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Where We Journal

A series of our inner thoughts, emotions, experiences, encounters, & observations, as we interact with the people of the world

 

500

Jenny & Adam

SANTA BARBARA, California // We left our lives in New York City officially on October 1, 2015, so today - Feb 12, 2017 -  is 500 days since we began this journey. It has taken us full circle as we have returned to Santa Barbara where we visited sometime on day 15 on our first road trip across the United States. California has served as the official "end" of this phase, as it is the last stop on our road trip and theoretically the place where we plan to stop for "awhile".

This serves as a milestone for us as we are in the process of establishing and completing one of our New Years Resolutions this year as, "roots". We plan to find a place to stay permanently. Not to say that this will be the place where we live forever, but I believe we want the experience of living here in California for at least a few months to a year. The trip is not over, and a new adventure lies ahead.

We struggle with the notion of "normalcy" - what is normal and what is not. The "why" and the questioning of things. The lifestyle choices that we have seen along the way from other travelers have imprinted in us an alternative way to look at life, happiness, and suffering. These are all ideas that we will try to deal with as we attempt, or not attempt, to assimilate back into society and this different world. 

Saturdays

Jenny & Adam

SAN LUIS OBISPO, California // We hate Saturdays. For the past year, this has been our least favorite day of the week. It is substantially more expensive to get rooms on Airbnb, or any unique hotel in the area. Sometimes, there are not any rooms available at all in the smaller cities that we have traveled to. We usually have to book a few days in advance, and because we have no schedule or agenda, this is difficult for us to do spur of the moment when we arrive in a city with no rooms. Restaurants are crowded, and there is typically traffic the entire day wherever we are. We dread Saturdays. 

When we have been traveling, these strange circumstances have affected us in ways that we would not have realized. There is a strange beauty, especially in the United States, of being in a destination on a random weekday afternoon. Places change drastically depending on the time of week and the time of day. 

Where we lived in New York City, there was a church one block away that I would pass everyday to and from work. One night I had a cold, woke up, and walked to the CVS on the corner to get medicine. The scene that was so casual and banal everyday, was now nothing like I had ever seen. There were homeless people all over the place chatting, and the steps that are usually empty had sleeping bags and blankets. The next morning on my way to work everything was gone and just the same as I always remembered.

I think about this scenario often now when traveling. When we get to a place in the afternoon on a random Tuesday, we usually find that it is different from what we had initially expected. We realize now that Saturdays, and our culture of weekend leisure time, is much different than the everyday. Vacations and weekend trips are the normal. Saturdays will remain the day when every one finally gets out to do what they want to with their lives. 

Tiny Houses

Jenny & Adam

PORTLAND, Oregon // We made it all the way to the west coast. It has not been the fastest, but rather the most circuitous way possible. We have stopped to visit family, friends, and family of friends that are more than 3 degrees of separation from people that we actually know. This has been awesome, as some people we met are actually related to us, but we haven't seen them in over 10 years. 

Along with this, we have been living essentially out of our car - Stardust. This is a substantial upgrade to living out of a backpack and traveling through Asia. Furthermore, most of the places we have stayed at are unique minimalist houses listed online, that we have booked from 1 to 4 days. 

When I lived in NYC, my first apartment was 360 square feet. Most people consider this small, but it was perfect for me, and I loved the place. Now, the tiny houses that we are staying in are no more than 200 square feet. These places prove to be even excessive for what we really need, and after living on the road, makes me wonder why we need so much space in the first place.

This idea, and actually living it on a variety of different occasions, makes me question how much I really need in life, what I need in life, and what is excess. Is this excess something that is unnecessary? If this is unnecessary why would I waste my precious time to consume something that is unneeded in the first place. In life, time is the most precious resource, paramount to everything except maybe health. If this resource is wasted on something that is not needed in the end, why devote time and energy pursuing something that can not bring me new happiness? 

Maybe my thoughts will change over time, and I am sure they will. I believe coloring the picture outside the lines sometimes makes you think of life in a different light, determining what you really want and need, and how much time you spend in life trying to achieve something in which the end goal is not even necessary. The tiny houses put things in perspective for us. 

Snowed In

Jenny & Adam

DUBOIS, Wyoming // Driving across Wyoming in January we were lucky that our car had 4 wheel drive. We planned to drive from Boulder, Colorado to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but the weather had other plans. The drive was bad enough to Cheyenne, so we stopped and spent a night in Laramie, Wyoming. The following morning the highways were covered with snow and ice. We drove half the speed limit and realized our 4 hour trip would now be 8, and we would arrive at night once again, which we had been trying to avoid. Upon attempting to enter Teton National Park, there were blinking lights telling us that the pass through was closed. We backtracked to the tiny town of Dubois, found a room, and spent the night there.

