Life on the Road: Ben & Alonna
[singlepic=1580,300,,,right]It has been three months since the three couples from our Career Breaker Round-Up have hit the road, so we thought it would be fun to check in and see how they have been adjusting to life on the road! The fun part is that all three took off in completely different directions, so they’ll have very different cultural experiences to share as well.
We’re checking in last with Ben & Alonna, who started their travels in Europe, where they visited Amsterdam, Belgium, France, Spain, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and Greece. They have just returned home to Boise, Idaho this week, where they will celebrate the holidays with family before hitting the road again.
What has been the most difficult thing to adjust to on the road?
Alonna: Two things….
Trip planning on-the-fly. I’m the travel planner of the two of us, and in the past I loved planning every detail of our 1-week vacations. However, for 3 months that’s not possible, and we wanted to allow flexibility to our schedule anyway. But finding somewhere to stay, transportation, and food is a decent amount of work while you’re traveling. At first it was an adjustment and I spent way too much time planning head. But now I’ve gotten used to finding a “good-enough” hotel, and I even think it’s better for negotiating rates when you’re booking last-minute.
Figuring out the right pace. Our initial itinerary seemed pretty relaxed – at least 3 nights in each place, and we prioritized where we wanted to go. But very early in our trip we realized that we needed to slow down. This meant staying in places longer, and also not packing too much into a single day. Instead of trying to see everything the guidebook tells us to, now we just pick a couple things and spend the rest of the time walking around and enjoying the city.
Ben: Everything. Living out of a suitcase, moving constantly, choosing from the same 5 shirts, trying to figure out what to eat every day, figuring out basic communication and orienteering in every new country, etc. It’s not as bad as it sounds, but it’s a lot of adjusting.
Are there any thoughts of what you left behind that keeps you up at night?
Alonna: Not at all. I just never think about what we left behind.
Ben: Strangely, no. Maybe because we had a pile in the living room of “stuff to take” for about a month before we left, so we were pretty sure we had everything.
What has been the easiest thing to adjust to?
Alonna: Not working or having any set daily schedule. Besides making flights or trains on time or getting to a museum before it closes, we just spend our time however we want. It’s a really great way to live.
Ben: Long train rides. They are a sort of enforced break between destinations, and the trains are usually pretty comfortable and clean, and the view out the window is usually interesting.
What has surprised you the most?
Alonna: How well everyone speaks English. So far we’ve only traveled around Europe, and I’m not sure why this surprised me since I already knew that a lot of people spoke English here. But it’s still surprising to walk up to a bus driver or store clerk and try to speak the local language or simplified English, and have them respond back in very good English. And I love how sometimes we walk up to someone, and they wait for us to say something so that they know which language to speak. Just seeing them make that mental switch between languages is amazing. And it also makes me want to learn another language, which I hope to do later on our career break.
Ben: I’m surprised at how much I’ve learned about America on this trip. This comes in the form of “wow, we would do this totally differently in the U.S.” realizations. Somehow I hadn’t realized that we had a culture in the U.S., but we have specific ways of doing things. Like the way we generally greet people with smile, it almost seems psychotic once you realize most countries don’t do it that way. We generally obey crosswalks unless there are no cars in sight (Germans obey them even if there are no cars anywhere, Greeks ignore them and Italians don’t even bother to put them up – these are just broad generalizations, of course). There are a thousand little things like that.
I wouldn’t have expected to come to Europe and leave understanding America better.
Tell us one highlight from your trip so far.
Alonna: It’s so difficult to pick a single highlight! Every place we go seems to get better and better, so my favorites keep changing. But at this point I’d have to say the ancient Roman site of Pompeii near Naples, Italy. Unlike other ruins, these allowed you to really get a feel for how the Romans lived. It was so cool to walk down the same streets that they did 2000 years ago.
Besides locations, one of my favorite things about this trip has been the two times that we tried “couchsurfing.” We had great hosts in both Salzburg and Vienna, Austria. They welcomed us into their homes and lives for a few days. I wish we could have worked this into more of our trip because it’s such a great way to meet people and get a different perspective on a place.
Ben: Pompeii! It’s a 2,000 year old city, literally frozen in time. Seeing the everyday details of ancient Roman life, walking through their houses and theaters and fast-food kiosks (seriously), is like nothing else.
Check in with Ben and Alonna on their website!