Lessons Learned: One Month on the Road

We set out on our adventure one month ago today and we’ve had some wild and wonderful experiences thus far. During our travels in London and Spain we have learned a series of lessons that we have recorded here.

  • Life is easier when you have an organized backpack.
  • You can’t do everything. You will miss full days of activities because it’s 100 degrees out. Your skin will thank you for staying inside.
  • Spanish pub crawls last until 6:00am: be prepared.
  • The budget is annoying at first, but it’ll keep you in check along the way.
  • Try new things: even if that means eating food that still has eyes.
  • Stopping for pictures is always worth it.
  • Cherish Mexican food when you find it, you probably won’t find it again.
  • Get out of your comfort zone! Yes, it’s cliche but when you’re uncomfortable, you are growing.
  • Spanish Red Hot Chili Peppers cover bands are the bomb.
  • It’s worth it to strike up a conversation with the strangers in your hostel.
  • Make sure your server gives you the correct change back. And never let your credit card out of your sight. And always ask for your receipt. Just always be aware when other people handle your money.
  • Sometimes the best way to get to the beach is to walk through the desert. (This is kind of a metaphor, but it actually happened to us in Cabo de Gata.)
  • Try to catch as many sunrises and sunsets (and pokemon) as you can.
  • When you have the opportunity to go camping on an island: do it.
  • The best way to learn about the country you’re in is by talking to the locals in their own language. This means practicing Spanish and sometimes embarrassing yourself.
  • Ramen + corn + chicken nuggets = culinary masterpiece.
  • Air conditioning is a privilege.
  • Waking up early is hard, but it makes you feel productive even if you’re only going to the beach.
  • Say “yes”/”sí.”
  • Mistakes are lessons learned. Don’t be afraid of mistakes. Remember the mantra: “we are learning.”

 

London on a Budget

Before leaving home we developed a budget for how much we would ideally like to spend in London. Based on numbers from other travel blogs, the current exchange rate between dollars and pounds, and our personal budget goals for our trip, we calculated a spending goal for each day in London. The exchange rate has since changed drastically due to the Brexit (which we were there for!) so make sure you research the exact exchange rate before you go.  

We had initially anticipated spending about £72 per person/ per day (including the £32 for the hostel), and we ended up spending only £52 on average per day! We had jam-packed days full of drinking, eating, and sight-seeing and we came in at £20 under budget per day. Here’s how we did it:

 

Museums & Galleries  

There are hundreds of museums in London and the majority of them are free and open to the public. During our stay we went to the National Gallery, the Tate Modern, and the Victoria Miro Gallery. The Tate Modern has a new addition as of June 17th, fittingly named The New Tate Modern, which has an outlook on the top floor that provides a great view of the city.  

 

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Paul at the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the Victoria Miro Gallery

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The view from the New Tate Modern

 

Theatre

London theatre is some of the best in the world. Though it can be pricey, it’s worth it to witness world-renowned actors and performances. Before we left home, we had already been talking about seeing Richard III starring Ralph Fiennes (aka Voldemort in Harry Potter). Our hostel roommate recommended that we use an app called TodayTix that allows you to enter a lottery to win seats. The show was sold out until September, but thanks to TodayTix we WON two available seats for only £20 a piece!   

 

The “Sights”

While you’re in London you’re pretty much obligated to see Parliament & Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the Tower Bridge, etc. These places are full of tourists, and therefore full of pick-pocketers, so be careful when you’re stopping to take photos!

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Buckingham Palace ft. tons of tourists

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Paul & the Queen 

 

Pimlico Fish & Chips

If you’re looking for classic fish & chips but don’t want to pay the £13 you’d spend at a pub, look for “take-away only” shops. This particular spot in Pimlico had no tables, was cash-only, and cost half the price of pub fish & chips.

 

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world and is totally worth visiting if you’re in London. It costs £12 to go on a tour of the cathedral: complete with headphones and a visit to the crypt and the dome. However, the Cathedral hosts mass services every few hours which are free and open to the public. We chose the latter option. We attended the half hour mass and then took a self-guided tour around the main floor.  

