A Day in Turkey

In the fall of 2016, I spent a day in Turkey. I wish I had taken more pictures and not rushed through this trip, but this was a good lesson in taking my time. Here are a few highlights from my trip!

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Lunch with Locals

 

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I visited the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. I’m not frowning in this picture, but the sun was in my eyes.
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I saw many mosques and lots of beautiful architecture.

My favorite site was the Bosphorus Straight.  The water here is just so blue and beautiful!

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The Bosphorous Straight

This trip went by way too quickly, so I must go back and visit again! What’s your favorite place to visit in Turkey?

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Cruise #2: Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand

I’m personally not a big fan of cruises, but one of the perks is the ability to visit multiple countries for one price. My second cruise was a trip to Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.  Here are some of the highlights from that trip.

The trip started out in Singapore where we saw some sites and celebrated the new year. While in Singapore we visited friends who also worked in Saudi Arabia. The food was incredible!

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We visited the Singapore Gardens and it was absolutely beautiful. I think Singapore has some of the most beautiful nature I’ve seen.

It was so refreshing to be in nature again after living in the desert for so long.

From Singapore, we boarded the cruise ship and headed off to our first destination, Malaysia! The people there were so friendly and pleasant.

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We went to Kuala Lumpur and saw the famous towers.  Unfortunately, they were closed on the day we went, so we couldn’t go up, but I didn’t mind. I just wanted a picture.

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We explored the islands and ran into some pesky monkeys. There were monkeys everywhere! And they were incredibly ornery.  We were told to be careful about them trying to get our bags!

We even had time to play on the beach and be silly before going back to the ship.

Our last stop was Thailand. This was my first time in Thailand and I wish I could’ve stayed longer. Thailand is an incredible place. We went to Phuket, so if I do return someday I plan on going to Bangkok.

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The highlight of my trip was getting to see the elephants though I’m concerned my contribution to this type of tourism is keeping wild animals in captivity. This trip inspired me to do more reading about humane tourism.

I can’t wait to go back to Asia and visit more places. It’s an incredible place!

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Help from a Stranger: A Day in Kuwait

In 2016, I went on an incredible trip for my 30th birthday, and I learned a valuable lesson about trusting people.  My trip started out from Qatar to Oman and from Oman I made one stop off in Kuwait before going to Egypt.  Many people asked me why I bothered to go to Kuwait and I can understand why. It’s not what you’d call a tourist destination, but it was a nice escape.

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I was supposed to stay for about 12 hours before taking my flight to Egypt when I ran into some trouble at the airport. I was trying to find a place store my luggage so I didn’t have to carry it around with me while I was sightseeing and much to my dismay, I found out there was no place to store it.  Angrily, I left the luggage counter and that’s when a young man approached me, noticing I was upset.

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Walking along the coat in Kuwait

I explained my situation to him and he suggested I leave my luggage with him and that once he gets off work he’ll show me around the country. Now, normally hitchhiking around a foreign country with a stranger would be ill-advised, but I assessed the situation. He was a nice young man and well-dressed. He seems professional enough. And I knew where he worked, so I figured the odds of him doing anything violent toward me were pretty low. Looking back, I’m not sure I would’ve agreed, but I’m glad I did in this particular situation.

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One of Kuwait’s malls

So we put my luggage in his vehicle and he dropped me off at a nice shopping mall and he agreed to come pick me up once he got off work.  So after shopping for about an hour, I got a call from him and just as he said, he came and picked me up. From there, we went to a nice restaurant and ate lunch.  I visited the aquarium (which was supposedly the biggest one in the Middle East, but I personally think the one at the Dubai Mall was bigger). He took me to the iconic Kuwait towers, and we had a lovely visit.

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The Aquarium

 

The gentleman’s name was Nader, and it turns out he is a very devout Muslim man, which was a relief to me because I don’t enjoy being hit on by strangers. Nader was very respectful and kind and we enjoyed talking and seeing all the sights. He’s from Lebanon, but he works in Kuwait because the money is better.

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The Kuwaiti Towers

After the fun evening, he took me back to the airport, with my luggage, thanked me for the wonderful time, and saw me to my flight. I’ll never forget the kindness from this young man and though I would caution any traveler about staying safe abroad, I would also encourage them to not assume every one is out to get you. Some people are just genuinely nice individuals.

How the heck am I going to keep my bus warm?

Okay, so winter is here.  And once again, we got virtually no fall. It was nearly 80 degrees outside a few days ago, and now it’s barely 50. As a life-long Midwesterner, you’d think by now, I would know how the weather works. I’m about 2 months into my life in the bus (Lovely Rita), and so far I’m loving it. I’ve been urban camping: sleeping in parking lots, but there are still difficulties to address, the most pressing one being the temperature. The last two nights I thought I was going to freeze to death! So here are my options for keeping the bus warm:

Electric

I have a generator on the back of my bus, and I could potentially use it to power a small space heater. However, the generator is loud and I’m living in parking lots. Of course I’m concerned about drawing attention to myself from local riff raff, but more worrying is drawing attention to myself from business owners who aren’t keen on me sleeping in their parking lot. I’ve got a parking pass through a university, and if they catch wind that I’m living in the vehicle, I risk losing my comfortable parking arrangement; multiple, safe lots within walking distance from my job. Worst case scenario, I could run the generator long enough to get my bus warm, and then turn it off and hope my bus stays warm throughout the night. This seems less than ideal.

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Propane

I’ve been looking at a lot of propane heaters, but anyone who knows anything about propane will immediately alert you to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Now normally when people are overtly fearful of something, I tend to scoff and tell them to be less worrisome, but this is one topic in which I share their concerns. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a real threat; the silent killer as they call it. Now I’ve had well-intentioned friends suggest I “crack a window” or “keep a detector handy” but these are not safe precautions. If I’m going to live in this bus, I want to do it safely.

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I considered the Mr. Buddy Heater which claims to be safe indoors, but apparently even it requires some ventilation. In order to have a sufficient amount of ventilation, I’d have to have multiple windows open and all my heat would escape. I’ve considered getting a propane heater, and rigging up my own exhaust system to go out a window, but even if I took the safest of precautions, I still wouldn’t be confident in my own handiwork.

Furnace

So I went to Camping World today to look into further options, and the most ideal option happens to be the most expensive.  They can install a propane furnace with a vent just inside my cabinet. This furnace would be powerful enough to heat the whole bus and I would have a thermostat to adjust the temperature. The propane tank would be mounted under the bus, out of sight. I love this option, but after totaling up the cost of the furnace, the tank, the parts, and the labor, it would probably cost me somewhere in the vicinity of $4000.00. I’m just not sure I can afford that, especially since I’m still in the middle of trying to prep and sell my house. However, I do think this might be the safest and most efficient option for me.

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Wood-Burning Stove

So a few friends suggested wood-burning stoves and I initially scoffed at the idea because it conjured up images of these gigantic black stoves, and I live in a 12 X 7 foot space. But then I got online and started doing some reading and they sell these adorable, mini-stoves. Now, I love burning wood. It would definitely keep the bus warm, or maybe I’m making assumptions, but I’ve been told they’re quite efficient at keeping the place warm. My bus would smell good, too. However, I’d have to stay stocked up on wood and the risk of starting a fire is something to consider, especially since I’m accident-prone.  There’s also the need to install a flue and I’m sure smoke coming out of the top of my bus would raise as many red flags as a loud generator. I think I would enjoy this option most, but for my space, it might be unrealistic.

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Sleeping Bag

Now my cheapest option is to just buy a really nice sleeping bag designed for cold weather camping and spend the entire winter roughing it. I could do it. I’ve roughed it before, but I want to enjoy living in my bus. I can’t do that if I’m just hiding in my sleeping bag and never sitting in my chair, reading my books, cooking, or doing anything else.

