Tag Archives adventure

Gap Year Kids go Off the Grid with NOLS

by Monday, September 26, 2016

Week one of the Winterline Global Skills program was their official orientation. It was designed for the kids to get to know each other better. They spent time in Denver, Colorado at Estes Park (aka the YMCA of the Rockies), attempting ropes courses, engaging in team building activities, problem solving, critical thinking and sharing personal stories.

thewanderlustyogi.net

Winterline orientation (Daniela, Michael, Noah, and Rochelle)

thewanderlustyogi.net

Leo on the ropes course!

thewanderlustyogi.net

Emily taking photos of Ana Paulina, while Chandler is throwing up deuces

thewanderlustyogi.net

Lilly, McKenzie, Chandler and Gabbi all in deep focus, while poor Susie needs a nap. (planning a Gap Year is hard work!)

This week was in preparation for their first big challenge at Winterline; an eight-day backpacking trek off the grid, and into the Rocky mountains of Wyoming.

But first, they needed to be trained by NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School).  They took a bus from Denver, Colorado to Lander, Wyoming, which was where the base camp of NOLS was located.  They spent a few days at the NOLS hotel for training.  They took very intensive classes on wilderness first aid training, leadership skills, outdoor skills, environmental studies and risk management.  Once they have passed their in-class tests, they were ready to put their new skills to use.

thewanderlustyogi.net

NOLS wilderness first aid training…not funny when you’re sent a snapchat of this with no explanation!

They broke the cohort into two groups of ten. Each group was equipped with NOLS issued tents, sleeping bags, a camp stove, food, and even a bear fence. Yikes! Each group also were accompanied by two, highly trained  NOLS instructors. What couldn’t fit in their, close to 50 lb. backpacks, (and also NOT allowed),  was their smart phones!

thewanderlustyogi.net

The two teams for the NOLS backpacking adventure. (my daughter Maddie is the little one at the bottom, center)

This meant zero contact with the outside world for eight days!

This second week would prove to be a challenge for the Gap Year Mom’s too, as we were at home worrying, and had no clue on how they were doing.  Thank goodness us Gap Year Mom’s have united and formed a chat group. This was a great idea from a mom from Columbia. She uses the app called Whats App to stay in contact with her daughter. I have used that app and Viber while traveling abroad.  They are both great apps to stay in contact with friends and family while traveling abroad, and what’s even better is that  they are FREE ( as long as you have a WiFi connection)!! We also have a private group on Facebook (created by Winterline) and all follow each other, our kids, and Winterline, on Instagram, snapchat and twitter.  The reason for us using the Whats App more is because some of us don’t have Facebook or other social media apps on our phones.  Many of us haven’t had any prior experience with social media at all. The gap year learning is extending onto the parents.  Gotta love social media! It really is a lifesaver through this!

thewanderlustyogi.net

food prepping for their 8 day NOLS expedition

thewanderlustyogi.net

Maddie and Michael (both from NH) all ready for their eight day backpacking expedition in the Rocky mountains

The first week for the Gap Year Mom’s was hard adjusting to our kid’s absence.  The second week was even harder, because they weren’t only gone, but we couldn’t talk to them either. It almost felt like they were in boot camp. And in a way, they were.  Each of us from our “Gap Year Mom chat group” checked in from time to time, seeing how we all were holding up. It was like a virtual lifeline for us when we started to worry. Even with our busy lives, working, doing our routine errands and the such, we always made time to pop in and check on each other.

thewanderlustyogi.net

camping food doesn’t look half bad…who knew?

thewanderlustyogi.net

Elise, Michael and Emily setting up camp

The Gap Year Moms had our share of ups and downs during this week. Every day was the countdown, ” eight more days”, “seven more days”, and so on…. When someone expressed a thought of worry in the group such as;

“What if they are freezing?”,

“What if they are homesick?”,

“What if they are scared?”,

“Do you think they came across wildlife?”,

“I hope they don’t get lost!”,

“What if they have a medical emergency?”,

to, you name it, (we thought of every possible scenario), the others would talk that mom down.  It’s like we took turns being the strong one, and the weak one.  Even though we couldn’t talk to our kids, to know what they were going through, it was nice to talk to other Gap Year Moms having these same concerns. Also it was nice knowing that we weren’t alone.

