Trip To Australia: Travel & Happiness Lessons For Our Future

20140424-203737.jpgAs we mentioned in our last post, we recently got back from a trip to Australia, part of which we paid for and part of which Mr PoP’s employer paid for. But since we don’t do big trips like this often (really only 3 that I can think of in the 10 years we’ve been together), it was a nice reminder of some of the things that let us travel relatively cheaply (though this one was a tad on the splurgy side with all that food spending).

Lesson #1 – No more flying for 20+ hours for us.

Mr PoP’s hatred of airplanes + the horrible jet lag we got upon our return (14 time zones…) = the next time we go to Australia, we’ll sail there. Kills 2 birds with one stone, 3 if you count our long burning desire for a sailing adventure.

Lesson #2 – Expensive doesn’t mean better.


Free view. Just need to hike there.

We can dress up and go to fancy work gatherings and have a good time, but when it comes down to it, Mr PoP and I both had a lot more fun and were able to relax a lot more on the portion of the trip that was just us where we spent about 1/10th as much as the work event was spending on us.

Lesson #3 – We are pretty darned cheap to entertain.

All Mr PoP really needs to entertain himself is a book or an internet connection, a nice cup of coffee and to be left alone for a while, even if it is in our somewhat frumpy “historic” hotel. Luckily that’s pretty convenient since my ideal days are finding an open area and spending some time out in nature whenever the weather cooperates. (This trip meant several days of hiking, other days of running, and spending a day viewing contemporary installation art on a heritage site/island in the harbor.)


I found this strange plant ridiculously entertaining along my hike. Mr PoP would have been less than amused if I had dragged him along.

While I’m all for lazy days reading when the weather is bad, and he is happy to go on short hikes/wanderings with me when he’s well fed (otherwise he calls them death marches), we’re both happiest when we indulge our desires separately and come together and share them with each other in the evening. It’s a nice balance and this trip was a good reminder that we travel best together when we get a lot of separate alone time.

Lesson #4 – Life without cell phones is not only possible, it’s liberating.

Our Ting iPhones didn’t get service in Australia. Sure, we could use them in wifi zones (and did), but we didn’t have a reliable way to communicate with each other when we were on our own. Instead of getting the shakes about being incommunicado, it was liberating to not have constant emails coming in and out or leaving meetup plans until the last minute. Instead, we made plans to meet up in given windows of time (eg – meet at hotel lobby between 5 and 6pm) and then we followed through. We had backup plans on how to contact one another if we were delayed. Honestly, it felt kindof amazing to spend a little time feeling like it was 1999 again and not tied to an electronic leash.

Lesson #5 – We have been spoiled by toilet culture in the US.

Now we’ve never been to Japan, which is kindof famous for their fancy technologically superior toilets. But what I do know is that the exhaust fan standard in most American bathrooms puts us miles ahead of Australia where bathroom ventilation basically don’t exist. Not only that, but (as Mr PoP attests), the urinals were basically troughs with drains without water to rinse them out. What does that mean? It means that the bathrooms all over the place (even in the 5-star hotel we stayed at during the work portion of the trip!) stank to high heaven. When we got back to the US and stopped at the bathroom at LAX (the Los Angeles airport), the LAX bathrooms looked a bit worse, but smelled just about on par with an Australian bathroom. If you’ve been in an LAX bathroom, you know it’s not great.

Honestly, we think there’s some pretty extended long-term travel in our future and this gave us a decent sense of what it might look like (though likely with more stable accommodations – hopefully with better toilets – and home cooking and a lot less eating out than we did).


What kind of travel makes you happiest? Have you learned any lessons on about yourself or your family on your travels?

41 comments to Trip To Australia: Travel & Happiness Lessons For Our Future

  • While I was pregnant I got super fed-up with people calling me all the time (I have to answer to phone all day at work and its my least favorite part about my job) so I just let it die – and stay dead for like 5 months! It was amazing! I could go for a walk and be completely alone with my thoughts. Oh, to go back :-)
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  • LAX is THE WORST! Never noticed if it was smelly, but old and crappy. ha! Pun intended. I’m happiest on vacation when I can get a balance of relaxation/chllin’ and some physical activity, even if that just means walking around and site seeing. It depends where I am. In Europe I loved to walk around and see sites, then have a glass of wine at a cafe and just people watch. In someplace like Hawaii I loved to hike and snorkel, then chill on the beach for a bit. So balance.
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  • I don’t remember the smells in our apartment in Australia (we had a furnished apartment for the week), nor in public restrooms, but I may have blacked those memories out :)

    The toilets in Japan are both technologically superior (in private hotels, etc, not public restrooms) and less so at the same time. In any given public rest room, you’ll have the western style toilets (like you’re used to), and the Asian style ones – aka a pretty porcelain trough on the ground – for both men and women. I found that there was almost always a line for the western style toilets, so I just used the Asian style ones (takes practice!).

