Andrea and I have been on the road for a while now. We started our great American road trip last December and have been through 8 more countries since then. Our timeline for this trip is roughly 1.5 to 2 years and we’re doing all we can to get the most out of it. We’ve met a lot of travelers with shorter timelines, and a few with longer ones. What we’ve found is that when you’re first getting started or if you have a shorter timeline (a few weeks to a month), you want to fill up every moment. You’ve taken time off work to leave your city, maybe even your country, and paid for a plane ticket to see new things. Maybe you’ve done your research on all the tourist sites you want to visit and know exactly when it’s planned, or maybe you’ve left more time for improvisation (definitely my recommendation), but most people are looking to make their trip a memorable event. Hell, your time off has to be worth it. And rightly so!
Like most travelers, Andrea and I are also susceptible to travel FOMO. We are soaking up as much of this experience as we possibly can. After all, who knows if we’ll ever be able to take so much time off again? We’ve taken countless photos, spent hours chatting with strangers, and generally try to enjoy things, big or small. We’ve definitely had our fair share of trips at breakneck speed. When we booked our tickets for Cuba, we were a bit ambitious with the amount of ground we could cover and ended up having to rush through certain parts of Mexico. Cuba and the first part of our time in Nicaragua were also a bit of a blur as we only had 10 days to see each country. Over time, we’ve found that when we make a time commitment to be in a certain place by a certain time (flight), or to meet up with a friend in a particular city, we overestimate how fast we’ll go. We spend a lot of time in one or two spots we love and then have to kick it into high gear to get to where we’re going.
All that being said, we’ve learned that we can’t go 100% all the time. It’s important to take time now and again for a “personal admin day” when we have lots to do or a “spontaneous weekend” when we’re just plain tired. Although we’ve left our jobs, apartment, and most other responsibilities behind, we do still have things that need doing. Staying up to date with the world, planning for grad school, (sort of) keeping up with the blog, staying in touch with friends and family, and planning the next leg of the journey takes time. At first, we were a bit reluctant to spend precious hours on our computers getting things done instead of exploring, but personal admin days are necessary.
Spontaneous weekends are also pretty key. Traveling is great, but also tiring. Budget backpacking means you walk a LOT, eat cheap meals, take night buses, and so on. That takes a toll on the body, especially when we’ve had a couple of overnight buses, some killer hikes, a diarrhea-inducing cheap meal, or we’re at altitude and just need some time to adjust. We’ve learned to listen to our bodies and to give them the time they need to recover. Every once in a while you just have to sleep in, splurge on a homemade healthy meal, take some serious time to stretch and re-calibrate your body. Spontaneous weekends where we hang out in the hostel, read, write, or maybe even go see an afternoon matinee have become an unpredictable, but very enjoyable tradition for us.
It’s also important to talk to people we love to recharge our batteries. We try to call home from the road, but sometimes you need a longer break. Earlier this month (August), after finishing a Vipassana meditation retreat in Peru, Andrea and I decided to take a break from traveling to visit her family in Mexico. Her grandmother hasn’t been doing too well and it was time to say hello, so we booked tickets back to the land of tortillas, chiles, and tequila for a three-week break. It’s been wonderful! We got to spend some good quality time with her family, sleep in the same bed for multiple days in a row, and enjoy the luxuries of having our own kitchen. We spent a lot of time just hanging out with the family running errands, grocery shopping, cooking, chatting over long, drawn-out meals, and playing with the family dogs. After months of being away from everything we know, it felt so comfortable to be somewhere we knew and around people that knew us.
We got there the day after Andrea’s mother’s birthday, so Andrea, her mother, her sister and I went on a weekend trip up to Santa Fe, New Mexico, not far from where Andrea went to high school. For us, it was cool to re-experience a place we’d already visited with her family, and at a completely different time of year. It was quite a road trip up from northern Mexico, but the four of us had a great time listening to music, playing car games, and catching up on all the events of the last several months.
While we were in town, some of the extended family got together and I finally got to meet Andrea’s nephew, Emilio. A big group of us went to the zoo and had a grand time. Plus, after winter in the Andes, it felt quite nice to be back in the Chihuahua summer heat!
We also spent a few days in Mexico City, Andrea’s hometown. As I wrote in my last post about Mexico City, there’s no end of things to do or people to see. We got to catch up with some friends and family and see the city some, but also enjoyed a little time to ourselves in one of the many places we call home. We stayed in the house Andrea grew up in, where we always stay in Mexico City, and got to hang out with two of our favorite dogs, and a new kitten! We fell in love with a new TV series, Outlander, and just generally enjoyed being to able to leave our things around as we liked instead of always packing them up every day for the next adventure.
Today*, that next adventure begins and we’re getting on a plane back to Peru. We’ve already been there for over a month and have seen some of the must-see spots like Machu Picchu, Lima, Huacachina, Paracas, and Huaraz, but there’s so much left to do! Currently, the plan is to visit Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Puno, and Lake Titicaca before crossing the border into Bolivia. We’re pumped to get back on the road, well rested and reminded of the importance of taking our time!
*This post was originally written at the end of August 2017.