My youngest sister now has her university degree. The whole family’s been staying together in a rented house on Seneca Lake, doing vacation-y things like hiking gorge trails and visiting wineries, and tonight we hosted her boyfriend’s family for dinner. It’s been awhile since we were all in the same house for so many days, and even longer since our last family vacation. We step on each other’s patience a bit, but by and large, it’s been a very enjoyable time. The day after tomorrow we fly back to the Bay Area, and there Erik and I will remain until July, when we return to New York (Manhattan, this time) for a short stay.
I notice that since our return to North America (via Toronto), my travel eyes have been determinedly in the “off” position — much like when we were in Hawaii earlier this year. I don’t make plans, I don’t bring my camera with me, I barely care what I eat, and I don’t even look out the window sometimes when we’re in the car. My travel eyes are on break, and I like it that way. I’m resting.
I was thinking, though, I don’t mind talking about our travels — not in the least. You surely have questions: about the places we’ve been, about what it felt like to travel for so long, about how we’ve changed. Ask me in the comments! I will answer anything within reason, no matter how insignificant, goofy, philosophical, or personal (that’s the “within reason” part).
Just to refresh your memory: Erik and I have been traveling since April 2012, working as we go (thus generating income). Here’s the list of our destinations, with links to the relevant posts:
two months in Canada
1. Toronto, Ontario: April 24 – June 25, 2012
1B. Montréal, Québec: June 14-17, 2012
six weeks in Scotland
2. Glasgow: June 25 – July 5, 2012
3. Edinburgh: July 5 – August 4, 2012
4. West Highlands: August 4-9, 2012
seven weeks in Iceland
5. Reykjavík: August 9 – September 27, 2012
five days in London
6. London, England, UK: September 27 – 2 October 2012
one month in Istanbul
7. Istanbul, Turkey: 2 October – 1 November 2012
one month in Paris
8. Paris, France: 1 November – 3 December 2012
almost three months in the USA
9. Boston, Massachusetts: 3-17 December 2012
10. (home) San Jose, California: 17 December 2012 – 24 January 2013
11. Waimea (Kamuela), Hawaii [the Big Island], Hawaii: 24 January – 22 February 2013
12. Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii: 22-28 February 2013
one month in Kyoto
13. Kyoto, Japan: 1-31 March 2013
ten days in Singapore
14. Singapore: 1-10 April 2013
one month in New Zealand
15. Auckland, North Island: 11-26 April 2013
16. Christchurch, South Island: 26-30 April
17. Oamaru, South Island: 30 April – 3 May
18. Invercargill, South Island: 3-6 May
19. Dunedin, South Island: 6-8 May
20. Arrowtown, South Island: 8-11 May
21. Wellington, North Island: 11-12 May
22. Ohakune, North Island: 12-14 May
23. Tauranga, North Island: 14-15 May 2013
return to North America
24. Greater Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada: 15-24 May 2013
25. Burdett (Finger Lakes region), New York, USA: 24-31 May 2013
26. (home) San Jose, California, USA: 1 June – 7 July 2013
27. New York, New York, USA: 7-23 July 2013
So go for it — ask me anything! Depending how things go, I’ll either reply in the comments, or will save the questions for a future post.
Oh, this will be fun! I can’t wait to read all the comments……Okay, I was thinking about this one a few days ago. How many Frequent Flier Miles did you accumulate? (Guess you were probably using them as you went along.)…..And yes, how have you changed during the past year? You and Erik seem to travel well together, but do you get on each others nerves after awhile?……One last question. If you had to choose one place you’ve visited in your travels and spend a year there, where would it be?……See, you’ve opened a Pandora’s Box! Hee….
Hee, thanks for the enthusiasm, Sherry!
Whew, I’ve got lots to say in my answers! I’ll break this up for easier reading!
Frequent flier miles
It’s a shame, but we didn’t accumulate any miles! The thing is, we did all our airline bookings based on price, using Skyscanner (definitely one of my favorite travel websites now, not least because of their option to search for flights from point A to “everywhere” — great way to find the cheapest tickets to adventure!). So we flew a lot of different airlines, many of them local: Alaska (2x), Air Canada (2x), Air Transat, Icelandair (3x), EasyJet, Pegasus, Hawaiian (2x), Japan Airlines, JetStar Asia, JetStar (3x, including 2 domestic in NZ), Air New Zealand, and US Airways. Transat, EasyJet, Pegasus, and JetStar are definitely budget airlines, but we had perfectly reasonable experiences with all of them. I think Air New Zealand was my favorite, with good food, adorable uniforms (pink waistcoats on the guys!), and flight attendants who remained personable, smiling and attentive after something like 12 hours in-flight.
