Keeping a Journal While I Travel

One of the things I do when I travel is have a notebook to journal in.  My goal is to journal every night but that is not always possible for a variety of reasons.  For instance, my trip to Africa, a lot of nights we were in bed early and there was nowhere to sit down and write.  So when we got somewhere that had a bench and a place to write, and we weren’t going to be making supper immediately or something, I would get caught up.

What Do I Write?
Start with the basics.  Where was I, what were we doing, any key points that stand out to me.  These journals are what I use when I blog the trip.  Relevant information like what we saw that day, special notes, things that are unique that I want to remember in the future or something interesting the guide told us.  Sometimes my entries are very short and not very informative beyond what creative thing I may have tried to make in the kitchen with limited resources.  On a tour, I may make notes about the meal we had or a food that I tried.  Depending on where I am, there are notes about the weather. 

At the back of my notebook, I keep track of the money I have spent.  I like to have a good idea of what I spent and how I spent it.  Of course, I can always track it based on how much money I converted or put on my credit card.  The other advantage of listing my spending is that it can help me remember where I was on a certain day, especially if I haven’t journaled for a bit.  I typically keep the spending list current.  If I convert cash, I will make a note of the exchange rate I got when I did the exchange.

Do you keep a journal?  What do you record?

Where am I Going Next?

Now that I have been to Africa, what is next on my list?  Funny you should ask that.  Next spring I am off on a cruise to the Caribbean with friends.  I haven’t been on a cruise for 20 years so it should be interesting.  I know a lot has changed!


It is an 8 night cruise through the Eastern Caribbean.  There are four of us going so we have upgraded to a balcony room.  I don’t know many of the details, just the dates of our trip.  As it is over 6 months away, we have yet to figure out our excursions and activities we may want to do but I’m not overly concerned.

If you are curious to see the trip, check it out here:  8 Night Eastern Caribbean Cruise

My next big trip is likely going to be Europe.  People are always surprised that I haven’t been already but that is just the way it has worked out.  My thought at this point is that I want to do a tour and see the highlights and then I can return in the future to further explore the areas that further interest me.  This saves me trying to figure out accommodation as well as transportation.  While I’m sure many people speak English, I worry about getting confused and not getting to where I want to be.

I am thinking that I would like to go to Switzerland, Austria and Germany.  I want to go to Neuschwanstein Castle as it has intrigued me since I was a teenager.  As its still two and a half years from now, I haven’t really started much research.  

 Is there anything that you think I should make sure to see in Europe?  Chances are I will make sure to have a few free days on either end of my trip to relax.

Notes for My Next Trip from My Africa Trip

While my trip to Africa was great, there are things that I wish I had done a bit differently.  Below are the things that I would have done differently as well as the reasoning.   Take them with a grain of salt and your mileage may vary.

Bring an old smartphone instead of a tablet
For this, a lot really depends on what you are using the electronics for.  I did end up watching a few movies on my tablet so it was handy for that, but in the grand scheme of things, my phone would have been much more convenient.  I find typing on my phone easier than on my tablet and the phone is smaller and easier to carry.  It would have been much easier to share pictures with people back home via email if I had used my phone.

Bring my Kindle
I read, a lot.  I read 12 books over the course of the month that I was in Africa.  I found my tablet was cumbersome to read on and sometimes it was too bright due to the screen.  While reading didn’t drain the battery too badly, many other things did so I quite often was charging it when I wanted to read.

Make sure the locks I bring fit my carryon
I typically keep my carry on locked when I am travelling.  But the locks that I brought were too big to fit on the bag I was carrying.  This was actually due to using a different bag than a proper travel bag due to space.  I assumed all zipper pulls are the same but these were not and as a result, I couldn’t lock up my bag during my trip.  It wasn’t a big deal but it was frustrating.

Bring a change of clothing/sunscreen/deodorant in my carryon
I’ve always heard a person should have spare clothing in their carryon just in case.  But, as I have never lost luggage before, I hadn’t bothered.  Now that it has happened, it is something I will definitely have to consider.  While I did wash out my clothing at the other end, due to the weather, nothing dried and I had to go out in damp clothing.

Put name inside my luggage and first destination
Again, this has to do with losing luggage.  Another traveler told me of them losing her luggage and the identification tag got lost somewhere.  She was able to get her bag as she was able to describe it and think her name was inside somewhere.  For this reason, it’s a good idea to have something with your name and first destination inside so that they can verify the bag belongs to you.

