Packing Tips from a Longterm Backpacker

Are you considering a vacation, a month away, or even long term travel? Living out of a backpack may seem daunting at first, but once you learn how to pack up everything you need, it’s actually pretty easy. Furthermore, living with less is so much more simple than having a closet full of things. It simplifies decision making and makes cleaning up a breeze!

Backpacking Tips
My backpack and I when I first started, my 3rd day in China.

There are two things of equal importance in my book when it comes to packing for backpacking style travel, both short and long term. One is packing what you need and needing what you pack and two: your bag itself.
1. When choosing what will become your shell, your home on your back, comfort is key and a good design is helpful. Choose a backpack that suits your body. If you are small, short stature, or petite, a small bag is best. Don’t get something that towers over you and weighs you down. And even if you can carry a larger bag, ask yourself if you will want to, or even need to. I’m 5’3” (160 cm) and carry a small/medium 44 liter Kelly Redwing pack and it’s perfect. It has a sturdy waist strap, a chest strap, and best of all, perfect compartments. Choose a backpack that can zip open in the front, not a stuff in from the top style bag. That way, you can unzip it and take out what you need without making a mess.
2. Organization is essential. Use packing cubes and small bags to organize specific items. Of all the things in my bag, I actually have more bags than anything else! You can order packing cubes on Amazon or pick them up at some markets if you’re in Asia. They typically come in a variety of sizes per set and mine came with a laundry bag as well. I chose the largest cube to hold all of my pants/shorts/leggings, the medium for shirts and tops, and the small one for undergarments like underwear, my bathing suit, bras, and sports bras. I have a smaller bag for socks that I stick inside of it. All of my clothes fit into three small cubes and they go in the main compartment of my pack.

Backpacking Tips
What I’m currently carrying.

3. Keep essential items close by and non-essential, but necessary items in a lesser accessible area. I keep all of my toiletries in a toiletry bag in the right side pocket and a make up bag in the left. It’s always been like that and I never have to fumble around looking for some basic items like my toothbrush and toothpaste. In an even smaller bag that I picked up in Mongolia, I have some hair elastics and barrettes. They stay at the bottom of that outer pocket. The items that I use less frequently, like medicines, a poncho, and my headlamp, are at the bottom of my bag or in the top pocket.
4. Don’t overpack. Before you head out on your adventure, consider the activities in which you will participate. Ensure you have what you need for those main things, like hiking boots if you will be hiking, but if there’s something you won’t need often, don’t take it. There may be certain things that are a must have for you, but weigh the pros and cons and determine if lugging it around will be worth it. I wish I had my own mask and snorkel because I have some quality gear in my small storage unit back home, but carrying it around is cumbersome and space consuming. Although I enjoy snorkeling, it’s not a main focus of my trip so I make do with the cheap equipment available on the different boat and island hopping tours I’ve done.
As you get further into your travels, you will develop a system that’s quick, easy, and works for you. I always allocate a ton of time to pack up before I go somewhere, but the reality is, it usually only takes me a few minutes. I don’t know why I think it will take a long time, I do it regularly and with all the same stuff!
I just wanna delve a bit deeper into my own organizational skills! I do like to be organized, but because I don’t buy souvenirs, (space is an issue, of course), much of what I do buy is functional, if I do buy anything at all. Here’s a breakdown of my bags:
1. New “laundry bag.” I left my original one back in the States for some reason, so I bought a cloth bag in Laos that I can use as a grocery bag when I go home. Sometimes it’s empty, sometimes it’s full!
2. Embroidered toiletry bag from Thailand. I love these bags, they fit perfectly in the side pocket of my pack, and I love the colors and designs that you can find them in. I have bought many for others as gifts as well!
3. Hair elastic drawstring bag. My only souvenir from Mongolia, it doesn’t take up any space and holds all my hair ties, which would have otherwise been lost by this point.
4.Blue mesh zip bag. I picked this up in Vietnam to hold some “emergency” items, medicine, band aids, and that sort of thing. I never use them, but have them if I need them.
5. Textile half oval shaped zip bag: my one souvenir from Bhutan. I bought it to house my electronic accessories: my power bank cord, iPad plug, and my Vivoactive charger.
6.Green embroidered bag: another souvenir from Laos. I just couldn’t pass it up. I loved the colors and embroidery. I even bought one for my Bangladeshi host, Humaira. I put a bunch of misc. items in it like my head lamp, a small flashlight, and the chest strap to my heart rate monitor that I never use. (It won’t connect. Sad face).
7. Blue elephant coin purse. My cousin bought a buttload (official term) of these in Chinatown in Thailand for less than $2.00. I took one to replace the Lululemon one I used. I keep small bills in it and only use that for cash transactions. That way, I’m never pulling my wallet out in public and if something ever happens (God forbid), nobody would gain much from stealing it.
8. Water bottle holder. Yet another souvenir from Laos. That thing is so handy. You gotta keep hydrated in humid Southeast Asia and holding a bottle all day is annoying. I wish I could have bought 100 to give away to friends and family!
9. Plastic make up bag. Just a run of the mill, durable toiletry bag. It came with a suitcase I bought back in the states a long time ago.
10. Multicolor zip bag: my mom gave me this before I left, before I perfected my packing system. It currently holds my Diva burn sample packs. I just like it so I still have it.
11.Eddie Bauer Stowaway Bag. This 21 liter bag is actually pretty awesome. I bought it this summer at an outlet and it’s handy and compact. I use it for day trips, beach trips, and sometimes as a carry on.
12. Eddie Bauer three zip over the shoulder bag. Another handy bag. I don’t like carrying much with me so I use it while I’m out. It fits my phone, wallet, sunglasses, and a few other small items.
13. Eddie Bauer tablet over the shoulder bag. Perfectly fits my iPad.

