How We Balance Down Time and Tourism

Have you ever felt more tired after a vacation? We sure have!

Being on the road we are constantly in new places with new sights to see and it is easy to fall into the habit of constantly go-go-going. We have found that it is important to balance the continual urge to see it all with the need for down time. Much like being at home, we sometimes need breaks during the day, relaxing evening, a good night sleep, and “weekends” to unwind from a week of doing.  

 Relaxing on the Black Sand Beach, Vík, Iclenad, 2016
Relaxing on the Black Sand Beach, Vík, Iclenad, 2016

We have learned how significant regular breaks during the day can be. Not only do we get to rest our feet, but we get to rest our minds. An easy way for us to do this is to find a café, have a cup of coffee, and people watch. Sitting in silence and letting our mind slow down gives us a second wind for more sight-seeing. 

 Coffee Date. Oslo, Norway, 2016
Coffee Date. Oslo, Norway, 2016

Every night cannot be a night on the town.  Sometimes the best remedy for a long day is a relaxing evening. Dive into a good book, relax in a park, binge watch a tv show, or even nodding off into an early sleep. 

 Kevin relaxing while listening to a good book. Ålä, Sweden, 2016
Kevin relaxing while listening to a good book. Ålä, Sweden, 2016

Another way we have learned to balance our downtime with our tourism is by allowing ourselves to not set wakeup alarms and simply sleeping in. Before traveling the world, we always heard how not getting enough sleep can effect many aspects of your life and it is very true. A good night’s sleep is essential for a good day of sight-seeing.

 Seeing the sights after a good night sleep. Iceland, 2016
Seeing the sights after a good night sleep. Iceland, 2016

Too many consecutive days of being on the go can lead to getting burnt out. After a few weeks of not having a day off from traveling and sight seeing it was time for us to take a weekend. Two consecutive days of hanging around with nothing planned was pure bliss. It reinvigorated us. From that point on we decided that allowing ourselves to have weekends was one of the most important ways of balancing downtime with our tourism. 

 Enjoying a weekend with nothing planned. Copenhagen, Denmark
Enjoying a weekend with nothing planned. Copenhagen, Denmark

We had to let go of being on a schedule to see everything, rather, experience the place we are visiting. A good way to do this is to balance being a tourist with simple being someone living on the move.     

We are two en route for balanced travel.

Stockholm’s Underground Art Scene

Stockholm claims the title “Capital of Scandinavia.”  It is the largest city with some of the most beautiful architecture and has an extensive collection of galleried art. However, did you know some of the most fascinating art can be found underground? You literally have to go under the city and into the subways to find it. 

On our first trip into the subway, when we arrived into Stockholm, we noticed something was different. The walls were alive with interest. From that moment, we decided to do a little research and found out that 90% of Stockholm’s subway stations host some of the coolest and most unique works of art. A few days into our stay we decided to hop from station to station to feast our eyes on more. Here are a few of our favorites. Enjoy!

 Stadion Station - Red Line
Stadion Station – Red Line
 Stadion Station - Red Line
Stadion Station – Red Line
 Hötorget Station - Green Line
Hötorget Station – Green Line
 T-Centralen Station - Blue Line
T-Centralen Station – Blue Line
 T-Centralen Station - Blue Line
T-Centralen Station – Blue Line
 Stadshagen Station - Blue Line
Stadshagen Station – Blue Line
 Stadshagen Station - Blue Line
Stadshagen Station – Blue Line
 Stadshagen Station - Blue Line
Stadshagen Station – Blue Line
 Kungsträdgården Station - Blue Line
Kungsträdgården Station – Blue Line
 Kungsträdgården Station - Blue Line
Kungsträdgården Station – Blue Line

We are two en route to explore more underground art. 

Brown Cheese…Quintessentially Norway

We love to try new and different foods that are unique to the places we are traveling. Norwegians have their own unique food item and that is Brown Cheese. Why is it called brown cheese? Well… It’s brown in color. 

 Brown Cheese on Toast, Norway, 2016
Brown Cheese on Toast, Norway, 2016

After some internet research we learned that the best way to eat brown cheese is to simply toast some bread, put two slices on, and enjoy! We are sure you are wondering what it tastes like. To both of us brown cheese had a medium firmness, tasted a little sweet and finished with a heavily preserved fish saltiness. It may sound strange however, it tasted good. It was not the best cheese we’ve ever had but recommended for a try if you are in Norway. 

