So it’s been a month – wow. We both agree that it’s flying by too quickly already. Right away I should inform you that we are both very happy with our decision to take this trip and doing very well. After a month of extended travel, we learned a few things that we would like to share:
1) Take “time off” to relax and do nothing. As professional travelers, we are constantly seeing brand new sites, learning new historical facts, planning, scheduling and of course writing. Believe it or not, it can get tiring even though we don’t have formal day jobs right now. We learned to take a day or two a week and take a break.
One of my favorite such weekends was in the suburb of Hull, UK when we stopped in to see our dear friends Lydia and Shawn who are both expats from US who moved out there for work. They live in a charming town called Leven:
2) Always say “Yes”. This journey is about stretching your comfort zone boundaries. Any traveler on an extended trip such as ours should adopt a rule to ALWAYS accept invitations from the locals. Well, almost always – stay away from anything that seems dangerous!
Any opportunity to get glimpse into the culture should be taken – that’s how you really learn the customs and folklore of the countries you are visiting. For instance, when my cousin in Russia asked if we want to go to Dacha (Russian country house), we enthusiastically nodded “yes” even though I figured we’d have to do without some of the luxuries we are used to: shower not available daily, no running water and bathroom is a bucket in the outhouse. However, we will never forget true Russian-style shashliki and Banya experience, and of course sharing laughs and vodka shots with great friends and family.
We are also planning a trip to Georgia – a spot off the path we’ve already have planned only because some acquaintances in St. Petersburg (who we just met) came from a vacation in Georgia and recommended the spot they stayed in. They are offering us to introduce to the locals who hosted them and find out if they would be willing to host us also. We are very excited about the opportunity and a chance to see the beauty of Georgia we heard about.
3) Don’t be surprised that you will suddenly love and appreciate simple things you happened to pack with you. As you can imagine it’s very difficult to pack for a trip like this. We were only guessing what we might need on everyday basis during our travels when we were packing back in Chicago.
For instance, I received Patagonia’s Carry Y’All bag from my boss as a gift for my trip. I saw that she had one for a while and though I thought it would be nice for our trip, I didn’t want to spend the money purchasing it due to our tight budget before the trip as I couldn’t really come up with a concrete reason for it. However, this little bag has been absolutely awesome for this trip – highly recommend.
Takes up no space in my purse:
4) Accept the fact that you can’t pack everything you might need. While we packed some things we use more than we thought (above), we always didn’t pack items that would have been very handy. Items I wish we would have packed:
- Hand Sanitizer: we often find it difficult to clean our hands before we eat in public places such as markets, train station and street vendors. I happened to have a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer in my purse so we are trying to stretch it but I wish I packed much more of it.
- Bottle Opener: yes, we like beer and it hasn’t occurred to us that we will tasting it all over the world. We love to get the local brew but we find ourselves in a pickle every time we want to open a new bottle. Of course I can easily purchase one anywhere but it’s something that constanly slips your mind.
- Swim Suit: while Aaron brought his, I forgot my swim suit. Given that we will be in mostly warm to hot climates during our trip, that item would probably come in handy. I had to purchase one in Russia. It takes a while for a girl to pick out a swim suit so I wish I wasn’t spending the time shopping for one and already packed one that I have been using.
5) Be open to losing things, breaking things, getting them stolen or giving them away. Before you even ask – nothing is stolen….yet. I managed to forget a really light jacket similar to this in St. Petersburg, Russia. We’ve given away the wool socks I purchased in Iceland and I’m getting ready to give away hand warmers I am in love with. We are not upset by these “loses” at all as it’s all part of the journey as we travel to warmer climates. We are actually glad that our backpacks are a bit lighter and have less “stuff” and more memories.
As for breaking, we have accidentally broken a memory card. Luckily, we brought a spare, which we would also recommend doing – the one thing you don’t want during this type of trip is to lose your ability to capture the moments. While we were out one, they can easily be purchased anywhere so it wasn’t much of a hassle to buy another one. It’s really about the attitude and you can’t be very upset when you lose your property during this trip because going into it you should know that IT WILL HAPPEN.
And finally, last but not least:
6) Remember the following: