Have you been wondering what we actually do over here, day-to-day?
It’s not all fun and games, folks, but then you know that if you’ve read our self-pitying posts about the end of our Vietnam leg. This is not one of those posts – enough of that unhappiness, right?
Though I’ll admit that we don’t really have a “typical” day, our life on the road is also much more “normal” than you might think. A shared set of biological needs and evolutionary history means that we eat, sleep, drink, etc., just like every other animal, and that those things are a big part of our day.
Sure, there’s adventure and fun thrown into the mix too. A few days ago, for instance, we passed our time cruising the dirt paths of Don Khon, an island at the very southern tip of Laos, cooling off in waterfalls, and seeing the famous Irrawaddy dolphins. I also managed to go down in the mud and am now sporting a pretty nasty contusion on my left calf. It was a pretty amazing day, bruise and all.
That’s what you think of when you envision yourself on great trip, right? Beautiful sights, fun activities, good stories. I doubt you imagine spending four out of seven days a week on a bus, motorcycle, train, or whatever your chosen mode of transport is. I certainly didn’t.
Alas, that’s the way it is, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse: a huge chunk of any long-term traveler’s time is devoted to transit. Enough time to make it typical.
Here’s what one of those days looks like for us:
- 6:30/7:00 a.m. – Wake up, check emails and social media in bed, and have instant coffee in our room, if available.
- 7:30 a.m. – Get ready, do some burpees for exercise, and pack our bags. If we can get a head start the night before, it’s a fairly quick process. If not, it can easily take 20-30 minutes.
- 8:00 a.m. – Eat breakfast, which is usually included in our room rate. In Asia, t
his means soup, an egg bánh mì (sandwich), or an egg fried beyond all recognition with some bread and jam. Not inspired at all, but it gets the job done. Though we weren’t big breakfast eaters at home (weekend brunch being the wonderful exception), it’s now one of our most important meals. We don’t usually eat during rides, as it’s best to avoid potential tummy troubles on the road where facilities are … lacking, at best.
- 8:30 a.m. – Load up the bikes.
- 8:45 a.m. – Depart hotel, fill up our tanks, and hit the road. Our transit rides average around 140 km. If we’re on a fairly flat, straight, well-maintained road, it takes us about three hours with rest breaks and stops to take photos along the way. Throw in some curves, major potholes, and a lot of elevation gain and/or loss, and that same distance can take us up to eight or nine hours.
- 9:00 a.m. – One or both of us feel first pangs of tummy troubles despite being careful with breakfast. Proceed to ignore/will the troubles away.
- 9:15 a.m. – Tummy troubles dissipate. Big sigh of relief.
- 9:30 a.m. – Tummy decides to amp up its threats to go nuclear.
- 9:32 a.m. – Threat level midnight. Leap off bike and immediately seek relief.
- 9:35 a.m. – Conclude horror show by noticing that the chosen bathroom spot was hidden from the road but not from some farmers working their fields, who are currently staring, mouths agape. Feel a mixture of embarrassment and indifference – as long as one feels better, who cares? We’ll never see these people again.
- 11:00 a.m. – Take official first break. We try to break every one and half hours or so to stretch our legs, drink water, and relieve ourselves. Sometimes, we’ll press on, either because we are feeling good or because conditions are so that we just want to get it over with (bad weather, for example). Sometimes we’ll stop more frequently, on account of … well, you know by now.
- 1:00 p.m. – Arrive and check into hotel/guest house. We tend to book in advance if we are staying at a popular hotel or guest house to ensure we get a room. Otherwise, we pick a first and second choice and just show up. The benefit of this is obvious: if it ends up being dicey, we can leave. You can’t do that if you’ve already paid.
- 1:30 p.m. – Drink celebratory post-ride beer, a Wanderrlust tradition. If we’re hungry, we’ll grab a snack, but usually we just wait it out until dinner.
- 2:00 p.m. – Now the fun really begins! And by fun, I mean chores (charge our helmet Bluetooth sets and phones, clean helmet face shields, unpack, do some laundry in the sink, and research and plan the next legs of the journey) and work (writing, photo editing, posting to social media, and updating our route map).
- 5:00 p.m. – Happy hour…duh! This is usually beer, but does that ever get old. If we can find a good cocktail, our budget goes out the window without a second thought.
- 6:30 p.m. – Venture out for dinner, though it could be as early as 6:00 p.m. in small villages, which tend to shut down no later than 8:00 p.m. I always do research beforehand on each location’s food scene – I use a combination of TripAdvisor, Travelfish, and good old Google to search for blogs by fellow foodie travelers and/or locals (much more fruitful in bigger towns). As for what we eat, we go for whatever’s good above all else. If that means pizza in Vietnam or Philly cheesesteaks in Vientiane, we’re doing it (or more accurately, we did it!). This strategy has brought us much more gustatory satisfaction than dogged devotion to culinary authenticity.
- 7:30 p.m. – Back to the hotel, usually with wine in hand. In Vietnam, that meant a bottle of the local red, Vang ?à L?t, for around $3 – the oenophile may find notes of cheap, but we found it drinkable for that price. In Laos, it’s all imported and surprisingly less expensive to buy at your hotel or guest house than to buy a bottle in a store. Also surprising is how many guest houses carry it (e.g. our guesthouse on Don Khon cost us $12/night for a clean room with hot water, good window, and A/C and they had wine).
- 7:45 p.m. – Spend the rest of the evening reading or watching a movie. If we get lucky and meet some cool people at our guest house, we’ll hang out and have a few drinks.
- 10:00 p.m. – At this point, we’re done with wine, in bed, and either reading or hitting the hay. We’re asleep no later than 11:00 p.m. and usually by 10:30.
Wash, rinse, repeat…with some great adventure days, thrown in as mentioned earlier.
I’m curious as to reactions on this. Are you surprised at how we spend our time? Delighted? Appalled? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section – unless of course you’re appalled. In that case, you can kindly keep those thoughts to yourself.