How is it sleeping in a new bed every few days? How do you get foreign currency in each new country? Are you guys “killing” each other after 3 months of every-waking-minute together??
We’ve gotten a lot of common everyday questions like these from friends and family—and other fellow travelers—in the past few months, and we realized that a lot of you are curious about the everyday type of things we experience as we travel from country to country.
I thought it would be fun to address them… so read on…
What time do you wake up and go to bed?
We both are late risers and night owls… Well, definitely me more than James. So we usually end up going to bed around midnight to 2am, and wake up between 8 to 10am, depending on our plans for the day.
How do the showers in other countries differ, or are they the same?
Different everywhere you go… So far, French Polynesia was similar to what we have in the US, but probably because more places there are pricier resorts and they purposely put in “western” bathrooms and showers.
In Japan, the shower area was separate from the bathroom, some were in a deep type of tub, other had a separate shower and tub. In China, as well as Thailand and other places in SE Asia (as well as Sweden and Norway, from my past experience), when you walk in the bathroom area, the shower head is on the wall in the main part of the bathroom, so when you shower, the ENTIRE bathroom gets wet, including the toilet. Annoying and inconvenient 🙁 Oh yea, and the way they set up the plumbing in many Chinese bathrooms means that sewage smell often leaks out, which provides for some unpleasant room odors as well!
Can you drink the tap water while you are traveling?
The majority of places we are traveling to, the water is “not fit for consumption” (with the exception of Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.) So, we either have to buy bottled water–making sure that the bottles are sealed properly, as some “shady” vendors or stores will rebottle tap water to make money!!—or we have to boil our own water. Lately, we have been boiling water to save money, and it’s relatively easy, as most hotels and hostels supply you with a boiling water pitcher… It’s just more time consuming, as you constantly have to be boiling a new pitcher so that you have 2 hours for it to cool down and pour into an extra plastic bottle before repeating the process again and again.
How do you get money in each country, and how are you dealing with different currencies?
James and I opened a joint account at a credit union before leaving the US specifically for this trip so that we can withdraw money from ATMs worldwide with NO foreign transaction fees (which is a common benefit of having an account with a credit union). I highly suggest this for any travels you do in other countries, as “normal” banks will usually charge you 3%, which adds up fast! Plus, withdrawing from ATMs is actually the best way to go, compared to those money conversion booths, or getting foreign money before you leave the US, because ATMs cut out “the middle man” and it’s basically a straight conversion rate from the foreign bank to your credit union in the US.
Anyway, so each new country we visit, right away we find an ATM that will allow foreign debit cards, withdraw cash, and we’re set! Then repeat as time goes on as needed in that particular country. We just have to make sure to time out how much money vs time we have before leaving each country, so we don’t have any leftover.
Oh yea, and we both also have credit cards that also have NO foreign transaction fees, and we try to use them as much as possible (to earn points!), but a lot of places won’t take them.
What is it like sleeping in so many different beds?
It’s not as bad as we thought it would be… We’ve been lucky with decently comfortable beds (although pillows are another story), and they have been pretty clean for the most part. Probably 95% of the time we stay in hostels in a private room, which is pretty much like a hotel room without the frills (who needs em anyway?) The rooms and beds are actually pretty nice for the price, and I question why I haven’t been staying in more private hostel rooms more in the past–even in the US!
Also, to make sure we are “safe,” every time we check into a new room, we instantly do a “bed bug test” and haven’t come up with anything (yet)! As a side note, most beds in Asia are harder than those in the US so that’s an adjustment.
How do you deal with washing your clothes on the road?
If we are getting low on clean clothing, we either wash a few small items by hand in the hotel sink, or we plan and book a hostel that has a washing machine available. Dryers are mostly non-existent in most other countries, so if we’re lucky, the hostel has covered clotheslines outside… Otherwise we also have our own clotheslines we’ll string up in our room to hang clothing.
How do you order food if things are in another language and the staff doesn’t speak English?
Well, we first look to see if the place has food photos (either on the wall or in a menu) and that there are a decent amount of other people eating there as well… And then pretty much point at the photo or what somebody else is eating! Usually we end up with something decent, but a few times we’ve gotten some gross stuff. A lot of times we shrug and just eat whatever “mystery meat” we have been served because it tastes and looks fine anyway. In some tough situations, we’ve pointed out specific Chinese characters for “pork” or “vegetables” on James’ phone to help order something specific (I looked online for food translations and we put the list on James’ phone in case of these situations.)
How do you keep in contact with your family and friends back home?
Mostly through email and the same blog posts you guys are reading here… But we also will occasionally video-call on skype when we have a decent internet signal. In addition, we have two US phone numbers people can call us on: one rings on my computer and costs us nothing, the other forwards to James’ cellphone and costs us 40 cents per minute.
You both are pretty active/athletic… Are you running or exercising as you travel?
Haha… This one’s a KILLER… In the past 3 months abroad WE HAVEN’T USED OUR RUNNING/WORKOUT SHOES ONCE!! That’s not to say we aren’t exercising, as we are probably walking 2 to 8 miles every day, and also have rented bikes in a few places. We also are outdoorsy people and have chosen some locations based on hiking trail possibilities (hikes in Tahiti, forests in rural China, and hiking the great wall.) And since we are on a budget, we often walk, hike, or take stairs in situations where most others would take a taxi or subway…. We just love to be active!
In addition, we’ve realized more and more that working out is pretty much a “western” thing: since in most other countries, people are constantly active in their everyday lives anyway. (I will elaborate on this in a future post).
How do you deal with getting your hair cut?
I actually cut my own hair anyway (it’s long and curly… You really can’t mess it up), and before we left Los Angeles, I sat and watched a woman cut James’ hair at a salon and tried to learn…. Then in Wisconsin, my mom (who cut our family’s hair all our lives) helped me cut James’ hair…. And it turned out pretty good! My first solo-James-haircut was last week and it turned out fine… Although I think I still need a bit more practice. 🙂
How are you and James getting along after being together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 3+ straight months now?
You know, actually pretty well. We’ll both admit… The first few weeks were a little rough, as we were trying to get into a schedule, learn what works and doesn’t work for both of us in a travel sense, and we were constantly hungry, grumpy, and often lost. Also, we both were reeeeally having a tough time dealing with having to be on such a tight budget, which put a damper on a lot of things—especially when you’re in such a pricey place like Tahiti!!
But as we slowed down our travel pace, got more acclimated to “life on the road,” and started working more together on certain things each of us preferred to take care of (for example, James prefers to research things to do in each city, research and book hostels, and deal with local transportation, and I prefer to deal with flights, calendar planning, and keeping on top of photos, videos, and the blog), things are just better than ever between us! Of course, we have spats here and there like any other couple, and we bicker often about directions, being hungry, and me putzing around (it takes me FOREVER to get out the damn door!), but just everyday normal-couple-stuff 🙂
Do you miss home?
Yes!!! A LOT more than I thought I would. Especially since we got to China and experienced heavier culture shock than ever before. I tend to miss lots of foods from back home (Mexican food, salads, sandwiches, cheese!), James especially misses spending quality time with friends, and we both REALLY miss “normal” everyday life and routines with things that are familiar to us.
One year is a really long time to travel and be away from home… Heck, three months so far feels like a LOT! But in the end we know it will make us stronger, more appreciative and well-rounded individuals, and it’s a bonus to be able to share this experience together.
Do you have any other questions for us about our trip? Please leave one in our comment section of this post!