Reflections: Nine Months of Travel

We spent 6 days in Flic en Flac, Mauritius and kind of used up most of our time just resting.  The time of year was not the best to visit the island nation as it is cyclone season and it rained a bit the first two days we were there.  However, it was not a huge disappointment for us because after nine full months of traveling, we were tired.  It was another long travel day as well from Germany so sleep was very much needed.  We rented an apartment from Airbnb and had space to organize our belongings, do laundry, and most importantly: cook for ourselves.  The food in Mauritius is really hit or miss and it is always worth your time to do a bit of research before choosing a restaurant for lunch or dinner.  We had great Indian food at Zub Express and went there twice.  We also had a nice meal at Sunset Garden.  It was so nice to see the beach again after a month of cold weather.  The humidity was hard to deal with but the suffering we went through in Mauritius prepared us for the heat of Perth and was worth it in my mind.  We only did a couple days-worth of activities while in Mauritius.  We rented a car for a couple of days and drove to the south of the island to see the seven coloured earth and Chamarel waterfall in the south, as well as the Rochester Falls.  Another day we went to the north to see the area around Grand Baie.  It was wonderful to get out of the apartment and drive a car ourselves, something we hadn’t done since our time in Hawaii in November.

We spent a bit of time just sitting and talking through our year.  We travelled to India and Sri Lanka in January, worked from February to early April and then took off.  From then we visited the following countries on this 9 month journey: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, Canada, USA, England (just London), Belgium (just Bruges), the Netherlands (just Amsterdam), Germany, Austria (just Salzburg), Czech Republic (just Prague)and Mauritius.  That’s 15 countries in a one year period.  I am a little bit proud that we made it to 6 of the 7 continents in that time, technically, though we weren’t on continental Africa but TECHNICALLY we went to Africa.  Sorry for being a bit braggy.

A question we got a lot when we met people was “are you getting tired of travelling yet?”  I have to answer this question twice.  The first answer: Yes, I am tired of travelling.  I am sitting writing this in our new living room of our new rental and watching the news in the background.  I drove my own car to the library today and get to wear a brand new outfit every day because I have so many options.  It’s heaven not living out of a pack.  I am really enjoying regular life again and getting to make our own food.  The second answer: No, I am not tired of travelling.  We both perk up when a travel ad comes on the telly, we went to the library to get brand new library cards and where do I find Callum 2 minutes later?  In the travel section.  We still dream of many countries we are looking forward to visiting and others we want to return to.  Which brings me to another question “what country do you want to go back to the most?” and that one is kind of tough.  You see, I’m from Canada, so we’ll most likely return to that one first.  USA was one of our favourites and there’s more to see and do there than any place we’ve seen in the world.  Peru was gorgeous and we’d like to go back.  Our time in Brazil was so brief that we want to go back.  India is other-wordly and worth a few more trips, and so is Europe.  And Mexico calls to us.  So there you go.  So many places to see, so little time!

We actually compiled a list of favourites specifically from our 9 month trip that I will now share with you:

FAVOURITES/BEST Rachel’s Answers Callum’s Answers
COUNTRY Canada USA
LOCATION Cavendish, PEI Yellowstone National Park
ACCOMMODATION Twillingate share-house style Twillingate share-house style
ACCOMMODATION OWNER Carmen at Lotte Hostel, Heidelberg Carmen at Lotte Hostel, Heidelberg
ENTERTAINMENT “School of Rock” musical in NYC “The Book of Mormon” musical in NYC
PEOPLE Americans Americans
MUSEUM Newseum, DC Newseum, DC
ART GALLERY National Gallery, Ottawa National Gallery, Ottawa
MEAL Italian in San Francisco Italian in San Francisco
WEIRDEST BUT TASTY Chicha (corn juice) in Peru Kimchi tacos in Tofino, Vancouver Island
 

HIKE (BESIDES INCA TRAIL)

