Oh, the Airlines They’ll Fly!

Other than our flight from Tokyo to Portland at the end of the Big Adventure, we have wrapped up all of our flight reservations, and counted up all the different airlines we’ll be flying – the current total is 14!

Here they are in alphabetical order:

  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • Air Europa
  • Air New Zealand
  • Alaska Air
  • American Airlines (2)
  • Cathay Pacific
  • China Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Airlines
  • India Air
  • LATAM Airlines
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle
  • Ryanair (2)
  • Southwest Airlines

We won’t know the Tokyo to Portland flight information until late fall or December, but the airline we use will be the one with the best fare/best schedule!

All flights are non-stop except the flights from Portland to New Delhi and the flight to Boston from Madrid. We won’t change airlines on either trip, but will have a stopover along the way. We stayed with non-stops as much as possible as they will hopefully lessen the chance of our luggage being lost.

The longest is the 12-hour+ flight from Vancouver, B.C. to Taipei, the stopover on the way to New Delhi. That entire journey will take more than 24 hours from start to finish, including our drive from Portland up to Vancouver. The most expensive flight is the one to Buenos Aires followed closely behind by the flight to Paris from Montevideo. The least expensive (and shortest) flight is one from Lisbon to Madrid. All the flights cost at least what we expected, but most cost less, sometimes much, much less than what we had estimated. Other than first class seats from Lihue to Portland at the start of our trip, and premium economy on our flight from Boston to Portland in December, we’ll be flying economy.

I also figured out all our flights put together equal around 53,000 air miles – more than two trips around the earth’s circumference! It’s very exciting and satisfying though to see that all our flights are arranged.

We have not signed up for any mileage plans yet either (other than Hawaiian), but will do that as we go along and see what we can accumulate for future travel.

Privileged To Travel

I love to travel. I love to talk about travel, I love to read about travel, and I love to hear about the places people have been and their experiences. I have been having a blast planning and making reservations for our upcoming Big Adventure. Recently though I’ve been thinking about how very privileged we are to be able to do something like this.

Brett and I have been saving every penny possible for over a year now to make this trip happen. We’re selling most of our household goods, and giving up our life in Hawai’i in order to go around the world for almost a year. We have an income that will support us, and allow us to save a little as well (hopefully) while we’re on the road. If that isn’t privileged I don’t know what is.

It would be very easy for me to say, “We worked hard to be where we are today. We deserve this” and leave it at that. But the reality is LOTS of people, here in the U.S. and all over the world, have worked hard their whole lives, or are still working hard, and cannot afford even the simplest bit of travel. Brett and I are lucky – even with some ups and downs through the years things have worked out well for us. However, I’m reminded of an anthropology professor who once said that the concept of “hard work” never exists in isolation, that some people come from circumstances or are provided opportunities that don’t or will never happen for others, opportunities that at their least enhance or support effort, but often open doors to even better things. Over the years Brett and I have both been given opportunities and chances that, along with hard work, have made our current life possible.

If we can afford to travel, whether it’s one vacation a year to the next state over or by selling everything we own to travel around the world, we are coming from a place of privilege. I’ve written that it’s not impossible to save for travel, but I also know that might be a whole lot harder or not possible if one is poor, or receiving food or other social assistance, or is working two (or more) jobs and can’t afford to take time off, or is weighted down by crushing student debt, or is in poor health and facing (or trying to pay) high medical bills.

And, travel can also be far more difficult to undertake if one is a person of color, identifies as LGBTQ, or has a disability.

Travel is a consumer good (no one travels for free), but it seems sometimes as if it’s been put on a pedestal and is being offered as something else. However, whether one is traveling on a budget or whether money is no object, it’s worth remembering that travel is something that’s not available to everyone, at any price.

Brett and I are LUCKY that we can afford to even dream about, let alone prepare for and make our Big Adventure. In our case it has meant careful planning, months and months of saving, and following every penny closely, but our ability to travel is a privilege, and we don’t ever want to forget it.

Assembling A Medical Kit

Thank goodness we don’t have to take along anything like this 19th century travel kit!

During the next couple of months, Brett and I will be gathering together various items for a small medical kit to carry along on the Big Adventure. We both take prescription medications and have those covered, and we also take a multivitamin every day, but we’ve come up with the below list of various other items we think it would be wise to carry along, just in case.

  • Neosporin
  • bandaids
  • alcohol wipes
  • Aleve
  • Sudafed cold tablets
  • hydrocortisone cream
  • Bonine (for motion sickness)
  • Pepto-Bismol tablets
  • Tums
  • laxative tea bags
  • sunscreen
  • (extra) medicated lip balm
  • hand sanitizer

All will be in regular-sized packages that hopefully will not take up too much room or be too heavy (i.e. nothing will be Costco-size), and hopefully we can get it all into a gallon-size Ziploc bag. Other than the hand sanitizer, nothing is a liquid so that it can go into one of our backpacks and not cause problems at security.

I know many of the above items can be found in the cities where we’ll be staying, or at least something similar, but if we’re not feeling well I also know we’re not going to want to have to hunt for a pharmacy or try to figure out how to ask for something in a different language.

