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A Couple’s Survival Guide To Long-Term Travel

Guest Post by Sofia von Porat: Sofia writes forAsWeTravel, a travel blog sharing travel tips, videos, guides and inspiration from around the world – you can follow her at www.aswetravel.com.

Before you consider getting married, starting a business or moving in together – there is a way to find out how all that will work out: go traveling!

Traveling together on a round the world trip is the most effective way to figure out if you’re suited for each other – when you take your first long-term trip together, you will either break up, or grow stronger as a couple.  Nothing puts as much pressure on a relationship than the uncertainty and stress of traveling, which tends to bring out the worst in people.  But there are ways and secrets to make traveling with each other easier.

After years of full-time travel and running a business together, these are the 5 things that have helped us the most…

traveling coupleIf I Like You Today, I Want To See You Tomorrow

We believe that one of the things that have made staying together so much easier is a simple mindset about our relationship.  Every rule you have is like planting a landmine on the road in front of you, and laying out too many of them increases the risk of stepping on one and blowing up the whole thing.  The fewer rules you have – the fewer rules you will break.

When we first met, Nathan explained his thoughts on relationships in a simple sentence, one that we have lived by ever since: I like you today, and I want to see you tomorrow.   If a day comes when we no longer feel that way about each other, we know it’s time to go our separate ways.

Play On Each Others Strengths

We try to stick to what each of us does best, and play on each other’s strengths.

I usually do the travel planning, while Nathan keeps track of our budget – same goes for work, one of us usually does the writing, the other does the coding and so forth.

K.I.S.S.

Knowing and being strict about your core values is important, but make sure you get rid of the “fluff” and keep it simple.  One thing  many solo travelers say they enjoy is that they can choose what they want to do and where they want to go without having to discuss it with someone else first.  We’ve found that when we keep it simple and don’t get attached to everything those kind of discussions become less and less frequent.

One thing we try to always live by in every aspect of life – especially in relationships, is K.I.S.S – keep it simple stupid. ;)

travel loveDon’t Expect Anything In Return

Doing something that you might not enjoy for the sake of your partner is crucial in a relationship – but only if you don’t expect anything in return.  Compromising by saying “I’ll do this for you if you do that for me” might work in the short run but will build up resentment and create unnecessary fights.

Knowing that you make the other person happy is enough, besides, you’ll often find that you get more in return when you don’t expect anything back.

Ask Yourself “What Else Could This Mean?”

Anyone can be the most amazing person in the world when they’re relaxed and happy, but when we’re stressed, hungry and tired, the worst in us gets brought into the spotlight.  We do and say terrible things that we don’t really mean. Something which has helped us solve fights faster is to ask ourselves “what else could this mean?”.  When people get angry they tend to let the anger out on those they love the most, or sometimes whoever is closest to them at that moment.  For example, if a waiter is rude to you, it’s usually not about you at all but about something completely different – the same goes for your partner.

Try not to take anything personally, from each other or anyone else.

When All Else Fails…

… a handhold and a kiss will be worth more than a thousand words.

Sometimes, when the world is upside down and chaos surrounds you, it’s nice to let each other know that no matter what happens, you will be there to hold each other’s hands.

The best thing about traveling as a couple is that all your experiences are magnified when you get to share them with the person you love the most, and that handhold can make all the difference in the world.

1000Fights:  A sincere thanks to Sofia.  We especially like the last suggestion.  Sometimes a little tenderness goes a long way.  Please give their blog a look:  www.aswetravel.com .  Not sure we could survive traveling together long term…

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Adventures in Chinatown

 

I love Chinatowns.  I really do.  I am an egg:  white on the outside and yellow on the inside. Some of the best places to discover in our major American cities are their Chinatowns.  Chinatowns offer an affordable visit to another culture and country.  Taking a stroll down the busy streets offers the sights, sounds, tastes and flavors of the orient.  It is not to be missed!

Some of our favorite Chinatowns: Washington DC, Seattle, Vancouver, BC, San Francisco, LA, and Lima, Peru?!

To really enjoy Chinatowns we put together a few helpful hints:

1) Learn some Lingo

2) Check out the Art & Music Scene

3) Bings! (Chinese Dessert)

4) Hang out with the old guys!

5) Gwa-lious! (Our secrets to navigate a Chinese Fruit market)

Learn some lingo:

How to say hello in Chinese
Hello!

Learn some Chinese!  I can’t tell you how many times, flashing a little of my mandarin skills has gotten me some great authentic grub.  At one establishment in DC, I engaged the waiter on the quality of koi fish in the tank at the entry in Mandarin.  After seating us in a preferred section of the establishments, I attempted to order a fish dish. My selection was promptly rejected. “Something better for you”. That little clue to what I was presented to eat was an understatement.  So good!  A little preparation can result in a huge surprise. After engaging waiters and owners of establishments, bills have discreetly disappeared.  It is a Chinese tradition.

Some key words to help:

Hello- Ni Hao

Goodbye–sye gian

Tastes very good- Hen Hao Chur

Thank you– xia,xia

Art and Music

One of the greatest attractions in Chinatown is the art and music scene.  The Asian genre of art is 1000s of years in the making.  Chinatown festivals include “double ten” day (Oct. 10th), Chinese New Year (early spring), and many, many other regional celebrations.  These are great chances to expose yourself to Chinese Music and Art.

Wall art

Chinese pastorals of falling water, green steeps, and animals are amazing:

Ever wonder what those little square red things are on Chinese paintings?  They are the artist signature, as well as his teachers, as well as his teacher’s-teacher.  You get the idea.  Paintings with many red marks is a really good sign.

Pottery

Don’t know who Ming was or how he was awarded a dynasty, but they apparently made some really amazing pottery.

Music

Chinese Music started at the dawn of Chinese civilization with documents and artifacts providing evidence of a well-developed musical culture as early as the Zhou Dynasty (1122 BC – 256 BC). Today, the music continues a rich traditional heritage in one aspect, while emerging into a more contemporary form at the same time.  (Wikipedia)

Take a quick listen to some of the most haunting Chinese Folk music:

Bings

Chinatown is a delight to all of the senses!  Not just sight and sounds, taste too!  We could delve into the many delicant dishs that you only find in  Chinatowns…but desserts are rare. With that said, there is one really good exception, “the bing.” Bings are pretty simple: shaved ice, condensed sweetened milk, and some fruit flavors syrups. In the more authentic dojos, you can get real fruit! A passion fruit bing on a hot day is nectar of the gods!

Have your ever tried one?

YUM!

 

Chinese Chat

I really love to talk to old people. I love to chat with stringy bearded, glassy eyed gentlemen. They typically hang out in parks, around a board game, or they surround a small table with an elaborate tea set. Some of most meaningful conversations I have had in my life have been with these wise stewards. Conversation topics have ranged from expected topics: Sino-American relations, contrasting the traditional Chinese method of education.  We also covered some remote topics including the healing power of green tea, the long term harm that comes from drink beverages with ice(?????) and a particularly long and involved discussions of the virtues of breast milk.  Travel slow. Take a hot afternoon to sit in the shade of a with one of these fellows and the world will be opened to you.

The fruit

Asian fruit is so good! Some of my faves: yellow watermelon, yu longs, mega grapefruits, passion fruit. Some of these are available at different parts of the world, but there is nothing like an Asian fruit market. While living in Southern Taiwan, every morning we headed to the fruit markets for breakfast. These farmers markets offer fleshy fruits that are difficult to describe. We must offer a warning…fruit markets are usually adjacent to meat markets. These stands are not intended for the faint in heart. If seeing various family pets, snakes, and rodents displayed for purchase in non-living status, this is not the place for you.

 

Chinatown on Twitter:

 @sfchinatown  (SFO)

@312Chinatown (Chicago)

@scidpda (Seattle)

@OurChinatown (New York)

@LondonChinatown (London)

What is your favorite Chinatown?  What makes it special to you?

Leave us a comment and let us know.

 

 

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Why I Didn’t Want to Go to TBEX and Why I am Glad I Did.

Why I didn’t want to go to TBEX and why I am glad I did.

1000 fights, the female half has a confession; I didn’t want to go to TBEX. We had just gotten home from two week trip to Slovenia and Croatia, the house was a disaster, our children were complaining about being orphans, I was overloaded at work, and most importantly I was exhausted. Mike kept telling me how awesome it was going to be and I just rolled my eyes. I didn’t want to go. (Fight #1)

Why would I want to go to a giant conference of self important bloggers? I had a mental picture of debate tournaments from high school where nerds haul in their boxes of “evidence” just to show how smart they are but instead of evidence it was lexile numbers, tweets, twitter friends, and Facebook followers. Ick-it was going to be my worst nightmare. I pictured cocktail parties where people look past you to see who is better to talk too (like the ones I attend for my job). No thanks.

