Travel With My One Year Old

Ok, last travel post for a bit. I had planned to write this last Friday, but we all know those days were lost to tennis.

We are incredibly blessed to have the resources to take advantage of some great travel while here on Guam. Before we found out I was pregnant we had planned on several trips while we were here, and after we found out we were going to be parents we were determined not to let it slow us down. News flash, non-mommy Pam: Babies slow you down. Waaaaay down. Regardless, we’ve still gotten a couple great trips in and, while our China trip was less “Relaxing Exotic Destination” and more “Survivor: Crying, Breastfeeding Five Month Old in a Busy Non-English Speaking City,” I really can say that Australia was a relaxing trip for us. Not the sleep until ten, do adventurous things on a whim, days of old, but still low stress and enjoyable. Back when Eli was two months old I shared my tips for traveling with a two month old, and here are some things that make it easier for us to travel with our one year old.

  • Be realistic with your destinations. Several months ago we started planning a trip to Palau with some friends. We really wanted to go, but the more we thought about it, the more it didn’t make sense. Plenty of people take great trips to Palau with their babies, but I would have been stuck at the hotel most days while E went diving, and this was at a time when Little E still wasn’t a very happy person. I just knew that I wouldn’t enjoy it and we couldn’t justify the cost for the experience so E will probably head out there after the baby and I go back to the states. I’m insanely jealous that I wont be seeing beautiful Palau and we felt terrible backing out on our friends, but we had to do what was best for us and Little E.
  • Pace yourself. There was so much we wanted to do in Australia that we didn’t get to do. Time wise we definitely could have squeezed more in, but we would have had an exhausted, cranky baby on our hands and we wouldn’t have gotten to enjoy the extra stuff anyway. We instead opted for a lighter schedule and a happy baby, which resulted in us being “two week whirlwind trip” tired and not “wrangled a rabid bear” tired.
  • Be prepared to be very entertaining. We brought a couple of Little E’s favorite toys and a couple of new ones. And I can’t recommend this book enough. It was seriously a life saver on the flights. Eli was hilariously amused by it-so much so that we had to order another since the first one got loved on so much.

I promise I’m not getting kickbacks for mentioning this, I’m just passing on a piece of advice that we got from a friend that we’re very thankful for. Actually, our awesome neighbors gave us more than just advice-they let us borrow their GoGo Babyz and we had ordered our own before we even got home from Australia. If you’re buying your kid a seat on the plane or you plan on gate checking his seat, this thing is awesome!

  • Go packing pouches. Little E is mostly on table foods at home, but I’m still a huge fan of baby food pouches when we’re on the go. Turns out Australia is on the organic pouch baby food wagon so we were able to restock there, but we still brought a couple dozen pouches (Earth’s Best and Plum Organics are our favorites) to supplement the pizza Little E swiped off our plates while we were away.

I think that’s it! I wouldn’t say that traveling with a one month old is easier than traveling with a newborn or five month old, but it’s definitely simpler. What I mean by that is there was a lot less special prep and we needed a lot less stuff. Australia was our last family trip before we leave Guam, but we do hope to take a few vacations stateside before the next babies join the family. Here’s hoping travel just keeps getting easier!

Taste of Prague

The highlight of our time in the Czech Republic’s capital was the Taste of Prague food and culture tour. The charming bed and breakfast we stayed at arranged for a babysitter to take care of our children so that my husband and I could venture out on our last evening. The plan: to indulge in cuisine that has been revitalized in the years following Prague’s communist past. Below are photos from the tour and a description of all the deliciousness we sampled at each place. Prepare to drool!

My husband and I met our tour guide Jan and another couple who signed up for the tour in front of a church, off the beaten path normally packed with tourists. Jan kicked the evening tour off with a shot of slivovitz (plum brandy). The drink kept us nice and toasty on the chilly walk to our first destination: Sisters Bistro, which serves open-faced sandwiches called chlebicek. While there, we sampled beet root puree with goat cheese and walnut, as well as smoked mackerel with potato salad and red beets. Normally, I can’t stand the taste of beets, but these sandwiches were delicious!

Our next stop was right next door. At Nase Maso Butcher Shop, you can purchase carefully prepared meats to cook at home or they will grill it for you at the shop. We sampled ready-made dishes such as meat loaf on bread, sausage with mustard, and pork lard with cracklings. Every bite I took was flavorful, making me wish my husband and I knew about this place earlier in our stay so we could have made a repeat visit.

Food wasn’t the only thing we were feted with on this tour. We enjoyed Czech wines at Vinograf, cultural anecdotes from Jan, and gorgeous views of Prague architecture lit up at night.

What was also wonderful about the tour was that we didn’t have to stress about taking notes about every restaurant. Jan assured us that he would email a description of each eatery we visited, allowing tour members to focus on eating, drinking, and – for those so inclined – taking photos. How handy, especially for bloggers like me! Below is a description of the heartiest meal on the tour, which I wouldn’t have been able to adequately describe without Jan’s email:

At Cestr Steak House, located in the old Communist Federal Parliament building, we were treated to Pilsner Urquell fresh from the tank; beef neck that was slowly stewed with paprika sauce and sour cream; beef golden muscle slow cooked in goose fat for 16 hours; pickled fried carp with red peppers, shallots and dill; Czech escargots boiled in root vegetables, baked in mushroom, and served with Sabayonne mousse; Czech carp roasted on butter and served with cherry tomatoes; grilled chicken with truffle stuffing and truffle sauce; sautéed carrots and spinach; beef steak tartare with fried bread and garlic; beer ice-cream; and egg nog. I enjoyed the food at Cestr and the darling copper pots some of the dishes were served in (Although, I admit to not taking one bite of the steak tartare or relishing the escargot.) I also learned that while I never enjoyed foam in beer while living in states and Singapore, foam on a fresh Czech beer is a whole new experience – it’s meant to be enjoyed much like foam topping a well-made cappuccino.

We finished the tour the sweetest way possible, with four Czech desserts at an elegant belle époque cafe called Cafe Savoy. According to Jan, the sweets we tasted are vetrnik (round windmill chaux pastry with caramel and cream filling and caramel glaze), venecek (chaux pastry with vanilla cream and sugar glaze), apple strudel, and laskonka (two coconut merengue with a rich chocolate filling).

The tour was a great way to spend our last night in Prague, but you’d be just as happy starting your vacation in the city with this tour. Taste of Prague gives you a packet of maps and recommendations on sights to see and places to eat during your stay. Oh, and mints – which are much needed after all that hearty fare!

Hello Bali

When a good friend of mine called a few months ago and asked if My Traveling Troop would be interested in joining her family for a vacation in Bali, Indonesia, I immediately said yes!

There were many factors that allowed me to quickly agree. First of all, I’ve been dreaming of visiting the island ever since reading about the romantic location in the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. My friend Sapna already chose the flight and hotel, so I didn’t have to spend hours researching. And, Bali is only about a two and a half hour flight away from Singapore — so close it would be a crime not to visit. Finally, I was about to re-enter the work force and the trip seemed like a great way to spend quality time with my family and friends before the nine to five life took over.

Once we arrived in Bali, our families spent most of our days splashing around the Hard Rock Hotel pool and our evenings listening to a band serenade guests at the hotel bar. With rocking music, good food, excellent pool facilities, water slides, and a kids club, it would have been easy to never leave the Hard Rock Hotel in the Kuta enclave. But at some point during our vacation, the moms decided to escape the hotel and say hello to Bali.

For a mere US$40, Sapna and I hired a driver to take us around the island for about six hours for a mix of culture, dining, and shopping. Here are some of the highlights of our tour:

A market in Ubud.

Drums made of mahogany and animal skin.

 

Entrance of a temple in Ubud.
Balinese food at Grand Puncak Sari Restaurant.

 

The view while we dined? An active volcano!

 

Rice terraces.

 

 

 

An offering in front of a market vendor. (I found offerings like this in front of most shops and market vendors in Bali.)

 

Have you ever traveled to Bali? Or is it on your wish list?

The Road To Wiesbaden

Wiesbaden, located in southwest Germany, is known for its hot mineral springs. But the city offers so much more, according to Air Force spouse and blogger Casey. The town is home to restaurants serving quintessential German cuisine and the city hosts a 10 day wine festival. Wiesbaden, thanks to its convenient location, is also the perfect launch pad for Casey to explore the rest of Europe. (In fact, she just got back from a Mediterranean cruise!)

If you want to know what it’s like living in a city that she describes as “ornate” and “lively,” and get a serious case of moving/wander lust while you’re at it, check out my interview with the author of We Took the Road Less Traveled below!

Cheers,
Kristina

Tell us about you and your blog.

Hi, friends! I’m Casey, a transplanted Southern girl and the author of the blog We Took the Road Less Traveled! My blog started out as a way to keep our family and friends updated on our PCS to Germany with the Air Force in the summer of 2011, but it’s grown into being a place where I chronicle our travels around Europe, our everyday life as a military family living abroad, and a collection of things I love, such as good food & wine, beautiful spaces, and weenie dogs named Tuck. 🙂

What is the name of the town & base that you live? Describe it in three words.

We live in Wiesbaden, Germany, and are stationed with the Wiesbaden Army Garrison (even though we are an Air Force family). Three words to describe this area: ornate, lively, and wine!

