As a further motivator to get caught up on some blogging, here are the times I traveled in 2016…
Early January we were in Romania and then Serbia for our winter break.
Spring Break in March was spent in Thailand.
In late April we had to go to Sri Lanka for a visa renewal for Jordan.
In mid-May we went to Bangalore for Jacob’s swim meet.
For summer break we flew to Seattle where we stayed for a while before renting an RV and driving through Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Oregon. Then we spent time in New York before returning to India.
We went to New Delhi for a long weekend in September.
I had an overnight volleyball trip to Sri Lanka in September.
For our fall break we went to Paris.
In October I had our team’s volleyball tournament in Oman.
In November I went rafting with a group of 12 students for four days on the Mahakali River which separates India and Nepal.
We flew to Madurai for Thanksgiving break.
Winter break we went to Ukraine, Finland and then rang in the new year in Estonia.
For our winter break we went to Kiev, Ukraine then Helsinki, Finland up to Rovanievi, Finland and then Tallinn, Estonia. This is a video about our time in Rovanievi in Lapland — right at the Arctic Circle.
We found our place using Booking.com because we found that Airbnb places were pretty much booked up.
A few weeks ago we got up early on the weekend and rode a bus with others from the school to go birding at Vendanthangal Bird Sanctuary. This was our second trip there and seeing tens of thousands of large birds is amazing.
In February I went to Nepal to coach our school’s team for boy’s soccer. I didn’t get to see much of the country but did get to walk around Kathmandu a little and even spend a bit of time in a hospital with a player that broke his ankle.
In March I went to an Adaptive Schools training in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. While I didn’t get to see much of Malaysia, I did get to walk around KL a bit before the training started and in the evenings.
In early April, Pepper’s mom came to visit during our spring break. We flew to Delhi and visited sights there including getting down to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.
Later in April we had our track meet in Muscat, Oman. I have already been to the city last year for soccer so it wasn’t a new place but still nice to go there for a new reason. It was extra special because Pepper and I both were coaches and Jordan was on the team. We brought Jacob along too, so it was a trip for the whole family.
Once our summer break began, we returned to the US, but made a stopover in London on our way. We spent a few days seeing sights in the city and really appreciated breaking up the long flights with a few days of vacationing.
We then headed up to Alaska were we rented an RV and drove around parts of the interior and even got some spectacular views of Denali.
We spent time in Petersburg and Pepper and Brooke did a trip through Southeast Alaska and saw most of the larger communities there. We spent time in Washington and New York seeing friends and family before heading straight back to India.
For this year’s volleyball tournament we went to Sri Lanka. Like most of the sports trips, I wasn’t able to see much of the city other than the area near the school and my host’s home.
For my Discover India trip, this year I returned to the Rishikesh area for a hiking, biking and rafting experience. We had a great time and I was able to see some new sights in the area. Here is a little video clip I made from the trip.
For our winter break we spent a few days in Doha then went on to Serbia. We have ended the year in Romania.
Interestingly, some of these places are on our radar for the coming year. Specifically, Abu Dhabi and Dublin. We’re thinking about stopping by Abu Dhabi to look at a college for Jordan and then stopping over in Ireland on our return the US for the summer.
Highlights: Nikola Tesla Museum and a street art scene!
Bacon and eggs on English muffins for breakfast. Yum.
We spent the day stomping around (and getting taxis) downtown Belgrade. First we saw the bombed out remains of the Yugoslavia Army Headquarters. It is fascinating to go to historical sites. Sometimes the sites that are from memorable history are more interesting. Seeing the buildings made me want to learn more about what happened. It also made me reflect more on war. This building was stuck by NATO forces in 1999.
We then went on a nice walk to seek out street art and Brooke knew the right area and we were soon documenting some of the Belgrade street art scene.
While walking around, Brooke pointed out a park that a few months earlier had been full of refugees passing through. Nearby was a makeshift distribution center with boxes of donated clothing and other items. We saw some Syrian refugees walking into and out of the entry, some carrying bags of food and clothing. I reflect more on war.
Soon it was time for the restaurant and bar Brooke wanted us to try for lunch to open. We gorged on pretzel, sausages and fries. Their beer list was dizzying.
Then we hopped in cabs to go to the Nikola Tesla Museum. This is another definite stop when in Belgrade. We watched a short clip about Tesla’s life and then were shown some of his inventions — both reproductions and originals.
We then went to the Church of Saint Sava which is an incomplete Serbian Orthodox church. Construction began in 1935 and is not complete yet. Most of the exterior is done though.
Finally, we went to a great little place with an amazing assortment of beer.
