RTW Travel Interview: Part 1

posted in: Mom's Musings | 2

We have some lovely pictures to share from our day of hiking in the Julian Alps of Slovenia in Triglav National Park. Lake Bled is a well known site in Slovenia for tourists, but our Airbnb hosts recommended a hike around Lake Bohinj instead, and we were not disappointed. The weather was gorgeous, and we definitely strolled rather than hiked.

Fortunately, we have had some really good questions lately from friends (you know who you are primarily, we love you!!) that we thought might make for a good post. The following are just a few, and we will share more later:

1. So all your luggage is in your packs right? I imagine those things are starting to fill heavily with souvenirs!

Our packs are easier to haul as you get used to it. But we have tried to avoid souvenirs as much as possible. It is really hard not to get gifts for people, but they just won’t fit. We bought small things for all the Johnson and Brown kiddos, as well as Lili, Laryn, Liv, and Allie from the kids the first few weeks in Thailand and shipped for about $30, but they just arrived!! We have a new smaller bag full of stuff right now, but mostly for my Mission India class and our nieces and nephews. We know the adults will understand, but I can’t help but get for kids. If I had it to do over, I would bring almost no clothes and buy them when we arrived. They are so cheap and more fitting to what we are doing most of the time. Ella and I have fallen for harem pants, they are the most comfortable things ever! I can just see my dear friend, Susan, rolling her eyes at me, lol, when I wear them at home. You can’t help but look like a hippie in them. I struggled with buying a singing bowl for a week. I thought the kids would be absolutely intrigued by it in my Bible class; but man, it’s heavy. Only thing left we will let ourselves buy is the hand-painted eggs in Prague probably; since we will be there for Easter, and they are a huge tradition there. I also really wanted a painting of the Nepalese children, but just too expensive to ship and afraid it would ruin on the way. It takes a lot of self-control!

 

2. I noticed the kids wearing their headphones hiking a few times, do ya’ll just kinda do your own thing as you hike and/or not always hike together? Or do you do a lot of talking and marveling at the sights together?

We used to play 20 questions constantly on hikes when the kids were little, and they loved it. It was absolutely necessary to keep them distracted when they were younger, or they would lose it on the trail. Now, we spend about half the time hiking on our own in sight of each other, listening to music or an audio book, or just in silence. Walden and Chris like to do silence most. But the other half, Chris and I have at least one political or philosophical discussion a day, which I love because it hurts to walk so much less, lol, when my mind is occupied. Ella and I like to goof off more together, and she sometimes will tell me about a book she is reading or I will tell her about one. She and I also spend some time encouraging each other on hard climbs, and occasionally the kids still lose it and get mad when it’s really hard. All the sudden, we forced them on the trail and it’s our fault, but that is few and far between now. If anything, Mom struggles the most now to keep it together.

 

3. Are ya’ll able to keep up with new music that comes out?

I am not a big music person. I love it, don’t get me wrong, I just like to listen to books and podcasts more. Those are easy with Overdrive app, and I can just download when we have wifi and then use when we don’t. Walden and Ella couldn’t get Spotify to work internationally, so they go to the iTunes store and see what’s popular. Then sometimes they can listen to it on youtube. So believe it or not, they have stayed pretty abreast to new music. They also have a lot of music on their phone from home. And, we usually get a good dose on crazy jeep rides when the driver lets the foreigners plug in their phone to the jeep and listen. The best was the 4 hours of Hebrew rap and pop music, lol!

4. Also, I saw an uno deck in one picture. What other kinds games do ya’ll play when you’re in for nights? I feel like that may be some of the most fun times. Especially because you don’t have as much normal entertainment so you get to be creative with your fun.

That crazy uno deck was missing two of the color sets, which made for an interesting game. A deck of cards rocks, because it is light and packs easily. We play hearts, spades, golf, a lot. If we are in wifi, we usually curl up to netflix or write on the blog. Walden has still been able to watch and keep up with some of the NBA that he loves, because he pays for data with his money. We also set up a garbage can in the room, tied a bunch of rags together with rubber bands and played basketball since Walden misses it so much. Later, he moved up to a pot and bought a hacky sack for a ball. Walden and Chris have played some soccer and basketball with locals. But, our most fun thing to do is just sit around with the other travelers and hear about their adventures and ask about their country. Often times we have been or are planning to go to that country, so it is really interesting. Sometimes, we even get to go deeper. There is evidently a popular movie that came out a year or two ago called Captain Fantastic, that everyone has seen here that travels. So there have been lots of questions about homeschooling. It is almost unheard of in Europe, but more so in India. We also get quite a few medical questions from the younger travelers, when they hear about our background. Especially in Nepal, everyone seemed to be sick at some point. Very hard to get to spiritual topics though, many college age kids seem a little jaded about it. President Trump is never a good topic.

5. Do you plan on keeping in contact with the friends that you’ve made along the trip? Do you exchange contact info and stuff or do you feel that that is dangerous?

