One of the goals of this trip was to try out a long-ish journey to see potential pitfalls for the Trip Around The World, and ways we might prevent them. Several things have come to light:
1) We are a tech family. Buds and I will both work remotely on our Trip Around The World, which the internet makes possible, but the children are also very connected. Buster has found great joy in connecting with Cousin O despite the time difference, and since taking vast quantities of physical books with us won’t be an option, a kindle, ipad, nexxus, or some other device will be a requirement for each of us.
Our friend Ken summed it up in a witty way for us:
2) We are very good at traveling light. We made this trip with one carry-on suitcase and 5 backpacks. The room in the carry-on was taken with items for Deirdre, so I think the trip home will be made with one carry-on and 3 backpacks. This will serve us extremely well on our extended trip.
3) CrossFit and UU Churches will be critical to helping us find community quickly. We suspected this, but this trip confirmed it enthusiastically!
4) At least at this age, our crew likes to have down time pretty frequently. We had a very busy weekend, and all three children asked for time at home today, which is fine for Buds and me.
5) We should expect to be exhausted for at least one or two days after each long travel day. Jenny has warned me about this, and this trip verified it.
6) I don’t want to drive our way through Europe. Driving will be necessary sometimes to get to unusual locations, but for the most part I want to take advantage of local transportation for many reasons including the chance to meet people, but also to allow me to enjoy the view as well. By the end of this trip I’ll be totally comfortable driving here, and already my heart has stopped thumping when I see a car driving down the opposite of the road, but it has taken a week of frequent driving to make that happen, and that’s in a country with great roads and drivers who behave in a way that makes sense to me. This will not be the case in many of the countries we visit.
7) Bookstores! Regular visits to bookstores will be a treat for us.
There are many aspects of this trip that have intrigued us. It is such a great reminder that a main goal of traveling is experiencing life in different ways.
Here are some of the differences in mundanities we’ve noticed:
1) The toilets: The vast majority of toilets here have two flush options. This seems like such a simple, “green” thing to do. The toilets also hold a lot less water in the bowl, and they NEVER clog. These are all great things. They don’t seem to number “#1” and “#2” the same way we do as button 1 releases the great flood here.
2) Electricity: A quick search on 220 vs. 110 voltage usage indicates there is no agreement on which is more efficient, but I continue to wonder about that. In addition, in “Our Country Home,” there are switches to turn on many of the plugs, the tankless water heaters for the showers, the jets for the jacuzzi tub, the ovens in the kitchen. I wonder if we in The States waste electricity unwittingly just for the convenience of not having to flip a switch.
3) The Driving: We’ve talked about the driving here plenty, but not about how the road lay out impacts a driver’s skill. For example, many of the main highways are laid out as 1 1/2 lanes, with wide shoulders. If I need to pass someone, when the front driver can safely do so, she crosses over onto the shoulder, and when it is safe, I quickly and efficiently pass on the right. It is elegant and quick, and encourages noticing everything that is going on on both sides of the road. Plus, the driver in the front doesn’t feel pressured to go faster, nor to slow down to “teach the rear driver a lesson.” So much driving in the U.S. feels “defensive” in the worst meaning of the word.
In addition, driving on these one-lane+ country roads has positively increased my road awareness. Yesterday when a large truck was coming toward me, I had to choose between pulling over on my side of the road, or driving forward, trusting that the truck would pull over on his side of the street. Based on the speed we were both traveling, and the distance to each of our pull-over areas, the split-second decision was that it was more efficient for me to drive on and let him pull over. He played his part, pulled over, and we both moved right along. It was elegant and easy and friendly.
Speaking of elegant: Roundabouts! My lord, these are so beautiful. You can drive through larger cities with scarcely a light to be seen. Just like their flushers, Irish roundabouts come in many sizes–giant-sized with trees and plantings within down to tiny-sized ones that are barely more than a hubcap placed in the center of the road. I recognize that the lower level of traffic in the places we are driving over here makes a huge difference, but there are so many smaller communities, even cities as large as Nashville, that could benefit from the energy and space savings of roundabouts.
4) Fewer choices: I’m specifically thinking of The Buster with this one. There is plenty of American-type food here, which has ensured ample choices for everyone, but there are fewer choices, and he has tried out new foods, as have all of us, which I find encouraging and hopeful for the big trip when we will be in places where there are many fewer options.