I feel like we’ve covered most every scenario that won’t require seeing a doctor, but what are we forgetting? I’d love to have your suggestions for any other items you think we should carry, or that might be necessary.

The Big Adventure: Status Report

A couple of weeks ago I created a month-by-month financial outline for our Big Adventure. Brett maintains a spreadsheet tracking spending, etc. but I realized I needed to see it all laid out on paper, where I could look at each month as a whole.  I totaled up all known expenses for each month including our fixed payments, transportation, museum passes, etc., subtracted that amount from our income, and then divided that amount by the number of days between Social Security payments to give us a daily amount for food, transportation, and other miscellaneous expenses. We will have at least $60/day (around $1800/month or more) to cover our meals, tips for tour guides, daily transportation and other miscellaneous expenses, and since we’ll fix and eat the majority of meals in our Airbnb rentals versus eating out, this should be sufficient. We’ve budgeted a bit extra for our time in Hong Kong, where we’ll be staying in a hotel versus an Airbnb rental, but we know how to get around and eat cheaply but well while we there. High tea at the Peninsula Hotel is still on our must do list though!

One of the first things I noticed when I made the outline was how much was going toward “touristy experiences.” While all the wine tastings and cooking experiences and private tours sounded like a lot of fun a couple of months ago, seeing them all on paper made me realize how much we were depending on those kinds things for entertainment, and how much they were eating into our monthly budget. That wasn’t what we envisioned at all when we came up with the idea of the Big Adventure, so all of those types of planned activities have been dropped. We will instead take advantage of the free walking tours in the cities we visit, and will otherwise get out and make our experiences our own. There are still things we will have to pay for along the way, such as museum admissions, but we’ve already figured out many things we can see and do that won’t drain our bank account, and will hopefully provide more interesting and meaningful experiences for us along the way. Plus, the planning for these many activities was starting to get out of hand.

We still plan to visit the Cinque Terre during our stay in Florence, but because part of the hiking path will be closed we’re just going to go for one night and two days – we’ll take the train up to Monterosso al Mare from Florence, hike down to Corniglia, then take the train from there to Manarola to spend the night. The next day we’ll either take the train or boat to Riomaggiore and from there board the train back to Florence. And, instead of visiting the Alps in Switzerland as we originally planned we’re going to rent a car in Strasbourg and instead drive to Lucerne. Trying to work out the train schedule to Interlaken from Strasbourg was proving to be beyond difficult (and expensive as well), but it’s only a 1 1/2 hour drive to Lucerne from Strasbourg on good roads, and the car rental costs less than train tickets. We’ll stay for three nights in Lucerne – one day will be spent visiting the city, and the next we’ll visit the transportation museum (Brett is very excited about this!) – and then we’ll drive back to Strasbourg the third day to return the car.

Here’s where we are with everything else right now:

Transportation:

  • We have 12 plane flights booked so far: Hawaii to Portland, Portland to Dallas, and Dallas to Philadelphia with YaYu, then on our own with Philadelphia to Miami, Miami to Buenos Aires, Montevideo to Paris, Lisbon to Madrid, Madrid to Boston (with a long stopover in Gatwick), Boston to Portland, Portland to New Delhi via Taipei, Sydney to Auckland, and Auckland to Tokyo. Other than noted, all of the flights are non-stop.
  • I still have to arrange flights from Bordeaux to Bologna, Rome to Lisbon, New Delhi to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Perth, and Tokyo to Portland. Some of those will be made at the end of the summer, but we won’t start thinking about the Tokyo to Portland flight until late fall or December – it has to be in place though before we enter Japan. So far it’s looking like the cost for all these flight will fall within our budget.
  • Train transportation also has to be reserved. We will be traveling by train from Paris to Caen, Caen to Strasbourg, Strasbourg to Bordeaux, Bologna to Florence, Florence to the Cinque Terre and back, and Florence to Rome. Most reservations can be made online before we go, which will save us a little and guarantee our seats (unless there’s a strike). Our Australian cross-continent train journey has already been booked and paid for.
  • Car rentals for when we’re on the mainland have all been reserved, but we still need to reserve a car for our three days in Normandy, for the drive from Strasbourg to Lucerne and back, and for ten days in New Zealand.
  • We’ll book the ferry trip across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires to Montevideo when we’re in Buenos Aires.

 Lodging:

  • All of our lodging has been reserved and paid for except for one night in Napier, New Zealand, three nights in Lucerne, and our one night in Manarola. We’ve reserved Airbnb rentals in Portland, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Paris, Balleroy (Normandy), Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Florence, Rome, Lisbon, Perth, Sydney, Rotorua, Wellington, Mangorei, Auckland, and back again in Portland. Other than our tour in India, the only long-ish hotel stay will be six nights in Hong Kong (at the New World Millennium in Kowloon – we got a much better deal there than the Salisbury, where we had originally planned to stay). We have overnight hotel stays reserved in King of Prussia, PA (two nights), Miami, and Madrid. I still have to reserve a hotel for our overnight stay in Boston on our way to Portland.
  • With our daughter-in-law and son’s help, we worked out a satisfactory agreement for our three-month Tokyo rental. We will be staying in the same building but in a different but equally nice apartment on the second floor versus the third. The total cost will be divided into three equal monthly payments, with the first payment not due until we arrive.

