2017 in Review – Family Travel Blog
I have been reading lots of other blogger’s Year in Review posts so I thought our family travel blog deserved one too! And well, since this is the second year that I did not do Christmas cards or letters, I will send this out as a newsletter tomorrow! I love reading other family travel blog recaps, and remember fondly reading their original posts on their travels. And often, they share a few extra tidbits that I may have missed during the year.
2017 was for me and my family travel blog, different.
But that does not mean it was a bad year for me and my family travel blog. You could insert the word NEW instead of different and it would apply as well. It brought many personal changes for me, most of which I do not write about, not because I am a private person, but because this is my family travel blog, it is supposed to inspire you, the reader, to travel. I have enjoyed writing diary style entries as they are quick and are more information than a Facebook share, but even those sometimes are hard to get published in less than a few hours. Between breakfast, school, blogging, picking up kids, dinner, you know, life with kids, I get a few hours a day dedicated to blogging which is not enough. And that is on a non-travel day! If you want to check out some diary posts here is one on Arriving in Jordan and one on Egypt.
2017 brought an end to my 10 year marriage, the selling of our house, a new preschool for Markus, grade one for Mattias, our first month-long visit to a foreign country renting an apartment, finding new love and a full year of blogging on my family travel blog as a new career, under my belt. So yea, it was a year of personal changes, but an amazing year of travel visiting three new countries for me and the kids, and whole bunch of exciting new adventures and a new (and mostly unknown) future.
I hate dreary Vancouver weather. Hate is a strong word, but I HATE it. I hate the dark, I hate the wet, I hate the dreariness. I have self diagnosed myself with SADD (Seasonal Affective Depressive Disorder) and for years I have dealt with it by tanning and trying to get away somewhere warm. Do not mistake my hatred. I do not hate Vancouver, I do not hate snow (I love snowboarding and you will see my kids up on the hill the first time in a few weeks), I just do not like the cold, wet climate that Vancouver has for months on end.
So whether it was affordable or not, me, Raimo and they boys went off to Hawaii for a week. My Great-uncle lives in Oahu, so It is a place I have visited often. And I love it. Waikiki Beach is my happy place. Many people think I am crazy, but it has always worked for our family. Plenty of sand to play, calm waters to swim, shopping and people watching. There is something for everyone in Waikiki. But be prepared to pay for it! Oahu and Hawaii in general is expensive. USD$9 for a 6inch sandwich at subway expensive. Hotels on the beach will cost you hundreds a night, but if you are willing to walk the few blocks, you can find reasonable accommodation for about USD100 to USD150 per night. We fell in love with the White Sands hotel. My Grandparents had had a time share there for years, and after my mum”™s suggestion I finally agreed to check it out. Well it was paradise found! It is a three story complex with kitchens and ground floor rooms. The sliding door opened right on to the pool deck. With little ones this can be a bit scary, but was perfect for us. Also as all hotels are non-smoking on the property and you have to actually leave the property to smoke, the ground floor access was awesome! I would highly recommend it for families on a budget. The room was small, but had two beds, a kitchen and the kids could run around right outside your door! The pool was cold, but all the pools in Hawaii are cold in the winter. It was 5 minutes or less to the beach and you can even score free street parking outside the hotel. But make sure you move your car by 9am or at least put money in the meter (ooops, yes we forgot ONE morning and were hit with a $35 ticket). But all in all, most hotels charge close to that a night for parking, so it was not too bad! HI-LIGHTS: Well it is Hawaii. Paradise
February started with an ER visit for some stitches in the nose for Markus. He was wearing snow boots, on the wrong feet, at school, and fell down the stairs, hitting his nose on a chair. A few hours in the ER and then he was all fixed up. I was absolutely amazed at the attention three nose stitches received. Two ER doctors on staff and a bunch of other hospital personnel and the ER doctor doing the stitching needed the other doctor present to manage the sedation. So literally THREE nose stitches took two doctors, an anesthesiologist, and a nurse. It is no wonder that the ER moves at a snail’s pace some times. I felt GUILTY for taking up so many resources for just a few stitches! Now if only I got to see the hospital bill. Everyone thinks Canadians get free healthcare, but we pay a premium in BC, over $100 a month, AND the hospital bills the government, and we pay in taxes. So really, it is not free. I wish that the medical services would send people a bill of services, then some people would stop wasting our system. And if you are a visitor, make sure you come to Canada with travel insurance. an ER visit is $750 and that gets you nothing but a doctor to look at you. If he orders any lab work or x-rays it goes up from there!
The end of February I couldn’t handle it anymore and booked a ticket to Jordan, leaving just over 48 hours later! After our fall visit, I fell in love with it and knew I would be back. Leaving my job meant this could be a reality, and I left in the fall of 2016.