Peekaboo Trail, Bryce Canyon Angels Landing, Zion National Park
SUNRISE Kona, Hawaii Kona, Hawaii
BUSES Peru Peru
TRANSIT SYSTEM Washington DC Washington DC
SURPRISE Mexican folk music/dance show Binoculars as a birthday present while watching a grizzly
MOST UNDERRATED PLACE Winnipeg, Manitoba Amboro National Park, Bolivia
MOST OVERRATED PLACE Grand Canyon, Arizona Rainbow Mountain, Peru
MOST REWARDING EXPERIENCE Hiking Inca trail to Machu Picchu Hiking Inca trail to Machu Picchu
MOST LIKEY TO GO BACK (BESIDES CANADA) Mexico Mexico
BEST WOW MOMENT Icebergs in Newfoundland Iguazu Falls in Brazil and grizzly bear in Yellowstone
MOST EXPENSIVE PLACE New York City London
CHEAPEST PLACE Bolivia Bolivia
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLACE Playa del Carmen, Mexico Playa del Carmen, Mexico
SCARIEST MOMENT Nude spa, Baden-Baden Van troubles in Yellowstone
SADDEST MOMENT Losing my kindle on a bus in Bolivia Injuring foot in Hawaii making it hard to hike
LEAST FAVOURITE/WORST    
MEAL Feijoada in Rio de Janeiro Feijoada in Rio de Janeiro
ACCOMMODATION hostel in Uyuni, Bolivia hostel in Uyuni, Bolivia
ACCOMMODATION OWNER asshole at our hostel in Uyuni, Bolivia asshole at our hostel in Uyuni, Bolivia
BUSES Czech Republic Czech Republic
TRANSIT SYSTEM New York City New York City
WORST TRAVEL DAY Two long-haul flights to Brazil from Perth Amsterdam to Heidelberg train cancellations
MOST OVERRUN WITH TOURISTS Prague, Czech Republic Banff, Alberta
MOST LIKELY TO CHANGE IN 5 YEARS Rainbow Mountain, Peru Rainbow Mountain, Peru
LEAST LIKELY TO GO BACK Bolivia (because we saw a lot) Bolivia (because we saw a lot)

And we also talked a bit about what it was like to travel together.  We’re married so we love each other, but being with the person you’re married to 24 hours a day 7 days a week for 9 months can get a bit much.  We really did spend almost that entire time together with the exception of a few hours here and there and a weekend I went away with some girlfriends.  We came up with seven things to do when travelling with your partner that can help make your trip happy and successful:

  • Practice patience every single day – this requires more of a conscious effort while traveling because the time spent together is so saturated. Also, traveling can be stressful with figuring out new cities and how they work, finding accommodations, being hungry but unable to get food for various reasons, etc. so there are a lot of opportunities to practice that patience and not take out frustrations on your partner.
  • Have rest days so neither of you burn out from travelling. This can include just hanging out at your accommodation, getting laundry done, photo editing, blog writing, reading or watching movies.
  • Think about what the other person would like to do so that the activities aren’t always fulfilling the dreams of one person.
  • Choose one person to be the “leader” or “decision maker” per day and share that responsibility so neither of you burn out from too many decisions and responsibilities.
  • Take turns being the photographer for the day so neither of you get complacent about capturing all the amazing moments you share together.
  • Do take breaks from each other as needed. We like each other a lot so didn’t need too many but having a day where each of us did different activities reignited our interest in each other as we came back to our hostel with stories to tell from our day.
  • Cuddle every day (a necessity in regular life too!)

Besides learning a lot about each other while on our trip, we learned a lot about travelling itself and came up with another list of things that we wished we had known beforehand.  Maybe these six things will help you:

  • Have multiple credit cards between both of you to avoid problems with possible thefts, certain places not accepting one type of credit card, and being able to separate for the day and not worry about not having enough money while the other has access to the card you typically use for purchases.
  • Do not buy a car in Ontario, Canada.  It is hard as hell to buy and just as difficult if not completely impossible to sell it elsewhere in Canada.  This is due to the out-of-province cars needing to pass a thorough list of tests before being allowed to be registered, which you need before insuring, which you need before selling.  Even for me it was difficult to buy a car in Ontario because you need an Ontario driver’s license.  You can do this, but you have to surrender whatever other license you may have.
  • Book your summer campsites in advance if travelling in Canada and America.   They book up quickly, especially the national parks.
  • Las Vegas is NOT glamorous. It’s a bit grimey and a just way too much of everything.  In our humble opinion.  Go, but don’t expect glamour.
  • Be prepared for the tap water problem in Europe. You will pay dearly for sparkling or still water and it’s not really acceptable to ask for tap water at restaurants even if you spend a bunch of money on drinks and food.  Also, you can’t smuggle your own water in—they’ll catch you and tell you to put it away and order from their menu.  It’s maddening but just deal with it as best you can.
  • Start AND end your long-term travel with a relaxing vacation, even if it’s just three or four days somewhere decadent. Travelling is NOT vacationing and a nice vacation before and after will get you into the groove, get you debriefing from normal life and then does the opposite at the end of the trip.  It helps to wind down from the trip and start to think about regular life again.  We failed to do it at the start and really suffered at first.  It was a bit overwhelming jumping straight into sight-seeing after such an epic flight and also leaving behind our home and jobs and all the stresses that come along with that.

