Monday, September 6, 2021

Do We Really Want to Get Back to Normal?

I visited a small town in New Mexico back in March and the wildlife in town was abundant.  There were wild horses at the golf course, Elk at the library and crossing busy streets (they even used the crosswalk).   You couldn't drive a mile without coming across some amazing wildlife.   Now I've been to Ruidoso, New Mexico many times and I've always seen deer and maybe an Elk once or twice, but it had never been like this.   We've all seen the stories about animals coming in to towns during the pandemic when everything was shut down, but it was incredible to experience it first hand. 

But now as the town is once again crowded with visitors, the wildlife is starting to retreat.   Don't get me wrong, there is still wildlife in the area, it just isn't as abundant was it was just a few months ago.    Ruidoso remains a beautiful little town, but this traveling hillbilly misses the Ruidoso where the animals seemed to live so casually with the town folk.    Just not sure I'm ready for everything to get back to normal. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Lessons/Advice from Sheltering In

For those of you new to self-quarantine, sheltering at home, or whatever you’re calling it during this pandemic, welcome to my world.   I have been unemployed for several months now so I’ve learned a few things.  Now I only have four-legged kids at home, so my experience may be a little less stressful than those of you quarantining in a small space with multiple children!  But here’s what I’ve learned, good and bad, about being home day after day.

First, the day will go by much faster than you expect.  Even after months of this, I’m surprised how it can suddenly be 3p and I haven’t even had lunch.  You hop on the computer in the morning to check email, and then for me, start looking for a job.   If I find something of interest, I customize my resume to the job description, draft a cover letter and apply online for the job and suddenly 3 or 4 hours have gone by!  Now for those of you with kids, you may have a different experience.   Maybe time will drag by and you’ll be like how can it only be 10am?  I wish you well.

You can have a glass of wine with lunch, or two, or three if it’s an especially tough day!  You’re not going anywhere, so why not? Let yourself imagine you’re having a vacation day on occasion.  We all know day drinking is completely acceptable when on vacation.  So indulge ever so often.

While you're drinking, you can get caught up on all that great  content – this could be the content that’s been stored in your DVR for months that you haven’t had time to watch, discovering a  new show on your favorite streaming service or finish binge watching the show you started a couple months ago.   You can watch Tiger King with no guilt!  The good news is there is a lot of content to keep you occupied.  The bad news is, with the current halt on productions there may not be any new content coming down the pike.  So, you may want to limit your binging, so you’ll still have something good to watch when we don’t have a slate of new content coming out in the fall (see post regarding suggestions for new fall shows).

You get to learn what your pets do all day while you’re at work.   Admit it, it has always been a challenge to leave the dogs each morning to head out to work, especially on those raining, grey or cold days. Now you get to, even if it’s sunny and beautiful outside!  As suspected, my dogs sleep most of the day.   However, they do follow me when they see I’m heading to the kitchen.   I’m not sure what our dogs will do when we finally do go back to work.  

Don’t create an unrealistic “To Do” list that you’ll stress over daily.  You always talk about wanting more time, so take some time for yourself.   Allow yourself to sleep in, or waste a day watching TV.  I’m not saying you should be a slug everyday but give yourself a break.  This will be over before you know it and you’ll quickly be back to that crazy hectic pace and wishing you’d taken advantage of this time.  Find a balance between being productive and being a little self-indulgent.   Snuggling in the bed with my pups while watching the early morning news has become my favorite time of day.  Mornings have always been hectic.  They’ve always been a scramble trying to get out the door to get to work on time.  Now I still wake up at the same time but allow myself to stay in bed during the news, while the dogs have their post breakfast nap.
It’s easier to beat yourself up – tied to the above, it’s so much easier to beat yourself up because you have more time to think about all the things you should be doing.  You’ll start asking yourself, why I haven’t I lost those 10-15 lbs.  Why aren’t I cooking healthy meals every day?  I have the time now I should be getting more done.  Remember you’re only human and just because you’re home now, doesn’t mean there are more hours in the day!

Reach out to friends and family.   Even though we can’t all get together in person, a nice long chat with your siblings, or if you are lucky, your Mom, Dad or grandma is good for the soul!   We often go weeks without talking to our loved ones who are far away.  Well take advantage of this time and catch up with them.  You’re never know what pearls of wisdom grandpa might offer.   And if you’re home with your kids, allow yourself to spend time baking with them, watching a movie or putting puzzles together.    Make this quality time together.

Everyone I know always says, they wish they had more time!  They are always complaining about being too busy.   Well now we have time, and for those of us who are unemployed, we have even more time to stress, to worry.   But don't spend all of your time stressing out.  

