Mistakes Were Made

I’m still not sure what happened and why, but I was working on a post for Monday about Japan and when I tried to save, it published instead, not once but twice! I apologize for any confusion. You’ll see the finished version on Monday.

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A Different Look for The Occasional Nomads

Yes, we’re still The Occasional Nomads, but with a new look!

I felt like I needed a change this week, so I’m trying out a different design for the blog. I’m going to give it a few days and see how I like it, and how readers like it.

I’m not sure yet how I feel about the blog’s name being downsized in the upper left corner, but I do like the new picture (taken in Kyoto) and the themes of the blog being highlighted on the splash photo. It’s different without being too different.

Let me know what you think! The design change was free, so I’m not out anything for trying it out, and easily can go back to what I had before.

Fall Break

A Rainbow Shower tree: Hawaii's attempt at fall color

A rainbow shower tree: Hawaii’s attempt at fall color

YaYu is off from school this week for fall break, and I’ve decided to take the week off from blogging as well. I’m working on several posts, but to be honest it’s difficult writing when I’m lying on my back, and I can only sit up for a short time so that doesn’t work very well either. I feel like I need some time off.

Don’t go away – I’ll be back next Sunday afternoon!

How to Travel Solo and Fall in Love With It

RIshikesh, India, Parmarth Ashram, www.bartnikowski.com

Rishikesh, India, Parmarth Ashram, http://www.bartnikowski.com

Myth: it costs a lot to travel.

Yes it does if you stay in $400 a night hotels like I used to do.

It was fun.

The truth is I love to travel solo.

I don’t have to wait for a friend to break up with her lover, leave their job, or save enough money to go with me.

When I want to go to Nepal, Colombia, or Sardinia I put on my Van sneakers and go!

I can sit in a fancy pants bar/restaurant like I am now and write. And enjoy a superb glass of red wine and be at ease and comfortable.

You never have to negotiate where to go based on money.

I was backpacking in the Himalayas solo in 2009 in Sikkim, India and realized I was spending less money per month than I received for renting out my apartment in Palo Alto, California.

I was spending less than $300 per month to stay in guesthouses eating home made Tibetan soup and momos, traveling by share jeep in the Himalayas, and having a blast.

I came home from that 10-month trip with money in the bank.

Advice.

Don’t go over your budget on lodging. Yes you can splash out for a few days. But you can also get budget accommodation and live it up at the upper crust lounge/restaurant like I am now.

Secret: you can often work/write in 5-star surroundings enjoying the incredible views and then go back to your Airbnb room, campsite, or rented home.

You’ll discover that having a set amount to spend on lodging will keep you kosher.

I often times suggest a lower price on a room when the price suggested is too high.

It’s called rich foreigner tax. Many countries, like India, have no set prices on their rooms, the price is whatever they can get.

So haggle wisely, you’re still most likely paying too much.

Freedom!

One of the best things I ever did was travel twice around the world with no itinerary buying one-way plane tickets along the way.

If I felt like staying in Bali another month I could, no discussion.

If I wanted to explore Burma for a month, I went.

First time I went round the world I spent $2900 on plane tickets, the 2nd time I spent $1800. No I didn’t buy a RTW ticket, it doesn’t give you freedom on your journey.

For example I decided to stay in Cambodia for 4 weeks when I couldn’t stomach the thought of leaving.

I was falling in love with Siem Reap, where Angkor Wat is located and so I stayed.

No heated arguments. I found an incredible local guesthouse: Rosie’s guesthouse. And another one, Ou Malay where the Cambodian owners and I had a love fest of laughing and daily camaraderie.

It was $7 a night, no wifi but so what?! We loved each other!

Cambodia, Ou Malay Guesthouse Siem Reap, www.bartnikowski.com

Cambodia, Ou Malay Guesthouse, Siem Reap, http://www.bartnikowski.com

You meet so many people!

When you’re solo, there’s no one to listen or talk to. You can be alone with your own thoughts and then Bam! you meet someone seriously interesting who lights up your world and you wonder how you ever would have met them if you were with someone.

This has happened to me more times than I can count. And I’m still in touch with many friends I met traveling from Spain, Korea, Australia, Nepal, India, Germany, and Argentina.