Other:

  • We will be pre-purchasing museum tickets for the D’Orsay and L’Orangerie museums in Paris (we’re not planning to visit the Louvre on this trip), the Uffizi and Accademia museums in Florence, and the Vatican for when we’re in Rome. We should be able to get into the other museums we want to visit without having to stand in long lines.
  • We will need visas for just two countries: India and Australia. Both can be applied for online a couple of months ahead of time. All other countries we can enter with just our U.S. passport.
  • Purchasing travel insurance is on the docket for next month.

So, that’s where things are right now. For the most part we don’t have big plans made for the places we’re visiting. Other than being bound by our museum reservations we want to talk together each evening and decide what to do the next day. There are of course places and sights we want to see in each place, but the goal has never been to do or see everything, but to travel slow, observe and experience daily life in the places we visit, rest when we need to, and create memories.

We Come Bearing Gifts

We’re bringing along Monkeypod Jam, Koloa Rum (and coasters), Kauai Kookies, and Anahola Granola as small thank you gifts for our Airbnb hosts on the first part of our trip.

Local businesses here on Kaua’i produce some very, very delicious edibles and beverages, some of them using only locally-sourced ingredients, and we’ve had the great privilege of enjoying most of them.

Among our favorite Kaua’i products are:

  • Monkeypod Jam: Produced in Lawai, on the south side of the island, owner Aletha Thomas uses locally grown fruits (and vegetables) to produce amazingly creative and delicious jams, curds, sauces and pickles.
  • Kauai Kookie: Baked in Hanapepe, Kauai Kookie offers a selection of different shortbreads and cookies, including Guava Shortbread, Macadamia Shortbread, and Cornflake Crunch.
  • Kauai Nut Roasters: This company offers several unique nut mixtures and flavors, including Hawaiian Snowballs, Monkey Nuts and Holy Cacao! (all their flavors and mixes are pretty amazing though).
  • Anahola Granola: Also produce in Hanapepe, Anahola Granola was started in 1986 by a single mom as a way to support her family. The company produces three types of granola as well as granola bars and trail mix.
  • Lappert’s Ice Cream: Yet another Hanapepe product, Lappert’s ice cream is famous for their local and Hawaiian flavors. They also sell their own (delicious) coffee.
  • Kauai Coffee: Grown on the south side of the island, they offer a variety of roasts and flavored coffees.
  • Koloa Rum Company: The award-winning rum (which comes in several flavors) is distilled on Kauai and made from locally grown sugar and other ingredients.
  • Ko Bakery: This bakery produces Hula Baby Biscotti, addictive little cookies featuring island flavors and containing mainly locally raised products. They also offer 19 decadent cake varieties and cheesecakes here on the island.

Each of our hosts on the first part of our journey will receive a small Hawaiian-themed gift bag containing a two-ounce jar of Monkeypod Jam (assorted flavors), a miniature bottle of Koloa Spiced Rum and two coasters (given to us by Koloa Rum), a box of Kauai Kookies (assorted flavors again), and a four-ounce bag of original Anahola Granola (the one in the picture is a 16-ounce bag – the small bags are only available online and we haven’t ordered them yet). The items were selected based on size, weight, and price. We would have liked to also give small bags of nuts from Kauai Nut Roasters, but at nearly $10 a bag now, and there was no way we could afford 10 of those. All the above items were affordably priced and we received kamaaina discounts, making them even more affordable. The other issue in choosing what to take was weight, but the total for all the above comes in at around seven and a half pounds, which will be divided between Brett’s and my suitcases, and dwindle as we pass the gifts along.

We’re going to pack a few jars of Monkeypod’s Lilikoi Curd (pure heaven in a jar in my opinion) into our storage shipment, and will probably take along a 16-ounce bag or two of Anahola Granola to eat as we travel. It’s the best granola I’ve ever eaten, and I love a little of it sprinkled over yogurt. YaYu will be taking a few boxes of Kauai Kookies along with her when she goes to Bryn Mawr to share with others in her dorm.

In the meantime we’re enjoying as many of the other local products as we can before we go as it may be a while before we get to have them again!

Money Matters

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know that we’ve been saving like crazy for over a year to pay upfront for most of our big travel adventure. We set up and have been feeding our dedicated savings account with a regular monthly allotment along with every extra spare penny we’ve gotten along the way.

We’re at a stage right now though where, for the first time in a long, long while, we are carrying a balance on our credit card; that is, we’ve overspent our savings in order to make upfront reservations for the trip. We knew this was going to be the situation for a few months, but it’s still a bit uncomfortable for us, to put it mildly. We could take funds out of our regular savings and pay it off, but the plan has always been to pay for our travels using only dedicated travel savings and proceeds from the sale of our household goods and car. We’ll chip away at the balance for the next couple of months and have it gone by the time we depart in August, if not before.

