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Daria Salamon
Saturday
Apr202019

New Site Launching!

Dear Blog Subscribers!

Many of you have been here with me a long time - some since my early writing days! I am where I am becasue I've had supportive readers Thank you for reading and following over the years!  A few years later -  two books, and bylines in publications like The Washington Post and Globe and Mail! 
I have been busy working on an exciting new site that will launch this week. I am thrilled to share it with you and I  REALLY hope you will join me over there and subscribe! It should be live tomorrow as the lights go out here.

Thanks for helping me be the best writer I can be. See you on the new site!

Daria
Monday
Feb182019

How to Travel for 6 Months, A Year or More: Everything You Need to Know

Thursday April 11, 2019 McNally Robinson Community Classroom- Winnipeg

Ever dreamed of taking an extended trip? Think it’s too daunting? Rob and Daria traveled the world with their children for a year. They will share their insight into planning a multi-month trip, including visas, insurance, financing, and travel apps. But they will also highlight tips, tricks and unique strategies that will keep you on the road longer or even indefinitely, along with the lasting benefits of such an experience. And most importantaly, they will talk about when things go wrong - because on adventures like this - things never go as planned!




To register:

https://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/classes

Monday
Feb182019

Our Travel Memoir is Coming to a Bookstore Near You May 16th

So, um, you may have noticed that I've sort of abandoned my blog for, er,  two years. Well, guess what I'M BACK! That may not be a good thing for everyone! But I've really missed it. I've had a pretty good reason for going AWOL!
My husband, Rob and I have been writing a travel memoir Don't Try This At Home: One Family's (mis)Adventures Abroad due out May 16th (Turnstone Press). We promise a funny (Rob) heartfelt (me) account of our debacles abroad. We had a great year and we're so excited to share everything that went wrong! We're currently finishing the copyedits - which feels a bit like stabbing yourself in the eye over and over with a pencil. Does the comma go here? Or there? What do you mean I have to cut out this bit about my vagina? 

We are thrilled to be three months away from launching our book! 
See ya soon!
Thursday
Mar032016

A Year Abroad: From Beaches to Wildlife - Our Top Picks.

 

I’ve used my blog as a forum to write about when shit went wrong on our year abroad– getting lice, speeding tickets, losing my kids, standing on the side of the highway in the middle of the night after a bus breaks down etc. etc.

But, I get the "What was your favourite...?" questions a lot, so I’m laying out Our Top Picks. Ten months, fifteen countries, four continents.  We covered a lot of turf on this gorgeous planet. So here's a round up of some of the coolest stuff we encountered.

 

Best Beach. Whitehaven Beach, Australia.

 

Best Wildlife. The Galapagos Islands. Visitors get unprecedented access to wildlife.  The animals are curious and unafraid of people – sea lions will practically try to shake your hand, you have to step around ridiculously lazy land iguanas. The giant tortoises are slow and big and old, so you can sneak up and scare the shit out of them. JUST KIDDING. You shouldn’t do that, but you can, from a respectful meter away, gaze into their ancient eyes and have a moment.  Snorkelling puts you face to face with giant sea turtles, sea horses, rays, sharks and a gazillion fish. We even had a few penguins come swim with us! In this life – go to the Galapagos Islands. Message me if you need tips on how to do it on the cheap! We saw plenty of wildlife all around the world and I've been on African safaris, but what makes the Galapagos truly special is that it's such an intimate experience. And the islands are stunning.

 

 

Honourable MentionThe Pampas in the Amazon Basin, Bolivia. You cautiously slip into the murky river, noting there's a caiman staring you down from the shore, and your guide says, “they rarely go after people”. And as you stand in the tepid river, fretting about that caiman, a pink and curious dolphin comes and pokes you in the butt with its nose, letting you know he wants to play.(See the video) In the trees nearby are exotic birds, sloths and monkeys. Later in the afternoon, the guide who told you not to worry about the caimen, takes your kids hunting for anacondas. 

Sad fact:  The reason the land along the river is so packed with wildlife is because much of their habitat has been destroyed and the animals have nowhere to go.


Best City. Singapore. I ran into people who complained Singapore is too clean and not gritty enough, but I loved this city and I think that’s what made it original and unparalleled. If you want grit, head to South America. Singapore highlights include best zoo in the world - with a Night Safari, light shows every evening downtown to celebrate Singapore's 50th birthday, lovely gardens and public green spaces, great public transportation and delish food. Drawbacks: Singapore is the most expensive place we visited and if you litter or vandalize they'll cane you. I was pretty sure one of my kids would experience a good old fashioned lashing.

 

 

Best Island. Bali, Indonesia. East meets West. You've probably have read all about Ubud in Eat, Pray Love. This is one cool little city. (And there's no shortage of 30ish year old women wandering around Bali "finding themselves.")  Hip restaurants, funky coffee shops, culture, yoga, temples, beaches and spectular sunsets. Sipping wine on the deck, watching my kids fly kites in the rice fields with the local boys, as the sun set, was one of my trip highlights. Bonus: Bali is cheap! (We rented a two story environmentally sustainable house on the rice fields that came with a pool and people who show up to cook you breakfast for 65$ a night).

 

 

Best Food: Penang, Malaysia. Penang has neat outdoor "food courts" around town with a wide variety of some of the tastiest, cheapest food in the world. Georgetown, the main city on the island of Penang, is a destination for food and street art.

 

 

 

Best Camping: Australia. We spent a month meandering up the coast of Queesland, Australia with our campervan and tent.  I loved the "freedom" camping system; you could show up to a place called Rainbow Beach and pitch your tent and wake to the sun rising over the ocean. 

The kids liked the Top 10 Holiday Parks. They were equipped with amenities like pools, even water parks and decked-out kitchens. While I'll always prefer camping on the oean, it was nice sometimes not to have to cut carrots on a log with a plastic fork. 

 

 Pool at a Top 10 Holiday Park /campsite.  

 

Friendliest People and Best Landscape: Colombia. Can’t say enough good things about Colombia. I think I liked it because there weren’t a lot of tourists there and people seem genuinely surprised that we even showed up to their country. I didn’t meet a single un-friendly person. After buying some art at a gallery, the owner asked where we were off to and I explained an eco-park outside of town. We were going to take a bus, but the next thing I knew we were all piling into her truck. That's just how people are in Colombia.

The landscape is soft and green and hikeable. It offers oceans and volcanoes. It’s not a country without issues(apparently there's been some sort of drug problem here. Shhhhhh.) There was a pretty strong police presence and lots of check stops, but I never felt unsafe. You heard it here first - this will be a serious tourist destination in the future. Go there before that happens.

 

ECUADOR gets and honorable mention. Great, great country if you are into hiking, surfing, hot springs, markets, volcanoes or ayhuaska!

 

Best Tourist Destination: Machu Picchu, Peru.  It's a bit of a gong show over at Machu Picchu being one of the most visited places in the world, but it’s just one of those places in life you’ve got to see to believe because it’s just so f’ing unreal. How they managed to even build a hidden city that high in the mountains, why they built it, and the fact that the Spaniards never found and destroyed it makes it worth the trek. It’s well run, although it takes a bit of effort to access and it's somewhat expensive. But when you set eyes on this ancient city – you cannot help but be awed. HOT TIP: Skip the tours and make your own way there. Stick around till the end of the day and take the last bus down. Most of the tours have left and you will practically have the entire place to yourself!


 


Best Place We StayedTaufua Beach Fales in Samoa. I’ve always dreamed of sleeping in an open shack overlooking the ocean. This place is beautiful and off the beaten track, with sunsets to die for. They feed you well three times a day. It's rustic, and probably not for everyone but so is the entire country of Samoa. We'd stayed in a couple of 5 stars and I will always prefer this. Taufua has a backstory about a tsuami that will break your heart. Part of the love for the place stems from watching my kids play on the beach with kids who survived a Tsunami.