Dubois has a population of about 900 people. We realized after the first day that everybody in town knew each other. The people in the coffee shop told us about the lady in the thrift store, the lady there told us about the waitress in the restaurant, who told us about the bartender, who told us about the owners of the hotel we were staying at. They were all good things, and made the trip very personal and enjoyable. From this we slowed our road trip down even more, based on our appreciation for the small random towns in America. As excited as we are to make it to the coast and down to California, we plan to take the long way and enjoy meeting as many other people as we can during this time we have. When life gives you closed roads, meet the locals. 

Bests and Worsts

Jenny & Adam

CLEVELAND, Ohio // We are constantly reminded of many things from our travels in our everyday lives. When we meet new people on the road and are questioned about certain things, we dig deep into our memories to remember the best, worst, and most memorable of times during the past year. With this in mind, and all of the free time we have had since returning to the USA and while road tripping across the country, we have come up with some fun opinions of the past year as well to summarize our trip. 

  • Best Country // Indonesia - We spent our entire 30 day visa here. There was so much to do in this country and we felt like we only scratched the surface spending most of our time just in Bali. We spent 1 week surfing in Kuta, 1 week at a yoga/meditation retreat in Sukawati, 1 week at a homestay with a Hindu family in Ubud, and 1 week in Labuanbajo SCUBA diving Komodo National Park. We were never bored, met awesome other travelers, and had great experiences with locals.
  • Best Accommodation // Christina's in Hoi An, Vietnam - When other travelers raved about a place to stay, we always looked it up. We actually changed our travel plans slightly to visit Hoi An based on others recommendations, and it didn't disappoint. We spent $104 US dollars total for 3 nights, and we ended up extending for an additional 4 nights because we had such a great time. This place was run by a Vietnamese guy who spent 19 years in the USA. He converted a large structure into a series of amazing rooms straight out of a design magazine, in the middle of a large vegetable garden. There was free breakfast, overly friendly staff, and free bikes to ride 10 minutes into town or 5 minutes to the beach
  • Best Coffeeshop & Coffee // Macallum Connnoisseur Coffee Company in Penang, Malaysia // On the outskirts of touristy Georgetown is a modern industrial warehouse with hip architecture and talented baristas. It is the only time I have ever had coffee from Yemen and it was incredible. There is currently a trade embargo with the USA and Yemen, so it is no wonder I have never tried coffee from there before. It was earthy but smooth, and made from a chemex.
  • Best Cup of Tea // Conor House in Mcleod Ganj, India - Run by Tibetan refugees, their hospitality and friendliness was unmatched in most places of Asia. The lemon ginger honey tea we ordered every day, sometimes multiple times, and is a traditional drink of the Tibetan people. 
  • Best Panoramic Photo // Upper Pisang, Nepal - With views of Annapurna, the monastery behind us, the Tibetan prayer flags flapping in the wind, the feeling of accomplishing hiking half of the circuit, this was our favorite "view" or sight of the entire trip.
  • Best Drink // Barcelona G&T from Marina Bay Sands Skybar, Singapore - Looking down on Singapore, the heat, the relaxation, the first bar we had been to in weeks, all made the drink worth it. We paid up for the view as the drink cost about $21 US dollars. It consisted of a special gin on a block of ice, a wedge of grapefruit, a sprig of rosemary, and 3 blueberries. 
  • Best Bird // Java Kingfisher in Ubud, Indonesia - When we stayed with the Hindu family, one of the activities we did was a birdwatching tour through the rice fields. We logged more birds on this 3 hour stint than anywhere else. We had a guide with us who pointed out special birds, but the one that stood out was this one. It is multicolored with bright reds and blues and is only native to this part of the world. It was the fourth bird we spotted and was resting on an electric wire over a field. 
  • Best Rock Climb // Lord of the Thais in Railay, Thailand - This climb was on my bucket list and most of my training the past year built up to being able to complete this climb on lead. Jenny also completed this climb making it one that we both were able to experience. The difficulty, the exposure, as well as the sight of Railay beach below, that few people get to see unless they make the climb made this one special.
  • Best SCUBA dive // Manta Point in Komodo National Park, Indonesia - We saw over 20 mantas that came within inches of swimming by us. The dive was shallow so we felt totally safe, and the visibility was unlike we have ever been in before at over 30 meters. It was one of the final dives we did in Komodo with a great group, so after completion we all got to talk about how fun it was. 
  • Best Street Food // Beef Pho Bowl in Hanoi, Vietnam - Right outside of our hotel room in Hanoi was a group of Vietnamese guys and a big bowl of boiling soup. We saw a lot of locals eating there on our way to check in, and when we asked for a dinner recommendation this is the place they steered us to. A huge bowl of beef pho was about 40,000 Vietnamese Dong, or $1.75 US dollars. Jenny and I split one for our entire dinner that night and it was perfect. An honorable mention should also go to all the gyros we ate on the streets of Athens Greece too. 
  • Best Museum // S21 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia - This was one of the saddest days of our trip, but was certainly one of the most memorable. S21 was a torture prison used by the Pol Pot regime that is still in the condition it was in when the soldiers left. S21 Museum is the actual location where all of the atrocities took place and you literally walk through blood stained rooms. This experience made us appreciate our lives. 
  • Best Beach // Maaya Thila, Maldives - It was tough comparing all of the beaches in Asia to the gold standard of beaches in Hawaii. The only place that we thought could come close was the isolated and uninhabited islands in the Maldives, particularly one that we had a chance to spend the day resting on from our scuba dive liveaboard. 
