Recently, we asked you on Facebook to ask us any question about our travel experiences so far. Beth and I answered each question separately and here are our answers!
What are the top three things that you miss from the US?
BETH: Of course we miss family and friends, but beyond that and specific to the US, I sometimes miss American movies and TV. Ironically, it’s one of our biggest exports and our programs are shown around the world though we often don’t have the time or means to access them. Overall, I have a renewed appreciation for clean air, clean water, and a washing machine. Millions of people around the world don’t have these basic things we take for granted.
JON: Real stores, bacon, and craft beer.
Real Stores – One of the frustrating things on the road is the difficulty in buying things. Some places are better than others. Europe was pretty easy for shopping, but in many other places you don’t find the same size of shops and variety that you get in the US. Then, the store may have what you want, but it’s in the wrong size, and there is no stock, so it’s the only one there.
Bacon – Perfect strips of crispy salted greasy pork that practically melts in your mouth, American bacon. Every breakfast that says it has bacon turns out to be disappointing. Instead of the perfect strips of bacon I imagine, there is some anticipation-destroying disappointment of salted pork product.
Craft Beer – I’ve had too many lagers in 500 ml bottles that are just so plain. While the beer in Belgium was fantastic, most of the local beers that I’ve found around the world have been of the large bottle, plain lager variety. While they are beer, they lack the flavor, variety, and interest that you would get from the American craft beer market.
What do you notice about the role of women in society in the different countries you have been to so far? India?
BETH: Women have had such a hard road to walk in life and still do, and our travels have reminded me of this. Around the world, in every society, in times past and present, it’s just amazing the burdens women have had to bear. When we were on the island of Delos in Greece we learned that women on the brink of childbirth would be sent to a nearby island due to a purification decree forbidding anyone from being born on the island. I looked over at that island and imagined being rowed over in a little wooden boat in that state to a place with no one and nothing and imagined how sad and uncomfortable and depressing that would be and felt sorry for those women. Giving birth is hard enough. When we were at the Topaki Palace in Istanbul we walked through the Harem where hundreds of women were enslaved for use by the Sultans. In Kenya, we saw the Masai tribes and learned about their life and traditions. And even though the practice of female genital mutilation has been illegal since 2001, it is still performed in secret on most young girls. The men have multiple wives, which are obtained according to the number of cows they have. The wives then have to build and maintain the houses (one of their many responsibilities) without the right to own any property. In India I noticed a big difference between Delhi and Mumbai. Walking around the markets of old Delhi I asked our tour guide, “Where are all the women?” It seemed there were only men around. He told me this is because it’s the men who are involved in business. In Mumbai though I saw women everywhere, and many of them in business-like attire coming and going from work. But then again Mumbai is a much more modern city. In Delhi, I took a subway ride in the women’s car compartment and in Dubai, we took a “ladies taxi.” In different parts of the world, these women-only transport options are helping keep women safe from harassment and enabling them to travel and work outside the home, but it does not address the underlying issue. But there is hope. Two young girls that are so inspiring and impressive to me are 11-year-old Zuriel Oduwole and 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai.
JON: One of my clear memories of India was a group of women sitting off the side of the road. Each one was on top of a pile of rocks sitting cross-legged using a hammer to make gravel. Though most of the cities were filled with men, and we did see quite a few women in traditional roles, there were also many instances when the women were working just as hard, or even harder than men.
Are you tired of living out of a bag yet?
BETH: The hardest thing is constantly having to PACK the bag when you’re moving around every 1-3 nights. When we have 8-10 nights somewhere it feels like such a luxury….we can really unpack and settle in. It’s the packing and the actual traveling part that is the most tiring. I’ve also gotten really sick of my clothes at times, so I’ve switched out pieces here and there.
JON: Not yet. The packing and unpacking and moving around all the time does get old. Hopefully moving slower and staying places longer in the next section of our trip will help.
How difficult has it been navigating so many languages?
BETH: Not difficult at all, given that so much of the world speaks English. This has surprised me and I feel even more fortunate to be a native speaker of one of the world’s most common languages. Even in the Middle East and Africa – places we thought we’d struggle more – the signs and everything are both in the native language and in English. In restaurants they have menus in English and at least one server that speaks it. We may end up in a few more remote/rural places in SE Asia and perhaps then, it will be more of a struggle. We try to learn and use a few of the basic words everywhere we go. Knowing the words for “hello” and “thank you” are most useful.
JON: It’s been amazing how far just English has gotten us. English speaking culture has been very common almost everywhere we have been and it’s really made us appreciate how lucky we are to have grown up learning English. There have been a few instances where it was difficult to communicate, but most of the time it’s been very easy.
What has been the most astonishing culture shock moment?
BETH: Arriving in Delhi – the first 48 hours there – that takes the cake. Nothing can really prepare you for it… the honking, the crazy traffic and rickshaws, the cows, the poverty, the colorful people, the street food, just everything – it awakens all senses! Also, one day in Mumbai we were walking along a sidewalk and saw three people crouched down at the curb and a heard this buzzing noise. I had to do a triple take. It was someone getting a tattoo, right there in the street! Truly shocking.
JON: At home, we are very removed from our food sources. Meat comes either from the butcher shop out of a nice glass case, or shrink-wrapped at the grocery store. Seeing the gore, and smelling the stench of the meat market in Stone Town in Zanzibar was bad enough, but the pile of cow legs outside was worse.
Biggest challenge you’ve had to face so far…or left you in the hopes that it never happens again?
BETH: Getting sick and injured on the road has been the biggest challenge. You can be in the most amazing place but you simply can’t enjoy anything when you are not feeling well. Worst yet – having little or poor medical care when it happens. I’ve learned how important it is to do all you can to stay healthy and carry various meds and supplies with you. Then, when something does happen, you have to take a break from sightseeing and traveling and just get better. The biggest challenge was getting malaria in Africa. Yup – you read that right. I certainly never want to go through that again. Of course, that’s a story in itself and I’ll save that for a future blog post.
JON: The biggest challenge, the hardest thing to overcome has been sickness and injury. You can be flying into the most exciting place you can imagine, but it doesn’t matter if you have sinus pressure that makes you want to crack your head open. If you’re exhausted and ill, the only place that you want to travel to is bed. It’s even harder when you have to find out where you can get medicine or medical help.
The worst of it though was when Beth fell ill with malaria just 4 days into our African overland tour. The fact that I was also ill with bad stomach problems, and we were both still adjusting to the very early mornings made it quite a challenge. I’ll leave the details to a future post about the whole ordeal, but it’s safe to say that it’s not something either of us ever want to do again.
Thanks to Jill, Gina, Claire and Mali for your questions. If you have any more, leave them in the comments below.