Head lamp if camping
Apparently I did not read the packing list very carefully, if at all, and this caused some problems during the trip.  For the most part, I was able to make do with my flashlight and the light I got off of others headlamps.  While I don’t expect to do anther camping trip, hopefully my mistake will benefit you.

Calculator for easy currency conversion
I typically do not have an issue with figuring out various currencies and what equals what.   But there were times I was getting confused, especially as we were changing currency on a regular basis.  Having a calculator for some quick math likely would have helped me out once or twice or at least reminded me of how much I was paying for something.   With that, if I had an old smartphone, it would have had a calculator app I could use.

While this list is not a definite list of items that I wished I had had, it is a starting point and hopefully will help others.  Have you gone somewhere and wished you had brought something else with you that you had left at home?  Please let us know in the comments.

TCM’s Africa Adventures

TCM came with me to Africa (Don’t know TCM?  Meet TCM!).  He wasn’t always that great about getting into the photos so I don’t have a lot of his adventures.  For a minion who wants to travel, he is a bit shy about actually coming out of hiding.  But regardless, here he is.

First up is TCM enjoying the balcony in Nairobi.  Thankfully he travels in style in the carry-on luggage or else he would have been left behind.

Off to the Serengeti!

Oohh.. spoke too soon, we have to wait our turn.  So TCM decided to explore.  He isn’t sure if he is wildlife or not.

TCM came out to ride in the hot air balloon.  Our pilot saw him and commented that we had a stowaway.  But he was a well behaved stow away, he was too scared to come out of his hiding spot once we were on our way.

Off we go to spot some wildlife.

Relaxing as the truck travels down the road.  TCM did this a lot!

Hanging out at the beach at Zanzibar.  Too bad TCM can only look as water would be dangerous for him. 

Bananas!!!  I’m surprised I got such a clear shot as TCM was vibrating he was so excited!

Ahhh.. more Beach!  TCM really wanted to go swimming but I had to remind him that he would drown and miss the rest of his adventure.

With that said, TCM didn’t want the adventure to end once we got to Victoria Falls.  In fact, he ended up hiding in the truck and he missed the trip to the Falls completely.  He almost stayed behind in Africa but I managed to find him with a last look in the truck before the continuing tour left.

TCM was exhausted when we got home; it was a long journey for him.  He also needed a bath but minions are a bit tougher to scrub clean than humans so he is no longer quite as bright yellow as his cousin’s.  He seems to be okay with this though, he feels it makes him look more rugged and adventuresome.

The Trip Winds Down

My last day of activities was on October 21.  I spent the day relaxing by the pool and playing on the Internet and reading my book.  I had booked a sunset cruise with another lady in our group and it turned out another person joined us.  Technically our tour was over but I did have a few extra days in Victoria Falls to allow me to wind down a bit before it was time to start my journey home.  

The sunset cruise was great.  We saw a family of hippos hanging out and two of them were playing in the water.  We encountered some elephants and watched them walk through the water and then up onto the bank and then walk away.  Unfortunately, some of the other boats got between us and them.

While we watched the elephants, the sun was going down behind us.  What a gorgeous way to end our trip!  I was going back and forth and taking pictures of both things – the elephants and the sunset.

Heading Home
Due to the way my flights were, I flew from Victoria Falls to Johannesburg where I had an 8 hour layover.   I talked to customer service about getting my flight changed to potentially get home sooner but it was going to cost me several hundred dollars so I didn’t make any changes. 

Luggage carts were my friend as I wandered the airport a fair bit outside of security.  I wasn’t ready to go through as I didn’t know what types of services there might be on the other side and I knew I was going to want to eat.  I believe that there may not have been Wi-Fi beyond security either.  As it turned out, the internet was difficult for me to connect to and you only got an hours’ worth.

Overall, it was a great trip.  I enjoyed the trip itself, not so much the tents and having to put them up and down daily.  The days where we had an actual bed and no tents were great treats.  I was able to cross a few things off the list of the places I want to go.
I believe my trip cost around 10 thousand Canadian after all spending.  Keep in mind I paid close to 800 Canadian for my hot air balloon ride.  I had several nights on both ends of my trip that I was on my own so I had additional food and hotel nights beyond my actual tour. An unexpected expenditure was buying clothing and toiletries due to lost luggage.   

