Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Few Lessons Learned From 'Round The World Travel

     Lessons learned? Always get the conch fritters.

     Also, walk very carefully, wherever you may be:

     Despite the fact that this post is about lessons learned from traveling, the pics are all from our more recent adventures in North Florida. We're still trying to draw some conclusions about our whole travel experience. Was it worth it? You bet! Would we do it again? For sure! Will we? I hope so! I think we might do a few things differently next time though, and of course we'd probably go to places we haven't been yet.

     I dunno how many people get to take a year off and just travel the world but it can't be a big percentage of humanity. I think we saw more Chinese tourists than any other type, followed by Germans.  We saw quite a few Canadians everywhere, but did not run into many Americans until we were well into Europe.

     So what was the return on that investment? Memories that will last a lifetime? Yes. Pictures to prove it? Yes, sir. The chance to see so many things I've always wanted to with the partner of a lifetime? That's right. For example, colonial Mexico, unspoiled New Zealand, the Temples of Thailand, the gardens of Japan, the islands of Indonesia, the streets of Singapore, the mosques of Istanbul, the monasteries of Meteora, Ancient Greece, Lake Como, the canals of Amsterdam, the hills of Lisbon and the English countryside, just to name a few highlights.

     One pretty valuable thing I got was the affirmation that we are all basically the same. People want to improve their lives and the lives of their children. That despite the occasional jerk most people are basically decent all over the world. When you see the news on TV you might think that wasn't true, but we found it to be so by and large.

     Another interesting tidbit is that people around the world don't hate Americans the way the press like to portray. A lot of people asked questions about things they couldn't understand or believe, especially racism, police brutality and the easy availability of guns here. I got asked about those everywhere I went, often in the local language. I also had lengthy discussions about politics in Spanish, French, and halting English.

     I also learned that in places where politics is dangerous, like Thailand, people do NOT want to talk about it. I tried pretty hard to find out what people there thought was going on in their country and they were clearly scared to talk about it. LuAnn finally convinced me to shut up about it because people were so obviously freaked out by questions, as if the secret police might come drag them away no matter what they said. It reminded me that, whatever the problems in my own country, we still have it pretty damned good.

     A lot of people asked me why we work so hard with so little vacation, and why we tolerate a lot of the crap that we do. Many Europeans seemed to think we weren't nearly active enough in our own government and I could only agree. They tended to say things like "For a country with so much wealth you don't seem to spend nearly enough on education or the well being of your people, especially the needy, and where you do it's completely ineffective!" Again, nothing to do but say "Yep."

     I will say that type of thing wasn't nearly as common as you might imagine. People didn't just offer opinions, or pick me out as an American and jump on me. It had to come up in conversation. Most people don't think about us nearly as much as we think. I will say we Americans stand out. The accent is always a dead giveaway. Most English speakers abroad tend to sound British. Also, we are LOUD. Only Italians and maybe Russians are as bad.

     What few regrets I have mostly pertain to what we didn't do or places we didn't go and the fact that we had to stop so soon. In retrospect perhaps we should have made a better effort at generating a revenue stream while we were traveling, such as renting our house or such.

     On the other hand we always said we would probably eventually come back and settle in Florida and I have to say we have been pretty happy here in Jacksonville so far. Other than LuAnn breaking her leg while visiting California it's gone pretty well.  How crazy is that? We travel 40,000 miles around the world and don't get a scratch. Come back to the states, go away for a long weekend and she breaks her leg? Still we're pretty grateful that didn't happen while we were traveling. Besides the obvious fact it would have brought us to a complete halt the medical facilities I saw were sub-optimal. I wouldn't have wanted to go to the hospital in many places we visited outside the "West".

     So what now? We keep exploring the American SouthEast and blogging our travels, within the limits of LuAnn's leg and her job. I'll keep looking for work. I've started doing some local gigs and finding some music students and I hope will take off. We'll see! Adventure! Speaking of adventure, most of the pix in the post are from our explorations including Thanksgiving in Boca Raton, Deerfield and DelRay Beach. Florida! Yay! Some highlights were Selwyn Birchwood at the Funky Biscuit and lunch and the Old Key Lime House!


Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Retrospective on Nine Months of Continuous Travel

     Hi gang!

     This is a bit of a throwback post as I wrote it Aug 19th which was 280 days since my last day at work Nov 12th 2014. That's 40 weeks, approximately 9 months, coincidentally as long as it takes to have a baby. I was not having a baby but I was having a bit of a cow, so to speak. Even now it's still only just beginning to register what we've done and what comes next. Pictures are from our new home in Jacksonville!

     We had planned to be gone for all of 2015 since, for tax purposes, we would have zero taxes for 2015. It's ironic therefore that the unexpected tax burden from 2014, some $6000, was the thing that kept us from accomplishing that goal. Still kind of pissed about that but them's the breaks.

