Luxury Items You Can't Travel Without

We were all kids once, so we know what it’s like to not be able to live without that special something. Some kids have blankies or teddy bears or dolls. Others had action figures or other little toys. I (Talia) had my little orange Tonka truck.

Thing is, though, that doesn’t stop when you get older. It just…changes. There are things that you can’t go without. When you travel, these things are usually considered luxury items, because honestly, you really don’t need that Tonka truck when traveling through Southeast Asia. 

Ricky and I allowed ourselves one luxury item each, and no, our USB video game controllers for playing Mario Kart on the computer don’t count. For my item, I brought a pillow, which has saved me many a time on trains and buses when I really needed to sleep.  Ricky’s luxury item is a fly swatter because, as I have mentioned before, he hates the creepy-crawlies.   We both use our items frequently and are very glad that we brought them.

For flies, mosquitoes, and pesky children.
While we were in Otres Beach in Cambodia, we got to chatting to some other travelers and asked them what some of their luxury items. Their responses were quite interesting.

A couple of the girls we met said that they brought a bit of makeup, or a hair dryer, but one girl brought a “3-step facial care system.” Yes, three bottles of creams and lotions that she used every day. To her credit, she did have lovely skin.

Because when you're trekking through the jungle, this is all a girl needs.
Another girl brought a travel pillow—not one of the blow-up ones, but the real, stuffed, good quality kind. She didn’t have any room in her backpack for it, so wherever she goes, the pillow goes along, tied to the outside of her pack.

This thing.
Guys were a bit different. A lot of them said they didn’t have any luxury items. One of them brought his own coozie (or beer condom or whatever it is that you call that foam thing that goes around a can to keep your drink cold).  

Another friend of ours carried around his own insulated 64 oz Big-Gulp mug.
Because this is what you really need when hiking in the Himalayas.

The point is, we all carry around things that we don’t need but that bring us that little bit of comfort when we’re away from home. So, what are some things that you can’t travel without? Or if you haven’t traveled yet, what do you think you would absolutely need to take with you? 

It's Teddy, isn't it?

6 Reasons Why Traveling as a Couple Really Sucks

A while back, I wrote a post explaining why traveling as a couple is a great thing. However, it’s not all roses and rainbows all the time. Sometimes it’s hard. Really hard. I’ve never done this kind of thing alone, so I can’t really say if it’s harder with a partner, but here’s my list of why it really sucks sometimes.

1. Making decisions.
Sometimes making decisions as a couple can be really hard, especially since practically every decision includes the both of you.  Where are we going to eat? You’ll have this discussion 2-3 times a day, and believe me, it gets old. Where are we going to stay in this town? This one’s not so hard, because you’ll probably have a budget you have to stick to, but if one of you doesn’t like the place, you may have to keep searching.
Now, making decisions can be hard if you both have the same kind of personality. For example, Ricky and I are both pretty laidback in some things. We usually end up saying “I don’t really care, whatever you want.” Neither of us has a preference as to where or what we eat, or what exactly to do that day, so we usually end up trying to pass the decision making on to the other person.

2. Lack of Alone Time
I don’t care how in love a couple are, or how attached at the hip and perfect for each other they may seem, everyone needs alone time, especially couples. It’s simply not healthy to spend ALL of your time together. However, when traveling, it’s sometimes hard to find alone time. You’re often in a city you don’t know or where it’s not safe to go wandering out alone. Sometimes you have a strict timeline in a city. Say you’re in a city for 3 days with x amount of sights to see. There’s simply no time for separate time, especially if you both want to see everything.
And no matter how much you love your partner, sometimes you just to punch their adorable face if you have to stare at it again over dinner.

3. Different Activity Preferences
This one isn’t so bad, because taking turns is a wonderful thing.  Compromise is a bit harder sometimes, but also good to learn.  Perhaps one of you prefers sports-type activities, like rock-climbing, kayaking, or hang-gliding. The other hates those things, but digs going to museums and art galleries. It’s a tricky situation, and there’s no easy answer except to talk it out and come to a conclusion that hopefully suits both of you.
Ricky's archenemy.
We have found those sorts of differences in our preferences as well.  I love hiking. I’ve done some wonderful hiking in Hawaii and in the taller mountains of Utah. I love it. Ricky, however, despises it.  Hiking is his hell, mostly because he believes anything that can’t be reached by motorbike is not worth seeing and he has an overwhelming disgust for anything with more than four legs.
 So we don’t hike. And I miss it a lot. Sometimes I think of all the cool hiking opportunities I’m missing because Ricky doesn’t like bugs.
On the other hand,  Ricky would like to go kayaking, but I have a strange fear of quickly moving water that is based around the time I fell out of a raft in some white water, got stuck under a rock, and when I was finally pulled out I was missing a shoe and a lot of blood.  So we don’t do kayaking either. In a way, no one wins. And that’s just how it is.

4. Different Energy Levels
I am a very low energy person.  After running around all day seeing temples and museums, I need to re-charge by having a little downtime. Ricky, on the other hand is high energy. He likes to get up and go and just keep going, a la Energizer Bunny. 
Ricky always did look good in sunglasses.

But I have a cuter smile.

Some days I can keep up and we get everything done by early evening. Other days I have a hard time and have to take a nap in the early afternoon. This frustrates Ricky sometimes because he doesn’t like to just lie around during the day. Sometimes this becomes a war of time management, because what would traveling with a significant other be without a little violence? (I’m just kidding here…we never resort to physical abuse. The verbal kind does us just fine.)

5. Minor Frustrations
Eating this will fill me with a murderous rage. 
It is not easy to be in a foreign country, a place where you don’t understand the language or the culture, a place where you don’t like the food, where you can’t sleep, etc. All these little things add up to a growing mound of frustration which you often take out on the person closest to you.  When the food is unexpectedly and unbearably spicy and you’re starving you get angry and start snapping at your partner and they wonder what they did wrong.  Or tuk-tuk drivers keep shouting at you and you shout back until you’re shouting at everyone, including your travel companion.   
This happens often, more often than I would like, on the parts of both me and Ricky. We get so frustrated sometimes that we think we’re frustrated at everyone, which is hurtful to the other person, because really, they didn’t do anything.

6. Dealing with weird habits, routines, and failings brought on by traveling
Whatever about living together, traveling together is a unique situation in which you are forced to see and deal with your partner’s nuanced style of living, which gets even weirder when outside of the “real world.”   One of you may be too organized to the point of OCD, and the other not quite organized enough. You stop shaving (face, legs, whatever), and refuse to wash your clothes.  Your partner’s once pristine sense of hygiene has fallen into disrepair. You yourself are finding that you can’t leave the room until each pocket has been patted down 3 times each to make sure you have your keys, wallet, iPod, and tissues.
Traveling changes you, and not always for the better. I have gained weight and started losing things (phones, earrings, keys). Luckily Ricky puts up with it, despite his travel-induced anger management issues.

You see, traveling is a weird thing that brings out the best and worst of everybody. And for better or worse, you have someone to share it all with if you decide to travel as a couple.  If you think I see traveling as a couple as a negative thing because of this post, please go back and read the first post about the wonders of travelingtogether, because despite all the frustrations, problems, disagreements, and misunderstandings that occur, you have to fight to make it work, and when you do, it’s amazing.

November trip update

Hey readers, it’s time for another trip update to tell you guys exactly what’s up.

So in the last few weeks we’ve visited some amazing sights around Cambodia including the killing fields, S21 (the school turned prison) and Angkor Wat. We decided we wouldn’t bore you to death in a blog about the temples of Angkor . Despite Angkor being an amazing sight to see, we didn’t feel it wouldn’t make a very interesting read so we decided to leave it out.

Since we left Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor we have been on a small beach near Sihanoukville on the south coast of Cambodia and thank god we found it! We were so frustrated and angry with Cambodia that we were ready to leave after just two weeks and then we found this amazing place.

It is a small beach where life is slow and easy and most importantly cheap!

Also very importantly, we have decided to not go to India, and I, personally, am very relieved. Shoving India into our already busy travel plans is just too much right now!

As of right now, as we relax on this beach and unwind until our movement recommences, our plans for the future are as follows:

·         Thailand for the Yi Peng festival and the national day.
·         Malaysia for Christmas
·         Vietnam in the new year for a motorbike tour
·         Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore Motorbike tour
·         Myanmar for a month

Thereafter we have to recollect and see what else we want to do or what else we can do with our remaining cash, with an luck we will still have time and cash to travel to another country or so!

If ANY  of our readers have any suggestions on what to do in any of these places or requests for anything you would like us to do please contact us and let us know. We NEED suggestions and requests on what to do!

The 10 Weirdest Creatures We've Eaten (So Far)

Traveling opens the door to so many new experiences. Meeting new people, getting to know new cultures and seeing amazing new places are among the wonders of traveling. One of my favorites, however, is tasting new foods. I love trying strange foods and will hardly ever shy away from new dishes. Ricky, too, is beginning to be a more adventurous eater. Here is a list of 10 of the strangest things we’ve eaten so far. Now just to clarify, we list 10 different creatures, not parts of them. We’ve had cow stomach and duck intestines, but duck and cow aren’t that strange. The following list contains 10 animals that the majority of you probably haven’t tried.


Yes, they taste the way they look.
10. Silkworm

I’ll start with the creepy-crawlies, because, well, they're the worst.. First is silkworm, a popular dish in China. I tried them twice. The first time was disgusting and I couldn’t actually swallow it. The outside of the worm was a sort of chewy/crunchy texture, and when I bit down on it, the goo from the inside flooded my mouth. It was absolutely vile. The flavor was rancid, the texture even worse. I spit it up into a napkin.
The second time was much better. The inside was cooked  better, so it had the texture of a firm tofu. The outside was
chewable, so I could actually swallow it. The flavor was much better than the first time as well. Still, though, silkworm is not a great food, at least for my tastes.

9. Scorpion  
Who decided eating this thing was a good idea?
The scorpions I had were tiny little things, with not much to them. They were cooked on skewers that were almost as big around as they were.  And that’s pretty much it. There wasn’t much flavor, or actual edible stuff. Just a crunchy little tid-bit.

8. Wasp
All I remember thinking as I was about to pop this crunchy morsel into my mouth was this: “It’s looking at me. It can see into my soul.”
I will devour your first born child, with all your hopes and dreams on the side.

And then I ate it, and it popped a little.

7. Grasshopper

By far the worst insect I’ve eaten. First, they were huge. Second, they still had legs.  It took me about 5 minutes to eat one because everything kept getting stuck everywhere. There were legs in my teeth and exoskeleton bits stuck to the back of my throat. It was probably one of the most disgusting eating experiences ever.
10 months later and I'm still finding bits in my teeth.

***Just to sum up my bug-eating: never again. I thought before I started traveling that I would be an insect-eater. The thought didn’t really gross me out, so I figured I’d be ok with it. But it’s one of those things that is cool once for the novelty, but after that it’s just gross.  Bugs are definitely not something I could make a meal out of. But maybe I just haven’t met the right one…***

6. Ostrich
So tall and regal...and tasty.
This is one of my favorites on this list. We were given it raw, and then we cooked it ourselves on a barbecue. Raw, it was red and looked a lot like beef. Cooked, it still retained that beef-like appearance. 
The flavor and texture were delicious. It was tender, and the taste was rich. The Japanese must have eaten this when they discovered umami. 