    I have zero problems with jet lag – even between Australia/Hong Kong/Singapore and the US, but Dad has major problems with it – even to Europe. We have to allow a day of rest for him when we land (whereas, give me a shower and I’m good almost all day). I tend to be a fly by the seat of your pants traveler – unless there’s an event, I’m fine not making reservations at a hostel until the day I get there. Dad, not so much – so we plan what days we’re going to be where, book hotels (Dad won’t do hostels) and then be flexible within those constraints. Ex: I know what cities we’re going to be in on what dates for our trip to Europe, and some ideas on things to do, but no reservations are made yet.
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    • I wondered what home bathrooms were like because the one actually in our hotel room was fine. There was a small exhaust fan for the shower which if you left that door open took care of the whole room.

  • […] Trip to Australia: Travel & Happiness Lessons for our future- Planting our Pennies […]

  • Welcome back PoPs. Australia is on my bucket list, but not at the top. I love sailing also, but the Pacific is mighty large in a tiny little boat. I want to sail the Virgin Islands first. I completely agree with your comments about cell phones……I hate mine and would love to dump it. Ugh, some day.

    Where’s the next PoP trip?
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    • Sailing down there would not be an immediate thing. We hear FL and the Caribbean are nice training grounds to learn in (and who wouldn’t mind bumming around the Caribbean for a while?).
      Next trip is next week! BRK meeting in Omaha, here we come!

  • Debbie M

    I’m also amazed at that plant you photographed, and I enjoyed the “death march” description, which perfectly explains the problem, even though I prefer your travel style over Mr. PoP’s.

    I think some people prefer a relaxing vacation and others prefer to do stuff; I’m in the latter camp, though if I had certain kind of high-stress many-hours jobs, I might not be. I basically want to spend the whole day doing interesting things with two exceptions: 1) I want to also get enough sleep and 2) I want some time each night to write up my adventures so I can read about them over and over after the trip, thus kind of extending it.

    That’s another thing–I like to extend my trip. So before the trip I like to spend a lot of time researching and planning. I enjoy learning interesting things about the place before I go (plus it’s good to reduce the culture shock a bit). I make a way-too-big list of things to do, organized by area, so that if something took much less time than expected, I have other ideas to fill up the time with. But then I also prioritize, so I have a tinier sub-list of things which, if I just get to do them, I’ll feel like I had enough fun. If it’s a foreign country, I also like to try to learn some of the language. I suck at languages, but even just knowing how to pronouce words I don’t understand (like street names and types of pastries) and how to say “thank-you” make a big difference for me.

    This means a surprise trip is not as good as a planned trip. And a trip planned by someone else is not as good as a trip where I get to participate in the planning. And it means that packing for a trip to wherever has cheap flights that day is not particularly enticing to me.

    Then during the trip I like to take pictures and notes (yes, I will literally take notes on tours) so that I can remember more of the cool stuff later on.

    I have learned that go-go-go can get tiring–so for longer trips I try not to be too disappointed in myself if I spend a day per week just relaxing or doing boring stuff (like going to a chain restaurant to take a break from the adventuring).

    Another good thing I’ve learned is that I’d MUCH rather have a single home base for my trip than to travel from place to place. The actual travel time is not that fun, and most places are easily big enough to fill up a whole vacation. So, when I visited my sister in Belgium, I enjoyed taking day trips around Belgium and would not have enjoyed being in a different country every day. I learned this on a trip to New Mexico where I drove maybe 4 hours a day between stops–it was too much.

    I also like to visit friends, especially in foreign countries. They can learn all the hard stuff before I get there and let me learn the easy way! But I’ve learned when visiting friends that it’s good to find out whether they prefer to show you all their favorite stuff or whether they prefer to take you to places they haven’t been yet. Most people will be willing to do some of each, but my sister got so sick of taking everyone and their dog to Neue Schwanstein and other places built by crazy King Ludwig–I should have helped her explore new places, too.

    I also hate flying, especially post 9/11, even though I’m small enough to fit into airplane seats. I feel bad for bigger people. I’ve learned that I like trains, if they are at all convenient. European trains are awesome, but I even like American ones. I went from Austin to Indianapolis on a train. Actually two–one from Austin to Chicago and one from Chicago to Indianapolis. The one to Chicago was overnight and almost the entire view was just fields, but it was still nice, just sitting in the viewing car with a book. Also, the train station in Chicago is near loads of cool things. We’ve decided to take a whole vacation to Chicago some day in large part because there’s a good train to it.

