14.03.2016 24 °C
It helps if you like the person you're with, and enjoy looking at that face every day.
Your travelling companion must be willing to embrace new experiences and make new friends.
Humour is essential - not every day will be fun (or funny), and a sense of humour is the #1 survival tool.
With about five weeks left to go and home on the horizon, we thought it was time to reflect on a few things. Some friends have been curious about a trip like this: the financial feasibility, the planning and research, the logistics of travel, safety concerns, and the big one - how do we cope with being together 24/7? Since you've been kind enough to join us on our travels, we wanted to share our thoughts with you.
We asked ourselves a few questions, and we'll take turns answering them.
How did we arrive at our budget this year?
Ginny: After researching average room costs in Mexico, we started out with a daily budget of $120 - gas, accommodation and food, knowing some days would be more, some would be less. When we first started talking about this trip, our Canadian dollar was much stronger, so our budget has grown a bit to accommodate that. Stephen is the numbers guy. Budgeting, keeping track, adjusting numbers - this is his bailiwick - I'll turn it over to him.
Stephen:I have kept track of our trip expenditures over the years. So this year's budget was based on what we spent last year. Last year, we went over our $100 per day budget, so we moved it up to $120 per day which we are again going over. Our dollar is strong against the peso but weak versus the U.S. dollar. By having a budget and tracking expenditures, we do not stray too far off.
How can we afford this?
Ginny: Travel is so important to us that we will always budget it into our yearly expenses. A big thing to keep in mind is that the total cost of the trip is not the actual cost. If we were to stay home, we would heat our house, pay utilities, put gas in the car, buy groceries, entertain, go out, pay ferry costs, and all other incidentals. We figured out what those costs were and subtracted them from the money we will pay out for this trip and came to this total - $10,000.
Stephen: When budgeting, we consider the money that would not be spent at home as outlined above, then consider what additional monies are needed to fund the trip. Budgeting for travel is a fixed cost for us, so we make sure financially it happens. So the additional monies needed for trips are funded by extra work and watching the budget. A 4 month road trip is much different than staying in one place for a number of weeks. So, we stay on budget by staying in 'not very high end places". It is challenging to balance price point with quality.
How did we plan our itinerary?
Ginny: Last year we spent a lot of time on coastal and beach communities, and this year we wanted to concentrate more on the interior and mountain areas - more towns, cities and nature reserves. We also wanted to re-visit places we had seen and loved last year, so those became our anchor spots. There were a few places we booked well in advance - Sayulita for Christmas with Dan, Oaxaca, San Miguel and Guanajuato. We pulled out a map, did a lot of research and drew up a preliminary wish list, which we whittled down to a more manageable size. As we travelled, we consulted Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor to help choose accommodations for our next destinations, and then in most cases,we booked through Booking.ca, or Expedia. Whenever we could, we booked directly through a hotel website, but often that wasn't possible - either there was no website, or no response. In a few cases, when our destinations were very small towns, we just showed up and found something we liked in our price range.
Stephen:Mexico is well known for its beach holidays, however in about 18 weeks of travel we will have been on the beaches for only two to three weeks. I thought, I would miss the beach experience but have thoroughly enjoyed this trip. As Ginny outlined, we researched to create a wish list along with the idea of staying at two of our favourite places - Oaxaca and San Miguel- longer.
We pre-booked our Christmas accommodations along with Oaxaca and San Miguel; while the other locations we booked on the fly. This allowed us to stay longer or cut trips shorter depending on the experiences.
How did we cope with being together all the time?
Ginny:It has not been difficult at all for me - I think Stephen needs more "alone" time. In the past, we've worked together a few times, and we've spent a lot of time together since retirement, but we always seem to find our own space. I love to poke in stores and galleries for much longer than Steve has the patience for, so he'll find a shady spot and wait for me - or he'll head home and enjoy that time on his own. We have found so many interesting people to chat with and be sociable with - it helps to break the togetherness. We must have similar sick senses of humour, because we both find a lot of things funny - and Steve can make me laugh over almost anything. it just works.
Stephen:Being together all the time, allows for more in depth conversation. We have talked about introversion versus extroversion; the shock of Donald Trump; Mexican charm; the importance of religion to Mexicans, the income disparity through Mexico, the Gringo culture and its impact on various Mexican cities. It is an endless list of topics.