Overall, you need to strike a balance between giving yourself some ‘quality time” and getting some of those “projects” done.  Otherwise, you’ll feel completely overwhelmed, you’ll totally stress yourself out, as well as your spouse, significant other, kids etc.   Then you’ll go back to work, completely exhausted and feeling like a failure because you didn’t do those hundred things on your to do list!

Remember, just breathe.

The Traveling Hillbilly's Wings Have Been Clipped!

This quarantine is tough on everybody.  We are all grappling with this pandemic and are ready for our lives to get back to normal.   For those of us with a passion for travel, we can't wait for our next adventure!   A lot of us are probably spending this time, thinking of all the places we'll be going to when this is over.   I have a feeling we'll have a new normal after all this, but truly hope it doesn't curtail our traveling expeditions. 

After spending a few months on multiple road trips traveling the US to see family and just enjoy this beautiful country, I feel as though my wings have been clipped.   I'm itching to get back on the road but know that staying in is what is best for the country right now.

As you shelter at home, what is the next place you're dreaming about?   Where will your next adventure take you?

Friday, January 3, 2020

The Safari Experience is Beyond Words

How do I even begin to express how amazing this part of the trip has been?   One of the great things about travel is it allows you to learn and experience different cultures.  It gives you a whole new appreciation for the people in this world.  But with this trip it is like we’re in a totally different world.   I think most of you can imagine what a safari would be like.  You’ve seen movies, read books and/or seen pictures, so you have this idyllic version of what it could be.   I know I did.  But let me tell you, it really delivered on that idyllic picture.  It was everything I thought it would be and more.   You’re driving on a dirt path in open air (not all safaris have open air vehicles) all-terrain vehicle (in our case, a Toyota Land Cruiser)
and turn a corner and there’s  a giraffe, maybe two or three.  You watch in amazement, excited like a little kid, as this giraffe nibbles on the tree.   After appreciating the beauty and goofiness of the giraffe, you continue on and suddenly there’s a herd of elephants walking through the trees or playing in a water hole.   Or you might see a lion or a pride of lions napping in the afternoon sun.  It’s literally like a scene out of Jurassic Park, but with animals that still exist!   I mentioned before how this experience brought me to tears and think it’s because I became so overcome with emotion and excitement that tears were the only way to express what I was feeling.  It is just too hard to put into words. 

In just a few days, we saw lions, elephants, zebras, giraffe’s rhinos, hippos, impala, buffalo, leopards, hyenas.   It was simply incredible.  Not only did we get to see and appreciate these amazing animals, we got to see them in this beautiful land.   There were stunning vistas, beautiful sunsets and amazing, warm people. The people of South Africa are inviting and friendly.   They want to make you happy and go out of their way to ensure you are having a good time.  They have a love and appreciation for nature and conservation.  Maybe that is not the case at every lodge, but it certainly was at ours. 

But this trip is about more than just the people and their culture.  It’s also about the animals.   It gives you a whole new level of appreciation for the animals on this planet and how they, just like people, have adapted to different environments.   You truly are in the wild and getting a chance to witness animals in their natural habitat.  While our guide wanted to make sure we had the adventure of a lifetime, he was always very respectful of the animals and ensured we didn’t “overstay our welcome” if they seemed to be bothered or agitated by our presence.

The Traveling Hillbilly highly recommends taking that safari trip you’ve been thinking about for a while, or adding to your bucket list if it isn’t already on it.  I doubt you’d regret it.   However, one piece of advice, don’t make it just about getting that perfect photo for your social media accounts.   Yes, of course you are going to want to take pictures (and lots of them), but don’t forget to put down the camera for a bit and actually be in the moment and appreciate the amazing experience you are having.

It truly is that epic adventure, you’ve imagined in your head!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Our First Game Drive

As soon as we arrive, we grab lunch, then it’s off to check out our rooms and get ready to go on our first game drive!  We’ve only been here 2 hours and we are already going on a game drive.  They do two drives a day, one at 6am (with a 5am wake up call) and one at 4p.  They are both approximately 3 hours.  

We hop back in the Toyota Land Cruiser and are joined by a very sweet couple on their honeymoon.  Within just a short time we come across a small group of elephants.  These really are magnificent creatures.  There’s even a little baby in the bunch!  Shortly thereafter we see a giraffe!   We also see an African buffalo and some wild boar.  It’s dark when we come across a pride of lions.  They are just lazing around.   We watched them for quite some time, until they decided they’d had enough.  One of them starts to walk toward our vehicle and we slowly start to back up.  One by one the lions form a single file line behind the one in the front.  It’s like they are showing us who is boss and telling us to back away.   It was quite fascinating to see.  We just continued to back up slowly.


We are thrilled with our lion encounter!  Now it was time to head back to camp for dinner.  As we came around a corner shortly after seeing the lions, we saw two Zebra.     

Here we’d been at the camp for all of six hours and already seen and experienced so much!