While we travel we’ll live on our regular monthly income, and plan to put the amount we’re currently paying for rent into a separate savings account to build a sort of secondary emergency fund, if you will. This savings should also give us a nice cushion to land on when our adventure ends. When we leave Kaua’i we’ll have just two monthly payments – my student loan and our phone bill – and they’re already set up on auto-pay. Otherwise we’ll have no other bills – no rent, no utilities, no gas, no cable, no car or rental insurance, etc. – our income after putting away savings should be more than enough to cover food, inter-country transportation, side trips and other daily expenses each month.

We plan to travel and live as frugally as possible along the way. The Senior Nomads recently said they shoot for two no-spend days each week and we think that’s a worthy goal for us too. Not only will this help us to stay within our budget, but also require us to get out more and explore our surroundings rather than depend on tours, tickets, etc. to entertain us. I’m not sure yet whether we’ll be able to go without gelato for two days when we’re in Italy, or avoid stopping into the patisseries or boulangeries for two days when we’re in France – we’ll have to see about that. We may need to set up a separate gelato or bakery fund that we can dip into.

I’ve always been a firm believer that by setting realistic goals, financial or otherwise, and supporting them with careful, well-thought out, long-term plans dreams really can come true and be sustainable. We’re about to once again test those beliefs in a big way!

Staying Organized: The Notebook

The Notebook

Along with all the reservations I’ve made over the past couple of weeks have come emails. with confirmations, addresses, etc. Most of them arrived in my inbox and were then relocated to a special file I’d set up (Brett also maintains confirmation numbers in a calendar). Even though I’ve arranged them in order by date they’re frankly still a pain to get into and go through when I want or need to know something.

Although I’m always trying to go as paperless as possible these days, I finally figured out that I would be happier in this case if I had everything printed out and organized. So, I created The Notebook.

I purchased a half-inch three-ring binder, lightweight yet big enough to hold everything I want. It also has pockets inside both the front and rear covers to hold odds and ends that we collect along the way, including the pages from guidebooks that we want to take along.

Then, I printed off calendar pages for each month we’ll be traveling, and filled in each day with where we’ll be, using a different color for each destination. It’s easy to look at the calendar page and see which days we’re traveling, and for how long we’ll be staying at each location. Travel days get an arrow, and also are coded to let us know if we have airline tickets, lodging and/or hotel or car rental, if needed, or if there’s something that still needs to be taken care of.

The calendar helps easily see where we will be each day of the month, our travel days, what’s been reserved and what still needs to be taken care of.

Behind each calendar page go hotel and flight reservations, and Airbnb rental agreements. The Airbnb information contains phone numbers, addresses, etc. which will be highlighted and easier to find if needed, and we’re planning to print out a page from Google Maps for each of our Airbnb rentals to show their location, which we might need to share with a cab driver or someone else if get lost. We can add extra information to the pages if needed, things like directions, which bus or train to take, luggage fees and so forth.

As we move through the calendars each month, pages will be moved to the back of the notebook to form a sort of “diary” of our journey. Brett will be keeping a journal of each day, but the notebook will hopefully add another dimension.

I realize The Notebook is one more thing to carry along, but I’ve already found it useful and know it will continue to be so as we move along. I figure we can’t be too organized, especially with as much as we’ve will have going on.

Reservations Have Been Made

One of the views from the apartment we’ve reserved in Paris.

Brett and I have been very busy the past couple of days, going over the calendar and through Airbnb listings, and I’m excited to announce that the official itinerary for the Big Adventure has been set, and all lodging reservations for Big Adventure (Part I) have been made!

I was also able to score an amazing deal on Hawaiian this past weekend for our flight back to Portland in August: we will be flying first class for slightly more than the cost of flying economy! Hawaiian had nearly doubled the mileage requirement for a one-way seat in economy to both Seattle or Portland since the last time I checked their site, which meant that I now only had enough miles for one seat and would be left with extra miles in my account that I couldn’t use. But, I saw that the mileage for a first class seat was just 10,000 more miles than coach (it’s usually double the amount or more) and would use up almost all the miles in my account. At the same time the price for first class seats was several hundreds of dollars less than usual. So, I bought one first class seat with my miles, and then paid for two more (I had to buy each ticket individually because when I tried to buy two seats at the same time Hawaiian raised the price of each by $40!). First class passengers aren’t charged for checked bags, which would have been at least $100 for us in economy with YaYu’s extra luggage, so by dividing the cost of the two seats by three and subtracting the luggage savings, our three first class seats were just $81 more per ticket than the economy fare (which is only going to continue to go up). It was just too good of a deal to pass up. We will be flying economy the rest of our travels, so this flight back to the mainland will be a very nice way to start things off. I had originally hoped I would be able to cover all three of our flights back to the mainland using miles, but with Hawaiian increasing the required miles that wasn’t going to be possible no matter what. I am also thanking my mom once again for allowing me this little splurge.

