life on pine

Travel Tips

how we booked 5 international flights for $2,500

Kate ParrishComment


PARIS  >  KATHMANDU  >  BALI  >  SYDNEY  >  AUCKLAND >  BUENOS AIRES


i had always heard of "around the world tickets" – which sounds really great but always seemed to have a ton of hidden rules and restrictions. on top of that, most of them make you get on the phone with a travel agent or a drawn out email back and forth...what is this 1980?! when we decided to get serious about taking our extended travel trip, we came across the website INDIE, a simple and powerful way to book multi-stop international flights. we started to play around with their web interface – entering the cities we were interested in, rough dates, and then clicking around to see the prices change based on dates, airlines, routes, etc.

before we knew it, we had 5 destinations across 4 continents at a price we assumed was 100% incorrect. for $2,500 we had all of our "big leg" flights covered. it helped that we were able to fly tuesday - thursday and there were a few weeks between each of these flights – giving us the flexibility to book smaller trips in between.
 

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WERE THEY SKETCHY AIRLINES AND CRAPPY SEATS?


no. every airline we flew was top rated and safe, we were able to choose our seats just like on any other flight and include our loyalty numbers. we were even upgraded on our flight to kathmandu via air india. 

WHAT IF YOUR PLANS CHANGE?


normal fees apply if you want to change any of these flights – however, we used world nomads for all of our travel insurance [including health], and they will cover you, if your plans change. they also proactively email you if any of the flights in your itinerary have changes, cancellations or anything else notable. 

 









P I N  F O R  L A T E R:

books & podcasts we've loved while traveling

Kate Parrish1 Comment
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i've always wanted to be more of a podcast & book person. constantly finding excuses or "not having enough time" these would often just live in my phone or my bedside getting dusty. a goal for both kyle and myself on this trip was to read and listen more. with all of the long drives, bus rides ... etc ... these have been some of our favorite books and podcasts so far. and now i realize how easy it is to sneak in a podcast during a long walk, or read a chapter during a bus ride or before bed. i need to remember these things when we're back in the city!

click each image below for more info, and if you have an iphone, subscribe to these podcasts [for free!] and new episodes will download to your phone every time you have wifi. 
 

P O D C A S T S



  1. NPR'S HOW I BUILT THIS a podcast about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built. even the companies you wouldn't think interest you end up having really inspiring and interesting stories
  2. CRIMETOWN every season the two awesome narrators investigate the culture of crime in a different american city. first up: providence, rhode island, where organized crime and corruption infected every aspect of public life. true crime stories are addicting to me! 
  3. TED RADIO HOUR based on TED speakers and previous talks, the TED Radio Hour is a journey through fascinating ideas: astonishing inventions, fresh approaches to old problems, new ways to think and create.
     

B O O K S



  1. HOW TO FAIL AT ALMOST EVERYTHING AND STILL WIN BIG dilbert creator scott adams' funny memoir about his many failures and what they eventually taught him about success
  2. THE ORPHAN MASTER'S SON intertwined themes of propaganda, identity and state power in north korea. the novel was awarded the 2013 pulitzer prize for fiction and sucks you in immediately. 
  3. CLOSER TO THE GROUND an engaging memoir that follows dylan tomine and his family through four seasons as they hunt chanterelles, fish for salmon, dig clams and gather at the kitchen table, mouths watering, to enjoy the fruits of their labor. an easy, light hearted read. 

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7 day trekking guide: how to get off the tourist track of annapurna basecamp

Kate ParrishComment


ANNAPURNA BASECAMP VS. OTHER TRAILS IN THE REGION

if we'd had enough time, we probably would have ended up on the ABC trek during our time in annapurna – i have no doubt in my mind that this trail is stunning and an ample challenge. after spending time in the region, i know that 20 years ago this path or the even longer annapurna circuit would have been my dream. what we learned though is that today, like anything that is very popular, this trail has gotten very touristy and crowded [we were mind blown by the amount of people heading to base camp in what is technically the "off" season]. this is definitely not a bad thing and it is really great for nepal's economy which is largely driven by tourism. it's just not how we prefer to experience the great outdoors, but it is always great to see more respectful people enjoying the obscure beauty our planet has to offer. 

we worked with our sherpa kamala to map out alternative trail options that are less known about and less trampled. there are HUNDREDS of trails and small villages within the annapurna region, making it easy to dart off the ABC path and onto more quiet and peaceful routes that are less developed. we started on the same route that all ABC trekkers take, which leads to the town of ghorephani and poonhill [the famous sunrise viewing point]. from there, we took a turn onto a fairly new trail that opened a little less than a year ago. there isn't much info on some of these trails/villages online and it again validates the value of having a sherpa. it was slightly more rugged and strenuous at times, but the beauty along the way and isolated teahouse experiences you have at night were magical. we only wish we had more time to get even deeper into the annapurna region.
 




