In Napoli Beside the Sea

A post (mostly) by Adam!

When we put the plan together to visit Italy, there were a lot of factors we considered when choosing where to stay. Since it was summer aka. high tourist season, prices had skyrocketed in the locations typically considered “the most beautiful parts of Italy”, so we were forced to prioritize our criteria to find the best location. Our criteria included: a coastal location, co-working space, nearby gym, good walkability, and convenient public transportation. After research and weighing our options, it became clear Naples was going to be our base for a month. Despite the stereotypes we’d heard regarding cleanliness, safety and the mafia rule, what intrigued us about Naples was that it was a city with grit. We’ve been to picturesque Italy; it’s exciting, charming and touristy for good reason. But how those on vacation experience Italy isn’t how locals live and we wanted a taste of that local Italian life… la dolce vita… and a lot of blogs pointed us to Naples.

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Impressive right?

People are quick to point out the negative aspects about Naples, but Italy’s 3rd largest city has a lot of great things going for it. First and foremost, pizza was invented in Napoli meaning they arguably have the best pizza in the world. Second, it’s a port city and a major train hub which makes travelling throughout Italy easy breezy and affordable. Third, it is still Italy; meaning the food, wine, and espresso are something of another world. It’s safe to say we will be buying an espresso machine as a “to us from us” Christmas gift.

Upon arrival from the airport, we were very quickly reminded of home. Hello humidity. For the prior four months, we’d been spoiled with a relatively dry climate but was very clearly over. We lugged our backpacks into a taxi and off we went to our Airbnb. For now, I’ll spare the details about insane Italian driving, but I will say that for stretches we drove on the wrong side of the road and seemed to play chicken with some large trucks as we dodged around less “slow” vehicles. Maybe it was a good thing jet lag dulled our senses.

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Piazza del Plebiscito

When we arrived, we were greeted by our host, Clara, who showed us around our new temporary home. Everything was wonderful, however we quickly realized that we’d apparently we missed checking the “air conditioning” box on Airbnb’s site when booking. Smh. Clara asked if we were hungry since we got in so late and intrigued us by saying the current best pizza in Naples was just a quick walk from the building, 50 Kalo. We must have looked really exhausted because she drove us there and tried to get us a table. But as you could probably guess, there was a huge wait it being the best pizza in Naples and all. So Clara pointed across the street to her favorite everyday pizza place called Pasquels. We marched on over and were sat right away. We ordered a bottle of wine for $6, caprese salad, zuppa di pesce and our first Neapolitan pizza which was a twist on the margarita classic except subbing creamy, delicious burrata for mozzarella. My goodness it was amazing and not just because we were exhausted and jet-lagged. The fresh ingredients mixed with it’s perfectly thin, toasty, chewy crust was just what pizza dreams are made of.

Although the food was completely hitting the spot, it was actually the staff who truly made our night so memorable. Everyone was so friendly and very eager to talk us via their Google translate app. They spoke, google translated. We spoke, google translated. It was quite a scene with us all clamoring to speak into the phone and laughing when the translation was completely obscure. They asked about popular Netflix shows and if certain documentaries (Pizza Bomber) were true, why we were in Naples, and what life was like in America. The night ended up being one of our favorites during our time in Naples as we had found our neighborhood late night spot for great pizza, good wine and new friends.

The following days, we walked mini-marathons to get oriented with the area and devoured various homemade pastas. Frutti di mare (mussels, prawns, clams, octopus, calamari mixed with a light fresh tomato sauce and fresh pasta) quickly proved to be our favorite. It’s nearly impossible to go wrong with this dish in Italy and we must have eaten it 10 times.

Aside from eating, we dedicated our first few days to finding a coworking space and a gym. ProFighting Napoli was a pretty awesome find and a 5-minute walk to our apartment. It was a fighting gym with killer cross-training classes that made us regret stopping working out the prior months. We got to know the trainers and worked our asses off 4 times a week. It provided us with a structure and much needed accountability in a city with so mouthwatering wine, pasta and pizza.