We also got all of our Part I lodging reservations made this past weekend, and have already had several lovely interactions with the Airbnb hosts we’re renting from, including from one who took an around-the-world trip just a few years ago with her husband and children. She wrote that she is excited about sharing notes with us! I think we’ve found some terrific places to stay, and even though a couple of them of them cost more than planned, others cost less and in the end we were just $29.27 over our budget.

Here’s the upcoming itinerary for our Big Adventure so far:

We’re staying in this cute cottage while we’re in Portland.

  1. Portland. Our flight arrives very late at night, so we’ll stay the night in a hotel near the airport and then move over to our Airbnb rental the next day. We’re going to spend two full days in Portland outfitting YaYu for Pennsylvania weather as well as getting together with friends as much as possible. When we leave Portland we’ll head to . . .
  2. Dallas, TX. We’ll fly into Love Field on Southwest Airlines and stay with Brett’s sister and brother-in-law while we’re there, to visit and drop off our important paperwork and documents for safekeeping. Then it’s on to . . .
  3. Philadelphia. We’ll use Southwest Airlines again to get here from Dallas. We’ll pick up a car at the airport and drive out to our hotel near Bryn Mawr. We’ve planned one full day of shopping for dorm supplies, and the next day we’ll get YaYu moved in and say goodbye. Brett and I plan to attend the parents’ cocktail party that Bryn Mawr is hosting that evening, and then we’ll head back alone to our hotel (which I know is going to feel a bit strange). Then it’s on to . . .

    The small but fully equipped Buenos Aires studio apartment – it even has a washing machine!

  4. Miami, and from Miami to Buenos Aires: We’ll take a non-stop flight from Philly to Miami in the morning. Most flights to Buenos Aires leave Miami in the late afternoon, and don’t arrive until the next day, but I’m still researching this. We found a lovely studio apartment in the Recoleta district, and we’ve already been communicating with the host. We’re going to make reservations for the culinary tour the week after we arrive. We’re in Buenos Aires for 10 days, and then will take a three-hour ferry across the Rio de la Plata to . . .
  5. Montevideo, Uruguay. We found another lovely apartment in the central city here, within walking distance of most of the places we want to see. We’re planning to spend one day while we’re here up in Colonia del Sacramento, a World Heritage city, about two hours from Montevideo by bus. From Montevideo we will . . .

    Little kitchen with a view in Montmartre

  6. Fly to Paris. I am still pinching myself because I found (and booked) an absolutely fabulous fare on Air Europa for just a few dollars over what we budgeted and with a not-too-long flight schedule from Montevideo to Paris (there’s a short layover in Madrid). We had assumed we’d have to go back to Buenos Aires to get a decent fare over to Europe but the price from Montevideo saved us more than half of what we could have paid to leave from Buenos Aires. Plus, we won’t have to take the ferry back across the Rio de la Plata (a three-hour trip) and then make our way to the airport. The flight is a red-eye though, and because of the time change we’ll arrive in Paris early the next morning. We have six full days in Paris though, which is probably not going to be enough, and we have reserved a wonderful apartment in the Montmartre district of Paris. From Paris we’ll head to . . .
  7. Normandy. We’re going to take the train from Paris to Caen in the morning, and will pick up a rental car in Caen for the only driving we’ll do during the first half of the Big Adventure. We had originally planned to stay in a B&B in Normandy (in an old château) but instead reserved a sweet little apartment just outside of Bayeux at a considerable savings. Besides the proximity to Bayeux, it’s within easy driving distance to the landing beaches and Mont Saint-Michel. We’ll spend three full days in Normandy, then take the car back to Caen and leave for . . .

    The living/dining area of our Strasbourg apartment

  8. Strasbourg. We had initially planned to travel to Bordeaux from Caen, but apparently something BIG is going on in Bordeaux at the same time we wanted to be there because there were no rentals available, at least not in our price range. It was crazy – we found a few we liked on Airbnb but when we went back to inquire about them a couple of minutes later they were all no longer available and the inventory had dropped to almost nothing. So, we decided to go to Strasbourg first and then Bordeaux. We’ll be doing an overnight stay in Baden-Baden, Germany while we’re in Strasbourg, and also going over to Switzerland for two days, but will make those reservations later. The apartment we rented in Strasbourg is in the historic center of the city. It’s the only one we’ll be staying in though that doesn’t have a washing machine, so one of our first tasks will be to locate a nearby laundromat. When our time in Strasbourg is over we’ll go to . . .
  9. Bordeaux. Thankfully many more Airbnb rentals were available once we changed the dates, and we booked a lovely one bedroom apartment near the public gardens and not far from the historic city center. It’s a fairly new rental, but the owner has another property in Bordeaux and he gets good reviews so we decided to take a chance (communication with him has been great so far though). Access to public transportation is close by the apartment. Bordeaux is our last destination in France, and then we head to . . .