What do you love about living there?

Gosh, what’s NOT to love? Ok, there are a few things, and I’ll get to those in a second. Germany is so rich in culture and history that it’s almost impossible not to fall head over heels for it. Before moving here, I had these whimsical pictures of Germany in my mind. You know, the timbered houses with colorful flower boxes lining each window sill, the rows upon rows of lush vineyards heavy with grapes, the booming, beer-filled festivals teaming with locals dresses in dirndls and lederhosen. Truth is, Germany looks exactly like that. I mean, not in every town every day of the week, but for the most part, my preconceived notions were spot on. Germany is beautiful, the people ARE friendly, and it’s absolutely one of the cleanest countries in the world. Not to mention how centrally located it is in Europe. We can travel almost anywhere in the EU in a short drive or plane ride. Living here as been a dream!

What do you hate about living there?

Hate is a strong word, so I wouldn’t really say that I truly hate anything. I do, however, dislike lots of things. The small and limited parking areas, having to pay to use the restrooms in public, having to pay for water at restaurants (they don’t serve tap water here!), stores closing at 7 p.m. each day, all stores being closed on Sundays, suffering through winters that last from November to April without much sun, how much it rains, shower baths, euro pillows and hotel bedding (it’s odd, really), the overabundance of pork products, and most notably, our strange German toilet. Seriously, it’s a doozie.

Name three local attractions or events you recommend people visit.

Rheingau Wine Festival: it’s a 10-day wine festival in August held in downtown Wiesbaden. Over 100 tents and thousands of different kinds of German wines, all for the tasting! It’s my favorite time of year in Wiesbaden…aside from the Christmas market season.

Oktoberfest: this one is self-explanatory. Want to see thousands of Germans and tourists coming together all for the love of beer? Come to Oktoberfest in Munich. Greatest festival I’ve ever been to in my life! Germans really know how to party!



 

Rothenburg ob der Tauber: the cutest little medieval walled town I’ve ever seen in Bavaria. Rothenburg was one of the first towns we visited upon moving to Germany and I still have such fond memories of it! When family or friends come to visit, we always take them on a day trip here.

Favorite local restaurants.


Our favorite German restaurant in town is Brauhaus Castle. We go here at least a few times a month. Not only is it a delicious restaurant serving traditional German dishes like Schnitzle, Kasespatzel, and Spundakase, but it’s also a working brewery! The Brauhaus has 3 wonderful house beers (including my favorite Hefeweizen) and rotates various handcrafted seasonal beers throughout the year. It’s also got a lovely outdoor biergarten that we love to frequent in the summertime.

Ristorante Comeback is our favorite Italian restaurant downtown. It’s housed in a little alleyway that’s been dubbed “Italian Alley” because of all the quaint al fresco Italian & Mediterranean restaurants lining the street. Ristorante Comeback has some of the most beautifully presented and best tasting Italian cuisine I’ve ever tasted. I’d even dare to say it rivals most of the food I’ve actually tried IN Italy.The chefs are born and bred Sicilians, so no wonder it’s so scrumptious!

Best fast food in Germany? The Doner Kebap. Germans can’t get enough of these things, and neither can I! A doner kebap is Turkish dish (adopted by Berliners 1970’s) consisting of shaved meat (usually pork, chicken, or beef) from a vertical rotating spit stuffed inside a lavash or pita pocket and topped with chopped lettuce, cabbage, tomato, onions, cucumbers, chili spices, and either garlic or yogurt sauce. It’s essentially the perfect hangover food…ahem…or so I hear. 😉

 

One thing Germany does NOT do well…Mexican food. We’ve yet to find a Mexican restaurant that even compares to the ones we’re used to back in the states. Want a good margarita or fresh salsa? Forget about it. For some reason, the salsa tastes like glorified ketchup here. Germans aren’t quite hip to Mexican cuisine just yet, but I give them an “A” for effort!

Favorite weekend getaways or trips you have taken.

Gosh…so many!
In Germany : Our Lake Constance Anniversary Weekend, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a day-trip to Cochem, grape picking & wine tasting on the Rhine River, viewing Germany from the top of the Zugspitze, and Heidelberg.

Around Europe: London, Prague, Zermatt, Switzerland, Bruges, Belgium, skiing in Austria, Paris, and Burano, Italy.

Overall: My Big Fat European Family Vacation-our big 2 week vacation around Italy & Germany with 8 of my most favorite family members last May & our recent Mediterranean cruise, which I’m currently recapping on the blog!



