This is the beginning of a new day. When tomorrow comes, it will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind…let it be something good

This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind… let it be something good.

I have been volunteering at Aina Madagascar teaching English to the children from the  small village of Beravina, a good distance from Antananarivo. I am so amazed with the vision of this organization.  When I began planning my venture around the world, my top priority was to find organizations that were supporting a good cause that I would be able to volunteer at during my stay in each country….and that is how my story with this AMAZING organization began. I started searching the web and up popped Aina’s FaceBook page and website. I liked what I saw and the effort they had put into everything had me intrigued to learn more, and when I wrote to them they were very responsive and excited for me to come and visit, which in turn made me very excited to come and volunteer with them.

Zebu meat, rice, tomato, lasary, avacado and ro mazava. The first of many amazing meals in Beravina prepared by the Aina team. (sakafo tsara means delicious meals in Malagasy) 

It was so surreal the first day that I arrived at the school. To be able to have gone from looking at their photo albums to actually standing in the classrooms, interacting with all of the children that are so eager to learn, teaching them english, playing games with them at recess, tasting all of the DELICIOUS Malagasy food that was prepared by the Aina Madagascar team (they should open a restaurant by the way) sharing stories and experiences and life lessons, the list goes on & on. They team welcomed me with open arms and had many interesting and funny questions about the States. For example, was everyday life more like Forrest Gump or American Pie?, did we really send Neil Armstrong to the moon?, what is the minimum wage in Charlotte, population, etc? They had never had an American come and visit before, which is shocking and sad to me. I have been told this in every country that I have volunteered at so far.

I have picked up many tips and tricks along the way about culture, history, mannerisms, food and language.  Each time I travel to a new country the locals that I meet are usually under the impression that Americans are uniformed about the World that lies beyond the US borders…Unfortunately, I am beginning to think might hold a little truth. Just before I left on my trip, I had many friends and family asking me why I would travel alone?, Wasn’t I scared? What am I going to do when I get kidnapped?…(note, that wasn’t an if I get kidnapped, it was a when) The US media has brainwashed a large percentage of people to think that any place that lies beyond the US borders is dangerous.  I would like to help change that preconceived notion and help educate and inspire everyone about the World around us. Hopefully my videos and stories throughout my blog are showing those of you that are hesitant about travel that  there are still many good-hearted people out there, and soooo many amazing places to see. I want to give you the  chance to look at life in a whole new perspective… possibly inspire you to travel to a new place, because even though there a lot of dangers in this big world, staying at home, living in a bubble will not protect you. Someone could break into your home, kidnap you, steal your purse, etc. etc in your own home town. Don’t deprive yourself from experiencing life. As Mark Frost once said, “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body. But rather, to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming …. WOW what a ride!”
The team had an amazing farewell BBQ for me. Playing traditional Malagasy music, teaching me some new dance moves, and stuffing me with more delicious traditional dishes.

It has been so incredible to work with Aina Madagascar and see how everything is moving forward for them and their plan for the future….I wish them all the best and definitely plan to be back.  If you’re looking for an unforgettable intercultural exchange experience then this wonderful school run by wonderful people is definitely the place to be. It is such a friendly and welcoming environment and the children just make your heart overflow with joy. So if you’d like a little adventure and maybe a different outlook on life I highly suggest that you call Aina Madagascar and get involved with this project.

A world apart…The unique land of Madagascar

Hello World!!

I hope everyone is well. Internet, electricity and running water have been scarce the last couple of weeks and I am obviously a bit behind on the blog due to such circumstances. I am in the process of catching up,  so hang tight and there will be many stories, pictures and videos to come…but for now I will just update you on my last 2 weeks  🙂

I arrived in Antananarivo (Also known as Tananarive or simply Tana), the largest city and capital of Madagascar, located in central region of the island. My new couch surfing host Dimby came to pick me up from the airport and was very surprised when I called him from a Malagasy number. (I am not traveling with a phone during this journey, so I ask random friendly looking strangers to call my friends/hosts when I need to contact them…it usually works out) We loaded my bags in his old school  black 5251 BMW and set off to explore and embrace the Madagascar way of life. Driving through the city we passed markets packed with brightly colored fruits and vegetables, raw meat basking in the sun, rice fields with farmers processing the rice for its many uses, locals making bricks from the mud and drying them in the sun; moms, children and maids doing their laundry near any water source available. The streets bustled with Zebu carts,  laughing children, locals carrying just about everything on their heads, (buckets of water, piles of wood, bags of laundry). Looking around you feel a bit like you’ve got a few decades back in time.

