15 things I notice being back in the US after 158 days away

While Drew and I are nomadic, we often include some US travel into our nomadic lifestyle- enough so that we don’t necessarily feel like expats. But this past “jaunt” kept us off US shores from mid-May when we joined my sister for her adoption in Ukraine all the way until this past week. 158 days across 15 countries and 3 different continents.

US-> Ukraine-> Latvia-> Estonia-> Finland-> Croatia-> Montenegro-> Bosnia & Herzagovina-> Slovenia-> Hungary-> Serbia-> Bulgaria-> Turkey-> Egypt-> South Africa-> Namibia-> US

After all of that, returning to the US is actually just as exciting as traveling. It’s long been hailed as one of the perks of traveling- the wonder of return. So rather than pontificating on the reverse culture shock, (or rather reverse culture wonder), I’d like to highlight 10 things that hit me when I return after a long time away.

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The tool no one knows about, but everyone should bookmark

I’m going to do some generalizing and simplifying here, and say that Drew and I represent two different kinds of travel hackers. On the one hand, Drew represents the kind of travel-hacker who has a lot of the functional information memorized. If someone asks the mileage price from A to B with XYZ miles, there’s a good chance he’ll know something like that off the top of his head.

I, on the other hand, represent a different kind of travel-hacker. Less “pro”. I have a familiarity with all kinds of the miles and points details, but almost none of the specific numbers are memorized. Just the other night I was trying to help my sister decide which cards she would need to get for a roundtrip to Asia. And I couldn’t remember any exact mileage prices- only ball-parks.

I imagine that this community has plenty of people just like Drew- people who have a lot of things memorized because they use that information nearly every day.

But it’s also full of people like me. People who know a lot of the generals, but still need to look things up.

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Jamaica crab legs

Why I’m ok with living in a resort, but not so much vacationing in one

We have been in Egypt for a few weeks now and I honestly still don’t feel like I can accurately say what Egypt is like. This is entirely due to the fact that this first chunk of our visit was designed to get lots of work done while living out of cheap Hilton resorts. Drew’s been calling it his “exile”.  Which…I find a little humorous…since we’re in Egypt. Biblical humor.

Has it been a success in that regard?  Mostly, yes. Despite rather slow internet, it’s been nice to have lots of long stays so we don’t have to toss hours of time to the across-town-transit-gods.

The only affordable food is room service, so we don’t waste time hunting cheap food spots. We’re in the middle of nowhere so there are very few recreational temptations as far as local city sites and the like. So, ya. For getting work done, it’s great.

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8 things we still haven’t figured out about nomadic life

Today, I thought of 7 things we still haven’t figured out about nomadic life, despite three-ish years under our belts. We may not have to worry about a dog who won’t stop digging up the yard or a driveway that’s impossibly icy in the winter, or any of the headaches ordinary people learn to live with. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have our own unique list of pain-in-the-butt realities. Every lifestyle’s got one.  Here’s ours.

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When it’s time to cancel a card…what are your options?

Ok. So you got a card because of the alluring sign up bonus and now that the annual fee is rolling around, you’re weighing the options as to whether or not the card is worth keeping. What should you do? What should you consider?

Well, here are some things to think about as you decide:

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Why I hate renting cars abroad

As Drew mentioned in his recap of our July Expenses, we rented a car yet again, even though we always swear we hate it.

And even though I wouldn’t necessarily say I regret renting the car, I am going to stand by my statement that I hate renting cars.

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Vienna BW2

Zenmanship: Covetous minimalism

“Zenmanship” is my zen penmanship.  

I am going to occasionally add to a collection I’m calling “Zenmanship” where I will experiment with writing about the angles of this lifestyle that interest me more than miles & points.  Minimalism, mindfulness, the human experience, etc.

For other Zenmanship articles, follow this link

We just got to Budapest a day or so ago and I spent a shameful lot of my time people-watching with the sole purpose of comparing their haircuts to mine. See, I just got a haircut in Ukraine and I don’t love it. And everyone is just so darn trendy in bigger cities that I find myself treating these cities like a giant Pinterest board full of styles that I want for myself.

But even in the smaller cities throughout Bosnia and Croatia I found myself getting distracted by people’s backpacks. The other week Drew and I went to a thrift store (we do all of our shopping very intentionally at thrift stores) and got a little backpack that we can use to take our computer gear into a coffee shop for a day of work if we want. It was the perfect little backpack but the straps are so thin that by the third day of hauling around heavy computers they started to tear. So now the backpack we bought for computer transport can only be used for grocery transport. Thus, I found myself backpack-watching.

The thing I hate to admit but the thing that is true unfortunately often, is that I am a bit of a covetous minimalist. I really really don’t like that about myself.

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What do you do when no one speaks English?

Sometimes when people find out that Drew and I are full-time travelers, they ask if we know any other languages. Much as I wish the answer was yes, (Chinese and Spanish are on the bucket list), sadly we only have a little bit of Spanish and a littler bit of German under our belts.

My sister is practically fluent in Spanish, but even she gets quite nervous any time she has to use the words she knows.  I totally get that. I remember feeling so nervous to use my German when we were standing in the pouring rain at a gas station trying to hitch a ride towards Vienna. I kept thinking, “Fahren Sie am…wait….Fahren Sie nach….which one is it….?” And for some reason, it just made me freeze. I was scared of looking like an idiot.

But here’s the thing. Day to day routines that require you to run errands in a language you don’t speak ….are going to make you feel silly sometimes.  But it’s probably not going to make you look like an idiot. I mean really…would saying “Are you driving at Vienna?” instead of “Are you driving to Vienna?” really have been that embarrassing when it’s clear I’m a foreigner who’s just trying to communicate something? No not really.

Obviously it’s great to learn as many words as you can before traveling someplace…in theory. But with so many places to visit, I usually only get a few words and phrases down before I move on to the next place. And usually, the more words I learn, the less awkwardness I find myself in.

Aside from the very generic “Hello,” and “Thank You” type phrases, here are the other words I tend to find most useful.

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The Real Bali [Behind the Scenes]

I’m really excited about our most recent Youtube video, “The Real Bali: Discovering Nyepi.” Maybe it’s because we had better/more footage to use for that video or maybe it’s because Bali is such an adventurous place, but for whatever reason it’s the video I’m most proud of as a video editor.

But a lot of things have to get edited out in order to keep a video interesting. So I wanted to write a blog post that shines a sort of “behind the scenes” light on the events in the video.

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An adventure in Kiev…all while babysitting…

Thursday was one of the most eventful days we’ve had our whole time in Ukraine (aside from the day we actually picked Gianna up from the orphanage of course.) It started with my nephews playing hide and go seek around the corner from a protest and ended with a serendipitous tourist experience of the cheapest variety.

A little back-story for those of you who haven’t heard me go on and on (and on and on and on) about it already: this month Drew and I have been traveling throughout Ukraine babysitting my sister’s two boys while she and her husband go through the process of finalizing the adoption of their daughter. Some days we just hang out all together and other days we babysit the boys while Rachel, Zack and Gianna are required for various detaily things.  Today Rachel and Zack finally took their 5-piece family home. So the adoption trip is officially done. But before I close up that chapter of discussions here on the blog…I have one more post about a particularly adventurous babysitting day…

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