I must say it did get annoying having to deal with the varying baggage regulations of so many different airlines; we had to do some quick reshuffling when we left London, and Air NZ (much as I loved them) have an irritating policy of charging for checked baggage based on number of bags rather than bag weight, so we had a scramble there too. But overall, I still think it was worth it to do all the different airlines rather than trying to stick to a few, which probably wouldn’t have been possible anyway given the geographical spread of our travels.
By the way, at one point I counted up all the flights we’d taken, and there are over 20.
Erik and me
We do travel well together, with our various strengths and qualities meshing nicely. For one thing, Erik is very mellow and laid-back, and I’m more picky and have a lot more requests, so mostly I direct us and he comes along for the ride. The flipside of that is I end up doing nearly all the planning, which can feel like a burden. On the other hand, this also means I learned to be a lot more vocal in times when I felt the distribution of labor was unfair. So we had a lot of useful discussions.
I realized within the first few months of our travels that when I’m feeling insecure and uncool, I take it out on Erik — because he doesn’t care what people think, and dresses and behaves accordingly. So my thinking goes, “Dammit, I’m trying so hard to fit in and act cool, but here’s Erik next to me slouching around in his rain pants!” We had many fights that grew out of this tension, especially toward the start of the trip. This attention to appearance really is a stark contrast; as you’ve seen, I’ve bought a number of new clothes and accessories on our trip, and a lipstick, and got regular haircuts; meanwhile, Erik hasn’t cut his hair in four months and has bought no clothes whatsoever. Oh, no, I take that back. He bought some socks when his old ones wore out. So there you go.
I said when we left that we were going to come back either happier or divorced, and I think that’s been really true. All our fights were important, i.e., they were about our most significant differences, the kinds of things that come up time and again. So they were either going to fracture us, or teach us how to work with them and go forward. Thankfully they did the latter and not the former!
Choose one place to live for a year
Ooh, fun question! Maybe not Istanbul — especially not now. A year in Singapore would probably turn me to sweaty mush; meanwhile, a year in any part of Hawaii would see me fifty pounds heavier. Toronto, Reykjavík, Paris, Kyoto, and one of the cities of NZ would probably be my top choices. But honestly, I’d be glad to return to any of our destinations. 🙂
I’ll save the how have you changed question to reply after SomerEmpress’s comment, just to cut down on the massiveness of this one!
Lisa, after I posted my questions a few days ago, it seemed to me that I was being intrusive and too personal. I am in awe of your self-awareness and willingness to share your insights. I have always been fascinated by relationships and how they spin out in different circumstances. I am so glad that your travel has been a means of communication and growth for you and Erik…..Your airline experiences are great too, and I understand why you would forgo Flyer Miles for the best buy and means of getting to where you need to go. Having to accommodate for the different baggage rules shows how going with flow serves you well……I observed your joy and relaxed attitude in Iceland, Kyoto, and NZ, so was not surprised that they were favorite places……Your last paragraph to Somerexpress was so perceptive. Once again you temper a year’s worth of life changing experience with a humility that I find very touching. I will be first in line to buy the book! Thank you again for sharing yourself so openly.
Oh, Sherry, never you worry about being too intrusive and personal, especially since I invited it in this post! It gives me great comfort and support to know I have friends and readers out there who will listen to my personal thoughts. 🙂 Unlike Erik, who doesn’t say anything until he’s thought it through, I don’t always know what I think until I write it out or say it. So it’s hugely important for me to share, and to share openly, because that’s how I learn about myself. 🙂
By the way, I was browsing some of my old posts today and came across this one about burnout, from when we were in Istanbul. I feel very changed from the checklist mentality I had there. I hope this is a lasting shift. 🙂
What terrific year! I’ll review your trip (I missed some of them) as you rest your travel eyes 🙂
Thanks, Carla! 🙂
Where in NY will you be?
We’ll be staying in Chelsea. Hope you’re enjoying your time there 🙂 Must be weird to be back in the States? ❤
You and Eric have had so much time with just each other for family, that I wonder if you now feel claustrophobic or on ‘people overload’. Was the transition back to having everyone so close you can touch hard, or welcome?