    Kitchen and dining area, looking into the living room in the Florence apartment

  10. Florence. The apartment we found in Florence is amazing. It’s in a fully restored historic home in the heart of the Oltrano district, just a short walk over the Arno River to the center of Florence and all the city has to offer. We initially dismissed the apartment as too expensive, but found ourselves going back to it again and again and finally decided it was where we wanted to stay. We’ll be in Florence for a month and knew we’d kick ourselves later if we didn’t take it when we had the chance because the place is usually always booked. We’ll be visiting the Cinque Terre for three days during our stay in Florence, but otherwise most of our time will be spent visiting museums and churches in Florence and other parts of Tuscany, including a full day in Siena, and eating lots of gelato. After our month in Florence, we’re off to . . .

    It will probably be too cold to take advantage of the terrace when we’re in Rome, but we’ll still get the views!

  11. Rome. For our week in the Eternal City we’ve rented a lovely apartment just a five-minute walk from Vatican City, and with views of St. Peter’s. When we leave Rome we’ll be heading to our last stop in Europe . . .

    The living room of our Lisbon apartment

  12. Lisbon. We rented a “minimalist” apartment in the historic Bairro Alto neighborhood (although fully furnished with a full kitchen and washing machine). After nine days of exploration in and around Lisbon we will . . .
  13. Fly to Portland. Our former hometown will be the segue between Part I of our adventure, and Part II. The girls will be joining us here to celebrate Christmas – their arrivals will be staggered in depending on each of their school’s schedule. We’ve found a great Airbnb property we hope to rent, but can’t reserve it until late May at the earliest. All fingers are crossed that we can get it (although we have backups in case we don’t)! We’ll have a car while we’re here as well, and we’ll be able to drive down and pick up Meiling and take her back to Eugene after New Year’s. Right after that we’ll fly to . . .
  14. New Delhi. We’re leaving Portland a couple of days before our tour begins so we can arrive at least a day early to rest up and hopefully shake off some of our jet lag. Then it’s seven full days of India, including visits to the Taj Majal at daybreak and at sunset. The evening our tour ends we’ll board yet another plane and head to . . .
  15. Hong Kong. We’ll most likely be arriving late at night, but will somehow get ourselves to the Salisbury YMCA in Kowloon. 2019 bookings are not open yet though but we’re guessing we should be able to make reservations starting in May or June. In spite of the hotel belonging to the YMCA, the Salisbury is an absolutely wonderful, and affordable, four-star hotel in an amazing location in the city. Hong Kong is going to be all about the food, and we’re going to check out HK Disneyland one day! After six days in one of our favorite cities we will leave for . . .
  16. Perth. We’re looking forward to doing a bit of sightseeing while we’re here, but we mostly plan to relax and rest following our time in India and Hong Kong. We won’t be booking our Airbnb rental here until probably late July or early August. The last morning in Perth we’ll board the . . .
  17. Indian-Pacific train to cross Australia. This trip has been on Brett’s bucket list for as long as I’ve known him and I am really, really, really looking forward to it. The train stops at least once each day along the way for sightseeing and/or tours, which were included in the price of our tickets. After four days and three nights we arrive in . . .
  18. Sydney. As with Perth, we will be making our Airbnb reservations here later this summer. Thanks to reader suggestions, along with several free activities we’ll be taking ferry rides across the harbor, indulging in a culinary tour, and I’m going to take the backstage tour at the Sydney Opera House while Brett does some solo exploration. Leaving Sydney, we’ll fly to . . .
  19. New Zealand (North Island). Our plan is to pick up a rental car at the Auckland airport and head directly down to Rotorua for three nights. Then it’s on to Napier for one night, three nights in Wellington, one night in New Plymouth, and we’ll finish up with a couple of days in Auckland. We’re just starting to look at lodgings, but reservations for those will come later. We”ll turn in our car at the Auckland airport, and head on to our last stop on the Big Adventure . . .

    We still almost can’t believe we get to live so close to our son for three months in this beautiful Tokyo apartment.

  20. Tokyo! We booked our Tokyo apartment the Setagaya district, just a few minutes away from our son’s condo, several months ago. We’re staying in Tokyo most of the time we’re in Japan but are planning to go for a week to see both Hiroshima and Kyoto, probably sometime before the end of April. We’ll check with our son to see if they want to go with us, and will plan the dates around their decision. And then . . .
  21. ???? We have to be in Oregon for Meiling’s graduation in mid-June, but otherwise don’t know for sure right now where we’ll head to when we leave Japan, although we have a few ideas (which will remain a mystery for now).

Brett has moved on to researching car rentals in France – we’d love any tips you could share if you’ve done this before, especially information about insurance and other things we might need to do before we go. Next week I will begin searching again to set up some more air travel, and will also start booking our Southwest flights inside the U.S. using the gift cards I earned last year doing Swagbucks.

This is really happening!

Language Learning for Adults

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, especially since I’ve been studying (and struggling to learn) French now for many months in preparation for our travels there later this year. I also spent a considerable amount of time (like years) trying to learn Japanese, only to find myself with an ability less than a two year-old. Because my professional  background is in adult language learning and acquisition you would think I’d have this all figured out by now and would know all sorts of tricks to make learning faster and easier, but sadly, no.

