(re)Adjusting to America

It hasn’t been easy (re)Adjusting to America. I’ve been overwhelmed by everything from thick bath towels longer than I am tall (ok, almost), Keurig coffee makers, and the Kardashians – just to name a few of the many things that I can’t seem to be able to wrap my head around. It would seem that I simply don’t know what it is to be “American” these days. Target employees make me want to run and hide in the middle of a rack of clothing. HELLO! HOW CAN I HELP YOU TODAY? ARE YOU FINDING EVERYTHING OK? ANYTHING I CAN DO FOR YOU? And then there’s the plethora of choices. So. many. choices. all. the. time. Different brands. Different sizes. Different packages. Aisles upon aisles of… food and more food. or toothpastes. or bras and underwear. or lotions. or candy. or magazines. or…

When I left America, there was cheese. Sure, there were different kinds of cheese; cheddar, mozzarella, feta… But now there’s non-dairy cheese. Lactose intolerant cheese. Organic cheese. Gluten free cheese. Vegan cheese. And the diets everyone is on? It makes my head spin. I shouldn’t judge. I know my diet changed a lot on our trip. Like in S.E. Asia, there were noodles- so we ate noodles. In Nepal and India, there wasn’t any beef, but there was a lot of curry! We didn’t eat beef, we ate curry. In Africa it was impossible to find fresh vegetables. Guess what we didn’t eat? Fresh vegetables. And now that we’re back in America, where you can eat absolutely anything you could possibly want… people choose not to eat certain foods? Even worse, people let food go to waste?

You’re full after eating your soup AND appetizer, so you’re just going to throw away half of a perfectly good cheeseburger because you’re FULL? Because YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO NOT HAVE HAD A GOOD CHEESEBURGER IN MONTHS? Girl, please, I will take that cheeseburger home for you if you don’t want it. And no, not because there are poor starving children in Africa (although there are) but because I know what it’s like to not have a cheeseburger when I really, really want one. It’s not just this that’s on my mind if I’m out at a restaurant these days. It’s the bubbly waitress, it’s the constant coffee refills, it’s the tipping… I haven’t tipped in so long, it’s like I never learned basic math skills to immediately calculate and slip 20% in with my bill.

And did you know EVERYONE SPEAKS ENGLISH?

At least in middle America they do.

There was one night in Madison (Wisconsin) though where we found ourselves in a Vietnamese restaurant next to a table full of Spanish speakers. Because listening to their conversation felt more normal than anything had since we touched down in America, I couldn’t help but giggle as one of them (in Spanish) made fun of someone who told them they needed to stop speaking “Mexican.”

And everyone talks to you all the time. At least, to me they do. It’s fantastic! And totally weird because I’m not used to speaking the same language fluently. But it’s great… just as long as no one else is speaking English at the same time. Because I’ve lost all ability to filter other conversations out of my brain simultaneously. When you’re living in Korea, and your Korean isn’t fluent, filtering others out is literally a no-brainer. Same for traveling in and out of countries where you don’t speak the language. But when everything is in English? It’s like everyone in close proximity is inside of my brain and I cannot for the life of me get their voices, their conversations out of it. Perhaps if I thought everyone was speaking at a reasonable volume it would be easier… But it seems like everyone has been shouting at me or in every conversation with or around me since our arrival. I would like to think everyone has just been really excited to see me, but I have a feeling it has nothing to do with me and more to do with the bigger (voice) the better. I have yet to figure out why…

