- Travel Topics
Vicky and I recently passed our one month of continuous travel benchmark, shattering my dad’s “2-weeks and then home” forecast. While I generally don’t see the point in applying benchmarks to arbitrary lengths of times (why 30 days? why not 43 days?), I thought that people might be interested (but don’t expect a 2 month update, unless of course we receive overwhelming support from comments).
Where should I begin? Well, we’re heading to Shanghai right now from Xi’an on an overnight train. We have the soft beds this time as opposed to the hard seats we took from Beijing to Xi’an, so I’m feeling pretty comfy and I think I’ll start with the positives.
When I first packed my bags and dared to bring only one sweatshirt, 3 t-shirts, and one pair of pants (plus underwear/socks), people scoffed.
“It can’t be done”, they said
But I knew in my heart that I wanted to cut out the clutter and travel light.
One month on the road and I’m loving it. I’ve completely eliminated the choice of what to wear every morning, my bag is lighter, and while I look the same virtually everyday, I’m not really trying to impress anyone.
My only problem is I haven’t figured out how to successfully wash one pair of pants AND see the sites…
If anyone knows the secret, please share.
Yup, everything is pretty much as it was. We still fight sometimes, but that’s normal for us. We fought in Boston, DC, and now we’re fighting internationally, but that’s how we let out steam, like a semi active volcano that won’t erupt for another thousand years.
The key is acquiescence.
Yup, just do whatever she says. If she wants to go somewhere, just go.
But what if I don’t want to go there?
The other key, is ice cream.
Yup, I just buy myself some ice cream. Like the other week when we were in Kyoto, and Vicky was gearing up for temple #403. Did I really want to see another Japanese, Buddhist temple? Not really. So what did I do?
I bought myself some ice cream for $1.
And everything was OK.
So yeah, you just have to find what works for you – ice cream is what works for me.
I can’t remember the last time I actually came in under budget…in anything. Like back in DC we would keep track of our monthly expenses. Every month, there was always something that broke the bank; the car broke down, we got a parking ticket(s), we went away for a weekend. Basically, a bunch of expenses that in theory should be one time costs, but in one form or another, appeared every month.
At this point, I’m more worried about whether or not we’re over-economizing. Recently we bought two nights at a hotel, since it was significantly more convenient than the hostels that were situated 1 hour away from where we wanted to be.
It was a struggle to work up the courage to “splurge” (and it wasn’t even that much more, like $20 to save us an hour right to and from).
So we’re still working on figuring out what is worth paying for and what isn’t, but we’re getting there.
We’re not trying to make a life style here, but I’d be kidding myself if I wasn’t hoping that we could pay for 20-25% of our travel costs through the blog.
Are we sell outs?
But it’s just too much work to not be trying to make some cash on the blog. Power to everyone who, out of the pure goodness of their hearts, blogs completely for free, but we’re looking to make some money.
And frankly, it’s more than I was expecting, at least one month into travel (and a few months into blogging, in general).
Is it sustainable? I honestly don’t know, but we’ll keep you updated.
At the time of writing this I’ve slept on the floor probably over a dozen times. Some of these were in Japan, where they have tatami mats, which, I think in Japanese means “fancy floor”.
I don’t love it, but it actually doesn’t bother me that much.
You kind of get used to it, or at least I have (for Vicky, it’s another story).
All the same, I do think the couchsurfing is beginning to wear on us a bit, and we’re going to switch to more hostels in the upcoming months.
It’s not that I don’t like couchsurfing, because I do. But frankly, it’s a bit of a hassle to not really know much about your location.
Is it going to be close to the center? Is it metro accessible? What time will I have to be out in the morning? Will the wi fi work well?
Most people don’t write these in their profiles. You may get it out of someone after a bit of an exchange, but it’s no guarantee. Nobody mentions them in reviews, so you never really know. Eventually it gets a little tiresome to be in some random place for two days, spend all your time figuring out how to get around, and then be off to the next just after you figure it out. We’re really starting to feel this in China, where it’s incredibly difficult to get around, but also cheap to simply get a hostel (or even an apartment), for a few nights. So, unlike Japan and Korea where the Couchsurfing was very worth it due to high opportunity cost, in China it’s looking more like hostels can be a better option.
