Seeing real life dragons

One of the main reasons we came to Labuan Bajo was to go to the Komodo National Park and see the Komodo dragons. They only exist here and are very old as a species and seem to be gifted with the genes for survival. They can swim, but not far, which is why they only exist on the islands in the National Park. They can be fast, if they want to, have a poisonous bite (killing their prey slowly), young ones can climb trees, smell each other, trace blood from kilometres away and they just look impressive. They can’t fly however, but that might be just a matter of a few thousands of years.

We went on a combo snorkelling and trek tour to see the dragons on Rinca Island where there are the most dragons and you have the best chance of seeing them. We were lucky enough to see all age ranges, male and female, with a bit of action from one of the older male dragons wanting to claim his spot next to a female. I got it all on video and let me tell you, once you see them make even the smallest move, you’ll happily stay behind your local guide who is equipped only with a forked stick.

Not sure how effective the guide and the stick would be, if a dragon would decide to launch towards you. Overheard someone saying that there is no warning and they could be happily dozing away (or seemingly so) and start and attack.

Mating season just finished more or less and females have now hoarded loads of eggs in one hole with multiple decoy holes kindly dug by some kind of bird which used it during their hatching season before. The females eat some of their own eggs for a couple of months, so in the end, if I understood correctly, about only 10% hatch. The young ones then climb trees and eat their smaller kind, lizards for breakfast, lunch and dinner. How lovely!

Check out the video below. It has a few bits in from the days before we went to see the dragons as well.

A few days in Brighton before our big trip

Oh man, I had no idea it was going to take me this long to get the video on Brighton edited and uploaded. It always takes about 5 times longer than you think!

But I did it! Yay/applause/pat on the back and thank you to lovely husband for making lunch.

Last summer, we’ve been to Brighton for a weekend and it was a lot colder than it is now. It is currently gloriously blue and sunny outside and it’s been amazing getting to know this city a little more.

Of course we had to go back to our favourite food places, explore some new ones and got a bit of a sunburn (who would’ve thought).

It was definitely the perfect few days before jumping on a plane to Indonesia tomorrow morning. Husband called it the calm before the storm. Let’s hope that this figure of speech isn’t becoming reality after all the horror show posts of boats capsizing and all I’ve read.

On that cheery note, enjoy the video. Again, bloody pain to get that together on an iPad but totally worth it. Maybe next time I’ll figure out how to get different background music on there besides the standard 6 theme tunes available in iMovie.

Everything is in a box in a box in a box

Today we moved everything into a box.

Which means we’ve now officially switched over to camping-and-living-out-of-our-backpacks mode. I don’t think I’ve properly realised what is happening. For about a month, my focus has been to get everything organised, packed and ready to go and I am very good at compartmentalising, i.e. keeping the eye on the prize in a rational and logical way. Emotions usually hit after I’ve achieved what needed to be done.

So here I sit in our local pub, a baked camembert and a half fish and chips later (didn’t eat all day, see compartmentalising), and start to feel all the feels. It is slowly sinking in that I may not people watch from this corner of the pub anymore, or that our flat is so not cosy enough for this grey and rainy weather. (Reason why we’re in a pub and it at home).

There is still a bit of processing time left; we’re going to Brighton for a few days to switch off and prepare ourselves mentally for what’s to come next. Weather isn’t playing ball so I’ll be wearing everything I’ve packed enjoying the British sea side.

Slight tangent, “our” cat has been in and out these past days exploring boxes and rooms. I wonder, if she knows we’re leaving.

Travel preparation – Packing and moving update

Today marks 1 month until we’ll hopefully sit on a plane to Indonesia. My inner state is split between “ARGH” and “EXCITING”, and I occasionally go through periods of “shit, what are we doing?” especially when packing things up. It’s been all about packing the past couple of weeks. I started slowly with a box of books. Then I realised that I might as well just do as much as I can to take the pressure off, and ended up packing all books, taking down the shelving unit and whipped out our suitcases to crack on with clothes we don’t currently wear and need.

Once the packing itch caught me, I cracked on with drawings, pictures and paintings. Everything looks a bit naked now. Once all our plants were gone, I already thought that it felt odd but now all what makes a home homier is gone. I also realised, that we don’t actually have that much. Every time I’d scan our selection of packing boxes, I question whether we’ll fill them all. I guess it is a good problem to have. It would be slightly more hair-pulling-panic-inducing, if I walked around trying to find more flat-packed cardboard.

