A Typical Day for the Earth Trekkers

Julie RTW 7 Comments

Recently, I have gotten a lot of questions about what a typical day is like for us.  That is a little difficult to answer, as no day is ever the same.  Having every day be different is one of the things that makes travel so exciting.  After thinking about this for a little bit, I realize that we have three different types of days:  days where we are traveling from place to place, the sightseeing day, and what we like to call a “chill day.”  On average, we have been spending three nights per hotel, which means we are moving A LOT.  Most people who take on long term travel tend to pick a place to make as their home base, staying at least a week and sometimes up to a month.  This makes travels plans a lot easier (as you are not always spending time reserving hotel rooms) and cheaper (every time we move it is another bus/train/plane fare).  We are a little different in that we are trying to get to as much of the world as possible in this one year that we have to do it.  Plus, we tend to get tired of places quickly.  Our longest stay yet in one place was nine wonderful days in Krabi, Thailand.  But that was long enough…time to move on and see something new!  Going this fast can be exhausting as sometimes I feel like we barely have time to catch our breath, but the list of sights and amazing memories we now have has made traveling like this entirely worth it.

A Breakdown of Our Days

The Travel Day
Agra Train Station

At the Agra Train Station in India.

 

 

At the time I am writing this, it is day number 275 of our trip and we have stayed in 105 hotels so far.  This means that a third of the time we are trying to get from one place to another.  We use all methods of transportation…planes, trains, rental cars, hired drivers, and the dreaded bus.  Our favorite method of travel is probably the airplane.  We usually use this method to hop from country to country and there is always that excitement with landing in a brand new place.  Our least favorite, without a doubt, is by bus.  Bus travel is almost a necessity of travel in SE Asia, and something we grew very tired of.  Yes, it is cheap and offers views of the country we’d never see by airplane, but these days were usually long and left us feeling physically and mentally exhausted by the time we reached our next hotel.

The Sightseeing Day
Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

This type of day is self explanatory.  We usually spend the majority of the day out and about, touring whatever landmark, temple, museum, hiking trail, or city where we are.  On these days, we usually start with breakfast (hopefully provided where we are staying) at 9 am, spend the majority of the day sightseeing, and are back at the hotel after dinner.

The Chill Day

Would it sound crazy if I told you that chill days are sometimes our favorite days?  A day spent in the hotel rather than visiting some of the world’s great sites?  Well, it’s true.  These days are few and far between, usually happening once every week, but we all love them.  Constant sightseeing and traveling is exhausting and sometimes we just need to take a break and we probably take these breaks a lot less often than we should.  During these days Tyler and Kara get caught up on their homeschooling and Tim and I are planning out the next phases of the trip.  These are wonderful, necessary days.

Chill Time

Chillin’ in the hotel room.

What About Homeschooling?

For homeschooling we are using Calvert Education and our experience has been awesome.  Prior to starting the trip we made digital versions of most of the textbooks and put these on the kids laptops.  Their subjects include math, reading, grammar, history, science, and geography.  Tim covers the math while I handle everything else.  On average, it takes about two hours a day to get through one lesson.  I have learned that homeschooling is so much more efficient than public school and Tyler and Kara are still getting an awesome education.

Kara Homeschool on Safari

Kara doing her math in the back of our safari Jeep in Botswana.

We fit homeschooling in whenever we can.  Tyler and Kara started their year early, actually completing their first lessons at the end of June even before we left for the trip.  The sooner they start the sooner they are finished, also meaning that we didn’t have to carry around papers and books throughout the entire trip (as not everything could be digitalized).

Our travel days were great for homeschooling.  While sitting on the bus or plane Tyler and Kara could get their work done.  Chill days were also great for this.  Tyler did a great job learning how to self-educate himself, and even though he is only 12 years old he is well prepared for college.  Tyler has been asking to keep the homeschooling going once back at home (but he also wants this one year trip to extend to a two or even three year trip…how much Tyler has changed this year is worthy of its own blog post).

Without time off for Thanksgiving, winter break, or the multitude of other days the kids get off for public school, Tyler and Kara completed their fifth and sixth grade years of school by March 1.  But we aren’t finished with learning.  They still read educational books chosen by their wonderful mother, Tyler continues to learn Mandarin and do math problems supplied by Elizabeth Crosby at Dayton Oaks Elementary, and we bought Kara the Calvert sixth grade math program, hoping she’ll test into GT once back home.  Not to mention, they also have everything else that they have been learning just from traveling.

What Kind of Places Do We Stay In?

Panorama Lodge

Goodbye photo at the Panorama Lodge in Knysna, South Africa.

Our budget rarely allows for any “splurge” hotels.  Usually, if we are going to spend some serious cash, we chose to spend it on activities, not a hotel.  Mostly, we stay in midrange hotels. We have come to prefer smaller, homestay type accommodations, places that offer only a few rooms and have a more intimate, home type feel to them.  Trip Advisor has been a source that is invaluable to us as we trust the rating system.  Over ninety percent of the hotels we have stayed in we found on Trip Advisor.  For one night stays we usually use Agoda or Booking.com as finding that perfect place isn’t critical for such a short stay.

We reserve our hotels far in advance.  This goes against the typical long term traveler, who has no set plans, stays in a place for a little bit and when gets tired of it, picks up and moves to the next place, finding a hotel room the day or two before or even on the day of arrival.  Tim and I are planners.  We like knowing that everything is reserved and taken care ahead of time.  Plus, traveling with kids, we don’t want to arrive in a city and then spend a few hours, lugging backpacks, searching for a hotel to stay in.  This does not sound like our idea of fun at all.  Yes, prearranging all of these places creates a lot of extra work while traveling and leaves very little room for flexibility, but it is a method that works well for us.  Plus, we have been able to stay at some really great places, reserving them while they still had vacancies.

Our Stuff

All of our stuff that we carry around with us.

As for our hotel rooms, we usually stay in “family rooms.”  These rooms typically have a double or queen bed with two singles for kids.  Rarely do we have two rooms or an apartment.  That means that all four of us share the same room night after night after night.  Being together all of the time takes some getting used to and every once in awhile we just need our space apart.  When we finally get to a hotel with two separate rooms it is very much appreciated by all of us.  But I have to say, if I had to sleep on my own right now it would feel very, very strange.  I am so used to having Tim and the kids with me all of the time that it feels very odd to be apart.

Getting in Those Runs Has Been Harder Than We Thought

This came as a huge surprise to me.  Prior to the trip I had dreams of logging hundreds of miles, running past the Coliseum, through the streets of Venice and Kathmandu, on the beachs of Krabi.  Getting in those runs has been a lot harder than we thought it would be.

Jogging in Hanoi

Jogging in Hanoi, Vietnam

We started off great in Europe and really did run around the Coliseum one morning. But once we go to South Africa, things changed.  In South Africa there were so many warnings of armed robbery that we never felt safe enough to go on a run.  Kathmandu was way too crowded (it was hard to even walk at some places), India was way to smoggy and dirty, and even some of the cities we stayed in in SE Asia were too crowded to get in our runs.  Yes, we walk a lot, but that is just not the same.  We have been able to get the random run in here and there and Tim and I have hopes that things will change once we get to New Zealand and Australia.

What Do We Eat?

About half of the time, breakfast is provided by our hotel.   Tyler tends to be a picky eater when it comes to breakfast so he has been surviving on Nutella and bread.  He loves cereal but there were many countries where we didn’t trust the milk so that eliminated that breakfast choice for a long time.

Coffee and my Journal

My journal and a cappuccino.

To save money, we frequently eat what Tyler likes to call “linner.”  Linner is a late lunch/early dinner.  Almost every day we ate one meal at a restaurant and it is here that I have my almost daily glass of wine.  Yes, I exercise less now and drink more wine.  Most of the time we eat at local restaurants but every couple of days we get cravings for Italian food or pizza.  My family could live on Italian food and never, ever get tired of it.  There have been some countries (like Bhutan) where we got tired of the food almost right away.

Rarely do we prepare our own food.  Since we are moving quickly and staying in hotel rooms we do not have the facilities to prepare meals.  We stock up on fruit and snacks for those times in between meals when we get hungry, but I honestly have not cooked dinner since Germany.  In Asia, cups of noodles are very popular (in so many different flavors it is insane), and we have been eating this a lot to save time and money.

Kara and I are the most adventurous eaters of the four of us and she will try almost anything.  Her most recent craze is sushi and now that we are in Taiwan, the country with the most Japanese restaurants after Japan, she has lots of opportunities to fill her belly with raw fish.

