27 January 2013

{2013 Plans & Goals}

Before the myriad of Namibia posts start queuing up, I thought that it was about time for me to share a few of my major plans and goals for 2013 with you.

Believe it or not I've been putting off writing this post for quite some time now.  Not because I'm worried of what you all will think, but more because change is always a bit unsettling for me and somehow putting a big change down in writing and exposing it to the world seems to make the whole thing feel a bit more real.  But, it seems that the time to share has officially arrived since I already find myself swimming in a combination of assignments, lectures, meetings, and part-time work.

As some of you may already know {and many of you may not know}, I've enrolled in a full-time Master's degree this year.  

Because the programme is effectively completed within the year {by November I should be finished!} and we are required to attend between 35 and 40 hours of lectures each week, this means that I've had to quit my job and Jurg and I have had to take a leap of faith in terms of how we're going to make ends meet throughout the next twelve months.  Aside from the financial implications, the course itself is extremely demanding and I've been told to expect many sleepless nights and long, tired days.  Outside of the 35 - 40 hours of weekly contact sessions, we're expected to complete dozens of assignments after hours as well as a mini-dissertation of between 80 and 100 pages and a publishable article by the end of November.  Again, I've had to take a serious leap of faith in terms of how well I'm going to be able to adjust to the drastic increase in work load.

The decision to pursue this Master's programme was not an easy one.  I went back and forth on it for several months last year and Jurg and I have had many discussions relating to the plausibility of this option from a purely financial standpoint as well.  The alternative option was to pursue a part-time Master's at another University, keep my full-time position, and hopefully finish the degree at the end of 2014.  In the end, however, it seemed that the first option would be the best fit for us in the long run and we finally decided to take the plunge and hope that we'll both pop out on the other side alive come November.  In terms of time, quality, and reputation, option one just seemed to be the greater of the two on all fronts.  

This month marked my 5th anniversary of living in South Africa and our 3rd anniversary of moving to Johannesburg.  While we have loved living here, we don't want to be limited in terms of other opportunities that may present themselves regarding the possibility of relocating within South Africa and/or Abroad.  Once we get married, we want to start thinking about purchasing a home and settling down and neither of us are certain that Johannesburg is the best place for us to do that.  When it's also considered that I'll need to complete a one-year internship following my Master's, pursuing the part-time option would likely mean that we'd be bound to this part of the world for at least another three years.  And while we may very well end up choosing to stay in Johannesburg for another three years {or even longer}, we don't want to be tied to the city when an ideal opportunity unfolds elsewhere.  Catch my drift? 

Of course, pursuing the full-time option is going to have major implications on all spheres of my life, including this blog.  There will be days and weeks... and maybe even months, where this little corner of the internet will be all quiet on the western front and I hope you'll all bear with me on that.  The travelling will most definitely decrease and the content will likely undergo a temporary shift as well.  It's just a reflection of an impermanent, but necessary phase in my life that will be over before we all know it.  And I promise not to disappear completely, there are lots of Namibia posts to come, birthdays and graduations to celebrate, my brother's wedding in California to attend, and several weekend getaways to look forward to!

That being said, my 2013 goals are quite simple:

+ Obtain a Master's Degree

+ Eat Healthy

+ Step up my Fitness 
{that means hitting the gym 3 - 4 times per week}

Thank you so much for your support and understanding!  I'm both nervous and excited about this new journey and I can't wait to pop in from time to time to share it with you!

22 January 2013

Notes from the Road v.4 {... Except Not}

Hello friends!

I wanted to share the last of the instagram pics from our Namibia trip today, although I'm not so certain that it really qualifies as 'Notes from the Road' seeing that we arrived back in Johannesburg yesterday {cue heavy sigh}. Nevertheless, in keeping with the theme, 'Notes from the Road' it shall be.  This portion includes photos from the final leg of our trip through the artsy town of Omaruru and the breathtaking Etosha National Park.

My kind of road block! // African transportation at its finest // Our tent in Omaruru on Onduruquea Guestfarm - 'glamping' is my favorite! // Fossilised dinosaur tracks on the way to Etosha National Park

The road leading out to the massive Etosha Pan // Close up view of the Pan - miles and miles of nothingness // Paparazzi giraffes - how many heads can you count!? // Camp Namutoni - a pervious German Fort that has since been converted into a tourist camp inside Etosha National Park

Random cluster of palm trees in the park // A magnificent African sunset - you just can't beat them // The pool at Dolomite Camp - may just have been the most stunning pool view I've ever experienced // Enjoying sundowners on the deck at Dolomite Camp after a wonderful day of game viewing

This last leg of our road trip may actually have been my very favorite looking back.  From Swakop, we headed inland towards the small German town of Omaruru for 2 nights with no set itinerary outside of exploring town, reading our books, and stocking up at the local grocery store so that we would be able to braai and cook for ourselves in the evenings.  It turns out that doing 2 days of absolute nothing was the best idea ever.  