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Solar Panels

Could the right set of solar panels crank out enough watts to power a small electric space heater? Because I’ve been meaning to get solar panels anyways but I was waiting for the sake of saving money, but if it’s an option, I could invest in the project now and just get a nice, little electric heater.

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I’ve got a lot of options,  and they’ve all got their advantages and disadvantages, but it’s cold now, and I’m running out of time, and I need my bus to be warm!!! What are your thoughts?

 

Living in a Bus Step 12: THE BUS IS FINISHED!!!

My bus is finally finished!!! Well, it’s livable at least.  And I’ve hit the road on my first solo-road trip.  I’m driving across the west from Missouri to San Francisco, California, and then it’s off to Burning Man. My family had a nice party for me in which we set up everything in the bus.  And then I had another party to celebrate with friends.

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Moving out of my parents house…..again. 

We had a blast picking out a name for the bus. I set up a little survey on and had my friends vote on a name.  The winner was Lovely Rita.

 

Naturally, I had to paint the name on the top before taking my trip out west. The paint job is pretty ghetto, so I’ll have to come up with something better.

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Now that the bus is finished, I’ve spent my first couple of nights in it. The futon is surprisingly comfortable. However, there are a few temporary solutions that I would like to sort out and make more permanent later on:

  • mini-fridge (I’m using a cooler at the moment until I can come up with a better way to power a small refrigerator.)
  • solar panels (my brother mounted a generator on the back, but my electrical needs are so low, that I’d like to have solar panels just to top off the battery.)
  • compost toilet (I made a compost toilet and I’ve only used it once. I’m not sure yet how I’ll like it. Eventually, I’d like to buy a proper one.)
  • gray water tank (In my haste to start my road trip, I forgot to install a gray water tank. I’m sure it’s against the law to let the water just run through the drain onto the ground. Eventually, I’ll need to fix this.)
  • shower (I bought one of those solar-heated shower bags that people use for camping. I haven’t used it yet, but I’ll try it out soon. It’d be nice to have a proper shower.)

I have plenty of time to invest in this bus, but one thing at a time. For now, I just need to get used to driving it and living in it. What better way than to take a 30 hour trip out west! Fortunately, I’ve got a great family cheering me on. And now my first road trip begins! Wish me luck!

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My nieces and nephew give their approval 

Living in a Bus Step 11: Safety First!

My bus is basically finished and I’m hitting the road in 3 days to go to Burning Man. Sometimes I do things a little haphazardly, but my safety is very important. I’m still in the process of finding a safe place to park where I won’t get towed or broken into. This might be the hardest step of all.  But there are other safety precautions worth thinking about. I found a great website that lists a lot of safety precautions for those dwelling in a camper van or motor home.

https://www.beerandcroissants.com/how-to-keep-you-and-your-campervan-safe/

I’ve gone through the list and checked off many of the important features as well as added a few of my own.

Get proper insurance

Getting the vehicle insured was a challenge. Many major insurance companies won’t cover converted vehicles. My personal insurance said they could provide it if I had the vehicle appraised and re-titled.  For convenience sake, I ended up going with my Good Sam membership and signing up for National General Insurance. The rates seem reasonable, and I’m relieved to have the vehicle covered properly, but make sure you read all the details. I don’t believe my personal belongings are covered.

https://www.goodsam.com/insurance/

Sign up for road-side assistance

Towing can get expensive. And I’ve already had to tow this stupid bus twice. I really don’t want to deal with a crisis while on the road. It was difficult finding road-side assistance. Triple A does not cover converted vehicles. Again, I went with the Good Sam Platinum Plan because they cover skoolies.

https://www.goodsamroadside.com/

Secure Belongings

Boy did I learn this one the hard way! One of my first trips into town was a disaster. My entire counter top fell over when I made a sudden turn. Thank goodness it didn’t damage anything but a few drawers. These were easily repaired. I’ve also had a few casualties come off the shelves and almost got hit in the head by my medicine cabinet when the door flung open. Make sure you’ve properly secured everything before you start driving.

