xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' World Toddler: April 2016

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Island of the Single White Female



Bali is an Indonesian island of incredible biodiversity. In one day you can have your sunglasses stolen by a monkey, sing a song with a Black Naped Fruit Dove, and chase a lizard out of your bed.



Many of these Balinese animals are endangered. One species that has grown in population while others face extinction? the SWF.
SWFs were first spotted on the Balinese shores in the late 2000s after Julia Roberts ate, prayed, and loved in an international blockbuster, in which it is repeatedly said that “everyone has a little love affair in Bali.” SWFs heard this mating call and have flocked to the tropical island ever since.





Tall, bipedal mammals, SWFs migrate primarily from Australia, Germany, and Canada during the holiday season or whenever Qantas is running a deal. Although most SWFs are skinny and blonde, a brunette was recently spotted in Seminyak munching on a kale chip and reading the Bhagavad Gita. The beaches of Southern Bali offer the easiest SWF-watching, where five-star resorts block the glare of authentic local culture. In Ubud, one must visit the city center to find SWFs in their natural habitat. Here, their sarongs billow as they go from handicraft market to vegan café, often sporting yoga mats on their backs.
SWFs in their Natural Habitat: Raw-Food Café in Ubud




As the number of SWFs has grown, the male population has dwindled, leaving only surfers and the occasional frat boy with whom SWFs can mate. So SWFs are often found sitting alone with their raw foods and novels, or mingling on the beach with other of their kind.

It is possible that SWFs will soon realize that their over-population has sent the "Balinese Fling" into extinction, and they will have to go elsewhere to find love. Or perhaps Bali will forever remain the island of the single white woman.
A thing of the past?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

5 Tips for Affordable International Travel

1. Stay in privately owned apartments instead of hotels


An apartment on Airbnb, an online service enabling you to rent accommodations from individual owners, costs around 30% less than a comparable hotel room (for a comparison by city of airbnb versus hotel costs, see busbud.com). In addition, most Airbnb apartments have fully-equipped kitchens, so you can save money by eating meals at home. Finally, staying in an Airbnb apartment enables you to stay in less-touristy neighborhoods where restaurants and basic necessities are more affordable.
Aunt Rach prepares a home-cooked meal in our Buenos Aires Airbnb

The main down-side of Airbnb, as we have come to learn, is its unpredictability. You never know what to expect from one lodging to the next—will the apartment really be as it appears online? Will the host meet you for check-in at the appointed time? Will there be enough towels and will the sheets be clean?

Aside from some missing apartment keys here and some cockroaches there, we have found our hosts to be prompt and helpful and our accommodations to be as advertised.  All in all, booking an apartment on Airbnb is a gamble, but one that usually pays off.


2. Use public transportation to get to and from airports


The most expensive taxi ride you will probably take while traveling is to and from the airport, which is almost universally located on the outskirts of your destination city. While it can be overwhelming to land somewhere new, exhausted from travelling, and first try to navigate a new public transportation system, doing so can save loads of money.  Prepare for the adventure by researching the transportation system before leaving and, if possible, stay somewhere conveniently located to public transportation inside the city.
Ready to fly, Santiago, Chile

3. Follow tour itineraries but skip the tour


Don't waste precious travel time planning your daily excursions.  Instead, go online, find a reputable travel company, and use their itinerary, one they have undoubtedly spent a lot of time and money designing to perfection. Rent a car or use public transportation to access the itinerary points.  Doing so limits your expenses to entrance fees and public transportation or car rentals, saving you up to $100 per person per day trip.


4. Buy tickets online and check for discount coupons


Many attractions, from museums to guided tours, offer at least a 10% discount for booking your tickets in advance through their websites.  In addition, you can google the name of the attraction and "promo code" to see if there are other available discounts online.

5. Take advantage of free stuff


Perhaps there is no such thing as a free lunch, but there is such a thing as a free tour, a free museum, and even a free fair.  Search the web for "top free activities" in every city you visit before arriving.  Many museums are free abroad. Other activities are free certain days of the month, so plan accordingly.  Many cities offer free walking tours, where you are asked only to tip your guide at the end of the tour.  If you're following my first tip (staying in apartments instead of hotels), you won't be staying somewhere with a concierge desk, so take advantage of the tour guide's knowledge and ask for recommendations for restaurants, shopping, and attractions.
Tours for Tips, Valparaiso, Chile
(free) Museum of Fine Arts, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Grandparents, Graffiti, and Rabbit Soup

Valparaiso, Chile
Arriving in Valparaiso, Chile, we were excited to get lost among different streets, to taste new flavors, and, most importantly, to meet up with Nolan's parents, who would be joining us for this next segment of our trip.  After a six hour bus ride over the Andes Mountains, a two hour flight to Santiago, and a 1 hour drive north to Valparaiso, we were thrilled to find people we know and love--and who would babysit.
Grandma and Grandpa (Carol and Shawn) with Sydney at Vina del Mar

The colorful town of Valparaiso was built into 42 steep hills surrounding the city’s port.  High up in one of these hills, we found our 2 bedroom apartment, which we had rented off of Booking.com.  Our floor-to-ceiling panoramic city view came at a price: 104 stairs to get from our lodging to anywhere else.  Sydney’s grandparents were troopers, trudging right along as we climbed our way around this whimsical city. 


Climb to our Apartment

We began our stay in Valparaiso with a free walking tour, for which travelers are asked only to tip their guides at the end of the day.  Hiking up and down the city’s winding staircases, we learned why the houses of this city hang so precariously off the hillsides and why street art covers nearly every wall surface. 