We checked in at Onduruquea Guestfarm and literally started doing a happy dance as soon as we discovered our furnished tent {and attached kitchen}.  The set-up was absolutely perfect for us and after having dined out constantly throughout the first portion of the trip it was great to be able to sit down together in the evenings for a home-cooked meal.  We were also able to spontaneously sign-up for an evening game drive on the farm and enjoyed tons of antelope, ostrich, warthog, and zebra sightings {but, more on this later}.  On the way out of Omaruru, we took a slight detour {Jurgen would argue with the word slight} to visit the fossilised dinosaur footprints just outside of Kalkfeld.  There's also more to come on this later, but what I will say is that the entire experience was equal parts awesome, interesting, and weird.

After said awesome, interesting and {very} weird dinosaur footprint excursion, we headed up north to Etosha National Park for a week of classic safari and game viewing time.  We spent the first three nights just outside of the park in Etosha Village {which had a similar set-up to Onduruquea and was incredible aside from the fact that I was eaten alive by mosquitoes} and then spoiled ourselves on the final two nights by booking into the new Dolomite Camp located on the restricted side of the park.  

During our time in Etosha we saw everything from giraffe to zebra to warthogs to flamingos to every antelope you can think of, and we were even charged by an angry herd of elephants after accidentally driving in-between a mother and her baby as they were trying to cross the road.  Aside from the actual game, the Pan itself was equally stunning and spans out like a huge ocean of nothingness on all sides.  At Dolomite we were in awe of their magnificent pool with an even more magnificent view and we also enjoyed refreshing sundowners at the bar in the evenings.  It was five days that won't be soon forgotten.  They were absolutely magical. 

And now, here we are back in Jo'burg and getting ready to face reality and tackle 2013 which will undoubtably prove to be one of our toughest, craziest, and busiest years yet!

Thanks so much for following along on our trip, the non-instalife recaps will commence soon :)

17 January 2013

Notes from the Road v.3

Hello all!

I'm back with a third edition of Notes from the Road today - and I must say that I'm quite chuffed that I've been able to keep up with them so well in a country where internet is hard to come by.  It hasn't been easy, but it's been such fun sharing the trip via instagram along with little thoughts and tid bits picked up along the way.

Fisherman's Guesthouse in Hentiesbaai - love the yellow! // Colorful little braai {bbq} places along the main beach in Henties // Rocket! Aka the most adorable little puppy you ever did see - and the guesthouse mascot! // Traditional South African braai

Fishing on the coast of Namibia // I caught something! // Me and my new best buddy // Lots of Rummikub competitions in the evenings at the guesthouse

Quite the random and unsettling sight along the coast in Henties // One of the many wrecks littered along the Skeleton Coast, just north of Henties // The small and quirky German fishing town of Wlotzkasbaken - they still have no running water which explains the water towers attached to each property // Another shot of a colorful house in Wlotzkasbaken

We made it to Swakop! - the famous Lighthouse is a landmark in the city // Date night at 22 Degrees restaurant situated in the lighthouse building itself // The cute little breakfast nook at our B&B {Sandfield's Guesthouse} in Swakop // Delicious German breakfast from Cafe Treffe in Swakop

Another date night at the Cinema - only two movies to choose from! // Quick trip to the little aquarium in Swakop // Jurgen hassling with the vendors along the main strip // A quick pretzel stop at Brauhaus - if I didn't know better I'd guess we were in Germany! 

{Psst... Follow along on instagram here!}

After a stunning, but sweltering few days down south in Sossusvlei, Jurg and I were both happy to be heading west to the coast of Namibia where the temperatures decreased significantly and we were actually able to put our jackets and long pants to good use.  We headed to Hentiesbaai {Henties Bay} first, for a few days of old fashioned fishing along the coast and enjoyed some delicious seafood in the evenings.  We booked ourselves in for the week at Fisherman's Guesthouse {which we strongly recommend!} and immediately fell head over heels in love with the most adorable little puppy {Rocket!} and the owner's sweet baby girl Julie.  At the end of our stay Anneke {Julie's Mom} actually wanted to check my purse to make sure that I wasn't trying to sneak away with her pup.  This time of the year wasn't the best for fish in terms of ocean conditions, but we still got lucky with a few bites and had a great time just lounging on the beach.  We also enjoyed checking out some of the many ship wrecks along the Skeleton Coast and took a short trip up north to visit the cape seal colony one morning - very interesting {and smelly} history.  So smelly that I didn't think to capture the whole experience on instagram! ;)