I thought (stupidly) that adjusting to being around our old friends again was going to be the hardest part. It’s definitely been an adjustment, but mostly because Andrew and I went without friends (unless we were lucky enough to meet or meet up with some on our trip for more than one afternoon or night) for 15 months. The majority of that time, we were alone. Friendships were maintained via email and even then it was a bit spotty. I would go for weeks or months without hearing from some friends and I would have to remind myself that I was the one who left them. I was the one who went off the grid when the internet simply didn’t work very well in countries like Nepal or Mozambique or Ecuador… But as soon as I got back, it felt as though everyone was waiting with arms wide open. They left keys under plants for us to let ourselves in after our plane landed at three in the morning. They showed up with a six pack of Spotted Cow – not even for me – but for Andrew! They bought us (and some continue to buy us) drinks when we go out. One drove an hour and a half just to have dinner with us! Now that I have an American number, they text, they send gifs of the Golden Girls to my phone, they call, and it feels like I have friends again. We aren’t alone anymore. The adjustment isn’t a rough one, but an unexpected “Oh this is what it’s like to have people around” feeling that wasn’t anticipated.

I also thought (stupidly) that adjusting to being a physical part of my family again was going to be one of the easier parts of this transition. They’ve known me the longest, right? They made me, or, at least, they’ve been around after I was made… how could they not ‘get me’ by now? I could not have been more wrong. I have become so familiar with what it’s like to feel like I don’t have a family that I was ecstatic to be “home” again. This enthusiasm was not matched and I struggle with how to let go of the disappointment.

It seems as if everyone has their own opinion of our adventure around the world and the choice that we made to do it in the first place. Most people think of our 15 month jaunt around the world as a vacation. Like, we were having so much fun all the time, and the pictures we posted on Facebook meant we were always having this amazing time. It was amazing, it was an unbelievable adventure, but it was also WAY more work than going to a traditional job everyday from 9-5. Even if we were seeing an incredible site in the morning, in the afternoon we might be traveling or planning how to get to our next destination or where our next destination was going to be. It. was. hard. We went on this adventure to learn and grow and of course, see the world, but not because we thought it was going to be a 15 month holiday. And we’re moving to New York for some of the same reasons, but it seems as though a lot of people think it’s just one more irresponsible dream we’re chasing down. This makes the transition even more difficult.

I also struggle with anxiety over the future. Over wanting our move back to America to work out. Over wanting a job again. Over wanting a full kitchen and inviting friends over for a beautiful dinner. Or simply being able to buy all of my friends drinks instead of the other way around. I don’t know what the future is going to bring, and I’m not always confident in it, or myself. But then Andrew gets crazy optimistic on me. Or I get a gif of Betty White shimmying across a dance floor. Or a message from a friend reminding me that I survived a rhino (it was actually a hippo) threat while high on malaria meds in Africa and to keep calm and carry on.

 

Day 442: Our last full day of our trip around the world

As Andrew says above, we were definitely feeling reflective, among many other emotions. Ending our 15 month trip around the world is a strange feeling. The closer the trip came to an end, the more ready I felt for it to be finished… Yet, at the same time it’s one of those things that I never really want to end. It’s a jumble of feelings. We tried to capture what we were feeling as we sat down for waffles and ice-cream in Cartagena’s Old Town on our last full day of our trip.


Day 439: Cartagena to Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca is a beautiful white sand beach on one of the Rosario Islands off the coast of Cartagena. Per everyone’s advice, we skipped the aquarium/island tour en route, and went straight from Cartagena to Playa Blanca. At least, that’s what we asked for. Multiple times when we were buying our tickets to Playa Blanca. Waiting at the harbor for the right boat was confusing, for everyone it seemed, except those walking around with clipboards and lists of names. 

Once we finally got on what we were told was the right boat (and we did see our names on the list) we discovered we were with a tour group going to the aquarium. Fortunately, after the thirty minute boat ride, we were dropped off first at Playa Blanca. Again, we heeded advice given to us and immediately began walking down the beach  (to the left of where you get dropped off) to get away from the vendors and day visitors. We settled for a cabana steps from the ocean, slipped into our suits, and pulled chairs under the umbrella and didn’t move for the rest of the afternoon.

Day 438: More salsa in Cartagena? Yes, please!

