One year ago today I left my beloved island of Manhattan and chose to live my life on the road. Now that I’ve spent a year being homeless I can say with certainty that it was the best decision I ever made. I went around the world, crisscrossed North America a few times, ate really well, met a lot of wonderful people, and learned a great deal.
As much as I’d like to think my analytical brain and slight OCD tendencies sit behind the new laid back attitude and go-with-the-flow style, I couldn’t help myself from breaking out an Excel spreadsheet to look at what I’ve gone through in the last 12 months. Although I no longer work with numbers, I still keep everything organized in spreadsheets and I consider it an essential part of my life on the road. Being well prepared and organized got me this far and I see no reason to stop doing it now. Once I had a half hour conversation in the middle of the night with a fellow Excel loving geek about our favorite Excel functions and shortcuts. That will probably be filed under “believe it or not” but below is what I’d like to file under “highlights from my first year on the road.”
Countries visited: 11 including the U.S. – England, Italy, Spain, Morocco, France, India, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, U.S. (CA, NM, PA, NY), Mexico
No. of flights taken: 31
No. of missed flights: zero but one was canceled due to mechanical problems
No. of miles traveled in the air: 48.5k miles, enough to circle the earth twice at the equator
Best airline/routes taken: Asiana (Incheon-Singapore)
Worst airline/route taken: United (Hong Kong-San Francisco)
: During a JAL flight in 1999 a flight attendant knelt in the aisle to be at eye level with me as she spoke. That solidified my belief that Asian airlines have a different standard for service and I always opt to take a flight on an Asian airline when I have a choice. This past year, I flew Asiana for the first time and loved it. I traveled with a borrowed backpack for half the year and Asiana was the only airline that treated my bag (my life was in there!) with real care. They actually put the backpack in a large plastic bag and sealed it so that it wouldn’t get harmed during the flight and the flight attendants knelt down just like those from JAL, calling me by my last name and smiling. Speaking of smiling, my runner up for best airline this year goes to Qatar whose flight attendants were drop dead gorgeous and their awesome vegetarian meals made the long flight from Paris to Doha to Trivandrum quite enjoyable.
No. of blog posts: 141. That means I posted something every two or three days for the past 12 months. When I started this blog, I was really skeptical about whether I’d actually do this and keep it up. After all, what does an Excel loving finance person know about writing? But looking back now, I’m glad I wrote as much and as often as I did. In fact, I regret that I didn’t write more about Korea and that I neglected the trip to Hong Kong altogether. It’s been an interesting way of documenting my journey and sharing it with my friends, family, and often times with strangers I’ve never met. I do find it a bit odd and embarrassing to put so much of what I’m doing and feeling out there in the world, but I will continue blogging as I go into my second year.
Best hotel/stay: Park Hyatt Seoul, Korea. Their service was a bit uneven but for overall style and value, they take the top spot. I also loved my little room above a yoga shala in Rishikesh, India for providing me a serene environment away from the chaotic streets.
Worst hotel/stay: A generic American Airlines designated place in Dallas that I’d like to erase from my memory
: The last 12 months had me staying in every category and style of accommodations. I slept by the ocean camping in Korea, a top floor flat in Florence with a view of the duomo, a dingy inn by the airport in Texas, a chic hotel with one of the highest rooftop pools in the world in Hong Kong, a shared room and bath at an ashram in India, a dark and mysterious riad in Morocco, a traditional Korean style house on Jeju Island, a rented casita in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a room at a Mexican family’s house, and the list goes on. I slept under mosquito nets I hung up myself as well as under 1,000 thread count sheets, weeks of cold showers was followed by sheer indulgence in orange scented baths and rain showers; I went from carrying my own toilet paper to carrying bottles of Aosep toiletries I’d taken from the Park Hyatt (months later I still have some left); I went from sleeping on thin mattresses that made my joints ache to ones that felt like clouds, and then back to sleeping on beds with coils digging into my back. It makes me laugh when I think about where I laid my head down every night. My physical body may have suffered at times but I can name something I loved about each and every place I stayed.
Best meal: Almost every meal in Italy (had to wear stretchy pants), almost every meal in India (stretchy pants were never worn), almost every meal in Korea (my skinny jeans got very tight)- there is just too many to choose just one.
Worst meal: Morimoto in Philadelphia (utter disappointment)
: I always knew this about myself but now I can unequivocally confirm that I really like to eat. I can also say that I can live happily without meat or alcohol (4 months in India) but I am happy to live with them (everyday in Europe). Right now I am a bit heavier than when I left a year ago and during my travels my weight definitely fluctuated up and down 5%. I’m actually surprised that I’m not the size of a Goodyear blimp seeing that I practically ate my way through several continents. I suppose I worked most of it off in some way and at least I was careful enough to never get sick from food or drinks anywhere. I don’t know how I can possibly eat better than I did last year but I’m sure it’ll be fun trying.
Best & worst experiences: I really had to think hard to come up with something/ anything bad that happened to me this past year. The only thing I could think of was having to deal with an inexperienced AA service rep on the phone who tried to route me from Albuquerque to Los Angeles to Dallas to Philadelphia, which eventually led to my spending a night in Dallas by the airport where it was 100 degrees after midnight (it really wasn’t all that bad). Other than having inexplicable leg pains for a few days in Mexico and suffering through hundreds of insect bites I got in India, I think I had a remarkably stress-free, healthy, happy year.
As for the best experiences, there are just too many to count. Being awed by the high standard of living and technological advancements in Korea, the four amazing and mystical months India, celebrating Kevin’s birthday in Singapore, unbelievable colors of Santa Fe, sharing my New York with my aunt and uncle… and the list goes on.
I didn’t plan for this but I’m in San Francisco today spending my one year anniversary with Paula, with whom I started my journey a year ago in New York. In the past 12 months I’d been asked many times why and how I’m doing this, and for how long I intend to live this way. I can say that I worked hard, saved, planned, etc, but the fact is that I’m incredibly blessed. I don’t know why through airline strikes and Europe in a frozen cold spell I made all my flights and connections. I don’t know how so many wonderful people came into my life this year to make my journey meaningful. I don’t know why I never once got sick in India or as a single female traveler, I was never in any dangerous situations. Maybe it’s luck or maybe it’s the universe aligning itself to help me. What I do know is that I couldn’t do this without my health, good friends, and a supportive family. There is not a single day that goes by without my being grateful for what I have and how I get to live my life.
I realized today that I don’t have any keys to anything or anywhere, and that made me smile. On to year number two.