After two months in the oppressive Balkan heat, Perry and I escaped to the cooler environs of our former home in the UK. We have spent the past two weeks indulging in British conversation, food and drink, rolling around in all of it like happy, but civilized pigs.
We are still in the UK, but it's time to get serious again as we start our first shared cat sitting assignment. Greetings from Ipswich, Suffolk and our charges, Pebbles and Bam Bam.
Finally able to catch my breath, I've been taking stock while thinking about all that has happened since we started our travel adventure. There has been a lot of learning in the past five months. Travel didn't magically erase my bad habits. I'm still impatient. I still waste time. I still get cranky if I'm caffeine deficient. We've had a little bickering (over directions, always DIRECTIONS) which is not completely unexpected being together 24/7 for months on end.
On a positive note, I've established a daily writing routine, I'm reading a ton and my Spanish is improving. Perry has made great progress with Mandarin Chinese, magic and photography. We've seen some unbelievable places (both good and bad). We've met a lot of wonderful people (and cats!) in unexpected places. Living a spare and frugal existence has helped me appreciate the nicer things in life. We are both healthy. There haven't been any serious travel mistakes, just a couple minor blunders.
For example, we should have started in South Europe and worked our way north because 1) the weather started off freezing cold and then turned and remained crazy hot where we could have started comfortably warm and remained comfortably warm all summer and 2) it takes practice getting used to budget travel and starting in ridiculously expensive Scandinavia was the wrong move for these rookie vagabonds trying to break comfort travel habits. By the time we got the hang of it, we were already in the low cost countries where you really need to try to overspend.
Speaking of the budget, we are running a tad higher than our intended target of $100 per day (see below) but are pushing our average down every week and should get there very soon.
After five months, we are still in love with the road and grateful for the experience.
A few more learnings for your entertainment:
- As small as my backpack is, I packed too much.
- Don't listen to me when I suggest a shortcut through Belgrade.
- Slovenia is our favorite country so far.
- One application of 30 SPF in the morning is woefully inadequate when you spend all day outside.
- The produce in Central/Eastern Europe supermarkets is not very diverse and prone to be skanky.
- My definition of what makes a city/country 'nice' has changed dramatically. Read: lower bar.
- I will drink pretty much any coffee I can get my hands on.
- A clean shower is a privilege, not a right. Same with a good bed. Same with clean clothes.
- Perry can drink a beer when cultural relations are at stake.
- We have a new standard for what constitutes a 'clean' shirt.
- People are beautiful and kind and gracious all over the world.
- There is still never enough time in the day to do everything we want.
- I packed too much.
As a result of our learnings, I expect our next three months in Europe will be even lighter and more carefree!
On to the numbers! For all you list lovers out there, here is a rundown of our first five months on the road.
- Countries Visited: 19 (UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria)
- Cities Visited: 27
- Miles Walked: 991 (7 miles per day average)
- Miles Traveled: 6,816 (The USA is 2800 miles across, FYI)
- Hours Spent in Transport: 153 (6 days)
- Trains Taken: 11
- Airplanes Flown: 4 (including 3 new airlines flown- Air Baltic, Air Serbia and WizzAir)
- Ships Cruised: 5
- Cars/Buses Taken: 7
- Meltdowns by Paula: 2 (Russia and Serbia)
- Methods of coffee making used: 5 (instant, drip, french press, macchinetta, pods)
- Daily Average: $141 (targeting $100)
- Highest Daily Average: Sweden: $250
- Lowest Daily Average: Bulgaria: $83
After a visit to Wales with Gary and Peg (Perry's dad and his wife), we will leave the UK with the following tentative itinerary for September 24 - December 15. If you have any suggestions for the below, I would love to hear them!
- Portugal (Lisbon and Porto)
- Northern Spain (Bilbao)
- France (Toulouse, Marseille, Nice, Lyon)
- Switzerland (Geneva, Bern, Zurich, Basel)
- Germany (Cities TBD)
We will be in Rochester, NY, Minneapolis, MN and Grand Forks, ND late December - early January as we make our way to the west coast and depart for SE Asia. I'll be setting up a happy hour in Minneapolis so hope to see you there.
Thanks for reading and all your words of encouragement and support.
Paula & Perry