What is housing like?
When we moved here, there was no on base housing available to us. So, we’ve been living on the economy here in Wiesbaden and we absolutely love it! Being off base, you’re more submerged in the German culture. We have German landlords, German neighbors, and live a short 5 minute walk from downtown. We’re always out and about visiting the downtown Farmer’s Markets, running in the Kurpark, or trying out a new restaurant on the Marktplatz because we’re so centrally located. As for our flat, it’s small. Much smaller than the home we lived in back in the states. Transitioning from a 2,000 sq ft home to a 1,300 sq ft closet-less flat (many European countries don’t do closets) was definitely a challenge! But, with the help of IKEA and some savvy storage techniques, we’ve managed to turn our flat into a warm and inviting place to live. It’s also been a bit of a challenge getting used to using European appliances like our washer/dryer, oven, and tiny German refrigerator. German’s thrive on energy inefficiency, so you can imagine how long it takes me to do one load of laundry in washer…or bake a few dozen cookies in our oven that only holds one small cookie sheet at a time. UGH!

Did you experience any culture shock when you moved to Germany?

Honestly, not that much. Germany isn’t so far off from America, believe it or not. Almost everyone speaks English here, so the language barrier hasn’t been much of a barrier at all. Learning to drive here was a bit different, but now it seems like second nature. I still feel a little strange in certain situations (mostly when I have to communicate with the one person in Germany that DOESN’T speak English), but all in all, culture shock wasn’t really a factor for me. Germany has always kind of felt like home.

If you could give any moving advice, what would it be?

When moving to Europe, do your research. Be aware of the limited space you’ll be working with and PACK LIGHT. If you’re a military family, use your stateside storage option. Leave behind big appliances (like refrigerators & washer/dryers) and thoroughly check the one’s your bringing to make sure they’re dual voltage. Go through your clothing and take what you haven’t worn in the last year to the thrift store…then right before moving, go through it again! Most of all…roll with punches. As with any move, there will be headaches, heartaches, and hiccups, but it’s important not to get worked up and stressed out over every little detail. Have a plan, but be flexible. Moving across the pond can often trigger Murphy (as in Murphy’s Law), so be prepared for anything to happen! Just keep repeating this phrase, “This too, shall pass”…and have a glass of wine close by! 🙂

Websites that would help a newcomer moving to your town.

There aren’t many websites specific to Wiesbaden (except for the occasional Facebook Group page), but there are quite a few resources for those moving to Germany in general. A few of my favorites are:

Life Lessons of a Military Wife
The Germany Information Website
Toytown Germany

Wiesbaden Bookoo Yard Sales

Thanks, Casey!

Hola From Rota, Spain!

I have a special treat for you today. Rebecca — a Navy wife who blogs at Sink or Swim — is getting ready to move her beautiful family from Rota, Spain, to Hawaii. But before Rebecca says adios to southern Spain, she has kindly agreed to share what it’s been like living and traveling in the land of ferias, colorful dresses and picturesque villages for the past four years.

Rebecca — dressed in a traditional sevillana dress, which is similar to flamenco —
poses for a photo with her family at a castle in Rota, Spain.

Q: Tell us about you and your family.

I am a mother of two kids, Mckenna who is 10 and Omar Jr. who is 4, and married to a sailor in the U.S. Navy. We’ve been married for 10 years and he joined the Navy not long after we were married. My husband Omar works at the AFN station (American Forces Network) that supplies the base radio and cable. In addition to being a mom, I also work full time and am getting ready to graduate with a bachelor’s in Environmental Management.

Q: You have a blog called Sink or Swim. What inspired you to launch the blog? What kind of information can we find on it?

I LOVE reading blogs, I have always loved to be able to peek into people’s everyday lives. I also love that I have been able to find information and opinions on just about anything. Even though I am an active blog reader I was very hesitant to actually start one. I am not a wonderful writer, but I do love letting people know about the places I’ve visited or restaurants to go to. So I finally bit the bullet and started a blog to share some information about living in Spain, questions you may have about moving here, also to document our own PCS process as we leave here and share our every day life. I also like having the ability to post photos and stories on here instead of on Facebook.

Q: What do you love about living in the area?

This is going to be hard to keep short, I love so much about Rota. First off, the people of Andalucía (the southern part of Spain) are just wonderful. Laid back, family oriented and super friendly. The weather is wonderful. The base is small so I see people I know wherever I go. It’s generally pretty cheap to travel, there are lots of discount airlines in Europe, so we have been all over the place while we’ve been here.

Q: What do you not like about living there?

The hardest part to living in Rota is being far from family – specifically, for our kids to grow up far away from the rest of the family. Both my husband and I grew up close to our grandparents, so we sometimes wonder if we are making the right decision. Also on my dislike list: paying for anything off base in Euro (ouch!), mold in my house in winter, the base being so small that you can’t avoid people you don’t like, the laid back attitude of the locals can sometimes drive you nuts when you want things done FAST.

