Crammed Full

Can I just say, packing cubes are the BEST. You would not believe how much I have crammed into a carry on bag. In preparing for this trip, I spent hours watching videos and travel shows and reading about each country and how to best prepare. I have done many road trips and have been to almost every state in the United States, but the only place I’ve been outside of the US is British Columbia. In anticipating this trip, I am both excited and nervous. Particularly about visiting India.  I known that Europe will be different and exciting, but it is not a third world country.

*If you’re wondering why I am going on such an eclectic trip, it all started when my husband was going to a conference in Frankfurt, Germany. Of course, I wanted to go with him. We decided to make it a bit of a vacation, so he suggested spending a couple of days in London, then a few days in France, then a few days in Germany. I knew that I wanted more than a couple of days in Paris, so we decided to spend a week in Paris and then go on to Germany. My middle son is attending film school in Mumbai, India, and his two-year program ends this summer. I have talked about going to visit India while he was there, and now time was running out. I decided since I was halfway around the world, I might as well keep going and go to India. My husband won’t be going on to India because he has to work. So there you have it. 

Because of the time of year and the climates I am visiting, I have to pack for Paris in the spring, snow in Bavaria, and ‘unrelenting heat’ (that is what the description of the safari on the tiger reserve said) in India. I just spent the last six hours combing over my list, packing every item just so, and then rolling up my clothes and cramming them tightly into packing cubes. In the blue soft-sided Biaggi Zipsak, I fit 4 pairs of pants, two blouses, five shirts, a sweater, a pair of shorts, a swimsuit, a dress, a pair of leggings, three pairs of shoes, socks, underwear, a winter coat, and a denim jacket, along with some medications and toiletries (the ones that are less important), cotton wipes, antibacterial wipes, and a LifeStraw Go water bottle (because India). In the small black under-the-seat carry on the I bought at Costco (sorry, no link available but it was $29.99 and is similar to this) are my important toiletries in a hanging toiletry bag, my folder of important papers (flight info, itinerary, hotel reservations, etc), my harem pants pajamas (if my luggage is lost I want my pj’s), a pair of shoes, and my important medications. In my backpack is my purse (an RFID safe cross body Baggalini) and my electronics and cords, electronics adapters for Europe and Asia, some snacks, gum, my neck wallet with my passport and my vaccination information, and a money belt (because my mom said not to keep money in my neck wallet). I’ve included the links for all of the items that I’m using. I don’t get anything for doing so, my blog isn’t monetized, I just included them for convenience. And as my travels continue, I will tell you if the items are worth purchasing or not. Many of them I bought for this trip and haven’t actually used yet.

Seeing these three countries in three weeks, my itinerary is crammed as full as my luggage. That seems to be the way my husband and I like to travel. We don’t want to be leisurely and think “If we don’t see it this time, we will come back and see it next time.” I just can’t do that – there are SO MANY PLACES TO SEE! And I want to see every bit of a place while I’m there, so I can go somewhere new the next time. I’m not saying we don’t return to places that we like, but I don’t want to assume that we will. When I visit somewhere new, I WANT TO SEE ALL THE THINGS. Go to all the places. Eat all the food. Meet all the people. (Okay, I want to meet all the people. My husband, not so much). Which, as you might imagine, does not usually make for a very relaxing trip. We have never been the type of travelers to go to one place and stay. We are always on the move.

But I am entering into this trip with the attitude that my world view is going to change. With each new adventure, I want to see as much and experience as much as I possibly can, but I also want to savor the moment. And I’m not sure how I am going to do that. So that is my challenge on this trip. Here is my prayer that I’m going to pray every day:

Help me to have eyes full of wonder, to not take this amazing opportunity for granted.

Help me to view any obstacle or inconvenience as part of the adventure, as the opportunity to make a memory.

Help me to not rush from one thing to another, with my phone out in front of me. Help me to stop and breathe in, look around with my own eyes, and take in the experience before rushing off to the next great thing.

Help me to really see the people I meet along the way. Help me to show them love, kindness, and compassion, whatever the circumstance.

Help me to treasure this time with my husband, and that we will continue to be great travel partners, and grow together as we expand our world.

Help me to look for God in every place, every experience, and every person I meet.

15 Days, 11 States, 5 National Parks, and 6413 Miles Later

Our maniac road trip is over. It was amazing, and I can’t wait to share it with you! Our style is not for everyone. We don’t like to stay in one place for too long, and we want to see as much as we can in the time we have. We have gone on vacations where we just stay put, but this was a ROAD TRIP – not a destination, but an adventure.  Tomorrow I start back to work at my full-time job, but I will try to work on  my trip reports as often as I am able. Until then, here are the basics.

Starting point: Vancouver, Washington USA (not to be confused with Vancouver, BC in Canada).  My Vancouver is just across the river from Portland, Oregon.

Furthest point from origination: Biloxi, Mississippi. We didn’t stay here but took a little excursion from New Orleans, so this is our furthest spot east.

Dates: Thursday, July 3 – Friday, July 18, 2014

Vehicle: Best road trip car – 2014 Mazda 3 SGT. I will write a post just about this car, it is so perfect for road trips. Average of 34 mpg. Gas ranged from $3.29/gal to $4.09/gal. (The most expensive gas was in the northwest. The cheapest gas was in the south.)

Approximate cost: $3700 – includes gas, hotel, national park pass,  food, souvenirs, and all attractions.

Weather:  Even the northwest was in a heat wave during this time frame. Our average temperature throughout this trip was probably 90 degrees during the day, and 70 in the evening, with a high of 107. The further south we drove, of course the more humid.  We also encountered many thunderstorms, which I happen to love. Only once did it get frightening, as we were traveling through a mountain town and there was a sudden rainstorm and the streets flooded. More about that later.

Average hours of driving each day: On the way down, we averaged 5-6 hours each day. On the way back, at least 8 hours each day. (We were traveling through areas we had already seen, and we were also anxious to get home.)

My favorite part: seeing new cities and sights that we had never seen before

My least favorite part: the smell of New Orleans in the summer, and the last long day of driving.

How we passed the time during those long hours: We usually do a lot of talking and dreaming and planning on road trips. We did some of that, but not as much as I had hoped (that was my fault).  We listened to the audiobook of “Dune”, and I fell asleep for some of it, so we actually listened to it twice! My oldest son loves that book and has always wanted me to read it, so I didn’t want to miss any important parts. We also listened to Sirius XM satellite radio, which was great! I had a free trial with my new car, and I activated it just before we left. The best part, besides all of the station choices, is that we never had to search for a new station when we went from city to city.

Were we still speaking to each other after this road trip? Surprisingly, yes! We actually get along quite well most of the time, but after spending every moment with each other, it’s easy to get on each other’s nerves. Also, this is the longest trip we have ever taken. I was surprised, but there were  just a few times  where we were a bit impatient with each other, but we worked it out. It’s  okay – that’s normal.

Lesson I learned after about 3 days: You have probably heard the advice “Lay out everything you want to bring, then pack half of that.” I wish I would have listened.

Our general route and overnight stays

Our general route and overnight stays