While we were visit friends and family at home for the Holidays I tried to explain how we spend a lot of our time traveling. You know all the leg-work you put into a trip before you go so when you arrive it's seamless? Well as we travel a lot of our time is spent doing this same pre-planning for each city. We have to pick our next destination, figure out how to get there, research the best place to stay (searching AirBnb, guidebook recommendations, and TripAdvisor), and then plan when to go. Then all of our stuff must be packed for travel days that are always stressful as we are carrying everything we own around new places and cities.
Planning our trip down to Patagonia from Buenos Aires has proved to take much more planning than we are used to. First of all we arrived to BA over New Year's which meant everything was closed and we couldn't get any of our funds out from Xoom. It is also now January here, high summer, when people are leaving the city to travel themselves so flights are insanely expensive and also completely full. Where we are going, El Chalten, is also a very, very popular destination so most of the place we contact have already been reserved. We have spent a lot of time reading through books, looking at other traveler's websites, and walking to travel tour companies to ask questions! I'm not joking when I say it's a lot of work to travel!
All this trip planning I thoroughly enjoy. I have been lucky to travel my whole life and love to have my nose in a travel guide, making elaborate spreadsheets to figure out where we are going and staying. I was also an Anthropology major and love learning the histories of the places we visit and about the people's current lives.
Fortunately for me, in the past a two-week vacation has been budgeted for and we can allow for (lots of) splurges. On a trip like this, that we are trying to be on the road for at least a year, it means every dollar really counts when we have nothing more coming in. This means the better we can plan and make educated decisions, the longer our funds will last. If we have a kitchen where we are staying it means we can cook our own food, but sometimes this costs more as street food can be so cheap the math doesn't add up. We have to include transportation costs leaving and coming into cities and it's always more expensive in a new city as we are finding the places that we like to eat the fit our budget.
Our spending is different on this trip. Every city has it's "must visit" fill in the blank here. Whether it's a restaurant, museum, zip line, tour, or site to see, we have to weigh if this will be the best fill in the blank, and worth the splurge. For example there was this "incredible" French restaurant remotely located on Utila that everyone raved about. It had a fixed menu (more than our usual budget for the day) and required a boat taxi to get there. If we had been on Utila for 2 weeks we would have done it without a second thought. But spending this much for one dinner, a French dinner nonetheless, gave me pause. We had been in France not even a year ago. Would the dinner be better than that? Was it worth a day of travel? But also will we look back and realize it's pretty hard to get back to Utila and we wish we had checked every restaurant, activity, etc. off the list? These are questions we weigh with every expensive purchase and honestly it's tiring!
For those that know me, know I obsess over food. I think constantly about my next meal and where it will come from. This is no different on the road but instead of pouring over food blogs for dishes to make at home I'm looking all over TripAdvisor and in guide books. For the last 5 years I've been a vegetarian after learning more about the food system in the US. While not impossible to only eat vegetarian while traveling it has been nothing close to healthy. Fried vegetables come to mind when thinking back on Central America. I don't care how much spinach is in something, if it's fried I'm probably better off not eating it. It has meant a lot of beans and rice on the road (and I was distraught to find out beans and rice I'd been dutifully consuming in Nicaragua were made with lard on the last day!) while Eric gets to eat meat right off the grill. As he loses weight, I gain.
One thing that makes this easier is having a kitchen where we stay. These kitchens however have been hit and miss - sometimes they are well-enough stocked to make a simple meal, and other times it's just another box of amenities to check on the website. When we are in a place long enough we can stock up on the basics (butter, oil, salt, pepper, basic spices, coffee, sugar) to make our own food. Elaborate meals are out of the question as we'd have to buy (and then leave behind) all random ingredients. Instead we have been making meals that are the easiest to purchase for, and make, in sub-standard kitchens. We have come to love eggs in all forms, sandwiches, and pastas filled with veggies When it's cooler where we stay roasted veggies will be added to this menu! It's nice to be able to make our own food and eat like we would at home.
When we are eating at restaurants in new countries there's different lingo to describe the same food item we knew under a different name. This means we are always somewhat guessing when we order and crossing our fingers when it arrives that it will be palatable and appealing. We also weight the costs as of course the best option is usually the priciest. As we continue through South America I'll continue to try to eat my best with the options I have available.
Another thing I found myself explaining when I was home was why I have been so bummed to not be working out like I was used to at home (at least 5 days a week, both strength training and cardio, often in the beautiful WAC gym with ladies that are awesome). I also was training 14 hours a week to complete a half ironman before we left and used to a lot of exercise.
First of all it's been freaking hot. I don't care how much I want to work out but it's not going to happen when it's 90+ degrees and 100% humidity. It's not enjoyable one bit to be dripping with sweat in the corner of our AirBnB or hostal and falls to the bottom of my list of things to do. When it's cool enough, and there's space where we are staying, I do a little strength/cardio circuit of moves that are mostly standing (I'll be doing this workout usually on the tile floors that are both uncomfortable and not necessarily clean). Only 4 times in the last 2 months have I been able to run. And I love to run. But the roads have been horrible, the cities unsafe, and once again, it's hot! Knowing myself, I feel so much better when I can workout so I'm constantly trying to figure out how to get a workout in, but it's usually only a strength/cardio circuit a few times a week in the morning while Eric's still sleeping. We also try to hike as often as possible but this is obviously defendant on where we are.
Thus, with all of this: Our Trip Motto
We are doing our best. A lot of time as we travel things don't go as well as planned or unexpected things come up. I can't always eat as healthfully as I'd like. I can't exercise with any sort of regularity or do activities I like, ie running. Sometimes we are dirtier that we would be at home. But we constantly remind ourselves and each other that we are doing our best. Luckily the people we have met and the places we have gone have been more than worth all the adjustments that it takes to travel for this extended period of time without the comforts of home.