For us, eating was difficult since entering SE Asia because of Tyler’s peanut allergy.  Peanut allergies don’t exist in this part of the world and no one really understands what we mean when we tell them about Tyler’s allergy.  In countries where Tyler is more likely to come into contact with foods containing peanuts, such as Myanmar, Thailand, and China, we get him a meal of Subway, McDonald’s, or Pizza Hut (because they are everywhere!!!) and we get our local food.  This way, we are all happy.  We carry around a handful of Epi-Pens and it is our goal to never, ever have to use one.

Drinking Water

Aquafina

Aquafina in Dubai.

We have not drunk water out of a tap for six months now.  For a lot of this time we weren’t even brushing our teeth with the water.  In Nepal and India, we were almost terrified of the water, having heard countless nightmares from people who had gotten sick from just a drop or two of tap water on their plate or glass.  This inability to drink tap water had us also going ice free for quite awhile.

In Bangkok, I had grown so annoyed with using bottled water to brush my teeth that I began to use the tap water.  I have used it ever since and sometimes it takes a day or two to get my system used to a new country’s water supply.  Tyler and Kara now use tap water as well, but Tim choses to continue to use bottled water at all times. We all fantasize about drinking water directly from the tap, something we take for granted in the US.

Laundry

Laundry in Taipei

Laundromat in Taipei, Taiwan.

How laundry gets done is country dependent.   For the most part, in Europe and South Africa, I was visiting laundromats.  Once we entered Asia, getting our clothes cleaned got a whole lot easier.  Most hotels offer a cheap laundry service.  Submit your clothes by 9 am, pay a few dollars, and the clean clothes would be available by 6 pm.  This way, my time could be spent out with my family or chilling in the hotel room.  Sometimes, in between doing full loads of laundry, I’d wash the esssentials in the hotel sink, so we’d have socks and underwear strung up across the hotel room on a small clothesline we’ve been carrying around.  Now that we are in Taiwan and soon will be in New Zealand, my days of the cheap, convenient laundry service are over.  Actually, as I am writing this, I am sitting at a laundromat in Taipei, Taiwan.

Keeping Up With Friends At Home

Thank goodness for texting, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Facetime, Viber, What’s App?, email and traditional phone calls, because we use them all.  Tyler and Kara are able to keep in touch with their friends through texting, although timing can be a little tricky because of the time difference.  Ever since entering Thailand in early December the time change has been exactly 12 hours difference, making knowing what time it is back at home a piece of cake.  We have been able to communicate with everyone back home when we first get up in the morning and then before bed.

Nighttime is For Catching Up On Unfinished Work

Once our day is done and we are back at the hotel, Tim and I are glued to our computers, catching up on trip related work.  For me, that means editing photos, writing these blog posts, searching for hotels in future cities, planning out another itinerary, or answering comments or emails on our website.  For Tim that means booking hotels and plane flights, paying bills, and searching for hotels as well.  Our day usually starts at 7 and ends at 11 pm.  For Tim, if he has a late night, he uses the bathroom as his “office,” so his typing and light from his computer does not keep the rest of us awake.

In Conclusion

I hope this sheds some light on what it is like for us traveling day by day.  It has been an awesome experience for our family, getting the chance to live away from home, away from many of the comforts we were used to, exchanging those comforts for other perks like frequently traveling to new places, trying new foods, and growing together as a family.

Comments 7

  1. I really hope that you and your family will give some sort of a lecture tour when you finish your world tour. Following you has been both a fascinating experience and a vicarious thrill. I would absolutely LOVE to see you all talk about your tour in a Maryland venue. It has been such a pleasure watching your children grow up with every post you file. Your family is so fascinating to me. Thank you for this post in particular.

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  2. We enjoyed meeting you today at the Eternal Spring Shrine high above the Taroko Gorge and the Liwu River. Now as we travel back to Hsinchu we have been enjoying reading your blog out loud. We hope you enjoy the rest of your trip.
    Btw, the scorpion eating video was fun to watch!

