Lessons Learned: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

We learned all sorts of new things about ourselves during our travels. Unlike shorter trips we’ve taken, our long-term travels challenged us in all sorts of new ways. Some of them were more positive than others, but we’re determined to do this next round better and learn from and change the things we didn’t do so well before. Growing older is only part of it. Here’s what we’ve figured out we either need to change or stick with in the future:

The Good:

The Taj Mahal was even more amazing and beautiful than all the hype it gets.
  • We’re still open to adventure. We continue to enjoy trying new things and new foods, and going places and doing things we haven’t done before.
  • We maintain a sense of wonder. We continue to be amazed, awed, astonished, curious, contemplative, and humble about what we know about the world. We haven’t seen it all, and what we have seen is usually better than we expected.
  • We’re very good at packing just the right amount. We traveled with just the right amount of clothing on our Big Adventure and have just the right amount of luggage to keep track of. We’re going for even simpler this next time though in order to get more out of a little bit less
  • We’re still flexible. During our Big Adventure we found we were able to adjust our plans easily if we had to without throwing everything off, or feeling disappointed or angry. Change doesn’t scare us – it’s an expected part of the nomad experience.
  • We’ve gotten better at managing our travel funds. Lots of things caught our eye during our travels but we were very good at telling ourselves no, that we didn’t need something, and reminding ourselves that we’d much rather use our money for other things, like more comfortable seats when flying or a special meal somewhere. We’re honing our minimalist skills these days and will put them to good use on future travels.

The Bad:

Even a soft walking surface doesn’t help much when your shoes are uncomfortable.
  • We need better-than-good shoes for walking. The shoes both Brett and I took along when we began our Big Adventure turned out not to be so great. My somewhat inexpensive Skechers slip-ons were initially comfortable but they wore out quickly and made my feet miserable. Brett discovered he needs more support around his ankles for long-distance walking. I purchased some great boots and shoes during our summer in Portland, but before we travel again we need to invest in some good-fitting, good quality walking shoes, and already know they will not be cheap. However, as we discovered last time, they are the most important part of our wardrobes.
  • Jet lag affects us more than it did in the past. Along with the difficulty of doing long flights, we noticed it takes us much longer to recover from jet lag than it has in the past. We don’t bounce back as quickly as we did, and didn’t do a very good job of accounting for it. This is something that we’ll want to do a better job of factoring in as we make travel plans.

The Ugly:

This picture horrifies both of us. Who are these people?
  • Both Brett and I gained way, way, way too much weight during our travels, much more than we realized. We were both very overweight when we landed in Hawaii, and in my case carrying around those extra pounds not only caused my bursitis to act up but made me miserable overall. We’ve made a serious effort over the last year to get more exercise and eat less and both of us have lost a quite a bit of our extra weight and we intend to maintain it. We’ve both promised ourselves: never again.
  • Long plane trips affect us more than in the past. Even when we booked more comfortable seats, long plane rides affected us more than they did in the past. There’s no way we can avoid long journeys if we want to travel overseas, but we have decided we can mitigate their effects by breaking up other journeys into shorter sections, sometimes with a period of rest in between.

We won’t be traveling again for the rest of this year, and for nearly half of next year, and although we’re in good shape once again we’re going to take advantage of the time to get ourselves in even better shape. As we get closer to setting off we’ll work at planning a (hopefully affordable) flight schedule that works for us that will most likely include some built-in rest periods. The hunt for good walking shoes has already started, although we’re nowhere near to purchasing anything at this point. For now it’s fun to have all this to think about but we know there will be some serious work to do before we set off again.

24 thoughts on “Lessons Learned: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

  1. Walking shoes are a problem for me as well. I found my Merrill walking boots to work, but they are too warm for my feet. I will be excited to hear what you settle on.I’m taking my Columbia sandals to DisneyWorld- but they are walked out.

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    1. The biggest issue with my feet is that I have little to no padding left on the bottom of my feet, so shoes have got to have a thick sole and cushioning. They’re harder to find than you would think. Also, I have very high arches, so support for those is needed as well. The shoes I have right now are comfortable, but I am looking for a pair of slip-on black sneakers and think I will lose my mind before I find some that fit the brief! I’m getting close, but nothing has the look I want or the things I need.

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    1. The long flights can be miserable. Upgrading to premium economy seats or even first class has proven to be worth the expense more than a couple of times. We work it into the budget now for any flight over five hours. We also just power through the jet lag, and catch up on sleep gradually, which is doable if you’re staying in a place for more than a week.

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  2. I spent most of my life buying cute shoes at T J Maxx for $20. Then I began to experience foot problems, and it put me on a path to finding quality shoes that would help my feet (and my knee and hip). Eventually my quest led me to a store in NYC where they employed an orthopedist. It changed my life. I once spent $365 for a pair of shoes (not walking shoes) in that store! But they were one of the most comfortable shoes I have ever owned and they lasted for a long time. As soon as I can get myself back to New York, I will replace them. They have put me on to a lot of other great shoes, too, especially brands (like one from Germany) that I have never seen anywhere else. I now search out orthopedists anytime I am traveling and often find them in college or tourist towns. My local store worked hard to get me into a New Balance shoe for walking, changing the size of the shoe and adjusting with a quality insert. I’ve been able to walk anywhere I need to in those shoes, and I would never have thought of manipulating the size the way the orthopedist did if I had been trying to buy a shoe online. I highly recommend trying this.

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    1. This is a very good suggestion, Nina, and something for me to seriously consider.

      I bought a very expensive pair of leather slip on shoes from Sweden for our trip, over $200. They were extremely comfortable and I could walk ages in them but they were also incredibly ugly and I ended up getting rid of them because I couldn’t stand wearing them (yes, I am still that vain). My quest now is to find something as comfortable but much better looking. I need a thick sole to make up for the lack of padding on the bottom of my feet, but I want something fashionable as well. It feels at times though that this is too much to ask. Maybe an orthopedist can steer me in the right direction.

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  3. I’m not sure if you are willing to try but there is a homeopathic pill called No Jet Lag -Amazon and other places carry it. I always have one with me when getting on long flights.
    Good walking shoes are hard to find. I would buy them now and try them out for few months in your regular walks. If everything is good, buy a new pair right before you leave that you know for sure it’s going to be comfy. For me, the weight of the shoe (light) is the most important. I can always add a cushiony insert if I need it.

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    1. Thank you, I will check out No Jet Lag. Sometimes it hits us like a ton of bricks, but some times these days we recover quickly (and have no idea why). When it does hit it is awful.

      We try to travel with light shoes. Brett took along a heavy pair this last time and I can’t tell you how many times he had to get them out of his suitcase and wear them in order for his bag not to be overweight! They were also a pain to take on and off to go through security. They looked good, but in the end weren’t all that comfortable and not worth the effort, so he’ll be looking for something lightweight and more comfortable this time.

      I have found shoes I like and fit the bill for me (thick cushioned sole with insert for high arches), but they’re always out of my size or the color I want!.

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  4. Best walking shoes I have found are from Asolo. They are an Italian brand and pricey but your feet will think they have died and gone to heaven. I would recommend forgetting about brands like Skechers and even runners as they are not suited for the purpose of walking all day. Other thing about the Asolo is they are very stylish so you don’t necessarily look like you’ve just come off the campground.

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    1. I have passed this information on to Brett, and I may invest in these for my next pair of walking shoes as well. The Hoka shoes I bought last time though have been great, better than I expected, but the Asolo would be even better!

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  5. I told my daughter yesterday there were 2 wardrobe things important to me: comfortable shoes and comfortable bras! We all have different foot issues we have to address, so finding shoes that work for us specifically, takes time and effort; ditto for good fitting comfortable bras! The effort is so worth it though. I’m a happy camper now on both! (haha) hope to give everyone a chuckle, but for me, I speak the truth!

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    1. Oh, ditto for me on the bras! I had to learn the hard way that underwires are a no-go here in Hawaii, but I have now found some wonderful bras that are supportive and comfortable without the wire. Thank goodness that was a fairly easy task because the hunt for comfortable shoes is driving me nuts! I will eventually find them, but for now they are elusive.

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  6. Jet lag seems tougher for me as I age as well. The upgrade to Comfort airline seats is a must, but it still takes a toll.