We started entering the countryside, home to the majority of Malagasy, which remains highly traditional and self sufficient on the land. We ended our trip at Ambohimanga hill near Manjakamiadana, (the queen’s palace), one of the popular trekking spots better known for its picturesque landscapes and historical villages…Quite far from the city center.  The  view was breathtaking and the sunset even more so. We walked to the top, passing tons of interesting plant plant life like the plant below…Got Malaria? Look no further! The Artemisia plant is just for you! Just boil it & drink the water & you’re good to go 🙂The temperature began to drop as nightfall came, so we headed back into town. and stopped at a tiny eatery on the side of the road where I was introduced to mesquite shish kabobs and bon bon anglais, my new favorite drink!

The dancing and karaoke in Madagascar is quite entertaining. They sit down in front of the screen and sing to very slow, serious music; and the dancing is different in each region. Penelope, Dimby and I went for a night out on the town. Watched karaoke at Happy Zone, where you can have dinner, music and a massage. Had a drink to go in the car & then danced it up at the bar.  Antananarivo dancing is similair to the dancing back home, but the further south you go on the island then more interesting it gets. The women shake their money makers and the men do a funky chicken dance with shoulder popping and hip gyrating.

Dimby is such an amazing host and had 4 surfers at once! Three of us from the States (Alyssa, Penelope & myself) and one from Germany (Petra).  He invited us to join he and his family for the Sunday brunch. It was such a delight to enjoy such a wonderful meal with everyone.

Alyssa and I set out the first morning exploring the markets, and then Petra and I went on a little “behind the scenes” tour and walked all through the tiny alleyways  behind the markets and ended up in a rice field with a beautiful view of the city.  We had such a great time, winding in and out, up and down, chatting with all of the locals, taking pictures of the children that we came across along the way, snapping photos and then smiling from ear to ear from the laughter that came over the kids them when they saw themselves on our camera screens. We eventually popped back out near some fresh fruit stands with woven baskets full of live ducks and chickens.

After lunch we set out to find lemurs. I was so excited! The scene with the dancing lemurs from the Madagascar movie kept replaying in my head. “I like to move it move it! 

We were able to see 8 of the 99 lemur species known, several varieties of wild plants including baobab trees bamboo and guava plants, all living and growing freely in the botanical park  located about 30 minutes from the city centre. There were a few tortoises and a chamelion that was less than enthused with our herd of girls snapping photos and videos. The lemurs however, were quite lively, especially when Alyssa said “What do they sound like?” and I said “Hmmm, not sure” and started laughing when one jumped down beside me, and then my laughter turned to silence because I had spooked it and in return it decided to spook me and started howling at the top of its lungs and then 2 more lemurs chimed in…by the time they were finished, Alyssa turned back to us and said, “Well, now we know what they sound like…Is anyone else a little scared?”

We had tons of fun with these  tree-dwelling prosimian primates that are only found in the unique land of  Madagascar. They stole our heart with their large eyes, long tails, pointed muzzles, and woolly fur.


To travel is to take a journey into yourself…Choices, Chances, Changes

The 3 C’s of Life – Choices, Chances, Changes
You must make a Choice to take a Chance or your life will never Change. Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the
play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.

So it’s 3 a.m. and I’m awake…again! I’ve been tossing and turning for several weeks now…or months, stop marking the days on the calendar a while back. Normally when I have trouble dozing off it’s because I have a lot on my heart and mind…. In attempting to slow down my thoughts I always stop to listen to the beat of my heart…

So what’s on my mind at this hour you ask?  Family, Life, relationships/friendships (some that have been lost, some that are stagnant, some that are absolutely AMAZING!) Basically my heart is in overdrive tonight and I just wanted to send a thank you and a little love to all of you that are with me along this journey that I am on.