I had packed already so much this past week, that boxes started to pile up in the living room. Considering that we still have to live here for another 3 weeks without jumping at the shadows in the middle of the night whilst going to the toilet or bumping your legs and feet every 5 minutes, I figured we need to re-jig things around the flat. So that is what we did yesterday. Husband in tow, I explained my vision (I clearly have thought very long and hard about it!).

Packing

We still have a load of packing boxes left, which I assume will now mostly be for the kitchen and other bits and bobs. Also, our suitcases aren’t even full. We can easily add what we’re currently using but not taking with us in there, which feels very reassuring.

About a week ago, we also test packed for the first time. Plan is to do another round this week when we’ve got some more missing bits. I think we’re on track and don’t actually have that much. Revisiting and revising the packing list definitely helped and also thanks to all the feedback we’ve received. I uploaded the latest packing list in the packing list post.

Here’s a little compilation of Instagram stories I did over the past couple of weeks.

Travel planning – The top 8 things to do first

Travel planning top 8 things to do first

It is exciting when you decide to travel for a longer period of time, though when you start thinking about all the logistics that need sorting before you go, it can be pretty daunting to figure out. If you’re anything like me, that to-do list writes itself in your head every time you’ve got a minute to not think about anything (a.k.a the shower). To avoid that list becoming the entirety of your committed memory, I suggest writing it down somewhere. We started out with a brain dump in a spreadsheet, but for an organised and in control person like me even that started becoming a massive jumble. I could no longer just go with the flow, cross my fingers and hope that we won’t forget to do anything before we take off, so I organised it in a Trello board (I know!). I categorised everything, added bits and bobs here and there, gave all items due dates and put them in chronological order. (I can literally see you eye-rolling)

There were a few things that needed sorting out first to not fall into anxiety induced sleepless nights (unlike my husband who falls into deep sleep anywhere anytime without a worry). We have now done all of them and it feels great. Sure there is still a lot to do, but having the major, potentially travel blocking items, done is such a relief and it doesn’t take away from the excitement for the actual travel.

1. Decide on a budget

And length of time, I suppose. Though the budget might dictate the length of your travel once you’ve done a bit of research as to how much in average it costs per day per person. There are so many sites out there where you can find information on that, especially for areas like south east Asia. Best is to google and ask friends who have been to the countries you want to go to.
The budget will also depend on what kind of travelling you’ll want to do. Are you only going to do low-end budget accommodation? Do you prefer hotels to hostels, etc.? Think about it and adjust your daily rate per person for that country.
Remember that there are expenses already before you actually go on the trip such as vaccinations and buying a backpack (don’t cut corners on this. Trust me, it’s not worth it!), so track that money.

2. Check that your passport is going to be valid

In my case it wasn’t so much that my passport wasn’t going to be valid. It was starting to fall apart and may not have the “minimum 6 empty pages” for stamps and visas by the time we’d done 3 countries. German passports are supposed to last 10 years but mine wasn’t playing that game. After googling and contacting the embassy to ask whether my passport would be accepted, I decided to book that appointment to be on the safe side. Lots of entry requirements of the countries we want to visit state that they may not accept dodgy looking ones.

3. Decide on a route

Since our list of countries are mostly in south east Asia, we checked the weather info of every single one to design our travels around raindrops. I am sure we’ll still be running into the occasional tropical rain showers, but at least we tried to make a sensible rough plan. Note the “rough” part here, cause I am very much aware that we will change our rough plans from one day to the next and could end up somewhere we hadn’t foreseen. Which is part of the whole adventure.
However, check the weather, the proximity, take a map, draw some routes, repeat it a bazillion times to your friends. Maybe you want a bit of exciting land travel in there to avoid too many plane tickets (cause budget 👆). Maybe you don’t care flying criss-cross in which case, lucky you, one less thing to think about.

