Traveling Long Term – 8 Things I’ve Learned On The Road..
I had been dreaming about this trip for years. Really, YEARS. Now that I’m finally on the road I am so happy, I honestly don’t know why I waited so long and I can’t wait for the second leg to get sealed up (hopefully in the next couple of weeks)! The first leg of this journey taught me a few things about myself and travel in general. So at about 50 days in, I took some notes so I could share the little tidbits I had learned.
1. I am a slow traveler.
Sure it sounds awesome to jet set from Iceland to London to Paris to Venice in just 6 days. I’ve discovered this type of travel is not for me. Traveling fast is the surest way to see nothing and experience a lot of aggravation. Having only 2 – 3 days in a new location is just not enough for me. I like to wander around foreign streets and get lost. Getting lost really eats into sight seeing time, which is a problem if you only have a couple days. By traveling slow I can wander around as much as I want and still see the Eiffel Tower. It’s also a lot easier on the budget because you have time to figure out where the cheapest and best tasting crepe/pizza/wine is and you can figure out the cheapest ways to get around. I think in Southeast Asia I’m going to plan at least 1 month per country with limited movement.
2. I love volunteering.
Seriously if you are low on money and don’t mind some hard work look into wwoofing as the basis for your travel. Europe has been amazing but expensive. It was very difficult to stay on our budget of $50/day for 2 people even though we slept in cars and ate bread and cheese for about 2 months straight. The best part of the European adventure (besides locating lost family members in Lacedonia Italy) was the two weeks we spent on the Cerreto Libri farm in Pontesseive, Italy. Not only do you get to experience local culture in a way that is really hard to do when traveling but you get to help someone else out, which is really good for you as well. We have written about wwoofing quite a bit recently and if you’re interested in learning more check out other posts for more information about wwoofing.
3. Take out half the crap in your bag.
Yes, I read this a million times before i left but never truly understood the importance of it. Traveling with a heavy bag is a serious buzz kill because when you miss that train you are going to be stuck for a few hours with your giant bag. Time that could be spent wandering around finding the best espresso will be spent sitting by your bag in a dingy bus station. Having a heavy bag really limits your mobility and greatly increases frustration. We spent about 3 hours lost on the streets of Venice trying to find our hotel. Venice is a maze and it also has a lot of small bridges. Three hours going nowhere with your heavy backpack on while walking up stairs and over many small bridges is going to bring out the worst in anyone. Getting lost could have been a fun thing but since Randy’s backpack actually broke the first week of our trip (more on this in another post) and we had to attach it to a little wheelie thing for the remainder of the trip, carting it around Venice became a near impossible task. Carrying my backpack on my bag was bad enough in Venice but bending over to lift Randy’s bag over every little bridge was a nightmare that left us in bad spirits.
4. Travel is an emotional roller coaster.
Getting on the road was easy, unwinding on the road was tough. I felt like I missed Iceland in a large way because I was walking around in a strange daze. I was getting my traveling legs and trying to let go of a lot of unnecessary anxiety and a lot of unresolved grief the stress of preparing brought on. Honestly I felt out of place the first 10 days or so on the trip. It is really important to factor in a few days of adjusting to a new life in the beginning of the trip.
5. Sometimes I like a little dash of a non budget life.
Whether that means allowing yourself as many gelatos as possible in a 24 hour time frame or enjoying a meal that consists of more than just bread and cheese, it’s important to sometimes act like a normal human being without crazy budget constraints. I loved camping but sometimes I thought we might have pushed things a bit too far since our budget didn’t leave us with a lot of other options. Putting Europe as our first destination was probably not the best idea because learning I like a little sample of non budget travel life was an expensive lesson to learn there.
6. Having a solar charger or a back up battery would be awesome!
Finding both WiFi and electricity together (while on a budget) is tough and a HUGE time waster. Even having a back up battery or one of those things that stores an extra hour of back up power would be awesome. On long train rides I could only work as long as the battery held out. Because of that I was always behind on processing photos and getting work done. That meant time I wanted to spend sightseeing was instead spent searching down electricity so I could catch up. Having extra power would have been mighty nice and it’s something I am going to look for on the next leg of the trip.
7. Managing expectations is something worth working on.
This is tough because at some point in your planning you’ve imagined what the location will look like, feel like, smell like and even taste like. Sometimes you will be right, sometimes not. I talked Venice up in my head for at least the past 3 years. I loved Venice but I kept trying to find what I imagined in my head, which meant I was searching for things instead of just seeing them for what they were. I didn’t imagine large commercial ads covering the Bridge of Sighs but there they were. I had no expectations at all for Paris and it was kind of added in at the last minute and every single thing there blew me away. It is an amazing city but I think I loved it more than most people because I had absolutely no expectations for it. I didn’t even look anything up online before I left and we didn’t buy a guidebook for the city until we got there. I didn’t know a lick of French and didn’t know about the amazing $3 crepes they sold on the streets or the 6 piece band that plays in the subway station. I had nothing conjured up in my mind about it so everything appeared to me exactly as it was instead of how I imagined it should be and it was beyond amazing.
8. A paper & pen are worth their weight in gold.
I realized on the trip that I am too ‘digitized’. By trade, I can’t help it. I have my camera and I need my laptop to do my work. However we’d been using Randy’s IPod for everything in the States. We used it to make lists on, calculate exchange rates, take notes, manage our day, etc. We relied on it heavily during the trip but more than anything I liked the tiny little notebook my sister gave me right before we left. The notebook is where I scribbled all my ideas, my personal thoughts, strange conversations I overheard and it’s also where I put all of my Italian family member’s contact info. I guarded it with my life but never had to worry about scratching it or dropping it. It doesn’t have a battery and no one wants to steal it. It’s what I used to write the names of people I’ve photographed on the road and it’s also what I passed along the Sorrento train for the boys to write their names in which ultimately landed in the Boys On Trains post. Would I have passed along an Ipod? No way. Paper and pen are king on the road and I am more attached to my notebook now more than ever because of all the memories it holds. I lost my pen during the last 2 weeks in Italy and I had to buy a new one in Siena. I couldn’t even remember the last time I actually went out to specifically buy a pen but I felt like I was really missing out by not having it. When you travel make sure you bring paper and a pen (or maybe 2)!
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