Here in Bodrum in Turkey we are officially in Asia and apart from a brief foray back into Europe next week (our airbnb in Istanbul is on the European side) the remainder of the journey is largely in (South East) Asia.
It seemed like a reasonable point in our travels to review how well we are “wearing” relative to our expectations. We did get a bit of comment that we would need a holiday by the time we returned given the busy nature of our itinerary. If I have learned one thing since leaving work, it is that “lists” (and the itinerary was a long list) can make anything look far more daunting than it really is.
Generally, we are “wearing” very well. The only stress we encountered was in the planning phase back in NZ when I was trying to juggle a stressful job, long commutes and planning and booking all at the same time. The effort that you put into the planning is a huge element in making the travels enjoyable. Once into our travels we have not had to rush around trying to arrange transport or accommodation and by booking early we got what we wanted, not what was available.
We find the travel days we are happy to get behind us. Getting between transport terminals and accommodation can have its hassles but again, route planning has taken out a lot of the stress. Unless the distance is too great, we tend to drag our cases on foot, helps to orientate you to your new surroundings and keep our exercise up, they are also the days you look forward to stretching the legs.
There have been specific “pain points” such as; getting lost in the fog and rain on Cleeve Hill, falling off my bike (mostly physical pain), driving in Crete (terror), equipment failures or loss (Cliff only again), spending an hour and a half trying to send parcels home (Ruth), but with overall stress levels so low these become minor irritants which you can usually end up having a chuckle about.
We were concerned about living out of a suitcase for such a long period of time. Investing time into deciding what we packed and how we packed it has been invaluable.
Our bags are a very manageable weight (around 11kg for each of our main bags), we have small backpacks as carry-on which double as day packs when on longer hikes. Ruth enjoys browsing the shops and picking up bits and pieces. The length of our trip and our limited bag space has meant that we have had to send parcels home rather than carry it along.
Using packing cells for our clothing has been great, it saves endless hassle trying to repack for each onward journey, it is the best packing invention ever. We did not pack many clothes but had to cover the possibilities of cooler weather in the UK plus biking and hiking. Even so, we were severe on how many individual items of clothing we packed and despite having used every item in the bag, we probably still have more than needed. We have been amazed at how little we can get by on.
Traveling with your own private nurse is recommended. It does mean that we are carrying a mobile pharmacy with us (which is another form of travel insurance). On many occasions, Ruth’s attention to likely emergency needs have saved us a bit of grief. She is also rapidly becoming an expert on local laws related to the sale of restricted medicines, what can only be obtained by a visit to a doctor in one country can be purchased “over the counter” at a pharmacy in another, you just need to keep asking, don’t assume universal rules apply.
Budgeting is always a hassle but again, a little planning has helped make that a pretty painless experience. Excel for iPad has been great, we put a detailed budget together before leaving and check in regularly to see how we are tracking.
Our belief was that for a large part of our trip costs would be similar to NZ give or take a little while South East Asia would be quite a bit cheaper. Where the impact of a falling NZ dollar would have the most impact on the cost of the trip we locked in our costs by prepaying accommodation and, purchased currency which was stored in debit cards. So the bulk of the cost of our trip was fixed before we left. Sure that means we miss out on any currency appreciation but with the NZ dollar being at record high levels at the time we planned, that was unlikely. Besides, we were extremely happy with the exchange rate, if we had not been we probably would not have come away.
We don’t try to keep track of every purchase, that would drive us insane from spending far too much time “counting the pennies” and not enough enjoying the trip. We set a daily budget for food and incidental costs and draw cash to cover a few days. We keep tabs on our budget tracking by what is left in the wallet compared to what there should be. The credit card only gets used for the larger items such as accommodation. Again, trying to keep track of multiple daily credit card transactions would be stress inducing. If we overshoot our cash spend one day we make up for it over the next few days. If we undershoot, Ruth gets to go shopping.
We have learned to slow down and relax more. You cannot see everything a destination has to offer and that was not really the point of our travels. Experiencing a country and culture rather than seeing things has been our primary goal. A lot of books are getting read despite having clocked up more that 1,200km of walking and over 500km of cycling as well as keeping blog updates going and editing and sorting the many photos that get snapped every day. Unless you keep on top of those your digital photo collection will be more of a shambles that it already is.
This has resulted in fitness levels we have not known for too long. Alas, the weight has been far more determined to stick around and our vision of pencil thin bodies is still just that. The good news is that the weight has not gone up.
Using airbnb and self catering accommodation is also great for relaxing as you tend to have many of the comforts of home and, it also forces you to go out and shop with the locals, that in itself is an adventure. We have booked mostly hotel accommodation through Asia because it was so cheap, we may come to regret that.
The destinations themselves have mostly exceeded expectations. We have especially enjoyed the biking and walking adventures but Ruth especially enjoys the shopping adventures. She is getting the hang of sussing out the pricing range for her preferred purchases from each country so that she does not simply buy the first item viewed only to find it cheaper down the road. Today she was haggling and got the price down by more than 50% which is a promising start for haggling portion of the trip.
But with time moving on we are starting to think about our return to New Zealand. The last 14 weeks have flown by so it won’t be long until we make that final leg to Auckland in December.
When we planned the trip we started softly by slowly moving a little further out of our comfort zone as we tracked east. It is pretty much working out that way. Perhaps the remainder of the trip will see a little more stress as we move onto more challenging destinations. Ruth is our linguist, she converses with anyone in any language. It can look a bit like an albatross on take off but it seems to work. For me, I can understand Greeks or Turks easier than Scots but then I usually have little idea of what anyone is saying to me.