A year later..

Wow ! We can finally say that we made it and so did our van! We are now back in Edmonton, Alberta where we started our journey 361 days ago! I guess it’s time for us to sit down with a glass of wine (or two!) and really take a moment to realize what this adventure did to us.

First, WE LOVE TRAVELLING!  I guess everyone would probably say the same but for us this trip was just what we needed to confirm our desire to continue a life full of new destinations. A life where work and stress would not take the biggest part but the smallest part. A life where you can live your dreams and share your adventures with people likely-minded.  A life full of randomness and less routine. A life where you can smile and breath and just be happy.

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous

I think we can say that we’ve always been happy but now we are happier! We now know that we need less than average to be happy. It’s a concept that can be difficult to understand and to adhere to in a society like ours. A society where we are always stimulated by stores and advertisements and where spending money and owing lots of things is encouraged. A society where more is never enough and where you have to frequently justify living a simple life. A society where we trash good food for no good reason. A society where we always need new, even if it’s not old yet. We all know that we need money to live  but it was a relief to realize that we could be as happy if not more with less money and things but with more quality time for ourselves.

Quality time also means all the people we spend time with. This last year wouldn’t have been the same without all the people we met here and there and with whom we connected.  People with whom we were able to have great conversations over a beer or a coffee. People to cook and share a meal with. People to cheer for you or to give you advices when you were climbing something hard for your level. People fixing something broken on your van for free or people to  just sit there and talk about simple living. People not judging you for what you wear and do. People we hadn’t seen in a long time, people we might never see again and people that we will never forget. People liking you for who you are. The people and the time spent with them, with you, made this trip richer in many ways and we are grateful for that.

Many people told us that we were lucky to be able to do that kind of travelling but they would never do it. Would never travel 30 000km in a 1978 campervan. Would never be able to spend days without showering or going to a restaurant. We do consider ourselves lucky, not for having had a year off, but for having realized that work & money weren’t the priority. What we did feel was that we were missing out on life and we wanted more for ourselves. We spent years working really hard and we just couldn’t continue down that road without giving it a shot. We couldn’t do any of the things that we’ve dreamed of or knock items off the bucket list. We couldn’t just spend the best years of our lives working to have more money. We couldn’t just wait to be 65 years old to start living. We couldn’t bare the idea of having regrets. Regrets for not having the guts to try it. Van living isn’t for everyone but it was really amazing for us. We tried to not bother too much about the comfort and the commodities we left behind. We just jumped both feet in and we loved every minute of it. It wasn’t easy everyday, we hit bumps and obstacles but always learned something from it. I think we are different in a way,in a way that we now know more about who we are and what we want in this life.

Even if we don’t want our life to rotate around money, this last year was kind of a financial exercise for us. Testing how far we could push simple living. How  many compromises and sacrifices we were willing to do. Budgeting has been a big part of this trip and a big challenge and we are glad we had the discipline to stick to it, to report and calculate all our expenses every day, for 361 days. Here it is now !!!

$ Final Budget $

( June 25 2014- June 20 2015)

Initial Budget: $15000
Revenues: $756.21
Real Budget: $15756.21
Transport: $6659.63
Food: $2897.13
Fun:$6422.73 (includes our trip to Thailand)
Grand total: $15 979.49  short $223.28

Even if we spent a little bit more money than initially planned ($223,28), we consider that we succeeded this experimentation.  If we exclude the money related to gas and transport, travel insurance, we spent less than $8500 between the two of us. We would have probably spent double of that without the weekly budget. We are definitely proud of what we accomplished and we will obviously continue budgeting and save money for our future (not that far) projects!

This is our last blog entry for now but it doesn’t represent the end of our adventure. To us, it only means we are starting a new chapter and we are very excited about what life has in store for us.

Thanks again for following us and see you around!

M & E

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The Thailand trip report!

More than a month has gone by since our last entry. We didn’t have our laptop while we were in Thailand therefore we couldn’t really post anything. Here is a short recap of our time there.

We left Montreal May 26 in the morning and landed it Bangkok – Thailand, 25 hours later + an 11 hours jet lag. It was a long trip but everything went well. We were even lucky to travel on an almost empty plane on the way to Japan from Chicago. We were able to enjoyed the comfort of 4 seats row between the two of us. Mathieu slept on the floor and I slept on the seats…such a gentlemen!

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We arrived in Bangkok late at night and had already booked a room in a small hotel close to the airport. The next morning, we tried to reach the owner of the Airbnb place where we were supposed to sleep at that night with the intent to stop by and drop off our backpacks but we couldn’t get hold of him. So we took off with our heavy bags(Mathieu 14 kilos and mine 10) to visit the city a bit. We walked a lot in Bangkok, It’s a huge city with a lot of people and lots of scooters!!! Mathieu almost suffered a heatstroke, considering the temperature reaching 40 degrees, the backpack and the fatigue…no wonder! We took a tuk-tuk for the first time, it was a lot of fun. Later in the afternoon, we made it to the Airbnb where the guy Enes was waiting for us. He brought us to a night market where we ate our first really Thai street food. So cheap and delicious!!(30-40 BHT ~ $1-1.25 CAD).