 Brad trying Brown Cheese, Norway, 2016
Brad trying Brown Cheese, Norway, 2016

After buying the smallest package we could find, because we did not know if we would like it, we still had some cheese left over. The following day we made brown cheese and ham sandwiches; delicious. 

We are two en route with brown cheese in our belly.

7 of Our Favorite Churches around Iceland

As we spent the last week driving around the entire country of Iceland, which is about as big as the state of Ohio, we noticed that everywhere we looked we saw a church. It kind of felt like we were back home in Texas. No matter how big or small the town we were in, there a church stood. Here are 7 of our favorite churches around Iceland.  

1. Búðir

Búðir is a small church located in the west of Iceland. It was completed in 1847 and stands at the end of a peninsula with the ocean to one side and mountains to the other. We love how it is painted black which sets it off from the colorful background of nature. 

2. Stykkishólmskirkja

This church is very modern in the rustic port town of Stykkishólmur. The swooping bell tower is representative of a whale’s vertebra. Inside is a fantastic painting of Madonna. The ceiling sparkles with hundreds of exposed hanging Edison style light bulbs. 

3. Siglufjarðarkirkja

Not only is this a spectacular church with parts of it’s history dating back to the 16th century, it also doubles as the towns high school. The church is in the town of Siglufjörður which sits in a beautiful Fjörd. 

4. Akureyrarkirkj

The Church of Akureyri is in the center of town on top of a hill. When we ascended the steps the church began to become even grander. As we walked through the door we noticed refreshing modern stain glass windows and nods to Iceland’s Nordic history all around. 

5. Seyðisfjörður Kirkjan

What makes this church one of our favorites was the unique powder blue color. Seyðisfjörður is located in the north east of Iceland nestled in a fjörd. This vibrant city and unique church is a must see. 

6. Hellnar Church

Not at all a famous church or even a church that is the center of attention. What caught our eye is how this church shows the wear time has on a building. Located in Hellnar, an other fishing town in the west of Iceland, this church sits off by itself serving as a constant reminder of time. 

7. Hallgrimskirkja

Probably Iceland’s most iconic church, Hallgrimskirkja is at the center of Reykjavik. The design of this church is supposed to be symbolic of the basalts you see coming out of the ocean onto the coast from around the country. It connects with the heart of Iceland’s volcanic history.

From the spectacular displays of nature to the man made structures, we can not get enough of Iceland!

We are two en route to explore Iceland’s churches

Sleeping in Airports

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One goal we set for our RTW trip is to make our money go as far as possible and to live within a new means. This meant making compromises along the way and even being uncomfortable at times. We started our trip by testing how far we could test our limits, asked ourselves if these limits were unrealistic, and even hoped that the edge we would walk up to might somehow continue to be pushed further and further out making what would have seemed uncomfortable not so bad. Our journey to the starting point did just that.

We are no strangers to public transit, so dropping our car off at my dad’s work, putting on our backpacks, and navigating DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) to the airport was a breeze. Once we arrived at the airport it was like second nature to us going through security and making it to the gate hours early in anticipation of heading out.

 Goodbye Dallas from the DART, 2016 
Goodbye Dallas from the DART, 2016 

Storms started to roll in just as we were supposed to board the plane. This was not a big deal; we had left plenty of time for our layover in Boston. We finally make it on the plane, which had been delayed nearly an hour, only to find out that the pilots and some crew had not made it because of delays on their end. After another 20 minutes, the crew was there and we pulled away from the gate. Off we go to start our adventure!

 On the Plane, DAL > BOS, 2016
On the Plane, DAL > BOS, 2016

It was past midnight by the time we landed in Boston and by this point we were tired. Not knowing what Boston’s policies are, Kevin asked an employee if Boston was a 24-hour airport. Turns out it is, however, you cannot sleep inside the security area after they close security lines around 2am. We quickly got online to look for sleeping accommodations and found out that getting a “quick hotel” would eat up way more of our daily budget than we were comfortable. Kevin strolled back to the employee and asked, “are their places to sleep outside of security checkpoint that are still inside the airport lobby?” to which the man replied, “yes, but all of the cots have been passed out.”

As we made it out of the airport secured area, sure enough, we noticed a lot of people sleeping on a number of things, cots being one of them. We decided to leave the current terminal (Terminal A) and walk to the international terminal (Terminal E). Along the .5 mile walk, each terminal had its own slew of sleeping patrons. When we walked through Terminal D’s baggage claim, we say a pile of cots on the wall not yet claimed. We found our beds for the night!

