We loved traveling the hill towns of Tuscany and it was very relaxing. Just strolling and enjoying gelato each day, then home to cook dinner in our little cottage on a hill. We wanted to share the pictures, so seemed like good time for a travel interview – thanks to our best question asker – you know who you are, we love you so much 🙂
The first town we visited was Orvieto. We traveled here with Walden for the day on our last visit, when he was a toddler.
Are there a languages that stuck out to you the most that you thought was fascinating or stuck out as one you would love to learn?
Last time we visited Europe when Walden was a toddler and Ella was on the way, I fell in love with Italian. You can only hear a few sweet elderly women croon “Bello Bambino” before you wish you spoke as they did. I still loved it this time. The cadence makes me smile and I enjoy the energy and emotion without the speed of Spanish, which sometimes sounds angry to me more often. Surprisingly though, I fell in love with French this time as well. I think, really, it was because I had to use it a lot more this trip; and I have a much larger background in it than any other foreign language. Practicing was fun and it felt less pretentious this time and really beautiful. I feel an Asian language would be of much more benefit that most others for missions, but they feel impossible to me in so many ways. I can’t even mimic the words half the time. Oh, and I almost forgot, Hebrew was my favorite over all. It’s just soft and smooth and almost soothing.
Have you encountered any bad storms? Been close to an earthquake or tsunami? I just feel like natural disasters mostly happen in other parts of the world?
The closest to any natural disasters we came was the enormous boulder that landed in the middle of the Himalayan road, moments before we were passing through. It delayed us a few hours, before they dynamited a path through; but the proximity to us was a little disconcerting and reminded us where we were. That place was not for the faint of heart.
The most frightened I was in nature though was our hike to Mueller Hut. The blizzard conditions on our hike up made the visibility very difficult, and no one’s shoes were made for the deep snow. We were freezing and struggling too with the biting snow. I kept thinking, “If we lose sight of each other or the markers, we could really get lost.” As the Danish girl said when we made it to the hut, “Now that was like a real adventure!”
I’m kind of surprised lice and bedbugs haven’t been a problem anywhere. Especially in NZ and Asia with those huts and stuff you were staying at. How often do those places get cleaned. How did you handle it?
Cleanliness – well, a young guy in Pokhara summed it up in a conversation with us, “Bedbugs and food poisoning, it gets us all eventually.” Thank goodness, we did not experience bed bugs. But we did purchase a tiny silk sleeping bag liner that we used anywhere suspicious. It was large enough to fit under your head as well. But when I thought about it, even so, if bugs were there and then we repacked our liner that lay on top of the bed – well you see the problem. A hostel we stayed in – Madpackers – in Delhi seemed the most likely, but thankfully no. It was packed with college age travelers from around the world and you weren’t allowed to wear shoes inside This is usually no big deal, but here your feet were black almost immediately. It seemed like mostly men were managing the cleaning, which was a little scary in this culture.
They actually set the mattresses outside in NZ huts during the day, spray them, and air them out usually. Those places actually feel pretty clean. Everyone helps out with keeping them that way. The tea houses in Nepal clean sheets after the rooms change out, but this is always cold water and line dry. They always felt clean enough, but we used our liners here in our sleeping bags (since they were rented too). Bathrooms are always wet in Asia since they use water for toilet hygiene, which I never got use to.
Airbnbs are usually clean enough. Cleaning when you leave can be hard, if you are moving frequently. Most don’t require you to take out garbage and strip the beds; but, if they do, it is even more harrowing to leave. We just try to make everyone responsible for their own stuff, but it’s still hard to move every other day. We like to spend at least 3 nights somewhere for it not to feel ridiculous, but sometimes that’s not possible. Also for clothes washing: you never have a dryer, and although most of our stuff is synthetic, we still have a few cotton things that often take more than 24 hours to dry. We have all been pleasantly surprised though with line drying, not really stiff after you wear a little while. Also, you always wash clothes with cold water – in Asia cause that’s the only option, in Europe because you want a hot shower more. In Europe, we have often had a washer. In Asia, usually we had to pay by the kilogram or wash in a bucket. In NZ we didn’t wash much, but occasionally had a washer. I’m a little worried about South Africa with 10 days in a national park, but we’ll figure it out.
The Duomo in Orvieto
Did staying in a hut full of strangers scare you in Asia and NZ.