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One out of many temples

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Enes, our Airbnb host

The next day, we jumped into a cab to get to the airport. Usually, we like to travel cheap but taking the public bus to go the airport would have been about 2 hours long and with an 9am departure, that wasn’t an option. Drivers are just crazy in Thailand(including our taxi driver), they follow each other very closely and use the side of the road as “official” lanes…I am pretty sure I closed my eyes at least twice on the drive there and just about did a prayer just in case…!

After a short flight from Bangkok, we made it to Krabi town, where we had to take a longtail boat to reach Ton Sai beach. There is no schedule for the boat, it leaves when there is at least 7 people in it. We had to wait for a little bit but it was nice to just relax for a few minutes close to the water, in the shade. The boat ride was about 10-15 minutes and cost about $4 per person. The landscape is beautiful, blue water and huge cliffs of rocks. To tell you the truth, the first time I saw the Ton sai beach, I was a bit disappointed. I was sad with the look of the “town”, garbages everywhere and the big huge gray wall recently built. The place looked kind of dead to me. The beach was dirty with nothing on it..no restaurant or bar. We eventually got over the jet lag and somewhat adapted to the temperature after a few days. At first it was quite brutal how profusely we were sweating while doing absolutely nothing. We quickly learned to appreciate cold showers because the ocean wasn’t really refreshing, so hot it was.

We found accomodation for $8/ night(200 BHT), cheapest we could find there. Our bungalow was very basic and it was in the middle of the jungle. Very little furniture: two small shelves, a pole with 4 hangers, a fan, a bed with a mosquito net and a toilet you flush with a small bucket. Electricity available only between 6pm and 6am. No hot water, but we didn’t need it anyway.

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Then we met Joss(Jocelyn), a French guy, who knew the area and the climbing in Ton Sai pretty well. He showed us around and we did our first climbs with him, following his great route recommendations. He also gave us good advices about cheap living on Tonsai. Food and accomodation on Tonsai were more expensive than we had planned, food costing literally double what you would pay at a grocery store in Krabi or Bangkok. Not only that but the selection was very limited. It made it hard to buy food or fresh produce. As a result, we had to eat out 3 times a day. At first, we were very happy to do it as we didn’t eat much in restaurants in the past year. Unfortunately, we quickly realized that we couldn’t continue on that path if we wanted to stay on target with the budget. We started to eat out twice a day instead of three times and sometimes we even shared a meal to save money but Matt wasn’t too happy with it as he felt like he was starving. We weren’t going to die but we definitely didn’t eat as much as we wanted… and to make things harder the food is so good there!!! That’s where Jocelyn’s advices came in handy. He had bought a kettle in town and was using it to boil eggs and water for noodles. Since he only had a few days left, we agreed to buy his kettle for cheap and in the mean time we boiled some eggs at night at his place. We loved the idea so the next day, we got on the first boat and went to Krabi Town. From the pier, we had to walk 40 minutes to get to the grocery store. The prices were very good and we bought lots of snacks, food and beer to reduce our daily expenses… A tall beer at the bar costs $4-5 CAD and at best we could only afford to drink a beer between the two of us daily. Another thing we did was to buy a small bottle of Rhum for $5-6 and we mixed it with pop.

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With our backpack full of food, we walked back to the pier and took the boat back. A few days later, Jocelyn left Tonsai and we became the owners of the kettle!! We did another food run a week later which lasted until we left Tonsai. After taking care of the food situation, we had to resolve the water issue. Due to the climate, we were sweating A LOT! Mathieu was drinking more than 5L of water per day and it was almost the same for me. At first, we were paying $4 for 6L of water. It was a lot of money given the amount we were drinking but it wasn’t something we could cut out of our budget. That’s when we found out that we could buy refillable water bottles of 20L for less than $3. What a deal! We just had to carry it up the hill to our bungalow 🙂

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Weatherwise, it was awesome, super hot all the time. We only saw rain three times and twice it was at night. It was hard for us to climb in that kind of temperature, so sweaty!! We usually called it a day after climbing 3 routes, 4 at most. We were always climbing in the shade but even then, the 35 degres got to us quickly. We usually took a day off between each day of climbing. We did amazing multi-pitches routes (The Wave and beauty and the Beast) and beautiful single pitches too(Banana hammock, Lion King, Beauty & Beast). You can see our tick list on Mountain Project if you want to see what we did. The rock was so different from all the rock we had climbed in the last few months. We are just very happy we had the opportunity to come here to try it out.

