Months on the Road; Reflections and Travel Tips

With some fun, mostly unrelated photosApologies to the faithful followers and readers if you have seen this post before. I am quite sure it was posted two months into our travels but I have just discovered it in my drafts with a notice of failed upload. Ah, technology! So I am uploading it again with the hopes that the information is indeed relevant and interesting to old and new followers alike. 6 months down the road we’ve had some luggage and shoes damage and some lost items on the way, but all the rest is still valid. I fully intended to do a 1 month on the road reflection, but a month went by so quickly, we had no chance to reflect. So here are some helpful things we learned after 2 months on the road. When I asked my husband about his take, he gave his characteristically sarcastic answer:

“We are not divorced—yet.”

Indeed, if we (I confess, me in particular) had any qualms that we will get on each other’s nerves spending 24/7 on the road together, we find that as usual, when we travel together, we get along better than at home. With less everyday life stressors (shopping, cooking, cleaning, taking out trash) we are in a better mood to begin with. Then there are so many shared stimulating experiences: beautiful nature and art, encounters with interesting people that give us new fodder for discussion and bring us closer. It helps when you and your travel companion have similar interests and daily routines—we are both early birds at home and on the road, too.

Here are some other things we learned:

The time is NOW

for using the toilet. If you have one available, use it even if you don’t have to, because you have no clue when you will come across another one.

for topping up the gas in your car. As soon as the tank is bellow half, stop at the gas station. Even if it is NOT on the driving side of the road. Unless you like living dangerously and get a thrill from coasting on fumes in the middle of nowhere.for buying something. If you need it or, god forbid, like it, buy it. No, you won’t find it somewhere else, and certainly not cheaper. And most certainly you will not come back to get it, because either your road does not bring you back or you will have forgotten where that cute stall/store/street was where you saw it last. You know the one with that nice lady. Yeah, that one. She would have been quite happy to sell it to you right then and there.

Travel is not conducive to dieting

Eating is a big part of traveling. For the foodies of the world it might be the most important. But even if you don’t live to eat, it is hard to prevent gaining weight. Finding whole wheat bread and fresh salad is a lot harder (and less fun) than having a chocolate croissant or a big plate of pasta. While it is fun and a great way to explore a culture, eating out can quickly become a chore. It is a challenge to find three meals a day and time them so they will coincide with the native timetable. Many places even in big cities have strict meal hours. One of our worse times finding dinner was in Hunter Valley—a renowned wine (and food) destination of Australia, where most restaurants were operating only from Thursday to Sunday and those that were in business closed by 9 pm and would not seat anyone after 8:30.  We found that two main meals a day were enough, with a big breakfast we would have a late coffee and an early dinner, with a meager breakfast offering a large lunch and a very light dinner. For a nice change we also started making sandwiches and buying fruits and drinks for a picnic lunch on the go.

Also remember that most people become crabby and some downright mean travel partners when hungry.

Baggage

The combo of a small backpack and small duffel bag with wheels works great. But the duffels are not inflatable, dirty laundry takes much more space than clean. Half of the large plastic Ziplock bags Mirek used for packing his clothes are not working anymore and are letting air in. Ksenija’s packing cubes work great. Think about all the different compartments, zipped areas and side pockets of your luggage and designate them as (logical) carriers of the same things consistently. (Your toiletries and pajamas do not go on the bottom of the bag, they are last to go in and first to come out at the new lodgings). Soon you will be able to blindly reach in and pull out the right item, instead of having to unpack everything because you don’t remember where you stuck that thing. More wisdom on packing next time.

Clothing

We have everything we need and can wash clothes on the way often enough. Despite traveling in the summer we were surprised how handy the long sleeves, compact goose feather jackets and water proof shoes were. Some of the cotton and even silk tops get surprisingly wrinkled when packed, so choosing microfiber, rayon or polyester clothing is wiser. New polyester is very different from the old. Xtra Tip: Take more underwear than you think you need (it is small) and two pairs of PJs (to have a clean one when the other one is in the wash).

