A long layover in Istanbul!

 

As we flew on Turkish Airlines, we ended up having a relatively long layover in Istanbul (7 hours). Of course the easiest thing to do, would be to just hang out in the airport, potentially even paying to go into one of the posh lounges….but that’s not how we travel. 😉

We’ve been in similar situations, like the time we had a layover in Munich for 8 hours on our way back from Greece. We had a great time taking the train into town, walking around the historic center, buying goodies at the outdoor market, and having beers and yummy food at the Hoffbrau House, while listening to live Oom Pah Music! So much more fun than just sitting in the airport. So, with that fond memory in our minds, we thought going into Istanbul was a no brainer. But as we got closer to our departure (partially due to our fatigue and anxiousness), we wondered if it was going to be a lot more hassle than it was worth. We ended up getting the Turkish visa online, to have one less obstacle at the airport and did some research to find the best ways to get into town. We sat next to a guy on the plane who apparently visits his friend in Istanbul every year. He suggested since we would be landing around rush hour in the evening, we should take the metro into town because a Taxi could take twice as long in traffic.

So we decided to go for it. Once we landed, we found the Left Luggage place and left behind the majority of our carry on, grabbed our scarves and gloves (the forecast showed temperatures in the 30-40s Fahrenheit (Brrr…), and headed to the Metro station. It would have been nice to go to Sultanahmet Square and see the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, but we knew that our time was very limited, so we decided to take the subway to Taksim Square, and walk down the pedestrian area towards the Golden Horn and the Galata area (where we had eaten several meals the last time we were in Istanbul 2 years ago).

The journey into town proved to be pretty easy, taking a little less than an hour. We came up to Taksim Square, to find it raining. That we were NOT prepared for! After a little trial and error, we navigated our way to the main pedestrian street and grabbed two umbrellas off a street vendor (about $5 each). It did feel really nice to be outside after a 12 hour plane ride! We worked our way as planned to the Tower and opted for a restaurant we had eaten in before. It was a yummy dinner, finished off with Baklava and tea.

After dinner and a few photos of the kids, we headed back to the airport on the Metro again. Definitely don’t regret the added hassle to go into town, as it proved to be a really nice evening and another small adventure in our overall travel experience….and besides, we LOVE Istanbul!

Now onto Kathmandu…

Our Longest Journey…

 

I won’t lie. I do not enjoy the time leading up to a large International trip. You would think packing would be easy by now, but it’s not. And for some reason, our trip to Nepal and India seemed significantly more difficult from a preparation and packing perspective. This trip is unique from our norm because not only do we have limitations regarding the type of things we can and need to bring, but also requirements around the type of clothing we should wear (only loose fitting pants and tops for women in the village, work clothes and gloves for when doing construction, and lots of layers given the big variance in temperatures during each day). And of course, there are also the supplies we needed to bring (i.e. sleeping bags, solar lanterns, etc. for our time in the village), first aid supplies, a variety of medicines in preparation for any situation (including some seriously strong antibiotics), as well as the gifts that we wanted to bring for our host families in the village.

Above all that, we needed to pack relatively light, with only one large backpack each (no big rolling bags on this trip!) and one carry on. Anyway, just making sure we had everything we needed, getting our shots and prescriptions, preparing our house for a home exchange (yes, there’s another family from Florida staying in our house), plus going through the normal holiday preparation for Christmas (totally snuck up on us this year!) made for a relatively stressful December. I’m exhausted just thinking back on it now!

The night before leaving, Desmond and I admitted to each other that we had both been feeling a little extra anxiety and trepidation about this trip. I suppose it’s because we know this will be the farthest we have ventured outside of our comfort zone as a family. Also, almost every person we have spoken to, who has been to Nepal or India seems to have experienced some type of illness while there (most commonly Delhi Belly, but some with serious bacterial infections). Obviously, that hasn’t helped with giving us piece of mind while preparing and anticipating this trip. Especially being that, while in the Village in Nepal, we will not be staying in a hotel with a western style bathroom. We have been told that there will be no running water and only squat toilettes outside (aka holes in the ground). Again, REALLY hoping no one will get suffer extreme intestinal issues!

One aspect that helped a little was that our our flight was not until late afternoon on the 26th, because we literally needed all day to finish packing (really tried to just enjoy Christmas even and Christmas day) and prep the house for the home exchange. We literally were scrambling until the last moments, trying to sort out how many carry-on bags we could limit ourselves to and get everything ready in time to leave for the Airport.

