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.

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Visiting Kerala and the Periyar Wildlife Reserve

One of our most popular YouTube videos is of Tara and I riding and bathing an elephant at Elephant Junction in Thekkady, India. The whole experience was extremely memorable, and it was just a puzzle piece in our month-long exploration of the southwestern Indian state of Kerala. It ended up being one of our favorite regions we visited during the two and a half months we traveled around the country.

Tara and Bina share a bath together.

Tara and Bina share a bath together.

Most tourists who visit Kerala choose to sightsee in four cities: Kochi, Alleppey, Thekkady, and Munnar. These are the region’s golden circle of must-visit cities for those visiting the area. We ended up visiting three of the four, skipping out on Munnar simply because it offered mainly the same activities as Thekkady but with higher accommodation costs.

Tara and I started our month-plus visit to Kerala in Kochi. More specifically, we spent about a week relaxing north of Kochi at a remote homestay on Kuzhupilly Beach. We spent our days reading, writing, jogging along the beach and enjoying each other’s company. It was a period of relaxation after a month of quick travel through the north. Continue reading

Friday Chewable: The Diminishing Returns of Postcards

Welcome to our all-new series called Friday Chewable: Food for Thought. Once per month we will post a new topic to open your mind, challenge your ideas or just give you something to think about over the weekend.

This third installment of Food for Thought, written by Mike, deals with postcards and the value we attach to them.

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Postcards from around the world

Postcards from around the world

There is something about the tactile nature of postcards that keeps me from giving up on them completely. Perhaps it is their nostalgia? Fond memories of my years in Prague a decade ago, a cloudy haze of absinthe and pilsner-fueled days and nights. The obscene amount of postcards I would scrawl on and send off, like messages in bottles, hopeful they would find their recipient. Yet, for all my love for this correspondence, this medium as the message, they seem to be fading in the consciousness of the world. 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

Friday Chewable: Experiencing Genuine Kindness

Welcome to our all-new series called Friday Chewable: Food for Thought. Once per month we will post a new topic to open your mind, challenge your ideas or just give you something to think about over the weekend.

This second installment of Food for Thought, written by Mike, deals with kindness and humanity.

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I like to think I’m a nice person. I try to be friendly and understanding, even during trying times. Over the course of our 14 months traveling, I realized there is a vast ocean of difference between being nice and the genuine kindness that we experienced from others.

Early in our trip we were fortunate enough to Couchsurf with an awesome couple, Clelia and Ruslan, at their home in Trieste, Italy. We stayed with them for two nights, and over the course of many conversations, we tried to reconcile how most Americans’ attitude of friendliness is based on a superficial model. Continue reading