One night stay

If you come to your lodgings in the evening and are only staying the night and you will be leaving right away in the morning it is not worth dragging the whole luggage with you from the car. Just stick your toiletry bag, your PJs and a change of clothes into your hand luggage, in our case a small backpack. Then you will not have to repack the luggage in the morning and lug it back.

Planing vs. not planing

On the big scale of things more planing ahead is necessary.

If you think you are totally free to make up your travel plans as you go, you might be surprised (as we were) that visa requirements or airplane check in rules can force you to have tickets bought ahead of time. For example getting on the plane to New Zealand or Indonesia is impossible without a forward ticket showing that you will leave that country. Australia does not care. We had to quickly buy a ticket from Bali to Thailand on the spot at the Darwin airport when leaving Australia as the Australians would not let us board the plane to Bali until we showed proof that we will leave Bali. We were told it was because we would not get a visa at the airport if we did not show them a forward ticket. Which was not true as we got the 30 day visa on arrival at the Bali airport and no-one ever asked us to see the onward ticket.

For short time planing of places and activities we had to change our usual style.  We have been used to planing many details on our short overseas vacations when we only travelled for 2-3 weeks. On a year long trip it is impossible to study everything in detail ahead of time and plan out everything. We now use local information centers or recommendations from friends and hosts to decide where we want to go or what we are going to see and make some hotel/Airbnb reservations on the fly a day ahead or even the same day. It can be a bit stressful at the beginning, but we are getting the hang of it.

Digital guidebooks

We did not want to lug heavy paper guidebooks with us so decided to buy digital Lonely Planet for our iPads. It seemed cool that you could only buy certain parts of Australia for example and not the whole country guide. Nevertheless we quickly realized that we really did not like the digital version as we found it hard to find and mark places in it. So we read some of it ahead on the plane but ended up not using it much while in the car. I would have preferred a printed copy. You can cut it in chapters and only take with you those that you need and chuck them as you go to lighten the load.  Same with a map. While I love Google maps for navigation I still prefer a printed area map to get the whole view of places and distances.

Navigation

As I said Google maps are great. They cover pretty much every corner of the Earth, though you of course should not trust them blindly. Very cool to have features that let you search on the way for gas stations, groceries or coffee shops or input an extra stop on the way to your destination. But remember to set up your route before you start your car trip, thus the driver will get instructions immediately as he pulls the car from the parking area. And the navigator does not get the blame for getting lost in the first few minutes. Also oftentimes the carrier might not work when you start driving and you will get really frustrated when ‘No place/route found’ message flashes across. Damn it, I know there is such a place as Sydney! Google maps route now works even when there is no signal, and you can use them offline, but only if you set it ahead of time while you had the signal or wifi in your room.

Cheap flights

Think twice if the cheap flight is worth it and how cheap it really is. Oftentimes the cheap flights leave at a horrible time of night or from a minor, NOT centrally located airport that will cost a fortune to get to. I am badmouthing you, Stansted! The cheap companies will also try to recoup their money by charging you exorbitant amounts for your seat assignment, bottle of water, old sandwich, and of course baggage. They WILL stoop so low as to weigh your hand luggage and make you take things out or make you check in the whole piece. The hand luggage allowance is getting smaller and smaller, now down to 5 kg (11lbs). Buy baggage allowance when you book the ticket, because last minute at the airport it will cost you a whole lot more. Rather buy a little more than not enough. It will cost you only a few $ to go to the next level and you will need it for all the souvenirs you were not planing to buy.

Budget, what budget?

Our travel budget app has not been touched since installation. But we did save all the receipts and went through them at two different stages. So far our daily average is good and actually bellow budget. Piece of budgetary advice: Once in a while BLOW it. Think what makes travel special and memorable for you: an 8 course meal at a famous restaurant, first row tickets at a concert or musical, a romantic suite in a 5 star hotel, a helicopter ride…and no, it can’t be all of the above, unless you are on a millionaire’s travel budget.

Take a Break

If you are an intense traveller like us and like to pack a lot in your days and are on the go, go, go take a day or two of down time every now and then to decompress and make space in your head. Take the time to think of the past experiences,  look through all the photos you took, write a long email or a blog post 🙂

Photos and Notes

I used to write long detailed travel diary entries in my younger days. It has been fun going back and rereading some when I was cleaning out our house before the big trip. It is incredible to see how quickly one forgets. Some of the entries went back to my first trip to the US when I was 16 years old.  At the end of that diary I claim I like America, but can’t imagine that I could ever live there. Haha!

I got a recommendation from cousin Nadine for a great app for travelers called Trip Rider, where one could make plans, keep a diary, upload pictures, share with friends and family and at the end even print a booklet online of the whole shebang. I knew I would not use it, (see above on the Budget app) so I did not download it. But I have been keeping just a quick running tally in my iphone Notes with Dates and 3 main visited places/activities for each day, adding where we spend the night and any names of important people we stay with or meet.

Every few days I also delete most of the crappy pictures on my iphone. (About 90%). I find that long airplane flights are really a good time to do that. The ones that are left are being stored in separate Country folders and also under Collections where they appear with helpful dates and places where they were taken. And then they somehow magically get up in the iCloud, where I hope no storm can erase them, until such time that I buy a new phone and try to transfer them. BTW I absolutely love taking photos with my iPhone7. The quality is just great and the few extra features as fun Live Photo or Portrait Mode brings variety. Cropping and a few filters if you want to play some more. I have now had a few pictures printed in a travel magazines in a large format and they look (professionally) great!Flowers in portrait mode (with blurred background)

Use it

Put sunscreen on your face in the morning and mosquito spray on your ankles in the evening. I still forget too often and currently have a sunburn and itchy ankles.

rentalcars.comand booking.com

Best websites for finding best deals on cars and hotels.

No, we don’t get a cut for recommending them. I wish. Our blog is not famous enough. (Yet.)

You know you are on a permanent vacation when you have no clue which day it is today. And you don’t care!

14 thoughts on “Months on the Road; Reflections and Travel Tips

  1. Gorgeous photos!! And fabulous tips.. I think some apply even to life at home — a hungry spouse is a grumpy spouse, and I probably should only eat two meals a day…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ALl great advice. I recognized things that I do(especially underwear). Air travel, luggage weight etc. we’re new and I learned some new tricks there. Check out new luggage occasionally. As you say, the acceptable bag sizes get smaller and smaller but they also get lighter and lighter. I cannot schlep a duffle bag. I find that four wheels on a bag that rotate 360 are better than two. Test to see if the bag will stand upright on its wheels without falling over. Buy tiny sizes of shampoo Etc. And replenish as you go. If a room provide this stuff, take a chance and use it. Last and best, use a lock that airport security can open but also pack some kindergarten scissors and tie shut your bag with a small plastic disposable lock tie. Take a photo before you fly. If they go into your luggage you will know and in my experience they move on to another bag which prevents theft.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amen!
    Sounds like you two are having a blast.
    Thank you for the updates, tips and pictures. It really adds to the experience.
    Please know your audience is loving your posts.

    Like

  4. I believe there’s a story about ambitious mountain hikers who wondered why their baggage carriers stopped for a while. They said they were waiting for their souls to catch up with them. mg

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is hard to add anything to such an extensive list 🙂 I truly liked all those wise tips! And would like to ask you to share a photo of those packing cubes. I am really curious, especially as ziplock bags don’t do the job for me either.
    Never the less, I would like to add two additional tips I have learned on my past travels (and there has been quite some in last two years 🙂 ).
    1. Less is actually very often more: Very often we intend to rush rush rush through all those great places as we want to cover them all, but then… How often do we ask ourselves “have you really soaked in the athomsphere fully?” Since I am asking myself that question, I slowed down on my travels and realised that the best experiences I had were where I slowed down. And this leads me to another tip:
    2. To put the phone down and forget about taking that photo of that perfect moment at least once in awhile: sometimes the best photos & memories are stored in our minds due to fully being present in that “now”, that you are mentioning at the begining.
    Voila! Enjoy Bali!

    Like

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