Have a working smoke and CO2 detector

I bought a 2 in 1 smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector. I plan on using propane to conserve my electrical needs, and if you want to do the same, having a working CO2 detector is a must! I’ll sleep better knowing it’s there for sure.

Have a working fire extinguisher

I have a fire extinguisher, but I need to test it out still. If you have one, make sure it’s in working order and up to date. It’s easy to overlook these things when you don’t anticipate using them.

Make sure all doors lock 

My bus has a lot of doors and the two back doors have no locking mechanism, so I bought a bicycle lock for one and some zip ties for the other to keep them locked.  Eventually, I can invest in something a little permanent.

Install an alarm system

I had an alarm system installed by Car Fi mostly for my own peace of mind. I’m more worried about my bus getting broken into than I am about my personal safety. There are several shock sensors on either side of the bus that set off an alarm anytime it’s messed with or someone attempts to open the doors.  I think I’ll sleep better at night knowing an alarm will go off in anyone attempts to break in.

Have professionals do the large jobs

I did a lot of my own work inside the bus such as the painting, floors, and furnishings. But as for the electrical and the plumbing, I relied on professionals. I read a lot about it and even watched some YouTube tutorials, but I’m glad I paid the extra money to have a professional do the work.

Park in a safe place

This is one step I’m still working out. I want to find a safe place to park that’s not violating any laws or going to attract a lot of attention. I’m worried about my bus getting broken into. I found a few useful websites that give advice about finding a place to park

https://www.tripsavvy.com/unique-places-to-park-an-rv-2912609

http://thevanual.com/sleeping-and-safety/

Trust your intuition

I’m a big believer in trust your gut instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore that feeling. If you feel unsafe in a location, change locations. My bus adventure is just beginning, and I’m looking forward to the experience.

Happy trails and stay safe.

Living in a Bus Step 10: Furnishings!!!

The most fun I’ve had so far with this bus project was picking out the furniture and the decor. Though my standard of living is lower than most, I do need my space to be clean, tidy, functional, and cute, of course. I recently had a “bus-warming” party with my family and they helped me set up my furnishings and closet, and this is what I’ve got.

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I bought 3 larger storage ottomans off Amazon and 2 small ones to create a seating area in the back of the bus which also serves to store what few items I have. People keep asking me what I’m going to do with all my stuff, and I can’t help but laugh because literally all my possessions fit in the bus. If you haven’t given minimalism a try, I strongly encourage it.

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I bought this nifty recliner at a liquidation store for about $120. I love being able to sit in a comfortable chair when I’m working on my laptop, especially one that lets me put my feet up, but I can’t stand that Lazy Boy style recliner. This was much cuter and went with my color theme of neutral grays and blues.

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I found the futon at Walmart. I love the black leather. And it’s surprisingly comfortable. Currently, I’m using a sleeping bag and pillow, but if that sleeping arrangement gets old I can always invest in some proper sheets later on.

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I have to have my books. I found a small bookshelf (or what might actually be a plant stand) to fit in this narrow space.  My brother secured it to the wall so it doesn’t fall over when I’m driving. I keep the books in place with bungee cords.

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The original owner of the bus made this beautiful cherry wood counter top and I painted the cabinets a nice blue color. The counter top is by far my favorite piece of decor in the bus, and I get a ton of compliments on it. Decorating the bus was easy because I don’t need much. I have a few nice scarves that I’m currently using as curtains, some small accessories, and a few house plants and there you have it. Simple, but lovely!

Here’s a before and after shot. In the first shot my brother and I were just starting the floors, and in the second, my nieces and nephew are enjoying the finished project. It’s been a fun adventure, but I’m not entirely done.  There are a still a few small things left to do:

  • mount the generator to the back of the bus
  • secure the AC in the window so I don’t have to take it out when I drive
  • finish connecting the plumbing to the gray water tank
  • work out any other potential kinks
  • find a safe place to park
  • work out the legal details and insurance

And of course, I have to start thinking of name for the bus! More details to come.

Peace!