The not so glamorous side to extended family travel...4 months in

Squat toilets w/o toilet paper
Living a long-term travel lifestyle, backpacking with young kids, is truly a dream come true.  We are now four months into this most recent trip and, for the most part, it is everything we hoped it would be.  Visiting amazing sights, adventures around every corner, and not much cooking or cleaning!  Like I said, a dream come true.  But along with all that does come a few not so glamorous aspects to our day-to-day life.  Here are the ones that come to mind:

Travelers diarrhea
You may not want to hear it, but traveler’s diarrhea is just a reality of travel, especially in Southeast Asia. Not exactly sure why we have gotten it a few times but it may have something to do with the non-potable water that we inevitably injest some of, or possibly the questionable yet delicious street food we like to eat. Either way it can be pretty bad some times and keeps you from wanting to leave your hotel room. No fun especially when limited by time in certain areas. Advice: steer clear of icey drinks unless you know they are buying their ice and not just making it with tap water.

Okay, it's not that bad
Washing clothes in a small bathroom sink
Maybe it’s just me, but having a huge amount of laundry to clean, even worse to dry, with no dryer or yard of my own is just something that makes me crazy. So, I often try to keep up with the laundry by hand washing. Now I can’t complain much as I don’t really do any housekeeping or even very much cooking but laundry is an issue no matter where you are. I could pay to have someone do it and when we travel a lot and are not near a laundromat, I do. But I hate to waste money on this when I can do it myself.  I spend at least 15 minutes nearly everyday scrubbing out our clothes, of which we have a very limited supply. And we brought a portable laundry line that self hooks just about anywhere. It actually works quite well!  Advice:  Stay on top of it all, do a little at a time and it won't get overwhelming.  Or have someone else do it, if money is not an issue then this is the best way to go.

Walking through town with approximately 50 pounds of luggage on our backs...each
This is perhaps one of the most physically demanding components of travel.  We have 5 people, but only 4 of which are capable of carrying anything substantial.  We have 2 ENORMOUS packs, 2 moderately sized yet awefully heavy packs, 4 day packs that are shockingly heavy especially when placed over the huge pack, and usually a couple bags of food, and finally, a stroller.  The stroller works well to carry a few of the smaller things, but often times, like getting on and off a train, it is heavy and awkward.  Then add to it the fact that we possibly do not have a hotel when we land in a new location and are walking the streets popping in and out to check on availability and you get tired very fast.  Advice: Try and book a hotel online at least for the first night in a new location.  Agoda is a great spot to search and book ahead of time.  that way you at least know where to head and if you need to switch you can search without all the luggage.

You get what you pay for most times
$10 a night hotel rooms that are worth just that
Sometimes you pick a hotel sight unseen. Sometimes you stagger into one and don't care what it is like until you have rested and can open your eyes completely. And sometimes when you open them, you realize why it was such a great deal....because it flat out sucks.  The old adage: you get what you pay for is true in any country.  Good deals are out there but if it sounds too good to be true it usually is.

When we started this trip we thought, or maybe it was just I that thought, we could be ultra low budget travelers.  We could deal with a super cheap place, share a bathroom with a bunch of 20 somethings, work on our computers in a coffee shop down the street.  But fast forward four months and I can finally admit that, hell no, I cannot share a bathroom and I cannot live without WIFI in the room.  I also learned that having a fridge actually saves us money on eating out every meal. Additionally, location matters when it comes to transport!  Advice:  Keep your expectations realistic, and above all be willing to adjust as you need to and as your finances allow.

Overnight van travel
If you can sleep sitting upright, if you are not tall, and especially if you are not car sick in anyway, then overnight van travel might be wonderful.  Unfortunately, this does not describe us and certainly didn't the night we took said overnight trip!

Most places in Southeast Asia pack the vans completely full, no room for lounging, or even for the luggage sometimes.  One van ride, albeit only a few hours, the driver had to stop several times because the luggage was in the back toppling over on my husband.  The drivers will stop when you need a bathroom break but most times they are not very happy about it and when you need to stop multiple times in the middle of the night because of traveler's diarrhea...they flat out won't do it.  Your preference may vary but, for us, this has not been the best way to travel. Yet at times it is the only option.
Advice..If you are sick, stay put!  If you can take a train, take the train, and if you have to take the van be prepared with empty bottles, pillows, and barf bags.

Tight Budgets
No matter what your financial position is, keeping a budget and keeping to that budget is really an important aspect to long-term travel.  We are improving on this one but can still do better in keeping track of how we actually spend money on non-essentials.  We try and stick with a general rule of $100 per day for all 5 of us for lodging, food, and transportation.  On travel days or excursion days, when the outing is somewhat costly, we tend to go over our allotted budget. But then there are many lazy days, like when we have a kitchenette and can cook in the hotel, where we save and spend far less than the $100.

Throw in a broken camera or an injury and your whole budget can be blown out of whack.  It is best to be prepared for anything with a little back savings of money.  This is probably my least favorite part of the trip, and why I leave it to my husband for the most part.
Advice..Try and stick to the budget but again keep expectations realistic.  If $100 per day for 5 people is your goal then that long awaited trip to Antarctica or RV travel in Australia will probably needs to be put on the back burner, for now anyway.

A lot of my days look like this
For some people this is the fun part (it is some days for me). Or maybe it is something that before you start traveling you don't think too much about, but while traveling and changing locations every couple weeks research can be very time consuming.  Couple that with either a bad internet connection, wanting to keep up with blogging, and experiencing all the things there are to see and do, and it leaves very little extra time.  Researching the next stop takes me hours upon hours of internet time.  Searching for the transportation, the best hotel, things to do in the area, and maps so I am placing us in the right location, etc, etc, can be a whole lot of work.

I am happy to say that this is one of my biggest complaints because it is really not that bad at all.  But as glamorous as travel sounds, all the research behind making it that wonderful experience can often times be far more time consuming than anyone would ever guess.
Advice..Come up with a time savings system as soon as possible.  Find the websites that give you the best information and stick to them.  There is a heap of information out there on the web and it's bouncing all over the place trying to soak everything in that I find I waste the most time.  Find your favorites and try and stick with them!

“Couple time” when sharing one room with all your children for months on end
Now this one gets really interesting.  I don't want to give you too much information, but I am sure you can imagine how hard finding "private" time would be, especially with a teenager lurking.  You need to be pretty creative to make it work.  Bathrooms, late nights, sometimes getting 2 rooms and "watching a movie" while the kids watch theirs in the other room.  It can be a challenge.

Another aspect is that we never have any babysitters.  We have always lived our lives very attached to the kids and rarely use babysitters, but every once in a while it is a nice option.  Not so easy when traveling the world.  Hey wait a minute our oldest just became a teenager...hmmmm...did I say babysitter?
Advice...Spring for an extra room some nights and just get creative and QUIET!  Act like a teenager again, it's actually pretty fun!

Overall this trip has been amazing and even these less glamorous things are wonderful and certainly an unforgettable experience.  We are constantly trying to work out how to travel more, knowing the 2 years we planned are going by so quickly and there is so much to see.  The crazy taxi rides, nauseating van trips, and creative couple time are the moments that make the best stories and help us to appreciate the other times so much!  As they say, you have to take the good with the bad...and when this is as bad as it gets, I think I can take it!

Photos courtesy of wikicommons (except the first one:)

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