Have you ever been stranded abroad while traveling? I have, and it is by far one of the strangest feelings. The pit that grows in your stomach from the moment you catch wind..."you are not going home"...is a straight sucker punch.
This time last year, we were in Iceland. A place I had long dreamed of exploring. Even better, our trip enveloped my birthday. It was a fantastically planned seven day journey. We landed in Reykjavík, made a pit stop in Vik, explored Höfn, and soaked in a few days of R&R near Hafnarfjörður to take in the Icelandic culture and live like a local.
Little did I know living like a local would take on a vastly different meaning towards the end of our trip!
Two nights prior to our return to Germany, we were swiftly notified our ride home had gone bankrupt. And that rude awakening? It came from friends, not the airline. News broke. Headlines were pumped up. Mine and hubby's phones were buzzing uncontrollably.
"WOW! Air had gone out of business..."
It took a minute to sink in. However, it hit my husband like a ton of bricks. Rightfully so, he is the planner of the two of us. 99% of our trip details are formed in his brain. If it were up to me, we would float through life on feelings and emotions- not logic and reason. I'm so glad I married him. Have I ever said that? I digress...
We eventually did receive an email stating the airline which was scheduled to take us home was no longer in business. Umm, what?! What were we supposed to do? How would we get home? We couldn't even call the airline to discuss options, because no one was there. They closed up shop and basically said "good luck."
My level-headed husband began scouring flights back to Frankfurt from Reykjavík. The first option would've been four times the price of our original flights and also included an 18 hour layover in Helsinki. Umm, no way. The next day, we caught wind that IcelandAir was offering "Rescue Flights" for pretty much the same amount as our initially booked ones. Whew! Only problems was it was a few days out. Now, what to do in the meantime?
Thankfully, the owners of our AirBnb didn't have anyone coming in after us and allowed us to stay the remainder of our time there for FREE! What a blessing!
Another blessing was booking the flights with our Chase credit card. We do this to collect points for future flights, and the fine print of our contract covered travel reimbursement. Woohoo! So we were able to recoup the money from our original tickets.
Always make sure you have some type of travel insurance to cover your behind in times of crisis. Check your travel agent or current insurance provider prior to traveling. It might already be in place. If not, don't leave home without it. I highly recommend keeping a Chase card in your wallet solely because of our past experiences. Not to mention the incredible rewards. If you don't already have a Chase account, follow the link below! Not to mention, the immediate cash upon signing up.
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Lastly, hubby's work was understanding of what happened and didn't penalize him for the hiccup. He didn't have to take additional time off from work. It just meant, I had to entertain the boys in this tiny AirBnB while he worked.
Meanwhile, we had to figure out what to do with this extra time. I know it sounds like a good problem to have, but when you've already explored the touristy sites and mounds of snow is piling up outside, there's little left to do. We ended up living like true locals.
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Everything is crazy expensive in Iceland, so we weren't eating out that much anyways. We bought up more groceries, window shopped a ton in the city, and even paid homage to the local, indoor, trampoline park. Visiting a place like that is something we would typically not do while on a trip, but this wasn't a typical trip.
Our trip ended up being 11 days. In hindsight, it was a nice breather from our typical day-to-day routine. It gave us a moment to pause and enjoy one another. Even though hubs was working in the AirBnb, he could hang out with us at lunch and have mini Transformer sessions with the boys throughout the day. I got to snuggle my babies a little more. Well, they were 3&4 years old, but they'll always be babies to momma! And that micro kitchen? They cooked and baked with me and cooked some more. We played lots of hide and seek, colored, watched movies, read books, napped, and played in the snow.
So, take it from me...savor this time.
I feel like when kids are out of school, most parents still have to report to work. During this time, you can truly savor your kiddos. I know it's stressful figuring out what to do all day long. But my advice, just love them. Bake, cook, build a fort, play board games, snuggle up and watch movies, give them lots of empty boxes and watch their creativity blossom. Even if they are big kids, it's amazing to watch!
Squeeze in homework and housework when you can, but soak up this time. It is a treasure. Don't dismiss this golden opportunity to create memories. They might not remember the fluff around the madness, but they will surely recall those special moments at home.
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As I've said before, traveling is the lifeblood of living abroad. No matter what continent you have been plopped on, it's absolutely worth it to save the funds to get out there and explore! No brainer, you guys...no brainer.
Some folks who live abroad are blessed with an exceptional "expat package" making travel easier on the wallet. Those who aren't, have to make sacrifices just as they normally would back in their home country. Either way, there are super simple ways to save cash for travel funds.
Here's a quick list to tick off RIGHT NOW:
- cancel subscriptions- gym, magazine, cable
- free ways to work-out: Hello, YouTube!
- say NO to impulse buys
- make a list and stick to it
- buy groceries in bulk when on sale (freeze extra)
- use country specific Amazon to save boat loads on shipping
- ex. If living in Germany, I wouldn't order something on Amazon.de and have it shipped to the States. I would create an account on Amazon.com and have it shipped from that website.
