Eight weeks behind of fulfilling our dream. Eight weeks ago we packed our bags and left our dark and cold homeland Finland to embarque on a round-the-world journey. And what an eight week period it has been! We started the journey west-bound and as the first leg explored Caribbean. From there we continued to Central America. At this point (end of Jan, 2017) we’ve reached our 9th country in this journey. And at this point all we really need is just to relax and take a little break from all that travelling. I’m writing this from a small paradise island in Belize.
We read and followed several travel blogs and experienced backpackers. Luckily nowadays it is so easy, and luckily so many very openly share their experiences in detail. Thus we had quite a good idea what a trip like this would be like. I think. Or so I thought. We haven’t really encountered major surprises or incidents we were not prepared for. More likely, we have followed and witnessed so many aspects that other backpackers have shared in their blogs.
Exceeding budget after first leg
The only sort of a surprise was how expensive Caribbean really was. We had a pretty good understanding that Caribbean would be one of the most expensive legs in our journey. And thanks to some many bloggers that have willingly and openly shared their spent budget breakdowns country by country. Still, we blew a big portion of our budget island hopping in the Caribbean (5 islands in 5 weeks) and it was our first part only. We knew it usually goes like this: you spend the most during the first weeks or months of your journey. Of course, it’s all new and you don’t necessarily know how to skip or minimize some costs. And in the beginning, at least we really needed a vacation after a tough fall, so we ate out quite much, stayed in a more expensive guest houses and hotels etc.
Now we know better how to seek for smaller prices and maybe select options less expensive. For example, quite fast we realized that even though we are three, we are more than satisfied with only two adult size meals in restaurants. Portions in restaurants usually are so enormous that in the beginning we ended up having one completely left over if we ordered three plates of food. Today we got three takeaways from a Chinese restaurant and we will eat twice out of them.
And you probably want to know wheter we exceeded our budget a little or too much? Yes, too much; however, luckily we did not have the strictest budget to follow. But I can assure you, other legs to come can NOT be as expensive. So budget-consciousness is much more present with us from now on.
Taking a break from travelling
After seven weeks of travelling in eight different countries, which means moving quite much, we were quite exhausted. We knew we needed a quiet place on the beach just to relax and do really nothing but sleep, read, swim, snorkel, read a bit more, excercise and study. After a couple of days of “doing nothing” on this quiet little island we realized how much we really needed it! We really needed a break from all the travelling! How weird is that?? I almost feel guilty saying this out loud. After all, we are on our dream journey and very grateful that this is anyhow possible.
Still, we did need a break from just living out of the rucksacks. All the time gathering and collecting stuff, having your gear ready to grab and go to the next location. To watch the clock all the time, to wake up to an alarm to make sure you reach your flight or boat or what ever was taking you to your next destination. Almost unused rooms at hotels, since you didn’t really spend much time in it while you just have to be able to experience all there is around it. Almost unpacked rucksacks since there was no point taking everything out for only a day or two. You have all your stuff neatly in small zipped plastic bags and its just easier to keep them zipped.
Furthermore, just like the “wiser” have shared, there is only so many new destinations you can get excited about and truly explore, absorb and enjoy one after another. I think all three of us were physically and emotionally quite tired just from a big change too. And when you are, its difficult to learn new things and just to get even interested in new cultures, countries, language, locations and your whereabouts: where are the nearest atm’s, supermarkets, bus stops, taxis, is it safe, wifis, where to get something to eat, etc. So, after you give your journey a little deserved break, you’re up for exploring new territories again!
Insights gained during two months
A few insights we gained during the first two months of travelling (as it is a new thing for us really):
Eating out gets boring. After seven weeks “on the road”, we were also sort of sick and tired of eating out in the restaurants. We had had a couple of the accommodations with kitchenettes, but still, mostly ate restaurant food. And after a while it gets boring, fattening, expensive and is just a hazzle. How we like having a kitchen to cook meals in now! Just very very basic home-cooked meals. Yey!