We have been so fortunate to go on this journey.  Another big question we got asked (or could feel people wanting to ask us) is “how did you afford this trip?”  The answer is four-fold: firstly, we saved for four years.  Secondly, we are DINKs.  You know, double-income-no-kids.  Thirdly, we don’t own a home or anything beyond our 10-15 year old cars.  And fourthly, we have no debts.  We still feel incredibly lucky that we were able to do this trip and that Callum was able to retain his job.  It was so good for my soul to spend the amount of time we did in Canada and it was a dream come true for Cal to visit all the national parks in America that we went to.  The whole journey we felt so much gratitude for the opportunities we had the ability to take advantage of.  In no way shape or form are we “done” with travelling, as I stated earlier.  But for this year we’ll take it kind of easy.  We have family we must see in April but other than that these travel bugs will take a break from adventuring.  This leads me to our final list: funniest things we heard or experienced on our trip:

  • In Brazil: we ordered burgers and fries in Rio de Janeiro and our fries came with sugar on them instead of salt. We ate them anyway and eventually asked the waitress if that’s just how Brazilians ate their French fries and she was horrified.  It was a mistake.
  • In Bolivia: we had a fabulous tour with a great Australian guide who was very knowledgeable about environmental and political concerns but mispronounced some words. While eating a meal with him, he said “You know, I just need simple food that tastes good, I don’t need any gourmet food.” Except he pronounced “gourmet” like “gore-met”.  We didn’t have the heart to tell him he wasn’t saying it right.  So now we say gore-met all the time and everyone else thinks we are stupid until we tell them this story.  We ate some pretty gore-met burgers for dinner tonight.
  • In Peru: I accidentally ordered little girls on my pizza instead of pineapple. (niña instead of piña).
  • In Mexico: I lost my pants. We went on a snorkel trip and I left my pants on the boat, drying.  When we got back up from the water, they were gone.  They must have blown off the boat in the wind and were nowhere to be found.  I had to walk around Cozumel without pants until I was able to find a small summer dress to put on that wasn’t a ridiculous tourist price.
  • In Canada: while in Quebec, I was still used to trying to speak Spanish from our time in Bolivia, Peru and Mexico. When at a restaurant, (always at a restaurant!) the waitress asked me something and I said a confident “Si!” and then realized my mistake, turned a bright red and said “I mean ‘Oui!’”  She thought I was adorable but I was mortified.  Also in Canada, while on Vancouver Island, we overheard a bunch of young travellers talking at a picnic table.  One person asked this one hippie girl “so how long have you been on Vancouver Island?”  she replied like this, no joke: “Well, I’ve just been adventuring on all of the gulf islands. Like, I had adventures on Pender, then I had adventures on Saltspring, and now I’m just adventuring here and having a great time.”  So now obviously “adventuring” is our new favourite word.
  • In USA: we overheard two older ladies talking at the museum at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. The first one looked up at the 1:6 scale model airplanes and asked her friend how on earth the Japanese pilots could have fit in the planes.  Her friend replied with conviction that “the Japanese are notoriously small people.”
  • In England: we saw “Venus in Fur” with Natalie Dormer and David Oakes and the funniest thing was that Dormer nearly lost it on stage because a member of the audience shouted out “that’s right” when she delivered one of her lines about how women have been unfairly compensated for the work they do all throughout history or something to that effect. Dormer had to turn her back to the audience and compose herself.  Maybe it’s one of those things where you just had to be there.
  • In Belgium I was amused by the fact that there was a colourful child-like knick-knack selling store next to a sex shop and they were owned and operated by the same person who walked between shops via a bead curtain.
  • In Amsterdam: I had a fight with my umbrella in the middle of the street while carrying all of my bags in the snow and slippery slush when we were trying to find our hostel after just arriving. The umbrella turned itself inside out right when the weather was the worst.  I stopped under cover of a bank or something, dropped my bags and had a temper tantrum, slamming my dumb $10 umbrella into the cement sidewalk over and over, stomping on it just like a cartoon character.  Callum wishes he has this tantrum on video and even I laughed as soon as I shoved the dead umbrella into a trash bin on the street.
  • In Austria: we were having breakfast in our hostel and every single person in the room was Australian.
  • In Czech Republic: every person eagerly watching the astronomical clock (we’re talking like 100 people all gathered around) to do its hourly cuckoo thing. It’s a very tame “show” that every tourist gets suckered into seeing and trying to photograph.  Including me.
  • In Germany: nothing funny whatsoever happened in Germany. It’s a pretty serious country.
  • In Mauritius: the family of three (parents and adult daughter) who were taking 10,000 selfies with their four different devices and selfie-sticks. I think selfies are alright but you don’t need more than two or three, right?

Thanks for reading my blog!  Now that we return to domestic life and all the adult responsibilities that go along with it, my posts will be more rare.  However, you never know when inspiration will strike and I can always write about the things we see and do in and around Perth, where we call home.  Stay tuned!


2 thoughts on “Reflections: Nine Months of Travel

  1. A wonderful blog, Rachel and brilliant photos – as usual. It’s been extremely interesting and a lot of fun to follow you and Callum on your travels. Thank you for being so generous in sharing so much. I’m glad you’ve found a nice apartment and I wish you and Callum a very happy 2018 in your new home and in all you both do. Love, Atholene

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  2. Love it, Rachel! I love the compiled list, and tidbits of memories over the year. It is such an amazing and valuable experience that you and Callum have done. It will inform your teaching, and your loveliness as great human beings. Come adventure to Canada again soon!

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