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Although we originally planned on spending a whole month there, we quickly got tired of the vibe, the wall and the amount of money we were spending. It would have been a shame to leave without seeing Conrad and Kristine as they were supposed to get there 2 weeks after us. We waited for them and had a few good nights hanging out. On the morning of our departure, Matt and Conrad got up before sunrise to go do what is probably considered the most classic route there, Humanality. Rain got in the way a little but by 9h30am the boys were back and we quickly walked to the pier to hop on a boat to get off Tonsai.

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With our small budget, we couldn’t really afford to go to all the other islands and weren’t interested in doing scuba-diving so we decided to hit the city instead. We took a 15 passenger van/bus to Phuket Town(so cheap.. $6 each for a 200 km ride). We spent 3 nights there walking around and eating street food. We even went to an awesome vegan restaurant called King Liew. It was vegetarian heaven! Food/alcohol prices are a lot better in the city and therefor we could treat ourselves a little more! To push the luxury even further, while in cities, we got hotel rooms with A/C, hot water and even a TV for less than $12/night.

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Two wicked vegan dishes

Afterwards we headed toward Patong beach for 3 more nights. Patong is famous for its crazy nightlife and although we took it easy the first two nights, the last one was a big one. We must have blown over $40 CAD that night… pretty big for people living on $200/week! We saw live bands, ladyboys, we were harassed so many times to go see an 18+ ping pong show (we didn’t go), drank out of bucket, etc… lots of fun! We also rented a scooter for two days and drove all around the south end of Phuket province. It took us a little bit of time to get used to drive on the left side of the road. No accident but we had one close call with a car when Matt didn’t notice a traffic light. Thankfully, the car saw the two white peeps on a scooter and knew better than we did, stopping in time.

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Party on Patong!

 

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Then we had one more challenge to face before leaving Thailand. Canadians are only allowed 30 days in the country if you don’t have a visa, which we didn’t. The minor problem was that we had knowledgeably bought a ticket for 31 days. Apparently the overstaying penalty is $20/day but we had a master plan to avoid having to find out: Going to the airport the night of day 30 to clear security/border and sleep at the departure gate. Theoretically, it was only possible because we weren’t checking any luggages. Usually they will only check you in a few hours before flight departure. Now the following is where it got tricky. We showed up at the airport at 5 pm, 14 hours before our flight, hoping to discuss our plan with someone from the airline and hopefully get issued our boarding passes before midnight. Well that never happened as there weren’t any check-in kiosks for our airline opened at that time and the automated machines to self check-in weren’t supporting our airline. We almost gave up but we still had time to figure something out. That’s when Mathieu thought about doing online check in…One more problem happened: we weren’t able to get a digital boarding pass on our phones for the one flight leaving Thailand. All the other ones for the following connections were coming through easily, but no Bangkok to Japan. At 11h30 PM, we finally got something working by taking a screenshot of a boarding pass you would normally print at home. The border people seemed satisfied with it and off the hook we were, we passed the border at 11h45 PM, 30 days after arriving in Thailand 🙂 We found sweet couches to sleep on and got some proper boarding passes printed at the boarding gate before flying away.

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Best airport bed ever, even had a giant pillow!

We didn’t do a detailed budget for our time in Thailand but we kept track. In overall, we spent $955 between the two of us in 1 month minus the flight tickets (flight tickets were part of the $15 000 and accounted for after we bought them). Like I mentioned before, it cost us more money that we had expected but we still think that is pretty reasonable.

Thailand was awesome and although we love van living, we are now ready to start a new chapter, for a few months anyway! We are already thinking about a possible trip in the Fall, probably in Europe.

It’s now just about impossible for us to make it back to Edmonton on budget as we have less than $500 left and it’s probably going to cost more than that to drive the 3000km. Even if we end up let’s say $200 over, I would think that being so close to our budget over a whole year is quite the feat. Budgeting really really works!

Budget

April 23 – June 10 : Weekly & Totals since we left 50 weeks ago (damn.. only two weeks left before Elaine resumes work!)

Fuel: $6090.40
Food: $2864.68
Fun: $6380.78 (including our trip to Thailand)

Total spent since the beginning: $15335.86

Total budget: $15756.21
Budget left: $420.35

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We gave our kettle to other Canadians the day before our return

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Delicious Thai food for $1!!

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Mathieu’s personnel lifeguard

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Night food market. Our daily dinner spot in Patong!

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Weird but delicious coconut drink

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You now know the secret to Matt’s good looks.. Man Some!

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Beautiful scenery

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Crazy driver!

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More Thai food!!!

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Could barely reach the stalactite!

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Our new friends Nelly and Seb!

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Kayaking around Tonsai

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Having dinner in our bungalow.. well under the mosquito net on the bed .. can’t be outside at night

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Curry!!! Never get enough of it!

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Chicken burger Thai style

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More curry!!!

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Inside our bungalow

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Lots of scooters !

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Beach day!

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Top 10 things to know before coming to Tonsai/Railey [Thailand] in 2015

This post is being written live from our bungalow in Tonsai, Bangkok. We came here to climb for a month, hoping to have a vacation within our year long trip with $15 000 CAD. I wrote it about Tonsai but the exact same applies to Railay. 