Hi Lisa! It’s funny you say “so close you can touch” because actually, that part was quite weird, especially since we went from being solo travelers to sharing a 3-bedroom house (for Allison’s graduation) with my parents, two sisters, and brother-in-law. I had many very surreal-feeling moments when I’d look at one of them and be surprised they weren’t Erik, because for so long he was the only other person in my living space! It threw me. And there were certainly times when I wanted to go hide in a quiet corner someplace (also, my family is loud).
I’ve definitely become a lot more comfortable with silence and solitude over the past year, even though my natural tendencies lean more to extroversion. Erik likes things quiet, and since we were so often sharing a single space, I didn’t even play music as frequently as I did at home. And then there’s the isolation of our last few weeks in New Zealand, where it’s so uncrowded. The thought of returning to Bay Area urban living — with traffic and overcrowding — is a bit more daunting than I expected, though as I didn’t feel this way in Toronto’s city center, I think it’s just a matter of carving out quiet spaces for myself. We’ll see how I feel as time goes on.
For the moment, though, I am definitely going to go slowly into seeing friends and spending time with groups. Sensory overload happens a lot faster for me now… and I kind of like it that way; I can pay more attention when there’s not so much competing for that attention.
What is the top 3 most memorable – delicious foods you had during your travels? I have dreams about some of the food I ate while travelling…hahaha
Hi explodyfull! Oooooh that is a TOUGH question. 🙂 When we went home over the winter holidays, one of my friends forced me to choose a top food I ate in our first 8 months of traveling, so I said the éclairs in Paris. We ate so many incredible things during that first leg of the trip, but the éclairs were definitely up there, probably because I never thought I liked them before I had the ones in Paris. So I think the éclairs have to stay in the top 3. 🙂
As to the others, oh, gah, this is difficult. We ate delicious food pretty much every day. Kyoto was like a monthlong food adventure. But strangely enough, the Japanese food that stands out most is the mysterious potato-chocolate thing I found in the convenience store one night. I’ve never had anything like it before. I’m not even sure exactly what it was. It looked like a potato in its skin, but there was chocolate in the middle, and the potato tasted creamier and sweeter than a potato should — almost as if it were mashed potato, except the texture was still close to a plain baked potato. I am not a fan of potatoes, but I love love loved this. It’s probably not that incredible as far as all the many foods I ate, but it’s memorable for having been so random. 🙂
As for number 3… I want to say just meat and eggs in New Zealand. Ah, no: meat, eggs, and seafood. But that’s not one item, is it? But… just… the meats (to be technical: the animal proteins) there are so fresh and good, and apparently quite humane as well. It is a bit weird to drive through fields of lovely sheep and then eat lamb; I know that turns some people off, and I suppose it would me too, if I had to see the slaughtering. But even though I was quasi-vegetarian for seven years, my opposition to meat was always based on factory farming, not the concept of meat-eating itself. I like meat. I don’t like that it involves killing, but at no point has my intellectual distaste for the concept overcome my sensory liking for it (which is why I went back to carnivorousness: I felt too deprived). So for me, seeing the pastured animals in NZ actually felt like seeing meat raised as it should be. From what I could see, those sheep live happier and more peacefully than the vast majority of people on this planet — and they’re making use of the land, too, because from what I’ve heard, the best crop in much of NZ is grass, so the ruminants turn it into food for themselves and then become food for us. It makes sense. And I felt much more appreciative of the meat because I could see the living creatures it had come from. It made me more mindful of how much meat I was eating and how often.
Also, the seafood there was delicious. I never used to eat squid, and I didn’t like mussels either, but thanks to the squid and mussels in NZ, I’m willing to try them elsewhere too. That was a revelation.
Looooong answer for you. 🙂
hehehe it’s always a hard question – i am really curious about those eclairs now! I love how you are hooked on eating squid and mussels now..I am addicted to octopus after a similar experience with delicious octopus in Madrid, just boiled with lemon, olive oil and paprika. It was amazing!
I was just at one of my favorite San Francisco bakeries and I tried their éclair to see if it compared to the ones in Paris. Emphatically not!
I’ve never been a fan of octopus but some years ago I was at a fancy restaurant and there was a little bite with octopus in it, on the tasting menu (so I couldn’t change it). I remember being really surprised that I enjoyed it. Still… I don’t like looking at the tentacles. ;b
Why haven’t you responded yet? I want to knowwww!!!
Hee. Ask moar questions!!
“Been around the world, and I, I, I can’t find my baby!” Remember that song by Lisa Stansfield? I won’t put the link here as I’m afraid that WP might flag my comment as spam, but check it out on YouTube and rock out for a minute.
