Today is Day 136 on the road. By my calculations, I am officially halfway through my 9 month trip. A) Holy shit that went fast. B) Now seems like a good time for a logistical update.
People have asked me how my clothes are lasting, how my bags are holding up, how’s my budget doing, what about the electronics, what have I been eating, am I exhausted of being constantly on the move – things that I forget to write about because it’s everyday stuff but it is also a big part of traveling. So here’s a bit of a summary on how my pre-departure planning has held up and the more day-to-day details of life on the move.
I am sick of my clothes. Coming from a life where I wouldn’t wear the same thing within a few week period, wearing the same clothes all the time was definitely an adjustment. The more or less weeks-worth of clothes that I originally planned to bring has held up well. However there are two things that come to mind outside of that set that prove I may have underestimated my needs. First, I kept some of those Rio-only clothes I brought. The Amazon and Colombia were really hot so I needed more light options, and I knew I would face the same in Australia and Asia. Second, I underestimated the cold weather I would face. I picked up an alpaca sweater in Bolivia, a hat and gloves in Ecuador, and a scarf first in Salvador and then in Nelson, NZ after I sadly lost the Salvador one, and I wear these new additions all the time. I probably could’ve used some more warmer clothing, but I’ve made it out of winter and am going to be in heat for the rest of my trip, so I survived with what I had without having to carry around any bulkier, heavier items. Not a huge error really. I did have to replace my flip-flops after attempting to hold them together with duct tape for a month, and I grabbed a pair of casual sneakers knowing that my slip-ons would have to go soon. I suspect I will have a few more additions and swaps once I hit Asia and clothing is again a bit cheaper, but for the most part I think I was right in my estimations, even if I do miss having a little more variety in my wardrobe.
They are worn but great. I have walked up and down cobblestone streets and forced my way through bus turnstiles while wearing my Gregory backpack and it has been excellent for all scenarios. All the pockets have their own purpose – main for clothes, top for accessories, bottom for toiletries, sides for shoes, front for weather gear – and it has been easy to find everything and repack quickly. My second bag, the Fjallraven, has been perfect. I am constantly changing how I wear it – as a shoulder bag, messenger bag and backpack – according to city wandering or rural hiking. Again the different pocket options help organize all my stuff, it fits everything I need, and it is so durable. I’m never worried about it tearing or breaking and the navy color is hiding the probably high level of dirtiness well. I wouldn’t change a thing here. In fact I’d recommend this combination to everyone.
I’m on track! I’m happy and honestly a bit surprised about this fact. So far I think I have balanced things really well, finding ways to save by cutting unnecessary expenses (mainly attraction or food and drink related) so that I can splurge when I think it’s worth it (mainly experiences like skydiving and scuba diving). I left South America at the exact budget point I hoped I would be at and left New Zealand $500 under my goal, which ended up being exactly where I should be since Australia is going to be more expensive. Hopefully I’m able to keep up this balance throughout the next month; Australia has been my biggest concern. Not only is it the most expensive country in my trip but there are lots of experiences here that I think are worth the money. For starters the Great Barrier Reef, which is really a non-negotiable for me. But then things like sailing the Whitsundays, a 4WD on Fraser Island, and a 3 day Uluru tour also sound incredible and all cost a decent chunk of change. I have been lucky enough to start out with a super generous friend of a friend who has let me crash at his place in Sydney for 6 days (Thank you Jesse and Amit! And proof that the people you meet on the road are a fantastic international community that continue to amaze me) so hopefully I will make it out of Australia still in a good place before the ever-so-cheap (so I am continuously told) Southeast Asia.
Perfect. Getting both cameras was a great decision. My Canon G16 takes amazing pictures with the portability I was hoping for, even fitting in my pocket when necessary, and the battery life far exceeds any other electronic device I own. I actually got excited once when a bar of battery finally went down; I was worried the battery level icon was actually broken. The GoPro is always a fun choice. I’ve used it under water and on dry land to get some great footage that I will be so happy to have looking back at this experience. My laptop is exactly what I needed it to be, with perfect portability and ability to handle the photos and videos I’m working with. And the built-in card reader is the best thing ever. Bringing my unlocked iPhone has been by far the most surprisingly great decision. I debated what to do about a phone for a long time before deciding my last night at home to just bring my phone. I had no idea how many places I would be able to get wifi – most restaurants, transportation terminals, and hostels in South America have free wifi, sometimes it’s even on the buses – so I’ve been able to stay in contact with people easier than I ever thought. And now in Australia I’ve gotten a reasonably cheap SIM card so I have been able to text, call and use data to meet up with people. It’s been really useful and now I would tell everyone to just bring their iPhone if only for the wifi. My only complaint is chargers. Can someone please come up with one charger that works for all of these? They are by far the heaviest part of my bag and having just one adapter means having to strategically decide what order to charge things in.
Hm, food. This is an interesting one. Food decisions are dominated by price. It’s the easiest way to save money, choosing grocery store meals instead of restaurants, but that often results in less healthy or satisfying meals. I was a pretty healthy person in SF but on the road if an empanada costs $2 and a salad costs $15, guess which one I’ll be eating. I’ve been able to save a decent amount of money this way that goes towards things I think are more worth it, as I mentioned in the budget section, but sometimes I do feel like a bit of a blob. However through this I have also rediscovered some tasty treats that I generally refuse to eat at home (thinking about french fries and sweets right now). This year is a departure from the regulated life I lived for the past five years and that includes food. Sure I’m strict about trying to be cheap but I don’t need to feel bad about eating a little less healthy, especially when I’m active for the majority of my day, another departure from my previous desk-centered weeks. I did end up documenting all of my included meals in transportation and accommodation so I will hopefully post an update on that soon. I will say this: I miss the fruit in Brazil, I have had enough white bread and jam to last me a lifetime, and now that I’m in Australasia I don’t have as much to show as I did in South America (included food and internet both sharply decreased once I got to this part of the world).
I think the best way I can answer this one is that I’m shocked I’m halfway through. I’ve been on the go for 4 and a half months and like most times you think about 4 and a half months it feels like both a week and year; it has flown by but Brazil feels like a different life. The constant movement towards something new and excitement that comes with it has kept me going and made me not miss the US as much as you might expect. At the same time, there are moments where I miss the comforts of home – brunch with friends, movie nights in an apartment, being able to just pick up the phone and talk to people, sleeping in in my own bed, working out. Generally I am great. I am living my dream, and how often does someone get to say that? I do have moments of sadness or fatigue where I wonder why I have decided to be away for so long, but then I remember that in the grand scheme of life 9 months is not long at all, and everything I have experienced in the past 4.5 months and will experience in the next 4.5 is entirely worth it. This is the trip of a lifetime and that is reason enough to keep going. I miss you all at home, but I will see you again soon enough. I am happy and I can’t imagine doing anything else right now. And for those of you who have talked to me recently, you know that I already am thinking I will try to make it at least to the year mark. Once you start living this life it’s hard to imagine stopping. Now I just need the budget part to hold up so I actually can make it to June…
Any more questions?