Of course, we ended up leaving later than planned, and although it seemed we still should have had plenty of time after checking in and grabbing a quick lunch at the airport, we encountered an extremely long security line, probably longer than any other I can remember having in the International terminal (yeah, I know…it’s the day after Christmas!). To make matters worst, the line was just NOT moving. That’s when I started to panic. So I went back to the security people and let them know that our flight was schedule to leave in about 30 minutes and they said all we could do was ask the people in front of us if they would be willing to let us go ahead of them. And as much as I hate the thought of asking people, I did out of desperation. And thank goodness for some kind people, we got closer to the front of the security line. Sadly our gate was literally the farthest one away in the terminal, so we did some running down the terminal ala The Amazing Race, only to get to our gate and see a huge line of people still boarding.

But we finally made it onto the plane. It still felt pretty surreal to think we were headed to Nepal. As Desmond said, it took him a bit off guard when the person checking us in said “your final destination is Nepal?”! And so we finally set off on what is definitely our longest journey as a family, hoping this will be an adventure of a lifetime, giving us all a new perspective on life.

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We did it…for the love of travel!

For many years, we have wanted to do a family Travel blog but have just never seemed to be able to get our act together. So, with this post, you are hopefully witnessing the start of a long-time desire, coming to fruition!

THE BEGINNINGS

Travel has been a joint passion for us since we started dating about 25 years ago. In fact, it’s probably what solidified our relationship, as we spent a little over 3 months traveling together through Europe a year after we started dating. They say that traveling can either make or break a relationship, and that certainly proved true for us.

Since we got married relatively young, we were in no hurry to have children, and continued to make travel a priority in our lives…taking at least one (and sometimes two) trips per year. As we began to get closer to the prospect of having children, people kept saying to us “It’s a good thing that you’ve traveled so much, because once kids come along you won’t be doing that anymore”. This not only struck us as odd, but also really annoying…so we became determined to prove everybody wrong!
Now, 14 years in (since having our first child), we’ve traveled to over 30 countries as parents with children, beginning with a trip to Italy when our son was 3 months old. Evan is now 14 and Nepal and India will be his 32nd and 33rd countries, and for Ella at the young age of 10, it will be 19th and 20th.

There are many reasons that traveling together is so important for us, and why we’ve made it a priority over the years. Outside of our just plain LOVE of travel, the biggest benefit for us traveling together as a family is because as the kids get older, we find it increasingly difficult to have quality time as a family at home (with school, extra curricular activities and work) and the days and weeks seems to be going by quicker and quicker every month. But when we go away, it affords us an opportunity to have 24/7 quality time as a family.

The other equally important reason is that we truly believe that travel and personal exposure to foreign cultures and lifestyles is key to having a well-rounded global perspective, a better understanding of their place in the world, and an appreciation for all they have in their own lives. We tend to think that our kids have grown into pretty open minded and adaptable people because of a life of navigating foreign cultures and countless experiences outside of their “comfort zones”.

And just for the record…despite having so many “glamorous” sounding travels, we’re NOT extravagant travelers. We’ve used miles for many of our flights, we plan trips a year in advance and monitor airfares to get the best price. We use relatively budget accommodations, rent apartments and do home exchanges (cooking a lot of own meals). And we pretty much always eat inexpensively. In fact, we’re often surprised to learn that our 2 and a half week trip in Europe, may have cost us about the same as friend’s one week trip to Hawaii!

OUR UPCOMING ADVENTURE

And so, that brings us to December 2017, when we’re just weeks away from embarking on one of our greatest adventures yet….helping to build a school in a rural village in Nepal.

How did this come about you may ask. About 2 years ago, our good friends shared their amazing adventure building a school in a rural village in Malawi in partnership with BuildOn.org. We felt completely inspired by their stories, photos and overall experience, and decided to sign up with BuildOn as well. What sealed the deal was hearing their children (at the time the same age as Evan and Ella are now!) speak about their experiences and share their photos. It was clearly a life changing experience.

We as a family believe in the importance of education, not only for our children, but for those who depend on it to get out of the cycle of poverty. We know there are communities around the world in need of help, but the only way we can make a difference to commit to helping one community at a time. The opportunity to combine our passion for travel and our desire to give back, perfectly came together with this commitment.

So after about a year and a half of fundraising and planning, we (and 6 others) have raised over $50,000 to fund a new school and are about to embark on our Journey to Nepal where we will all be meeting in Kathmandu on December 29th, before traveling to the village of Nimuwaboji.

We are so grateful for the support of our many friends and family members who have helped us reach our fundraising goal to build this school, and look forward to being able to share updates, stories and photos with everyone via this blog during our travels.

AND we’ll hope to continue to chronicle our family travels going forward as well now that we finally got this up and running!

Team Gribben.