Monday, May 27, 2013

What Our Day Looks Like

Generally, every day we wake up to an alarm (set at 7am local time) because otherwise we've been known to sleep until 9am. Usually I turn off the alarm and we doze for a bit, waking up slowly.  Sometimes we wake up well before the alarm, too. Eventually, someone fires up the internet (usually still in bed). Then someone gets up and puts the kettle on for coffee--we've bought an inexpensive french press in both South America and New Zealand/Australia, but we've just been going without when we have made our own breakfasts in Asia. And then we have breakfast of muesli and yogurt and a banana and coffee. If there's a toaster in our room/apartment then we'll have a piece of toast too. And then we decide what to do with our day.

Think about that for a minute. When was the last time you were able to decide what your day would involve? Sure we have our travel days, but they are days we've decided on earlier. The truth is we're spending money rather than earning it and saving it. And you do what you have to do. We did, for 15 years or so. We got up at 5:40, we put the kettle on, we ate our cereal, and made our peanut butter sandwiches for our bag lunch. It wasn't so bad, but it wasn't great. We lived for vacations, weekends, and to some extent, evenings. I spent months and months over those bag lunches finding the best hotels, making lists of things to see, and places to eat, even making dinner reservations, before we would leave home on vacation.

But my single happiest moment, consistently, every day, is that moment when I wake up and think about what I'm going to do today.
Sometimes (ok often) I still struggle with the lack of planning. A couple of hours of comparing hotels online calms me down, and picking the place we're going to stay next before we leave our current destination helps me from going cray-cray. But once we know where we're going to sleep, I enjoy the rest. With limited exceptions, such as when things are closed that we planned on seeing (because we didn't research it). Things go wrong, and I'm not yet great at rolling with the punches. Who knows if I ever will be, but I'm trying to change. Traveling this way leads to all sorts of unexpected surprises. But "surprise" isn't synonymous with joy. Impulsively signing up for a chocolate making class in Cusco was one of those surprises. Getting lost in the countryside in New Zealand, just to see whether a road goes through, is another. Spending an extra night someplace we really like, or taking an extra 20 minutes on a walk to stop and watch lawn bowling in Adelaide--those are good ones. We spent a good extra hour exploring the Kiwi prefab homes in New Plymouth, dreaming about a different life.

Every six days or so, we need to either do laundry ourselves in the sink, or more likely, find someplace that will do our laundry for us. In South America and Asia, these were everywhere, easy to find, and inexpensive with a fast turnaround time. The exception to this was Singapore, which ended up costing us $30 for a rush job since normal laundry service had a four day (!) turnaround time.  Needless to say backpackers must not go to Singapore all that much.  So we usually drop that off when we leave for the day, and can generally pick it up the next day. This requires a bit of planning since you have to send the laundry out when you still have another set of clothes for tomorrow.  We tried the sink laundry a few times (and it still works for us in a pinch) but it's been so cheap everywhere that we just send it out. The time it takes to dry clothes that you wash in the sink (that aren't benefited by a spin cycle) is much longer, especially in the humid environs. The other problem with doing your own laundry is that if you're moving across the city, or flying across the country, it's in your benefit for your clothes to be dry already. This is harder to do when it takes two days for your clothes to dry in the shower. Another problem--how should I put this? If you're hot and sweaty (see the humid climate thing above) then generally your clothes aren't just dirty, they're dirty and stinky. Sink laundry works as a good backup method, it doesn't get the stink out. The downside to sending clothes out to be laundered is that they generally end up wearing out more quickly than they do when you hand wash them. Plus sometimes they come back smelling like a perfume factory. But at somewhere around $1 a kilo, it's just worth it. You can't hand wash 3 1/2 kilos of laundry in your sink. Well, we won't, anyway.

After laundry and some sightseeing, it's usually on to lunch. It used to be that I always had a list of restaurants so that we wouldn't end up having a bad meal (or wouldn't bicker over picking one when we were both hungry). Now we might have one as a back up, but generally it's better to stop and read menus and decide along the way. Better to eat where you are when you're savagely hungry than walk an extra mile because you're looking for a place you found online, which may or may not be open/on that road/any good. There have been some misses, but mostly we've had good meals that way.  Certainly some of our best meals have been surprise finds. 

El Mesita, Puerto Natales, Chile
After we decide what we're going to do with our day, we try to plan our transportation and lunch. If we need to take public transit, what's around the area, that sort of thing. Then after a few false starts, and sometimes a comedy of errors where we are both sitting around waiting for the other person to be ready, we head out for the day.

We usually have a granola bar stashed in my purse or David's backpack as well as a bottle of water in case it gets really hot or I get really cranky. I usually take offense at this statement if it's expressed to me, but I will admit that sometimes I do, in fact, need a cookie to be a human being (David will note here, that on the bright side, that's all it takes, which isn't so bad, really). I'm better off if I eat three square meals a day, in a fairly regular timeframe.  This means lunch before, say 2pm (see above statement regarding eating where you're hungry). After lunch we'll either return to our sightseeing plan, or we'll strike off in a new direction. In SE Asia, it was so beastly hot in the afternoons that we found ourselves giving up and retreating to our air-conditioned rooms for an internet browse or a nap.

Alternatively we'll find a nice cafe somewhere either for lunch or for a late-afternoon snack, and enjoy their wifi, watch some people and just chill, either under a fan or (in Asia) inside an air-conditioned cafe. If we have a place to cook dinner, that's the meal we choose to cook more than lunch. We might be showing the signs of old age, but we like to have our evenings to ourselves, either to watch a movie, blog, journal, review pictures, listen to podcasts, cook if we can, and just not have the pressure to be "out doing things." We have taken an evening cooking class, and gone to see Tango, Balinese, or Apsara dancing, but generally we'll grab dinner early after sightseeing and head back to our room for the night.

We try to go to bed around 10pm (again, we're old), but sometimes, especially as our late evening schedules lap over into everyone back home's morning schedule, we end up chatting with friends or scrolling through Facebook/Google+ to see what people have been up to. Sometimes that bedtime slides to 11 or 11:30, but that all depends on what we're doing the next day, or how long the current day was.