And that’s exactly what we did. More of the same from the day before. Walked around the old town. And, again, were the only two who showed up to the group lesson at Crazy Salsa. At night, we went back into the old town to a salsa club that one of the guys working at the hostel recommended. We must have showed up too early, because while there were a lot of people milling about, none were dancing. We left to walk around the old town at night, stumbled upon an outdoor concert wrapping up, and then back to the club. When we returned, there was a bit more dancing, and some older Colombians took pity on me dancing by myself next to Andrew who was trying to pay attention to all of the fancy footwork on the little dance floor. After several dances with the same two sweet Colombians, we left to catch a little sleep before our boat to Playa Blanca in the morning.

Day 436: Cartagena

Cartagena is hot. It’s not only hot, it’s humid. Our first stop? Giant glasses of fresh fruit juice a block away from our hostel. Another guest informed us the juice was better (and bigger) there, rather than at the hostel itself. Once we were slightly cooled off, we set off for the old city. The old city of Cartagena is a walled-in city full of beautiful colonial style buildings. All of the guide books recommend walking around Cartagena’s old city for days on end. It’s the thing to do, and as you can see below- for good reason. Every street was full of character, sitting in the park watching the birds and the children feeding (or trying to catch) the birds was entertaining, even when it rained, a rainbow popped up over the walled in city. Beautiful. No other word for it. We walked around the entire day, stopping only to cool off in an air-conditioned store or ice-cream shop.

Day 433: El Rodadero

El Rodadero seemed to be the least dangerous area of Santa Marta. Perhaps this is because it might be the least visited by foreigners. Once we walked around town, we realized why. It seemed to be a locals only tourist destination. When we walked down the main beach, we were amazed at how many people there were and to be frank; how dirty it was. Families upon families were camped out next to each other and garbage was everywhere. At least while we were walking along the beach there were a few garbage men picking up the trash, but still! It was rather unbelievable. I wanted (desperately) to photograph it all, but I didn’t feel comfortable whipping out my DSLR on the beach amongst a lot of locals, so I kept it tucked away in my bag (or room). We left the crowded beach and found a smaller, less crowded, and much less dirty beach a little ways down and enjoyed the water and beach there instead. It was lovely to be on a beach again, but quite different from the beaches of SouthEast Asia and it made us question what fuels the difference. 

Day 432: Medellin to Santa Marta

Despite our love of 12 hour+ bus rides (kidding), we decided to fly from Medellin to Santa Marta instead. We weren’t totally sure if it was going to be smooth sailing, as we heard multiple stories of Viva Colombia! Airlines often canceling and delaying flights. 

There was a lot of confusion within the airport itself, but we managed to land safely only about an hour later in Santa Marta. Much more convenient than a day (and night) on another bus.


Day 407: Quito at 5 AM

Quito at 5 AM is not exactly the best time to be walking around with all of your worldly possessions in tow. We jumped in an overpriced taxi (we’re gringos after all) and headed straight to our hostel, where we weren’t sure if we would be able to check in immediately or not. When we found out we weren’t able to, we camped out in the living room, and not feeling comfortable enough to sleep, we both pulled out our computers. Until we were able to check into our room, around ten in the morning, I worked on the blog. Yep, for five hours, on very little sleep, I edited photos, videos, took advantage of the fast internet connection (the first time I had a fast internet connection in several weeks) and tried to get some work done. By the time we were sinking into our bed, I had five new posts up and was more than ready to crash. Which is exactly what we did for the majority of the afternoon. We were exhausted. We went out for dinner, and then amidst the excitement in the streets for another Ecuador World Cup Qualifier, we headed back to our room to watch the game in bed, instead of a bar. The best part was not being able to watch the game in my underpants- but that our television was on a tiny delay. Every time we would hear loud cheering on the streets, I would know to pay attention and wouldn’t miss a goal (or a save)! I’m sure not everyone would agree, but given how exhausted I was, it was the perfect way to watch Ecuador make it into the World Cup! 