 

Best Hike: Taranongo Alpine Crossing, New Zealand. 

This hike was a treat because we ditched the kids with my mother-in-law and got to take on this killer 20 km day hike - without anyone once asking "how much longer?" It's an alpine crossing, a World Heritage Site and scenes from The Hobbit were filmed there. Enough said.

 

 

Best Airline: Air New Zealand

I shit you not, go to NZ, just so you can fly this airline.  Their regular economy cattle class feels like first class. Tons of seat room, 100 movies to choose from, video game consoles at every seat, non-stop food and booze. They even took the kids into the cockpit for a while. Would that be considered free babysitting?  They are consistently ranked the best airline in the world.  

 

Best Adrenaline: Wipe Out Course. Thailand. There was a lot of adrenaline on our trip – zip lining, surfing, parasailing, trapeze lessons. Doing a wipeout course was a Bucket List thing for Oskar. Isla was the youngest kid ever to complete the red balls! And I fell off them 70,000 times. Thailand hosts a lot of activities that are insane - like the Slip and Fly slide. Check out this video on my instagram

 

 

Best Nature Experience: Mulu National Park, Borneo. Every night at dusk, three million bats fly out of a cave to eat. That's a hard show to top. One night we went on a guided hike after dark and saw bugs, snakes, tarantulas and rodents that still give me nightmares to this day. 

 

 

Honourable Mention: Chalalan Eco Lodge, The Amazon, Bolivia. It took a bus ride, a really sketchy flight and a 5-hour boat trip up the river to get there. (Leonardo Di Caprio, the environmentalist, flew in with his private chopper.) But it seriously felt like Chalalan was one of the few places on earth where you are in the middle of nowhere and off the grid. We hiked and swam, were woken by howler monkeys, wild pigs and toucans.  Oskar went fishing (sustainably, with a guide) and caught 3 piranhas – which were delicious.

 

 

Best Amusement Park: LEGOLAND, Malaysia. I'm only including this on the list because it'll probably never happen again in this life that we were practically the only people at an amusement park. The place was huge and there wasn't a single line up for anything. In fact, when it was time to leave I had to haul Isla off the roller coaster. She’d ridden it 8 times in a row and she was the only passenger. As we were leaving, all the workers were waving and giving her hugs, “Bye, Isla Blue! We love you! Come back and visit!” 

 

Best Cocktail: Pisco Sour. It involves whipped egg whites and pisco. Yum.  

 

Best Wine: Martinborough, New Zealand. For my birthday, I was given a day to tour vineyards and sample some fine pinots. It was great until my kids showed up.

 

Best Overall Experience:  We arrived in the Yasawas, Fiji, at a lodge called The Oarsman with our tent.  Yes, we are those people who showed up in Fiji with a tent. But they gave us a cabin on the beach for practically the same price as tenting. I loved them already.

We stayed about a week and a half (a long stay for us anywhere) because we really liked the place and the people who ran it. The location was stunning. The lodge was run by and supported a local Fijian community. We visited the village, we tagged along to church one week for something to do. I even wore a tradtional dress that was NOT flattereing. They showed us how feasts were prepared.  Tourists were always coming and going as part of their packages. In Fiji, you jump on a catamaran and go island hopping. Many people found this place a bit rustic, compared to the 5 stars they'd come from.

The day before we were leaving, the people running the lodge offered to let us use to their private island for the day. Wait, let me understand you? You have a private island? In Fiji? And you’re going to let us use it for the day? (Normally, they would rent it our to people for lots of money.)

They packed us a picnic (that included beer), boated us out there and said they would pick us up at the end of the day.

Lying around on your own island in the South Pacific, reading Harry Potter with your kids, sipping beer, was a pretty special experience! Just when we thought it couldn't get any better, Rob noticed that there were baby turtles in the sand. They were hatching, surfacing all around us and making mad dashes for the ocean.