I have WAY too much time to think and analyze as I travel along and see all of the different  ways of life and I realize what is most important to me. I also realize that our souls always know when it’s time to move on. We fight those feelings, we resist them…we try to stuff them down or shoo them away….but our souls are persistent and keep sending messages….in fact, messages usually start coming from every direction when it is time.

It is hard to move on. It is hard to embrace the changes that moving on brings. It is hard to navigate away from what is comfortable and what we know….even when we know we’ve outgrown it or that it is destructive to us in many ways. Many times, we stay in places where we know we don’t belong simply because it is what we know…and we are too afraid of moving on and into  the unknown.

Listen to those gentle and not-so-gentle pushes that your soul is trying to communicate. Moving on is important….if we don’t move forward, we stay stuck. It’s like a stream…or a river…when it stands still, it gets mucky and contaminated….it is good to constantly be finding your flow to be growing and learning and moving.

I’m thinking it is time for me to move on in some areas of my life in order to keep moving forward. For the people that I hold in my heart, but haven’t really been by my side…My wish for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to, your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small, you never need to carry more than you can hold, and while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to, I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too…this is my wish ♥

A trip to nostalgia now and then is good for the spirit

Each bright, new day… complete with 24 hours of opportunities, choices, and attitudes… a perfectly matched set of 1440 minutes is a unique gift that cannot be exchanged, replaced or refunded. Handle them with care & Make the most of it. There is only one per customer…

Surviving the basics when arriving to Bali can be quite a task. I quickly rushed to the luggage claim to dodge the “baggage helpers” that I was warned about…. They pull your luggage off of the belt and set it in a pile on the floor to claim as their own until you pay them to help you carry it to wherever you need to go. I casually walked past a dozen of then them to grab a cart, rolled over to my bag that was laying by the feet of an Indonesian man. His body odor was so intense I nearly fainted as I reached down to retrieve my belongings from his captivity. He grabbed the left strap on my backpack and gave me the “where do you think you’re going? look” and I returned it with my “hands off buddy, I got this and if you don’t let go I might have to ninja chop you look”. He released my bag and we moved on to customs to pick up my Indonesian visa. Next step was getting a taxi. Making a sharp right when exiting the airport, down a pathway that winds and turns, dodging in and out of all of the so-called “professional” taxi drivers that charge you an arm and a leg to drive you short distances…I finally arrived at the top  secret taxi location that the locals use.  One cheeky driver followed us all the way down the path repeating “Taxi? Yes!, Taxi? Yes!” He finally left once we booked the ride to the next destination with an official taxi service.

I haven’t stayed at any hotels during my trip so far but my  friend Ryza, from Darwin, was kind enough to let me surf with he and his gang for the first night. Arriving at Kuta Lagoon was a very nice surprise.  Such a quaint, hidden treasure that is hidden away in the middle of Kuta. The Journey began at a mysterious narrow entrance that lead me away from the bustling streets filled with chatty vendors and buzzing motorbikes, to a small Oasis of Tropical tranquility.

There were many interesting encounters throughout the streets of Bali and many sights that you probably won’t see in most parts of the world. For example: The “Absolut petrol” for all the mopeds is sold everywhere. I don’t believe its a very safe method for storing petrol, but at least they’re recycling their bottles…many interesting souvenirs, children asking you if you’d like viagra, mushrooms or handmade bracelets, and prostitutes saying they’re going to rock your world all night long.

The next morning my friend Michael from back home and his gang drove to Kuta to pick me up and we set off to Ubud, an important cultural centre nestled among the rice paddies, full of temples, arts, culture and tradition. With a million art and woodwork galleries, souvenir shops, handicraft stalls, cafes and restaurants. We were dropped off in town for a few hours to explore around a bit. We sat down at a tiny restaurant to enjoy a massive coconut and figure out a route to take. NhuThy had been staying in Ubud for the past week and had gained a lot of useful knowledge about any and everything, it’s kind of like we had our own personal tour guide, and she is so full of life and always has an extra large smile on her face so that made it all the better.

