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Welcome!

Our lives are definitely not perfect. Like everyone else, we all go through good times, and bad times. We just choose to appreciate the positives, so we can live our lives the way we want to….happy!

We are Martina (aka Sheila or Maya…long story) and David, a happily married couple in our late 40’s, who are just about ready to take an extended leave from our long term professional careers so we can be dog sitters and travel throughout Australia for the next five months!

Follow us as we plan and embark on our new adventure!

The Cruising Lifestyle

Beautiful destinations, live entertainment, private accommodations, great people, drinks, activities,and all you can eat (if you can catch it!).  The perfect cruise?  It’s all new to us, but so far, we love it and think it could be something we’ll want to do in retirement….check it out!

Beautiful destinations! Something magical happens when you pick a serene spot on a creek and just throw your anchor over for the night….

Live entertainment! Migrating geese, pelicans gliding, fish breaking, dolphins dancing….never the same performance!
Private accommodations! We have a cabin and a salon with 6ft benches all to ourselves, but on a nite like tonite, why not sleep on the bow of the boat?
Great people! Waking up to a beautiful sunrise and the sound of a local workboat….a local waterman and his son working their crab pots before school.

 
Drinks….and we didn’t even have to sneak these in like we had to do on Carnival or other cruise ships!
Activities! Kayaking, swimming, yoga…yup, that’s a tree pose on the roof!
All you can eat buffet….if you are lucky enough to catch dinner. Otherwise, it might have to be canned food or something to cook from our cute little fridge!
 

If you have ever thought about the possibilities of just sailing away into the sunset, we encourage you to explore it further.  We wanted to learn more about the cruising lifestyle where people yacht or sail to different locations,  so we pack up MaryJo and headed three days north to Annapolis (she only goes six knots an hour).  In Annapolis we took a week long course at the Cruiser’s University.  We met people who have lived the dream and have sailed around the world alone, with their spouse, or even with their little kids!   Some had million dollar yachts, some had fancy trawlers, but some had little boats like our Mary Jo  and some, often the most inspiring ones, just had a small sailboat that didn’t cost much to buy and operate but had taken them to far away places.  We learned a lot in class, but spending 11 nites on the boat also made us realize that we still have a lot to learn.  Things like:

  • How do we set the anchor so we don’t end up waking every hour to see if we floated away? 
  •  How much clearance does our boat need to go under the bridge….and who do we call to have the bridge drawn?  
  • How do I dock the boat properly at a fuel dock without embarrassing myself?

We look forward to spending more time on Mary Jo next year, cruising around the bay, and possibly further south.  For now though, it’s time to winterize Mary Jo and head back to Australia and explore the west coast!

Our first month back!

Coming home after a 5 month journey, was a little busier than we expected, but glad to finally be able to sit down and write a blog!  Fortunately, we did not come home to a house with burst pipes, or a tree on the roof, or any of the other horrible things we worried about when we winterized our house back in early December.   The house was generally fine, except for evidence of rodents who must have broken in to the house and the car, seeking shelter from the cold.   Yikes!


Unfortunately, within our first couple of weeks back, we discovered some unexpected repairs that we have been dealing with since our return. Replacing the brakes for our Rav4, a needed repair to our Ford Ranger’s gas tank, a broken pressure washer, a faulty well pump, and  the most recent issue….a broken boat!


Real life, that was put on hold, now had to be handled…NOT fun! But that’s just part of owning a home, owning a car, or owning anything.  Things break, and they either need to be replaced or repaired.  When we lived out of 2 suitcases and 2 backpacks for 5 months, we didn’t have to worry about maintenance or repairs as much.  Just basic lawn or car care when we were house sitting, but otherwise, the minimalist lifestyle required by extended travel just meant there was not much to break!

Yup, life isn’t perfect, but in the midst of it all, we’ve managed to also find time to do things that make us happy.

