As I wrote it on 28 June 2014
This was the very first travel we had as a family, just exploring. No relatives to visit, not our hometown, just traveled purely because we want to see the world.
This trip was a milestone for us, like for real, the very first time I was bitten by a travel bug. I have not been cured since and it has infected the rest of my family, much to my delight.
Alex was only 12, Jason was 8 and we did not have JD yet. :)
This was when The Walkaroos was born. Our very first Walkaroos shot was taken from our AirBnB home in Old Town Prague.
We flew via KLM and so the journey was pretty long with a pit stop in Amsterdam but it was all worth it. We enjoyed the adventure and we look forward to a quickie tour of Amsterdam on our way back.
Different passengers have different experience
With the big plane from Dubai to Amsterdam, everyone's happy. We then had to transfer to a smaller plane called Fokker. The name made my boys' giggle a bit.... fine! They giggled a lot! They're the ones who read the airline magazines and told me about it.
It was a nice small plane used specifically for short distances. KLM calls them City Hopper.
Jason got scared while Alex loved it. It was a lovely day with clouds looking like pearly white cotton candies,,, I think the plane was alright.
They were mesmerising. My boys' have to ask, "is it possible to stand on them?"
The snack they serve was so tasty, the boys won't stop talking about it. Mustard ham, egg and cheese. All organic. Crisp. I have not enjoyed a simple sandwich as tasty as that. The boys wanted more but as a spoil sport mom like I am, told them it's only a little over an hour flight and that it's a good idea to reserve our tummy for Czech treats.
*Not knowing what I knew now, I could have asked for more for the boys because it's not a big deal. Plus what's the worst that they could have said to me? "sorry, we are all out" and then they'll give the boys something else to munch on. I was much too embarrassed to ask then. A newbie in traveling.
It's true... altitude makes you bloat. My face before boarding in Dubai was starved... as we take this picture in Prague, I looked like I was fed mercilessly.
The plan was to take the plunge, full immersion (or our version of full immersion), ride the public bus to the train station and then take the metro to Namesti Republiky and walk. Sink or swim baby or in our case... get lost.
Because we were tourists, and novice at it and the lady at the counter was a pretty one with blue eyes, Joseph convinced me that that was the counter for the Public bus. Apparently not. The public bus was the long one (obviously) and we saw it on our way to the shuttle.
Even though it's not a public bus, it only cost (Koruna) CZK 600 for the four of us, which is practically AED 30 each. Darn cheap compare to their European counterparts.
The shuttle bus was a saving grace because when we got off Namesti Republiky station, we walked and walked and walked, lost for about 30 minutes. That was a long time searching for a small street.
We were armed with 2 maps, but still got lost. We were so disoriented that when a gentleman driving a car stopped at us and asked if we are her sister's guests from Saudi, we didn't put two and two together!
By the way, the worst part was, we have no data on our phones. No matter how much she messaged us through my AirBnB account, I was not able to read it. Her mother called us too, giving us landmarks which really does not click in our heads because we have been walking for 30 minutes! Why because we were so disoriented! And honestly, telling me that it's next to a nun's convent won't mean squat to me.
When we finally found the house, there was no one there. Why? Because the man was driving around somewhere looking for 2 idiots (with two poor kids) who are from Saudi (because to most, Dubai and Saudi is pretty much the same).
Alas we got the keys, left all by ourselves, we collapsed in exhaustion. Remember, we had one back pack each but they are dang heavy. It was then when we discovered that wherever we travel, if it's a home we will stay in, the first order of the day is to be lost. To the point that in every new city, my FB update right after we land is,,, "time to get lost!" :)
Next week's (Wednesday) throwback post will be about our first AirBnB experience. We cannot talk highly enough of all our experience with various home and hosts... well apart from one of the houses we stayed in, in Roma. That's another story for another day.
Currency is in Czech Koruna
The cost is pretty much like how it is in Dubai.
As I wrote it on 28 June 2014
This was back in the day when we were only 4. I surprised my little family to a European tour and started with the beautiful Czech Republic.
But first things first, I had to learn how to pack light. My first attempt to committing to the challenge was not entirely a success but I learned, a lot.
One back-pack each! It was a definite challenge but it's needed. This is a 10-day trip to 2 cities, essentially. In August we will be touring more cities and so it's good to practice now and not be stressed-out later on.
Granted I and hubs still carry the boys' bags now and again, I still say it's a must to stick to one-bag rule. No check-in luggage and no wheels to worry on cobbled streets, it's a brilliant idea!
Rick Steves was right when he said, "everytime you travel, do you say, 'I should pack heavier next time?' It's always 'I should pack lighter, right?'"
It is a fact that you don't wear all of the clothes which fell into the "just in case" category. The best strategy indeed is to mix and match and have options to layer if the weather drops.
In the end, I found out that out of the 6 items I brought, 2 were only used once. Eeew I can hear your thoughts! When I say it's used more than once, it's because the house we stayed in is equipped with a really good wash and dry machine. Revolutionary, eh. Every end of the day, we keep the dirty clothes in the hamper and my loving husband fires up the machine. Score!!!