Rebecca and her kids visit the horse fair in Spain’s Jerez de la Frontera.

Q: What are your top three favorite activities to do in Rota as a family?

Our favorite three things to do as a family are to go to the beach, walk along the boardwalk or go out to eat.

Q: Where are your top three favorite places to dine?

My favorite places to eat are 100 Montaditos (a sandwich place), Bailey’s (a steak place) and any Doner Kebab place.

Q: What are your favorite places to shop for food or clothes?

While the commissary and exchange are the easiest, the selection is not the best in either one. We have some great malls around and most of them have a large grocery store in them as well — kind of like having Super Walmart as an anchor store in the mall. It’s weird but convenient. My favorite store is H&M, which I also used to shop at in the states. (Also C&A, Primark and Zara) I do like to buy produce from Carrefour (local Walmart).

Q: Are there a lot of activities available for kids in Rota?

There isn’t a ton for kids to do, especially off base. We don’t have a lot of the stuff that you get used to in the states, like Chuck E. Cheese or bounce-house places. On base one sport is offered at a time, rotating through soccer, football, basketball, baseball or cheer. Swim lessons are offered year round. Lessons are offered through MWR, but the selection is pretty limited and can change when instructors PCS.

Q: Do you or anyone else in your family speak Spanish? Do you need to know Spanish to get by in Rota?

I am the main Spanish speaker in the house and my Spanish isn’t all that great. I SWORE that by six months I would be fluent but it hasn’t happened! I took a few years of Spanish in high school and that has helped a LOT! I am comfortable enough to go out to eat or go shopping but I am by no means conversational! You don’t need to know Spanish to live here. Many of the locals speak English (especially at the local restaurants), however I think it helps a LOT to at least know how to pronounce Spanish words.

Q: Where can families take Spanish lessons if they wanted to learn?

There are lessons off base, lessons on base, the school teaches some Spanish to the elementary kids, and the day care center has a Spanish Immersion program for preschoolers. Just depends on how much money you want to spend! My recommendation: find a Spanish friend!

Rebecca and her husband Omar traveled to Portugal.

 

Q: Do you live on base or off base? Why did you choose to live in that particular community? And what is it like?
We live on base. When we moved here 4 years ago there was no option to live off base unless you had a large family or there was a lack of available housing. That has since changed and you can live off base if you want. We would have LOVED the opportunity to live off base; you are able to experience the culture so much more! However, we live very close to the school (we can see it from our driveway), the base pool (5 minute walk), the commissary, exchange and my work (7 minute drive). My kids can ride their bikes in the street and walk to friends houses. Also, we don’t need to use transformers for anything as base housing is 110v.

Q: This sounds mundane, but people moving to Spain may want to know: Can they bring their American-made appliances? How about cell phones?

If you are living on base you can use anything with an American plug. You don’t need to bring anything big like a washer or dryer. They come in the house and if you live off base they will let you borrow one. If you are living off base you can also use American stuff but you will need to use transformers to convert it to 220v. Many people just buy cheap 220v stuff like hair dryers or coffee makers and then sell them when they leave. You can bring your cell phone but I can promise you, you won’t use it as much as you do now. I was a cell phone ADDICT, text-a-holic, games, etc. When I moved here I didn’t even use a phone for the first couple years. Now I have one that I never use that is dead half the time. Most people pay as you go with cell phone minutes and they are pricey!

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add about living in Rota?

It is a really wonderful duty station but you have to move here with a few things in mind: It is NOT America. Things are different, the culture is different and you are going to have to adapt. Also, get off base! You will go crazy if you never leave and there is so much to see and do even within a few hour’s drive – Gibraltar, Marbella, Cadiz, Costa Ballena, Seville, Portugal and Morocco. It has been an amazing experience living here and I have some friends and memories that I will cherish for a lifetime!

* Do you want to know what it’s like living at a particular duty station? Need tips on how to prepare for a move? Or advice on how to handle a deployment? Tune in each Monday for tips and stories aimed at helping your next move or deployment go more smoothly. If you have questions, tips or stories you would like to share, send a brief email for consideration.

Aloha From Oahu, Hawaii!

Annie, the beautiful blogger behind Blonde Glambition, currently lives in Italy. But did you know that she is from Hawaii, where she met and fell in love with her soldier? Today, she’s giving us an insider’s perspective on what it’s like living on the island of Oahu, where you can swim with sea turtles, snorkel and enjoy amazing sunsets. Next Monday, Annie will give us a glimpse of what it’s like living in Italy — a country where you’ll find delicious gelato shops and plenty of travel opportunities.