We had been hearing before getting here that Tonsai was changing, mostly due to a resort being built using 90% of the beachfront in Tonsai.  What that mean is that as of now, there’s a big wall surrounding the property and that any business that was by the beach was either relocated further up in the jungle or simply closed down, with the exception of Freedom bar and 2 restaurants next to it. Since we were never here before, it’s hard to tell exactly how much has changed but clearly it’s not like it used to be. I know I don’t like that wall and I believe it goes the same way with the locals. 

  
   

Here’s a top 10 of things you need to know before considering a climbing trip to Tonsai. 

  1. Bungalows aren’t cheap. The cheapest will ring you in at 200 baht. This will provide you with a shower(cold water only but that’s all you need really), a toilet(bring your own toilet paper, can be purchased for 15-20 baht for a skinny roll), a queen size bed, bamboo walls and cockroaches are included… Hey apparently they keep spiders out!. If you want fancier, it’s there but it will cost you. At least there’s a mosquito net. They’re very effective if you tuck it in underneath the mattress and don’t rest your body against it while you’re sleeping. After a week in one of those bungalows, we are quite ok. You really feel like you’re living in the jungle and that’s awesome. 
  2. A dinner meal, let’s say Pad Tai, starts at 70 and with meat it’s 80 baht. It’s like they’ve all colluded and the prices are the same pretty much everywhere. We looked everywhere for a way to feed ourselves for 30-40 baht like we did in Bangkok and it’s impossible. Everything, and I mean everything is double what the cost is in Ao Nang. (5-6 min boat ride). May I suggest stopping by a store before crossing over to Tonsai to buy anything you will need.  
  3. Thefore, if you want to cut your cost down, it might very well be worth taking the 100 baht long tail boat ride each way to Ao Nang to buy supplies. If you don’t mind your beer at room temperature, you can buy it there for 50 baht for a big 630ml instead of 100-120 in Tonsai. Eggs in Tonsai are 10 baht each while we were able to buy 30 of them for 87 baht in Ao Nang. We use an electric kettle to boil them at night when electricity is on and eat them as hard boiled eggs in the morning. The biggest grocery store in Ao Nang is Tesco. You will find all your food supplies there. It’s a 20 minute walk up the road from the beach or a cheap taxi fare away. Same price for everyone too… Not a larger price for foreigners. Most items have their English description on the price tag which is convenient when you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking at. 
  4. Local shops aren’t willing to negotiate much with their prices or rates. We were able to get a bungalow for 200 instead of 250 by paying upfront for a week but that’s about it. The very same hut we live in was going for 90 baht two years ago. We tried at every resort and only this one was willing to move on the price, even though we were 6 people looking for bungalows together. Forget about getting a deal to rent equipment or at the restaurant. Prices are what they are and they’re pretty high. 
  5. Water. You will be drinking plenty of water so here’s the solution. You buy a big 20L jug for 170 Baht and when you are done, you return it for a 100 baht refund. Effectively getting 20 L of purified water for 70 Baht. It doesn’t say Dasani or Nestle on it but it’s what the locals drink and what they’re serving you in your smoothies.  If you’re going to spend any time with an overnight stay, that’s the only way to go otherwise you will be ruining yourself buying 1.5L for 40 baht or 6 liters for 70-80 baht.   
  6. To many locals, you’re just another tourist with a lot of money. They know you will spend it and don’t really care to give you good, or why not, amazing service. Asking a local climbing guide what the grade of a route is may result you in an answer along the line of “I’m not getting paid to help you, you climb it if you want to know what the grade is.” Unless you hire a guide, you’re on your own. Thankfully regular climbing tourists are friendly as you would expect and you can share knowledge and experience with them. The guidebook is also fairly well done and can be bought locally for 800-900 baht. 
  7. Bring bug spray or plan on buying some locally. “After-bite” isn’t a bad idea either. Many people also bring/use some iodine (aka betadine) to desinfect small wounds.
  8. If you are on a tight budget, going somewhere else than Tonsai might be wise. We are having a hard time spending less than $175 USD/week. We are spending more on a weekly basis here than when we were in the USA. And that’s sharing a big beer daily. If we were to party we would be way over budget. I thinks is fair to say that Tonsai isn’t cheap anymore. 
  9. Deep water soloing is pretty expensive too. We haven’t looked for ourselves yet but from what we have heard, it should be around 1000 baht(over $30USD per person). Sure it includes a sandwich for lunch but it’s still a ton of money per person in Thailand or anywhere for that matter. 
  10. The greatest surprise has to do with Internet. It is readily available at most restaurants and bars with a purchase. Many do not change their passwords every day but since you will probably eat out at least once a day, it shouldn’t be a problem to get your internet fix. 
  11. Bonus: when looking for a place to stay, be aware that some resorts have electricity from 6 PM to midnight while some others have it on for 12 hours, from 6 PM until 6 AM. It’s quite handy when the nights are hot and you want to have the fan on all night. It’s also nice when you have many devices to charge up

As you may have noticed, we aren’t exactly in awe with Tonsai. It’s perfect when you’re having a good time climbing on the beach but coming here isn’t only that. I was in Thailand about 7 years ago and it feels like Thailand is changing. The feeling is that they’re going to milk the tourists for as much as they can. We were laughed at this morning when we preferred waiting for one more person to fill the boat to go to Ao Nang instead of paying 20 Baht more per person. Quite disrespectfull and had we been back home, this idiot would have known my thoughts. 