That eighth day came and we were all on the edge of our seats waiting to hear from the kids. We knew that they had to hike to the base camp, but didn’t know how long it would take. We were all on high alert, checking our phones in between patients, at our lunch breaks, during down time at work, or whatever else we were occupied with, each promising to immediately report when we’ve made contact with one of the adventurers.

 

thewanderlustyogi.net

We’re on top of the world! Wind River Wilderness, Pinedale, WY (elevation 12,500 ft. )

They made it!!

Each of us got a call, some sooner than others, but we were all so relieved to hear their happy voices.  I was afraid that my daughter might be complaining about how hard it was and how much she hated it, but no, it was just the opposite! She was breathless while excitedly speaking about how amazing and life-changing her experience was.  She said it was one of the most challenging things she has ever done, but felt so accomplished for sticking it out and completing it. She spoke of the extreme mountain hiking, totaling forty miles, with elevations reaching 12,000 ft. and up, the beauty of the Rockies, the cooking shifts,  setting up camp, scaling the Continental Divide, some cold and wet nights, not showering, the bathroom situation and how exhausted and sore she was, but most importantly, having a feeling of self-satisfaction and an increase in her self confidence.

I was so happy and so impressed that my little 90 lb. daughter was a bona-fide BAD ASS!

thewanderlustyogi.net

My little backpacker!

thewanderlustyogi.net

The campers keeping each other warm.

The Gap Year Moms chat group was buzzing with awesome stories of their happy campers. So many of the kids shared the same sentiment, that it was so hard, but life-changing.  They were not only challenged physically but also mentally and emotionally.  Some kids even lost some weight, which they had made as a personal goal for this year.  There were tears of happiness shared by all the moms and a good night’s sleep to be had that night. Winterline is already impacting us all in so many positive ways and we are only two weeks in!

thewanderlustyogi.net

taking in nature’s beauty

thewanderlustyogi.net

Emily, Michael and Maddie taking it all in!

This week solidified my decision to let my daughter go on a gap year. As many of us in the Gap Year Mom group have confessed, we at times, doubted ourselves if it was a right choice.  Not because we didn’t know what an amazing, life changing experience we were giving our kids, (we all knew that) but because of the naysayers in our lives that don’t understand what a gap year can do for young adults.

I hope that by sharing these stories of my daughter’s gap year, it can help enlighten others to be open to the idea of how awesome this can be for kids transitioning from high school to college.  We aren’t saying that college isn’t important. We all agree that it is.  It’s just that, we recognize, that learning through life experience while being fully immersed in hands-on education, instead of only in a classroom setting, can be even more beneficial. To be able to first begin with a gap year traveling the world, in ten different countries, learning one hundred new skills and becoming more independent, and then going into to college the following year, we believe, it will only make them that much more prepared for college and adult life.

This journey has already proven to be reaping so many benefits in its first twenty days for our kids. Winterline has impressed me from day one and has continued to throughout this entire process, thus far. I can only imagine how transformational this will be for them in nine months! What I wasn’t aware of was the friendships and journey the Gap Year Moms are going through together is just as transformational for us.

thewanderlustyogi.net

After 8 days without a shower. She has dreadlocks!

thewanderlustyogi.net

They Passed! On their return from the wilderness, they all received their diploma of completion through NOLS

Next stop, Costa Rica!!…..PURA VIDA!