We set out towards the Sacred Monkey Forest and passed many cheeky monkeys that were grooming themselves and stealing food from tourists. Of course I had to get as close as possible to video them and got a bit close to one of the babies and was quickly surrounded by five larger, protective, hissing monkeys. Needless to say I jetted out of there rather quickly.

We passed several temples and saw countless Balinese offerings placed in front of every shop and home. The offerings are filled with rice and flowers and anything else they feel is worthy to be presented. These are small offering baskets called ‘canang sari ‘ that Balinese offer to their Gods three times a day. It is basically a ritual of giving back what has been given to you by the Gods. It is a sharing that is not based upon fear, but on gratitude to the richness of life. Offering appeases the spirits and brings prosperity and good health to the family. It is a duty and an honour at the same time, and in Balinese perspective a very natural and almost logical thing to maintain a good relationship between people and spirits.

With time running short we headed back to the market to be picked back up by the driver…as most of you know I have a sweet tooth and gelato is my weakness and even if the clock is ticking, it’s no excuse not to stop for absolute amazingness (yes I made that word up).


The driver took us the Elephant Safari Park. We were all a bit hesitant paying $795,997.03 Rupiah = $86USD, but once we were inside and got up close and personal with these incredible animals in a beautiful tropical park setting any animosity we had quickly faded.  The Elephants immerse themselves in the park lake, in between riding, painting, soccer playing and other activities they’ve been taught to do.  After riding around throughout the park on the elephants we were brought back to the front to hand feed them heart of balm, touch them, take photos with them, then learn more about the elephants ancestry and diversity. I’ve ridden elephants before in Thailand, but this experience was much more meaningful being able to spend time with these beautiful creatures.

On the way back to the villa we passed a small ceremony, I’m not exactly sure what the purpose behind it was but I had been hoping to come across one some time throughout the journey. Everyone was dressed in intricate clothing, and carrying on throughout the streets. It was nice to see some traditions being carried on into the present day.

Casa Viva was incredible!  It’s a stunning Eco-Tropical villa nestled in the Royal Balinese hunting grounds overlooking the Indian Ocean. Mike and Patrice (friends of Michael) recently married and had rented this amazing place for the week. They were too generous and let me crash with them for a few days. While sitting around in to main lounge area, we came up with a new game to entertain ourselves…  We weren’t really sure where we were going with it, Gary kept telling each person to be creative and add their own touch to it. It started with a few beer cans on the floor, a pile of fruit, Gary added a few pringles, Dondy added a flip flop, and I tossed a lychee over the flip flip towards the cans…ta da! Bali Ball was invented!! It was another great day to add to the books. More wonderful people in a new, unforgettable place 🙂

Traveling on a budget

Don’t gain the world and lose your soul, wisdom is better than silver or gold – Bob Marley

When it comes to traveling, I have learned several tips and tricks and thought it may come in handy for others that are roaming around the globe. Some struggles I’ve found that keep many from following their traveling dreams is either the cost of flights, or the cost to travel around in another country…or both.  So, can you travel on a budget? Everyone’s travel budget will vary, but here are several ways you go about traveling around at a lower cost.

Accommodation: That which includes everything from food and water to housing can be pretty close to free.  Hostels may be considered budget travel in most parts of the world, but you can always do better.

  • Couch surf – I cannot speak highly enough of this wonderful community. You make amazing new friends, who are also locals to the new cities you are visiting and they can show you around or give you great suggestions for the area so that you can see their world through the eyes of a local. You should always be a considerate guest though. Always clean up after yourself, offer to do some chores (you are staying for free ya know?), buy some groceries if you are staying for more than several days, perhaps buy your host a little thank you gift or cook them dinner depending on your experience and how long they hosted you. It is all give and take, they are taking care of you, so you should take care of them…that’s what friends are for.
  • Camp for free. Campsites at caravan parks are in abundance in most places around the globe, but added features and amenities can tack on approximately $5 -20 per night depending on the country. Check out the locations where you can camp for free (if you can handle getting that close to nature), especially if you’re already renting a campervan.

