She said, he said...month two.

This is the anniversary of our second month of full time travel.  We have some work that requires us to be in the United States for our coaching and consulting business, Apochromatik, for the next couple of weeks.  But don’t worry — RedDotBlueDot continues as we have several more international and domestic (USA) destinations on the docket before the end of the year.  (And many, many posts to write for the Blue Blog and photos to share on the Red Blog!) 

With that said, how was month two?  Aren’t you just dying to know?  Here is the “She Said, He Said” for month two.  These questions are the same as month one, but if there is a question you want to get our individual opinion on…post it in the comments!  We will do our best to provide an honest answer.

Two months In…

After our second month of non-stop travel this is a quick look into our minds.  Keep in mind we didn’t discuss this before sharing the answers.

 Surb Asvatsatsin Church, Akhtala, Armenia, Keith and Amy

Surb Asvatsatsin Church, Akhtala, Armenia, Keith and Amy

Why did you want to do this trip?  After two months do you feel you have met your why? Or changed your why?

Amy said...

Hmmm.  I wanted to have the opportunity to be challenged, to get out of my comfort zone, and to go off the normal tourist track.  I’ve gotten to travel a lot before this trip, but often find myself going to the same places again and again rather than branching out to new-to-me countries and cities.

This month was challenging in some ways and not in others as we went to some places that just felt more difficult (Baku, Azerbaijan!) and others that weren’t as challenging in traditional ways (Spain!).  But this month I’ve also had the chance to think more deeply about why I travel, why it matters to me, and have gotten in a good groove with balancing work with coaching and consulting clients, sightseeing, and going beyond sightseeing to build and nurture relationships.   

Keith said...

I’m not going to look back at my answers last time…or maybe I will.  I’m realizing that a major motivator of doing long term travel was to focus on my passion for photography.  Sure in years past I have taken workshops and packed the bags for “vacation.” But there was always a pressure associated with those trips to get a great project in a very limited time.  Long term travel affords me the opportunity to simply always have my camera with me and reduces the pressure to NEED to get that shot every day.

So I think my focus has changed somewhat.  This trip has changed my mindset from the standpoint of how I look at photography and how I look at my business and career.  It has provided a real “reset,” if you will which I think is really beneficial.

What is it about longer term travel that excites you?  What are you anxious about?

Amy said...

It’s landing in a place you’ve never been to and realizing you have no safety net.  No neighbor to call, you don’t speak the language (in many of the countries we’ve visited), and need to figure things out as you go.  There is nothing quite like needing to decide on lodging for 70 nights, pick 140 restaurants, etc. to hone your decision making skills and speed!

Keith said...

I thought there would be a great deal of anxiety and pressure, but just the opposite is true.  There is not pressure to see EVERYTHING or do EVERYTHING.  There has to be a balance between work and travel because let’s face it, work pays for travel.  That balance has been easier to come by with each passing week.

Right now I’m anxious because I have a lot of projects coming up and a lot of travel on the calendar.  Just a lot to get done.  Need to make sure I stay efficient.  The lack of any television channels in English is helping….

In the second month what was your favorite experience?

Amy said...

So many.  The day we spent snorkeling and riding around on a dhow in Oman was a really incredible way to start August.  I loved Tbilisi, Georgia generally, but drinking shots with the butchers at a market there was something I won’t soon forget.  Visiting monasteries in northern Armenia was amazing, in part because there were so few tourists there.  Visiting Chernobyl after years of talking about it.  Getting to have dinner with Hannah in Odessa, Ukraine was wonderful.  Our insane trip to Washington, D.C. to see our friend’s Senate judiciary committee hearing was something I’m so glad we had the miles saved up to do within a week of when her hearing was set.  Our food tours this month in Georgia and in Spain were great.  Spending a long weekend in Seville with our friends Katherine and Vincent who live in London was so much fun.  Our dinner at Cinc Sentits in Barcelona was one I’ll never forget.    

Keith said...