    My final words would simply be to either lower your expectations if you think that Tonsai is still the sport climbing mekka or just go look elsewhere. The climbs are obviously the same as they were and potentially safer than ever but having to dispense more for a coffee or a beer here than back home is quite shocking and disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery is just awesome and I’m glad we came. But what I mean is that we will try a different spot next time. Coming back here for a second time will be a much harder sell than this time around. Perhaps it’s because it’s low season or perhaps it’s because many got the memo already but there are way more island hoppers than there are climbers here right now. 

    We will make the best of it and thankfully we are already having a lot of fun climbing and meeting new people.

    Safe travels everyone. Get in touch with comments if you have any questions. 

    Cheers,

    Matt & Elaine

    Better be warm on the other side, GO Thailand!

    Once again, this last week has been filled with good time spent with family and friends.  We are still here in Chicoutimi, spending our days chatting away and eating good food. Tough life!

    One notable moment was when a good friend of mine refused to try food we had found in a bakery’s dumpster, here in Chicoutimi. His only argument was that it was one of his principle to not eat food from a garbage can. Then the following analogy came out. Elaine is a vegetarian and doesn’t eat meat as a principle.. not allergic to it or anything, she just doesn’t like animals to get put down for calories. The analogy kind of made sense… it’s not that bad to eat meat once in a while, and it’s not that bad to eat good food from the dumpster once in a while. A challenge then popped up. If Elaine would eat two bites from a meat sausage, the friend would eat a big piece of a baguette from the dumpster. He didn’t expect Elaine to agree but she went all out and ate meat for the first time in about 6 years. I bet you she wished the challenge would have been with Bacon or Ribs as it’s what she misses the most from eating meat! I feel like each time I get home(my first home.. where I grew up), I end up realizing how much I have changed since my last visit. Since I only visit once or twice a year, I get to mention what has been keeping us busy and sometime what values may have changed over time. The biggest change this time has to be our view towards dumpster diving. It generated discussions on a daily basis and it was always entertaining to explain why we did it, how we did it and where we did it. Although all agreed that dumpster diving was a good thing to help reduce food waste, not too many would be willing to be the ones going in the dumpster or even eat food from the dumpster.

    Party!

    Party!

    Evil meat!!!

    Evil meat!!!


    Although the snow has begun melting, it’s still super cold here.. highs of 4-7 Celcius.. nights dropping below minus 5 C. We have moved inside houses most nights to get more comfortable sleeps. The only good thing about it is that our upcoming trip to Thailand is going to be that much more enjoyable! 

    After stopping for a few days in Quebec city to visit Elaine’s sister, we are leaving for Thailand tomorrow for a whole month. We are super stoked to finally be wearing shorts and t-shirts all the time. We’ve mentioned it before but the thing that shocked us the most last winter wasn’t how hard it was to live in a van or live a simple life on a tight budget, it was the lack of super warm weather. We though spending the winter months in the USA would mean climbing shirtless but that hardly ever materialized. Furthermore, our time in Quebec was fun but we need to start moving again as we are loosing our fitness quickly with all the gastronomy and the numerous drinks we’ve been having daily. 

    one last rewarding dive before leaving Canada… LOTS of chocolate!

     
    We aren’t bringing the laptop to Asia so we probably aren’t going to update the blog until we come back. At best we will try to post some pictures. On the other hand, we will still keep track of our expenses with the intent of staying within budget.

    Have a good spring you all and hopefully summer will be here when we get back at the end of May!

    Our  budget for this week is now $172.37 for food & fun.

    April 9 – April 15  : Weekly & Totals since we left 42 weeks ago.

    Fuel: $98.00 / $5653.38
    Food: $40.61 / $2756.06
    Fun: $8.10 / $5086.50

    Other: Dentist exam for the two of us: $190.00

    Total for the week without fuel: $238.71
    Total with fuel: $336.71
    Total spent since the beginning: $13685.94

    Total budget: $15756.21
    Budget left: $2070.27


    Our  budget for this week is now $174.42 for food & fun.

    April 16 – April 22  : Weekly & Totals since we left 43 weeks ago.