The End of the Trip: Victoria Falls

We arrived in Victoria Falls on October 19 and went directly to the Falls.  Everyone on our tour but me and another lady decided to go check them out immediately.  I had gotten a thorn in my foot the day before when using a bush toilet so I wasn’t up to walking at that time.  It was also very hot and I wanted to go in the morning when it was cooler. 
Went to the hotel instead and got settled into my room.  The other lady who didn’t go to the Falls had decided to room with me for the nights we were in Victoria Falls as she needed a break from her tent mate and a tent in general.  Hung out at the pool to relax for the afternoon and then met up with the group for supper as it was our last night together. 

Even with being in a room, it was hot.  There was a ceiling fan but it could only do so much with the heat.  Ultimately, we slept with the door and window open (we stuck something in the door to make it a bit safer).

Visiting the Falls
Headed off to the Falls around 10 am.  We planned to stick around until after lunch as we had heard that around 1 or 1:30 you can see rainbows.   The walk over was probably about 15 minutes but it wasn’t too hot so it was tolerable.  We started by walking the length of the path to see the Falls and then we wandered to the restaurant to have something to eat.  They had misters which was nice as it was getting hot and we were melting. 

Beginning of the Path

Looking down towards the other end of the Falls

Looking back at the first Fall

The biggest section

Panoramic of the Falls

As we were there in the low season, the Falls were not as full as they typically would be.  From what we were told, the water levels were actually the lowest they have seen in a lot of years.  With that, when the water levels are higher, there is so much mist that you cannot see much.  For that reason, I’m glad we were there during the low season

Lovely rainbows!

Originally we planned to walk across the bridge to Zambia but decided that we were too hot and tired.  We purposely would walk some of the paths slowly as you got mist from the Falls coming over you.  Instead of walking back, we took a cab due to the heat.  I enjoyed a swim in the pool once we returned before meeting the people I had been touring with for supper.

A misted pathway

The route to cross the border

Random Photos from the Falls 
One of the dry areas of the Falls

One of the many excursions you could do.  But climbing back up would suck.

See the little people?  They are in an area called "Devil's Pool".  It feels like you are being pushed and are going to fall over.

And the Truck Wheels Keep Rolling

October 16
Yet another day with another long day in the truck.  Left Crocodile Valley and drove another 12 hours to another campground.  Found two intrepid trucks, one G Adventures truck and one from Nomad.  A lot of people were hanging out in the bar, playing pool and just partying.  I hung out a bit but it was too loud so I went to my tent.
October 17
Up and on the road early yet again.  We crossed into Zimbabwe early in the day.  The Canadians got hit hard with VISA fees with it being $75 US yet the Americans only had to pay $30.  I have since found out it has to do with how much the other country charges. 
Zimbabwe Ruins
We visited the Zimbabwe Ruins.  Climbing up all the rock stairs was a lot of work as they were not even or in good condition.  It was interesting to see the various areas and what they were used for.  It was a bit hard for me to imagine with all the rocks everywhere and there not being any complete walls left.

The hill we climbed

Up in the Ruins

The view from the top of the Ruins

 A village created for the tourists

Inside the Great Enclosure

Exit from the Great Enclosure

Within the Great Enclosure

Arrived at our home for the next night and decided to upgrade as it was raining when we arrived.  Rooms were only $4 night, per person.  They did the trick and everyone stayed dry.

And we moved on again the next day.  This was a short day in the truck, only 6 hours!  Who would have thought I would have said that 6 hours of driving was short?  Anyways, we arrived at our campsite, most of us upgraded by rooms, being tired of the ground at this point and hauled our stuff in.  Then we piled back into the truck and headed into Bulawayo to check it out.  There was a store that I wanted to check out but it was closed to I hung out with the girls at a bar for a bit.

October 18
I hung out at the campground today.  The optional daytrip didn’t interest me so I hung out at the campground, played on the Internet and hung out at the pool.  Our guides can’t swim but I was trying to teach them how to scull.  They couldn’t get the hang of it and were quite jealous.  They had issues sinking too, had a tough time trying to dive down to retrieve beer they had tossed in the pool.

Next up, Victoria Falls!