Children pick up new languages very easily, at least the spoken part, typically because they are usually far more immersed in a new language than most adults (i.e. in school all day with other native speakers). If children learn a second language before the age of twelve they usually become fluent speakers with no accent. Although adults learn a language in the same steps as children, how adults process what they are learning is different based on cognitive differences and other previous learning experiences. The reality is it just takes adults longer to acquire a second language. The good news is it’s not impossible.

When adults are learning a second or foreign language, there are three main aspects that come into play: 1) motivation, or the reasons for learning another language; 2) how an adult views themselves as a learner; 3) who an adult sees themselves to be when they speak another language. All three of these are important, but any one of them on their own can have a profound effect on the learning experience. Being aware of these forces and the roles they play can help adults through the process.

Motivation falls into two classes, intrinsic or extrinsic. That is, motivation to learn another language either comes from within or from without. Are you learning a new language because you want to or because you have to or need to? How strong is the desire or need? A combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic reasons for learning is best, and together can provide powerful motivation to push through difficult stretches and improve.

Language learning has often proven to be a sticky problem for adults who have always seen themselves as successful learners or talented in other respects. Recognizing that language learning calls on a whole different set of skills than learning math or history, or participating in a sport or hobby, and that it might not be as easy for you as you thought (or as fun) is an important step in staying motivated and continuing to learn.

Finally, how do you see yourself when you imagine yourself speaking another language? As a native speaker of English, I view myself as a confident, skilled adult when I speak, read, write or listen to English, able to know what to say in almost any situation or figure out what someone else is saying or inferring. With a new language I often find myself with less ability than a small child, making lots of (sometimes embarrassing) mistakes, sometimes unable to order in a restaurant or ask directions, let alone manage any other social or professional situations. It’s very humbling, and can also be humiliating at times. One’s self-image when learning a new language can sometimes take some serious blows. Also, there’s the aspect to self of fitting in socially and culturally where the new language is spoken. Knowing that these feelings are perfectly normal can help you stick with language learning.

Based on my many years of teaching English to adults learners, here are some tips for making language learning more productive and less painful:

  • Communication should be the goal. Not fluency, not perfection, although you can strive for those. Can another person understand what you’re trying to say or write and communicate back to you? That’s what really matters.
  • Know how difficult a language is to learn. Russian or Chinese or Finnish are going to be w-a-y more difficult for an English speaker to learn than Spanish or French. All language learning takes time and effort, but if you want to learn one of the more difficult languages, give yourself even more time. Although the goal may be much less than professional proficiency, here is the Foreign Language Institute difficulty ranking for English speakers, and the time it takes to reach Speaking 3: General Professional Proficiency in Speaking (S3) and Reading 3: General Professional Proficiency in Reading (R3) in different languages.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Seriously, mistakes are how we learn, especially in language learning! Think of all the mistakes children make when they’re learning to speak. Adults go through the same steps, and mistakes will happen. The important thing is to keep trying to produce the language in some form rather than shut down. An ideal instructor (or online program) will always model the language correctly for you when you make a mistake and give chances to try again. It’s also important to find a classroom and instructor where you feel safe to make mistakes. My Japanese instructors in college didn’t go for safety and it was an incredibly stressful and miserable experience. I remember nothing from those classes other than wanting them to end (although I was able to get a Master’s thesis out of the experience!).
  • Be prepared to memorize. Memory is a very big part of language learning. We memorize constantly when we learn our own language (I took weekly spelling tests through the eighth grade because much of English spelling and pronunciation is based on memorization, even for native speakers), and it will be true for any other language. It’s more difficult to remember things when we’re older because we’re carrying around and having to deal with so much more information in our brains than we did when we were younger. The best way to remember what you’re learning is to practice. Every day.
  • Don’t sweat pronunciation. The ability to speak another language without an accent ends at about age 12. That’s when our mouths and oral muscles “solidify” around our native language. Not worrying about pronunciation doesn’t mean not trying to pronunciate a new language correctly in order to be understood, but sounding like a native speaker doesn’t need to be the goal.
  • Find ways to expose yourself to the language. Learning French in France is going to be a whole lot easier than trying to learn it in the U.S. Why? Because learners are immersed in the language there – it can’t be escaped and has to be dealt with. In your own country, once you’re out of the classroom it’s difficult to find opportunities to practice and use the language you’re learning. Immersion experiences here in the U.S. do exist though. Shop in international markets and read the labels or ask questions in the language you’re learning. Pick up a newspaper or magazine in the new language, go through it and see what can be figured out. Watch foreign films or TV shows in the new language without subtitles. For example, when our girls were learning Chinese, they found that all their favorite Disney Channel shows could be watched online in Mandarin, so they got lots of extra listening comprehension practice from those. Go to a church service where the language you’re learning is spoken (they exist). See if you can set up conversation experiences through local colleges, or hire a tutor and have them provide a weekly immersion session. I was sometimes able to match up my students, if they had time, with an English speaker who was trying to learn their language. They’d spend one hour together in one language, the second hour in the other language.

Knowing another language opens doors for understanding a new and/or different culture, but language learning is a process that takes time, in some cases LOTS of time. It’s important to remind yourself, especially if you’re struggling or on the fence about sticking with it, that you didn’t learn English (or any other native language) quickly as a child either. Unless necessary for professional reasons, fluency doesn’t need to be the goal of language learning; rather, you should strive to learn enough of a new language to communicate effectively, and as a means to better understand and enhance  experiences in a different culture.