    My feet have given me trouble off and on and shoes are now a top priority if I don my want to be in pain. Between visiting a podiatrist and having new shoes fitted, I am satisfied right now, but serious walking/hiking require hiking boots for me — with ankle support as I tend to turn my ankles otherwise. I had good luck trying on multiple pairs from Zappos and returning those I rejected. Not sure how easy that is in Hawaii though. I ended up with Keen hiking boots in a much bigger size than I would have anticipated. Neither DH nor I have much padding on the bottoms of our feet anymore either. It’s a show stopper without the right footwear and inserts.

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    1. Any flight longer than five hours and we upgrade to extra comfort or whatever the airline calls their expanded economy. It makes a huge difference, and I’ve also found I can actually fall asleep in those seats, something I cannot do in a regular coach seat.

      Zappos is a godsend here on Kaua’i where there’s no place to buy real shoes other than Macy’s (if you want flip flops, there is an abundance of choices). I have done the same: ordered multiple pairs and then returned the ones that don’t fit. My goal is to travel with five pairs of shoes this time: three for everyday, one for serious walking; and one pair of sandals (Mephistos). It seems excessive, but being able to swap them out makes a difference.

      When I had my foot surgery done in 2013 (was that really eight years ago?), the doctor was appalled back then by how little padding I had. It’s been a problem for a long, long time. The high arches don’t help either.

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      1. FYI – Zappos has a clearing website that’s called 6pm.com.There are amazing deals there, however, their shipping/returns policies are different -just be aware of that.

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      2. I have never used 6PM, but our daughters have. It’s their go-to when they’re looking for shoes. I should probably check it out more than I do.

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  7. I started walking 15 months ago and like others have suggested I went to a specialty store and was fitted for very expensive sneakers/walking shoes.

    I have also experimented over the past year with socks. I never realized how much difference socks can make to my foot comfort. My favorites so far are merino wool from Ice Breakers. They offer excellent padding where needed and breathability in other places and are not bulky. I can often find them at Sierra Trading Post (owned by TjMaxx). Here’s a link to similar socks:
    https://www.sierra.com/icebreaker-multisport-hiking-socks-merino-wool-ankle-for-women~p~43kdf/?filterString=s~merino-ice-breaker%2F

    In the winter I wore taller socks, in the heat of July & August I changed to cotton “no see”, but most of the year I wear these ankle socks.

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    1. Oh you are so right! I forgot about socks when I posted. Even today on my short trail jaunt, I wore a pair of Injinji (toe socks) with a heavier sock over them, and it is the perfect amount of padding for me. Although my feet were sore when I awoke this morning, they are fine after the walk. It’s all about the socks.
      Nina

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    2. I just ordered some new cushioned socks! Brett got some for his birthday this year and said they have made a huge difference in how his feet feel when we walks.

      We don’t have any speciality stores on the island for getting good fitting sneakers and walking shoes; we don’t even have a shoe store outside of the shoe department in Macy’s, and it’s tiny! So, I have to read, try and guess what will work, then order it from Zappos (free returns). Interestingly, I got fitted for my last pair of trail shoes, and they were OK, but the pair of Hoka shoes I recently bought fit better and are far more comfortable!

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      1. Yeah for new socks! Will be interesting to see what you think. I tried several different brands/materials before finding ones that are dreamy for me.

        I know this isn’t your issue right now – and I hope it won’t ever be – but blister prevention….my best friend walked the entire Camino Santiago in Fall of 2019 and I gave her some NZ hiker’s wool as a present. She said it was a godsend. I discovered it by reading blog posts from people who had hiked the trail.

        Here’s a link to the wool and a description of what it does:
        https://www.hikerswool.co.nz/

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      2. The new socks arrive on Monday. I. Can’t. Wait! My old socks are almost worn through, so at the moment any brand I get is going to feel more comfortable.

        I have heard about hiker’s wool, but my go-to for now is Leukotape. I bought some in Australia when I broke my toe, and it has been a lifesaver for blisters ever since. We will be carrying several rolls along with us. I still get blisters now again, even in shoes that are broken in. It depends on how far we walk, the terrain, how fast we walk, etc. Change up any of these and blisters can happen.

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