They shook up my world and invited me into a new portal of love and friendship. I never would have met them if I wasn’t solo.

Being solo you have to reach out. It can be intoxicating.

Traveling solo, I mention my thoughts to whoever is standing by, I don’t take offense if they don’t respond, I’m simply radiating aloha which means, I’m spreading good will and happiness which is what the Dalai Lama advises but I didn’t realize until living in Hawaii that this means Aloha.

Pay attention. You might meet your soulmate, best friend ever, or meditation master around the next corner.

Suddenly you’ll be in a new world that you had no idea even existed.

Burma, Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Yangon, www.bartnikowski.com

Burma, Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Yangon, http://www.bartnikowski.com

Safety.

Yes you can be safe but you have to trust your gut. Don’t negotiate with the red alert warnings your instincts tell you. Pay attention.

Your body knows before your mind. Listen.

And while you are at it: don’t tell people you’re traveling solo. Don’t advertise your solo status by flagrantly drinking and carousing. Really.

Do make friends with families and women. Volunteer with humanitarian foundations that are educating and changing lives. Don’t be afraid to talk to people and smile.

A smile is universal. Yes it works in every country. Try it. It works.

Change Your Life, join Mary on Kauai July to December for a 3-day luxury private retreat, learn yoga and photography on the best island in the world.

 

Tanned, Rested and Ready to Blog Again

IMG_2781

Thanks for letting me have a little time off! I spent my “vacation” reflecting on the blog, and how I saw it going forward or at times, or if I even wanted to continue. I honestly felt that I was drifting further and further away from the direction I had intended for The Occasional Nomads when I began it last year, as well as dragging myself into a rut I wasn’t going to be able to climb out of. I wasn’t sure if the ennui I was experiencing was because I had lost interest in blogging, or because I had somehow headed off in the wrong direction.

What I did figure out was that I didn’t want to stop writing, but some changes were definitely in order.

Some things around here are going to stay the same, but others will be eliminated, combined or changed. For example, aspects of Feel Good Friday, which I loved writing each week, will now be folded into the Sunday Afternoon post. That has always been my favorite post to write each week, and I’ve always gotten good feedback about it. The Weekly Menu Plan will continue as well, but I want to incorporate more recipes, thoughts about healthy eating, and a bit more about food shopping here on Kaua’i rather than just listing what we’ll be eating for dinner during the week. I’m going to shift the day for the menu post from Monday to Wednesday though since that’s the day Brett and I shop at the farmers’ market, and our weekly menu is somewhat based on what we find there.

I’m also going to be adding some new, occasional features to the blog. One will be A Postcard From: XXX, small photo vignettes and write-ups about a particular place or site we have visited on our travels. As Brett and I continue to get out and travel more, I also want to include more information about how we bring it off, from saving to buying airfare to finding lodging, restaurants, local transportation, and so forth. We’re not travel experts by any means, but I’m hoping some of our experiences can be helpful for someone else.

I’m also an unabashed collector, and also fascinated by what others collect, so I plan to occasionally post pictures and information about some of the many things I’ve gathered over the years (and that made the cut to move with us to Kaua’i). I hope they’ll help give you some additional insights into who I am and what I like.

Laura_Mary_bartnikowski

Finally, I am super excited that my good friend, Mary Bartnikowski – photographer extraordinaire, world traveler, writer and educator – will begin contributing to the blog as well. Mary is the author of four books, is an award-winning photographer in both the Silicon Valley and worldwide, and has led programs at Stanford, Apple, Intel and other global sites. She has traveled solo to 32 countries, and circled the world twice, buying one-way tickets along the way (and was almost crushed to death by elephants in Nepal, but thankfully survived 🙂 ). Along with her gorgeous photographs, Mary will writing about her Kaua’i experiences and insights, as well as educating us about what she does here on Kaua’i. Mary, Brett and I will all be posting to a new feature we’re calling #Kaua’i. These posts will highlight different aspects of our beautiful island, from sunsets to hiking trails to beaches to restaurants and other goings on. Mary will also be offering photo and travel tips along the way.

So, here we go – I’m looking forward to writing and sharing again!

