Friday, April 1, 2011

Today marks 8 months on the road!

I'm a little behind in my blog posts. While travel is much easier now that we're in Europe, we're constantly on the go whether sightseeing or moving from city to city which still requires time for planning. Also, the early spring weather has been mostly beautiful and we visited a lot of photogenic places in Italy, so I've had to spend a lot of time editing my photos!
Tuscan sunset
A few topics I intended to write about when we crossed the seven month mark in March were all fatigue-related. I will take a minute to expound on them now as well as to mention a couple of other personal challenges I'm currently facing.

Travel Fatigue
Every long-term traveler reaches a point where they start to lose interest. After you've seen so many great places, it's easy to get bored. Or, maybe bored isn't the right word, but you are less willing to make the effort (or spend the money, see below) to see ANOTHER museum, church, monument, ancient ruins, etc. You get tired of the hassles & constant planning. You get PHYSICALLY tired (also see below). And, while I personally don't get homesick -- you have to HAVE a home to feel that! ;) -- of course I miss my family & friends (also see below).
guess which ruins these are...
One way to combat travel fatigue is to stop somewhere to volunteer, work, etc. Whether for a week, a month, or even longer, there are usually plenty of opportunities if you know where to look. I think this is easier to do when you're traveling solo; for two people, unless both are in agreement about the timing & location, it probably means you're going to split up for awhile. Which leads me to the next topic...

Relationship Fatigue
With the constant focus on getting from A-to-B, making the most of each destination, staying safe & healthy, etc., it is all too easy to “forget” to nurture your relationship. Whether you’re traveling with a friend, partner or spouse, the same effort at frequent, honest communication about the status of your personal well-being AND your relationship must be made as if you were at home. After months of being with Greg practically 24/7, we've definitely started to get on each others' nerves. The same minor irritants that existed back home become major issues after months of nonstop togetherness. Yes, one solution is to travel apart for a little while, or even less drastic, to simply do different things during the day and get back together in the evening to share our experiences over a nice glass of wine or a beer. Greg & I have talked about this but have not been compelled to mandate it - YET!!!
at the end of the day, a glass of wine always helps!
Wallet Fatigue
This is a sensitive subject for anyone, whether traveling around the world or not. Over the past eight months I have personally burned through just shy of $30,000. True, a solid 30% (almost $10,000) of that was spent on plane & train tickets, travel insurance, vaccinations and visas BEFORE we ever left the U.S. We also coughed up $3600 per person for our 2-week East African safari and $2200 total for our Egypt tour. Plus we chose to visit several expensive places early on in our trip (Australia and Japan in particular) and spent "extra" money on special experiences in Turkey, Israel & Jordan. I have absolutely no regrets at this point, but my special travel bank account is almost wiped out and Greg is, by choice, footing the bill for the bulk of our travels in Europe.
picnic dinner in our hotel room in Venice - saving money by eating sandwiches & drinking cheap wine
Physical Fatigue
I have chosen not to reveal this publicly until now, but I have had severe pain in my right shoulder for well over one month. Of course, we've had a couple of minor illnesses and various body parts have been achy at different times on the trip as we're certainly putting some wear & tear on our not-so-young bodies. But Greg & I were in good shape before we started traveling and I think that has made a huge difference, along with good personal hygiene and my almost fanatic attempts not to pick up stray germs!
Greg is pregnant with backpacks!
Since we were in Rome for a full week, I decided I should see a doctor about my shoulder, as it has been hurting constantly and is starting to impact my overall enjoyment of the trip. I got referred to an English-speaking (actually American ex-pat) general practitioner by our travel insurance company. Dr. Spelar was great to talk to, but after a brief consultation he said I would need an MRI to get an accurate diagnosis. Luckily he works with a private medical facility called Villa Mafalda and I was able to get the MRI done within a couple of hours. Even luckier, the orthopedic specialist was performing surgeries that evening and took a quick look at my x-rays and immediately diagnosed bursitis. He even found time in between his other patients to give me a shot of Depo-Medrol directly into my shoulder.
a nice photo of us at Rome's Spanish Steps - but notice how I'm holding my right arm
I was in almost debilitating pain for the next 24 hours, but finally the medicine kicked in and I got a little relief (it didn't hurt that I also took some narcotic pain relievers!). I went back to see Dr Palombi (the orthodpedist) one more time before we left Rome and he gave me another injection. Unfortunately, the anti-inflammatory function of the medicine doesn't have much chance to help when I strap on my 13kg backpack and 7kg daypack the following morning! The bottom line is that the only way my shoulder is going to get better is if I let it rest. Not much chance of that while we're still traveling!

Family Update
Last but certainly not least, I want to mention that my maternal grandmother's health has severely declined in the past week, to the point where I've had to consider whether or not to go home to see her before she passes. I have kept in touch with her throughout our trip by sending pictures & messages to her Ceiva (a digital picture frame) as well as good, old-fashioned post cards. I knew that there was a possibility that anyone in my immediate family could fall ill or worse while we were traveling and that was one of many reasons I bought travel insurance. Unfortunately, the way the policy works is if you file a claim for expenses incurred to come home (whether for serious illness or for a funeral), then your policy ends the day you get home. You do have the option NOT to file a claim and thus pay for any cancellation fees and round-trip travel expenses out of your own pocket and thus still be covered until the actual end of your trip, but at this point in our travels, it wouldn't make much sense for us to come home and then immediately return to Europe.
my grandmother, Barbara Patterson, late last July, the last time I saw her before we left on our trip
After much emailing back & forth with my mom and heart-heavy discussions with Greg, we have decided to continue traveling for now, with the knowledge that I will ultimately have to make a decision WHEN to come home.

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