Thursday, January 30, 2014

First Stop - Hawaii!

The first part of our trip was actually Erik's genius idea. First, you should know that originally we had planned to visit Africa for 3-4 weeks during December/January. However, once my sister announced that she would be having a baby in November, I decided I could not miss out on holding my nephew as a newborn, so we would still visit Africa, but we would travel there via the United States. I looked at airfares for months, and it is bloody expensive to fly to America around Christmas. I checked flights from different airports in Oz and to all of the major west coast US cities. It was my smart husband, however, who suggested flying through Hawaii. Fortunately, a budget airline in Australia, Jetstar, flies direct from Melbourne to Oahu.

Originally, I figured we would arrive in the morning (flight arrives at 6am), spend the day on the beach in Waikiki and then fly out that night (most flights to the mainland of America leave at 10pm or so, putting you on the west coast in the early morning hours). However, Erik suggested that we stay a few days, and seeing as we were about to embark on a pretty crazy 2 weeks of US travel plus 3 weeks of Africa travel, I was obviously up for his idea! We went to Hawaii on our honeymoon over 6 years ago, but did not visit Oahu, only Kauai and the Big Island. I was excited to see the North Shore of Oahu and thought that would be the perfect place to chill for a few days. 

Due to the fact that we were traveling like crazy, we wanted to do Oahu on a budget, which is not easy to do because Hawaii is expensive, at least compared to mainland USA. I found a place on Airbnb that was not too pricey and just steps to the beach on the North Shore. We decided that we would take "The Bus" up to the North Shore to save money on transport. However, upon arriving at Honolulu airport at 6am on December 17th, we were told that we could not take our luggage with us on The Bus (we each had our hiking packs which are about 55L and each had a daypack). Thanks to the power of 3G and the fact that I had activated my US sim card before we left Oz, I searched for car rental deals and found that we could rent a car for 3 days with Firefly Car Rental for $90. Sold. I booked on my mobile and we boarded the bus to pick up our rental car about 15 minutes later. FYI: we later learned that people take their luggage on The Bus frequently, so it is probably do-able if you are wanting to use public transport on the island!

Now that we had wheels, we could do some additional exploring before heading up to Haleiwa. First, we visited Diamond Head, where we walked to the top for views of Waikiki, the coastline, and the crater itself. I would definitely recommend doing this early in the morning like we did, otherwise I think it would be HOT!

After a few hours there, we headed up the east coast, stopping at a few beaches and overlooks along the way.

With Airbnb, sometimes you actually stay in a person's home, but this one was a self-contained cottage that was so cute! They also provided beach chairs, surfboards, bikes, etc., so pretty much everything we could ever need was there. 

The beach closest to our place was Sunset Beach, which is aptly named for the gorgeous sunset views.

In addition to lounging in the sun, we rode our bikes to Haleiwa town to check out a few shops and to get a little exercise. There are bike trails along much of the North Shore that run between the beach and the road, which is really nice. The place where we stayed was close to Ted's Bakery, where we enjoyed a meal or two. Also, you cannot leave the North Shore without trying shrimp from a shrimp truck. My mouth is watering just thinking about how delicious those shrimp (prawns for my Aussie friends) tasted!
Matsumoto Shave Ice. YUM!
We were staying very close to Pipeline, and the famous annual surfing competition had unfortunately just finished when we arrived. However, we did get the chance to watch some decent surfing from our own beach. 

First time I've ever seen a surfer's circle. Not sure who the tribute was for but it was awesome to watch!
We stayed for 2 nights and flew out late on the 3rd day. Our Airbnb hostess was super flexible and let us check out late, so we hung out on the beach before taking the inland road (as opposed to the coastal road) back towards Honolulu. Along the way we stopped at the Dole Plantation, which was really touristy but the pineapple soft serve ice cream was quite tasty! We actually made it back much quicker than we expected, and I was interested in seeing Waikiki Beach, so we headed that way in search of dinner. Duke's was the answer for dinner, though it was a bit pricier than the one we ate at in Kauai in 2007! Nevertheless, it was a good dinner and we had sweet seats for an another amazing Hawaiian sunset. After dinner we were on our way to the airport to say goodbye to warmth and sunshine and hello to winter in Minnesota!
A crowd gathers to watch sunset on Waikiki Beach

Monday, January 27, 2014

'Round the World in 5 Weeks

When we first started dating 10+ years ago, Erik and I discussed the possibility of taking time off from study/work to travel around the world. Our trip would involve numerous stops in multiple continents and would take place over about a year. Instead, we took a trip around the world in 5 weeks! This trip was not intended to replace our 'round the world itinerary, and perhaps one day we will have the chance for that big trip, but in order to visit our families for Christmas AND our holiday destination, it required traveling the circumference of the entire globe. 11 flights, 3 trains, 1 bus, and several private cars were used during our 5 weeks of travel. Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting details about our trip, so stay tuned!
One of the many stunning views we witnessed in the air!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Affectionate Aussies

Happy New Year! Wherever you celebrated the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, I am sure that some hugging or kissing was involved. This traditional celebration made me think about the differences between Americans and Australians when it comes to greeting one another.

Australians generally greet friends with a kiss on the cheek. Sometimes they might use a kiss on each cheek, particularly if their family is of Italian descent. At first this was strange for us to get used to, but now we have embraced it and I, in particular, like the extra affection shown to others!

American friends will occasionally greet eachother with kisses, but more often than not it is hugs and handshakes that are used to say hello and goodbye. This difference became very evident to me when I was traveling back to the States in June. I was seated next to two Aussie blokes who were headed to a conference in the States. They had a booklet containing instructions for their week detailing where they were staying, where they should eat, and general things about visiting the US. One of those things pertained to greeting people, and it said "Americans like their personal space. When greeting someone, a handshake will be sufficient." At that point I recognized that I liked the affection of our new culture and starting wondering if Americans have it wrong. Would people be happier if we showed a little more love to each other in the States? Just a curious observation that I wasted to share with you to start this brand new year. Best wishes for a fantastic 2014!