was 3am to the person receiving the email, I was driving in a foreign country and should not have been witness to the discussion. So I stopped it. Again, I was likely rude, and I apologized to them each individually later. However, it wasn’t my business and I told them that. The matter was important but didn’t have to be dealt with right then at that moment in front of me. Regardless of what was going through their heads, they stopped, and after we parked, I went off to have a coffee while they took care of their business. I still enjoy hearing their ups and downs over dinner and drinks; from what I can tell, they also prefer to tell them to me over dinner and drinks instead of me being a witness!

friends
Copyright 2012 Kimberly Stowell

Concessions.

I stated that there are people that I wouldn’t choose to have an extended venture with. Normally those people are those that I don’t enjoy the company of except in small doses. However, I tend to be a people person and seem to get along well with others from what I can tell. I wouldn’t have given up those 10 days in Spain for the world, even with our differences.

My friends and I are very different when it comes to travel. They are very boom boom boom, see it, next, see it, next (well thats my impression!). I on the other hand, although not a slow traveller, enjoy a bit slower of a pace. I love to revisit places, I feel I get a better sense of understanding. I could wander the streets or sit on a double decker tour bus for hours, just wandering in circles taking in what I missed the previous time. I want to eat and drink, she likes to shop, he likes… not really sure, he’ easy going and we were two women and so he got very little say!

I give the advise of having a relax day in the middle of the journey, because I know by that time in mine, I was ready for a day off. I really just wanted to sit on the beach or at the pool with a drink and zone out everything. However, it was the last day we were together before I took that day. And I am sad that on the last day, we were apart.

I know I made a lot of concessions in my trip, and I have no doubt that my friends made just as many. One particular day, I didn’t want to be anywhere, do anything, see anything, most of all be with my friends, I needed that break. But we were on an adventure in a new city. I was tired and I didn’t want to walk, but I would have never been able to navigate the car and drive by myself to get to the bottom of the hill. So I devised a plan. I sent him one way and took her with me, and when we got to the bottom, she climbed up to meet him and I had a few minutes to sit by myself and enjoy the scenery. By having just one of them next to me and not both of them at that moment in time, made me less exhausted.

Although at times my friends exhausted me and I exhausted them. By the end of the day it was always short lived. I didn’t get to see and do everything I wanted to do, but if I was travelling solo, I wouldn’t have had the time or energy to do it all anyway. Pick and choose one’s battles. At the end of that particular day when I wanted to be by myself and I wasn’t, I was so thrilled to be with my friends, because we sat drinking sangria, on the beach, watching an amazing sunset over the Mediterranean. Together.

friends
Copyright 2012 Kimberly Stowell

Conclusion

The memories of frustration with each other, and lets face it, myself, have quickly faded. But the memories and moments I shared with my friends was so worth it. We did goofy things that we wouldn’t have done if we were by ourselves, like our picture taken in Plaza Mayor standing behind Spanish costumes. Or the memory of my friends face when his wife accidentally locked us on the balcony. Or her face when she found this kick-ass purse in the shape of a radio that she just had to buy. Or that moment on the rock in Gibraltar, watching the ape’s, when I realized that I was so fortunate to be sharing that specific moment with such amazing friends. Or even just buying candy to feed our sweet tooth at the fair! My first camel ride, I can’t think of better people to have been with at that time in life to have had that experience with, but them.

Would I do it again? Yes. In a heart beat. If and when I get an opportunity to travel with this specific couple again, I would take it, and I think we will be better travelling buddies because of our past experiences. Would I do it with others, yes, each adventure is different, and at the end of it, I am pleased to look back and remember how great it was to share it with friends. Especially when I look back at the couple I have had so many adventures with, not just in Spain, but in life. And yes, I do have a list of to do’s when I make it back. But I would have had that list either way.

I would love to hear your positive stories of travelling with others!


#FriFotos “Best of 2011”, December 23, 2011

Happy Hanukkah & Happy Christmas.

Along with a few of my camel shots, this is what made my Holiday Card this year, so it makes sense to be my personal Best of 2011.

Travel’s in Spain:

bull fight, Mijas, Spain, Costa del Sol flamenco dancers, Mijas, Spain, Costa del Sol

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Travel’s in Gibraltar & Morocco:

Apes, Rock of Gibraltar, Gibraltar Food Market, Tangier, Morocco

Travel’s in Scotland:

Edinburgh, Scotland Edinburgh, Scotland

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Cheers!


Do camel’s really spit?

I don’t know, but I am guessing they do, I just was not witness. Honestly, I was told they are itchy, they bite, and they spit. Well the camel I rode on had a saddle attached to it and was very gentlemanly towards me. I recently travelled to Tangier, Morocco for a day trip. Although I felt the tour we went on was overrated, it was very cool to get the chance to ride a camel, even if only for a few minutes. It was also a beautiful view as my friends and I had the opportunity to ride them near the Atlantic Ocean.

Camels, Tangier, Morocco

In some ways it was a bit disconcerting, we literally pulled off to the side of the road, and there were a few men, with a bunch of camels, overlooking the ocean. But, regardless it was an experience to be had. My brother in-law, in response to me riding a camel, was a bit weirded out and he had loads of questions. So here are a few with their answers:

Q) Was it a Dromedary or a Camel? A) I didn’t know the difference, so I looked it up and discovered, that Dromedaries (or Arabian Camel’s) are a one hump camel. However, it is still considered a camel. The two hump camels are called Bactrain. Dromedaries are native to the dry desert areas of West Asia, and Bactrian camels are native to Central and East Asia. Both species are domesticated; they provide milk and meat, and are working animals.

Camels, Tangier, Morocco Camels, Tangier, Morocco

Q) Where did you sit? In front of the hump, behind the hump, in between the humps? Was it itchy? A) Well, the camel’s had saddles. and then blankets on top of that. So I suppose you could say on the hump.

Camels, Tangier, Morocco Camels, Tangier, Morocco

Q) Was it scary? A) Well honestly it’s just like riding a horse, but slightly taller, the scariest part was when the camel was knealing down to let me off. And I had to lean forward, and I am holding my camera thinking, oh my, i am going to go tumbling off head first.

We really only just took a slow wonder around the cliff top. Taking in the beautiful view of the wide open beach and blue waters of the Atlantic below. The gentleman who kept the camels were very kind, very happy to pose for a photo and even kindly took photos of us. They even let us spent an extra 20 minutes taking photos and petting the camel’s after we got off.

Camels, Tangier, Morocco Camels, Tangier, Morocco

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