After a week in Henties we headed down the coast to the little German town of Swakopmund.  This was my third time visiting this quaint coastal city and I must say that each time I return I love it more and more.  It's so completely and utterly German {Namibia was a former German colony} that one could easily forget they were in Africa and the small colorful buildings and numerous sidewalk cafes make it the perfect place to spend a long weekend, or even a week or month for that matter.  We stayed at the cozy Sandfield's Guesthouse and spent our time walking along the pier, visiting the aquarium {which is only one room!}, eating lots of traditional German brotchens, going for a movie, and even spending one afternoon quad biking in the desert.  It was the perfect place to break up the middle of our trip.

As for now - we're soaking up the last few days of our trip in Etosha National Park and are finding it pretty hard to believe that soon we'll be headed back to normal life and the real world.  I'll {hopefully} be back on Sunday with one last edition of Notes from the Road and then it's on to facing 2013 and it's biggest challenge - tackling Master's!

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Ps: In case you missed the news, Daryl, myself, and several other travel bloggers are hosting a $500 Travel Giveaway!  Head on over to her newly re-launched blog {UNLOST} and enter here!

15 January 2013

{On Meeting in the Middle} by Betsy

I stumbled upon Betsy's Blog a few months ago and have been hooked since!  Betsy is an expat/repat who recently moved back to Washington D.C. after living abroad in England for several years.  She didn't come back empty handed, however, as she now has a beautiful sparkly ring on her finger and is engaged to a handsome Englishman, Jon.  It's been so fun {and insightful!} to follow along with her Wedding Wednesday posts, as I'm trailing right behind her in terms of planning an international ceremony and reception!  Today she's here talking about possible travel destinations where she and Jon could connect while navigating long distance {and without breaking the bank!}.

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Hello, Home Away From Home readers!  Betsy here from Betsy Transatlantically - I'm an expat, like Jenna, and am also engaged to my handsome foreigner!  Okay, actually I moved back to Washington, DC from London last May, so I'm not an technically expat anymore.  But my heart is still in England, and I hop across the pond as often as time and finances allow.  Jon comes to DC sometimes, too, but we dream about traveling together to new places like we did when we were living in the same city.

It's so easy and cheap to jet off from London to almost anywhere in Europe.  Exotic weekends are just a Channel away!  At least until after the wedding, though, I think that all of our flights will be from Dulles to Heathrow and back again.  Yes, I know, I hear it too - that's the sound of a tiny violin playing.  But a round-trip ticket across the Atlantic can cost more than $1000 at peak times, and if we're going to spend that kind of money we'd love to go somewhere more exciting.

Luckily, a good friend of mine is developing a website called TripCommon* that finds the cheapest, most convenient, and most interesting places to meet up with friends who live in different cities.  I entered IAD and LHR as my two points of origin and set the calendar for a long Valentine's Day weekend away.  Here are three places we could head to where the flights average out to less than $500 each...

In England, Prague is known for being a stag-do (or, in American, bachelor party) destination.  Hopefully, though, roving bands of drunken louts will be scarce in mid-February and we'll have the town to ourselves!  We'll definitely sign up for a beer tour and I'm told that we should spend a day walking around Staré Mesto  - the old town is populated by centuries-old saints, gargoyles, and other statues.  I'd also love to explore the Jewish quarter, the Maisel Synagogue, and the Jewish Museum.

Jon will probably be a little annoyed if we only bop around Europe, so I'm glad there are a few US cities on the list!  I picked Nashville because I've never been and I'm obsessed with the TV show.  (That's a good reason to visit a city, right?)  Jon secretly loves country tunes so we'd definitely make this a music trip. First stop would have to be the Bluebird Cafe - I'm hoping I'll catch a glance of Gunnar!

I actually have been to Lyon - during the 7 months I lived in Paris, I spent a week in France's second city.  It was such a fun trip! It's got all the history and culture of Paris, but is a much more mangeable size and has (in my opinion) much friendlier people.  It's got tons o' quaint cobblestoned alleys hiding galleries, restaurants, and churches.  Plus, I have great memories of a night of jazz!

Have you been to any of these cities?  Send me your recommendations!  And let me know if there are any other places we should consider meeting in the middle - we're open to ideas.