What can I say about Jordan, You can read our few diary posts here, but we rented an apartment in Amman for a month and made it a home base to explore the country! Ok I didn’t do it all on my own, I had help from my tour guide (from our last visit), who arranged the apartment for me while I was in London’s Heathrow airport. It cost about the same as 4 nights in an Amman hotel. It was small, but gave us a place to put our stuff. A place to be home, if only for a little while.
HI-LIGHTS: Getting back to Jordan, a country I had fallen in love with
LOWS: Amman was cold. Much colder than I had expected. Our apartment was cold. Our shower flooded the whole bathroom floor every time I used it. We had no wifi or cell service in our apartment. You can read a few more diary posts about our early days in Jordan here and here.
March saw us exploring Jordan, me fighting my lack of wifi (or cell service for that matter) in my apartment and watching a lot of arabic cartoons. It was downtime I needed. It was a month where I discovered I could do it on my own. A path I had never planned, but one that was before me. Some days we sat in the apartment almost all day, and that was ok. That was what I needed. I was supposed to attend TBEX Jerusalem and my mum was supposed to fly out from Canada to take care of the boys. But pneumonia 48 hours before she was suppose to leave meant that that wasn’t happening. But that was ok. I rented a car in Jordan and spent the last two weeks in Jordan exploring Feynan and staying at Feynan Ecolodge, going back to Petra and spending nights in Wadi Rum. HI-LIGHTS: Wadi Rum hiking and Camping, Feynan Ecolodge, enjoying just being with my kids, with no schedule. LOWS: the boys were sick, a lot. Puking, Pooping. It was a mess. After a doctor’s visit In Jordan (costing JD10 about USD14) and some antibiotics and they were better. Finally! Renewing a visitor visa in Jordan is quite the process. An all day process. You can read more: Renewing a Visitor Visa in Jordan
Just outside Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp, I strapped on my backpack and @cotton_carrier to wander around the amazing landscape of Little Petra. Located less than 15 minutes from the Petra Visitors Centre Entrance, we had a great day exploring and I have lots of cool photos to come! Travel hands free with your #cottoncarrier at www.cottoncarrier.com
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After our 5 weeks in Jordan, it was time to come home. The boys were happy to see their dad, and their friends. Back to school they went!
Vancouver Area, Canada
May brought visits to Kawkawa Lake and fishing, camping and relaxing! Some warm weather in Vancouver and more school for the kids and typical Vancouver life.
Vancouver Area, Canada
In June I became a travel agent. I am a home base agent and can sell as much or as little as I want. It is just one way that I fund travelling the world! June was the end of the school year for the boys. Mattias finished Kindergarten, and Markus ended his Junior Kindergarten at CEFA. It was a busy month with trips to the beach and the lake and everything we love the summer for at home! I am the first to admit, I am the worst at talking about Metro Vancouver. I find it terribly boring, because I grew up here. It is normal to me. I do not look at the tourist sites like anything special. I don’t awe at the mountains the way I awe at the great wall of China. I am desensitized to the beauty of British Columbia. But I am working on it. I wrote a post on Weekend Getaways from Vancouver and also have a post on 40 things to do in Vancouver, both of which are making their way up the pages in Google.
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When you visit France, so not miss Strasbourg! It was one of my favorite stops with out @autoeuropecarrentals and we saw the city aboard the @batorama and then wandered the narrow streets of this beautiful city! Check out the blog for this weeks tips on renting a car in France for your family vacation!
July 4th meant a visit to the United States to celebrate its Independence Day and also Mattias’ Birthday! He thinks it is pretty cool that he gets fireworks on his birthday every year! We love the quaint town of Anacortes and visit it often! It is one of our favourite short trips from Vancouver. A few days later, we hopped on a plane to France to explore Paris and the Provence Region. My boyfriend met us there (no he isn’t French), we had a rental car and a campaign from Auto Europe and after a few days in Paris, we explored Provence staying in a B and B in a small french town, drank cheap wine, enjoyed french food, ate dinner at 9pm (which is a little weird when you have kids), and explored all of the Things to do in Provence with Kids! After 4 days in provence, we had no plans for three days so drove to Geneva and explored Interlaken and Lucern with Swiss Rail and ate too much chocolate and expensive food! The only thing cheap in Switzerland (and when I say cheap, I mean affordable and in line with Western Europe standard prices) are hotels. We then drove to Strasbourg, our favourite city and had a fabulous day thanks to the staff at Batorama. Thomas showed us around for the day and my kids just loved him! Then to Disneyland Paris! A surprise for the kids and a fun day for them! While it is very different than Disneyland in California, it was still fun, and we saw everything we wanted to in just one day.