I just wanted to stay home, watch chick flicks, eat cookie dough, and complain about how I exercise and never lose weight. Mike wouldn’t have it. (Fight #2)

“You have to go,” Mike begged. “We are the fighters. I can’t fight by myself. Plus, you are the fun one.”
The fun one, eh. Okay, you got me. I’ll go. So after work on Friday, I caught a flight (Mike was on a different one of course) and caught up with Mike in Seattle.

On Saturday morning, we walked into the giant Vancouver Convention Center and I felt like the new kid at school. I didn’t know anyone. It was going to be a long weekend. And then I met Journeywoman. I’d followed Journeywoman and as a suffragette, I thought. She was literally the first person we met. She walked up to us and said, “Hi I’m Journeywoman.” Wow. Then she was the key note speaker. It set the tone for the conference. This wasn’t a competition. This was about finding your voice, your mandate, your passion and living it.

The weekend only got better. What I found was every conception I had was wrong. These bloggers were friendly, helpful, and most of all insightful! They introduced themselves, looked you in the eye when they spoke to you and didn’t look past you to find a better option. I had found my peeps. During the short weekend, Mike and I connected with people from all over the globe. I made new friends. I was inspired. I left Vancouver full of ideas, contacts and most of all purpose. I don’t think the cookie dough at home would have done the same thing.

Cant wait until next year!

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Capturing Romantic Olde England

Great Britain: Is a romantic couple’s dream! Castles, dramatic landscapes, vibrant cities, and best of all our cousins from across the pond speak English! The first time we traveled together to England, we ended up spending much of our time in London.  London rivals any city in the world. Not only can you catch some of London’s best attractions: Parliament, West Minister Abbey, Imperial War Museum, Churchill Museum, but some of the best theatre in the world!

London theatre

One of the most romantic things to do in London is to take in a dinner and a play in the West End.  Ticket for the performing arts are generally cheaper in Europe than in the US and frankly, the quality is MUCH better.  Luci is a theatre snob and you can’t beat London’s West End.  Go to one of the many ticket brokers and get same day tickets for at least half off.   We saw the age old standard of Les Miserable the “the bible coat story” as Mike calls it, also known as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.  Both were better than any Broadway production we’ve seen.  Walking hand in hand discussing the performance along London’s lively streets is unforgettable.  We found a street side vendor near the home of some of our friends that made marvelous crepes.  The chocolate banana caramel was to die for! Again, English food is bland and boring. Eat French and Indian and you can’t go wrong.

Of course in order to be a true romantic, you must make the trek out to Jane Austen’s home: see our (post) on our visit.

Castle Climbing in Wales

While London is generally one of Great Britain’s top spots, Wales is the most beautiful. It’s green rolling hills and friendly people make it a must see in Great Britain. Just be aware it’s almost impossible to pronounce anything on the signs. One of the most spectacular castles in the UK is Carreg Cennen.  It is just south of Llandeilo.  The castle sits atop a green hill that offers stunning views.

Take the moderate hike from the parking area and pack a lunch spend the day exploring the ruins and enjoying the commanding vistas.  There is a small gift/craft store and tea room at the base of the hill.  We hear that they have great ice cream.

While the exchange rate between the pound and the dollar is usually horrible. When we went to Great Britain, the pound was twice the dollar. We noticed that the prices weren’t necessarily that different but once you doubled it with the exchange rate it felt like we were spending monopoly money. So you have to be smart when you travel there. We were lucky and stayed with friends who were living there and were able to enjoy a lot of what GB has to offer.  But we also know folks who have rented a house. This travel technique was made popular by the chick flick, “The Holiday.”

Want somewhere fun to stay?

8 Old School, St Benedicts Abbey (rent this for a week!)

Ever wonder what it would be like to swap your digs for an English cottage like Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet in the chick flick, “The Holiday?”  This is your chance!    Who knows…maybe you will meet your own Jude Law?  This is such a great option for experiencing the real Great Britain.  Cottages are “self catering” so you cook for yourself.  (Great way to save some cash and eat better food. The

Inside 8 Old School, St Benedicts Abbey

English aren’t known for their cuisine.)  If you are traveling as a family or with multiple couples, this is a great solution and so much cheaper than a hotel!

The UK has so very much to offer the wandering couple.  We offered a few ideas, what is your fav couple site in Olde England?  96XKZ4PP77NE

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The 3 most romantic spots in the world

Ok..Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and we get asked a lot…  “What is the most romantic spot that you guys have ever been?”  What exactly makes a location romantic?  What is that “je ne sais quoi” that makes one place better than another?  Obviously, the key ingredient is the one you’re with. The sights, sounds and environs can also be spices that make the recipe work.   So many come to mind, but we narrowed it down to three.  Undoubtedly there are zillion other places on this green/blue globe that are amazing…we just haven’t been there yet.