Transport Tips: Finding others to travel with you is the easiest way to save your travel budget.

  • Rent a campervan or a car together and split the cost several ways.
  • Foreigners in any country with a railway system can purchase from an assortment of rail passes.
    Since I am currently in Australia I’ll share the Australian rail passes that provide unlimited travel for 3 or 6 months (also including the long-distance trains) and save heaps of money on transport by doing so.
  • Look for budget flights – If you are going for a long period of time to multiple countries, an around-the-world ticket may be a good option for you. If not, use comparison sites like www.kayak.com, www.webjet.com, www.skyscanner.net, www.skyscanner.com

Food Tips: Depending on the country, groceries can be quite expensive, but regardless of how much it is, eating in will always save you money (unless you’re in Asia, then just eat from the food carts/stands on the side of the road. They are usually just as good as the 4 star restaurants) Beverages are where you will save the most money.

  • Unlike the States, Free refills are a rare thing to come across, so think about whether you really want that second Coke with lunch or not. At around $3.50 each (in Europe & Australia), you will find your lunch bill has practically doubled with these extras.
  • Opt for tap water where you can. Australian water is considered clean and safe, and it will save you around $3-4 each. If you’re in a country with water that isn’t the best for drinking, purchase the SteriPEN Classic Water Purifier from REI to take with you.
  • Alcohol is can taxed quite highly is some countries, so prices are through the roof. In Sydney, you will be lucky to get a pint at a pub for $5 (usually in the $8+ range), and a 6-pack from the bottle shop might even run you $16. Cocktails are usually in the teens — $17 is not uncommon.
    If you must get your drink on, backpacker bars will have the best deals (always bring a student ID if possible) some including cheap grub…or if you are really desperate you can always buy some alcohol from the grocery store and bring it in your own container, discreetly of course…. For the ladies, a Redneck Wine Glass and for the guys, a beer belly bladderstudent drinksBeverages are where you can save money (photo by lachlanhardy)

Tour Tips:

  • Seek out group discounts for organized tours if you can round up a group of travelers from your hostel.
  • Last-minute deals are the best way to go. Sometimes you can just show up to the place that is conducting the tour/activity and say I want  this tour and you get it for half the price of what it’d normally cost had you purchased through a tour group/travel agency (cut out the middle man)
  • Search around. The same tour might cost one thing from the provider and another from a hostel that also helps to book tours. You never know what you might save if you spend a few extra minutes looking around.
  • Go off-season. Heading to resort areas during winter could open the door for lower priced tours.

Work Tips:

  • If you have the ability to get a working holiday (or work and holiday) visa, then that is going to be the best way to combat the high cost of travel. If you can get a job and earn wages, that will tremendously help you go further in travel.
  • You can even work while you go, picking up odd jobs here and there to keep you on the road.

Hope this is helpful to some of you. If you have any additional information that you’d like tips & tricks on please let me know in the comment box below 🙂

Into the Outback…Northern Territory Style

Australia’s northernmost city, blasted me with a wave of heat as I stepped off of the plane and walked across the tarmac into the airport. Darwin is the biggest settlement in the Northern Territory and has a distinctly different vibe compared to what I’ve seen in this massive country so far. With it’s close proximity to Asia, Darwin is closer to Singapore than it is to Sydney.

The Mindil Beach Sunset Markets are arguably the crown jewel of the city. Running every Thursday and Sunday in the dry season, it does a great job of summing up the city’s spirit. The food stalls are a mini tour through Asia – Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Timorese and Sri Lankan dishes are amongst those on the menu. Aussie meals… kangaroo kebabs, mud crabs and crocodile steaks, for example are available as well.  It’s possible to venture a bit through Europe with Dutch pancakes, French crepes and Greek yiros. The other stalls are generally hand-made crafts, art and jewelry. The action all breaks for the magical sunsets. It is a humbling experience to stand with your toes in the sand of Mindil Beach as reds, yellows and oranges fill the sky.

