Our first impressions of the USA

We’ve always wanted to go to the USA.  Something about growing up with American tv, sitcoms, kids programmes and reality tv maybe?  Or maybe we just relate far too well with The Simpsons!

I always imagined we’d go to New York first maybe or even Florida like so many people in our country do.  A few years ago we were so close to actually going and driving Route 66 but circumstances held us back.  If you’d told me last year that our first introduction to this huge country would have been Dallas, Texas I’m not sure I’d have believed you!

Even though I could browse through a travel brochure about the wonders of the USA and know that I wanted to visit all of it, Texas wasn’t really at the forefront of my thoughts.  So why are we here?

On my business site, Untrapped Life, I started a podcast, was learning about the world of business and knew that conferences would be part of that.  As it happens, a new podcast conference was being set up and I decided, quite on a whim, that we should go.  It all made sense, we could explore a new place and we could even go and do a bit of Route 66 like we wanted to!  So that’s why we’re here in Dallas :)

The flight over the pond was fairly easy.  We flew from Manchester to Philadelphia and it was about a 6 hour flight.  It was comfy, we had nice food and great flight attendants and films on demand on the tv in front of our seats.  Fab – the time just flew by.  I’d heard a lot of scare stories about immigration, but that was really painless too.

We’re on our way!

The internal flight to Dallas wasn’t as good.  We were so tired (we’d been up since 5 am and the flight was leaving at 10pm our time), it wasn’t very comfy, no in flight entertainment and not enough food for us all to purchase (in hindsight I should have pre ordered) and it was delayed taking off.   We finally got in though and had a bit of a kerfuffle with finding our hotel for the evening, which I will gloss over since it was all my mistakes!!

Just arrived – it was HOT!

As soon as we got checked in, which was about 3am our time, so 22 hours on the road, my head hit the pillow I was gone!

James and Marcus are car nuts so they enjoyed spotting them from our window of the hotel!  Everyone says how big everything is, but I’ll be honest, it doesn’t seem so much to me right now.  I may change my mind though!  I guess I’ve seen enough american cars back home and huge supermarkets in France that I haven’t seen anything crazy yet.  Oh, wait, the flags – they are fairly big!  Oh and the drink sizes ;)

Car spotting!

Driving was always a bit of a scary prospect especially as we’re around a huge city.  James is driving now and I’ll give it a try when we get out of the city.  He’s finding it quite hard so far, the first day felt crazy, but the second was a bit better.  We’re a good team though and I navigate while he drives.

Alex was desperate to see a WalMart so since we found one fairly easily we looked in there.  Again, it didn’t seem so big as I expected.  Bigger than home, yes, but not that much so.  The size of the pizzas on offer made our mouths drop open though!  We bought twinkies and other goodies ;)

We’re staying in an AirBnb house – our first time using the site actually after months of liking the idea of it.  The place is gorgeous and we love it  - a huge tv, lovely decor and even a hammock outside.  We’ve seen some red birds flying by, no idea what they are, but it’s just incredibly lovely.

Chilling in the heat!

 

Big TV, big couch, lots of American telly!

The kids have so many ideas on what they want to do and eat, especially eating!  They want to try all the fast food and all the sweets.  For our first meal out we went to a small diner called Barbec’s that was just a 5 minute drive away, probably not even that far.  It was excellent food, good portions (not too big) and great staff.  Felt like the kind of place I’ve seen on the TV so many times as well, just a basic American restaurant.  It cost less than $30 for us all to eat which I think was a good deal!  We’re still figuring out the tipping etiquette mind you, hoping we haven’t short changed anyone so far!

Now that’s a lot of Coke!

So first impressions are great.  Loving it here, loving that we can speak English and loving seeing this amazing place for the first time!

 

Goodbye Gloria

When we were looking for camper vans 2 years or so ago I knew I wanted a van I wouldn’t get attached to and something we could sell on again with no soppy feelings remaining. So I was pleased with Gloria when we found her. She hit all the practical points but also she was fairly brown and ugly and I was sure we wouldn’t grow attached to her.

She did everything that we asked of her. We wanted to reach the Mediterranean, she did it. We wanted to go from Lands End in England to John o’Groats in the North of Scotland and she did it.

