A Travellerspoint blog


As "they" say, it's not WHAT you know, but WHO you know. And while I've found that knowing smart people doesn't entirely take the place of being smart yourself, there's a certain amount of truth to that saying.

One of the things that Anne and I have been talking recently about is how to leverage our networks to connect with people in the places that we're going. Anne started that here on the blog in this entry, and we've both been making lists of people that may be able to help us connect on our trip.

Since we're still 10 months away from our departure, it's a bit of a balancing act between reaching out to people now, and waiting until we're a little closer to the start of the trip. We're currently using this blog to keep our friends and family updated on our activities, as well as acting as a central link that we can share with new folks that we want to network with.

We're also starting to reach out to the larger travel network (I've learned the new terms "career break" in context of people who take off from the standard 9-5 job to travel, and "digital nomad" to refer to those lucky/smart ones who have figured out how to support themselves and their families by working remotely while travelling semi-permanently).

There are a ton of folks on Twitter (here we are), and I've followed quite a few other like-minded accounts. Plus, there are all sorts of travel "themes" you can follow via #hashtag - e.g. #travel, #TTOT (Travel Talk on Twitter), and, of course, any country you want (#singapore, #chile, you get the idea...). We've created our own list of Twitter travelers - you can follow our list and make it easy!

We've gotten a lot of good ideas from BootsnAll, and through them, connected with the Meet, Plan, Go! team. Anne and I will be attending the local Seattle meetup on October 18, and are looking forward to meeting other people in the area that have either done this sort of travel before, or who are like us in the planning stage.

Finally, there's always the big social networks - Facebook (Anne and Noah), LinkedIn (Anne and Noah), and Google+ (Noah). We're thinking about starting a page on FB for the trip (to augment this blog), and will be sending more updates and requests for networking connections as we move forward.

That said, anyone you know of that has experience or connections in the places that we're heading to (Cuzco, Peru; Santiago, Chile; Rapanui/Easter Island; Tahiti; West Coast Australia; South Island New Zealand; Singapore; SE Asia (Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam); China (HK, Shanghai, Beijing); Russia (Trans-Mongolian Railway, Moscow, St. Petersburg) - we would be very interested in connecting and talking with them now! To close with another oft-used phrase, "It takes a village..." - thanks in advance to our village!

(image from http://www.fuelyourwriting.com/files/LuckyOliver-1696379-blog-networking.jpg)

Posted by noahv 10:23 Archived in USA Tagged networking Comments (0)

And 4 becomes 5...

Talk about changes to your comfort zone - in a couple of hours, our 4-person (and 1 dog) family dynamic will be altered to include a teenager from Chile (Anne gave the story here). Given that our kids at still pre-teen (tween?), this will be a bit of a change. Oh yeah, and there's the Spanish/English language aspect as well...

That said, I'm looking forward to this adventure. Anne and I went to our AFS orientation, and, while listening to the other folks there that have been host families before, I think this will be a really cool opportunity. It will be different, and there will be challenges, but I believe this will be an overall positive experience (you get what you put into it, right?).

Juanchi's Room

Here's my quick list of the upcoming change areas:

  1. How we do what we do - not only does Juanchi not know anything about our household and how we operate, he's from another country and probably isn't familiar with a lot of what we all take for granted. There's going to be a lot of explaining about "what time do we sit down for dinner?", "how does the washing machine work?", and "do we leave the toilet seat up or down?"
  2. Another seat at the table - part of the responsibilities of the host family is to cover room and board for the student. So, in addition to a full makeover of Leah's room into Juanchi's room (see pictures), we'll also be including a new person (and tastes) into the mix for meals. Cons - he could be as picky of an eater as Alex is. Pros - we could expand our taste boundaries based on his food experiences.
  3. Mom's Taxi - the kids are not yet at the point where we have to drive them all over the place (Anne might disagree, since she runs the taxi service in our house), but since one of the guiding rules of AFS is "No Driving", having J as part of the family means more places to go. Good thing that Ballard High is within walking distance...
  4. Communications - with a non-native English speaker in the mix, we're not going to be able to yell from room to room give directions remotely. We talked last night about the need to be clear in what we say (and how we say it), as well as to try to repeat the request back (e.g. "Leah - please feed the dogs. Sure mom - I'll feed the dogs"). Not only will this be a nice change from our current mode of conversation with the kids (which include some level of grunted replies and exaggerated sighs), it will help ensure that Juanchi has correctly processed the request (rather than just smiling and nodding, without actually comprehending what we're saying). If we all do it this way, it can only help.
  5. Stuff - Juanchi is going to come with a bag (or two) of clothes, but will need to buy more essentials here. Since America is the land of happy capitalism, I'm sure he's looking forward his first trip to Target. In fact, he emailed Anne the other day asking whether he could purchase "large underwear" in the US. Once we figured that this meant boxer shorts (we think), we assured him that he can get that here. But of course, there's going to be a range of purchases that he wants to make - a bike, a cell phone, a laptop, etc etc. Helping him with these purchasing choices (and assisting him in the actual purchases - whether by driving to the store or getting him set up for Internet purchases) is going to take time and effort.
  6. He's a teenager - I was thinking that we were at least another couple of years away from meeting with high-school counselors and picking out courses, dealing with teenager social angst (on top of new-country-far-from-home angst), and overall teenager attitude, but here it is already. Since we've already been talking with Juanchi on Skype quite a bit, we're reasonably confident that he's a solid kid, but there's going to be a whole new world of teenager-related experiences that we'll have. At least it will get us prepped for Alex and Leah...

I'm sure there will be more challenges - things that I'm assuming will be "no big deal" probably will be a big deal, and the big items may not be issues - but overall, it's going to be an adventure. I just hope that he likes dogs...


Posted by noahv 17:02 Archived in USA Tagged juanchi Comments (0)

Travel Lessons

What I learned from 2 weeks traveling


We (the four of us) just got back from 11 days back East for family reunion/vacation time, followed by 3 days camping near Mt. Rainier. I learned a couple of things along the way:

It's fun

  • Traveling is fun. Going new places and having adventures is fun. Being with my family is fun. Living life and laughing is fun. Even dealing with the stress of traveling is (kinda) fun.

It's tiring

  • Being away from home, and outside of your comfort zone is tiring. Being on airplanes and in cars for hours at a time is tiring. If we're going to be tired after 12 days away from home, what's it going to feel like after 12 months?

It takes energy

  • It takes energy to remain calm, to not stress over the inevitable bumps in the road, to remain in the moment and just...enjoy it. But it's a good sort of energy to expend.

It's easy to pack too little / too much

  • I ended up with more socks than I needed, but no deodorant. I think the kids mentioned at least 5 times that they wish they had brought something (usually something that we had reminded them to bring as we were packing, but either didn't make it into the bag, or they decided they didn't really need it). Anne is further ahead than the rest of us with "test-driving" travel clothes that she wants to bring on the trip (Ex Officio and Patagonia seem to be leading the pack), but I'm still throwing jeans and cotton socks into my bag...

It costs money

  • Traveling (especially traveling on vacation) puts us into the "sure why not - we're on vacation" spending mode. If we're going to survive a year on the road, we're going to have to be as cost-conscious (if not more so) than we are in our "normal" lives now.

Less is more

  • Making a conscious effort to focus ourselves on the moment, to limit what we think we need to do / where we think we need to go, will help us really enjoy where we are. Anne and I are lucky that we both share this sentiment - we are very aware of the lesson that spending more time in fewer locations will be more fulfilling than screeching through in full-on "European Vacation" mode.

Comfort (and Reliability) is King

  • It's easy to think of this in terms of your gear, but I'm extending this thought to the family as well. The more comfortable we are with each other, and the more that we feel that we can rely on each other (especially in times of stress), the higher probability that we're going to survive the trip without killing each other...

Framework and Flexibility

  • Knowing where / what we want to go / do is important, and having a framework itinerary is key to making this happen. The flipside is that we want to retain some flexibility to embrace the unknown, and go along on the adventures / opportunities that will present themselves during the trip. This is the piece that is both the scariest, and the most appealing to me.

It's fun

  • Because really, that's what it's all about. We're doing this now because we want to do it, not because we have to. As long as we keep reminding ourselves that "this is fun", it will be.