O U R  T R E K  B R O K E N  D O W N  B Y  D A Y:



DAY 1: KATHMANDU >> POKHARA
we arranged a 7 hour bus ride in town, this can be done pretty much anywhere – just make sure to book with a "tourist" bus – it shouldn't cost you more than $7 - $10 pp. we slept 2 nights in pokhara to get situated. 



DAY 2: POKHARA >> ANAYAPUL [by taxi], ANAYAPUL >> HILLE
5 miles of hiking, 400M of climbing, sleeping at 1,460 M
after meeting up with our guide, kamala, she helped me rent a warmer jacket in town [you can also rent sleeping bags & pretty much any gear you can think of for cheap]. having kamala with us helped us get a good price [$1/day]. we grabbed a taxi [$10] that took us up to anayapul, which is where most of the trails in annapurna start from. to be honest, this day of hiking was the least exciting. it was just walking straight uphill on a road, but it slowly acclimates you to the altitude which is great. if you prefer, you can pay for a car almost all the way to hille. 
 


DAY 3: HILLE >> GHOREPHANI
8 miles of hiking, 1,400 meters of climbing, sleeping at 2,860M
this day requires a LOT of uphill climbing. as we gained elevation, the temperature dropped and we even had some snow! be sure to have a big breakfast and stop for a good break at lunch – your legs will need it. 
 


DAY 4: GHOREPHANI >> KHOBRA RIDGE
this stop was actually not a part of our trek so we do not have photos, but if we did it over again this stop would absolutely be a part of it. being a fairly new trail, you can get stunning views of annapurna while being away from the crowds. ask your sherpa about adding this stop onto your trek, as there is not much info about it online. 
 



DAY 5: KHOPRA >> DOBATO
8.3 miles of hiking, 1,128M of climbing
we hiked from ghorephani to dobato, another option if you want a shorter trek. we woke up for the sunrise hike to poon hill [3,210M] which requires 45 minutes of uphill climbing in the snow. if we could do it over – we would skip sunrise and go up 20 minutes later to avoid the crowd. the view is equally as beautiful [and warmer!], plus the lighting is actually better a few minutes after sunrise. the rest of the day was spent climbing even higher through the snow to the very remote guesthouse in dobato – this place is run by just two young men, and everything was completely frozen over. 
 


DAY 6: DOBATO >> CHUILE
7 miles of hiking, downhill [tough on the knees!]
another early morning for a sunrise summit at muldhai point [which was far more intimate than poonhill]. we woke up with icicles growing on our sleeping bags. at over 12,500ft – this was our coldest night by far! later we stopped in tadapani for lunch, and had mostly down hill the rest of the day – which can be almost harder than uphill at times. we made our way to warmer temps staying at a very cozy guesthouse making new friends and huddling around the fire. 
 


DAY 7: CHUILE >> JHINU HOTSPRINGS
5.4 miles of hiking, mostly through rice fields and local villages
hiking through a mixture of rice fields and local villages, i loved getting to see a brief snapshot into local life. after arriving for a late lunch at the guest house, we dropped our packs and put on bathing suits to check out the jhinu hotsprings – it was crowded because we went on a local holiday [kids were out of school], but still very relaxing and cool to see. 
 


DAY 8: JHINU >> POTHANA
11.8 miles of hiking
our last full day became more of a march to the finish, as the views were less spectacular and we were focused on finishing strong - looking forward to a big lunch in town!
 





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what you need to know before visiting kathmandu

Kate ParrishComment


IN MY HEAD, I HAD A VERY DIFFERENT PICTURE OF WHAT NEPAL LOOKED LIKE
i knew kathmandu was the capital to fly into before heading out for a trek, temple or safari – and i suppose naively the buddhism, yoga, mountains, prayer flags and overall zen vibes lead me to believe that the entire country would be a himalayan paradise. kathmandu is actually completely crazy. it feels like what i picture india to look like and kp confirmed, the only thing comparable he has ever seen was in new delhi.

HERE ARE TEN IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING: 


  1. THE AIR IS DRY, DUSTY & POLLUTED and there is no government supported trash or recycling program. at first, we thought people were just careless, but the fact is that no one comes around to your house [ever] to pick up trash. this leaves locals with few choices and most end up collecting trash in a pile and burning it. we noticed many of the locals burning their trash on the streets – which adds to the already bad pollution problem. it's heart breaking and opened our eyes to how lucky we are back home to have this completely taken care of. it left us wanting to figure out how to make a change. luckily there are a few organizations that have started the movement. tips? wear a mask or bandana, almost everyone does [even locals] and you will be glad you did. 
     
  2. THE ROAD CONDITIONS ARE PRETTY TERRIBLE ... the second you leave the airport you're immersed in the terrifying driving that is nepal. the roads are for the most part uneven, rocky and made of dirt. they barely fit two cars and buses come within what feels like inches of colliding on the regular. street lights, crosswalks or any traffic laws don't really exist – looking at your phone or not paying attention aren't safe options. 
     