Enjoying a sunset

By Stonehenge

Montignac by the river

 

German Alps!

 

Just a few flags!

Had she collapsed after our last day on the road we’d have still felt that we’d had a great buy and we’d got our moneys worth!

Even after 6 months being stored again on the drive she took us all the way to Normandy with not a hitch. She was 26 years old by then! I really couldn’t believe how lucky we’d been with her. We’re not normally that lucky with cars so it felt like such a risk to buy a cheap van for our big adventure. Obviously our bad luck with cars meant we were owed some good luck!

second chance at an adventure! Off to Normandy.

So May came and we knew we had to sell her. It was gut wrenching and some days I just wanted to work out a way of keeping her. What I really wanted was to have a house with some big driveway or some land we could store her forever on and where she could be a ‘den’ for the kids or me! Unfortunately we’re a long way from the housing ladder in the UK and this wasn’t an option. It made sense to at least try to sell her.

Ugh – what a nightmare. Ebay seemed the best place for visibility, but it also has so many time wasters there too and we spent so many days dealing with emails that were a bit weird/unintelligible or downright cheeky.

As time went on I was starting to think we’d not actually sell her before our August trip to America. All of a sudden it started getting stressy and I realised that although I loved the van, I didn’t want the hassle of trying to keep her on the road and really the way I’d rationalised buying flights to the US was because we had planned to get Gloria sold. Some days I was feeling so foolish when another weekend went by with her unsold.

Finally someone came who was just right for her. Him and his partner had ideas of a huge adventure and I know they will love the van. In the end I was relieved she’d gone andpleased she seemed to have gone to a good home!

All together!

All together!

 

We had so much fun with Gloria, so many adventures. I’m so glad we had her in that chapter of our life!

Keeping healthy on arrival in a new country

We’ve actually been incredibly lucky while on our travels so far that we’ve not had any major illnesses. James suffered with really bad hay fever while in Germany and we had the crazy tale of trying to get to see a doctor in a town where they only spoke German and Russian! Marcus also had tummy upsets but it was while we were in the UK, so proof that it can really happen anywhere.

I think it’s also a misnomer that you can only really have tummy upsets while in developing countries and I do think that any sort of change is going to potentially have an effect on your gut. We’re travelling to the USA, for the first time, in two weeks. Even though it’s not a place that I would think would be bad for us and that we’d need to take precautions I’m sure the change in water and the change in they types of food could well be challenging for us or anyone.

So what to do? Well, normally I’ll admit I would just take it all as it comes, but then generally in our travels we’ve had time to slow down if we needed to. We won’t when we go to the US, we’ll be pretty much on the go from the moment we arrive. Any illness could really impact us hugely.

Common sense prevails though. In order to keep healthy and feel fresh on arrival in a new country I’m thinking about the following:

  • plenty of sleep
  • plenty of water and fluids
  • staying out of the intense heat if applicable
  • not going crazy with too much food too soon!  (hmm remind me of that in america!)
  • keeping a well stocked first aid kit

Another thing we’re doing is also be looking at upping our good tummy bacteria too as I’ve been reading a bit about probiotics and prebiotics lately.  We try and take vitamins already, since I know we don’t eat as well as we can so this is a great extra thing to do.

We could do that by just go crazy with yoghurt drinks, but personally I don’t really like them very much.  The rest of the family do, but I’m a fussy so and so ;)  So I was pleased to find a product from Bimuno Prebiotics which is some chewy pastilles that do a similar job – I’ll be giving them a go!  Better than yucky yoghurt drinks!!

Although I don’t think you can always stop tummy upsets and health issues when you go abroad being prepared can absolutely help to minimise the risk so that’s what we’ll be doing.  Even if we’re just popping over the channel to France and not to deepest darkest India!

 

New travel plans?

So since it took me so long to catch up with our Normandy trip, it seems I’ve neglected to tell you all about our new plans for travel!

The exciting news is, we’re heading off again!  Although I have realised that actually, the reason why I haven’t told many people the whole story is because I don’t really know the whole story yet!