  • Best Gym // Mr. Big Muscle Gym in Luang Prabang, Laos - This place seemed in the middle of nowhere, but had all modern exercise equipment. Add in the funny 1980s pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the old school rap music, and this place was a daily stop for us in Laos to stay in shape while traveling
  • Best Indian Food Restaurant // Betel Leaf in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - In NYC we got Indian food every Sunday night and would try to find an Indian restaurant in every big city we went to. Although we went to India, we found our favorite Indian food in Malaysia. We went for dinner all three nights we spent in Kuala Lumpur with our friend Bart. 
  • Best Sail // Fiskardo, Greece - There was scenery of old Venetian lighthouses, there was crazy wind getting us to move at 6 knots with our full mainsail and jib, and we felt safe the entire time. Also, the previous day we did our first mediterranean mooring which gave us the added confidence. 
  • Best Massage // Railay Beach, Thailand - After one massage Jenny wanted to return for another the following day. She ended up going every day for 2 weeks. Same time on the terrace (as the sun was setting), and with the same sweet Thai lady. 
  • Biggest Ripoff // Laundry in Dubai, United Arab Emirates - We had a bag of clothes that needed to all be washed after our liveaboard SCUBA trip. When we called to get them picked up to wash they directed us to an itemized bill sheet in our room, which instead of paying by the kilogram (as we did everywhere else) it was by the piece of clothing. The T-shirt I bought in India for $3 US dollars would cost $6 US dollars to get washed. We soon realized that if we wanted all of our laundry done it would cost over $100 dollars! Most of my clothes in the laundry bag don't even equal that much. Needless to say, we choose to wash our underwear in the sink, hang it drying near the window, and doing laundry in a less expensive country. The price to do laundry in Dubai could have stretched to 3 days of travel in Cambodia or Laos. 
  • Best Dinner // Strofi in Athens Greece - We sat on a terrace with stunning views of the Acropolis. There was wine, lamb, goat, cheese, and local olive oil. This was one of our most expensive meals the entire trip, but it was so good, we went back a few nights later. 
  • Best Snack // Sushi-Zanmai Higashi Shinjuku in Tokyo, Japan - Our final night in Tokyo we tried to find a local sushi spot to just go crazy ordering non-stop. This is exactly what we found, as we got the tuna tasting plate. Red tuna, fatty tuna, fattier tuna, fattiest tuna, broiled fatty tuna. We then got a second tasting plate, followed by a few more tuna ala carte pieces. 
  • Biggest Logistical Nightmare // Landslide in Pokhara Nepal - A 6 hour bus ride turned into a 24 hour bus ride. There was a landslide and it blocked the pass from Pokhara to Kathmandu. The Nepalese army had to come in with bulldozers to move the boulders. To make matters worse it was after our 14 day Annapurna trek, when all we wanted to do was have a nice and quiet place to sleep that night. 
  • Scariest Moment // Jenny attacked by large monkey in Rishikesh, India - We left our ashram to pick up toilet paper, tissues, and chocolate cookies. A huge monkey must have recognized the package and while walking down the street jumped onto Jennys back. Had the monkey bit her, the trip would have been over, and we would have flown back to the USA 3 months earlier. Jenny no longer likes monkeys or even thinks they're cute.
  • Best Train Ride // Jaipur to Udaipur, India - This was the first time I felt like I saw "real India." The sun was setting and we got to see the rural side of that beautiful country, while passing cities located essentially in the middle of nowhere. It was like a movie passing before your eyes every time you would go through a town or a village in the countryside
  • Most Spontaneous Thing We Did // Summit Mt. Fuji Japan, in a day -  We were flying back to the United States in 48 hours. We planned to just relax and walk around Tokyo the following day before our flight back home. Instead we took an impromptu ride to Fuji to "check it out." We both had sandals on, no jacket, and no map. We started to hike up the mountain to see the view from mid way, but once we got there we realized that if we hustle, we could summit, descend, and catch the last bus and train back to Tokyo that night. We caught summit fever and made it to the top, spent 15 minutes enjoying the sight, and returned safely to Tokyo that night. 
  • Dirtiest City // New Delhi, India - We had seen a lot of poverty in Asia and the world in general in our life times but nothing compared to what we saw in New Dehli. This forever changed our lives. There are some things in life that you can not "unsee."
  • Best Burrito // None, there was no Mexican food in Asia - The week we got back to the USA I couldn't wait to eat Chipotle. We could not find guacamole, tacos, burritos, or any kind of Mexican food anywhere in Asia and were craving it upon return.
  • Worst Food // Egg at night market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia - I thought it was a traditional hard boiled egg. Instead there was something that looked like a fetus inside this thing. It was not by accident though because a local guy next to me was actually eating the thing. It didn't taste good and was one of the few things I just could not stomach. The night market had really great food, including some of the best noodles with soy sauce I have ever eaten. Just don't get the eggs.
  • Most Difficult visa or border crossing // India - We needed a visa that you must fill out at least a week before you enter the country. There is no guarantee that you will even be granted a visa if you apply either. We had to pay $50 US dollars for the application and had to answer out all sorts of questions such as our religion and if we have any Pakistani relatives. 
  • Easiest visa or border crossing // Malaysia - We literally did not need anything except our passport. No visa, no paperwork, no arrival fee. We crossed this border twice on our trip and both times there were hardly any lines.
  • Best part about traveling // not ever using an alarm clock to wake up in the morning. 

