Positive Personal Changes After a Year+ of Travel, Part 3

When it comes to good habits I picked up on the road, the majority of them apply to health and nutrition. It is a strange thing to zero in on, but since returning to the United States, I have taken a closer look at what we eat, how much we eat and even the ingredients we put inside our meals. The irony is that Tara started getting into health, nutrition and fitness a few years before we left, but I didn’t pay too much attention to the information she was learning and sharing. Fast-forward to me losing 40 pounds by the end of our RTW trip through increased exercise and an improved diet and suddenly all of this seems vitally important.

Pre 10-miler racers

Pre 10-miler racers

When we first got back, I wrote an article about my weight loss. This was motivated by my thoughts of, “Wow, I actually lost around 40 pounds,” but the post lacked the contrast of life on the road versus full-time living in the U.S. In this case, it’s been about 9 months since we’ve returned and I am better now able to spot the good habits we picked up while traveling, as well as the ones that can be applied to anyone looking to improve their health. Here are a few of my top tips.

First and foremost, you are what you eat. Every time you step into a restaurant you are giving up control over your diet. Sure, you can see the ingredients listed on some menus, but the preparation and details of where your food came from are not always known. It’s tough to make sense of the amount of calories, fat, sodium and sugar you can and should consume in a meal, but when I am in my own kitchen and I see a recipe call for 2 cups of sugar, at least I can adjust to what I think is appropriate and desirable for myself. This is one of the reasons Tara and I rarely eat out (plus, we save a ton of money by making our own meals). Also, we stopped eating meat years ago, and while some restaurants have begun catering to vegetarians, it is still not as prevalent as it could be. Continue reading

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Positive Personal Changes After a Year+ of Travel, Part 2

Let’s be real for a minute. Everyone has fought with his or her significant other in some way. Sometimes it’s audibly evident from a block away, and other times the silent treatment or cold shoulder is given instead.

Mike and I are no different. Our pre-trip arguments were mostly petty and quickly resolved. “Tara, you should vacuum more,” Mike shouts over the roar of the vacuum. “Mike, you should clean the bathroom more,” I say while scrubbing the porcelain goddess. We aren’t big on chores, but we each have fallen into doing the same ones over and over. Make no mistake, we don’t actually enjoy what have unwillingly become our assigned duties – that’s why we’re always trying to get the other person to step it up.

Swan towels

If swan towels argue but there’s no one around to hear them, do they make noise? Bad joke? 🙂

After most of our disagreements having been about the frequency in which the other person does X chore, we knew that spending 10,000 consecutive hours together on our RTW was going to test us in new ways. Many people have asked how we were able to do it without getting sick of each other or needing time apart. We didn’t actually go into our trip with a game plan, but one certainly developed over the first few months as we got a better feel for what sparked impatience or negative attitudes (mostly low blood sugar) and gradually made minor adjustments to our behavior (like carrying snacks). Continue reading

Positive Personal Changes After a Year+ of Travel, Part 1

Mike and I live differently now. Maybe it’s just another year of maturing or perhaps it’s a result of our 14-month RTW trip. I like to think it’s the latter because I truly believe that a lot of positive things came from the people we met and what we experienced.

It’s been easy for us to spot some of the changes. A quick look around our apartment reveals simplicity, nothing excessive. Tabletops are generally clear of clutter. Our shoes are left in foyer; our feet bare when we’re inside the apartment (a great habit we picked up in Asia).

Before we left on our trip, we spent at least eight solid months selling and donating anything we owned that didn’t have immense meaning to us – books, clothes, furniture, electronics, kitchenware, unopened pantry items, and more. The amount of possessions we saved could easily fit in a small closet. Doing this allowed us to store our remaining things with my aunt and uncle instead of shelling out monthly payments for a storage unit (A big thanks to Rick & Lisa!!!). It saved us money during our trip, but most importantly, it provided us with a fresh start when we moved into an efficiency apartment in DC in February. Instead of being burdened with hand-me-downs, possessions that had been grandfathered into our relationship and items that we may have otherwise never gotten rid of, we were able to furnish and decorate our new space from scratch.

Kitchen & Dining Room

The kitchen and dining room area of our efficiency apartment.

Continue reading

RTW Recovery: Tara is Employed!

Tara in Mui Ne, Vietnam

Yay, I’m employed! This isn’t the view from my desk, but I can deal with that.

