Category Archives: Long term travel

#50 Visit Tiger Kingdom: Chiang Mai: Thailand 100 Family Travel Experiences

I couldn’t wait to see Tiger Kingdom. The little kid dream of seeing a tiger up close. When I saw that Thailand had several places one could visit with Tigers I knew I would go. I read the reviews. I read about responsible tourism. I debated myself about whether I should go. In the end, I knew I had to go. I had to see it for myself. I had to have the experience. 

Tiger Kingdom was well managed and clean. Much like many zoos one goes to the tigers are in pens. The tigers on display have larger areas to roam and I saw no evidence that they were drugged. On the contrary, they were active and engaged in play with the handlers. They had toys, games and other activities to keep them busy. Nocturnal by nature, some tigers were asleep but would occasionally get up to wander. 

My kids were not allowed in with the largest tigers. My son stayed with the babies. He got to bottle feed them. My daughter enjoyed two different sizes. We encountered the largest.  Following our guide, he stated that we were to stay with him at all times, not make sudden movements and to stay behind him. Equipped with only a large prod, it was clear there was little he was join to do if our tiger decided to turn. We went in and our Tiger was might and magnificent. He lay down, head raised and we were guided to sit beside him. We could rub his side, touch his back and paws. Another guide took pictures. Anything our guide said, we did. At one point he said to lie down and put my head on it’s belly and I did. I kept thinking how My mother would kill me if she saw me doing this. All of a sudden, he jumped up and lunged at the cage in front of us a wheel chair went by. Clearly he saw the wheels turn and wanted to play or attack them. He paced back and forth watching the oblivious person in the wheelchair. We backed away.

We walked around to several other tigers. Each one allowing us to visit and touch them. One sleeping tiger was our guides favorite and he showed us his huge teeth. It was about then that I snapped back into reality and realized I was in a cage surrounded by tigers. 

I have since recommended Tiger Kingdom to friends. Yet, I do so with reservation. Please understand that I truly believe in responsible tourism and the importance of understanding what it is you are impacting when visiting places like this. It is also important to truly take time to understand the plight of the tiger. 

So if you do visit, or just find this blog post interesting. Please take time to help the Tigers.



#54 Visit Orangutans in Borneo At Sepilok Rehabilitation center, Sabah, Borneo: 100 Family Travel Experiences

#54 Visit Orangutans in Borneo , Sabah, Borneo

We spent a lot of time in Borneo jungle. Surrounded by Palm oil plantations, I was so saddened by the shrinking natural habitat that was visibly disapearing before our eyes. Even deep in the remote jungle, well off the beaten path, one could hear the sounds of trucks passing on a road as clearly as a cloud leopard roaring in the distance. There isn’t much left for the orangutans and I don’t have much hope that Borneo will be able to preserve the remaining habitat before their time runs out. 

Visiting the jungles of Borneo is an amazing experience. We were able to do a homestay there. It is a great way to learn about local cooking and dance. We took long walks and boat rides through the jungle and got up close with the wildlife. We visited an orangutan “rehabilitation” center that give you an amazing glimpse at these marvelous animals. I put “rehabilitation” in quotes as I question the real rehabilitation of the animals. They are fed daily and never really return to the wild.  THhis is in part because the remaining habitat is so scarce, there is now nowhere left to return. It is more of a tourist center than anything else – but still an experience I will never forget.

I wonder about the fate of the orangutan. Of all the places in the world we visited I felt like their habitat was the most severely threatened. 

If you feel like you want to help there is an organization committed to them below.

#58 Swim with Manatees in Crystal River, Florida: 100 Family Travel Experiences

I grew up around manatees and have watched when there was little regulation to a fantastic preservation program. Getting up close and personal to these beautiful and and bizarre animals while still maintaining their personal space is a spectacular experience one won’t soon forget. In the Crystal River you can see lots of West Indian Manatees congregate in it’s warm waters. Get in and snorkel with them. You can’t touch or feed them but you will enjoy the wild animals grace in the water and wonder how they were ever mistaken for mermaids. Manatee season at Crystal River is November to March. The rest of the year they can be found wandering the intercoastals trying to avoid boats.

I wish they were thriving and could exist without tourism but manatees need our help to survive in South Florida. Awareness about these majestic animals is important.

