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

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

Coachella Camping Hacks

Camping at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival in Indio, California is often labeled a rite of passage for first-year festival attendees. The party does not end the second the last band leaves the main stage every night; there is something kinetic about the rowdy crowd. Campsite dance floors blast music hours after the venue locks its gates for the night, and other campers who are too wired to sleep re-cap their day and plot a schedule for the next one. This either sounds like a very good time, or a turnoff to those who only go to Coachella to see their favorite bands live.

Entering the venue

Entering the venue

So why, for five years (going on six) have I camped out rather than get a hotel? The answer is pretty simple: the camping community is welcoming and the benefits of not having to take a shuttle or drive to the venue every day makes the choice a no-brainer. Camping allows you to roll out of bed when you want, catch an afternoon nap, grab snacks or drinks of your choosing and it grants you the ability to slap a burger on the grill whenever you want. To me, camping at Coachella is not just a rite of passage, but also a way to improve your festival experience. Read on to help get the most out of your camping experience, and so you don’t spend your days waiting in line to take the shuttle into town to buy the essentials you forgot to bring. Continue reading

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

A Guide to Buying Couture Clothing in Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

A street in Hoi An, Vietnam.

The skillful tailors of Hoi An are well-known throughout the world. Many of them can trace the trade through several generations of their family, and it’s not only women who are pulling a needle and thread. With deft fingers and a keen eye, they’re known by many as master craftsmen, able to copy any design they see. If you show them a picture of a coat, suit or dress, you can expect a nearly exact replica to be produced within 24-48 hours. The best tailor shops in Hoi An are well-known, and they are the reason that Vietnamese from all parts of the country will encourage you to visit this central city.

Unfortunately, not every business operates honestly. The city has seen an increased number of tailor shops over the years because of those eager to capitalize on the influx of tourists looking for custom-made clothing. A larger variety of shops isn’t a bad thing, but the fallout of this explosion is that many of these tailors produce shoddy work. The supply has yet to exceed the demand and, as a result, some of these shops have less-qualified employees using lower-quality materials. Worse, the demand for quickly assembled clothes has led to the creation of overworked sweatshops. If you aren’t interested in giving your money to a questionable operation, read on for our tips on finding a great Hoi An tailor and how to handle the process of buying custom-made clothes. Continue reading

Self-Diagnosing on the Road

Tara Putting on a Bandage

Tara putting on a bandage after a minor motorbike mishap in Laos.

When you take a short vacation from work, you typically wouldn’t visit a doctor during your trip unless a serious matter had to be addressed. Long-term travelers, however, can’t wait months until their return to seek treatment or a doctor’s opinion. They have to find care on the road or risk that a small issue might turn into a larger one. But even if they have health coverage, the hassle of navigating through their plan’s fine print coupled with trying to find a trustworthy physician in a foreign country discourages some from seeking help.

If you recall, when Mike and I were planning our trip, we divided tasks according to our individual strengths. It was my responsibility to find travel insurance that would also provide us with good medical coverage, and I took this job very seriously. We ended up buying 13 months of insurance through STA Travel, with coverage administered by CSA Travel Protection. There were a variety of reasons this insurance won out against our second choice, but one very nice inclusion was that a one-time payment of up to $1,000 could be applied toward your first in-network physician visit during your coverage period. Naturally, we didn’t want to waste that $1,000 by going to the doctor for the common cold or something that would only use a small portion of that monetary offer. But we’ve also never been the type to run to the doctor for every ache and pain anyway. It would be better, we thought, to put the $1,000 toward what would be a more expensive doctor visit, like to treat a broken ankle or – heaven forbid – something major. Continue reading