 

 

 

 

Sleeping in a Capsule Hotel for one Night: My Out-of-this-World Experience!

by Monday, May 9, 2016

You might be thinking? “How did you end up sleeping in a capsule hotel for one night?” I know. Crazy! It was really simple actually. My daughter and I were traveling on EVA Air (aka the Hello Kitty airline), which is a Taiwan based airline, and we had a 21 hour layover in Taipei on our way to Bali, Indonesia. We wanted to figure out an easy and cheap way to get a little rest, instead of waiting it out in the airport! That would have been horrible, especially having a 15 hour flight to JFK-New York City, once we got to leave Taipei. Ugh!thewanderlustyogi.net
I started to look for a discounted hotel around the airport by using my usual goto sites, like www.kayak.com, www.booking.com and www.agoda.com.  While browsing, I came upon this hotel called, Hey Bear Capsule Hotel. It first caught my eye because of it’s funny child-like name and theme of Teddy bears and other animated animals.  What is it about Taiwan, that everything is cartoony; Hello Kitty airlines, Teddy bear hotels?  Its so funny!  Then, the term “capsule” was something I didn’t quite understand. So, because of my curiosity, I clicked on it.
I started perusing the hotel information and reviews. It appeared to be a hostel type hotel, but the unusual part was it had individual sleep capsules for each guest to sleep in. The reviews were “excellent”, scoring a 9.0  out of 10 and the pictures made me scream with laughter!
As I laid on my hotel bed of our last night in Bali,  searching on my iPhone for a perfect place to stay the next evening, I yelled to my daughter, “I think I found where we are staying tomorrow night in Taipei?” She said, “Okay, where? Is it near the night market?” As I answered, I couldn’t help, but giggle the whole time. ” What do you think about staying in a capsule hotel? We each will get our very own pod or coffin, ha ha ha, and, we not only will have a totally unique hotel stay, but its right near a night market! Do you want me to book it??” My daughter squealed, “YES!!! This is going to be so cool!” So, for $26.00/ per capsule, I booked it!
The next day we took our 5 hour flight from Bali, Indonesia to Taipei, Taiwan. As we prepared for landing, it suddenly occurred to me that we are sleeping in a capsule hotel! This thought made me feel excited and giddy,  but also a little nervous. Not that I was scared to stay at the hotel, but I wondered if I would feel claustrophobic or not like it? In any case, we were only staying one night. I mean, it couldn’t be that bad? It’s a hell of a lot better than sleeping on an airport floor. Been there. Done that. The worst!
Now, I really knew nothing about Taipei. It was never on my list for a place to visit. On a quick overview of the city, I realized that of everything this city has to offer and with our short amount of time we had there, we had to at least;

  1. Go to a night market.

  2. Eat dumplings.

If I did those two things on our quick little layover, I would feel accomplished on my visit.

TAIPEI, TAIWAN:
We got through customs in no time and stepped outside into the taxi line. We noticed that we were not only, the only non-Taiwanese for miles around, but we were also the only English-speaking people around. This could pose for some struggles. Most places I have traveled, someone around me could speak English (the privilege we have as Americans only knowing the Universal language-cringe), especially people in the hospitality business such as taxi drivers, hotel workers and restaurant workers. Not in Taipei! This was going to be so much harder than I thought. I tried to say the name of the hotel to the taxi stand worker, “Hey Bear Capsule Hotel”. Then again slower, (this time just) “Hey Bear”, but for some reason my Boston accent came out full fledge. It does that every once in a while, even though I try my best to control it. (lol) My daughter caught it and she smiled, as to call me out.  She always does that to me and teases me about it. Brat!   I sounded ridiculous and knew I was wasting everyone’s time. He has no clue of what I was saying.  I looked around me, searching for a sign that someone knew what I was saying and could translate it for me. Nope! Not a soul.
Thankfully, for some reason, (something I’ve never noticed before) www.agoda.com, whom I booked the hotel through, had a pop-up message that said,  ‘”show this to a local language speaker to ask for directions”.  It was a picture with Taiwanese writing.  I couldn’t read it of course, but I assumed it was the name and address of the Hey Bear Capsule Hotel. I screen shotted it, just in case.
At last resort, I remembered that I took that screen shot and pulled out my phone and showed the taxi stand man.  He glanced at it quickly and boom, hailed over a taxi, told him where to take us and we were off! Just like that. So, another great tip I learned and wanted to share; for anyone staying in a foreign country that can’t speak the language or even say “hello” in their native tongue-Get your hotel information translated into that country’s language. I don’t know what we would have done? Thank you www.agoda.com. It was a total life-saver!thewanderlustyogi.net