Annie and her husband at the top of an island known as Chinaman’s Hat, which is located off of Oahu.

Q: Tell us about you and your hubby.

A: My name is Annie, and I’m a 20-something Army milspouse living in Vicenza, Italy. My hubby and I met, fell in love, and married just over 10 years ago in the Land of Aloha. It’s crazy how fast the time has flown by! I’ve recently finished my Bachelors degree (social science & gerontology), and I’m gearing up to start my Masters at the end of the summer. How and when I’ll be able to put my degrees to use is still unknown due to our current duty station (in Italy). My true passion, however, has always been my cuppycake business. Gourmet cuppycakes are my specialty, although I started out with cakes, and still enjoy making those as well. I’m also an avid crafter/DIY/baker/chef/Zumba fanatic. If food, home decor, or health & fitness is involved, then I’m in my element. I also love to travel, which makes our assignment in Italy a great fit for my hubby and I. My travel bucket list is at least a mile long, and I can’t wait to see and explore the world one adventure at a time.

Q: What inspired you to launch the blog Blonde Glambition and what topics do you write about?

A: The original inspiration behind my blog was a dear friend from high school. She had been encouraging me to start one when we were stationed in Italy last time to share my adventures. It took me a few months to get my butt in gear and decide on a name, and even longer to decide the topics I wanted to write about. The topics on my blog range from my travels/adventures, love, military life ups and downs (PCSing, deployments, homecomings), cooking/baking, as well as my personal fitness project (OFB) and numerous DIY projects and my 30 by 30 List. You could say it’s a mish mash of my daily life.

Q: You mentioned on your blog that you are from Hawaii. What was it like growing up and living there?

A: AMAZING!! I’m completely in love with Hawaii, and growing up there was an absolute blessing. The culture, food, beaches, and quality of life are more than I could’ve ever asked for. In some ways, it really is like Hawaii is it’s own little world. Life runs at a more relaxed pace, family & community are important, and the spirit of Aloha is present in everyday life.

Q: What part of Hawaii were you living before you moved to Italy?

A: Our last house in Hawaii was on Wheeler Army Airfield in Wahiawa.

Annie hanging out at her favorite beach with the honus (sea turtles).

Q: Did you live on base or off base? What was the housing like?

A: Our last house on post was phenomenal! It was a brand new stand alone…something that is a rarity in the military community. It was roughly 2200 sq.ft. which is also massive by Hawaii standards. The majority of post housing, however, consists of newer duplexes, duplexes and apartments that were built in the 80s & 90s, as well as historical homes that still have bullet holes from the attack on Pearl Harbor. Most of the homes have tile or linoleum floors because of the red dirt in Hawaii. Housing off post is a wide variety of apartments, duplexes, condos, and stand alone houses that are shared by immediate & extended family members due to the high cost of living.

Q: What were your top three favorite things to do or attractions to see on the island?

A: Our absolute favorite thing to do on the island would be spending the day on the North Shore. This would usually consist of a stop at Mackey’s Shrimp Truck or Kua ‘Aina’s in Haleiwa for lunch, laying out at our favorite beach & swimming with the honus (seas turtles), and then watching the sunset with shave ice from Matsumoto’s.

Second thing would be paddle boarding anywhere on the island…love it!! Great workout and it feels so good to be on the water.

It’s so hard to narrow it down to three things…I guess the third thing would be going out on the boat and snorkeling. Hubby loves snorkeling!

Island life can be relaxing — just ask this sea turtle at the North Shore in Oahu.

Q: What do you miss about living in Hawaii?

A: The simple answer: everything. I count down the days until I get to return home. Aside from the obvious things: beaches, weather, sweet smells of tropical flowers, food (plate lunch, malasadas, li hing mui powder), etc. I really, really miss the people/culture. It’s my ideal type of lifestyle, and I love the spirit of Aloha that is shared between friends & family, even strangers. It’s like the magic of the islands just wraps itself around you & hugs you when you are in the Land of Aloha.

Q: Are there helpful Facebook pages, blogs or websites military families can turn to if they are stationed there?

A: On Facebook there are several pages, but here are a few of them: Oahu Military Wives Business Connections, The Wives of Schofield Barracks, Aloha Army Wives, Great Life Hawaii, MWR Hawaii and MCCS Hawaii.

* Do you want to know what it’s like living at a particular duty station? Need tips on how to prepare for a move? Or advice on how to handle a deployment? Tune in each Monday for tips and stories aimed at helping your next move or deployment go more smoothly. If you have questions, tips or stories you would like to share, send a brief email for consideration.

