Some thoughts after three months on the road.
In order to create some simplicity out of our seven-month journey, I mentally broke it into three phases:
Yeah – that was pretty much worthless. Three months in, I realize how that breakdown was completely useless for anything other than describing the order of our destinations. Don’t despair! My experience has created a new set of constructs I can use for the remaining 4 months of the trip. I call it BEER: Basic Elements of Experience and Routines.
Big Modern City (B-MoC): B-MoC mode is by far the easiest. Lots of stores, cosmopolitan and generally diverse people, a number of attractions and wide variety of dining options with east credit card usage and cash machines (Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong, Madrid). They are, of course, also more expensive and, since we had limited local knowledge in each place, generally less interesting. B-MoCs were interchangeable and difficult to distinguish from one another.
One Trick Pony (OTP): OTP is a stop where there is one thing to do, and everyone is focused on that one thing (Uluru, or Ayers Rock in Australia). Many of these destinations are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.* They will try to convince you that there are other things to do, but don’t believe them. Just put your cruise-ship blinders on and go pet those pandas in Cheng Du, see those warriors in Xi’an and feed the monkeys in Gibraltar. (Don’t really feed the monkeys in Gibraltar 😉 ).
Not what I expeCtEd (NICE): NICE are those lesser known destinations or cool places you knew very little about. Perhaps a backpacker vibe (Chiang Mai), a mix of people + legit attractions (Siem Reap), an overwhelming number of sites (Kyoto) or experiencing truly laid back culture in perpetual vacation mode (Cairns and Noosa). You want to stay in NICE mode as long as possible, but I think that would ultimately destroy the vibe.
Cities Having An Occasional Selebration (CHAOS): We planned the trip around some key events, and that has really defined our experience. During the big festivals and events, all the normal rules are suspended and no book or map can prepare you. You just have to dive in. This usually means carrying luggage down closed streets to your hotel (fallas festival in Valencia), picnicking outside to stakeout prime real estate (New Year’s in Sydney) and generally staying up till early morning hours (Holy Week in Sevilla). CHAOS tests your patience, challenges all the rules, and will ultimately be what we remember most about the trip: the times when things didn’t go as scripted and were more fun as a result.
There are other self-explanatory modes:
- Find-a-park-and-let-the-kids-run-while-you-read mode (also called find-a-pool-with-bar-and-order-a-drink-while-they-swim)
- Wander-in-tourist-area-reading-sidewalk-menus-knowing-it-doesn’t-really-matter-what-you-pick-because-it-is-going-to-be-mediocre-over-priced-food mode
- I-would-pay-$42,523-for-decent-WiFi-right-now mode
- Now-I-understand-why-we-send-children-to-school mode (many applications)
With four months to go, we have learned much about the world, ourselves and each other. Let Phase III begin!
*UNESCO sites are quite uneven in quality and significance. I think they are the FIFA of world heritage sites. One temple in Japan actually promoted their TripAdvisor rating over their UNESCO designation.
And a couple of post-scripts:
- an article on SPG weekend channel (thanks to Camila!)
- and an AirBnB hiccup, with less than 24 hours notice: