Manali & Terry – Adjusting to Life on the Road

[singlepic=1559,300,,,right]For many experiencing long-term travel for the first time, the first few weeks on the road can sometimes be the most emotional time. You may feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster as you feel excitement about your new environment one moment, and stress about what you left behind the next. But it’s all part of the journey!

Manali and Terry, a couple from Atlanta, Georgia who started their one-year career break in August of 2009, shared with us the emotions they experienced in their first weeks of travel in Asia.

1. What has been the most difficult thing to adjust to on the road?
Manali & Terry: Routine things taking two or three times as long as before. Certain small everyday things themselves are not difficult, but we feel that the general departure from the familiar to something new can be challenging at times. For example, at home we would hop into our car, drive to our favorite grocery store, pick up our favorite flavor of ice cream, know the price and pay.

[singlepic=1555,250,,,left]This now becomes: figure out how to communicate that you need something to eat, act out that you want to go to a store, get directions, reconfirm the directions on the internet, reconfirm again with a local that you are walking in the right direction, get to the store, try to figure out where the ice cream is located, make sure it’s mint flavored (not green tea or lime or any another green item), make sure it’s not expired (most items we have found are way past expiry!), haggle over the price, then pay in local currency. Although, still fun, it can be exhausting when it occurs multiple times a day. Whew!

It feels like no matter how flexible you are and whatever lifestyle you live currently, you will still have to expect a departure from your routine and be prepared to be patient for everything from finding a place to eat to finding a new way to unwind after a long day.

[singlepic=1558,250,,,right]2. What has been the easiest?
The easiest thing we have found to adjusting to life on the road is that we are not really missing anything back at home. We feel like we’ve prepared mentally for so long before we left and made sure that we got in our fills of the things we love, that we don’t really miss the material things or have a longing for anything – and no homesickness just yet! Although we compare things frequently to home, there are not any moments of sadness or feelings of regret. The situation may also be unique to us since our immediate families live abroad, so the physical distance was apparent when we lived in the States as well.

3. What has surprised you the most?
The condition of the “outside” world has probably surprised us the most so far. Prior to leaving, the concept of a “developing” country seemed to be extreme, but we’ve come to realize that the gap between a country being “developed” and “developing” is not as wide as we expected. We find internet is wireless and fast everywhere; the new Britney Spears song is played at the local bus station; and satellite dishes are propped up in remote villages! Wherever any need has arisen, we haven’t ventured too far without a convenience and feel as if we can get an adequate replacement anywhere. We even saw an elderly lady, washing her clothes on the side of the river, wearing bright pink waterproof Crocs!

[singlepic=1560,300,,,left]4. Is there anything that surprised you about each other?
I was surprised that little, petite Manali hasn’t yet had any physical limitations carrying a big bulky backpack and hasn’t complained too much about carrying her stuff yet!

Manali: I was surprised that Terry has adjusted to the local food so quickly and not having the convenience of a fridge for a cold beer! I’m also very surprised that he can figure out directions such as “down the alley, left after the cart selling pig hooves, behind the blue door” with a few hand gestures and grunts from a local!

5. What is the thing that keeps you awake at night? Are you worrying about anything?
A few things that I’ve been worrying about include our townhouse (we are renting it out) and finding a job when I get back. I want be able to capture 100% of the value that this experience potentially allows. Sometimes I worry that my path in life before I left was swaying towards maturity, settling down, conformity and potentially with that attitude, certain avenues of experience remain closed to people that have a mature outlook and mindset. I’m constantly challenging myself to try new things and to keep an open mind. I also worry that a year of traveling won’t be enough and I’m trying to convince Manali to travel for longer!

Manali: I’m worried that I won’t be able to go back to a “normal” office job after we return. Sometimes, I worry about my health, condition of my skin, nails and hair after a year on the road – it’s hard to get some beauty sleep on these rock hard beds and loud hostels! I’m also worried that I may never look at things the same way, which may be good or bad – I hope that once we’ve seen the biggest temple in the world, every other smaller temple is just as spectacular!

6. What are you most looking forward to when you get home?
Discovering what I want to do for the rest of my life. After we’ve traveled and “lived” in various countries, I’m looking forward to establishing roots in a good place with good people in a strong community that we can be a part of and enjoy.

Manali: Reuniting with our family and friends and starting our own family! Also, a comfy couch and having more than 4 pairs of underwear will be an added plus!

You can follow along on Manali & Terry’s travels on their website and also on Twitter.

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  1. Tweets that mention Manali & Terry - Adjusting to Life on the Road | Briefcase to Backpack - Travel Advice for Career Breaks or Sabbaticals -- on Mon, 19th Oct 2009 11:53 pm 

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