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I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best. ~Oscar Wilde
Most of the time I like to stay in apartments while I’m traveling. I prefer having kitchen access and a washing machine. Sometimes I like having a flatmate or two, sometimes not. One thing is constant, though, I don’t like hotels. Usually.
I have found one exception. I keep finding myself drawn to luxury resorts. I think it corresponds to my recent choice to make sure I take real vacations. As someone who travels as part of her lifestyle, it’s easy to let “vacations” fall by the wayside. My current plan is to take a week off in months with an extra payday, which works out to four week long vacations a year.
While I’m not someone who looks for the cheapest option in any situation, I don’t like to spend tons of money when it’s not necessary. So, when I came across a Twitter ad from Sheradill, I was curious. At first looked a lot like those Earn Credits for Spending Time on the Internet sites that I used when I was much younger and quite broke, before I realized what a waste of time they really are.
I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure. ~Mae West
In the name of research (and rampant curiosity) I decided to sign up and poke around anyway. Turns out, Sheradill is a marketing vehicle for the Hip Hotels Group. They create “deals” at several of their properties, ranging from weekend, to short and long breaks, where you can get up to 90% off the list price. You can search by country, month, or length of stay.
Working in Your PJs
The flexibility of being self employed is both a blessing and a bane. We talk about how we can make our own schedules and take time when we need it. But then, it seems as though the day gets eaten up by minutiae and distractions, and we finally get to work much later than we had promised ourselves and we’re still in our pjs. This seems to be especially true for creatives, and even more true for nomads, as we tend to have fewer ties to the communities where we live.
I’m not perfect at it by any means, but I have developed a framework that helps to keep me on track.
Anchoring as Nomads
Mostly, I anchor one activity to another. I have a difficult time getting up and out of bed. So, now, when I wake up I sit up, drink the water I put by the bed the night before, and listen to a podcast for 10-20 minutes. Then I get out of bed and grab another water and work out. After that it’s my morning pages and green tea, followed by breakfast. At which point I’m ready for my chocolate flake black tea with milk and my productive writing for the day. Each one of those activities is tied to something I would do anyway, mostly drinking tea or water. One by one, I’ve tied a ‘need to’ to a ‘want to; so that when I do the ‘want to’, I feel weird not doing the ‘need to’.
First Days, Settling in to a New Home
For me, one of the hardest things about long term travel is starting new each time I move. It takes time to get my feet under me. To make this transition a bit easier, I have some steps that I take ahead of time so that I can settle in faster.
When I’m looking for accommodation, I make sure that it’s in a walkable neighborhood. Specifically, I make sure that I have a cafe and a couple of restaurants within a block or two. I also look for parks and a pub or cocktail bar, that seems to fit my tastes.
I also see to it that there’s at least one grocery store within a half mile. In Europe, this hasn’t been a problem at all. In the US, it’s a primary concern, since city planning is often more car based.
When I first started solo traveling long term, I had very little information about how it would all work. I’m pretty good a planning so I laid out what I could and then took off. If you want to look at pieces of that story, my old blog The Social Caterpillar is now in ebook form, available here. Looking back, there are so many questions I could have asked and instead learned the answers as I went.
If you’re looking at a solo trip or long term travel and feel overwhelmed, I get it. It’s a lot to think about all at once. That’s why I’ve set aside time to talk to you. You can set up a 15 minute call with me to go over your biggest questions, and you can send the questions in advance so I can think about them ahead of time. That way, we can dive right in and not waste any of our precious time together.
- Have you been thinking about taking off on a trip, but wonder…
- What will I do with all my stuff?
- What should I take with me?
- Where will I stay?
- Where will I go?
- How will I make money?
- How will I _______?
There are so many questions. And everyone’s answers are different. That’s why I won’t just tell you what to do, but help you figure out what works for you.
Curious? Start Here.
Before we get into the different ways you can practice speaking, I want to talk a bit about nerves and frustration. It’s easy to feel afraid of sounding stupid.
When we start out, our vocabularies are limited, and we need to use simple sentence structures. Unfortunately what we often want to express complex ideas which require wider vocabularies and more complex sentences. To make matters worse, we know we’re going to make (several) mistakes and feel like idiots in the process.
Do It Any Way
Go beyond being afraid. Do it anyway. Sound like an idiot. Though, really, you’re probably the only one judging yourself that harshly. How many times have you heard a non native speaker attempt your language and thought how stupid they were? Odds are, that’s never happened, because we all know how difficult it can be to express yourself in another language.
I’m preparing for a 11 hour train trip soon, Berlin to Gothenburg. And while the trains will have food cars, I’m not inclined to rely entirely on food available on any moving vehicle. So, travel snacks are a must.
This trip leaves at 7 am and arrives at 6 pm. Realistically, this means I’ll want to have a small breakfast at my place, as well as pack a light morning snack, lunch, and a more substantial afternoon snack. Then I’ll find a place for supper at my destination.
Since traveling means being in a confined space with other people, I’d like the food odors to be minimal. And since I’m carrying my own luggage, one backpack and one purse, I’d like it to not take up any more space than necessary.
First, I want to start with the idea that listening and understanding are two different things. Obviously they are connected, but as learners, we’ve got to remember that listening does not mean you’ll immediately understand, no matter how much reading and writing you’ve previously done in your target language.
The first step is really just listening, you’re tuning your ear and brain to the sounds of the new language. Because of the differences in sounds, you’ve got to give yourself time to process the sounds so that you pick up the words that they’re attached to.
I like to start with music, because there’s less pressure. When it seems like lyrics in your native language don’t make sense half the time, there’s less of an inclination to think we need to understand every word immediately and less of a tendency to get frustrated when we don’t. Just try to pick up a word or two at a time, at first.
Trip Planning with Pinterest
Pinterest is a fabulous search engine, especially for those of us who are visual people. With the added benefit of being able to store what we find in designated spaces, it’s the perfect tool for trip planning.
If you don’t already have an account, it’s time to open one. Once that’s done, go ahead and start a board for your trip. If it makes you more comfortable, keep it secret, but either way, turn on mapping.
Now, where are you going? Pick a place, any place! Good. Now, whenever I write (location) you’ll use your destination. Alright, lets get started with the actual trip planning.
Last week in this language learning series we talked about ways to practice and improve our reading in other languages. Now, on to writing.
Once again, I’m going to assume you know the writing system of your target language. If not, you’ll need to run some searches, like “touch type (language)” and “writing worksheets (language)”. Here are the ones I like for Russian: Typing & Worksheets. I haven’t found one I like for Hebrew or Hindi, so if you’ve got suggestions, please leave them in the comments.
My absolute favorite site for writing is Lang8. You write in the language you’re learning, post the writing, and wait for corrections. For your first two languages it’s free, after that you can pay for a membership and use it for unlimited languages.
In turn, you also correct other people’s writings. I try to correct three pieces for every two corrections that I receive, because not only do some people not do any corrections, but not everyone speaks a language that others are currently studying. I have been privileged to grow up speaking English, and for me to spend a bit of extra time helping people who are trying to improve their English, seems a small thing.
Your Best Souvenirs
Souvenirs, the mementos that bring to mind our favorite travel memories. So why do we buy flag lapel pins that we’ll never wear, garish sunglasses in the shape of monuments, and museum tote bags? I don’t have an answer, but I do have a list of some of the best souvenirs that you can bring home, knowing you’ll put them to good use.
While you should always check your country’s import laws, bringing home some delicious bites can mentally bring you back to that little shop where the light fell just right through the window as you sipped your tea and nibbled shortbread. Even while you’re surrounded by your toddler’s scattered toys. Wine (check quantity allowances), butter, cookies, hot chocolate bars, spices, preserves… Here are the current US import restrictions.
Clothes and Shoes
Yes, those Thai pants are comfy and you look cute in them. Once you’re home, you’ll probably wear them twice before going back to your usual style and then they’ll end up in the donate pile. So, why not start with your usual style? A couple of pieces that coordinate with your wardrobe can bring a little extra joy to your day. Leave the tourist markets and look for independent designers or even known designers.