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Author: Elizabeth

Gallery: US Road Trip Roundup

Gallery: US Road Trip Roundup

Our road trip around the US has come to a close.  We are now relaxing in New Hampshire for a week and a half before flying to Peru.  We are spending our days putting the final pieces together for our 10 months abroad.  We hope you enjoy these highlights from the past three weeks!

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Gallery: Philadelphia’s Surprising Magic Gardens

Gallery: Philadelphia’s Surprising Magic Gardens

Back in college, I remember passing this mosaicked lot every time I took the South Street bus.  I always figured it was some fantastic person’s private courtyard.  Little did I know, artist Isaiah Zagar was in the midst of the 14 year creation of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Opened in 2009, it is by far one of the coolest things I’ve seen in Philadelphia.  Hallways and bridges of mosaics connect the garden spaces, creating an inspiring treasure in the city.  It is a must see if you are in the city of brotherly love.

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A Marriage on the Road (Part 1)

A Marriage on the Road (Part 1)

Back in June, as we were moving out of our house, Will left the back of the moving truck open and got on the interstate. We were lucky not to lose much, but what we did lose was a filing cabinet full of all our important documents – birth certificates, marriage certificate, tax returns, etc.

Will did something very smart in this moment. I was in a separate car, unaware of these events, and he chose not to contact me until he had dealt with the situation. Luckily, Will found the filing cabinet in the middle of a (busy) on ramp having not yet caused injury to anyone. The cabinet fell on its drawers, trapping the documents inside. When my husband called me to tell me what happened, and why he’d be delayed to the storage unit, I was shocked, but relieved.

This could have been the first blow out fight of our trip. Let’s be honest, I could have freaked out when I heard about the moving truck incident. I did get mildly worked up when I first heard the story (who wouldn’t.) But while Will was still talking, I had this very clear moment – what kind of wife did I want to be? How did I want to start this trip? Whether or not this results in additional tension is completely up to me – and I could choose whether to be frustrated or generous about it. On this, the first day of our trip, I would get to set the tone for how we would handle obstacles together. I stopped at a gas station and got Will some food and water for when we met up at the storage unit. He had been moving boxes all day and was tired, hungry, and dehydrated. He needed a little love.

On the Same Page6

On the same page

Some friends and family have asked us about the trip and our marriage. The questions and comments fall into two categories: “what a wonderful way to start your marriage!” and “do you think you’ll be speaking to each other when you get back?” I don’t know what the secrets are to nomadic marital bliss, but based on the past three weeks, I’d bet that generosity is one of them.

Will is also very generous with me. I get what Will refers to as “grumpy” sometimes during our travels. “Grumpy” can be defined as a complete loss of patience for anything and anyone. We have already almost missed an early morning flight, suffered altitude sickness, and have started editing each other’s blog posts – all of which have caused some grumpiness. When we almost missed our early morning flight to Salt Lake City – anticipating the effects – Will got me a caffeinated drink even though I said I didn’t want it, and gently encouraged me to drink it throughout the flight. He was right. I really needed that caffeine. Will is never harsh with me when I lose my patience. He knows it’s usually hunger, dehydration, or lack of caffeine that is the cause. He just puts his arm around me, kisses me on the head, and tells me what we’re going to do when I’m not grumpy anymore. He makes a decision not to turn those moments into more tension, but meets them with generosity.

On the Same Page 2

Not on the same page

There will be more significant trials in the future. We may get sick at the same time, or miss our transportation, or disagree about the direction we need to go. We are also blogging together, which adds another layer of joint decision making. The next year will be a constant exercise in getting on the same page.

All that aside, travel will transform us in wonderful ways – and the great gift of travelling as a couple is sharing that transformation with each other. I wouldn’t want to do this trip without Will. I look forward to the many memories we’ll be able to share for a lifetime – even if there are a few epic fights scattered in there. In fact, we will be stronger for them.

I’m convinced generosity will help us grow closer through this experience and prevent travel problems from becoming relationship problems. I’m also convinced it’s not the only ingredient for success. We will keep you posted as the recipe for this nomadic marriage unfolds…and our ears are open to lessons others have learned about relationships on the road.

Yellowstone Photo Gallery

Yellowstone Photo Gallery

Scenery so beautiful you won’t believe you took the pictures yourself.

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Two Days in Yellowstone National Park

Two Days in Yellowstone National Park

We just closed out two full days at Yellowstone National Park, and it was much more impressive than we imagined. As we set out on our round the world trip, we’re glad we could start at one of our nation’s greatest treasures. Preserving our national parks and forests – you got this one right, America.  Here is one of the maps we used.

 

Yellowstone-map

Source: http://www.swerdloff.us/Yellowstone/index.html

 

Now for specifics. There are many things to say about Yellowstone, but I will sum it up in three major points:

 

1. Yellowstone is all about geothermal features.

Yellowstone sits on top of an active super volcano, so we started our first day checking out the many variations of volcanic activity that are present. This was a good call, because the thermal features (as they are called) are so awesome they snapped me out of my elevation sickness. Thermal features range from geysers (like Old Faithful), to hot springs and mud pots (which look like boiling mud). Microorganisms live on the surfaces of these places, causing some to turn bright colors. We took the lower loop around the park – including the Lower Geyser Basin Paint Pots, the Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful, and the Hayden Valley Mud Volcano.