Navy Wife’s Tips On Guam

Have you ever wondered what it’s like living in Guam, a U.S.
territory and island located about 3,300 miles west of Hawaii and 1,500 miles east of the Philippines? If your answer is yes, then you’re in luck. Pam, a Navy wife and mom, normally chronicles her family’s life in Guam on her blog
Living in So-Called Paradise. But she has kindly agreed to share with My Traveling Troop’s readers some insight
and tips about life on the small, tropical island in the question and answer section below.

Pam, her son and husband at Gab Gab Beach in Guam.

Q: Describe you and your family.

A: My husband is an anesthesia provider working at Naval
Hospital Guam. I’m a stay at home mom to our 13-month-old son.

Q: When did you start the blog and what inspired you to
launch it?

A: I started the blog back in 2009 when we found out we were
PCSing to Guam. I couldn’t find much information from military families who had been stationed here, so I decided to start blogging to try to help others who would be moving to Guam in the future. It’s since turned into more of a journal
of our day-to-day life to keep our family and friends up to speed, but I still try to include helpful information for future “Guammies” and answer their questions via email.

Q: How long have you been living in Guam? And what part of
the island do you live?

A: We moved to Guam in June of 2010. We live in base housing in Santa Rita, near Naval Base Guam (locally known as Big Navy).

Q: What is housing like there: on base and off? Was it easy
to find housing?

A: On verses off base housing is definitely a matter of
preference here as there is an abundance of both. When we arrived on Guam our sponsor took us to the housing office immediately and within a few days we had been shown three houses from which we could choose. We actually opted to go on the waiting list for Apra View, which is the newest military housing here that is located about five minutes from the main navy base. We were in a temporary apartment for two months before moving into our current home. There is plenty of housing on all of the bases if you prefer to live on base, and plenty of houses and apartments for rent off base if you prefer that. The child free couples we know tend to choose beach front condos or homes, while most of the families we know who live off base reside in a community called Leo Palace.

Q: What are your favorite things to do in Guam with your
kid?

A: There’s a decent amount of things to do with kids here
considering the size of the island! On base there are an abundance of playgrounds, as well as a new splash pad and baby pool at the Charles King Fitness Center. The gym also offers Stroller Strides, mom and tot gym classes and swim lessons. There are also a number of playgroups. Your best
bet is asking around when you get here to find one that fits you. Off base there’s Underwater World, Play Port and a number of water parks.

Enjoy the outdoors by hiking to a lagoon at the bottom of the Spanish Steps in Guam.
The lagoon is a great place to snorkel too, according to Pam.

 

Q: What are your favorite things to do in Guam on date
night?

A: Hah! I’m probably not the best person to ask. Between my
husband’s schedule and the baby’s schedule, we don’t get out much. I can tell you that there are several movie theaters, bowling alleys on and off base, restaurants and a great place called Chamorro Village, which shows off some of
the local culture. There are also plenty of outdoor activities to take part in, including snorkeling, scuba diving, boating and hiking. MWR offers rentals to facilitate most of these activities.

Q: Where do you like to shop?

A: Honestly, shopping is pretty lacking here. I wrote a post
on it before Christmas, but we do most of our shopping online. Between the base exchanges, Macy’s, Kmart and the local stores, you can usually find what you need here. But if you’re looking for something specific, often times turning to the Internet is your best option.

Pam’s husband explores Guam’s clear blue waters, reefs and wrecks under water.

 

Q: I hear scuba diving and snorkeling are popular activities
in Guam? Do you like to do either of those? If so, where are your favorite
spots?

A: Yes! The snorkeling and diving here is great. I don’t
dive, but the snorkeling does not disappoint. We go to Gab Gab beach on Big Navy at least a few times a month to relax and snorkel. We recently did the Spanish Steps hike on base, which had a beautiful, clear lagoon for snorkeling. My husband got dive certified last year and loves it. We recently went to
Australia and he said that the diving on Guam was better than diving on the Great Barrier Reef. Also, there are several nearby islands, namely Palau, that have some of the best diving in the world. I’ve been told that getting certified here is cheaper than anywhere else, and you can get certified easily through MDA, which has several shops, including two on Big Navy. They also organize boat dives and trips to the surrounding islands.

Q: Do you ever get island fever? If so, what do you do to fix
that?

A: Most definitely! We’ve tried to take a trip off island
every six months or so. Some of the spouses here go home for the summer when the kids are out of school.

The view from a lookout point at the southern end of the island.

 

Q: What do you love about Guam?

A: Guam is beautiful and the culture is very laid back. The
locals are very friendly and we’ve made great friends here. We’ve had travel opportunities I never could have imagined. While we always planned to go to Australia, it was definitely a “someday” trip. And I never would have thought we’d visit China, but it was a great, once in a lifetime experience. A
lot of people we know literally take a trip every month since it’s more affordable to travel to Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands from here.