As far as finding a coworking space, well, to put it bluntly, it was a major fail. There weren’t any coworking spaces near us and we weren’t quite confident driving a motorbike in Napoli’s crazy streets. One day, we did make the trek to the closest co-working space, however between its 45-minute commute there, and the fact that it was located IN a daycare adjacent to train tracks… we quickly decided we’d just work from our Airbnb for the month. All in all, working at home was fine, but the experience made it a new necessity for our future Aibnbs to be close to a GOOD coworking space.

Once we nailed down gym and a place to work, the rest of our four weeks were spent exploring Naples and far beyond to Orvieto, Tuscany, Capri, Ischia, and Sorrento. We told you public transport was clutch! More on those excursions and our guest visitors to come soon.

Okay, one more pizza pic to hold you over.
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Checking a Safari off the Bucket List

Going on a safari was hands down the coolest experience we had in South Africa and probably thus far, so I’ll make this short, sweet and filled with wildlife pictures.  An African safari is probably on a lot of people’s bucket lists, and rightfully so, as it is pure magic when you see those animal beauties roaming in the wild. A few months before we left for our trip we made the decision to invest in a safari at the end of our South Africa leg, because how many times would we really be in Africa again? Carpe diem. Through numbing amounts of research, we found there are safaris of all calibres depending on what type of ‘comfort’ you want on a trip. There is a modest self-driving day trip on the cheap all the way up to luxury resort lodges with infinity pools. Our particular 4-day excursion was right in the middle, comfortable with a touch of camping charm. We booked with Wild Planet Safari, a smaller more boutique safari company that seemed to care about their client’s experience above all else. Instead of being with 8 others in a crowded vehicle, our trip was a very personal experience with it only including Adam, myself, our guide and a cook/guide in training.

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Kruger is a huge (7,500 square miles) and very well known wildlife game reserve in northeast South Africa boarding Mozambique, where the “Big 5” live abundantly; elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and water buffalo.  During our 4 days/3 nights, we were fortunate enough to see 4 of the 5 excluding the elusive white rhino. The white African rhino has very sadly been a frequent victim of poachers in search of their highly valuable ivory horn, and we were wondering if their natural movement patterns may have shifted because of that. So although we didn’t see a rhino, we definitely saw a gaggle of other animals that made up for it.

Eh hem: zebra, water buffalo, giraffe, leopard, wild dog, kudu, springbok, waterbuck, impala, elephant (SO MANY), lion, warthog, steenbok, porcupine, hyena, hippo, mongoose, nyala, genet, crocodile, baboon, monkey, wildebeest, jackal, African wild cat, guinea fowl, and too many beautiful exotic birds to count.

On safari day 1, our phenomenal guide Gibson picked us up in a 4×4 at our Johannesburg hotel bright and early and we were off on the 5-hour journey to Kruger National Park. During our trip, we stayed at two different rest camps in Kruger, Skukuza (1 night) and Satara (2 nights). Both camps were similar in accommodations with simple circular chalets with charming thatch roofs and grills that we put to good use. Most amenities were equal between the camps, however, Satara may have a slight edge because we were able to see animals roaming from the fence during the day. The safari itself basically consisted of the schedule below for 4 days:

5:30am – coffee and rusks (similar to a biscotti)
6am – 2-hour game drive
9am – homemade breakfast by our wondrous cook Benjamin
10:30am – afternoon game drive
2pm (depending on how long we stalk animals) – homemade lunch
4pm – evening game drive
7pm – DELICIOUS homemade dinner and South African wine

Every day was honestly so refreshing and exciting because we never knew what we were going to see and Gibson and Ben were ninjas at spotting and naming animals along with listing every detail about their species and tendencies. Our very own in-car living and breathing Google.

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Our guide Gibson busy spotting animals hiding in the bush.

On our very last game of the trip, we were blessed with SUCH an awesome close-up spotting of a sleepy lion pride. At first, we came across a cute young lion sunbathing in a grassy area, so we parked with our excitement peaked and binoculars raised although we were only 35 yards away! Then as we panned across the tall grass, we spotted 5 additional lions lounging. We were ecstatic. We sat there for a while in awe and then saw two wildebeest galloping uphill toward the pride. Well… the sleepy lions heard this too. One by one each lion poked it’s head up as the unassuming prey came closer. This had to be the most exciting moment of the entire safari, as we thought we were going to see a hunt! All the lions stood up, even revealing a 6th, fixated on the wildebeest. We watched for probably an hour with anticipation but apparently, the lions got hot and tired of waiting for their would-be lunch to come closer and laid back down. Since it was our last game drive and time wasn’t on our side, we had to head out but both Adam and I could have staked out there all day waiting for the lions to pounce… or move or purr or do anything.

