FATWorld 9th Destination: Rving across USA & Canada…and Another Dream Come True

In December 1997, I wrote from Gulu, Uganda (while I was still working for the International Committee of the Red Cross)  to a friend, that we should take a year off  in 1998, buy an RV and cross the USofA and Canada while training for triathlon. In the end, it did not happen. I left alone for a year in South East Asia and he joined me for a month in Bali. 13 years later: Another Dream Comes True. I am riding a time trial down the US255 direction the Great Sand Dunes Nat. Park in Colorado and Isabel is driving ahead with the RV!

This cruise with the RV is the last episode of our trip around the world. It takes us from Denver, CO  to Vancouver BC, via New Mexico, Arizona, South Utah, Wyoming, Montana & Washington.

We are all excited and fear this episode with the RV. On one hand it gives us unmatched flexibility and children have always the same home where ever we are. On the other hand, although we have rented a 10 meter long rig with slide-out, it still is nothing more than a sophisticated shoebox.

After 10 days riding this monster, we have learned the following: RVing is a great way to understand what we, as a family, consume daily in terms of Propane for heating, Gas for cooking & Driving and Water for Washing (all kind) and Dumping (all kind). RVing is a great way to build a hands-on knowledge of sewage and waste management. (A small note here on waste management; there is one thing you do not want: a leaking sewage hose…Well, I have now that one sorted). RVing is also a great way to keep things tidy at their right place. RVing is therefore great, right? Well, it is great as long as all those things do not start to go on your nerves.

Our first joint crisis comes after 8 days. Shoebox Fever! Very, very luckily we make contact at the same time with a wonderful French-European-American family in Taos. Their boundless hospitality and generosity gives us a unique opportunity to breathe outside the RV and discover the “Not-For-Tourists-Taos”.

So far so good. we have now crossed the cold, snowy but utterly beautiful Colorado and its famous Rockies and are relaxing in “springful” Taos, New Mexico. So far, so good…

Introducing Ramona – Our New Travelling Family Member

Yes, we have a new travelling family member! and this since April 4th, when she landed to join us in Kauai, Hawaii. We love our kids so much that we do not want them to have us around 24/7 . So, for the last three months of our travel we have decided to have a new member to break the “square relationship” and built a more creative “pentagon relationship”. And we struck super lucky. Ramona is on one hand a friend-of-the-daughter-of-my-second-cousin-in-law, on the other hand a down to earth, no-nonsense, Reto-Romanic, first of six pearl. Ramona is also Ski Teacher in St-Moritz and a free soul the rest of the year. Manon, Zoé and we are so fond of her and very happy to have found such a good travelling companion. Ramona, Welcome to our FATWorld*.

*Family Around the World

Mahi Nani’s Farm – Anahola Kaua’i – Our Home Away From Home

We spent the first 2.5 weeks in a vacation rental at the end of the road on the North Shores of Kauai: Wainiha. It rained 18 out of 19 days. I will therefore not spent too much effort describing the toilet-bowl-with-continuous-flushing in which we lived.

Fortunately, we had booked a pavilion on a farm in the community of Anahola, a large indigenous homestead. We immediately liked it. The back is “protected” (in the Feng Shui lingo 🙂 by a nice row of exotic fruit trees (lemon, grapefruit). There is a large well-maintained open garden in the front with two giant palm trees. Further away the ocean. The house itself is a traditional but artsy Hawaiian home. The kitchen is well designed and we feel immediately like doing some creative cooking. The vibes of the living room are very good and calming.

There are many things to see on Kaua’i but we felt so well that we often prefer to spend the day at home. One of the favorite morning activities is to go pick some ripe juicy pink grapefruit and do about 2 liters of juice for breakfast.Another activity is to go in the garden and play with the hose. Manon and Zoé often spend the morning with Ramona (our new travel companion, new post coming up) doing handcrafts. They also put their running shoes on a go for a short jog with me around the property. But the biggest highlight is preparing and celebrating Easter!

Instead of going out, we invite sometime a friends of ours for a good dinner and some late night chat in the living room.

And there is Sissy, the owner’s dog. A very affectionate sheep dog that would play with kids and come to me regularly to check, if I have some left overs to give.

We spend 3 weeks in the quiet haven and it is very difficult to leave it behind us. Here some impressions of our stay there. I highly recommend this place for every one who wants to get away from the commercial side of Hawaii and its vacation condos.

FATWorld Destination No 7: The Arrival in Peaceful Wanaka – South Island – New Zealand

It is January 16th, 0400 AM. A bus picks us up from Noosa direction Brisbane Airport and from there a plane from Air New Zealand takes us directly to Queenstown, New Zealand. I step out of the plane and I have a 30 years flashback. The air, the light is something I can remember from my childhood in the Alps of Switzerland. It is so clear, so pure, so crisp and so clean. The colour of the sky, here in Queenstown is just bright blue, no trace of pollution, no veil. Just the sky. I talk to Isabel, she fully agrees, this takes us back to a time, when Europe did not have so many people, so many cars, so much industry. It takes us not only back to the past but also to a world of candour & innocence. It is love at first sight.

From Queenstown, we drive 75km with our rental car (so much about absence of CO2) to Wanaka. It is all very scenic and the arrival to Wanaka is breathtaking. In the front a peaceful little town build at the South End of an incredibly pristine clear lake. In the back lays the rugged mountains and the Aspiring National Park with its glacier.  Our accommodation, just a few minutes’ walk from the lake, is an old settler style wooden house. It has a lovely garden with a pear tree and a VERY old barbeque (I nearly burned down the house when I used it for the first time).