    The Jerkins Family

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  3. Julie,
    This answers all of my questions and more! Sounds wonderful and exhausting at the same time. Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your everyday life. I especially loved reading about how Tyler wants to stay traveling for a year or two.. and that you are spending 24 hours together for an entire year. That is hard to imagine , since all of go to work, school, out with friends, etc.; most people don’t spend so much time with our loved ones, sadly. So, my next question for you (if you don’t mind) is to hear about how Tyler and Kara have changed during this experience. And, how your relationships with each other have grown and changed, too. What a gift to spend so much time getting to know your children and your spouse–who you already thought your knew VERY well–all over again. How has that been for you all?? I am sure that it has been mostly a blessing, but too much family time can get to anyone. Thank you for sharing this with us. 🙂

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      Hi Lisa!

      I LOVE being with my kids everyday. It is the best part of the trip. Sure, it’s great visiting all of these places we have seen, but it is great being with Tyler and Kara everyday. Our kids are only young once and as parents we all know that they grow up way too fast. Having this quality time as a family is the biggest advantage of a trip like this. The memories that we are making together as a family are priceless. I love watching them grow, seeing what they learn from the places they visit, what they think of the world. One thing we do is to write in a journal everyday, jotting down what we did, what we liked, what we didn’t like. From these journals it is so neat to read about Tyler and Kara’s impressions of what we have been doing.

      Tyler, who didn’t want to leave his friends, our big house, our TV’s and Xbox at home, has been bitten with the travel bug. He loves the freedom of homeschooling and learning on his own, likes traveling from place to place and always having new experiences, and now thinks much more globally. He would be perfectly content always going someplace new, meeting new people, trying new foods.

      Kara, who really wanted to go on this trip, has learned that friends are more important to her than seeing the world. Yes, she likes traveling, but likes knowing that there is an endpoint, a time when she will be back home with her friends. Seeing the poverty, trash, and living conditions really affected her. Kara did not like India at all but being there really made her appreciate what we have at home.

      We all see the world differently now. We spent almost seven months traveling through 3rd world countries and this had an affect on all of us. Simple things like we have at home, like clean drinking water, sidewalks to walk on, power 24 hours a day, fresh fruit, well stocked grocery stores, are things we once took for granted. I now see why the United States is looked at as a super power, a shining light of possibility in the world, a place where dreams come true. I never realized the opportunities that American citizens have compared to what other people around the world have to do just to make ends meet. We have it so easy in the US and once back home I know that Tyler and Kara will take advantage of the amazing opportunity they have to live, go to school, and have a family in the US. At the same time, since they think so globally now, I would not at all be surprised if one kid ends up in Hong Kong and the other in Australia. By showing them the world, showing them that there are opportunities everywhere and that the world is not a big, bad place, who knows where Tyler and Kara will end up?

      As far as getting to know Tim…I know him pretty well by now, I think. I’ve known him since 1992, 23 years ago! That’s insane! I met him when you and I were going to the Cellar and Bonnie lived across the hall in Easton. We fortunately have grown up together, sharing similar dreams, which brought us to where we are today. The hard part for us is being together as a family 24/7. We miss “date night” and having more free time on our own together, if you get what I mean. 🙂

      This trip has been amazing, the best decision I have ever made. Today we went hiking in Taiwan, found a surprisingly good Mexican restaurant for dinner, and are all hanging out together in our hotel room. Each of these 365 days (it is actually going to be more like 395 days) is a gift and we plan on squeezing every ounce we can out of them.

      Thanks for the questions! I appreciate the interest. Do you have any plans to do anything yourself????

      1. Julie,
        Thank you for the insight about how your relationships have grown and changed through this experience. I know that you already knew your kids and Tim very well, but being together 24-7 is a whole new experience. I LOVE living vicariously through your adventure, and I admire you and your family for living this dream. I know it sounds cliche, but you really have giving (yourselves and) the kids an enormous gift to see the world like this, and be together. And the appreciation that they will have for what is a “need” vs. what is a “want”. So often, I hear my kids (as a teacher and a mom) say, “I NEED a new game, toy, electronic…etc.” Your kids see how little we really NEED and how little people have. And to see this and experience this first-hand. Julie, your kids will FOR SURE go out and change the world. I know it!
        I am in awe, really. I am sure that I will think of more questions as I read about your adventures. Thank you for your candid sharing. I got a good chuckle about what you said about missing “date night”. LOL! I was thinking about that when I read your blog :).
        Can’t wait to hear about the next adventure!!!!

        lisa

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