The best times are when we reflect on what went wrong on a travel day. How we misinterpreted a Spanish sign or did not fully understand the Pemex gas station attendant directions or spoke Spanish gibberish or one of us had a meltdown over something. We laugh and tease each other over our foolishness and mistakes.
Many days when we return home from sightseeing and dining, we go to our computers where get our quiet and alone time.
How do we combat travel fatigue?
Ginny: Sometimes you can't. Originally, we planned to fly to San Miguel for three months, and concentrate on getting to know that community. Once we began planning, and realized how many places in Mexico we were curious to visit, everything changed and we drove down, knowing there would be a mixed bag of long drives, short stays, anxiety over getting lost, finding accommodation, and being in a state of upheaval much of the time. This kind of travel demands a level of stamina at times, and twice in the trip so far I felt a bit burned out. Once with the museum overload, and once about halfway through, when I was tired of sleeping in different beds, always having to go out for meals, and planning the next destination. I began having daydreams about doing my own laundry and hanging it out on the clothesline, washing my own dishes, making a stew. I think it is normal to miss home and friends and family, and I know that the antidote is simple: Stay put for a while, stop being a tourist, spend an afternoon reading a book, and after a couple of days, that travel fatigue passes, and the urge to hit the road and see new things takes over.
Stephen: Travel is addictive. It offers an excitement and curiosity that can keep us working through the lost journey till we find the right road or exit. Other days, it can very exhausting to keep going. Right now, we are taking a break from travelling. San Miguel has decent restaurants, lots of activities - movies, museums and events - so we are resting and re-energizing our selves for the last push of the trip. It is important to get off the road during the long trips.
What did we like the most?
Ginny: I loved the drive down - that early sense of excitement, with everything ahead of us, watching the scenery and climate change - I loved that. I love the anticipation of heading into a new place, arriving, settling into our hotel, and then hitting the streets for the first time - it's a thrill. I love being in a country and culture that is so different from my own - I thrive on the energy that it demands - every day I feel fully engaged. I love the Mexican people - they are the best thing about this country. I love the random conversations we have with people - fellow tourists and Mexicans alike - I have learned so much from talking to people from all cultures and perspectives that it will take a long time to process it all.
Stephen:To get the most out of our trip, it is necessary to be engaged each day. We get up and ask ourselves what are we doing today and go about it. Today ( Sunday) was a typical day. We decided to walk to visit some art displays but along the way we had a number of very interesting and random conversations (for another blog). You don't know where the day or the sidewalk will take you. Another part I appreciate is how these trips focus priorities and understandings as to how you want to live.
What did we like the least?
Ginny: Getting lost, I realize that having GPS would have been a help, in many cases it doesn't work here at all. Signage in Mexico can be fantastic or simply nonexistent, and so that old saying "getting there is half the fun" does not always apply. My limited Spanish. I studied for months before we came, then took a week of language in Oaxaca and I'm much better than I was and can make myself understood, but I wish my language brain was more agile. I feel like I missed out on a lot of meaningful connections with some very dear people.
Stephen:Getting lost is a pain! It may build character and encourage us to practice Spanish, along with trying to decipher the Spanish road signs and maps. Another annoyance is the poor quality of pillows in some of our accommodations. I am considering bring my own pillows on the next road trip. I need a good night's sleep. Finally, I dislike my lack of Spanish. My Spanish is terrible, actually I think it is nearly non existent. Often servers or store clerks look at me with confusion; then reply to me in english. I need to improve my language skills.
What would we do differently the next time?
Ginny: Pack less and pack more intelligently. I brought dressy sandals without a tread - treacherous on the hilly, cobblestoned streets. When I read that evenings were chilly in the interior, I didn't believe it - hence the one sweater and one thin jacket. Next time, we both agreed we would go away for less time. Two and a half to three months is long enough to do everything we want to do. Four months is a bit too long - better to leave wanting more!
Stephen:Possibly shorten the time. Road trips are lots of fun; however I sometimes miss home, more in concept than in reality. Being away this long makes me feel that I have lost connection with home, family and community. So I ask where do I belong - at home or on the road. Now, we are both convinced future travel will be shorter, three months instead of four. Although, I know we will begin planning our next adventure shortly after we return 'home'.
Paris in 1980. Ginny has always been an avid traveller, with camera at the ready. Enthusiasm and a sense of adventure are important qualities in a travel companion.