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2. Yellowstone has many landscapes – and all of them are beautiful.

The second day we focused on the Canyon Village region – we did several phenomenal hikes around the canyon and accompanying waterfalls. We then drove the loop through the Roosevelt area to Mammoth Hot Springs. I will let the upcoming gallery do the talking on the beautiful and varied landscapes – but they were all created by a gigantic volcanic eruption half a million years ago.

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3. Bison don’t care about your human “roads.”

Bison were the most common wildlife we saw – and we saw quite a few of them – sometimes nibbling grass by the road or rolling around in the dust to cool off. We even saw several calves – which have orange fur. We also saw elk, deer, a coyote, and what we believe was a moose. No bears this trip. Much to my relief and Will’s disappointment.

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And now we are traveling west across Nevada. The landscape has gradually changed from forests, to mountain framed grasslands, to rolling desert hills. We plan to spend the night in Reno, en route to San Rafael, CA. Look for more Yellowstone pictures to come…

 

Cheers,

Elizabeth & Will

The Answers People Want

The Answers People Want

 

Well friends, we are officially on the trip! On Saturday we loaded up our storage unit and said goodbye to Baton Rouge. Yesterday we boarded a plane to Salt Lake City, rented a car, and made the four hour drive to West Yellowstone, MT – where we are staying at the Moose Creek Cabins.

We’ve been seeing a lot of friends and saying a lot of goodbyes over the past few months. During that time, we’ve heard some recurring questions. Here are the questions we’ve heard the most, and the answers.

 

What luggage/clothes are you taking?

We will each have a large backpack (Elizabeth – 60L; Will – 65L) and a small messenger bag. Each of us have approximately 20 articles of clothing, 8 pairs of underwear, and 3 pairs of shoes. More on this, with photos, when we get to our packing post.

 

How long have you been planning/saving?

Will had been saving for a RTW trip since before we met in 2010 – but we really got started planning and saving as a couple in 2012. Our first step was to create a tentative itinerary (most of which has changed at this point) and estimate a budget based on average dollars per day for each place (which we got from Lonely Planet). As soon as we could, we started an automatic savings plan to reach our goal amount by June 2015.

Here are some great resources we looked at as we were planning our budget:

Bootsnall RTW Roundup

The Road Forks

A Little Adrift RTW Budget

 

What are you doing with your house?

Renting with a Property Manager

We own a duplex and have been renting our back unit for years. We decided to hire a property manager to manage our unit and the other unit while we’re gone. A property manager finds tenants, collects the rent, deals with maintenance, and takes care of anything else that might happen with a property on your behalf. In exchange, they take a cut of the rent (usually 8-10%). There are some upfront fees as well – but all worth the peace of mind that we will not have to call a plumber from Cape Town or place an insurance claim from Mumbai.

Our property manager is amazing – but that was not by chance. I recommend interviewing and checking references.

 

What are you doing with your cars?

Will sold his to a friend. Mine will stay at my parents’ house until we get back.

 

What shots did you get and what medications are you taking with you?

Shots: Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, Typhoid

Medications: Malarone (antimalarial), Cipro (antibiotic used for diarrhea)

We actually started our rounds of shots back in March. It’s important to start early so you can carefully consider which shots you want to get. There are a number that are suggested, but not required (like Japanese Encephalitis – at $298 a pop and relatively low risk we opted out.)

Anti-malarials were trickier. We only had two options because the mosquitos in some of the countries we’re going to have developed a resistance to the more common drugs – including Larium, the one that gives you crazy dreams. We ended up going with a generic form of Malarone – the drug with the fewest side effects and biggest price tag. Luckily I discovered GoodRx.com. Let me tell you friends, this website is a gem. Malarone is $7 a pill in the US but only $2.50 a pill in other countries – go figure. But GoodRx.com will give you coupons to various pharmacies (which ones depend on your zip code- we found our best price at Walgreens) that will cut the price way down. We ended up getting our pills for the nice foreign price. And GoodRx.com works for other drugs too.

 

What are you doing for health insurance?

World Nomads – Worldwide

As it turns out, our employer plan was really great and the COBRA to continue that insurance is wicked expensive. For a moment I thought we were in a major pickle since we would be in the US for six weeks before leaving the country. Then along came World Nomads. I was ecstatic to find out that World Nomads covers you within the US as long as you are at least 100 miles from your home. YES. We will be 100 miles from our home, the whole time! Problem solved.

The downside: traveler’s insurance does not satisfy the rules of the Affordable Care Act. More on that bridge when we cross it.

 

Do you have connections at schools in the countries you are visiting?

Yes and No.

We have a handful of firm connections, made through our own networking and friends who are currently living abroad. Through contacts in the Teach for All network and the Peace Corps we are continuing to cultivate additional connections. It has been a pleasant surprise, as we have talked about our plans with friends and colleagues – many have offered to connect us to people they know abroad. We’ve been blessed with the connections we have already made and are so excited for the learning and friendships that we hope will grow out of them.

