Wow! We have been out and about for 4 months now. It means we have spent 1/3 of a year visiting faraway places, learning about life there and seeing spectacular things. It also means the time is passing by very quickly but there is still so much more to see and do. 4 months are also already long enough to tell the difference between holidaying and living on the road and so it is high time to sum up a few things, perhaps advice others about a few points and, most of all, answer a few questions we have been getting so far from some of our friends, family members or fellow travellers.
“What was the best place you visited so far?”
All the places we have seen were special in their own way but there is one place that surprised us the most with its secrets: Taiwan. Maybe it was the fact that it is not a typical south-east Asian travel destination, maybe it was the wonderful people of Taiwan, or perhaps the beautiful sights of almost every kind that this small island offers. Probably a mixture of everything made this country a special one for us.
TI&G Tip: Forget that the only thing you ever heard of this country is “Made in Taiwan”. Do yourself a favour and step out of a backpacker’s comfort zone of Thailand or Cambodia, go to Taiwan!
The world is too big and our time is too short, of course. There are many places we want to visit in this trip and we might not make it to some of them or manage to see some others. Here is where you will see us next: Malaysia, Myanmar, Australia, New Zealand… And what we still have on the list and have to translate into real plans: Indonesia, Korea, Tibet, Japan and maybe St. Lucia. First of all we try to visit countries that neither of us has been to although Malaysia is the first country we visit that we’ve been to already. Both of us have preferences for some countries and we try to accommodate both. For example Lucia really wanted to go to Taiwan, Mark always wanted to do the Trans-Siberian (or -Mongolian) express. We’re both happy we managed to experience both.
TI&G Tip: Have an idea of where you’d like to be, but do not plan too much ahead. It adds to the adventure. Who knows, we might end up at the other side of the globe.
“What do you miss the most from home (apart from friends/family)?”
This is a puzzling one always as it many time starts with a pre-question: “Where is home?” We could say Prague, Czech Republic, because that’s where we met and lived. We could say Slovakia for Lucia and Holland for Mark. And we could also say Bahrain as that was our home for the first 3 years of our marriage and the most recent one. Luckily, what we miss the most applies for all of these countries (although probably mostly for Holland) – we miss good cheese! A slice of goat cheese on a piece of brown bread, a piece of old Gouda just like that, some blue cheese on a plate of pasta or even the slovak sour cheese of ‘bryndzove halusky’! But also we sometimes miss having a place of your own where you can retreat and feel completely comfortable. Travelling is great, but you need to unwind at times and a familiar place is best for this
TI&G Tip: Instead of trying to tick as many boxes as possible, we try to spend a longer period of time per country (usually a month) and stay in a guesthouse for >4 days. This gives you some rest instead of having to unpack, pack every second day
“Traveling for a year! Your bags must be huge with all you need for such a long time!”
Not at all! Our baggage situation changed a bit from the beginning, but as we already mentioned in one of our first posts, we decided to keep all really minimal. Mark’s backpack is a 40 to 50 litres expandable and Lucia’s is 35 to 45 l. None of us has it full to the top and there is still some space left, especially now, when we sent some winter stuff back to Europe. We started our trip with a laptop bag too, that we intended to also use as a city bag while using Lucia’s backpack as a daypack. This didn’t work much and so we ended up sending the laptop bag back and buying a small backpack that Mark carries in front when traveling. We wanted to avoid doing this, but the small pack comes handy for trips.
TI&G Tip: We wouldn’t manage without our compression bags. They are plastic bags of various sizes with a ziplock and a mechanism that pushes out air by rolling. They are great, and next to saving tons of space, they protect the clothes from getting wet and help separate and categorise.
“Do you still have money?”
It all comes down to the money question in the end. Whether people dare to ask or just keep counting in their heads, most of the people we met or we know are curious about the financial part of our trip. Yes, it costs money. Yes, we are not making anything now. Yes, we could have bought a house by now. But we wouldn’t have seen amazing sights, breathtaking views, eaten delicious food or encountered faraway cultures while staying at home checking our account balance.
The secret to staying on top of your spends is planning. Starting from saving before the trip and deciding what portion of your savings will go to the trip until being able to monitor and control the spendings on the trip itself. Everyday we try to work towards a certain budget. On a weekly basis we track which categories we spend most on and what we need to do to balance. Every country is also different, so it happens that some months are above and some below average. We couchsurfed. We did a bit of work for accommodation we check HelpX regularly for any volunteering opportunities. But at the same time, we know this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we do not want to stop ourselves from doing things we always wanted to do.