    I never thought of sailing as a way to ease jet lag. Brilliant! Trains probably also help (though not to Australia). I’m not a fan of sailing or the ocean, but I probably would prefer to take a ship than an airplane.

    • Visiting friends is the best of so many travel worlds – but you’re right that it can get exhausting for hosts to constantly be seeing the same tourist attractions. My best friend has seen every monument and Smithsonian in DC more times than she can count!

      The train sounds awesome – a coworker friend of mine travels by train in the US (his wife refuses to fly), and they’ve been all over the country. Definitely a neat way to travel.

  • LT travel FTW! Can’t wait to hear more.

    Yeah after our trip to Aussie after so long at home I definitely am over flying. I also got pretty seasick over there. Sigh.

    Interesting toilet observation. US toilets were actually among our least faves in the world as your flushes tend to be really weak and that led to a couple awkward instances. Can’t comment on urinals though myself not being male…
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  • Definitely some long term travel in our future, though the big thing was that we definitely decided we need to be solidly FI before doing something like that. It was hard enough to go back to work after a couple of weeks; can only imagine what it’d be like after years off.

    Re toilets – we definitely noticed the generosity of flow in Aussie toilets (and showers, oh my!) No low flow there. Maybe we’re more into water conservation in the states? We have low flow toilets and showers, etc.
    Mrs PoP recently posted..Trip To Australia: Travel & Happiness Lessons For Our FutureMy Profile

  • I agree with you on the long flights, relaxing and cheap entertainment. Another thing I’ve learned about travel is that I don’t like switching hotels. I like to settle in and not worry about packing until we leave. I could probably do 5 days in one and 5 days in another but none of that 2 days here and 2 days there. I know people want to get in as much as they can but it’s just exhausting to pack and unpack and travel from one city to the other ever couple of days. To me that is not relaxing at all.
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    • Definitely agree that you lose a lot of time traveling if you’re switching hotels constantly. 5 days/5 days was okay, though our ideal is to be able to get a sublease and spend weeks in the same apartment. That’s probably our ideal, though it’s hard to do when you’ve only got a limited number of vacation days each year!

  • Glad to hear you had a great time, PoP’s! I agree about how liberating it is to not constantly be on the phone or email – I still took pictures, but when I didn’t have my head down checking out my phone, I was able to “be in the moment” way more frequently and better! I love your pictures, I hope both of you are well recovered from the jet lag! That sailing adventure sounds amazing, I hope both of you make it happen one day. :)
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    • Thanks Anna. Imagine if all the cell phone networks in the US went down for a week. People would spend the first couple of days freaking out, but then might actually start talking to each other at dinner time again!

  • One of the most relaxing vacations I have ever been on was a cruise, when I could not access a cell phone. Another time staying at a resort in FL.

    I like adventurous vacations, but I also like relaxing. I go 100 miles an hour sometimes, and being able to just let the world go by for a while is nice.

    I am glad you had a great trip!
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  • How cool! The missus and I follow your different vacationing techniques, as my wife wants to get out all the time and I wouldn’t mind a few days just to kind of relax on a sandy beach and do nothing but sip cold beverages. We’ll be going without phones soon, too, on our next trip…we’ll embrace it. :)
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  • That is so awesome, I’d love to go to Australia. I don’t travel much right now, I’m really working on building up investments. If I could I’d be on my way to Egypt. Always wanted to make it there. Ohh and that plant you saw on the hike is definitely awesome!
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  • I’ve only ever been on one long flight, and I’m not in any hurry to do that again! I also agree with the no-cell-phone thing. On that same trip, my cell phone didn’t work overseas, so I went a week without and I didn’t miss it at all. (Well, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t have a watch so it would have been nice to have a cell phone to know what time it was.)

    I’ve learned that I don’t travel well when I have a rigid itinerary. For me, creating a to do list and grouping it by neighbourhoods has worked out best. That way, if I’m somewhere that I want to stay longer, I can without throwing the rest of the day off.
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    • I think we’re on the same speed with avoiding rigid itineraries – but my father is the complete opposite. A quick weekend trip out of town would require a binder filled with schedules, itineraries, coupons, reservations… honestly it was exhausting. I prefer to wake up and see what the weather is like and pick a direction to head for the day based on that.