Backapacking Tips
Your pack can always doble as a weight. Doing squats at the train station in Ella, Sri Lanka.

Oh my goodness! I have a ton of bags. I’m a bag lady! I even have 3 more small ones I gained while in the Philippines. One from a hotel and two from a survey I completed while at the airport in Manila. Crazy thing is, I want them and even think I can use them. 😂🙈 But guess what? All of these things simplify my packing and make the process like a game of Tetris. I’m a good player, it all fits!
What about you? Are you a bag lady? Have you perfected your art of packing? What’s your favorite souvenir to collect while abroad? As for me, I think I need a few more bags! Next up, I need to do a post on what to pack for long term travel.

Long Term Travel

15 Month Funk

I’ve started and restarted this blog so many times. I don’t know what’s up. I’m in limbo. I’m in a weird spot. I wanna be in two places. That in and of itself isn’t that abnormal for me, the girl who wants to go everywhere, but lately, I want to be home and off to somewhere new. It’s a weird place to be and I’ve been here for about a month. I just hit my 16 month “travelversary,” but I started this blog around month 15. I’m currently in Bangkok, passing time before I head to Bangladesh, but somewhere between Vietnam and Laos I developed a weary feeling, and it hasn’t completely passed yet.

Maybe all the fast travel in Vietnam wore me down. But it’s was epic!

I think I was in a funk. I think at times, I’m still in a funk. Was it the 15 month funk? I don’t know, but it’s unusual. I’m typically a happy, bubbly person and I was pretty down and out for over a week not too long ago. At one point, I even recall holding back tears, and that was on a plane to Laos. When I go somewhere new, I’m giddy with excitement, but that day, something was wrong. What happened to me?

At least all the scenery in Laos was beautiful.

Travel is interesting, sometimes, you’re alone for chunks of time, and others are spent with groups and travel companions. One of things I love most about this lifestyle is that you get to meet so many interesting and awesome people, but the downside is, at some point, either you move on or they do. You develop great but fleeting relationships with perfect strangers who could, in the real world, be your BFFs. These interactions are more intense than in that real world too because both parties understand each other on a different level and both parties know that it will likely be a brief relationship. And when I say relationship, I mean it in the sense of interactions and relations with others, not something romantic (because I don’t have those kinds of relationships on the road!).


It’s been a long time now that I’ve been on this crazy Asian Adventure. I never thought I’d be the one in a group who has been traveling the longest. I’m now that person. When I meet people on vacation, they look at me in shock. But yeah, it’s been 16 months now and I think it’s long enough that most of my real friends are like, “Yeah, ok Tiffany, you travel, we get it. Maybe it’s time to get a life,” (LOL). I don’t know but I find these days I keep more in touch with people I’ve met in Asia than my friends at home and it’s my friends at home I miss the most.

Travel buddies unite inside Phong Nha cave. It’s nice to revisit people. It feels like you’re meeting up with old friends.

A part of me has this feeling like, “It’s time to go home, no wait, it’s time to think about going home.” Again, that feeling of wanting to be in two places at once. One of those places is home, and one is traveling. Home these days is a weird notion to me as well, but honestly, I am looking forward to going back to San Antonio, a place I lived for 13 years and never even called home. But in a way I guess it is. My roots are there, my friends, professional connections, what few possessions I still own, and my dog, all in San Antonio. I want more than transient friends and ephemeral relationships. I want to meet someone or be with someone who wants the same out of life as me and not fear they will fly off to a new location next week or next month.

Everything I still own all fits in here. But my dog is NOT in there, don’t worry!

This is such an interesting feeling all in all, doing what you love and yet not wanting to do it much anymore. As far as long term travel is concerned, this is an issue for many. It’s hard to have balance with this type of lifestyle and you either accept it for what it is, or put down some roots somewhere. For me, at this age, I don’t want to start over, so the only logical choice is to go back where I already have roots.

One of my regular friends in Asia since January.

I made some friends earlier this year while I was in Melaka, Malaysia. They are from Massachusetts, just a hop, skip, and a jump away from my own family. Six months later and we finally met back up in Bangkok. They’ve been on the road for over two years and just yesterday Rebecca said, “The longer you travel, the slower you go.” They are renting a place in Greece for three months, a change from Asia and the longest they’ve stayed anywhere to date. And I’m doing the opposite, my typical “slow travel” style is about to speed up. My way of finding “balance” with this lifestyle is to end it. I can’t do it forever, not emotionally, not financially. In January, the party’s over, but in that time I have a lot planned! Despite my “funkiness,” I’m excited too. New places, new experiences, new people, and yet I may cross paths with some old travel friends.

My Massachusetts “travel family” and I catching up in Bangkok.

I don’t know if my travel musings get old to those that read them, but some days you just have time to think and be alone. I try to sort them and map out the best route to deal with the thoughts in my head. Lately, all paths lead to “home,” for a little while at least, but I’m definitely not taking the fastest route to get from Point A to point B! I still have some interesting places on the horizon and perhaps some countries on the list that some may have never even heard of before. In the meantime, I’ll continue to wander and roam, all the while thinking of home. I hope my friends will still be there when I get back. My friends and a bottle of wine. Just one, then back to the grind that I’ve grown to miss so much!

Night out at home with my NH bestie.
A blurry picture with my SA bestie and her son.

P. S. Last night I went through all the blogs I’d ever written. My semi OCD self wanted to sort them into the category menu I learned to create back in February. I needed a desktop to simplify an otherwise tedious task so I stopped by Hom and sat in silence for a while. This whole relationship thing (or lack thereof) is definitely a theme, it’s not the first time I’ve brought it up. I’m tired of being alone, yet I was alone before I started this, so what if I go home and am still alone? That’s the thing, the main problems you have in life travel with you. What will be different? How will I deal? The same as always I guess, throw myself into my own life, get consumed by the grind, the gym, and the same old routine. When you can’t get what you need, you learn to need the things you got.

The Cycle of Rice

Rice is life here in Asia. It’s often the main staple and comprises nearly 70% of the calories consumed in some countries. In the west, we just see rice in a bag, but have you ever thought of how it grows or where it comes from? Oddly enough, I always think about it and today, on an unexpectedly long walk, I figured out how it was all done. Take a walk with me through the countryside outside of Sa Pa in northern Vietnam to see the cycle of rice!

Ta Van, near Sa Pa, northern Vietnam.

Even though rice is one of my least favorite foods, rice paddies are beautiful. I always say rice grass green is greener than any green you’ve ever seen! And here in Sa Pa, the rice terraces that curve along the mountainside are spectacular. They look like green carpets descending down from the misty mountains high above, their culms and blades swaying in the gentle breeze between the valley. But rice production isn’t about pretty pictures and scenic views, it’s a lot of hard work! In Vietnam, it is mostly manual labor and that means a lot of work for those involved. The country is the 2nd largest exporter of rice, just behind Thailand, and 7th in consumption. In 2017, forecasts say crops will yield over 44 million tons of paddy rice and there are over 1,600 varieties in the country.

So how does it grow? It needs a lot of water, so rice grows in a “flooded field,” and Vietnam has many areas suited for such a staple. Seeds must be planted, just like with any other crop and as it grows, roots will reach down into the earth and root below the water. Nutrients from the soil are delivered to the plant and eventually leaves emerge and grow. These young seedlings are harvested and separated and then transferred to the flooded fields. They are evenly spaced with enough room to grow to full size. These are the plants I often see growing throughout Asia, the bright green rice grass.

Can’t get enough of that green!

When the plant has matured, it will reach a height of about 3-4 feet. It produces a tiller, which is a reproductive stem. It keeps growing and will produce a flower head. At this point, the plant is in the reproductive stage. The flower head will produce up to 150 tiny flowers that will form seeds once pollinated. In the next 30 days, the rice seeds change color, some turning golden, the consistency of the grain itself changes (it hardens) and becomes ripe. The seeds can then be harvested for food and this process is what I witnessed today.

As we walked along the windy mountainous roads, we saw what ended up being the rice harvesting process. The bright green fields are all around, but some are turning golden. At one point, we saw some people further down the terraces, harvesting the rice from the flooded fields. They were working hard, bending, cutting, and carrying the loot up to the roadside.

Rice harvesting is hard work.

The golden crops were laying in neat piles along the dusty road, but we wondered how the flower, or the seed, is actually separated from the stem. Luckily, just around the bend, we saw a group of men and the mystery was solved. They had a portable machine that reminded me of a wood chipper. They put the stems in one end, the seeds came out one side, and the rest of the organic material shot out of the machine into a pile below. It actually more reminded me of a snow blower, but you won’t find snow in these parts!

Rice separation on the roadside.

Once the rice is separated, it is set to dry. This process takes time and  depends on the weather and conditions.

Rice drying after separation.

Once the rice is dry, it’s placed into a manually run machine that separates the husk from the grain. These husks are inedible coverings that protect the rice during growth. Often times, you see the husks being used for fuel (burning), but they also can be used as fertilizer or insulation material. I spoke to these two women for a bit and they said they will fill 8-10 bags of husked rice per day.

 

Separating the husk from the grain.

From a nutrition standpoint, this is where processing should end (aside from cleaning). Unfortunately, in Asia, rice goes off to the mill to be stripped of its nutrients to yield white rice. When I say “in Asia,” that’s very broad because Asia is huge, but everywhere I have been, this is the case. White rice rules, except in one little place, but more on that in a bit. The anatomy of a grain of rice is much more than the “white” part, or the endosperm. This is the carbohydrate and calorie provider of the food. The bran protects the seed, it serves as the outer shell, but it’s not the husk (that’s already been removed). The bran also contains fiber, B vitamins, and some minerals. The germ contains nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamin E, a bit of healthy fats, and B vitamins (just like the bran). And wow! If you want a seriously detailed breakdown, check out the FAO’s website.

Whole vs. Refined Grain

The thing is, when rice is milled, so many nutrients are removed. When looking at main staples of the diet, they are a huge source of calories and nutrients, but with milled rice, so much is lost. We (dietitians) often tell clients to incorporate more whole grains in the diet, but when these simple carbohydrates have been king for so long, it’s hard for people to accept the healthier version and make that shift. When malnourishment and nutrient deficiencies are rampant, it’s sad to know so much is wasted.

The rice terraces of Sa Pa are beautiful. It was so interesting to simply walk along the road and actually see all the stages of processing once the rice has been harvested. All in all, my fellow travel buddies and I ended up walking nearly 12 miles. We saw lots of green, lots of grass, lots of rice. And at the end of the day, what do you think was served with dinner? You guessed it, a bowl of shiny white rice, straight from the local fields. Did I have some? Well, it was “rice day,” so I had a bit (maybe 1/4 of a cup). Is it my favorite? No.

Rice is the centerpiece of many Vietnamese dishes. Dinner is served at My Tra Guest House.

The best rice I’ve had in Asia was in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Coincidentally, they don’t mill their rice as often there. It was hearty, healthy, and tasty. In Asia, I’m “riced out.” I’m not Asian, if I don’t eat rice at mealtime, I’m ok, but for locals, a meal without rice is not a meal at all. Hopefully one day, more people will incorporate whole grain rice into their lives. It’s a way to incorporate more nutrients into the diet and what do I always say? Eat a nutrient dense, varied diet!

Why I paid $210 for a hotel room and how I got a free plane ticket home.

A free ticket home?!

I received an email from United MileagePlus. It was about a partnership with an app called RocketMiles. Earn miles every time you book a hotel room through the app. As a budget traveler, I figured the available hotels wouldn’t be in my budget, but I downloaded it anyway.

Rocket Miles View- Mobile Version

When I got the email, I had 20,800 frequent flier miles with United. I know some are not United fans, but I’ve flown them quite a bit over the years. I’ve amassed and used my miles over and over for different award tickets. I even went round trip to Peru (for two) using those miles.

Machu Picchu, Peru. 2013

Every dollar I spend on my United credit card I get a mile. I looked at hotels via the RocketMiles app in all the cities I’ve yet to visit: Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Ho Chi Minh, and more. Of all those places, there was one hotel in Siem Reap that would give me 6,000 miles. But, it costs $210 per night. Yikes, that’s not within my budget.

I researched, did math, thought, researched some more, thought harder… Then I got yet another email. “Book by Friday and you’ll get an additional 3,000 miles.” So wait. I’ll pay $210 for the room and get 210 miles = about 21,000 miles. 6,000 for booking at this one hotel that’s offering more miles for the per night stay price than seemingly any other in SE Asia = 27,000 miles. 3,000 bonus miles = 30,000 miles.

Guess what 30,000 miles can get? An award ticket from Santiago, Chile (where I plan on finish up my travels next year) to Boston. Well, it costs 30,000 miles and $53. My “research” was checking regular ticket costs from Santiago to Boston. The cheapest ones are currently $540. So I based my decision on the following:
Hotel Room: $210
Award ticket: $53
Total: $263

Reg ticket: $540
$540-263=$277 savings AND, I get a fancy place to spend the night. Not that I need it, BUT it will help later when I need a ticket to go home. Furthermore, I spent the last ten days house and dog sitting via workaway, so I didn’t spend money on a place. I allocate myself about $30/d, but if I break up this expense over 2 months, it doesn’t reduce my daily budget by too much. Lastly, I’m still hoping to do a workaway volunteer opportunity for three weeks in Laos. If that works out, it will greatly help my budget!

My dog for 10 days.

While house sitting, I didn’t use the AC much as it turned out to be quite expensive. I was often over heated and woke up drenched in sweat most nights. I developed a heat rash, and had no relief from the high temperatures. In just a short time in AC, my heat rash miraculously improved in record time.

Not going to lie, I love breakfast buffets!

Fitness center. Breakfast buffet. Swimming pool. Lounging in bed. The epitome of laziness and I somehow managed to save nearly $300 on a plane ticket home.

Just my big bed in an air conditioned room at the Royal Empire Hotel!

I don’t think I’ve ever paid this much to stay somewhere for one night. Well, there was that one time I had surgery at Bumrungrad International Hospital. I’m sure that was the most expensive stay of my life, but my 23 hours at the Royal Empire Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, was by far the most I’ve ever paid for a hotel. I took full advantage, enjoyed it, and barely even left the place while there. All in all, it was worth the stay because of the frequent flier miles I earned. Was it worth $200? For what you can get in Cambodia, definitely not. The staff was nice, but people are nice even at the cheap hostels. It was good totally have my own space, cool off, and relax, but unless I can get another free plane ticket out of the deal, I won’t be spending any more nights in fancy hotels!

Whats your biggest travel splurge?

 

Dear Diary…

Sometimes I share too much, no?

My day began at 2:15 am. Given that I had an international flight ahead of me, something I’m typically excited about, I was feeling a little down. Perhaps I was tired from lack of sleep, perhaps I wasn’t looking forward to spending the next 22 out of 36 hours on an airplane, perhaps I wasn’t looking forward to more living out of a bag, even though I’ve been doing it for 14 months now… But I know those are all manageable issues for me and they don’t keep me down for long so I knew it was something a little deeper than that. Sometimes I’m sad when I leave a place, but I’ve planned another 6 months of travel so I know I’ll be back in the States soon. I’m even comfortable with that notion although I’m sure as my travels come to an end, I’ll feel differently. But- I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Passing time in Toronto, pondering the meaning of life.

Airports are probably not most peoples’ favorite places, but I’m often fairly content to spend a day traveling. I look at it as forced down time. A time where I mostly have to sit still. I watch people, I gaze at the big metal tubes on the tarmac that are capable of transporting us to entirely different places and spaces in a matter of hours, and I think about the meaning of life. Sometimes I catch up on reading, blogging, and when I’m too exhausted to think, I watch mindless TV series on Netflix. My iPad is often fully stocked with new episodes of something or other in case I don’t have wifi or there are not individual seat back screens (which I always hope for). What else is there to do?
Today I thought. Not only do I have plenty of actual in flight travel time, but I had an 8 hour layover in Toronto. Thankfully, it revived and refreshed me a bit. I was able to have lunch at Jal Gua Café, a place I’d wanted to visit for years. Emmanuel Jal was a South Sudanese child soldier, but he made it out with a crazy story that was documented in a book I read years ago, “War Child.” He’s now a well known international hip hop artist with some good songs and a passion for bettering this world we live in. He wanted to bring some of his Sudanese staples to the west and deliver them in a healthful manner and that’s what he’s done at his cafe. I had the “Miracle Salad,” a bowl of delicious, tender cooked beans and sorghum, topped with kale, tomatoes, broccoli, and a vinaigrette.

The Miracle Salad at Jal Gua Cafe in Toronto.

All things considered, it was nice to get out for lunch and walk around in the cool weather before I get back to the stifling humidity of South East Asia.
What’s my deal today besides the exhaustion that has already set in? For the last two months, well more actually, I’ve had plans with people I know. It’s been great catching up with friends and family. I had fun on my quick “around the world tour.” I saw people, shared stories, caught up on life and gossip with my girlfriends and I even reconnected with quite a few acquaintances I hadn’t seen in a while. It was fun and I was overwhelmed to learn of the amount of followers I have with me on my travels through Asia. People are living through me so I have to make sure I’m doing my best at this travel thing. It’s definitely positive, but what bites, one of the downsides many don’t talk about, is the accompanying loneliness that comes along with the nomadic lifestyle and once I leave Bangkok next week, it will begin again. This has definitely been a theme and I’ve blogged about it before, but the worst thing is, it won’t end when my travels end. Being in San Antonio was great, but all in all it was a stark reminder that I’ve pretty much been single since my divorce in 2014. I left my life to explore the world, I wasn’t “running” from anything, but the longer I go, the further I get, and the more I can see I would start to “run.” I will remain single because it’s nearly impossible to meet someone on such a journey. So I go, I take off, I fly, I ride… In a symbolic way, I can run away from my fears. In his book, “The Art of Travel,” Alain De Botton said “There is psychological pleasure in this takeoff, too, for the swiftness of the plane’s ascent is an exemplary symbol of transformation. The display of power can inspire us to imagine analogous, decisive shifts in our own lives, to imagine that we, too, might one day surge above much that now looms over us.” Travel transforms us, but can I shift my own thinking in certain matters? Can I surge above this specific issue that looms over me? I can only hope because otherwise life is pretty good.
For now, I’ll travel. I’ll fly, take off, and do my best to keep an open mind that one day, not only will I meet someone who makes my heart beat again, but that it will be meaningful and lasting. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the ephemeral moments and focus on the positives from those situations. The world is a big place and those metal tubes can bring us all over. Let’s see where they take me the next 6 months and let’s see if I’ll be ready to go “home” at the end of it.

Love on the Run

Can there be love on the run?
Like I always say, I love my travel life and I’m not ready to give it up yet. I’m going to keep on trucking, despite my injury, and see more of this world. I thought I’d want to go home if I got sick or injured, but so far, that’s not the case. An influential factor, however, is definitely going to be budget. Now that I’ve nearly maxed out my credit card with hospital and surgery bills, I may not be able to pay it down enough to even make a dent in that total.

I’m not exactly bringing sexy to Bangkok!

“When will you go home?” A question I hear day after day…
Maybe if I’m sick or injured… Nope, not ready.
Maybe if I run out of money… Doing my best to stay on track (but will deal with my CC bill in time, I’m working on an avenue to have my medical bills reimbursed).
Maybe if I get lonely. Yeah- that’s a biggie and a common theme I’ve learned amongst long term travelers. We get lonely. Yes, you’re surrounded by people, but relationships don’t last, eventually, you leave, or the people you’ve met leave. And I’m not even talking about romantic relationships, that’s a whole other ball game and one that different people deal with very differently!

How I feel sometimes: “Leave me alone!”

As for me, I’m single and have been for a long time. Like really long. I’m so used to it I don’t even think about it much anymore BUT that doesn’t mean I always like being alone.

But maybe!

I recently reconnected with someone from my past, but he’s at home of course, in the states. The prospect of simply staying in touch piqued my interest and we’d agreed we would have regular contact. Recently, however, our interactions have lessened and I have to say it has left me disappointed. Oh- and for those of you who know me, don’t worry, it’s not my ex-husband (that ship has sailed long ago). Anyway… So yeah, the thought of having a connection with someone after being alone for so long is kind of exciting but you have to make this travel thing work when there’s someone else in the picture and it can be difficult.
I read all these stories of girls finding “love” on the road, but for me, I don’t even meet men! ? I mean, yeah, there are a million ways, but I can’t do causal hook ups or have meaningless sex and I’m so in shock by what the younger generation accepts as the norm. The younger generation- OMG, I’m so old!!! I hear and read their stories of one night stands and hook ups for fun and I get it, yes, the road gets lonely, but gee I could never participate in that behavior all the time. Some of the stories are straight up raunchy and there’s this whole concept of a lower standard, like you find certain men acceptable while traveling that you’d never get with at home. Sorry to disappoint here, but I don’t have some sultry stories of sexy hook ups or one night stands (well, there was that one time…). But one time, one traveler said she felt badly for me because that was far to little. ?

“Gelato.” That’s what the kids are calling it these days. ?

I’m not alone in this desire to “find” someone, my nomadic soulmate, a travel companion for the long haul… There are websites dedicated to stuff like this. On one, the first date is travel related and the two people involved agree upon a destination and a “who pays for what” agreement. There are Facebook groups to help long term travelers find their soulmate, or simply a weekend fling, whatever your heart desires. But I don’t know, finding someone with whom you have a connection, that to me, seems like an ever elusive concept. It just doesn’t happen, not at home, not on the road, so when I got that message from that person from my past, I won’t lie, my heart did skip a beat. ?
So what will it be? Love on the run, on the road, via email and FB messenger? From an app, or a dating website, or a Facebook group dedicated to helping people find their “nomadic soulmate?” Do you reinvest in the past, focus on the future, or forget about it all in an effort to protect the heart? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. Perhaps only time will tell. Perhaps Mr. Right will be at the next destination or perhaps he’s finally applying for a freaking passport! Maybe I can create my own travel/dating app and I can help others find love! And then pay off my medical bills! What do you think?!
Have you found love on the road? Do you have a nomadic soulmate? Are you in a long distance relationship? Share your stories in the comment section!

The open road- I mean sky!

My friend's son' Flat Jesus and I ready to go.
My friend’s son’s Flat Jesus and I ready to go.