For me, this was one of the best experiences of our trip. It was such a gift that resulted from connections we forged with people. It blended together some of my favourite things in life: friendship, family, nature, the ocean, an island, reading...and beer. It was a perfect day.

 

 Instagram

 

Thursday
Jan282016

5 BIG LESSONS I'M TAKING AWAY FROM OUR GAP YEAR

The conventional, very rooted way of life we’ve set up in North America – filled with lots of material stuff isn’t the only, or most rewarding way that one can lead their life. Experience is essential to a meaningful life. And wine.

1.  HOW LITTLE WE ACTUALLY NEED.  Carrying your life around on your back for 10 months is a pretty humbling experience. Forget online shopping and consumerism.  Suddenly, you’re shopping for shampoo in some mini-mart in Bali and all you give a shit about is finding the smallest bottle. And all those and lip-glosses and eyebrow tweezers I packed were jettisoned after the first day.  (Not all of us learned this lesson unfortunately; my daughter still seemed to be carrying around her entire stuffie collection.)

We were always thinking about how to make our packs lighter. Do I really need this sixth pair of underwear?  We need to finish this stupid Harry Potter book- it’s too heavy. Who knew wine out of a plastic bag could be so good?


Back home, I’m always tempted to buy stuff. This past year, I’m constantly evaluating how to get rid of things. My sanity and my spine depended on it. Lesson learned.

2.  PEOPLE HUSTLE REALLY HARD ALL OVER THE WORLD JUST TO SURVIVE. We’ve visited 15 countries this year – 11 of which I’d consider developing.  One thing that will stick me for a long time to come is how hard people have to work just to scrape by.

In Bolivia, men shine shoes in the blazing heat with knit balaclavas over their heads because it’s considered such a shameful job.  I’ve seen people selling everything from soda pop to mismatched pairs of used runners. Earlier today, traveling through Colombia, when the bus stopped for a bathroom break, a guy hopped on and gave the most heartfelt pitch for toothbrushes he was peddling. Of course, no one bought any.  There always seems to be someone hustling hard to sell something, and it’s not just to make a bigger buck, but to survive. Should have bought a toothbrush.

 

At the start of the trip I used to love bargaining and getting a good deal, but after months of seeing people work so hard just to get by, bargaining lost its appeal. Fifty cents is nothing to me, but it’s a lot to someone who lives in a country where the daily wage is eight dollars. In whittling down prices, it started to feel like I was fucking with people’s livelihoods. I appreciate where I was born. Not only do I not have to struggle so relentlessly everyday just to survive, but also I get to do what I love – and, occasionally, I even get paid for it! I’m about to embark on obtaining a Masters degree. It’ll be my third university degree. This feels a bit superfluous in a world where people walk around for 14 hours a day selling cups of chopped mango. I am very, very lucky. (And I still can’t cut a mango properly.)

 

3.  RESPECT FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS. After road-schooling my kids for the better part of a year, I have a new respect for elementary school teachers. The level of patience, imagination and lack of fear they must possess just to walk into the classroom every day is inspiring.  I’m pretty sure they don’t say the things that fly out of my mouth. Siddown and do your damn work. What do you mean you don’t understand? This isn’t that hard. No, you can’t go to the bathroom. If you ask one more time, you’re getting a catheter.

 

Our "classroom" in Colombia.

It’s actually been rewarding teaching my son prime numbers and magical watching my daughter learn to read, but I think I’ll be more than okay handing them back over to the public education system, into the loving hands of their teachers for a while. I’m pretty sure the feeling is mutual on the part of my kids.

 

4.  YOU DON’T NECESSARILY HAVE TO LIVE A CONVENTIONAL LIFE.  Before we left on this trip, it seemed like such a radical thing that we were doing. Packing up and renting out our house, selling off our car and many of our belongings— it all seemed a little crazy.