     Nevertheless, as goals go, it mostly worked out as expected. We started out with $90K and said we would travel until we had spent half, then decide what to do next and thats what we did. I was unsure how much time and energy we would be willing to invest in finding ways to make money while traveling. Predictably, perhaps, that turned out to be a very small amount of time. You can't see the world working at a desk.

     So we spent $45K in 9 months, inclusive of everything. That's $5000 a month, $2500 a month each. The vast majority of that money went to accommodations, followed by travel expenses like airfare. This was pretty much in line with my expectations. We could have brought it in for substantially less, but it would have meant moving far less and thus seeing far less. Oh, you traveled around the world? What did you see? Nothing.

     Also, we really didn't make an effort to go "low budget". We said early on that we would try to strike the middle ground of "Flash Packing". We would not be dirty backpackers eating ramen noodles, but neither would we be staying at Four Seasons eating caviar and drinking champagne. In this I would say we were pretty successful.

     We comparison shopped quite a bit for flights and accommodations and I was quite surprised at how much time that took up. In fact quite a few times we (OK, I) chose accommodations on the basis of "I can't look at this anymore" and, more often than not, if I did that it went badly. Still, only once (in Koh Lanta, Thailand) did we arrive at a place that was so bad we couldn't stay there and, unsurprisingly, that was the site of LuAnn's one and only melt down on the whole trip. I'm still saving mine up. ProTip: if the hostel is $25 a day it will probably be a bummer.

Here are some final numbers from the trip for us all to contemplate:
Total cost: $45K over 9 months/$5000 a month, $2500 a month each, or $83 per day, each.
Days on the road: 280
Weeks on the road: 40
Months on the road: 9
Miles travelled: 42,394 ><
Miles walked: avg 6 miles per day
Countries visited: 14
Cities visited: 61
Flights taken: 18
Cars rented: 3
Scooters rented: 3
Beds slept in: 62
Museums visited: 40
UNESCO sites: 15
Pictures taken: 10,000?
Videos taken: 29
Instagrams posted: about 100 each?
Blog posts: 80
Blog views: 8000 (about 100 per post?)
Sick days each: about 5?
Meltdowns: 1 (it was LuAnn. I'm saving mine up for the US)
Fights: 0

     That last one there might be a surprising figure to some folks, but there it is. A few people predicted we would kill each other being in such constant close proximity for all that time but that just didn't turn out to be the case. Travel is the ultimate test of any relationship and I'm proud we passed with flying colors.

     Speaking of flying colors, one of the numbers from this post was 29 Videos taken. Check them all out in one place HERE! Also Andy's Instagram & LuAnn's Instagram!

     I'm going to write a separate post about lessons learned and so I won't say too much more here. We're super grateful for everyone who followed along this far and we hope you'll keep watching as I think you'll see more adventures as we explore the South, from Key West to DC and out to Texas. There'll be swamps & gators, beaches and cities, and all kinds of grand tomfoolery and damfoolishness to come. Also I fired up a little side business dealing in cars here called JHR; Jacksonville Hot Rods so come check out THOSE adventures!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Not Gone; Not Forgotten

     In case y'all mighta been wonderin', we ain't gone and hopefully ain't forgotten. Andy is starting up a new venture called JHR aka Jacksonville Hot Rods which, besides tricking out and flipping cool cars and trucks, aims to shine a light on all the cool stuff in Jacksonville Florida. Hint: there's a lot of it. It's also on Facebook and Twitter if you'd like to follow along on those platforms. Anyhow...

     LuAnn, after making it around the world without so much as a head cold or a hangnail, took a bad step while visiting our daughter in California and not only broke her right leg but sprained her right ankle bad enough to need a screw put in so she'll be using a wheelchair and crutches for the next few months or so. To say the least she is none too happy about that. It certainly puts at least a theoretical damper on traveling right now.


     This past weekend we went to Savannah GA, another of our favorite places in the states, to see Mr. Ron White, one of our favorite comedians, and he was hilarious as always. While we were there we took some time to literally roll around a few of the squares, have a delicious lunch at the 1790 Inn, and head out to Tybee Island which had some fantastic views as always.

     We hope you all have been doing wonderfully and fantastically well wherever you are and whatever you are doing. We are certainly enjoying ourselves here, regardless of our setbacks here and there.  Please get in touch and by all means visit if you are in the area. We'd love to see you and hang out. Meantime we are soaking up all of the awesome Southern Charm surrounding us here until the next trip, wherever that may be.  Meanwhile don't forget to check out Andy & LuAnn's Instagrams! rock on!

        Andy & LuAnn

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Things I miss & don't miss from 'round the world travel

     I'm trying to process some of the experiences of the last year, so I thought we could play a little game of "Things I miss & don't miss"! LuAnn will probably have her own views on this, but these are mine. Everyone asks "Where did you like best?" which is an impossible question, but there sure were some amazing moments.