CHECK-IN:
We arrived at Hey Bear Capsule Hotel. It was in a regular building with other businesses. It had eight floors, with the hotel being on the top floor. thewanderlustyogi.netThe elevator doors opened and there was statues of teddy bears and other cute animals at the entrance. We laughed. We continued into a common area room with tables, computers, a coffee machine, a hot water machine (for ramen/tea naturally), video games, and a front desk. We went up to the front desk and was greeted by a young man. He couldn’t speak English at all. I showed him my passport and he filled out some papers, handed me two key cards and smiled. I smiled back and showed myself to the door that had a pink teddy bear on it. It was a male or female dormitory hostel. I presumed I was headed in the right direction. I also saw two young girls walking in that door, using their key card to access it while I was checking in.thewanderlustyogi.net
I took my key card and pressed it near the sensor. It opened. We entered into a locker room, with lockers and a bench, and a door to our right, leading to a bathroom,  and a row of doors to our left, with numbers labeled on each. I looked at my key card and saw that I was 805-1, my daughter’s was 805-2. I looked at the doors and found 805. It was the first door. I used my key card for access and it opened. The room was small with 4 pods on the left and 4 pods on the right. It looked like a space ship or some sort of coffins of the future. This was going to so hilarious!thewanderlustyogi.net
thewanderlustyogi.netWe each found our pod. Mine was on the top (sort of set up like bunk beds) and my daughter’s was in the one directly beneath me. We met a girl named Ivy, who had just arrived too. She had never stayed in a capsule hotel either. We all used our own key cards to access our pods and all of us were chatting and cracking up as we explored our little sleep cubicles.
When you enter, you couldn’t help but notice the blue neon light that felt almost soothing. They also had baby music pumped throughout the place that sounded sort of like a lullaby. I think its to calm you and make you feel sleepy? It’s a little creepy in a way.  I guess it was all part of the ambience?thewanderlustyogi.net

thewanderlustyogi.net

My daughter in her capsule with iPhone in hand. Shocking!

thewanderlustyogi.net

Me getting used to the idea that I will be sleeping in this thing!

Each pod had a basket with slippers, a bottled water, remote control (for the TV), headphones and a small towel. The bed was soft and all the linens where white. There was one pillow and underneath the pillow was a white comforter. The pod was equipped with a TV, lighted mirror, outlets for plugs and USB ports, a port for headphones and buttons for different lighting choices (back light, reading light, mirror light etc). Also, there was a button that was to lock your pod.thewanderlustyogi.net
For some reason, seeing the lock button, made my stomach feel a little uneasy.   All I thought about was, “What happens if I lock it and it didn’t open and I was stuck inside!?”  I needed to not think like that. It was going to freak me out.
I first took some video footage and pictures so that I could share this unique hotel experience with my friends, family, and my readers, but then thought it would be a good idea to see how it was going to feel, really sleeping in this thing.thewanderlustyogi.net
I laid down and pulled the blanket over me. I put the light on back light because that seemed the most like a night-light. I put the TV on and put the headphones on. Lastly, I hesitantly closed the capsule door until I heard a click. I checked it. Yep, it was definitely locked. My heart started beating a little faster. Let me just press the button to be sure it opens. I pressed it. The door made a click noise. I reached over to slide the door and it wouldn’t open! I tried again. Still nothing. I started to panic a little, but then after my third attempt, it opened. Yikes! That was a little nerve-wracking, but it was all good. “I think I’m just being a little paranoid?”,  I say to myself.
The bed felt very comfy and since I was so tired anyway,  I didn’t think I would have any trouble sleeping in this capsule at all (as long as I didn’t think about the door locking too much). The size felt bigger than you’d think and mostly anyone under six feet tall would fit perfectly fine inside with plenty of room to move around.
HOTEL/HOSTEL AMENITIES:
Besides our individual pods, we also had access to a common area that had tables and seats and computers, a bathroom that was equipped with showers, dressing rooms, mirrored vanities and restroom (Eastern-style and Western-style options-thank goodness!). Each capsule also had an assigned locker to keep your belongings in. The pod would be way too squishy if you had to store all your luggage in it with you.thewanderlustyogi.net thewanderlustyogi.netthewanderlustyogi.net
The one thing that stood out by far was the cleanliness of this hotel. It was absolutely meticulous and there was always someone cleaning the whole time we were there. It was not only clean, but was very modern as well. Like I said earlier,  you feel like you are in a space ship!  Its ultra-new age! The hotel itself, just opened in 2016.