 Our Cots for the Night, BOS Airport, 2016
Our Cots for the Night, BOS Airport, 2016

Settling in at Terminal E for the night was a new experience for us since neither of us had even stayed overnight in an airport. Time to test out pushing our limits. We knew we would not be getting much sleep because there was a large tag on the cots saying they would be picked up at 5am and by the time we locked our bags up and settled in it was nearly 1am. Between the stiff cots and the lady on the PA system announcing the next flight to Hong Kong, it was a rough night trying to grasp a few hours of sleep. At 5am, we woke up, tried to compose ourselves to the best of our ability, and wandered like zombies trying to figure out what we wanted to do for the next 14 hours. Figuring out next steps out was quick, we both wanted to find a bench to nap on, so we did. Airport lobby bench seats are much more comfortable than those cots, but only if you are lucky enough to find a bench without fixed armrests. Lesson learned.

 Brad Sleeping, BOS Airport, 2016
Brad Sleeping, BOS Airport, 2016

After a few hours of sleep, we feel refreshed! Testing our limits is a baby-step process. First sleeping in airports in Boston, next we will be sleeping in our rental car in Iceland, and then maybe on the floor of a train station. Not every limitation we test will be worth it in terms of our comfort, but every tested limitation will be a worthwhile lesson learned about ourselves.

We are two en route to mastering airport sleeping.

What’s in Our Backpack

One of the questions we get from people is, “how can you fit everything you need in just one backpack?” The key is really a combination of careful packing, only taking what is really needed, and picking the right items.

First, it was important to choose the perfect backpack and once we had done that it was time to start making a list of everything we thought we needed. Next, we took that list, asked ourselves if we really needed everything on it and started cutting items off the list. This was much easier to do since we had already packed our lives into a box. Finally, we researched what someone would need on a backpacking trip and started to buy things to fill our backpacks.

 Bag Empty. Ready to be Packed. 2016
Bag Empty. Ready to be Packed. 2016

HERE IS WHAT WE DECIDED WAS A MUST TO PACK

SHIRTS

  • 3 x T-Shirts
  • 3 x Collared Shirts
  • 2 x Tank Tops
  • 1 x Long Sleeve T-Shirt

JACKETS

  • 1 x Hoodie
  • 1 x Synthetic Down Jacket
  • 1 x Rain Jacket

PANTS/SHORTS

  • 1 x Jeans
  • 2 x Long Pants (zip-off)
  • 2 x Shorts
  • 1 x Comfy Shorts (for lounging around)

SHOES

  • 1 x Hiking Shoes
  • 1 x Flip Flops (for the showers and beaches)

OTHER CLOTHING

  • 2 x Swim Suites
  • 5 x Underwear
  • 5 x Socks
  • 1 x Hat
  • 1 x Belt
  • 1 x Gloves

ACCESSORIES

  • 1 x Travel Towel
  • 1 x Sleeping Bag (will end up ditching at some point)
  • 1 x Handkerchief
  • 1 x Sunglasses & Case
  • 1 x Collapsible Water Bottle
  • 1 x Bag Rain Cover
  • 1 x Lock
  • 1 x Security Cable
  • 1 x Digital Bag Scale
  • 1 x Multi-Tool Carabiner
  • 1 x Eye Mask
  • 6 x Ear Plugs
  • 1 x Waterproof Bag
  • 3 x Ziplock Bags
  • 15 x Clothes Pins
  • 1 x Clothes Line
  • 1 x Sewing Kit
  • 1 x Toiletries (all the goodies)
  • 1 x Electric Shaver
  • 1 x First Aid Kit
  • 1 x Wine Bottle Opener
  • 1 x Collapsible Silicone Cup 
  • 1 x Business Cards
  • 1 x Journal 
  • 1 x Pen 

ELECTRONICS / GADGETS

  • 1 x Phone
  • 1 x Computer
  • 1 x External HDD 
  • 1 x Ethernet Cable
  • 1 x Camera, Extra Battery, & Extra Memory Card
  • 1 x GoPro, Remote, & GoPro Stick
  • 1 x Mini Tripod
  • 1 x Rechargeable AA Batteries
  • 1 x Universal Power Adaptor
  • 1 x Headphones
  • 1 x 2-Way Audio Amp (so we can listen to the same thing at the same time)
  • 1 x Jambox MINI
  • 1 x iPod Nano 
  • 1 x USB Car Charger & USB Battery Pack
 Bag Packed. 2016
Bag Packed. 2016

We are two en route to pack up and head out

 

Choosing The Backpack

When we chose to live on the road for more than a year we realized one of the most important items we would have was the pack on our back. After some initial online research we knew this was something we would need to purchase in person.  We would need to try it on, feel the quality of the interconnections in the zipper, how the materials felt between our fingers and all the other feel goods the internet can’t offer.  For us that meant a trip to REI.