All is peaceful and I mean as much what surrounds us as ourselves. Isabel and I agree that this first week in Wanaka has been the best as far as family is concerned since our departures. I could write pages about all we did to get to this point (but the blog remains something accessible to the public), so I will just say that Wanaka is a place where we have come to peace and enjoy our kids at their best.

FATWorld – 5th Destination or Splurging in Singapore

Why Singapore? Simply because there is no Star Alliance flight that goes directly to Brisbane…or, more honestly, because we wanted to splurge for a few hours after 2 months of good but rather basic lifestyle in Bali. We had seriously put our feet down on shopping bonanzas and other consumerism instincts and we now had to let the dogs out! We check into a Hilton Club Suite and a Paul Smith shirt + a pair of Bose travel-loudspeakers later we go to the lounge to taste some sparkly fluids plus a ton of raw fish delicacies. Yessss!!! one would say…but no…this would have been too easy… Daughter No1 and No2 decide to have one of the most miserable day since the beginning of the trip. So what was meant to be a recovery in luxury ended in a crisis meeting to see how we could limit damage. After deliberation, we nonetheless decide to go out at night with our two little terrorists (to try) to enjoy the Christmas feeling on Orchard Road. It is not as kitsch as Hong Kong…quite tasteful actually (just the 150 Decibel Xmas-progressive house DJ in front of the Wheelock Mall is rather unsettling). We enter the Takashimaya Shopping Centre and suddenly stand in front of the biggest Xmas tree we have ever seen. Perfect opportunity to take a family pic. We ask One Professional-Looking-Nikon-Holding-Tourist to frame us in front of this monster and we are not disappointed. The gentleman takes a real pleasure to make pictures of a European family.

We spend a good night in those gorgeous beds and feel ready for another round of Xmas shopping and hair-dressing in Singapore. The result is all too foreseeable. A Madame Visa in terrible mood, but Alain’s eyes are gleaming in front of his new gadgets and Isabel is looking awesome after a 3 hour hair cut and treatment.

We leave early to the airport. It is, the only airport where I want to check in at least 4-5 hours before departure. And we did well to plan an early check-in. At the baggage check-in, we are first told that we should have applied for Visas for Australia :-(….but Singapore is up to its reputation. 20 minutes and few desks later, the entire family has got nice shiny visas. We did well to plan an early check-in, because we found a great bouncing castle and kids jumped around FOREVER (which made them sleep so deeply for the entire trip to Brisbane – thank you Shangi Airport, thank you bouncing castle!). We did well to plan an early check-in, because it gave is a last opportunity to stuff our carry-on luggage with some last-minute “great” x-mas deals for the entire family including two super flashy pair of Flip-Crocs or Crocs-Flops. In the end, Singapore remains for us the World Shopping Capital of this world and we took shamelessly advantage of it til stepping in the plane.

Goodbye Pelangi School…Goodbye Bali

On of the best decisions we made in Bali for us and for our children was to put them in School. Pelangi School turned out to be the greatest educational institute we have seen so far; holistic, bilingual, non-dogmatic, fantastic!  Manon & Zoé made some friends and through them we built a good network of friends. Saturday, December 12th was the grand opening of the first playground in Ubud. A great opportunity to see for a last time all children and parents before leaving for Singapore and then Brisbane, Queensland – Australia. A Playground Opening may not sound very appealing, but again, this is Bali, this is Ubud, this is Pelangi School and you know it is going to be something special and it was.

Local bands came playing, There were so many activities, kids did not know what to starts with. Face painting, school shows, Marimba ensemble and dance, pedagogic drumming class and of course all the slides a playground has to offer.

When time came to say good-bye, we realised that we were leaving something really big behind. It was difficult to realise that 2 months in Ubud was coming to an end. A big thank you to all teachers, goodbye Pelangi School…Goodbye Bali, we will miss many parts of it.

Spending a Long Week-End on Lembongan Island, Indonesia

Thanks to Manon & Zoé and our Yoga classes, we started to build an interesting network of people in Bali. We were invited this week-end to participate to a trip to Lembongan. Most of the participants had kids the same age as Manon & Zoé and most of them are Westerners living in Bali. After a taxi ride down to Sanur from Ubud and from Sanur an outrigger boat ride to the Island, we arrive at Mainski, a small surfer’s place with reasonably priced accommodation. Its has an infinity pool facing the beach and the sea. The kids, of course, do not admire the infinity part of it and just jump in together. That will become the main playground for the week-end. We get to know all the people gathered for this week-end and realise that most of them have their kids studying at the famous “Green School” of Bali. It is a sustainable project that aims to prepare the new generation for a greener world in 2025. It is quite fascinating to talk to those people coming from very different background but bound by a same project. All have a very refreshing mindset. Isa and I have decidedto pay a visit now to this school to meet the people again but also to build our own idea about this school.

Anyway, the week-end was of course not only about sharing expat experience. We discover the island on motorbikes, we went swimming and snorkeling and some ride perfect waves breaking in front of the hotel. We discover a beautiful lounge at a secluded beach with mangroves as well as other restaurant the served great food (Linda’s Place), which we never expected on such an island. Overall, probably the best week-end we had on Bali so far.