CHECK OUT:
Additionally, the staff members at Hey Bear Capsule Hotel were very friendly, even if we mainly only communicated by hand gestures and smiles. The owner was a sweet women, who spoke English, and was very excited for us to recommend Hey Bear Capsule Hotel to our friends and family and she asked if we would come back. We told her we loved it, thought it was so fun, complimented the cleanliness, and even bought T-shirts of the hotel, as a keepsake. Our flight wasn’t until much later than check out, and she was kind enough to let us store our bags there until we left for the airport.thewanderlustyogi.net

Overall, sleeping in a capsule hotel for one night was a unique and fun experience that I will never forget. I’m not sure if I would recommend it for all travelers, especially for an extended period of time, for people with confinement issues (claustrophobia), for an older traveler, for someone traveling with small children, or if you are trying to have a romantic night’s stay (aka honeymoon) It’s one person per capsule.  However, if you are a free-spirit, young and able, love adventure, trying new things and not afraid of small spaces; this is surely something you will want to try at least once in your life! I never thought I would ever find myself sleeping in a capsule hotel for one night, but my experience was out-of-this-world!

Do you think you could ever sleep in a capsule hotel?

On a side note: Taipei, Taiwan was a fun city to visit with super friendly locals and would be a foodie’s delight.  We felt extremely safe and would recommend it for a female solo traveler.  We did go to a night market and ate dumplings. Two thumbs up for both! Now that I spent, almost a day there, I wish we could have stayed longer.  I hope to be able to go back some day.

Volunteering Abroad: The Inside Scoop

by Monday, September 14, 2015
thewanderlustyogi.net

Maddie and Evan with the kids at GoEco day camp in Cape Town, South Africa

Last month my 17-year-old daughter, Maddie,  and her best friend did some volunteer work in South Africa. I was initially super excited to let her have this amazing opportunity, but then was a little worried about her safety and the unknown, having never done volunteer work myself.


I have always wanted to do volunteer work abroad,  and now I would be letting my daughter be a guinea pig (if you will) by experiencing this first.


 

thewanderlustyogi.net

www.goeco.org

She was determined that this was going to happen and did all the legwork herself. She found an organization called Go Eco (http://www.goeco.org) that had a great reputation and offered a program that spiked her interest.

She chose the Cape Town, South Africa location that would have her working with underprivileged children at a day camp, teaching them life skills through sports, such as surfing. This was the one. She was to go for three weeks and stay at a volunteer house with other volunteers from all over the world.

She went from July 29, 2015 to August 18, 2015.

When she returned, I decided to interview her about her experience, not only for my knowledge, but to share with others who are also interested in volunteering abroad.


 

Here is a little insight on how her volunteer experience was:

Me:Was the GoEco organized with documentation and the transfers/airport pick up?

Maddie: GoEco was very organized. I was a little worried about not being picked up at the airport, but there was no problems at all and it was easier than I thought.

thewanderlustyogi.net

Maddie and Evan in their shuttle from the airport, heading to their volunteer house for GoEco in Cape Town, South Africa

Me: How were the conditions of the volunteer house?