The Safari Begins

 As we are flying in to the Hoedspruit airport, I become overcome with emotion.  I can’t believe I’m finally here and this bucket list trip is actually happening.  I am so excited and so filled with gratitude to have this amazing opportunity and to share it with dear friends. 

A guide from the camp we are staying at met us at the airport.  Our adventure started the minute we arrived.  After grabbing our luggage we went outside and were told to hop into the open air Toyota Land Cruiser.  It looks like something right out of Jurassic Park.   The entrance to our camp is apparently across the street from the airport, but we still had a ways to go in the reserve before arriving at the actual camp.   
We are staying with Kapama at their Buffalo Camp, which is a private reserve near Kruger National Park.   We were about 15 minutes inside the reserve when we saw are first animal sighting, a bunch of Impala.  Our adventure had already begun!
Now the Traveling Hillbilly will be honest, this is more of a luxury camp vs. a traditional tenting camp.  We are staying in tents, but they have air conditioning and running water.   It’s more like a small tented hotel room. 


Initial Thoughts on Cape Town

So the first few days of our trip have been great.  Cape Town is a beautiful city and the weather has been perfect!  Blue skies, not too hot, not too cold, often with a cool breeze blowing, especially when near the water. 

The Old Biscuit Mill – This is an open-air market open until 3p on Saturdays and was a great way to spend our first day.   While it’s fairly small (more like a farmer’s market vs. a big flea market) there are shops, restaurants and a food court offering just about any type of cuisine one might want.  Our first stop was for coffee.   We’d all had very long journeys to get here and needed a jolt. There are shops offering anything from touristy trinkets to higher end leather bags, from clothing to ceramics.  After a bit of window shopping, I headed over to the Kambucha bar to get some ginger kambucha.  There is a little bit of everything here, so if you’re looking for gifts or something for yourself, you’re likely to find something here.

Riverine Rabbit – This was our first dinner together.  We opted for the 5 course chef’s tasting menu with wine pairing.  I was excited to see there wasn’t a ton of fish on the tasting menu, which is often the case.  But I have to say, it wasn’t amazing.   The food wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t outstanding.   The service was okay.   Everyone was very polite, but they didn’t do the best job at explaining each dish.     Now the Traveling Hillbilly doesn’t often have elaborate dinners like this, but I have splurged on a few highly rated restaurants while on vacation and they have been amazing experiences.  Maybe my expectations are too high but this did not live up to prior experiences.
Hiking Table Mountain – George picked us up to take us to table mountain at 7:30am.  It offered amazing views, but was a truly challenging hike.  See prior post for details on this beast of a hike!

Truth Coffee – after our exhaustive hike, we were ready for some food!   George told us we must go to Truth Coffee, a coffee house that opened just a little over a year ago and is already rated as the best coffee house in the world!  How could we not go?   The menu is like an old newspaper and most of it is dedicated to the wide variety of coffee they offer.  The food options were limited but we all found something to enjoy.  The ambiance and decor of the place were pretty cool.  If you’re a coffee fanatic, this is a must place to visit.  If you’re not a coffee fanatic, it’s still a pretty interesting place to grab a quick bite.

V&A Waterfront – We were pleasantly surprised by the V&A Waterfront area.   We were expecting it to be touristy, which it is, but it was nicer than we expected.  Coming from California we are used to touristy wharfs, boardwalks etc. along the water.   This was nicer than a lot of similar areas we’ve been to along the coast of California.    If you’re looking to dine or shop with a view, you have plenty of options here.  Or if you want to take a boat tour, a helicopter tour or sunset cruise, there is no shortage of opportunity for that here.   One of the top things we wanted to do here, was have drinks on the rooftop bar of The Silo hotel.   

The Silo Hotel – The rooftop bar offers beautiful views of the city, the water and the mountains.   We were excited to have a cocktail and some appetizers here while enjoying the sunset.   Our initial thoughts on the cocktail menu, were hhmmmm.    Similar to a lot of cool bars, the drinks were mainly a unique spin on traditional cocktails, but we weren’t sure the unique was in a good way.  Truffle infused gin?   Just doesn’t seem appealing.  But we decided to try one of their concoctions anyway.  I opted for the signature silo, a vodka drink mixed with cucumber, watermelon and orange.  While refreshing, it was a too sweet..  It tasted like pink lemonade.  When it was time for round 2, we switched to wine.   The food was okay, but not great.   While my instinct is to say, the place is a little over-rated, if you’re looking for a place to relax with a view, this should be on your list.   It is a pretty popular place, so you may want to make reservations in advance to ensure you can get in.
All in all, a great first couple of days.  Cape Town is great and I'm looking forward to spending New Year's in the city.  But now it's time for the safari leg of our journey.  Lions, Zebras, Elephants... here we come!