I was supposed to only bring 2 footwear but the weather is confused so I must have the "just in case" piece.
I got my blue suede heels for a dressy dinner booked tonight. I got my Timberland boots for those rainy days. Got my Keds for the sunny days and rubber flip-flops for when I need them. I can always count the flip-flops as my oldest boy's, his feet is the same size as mine and he did not bring a pair.
The rest of my essentials were:
Shorts x 5
Shirts x 8 - I ended up overusing 2 of the shirts and my sister sent me a private message, "did you even bring other clothes? All your FB posts are either the lilac shirt or the stripe long sleeves" 🤪😂
Pair of jeans x 2
Casual Jacket x 1
Hoody x 1
Cardigan x 1
Socks x 5
Inner garments (called by kids these days as bras and panties)
Packing light really means packing for the best case scenario, not the worst case scenario! As you can see, my bag was still ginormous and it was heavy as hell! At the time, I still have few "just in case" pieces.
I am happy to report that my packing skills improved throughout the years.
Do you have any rituals before travel? Any helpful tips you want to share?
Next Wednesday's throw back post will be our journey to Prague, Czech Republic.
On all these travels, you will read a lot of me talking endlessly about Rick Steves. Rick Steves this, Rick Steves that! Whenever Joseph hears me listening to Rick Steves App, he goes,"is that your boyfriend?" I have to admit, I have an undying admiration to anything Rick Steves. He is the guru of travels.
This is asking for a totally new story, it's getting me oh so excited!!! I am eternally grateful to my friend (who happens to have the same name as me, Nina) who introduced me to Rick Steves. She sent me these DVDs about Rick Steves European travel. DVD. Almost dinosaur extinct nowadays.
But yes, Rick Steves is a genius! Imma stop now.
Packpoint (free version) is a handy app that I also use. It creates packing list considering the number of days, activities, city and weather. I use it as a benchmark list, then I cross out the ones which are unnecessary and add things that are specific to me.
As I wrote it on 23 June 2014.
It felt like the longest 7 months of working, planning and working some more, non-stop.
There were days I cried, I fell ill or just felt like I pushed myself too far. There were days when I got cranky as hell or seriously depressed just for being tired and hungry. I was overworked and was skipping meals to either work some more (job) or work on the plans
But as the saying goes, never give up. So, I didn't.
I pushed myself until I feel like I reached my breaking point. I rest to recover from the tension and then I resume working on it again.
The idea hatched in November 2013, one fine (boring) and very eventful (NOT!) day. I thought of how our lives in Dubai have been and what explorations have we done so far. Almost 15 years and I realised we have not really ventured out as a family. In general, we have not really seen much of what the world has to offer and this world is so beautifully created!
The only reason we consider seeing a place was if it's on the way to Philippines, because of work or because we have to visit in-laws. The only place we visited as a couple when we were very young was Turkey. But that's for another story. In a nutshell, we were virgin travelers who ended up eating junk food at food chains and pretty much stuck to conventional set tour and did not wander far from where our hotel was. Go figure! We sure need to go back and give it the explorer's respect it deserves.
I thought, where is the closest place to visit? Somewhere different, somewhere where we are purposely visiting and exploring for the sake of culture, food and adventure. Somewhere where my kids (mostly I) will be just in awe because it is something they only see in movies.
I thought of Europe. Lots of places where it looks like time stood still,,, then the idea hatched! Prague, Czech Republic! It's Europe, it's relatively affordable and relatively close. Hubby's ex-boss loves it and it sounded like a lot of people rave about it.
Suffice to say, I was bitten by the travel bug and it was a serious one. 7 months from the time I thought about traveling, I don't think I'll ever be cured.
By January, 2014, the first trip's ticket and accommodation were paid for. Every month, I enjoyed seeing my personal account full to the brim, just like a full figured woman. Then like having a food disorder, the same account gets massively depleted without mercy as I secure bookings.
I enjoyed ticking boxes and colouring cells as I settled scores. Seeing my "to pay for" cell gets smaller and smaller? What joy!
I planned for 2 months, non-stop. I studied how much I'll earn from my regular work and my part-time jobs. What's the maximum plausible amount per month. Where can we splurge and where can be smart. I ended up having a colourful spreadsheet that compared each route, transportation, connections, travel date options, it was so detailed, some days I have to stop because it gave me real bad headaches. 7 months after, the trip to Prague became a trip to 9 different cities spanning across Europe and America (the last destination got cancelled by the way, we found out we were pregnant! - that's for another story).
I am super proud to say that although it was tough, it will be worth it. The toughest month was when I worked 26 days straight with no weekend breaks. I needed every Dirham I could earn. I want it to be the trip that will be the most memorable for all of us. I did not want my husband to know the gravity of this trip and so he will only find out when we start applying for visas.
For now, four days to go and we will get to see Czech Republic and its old world beauty. I am beyond excited!
This used to be us...