*TripCommon is still in beta, but do go explore - it's tons o' fun already and I'm sure will only be better as it's developed further.  I wasn't compensated for sharing the site and this isn't a sponsored post.  It's just such a brilliant idea and I hope it helps all you travelers out there!

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Thanks so much for posting today Betsy!  Find her blog here.

11 January 2013

{$500 Travel Giveaway!!!}

Hello friends!!!

As the title of this post suggests, I'm popping in to share some pretty exciting news!

{photo taken in Sossusvlei at sunrise}

Daryl, myself, and several other incredible expat // travel bloggers have joined forces and put together a total of $500 for one lucky winner to use on anything travel related.  Whether that be a plane ticket to Europe, a cruise through the Mediterranean, a stay at the Hyatt in New York, or an African volunteer experience of a lifetime - that's up to you!

The giveaway is now live on Daryl's blog {UNLOST} so spread the word and enter here!

You're Welcome ;)

10 January 2013

{Expat Happenings} by Sophie

Although I've never physically met Sophie {author of The Littlest Things}, I feel like she's become such a dear friend of mine over the years that we've been following each other's blogs.  She also followed her heart abroad for a boy {from Australia to the UK} and it's always so reassuring to have someone in a similar situation who can always relate to whatever it is you're going through.  Today she's here sharing a few tid bits about expat life.

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Hi! I am Sophie from The Littlest Things, and am so happy to be here on Jenna's blog sharing a few little expat happenings. I am originally from Sydney, Australia but am currently living in London, and have previously lived in Nottingham and Cardiff! And this is all thanks to following a boy :) 
I thought I would share a couple of photos and a few facts of expat life:

1. A country road in the Cotswolds | 2. Some Welsh sheep in the Brecon Beacons | 3. St. Paul's Cathedral, London | 4. Enjoying a summers night in London | 5. Falling in love with Paris | 6. Stumbling on some ballroom dancers in Regent's Park, London | 7. Snowy seat in Cardiff, Wales | 8. Going home for another visit.

1. It's by far the best thing I have done in my life. Living overseas. Even though I didn't really enjoy Nottingham and Cardiff as cities to live in, I am so glad I did live there! And now I am so incredibly happy to be back in London; one of my favourite cities of all time.

2. I now feel like Christmas should be in the cold, and not in the 35c Sydney summer heat.

3. I never realised just how far away Sydney actually is from everywhere in the world! I find it crazy living in London and knowing how close I am to so many amazing countries and cities.

4. Teleportation needs to be invented. Sometimes living away from your home can make you feel pretty lonely. A loneliness which only a cuddle from your mum can fix. Teleportation would be the perfect prevention of this!

5. Skype will do in the meantime.

6. I miss the Sydney coffee (!!!), food, beaches and lifestyle daily but know that they will always be there when I go back.

7. My Europe travel wishlist is insane! I've got it ordered into summer and winter destinations and am so excited for an adventure filled 2013.

8. Still find it absolutely mind blowing that I can just jump on a train and end up in Europe 2 hours later.

9. The English countryside is just as picturesque and lovely and quaint and adorable as it sounds and looks. I have always been a city girl, but could now see myself living in a little English cottage in the countryside and being completely and utterly content. 

10. As much as I know that this was the best decision of my life; to come over to the other side of the world and gain priceless life experiences...sometimes I think that it is a bitter-sweet thing knowing two cultures. I feel like I have in some way become a hybrid of both. Losing some Australian-ness and gaining some UK-ness. It can make you feel like you're a bit of an outsider when in either place.

11. However, living away from home has now led me to start a blog, and has made me fall in love with photography and I am so incredibly grateful for that!

Thank you so much for having me on your beautiful blog Jenna! I hope you and Jurgen are having an amazing time on your adventure!

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Thanks so much for posting today Sophie!  Visit her blog here.

08 January 2013

{Breathtaking Travel Experiences} by Jay

I'm so thrilled to have Jay of {From There to Here} taking over the blog today!  She has to be one of the coolest expat ladies to ever grace the likes of the blogosphere and she and her hubby Joe lead one seriously exciting life.  When I first "met" Jay, she was living as an expat in Gabon, although she and her husband have since moved to Norway where they live in one of the most beautiful flats overlooking the sea.  On top of their "normal" life, Jay is often travelling around Europe and blogging about their adventures.  Needless to say, she's one of my favorite daily reads :)

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Hello friends & readers of Jenna!

I'm honoured to be taking over "A Home Away From Home" today while Jenna's off exploring Namibia.

Travel is amazing, isn't it?  My husband and I were just speaking about this recently.  The ability to be able to be standing on one continent in the morning and another in the afternoon astounds me.  How lucky we are to be living in an age where travel is accessible and relatively easy.