Wow, the second month was packed.  We are talking everything from snorkeling in the Straight of Hormuz to mud volcanos in Azerbaijan.  Chernobyl, which I have wanted to go to for about 15 years, to criss-crossing Spain from the Alcazar in Seville to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.  I think my favorite experience was the Odessa/Warsaw/Frankfurt/London/Washington, D.C. flight to see our friend Martha have a judicial confirmation hearing and then flying Washington, D.C./JFK/Madrid and taking a train to Seville to get back on track and meet our friends Katherine and Vincent in Seville.  These experiences with friends and their families are unforgettable.

What did you bring and shouldn’t have?

Amy said...

Still haven’t read two of the books I’ve been hauling around for eight weeks.  (But I did buy and read the new Dan Brown book set in Spain during our sudden addition of flying from the Ukraine-Warsaw-Frankfurt-London-DC-New York-Madrid over the course of a week for my friend’s hearing.)

Keith said...

Well I haven’t used the ND filter I brought along yet, but I think it’s still a good idea to have it.

What hotel has been your favorite hotel in month two?

Amy said...

On paper, the Five Palm Jumeriah in Dubai was the nicest hotel.  It’s brand new, is normally about 3x as much as we paid (surprise!  no one wants to go to Dubai in August!), and the service was really good.  But in reality, probably the Palacio Pinello hotel in Seville, where it was quiet, clean, and the staff were incredibly kind and helpful.  The Intercontinental in Kiev was great, too — I redeemed free nights to stay there and it was well worth it to be in such a good location.  Our apartments this month — in Tblisi, León, and Barcelona — were all really good as well.  And the Warsaw airport Marriott Courtyard is actually really good — probably the quietest airport hotel I’ve ever stayed in, because they managed to figure out how to fix the doors so they can’t be slammed, plus the food in the hotel bar is great.      

Keith said...

Our hotel in Seville was really nice.  I counted and in month two I think we have had 12 different accommodations.  Some far more budget-centric than others.  Quite a few Air BnB’s.  But the Seville hotel had a great restaurant, rooftop patio, and really helpful staff.

What have been your least favorite accommodations in the second month?

Amy said...

The León, Spain apartment was great, until I got the bright idea to leave the windows open one night and then got zero sleep because it was so hot and so loud from the street below.  And of course that was a night when we needed to be up at 5:30 a.m.  The hotel we stayed at in Odessa was great in many ways, but literally anything you asked the staff to do, the answer was no.  (My favorite: Keith asked the front desk to put a stamped postcard in the outgoing mail for us and they initially refused.) 

Keith said...

I think that has to go to the hotel in Odessa.  The answer to every question was no.  “Can you mail a postcard that already has a stamp?”  “No.”  It also had a very mundane breakfast.  It worked, but it wasn’t my favorite.

Best and worst moments of the second month?

Amy said...

This sounds nuts, but the worst was probably when we couldn’t find a laundry mat in Odessa.  There were lots of places that did dry cleaning, but none that did laundry.  This wouldn’t have been a big deal except that I was convinced we’d find a place so we set off on foot with our dirty clothes in heat that had to have been over 90 degrees.  But fortunately we were able to just drop off our clothes at a laundry in Washington, D.C. and pick them up 3 hours later.  In general, though, getting to travel around the world is a huge privilege, so if it’s super hot, you order one thing at a restaurant and the waiter brings another, a cab driver “forgets” to turn on the meter and then tries to overcharge you, etc. — so what?    

Best is just impossible.  I feel like every day there’s a new best moment.   

Keith said...

There are so many best moments.  Again, the trip to Washington, D.C. was incredible.  Finally getting to go to Chernobyl was incredible as well.  That portion of the trip was better than I could have imagined.  Spain is magical.

I'm not sure what the worst moment was.  Probably a flight cancelation, or a few times when I was just exhausted and wanted to sleep for a few days.  The audio guide at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona is about 946 hours long...I'd choose to read a book next time.

Best and worst flight of the second month?

Amy said...

For worst, I ended up in middle seats twice this month with guys on the aisle who decided they were entitled not just to the arm rest but also a good chunk of my seat.  (The one guy — from California! — smelled as though he was on a quest to visit every country in the world without bathing.)  But at least they were short flights.

