The Hitches of a Life On the Road

Waterfalls, national parks, beaches, dolphins, glow worms. Mt. Doom Blah. Blah. Blah.

I’ve been posting on InstagramFacebook and Twitter etc. about how great this whole Gap Year adventure has been. But who wants to read about that, right?

What you really want to hear about are the unsavory aspects of picking up and taking life on the road for a year.  Time to offset the amazing adventure with some of the hitches.

This post is not for the weary or those easily grossed out!

  • I have been washing my underwear in some pretty sketchy places – think art gallery bathrooms and rivers. And yet, there are days when, I swear, you could still get a sourdough starter ball going in my underwear. I miss my BOSCH washer and dryer. I miss watching Rob using the BOSCH washer and dryer to wash my underwear.

World of Wearable Art Museum has great displays and bathroom sinks where you can wash your gitch.

  • There is a smell on my body that, no matter how clean I, or my laundry, are, it never seems to go away. It’s just the peril of the kind of traveling we’re doing. We’re hiking into some pretty remote areas. (The most pristine places on earth are usually only accessible by foot; the second you install a car park somewhere, the beauty gets ruined by drive thru tourism.) This means there are no granite bathrooms with rainwater showers and lemon-ginger soap. If you’re lucky there’s a waterfall or stream you can jump into, otherwise it’s another sponge bath with a pack of baby wipes.

  • Our rental car (which we’ve had for the two months we’ve spent in New Zealand) doubles as a laundromat, grocery store, fridge, change room and basement. We are thinking of holding a garage sale in our car before we leave on Saturday to get rid of all the shit we’ve somehow accumulated. Coffee plungers, duvets, stuffies, books.

  • On the topic of the rental car, we are also subjected to nauseating pop hits during all day car rides because our 5 year old deems herself to be an up and coming Taylor Swift. If you try and change the station when you think she’s sleeping, her head bolts upright and she calls you a dirty dumpster ditch mama for daring to deprive her of a One Republic song.

  • DECISION OVERLOAD. This is an actual, serious condition. We have to make a dizzying amount of decisions every single day. I used to just have to decide whether I had time to stop for a flat white on my way to work. Which swimming lessons do I enroll the kids in? Do I feel like a Pinot or a Malbec tonight? These days it seems like we’ve been faced with 600 fairly important choices – before it’s even lunch. Which route do we take? Where are we staying? How do we fix the Thermarest? Is that in the budget? Do we need a VISA to get into the next country? What? I was supposed to get the VISAS? Where the f*%k are the swimsuits? How do I get this smell off me?

  The kids really wanted to go to a waterslide park they found in the guide book. (Note to self: don’t let thelittle buggers ever get hold of the guide book). Alas, we indulged them because they’ve indulged us and done a LOT of hiking.  They’d rather eat the sourdough in my underwear than do another hike.

 When we got to the water park entrance it turned out it was a water park and an amusement park.  Theamusement rides doubled the price and our time spent there. Of course, kids being kids, they wanted  to do both. Time-wise, budget-wise we hadn’t planned for it. How much more is it? When are you open  until? Can Shorty Pants Isla even get on half of these rides? 

 I don’t know.

I don’t know.

I don’t know.

The woman at the desk looked at me curiously.

I’m sorry, we’re on this trek around the world, and we have to make so many choices every single day. I’ve hit a wall. I’m sorry. I just don’t know

 I. Just. Can’t. Make. Another. Decision. I looked at her helplessly, while the kids tugged and pleaded at my arms.

She then handed me four full-access wristbands to the entire park –all for half price.

Have fun, she said.

Turns out she took pity on me and gave us her staff discount. It wasn’t the money— we’ve budgeted for things like this; but we are on the road for a year, so it was having to decide, on the spot, with a huge line of people forming behind me, if we deemed this to be one of the “treat” days.It is exhausting and daunting to be constantly hit with so many choices on an daily basis.

  • So far, from what I can tell, there seem to be no pedicures on this trip? Or estheticians. (Don’t even get me started on the kinds of places I’ve had to perform self-waxing services. The WOW bathroom stalls were too small.) I can’t tell you how forward I am looking to Southeast Asia – aka – land of cheap massages and piranha pedicures. Sign me up.

  • There is no longer such a thing as “me time”. There is no hockey, or ballet or swimming lessons or 8-hour school day. We are the extra-curricular activities, the education system, the parents, the enforcers, the playmates. It is pretty much game on 24/7. When the kids go to bed Rob and I get some time to hang out and have a drink which involves planning the next leg of the trip-- also known as what the hell are we doing tomorrow and complain about our kids. I rarely get moments “alone” inside my head – which some may argue is a good thing. I skulked out of the tent at 5 am just to write this blog post.

Kids doing a little road schooling. Not a bad classroom!

  • I miss my dishwasher, coffee maker, stove, and supply of wine so much that I’m thinking about sending them postcards.

My kitchen back home that I miss dearly!

  • We have had to work out of the most interesting make-shift kitchens – some have been quaint, outdoor, shared affairs. Other times it’s been two milk crates upholding a piece of particle board where our portable gas burner precariously balances.

We might be cooking the world’s freshest fish in a torrential downpour, with no shelter. Living out of a cooler, or chilly as they are called here, really loses its appeal after a while! Our cheese and lamb inevitably tastes like cooler water.

  • I really miss family and friends. If you’re reading this right now, I am probably talking about you. It’s that simple. I’m steeped in adventure, but missing people. But ultimately, I’m lucky enough to have both.

  • The views and the constellations have been spectacular, but after two months I am sick to death of living out of a tent. Thank goodness we abandon the nylon hotel and head to the South Pacific in a few days, because if we didn't I would have taken Oskar's scissors and cut it into 600 pieces. Out of the past 60 days, 50 have been spent in a tent and only 10 in lodges and B&Bs. Everytime we drive past a hotel, Oskar longlingly points out the vacancy signs. It's very cute and sad all at the same time. That said, this has been a pretty stellar way to experience gorgeous New Zealand.

The view from the tent, prior to me cutting it up. 

So, a gap year and a trip around the world is a inspiring, life-changing thing to do. I wouldn’t exchange this experience for anything! But, holy shit, it does not come without challenges and sacrifices. I’ve only touched on a few because my daughter is now awake and she’s just drawn a clown mouth on herself with a sharpie marker. Time to kick off another day of adventure. Rock on.