 

Up the East Coast

Jenny & Adam

CLEVELAND, Ohio // With our new Subaru we are now able to live fully out of a car instead of a backpack. We can carry multiple books, bags, equipment, and food. We are able to control our mode of transportation however we want. There are no more bus tickets, train stations, taxis to airports, or comparing airline prices. It has made travel a lot easier, and being in the USA only adds to the lack of stress when traveling. Everyone speaks English. All currency is US dollars. We have access to internet almost everywhere. We don’t need to find SIM cards for our phones. We can make phone calls to our family. We can brush our teeth with tap water.

For a short while it is back on the road though. This however is just a short trip compared to the road trip that lies ahead for us after Christmas. All in all we were blessed with the ability to visit friends and family for the last few weeks and made the following stops en route to Cleveland up the east coast for Christmas:

Atlanta, Ga // Asheville, NC // Wytheville, VA // Leesburg, VA // Gettysburg, PA // Chestnut Hill, PA // Montclair, NJ // New York, NY // Pittsburgh, PA // Columbus, OH // Cleveland, OH

We did in fact pass through NYC once again, as it keeps calling us back for one reason or another. We spent one morning there having a very grateful brunch with our friends, but being there in NYC we felt collectively like tourists. It didn’t feel like our city. There were feelings of nostalgia but no feelings of belonging or regret that we had left.  

We arrived in Cleveland two weeks before Christmas and it’s good to be home for the holidays. We have the opportunity now to organize all of our stuff and repack the car while spending time with family. After New Years we are headed west, for a final road trip across the country, to the pacific northwest, then down the west coast. The final trip to find a new home. 

Stardust

Jenny & Adam

ATLANTA, Georgia // Countless times we have talked about our future and what will happen when we return to the United States. Most of our plans and ideas involve traveling and eventually finding a place to stay for awhile. Doing this by bus or train around the USA is virtually impossible, so it all rests on us purchasing a car. We had in mind what we wanted, but could never continue our search until we saw all of the vehicles in person and got to drive them. After 1 day of scouting, 1 day of narrowing down our choices, the third day we were buying the car and taking the next step in our travels and life.

The day before Thanksgiving, we purchased a used 2014 Subaru Forester. Jenny named it, "Stardust" and it will hopefully take us around the country for the next few months. With the car we can now move onto mapping out our road trip. Right now, the plan consists of driving from Atlanta to New York City to Cleveland, making numerous stops along the way to visit friends and family, before heading west.