Finally, one other interesting side effect of language learning is that you will probably learn more about English as well, and what a crazy, difficult, and sometimes impossible language it is. I thank my stars every day that English is my native language, and that I didn’t have to learn it as a second or foreign language. My years of teaching gave me an immense amount of respect for anyone trying to learn English, a daunting task if there ever was one.

Less Than Six Months To Go!

Other than continuing to save we haven’t been doing all that much directly related the Big Adventure lately both because there’s been lots of other stuff going on and mainly because we can’t. It dawned on me last week though that we have less than six months to go before we depart! While we’ve accomplished what we can so far, planning and scheduling is going to accelerate quickly beginning next month.

For now, we’re scheduled to leave the island on August 20. We still don’t know though where we’ll be heading, whether that will be over to Honolulu first to take YaYu to college there, or on to somewhere on the mainland. Once we have the college information we’ll be able to pull out the big calendar to figure out locations, dates and deadlines.

Anyway, here’s what we’ve already done to get ready:

  • Purchased our luggage and backpacks. We still need to get locks though.
  • Purchased all our clothes and shoes, and put together our travel wardrobes (minus one pair of leather shoes for Brett). Both of us are under the weight limits that we set for ourselves for our big suitcases (44 pounds).
  • Assembled all our electronics. We’re taking my MacBook Air, an iPad, our iPhones, Brett’s iPod, two Kindles, my digital camera, all the chargers, and a couple of converters. We’re also going to take Brett’s old Samsung phone to use for local calls (will buy a SIM card at each location). Otherwise our phone plan gives us data and texting for no extra charge.
  • Made reservations for Kaua’i condo (7/27 – 8/20), the India Tour, the Australian rail journey, and our Tokyo Airbnb.

There’s still more than plenty left to do though:

  • Make travel arrangements to the mainland. Our current plan is to fly into Seattle from here using our Hawaiian air miles, and go from there. Whether there will be three of us going, or just two, is the big unknown right now. If YaYu is with us (i.e. attending college on the mainland), we will spend a couple of days in Seattle to take care of cold(er)-weather clothes shopping for her before heading on to her college.
  • Reserve Airbnb lodgings (and Hong Kong hotel). This can be done once we can set dates for the rest of the trip. We are working this month on narrowing our list of possible rentals, and ranking them. The Salisbury in Hong Kong hasn’t released their 2019 prices yet – not sure when that will happen, but once they do we’ll make our reservations there.
  • Make flight reservations. Besides getting ourselves to Dallas we also will make reservations from Dallas to Miami, Miami to Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires to Paris, and Lisbon to mainland and on to Portland for Christmas. Early next month will be a great time (five to six months out or so) to find good prices for international flights. Other flight reservations will be made while we’re on the road
  • Set up mail forwarding service. We will have mail collected here and forwarded on once a month to Brett’s sister and brother-in-law in Dallas. They will also be keeping all of our important and official papers while we travel. We plan to spend a couple of days visiting with them before we take off for Buenos Aires.
  • Purchase pillows. We are still going back on forth on these. We’ve settled on some a couple of times, but then discover they’re too heavy, or too big, too soft, or too something else. I know we’ll find the right ones eventually, but so far this has been frustrating.
  • Assemble toiletry and medication supplies, and purchase gifts for Airbnb hosts. This will be done closer to departure, but we especially need to make sure we will have enough of our medications for at least the first three months of travel. We also plan to leave a small gift of some Kaua’i-made items for our hosts as a thank-you.
  • Arrange for cleaners to assist with move-out cleaning of the house (floors and windows). This house has to be cleaned to perfection in order to get any of our deposit back (it was perfection when we moved in). We can do most of it on our own, but the floors and windows will require some extra assistance, especially the floors. They are etched and stained concrete, beautiful but a real pain to maintain. We have to strip and replace the seven (!!) coats of wax the landlord put down before we moved in.
  • Arrange storage for household goods we are keeping. We plan to meet with Royal Hawaiian, the company that moved us over here, in early May to set that up.
  • Advertise, set up and hold moving sale. For now we have been separating things out that will go to the sale, and we plan to hold the sale in early July. We also need to arrange to sell our washer and dryer, but closer to the end of July. Our landlord is thinking about purchasing the pair for the house though – fingers crossed as that would be ideal for us.  Whatever is left over from our moving sale, or that doesn’t go into storage will go to a local thrift store when we leave the house at the end of July.
  • Sell our car and reserve a rental for our last month or so on the island. We plan to have the car detailed and listed in early- to mid-July.

Looking over this list, I feel both excited and stressed! There’s a lot still to do. Hopefully being proactive now about saving, downsizing and getting organized is going to make the process easier and less stressful, and I’m excited about booking our lodgings and getting our flights, but I imagine things are going to pile up at bit as we get nearer our departure time. I know it’s all going to come together though and then we’ll be off!