Yoga!
A weekend long yoga retreat – a fund raiser to send low income kids to camp this summer!
It rained everyday for our first two weeks back, but t didnt stop us from camping! (This was NOT the $7 tent that we got in Kmart in Australia by the way!)
Also went on a bike ride in Williamsburg…yup…thats the tropical storm ….never knew how much fun it was to ride in a downpour until this day!
Too wet to mow the grass and trim the bushes, so why not enjoy some kabobs on the chiminea!
Haven’t had a chance to buy fireball, so settled fo for Azul (a special bottle from our last trip to Mexico)
Spent the night at National Harbor, just outside DC
View from our FREE hotel room….marriott credit card gives you a certficate each year to stay at one of their hotels…nice!
Enjoying real sushi (Australian sushi were mostly cooked seafood wrapped in nori). Thanks to Groupon, we had an all you can eat sushi and hibachi for about $10 each!
Fresh Louisianna crawfish for $3 a pound!
Being retired also means David has to try my culinary inventions….Rocket and green curry pesto and shrimp flatbread
Greek fritata
And yes, being back in the spring home means soft shell crabs are here!

Since we’ve been back, we’ve also had a chance to catch up with some or our friends and family.  Spending time with them at a graduation party, lunch, a beer festival, or even just a quick hello, made us feel so welcomed.  Reconnecting was so natural, making it seem like we never left.  But yet, it also made us realize how much we missed them.

We are looking forward to enjoying the summer working on some projects, spending time with friends and family, and enjoying our local area.

As you can see, daily life can easily consume your time, energy and outlook in life.  There is only so much time in a day, but only you can decide how to spend it.  Clearly, you don’t have to travel to Australia, or the Philippines to do things you enjoy….what are your plans this summer to live a happy life?

Our current project…repainting our 13 ft 1964 Boston Whaler Classic. (Wanna come over and help this summer?)

Meet Lucie!

It’s been 3 weeks since we got back to Australia, and just now able to update our blog because we have been very busy hanging out with Lucie!   We decided to house sit here in Eynesbury, a new golf course subdivision about 45 minutes north-west of Melbourne, mainly because we thought it would be really cool to dog-sit a boxer.  Her parents are on their honeymoon in Europe and needed someone to stay with her.  We’ve  been with Lucie for 2 weeks now and I think we are in love!

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Lucie, a 2 1/2 year old boxer, sleeping on our bed in the guestroom of a cute 4 bedroom home in Eynesbury, Victoria. (Don’t worry…we wont get in trouble….Lucie is allowed on the furniture!)
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Lucie and David playing ball at Altona Beach. We have taken her to this famous dog beach in Melbourne twice each week . She LOVES the beach!
 

Lucie is very easy to take care of.  Aside from her daily walks in the neighborhood, or morning  play, hunting for rabbits at the park across the street, she doesn’t expect much.  

Daily walk in the neighborhood. Lucie didnt like the rain much but was ready for fun as soon as she saw a rabbit!

We try very hard not to spoil her, so we try to do things without her, like scuba diving or biking or going to a food and wine festival without her.  But, if we go to see the sights where dogs are welcome, why not bring her along as our tour guide?  Here are some pictures of where Lucie’s taken us over the past two weeks….

The Great Ocean Road is one of Victoria’s famous attractions. Point Addis is a beach located about 45 minutes away.
  

Southside beach is another beach on the Great Ocean Road. David and I decided it was too cold to truly experience what this beach had to offer. Lucie, however, was fine in the nude!
Enjoying the empty nude beach !

 

Happy to be relaxing after a difficult hike at Lerderberger State Forest. Notice how David had to hang on tight….Lucie is not afraid of heights!
 
 
The Tunnel…a rewarding sight after a hike from O’Briens Crossing. A steep 6 km round trip hike.
  
Have you heard of the famous Bells Beach? (hint….rent Point Break!)
  

Lucie was a little too hot hiking up to the top of You Yangs State Park, but she was a trooper!
 
Red Rock beach is part of a rewarding hike along the Great Ocean Road.  Dogs aren’t really allowed off-leashe, but with no one else in sight, we figured Lucie deserved a little swim after a 9km hike.

   

Red Rock cliff, just above Red Rock beach.
  

 

Nice hike on a dry river bed….although Lucie would have enjoyed it much better if she could swim!
Asleep by 7pm on the couch after a long day at the beach! Even a tourguide needs a rest!
 
   

We’ll be with Lucie for a few more weeks and have a few things planned, so if you’d like to hear more about Lucie future blogs, let us know!

Enjoying The Journey

Unlike a typical two week vacation, travelling for 5 months allows us to go to multiple destinations and not have to worry about how to get to each one in the shortest or fastest way.  In fact, we chose a cheaper round trip flight from Australia that has an 18 hour lay over in Singapore.  Saving money is a huge plus, but this way, we can see some of the best sights of the city and then have dinner with a cousin I haven’t seen in years!

When we first landed on the island of Cebu (after a flight from Sydney to Singapore to Manila), we had to get to Maya Port to hop on a boat to Malapascua, our first paradise destination.   We took a private car and driver, organized by our resort, for a 5 hour ride.  We paid $50 each to ride a new, air conditioned SUV, up the coast of Cebu Island.

 

We paid $50 for a 5 hour ride on a comfy SUV. Roberto, our driver, drove 5 hours to take us, and another 5 to get home. He earned 250 pesos for his 10 hours. He has 3 kids, including one in college, studying Human Resources at a local public university.

As we drove further from the city, the beautiful ocean, just 100 ft away, lined with roadside houses and shacks slowly moved further as the road turned more inland, giving way to beautiful farmland of coconuts, bananas and sugarcane.  We sat comfortably in the car, wondering what life was like out there…..

But that was a month ago.  For the past few weeks, we have chosen to avoid riding in cars altogether and opted for public transportation.  In the Philippines, that means buses, jeepnies, tricycles, habal habals, scooters, ferries, bankas and of course flip flops. We wanted to experience the way people lived in the Philippines…at least how they travelled, and maybe get a better glimpse of their lives.   Here are some highlights of what we learned on our journey….

1. Fishermen can no longer make a living due to poor fisheries (use of explosives to catch fish, legal up until recently, depleted most of the edible fisheries all over the country).   Those who are lucky, are able to find other jobs such as boatmen, taking tourists on bankas (a local bamboo outrigger) for island hopping, snorkeling, or scuba diving trips.

 

Traditional bankas come in various sizes…typical boatmen earn 150 to 200 pesos a day ($3 to $4) transporting tourists between islands.

The sweet job, for them, however, if you don’t mind living on a boat and only seeing your family once every 2 weeks, is to work on a large boat like Royo (click to see our Facebook post on the boat that took us around to 21 dive sites on 9 islands in 6 days).   Experienced crew make 50 pesos per passenger (max of 12) per day on the water ($1 per person, max of $12 dollars a day).  ($3-4 a day when at the home port)

2. Helicopter parents don’t exist on 19 of 21 islands we visited (don’t worry, obsessed parenting is alive and well in Manilla and Cebu city). Neither do play dates.  Kids play wherever and whenever they can.   For some kids, it meant finding time to play  even though you’re only 10 and responsible for babysitting your 6 month old sister wth the help of your six year old friend.  For others,  like a 7 year old tasked to sell gasoline to help the family make a living, it meant happily singing to pass time while waiting for the next customer to drive by.  The kids we meet all seemed happy, healthy, respectful and shy, at least at first.  Once you stopped to talk a little their cheerful and play personalities really shined through.

https://www.facebook.com/davidnsheila.mcandrew/videos/1092635790760559/

3. Who knew you can find the best coconut pie on a bus!  Vendors hop on at one end of the town and hop off on the other, selling water, local bread and if you’re lucky to be on the right bus, the best coconut pie, ever!

 

Pretty neat selfie reflecting from a glass door at one of the stops the bus made. the guy standing in the bus is one of the vendors who just hopped on.

4. The local families living near a cave, now a popular tourist destination on the island of Siquijor, make a living by nominating one family member to be trained and work as a cave guide.  Entrance to the cave is controlled by the Barangay (town).  During peak tourist season, each guide will be assigned two days during the week for an opportunity to guide and make 200 pesos ($4) a day.  The can be a big bonus to the home espesecially if they can get a tip after the trip.

 

Yup, that’s me walking in a dark cave with a foot to two and a half feet of water! it was a great experience climbing into a dark hole and over slimy rocks for an hour , but I’ll go scuba diving next time David wants to go caving instead! I had adream that night that one of those blueish things came to life and ran after me!

5.  Bilingual teens have the opportunity to also work in the hospitality industry.  One 18 year old food server told us she was saving up her money to help her family build an outhouse near their home….most people in their town share a common toilet down the street from her home and take showers at a local spring.

6.  Saying hello to complete strangers when driving by on a jeep or a motor bike can truly make someone’s day.   David and I waved, or said hello to a lot of people from busses, jeep, tricycles and a motorbike.   The smiles that the people had when we said hello were unforgettable!  However if you happen to be passing through a small  barangay while school is letting out be prepared to slow down an say hello to every kid as they wave and smile and try to practice their English. 

 

Jeeps like these are common ways people traveled between towns. These are cheaper than buses (14 pesos…about 25 cents) but often can get crowded (during rush hour, you can see people riding on roofs!)

7.  Trying something new can be intimidating.  To get to Twin Lakes, two lakes on top of an old volcano, you either had to drive a car or a jeep, or as the Internet recommended, hire a habal habal (a motorcycle driven by a complete stranger!). Fortunately, the passengers on this jeep were very friendly and helpful and gave us the advice we needed “Better to take a jeepney up the mountain when it’s raining”  We decided to stay on the jeep!

 

Motorcycles are the most common means of transport for most families who can afford it. Kids learn to ride as passengers even before they can walk!

8. Planes and private cars get you there quickly but to really experience an area, you need to make yourself available, talk with, and experience the people.  Slow down and enjoy the journey to destinations.  If you have spent time on a tricycle, jeepney or bus you really travelled in the Phillipines.   

9. You don’t need 5 months to appreciate the journey.  Its pausing to notice your surroundings, taking time to get to know the people around you that you wouldn’t normally talk to, or even just a moment to say hello to someone who isn’t expecting it.

10. No matter who you are, we are all on the same journey to the same destination….take the time to get to know someone!

 

6 days on this boat with complete strangers on a journey to the same destination….some never finished grade school, others with doctorate degrees…..some made less than $5 a day, some made millions! We have made a memorable journey together and if we are lucky, we’ll keep in touch for the rest of our lives!

Please comment to share how you are enjoying your life’s journey!

Life on Malapascua Island

We got to the Philippines about 10 days ago and have spent 7 days on a small island just north of Cebu island.   Malapascua doesn’t have roads (so no cars), no doctors, and no shopping malls.   It is known around the world, however, for its scuba diving, specifically, to see Thresher Sharks!  

Usually living deep underwater (600 ft or deeper), this guy swam right over David’s head at around 65 ft. we went to their cleaning station, where threshers frequent to have wrasses (little fish) clean off unwanted growth from their scales. David had to hold his breath to not scare the shark away with his bubbles to take this picture!

Aside from the beach side resorts, restaurants and scuba diving operations, the only source of income for the locals was fishing, using dynamite.  As a result, edible fish are now extremely rare in the Philippines, putting most fishermen out of work.  Although some locals are now working to support the large diving industry, many still live in shacks or native huts without running water or a toilet!

A 10 year old daughter of a local fisherman, charged to watch her baby sister at the nearby beach on a Sunday, while her parents work.
 
Initially sitting on the sandy path in front of a beachside resort, these kids begged for money. After noticing we were carrying our ipads, they quickly became our friends and were more interested in seeing our pictures . Apple shareholders….hang on! The little girl in this picture never lived in a house with a toilet, but she knew exactly how to use the ipad!
 

So aside from sharks (now protected from fishermen), what else do crazy scuba divers like us see under water?  A LOT!   There is actually a lot of communities with marine life that are somewhat similar to humans….

THEY LIKE TO BLEND IN…everyone wants to fit in somewhere, right?  Here are a few…ready for an eye test?

 

Can you see the crab?
  
Can you see the fish? (other than the tiny one that i couldnt figure out how to crop!)
 

THEY WANT TO STAND OUT….even marine life need a little style…..

 

Do you see the crab with all its pretty coral on his back?
  
………. “We were born with it” , says the romantic Harlequin Shrimp
 

THEY HAVE SEX! …..Yup, figured that would get your attention!

………………… ….Nudi-sex! Nudibranches mating …who’s on top?

They are dangerous! ….

 

Yup, Nemo attacks! They will fend off a scuba diver if one gets too close to their home….one even bit a diver on his forehead above is mask!
 

Fortunately, we were warned in advance about Nemo and made it back topside, to see yet another beautiful sunset on the island of Malapascua!

   

So if you saw the crab or the fish, let us know by adding a comment below.  What was your favorite picture?  We have a ton of other pictures but with slow internet and no teenagers to show us how to quickly download / upload go pro videos, it’s taking us awhile….but let us know what you find interesting so we can upload more next time!   Thanks for reading our blog!  Be sure to follow us to get updates and share with others who might have an interest!

Good Bye to Kai. 

Well we recently took our three new furry friends (Cesska, Bridie, and Kai) on our last sunset walk.  The next day would be all about cleaning the house and car and making our home of the past 5 weeks ready for our host’s return.   So while there were sheets to be washed and bathrooms to be cleaned, this was time was set aside to enjoy the sea air, relax and be “with” the dogs. The next day we were both a bit sad to be leaving the dogs (Martina cried a little as  I pretended not to notice) but at the same time we realized how blessed we are to have been able to have this magnificent experience.

 

Good Times, Kai is in the middle.

 

 

One final sunset walk

 

Imagine 5 weeks in a beautiful water view home on Austrailia’s Central Coast surrounded by beautiful beaches, lots of national parks full of hiking trails and crazy plants and animals and endless other things to do.   To top it off we got to spend time each day with three great dogs.   The craziest part is the whole thing was free!

 

Who needs a stairmaster!

 

 

Pinch Me!

 

This is January?

We did it.  We pulled it off.  No dogs were harmed in the making of this adventure, no cars were crashed and nobody’s house burned down.  I think I even lost a few pounds.

On Saturday we will complete our course at the Gosford Sailing Club  http://gosfordsailingclub.com and say goodbye to some cherished new friends and on Sunday our time on the Central Coast will come to an end.   So while we wish we could stay longer, we now know this was the right path for us, to have ventured to the land down under and look after Kai. Our lives have been forever changed for the better.  This is why we we travel.

So goodbye to my little mate Kai, I will miss you.  May your bowl always be full and your walks long and smelly.  I hope someday we meet again.

Our Aussie Lifestyle – The Central Coast

It’s been two weeks since we arrived in Saratoga, NSW and we are happy to report that we are settling in very well.   We are scheduled to dog sit until January 12th for a very nice family, staying in their 4 bedroom house, located in the heart of Australia’s Central Coast.

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We have gotten into our routine of getting up early to let the dogs out, making our cappuccino and having our ‘brekkie’ (papaya, banana, granola and honey) on the deck overlooking Brisbane Waters, before taking the dogs for their morning walk.

Cockatoos, Cuckabarrows and Rainbow Lorrakeets are common birds we hear and see when we have our morning coffee

 

Our hosts were very helpful, showing us around the many beaches (at least a dozen within 20 minutes drive!) and teaching David how to drive on the left side of the road using a car with a driver’s seat on the right!

David learning to drive a Ford that uses propane gas and reverse controls (note how clean the windsheild is from all the turn signals David attempted at roundabouts!)