But since we’ve been on the road, we’ve met all sorts of people leading intriguing lives. Software developers working from the road, teachers working in international schools, couples house sitting around the world, people who’ve sold off all their possessions to travel indefinitely, seniors rewarding themselves with a life of adventure after working for thirty years, and young people traveling the world before embarking on their careers.

I’m certainly ready to come home to a drawer full of 20 pairs of clean, underwear that aren't falling apart, to not having to worry about whether I’ll get dengue every time I get bit by a mosquito, to not having to do currency exchange every time I buy a pack of Dentine. But, my eyes certainly have been opened up to the fact that the conventional, very rooted way of life we’ve set up in North America – filled with lots of material stuff isn’t the only, or most rewarding way that one can lead their life. Experience is essential to a meaningful life.

 

5.  THE SOMETIMES TOXIC AND OTHER TIMES BEAUTIFUL RELATIONSHIP WE HAVE WITH THE PLANET. It’s been really fascinating to see how the world once was and how it is now. One week we’re hiking through some of the world’s densest, oldest rain forests, and the following week, we’re biking through a maze of congested, overpopulated streets in Bangkok.

Bangkok

We spent four days at Chalalan Eco Lodge in the Amazon where we witnessed a moving demonstration of how symbiotic the relationship between people and the planet can be. Twenty years ago, the indigenous Bolivian Amazon community of San José de Uchupiamonas, who have rights to the land, were faced with a choice. They could start logging and cutting down the Amazon to support their community.  Instead, they opted to start an ecotourism project whereby they built Chalalan Eco Lodge; they bring tourists deep into the jungle to experience the world as it once was- to wake up to Toucans singing, macaws soaring and howler monkeys jumping in the trees. In doing this, they have protected many species from becoming extinct. Locals from the community study biology and ecology, learn various languages and become knowledgeable guides, while others run the lodge. With profits from the Eco Lodge they have built a medical clinic and school within their community. One of the best experiences of our trip was spent in this remote area. Both the Amazon and the community thrive from this relationship. It was such a brilliant example of people and the planet working together for growth and sustainability.

Last spring, we visited a beautiful waterfall in Samoa. We were jumping off the cliffs and splashing around when a group of about eight local women came to the waterfall. They pulled out beer and flipped their caps into the water. Like everyone else they were chatting and laughing and having a good time. When they left an hour later, there were a dozen beer bottles floating in the water at the base of the waterfall. We were sort of stunned as we collected the bottles.

We saw many examples of blatant disregard for the planet, both on the part of locals and tourists. I know that this exists back at home in Canada too, but somehow in your own environment you become complacent and blind to it. Sometimes you even participate. Damn, I forgot my re-usable bags again. It’s too cold or too far to walk. (And I’m well aware of the footprint we have left traveling around the planet. We have tried to use local transport and not behave like tourists whenever possible. My kids will gladly share tales of puking on 50 hour high altitude bus rides through the Andes when they would have preferred to have flown!)

Bus in Samoa

Witnessing, firsthand, the relationship between humans and the planet and how it can either be positive and symbiotic, or how it can be careless and destructive has been enlightening to me. It’s really made me think about my role and attitude.

I obviously learned many lessons throughout this trip and I think many more won’t surface until I get home and haul into the wine and writing. 

 

Some Final Thoughts & Thanks:

Next week: Each of us will highlight what we believe are the most special places and/or experiences amongst the 4 continents and 15 countries we visited. Apparently, Isla's stuffies will be contributing thoughts on this subject.

As our trip winds down in a few days (WHAAAAA), I’d like to genuinely thank you for reading and following this blog, for commenting, for sharing it out, and for direct messaging me. I cannot tell you how much it means to me when someone told me I read your blog, or I love your blog. It sustained me while away from home, family and friends for almost a year.

Rob and I are working on (or supposed to be working on) a comic memoir about our journey that will be published by Turnstone Press in 2017. We are super excited about this project. Stay tuned! In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out how we can do this again! 

Much Love & Safe Travels Wherever Life May Lead You!

Daria


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