     It goes without saying that I miss all the great people I met. With very few exceptions everyone was really super nice, friendly and helpful.  Taking into account price, food, language, people, art & culture I would vote Portugal Best Overall, with Japan & New Zealand tied for 2nd and Greece & Holland tied for 3rd. Worst Overall was Istanbul, Turkey. It was the only place I wouldn't go back to.

And so! On to this premier edition of "I Miss/Don't Miss"!

Malvern, England:
I miss the lovely pubs!
I don't miss the awful weather!

Cardiff, Wales:
I miss the castle!
I don't miss the traffic circles!

London, England:
I miss all the mad culture!
I don't miss the crazy crowds!

The Algarve, Portugal:
I miss the beaches!!!!!
I don't miss that cold water and that wind!

Lisbon, Portugal:
I miss Bifanas, that delicious pork sandwich!
I don't miss walking up those hills!

Amsterdam, Holland:
I miss the coffee shops!
I don't miss the crazy bicycle traffic!

Lake Como/Bellagio, Italy:
I miss the amazing natural beauty!
I don't miss driving those scary narrow winding roads!

Milan, Italy:
I miss the all-u-can-eat buffets!
I dont miss the prices. Everything was crazy expensive!

Rome, Italy
I miss the ancient character of the city.
I don't miss the pushy hawkers and scammers.

Athens, Greece:
I miss everything.
I don't I really liked Athens!

Meteora, Greece:
I miss the monasteries!
I don't miss the stairs!

Syros, Greece:
I miss the people!
I don't miss the mosquitoes!

Santorini, Greece:
I miss the views!
I don't miss the cold water! Brr!

Istanbul, Turkey:
I miss the views and vibe of the Bosphorus straits.
I don't miss the airport. Worst I've ever seen.

I miss the weather!
I dont miss the scary cops.

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia:
I miss the laid back atmosphere.
I don't miss all the trash!

Gili Air, Indonesia:
I miss the horse carts.
I don't miss the giant spiders.

Nusa Cenigan, Indonesia:
I miss the infinity pool!
I dont miss the giant roaches.

Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia:
I miss scooting around the mountain.
I dont miss scooting over the scary bridge to Cenigan!

Sanur, Bali, Indonesia:
I miss the house we stayed at and its pool.
I dont miss the traffic.

Tokyo, Japan:
I miss the wonderful cleanliness of the city.
I don't miss having to leave so soon!

Mt Fuji, Japan:
I miss the mountain!
I don't miss the cold.

Nagoya, Japan:
I miss my friend Takuo! And the cool trains!
I don't miss...oh come on, all of Japan was awesome!

Kyoto, Japan:
I miss the beautiful temples and gardens!
I don't miss how crowded they could get.

Osaka, Japan:
I miss the castle! So cool!
I don't miss the long lines.

Ao Nang/Krabi, Thailand
I miss the beach.
I don't miss the crazing driving!

Koh Lanta, Thailand
I miss the beach bum vibe.
I don't miss the no-see-um jelly fish.

Siem Reap, Cambodia
I miss the hotel there! So great! and Angkor Wat!
I don't miss the sad state of their country & government.

Pai, Thailand
I miss the happy hippie vibe.
I dont miss the food poisoning.

Chiang Mai, Thailand
I miss the awesome home cooking where we stayed.
I dont miss the smoke from burning season & the cold at night.

Ayutthaya & Sukothai, Thailand
I miss the amazing monuments.
I dont miss getting around on a bicycle there. Scary!

Bangkok, Thailand
I miss the rooftop pool for sure!
I don't miss the dirt and scammers.

South island, New Zealand
I miss everything about this place.
I have nothing bad to say. Racing sailboats in Akaroa & winning!!

North Island, New Zealand
I miss Coramandel & playing guitar for the Kiwis there.
I don't miss those blood sucking mosquitos in Waihei!

Guadalajara, Mexico
I miss the cool art there.
I don't miss the dance music until 4AM!

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
I miss the great architecture.
I don't miss the thin air.

Sayulita, Mexico
I miss the great surf beach.
I don't miss the 10 million hawkers.

     All in all there's still too many things to talk about in one post or even think about all at one time. Each place was wonderfully it's own. Whatever my expectations were I couldn't have really imagined how great it all was until I did it. I certainly don't regret taking the trip even though it came with big risks, leaving our jobs & the place we called home for decades. Our new life in Florida is unfolding no doubt as it should and we are enjoying the process. I know we will travel more in the future, though maybe not at quite the same break neck pace. Moving every 5 days on average was a bit much, but you can't see the world from your couch. You have to get out there. I highly recommend it.