You’ve already read the spoiler, but I’ll say it anyway: I accepted a position with an international e-commerce company only two months after our RTW trip ended! Yay!!!

Before I dive into how this process unfolded upon our return, it’s important for me to explain how I got there. From the very beginning planning stages this trip, Mike and I felt like we were taking a big risk quitting our secure, well-paying jobs in the middle of an economic depression to travel around the world. I thought my employment gap would be frowned upon and my résumé skipped over. I imagined it would take months to get an interview and even longer to be offered a job. If anything was holding me back from completely embracing the idea of a RTW trip, it was the fear of being unable to land another job that I felt good about (read: as opposed to a bottom-rung position being paid minimum wage). Continue reading

RTW Recovery: Navigating America’s Food Scene

Welcome to our new series, called RTW Recovery Wednesday, in which we tackle topics that have made our transition back to the USA easy or difficult. Posts will offer a candid breakdown of what it’s like to return to what we used to call “home” after living in our own bubble as we traveled around the world for 14 months. Read our first recovery post about reexperiencing “American attitude.”

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KFC in Iceland

KFC in Iceland near Keflavík Airport.

We have experienced many culture shocks since returning but none as great as food. To understand why and how food is a culture shock, you only have to think of the constant interaction you have with it. Three times a day, you eat (this doesn’t even include snacks along the way). Often, the phrase “comfort food” refers to a type of food that brings you back to your childhood or just makes you feel good when you eat it. When you travel internationally for 14 months, your access to comfort food shrinks, and you adapt. What perhaps was easy to get ahold of in the United States is impossible to find on the road. Soon, our feelings toward food began to change—through our palate, our portions, and our loss of desire for Western dishes.

This shift began the second we stepped onto a plane bound for Iceland, our first destination. No matter where we went around the world, there were McDonald’s (except Iceland), Starbucks and Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants. We traveled the world and could not escape American fast food. The same portion, the same flavor. Everything was being churned out with the expectation that if you walked into a McDonald’s in Singapore and ordered a Big Mac, it would taste the same as if you ordered it in New York. This meant access to our American comfort food almost any time we wanted it. There was just one small problem: Years ago, we stopped eating meat and poultry, and all but cut out fast food. So while there was constant access to food from home, fast food restaurants were foreign lands to us.

Continue reading

RTW Recovery: Dealing With Reverse Culture Shock

Welcome Back Gifts

Two things we could not have been happier to return home to. Thanks, Lisa and Rick!

Welcome to our new series, called RTW Recovery Wednesday, in which we tackle topics that have made our transition back to the USA easy or difficult. Posts will offer a candid breakdown of what it’s like to return to what we used to call “home” after living in our own bubble as we traveled around the world for 14 months.

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Leading up to our return to the USA after 14 months of RTW travel, everyone had something to say about reverse culture shock. Mostly that it was inevitable. Everything they said scared us more than the thought of jumping off a cliff again. Time out, time out! Didn’t we grow up in America? Don’t we already know that a $1 soup in Thailand costs $7 in NYC? We didn’t lose our memory, we just disappeared for more than a year.

Common sense told me that reverse culture shock should not be as, well, shocking as culture shock. I know what Western prices are, I know what the food is like and I know there is a diverse group of people here. But just because I remembered those things did not mean I was prepared to ease back into the American way. Like culture shock, you have to experience reverse culture shock for yourself to understand what it means to you specifically. Continue reading

How the Heck Did I Lose 35+ Pounds on This Trip?

Little by little, I have been shedding weight. It was not a dramatic overnight change, but rather a healthy yearlong transformation. I would like to say exercise and a balanced diet were the reasons, but there is more to it. I suppose you could say the additional weight was a literal and metaphorical burden that I left in the United States. A more scientific approach would say that my portion sizes have shrunk and the street, hawker and restaurant food is generally (and surprisingly) healthy and fresh with few or no preservatives.

This is me on my wedding day.

This is me on my wedding day.

Before I address my weight loss, I first have to answer how I got to be overweight. In June 2012, just as Tara and I left the U.S., my weight hovered around 200 pounds, but I was not always this heavy. In high school, I had reached my current height of 5 feet 11 inches, but was a slender 135 pounds. Running track and playing soccer kept me slim, but this was also years before I knew what a pilsner or porter beer was. I maintained this weight throughout high school, and it only slightly increased during my first two years of college. During my junior and senior years, I studied film in the Czech Republic. Over that time I gained roughly 50 pounds. Continue reading