  3. QUIRKY POWER cuts are quite common here, so be prepared for a quick [or not so quick] black out. just looking at the power cords in thamel gave me anxiety. 
     
  4. TRY THE INDIAN FOOD if you plan to trek or visit outside of kathmandu, then you will have plenty of dal bhat and other nepalese fare. you must go to this amazing indian spot recommended by a friend, western tandoori [their naan is spiritual]. we went 3 times in a couple of days... no shame. 
     
  5. YOGA IS EVERYWHERE and a great way to get zen and prep or recover post adventure. we went to a couple classes at pranamaya and loved it. the coffee shop downstairs is perfect to pop into after class. 
     
  6. SLEEP AWAY FROM THE CRAZY thamel is jam packed with tourists, western restaurants, outdoor gear shops and a lot of noise. we did venture to this neighborhood often, but actually stayed in lazimpat at a great guesthouse where it was a short walk to thamel, but quiet-er and very cozy.
     
  7. RELIGION & TEMPLES i was surprised to learn that nepal is 80% hindu, 10% buddhist, and the rest muslim, christian and others. we visited a few different temples and met nepalis of more than 3 different religions which was really interesting. bhaktapur and the surrounding area has a ton of history and the main temple is massive! sadly a lot of it is being rebuilt after the big 2015 earthquake. hire a taxi driver for the day for about $30 US dollars. 
     
  8. NEPAL IS SAFE we never felt uncomfortable or unsafe despite the hectic nature of the city [even walking around at night felt completely fine]. nepalis are known to be really kind and welcoming people. theft and attacks are a very small occurrence, focus your energy on the traffic and pollution exposure instead.
     
  9. BUTCHERS & THE MEAT YOU EAT hide your eyes if you're bothered by any sort of animal butchering. we witnessed a goat's head being chopped off just a few feet from the sidewalk. you will see a lot of exposed meat, not on ice - as a tourist, best to stay away and only eat meat at restaurants or hotels. 
     
  10. THE VISA PROCESS IS WEIRD bring $25 US cash [per person] and a small picture of yourself, otherwise you will have to get out local rupees then exchange them for USD, and wait in about 14 different lines. it's a screwy process and a huge time suck, not to mention that you will lose big on their exchange rates. 
     

P H O T O S  F R O M  A R O U N D  T H E   C I T Y



KATHMANDU IS AN EXPERIENCE
it's cool and it is the gateway to nepal, which we absolutely loved. as i mentioned, it's maybe not what you'd expect, but that makes for part of the fun. these details aren't here to deter you from going at all, more so to help mentally prepare you. while it can feel a bit exhausting, it is also really special in its own little way. have you been to kathmandu? i would love to hear your thoughts! 

 

P H O T O S  F R O M  O U T S I D E  T H E   C I T Y  [ B H A K T A P U R ]


 

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how to avoid the tourist trap at neuschwanstein castle

Kate ParrishComment


A LITTLE BACKGROUND:
this castle is straight up crazy. built on the side of a mountain deep in the german countryside, the 19th century romanesque revival palace was commissioned by king ludwig II of bavaria as a retreat, paid for out of his personal fortune [and other controversial ways]. we actually really enjoyed learning more about the king, they knew very little about him and what they did know can be read in more detail here. after his death in 1886 the castle was immediately opened to the paying public and since then more than 61 million people have visited here. 

GETTING THERE:
we rented a car out of munich, as we wanted the flexibility to stop along the way and it was cheaper than 2 train tickets. there are buses and tours running what seems like hourly – but i don't think this is the route you want to take. the tour groups seem very forced and crowded – i get anxiety just thinking about it. [car rental: $40 for the day and $6 for parking]

HOW TO AVOID THE TOURIST GROUPS:
when we read that there are over 1.3 million visitors per year, we were a bit hesitant to spend our time and money getting there to see it. [in the summer time this number gets up to almost 6,000 a day!] luckily, we were there in the winter and technical off season – but what's important to know, is that you can actually avoid 98% of the tourists by just getting a little active. if you take the time to hike up the trail, there are stunning views of the castle with absolutely no tourists. the only other people we encountered was a couple painting the castle with watercolors – my kind of crowd. 

GOING INSIDE:
we pictured the inside looking like your average stone-y castle and questioned whether paying to enter would be worth it. we often don't pay to go inside places unless it really feels right – because we're on a budget and it can be a waste of time. BUT, the inside of this place is EXTRAVAGANT and crazy and absolutely worth it. if you have time after the short hike, going on the inside tour is pretty nuts. you're not allowed to take photos, but a quick google image search will leave you inspired. 
 


^^ on the way home we stopped to try a local beer and cream cake... another perk to having your own means of transportation! 


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