It has been a while since I’ve updated my blog. I was more busy than I expected I’d be once I left San Antonio and half the time, I figure nobody reads my posts anyway. Additionally, I’ve posted quite a bit on FB and I think the only people who read this are my friends from Facebook!

Anyway, here’s a brief update. I left San Antonio 5 weeks ago after packing up my house, putting what few belongings I have left into storage, and saying goodbye to friends and Basil. It took me 9 days to make it to my family in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. I made a lot of stops along the way and got to see some peeps I hadn’t seen in a long time. A part of me dreaded the long journey, but looking back, it was kind of fun!

I spent 4 weeks in New England and kept myself plenty busy. As soon as I got home, I got a gym membership because I knew I needed a schedule of some sort. I spent most mornings at Planet Fitness and my days were filled with friends, family, and various excursions. I had to take a few trips to see some of my favorite places, like the New England Aquarium, Quincy Marketplace, and Fenway Park in Boston. I spent some time hiking in the mountains and even went to Niagara Falls, Canada, and Watkins Glen, New York.

I packed and repacked my bag. I constantly reevaluated the items I planned on bringing and I was eager to head out on my adventure as the time neared. People have been so fascinated by my plans and sometimes it’s just interesting to watch peoples’ reactions when I tell them I quit my job, sold my home, and bought a one way ticket to Asia. I wonder how many people actually do that…

I planned on bringing my Kelty pack as a carry on. I took it to Portland in April for a trial run and it fit in the overhead bin. I got everything packed into it like a meticulously layered lasagna and took a small back pack to easily separate my toiletries, some snacks, and to have easy access to my iPad and other in flight necessities. When I got to the airport, however, United had other plans for my pack. They said it was too big (I even tried to sneak past one of the ticket checkers), but I was caught red handed by a grumpy old lady who yelled at me. I reorganized a bit and made my way through security after checking my backpack. I fear losing it as it’s all I have left, all my belongings for an indefinite period of time!

I’m flying on a 747, but much to my dismay, we do not have individual seat back TVs or phone chargers, so I can’t catch up on random movies for 12 hours. I made sure to only get a few hours of sleep last night in hopes of getting some on the way, but I never sleep, so I likely won’t today, either. I employed the same tactic when I went to Korea and my plan backfired. I was jet lagged and sleep deprived for days when I got there.

Our flight was delayed 50 minutes. It’s not a big deal, but it seems like a lot when you still have 13 hours ahead of you. The United app would not download onto my iPad (but it’s on my phone), and without it, I would not be able to use it for the free “Personal Device Entertainment.” Shortly after we took off, the captain informed us they had to restart the computer system so the TVs in the cabin were shut down. Just moments after, an alarm of some sort went off. Different airline personnel were walking about the cabin, but it didn’t stop. I thought maybe I was going crazy and just hearing things because it didn’t seem anybody was doing anything about it. Finally, I asked a flight attendant and she said it was a smoke detector. She said it was driving her nuts. Phew, I’m not hearing things! We then hit a patch of turbulence. I don’t get scared on planes (I even jumped out of one a few weeks ago), but this was rough. I braced myself and the man next to me, whose breath I can smell from my seat, spilled his coffee. Within a few minutes, the turbulence subsided then the alarm stopped beeping. Shortly after, the movie came back on, from the beginning, “My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding, Part Two.” Dinner (late lunch?) is served. It’s 4:00 pm. 11 more hours to go.

Jumpin out of a plane is exhilarating, turbulence and smoke alarms are not!
Jumpin out of a plane is exhilarating, turbulence and smoke alarms are not!

As suspected, I cannot sleep. We are over eastern Russia now and we flew north of Alaska. I think that may have been the northernmost point I’ve seen yet! Dinner was mundane at best and mostly full of carbs. My keen eye for portion sizes had me guesstimating we got approximately 3 ounces of chicken at mealtime and barely any vegetables. Needless to say, I was hungry 2 hours later. Thank goodness for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Quest Bars. I have 12 more, I’ll ration them out accordingly over the next few weeks.

Five and a half more hours. I should stop, at this point, I’ll just continue to ramble, out of boredom and eventual exhaustion!