We made some good friends in India, who live there in Mumbai but travel a lot. They are both artists who make movies in India. Their son is a delight, who has chosen to primarily speak English rather than Hindi at 5 yrs old! We exchanged info with them and wish their work would bring them to our neck of the woods and we welcomed them, but the south is not a prime movie premier location. They are committed to their communities and their subject matter. They were a delight. We also made good friends with a German couple in Nepal; but before we could exchange info, Walden had his anaphylactic reaction and we lost contact with them in the ensuing hoopla. We have some good interactions with Airbnb hosts, but they are always brief. We may consider doing airbnb with our basement when we get home, you get to meet some really neat people!

6. What has the weather been like?

NZ weather was actually phenomenal, seemed like heaven really at regular altitudes. No humidity, nice breezes, mostly rained at night really. They were funny talking about it and proud of it. All the snow pics were hiking in higher altitudes. Mueller Hut in NZ was crazy snowy. We also tried to plan our trip around the best weather in hot areas, so Thailand and India were very tolerable as long as you were in the shade. But India was supposed to get to 45-50 C in a few weeks! Tennessee has the worst humidity, so really seems much hotter there I think in summer. Bangkok was pretty hot though. The Himalayas were freezing!! My heart broke for the people, but they really seem to be use to it, and I really hope they are. They ran around everywhere in socks and flip flops. But I did notice they perfomed outside water chores with gloves – laundry, dishes, etc. Everyones cheeks had a deep ruddy look to them, like they had been in snow for years. It was almost miserable for us away from the one stove in the kitchen. The rooms were bitterly cold and outdoor toilet, oh my goodness, maybe squatting was best or your bottom would freeze to the seat! Some nights, you just couldn’t quit shivering, and we used wool blankets and a down sleeping bag, and wore all our clothes!! Lower altitudes in Nepal felt like TN spring. Only down side, swimming is almost a non option everywhere except southern Thailand. We are hoping to swim a little in the Italian Riviera maybe. Eastern Europe has been like early spring, but gotten colder as we’ve gone further north.

 

7. How often are public signs in English? Do you ever have no idea what any of the signs are saying?

Almost always you can find enough signs in English to make your way around; but it can be disconcerting in small villages. Eastern Europe may be the hardest so far with this, especially when it comes to street signs. But, most of the time you can communicate a word or two. I want to say we are so blessed to speak English, since it is so commonly spoken everywhere, at least a little. But in some ways, I think we are just spoiled and not blessed since we have not been forced to learn other languages. I am so jealous of Europeans sometimes, to hear their ready knowledge of at least 3 different languages. It is really hard if you don’t have to learn. I spent a semester in South America and retained very little I’m afraid, but I didn’t focus on it as much since my background was French. I wish I had, and still plan to go back and learn it well. I hate to say it, but Asian languages would be best to learn when spreading the gospel or Hindi even, but man, they are hard. Ella laughs and says you don’t realize how often you unintentionally eavesdrop into conversations around you until you never can.

8. Did you just bring tons of cash or do you hope to find ATMs along the way?

We have used a credit card for money primarily from Capital One that does not charge international exchange fees, and it has saved us a lot of money. It worked well in Thailand and NZ,  and a little less so in India where we did have to get some rupees. We had to use only nepalese rupees, and we did have trouble before our trek. There were only ATMs in the big cities, and you were only allowed to take so much out each day. Frequently the bank will put a hold on your account or card since there are so many weird transactions. We had told them we were traveling, but several times we had to call and tell them specifically where we were and what transactions we had made, so they would unlock it. Unfortunately, we had researched this and made arrangements, but we ran into several travelers who had not. We hung out with a Russian on our way back from the Himalayas that had 1 dollar of rupees in his pocket and that’s all. The cab driver agreed to take him to an atm when we made it to the city so he could pay him. We offered to buy him lunch, but he refused. He wasn’t nervous at all though. Usually our credit card has sufficed in Eastern Europe, with only smaller amounts needed in cash. We have been surprised, however, that most of these countries do not use the euro; and you do have to get the local currency.

9. Did someone bring a computer to access the blogs, upload pictures, and watch Netflix easier? Because, while convenient, I feel sorry for whoever has to lug that around in their pack. Maybe you take turns with it!

We bought a MacBook Air before we left, and we have an older MacBook. Believe it or not, we have both with us. With the kids’ school work, blog posts, emails home, netflix, making movies, planning the rest of the trip and making reservations, having just two computers is hard sometimes. We are constantly calling dibs on the computer or arguing about who is next. Sometimes scheduling one train ticket on an international site takes HOURS! I have gotten better at writing emails or posts in Pages, when we don’t have wifi traveling and later posting into email or blog later. We did draw straws on who carried the older one for a while, but now Walden has it officially since his back is stronger 🙂  We don’t take either on long treks, since we don’t have wifi anyways that is dependable. Learning how to schedule posts before we leave has been helpful, so we don’t stay out of touch for too long. Having the laptops also makes it easy to edit pictures on long bus rides since you don’t need wifi for that.

 

10. Has anyone not gotten food poisoning?

Only Chris has not been sick. He teases us that his body is just a specimen of perfection, blah! My regular stomach stuff has actually been better, the food adjustments usually just involve bad diarrhea off and on and then the n/vomiting with food poisoning. Walden and Ella have both gotten pretty bad colds too. I really believe the probiotics has saved me from worse.

We love questions!! Please let us know if you have any, and we will be glad to answer.

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