Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The first 4 weeks—how it’s going

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It’s late, but we just realized that today marks four weeks we’ve been on the road, so we thought we should take a little time to take stock, and let you know how we’re doing.
He says:
It’s hard to believe we set out four weeks ago.  It feels both shorter and longer.  It’s definitely the longest either of us has been away from a paying job since Titanic was released (yes, I had to Google that to even know what popular movies were released in ‘98).
She says:
We spent so many months planning and pushing and packing that we didn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about what this month would look like, other than one hand on the wheel and the other fiddling with the music player.  So I’m having a hard time even knowing whether it has been like I thought it would be.  But yes, it has been like that. And of course, it hasn’t at all.
Travel Planning
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She says: I’ve been doing most of the campground/hotel booking, and some of the route planning, and it gets to a point in the day where if I don’t have the next night or two booked, I begin to get a little anxious. It takes me longer to do the research and find a decent place than I thought. We’ve had some misses, too, but I’m also getting to the point where a bed and a wifi connection and a bathroom I don’t have to wear flip-flops in the shower are all that really matter. Since we’ve I’ve decided not to camp anymore (at least not while bugs are still in the picture), I’ve been trying to find less expensive rooms, but sometimes you just don’t have that much choice. I’ve been using Hotels.com pretty exclusively, since every 10th night is free. In this instance it gives you a lot of options, has a lot of flexibility, and I can usually get what I want in terms of location and amenities.  And when an area is more expensive, we use one of the free nights if we have it.  We’ve been lucky to have people offer us places to stay a couple of times, and that help out with the budget a lot too.  The hotel/accommodation planning definitely has taken up more time than I thought it would, and it is daunting to go into the thought of a whole year of this, but I definitely will be planning larger blocks of staying in the same place as we go forward.
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He says: The route planning has mostly been simpler than planning accommodations, and we’ve stayed pretty flexible except for some long-haul days where we knew there wasn’t much off the beaten path.  I think we’ve taken advantage of technology without becoming a slave to it.  This kind of trip would be very different without GPS, Google maps, and Hotels.com.  We’ve stumbled across some really neat places and roads because Daniel (you name your GPS too, right?) knows there’s a viable shortcut between the side trip we just took, and our eventual destination, even if no local road signs or state-scale atlas maps show that it’s even a possibility.  I suspect there are a lot of those side trips we would have skipped, otherwise, knowing we’d have to backtrack to the main highway and eat the time/miles, where instead, we lose only a few minutes by veering slightly.  Without a doubt, the best side trips have been insider tips, from friends who have lived or travelled in the same place—we’ve also been lucky to have some great suggestions on places to see along the way.  (She says—you can tell us your great suggestions of places we should see in the comments, too! We’d love them!)
Blogging
She says:  We haven’t hit our rhythm on this quite yet. It seems like we need the laptop to plan our next place to stay, and we need it to process photos, and we need it to blog, and we need it to keep in touch with family and friends—all at the same time and both of us. We’ve used our Samsung Galaxy players quite a bit for mobile photo posting and web browsing/emailing, but it gets hard to type very much on those without ending up with half a sentence full of nonsense words.  The Kindle Fire has been useful for reading and magazines and some web surfing, but it hasn’t been as good a tool as I thought it would be. It doesn’t take the place of the laptop, to be sure.  So while I might be dreaming up posts in my head, I can’t type them up until after David has processed the photos that go with them (or vice versa), and both of those generally take a backseat to the more immediate need to find a place to sleep tomorrow night.  On days where we drive all day, we lose all that driving time since we aren’t traveling with a hotspot.  I’m not sure I want to be traveling that way anyway. I find most of the time if I’m not driving I want to be looking out the window, or have one finger on the road atlas, or my head in a book.  Sometimes all three in turn.  I don’t know what the answer is to this yet, and I think it will change when one of us is not driving all the time (like, say, on a 26 hour bus ride through Bolivia and Argentina), but we’re still working the kinks out on a blogging schedule. We are aware of trying to enjoy the experience, and trying not to think too hard about the documenting of it.