Day 358: More Lessons Learned from Traveling Around the World

At what was essentially the start of this little jaunt, I wrote an article for Groove Magazine (of Seoul, South Korea): Lessons Learned from my first 50 days of traveling around the world. This trip has been a constant learning experience, and after a quick Google search, it appears that I am not the only one who thinks long-term travel is exceptionally educational. Nomadic Matt has learned a thing or two, as has Benny, the Irish polyglot, and even Gary Arndt (as read on the blog of Tim Ferriss – the four hour workweek dude). Bottom line: there are a lot of lists out there. A lot of them (like the ones above) are fairly broad. Mine… not so much.

Instead of regaling you with yet again, another day in a minute in between airports around the world and boring pictures of us on an airplane (this time from London to Lima)… I thought I’d pick up right where I left off from my last list about some of the more specific lessons I’ve learned since our first fifty days… Especially since we’ve been through Nepal and India:

parts of the Middle East:

Africa:

and even Europe:

Lesson #9: Traveling with cards? Be prepared to call your credit card company and bank every three months to verify which countries you’ll be traveling through. Otherwise the Fraud Department(s) will put a hold on your card the onetime you need to use it in that fourth month. In addition, I should have investigated my ATM withdraw and credit card international transaction fees more thoroughly. In 12 months of travel, trying my hardest to stick to a $50.00 (or under) a day budget, I discovered Citibank has charged me a whopping $341.02 – and that’s from only ONE of my two Citibank cards! That’s nearly one full week of my budget! Wiser travelers, Josh and Leanne haven’t been charged any fees using Capital One.   

Lesson #10: Pay attention to that strange feeling in the bottom of your stomach when your bus or hotel room has a certain chemical smell to it. Open a window. Step outside. Change hotels. Whatever that smell is, probably isn’t good for you and the annoyance of moving yourself and your stuff far outweighs the possibility of permanent health damages (or waking up without any of your stuff!)

Lesson #11: When dealing with a ridiculously horrible hotel manager, like at Chiang Mai Thai House, don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself in front of other guests. This horrible (awful, terrible) manager truly embarrassed me in front of other guests, even though he was the one who made the booking mistake! You could say, the lesson learned here was to not stay at this hotel in the first place… (If heading to Chiang Mai, don’t make the same mistake!)

Lesson #12: Nothing in Nepal is free. Renting a car for an impossibly cheap fare for the day comes with the price of sitting in a tourist agency listening to an agent try to pitch trekking trips to you for an hour and a half, despite the fact that you told him you were probably the only tourists in Nepal NOT trekking.

Lesson #13: When you find yourself getting angry with your travel partner over something ridiculous, it’s probably time for a nap, a meal, a day of drinking, or a day of doing nothing at all. Traveling around the world is hard. Don’t let anyone who hasn’t done it tell you otherwise.

Lesson #14Bathing with elephants in Chitwan, Nepal is not what you think it will be. You’re not going to soap up an elephant in the middle of the river, getting some intimate one-on-one time with an elephant. You’re going to pay a mahout to let you climb onto the back of an elephant whose spirit has been broken. The elephant is going to spray you with water when the mahout prods him/her with a giant spear to do so. And then after ten minutes (give or take) your experience “bathing” the elephant will be finished. You’re better off buying some bananas and feeding an elephant in between other tourists (who don’t know of the damage the mahouts have done to the poor beasts) bathing experiences.

Lesson #15When your bus breaks down in the middle of the mountains in Nepal, don’t hesitate to hop on the next bus that passes. If you wait around (like we did) you’ll simply find out your bus won’t be up and running again in time to cross the border into India and catch your next bus. Better to jump on a passing bus with one or two others instead of twenty who are now equally in need of a ride to the border.

Lesson #16: Don’t drink sugarcane juice out of a glass from a vendor on the streets of Varanasi. Always drink out of a plastic (unused) cup. This will ensure that you won’t be spending several hours in the bathroom in the middle of the night and next morning. Furthermore: Charcoal tablets (and Apple Cider Vinegar) will cure all stomach issues. Now, I never travel without them. They have saved my life. My stomach, and some of my other parts… more than once on this trip since that unfortunate glass of sugarcane juice.