Maddie: There were 4 connected houses with 8 people in each. They were very basic with no frills at all. There was no television, no radio and each house had one bathroom to share.  

thewanderlustyogi.net

Go Eco volunteer house in Cape Town, South Africa

Me: How many volunteers were there? And what were the age ranges?

Maddie: There were about 20 volunteers from all around the globe, ranging anywhere from 17-30, but mostly college aged. We were the youngest ones. There were only a couple other 17 year olds there.

Me: Did you feel safe in the area?

thewanderlustyogi.net

Maddie and Evan with their new friends Alex and Joey from London

Maddie: Yes, we felt extremely safe and anytime we went out in the town, we always stayed in groups.

Me: How was the work? Was it hard?

thewanderlustyogi.net

Maddie and her new friend Alex from London playing with the kids

thewanderlustyogi.net

The kids in the classroom, ready to learn

Maddie: It started out with a few days of training and then we worked everyday, all day (usually 8:30 am-4:00 pm). The mornings were in the classroom and afternoons at the beach doing swim lessons with the 12-14 year olds.  It was very intense and harder than I thought, mainly due to the language barrier and keeping the kids paying attention.  After our long day at project, we would often have lesson planning to do for the next day. Our nights and weekends were free to explore the area.

thewanderlustyogi.net

Maddie and Evan sightseeing in Cape Town on the weekend

Me; How was the food?

Maddie: The food was okay.The breakfast was yogurt and fruits and the lunches and dinners were simple, with a protein, starch and a vegetable. It was very Americanized type food, which I was little disappointed in. I wanted to try some weird foods. I did get to try a traditional South African sandwich called a”gwenya” though, which was like a puffy bread bun with french fries and some red spices. It was so good! 

thewanderlustyogi.net

A “gwenya” South African sandwich

Me: What did you like best about this experience?

Maddie: Making new friends from around the world and the kids. They were so adorable and full of so much love.  Every time we walked into the class, they would literally jump all over us hugging us nonstop. It felt great to make them so happy.

thewanderlustyogi.net

Maddie and her new friend David from Sweden making “friendship bracelets”

Me: What did you like least about it?

Maddie: I wish I would have gone in a different season. It was winter season when I was there so it was very cold for surfing and our volunteer house had no heat, so nights got extremely chilly.

thewanderlustyogi.net

Maddie and Evan hat shopping. Its winter season in August for South Africa

Me: What kinds of things did you do on your free time?

thewanderlustyogi.net

Maddie and Evan out with their new friend Julia from the Netherlands

Maddie: We went out at night to a local bar and socialized with other volunteers and backpackers staying at a surrounding hostel. It felt kind of crazy being at a bar at 17, but in South Africa, it doesn’t matter. I even ordered a drink (oops). On the weekend we went hiking and shopped in the town and I even went skydiving! (sorry Mom)

thewanderlustyogi.net

Maddie skydiving!

Me: Would you use Go Eco again to do volunteer work somewhere else?

Maddie: Yes! I plan on doing another one, probably somewhere in South East Asia when I am 18.

Me: Did you learn anything by volunteering abroad?

Maddie: Yes! I learned so much! I learned how to interact with people from diverse backgrounds and found ways to connect with them, other than by just talking (a language barrier was there in many cases). I also learned how to take care of myself and it made me feel more confident that if I can travel across the world at 17 alone, I can pretty much do anything. This experience also taught me to be grateful for everything I have. Seeing these underprivileged children being so happy with absolutely nothing, humbled me in a way that made me want to give back even more.

thewanderlustyogi.net

Maddie looking down at Cape Town, South Africa from a view point at Lions Head

Me: Do you think everyone should volunteer abroad?

Maddie: Yes! I think this experience is mind-opening and would be beneficial to anyone, no matter how old or young. I feel like volunteering abroad has changed my life in so many positive ways. I can’t wait to do it again!


 

 

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this:
Skip to toolbar