Homesickness hit kids harder. A child away from home misses home more than adults. Our son Leevi is almost daily planning something he will do when we get home, whereas we adults are trying not to think of anything back home 😉 He of course gets homesick after we skype to our loved ones at home of to his school class. And he doesn’t have friends his age to play with, nor a common language with others than us. Whereas we often talk to other travellers we meet.
Wifi – a basic necessity, or is it? There’s wifi everywhere nowadays. First few weeks we only visited a couple of restaurants that did NOT have free wifi. All the accommodation places had one too. Then all of a sudden we spent 9 days in almost a radio silence in Cuba. And continuing had poor access in Mexico and Guatemala. One thing if not only communicating online is difficult without proper wifi: making reservations for next steps. We actually ended up entering Mexico with no accomodation what so ever. In the evening. With a child. And lied an address to the immigration authorities.
Social media – a window to the world. With wifi everywhere, you reach your friends, family and acquintancies daily. You can report your extraordinary trip all the time and suffocate your followers to death with them… On the other hand, the whole world is your audience. You become a media. All of a sudden, you’re pretty much obliged to share at least a small part of your amazing trip with your audience – although ambience of an exciting place is never truly transformed with a post. One note though: don’t forget those close ones who are not following you on social media!
Credit cards, money and banking. With and without losing your nerves. An extra credit/debit card is a must. What to do if all of a sudden your everyday card just doesn’t work when booking accommodation or transportation if you don’t have another card…? And sometimes you need a couple of more expensive reservations at the same time. So you do need two cards for that too. Dealing with banking issues is on the other hand very easy (since mobile or net banking is available 24/7. Then on the other hand if and when something comes up, you can’t call the bank, you can’t necessarily reach your possible physical mail sent to you by the bank maybe saying your credit card has been terminated for some reason. Prepare for several days for things to get sorted if you for example get you web bank locked…
Do we have the right gear? Many excelent travel blogs nowadays provide good tips on what to pack for a trip like this. So far we’ve got quite many things right or handy, however, a few insights on your gear: you carry every item you have for the 6+ months.
You live out of plastic bags: mini grips are the best. Whatever you buy must be stored in plastic, unless you want tiny ants or other bugs all over… You can’t buy anything large or heavy, unless you want to toss some stuff out of your limited space. Packing cubes are also awesome, since you want to unload your rucksack even if you’re staying just a couple of nights. One thing we feel sad about is our very practical small multitool Swiss army knife, that came in very handy. Until it was stolen from one of our rucksacks at the airport in Havanna, Cuba.
As others have experienced it: we too probably have far too many pieces of clothing with us. We already got rid of three pairs of jeans in our second destination ( no space and saw no point carrying them with us in the tropics… Then again, I sort of missed my jeans when in Guatemala and in a bit colder climate..) We’ve replaced some t-shirts and or tops with new ones. And we all have several pieces of clothing that we have not used at all. Haven’t even taken out od the vacuum bag. Maybe will when in a bit colder temperatures…?
Kid stuff is difficult when you have children travelling with you. Luckily our Leevi is so old already, that he can carry some of the stuff. And he doesn’t need any special kid stuff anymore. We have a few toys for him, but drawing equipment and his smart phone seem to be far more important. We are thinking about ditching some of the toys when in Peru in a week (give them to local kids). And of course, we do have to carry some of his roadschooling stuff with us. Hi is really a good sport too: we accidently (for real!) left his sleep toy of ever since he was born in one of the small islands in the Caribbean, but he hasn’t been too sad about it. Every once in a while he remembers, but then he also remembers all the other sleep toys he has waiting at home.
Homestays are an experience. We will definitely stay more at homestays. That way you get to meet locals, eat with locals, get local insights and of course, they are less expensive.
Living the dream
Everyday, even when a bit tired, we thank for this opportunity and for the courage we took to embarque on our dream journey. Everyday, the more distance we reach from the everyday lives at safe and comfortable (yet very stressful) surroundings, this journey makes us wonder to what opportunities and adventures we may engage ourselves into in the future – when just living the dream. Everything is out in the open and possible.