Lesson #17: Learn the scams of India. Which scam is popular in each city. Be prepared. But also be prepared to fall victim to a new scam that hasn’t hit the Internet yet… This is one of the many prices you have to pay for traveling around the world. It might make you crazy the moment you realize you’ve been scammed, but chances are you’ll merely shrug about it later.

Lesson #18: When asking if your room for the night comes equipped with hot water and wi-fi… Be. More. Specific. Ask; “Does the room have hot water and wi-fi today?” Furthermore, when you arrive exceedingly early thanks to your bus/train/plane into the city, and your hotel says you cannot check in early; use up any and all available sofa space in the common area or lobby to sleep until they magically find a room for you. As soon as you act like the lobby is your own private living room they are more likely to want you in your own private room.

Lesson #19: Women should not initiate conversation with Emirati men – especially by themselves. If you’re married, keep in mind your status doesn’t matter to an Emirati who wants to inappropriately grab you while you’re standing next to your non-Emirati husband (or in my case “husband”). Furthermore, at a party in the U.A.E. – never, not once, go anywhere on your own. Emirati men can and will do whatever they want, and because they are Emirati, in the U.A.E. they will get away with it.

Lesson #21When going through Israeli immigration, it’s probably best to know your geography ahead of time so you don’t bat an eye when asked if you will be visiting the West Bank or any of the occupied territories.

Lesson #22Floating in the Dead Sea is painful. Don’t shave any part of your body for a week a year before you visit. Wear a wetsuit! Stay in no longer than five minutes! No, three minutes! And bring a bottle of water to pour over your burning skin as you make your way to the fresh water showers two flights of stairs away!

Lesson #23Israel is expensive and “Birthrighters” –especially of the young, American variety are annoying. Sorry Birthrighters, but this non-Birthrighter spending a fortune to see what you got to do for free overheard one too many conversations about how “wasted we’re going to get tonight/tomorrow/when we get back to the hotel” and “Ohmigod, You’re a Cohen, too?”

Lesson #24: Your politics will change, or at least become more defined the day your morning is spent at the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem and your afternoon in a Palestinian refugee camp outside of Bethlehem.

Lesson #25: You can never plan too much for your trip around the world. Had we planned more, we would have not even tried Europe in the winter, we wouldn’t have flown from Israel to Belgium to Morocco to Uganda, and we definitely would have looked into the overland tours (like this one) through Africa.

Lesson #26: You can plan too much during your trip around the world. There comes a point where you need to step away from the computer with the TripAdvisor forum on its screen.

Lesson #27Marrakech is as awful as everyone (who has been) says it is. But chances are you’re going to have to go and see for yourself. When the man with the snakes/monkeys/magic tricks insist you pay him for the picture you just took – even though you were just walking by carrying your camera… just remember… “I told you so!”

Lesson #28: When a Moroccan man asks how much you cost, don’t say “I’m not for sale!” at least find out how much he thinks you’re worth! I promise, it will make for a better story, err, status update on Facebook.

Lesson #29Postagram is cheaper than buying postcards and stamps around the world. Trust me. (Obviously I’m a bit biased because they foot my elementary school pen-pal project, but you fork over the equivalent of $30.00 for postage in the middle of Laos just to send postcards to your family and you might fall in love with the app yourself!)

Lesson #30: Malaria prophylaxis will drive you crazy. If you’re anything like me (sensitive to medication), you’ll feel like your skin is burning anytime you’re in the sun, you’ll cry for no reason, and you might even attempt to break up with your boyfriend over something you won’t even remember (nor understand) the next morning. My advice after nearly one month straight of taking them, (and crying all. the. time.) avoid the pills and take your chances with bug spray instead.