 

What places are you most excited about visiting?

Will: Southern Africa for the landscapes and friendly people.

Elizabeth: Istanbul for the history and culture.

 

 

And now we are off into Yellowstone National Park for the day!  Please keep the questions coming. We love to talk about the planning behind the voyage.

Cheers,

Elizabeth & Will

 

 

 

 

 

Bon Voyage Baton Rouge

Bon Voyage Baton Rouge

It’s been two weeks since Elizabeth and I resigned from our jobs and we’re just becoming accustomed to the freedom that we find in the mornings. After two weeks away from work, we’re normally preparing ourselves for a return to responsibility. But not this time. We still have nearly a year’s worth of adventure in front of us. 

It’s been three years since we first agreed that traveling the world would be a major life goal of ours and that we’d try to pull it off before we had a family. For the first couple years, we assumed that this trip would be a disruptive force in our lives. It would clearly decimate our savings. Our careers would have to be put on hold. The planning and logistics alone would be an enormous time commitment. And then there were the concerns about basic safety and a fear that all the romance of a trip like this could quickly turn to feelings of isolation and homesickness.

But over the past few months we’ve seen these potential disruptions turn to assets. Far from putting our careers on hold, this trip has forced us to think deeply about exactly what we want to be doing. It has spurred us to act strategically in terms of what we want to accomplish before we leave both personally and professionally. Having a specific departure date has created a sense of urgency around all of those things that can normally find themselves delayed for years. Everything from people to have over for dinner, to researching graduate programs, to publishing a novel. Our return date has also become a source of excitement since it’s forced us to think more deliberately about the next 3-5 years than we probably would have done otherwise. Overall, the trip has brought structure to an otherwise dangerously fluid point in our lives. Even the savings has become a blessing as we’ve become accustomed to living on about 75% of what we make, a habit we plan to return to when the trip is over.

 

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Now the wheels are in motion. In a week, we’ll hand over the keys to our house, and two days later we’ll be standing in Yellowstone National Park about to cut our way across the American west. Six weeks later, we’ll arrive in Peru. The worries and uncertainty of a few years ago have yielded to a rising sense that we really do have what it takes to pull this off. There’s so much to look forward to, it stretches our minds to think about it; from an abandoned imperial city in Peru, to beaches, penguins, elephants, and rhinos, the vast plains of Africa and the temples of India, go parlors in China, cathedrals, hummus on the Mediterranean, and swimming in the waters of Zanzibar. We’ll join ranks with a global community of travelers and always make a point to share what we discover with all of you in this blog.

But perhaps the most exciting aspect of the year ahead is how our trip will allow us to indulge in our curiosity about education. One thing I’ve learned from previous travels is that having an excuse to talk with locals about something they care about can really take a trip to the next level. Elizabeth and I have each worked in education for about a decade but we’ve recently begun to realize how limited our perspective is by the norms of education in the United States. As we visit schools and talk with teachers, students, and administrators we hope to broaden our understanding of what is possible in education as well as  get a window into the places we visit that is far more telling than the guided tours and attractions that we would normally be limited to. For more on that angle of our trip, check out a later post.

Now, it’s approaching noon and there are preparations to be tended to. This year is bound to be a wild ride. We hope you’ll hang in there with us.

Cheers,

Will & Elizabeth

Where We’re Headed

Where We’re Headed

Image created by Google Maps on indie.bootsnall.com

Welcome to Letters from Elsewhere.  Just a few days ago Will and I quit our jobs to travel round the world for eleven months – a plan that has been years in the making and whose reality is just sinking in!  We are still here in Baton Rouge for the next several weeks, finalizing details and preparing for the adventure.  We then embark on a six week “goodbye tour” which includes an excursion to Yellowstone National Park and a road trip through the northeast.  On August 4th, we fly to Lima and our international trip to explore the world and visit schools around the globe begins.  Check out our (tentative) round the world itinerary below.

 

Yellowstone Excursion/USA Road Trip: 6 weeks

Yellowstone, WY, San Francisco, CA, New Orleans, LA, Washington, DC, Pittsburgh, PA, Philadelphia, PA, New York, NY, Wolfeboro, NH, Boston, MA

 

International Itinerary!

South America: 7 weeks

Peru (Lima, Cuzco, Machu Picchu), Chile (Santiago, etc.), Argentina (Buenos Aires, etc.)

Africa: 10 weeks

South Africa (Cape Town, potentially Johannesburg), Botswana, Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls), Malawi, Tanzania (Dar Es Salaam, Zanzibar?!)

Europe: 7 weeks

Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey (Istanbul)

India: 4 weeks

Southeast Asia: 4 weeks

Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam

China: 4 weeks

North America: 3 weeks+

Vancouver to San Diego and everything in between!

 

Why are we doing this?  How are we doing this?  What will we learn along the way?  All these questions will be answered on this blog.  We are so happy you visited us and please stay tuned!