Question: How did this whirlwind travel change you, any? What has been the most surprising change?
Enjoy this time while your “travel eyes” get their rest. Enjoy NYC!
Hee. I forgot about that song! But every time I updated my “around the world” page I would get the Daft Punk song in my head… which is significantly more annoying to sing. ;b
Whew, travel changes. Big question. Yes, I have definitely changed, though whether those changes will last — who knows? Erik and I went running this morning and yesterday evening, and I noticed something: my brain isn’t trying so hard anymore. I’m not trying so hard to control everything. I’m not a good runner; typically, after the first lap around the track, my brain would be yelling at me to stop and do something easier. But this time, when my brain said, “You know, it would be easier to stop,” my body just kind of said, “Eh, it’s not a big deal,” and my brain subsided. That never happened before!! I mentioned this to Erik and he said, “Sure… because now you know that if you push a little harder, around the next bend you might find–” and I said, “a hot river,” at the same time as he said, “a bakery.” 🙂 I do feel mellower and a lot more willing to go with the flow, because there has been so much evidence that good things can happen even when I don’t anticipate/plan/expect them to. Conversely there’s been a lot of evidence that bad/unexpected/annoying events don’t have to ruin everything. So why freak out? (Like I said, though… we’ll see how long that lasts!)
On a somewhat related note, though, since coming home (and having to share space with my family!) I’ve become aware of how much I’ve been allowed to have my own way in the past year. As I said in my reply to Sherry’s questions, Erik is very laid-back and mostly lets me do things my way, because he doesn’t mind either way. My family might say that I’ve always been intent on getting my own way. ;b At any rate, I’ve had very little personal opposition to anything in the past year; all the opposition has come from our surroundings, from everything being unfamiliar. So I’ve gotten a bit testy when I haven’t had enough private space or time, or when I feel like people around me are being unnecessarily fussy. Is that going to make a difference in my relationships in future, though? I have no idea.
The other day I was taking a shower and it occurred to me that I can use my Lava soap (it’s got ground pumice in it) instead of more expensive exfoliating scrubs. I never thought of that before. I think I’m more awake to possibility now, more open to trying new things — and I realized it’s not just because of the travels, but because we essentially spent a year without doing anything by rote or in a rut. Everything was always different all the time, and while that made things tiring (we had to reinvent the wheel constantly), it also made everything feel fresh, and exercised my mind and my senses. It made me more adaptable and more awake. Not only that, but moving around so often meant that we were hyper-aware of the passage of time. Even though we spent a lot of time doing nothing (or just browsing the internet), we knew the exchange rate on those minutes. Every minute spent doing nothing is another minute I’m not eating a Japanese potato-chocolate thing. 😉 (See earlier comment!) So although this year went quickly, we really know where it went, and how often can we say that, in normal life? I feel like I spent a year truly living, and am reaping lots of benefits from that.
I do want to say, though, that it remains to be seen whether this is a good thing in the long run. I think it is. But the potential is there, and I feel I should point it out, for me to come back from our trip spoiled, self-centered, and lazy. Honestly, I don’t think I am. But I’m vigilant about the possibility. We’ve had (and continue to have) more chance to be escapist than most people, so I’m cautious. This trip was not meant as an indulgent escapade of fantastic food, beautiful scenery, sensory delights, international shopping, and easy living! We had all that, but I don’t want to ever think it’s my due, or that I can have it all without giving something back. Which is a big part of why I want to get a lot of work done now that we’re back — want to see if I can make a book (or something) out of all this, so it becomes something bigger than just my little trip. 🙂
Fascinating to read and think about all these issues. Yes there is a book here. I found that my perception of my cancer experience and drawings is different now than it was two years ago. keep everything. And revisit it all in a couple of years.Yes, when it comes to relationships you and Eric probably went through a lot of ‘stuff’ probably exhausting at times but oh so worth it. . big hugs to you Lisa. what an amazing. Past year you have experienced!
Thank you warmly, Carla! Big hugs to you too! I agree — everything will feel different in time. In fact, the piece I’m having published soon in a travel anthology is like a time capsule when I read it now; I feel so different now!
Wow Good for you !
Thank you! 🙂
That’s the beauty of travel. Though you’re the one moving about, the journey is truly an inward one if you allow it. I’m glad that you’ve had the benefit of contrast and renewed perspective as a result of the experience. Yes… do give something back. (You already are! 🙂 )
Thank you so much, Empress! 🙂 ❤
wonderful and very honest post Lisa. I hope you are having good time at home. It has been a year since I met you and you inspired me in many ways, how you approach art and life, how cheerful and confident you are at the same time and how open. Thank you Lisa. I hope we will see each other one day again. p.s. fab sketches!!!