 

Since I’m too chicken to even try to drive here in Australia, we are taking advantage of using public transportation whenever we can.   With the great train, bus and ferry service, along with neat cycle ways in the area, we decided to purchase ‘push bikes’ and take bike rides whenever we can.

 

Great bikes from Reid Cycles in Sydney. Martina is still learning how to make right turns but very glad that Aussies take WIDE right turns!

 

Bike ride to the Saratoga Ferry includes some pretty big hills….but it also allows us to appreciate our neighbors on their morning walks.

 

The Entrance Beach, NSW….our destinationn last Friday…Bike to Saratoga Ferry to Woy Woy , train to Tuggerah, then a 14 km ride along Tuggerah Lake to The Entrance, NSW (about a 20 mile bike ride for the day!)

 

In addition to exploring the area on our bikes and visiting beaches, we have also had a chance to go scuba diving twice (The Skillion Cave and the EXHMS Adelaide) at Terrigal Beach,  20 minutes drive from where we are staying.  It’s not part of the Great Barrier Reef (that will be in April), but it’s our first time to dive in the Southern Hemisphere….and certainly the coldest dive I’ve done!

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Of course, when in Australia,  ‘bush walking’ is a must!   We have done 4 walks since we’ve been here, twice on the Great Coastal Walk (3 km down to Maitland Bay Beach and back up; and an 8km down and up and down again to Putty Beach, then back again), once on Kilkare Mountain, and yesterday, at nearby Sommersby Falls.

Maitland Bay, NSW – Putty Beach is just 2 ranges past the one you see here

 

 

Nearby Sommersby Falls, also within 20 minutes away

We also managed to join a local Yoga Studio.  We’ve done 4 classes so far.  It’s Hot Dynamic (Vinyasa), so don’t worry – we promise not to share (nor take) any pictures of us doing our sweaty poses!

We also joined the local Yacht Club, the Gosford Sailing Club. We signed up for sailing lessons and participate in Wednesday night and Saturday sailing races on Magic 25s. This week, during the club’s Christmas Race, I was on the main sail (for the first time), David was  on the jib and later the helm….thanks to our skipper and instructor, Brian #2, and our lucky mascot, Frosty, we won our very first race!

 

1st place winners of the Christmas race….with our MV mascot, Frosty!

Today was our first Christmas away from family and friends, but we have been fortunate to have met a lot of new friends here in Australia.   We also enjoyed celebrating Christmas in the summer, where the temperature is in the 70s and having Christmas dinner on the verandah.

 

Christmas with our new friends and neighbors…Christmas Crackers (where the crowns came from) is one of the British traditions adopted here in Australia.

 

We had a wonderful Christmas today, and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

 

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!

 

Australia!

We made it to Australia!

34 hours after we left our house, we arrived at 9 am in Sydney, Australia.  We decided it was best to stay awake until at least 8pm so we can quickly overcome jet lag.  We took a cab to our hotel, the Sydney Harbour B & B,  located in Sydney’s old town area, The Rocks.  The owners let us check in early to shower and off we went to do some sight seeing….

but first we had to have our morning coffee  (ok, fireball had to do!)…it must have been 5 o’clock somewhere!

….and some food.  How ’bout a nice juicy Aussie burger (bacon, lettuce, tomato, beets, cheese and kangaroo) and a nice pint at the local pub?

…..Cockatoos…the pigeons of New South Wales!  They are all over the place and not afraid of people!

But some people might find them a little too friendly!

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

Walking across the bridge is a must do, even after a LONG flight.   Our hotel was just a few blocks from the bridge, on the same side as the Opera House, so it made it a lot easier to be tourists on our first day.

The famous Sydney Opera House

It certainly has been a hectic few days preparing for our trip  – packing, winterizing the boats and the house (thankfully, my mom was there to help us!).  Seeing the Opera House, the iconic landmark as we walked across the bridge, made us realize that we were truly in Australia!