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St. Paul’s on a gloomy, London afternoon

 

Brixton

While at Honest Burger in Covent Garden (which we recommend for a good burger & beer), the waitress recommended that we visit Brixton if we like Jamaican food. Jamaican food? In London? Yes, and it’s amazing (and cheap). When you get off the tube stop in Brixton you walk right into a vast Jamaican market; complete with traditional patties and other delicious Jamaican dishes. We bought six of the £1.50 patties and saved a couple of them for dinner that night.

 

Travel Joy Hostel

We really loved our hostel in London. It was just a few blocks away from the Pimlico tube stop, and just a 30 minute walk from Parliament. Several bus lines stop directly outside the building and one runs 24/7. They offered guests free soft drinks, coffee, and tea; free breakfast, which included omelets and smoothies; and free salsa-dancing lessons and beer pong. Though it was a bit pricey, it was definitely worth the money for the experience we had and the friends we made!

 

London is an expensive city, but it can be tackled on a budget. Though we had a daily budget, our spending varied each day; for instance, our first day in London was Paul’s birthday, so we spent more on that day than any other day there. By remaining budget-conscious and seeking out the aforementioned freebies, we saved a ton of money and still had a great time!  

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Us having fun with the camera filters my brother got me for my birthday. Thanks, Luke! 
We were in London from June 19-June 24, 2016. Feel free to comment or message us if you have any questions!

Adjusting to Life on the Road

Before you leave for your trip, it’s hard to imagine all of the things that will change in your daily life while you’re traveling. As an inexperienced traveler, I think I imagined that I was going to be living my same life, just in another country.

Experienced travelers don’t face quite the same adjustment period as new travelers when they’re just starting out, for example, Paul hasn’t thought twice about how gross the hostel showers are, whereas I could barely get myself to go in them the first few times.

Aside from the time zone change and the whole “missing your family” thing, the following are areas in your life that you have to adjust on the road in order to accommodate your new lifestyle:

 

Your Privacy

When you stay in a hostel, it’s difficult to have a sense of privacy…anywhere. You sleep in a room with five or six other people and you have a shared bathroom and common space.

You can often make friends with the people in your room so that your shared space feels more of a community rather than a bunch of strangers in bunkbeds. Most people staying in hostels are young backpackers and share a common goal: to explore the world while learning about new cultures. We have become friends with many of our roommates by simply asking where they are from.

 

Your Security

Your backpack becomes your home when you’re traveling and keeping it safe and secure is always in the back of your mind. You have to constantly be aware of where your valuables are and be sure that they are locked up. At first it’s kind of unnerving to have to lock up your things, but after the first few days it becomes a habit.

In our last hostel we left our phones charging over night, but in our hostel in Vigo we are a bit more cautious because the door to the room is left open all night due to the heat.

 

Your Routine

At home I had a nightly routine: brush teeth, get a glass of water, take meds, put on chapstick, turn on fan, turn off light, go to sleep. Every night on the road is different so I have had to develop a new routine. Every morning I make my bed and set out my pajamas, toothbrush, and medicine; so if we come back after the lights are out, everything will be in one spot and I don’t have to fumble around with the flashlight.

Figuring out your new routine asap (if you’re a routine person) will be crucial in your adjustment to life on the road.

 

Your Schedule

You go to a city and plan to do X, Y, and Z while you’re there. Then the first day it rains so much that your hostel floods (true story from London). The next night you decide to stay in to play cards with new friends instead of doing what you had planned. You have one more day in town so you prioritize your goals and pick activity X.

One of the first things I learned about traveling was “you can’t do everything.” You might have made three days worth of plans and you only did one: that’s ok. Other opportunities are bound to come up and you should take them. Be spontaneous.

 

Life on the road will not be what you expected and you will have to adjust. But within the first day you will realize that traveling is so much more than you expected as well. On the road you have a new lifestyle and a new big, beautiful community to be a part of: embrace it.