Q: What don’t you like about living there?

A: Guam is very remote. As a military family, we’re used to
moving and living away from family and friends, but with the 14 hour time difference from the East Coast (in the U.S.) and 17 hour time difference from the West Coast, you sometimes feel like you live in another world. Also, I love to cook and while the groceries available here are quite adequate, it’s not the
same as grocery shopping in the states. The commissaries do seem to try very hard to accommodate specific requests and offer seasonal products (canned pumpkin during the winter holidays, for example). Lastly, I’m not a huge fan of
my husband’s schedule here! The commands here are smaller which, of course, results in longer work hours for a lot of the military men and women out here. I’ve come to terms with the fact that that’s not Guam’s fault, though.

Q: Are there any other tips you think is important for
military families to know before moving there?

A: Before we moved here our sponsor told us that Guam is the
hardest military move you will make. We found, though, that the more preparation you do ahead of time, the easier the move is (duh!). If you’re planning on bringing pets, start the quarantine process as soon as possible since it takes six months. Make sure you pack your express shipment very wisely, as your household-goods shipment can take a couple months to get here. Keep a positive attitude and an open mind while you prepare to move, and get out, explore, make friends and get involved as soon as you get here. I was pregnant when we arrived and had a hard time adjusting. Looking back I really regret not getting more involved in different groups early on. Oh! And rainy season-it’s long and aptly named.

Q: Thanks, Pam!

Plane Activities For Kids

Let’s face it: the thought of being stuck on an airplane with an energetic kid for hours is enough to send shivers down any parent’s spine. But with a little planning and ingenuity, you can keep sane and your child entertained!

Below are activities I packed for my three year old on a recent trip to the East Coast in case you need ideas. The bonus? These activities also kept my daughter and her friends, ages 1 to 6 years old, happy at restaurants during our trip. Hooray!

Books: I’m a big fan of packing books with flaps, which helps keep my child mentally and physically engaged during story time. While traveling, I also like to bring books with tales set in our destination. Since My Traveling Troop was heading to the nation’s capital, I brought Clifford Goes To Washington to read to my daughter on the plane. The book tells the story of Clifford, a big red dog, who visits Washington, D.C., to see his friend get an award. The book also contains illustrations of monuments, bridges and other sites that my child was bound to see in the city. Needless to say, our daughter Bella’s face lit up when she recognized the Washington Monument as we drove past it during our vacation. “Look mom,” she said. “Clifford climbed the Washington Monument!”

Crayons and paper: This activity was easy to put together for my little artist since we already had crayons and paper on hand at home. If my printer didn’t run out of ink right before the trip, I would have printed off fun pages for her to color from free websites like this.
Mini-sized play-doh and cutters: My toddler pounded, rolled, twisted and cut play-doh, which came in cute little containers, she also enjoyed stacking the containers, and opening and closing them. (Tip: Make sure to wipe down the surface your kid will be playing on before hand to ensure the play-doh doesn’t pick up anything icky. After your trip, toss the play-doh, but wash out and save the little containers. You can always pack them with fresh play-doh for your next adventure!)

Pipe cleaners: For just a dollar, I bought a package of pipe cleaners at my local craft store. My daughter spent much of the plane ride to the East Coast making bracelets, necklaces and gingerbread men, women and children with the flexible sticks. (Why gingerbread people? We traveled amid the holiday season). She also tried her hand at counting the pipe cleaners when she ran out of ideas of what to make.

Puzzles: My daughter loves puzzles, but all of the sets we had at home were either too bulky, too heavy or contained too many pieces to bring on a plane. Thankfully, I discovered the Melissa & Doug Colors Cards Puzzle before we left for our trip. Each puzzle card in the set only broke into two pieces — perfect for a kid learning how to put puzzles together and for parents tasked with carrying them. The set of ten puzzle cards also helped my toddler work on her colors, vocabulary and matching skills during the trip. She loved the illustrations, while I loved the lessons she learned! On our next adventure, I think I’ll treat my daughter to Melissa & Doug Alphabet Teaching Puzzle Cards so she can work on her ABCs.

Are you worried about how to keep all of these activities organized in your bag? Or perhaps you’re wondering whether the pieces will fly all over the plane or get lost? I recommend using zip lock bags to keep everything organized. Or, if you’re willing to spend a little money, get some pencil pouches. I found clear pencil pouches at my local Staples that were large enough to store the activities I packed for the trip. I also made sure my daughter put one activity back in the pouch before she started the next one, which helped keep the mess and lost pieces at bay. The other benefits of using clear pouches? I could easily see what activity I was reaching for in my bag and I will be able to reuse them on future trips.

What activities do you like to pack for your child on a plane trip?