TI&G Tip: Shop around! We try to push down our largest expenses – transport and accommodation – as much as possible. Looking out for deals and not relying only on one booking site turned out to work for us. Try e.g. travelsupermarket.com to see quotes for rooms from different booking sites combined. Also, book flights in advance. Last-minute deals don’t seem to happen much anymore, but if you book in advance through airlines like AirAsia you get really good deals. And even if turns out you really can’t make your flight you can often change it (at a fee) or you won’t feel that bad about cancelling it altogether as the cost wasn’t high anyway.
“So how about you two? Do you get annoyed with each other being together 24/7?”
Those who know us well will know we normally don’t fight much anyway . Whenever Lucia does freak out about something, Mark is generally chilled and calms her down. So far we have been doing pretty well with the whole 24/7 thing, although adding some separated activities will help us stay sane in future as well. Fortunately Lucia is a big chicken, so Mark will get a chance to have his own things like diving, caving and other life threatening activities.
TI&G Tip: Pretty obvious, but talk about potential issues before they start become bigger issues. Sort things out, hold no grudges and continue doing what you both like best: travelling together
“How is your bucket list coming along?”
Definitely we are still far from achieving some of the goals. We ticked some of the boxes already though, like: eating coriander, eating bugs, roaming around on a scooter, staying with locals, trying surfing or walking on hanging bridges. Some of the items might as well be crossed-out, but let’s give it a chance still!
TI&G Tip: Do not let this put you off from keeping a bucket list. It is so interesting to read through it after a while. Some items now sound funny and others motivate us.
“Are you hardcore backpackers?”
Not really. Some days maybe. We mostly stay in a private rooms with a double bed and generally avoid staying in dorms (large room with several bunkbeds). Although dorms are usually good to meet people, we do value having some privacy every now and then. We watch what we spend, but promised each other we wouldn’t let money get in the way if we really want to do something. We do eat on the street often, but that’s mainly because we like the food and generally don’t find it worse than in restaurants. We (generally) don’t smell, we get haircuts, we shave (Mark trims his beard), we carry more than 3 pieces of underwear and actually carry jeans with us. However, we do read the Lonely Planet as preparation for our travel, change our clothes less often that back home, try to get prices down, prefer finding our way via public transport instead of getting a taxi and most of all: carry backpacks!
TI&G Tip: Hmmm… Try to take a shower every day :)
“Any tropical diseases yet?”
(While knocking on a piece of wood) No…. not yet. Although we use repellent we do get bitten by mosquitos and other bugs frequently, especially during the shady hours of dawn. But we haven’t really been in any malaria area yet (before Borneo). Mark had some ‘stomache-issues’ during our Gobi trip in Mongolia (which was fun with only outside cabin-toilets and below zero temperatures) and we catch a cold every now and then – the worst being Mark’s in Palawan exactly during the 4 days he wanted to go diving (you shouldn’t dive with a cold due to the pressure differences under water and your blocked sinuses). So far so good, we don’t really worry about, take plenty of precautions and are aware of how we feel. So no worries mum and dad!
TI&G Tip: Take precaution and if you start feeling bad, slow down and treat yourself to a bit of comfort.
“Do you still enjoy blogging?”
Whenever a blog-post is finished and we post it to coincide with the start of the working day in Europe (this is when we get most hits/likes on our posts…seems a lot of you have similar start-up patterns in the mornings :-)) …. we very much enjoy. Sorting out the all the pictures we took (make a selection for Google Plus, which pics to use for our blog, delete all not-so-great pics), remembering all we experienced, writing it in an engaging way, adding the pics in WordPress (which means finding a good internet connection), etc etc…. not always great fun :-). When we are behind with our posts (until we do the Transsiberian post we always will be) it becomes frustrating as it stays on your mind even when we’re having a relaxing afternoon or are watching Dexter in bed. However we also know that first of all we will be very happy at the end of this year if we did this consistently. Also we know that our parents are our biggest fans and probably most worried about where we are, so it’s only fair that after all they did for us in our lives, we keep them updated where we are and we do. We’re getting a lot of great responses from friends (most generally happy about what we share, some jealous (which is even better…)) and that encourages us to keep on doing this as well. Lastly, we’ve started to get likes and followers from people that we don’t know.
TI&G Tip: This is more of a reminder to our future us: once this is over, print your blog into a book!
This is what we have to say after 4 months. What would you like to tell us? Also, let us know in comments if you have a question we can answer.