Lesson #31: When camping during your African safari, warthogs wandering through will eat your snacks by day and giant hippos will eat the grass outside your tent at night. When you wake up to the ridiculously noisy chomping in the middle of the night, do yourself a favor and stay inside your tent. While warthogs aren’t so dangerous, hippos are.

Lesson #32When your thirty-year old bus blows a tire and flies off the road, landing in a pool of water in the middle of Tanzania, get your stuff and get. out. There are no emergency services coming to file a report, or take people to the hospital, or even to make sure everyone is accounted for. Flag down a bus passing by, climb in, and stand in the aisle until the next stop.

Lesson #33: Document your (car/bus/motorcycle) accident as best as you can. Ask your hotel/hostel to help find documentation of the accident to give your Travel Insurance Company when trying to file a claim for damaged possessions. Otherwise, self-insure. Because, if you’re anything like me, someone who invested in travel insurance for AFRICA – for situations just like this one… You will be out of luck when you realize you don’t have a bus ticket, a police report, or even your name on the guest registry at the hostel you’re staying at when you try unsuccessfully to file a claim for some damaged camera lenses. (Thanks for nothing, WorldNomads.)

Lesson #34: Feet swell during pregnancy (so I’ve heard). They also swell during overnight and/or 10 hour + bus rides. That being said; Mozambique is the most difficult country to travel through on your own. Domestic flights are crazy expensive, and every bus ride is at least 10 hours long. At least. And chances are they will be crammed with so many people you will spend the majority of your 12-14 hour journey holding someone else’s sack of rice, live chicken, or if you’re lucky, their adorably silent wide-eyed child. If you can survive one (or in our case, four) bus in Mozambique, you can survive anything. Keeping that in mind, Mozambique Island is beautiful. A bitch to get to, but beautiful.

Lesson #35: Reverse culture shock is standing in an aisle full of gummie candy in a gas station mini-mart after spending two months traveling around Uganda, Tanzania, and Mozambique. “Do you want tropical fruit or sour colas?” I asked my partner. I may as well have been speaking in Swahili. Although, chances are he would have been more likely to understand me, given the recent location(s) of our adventures.

Lesson #36: South Africa is a beautiful country. But it’s a strange one. Regardless if you come from a country with a history of slavery or apartheid, it will certainly make you evaluate equality in not only the country that you’re visiting but the country you’re from as well.

Lesson #37: Couch-surfing is a wonderful way to meet amazing people around the world. And when it’s not the perfect experience, it sure does make for a great story for future couch-surfing connections, friends in foreign countries, and family back home!

Lesson #38: Become a tissue/toilet paper HOARDER. Don’t underestimate the powers of an individually wrapped wet-wipe. (I hoard these, too!) And never leave your scarf in your hotel room. (Chances are you’ll get cold, or you’ll find yourself outside of a mosque you’d really like to visit, or you need something to wrap around your legs as a skirt when curious eyes haven’t seen a pair of bright white female legs before… It’s always worth tying around your purse strap or stuffing into the bottom of your day-pack.)

Lesson #39: Always pack your camera battery charger in your carry-on. Especially when flying Etihad Air. And when said airline’s third party baggage company cannot locate your lost luggage after an entire week stranded in Istanbul, get on the horn with other airlines and airports to find your own bag. If said airline promises you that they will provide a daily allowance to make up for the HUGE inconvenience, don’t count on being reimbursed for anything. It’s now been six months. It’s safe to say they didn’t (and don’t) care about inconveniencing past, present, or future customers’ travel schedules at all!

Lesson #40There is such a thing as the 10-Month Travel Slump. This travel obstacle, too, shall pass.

Lesson #41: Buying lunch (or dinner) at the local grocery store and having a picnic can be far more memorable and atmospheric than eating in an overpriced tourist café. Forget the cold croque monsieur and loud Americans at the next table, head to the Seine with a baguette, some cheese and a bottle of wine! Guaranteed to be prettier and easier on your budget!