#68 Visit a School in Fiji: 100 Family Travel Experiences

#68 Visit a School in Fiji:

When you think of Fiji you probably picture the beautiful beaches and fabulous coral reefs. The diving and beaches are amazing and definitely what draws visitors to Fiji. One of our family’s favorite experiences while visiting the Yasawa Island’s was taking a tour of a local school and meeting the children. Dressed in purple uniforms the children shared music and dances with us and gave us a tour of the school. It doesn’t take long for kids to bond and friendships to be made. The children of Fiji are learning english and were happy to try it out with their new friends. Visiting schools in a different country is always a fascinating glimpse into daily life of a different culture.

The Happy Wanderer: My Travel Style #DailyPost

Daily Prompt: The Happy Wanderer

by Krista on March 19, 2014

What’s your travel style? Are you itinerary and schedule driven, needing to have every step mapped out in advance or are you content to arrive without a plan and let happenstance be your guide?

My Travel Style: By Anne Helmers

After a year on the road with my family it has definitely evolved. We had been the type to go for the organized, pre-planned, “ducks all in a row” type travel itinerary but that changes on the road. Being schedule free allows you to enjoy the road and the adventures that come from not scheduling. Deciding where to spend the night based on how far you want to go or how much you like a place is part of the joy of long term travel. It opens you up to meet new people, try new things and explore new places. Learning to adapt to weather because it is part of life and not make it a reason to stay inside is also part of this process.

We are back home now. We are back to a much more scheduled American lifestyle but I’d say we have a managed to keep a nice blend of the required pre-planning that the one week vacation during spring break requires and the relaxed “come what may” style we learned from our round the world adventure.

Sleeping with Roosters – Sleep deprivation at home and when traveling

I didn’t realize it until we were several months into our Round-the-World trip, but my whole family (my husband and two children, ages 14 and 10) were sleep deprived. We had been that way since before the kids were born because we live in a society that rewards sleep deprivation.

We were a typical American family – we were hard working, hyper-scheduled, and generally just plain busy. We tried to keep a balanced schedule, sit down for meals, eat healthy and put our kids to bed (after sports and homework) at a decent bedtime.  But typically the kids got about 8 hours of sleep (or less) and we got about 6.

A few months in to our schedule-free trip around the world and  I could see that on an average night my kids needed 10 hours of sleep and we needed at least 8.  Every night. This seems to be on track with actual research. (See the latest CDC article below)foghorn-blue-maran-rooster-crowing-in-fruit-orchard-81

Despite often being in remote places like Bali where the roosters crow all night long or Guatemala where there is a constant barrage of fireworks, we slept more and better. I do suggest you travel with ear plugs as the sounds of life (including traffic, roosters, fireworks, laughter, and occasional drunkenness) are part of the world.

After a year of moving and adapting to all kinds of sounds (and getting plenty of sleep) it was a rude awakening to return home to be delivered to a nasty note from a neighbor.  The anonymous neighbor  was angry because our children were playing outside on a summer night after dusk.

” Please bring your kids inside after dark, some of us have to get up early for work in the morning.”

Being hyper-scheduled and sleep deprived doesn’t make us more productive. It can, it seems, make us more grumpy.

We make getting a good night’s sleep part of our healthy home routine now. We are more aware of how sleep affects all of us.

Five reasons I think I was healthier while traveling

Everyone asks me “Did you get sick while you traveled around the world?” and I can honestly answer “No”. We really never got sick, or had any major injuries. BUT since I’ve been home I seem to have every cold, flu, or crud that comes through town. What was it about traveling that was different?  How did we manage to stay healthy?  Why were we healthier “on the road” than at home?  I’ve compiled a list of my educated guesses.


1. Living outside:  Most of the places we stayed we lived much closer to the elements. Open windows, no A/C, outside in nature most or all of the day. We definitely got our daily dose of Vitamin D and we weren’t cooped up in a germ factory.  Our kids were out of school and probably less exposed to every germ and bug that passed through town. Even with all the plane rides we took our immune systems seemed to get a boost from our daily outdoor life.

2. Exercise as part of daily life. Many of the places we lived required us to walk to the markets, to town or to (and through) the places we wanted to tour. We spent more time hiking, walking, snorkeling, or swimming each day than we ever do at home. Being active was part of our daily living and it felt good.  We drove considerably less. Being home it requires much more of an effort. I admire those friends who ride their bikes to work and walk to the grocery or adhere to a regular exercise time schedule. You have to make it a priority here, or you will lead a less active lifestyle than when traveling.

3. Stress free. Yes, I can’t ignore the fact that we left jobs and school and activities behind for a year. We were living a much less stressful daily existence and it was healthy. There are still real pressures while traveling but being “unplugged” was healthy and provided for a valuable lesson about the stress we tolerate here. Trying to reduce stress and too much structure (over-scheduling) has been part of our return plan – but the reality is that living in the US with jobs and two children makes for a hectic daily schedule.  That reality has added stress to our lives and we continue to try and find the elusive “balance”.

