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
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.