Since moving abroad, my husband and I have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit.  We love being able to explore different countries and cultures and we're thankful for every trip we take.  Wandering the cobblestone streets, visiting museums, sipping coffee at a cafe, people watching - it's all wonderful but every once in awhile, there's a moment that literally takes our breath away.  A moment that leaves us in complete awe as to what we're experiencing and that will forever stand out in our minds.  Today, I'm sharing our top breathtaking travel experiences with you.

1.  Granada, Spain : The Alhambra

We had been traveling around Spain for close to 2 weeks when we arrived in Granada.  Beforehand, we didn't really know anything about the city except that it was home to the Alhambra, a supposedly amazing castle with fantastic views of the city.  On our first full day, we jumped in a cab and rode up the steep hills to the entrance gate only to be greeted by a massive line for tickets despite arriving fairly early in the morning.  After waiting for close to an hour, it was announced that the tickets were sold out for the day and it was not possible to buy tickets for the following day.  We were disappointed but resolved to return the next morning even earlier.  Again, we arrived to an even larger line.  We were to leave Granada that afternoon and there was no way we'd get tickets behind all of those people.  We'd come all of this way and were going to miss the one thing we had really wanted to experience in Granada.  A random stroke of luck led my husband to an unknown ticket machine that no one seemed to know about allowing us to score the tickets when we'd just about given up hope.

The combination of the elation of getting tickets after we thought we were going to miss it and the stunning beauty of the property had us reeling as we toured the grounds.  Standing in the gorgeous gardens, overlooking this amazing city with a beautifully intricate castle to explore left us nearly speechless.  We felt like we had won the lottery.

2.  Kruger Park, South Africa : Tracking Lions

We booked a trip to South Africa after having experienced several rough months of adjusting to life in Gabon and our first stop was to a safari in Kruger Park.  On one of our evening game drives, we came across a lion and a lioness hunting.  It was well after sunset leaving us in our open land-cruiser in the pitch black while we followed these massive animals.  Our tracker had one spotlight which was often kept on the lioness as she was doing most of the work meaning we usually didn't know where the lion was.  We heard some rustling around the back of our vehicle and all of a sudden, the lion walks right alongside of us.  He was literally so close that my husband could have touched him.  We held our breaths as he passed, completely exhilarated yet a little nervous as we glanced anxiously between each other and the cat.  Sometimes, I still wonder if it was real.

3.  Mauritius : A Day on a Private Island

Last year just before Christmas, we embarked on a week long trip to the island of Mauritius, off the Southeast coast of Africa.  We mainly spent our time alternating between the pool and the beach, cocktails and snacks but we did splurge and book an excursion to the hotel's private island.  Early one morning we boarded a large catamaran with 3 other guests and a handful of staff and we sailed off into the Indian ocean.  When we arrived at Flat Island, we were led along a path weaving through brush in 30 degree, humid weather when we were directed down a set of stairs.  There opened up a private beach with large bean bag loungers, umbrellas, a bar and our own private bartender.  That day we dined on the most delicious lobster I've ever eaten, got a little drunk on punch and wine and took in more sun than we should have but it was absolutely perfect.  I remember staring out into the ocean, listening to the waves, sipping my cocktail and thinking, "This must be what it feels like to be rich & famous."

4.  Near Cape Town, South Africa : Chapman's Peak Drive

During our 8 day stay in Cape Town, we rented a car so that we were able to do a few road trips outside of the city.  The owner of our hotel recommended a route that would take us along Chapman's Peak Drive and promised that we would see some amazing scenery.  We really had no idea what to expect but as we drove a long the edge of the mountains, the views took our breath away.  My husband, who was driving, was repeatedly pulling over so that he could take his eyes off the road and gaze out at the mountains plunging into the sea.  It was stunning.

5.  Preikestolen, Norway : Hiking to the Pulpit Rock

When we moved to Stavanger, everyone kept telling us how we must hike Preikestolen, our area's #1 attraction so when a visitor from home arrived, we decided we had better do it.  The hike was somewhat challenging, leaving us to climb over boulders, navigate slippery rocks and occasionally traverse a cliffside so 2 hours later when we rounded the corner and gazed out over the fjord, we absolutely couldn't believe what we were witnessing.  The 1982 foot drop, the views - awe inspiring.

Thinking back to these amazing moments leaves me with a bit of wanderlust - I can't wait to add to the collection.

I'm curious - What are your top breathtaking travel moments?

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Thanks so much for posting Jay!  Find her blog here.