In the Weeds

blahNow that our offer has been accepted, we are deep in the weeds of the loan application process and my brain already feels fried. Escrow has been set up, earnest money deposited, and we got pre-approved for the loan. But, things have come to a screeching halt otherwise because . . .

. . . Oregon is apparently going to take their sweet time processing my retirement. My official retirement date was September 1 (application received August 7), and although the retirement is supposed to be processed within 62 days, it can take up to 92 days. No benefit letter will be available until the retirement is processed, and without the benefit letter we can only go so far with the loan. So, we are keeping our fingers crossed for a miracle, that the retirement actually gets done this month.

To top it all off, I don’t feel so hot either. Not sure what’s up but I just feel blah.

Anyway, posting this week is going to be sporadic, at least until I feel better. I’ll be back though.

Fourth Time’s a Charm

188220757187dae32adb3af278d41724So here I am with my fourth blog. My fourth!

What can I say? Blogging the past few years has helped me keep track of life and stay on track with our dreams, plans and goals, but as the focus of our lives keeps evolving and changing so have the blogs. We’ve paid off our debt (I’m Losing It Here), downsized and moved ourselves to Kaua’i (Noho’Ana Hau’ole), and settled in to our new life on the Garden Island (The View From the Treehouse). Along the way I’ve learned more than I imagined, not just about other people and places, but most especially about myself, about what makes me happy, and about what I want to do in the future.

If you have followed any of my other blogs you know that I am a finisher. I don’t just dream. I set goals. I plan. And then I execute the plan and go for the finish line.

It wasn’t always that way though. I grew up internalizing a message from my family that I was unserious, scatterbrained, silly, unable to finish anything. Because I was supposedly incapable of making a decision my parents and others made decisions and plans for me, but more to accomplish their own dreams and preconceptions, not mine. What I wanted to do carried little validity because what did I know?  And of course others’ opinion of me was always validated because for some reason I never seemed to finish anything I started.

Then, in 1977 I did something totally crazy. Without telling anyone I enlisted in the navy in order to take advantage of the then-existing GI Bill benefits. Bets were made that I wouldn’t even finish boot camp let alone make my way in the armed forces. However, as difficult as boot camp was (and it was awful), I was determined to not only finish on time but do well, and I did. Most importantly I also learned, beyond anything my time in the navy taught me, that when I set my own goals, follow my own dreams and make my own plans I follow through and accomplish what I set out to do. I am not a quitter, and I can accomplish any goal I set for myself (although the jury is still out on maintaining a weight loss).

Whether it was adopting our three daughters, paying off our debt or moving our family to Hawai’i, Brett and I have not only dreamed, but made concrete plans for reaching our goals, and then worked those plans. The path to accomplishing our goals hasn’t always been a straight line, or without its issues and setbacks, but we have always kept going and adjusted as necessary. And here we are, parents of four wonderful children, retired and living our dream on Kaua’i!

Our move to Kaua’i is not the end but the beginning of a new stage for us. We’re still dreaming, setting goals, and making plans. We’re in the beginning phases of thinking about how we will accomplish all we want to do and what we will need to accomplish in this next phase of our lives. In just three years our youngest daughter will graduate from high school and head off to college. And after she flies away, so will we. Beautiful Kaua’i will remain our home base, but we are looking forward to becoming Occasional Nomads, spending time in Japan every year near our son and his family and also visiting other parts of the world.

Until then we will be figuring out not only what we want to do, but where we want to go, how we want to do it, what we need to get there and how we will afford to not only travel but get three girls through college. Our income will be fluctuating for the next couple of years as the girls move on and my retirement benefits are added in. It’s going to be a bumpy ride for a while, but we have been there, done that and will adjust as necessary and keep going.

The Occasional Nomads will continue with updates from Kaua’i, and both the Sunday Afternoon and Feel Good Friday posts will continue as well. Brett will also be joining me here this time around, contributing posts about his hikes around Kaua’i, and his upcoming trip back to the mainland. His voice will be a valuable addition to our ongoing retirement story, and I’m thrilled he’s agreed to join me this time.

Many thanks to all of you for coming along – I hope you’ll enjoy this latest ride!