    Fuel: $40.00 / $5693.38
    Food: $66.90 / $2822.96
    Fun: $87 / $5363.50 ($87 in travel insurance for the Thai trip and $190 in total amount for dentist cleaning for the both of us)

    Total for the week without fuel: $56.15
    Total with fuel: $183.15
    Total spent since the beginning: $13870.84

    Total budget: $15756.21

    Budget left: $1876.37

    M & E

     

    ok we did have ONE warm day in Chicoutimi 🙂

     
     

    He’s got the looks and he’s one balsy kid.. I’m sure he will be a good climber !

      

    Nephew sipping it up

          
    Trying to fix a spring noise under the rocking chair

    Trying to fix a spring noise under the rocking chair

    Winter isn’t for us..

    You know, the thing that surprised us the most this last winter is how cold we’ve been in general. Being originally from Quebec, it’s a common occurrence for elders to go to Florida and spend the whole winter wearing shorts. Well somehow, being as far south as Texas doesn’t necessarily mean it will be as hot as the snowbird state. So we’ve had too many cold nights and days to our liking but having reached Canada by the end of March made us realized how lucky we were. Perhaps we shouldn’t have complained about the temperature back then as we have spend a few nights and days between -15 to -20 Celcius (around 0 Fahrenheit) here in Quebec. Good thing we have many friends and family members to visit to keep warm during the day! At night, as our sleeping bags were at their lower limit for comfort, we ended up using our down jackets for extra insulation for the feet inside the bags. In fact, once we figured how much extra clothing to sleep with, we had one of the warmest and most comfortable night even though it was our coldest one and didn’t use the heater.

    Gets cold in the van.. she's not very winter friendly!

    Gets cold in the van.. she’s not very winter friendly!

    Now that we are back travelling through big cities, staying within budget can really be a struggle. Not only that, but visiting people you haven’t seen in a long time almost automatically involves going out, drinking booze or participating in social events. Alcohol in Canada is between 2 to 3 times more expensive even when we had to pay $1.25 CAD for $1 USD. We are still staying within budget but it’s only because people have been cooking a lot for us!

    Saguenay is famous for their Big beers!

    Saguenay is famous for their Big beers!

    But the good thing is obviously the amount of socialization with have been having with everyone we don’t get to see very often and those we haven’t seen in years. We are very lucky to have amazing friends welcoming us warmly each time we show up on their door step! Thanks and we love you all!

    Not van living food .. it was awesome!

    Not van living food .. it was awesome!

    We are now in my hometown/area of Saguenay, QC. We’ve been “living the life” lately, sleeping in heated homes with TVs, internet and stuff like microwaves and ovens. It’s really nice but we aren’t doing much physical activities to stay fit in the meantime.. hopefully we can still climb by the time we reach Thailand!! 😉 The ground here is still full of snow (like almost 2 feet) so it’s questionable whether we will be able to use our ropes before we leave.

     

    Our  budget for this week is now $178.36 for food & fun.

    March 26- April 1  : Weekly & Totals since we left 40 weeks ago.

    Fuel: $219.59 / $5555.38
    Food: $51.55 / $2686.31
    Fun: $63.26 / $5038.33

    Total for the week without fuel: $114.81
    Total with fuel: $334.40
    Total spent since the beginning: $13280.02

    Total budget: $15756.21
    Budget left: $2476.19

     

    April 2 – April 8  : Weekly & Totals since we left 41 weeks ago.

    Fuel: $0 / $5555.38
    Food: $29.59 / $2715.90
    Fun: $40.07 / $5078.40

    Total for the week without fuel: $69.66
    Total with fuel: $69.66
    Total spent since the beginning: $13349.68

    Total budget: $15756.21
    Budget left: $2406.53

    M & E

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    Baby sitting 😉

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    In a rest area .. catching some internet before heading on the road again

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    Tyson, my dad’s boxer.. so pretty!

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    At my sister’s birthday party in Alma, QC

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    Elaine and her cousin Frank

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    Wrapping it up with the USA

    We have been pretty busy lately so we haven’t had time to write a new entry.. We had a special event this week as we celebrated Conrad’s 28 birthday. We had a Karaoke/Margaritas party on the porch at the Heuco Tank village…the four of us and the dogs!! We had so much fun …didn’t know we were that good at singing!!! Kristine baked a delicious chocolate cake and she even bought icing and candles…pretty big deal if you ask me!

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    Birthday boy with his birthday hat 🙂

     

    I(Elaine) used the shower bag for the first time this week. We could say that it was a half-success as the wind blew away the bed sheet hiding while showering. In the end, I did get the job done and we are pretty certain that the neighbor wasn’t home at that moment. I also got a nice gift from Josh, our new Aussie friend, he gave me a coupon for a free shower at the nearby Hacienda, a kind of B&B. I also got another free shower coupon by the manager of the campground and I gave it to Mathieu. I’m just so nice!!! We both enjoyed a short nice hot shower.