4. Sort your vaccinations out

Where I grew up, you get vaccination cards to help any GP or vaccination-giving person keep track of what you’ve received and what you need to get. It’s a little yellow leaflet and it’s worth so much when you’re planning something like this. Otherwise, call your parents and hope they’ll remember.
In the UK, you can simply call your GP and say where you’re going and they’ll tell you what you’ll need. Of course, I also did my own research and checked what vaccinations are recommended for each country and what are part of entry requirements. I suppose this is country specific, again, in the UK, some vaccinations are given by the GP through the NHS, others need to be done privately and you need to pay for them.
When I called the GP and found out how long the vaccination process is for Hep B, I immediately made an appointment with Boots pharmacy only to find out on the day that there was a shortage of Hep B and rabies vaccines nationwide. I was told that maybe some private clinics still have stock. Luckily, the second (also not the cheapest) private clinic I called had them, enough for 2 people, and we went for our first shot immediately the next morning.

5. Book that first flight and accommodation

Reading, asking friends and talking about the trip doesn’t make it yet a reality. My husband and I would talk daily about our travels, but hadn’t booked anything yet. It is another threshold that is odd to step over because then it makes it real!
There was still a lot to figure out but we said f*** it, let’s book the outbound flight and accommodation for a week. The whole time when discussing the route, we always started with Indonesia. I also thought a week to arrive, freak out and get adjusted to the timezone in a guaranteed warm and sunny place would be ideal to kick off our travels. It also gave us an extra kick in the butt to get into second gear with all of the not-so-fun organisational stuff that need to be done so we’d be able to leave.

6. Get your travel/health insurance

Another one of those things that you didn’t think of when dreaming about backpacking through the Vietnamese jungle. It is a bit of a minefield, like anything insurance related, but it is important. I know, no one wants to think of worst case scenarios, but if crime shows and movies have taught me anything is that anything is possible. I don’t want to sound too bleak, but you know what I mean. I suppose my 22 year old would have been more lax about it and just winged it…wait who am I kidding, I would have totally gotten the same insurance to make sure my Mama could fly out in case of emergency. Or get the natural disaster add-on, cause you know, Tsunamis and earthquakes and volcanoes…
What I am saying is, it is important to know what it is that you wouldn’t want to pay for but need in case something goes wrong however big or small. Most backpacker insurances offer more or less the same thing, with different excess levels (the higher the personal excess, the lower the total insurance premium), activities covered, add-ons etc.
InsureandGo and Columbus Direct were the final two from our research in the UK.

7. Decide what to do with all your stuff

We’re renting a flat, have a some things in it and no family with empty garages in the country. There was a lot of back and forth as to what we’d do. We like our flat, we like our area, but in the end we made the choice to give up the place and put everything in storage, cause a) it’s cheaper, b) we’re more flexible and c) we don’t have the responsibility looking after a sub-letter, if that would have been possible.
With that decision, we slowly started building a list of things that bring us joy and we want to keep, that we want to sell, donate or throw. The Marie Kondo method certainly helped with deciding on the size of storage. Bonus part, the storage company we went with offer 2 hours free van hire, which might be all we need cause they are a 5 minute drive from the flat.

8. Write a packing list

I already shared our packing list in a blog post a few weeks back, so you can read all about it there and if you’re planning a longer trip similar to ours, you can download the PDF.
In short, get used to lists cause you’ll be making a lot of them. I got a lot of tips from friends through my post, which really really helped refine our list to what we’re currently plan to. Another friend sent me this link and it is great for both men and women.

Travel planning – the packing list

travel planning - the packing list

We’re in the middle of getting a lot of little things done and sorted, such as vaccinations and our packing list. We brainstormed what we knew from previous trips backpacking and hiking, got our friends’ packing list sent over and researched a little. I think most of it is common sense, trying to go minimalist and top that off with a few luxury items that one doesn’t really need but would make things so much more fun!

I thought I’d share our current list to help anyone that wants to do something similar, but mostly, it is to get your input on what you think might be missing. I know quite a few people that have been travelling/backpacking for a longer period and would love your wisdom. Pretty please.

As I said the list below is still a work in progress until we have done some test packing. Also, I know that we don’t need a camera, a phone and an iPad/laptop. They have a purpose and I am still debating with myself if I’m going to take all of it or cut it by at least 1 device.

And ladies, what did you do for that time of the month? Did you pack it all upfront? Help a woman out!
[UPDATE 04-2018: I had a lot of feedback on this. I am still debating how I’ll do it and will experiment with a cup before travel upon recommendation of a friend who said that it worked well for her.]

[UPDATE 08-2018] I attached the list as a Packing list in case it’s helpful for you and you find it easier having it on paper to cross things off as you pack.