Founded in the 16th century, our guide began, Valparaiso did not reach its economic height until the second half of the 19th century, when Gold Rushers used the city as a pit stop on their way from Europe to California.  During that time, the port area, the only flat section of the city, was developed by wealthy Europeans, who modelled their mansions and businesses after the European architecture with which they were familiar.  These 19th century buildings still decorate downtown Valparaiso, but, as result of subsequent economic decline and frequent earthquakes, are cracked, browning shells of their former selves. 
What's for lunch? Rabbit soup.

As wealthy Europeans moved into the port, local Chileans and others hoping to benefit from the burgeoning economy, were forced to build their own homes into the steep hills surrounding the port.  Our tour guide, a 25 year old native-Chilean, explained that people painted their houses with whatever paint was left over from their ship-building jobs.  While ship building is no longer a major industry here, the tradition of painting houses in vibrant colors has continued to the present day and is the reason for Valparaiso’s colorful skyline.


With Sydney still thumping along on Nolan’s back, we then learned about the dark cloud of Chile’s recent past, General Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship, which began 1970.  During this time artistic expression was banned.  When Pinochet left power in 1990, Valparaiso artists celebrated their newfound freedom on the streets.  Since this time, Valparaiso has been a haven for street artists. The city formally invites artists to paint certain public spaces, and private houses and restaurants commission outdoor murals.  With so much street art, the entire city is one enormous, ever-evolving art gallery. 

Street (and Garbage Truck) Art

We spent the rest of our time in Valparaiso admiring street art and exploring the city’s nooks and crannies, where we found fine fish restaurants, children's fairs, and quirky clothing shops.  
Fair in Plaza Sotomayor

We wound our way through Mercado El Cardonal, the city's longest continuously running food market, where bins of Kibbles & Bits sit directly beside bags of cooking herbs, reaffirming the value of a rudimentary knowledge of the local language.


With four extra hands to help out, Nolan and I were able to enjoy time alone together for the first time in almost a month. Eating dinner alone with Nolan was a real luxury after having traveled solo for so many weeks. 

Our final night together, we raised our glasses of pisco sours

(Chile’s national drink…see recipe below), and thanked Sydney’s grandparents for coming all the way to South America from Denver, Colorado to join us on our world adventure.  The next morning, grandma and grandpa dropped Nolan, Sydney, and me off at the airport, where we checked-in for the next segment of our world adventure: a 14 hour flight to Australia. 


Pisco Sour
Serves 4 people

Ingredients
Ice cubes
3 parts Pisco
1 part lemon juice
1  egg white
1 part sugar syrup


Procedure:
1. Fill a cocktail shaker with large ice cubes.  Then add the pisco, lemon juice, egg white, and sugar syrup. Shake vigorously for 60 seconds or until most of the ice has dissolved and the beverage is foamy.
2. Pour into champagne flutes and top with the frothy foam.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

5 Tips for Smoothly Navigating an International Airport with a Toddler

1. REQUEST THE BASSINET


Most international airplanes are equipped with bassinets, located in the bulkhead areas of the plane. 
While the bassinets can fit only children under 25 pounds, in reserving the bulkhead-bassinet seating for you, airlines never ask if your baby is a descendant of the Hulk or whether you actually plan to use the bassinet.  As such, as long as your child is under 2, and not too many other parents have checked in before you, you will get the roomy bulkhead for free. As these seats are reserved for travelers with small children and (at least in our experience) there are not many small children on international long-haul flights, you will most likely get the entire row to yourself.

2. USE THE PRIORITY LANES


International airlines welcome families with small children in the preferred ticket lines, even if there are no signs indicating as such.  So instead of taking your place in a winding line of other miserable travelers, immediately upon arriving at the airport ask an airline agent if your family can check in at the preferred line. They will most likely say yes and may even then show you to the preferred baggage-check  and customs lines, as well.

3. ARRIVE 1 HOUR EARLIER THAN YOU THINK IS NECESSARY


Sydney's grandparents dropping us off
at the Santiago, Chile airport for our flight to Sydney


Even with expedited service, everything takes longer with a baby. Give yourself plenty of time at the airport to fix any ticketing problems you may have, ensuring you don't have to leave baby behind.  Earlier arrival also makes it more likely you will be able to claim the bulkhead bassinet seating, which is awarded on a first-baby-come, first-baby-served basis.

4. PRINT OUT YOUR TICKETS


E-tickets work fine when you’re traveling alone.  But when you are traveling with a baby on your lap, always bring a printed-out copy of your ticket to avoid confusion at the airport.  Viewing the printed ticket before arriving at the airport also gives you the chance to make sure that all of the information on the ticket is correct, information that may be too late to change once at the airport.  (A note from personal experience -- pay particular attention to how your little one's name appears on the ticket, making sure that it is identical to the name as it appears on her passport).

5. BRING YOUR BABY CARRIER



In the United States, you can bring your child to the gate in her stroller and then have the stroller delivered back to you as you disembark the plane.  Abroad, you can also check the stroller at the gate but the stroller is then checked and returned to you on the baggage carousel with the rest of your bags.  So if you don’t have a carrier with you, upon landing in your new international destination you will have to manage an unrestrained, groggy toddler through an international airport, customs, and baggage claim. So unless your stroller is small enough to actually put in the overhead compartment, always bring your carrier on board to help when you arrive at your destination.