4. Eating healthy. Part of traveling is enjoying the food. It is ironic that it is often the food that makes travelers sick. We were part lucky but we were also vigilant about monitoring what we ate on the road, making sure to visit any health food store that appealed to us over the street food.  I attribute our not getting sick to that. In many places, we never drank the water unless it was bottled.  Not even to brush our teeth.  We also avoided fruits you couldn’t peel and salads.  If it was fried or cooked we generally ate it. We tried most things in every country – including occasional “street food”. In sum, we ate a lot of organic, local, fresh food throughout the world and very little processed food. Eating healthy in the USA is definitely possible – but compared to many places it is more expensive.  Also, there are also plenty of ways to eat poorly here at home and it is difficult to avoid the temptation of quick, processed, fried, fatty and fast foods.

5.Good healthcare. We had our shots before we left. We took anti-maleria meds where we needed to. We had everything we needed before we left and were able to find pharmacies around the world to get us staples when we needed them. Preventative healthcare, our general good health, and a lifetime of good healthcare prepared us for a year of traveling. I can’t say enough about starting with a good foundation as a means to help you stay healthy.

So as I sit here, congested with a head cold, envying how warm it is in Fiji in February, I will say that traveling was a healthy experience for us. I’m going to have to work on making life at home just as healthy… or I’m just going to have to get back on the road.


Chiang Mai Flower Parade

One of the favorite events that we just stumbled into last year about this time was the Chiang Mai Flower Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Parades, music, flowers, and dancers. This huge festival happens usually in early February and will be held February 7-9, 2014.

We just happened to be in the area and saw it on the schedule last year. The parade went right by the Inn where we were staying and we sat outside and ate and took in the amazing sights. The elaborate floats and costumes were stunning. Some floats display the history and heritage of the land, some pay homage to Buddah or the king and others represented organizations or trades. Each was fantastic and they provided us a beautiful gallery of photos to come home with!

Here is a collection of our pictures to enjoy. If you are in Thailand now – make your way to Chiang Mai to see the Chiang Mai Flower Festival.

The American Road Trip everyone but Americans take


While traveling around the world last year our family often met people who loved to travel, had been traveling or were about to travel. It was a common topic that bonded us to strangers in foreign lands while sitting in airports, restaurants, camper parks, and queues.

What often struck me was how many travelers from other countries, especially Australians, come to America and do a trip that most Americans have never done. We heard the itinerary over and over again. It was often the same and maybe varied in a stop or two, or by the amount of time they  took, but the flow of the trip was usually the same. Here is the sample itinerary:

Fly into New York (Always a destination.)

Drive, train or Bus down the Coast To Washington, DC (Always stop here.)

Drive, train or bus to Atlanta, Georgia (Always a destination! Token southern city.)

Drive, train or bus to Florida (Various locations from Disney to Miami.)

Drive,train or bus to New Orleans,Louisiana (Always a Destination, Token music and food city.)

Fly To Colorado (If ski season.)

Visit The Grand Canyon/Arches National Park, etc.

Drive to Las Vegas (Always a Destination. It wouldn’t be America if they didn’t go to Vegas!)

Drive, Train, bus to Los Angeles/Hollywood (Always a destination.)

Stop in Hawaii

Fly Home

(Sometimes this trip is in reverse order.)

Wow! We heard it from people over and over. Young students taking a summer trip before they start work, couples coming to explore America, and retirees taking a vacation.  The concept of a North American Tour was normal for people from other countries but being American, I had never thought of the “North American Tour” on such a grand scale.

Most Americans would be hard-pressed to drive their family to Florida for Spring Break and would never think to stop and look around on the way to get there.  Seeing the idea of the American Tour makes me think about the way I  live in the United States now that we are back.  I will try to appreciate our travels even if it is just out of the county – and not the country.

We tackled the 3 week drive across the country to start our year of traveling. We drove from Kentucky to Los Angeles and sold our car before hopping on a plane to start our Round-The-World adventure. We rafted the Grand Canyon, drove through Kansas, took in a baseball game in St Louis, MO. and saw Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. It was epic and taught us a lot about traveling before we left our home soil.  I saw it as the start of our adventure. But I have plenty more to go!

I challenge my fellow Americans to try to hit the States on the above list if you haven’t already. Then try to hit all fifty!  Explore your home and surrounding areas! When we can’t travel abroad for whatever reason… travel closer to home.

Traveling is a way of life that can be enjoyed in foreign countries – or right here in the USA!