Thank you, dear Aga! You inspire me too and I feel sure we’ll see each other again. 🙂 Much love and big hugs to you. I will write you a long email (or letter!) one of these days. ❤ ❤ ❤
Your latest post got me sucked in to your website, so sorry to dig up an old post =) My questions are more logistical, but this whole thing fascinates me. Four questions- 1) how much do you guys travel with? Two suitcases each? Do you end up having to buy a lot of stuff when you settle into a new location? 2) Just curious, not trying to pry financially, but after a year of traveling, has this ended up being a cheaper mode of living than staying in the bay area? Or more expensive due to the travel costs? 3) I thought you still have one cat. Are you traveling with your cat? 4) How does medical needs/insurance work while traveling to all these places? Happy travels!
Hee, I never mind revisiting old posts. 🙂 Usually they’re still as interesting to me as they were when I wrote them. 😉 Logistical questions are good too!
Erik brought one normal-sized duffel and one backpack. He travels pretty light, even for a guy. ;b
I brought a Japanese-made backpack that looks small but holds a lot, a big Timbuk2 messenger bag, and a big wheeled duffel.
On the first leg of our trip (Toronto, UK, Iceland, Istanbul, Paris, Boston) we weren’t sure where we’d be going nor how long we’d stay out, so we brought everything we could think of. It ended up being 7.5 months and pretty much all the seasons, except the worst of winter. I got rid of some stuff in Toronto (first stop) and a lot of clothes in Edinburgh (third month of travels), and accumulated some more, but mostly I stuck with what I’d brought.
On the second leg (Hawaii, Kyoto, Singapore, New Zealand, Toronto, upstate NY) we knew we’d be out for at least 4 months and potentially every kind of weather. I switched out some of the items when we were home for Xmas, but it was still mostly the same stuff as what I’d brought on the first leg. I did a little more shopping this time around but still, the core paraphernalia didn’t change.
At new locations we mostly buy everyday consumables like tissues or soy sauce. ;b I try to keep my souvenirs flat (small posters) or little (jewelry), but I’ve ended up shipping things home at probably every other destination. Not a lot of things, maybe 1 shoebox worth. International shipping is expensive. ;b Except, strangely, from Istanbul… though the things I shipped from there took forever to arrive! I did buy a swimsuit and goggles in Iceland because I didn’t bring my own.
Cost of traveling versus staying at home
It seems to cost about the same. Maybe a little more expensive to travel, depending where. Since we stayed in places for so long, we could get monthly rates on accommodations, and that kept our “rent” very comparable to our Bay Area rent (though it’s also helped that we’ve stayed with friends or family in some places). If I remember right, it’s been cheaper to use transit and walk than to pay for gas the way we do at home, even in our Accord, even with no commute. Eating out has been cheaper abroad only because (a) we often treat family/friends when we go out with them, and (b) we are big tippers. So when we eat out in non-tipping countries on our own, we do it on less. ;b On the other hand, airfare on the second leg of our trip was expensive. It’s cheap to get around Europe and even, if you time it right, to get to Europe from the East Coast. But it’s expensive to get to Asia and New Zealand, even from the West Coast. ;b
Our cat, Lyapa, is at my parents’ house. This is not the best arrangement because she and my parents’ cat have had to establish territorial control (read: a lot of peeing outside of the litterbox). But there’s no way we could have traveled with her, even if we’d wanted to. She does not tolerate change well. ;b
Since we’re not employed by anyone, we buy our own health insurance, and I think that was not affected by our travels (Erik takes care of that so I’m not as aware of the details as I should be ;b ). Fortunately we didn’t have any major medical issues so we didn’t have to put our coverage to the test. ;b And we don’t use any regular medication, so we didn’t have to worry about maintaining our supply. But when I did have to go to the hospital a couple of years ago when we were visiting Taiwan, the care there was good and super cheap by American standards, and our insurance (if I remember right) reimbursed us when we came home.
I suspect it would still be possible to travel with medical needs, but probably a lot more complicated and definitely more stressful. Some countries have funky restrictions on what kind of medication you can bring in and how much, and I’d hate to be worrying about that while on the road.
Wow, thanks for answering all my questions =) I enjoy your stories!
Not at all 😀 Thanks for reading and enjoying! 😀