So what was important to us in selecting these locations?  Our first criterion is that we have experienced them first hand.  Love tested; Love approved.  Anyone that knows us…knows that we have a tendency to fight.  So our locations must be unanimous picks.  (Not as easy as it sounds).  Lastly, we took Paris out the running.  Why?  Every other blogger is writing sappy and lovey-dovey posts as we speak about the “City of Love.” Paris is remarkable, read the other blogs…after reading ours :)  Our last criterion is there must be some sort of magical/mystic quality about the location.  The three places we picked all have magic.

Villa il Poggiale, Chianti, Tuscany, Italy-

How could we use the word romantic without pulling Italy in somehow?  The Villa is a quaint and somewhat difficult to find, a short drive from Florence Italy.   Is this the nicest most expensive B & B in Tuscany?  No, not by a long shot.  And maybe that’s what makes this place so special?  You are not going to break the bank to say a weekend or even a week here.  It is located smack dab in the rolling green hills of Tuscany.  Take a walk down the gravel road behind the Villa, basking in the hills and scenery of Tuscany.  You’ll feel miles away from anywhere. What makes the magic of this place?  It is the little road behind it.  Ok…Luci is a huge fan of the movie, “A Room with a View.”   At one point in this chick Flick, the main characters take an afternoon ride in the Tuscan countryside.  We are convinced that they came to Villa il Poggiale.  It takes you back to old Italy.  The B & B is quaint.  Yes, it does have a humble pool overlooking a vineyard.  It has the cypress trees lining the drive as you come into the property. And, yes the owners are just about the coolest people in all of old Italy.    This place is magical for the dramatic setting…humble accommodations…and five star sunsets.

Now that’s Amore!

Marin Headlands-

Located just across the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the remnants of the fighting days WWII.  (Maybe that’s why we like it so much?)  It harbors a network of abandoned war bunkers facing the Bay.  Drive up along the tops of the hills overlooking the city, the Bay and the Pacific Ocean.  What makes this place so special are the views, and the fog.  For some meteorological reason, this place has the strangest weather.  Often, you are above the fog, and just the tippy tops of the Golden Gate poke through and then the city lights illuminate the fog and it appears to been a golden blanket of cotton balls.  At other times the fog rolls down the hills like water.  There are a number of secluded beaches, a lighthouse, and many fragrant eucalyptus groves along the headlands.  Pack a lunch and take a hike through the trails that go between each of the war bunkers…take a horse ride down to a beach or through a forest.  So many options!

Bring a blanket to snuggle with!

Sirheni Bushveld Camp, Kruger National Park, South Africa—

Kruger Park is one of the largest public game reserves in all of Africa.  South Africa has preserved this corner of its county to celebrate wildlife including lions, hippos, elephants, and cheetahs. Now, there are different levels of camps and lodges within Kruger Park.  Similar to the location above, Sirheni is not the lap of luxury by any stretch of the imagination.  You even have to do your own cooking!  We found the accommodations at Sirheni the best in our Kruger experience. The camp is a collection of modern one bedroom condo-ish looking structures, which have huge back porches overlooking the Sirheni Dam, on the Mghongolo River.  Your back porch is a water hole and views and access are unmatched. As we sat on the back porch we heard a rumble of cracking brush and trees and elephants walked past our porch just 20 feet away.  At one point we literally stood a couple of feet away from several elephants.  The layout of the 20 or so bungalows is well done to create an isolated feel.  As the sun sets, you can watch animals take a drink or cool off from the hot African sun and you enjoy your own beverage of choice or cook a slab of beef on the bbq provided.  In the distance you will hear elephants splashing and hippos whistling.

We share these three locations as our recommended romantic locales…so where would you recommend?  Did we miss the best place?

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Vote for the Hottest Travel Hubby!

Ok…with this post we are not trying to be shallow…we just want to highlight some great couple travel blogs.  There are some great twosomes out there on the road.  So vote for your favorite Hottie Husband and visit some AMAZING couple travel blogs.  Vote early and vote often!  Voting ends and the Hottest Travel Hubby will be crowned on Dec. 1, 2010.

Randy---www.beersandbeans.com

Craig---www.ytravelblog.com

Greg----www.followourfootsteps.com

Rhys---www.2nomads1narrative.com

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