Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rest for the weary.

Been feeling really antsy the past few days, and we've finally figured out why. We've been in Central Europe for two weeks. Aside from a few fairly calm days in Bialowieza, we have city-hopped. Three days each in Warsaw, Wroclaw, Prague - each beautiful in its own way, but each filled with tourists, and too many things to do each day (with never enough time or energy), and too many ways to spend money.

We are just not city people. We knew this before we left; it was strongly reinforced in metropolitan cities in Canada and on the US east coast.  One day - sure, two days - okay, but three days?  Three days and we're done. After Krakow and Budapest we will seek out smaller towns.

Add to constant sensory overload: our stays in 4- or 6-bed dorms in hostels where a good nights' sleep is rare; long bus rides where you're crammed in like sardines; not knowing the language; eating whatever you can cobble together; feeling overwhelmed from lack of time to figure out what's next...  Well, it's been exhausting.  Amazing - don't get us wrong - but exhausting.

The construction estimate rule applies to many things; long-term travel may be one of them.  We have agreed to determine how much time we *think* we need in a place, and then double it to allow for planning, rest, communication catch-up and laundry while in that place.  We'll test the construction estimate rule in Krakow in a few weeks and see how that fares.

We have also agreed to limit daily outings to 5-6 hours to allow for rest...  We have failed miserably there.  Too much to see to just sit around!  Sigh.

Another challenge: we have not yet mastered the art of enjoying our current place and simultaneously figuring out where to go next.   We do one or the other pretty well, but not both simultaneously.  We've pencilled out a tentative route for the rest of Central Europe - we want to stay flexible but we only have 90 days here, and we are exploring volunteer opportunities, and we don't want to miss any essentials, so some iota of a plan is necessary. The tricky part is the line between "iota" and "actual" plan.  Still working on that definition...

Back to the point of this post - it's time to get back to the "slowly" part of "slowly global" and get some rest.  Mental rest, anyway.  For the next 10 days or so, while we figure out the details of our next self-guided stop, we will be helping out at the farm and vineyard of a Czech family.  Very excited to see how our WWOOF experience translates to European Help Exchange, very curious to learn more about the Czech culture, very interested in being tired from manual labor instead of sightseeing - and thrilled to learn a little something about the inner workings of a winery!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Gratitude - day 140.

Dear Universe,
We are incredibly grateful for all that you have provided over the last several months. You ensured that we were well-prepared for a safe and fairly effortless National Parks tour across a beautiful stretch of land. You kept us fed, lodged, and engaged - both physically and mentally - for almost four months. And you reminded us that people, both new and familiar, are really amazing.

As we begin Phase Two, we wanted to pause for a few specific acknowledgements...

WWOOF hosts: thank you for sharing your homes, your experiences, your knowledge, and your senses of humor! We loved every minute of our days on your farms/ranches. (Okay, almost every minute... But the minutes we didn't love, we still laugh about.) Will we buy a farm as a result of our experiences? The answer is unclear right now but discussions are certainly underway!

Friends in Canada and the US: we are still blown away by your hospitality. Your comfy beds, your delicious food and drink, your wonderful travel tips, your care and storage of our precious items while we are gone, and most importantly your encouragement and support have touched us more than you will ever know. The "mini reunions" were so much fun and we really hope you come visit us in Portland (eventually) so that we can return the favor. Better yet - come visit us on our trip!

Family: you think we are nuts for doing this but you don't actually say it. You tolerate lengthy periods of time with little communication; you patiently read our blog posts and look through our hundreds of pictures; and you don't say a word when we do silly things like hike with bears or ignore the "check engine" light for months. You have been so supportive of this endeavor and we know you will continue to be there for us, no matter what happens. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

To the 158 of you (and counting!) following us on Facebook, blogger, flickr and twitter: thank you for your "likes" and comments. Your virtual presence inspires us to find the humor and beauty even in stressful times - one of the many lessons we hope endures after our trip is done.

Finally, Canadian national parks: thank you for the rain. The gorgeous sunny days and star-studded nights were awesome and much appreciated, but the rainy days and nights tested our patience, flexibility, creativity, and endurance - all of which will come in handy over the next several months.

And now back to you, Universe. As we head out on our first "off the beaten path" bus/train trip to Eastern Poland we hope for the best... Regardless of how it turns out, we know you will make sure we learn from, and appreciate, this experience. Thank you.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hello and goodbye, U.S.

A few Mondays ago we crossed the border back into the US. The border patrol gave us the same funny look as the one in Victoria - "you just did what? where are you headed now? um... what exactly do you guys do for work?" - but thankfully he let us in. And that's when THE CRAZY began.

Actually, Monday night wasn't so crazy. We found Lamoine State Park, a nice state park in northeast Maine, and enjoyed some horsing around and a lovely sunrise.

gotta love a campground with a treehouse

Maine in the morning

Tuesday morning we headed south to Boothbay Harbor for a puffin tour on Eastern Island - a recommendation from one of our WWOOF hosts (actually, she recommended the one off Grand Manan Island but we opted to save several hours and $60 each and go for the Maine tour instead).

totally worth the time

 totally worth the money

We only had a few hours in our home city's doppelgänger Wednesday so we headed south (a recurring theme this week) and stayed at a nice motel just north of town. The next morning we checked off the essential Portland, ME to-do list:

lovely sea views

lobsta roll at Dock's Seafood

A series of unfortunate technology fails caused us to miss Boston and Jen's cousin, so Plan B ended up being Hartford, CT. Here are the only five things we remember about Hartford, CT:
  • people in Portland, ME looked puzzled when we said that was our next destination
  • we arrived just in time for the 2013 P&G Gymnastics Championships
  • it's home to Mark Twain's house and museum (the only reason we went to Hartford in the first place)
not pictured: Mark Twain
(yes, we know his real name)
  • we found the first Whole Foods we'd seen in months
  • there had been four murders in the last three days

So... Thursday we got out of Hartford as soon as possible.

We spent several hours on pretty but tedious highways on our way to Maywood, NJ for Jen's other attempt at a family reunion this week. Ten miles before our destination, traffic came to a screeching halt and we spent the next three hours missing the 30 million residents of Canada and cursing the 30 million residents of NJ/NY who sat in traffic with us.

But! The family reunion happened, and the laughter during those hours almost counterbalanced the traffic jam frustration.

Almost. From Maywood we made our way to Brooklyn. Twenty miles but at least an hour, a traffic-and-INSANE-driver-filled ride, and $20 in tolls later, we were kindly escorted to an awesome Polish pub (in honor of our impending flight) where we ate delicious food and swapped travel stories with Jen's high school friend and his wife.

no sleep 'til...!

More catching up, a good night's sleep, a quick tour of Brooklyn, and delicious coffee and macaroons later, we were off to Philadelphia for the final stop.

But first, another traffic jam. Natch.

really - I-95 CLOSED? 
how can an interstate be CLOSED?

We'd both been to Philly before so exploration was limited to:

Reading Terminal Market for a mandatory cheesesteak

Betsy Ross House for a ridiculous photo op

Elfreth's Alley for a reminder of why we don't want to 
live on Peacock Lane when we get back to Portland

Franklin Square for a round of mini-golf (not really)

Amis for an amazing meal and travel stories with Jen's Antarctica friends

Seven states and four days later, we arrived at our destination and gave the car a much-needed, well-deserved break.  (And cleanse.)

rest for the weary

One more night on the air mattress in Jen's parents' basement and we're on to Phase Two. An amazing journey so far - can't wait to see what the rest holds!

na zdrowie!