HIGHS: Highs in July were on a personal level, I was happy. I was in love. It felt good. It was nice to be back travelling and taking my kids to Europe! They loved the double decker bus in Paris and we stopped to enjoy a picnic by the Eiffel Tower and checked out the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Travel makes me happy. That I do know.
YOU CANT BUY HAPPINESS, BUT YOU CAN BUY A PLANE TICKET, AND THAT IS ALMOST THE SAME THING!
LOWS: What was supposed to be a calm kayak down la sorgue river in Provence caused me to lose my go-pro, my oakleys, and the boys hats when we flipped on some rapids. yes they were small rapids. They now hate small boats. Whoops! The worst part was the 5 days of footage on it! BACK UP YOUR PHOTOS EVERYONE!!!! The Go-Pro can be replaced. But not the photos! It even had wifi, I was just being lazy! I now use dropbox.
Panama City Beach, FL
Not long after returning from France, Markus and I were invited to a Preschoolers in Paradise Press Trip in Panama City Beach, Florida. How could I say no to Florida? Having never been, it was a great opportunity to visit the South East! So what was the first thing I did? Well I bought a new Go-Pro… and we took off to the United States.… RAIN RAIN RAIN! It rained for 48 hours straight! But we still had fun! Markus did not care that it was raining while he was jumping in waves that were almost as warm as bathwater! And Panama City Beach had so much to do, rain or shine! It was a busy and fun 4 days!
August also meant we said goodbye to our home and me and the boys moved in with my parents. Yes I now live with my parents. Judge me. Haha. But this gives me the freedom to work more on my family travel blog, and travel without the weight of insane bills that come with living in one of the most expensive cities on Earth. Maybe in 2018 I will move out. But maybe they will not be able to get rid of me.
August brought a friend”™s anniversary party and a reason to visit Vancouver Island! We stayed in Nanaimo and got to see some of the Island”™s East Coast including Parksville and Qualicum beach. We are excited to head back to Vancouver Island in January and explore the West Coast of the Island this time! It will be my first time in Tofino and I cannot wait!
HILIGHTS: Visiting Florida for the first time was great! We will be back!
LOWS: Leaving our home was hard. The kids still want it back. It breaks my heart. But I do not miss the mortgage payments.
We had summited Golden Ears on Canada’s West Coast and awoke to this beauty morning as the smoke rolled in from Washington State. I left the kids at home for this 1700m elevation gain! With over 30 lbs on my back and 12 km of trail, it was one of the hardest hikes I have done. But these views, and camping on the edge of the world, felt amazing!
Golden Ears BC Vancouver BC
September meant hiking as a friend and I summited Golden Ears Mountain. It was one of the toughest hikes I have ever done, but it felt sooooo good at the top! And the views were Epic! If you are in the area, DO IT! But it is HARD! When the rating says difficult, it means it!
HILIGHTS: Getting back to hiking and pushing my mental toughness to the brink. I love the kind of toughness that is needed to carry 40 lbs on your back up a mountain with just a backpack.
October meant I was off on my first trip without the kids! I was going to Killarney, Ireland for a TBEX conference and then a press trip afterwards! I met up with a childhood friend Emily from See Her Travel and finally got to meet some other great bloggers! I had a great few days on our press trip in County Mayo and jumped off cliffs into the Atlantic! It was amazing to get to do more adventurous things and I hope as my kids get older, my adventurous spirit will be passed down to them. But for now, they still hate me for flipping the kayak! I also got to SUP for the first time, stayed in a hostel dorm room (I know isn’t it weird that I have never stayed in a hostel dorm with strangers before) and got to be Lindsay for 8 days. Not mom. I needed it. And I didn’t miss my kids. Is that bad?
HILIGHTS: Meeting so many bloggers in person and being inspired at TBEX Killarney! A huge thank you to all of you who have helped me in this journey and push myself to do more!
Here is my Video of Coasteering in County Mayo
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The Pyramids of Giza. What a sight. I am still in Awe that we have visited this ancient wonder! Where do you dream of visiting? . . #thisisegypt #this_is_egypt #visitegypt #egypt #iloveegypt #experienceegypt #adventuretravel #familytravel #travelblogger #travelwithkids #travelstoke #travelgram #passportready #lpkids #traveller #traveler #traveladdict #traveldeals #egypt #egyptianbloggers #fantasticearth #igegypt #gizapyramids #giza
November blew my socks off with our visit to Egypt. Along with my Janet, my mother-in-law ( well ex-mother-in-law for full disclosure, but that totally sounds weird, and calling her my kid’s Nanna is just as weird, so mother-in-law it is) and Mattias and Markus, we showed Janet our favourite places in Jordan, visited my boyfriend (he lives in Amman) and then took off to Egypt. I was nervous travelling to Egypt alone, so having Janet along was a nice companion. You know when you just want to have another adult around to make sure things are ok? And I am a big chicken (I might look brave, but I really am a chicken in some circumstances) and anyone with kids knows having a 6 and 4 year old is tiring, especially when you are away from home. It is nice to have another pair of eyes by the pool, another person to cut up their meat and another person to talk to. We visited Luxor and the Valley of the Kings and then two nights in Cairo where we visited Giza and the Pyramids. I got to take a hot air balloon above Hatshepsut temple in the early morning hours and am so glad I took advantage of it! After two weeks, Janet had to go back and my boyfriend flew in from Amman to spend the rest of our trip with us while we visited… Sharm el Sheikh working with Movenpick.
After Sharm el Sheikh we drove to Nuweiba, spent the night and then took a boat back to Jordan. The nice thing about coming in via Aqaba, is the visa is free. I need to update my Jordan Visa post with this info! It is an expensive visa JD40 (about USD60) so when you are buying three of those, it is expensive! It was a long weekend in Jordan so all of the hotels in Aqaba were full, so we took a taxi back to Amman where we spent the rest of our time in the Middle East.
HILIGHTS: Bucket List to visit the Pyramids was checked off! It was something I knew I would see, and it happened so fast, I already want to go back.
LOWS: I was having a really bad day when we arrived in Cairo. I was exhausted after travelling from Luxor, and then a full day tour, and my tour guide got the worst of me. And I feel bad about that.
This is one of my favorite places in Jordan. To the locals it’s Rum, but to visitors it is Wadi Rum, a desert out of this world! It has become a film hotspot, used in the recent Star Wars movies as well as the Martian! If you are headed to Jordan, be sure to spend more than a few hours here, there are dozens of camps to spend the night, from traditional style to luxury accommodations! #shareyourjordan #myjordanjourney #travelstoke #visitjordan #familytravel #travelwithkids #kidscantravel #bedouin #instajordan #visitjo #traveljordan #beautifulplaces #dreamdestinations #iamatraveler #wadirumdesert #wadirumjordan #visitwadirum #lovejo #jeeptour #sandstone #travelbloggerlife #livelovejordan #adventuretravel #middleeast #travelingwithkids #ladieswhotravel #middleeastblogger #girlsborntotravel #ladieslovetravel #travelbloggerlife
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Our last 10 days were spent exploring Amman and all of the things for kids that you will not find in the guide book. That meant we found go-karts, a bird aviary, a trampoline park, and ate all of my favourite foods before coming back to Canada! The boys went back to school for two weeks before Christmas break and we spent Christmas at home, a white Christmas, something we do not get in Vancouver too often.
What is ahead for 2018?
January starts off with a few days in Seattle and then our first visit to Mount Washington on Vancouver Island and then Tofino on Vancouver Island”™s West Coast. They boys will get ski lessons for two days and I am going to put on skis of the first time since I was 13 and hit the slopes with them (Ive been snowboarding since then, but I think skiing with little ones will be much easier than trying to do it on a snowboard!) I am excited to finally visit Tofino and everyone wonders how I have lived in Vancouver my whole life and have never been there! (I have been close, I hiked the Juan de Fuca Trail which is just south of Tofino). I might even don a wet suit and go surfing but more likely just sit by the fire and watch the waves roll in from our cabin at Pacific Sands Resort.
March will see us travelling to New Zealand for a month to visit my mum”™s family and old friends (she is a Kiwi). We hope to Island hop to either Australia or one of the South Pacific Islands, but will see what happens when we get down there! I like to leave plans flexible! If i love somewhere, I do not want to have to leave. Just like Movenpick Sharm el Sheikh, we were enjoying the relaxing atmosphere we stayed another day before making our way back to Jordan. This kind of travel drives some people bonkers, but with kids, I am liking being flexible. I am sure I missed a million things this year, I had to look back on my Facebook posts to piece some of these things together!
Thank you for following along with me and my family as my family travel blog aims to inspire you to follow your travel dreams! Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year! I hope you follow along with mine as we continue to live our live, our way, one family adventure at a time on Carpe Diem OUR Way, the family travel blog!
Lindsay Nieminen hails from Vancouver, Canada and shares her love of travel on this website. She is passionate about showing others that they should not put off traveling the world just because they have young children or are single parents. She aims to encourage them to seek out adventure, whether it is at home or abroad by providing information on how just about everywhere can be a destination to explore as a family.