  • After this post it makes me not want to visit Australia. I cant stand smelly places and an entire vacation of this is not appealing. Maybe the 5 star hotels will read this post and update their bathrooms by the time I go. HA.
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    • haha, one can only hope. The weird thing is that they were totally clean, just smelly. All they needed was a little exhaust fan and they would have been great! =)

  • PK

    When you flush said toilets – which direction did the water drain?

    (Also, like that you went back to 1999 – only 15 years ago – on the reference. That’s tremendous, and a great illustration of how much life has changed so quickly.)
    PK recently posted..Inflation and Dividend Adjusted S&P 500 Returns in 2014My Profile

    • The sheer amount of water in every flush it was powerful enough to not notice any circular force, but just a downward jet. Yes I did look… a friend from work was also very curious about the flow.

      Totally… though 15 years ago, we were both in high school and only the richest kids in the class were starting to get cell phones or borrow mom and dad’s when they took the car out on weekends. How crazy is it that every 12 year old I passed at the school bus stop this morning was playing on an iPhone?

  • Having spent a lifetime living in other countries and gallivanting around the globe, I’m about traveled out. Really, I dislike what airplane travel has come to SO much, I won’t fly at all. Don’t mind a car trip, but just now my vehicle is too old to risk traipsing around the desert. My idea of a trip is a hike from the refrigerator to the back yard.

    The trip from LA to Australia or NZ is gawdawful long. When we did it, we stopped in Tahiti for several days. There was still some jetlag, but nothing like 14 hours’ worth. And Tahiti was mind-bogglingly wonderful.
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    • As long as the trip from the fridge to the back yard includes a cold beverage in hand (especially as summer approaches for you), it sounds great!

      Tahiti sounds like it would be a wonderful way to break up the trip. We had other friends that broke it up with stops in Fiji and couldn’t stop talking about how beautiful and relaxing it was.

  • Hey Mrs. PoP! Australia looks amazing. Can I ask how you found the bugs? I’d love to go to Australia some day but my wife has been told that the bugs are huge down there. She hates spiders and refuses to go to Australia for fear of seeing a massive spider (not to mention she’s been told that they’re everywhere). True or not?
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    • Hmmm… well, we’re in FL right now, which means Florida bugs are our basis of comparison, and we do have some bugs down here. As far as that goes, the spiders weren’t too much bigger than the ones that we see around here in the fall/winter. They were a tad bigger than FL spiders out in the Blue Mountains (but I didn’t see any in Sydney). The spiders I saw out in the mountains had bodies about the size of my thumb (granted, I have small hands, but that’s still a good sized spider).
      If it’s any consolation to your wife, spiders don’t like rebuilding their webs constantly, so I’ve noticed that they tend to avoid spreading their webs across common walking/jogging paths, preferring to be off to the side out of the way. And they’re not going to jump out and get you from a few feet away, so I definitely never felt like they were a threat.

  • Kim

    I don’t think I could fly that far in one day. I’d probably find a way to start from the west coast and stop in Hawaii for a couple of days and then go on. It would take lots of planning and time off, so that’s why it will be a while. Someday though!
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    • In hindsight, stopping in Hawaii for a couple of days would definitely have helped, but it also would have been less time there. Tough choices! =/

      Definitely aim for it someday… I bet you can even do it with your travel hacking, too!

  • I prefer a non-stop flight with a little leg room if at all possible(6’3″), I was on a international plane traveling domestic and it was the best coach flights I ever had.

    20 hours, I did 8 hours and I was taking some sleeping helpers along the way, I don’t know about 20! Sounds like a great trip, I have had friends go study abroad there and loved it, so I can imagine it’s quite nice.
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    • At 6’3″, I can definitely see why you might want a little extra leg room. I’m about a foot shorter than you and I could have done with more space, too!

  • Wow – I’ve heard Australia is beautiful, Mrs. PoP. We, like you guys, are pretty simple travelers. We’ve got very little interest in pomp and circumstance. A nice view and warm weather and some unplugged time would do us just fine. Interesting about the bathrooms: Rick would’ve been absolutely traumatized by this. :-)
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  • First time stopping over here via 1500 Days and I really enjoyed your post. I have never made it to Australia but I did make it to India and had one hell of a time recovering from the jet lag. Mr. PoP referring to your hikes as death marches when he is hungry reminded me of snickers commercials. My sister also gave us a funny way to describe people who get angry when they’re hungry. HANGRY!!!!
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    • Thanks for stopping in, Mr Grump! India sounds like the jet lag would be just terrible, too – though hopefully it was worth the trip for you!