^ when Port told me there was Pavlova on the dessert menu…it’s my absolute favorite.
We’ve been traveling through Europe for just about a month now, so Porter and I thought it would be a good idea to do a quick post about what we’ve learned so far: the expected, the unexpected, and the a-little-bit-random. So far we’ve made our way through Italy, spent four days in Croatia, and are closing out our second week in Greece in Serifos (after spending five days in Athens). As I’m sure anyone who’s traveled throughout Europe (or traveled at all) understands, there have been easy days and hard days, days that feel like vacation and days that feel far from vacation. All in all, though, I’d be lying if I said that our expectations for this trip haven’t been filled. In fact, they’ve been overfilled. As much as certain days where we got lost or stressed or irritated with each other (mostly because we’re irritated about something else) can be a bummer, Porter and I both feel like we’re instinctively a better “team” in this kind of lifestyle than we were expecting. I’ll talk about this a little more in our “what we’ve learned” list, but I think we both are better at picking up on “mood cues” and adapting ourselves to what we think the other person’s energy levels are like than we thought we would be. And that has helped a lot, a lot a lot because no one can be on 24/7, and nothing feels worse than someone expecting more energy or “pep” from you than you feel capable of in that present moment.
Also, it obviously helps that the eco-hotels that have been hosting us have all proven to be exactly what they represented themselves to be, both to us and online (which really isn’t always the case with hotels). We’ve had the chance to stay and to see some incredibly beautiful places and we both are intent on not losing sight of how fortunate we are to 1. be together every day 2. be pursuing a job we absolutely love & 3. be getting to see a whole lot of places we might not otherwise have gotten to see.
So, here it is, a quick and little bit random of a list of the wisdom we’ve gleaned:
1. Choose a “leader” on hectic travel days:
If you’re in the middle of a busy foreign train station and you and your husband are both simultaneously trying to be in charge of figuring out which platform the train you’re five minutes late for is on and also get both the coffees you require and also lug all the bags where they need to be and also respond to an email from a company you’re working with, than pretty soon someone is going to be irritated at someone and that train is going to be on its way to Lake Garda sans two passengers (this didn’t really happen, but almost). For us, travel days, even the non-hectic ones, were made immediately easier when we decided someone was going to be in charge. The other person (if I’m being honest – usually me) was going to find seats in the train station or terminal or ferry terminal and chill with the bags, while the “leader” picked up the tickets and the coffees and figured out the platform number and how to get to it without having to simultaneously deal with heavy luggage. Plain and simple, this works for us, and it works well. We’ve never had a hiccup or even a moment of frustration when we approach travel days this way. I think it’s a method we’ll be applying probably forever. One cook in the kitchen just means less mess.
2. Let things go as you go:
When I wrote this down I meant it literally, but it works figuratively, too. If you find that you packed something for your “life on the road” that you really aren’t using, don’t hold onto it believing that the day it’s going to become indispensable is just around the bend. Whether it’s a sweater you realize is actually super itchy or a twenty pack of hand warmers you thought you’d really love having for long-haul flights (guilty), get rid of what’s proven itself to be useless. Donate it, gift it, leave it behind. Figuratively too, traveling long term with your husband or even close friends, patience can wear thin quickly. Be forgiving and understanding. Dragging things out when you know you’re going to be with that person or those people for the foreseeable future every minute or every day will be an energy drain on both of you. Even if they left your cleanser in the hotel shower in Venice. Move on, Porter.
3. If you have an opinion, vocalize it:
If you want to see something, say something. Even if you have a restaurant preference or want to walk a certain way somewhere. In vacation mode, I think people are used to wanting to be sensitive to what the people they’re vacationing with want to do, but once it becomes a lifestyle you should always speak up about what’s really important to you to feel like you’ve experienced a place to the extent you wanted to. People’s desires when traveling, even as a lifestyle, can be completely different. Don’t bend on things that matter to you or you could look back and regret not having had the experience you wanted. If you like museums, make sure you go, if you hate museums, don’t make yourself go. Own your opinions.