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    Now you can see Elaine’s leg, 1 minute later you could see everything 🙂

     

    The campground quickly emptied itself out over the last few week, most people leaving for new adventures. We ended up been the only campers here at the exception of Conrad and Kristine. Some nights, we got lucky and got new arrivals. Pretty exciting, new people to chat with. That’s how we met those guys who did the PCT- Pacific Crest Trail a few months ago. They hiked for 5 months from Mexico to Cananda, total of 2,663 miles or 4,286 km!! Quite the adventure! I’m for sure putting that on my bucket list but I’m not sure if it will make Mathieu’s list.

    Climbing wise, we tried to get as much climbing in as possible, trying to finish all the projects we had. The park has been pretty busy lately due to Spring Break and it has been a bit of a challenge to get in. We waited 5 hours in the van the other day to get into the park. We never made it in as we got discouraged around 3pm and just went back to the campground. In addition to the increase in park’s visitors, the weather wasn’t that great therefore it was a bit harder to get psyched. I finally sent one of my first projects in Hueco: Lobster Claw, an amazing V5. I have been working on it for a while and was starting to get more frustrated than motivated. I’m kind of proud of myself and of all of the things I accomplished here.

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    Playing monopoly on the Ipad while we were waiting for like ever

    On Mathieu’s side, not much happened this last week. He didn’t have much time to work on Baby Face so it will still be a project for our next visit to Hueco Tanks. In the last few days, he started to work another problem called Choir Boys V7. He worked pretty hard on the opening moves but then he hurt his back and had to take a few extra rest days with some Ibuprophene(Glad to report that the back is feeling perfect now).

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    Overall, we are very pleased with all the climbing we have done here. Our time in Heuco Tanks is now over and it’s kind of a bitter sweet feeling as we are sad to leave this amazing place but also excited to take on this last leg of our trip. We also said a temporary good bye to Conrad and Kristine and the dogs, as they are going to Joe’s Valley and we are heading to Houston and then back to Canada. We will see them again in two months on Tonsei Beach in Thailand!!!

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    People suggested that we stop by Carlsbad Caverns National Park on our way to Houston. We did and what an amazing place that was! You can either enter the caverns walking trough the Natural Entrance or by using an elevator that will bring you 800′ down. We used the Natural Entrance and walked throughout the caverns for over 2 miles(3.2km). We spent about 4 hours admiring all the rock formations and walking for narrows passages. Carlsbad Caverns is a world heritage protected site and deserves it very much. It’s really worth your time if you can make it there someday.

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    We then kept on driving across Texas and finally made it to Houston! Texas is a big state! We spent a couple of days there with our friend Jean and his fiance. It was awesome to see him again and to spend time with them. We had awesome food and wine (People that know Jean will for sure agree!) and we even went to a french play!! There is a small french community here in Houston and it was great to be able to support a small french theater troop. We had a very good time and we will for sure come back….some day!

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    After Houston, we hopped back into our van and kept on driving toward Nashville,Tennessee to meet one of my childhood friend, Manon. I haven’t seen her in like 15 years! We spent the evening at her place and had the chance to meet her husband and son, both awesome people!!! It was so nice to spend sometime with her again and talk about how silly we were at 8 years old!!!

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    We are now back on the road, very slowly making our way to Quebec to visit family and friends before our departure to Thailand.

    Quick facts:
    -Matt got a seriously needed haircut
    -Gone girl the movie is really really creepy
    -The plant hasn’t been doing too hot.. Zero leaves eaten since December.
    -We bought a bunch of Military Rations .. perfect for when you’re driving the distance!

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    In memory of the good old army days.. Military rations!

    We would like to inform you guys that we official spent all the 5000$ that we had budgeted for gas. We agreed to reallocate $1000 for the fuel/transport so our weekly budget is dropping quite a bit. So far we have driven around 24 000 km.

    Our  budget for this week is now $165.11 for food & fun.

    March 12- March 18  : Weekly & Totals since we left 38 weeks ago.

    Fuel: $72.50 / $4807.60
    Food: $52.54 / $2565.23
    Fun: $15.00 / $4917.07

    Total for the week without fuel: $67.54
    Total with fuel: $140.34
    Total spent since the beginning: $12290.07

    Total budget: $15756.21
    Budget left: $3466.14

    March 19- March 25  : Weekly & Totals since we left 39 weeks ago.

    Fuel: $413.38 / $5220.98
    Food: $69.53 / $2634.76
    Fun: $57.83 / $4975.07

    Total for the week without fuel: $127.36
    Total with fuel: $540.74
    Total spent since the beginning: $12830.81

    Total budget: $15756.21
    Budget left: $2925.40

    E & M

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    The sketchy dam traverse when it’s windy!

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    Take a picture of this picture.. you don’t see Conrad with a beer very often!

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    The girls of Hueco !

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    Yummy cake!

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    The karaoke crew minus E

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    Keno is the shopkeeper’s dog.. super laid back

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    Bella posing and Diva photo bombing it like a pro

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    Killer cactus.. poked right through the sandals

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    Jean with his fiance Kim (and the delicious tomatillo sauce!)