5. Yak
So, this may not be way out there, because it’s pretty much just a cow dressed as Tina Turner, but we're still guessing that not many of you have had the pleasure—nay! The privilege!—of eating yak.  It is the most divine meat I have ever eaten.

Wear it, eat it. It's multipurpose!

 I had a yak steak and a yak burger in China and I could almost hear a choir of angels singing aloud as I chewed each bite. It was oh-so tender, full of flavor, and seemed to melt in my mouth. Each mouthful was a taste of heaven, and I was close to tears when it was all gone.

4. Dog 
Shame on me for using this picture. 
Not one of my favorite meats, but Ricky will eat it any time he gets a chance, mostly because it means that we’re in a North Korean restaurant, and he has a fascination with North Korea.
We’ve had dog twice, and the second time was my favorite. The first time, it was sliced up, and looked like roast beef. It came with a tasty brown sauce and was served cold. The meat was tender and flavorful, but for me there was a strange sort of after-taste…a very doggy sort of after-taste.
The second time we had dog it was in a sort of stew with onions and peppers, served over rice. I really liked it this time.  It was so tender and flavorful, with less of the wet-dog after taste.
Fresh puppy stew.

3. Snake
Ever since I saw Crocodile Dundee, I have wanted to try snake.  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom changed my mind for a while, but I decided if the snake was dead, I’d have no qualms.
So when Ricky and I went to a barbecue joint, we decided  to get a little snake to throw on there. Honestly, it was quite good. I think it was pretty fatty, because it shrunk up a lot on the barbecue, and it was fairly chewy.  But with a dip in the right sauce it was quite enjoyable.

2. Frog Legs
Now, I’m from Texas, so I had tried frogs legs before, nice deep fried ones.  This was Ricky’s first time though, and enjoyed it well enough. The meat was a bit bland, but the texture was nice. It was sort of a mix between fish and chicken. I liked it very much and could definitely make a meal out of it.

1. Crocodile
Tasty tasty meat. Really. The flavor of the meat was delicious. It was a little chewy for my taste, but the flavor was just right. Ricky and I ate this right up.  As a bonus, the day before, we had visited the local crocodile farm, so we got to take a look at this succulent creature before it ended up on our plate.
The many inhabitants of the local croc farm.
To the right of the bowl, frog legs. At the 11 o'clock, crocodile.

Redemption in Cambodia: Finding Paradise

Our last couple of posts about Cambodia haven’t been the most positive of posts. I would apologize, but that’s exactly how we felt, so I won’t. But I will tell you about redemption.

See, we got so tired of being so close to the beach in Sihanoukville but unable to go because we didn’t want to face the hawkers and beggars.  Some friends that we had met before told us that they were staying at another beach that was much better. We didn’t have much to lose, so we took a tuk-tuk out there. Because really, all we wanted was a beach.

Well, we found it.

We checked into the guesthouse where our friends were, with more than just a little trepidation. The room was up a short flight of ladder-like stairs. Inside was a mattress on the floor, with a mosquito net over it. The floors and walls were thin wood and the thatched roof was right above us. 

Our lovely room. We've already started decorating: note the roll of toilet paper and empty water bottle.

  We changed straight into our swimwear and headed for the beach, which we still hadn’t really checked out yet.

We were greeted by perfection. The strand of beach was pristine with soft sand. The sky was blue and the water was a clear emerald green and amazingly warm.

We finally found what we were looking for.

The view from our window

So we swam a while, lounged a bit, ate some food (pricy, but good portions, so we can share a dish), swam again, chatted with some folks, had an oil massage on the beach, and lounged a bit more.  After dinner we watched the sun set over the water.  And all of this with a minimum of hawkers.

Beautiful sunset on the beach.

We have vowed never to leave this place. Well, at least for a few more days, until we have to leave the country. For now, we will spend our days lazing on the beach, jumping off boats into crystal clear water, and eating fresh fruit in the sun. 

I'm so happy!

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