4. Break shoes in before:
Simple enough, but Porter really would’ve saved himself a lot of pain our first week in Italy had he done this. There is NOTHING worse than being in a city and having to walk a lot and having awful blisters. I was prepared for it to happen – so I had blister bandaids, but if you can do anything in your power to only pack well-worn shoes for a trip to a new city, than do it.
5. There needs to be more men’s sandals:
It didn’t occur to me until this trip, and especially until Porter got bad blisters from all our days in the city, that I have yet to see a pair of men’s sandals that are good looking enough to be worn in Europe out to a nice dinner in a coastal town or city. I know that’s a specific scenario, but it got me thinking about how, in general, there really isn’t a great looking men’s sandal for when guys are in a hot weather place and want to look put together, but also don’t want to have to wear closed-toe shoes. As a girl, the idea of having so few sandals options gives me second hand stress. I’m thinking there needs to be more sandals like this or like this (but in a chocolate brown, maybe). Someone get on that.
6. Write down what you spend:
For any young people traveling, writing down pen-and-paper style what you spend can really be a lifesaver. It makes you conscious of what left your wallet each day and also just generally keeps you from forgetting about your financial goals and targets. Port has a little notebook he does this in every day and even watching him do it just gives me a sense of peace.
7. See-through bags for all toiletries:
Initially, I’d planned on finding some sort of cute sustainable make-up bags for different toiletries for our trip. Last minute, I nixed that idea and got all see-through reusable recyclable ones. I’m SO grateful I did this. When you’re constantly packing and unpacking being able to pull out all the toiletry bags and see where your toothpaste is or eyeliner or nail clippers saves so much time. I can’t imagine how many minutes I would’ve spent on this trip so far digging through different bags because I couldn’t see what was in them.
8. Triple check before you leave a hotel room:
Actually, quadruple check. Especially in the shower. I really am sorry about the cleanser, Port.
9. Some things should only have one home:
Passports, especially, should never move. We keep ours in the exact same place every travel day and as soon as we reach each hotel they’re straight in the safe. Spare contact lenses also always have a place, as do our eyeglasses, sunglasses, camera, and drone. These are our absolute can’t-live-withouts, and knowing exactly where they are always gives us significant peace of mind.
10. Make an ambitious schedule, than be lenient about it:
For some people having no schedule probably works, or doing activities all day long. For Porter and I, we like to have a schedule for each day that, hypothetically, could keep us seeing new things or exploring new sections of a city all day, but we rarely stick to it. The schedule is more of a wishful thinking kind of thing. We usually start our day doing whatever we were hoping to get done, but as the day wears on and we get worn out, we never feel guilty about tweaking things or “rolling over” certain sights to the next day.
11. The vacation diet WILL catch up with you:
Eating whatever you want on vacation makes absolute sense. Do it. Eat away. It’s a week or ten days or two weeks you’ve been looking forward to. Live it up. But once it becomes a lifestyle of traveling you can’t approach it like a vacation. Just like eating spaghetti bolognese every night for three weeks might not feel so great by day twenty back home in Boston, it won’t in Tuscany. Be lenient enough that you don’t miss out on the highlights (nocciola gelato in Italy, loukomades in Greece) but be strict enough that you still wake up feeling like whatever version of yourself you feel when you’re at home keeping to more regulated eating habits. Your energy levels will thank you.
12. Ask for help:
From an airport attendant or a local walking to work or your husband when you can’t zip your luggage up. Being quick to ask for help has helped us avoid so much unnecessary stress. We both believe that people are generally kind everywhere. If they know where to go, they’ll give you directions, if they don’t, they’ll help you find someone who does. Breathe. It’s 2017, you’re never really lost.
We hope that if you’re planning a vacation or a longer stint of travel with friends or a significant other or family this list is applicable and will help smooth the road out (it definitely would’ve for us!). I’m sure a month from now we’ll have a whole new list of things we’ve learned, and in a way I really hope we do. Part of why we both feel so “ourselves” in this from-here-to-there lifestyle is that it seems like every day there are simultaneous inward and outward lessons going on, whether it’s experiencing a new culture or being forced to face a shortcoming of yours that’s a lot easier to bury in the back of your mind when you’re in the comfort of a one-address home, life constantly evolves when you’re on the move. For now, for us, it feels like the lifestyle we’re meant for.
Anna Lisa & Porter