Lesson #42: Don’t stay with friends in foreign countries unless you really, really enjoy their company. A free place to stay could come with a price that could cost you time navigating into the center of the city, a vegan dinner when all you really wanted was a big fat cheeseburger, or even your friendship.

Lesson #43: Mailing boxes of replacement clothes, shoes, and toiletries to myself in different countries was quite possibly the smartest thing I’ve done in regards to preparing for this trip. As it turns out, wearing flip-flops for eight months straight wasn’t the smartest move for my feet. Reuniting with my barely used neon orange Nikes in the middle of England was glorious. As was indulging in my favorite SkinFood beauty products, refilling my empty cranberry pill bottle, and slipping into a pair of jeans for the first time in a year! Jeans! Who knew something so basic could bring so much happiness? Mail boxes to yourself. If you don’t have friends, find a couchsurfer.

Lesson #44: Don’t get lost en route to, or show up late for your shared ride via BlaBlacar. Otherwise you might find yourself stranded outside of Barcelona when you thought you’d be in a car en route to Paris for the day.

Lesson #45: Traveling without a point and shoot was a bad idea. I wish I had one in addition to my DSLR. Regardless if you’re traveling with multiple cameras, be prepared to buy a replacement camera and/or lens. Travel is hard on cameras and related gear, and accidents tend to happen.

Lesson #46: “Free” Walking tours are an awesome way to see a new city! That is, if your “free” guide is giving tours because he loves his city, country, and quite simply enjoys giving tours. The minute your guide suggests how much you should donate (I’m looking at you, Discover Walks Paris!) as a “tip” give half and research different Free Tours. In our experience, the best guides never suggest a specific amount and we always enjoy them, and tip them the most.

Lesson #47: Trying to couchsurf in Western Europe in the middle of the summer is an exercise in futility. Trying to stay at a budget hostel/hotel/guesthouse is even worse. Lesson learned? Pay more for a better located and higher priced hotel. Otherwise you might find yourself staying in the middle of a bus station in Prague in a room with leaky windows and staff that doesn’t care when you report a drenched backpack after you know you closed the windows before you left.

Lesson #48: I may have friends around the world, but when you’re on the road for as long as we have been, it can often feel like you don’t know a soul on earth. No one emails on the weekend. With the exception of my girl, Mindy, friends don’t comment on your travel blog. Celebrating Thanksgiving (or any American holiday for that matter) lasts as long as your Skype connection, and then you feast on Indian food in the middle of Varanasi. This brings me back to Lesson #2 (Choose your travel partner wisely) or else you better be good at making friends in hostels, or in my case in the middle of the street in a foreign country.

Lesson #49: “How can you afford this trip?” has become my least favorite question to be asked about my year of traveling around the world. I’ve been out of the country for quite a few years, so maybe things have changed… Is it currently acceptable to ask how friends, family, and random strangers can afford their house, their new car, or quitting their job to go back to school? Not that anyone needs to know, but I don’t have a house, a car, or any kids. I worked hard. I saved up. That’s how I can afford this trip.

Lesson #50: You’re going to miss it. You’re going to miss that feeling of awe when you’re standing in front of the Taj Mahal. You’re going to miss the feeling of sheer exhaustion during and after a 24-hour (or more) journey from one city (or country) to the next. You’re going to miss everything amazing and absolutely heartbreaking about your trip – no matter how long, be it one year, fifteen months, or however long your trip is planned to be… It will be over before you know it. And you will miss it. More than you can ever prepare yourself for.

Obviously the list of lessons learned exceeds this little list of fifty… like how I will never take for granted the super sonic internet speeds in South Korea again. How friends or perfect strangers who have bought us a beer (or lunch, or dinner) are acts of kindness that I will never, ever forget. How incredibly humbling it is to be so impatient, cranky, and at times mean and have your travel partner forgive you for being so… human. How incredibly scary the world and its people are not. I’ve learned more than any list can ever spell out, and perhaps the most amazing part of this journey is that I’ve possibly learned more than I might ever even realize.