Here’s what I know:

We’ve really not enjoyed living back where we came home to.  Of course there were good reasons to come back here (job and our orthodontist is here) but it’s not been enjoyable.  For the past 7 months I have been working feverishly away on an escape plan.  Life is too short to be miserable and stuck!  We know we need to base ourselves in the UK still for Marcus’s dental treatment, but I was hopeful we could find a way to still live an interesting and exciting life while doing that.  After all, if we waited for his braces treatment to finish we could be waiting until he was ready to leave home!

So I’ve been working away at Untrapped Life (do come over and take a look…) building my site and a podcast.  It’s all been going rather well.

We took the decision earlier on this year to attend a Podcasting conference over in the US this summer.  We thought it might just be a holiday, but as time wore on, we realised that perhaps this could be the turning point for us.  James was unhappy in his driving job, we hated the house we were in – so we thought ‘let’s move or do something!’

I wanted to travel again.  6 – 8 weeks in an area before coming back to the UK for a bit.  That would still be doable.  We don’t have to do it forever, but we can give it all another go again, and i really want to try travelling in a different way and without our camper van.  The kids are getting older, I nearly have two teens now and if I’m honest I’m not sure how long they’ll be up for it!

So that’s the plan really!  Although in reality we’ll be peppering our time with house sitting.  We were fortunate enough to land a house sitting gig in Scotland that coincided with our return from the US.  It’s for a month and will give us some space to breathe, earn and get back in to this lifestyle.

What we have planned so far is :

US – just over 2 weeks there.  Our first ever time in the US!  We’ll be in Dallas for a week and then will be travelling some of Route 66 and returning from Las Vegas

Scotland – our house sit and then visiting our friends in Rum.

Italy – this country is so elusive!  We hope to get to Tuscany at least and spend October exploring there.  Perhaps we’ll search for a house sit that coincides and fits well.

London – again we’ve been lucky to get a house sit in London for a whole month.  Assuming all goes well we’ll be featuring lots of free museums and learning a load!

That’s as far as we know really!  I’m excited, scared and nervous all at once.  We’re currently in pre launch, moving out mode so all a bit of a stress fest!  The good news is that I will be blogging more and will have more travel adventures to share!

I can’t wait!

 

Tempted by Turkey

Turkey is one of those places that seems to be adored by so many of my fellow family travellers.  From the culture to the food to the climate, it seems to have everything!  When we visited Istanbul back in February I wasn’t sure if we’d enjoy it as we’d never travelled outside of western europe really!  It was quite a feat to get them to agree to going there instead of Venice (ah, Venice, I will see you one day…) but I think, in the end it was a great choice.  We *all* still love Turkey and we’d all happily visit that country again.

So why did we love Turkey so much?  Well, certainly for Alex, my 12 year old it was when she realised how cheap it was compared to France and Germany.  She could buy souvenirs and trinkets and still have money for sweets!  Since we’re such budget travellers we welcomed the cheap cost of food too.  While in Europe we would generally just self catered from the supermarket and we never went out for meals.  In Turkey we had the option of both, so it was a nice change.

There’s so much more to Turkey than Istanbul though which is why we’re tempted to return and explore more.

There are the resorts round the Aegean coast, with its blue sparkling sea and gorgeous sands.  There are loads of ways to get there with travel agents like First Choice or you can, of course, go it alone.  The Dalaman area is where I’m tempted.  I mean, it’s nickname is the Turquoise Coast, that just makes me want to go there and explore the beaches so much!  But I’ve also seen many people rave about Fethiye which is one of the larger towns there and how great a base it is.  Sometimes it’s hard to know the best places to try so I like to get recommendations.

The fact that there is so much to see in Turkey is appealing too.  On my list is – Ephesus, which I though was Roman ruins, but actually turns out is Greek – Alex will love that!  The thermal pools at Pamukkale (honestly, these look so awesome!  The first time I saw a picture I knew I had to go there!) and of course, Cappadocia, which isn’t by the coast, but cannot be missed.  I want to do a hot air balloon trip, but if we do it might have to be just me and Alex since James and Marcus are scared of heights.

But the other great thing for me is the climate.  A place that is warm pretty much year round gets my vote.  Being able to visit in the shoulder season, when the crowds have died down, but still having great weather is what really tempts me to Turkey.  I do love the sunshine.  I love to walk and explore.  I love to sit on the beach and watch the sun set.  Perfect.  Do you think I’ll get that in Turkey?