Now you tell me - what are some of the lessons that you've learned from traveling? How do you deal with being outside your comfort zone (or how do you create a comfort zone on the road)?

Posted by noahv 22:29 Archived in USA Tagged thoughts Comments (2)

Blog Here or Blog There?

In search of balance

When we went to set up this travel blog, Anne and I discussed whether we wanted to host the blog ourselves at our own domain, or use a "pre-packaged" travel blog solution. At the time, we already had a personal blog running (albeit with very little traffic or content), and I thought that I didn't want to spend the time to manage and maintain another blog. After doing some research into travel blogs, I selected Travellerspoint as the best balance of functionality and look. We also figured that we could link into the other capabilities of the site (travel guide, forums, etc.).

While I'm still a fan of Travellerspoint, I'm back to the decision point of whether to host our own site. Dreamhost (our hosting provider) now makes it very easy to set up new blogs, and the flexibility that solution offers us might be enough to make the switch. I believe that I can make it reasonably transparent to the subscribers that we have (auto-subscribe them to the new blog), and that will also give me the ability to do more with the site (better analytics, more content, etc.).

I figure if we make the change now, it's better than waiting until closer to the trip (so we can get the initial pain out of the way, and get the kinks worked out). Interested in any suggestions / recommendations for how to proceed... Otherwise, I'm going to work on migrating posts to the new site, and getting that up and ready to launch. More info to come!

Posted by noahv 15:44 Tagged technology Comments (0)

Cultural Exchange

Bringing the World to Us

In addition to preparing for our RTW trip (which is now at the 1-year-away omg-it's-really-going-to happen holy-cow-we-better-get-our-stuff-together phase), Anne and I agreed that we could use this opportunity to gain perspective and learn more about some of the cultures that we'll be experiencing on the road. A year from now we will be living with a Peruvian family for almost 4 months before travelling through Chile - a huge adjustment for our family (especially with our Spanish skills where they are now). Why not start now getting used to living beyond our comfortable family dynamics and cultural norms? So, in August, we'll be welcoming an exchange student into our home.


Juan ("Juanchi" is his nickname) will be coming from Santiago, Chile to Seattle to live with us while he attends Ballard High School. We connected with Juanchi through AFS, which has been around for quite some time. We've been using Skype to talk with Juanchi in Santiago, and he's a really nice kid, looking forward to coming to Seattle and having an adventure. Leah is already trying to win him over to her music by sending him clips from YouTube. He has a little sister as well, and gets a big kick out of Leah calling him her "big big brother".

We met his family on Skype as well. They are nervous but excited for him and very proud that he won the scholarship to come here, He has never been out of Chile before and is sure to see the USA lifestyle from a fresh perspective. He's big into soccer (like a few others in his adoptive family), and is hoping to play on the BHS team in the spring. Juanchi already has pretty solid English skills, which I'm sure will get a lot stronger while he's here. It will a joy to share what we love about the Pacific Northwest with him. Anne and I (and the kids) are looking forward to having him stay with us and becoming part of the family.

Of course, all of this is not without effort on our parts - in addition to the (relatively minimal) AFS paperwork, and (as-of-yet incomplete) BHS enrollment process, we are prepping the house to have a 17-year-old come live with us. We have spent the last couple of days cleaning out Leah's room - amazing what sorts of "treasures" you find in a 9-yr-old girls room (under the bed, in the closet, behind the desk) - all of which fall into the category of "oh no that's my favorite you can't throw that out I have to keep that!". Luckily, Leah gets distracted by Alex sometimes, leaving Anne to strategically choose which items are saved, and which are "recycled". Next, we'll paint and get the room fully transformed from 9-yr-old girl room to 17-yr-old boy room.

We'll be posting more info on Juanchi (and probably let him make a guest post or two), but I need to end with a bit of a request to those of our readers in the Seattle area. AFS is frantically looking for host families for students that have already been accepted into the program and placed in the Seattle area, but don't yet have a family willing to take them. These are all great kids and they can be placed on a short term basis. If you are at all remotely interested, I encourage you to connect with the Seattle AFS coordinator Heidi Cook at heidicook@aol.com. You can also reach out to us for more details, and our thoughts.

Posted by noahv 12:04 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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