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.”

 

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.  

 

10 Things to do in New York City

We spent a long weekend in the city exactly a year ago and we loved every minute of it. We walked miles and miles and visited dozens of restaurants and bars, but we didn’t even scratch the surface of what New York has to offer.  

Here are a few of our favorite parts from our weekend in the Big Apple:

 

  1. The New York Botanical Garden (The Bronx)

The whole reason we went to New York in the first place was the New York Botanical Garden. They were hosting a Frida Kahlo exhibition, and my parents got me two tickets for graduation. I obviously brought Paul as my guest of choice and we made a whole weekend out of this awesome event.
The show was a combination of Frida’s stunning art and her love for horticulture. There was a full recreation of her garden in Mexico and free margaritas for all of the guests. Aside from all the Frida-inspired wonderment, people were genuinely in awe of the gardens as a whole. It’s amazing to have this lush, colorful paradise right in the middle of the city. Their exhibits are always changing, so check their website before you go!

NY flowers

(flowers at the botanical garden) 

 

  1. Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt Island is a tiny island between Manhattan and Queens that is the length of just 35 city blocks. The island used to be home to mental hospitals and prisons and you can still visit the remnant of these places on the island. A beautiful pathway along the river provides one of the best views of the New York Skyline by far.

If you’re not afraid of heights, take the tram to get there. For just the cost of a Metro Card swipe, the five minute tram ride is one you won’t forget.    

NY roosevelt

(Paul checking out the amazing view from Roosevelt Island)

 

  1. The Bitter End (Greenwich Village)

The Bitter End is the oldest rock & roll club in NYC and has hosted thousands of amazing bands. My parents visit this place every time they go to New York and they recommended we go. For a small cover charge + a “two-drink-minimum,” you can watch three or four awesome bands play for a few hours.  We’ll definitely go back next time we’re in the City.

 

  1. McSorley’s Old Ale House (East Village)

This little gem opened in 1854 – making it one of the oldest pubs in New York. They only offer two kinds of beer: “light” or “dark” and you are given two glass mugs of the one you ask for. (Pro tip: if you go with a friend, order a light and a dark and take a mug each!) This bar is truly reminiscent of it’s place in history: cash only, no website, Irish bartenders, sawdust on the floors. You have to see it to believe it.

 

  1. B-Rated Chinese Food Restaurant

You’re probably wondering why this is on our list, but it’s all about the experience. As we were walking back to our hotel after visiting quite a few bars, we found ourselves desperate for food, but with nothing in sight. We finally stumbled upon a Chinese Food restaurant but it had a B rating! (All New York City restaurants are rated with a letter which is displayed in their front window – A is obviously the best and you usually will only eat at A restaurants – even fast-food restaurants are rated with A’s normally. B means that they might have failed part of their health inspection).

We decided that we’d take the risk and order a couple dishes to go from the vacant Chinese Restaurant and take it back to our hotel. The table we sat at while we waited was kind of sticky, but the server was really friendly and the food came out in just a few minutes. Do we recommend taking risks? Yes. Do we recommend going to B-Rated restaurants? Not necessarily. 

 

  1. Brooklyn

We had to put the whole borough of Brooklyn as one item because we had so much fun there as a whole. We spent our first several hours in New York at the Brooklyn Museum. There were a few really interesting exhibits on display in addition to their impressive permanent collection. The fountain outside of the museum is mesmerizing and we sat for almost an hour watching it. People continually filtered through on their lunch breaks or with their kids to sit and watch the water.

Next we went to Park Slope to stay with a friend. We ate the first of many slices of pizza for the weekend and got a tour of the neighborhood the next morning. On our way out of Brooklyn we walked all the way through Prospect Park. This vast, green landscape is always filled with people exercising, biking, reading, hiking, you name it.   
ny skateboards

(cool skateboard exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum – there were hundreds of them!)

 

  1. Arriba Arriba (Midtown)

This was one of our favorite meals during our weekend trip to the City. If you should know one thing about Paul and I, it’s that we love Mexican food (we met while working in a Mexican restaurant, after all) so when we find good Mexican, we are very happy campers.

We sat outside in the beautiful spring weather and had a few margaritas before our food came. We got chips & guac, and we each got a burrito. We left feeling super full and happy.

 

  1. Dog Park

While standing in line at Ess-A-Bagel, we found out that our flight was delayed 8 hours, so we took our time, ordered extra bagels and tried to think of what to do with our extra day in New York. We walked to a nearby park and were surprised and delighted to see that there was a dog park attached to it. Dogless, we went into the gated park, plopped down, and let all of the curious pups come up to us at their leisure. We stayed there for at least an hour, beginning what was to become our wild flight-delay adventure.

NY bagel

(bagel with tofu spread, lox, tomato and lettuce, aka my dream come true) 

 

  1. Molly Wee’s Pub (Midtown West)

It began to storm during our flight-delay adventure, so we started bar-hopping to kill time. We stopped into Molly Wee’s, sat down at the bar and ordered a couple of beers. After no more than a minute, the two men next to us struck up a conversation. They were old Irish expats who told us stories and taught us how to drink whiskey the “right way.” We still think of this experience as one of our favorites from the trip.

We eventually had to leave the pub so we could make our flight, but we stopped first at a Bar-B-Que place around the corner to grab a snack for the road. We were so glad that we didn’t just hang around the airport all day waiting for our flight.

 

  1. Walking Around

Emphasis on “walking”. We only used public transportation two or three times during the weekend, because we wanted to discover new things, people watch, and have the ability to stop and go as we wanted. We walked sixty (!!!) blocks to get the aforementioned bagels!

During our exploration we found a twenty-piece band playing in Washington Park, a full on soccer match on the steps on Union Square Park, kids racing on scooters in the Bronx, etc.

 

New York is full of amazing sights, sounds, music, food, and people. Give yourself plenty of time to explore and plenty of freedom to take risks.

If you have any questions about these places – or any of the other things we did in NYC, send us an email at happyhazardtravel@gmail.com or send us a Facebook Message!