I’m still determined to Couchsurf in every country, just for the experience, but I think we’re going to make less of a lifestyle out of it since the upcoming countries are really cheap.
I’ve been really blown away by how uninterested most (read: not all) people Vicky and I interact with are about us.
For example, when Vicky and I hosted couch surfers in our apartment in DC, we always asked them a slew of questions.
How could we not?
We had someone from a completely different culture, that, in most cases I knew NOTHING about. So yeah, we drilled them all night about culture, politics, religion, entertainment, etc.
And it was great.
We really enjoyed learning about France, Croatia, Columbia, etc
So was I crazy to think that when we Couchsurfed and/or interacted with locals they’d be really curious about us, our journey, and America?
Apparently most people are just not that interested. At least, that’s the vibe I’ve got so far. Sure, we get the usual questions (sometimes), like
How are you paying for this? What do you parents think?
But that’s about it. Mostly, it’s still just us asking a lot of questions. Sometimes, I feel we can’t even get a pity question, you know, where all the person has to do is reciprocate the same question back…
I’m going to open up the floor for a more experienced traveler to convince me that this is not the case. As far as I can tell, the only difference between Vicky/Me and tourists is:
We don’t go home afterwards
Consequently, we don’t buy souvenirs
But other than that, it’s pretty similar. We still struggle to find our way around, no matter what city we’re in and where we just came from. We still go to all the same sites that everyone else does.
I guess we get to carry cool, expensive backpacks that make us look pretty intense though.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those ‘everyone in the world should speak English because I don’t want to learn to speak anything else type of people.’ I do speak Russian (at least, enough to get by).
Still, I’m amazed at how poor English is in Asia, mainly, because they spend years learning it (in Korea, upwards of 10 years at that). If you spend 10 years learning anything, well, I think it’s a fair expectation that you should know it pretty well. At the very least, know your personal pronouns (come on – 10 years!).
The government is spending a ton of money importing foreign English teachers and yet, the progress seems to be pretty slow, maybe their money would be better spent elsewhere, or differently…
Moreover, I’m going to come right out and say it – I think English is easy.
Ya, I know I grew up speaking it, but I’ve had plenty of people who did learn English as a second language tell me they thought it was pretty easy.
One of our hosts, George, a professor in Korea, commented that what makes a language easy or hard is not intrinsic in the language, but how different it is from the person’s native language.
Fair point. But I’m still not convinced.
Think about it, English has:
And ya, I know English has crazy spelling and a lot of exceptions/odd plurals, but consider this to be the difference between speaking a language and mastering a language. If someone says, “I just saw two mices running”, I’d understand them perfectly fine.
When we started this trip I was really hoping to learn a lot.
But, all the same, I feel that travel yields more questions than answers. Whenever we go to a site it sparks dozens of questions.
Why does this Buddha have his right hand up and this one has his left hand up? Is it significant, or just an accident? Are these even the same Buddhas, or different ones?
I can turn to Vicky, but just like me, she doesn’t know. Maybe I can ask a local, like our couchsurfing host, but it’s rare that they know either. My last resort is searching online, which also rarely yields the answer.
It’s frustrating to be in such a fascinating place and have so many unanswered questions.
Whenever I read peoples’ blogs about travel, they usually talk about gaining weight. I never understood this – isn’t everyone out walking all the time? How can it be worse than sitting in a cubicle all day getting little to no exercise?
Now that I’m traveling myself, it’s exactly what I expected – I’ve already lost 6 pounds (and frankly, I don’t have much to lose).
Sure, we eat out ALL the time (which was rare for us back in the states). The food tends to be more caloric and greasier, but still, we’re on the go so much, it’s hard to imagine actually gaining weight.
Maybe we need to drink more?
Anyways, if anyone can share the secret to weight gain and travel, please do.