What an awesome 4 days. Thanks for reading, enjoy los animales 🙂
Chels and Adam

Wow Wow Cape Town

The fact that it has taken me 2 whole weeks to get this blog out is a testament to how much we are LOVING Cape Town. It’s been an impressive first stop on our adventure and with as many places that Adam and I have been fortunate enough to visit, nothing quite compares to this vibrant and culturally diverse city hugging the coast. With two and a half weeks under our belts, we already have a laundry list of observations that make this place unique.

Landscape + Location
If you haven’t been following our Instagram, which you should do, you’ll need to start by googling “Cape Town”. Instantly your eyes should widen with the glorious imagery filling your google image search of Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, the sprawling city at its base and beautiful blue oceans. From any point near and around the city as well as its various neighborhoods, these iconic land masses have a major presence, making you feel very tiny. And oh my gawd are they stunning. So stunning that we hiked both within our first week here. Blog on those climbing adventures coming next and I promise it won’t take 2 weeks. Even as I sit here at our favorite neighborhood coffee shop, Melissa’s, enjoying a double flat white (latte equivalent?) and finally writing this blog, my backdrop is Her Majesty, Table Mountain. You should also know as we recently found out that Table Mountain is one of the “New 7 Wonders of Nature“.

In an attempt to keep this blog a manageable reading length, I won’t go into detail YET about the stretching vineyards, luscious forests and gorgeous coastlines, but it has to be said that the physical landscape of this region is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

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Multi-tasking at our favorite local coffee shop, Melissa’s

Diversity
On our first hike up Lion’s Head, we heard people passing by speaking Italian, German, Spanish, South African English, American English, Afrikaans (basically Dutch), and a few others that were indistinguishable. At first, I was thinking wow, all these people are here on vacation or ‘holiday’ as they say locally. But the more time we’ve spent mingling, the more we’ve realized South Africa has a huge population of people that have moved here from other countries, some just at least until their visas expire.

It’s also been interesting to note that many we meet identify with multiple nationalities. One morning on beauuuutiful Camps Bay Beach, we were playing volleyball with a whole group of people currently living in South Africa. However, they described themselves as “South African and German”, “Italian and South African”, or “Dutch and South African”. Maybe that is a way they distinguish they aren’t tourists or maybe they all feel as though they identify with being South African in the same way they identify with their own home country. Regardless, it’s been intriguing and a hell of a lot of fun to meet all these worldly people. It’s also quite impressive that everyone speaks multiple languages… which is really encouraging me to go back to hitting the Spanish books before we get to Spain. Nesicito aprender mas pronto!

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Adam’s impressive jump serve and our impressive multi-national friends

Locally Sourced Food + Cost of Living
Yea, yea, we’ve been eating a lot… but we’ve also been working out a lot too, but we all know the food is prettier to look at than our morning circuits in the park. The food scene here in “The Mother City” is outrageously delicious and beautiful, not to mention half the price as in the states! Now I know every local is hoping their currency, the Rand, continues to strengthen, but as of today, our dollar goes FAR (12:1). Wine = 40-60 R is normal at a nice restaurant ($3.33-$5) and on happy hour it dips to 25-30 R ($2-$3)! A locally sourced, good meal = 60-100 R ($5-$8.50). Adam has also been stalking the various real state advertisements and those are about half of what you would expect too. As you can probably guess, we’re dreaming (plotting?) of buying a place here on the regular.

One more thing I did want to add that has been pretty striking is that nearly all the food at the grocery stores is LOCAL. Pineapples, bananas, meat, eggs, cheese, olive oil, wine, packaged food, jerky (called biltong here) – it’s all from South Africa! A testament to the rich abundance of the country’s landscape.

Security
I’m pretty sure the only time I’ve seen high voltage wire is in Jurassic Park, but here it’s as common as taking an Uber (which is the main method of transport). High voltage wire along with, massive spiked security gates and barbed wire encompass nearly every residence, be it a stunning mansion or a simple condo complex like our AirBnB. As an example, we have 4 keys to get into our apartment which is inarguably one of the best areas of Cape Town – The Garden District. One that unlocks the front spiked security gate and interior iron gate, another that unlocks our apartment door’s iron security gate, and two additional keys that unlock the locks on our front door. It takes 5 minutes just to get in and out. What this says to us as visitors is that security is an issue and locals would rather be safe than sorry. However, I can’t help but think that this apparent need for intense security only further visually and physically divides the people that South Africa is working to unite.

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The view of our temporary ‘Captonian’ home and just the first layer of high voltage security

There is so much more that I want to cover but I want to save some juicy details and exciting days for posts to come. However — one thing I don’t want to ignore in this first post because there will be a blog dedicated to it coming up is that the socio-economic divides in South Africa are something we have never witnessed. As we’ve heard many times from locals, “Cape Town isn’t South Africa” and our visit to one of the adjacent townships this week not only proved that but changed us probably forever. This country is stunning, exciting, and amazing yes… but it has a complex and horrid history that has scared its infrastructure and affected culture in a way that is really hard to put to words.

Until next time, cheers and keep liking our Instagrams : )
Chels and Adam

 

9 Months of Travel While Working: an Introduction

How did this all begin? So many of you have asked, so that is exactly what our first post is dedicated to — the idea of extended travel and making it happen.

About a year ago (Feb 2017) Adam and I started throwing around ‘crazy’ ideas of long-term travel or potentially moving somewhere new. It’s not that we were unhappy with our life, in fact, we were super happy newlyweds just settling in our first home with our dog and new chickens. However, after our incredible honeymoon in small-town Italy as well as our individual travel abroad trips, we both knew international travel was something we wanted more of before we started a family.

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The view from our balcony in Positano, Italy – cue wanderlust
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Taking the advice of a local, we ended up spending one night in breath-taking Matera, Italy

After about two weeks of Adam constantly inundating me about the idea of long-term travel, we decided to do a “mind map” to see if it was something we could actually pull off as it would require some major strategizing. Mind Mapping is an exercise we learned from our Passion Planners. It is basically a method of thinking and planning goals on paper. You start with a big idea, then break it down into smaller goals and break those down into smaller goals to make it happen. I wish I had taken a picture of the huge Mind Map on our kitchen table because it was a beautiful mess of word vomit. We had scribbled out so many outlandish ideas but it was all kind of thrilling to see them actually written on paper as if they were a possibility (which little did we know, they were!).

Ultimately, our mapping exercise helped us further define what we wanted to do with our wanderlust: extended abroad travel while working remotely for about 10 months, until the new year of 2019. That’s it. The goal was set and written on paper, so then all we had to figure out how the hell we made it a reality and what things needed to happen to make it possible to leave within a year. Easy right?

We started by mapping a route, but that wasn’t smart, just fun and exciting. We created a google doc and typed out every country we had interest in visiting. After that hit of dopamine, we back-tracked and started thinking like logical people and more about HOW this trip could be possible both financially and physically. We knew Adam needed to build his Real Estate team so he could remain productive and relevant in the Cincinnati market along with asking my company if they would consider me working remotely as a graphic design consultant (which they amazingly were supportive of). We also made a few good moves in the Real Estate market including selling our house and moving into a fixer-upper across the street (another post for another blog). With those things secured, we not only knew this trip was possible but was definitely happening. And with that, we set a departure date and went back to the fun part (temporarily) of researching countries and creating a dream travel schedule. More dopamine :).

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The closing on our new fixer-upper home! Bentley is thrilled

I don’t mean to make it sound so easy as there was a lot more that went into the planning and prepping for this big adventure. Research, countless google docs, life’s complications, countless budget meetings, IT logistics, flight cancellations, health insurance, leveraging our flight and hotel points, and timing with our professional work among many other factors. But at the end of the day, we made a ‘crazy’ goal, devised a plan, stuck to it, pivoted when we had to, and now we’re here in South Africa amazed we actually did it.  There will no doubt be twists and turns along the way, but for right now, things seem pretty good.

Thanks for reading, hugs to you back home!

Chels and Adam