Homeward Bound

Jenny & Adam

ATHENS, Greece // At this point we are more excited to head back to the United States, see our families, and start a new life, than to continue traveling internationally for the time being. The travels will continue within the USA after a short break, but for now it is nice to see familiar faces and not have to live out of a suitcase day by day. The goal now is to work on organizing all of our photos and videos, buy a car, and plan a road trip to the west coast of the USA after New Years. 

There were ups and downs along the way while traveling. There were the good experiences along with the bad. There were things we may have slightly regretted, and there were spontaneous decisions we made that turned out to be great choices. There were also a lot of fun facts that we came up with on our long trip back:

  • Countries visited // 14 total countries
  • Flights taken // 42 total flights including transfers - 13 USA & Hawaii, 5 Thailand, 1 Laos, 3 Vietnam, 2 Indonesia, 1 Singapore, 1 Japan, 5 India, 2 Nepal, 2 Maldives, 1 United Arab Emirates, 6 Greece 
  • Hours spent on buses // 76 total hours - 26 Cambodia, 14 Laos, 6 Vietnam, 14 Malaysia, 10 Greece
  • Hours spent on trains // 50 total hours - 6 Vietnam, 18 Malaysia, 10 Japan, 16 India
  • Nights slept on boats // 20 total nights - 5 Thailand, 3 Indonesia, 7 Maldives, 5 Greece
  • Number of SCUBA Dives // 33 total dives - 13 Indonesia, 4 Malaysia, 16 Maldives
  • Rock routes climbed // 54 total climbs - 25 USA, 17 Thailand, 8 Laos, 4 Vietnam
  • Total birds logged and identified // 137 birds - see here
  • Coffee shops visited // 94 coffee shops - see here
  • Number of postcards sent // 215 post cards

Stick Shift

Jenny & Adam

PALAIOCHORA, Greece // After a year of travel Adam and I decided to rent our first car abroad. We are on the island of Crete with tame traffic and a thousand cheap rental cars available. We checked out a few places and asked tons of questions about insurance, road signs, gas prices, where we could return the car, what was covered, what if we crashed, and on and on and on. We went for it and booked it for pick up the next day. They drew up a contract when we arrived this morning and it was no extra charge to add me as a driver so we did it. She gave us a map and directions to Palaiochora. We walked outside and around a small dark grey car, we have since named “Bravo”, to check out damage, nothing worth noting. Then she opened the door and staring at us was a standard car. Adams eyes almost popped out of his head. They only have standard cars for rent.

Today, I am grateful for my parents who forced me to learn stick shift before I could get my drivers license. I am thankful for the hours on hills my dad made me stall out and play with the clutch. I am thankful for driving around my hometown and killing the engine at 4 way stops and having to learn to calmly restart the car and that everything was fine. The song played at my wedding during the father-daughter dance was none other than Alan Jackson’s, "When Daddy Let me Drive” which was oh so perfect for today. I confidently got behind the wheel and we drove safely to our destination with no problems with that song playing in the background. It's funny how little pieces of knowledge we have picked up over our lifetime have been used on this trip. Our sailing license, being scuba certified, webpage design, the rock climbing classes we have taken, pottery throwing, and my knowledge of driving standard cars from way back, all were used at some point over the past year. 

My Native Tongue

Jenny & Adam

CHANIA, Greece // Chania is a small harbor town on the north west shore of the island of Crete. The day we got in it was sunny and the streets were fairly empty. It’s hard to tell how much of the quietness is due to us being there out of season, or whether its the economic crisis that has quieted the party, or if it simply the siesta hour when the shops all close here between 2 and 5 pm. Either way Adam and I enjoy the quiet and walk through every corner of this quant town.

There are a few cafes open and enough shops to entertain us. We even find a pottery studio and I take a two hours private lesson. The next morning we wake up expecting the same bliss and I hear English out the window. I listen to the conversation. I realize this is an odd experience for me as though everyone and every country we have visited has spoken English with us we never hear it being spoken around us. Then more English conversations waft up through our open balcony. My brain can’t stop listening. I can’t tune them out. We walk downstairs and this lazy little town has come to life. A cruise ship, carrying mainly English tourists has docked for a few hours. They have invaded my little town. I don’t like it. I don’t like being able to understand everyone. It feels noisy and loud. This is going to be a real struggle when I get back stateside and will have to relearn coping with always hearing my native tongue being spoken around me.