- be your own stylist
- hair, nails, brows, facials
- in-source services
- house cleaning, gardener, lawn maintenance
- babysitter swap
- exchange your time with a friend to watch their kids while they go out and vice versa
- buy recycled or used items
- FB Marketplace, Craigslist, thrift stores, various community groups all sell good quality items with lots of life left in them
- free family activities at your finger tips
- replace museums, movie theaters, and play centers with parks, hiking trails, playground, and bike rides
- make your own coffee
- nix the fancy five dollar cups
- weekly meal plan and eat at home
- ask your kids what they want and get them to help you shop
- make a monthly budget (see my last tip at the bottom)
- and stick to it!
Have you made notes? Created a plan to implement a few of the bullet points? Trust me. You will save boat loads by cutting the unnecessary crap. You'll be surprised at how quickly it adds up!
- reassess your living situation
- is it a good time to sell your home? downsize? negotiate a lower payment with your landlord?
- sell a car...or two
- the monthly payment, gas, insurance, general maintenance all.adds.up
- sign up for a credit card with travel perks
- Put standing bills on there and pay it off every.single.month
- (in the US, highly recommend Chase - amazing rewards - double points for travel-related purchases and sign on bonus)
- Put standing bills on there and pay it off every.single.month
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- out with the lights/off with the water
- it sounds trivial, but making sure they are shut off really adds up
- open a travel savings account
- commit to putting $20, $50, or even $100 in every month
- two words - DAVE RAMSEY
- this guy knows his stuff and put us on the straight and narrow during the first six months of our marriage
Reframing your mindset and aligning your priorities will drastically change the way you live your everyday life. This is our life. We follow this list. I make a grocery list and shop at Aldi. I love to cook and don't feel like I'm sacrificing quality either, even on the organic selection. It's tricky at times, but we have one car in our family. We have credit cards that provide us with sweet travel-related rewards.
I don't get my hair highlighted and usually get it cut once a year or so. 80% of the boys' clothes are hand-me-downs or from second-hand shops, even shoes and jackets. My clothes too! The puffy vest I wore to church yesterday was from the local thrift store, and the shirt underneath was easily ten years old. Almost all of our furniture has been previously loved, not purchased from a store. I also buy generic make-up and beauty products. Living in Germany is heavenly when it comes to exploring forests, parks, and mind-blowing playgrounds. Creating memories outside is free and fun!
I won't lie though...we are human. Once in a while that chocolate bar at the check out is more than tempting. I might splurge on that ice cream cone for the kiddos or the occasional family outing to the movies...or restaurant. Because, who doesn't like a break from the kitchen every now and then?
You don't have to completely deprive yourself of a colorful day-to-day life, but rid the excess. Be smart about the choices you make. Make a budget, stick to it, and save.
Lastly, make traveling a priority. If you don't put your eye on the prize and believe you can see the world on a budget, then the opportunity might pass you by.
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Ever heard of "Bali Belly?"
I have. And would like to personally never experience it. We've had wonderful experiences in Indonesia without any stomach issues. All hail the miracle product!
In fact, I have a good friend who had a 12-hour return flight home from Bali. Within 30 minutes of being in the air, she started to feel dizzy and then came the nasty sweats. Before she knew it, she was profusely vomiting. In the aisleway. In the galley. In the tiny excuse for an airplane bathroom. Everywhere. And then the worst part came.
She blacked out. Passed out. The flight attendants tried everything they could, but her temperature kept climbing while she was unconscious. Luckily her husband was onboard with her. He was suffering from his own sour stomach, though, so not a ton of assistance came from him.
Thankfully, they landed safely. Rushed her to the hospital where she was admitted and given lots of fluids. I wasn't present, so I can't say for sure what was administered to get rid of the yuck. But I have been told by friends who work in the emergency room, a simple over the counter product is given in HEAVY doses. This simple little product is:
No matter the country you come from or will be traveling to, it is available everywhere. It's affordable. It comes in capsule form for adults to safely swallow, but also plenty made in tablet form for kiddos. You better believe I've crushed up a tablet or two and swirled it around in yogurt or mashed banana for my kids during the toddler era. I now dissolve it in water or juice and have them suck it down. They know what it is now, and they are well aware of how quickly it helps them.
We were recently in Malta, and my eldest came down with something very very fast. 104F fever, chills, sweats, vomiting. He begged me for charcoal. Within a few hours, his fever came down and the vomiting disappeared.
I'm telling ya.
The activated charcoal will soak up any nasty bacteria that can upset your tummy and will make you so very sick.
We took our boys to Thailand when they were 2 months and 22 months. The water at our accommodation would make you sick if consumed.
TMI coming your way! It helps with diarrhea as well as vomiting. Whatever is ailing your sensitive GI track, this stuff will soak it up and eventually work it's way out. It may look like sticky black tar. But hey, I'd rather see that than ten more rounds of throw up or spend the night on the toilet in tears.
So, do yourself a favor and pick up some today! Keep it in your luggage or already-prepped travel bag. You can write me a thank you note later!
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The above information is provided as preventative measures for acute illness while traveling abroad. If you are not feeling well and experience extreme health issues, please seek out emergency services.