On one of our Air Azerbijan flights, the flight was full of large families and the meal in coach included approximately 5,047 containers, lids, and wraps.  All of them for the entire plane ended up in the aisles.  I should’ve taken a photo — it looked like Wrigley after a game.  When I tried to go to the bathroom, literally all five bathrooms I checked either had people using them without locking the door (these were adults!!) or were just disgusting.  But they got us there safely and on time.  You can’t say as much for American, which over the last two months I think has been late or cancelled for something like 5 out of 6 of our flights.

And the train from Kiev to Odessa that Keith already wrote about.  That was . . . an experience.

For best flight, probably the flight from London to DC.  We were in business (those American miles again!) and got seats on the upper deck of a 747.  And the very nice man who was supposed to be next to me offered (without my asking!) to trade seats so Keith and I could sit next to each other.

Keith said...

Eh…I’m not much for the flights.  I guess I would have to give the edge to the American Airlines flight from JFK to Madrid.  I slept a lot.  I don't really like flights, so the worst was probably the delays caused by American Airlines.

Best and worst airports of the second month?

Amy said...

Once again, the Priority Pass membership and Admirals Club membership saved us during long layovers and kept us very well-fed in airports for free.  The Odessa, Ukraine airport was the smallest, but the flight left on time and the bathrooms were clean.  

Best was probably the Tbilisi, Georgia airport because the lounge had these cherry and chocolate tarts out at breakfast that I still think about.

Keith said...

I love Frankfurt and Heathrow.  Odessa needs to work on their airport.

Favorite restaurant of the second month?  Best meal and worst meal you have eaten in month 2?

Amy said...

These are so hard!  Favorite restaurant was Cinc Sentits in Barcelona.  The meal was incredible from start to finish.  Watch for the blog post on that!  

I also loved the tapas places we ate at in Seville and in León.  At one of them, the waiters tracked your bill by writing it in chalk on the counter.  

For worst meal . . . .There was some airplane food this month that was just horrible, but that’s why I always have a snack in my bag, and since they’re feeding me while I fly around in a metal tube, I feel like anything they give you is good.

Keith said...

Our friend, Chef Jordi Artal’s, Cinc Sentits in Barcelona is hands down possibly the best meal I have ever eaten.  There was not one single detail that was off for the entire 3 hour experience.  Honestly, probably the best meal I’ve ever had.  I think there will be a longer blog post about this, so I don’t want to spoil that.  But in the meantime, if you are in Barcelona, save your pennies and go there.

I don’t know what the worst would be.  There has been incredible food all over.  It’s almost like I haven’t been able to find something I don’t like.  I guess I’ll have to go back to that Odessa breakfast.

 

 Cinc Sentits

Cinc Sentits

What has been most surprising about your trip following the red dot?

Amy said...

Probably how comparatively inexpensive some places (Georgia, northern Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine) are for Americans.  We had incredible food in all of those places for far less than we expected.  (At our hotel in Baku, a huge room service breakfast was less than $10!)     

Keith said...

My energy.  I’m so genuinely interested in the activities of the next day I go to bed and get up and keep going.  It has been a few years since my day-to-day has been that interesting and motivating for me.

What has been most difficult about your time following the red dot?

Amy said...

I’m still not good at working in time for exercise or reading — there’s too much to see and do!  And the heat for most of the month got old.     

Keith said...

Eating out more than in.

What are you most excited about in the next month?

Amy said...

Seeing friends when we’re in Chicago, wearing different clothes, and getting a chance to reflect on the last two months before we take off again!

Keith said...

We have a lot of work to do in the month of September.  Projects for clients we have been working on for months, and several trips for work as well.  A lot to get done.

Favorite place to photograph in month 2?

Amy said...

Chernobyl, in the Ukraine.  Even though some of the things you see have been staged (our guide described them as “art projects”) we were able to get off the beaten track enough that we saw things that didn’t seem to have been set up for tourists.  And just being able to see what is left there is such a privilege.

Keith said...

Chernobyl, Ukraine.

Favorite photograph so far?

Amy said...

I loved making videos of the mud volcanos (a real thing!) in Azerbaijan.

Keith said...

Still don’t have one.  Maybe I’ll take it tomorrow?

 

 Chernobyl II, Ukraine

Chernobyl II, Ukraine