Tuning our travel defaults.
After about 3 weeks of traveling, Matt and I are starting to hit our stride. Our pace has been relatively quick, spending a few days in a number of stunning locations: Paris, Bonifacio / Zonza / Porto Vecchio (Corsica), Vernazza (Cinque Terre), Lake Como (Northern Italy) and as of today… Milan!
Already, this is shaping up to be the trip of our lifetimes.
However, it’s also quite different than shorter trips we have taken together. While some elements of travel are exhilarating for 7 days, they can become exhausting on a time scale of 6 months. It has been an interesting thought experiment for Matt and I during the past week as we begin to settle in — what do we need to adjust in our day-to-day routines to help make sure the trip is sustainable for 6 months?
Here are our discoveries this week:
1. TV → Netflix
Neither Matt or I watch much TV, but it is a wonderfully mindless way to relax after a long day. Typically, the only reliable English-speaking channel is BBC (or the occasional movie with subtitles, if we’re lucky!). I can watch BBC to unwind, but the looping sound-bite news is enough to drive anyone crazy after a few days. Fortunately enough, Netflix works in most countries on our itinerary.
Even better? Each country offers its own 30-day free trial. It’s a silver lining to the media house licensing disputes! While Glee — my guilty pleasure — is not licensed to be watched on Italian Netflix (US only), there are still plenty of sitcoms and movies to choose from.
2. Eating out → Eating in
You may have seen Matt’s latest post, Wherefore art thou, vegetables? This is probably the most obvious travel default that needed an update. When traveling for a couple weeks, sampling local cuisine at every turn is easily justified. Chocolate croissants in Paris? Milanese risotto, infused with bone marrow and saffron? Corsican charcuterie plates? YES.
Eating out breakfast, lunch and dinner is not only costly over time… it also can be exhausting. In the last week, we have switched to getting our staples from a grocery store right when we arrive in a new city. Our list of daily staples is small, but growing. Currently: rolls, jam, juice, and instant coffee for breakfast, plus wine and beer for evenings.
We have also recently switched to only booking Airbnb’s with a kitchen. Speaking of which…
3. Hotels → Home
Hotels are fun, but lack the comfort and charm of home. While we originally thought we would stay in a mix of hotels, hostels and Airbnb apartments during the trip, now we exclusively book Airbnbs.
Since we are traveling during the offseason, the inventory and prices are great. Every place we have booked for the next 3 weeks is on Airbnb. All are centrally located in a great part of town (and a train station!), and have all the amenities to help us really feel at home like wifi, a kitchen and a washing machine.
A great example is the one we checked into today in Milan, called “The nest on the roof of Milan” — see the pictures below! It has a snug kitchen with two burners and a refrigerator, a comfy bedroom with large windows overlooking Milan, and open shelves to lay out our packing cubes. The streets below are littered with Milanese restaurants, coffee shops, and bars — 15 minutes to the train station, 20 minutes to the Duomo!
We were met by a little Italian cleaning lady for checkin, who gave us the keys and muttered all sorts of wonderful phrases to us in Italian. Matt and I understood 10% of what she said — we just smiled and nodded.
It’s a work in progress, but we are starting to feel more “at home” while on the road.