Out of well over a hundred different beers I have only ever tried about 15 of them. We’re loving the Eastern European winter beer selection.
We had to head back to get to bed because we were to celebrate Christmas with Brooke in the morning.
Our flight was early. The alarm woke me at 4 and we were pretty quickly packed and loaded into a cab. Our exit from Doha was pretty uneventful. Our flight landed in Sofia for an hour and most passengers disembarked there before the quick hop to Belgrade.
Immigration was fast. Our bags came pretty quickly. We connected with the driver that Brooke had sent for us, withdrew some cash from an ATM and were scooting off to Brooke’s apartment.
Brooke took us to a great place for lunch and then showed us the schools that she works at which were all close enough to her place to just walk to.
We went back to her place and played a game before we went to the local police station to register as visitors. We ended up not having to be there in person and Brooke’s landlord took care of it for us.
We were tired and fell asleep early… ready to see more of Serbia tomorrow!
Shannon made a delicious pile of French toast and we headed out to a playground area where Jacob could ride his new scooter around and play on some equipment. The scooter is definitely a win. If he had walked around as much as he had scooted then he would have been much more tired and asked us to carry him later in the day.
We went to the Museum of Islamic Art which was a stunning example of modern Islamic inspired architecture and had bold displays of a huge range of Islamic art pieces.
We then headed to the mall where Jay plays hockey which is largely like the Las Vegas Venetian hotel’s string of shops along an artificial canal with an arched painted ceiling above. We spent lots of time in the small amusement park within trying to find some fun things for the boys to do. We settled on some bumper cars…
Jay and I spent many hours into the evening talking… the friendship with him and Shannon is one of those that can resume quickly after getting back together. We head out early the next morning for our flight to Belgrade, Serbia to see Brooke.
Highlight: Star Wars: The Force Awakens and adding a new country to our list.
Our flight out of Chennai departed at 3:15 in the morning on the Saturday after school ended. We left our home at 11:15 to head to the airport. Traffic was pretty light but the roads are in pretty bad shape from the recent flooding. We Checked in on Qatar Air and stood in the agonizing line through immigration. We saw a number of other teachers from our school also heading out.
The previous two winter breaks we have stayed in India and actually not even traveled much within the country during the break. We have stayed home, saved money, relaxed and done the things we seem to consider hobbies now. We also have not done much travel during the spring or fall breaks. Pepper and I went to China our first spring break to pick up Jacob. The next year we went to Delhi and Agra with Pepper’s mom. We went to Bangladesh one fall break. But many of our coworkers and friends teaching at other schools travel widely during breaks. We consider ourselves big fans of travel, so hunkering down at home for 9 weeks of our school breaks while seemingly everyone we know is off seeing the world was difficult at times. But we really have enjoyed being home too.
But this time, seeing coworkers headed off to chilly places in Europe or Canada or the warm places like Thailand or Sri Lanka seemed much more bearable. We were off to a combination. Our fist stop was Doha, Qatar.
Jacob and I stayed awake and watched movies on the flight while Pepper and Jordan slept. We all ended up getting some sleep on the flight though. We landed in Doha and ended up in another agonizing immigration line. We had to pay for the visas as we arrived but it wasn’t a hassle and didn’t have to fill out any forms. Our friends that we worked with in Mongolia picked us up at the airport and hustled us off to their beautiful housing compound. Jay and Shannon are friends that we did a week long tour through the Gobi and also a two week trip through Sri Lanka. They are not off somewhere exotic for their winter break since she’s pregnant and due in January.
We had some breakfast, Jacob watched a couple of movies and I did some napping. Then we spent some time in the sun at their pool. But the real big plan for the day was going to see the newly released Star Wars movie. We first went to Black Rock Grill where we ordered food that was delivered on 400 degree sizzling black stones. I was able to cook and eat my steak at the same time. Jordan got salmon and Pepper got giant prawns. Some of us were careful to leave space for some popcorn…
We went to a nice theater and watched the new Star Wars movie in 3D. I’m not usually a fan of 3D but honestly didn’t feel like there was an excessive effort to have things pop out at the audience so it didn’t bother me. I loved the movie and we all had a good time discussing things we liked, were shocked by, and look forward to in the coming years. It was great to have a movie that brought back memories from seeing some of the characters in the 80s. The desire to cheer out loud with the first notes of the theme song was uncontrollable.
One nice thing about staying at a place where there are a lot of teachers living, but most are gone, is that we were able to stay in an apartment right next to Jay and Shannon’s. They had plenty of space with just their place, but we had more room to spill our bags out and sleep in a big bed while not fighting for shower space at all.
Ryan McFarland's travel, thoughts, projects and more.