While traveling to Four Mile Hole on the Wild Man river billabong for a weekend of camping, fishing and crocodile spotting I was surprised at how lively the Australian Outback was. I originally imagined the desert and a lot of dried out, low lying bushes when I heard “Outback” but what I actually saw as
I traveled through the Northern Territory was a lot different. The landscape changed in the blink of an eye from desert to grasses, large shrubs to full out forests, filled with ivy or dotted with termite mounds. I saw wild dingos, kangaroos, donkeys, crocodiles…Each day has held beautiful sunrises and breath taking sunsets.

My butt cheeks finally got a little bit of feeling back in them after the four hour ride in the middle of the truck cabin. It was 11:30pm when we arrived to the campsite. With the full moon glowing we dropped the boat into the water and set out to go fishing. I saw 3 crocs within the first hour…what an eerie feeling to look out and see them swimming 15ft from our tiny metal vessel of a boat knowing we were only a few inches above water level.

I had the biggest catch of the night and the boys caught several Barra as well. We called it a night after filling the eski (cooler) headed back to camp to set up the beds and get a good nights rest. The following two days we woke as the sun beamed through our mozzie tents, loaded up the fishing gear, lunch and headed for the water. You’d think sitting in a little boat on the billabong all day would feel like an eternity, but time flew by, catching fish, laughing with new friends, seeing new places…nightfall came before we knew it…and so did the mosquitos!! They came in swarms and they were out for blood. We lit coils, thermocells, drenched ourselves in bug spray, but they’re resilient little buggers and nothing seemed to affect them. It didn’t stop us from having a good time around the campfire though. Roasting marshmallows, telling ghost stories and learning aboriginal dance moves from Nate, it was a weekend to be remembered.

Some cause happiness wherever they go; Others whenever they go…

G’day! How ya’ going? Cheers! No Worries! are a few phrases you hear as you pass through the lively streets of Sydney. Street markets filled with tantalizing dishes, handmade crafts, incredibly gifted buskers… You can find a wide variety of artists that make entire murals from a single ink pen, to a guy playing “singing in the rain” on glass bottles filled with water and a set of wooden spoons. There are tons of cool sights to see, and neighborhoods to check out. I’ve been told by the locals that each neighborhood (Newtown, Paddington, King’s Cross, etc.) holds a different group of people and you can pretty much be “summed” and placed into which hood you belong to just by the way that you dress or the bicycle you ride. The city offers all kind of cultural stimuli, a comparatively healthy economy, beaches and mountains in near range…such a wonderful compilation of all of the things your heart could desire.

Whether you’re a backpacker looking to enjoy a few beers with new friends, a couple seeking a romantic seafood dinner, or a family with a fondness for IMAX movies, chances are you’ll find it at Darling Harbour, it something for everyone. There’s something special about being by the water that turns a regular nightlife district into a unique environment.
 The Rocks is a hot spot for many local Aussies. It’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. This historic, cobblestoned neighborhood came about in the late 18th century when European settlers first stepped foot in Australia and the buildings have since been turned into a wide array of restaurants, bars, shops and museums.

Bondi Beach is one of the most well known surf spots in Australia, if not the world. Large waves and strong riptides mean it’s not the best place to learn to surf, however the wide expanse of beach coupled with pretty views, ensure visitors can enjoy the atmosphere whether or not they get in the water.

If laying out in the sun and working on your tan isn’t a priority, then you can get some exercise walking the popular coastal route from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach.  Along the way, you’ll pass a series of secluded beaches and surf spots. Always bring sun protection, exposure in the beautiful “Land down Under” can be brutal. Regardless what you enjoy you will find something just for you in this glitzy party-loving heart of modern Australia.

Some of my favorite spots in Sydney are:

Sydney Opera House
The view of Sydney’s skyline from Darling Harbour
Circular Quay
Manly Beach
Sydney fish market

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