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    Photo Credit Andy Wickstrom

    Only a few weeks left in the USA

    We can unfortunately already start to feel the end of our trip. There’s still a few months left but we only have 3 weeks left in the USA at most, with 1 month in Thailand, next thing you know we will be driving back towards Alberta and resume working. It’s close enough that we are starting to make plans about what we will do once we get back. While Elaine has about 7 weeks of work lined up over the summer at the Cross Cancer Hospital, it’s a bit up the air for myself. The one thing that has been in the back of my mind for a long time is to become a dealer in a casino. Since I have always liked working with the public, I feel like being a dealer will feel more like a hobby than a job. I have looked online a little and it sounds like it can be as good as it seems when you deal to a great group. Furthermore, the skill is quite transferable if we were to get a job on a cruise ship, as it is something we’ve talked about doing someday. The only uncertain thing about it is if there’s enough  money to be made there to allow saving up in a reasonable amount of time. I have also done my fair share of night shift working and I don’t know if that’s something I would really fancy right now. I’ll definitely look at the JobBank website but so far, for as long as I can get in, I should be dealing somewhere in a casino around Edmonton once we get back.

    We sometimes talk about things that we miss, or things that we enjoyed before going on this simple life adventure. I have been saying lately that I’m looking forward to working again to have a greater disposable income. Reason #1: Buy meat! But after some introspection, I’m thinking that what I miss more about our previous life, is the friends of Edmonton. We make good friends along the way here and that’s awesome. But somehow, it’s going to feel good to go back home and hang out with all the people we left behind when we took on this journey. We both also miss going out to the restaurant. I don’t know that we will be going as often as we used to, but going out for breakfast is something we really miss….Urban Dinner, see you soon!!

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    On the climbing front, Elaine sent two of her projects this week. The first one is a super cool roof route called Girls of Juarez V4. She needed to work different betas than the rest of us because of her height but she worked hard and got it.

    There are a lot of problems in Hueco Tanks with knee bar moves and using a Knee Pad makes those move much more enjoyable or simply possible.  We don’t have one but we were able to borrow a Downgrader MINI Strap-On Kneepad from Gabi and Brandon (from www.justgoclimb.com). It’s made by a local company called Send Climbing. During our stay here, we got to try the kneepad from 5.10 too but so far, the Send one is much more comfortable, not pinching or biting the back of your leg.

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    Results of climbing without a knee pad!

     

    The second one is called Denizen and it’s a V4/5, a beautiful line. The problem felt  kind of impossible for her at  first but on her second day,  she was able to figure out the crux and made it to the top. It’s always a good feeling when you finally send a problem you have been working on for a few days. It also cheers you up  and give you the motivation to keep working hard.

    Personally, I ended up sending two V6 this week, including one of the coolest route in Hueco Tanks. The description from Mountain Project goes like this:

    This classic face climb is one of the more notorious highball problems at Hueco. The excellent moves, stellar rock, and memorable finish make this problem a must do for those solid at the grade. Despite the towering height of this problem, the crux is low, and the landing is excellent, so wait for a crowd, layer the pads thick, and go for it! 

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    See spot run

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    Highball…Scary!

    It’s called See Spot Run V6. It has a low crux and the holds are positive as you make your way up, they’re just not jugs and some move are somewhat committing. Thankfully the top out was easier than expected. Unfortunately, I had to witness a friend fall uncontrolled one foot below the top. She had to be helped down the mountain and we hope she heals up quickly. It was quite scary to see it happen. This climb has claimed many victims and Jess might be the latest one.

    The other one is King Cobra V6. After having failed miserably the first week here on this problem, I was given some Beta from the Germans and it went right away.

    Financially, we tried to not spend any money this week. We have to pay for additional travel insurance as somehow we had only purchased travel insurance until May 1st. We found a new company to use and it’s about $1.50 pp/day. It’s not always easy to cut down the spending but so far so good!

    ..because when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing..  

                                                                                                            -Dr Seuss

    Our  budget for this week is now $222.75 CAD for food & fun.

    March 5- March 11 : Weekly & Totals since we left 37 weeks ago.

    Fuel: $93.00 / $4735.10
    Food: $37.10 / $2512.69
    Fun: $31.68 / $4902.24

    Total for the week without fuel: $68.78
    Total with fuel: $161.78
    Total spent since the beginning: $12150.03

    Total budget: $15756.21
    Budget left: $3606.18

    E & M

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    ELaine seeking shelter during a brief shower

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    On the way to the New Meadows…pretty narrow approach

     

    Photo Credit Andy Wikstrom

    Photo Credit Andy Wikstrom

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    On my current project.. Baby Face V7

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    Bat hang starting the best V2 in the world, Nobody Here Gets Out Alive

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    Aiko!

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    Testing out the new shower bag.. it works!

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