 Photo from  Preston Hollow Advocate
Photo from Preston Hollow Advocate

Since we are mainly “urban backpacking” those large monstrosities of outdoor hiking bags were immediately eliminated. Which unfortunately, is most of what is on the market. When it came to what options were still available, we initially had thoughts like, “there is no way we can live in anything less than 70 liters each.” Between needing outfit options, creature comforts, electronics, and toiletries, we felt 70 liters was even going to be hard. Keeping in mind that we plan to live out of this bag for over a year we wanted to have room for everything we would need, but also knew carrying extra unnecessary weight was going to quickly get old (and painful). It was time for us to do some serious research to figure out what was going in our bags before making a final decision.

Most people we spoke with and blogs we read had a general consensus that 20 lbs (all-in, filled to the brim) was the target weight for a pack. In order to stay around that weight, we knew 70 liters would be too big.  Filling 70 liters to the brim gets you well past 20 lbs, ouchies. Now that our backpack was shrinking, another question came up; did we want to have a carry-on size pack? We decided that this was a must. Not only would this make it easier to carry on our back, it would be easier on all forms of transit. As an added bonus, often times carry-ons are free while checking a bag costs extra and the more dollars we save the more days we travel.

Since we are going to be taking all forms of transportation in many different countries, another key feature we felt was a must was security. We wanted to make our packs appear to be hard to try and break into or steal especially since everything we own will be inside. Security features we looked for were tear resistant fabric, high quality construction, and lockable zippers.

  Image from REI website
Image from REI website

With so much security built into one bag, we wanted to make sure the bag was still easy for us to use. The last thing we want is to be in a situation where we need something quickly and are not able to get to it with ease. Some great features we saw on bags was being able to open them like a suitcase so you could quickly and easily get to everything,  smaller compartments to help with organization, and the ability to attach and detach a removable day pack for when you just need a few things with you and can leave the bulk of your items stuffed away someplace safe (not on our backs).

After we looked at what different backpacks offered and compared them to our must have list, we chose the Osprey Porter 46. It is a carry-on size, 46 liter pack with a suit-case style full zip opening for ease of use, great security, and the ability to attach a 13 liter day pack (Osprey Daylite). As an added bonus, the Porter 46 even has compression sidewalls that help keep everything snug and secure no matter what’s inside. Packs purchased!

 Image from REI website
Image from REI website

As is often the case, before committing to something long term it is a good idea to give it a short term trial. We purchased the Porter 46 and Daylite to take with us to New Zealand in April.  This allowed us to make sure the packs fit well, held up, and actually fulfilled our wants and needs. From storing them overhead on the plane to only taking the Daylite with us around town, they did great.

 Piha Beach with only the Daylite, New Zealand, 2016
Piha Beach with only the Daylite, New Zealand, 2016

We are two en route to backpack the world.

Defining our American Dream

After spending the better part of a decade working towards the American Dream we decided to step back and rethink what that really meant to us. Ultimately we decided that taking a no regrets leap out of our comfort zone and into a nomadic backpacking journey across the globe was the right thing for us. Ready. Set. Leap!

 Paris, France, 2012
Paris, France, 2012

We started traveling internationally for run of the mill tourist type sightseeing in 2012 and ended up falling in love with encountering new cultures, cities, ways of life, flavors of food, and everything else in between. Travel to us has becoming about opening our minds to how amazingly huge and diverse this world really is.  Each place we visit changes a little something about what makes us who we are, both individually and as a couple.

Growing up we learned about the previous generation’s definition of the American Dream.  Picket fences, ambrosia salad at the neighborhood potluck, and two and a half children are just a few things that come to mind. For us though, the American Dream has become one with fewer pickets in the fence and lot more wanderlust in the heart, fewer marshmallows in the ambrosia salad and a lot more culinary experiences on the street-side, and the same two and a half children in our home just a few more years down the road.

We are two en route to achieve our American Dream.