He says: Pretty much ditto.  Only I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be travelling always connected.  I think some of the best parts of these four weeks have been enjoying time together, and life unplugged.  Which isn’t to say we don’t attach to free wi-fi hotspots like hungry dog ticks.  This is the first trip we’ve taken where I’ve been processing pictures during the trip (we’ve never owned a portable computer powerful enough to make that even vaguely feasible prior to this trip), and it’s taken me a while to streamline my workflow for the road.  I should probably dedicate a short post to that, for the photographers.  I haven’t been blogging as much because I feel like I’ve used more than my fair share of computer time, and also because I’m tired of being on the computer once I’ve finished winnowing our pictures, and then processing the final picks.  We do much better when we’re in the same spot even two days, so I think this will be much les of an issue once we’re done with the road trip.
What we’ve missed
She says:  I miss people—our friends, our family.  And I miss our dog. But I have enough friends and family scattered throughout the country, and I’ve lived far away from home for long enough that I’m used to always missing someone.  The dog has been tough, though. I’m fine until we skype with my mom and she holds the dog up to the camera.  And I think we are both a little more affectionate toward random dogs we meet along the way. Sometimes you just need to scritch something’s ears, you know?  We’ve been pushing pretty hard the last few days, and spending today in one place, doing things like laundry and cooking and catching up has been really nice.  It’s important to have down time when you don’t have to “do” stuff.   We’ve gone about 7-8 days without a re-set button day, and I only realized how much I’d missed it when we spent today doing lots of productive but non-touristy things.  I miss cooking, but we’re still doing enough even in hotel rooms that I don’t feel like I’m “not” cooking at all.  I miss running more often.  In terms of being out of a routine I think I miss being out of my exercise routine most of all.  And surprisingly, I have missed my hairstylist (hi Julia!)—my hair hasn’t been happy on this trip, what with the soft water and the hard water and the humidity and then back to no humidity, and well, there were some brush problems early on as well. There may be a large amount of hair whacking in my future. We shall see.
He says: I miss friends and family the most; I haven’t lived far away from home, so I’m really not at all used to it.  4 weeks isn’t awful, but ask me in a few months.  I’ve missed flat, firm beds.  We’ve had some bowl-shaped beds that make for a fitful night.  On the other hand, we don’t have to get up before the sun rises, and we can nap in the middle of the day (hopefully while the other is driving), so honestly, beds aren’t a big deal.  I’ve missed bookshelves.  We have a large tote-bag full of books, but I miss thinking of something, and knowing which book I can look it up in, but not being able to walk to the bookshelf and do so.  I don’t think we’ve passed a bookstore yet without going in, even if we just browse (and we haven’t just browsed, sadly).
What we haven’t missed
She says:  Sorry to say it, but I haven’t missed a single minute of not having a 7-5 job. I haven’t missed being a homeowner—I’ve actually let go of the house more than I ever thought I would. I haven’t missed traffic or junk mail or this horrible political season (actually, we have missed it--completely). I haven’t missed makeup. I have forgotten to put any on for days at a time, and given the fact that we’re taking lots of self-portraits and no one has mentioned how haggard I’m looking, I think it’s ok.
He says: I haven’t missed cooking, but mostly because we are still making our own meals pretty regularly.  And I’m not missing a full kitchen as much as I expected.  I haven’t missed biking every day as much as I expected either; in part because we’re running or hiking or walking pretty regularly—or driving like truckers.  I haven’t missed waking up to an alarm.  I think we’ve set an alarm two or three times since leaving, for days that were chock-full of fun, so it didn’t seem like an imposition.  Generally, we’ve been waking up on our own fairly early anyway.  Mostly, I haven’t missed fixing stuff that’s broken—and I say mostly because there have been some technical hiccups that I’ve had to fix along the way.  But it’s been wonderful not waking up to a to-do list of things that are breaking faster than I can fix them.
We both say: Television.  Most of the places we’ve stayed have a TV; generally in the course of settling our stuff into the room, we unplug the TV so we can charge a device instead.  It’s not particularly good or bad, but it simply is.  We aren’t watching TV (and by TV, we include any flashy motion from a screen, whether it’s YouTube, Netflix, or plain old ABC) at all, and we really don’t care.  The few times we’ve turned one on for the novelty, it feels like it takes more effort than it’s worth to find something to watch.  Generally it’s as enjoyable as a door-to-door salesman at dinnertime.
How’s it going? 
Great!  Swimmingly.  Certainly not without some challenges and squabbles, but we are happy to be taking this journey together.  As David has been saying (when he remembers), “It’s still true.”  As Lana has been saying in her postcards—so far, so good.
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