Staying in huts didn’t feel scary at all really. I know they are all strangers living with you, but you bond pretty quick. I feel quite confident if anyone messed with you, there would be another person to protect you. There’s also a hut warden always around in NZ, who is trustworthy. I mean everyone wants it to be a safe place. Also, in the teahouses, the town’s livelihood depends on it being a safe thing to do, so they have a vested interest in dealing with any problems. Now, I wouldn’t want to share a room with one other stranger if I was by myself, but otherwise it feels really safe. The only place we stayed that I felt nervous was a random hotel in Nepal, on our way bike from the Himalayas. It was just shady and in the middle of a rough town. I did tell Ella, that night, for no reason to go to the bathroom by herself; since of course the toilet is not in the room, but in the hallway. We also divided up – Walden and I, Ella and Dad in the rooms. If we had been without the guys, I would have definitely propped something against the door. Really though, the owner of the place and his wife turned out to be exceedingly kind and helpful. The town just felt desperate. I would also tell any female not to travel alone in India. She would need to meet up with some friends quickly. The male/female interaction here is just … different. Ella and I both felt nervous from the stares. You just don’t see women out alone a lot of places. You definitely feel like prey sometimes here, which is really unfortunate. The populations seems to be especially working on it within their social services. A lot of taxis have signs that say “We respect women.” I just can’t imagine being a woman here trying to be a professional and having to deal with the male attitudes. And it’s odd, because you see many women in leadership roles, I didn’t have time to completely understand it, but hope it gets better.
Have you been able to soak it in and enjoy the European countries since you’ve been moving so fast?
The pace of our European travel is unfortunate, but we decided early on it was a necessity. We preferred to give the kids a “greatest hits” experience here, because they (or us) could always return in the future for a more intensive experience of the places they really loved. Where to go is always a give and take, if you do this – you can’t do that. It can be a little overwhelming sometimes, but you have to just keep things in perspective and remind yourself that you can always come back. Seeing the Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower, the Astronomical Clock, the Berlin Wall, Auschwitz, etc. with our kids was worth the pace. We may all come again, but the chances that we will all be together for another trip this long is much less likely.
Our gorgeous little Airbnb in Tuscany
Do you feel like you’re on vacation or do you feel really busy?
Hmmm…the kids will tell you we never go on vacation as a family. We travel and adventure, but not vacation. The only vacations we take are with Nanny and Pa/Mom’s family. Dad learned his “on the go travel” from his family. No watching movies and lounging around at the beach for them. So, no, it doesn’t feel like vacation really. Ella laughs too and says she doesn’t think she should be called a tourist anymore, but just a traveler. We try to take days to chill, out of necessity, but much like you would at home on an occasional weekend.
Believe it or not, you stay really busy even when you’re not sight seeing: keeping in touch with friends and family; maintaining the blog; arranging impossible transportation with trains/buses and poor internet often (it was not unusual for it to take 2 hours for Chris to be able to get a train reservation in India); applying for visas; making sure we’re getting in school and coming up with good assignments and grading them; making, confirming, and reviewing reservations (which is really encouraged everywhere 🙂 ); looking up local information and planning itineraries; getting groceries and figuring out how to cook; how to get laundry taken care of; packing and unpacking and cleaning up your place before you leave again; it actually stays pretty crazy most of the time. We have taken at least a few days each month to do no sight seeing and just hold up in our place to catch up on things and let the kids get in a Netflix binge and watch Walden play endless hacky sack basketball 🙂
Has Google Translate let you down?
Actually we have only used it to text and communicate with Airbnb hosts who don’t speak much English in Western Europe. We probably should have used it more!
The Duomo in Siena
I know you listen to audiobooks, what was the best audiobook you listened to on the trip?
I have not been able to read nearly as much as I hope, but I have been able to practice writing, which is something I always wanted to do. I will have to pick 4 books for different reasons:
The Reason for God – absolutely awesome, a must read for living in a postmodern world and being a Christ follower – my spiritual read.
The Devil in the White City – this was really informative actually and taught me a lot about Chicago in the late 1800s. It made me think a lot about what Gary Haugen says about the hope for better justice systems in places that seem hopeless now, because our own countries justice system seemed pretty hopeless not that long ago – my school/historical read.
Outliers: The Story of Success – really interesting researched nonfiction recommended by Chris The book demonstrates through multiple studies how peoples’ success is based on opportunity and the right skill set – we are not just a product of our hard work and determination, it helps, but opportunity is a necessity to be an outlier. I am also hopeful my writing for the blog has helped take one step closer to the 10,000 hours of practice necessary to be really exceptional at something!
Neverseen: Keepers of the Lost Cities: My total just for fun read, middle school book about elves 🙂 Honestly, this was my favorite, lol. Emma Johnson, you would love this!