Can you believe it has already been one month since I left for this trip?
The time has passed so incredibly quickly it is impossible to think that I am a quarter of the way through this tour of Europe. In that time I explored Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands. I got to set personal records like highest altitude, longest distance, and longest time on some incredible hikes. My faith in humanity was confirmed by generous, wonderful people. And remarkably the trip has gone nearly to plan! While Sweden lasted longer than I expected, the trains (for the most part) operated the way I had planned on, the cities and hikes I had hoped to see where all checked off, and the people I planned to reunite with had all been able to! I have seen and experienced a lot in the past month and below you will find some of my thoughts and feedback on my experience so far.
Where I Stand
I am in love with this trip. It is very difficult living such an inconsistent, disconnected, and spontaneous lifestyle but I am thoroughly enjoying it. The quick moving, early mornings, and night travel have gotten to me twice so far and I have gathered I can go for about two weeks before I need to give myself a time and place to hit the reset button and slow down for a day or two. In a weird way, the inconsistent lifestyle has become consistent for me. I have absolutely fallen into a pattern to accommodate living out of a pack, sleeping in a tent, and never being in one place for more than 48 hours. Just like I did at work, I have become a creature of habit despite myself! Its just instead of waking up 45 minutes before I have to be at my cubicle, I am waking up an hour before I need to be all packed and moving and rather then fumbling through three cabinets and my half of the fridge to see what I need from Kroger I open one plastic bag whenever I come across a grocery store front to see what I need for the day. The pattern is there to protect myself, I have realized. While I might always be waking up in new cities and off to do different things each day, I have grabbed onto the consistent aspects about each of those days and have created a structure. I have also gathered that two to three weeks is my perfect time for this kind of life. I can safely say that I feel much more comfortable operating out of a consistent homebase and this realization is a huge one for finding out what I want next. But I know if I am to continue to have these revelations I need to keep pushing the limits of my abilities and comfort, so thank goodness I have three more months (at least) to do so!
Whew. The most important part of my entire trip, the 70 litre pack that I will be living out of for the foreseeable future, has definitely been a major topic of the past month. When I got to Iceland I realized I had overpacked, when I got to Norway I realized that it was a major pain to have with me 100% of the time, and the insight I got to how well I packed is increasing everyday. Here’s a quick breakdown…
Size: 70 litres
Weight: 20-28 kilograms (44-60 pounds)
Items I Haven’t Used: shovel (this IS NOT A BAD THING, just means I havent had to dig my own poop hole or bury a body), hammock, Nike fleece, jeans, first aid kit, water purifier
Items that Have Saved My Ass: layer system (fleece, wind, water proof), tent repair kit (this IS NOT A GOOD THING)
Items I Used Less Than Expected: chacos, water purifier, camp stove, GoPro, headlamp
Items I Use More Than Expected: Windproof, walking sticks
Items I Consider Luxury/Not Absolutely Necessary: running shoes, hammock, half of my clothes including one of my fleeces, jackets, and jeans (although in longer dry spells between laundry and cooler weather I expect this to change), electronics
So in all, I would say I would leave 3 of my 6 shirts, 2 of my 5 socks, my jeans, the water purifier, shovel, and hammock if I had to repack my bag right at this moment. However, with cooler weather and larger trees in my near future, I expect this to change in the next month.
What a relief to know I made the right decision for transport. The pass has been an incredible resource and peace of mind for all of my traveling. The trains are on time, rarely crowded, drop me off in the middle of cities as opposed to airports that leave you on the outskirts, and my bag always has a space despite its awkward shape and size. The only downside of the pass is the expectation they set for the need of seat reservations, especially in Scandinavia. While it is clearly stated that long distance, popular, express, and/or night trains will be more likely to require a seat reservation the regulations and definitions each country puts on these isn’t clear. Every train I took in Sweden and Norway required a reservation of roughly $8 a train. This fee was roughly a twnth of the full ticket price. While nothing that will break the bank, it adds up quickly and was a cost I wasnt expecting to have as often. In contrast to Norway and Sweden, the trains I have recently been taking through Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium were all completely free for me. I just stepped onto thw train with my pass and everything was done. Here’s hoping that the pattern continues, although I hear France is another seat reservation hotspot.
Up to this point, I have been very happy with the way my body has performed and taken the rigors of this trip. The first few days were difficult getting used to the full weight of the pack but I was astonished how quickly my body adapted. Thank goodness for the half marathon trainings and intense, tracked weight lifting program I was obsessed with before coming. It definitely didn’t hurt leaving for this trip the strongest I have ever been. The radical change in diet has also been taken more or less in stride. Smaller quantities of admittedly healthier options due to limitstions from money, space, and circumstances have lead to quite the transformation. 12 pounds of transformation, to be exact. I stepped onto a scale in Malmö and, for the first time in years, am roughly 190 pounds! While I believe a lot of this is lost muscle mass from no longer having a daily lifting regimen, it is still incredible to see my body go through this change. I feel great and healthy with high energy levels so am not concerned at all by this weight loss. Id love to have some of my upper body strength and size back but my legs are stronger than ever and the thinning out of my neck and torso is evident even behind the month old beard I am growing.
Outlook on What Is Next
So far this trip has confirmed that I belong in a lifestyle that is dynamic, unpredictable, challenging, and physically demanding. While the pull I feel from my loved ones back in the States has me questioning the necessity to be abroad, I am still attracted to the idea of staying international for a few years. Everything from non-profit to tourism to graduate school to entrepreneurship is on my plate at the moment. I also have put a list of things I want out of my lifestyle and possible industries/professions I could do it in! So I will be doing research and outreach for all of those whenever I can! My outlook for the start of 2015 took a blow earlier this week when the Crete dive shop I was hoping to work for from January to June informed me that they wouldn’t be looking for me to start until April. While it is still something I would love to do, I had put a lot of my chips in being able to go straight there from my time in Israel and the news that I would have a three month gap is frustrating. But I have begun to explore other options, both in the States and abroad, and will keep you all notified as my search continues! Any and all connections and tips from you all is greatly appreciated! Seriously.