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Five weeks on the road
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2013-07-19 18:39:37 | Detroit, Michigan, United States
Keywords: budget, Itinerary, preparation
This is now officially my longest time outside 'home'. 35 days tomorrow and counting. During that time, I've done almost 5000 km on the road (mostly by bus), plus a few hundreds by walking in the cities. I've slept in 12 cities plus a ferry, been in a total of 3 Canadian provinces, in 7 different US states plus DC (if I count all my day trips), I've visited 5 UNESCO WHS, ruined a luggage and I learned about myself and the journey experience.

Another way of looking at it is that I just spent the 5 weeks of vacation I had per year at my old job :-)

Yes, I've seen great things already (like the Gros Morne park). I've also visited sites that weren't that spectacular but very touching (like the Grand Pré area). I've met people I would have never met otherwise and had various interesting experiences.

But I also had challenges and I had to re-adjust. First challenge was the weather. It was either rainy or very hot. I'm now leaving the heat wave zone, so it should be more comfy to explore the cities. Second challenge was my stupidity with my careless exposition to the sun and the resulting sunburns... that have bothered me a lot for at least a week, preventing me to fully appreciate my visits.

By experience, I now know why most full-time travellers do it slowly. Because it takes a lot of time to shop housing options. To give you an idea, just to shop for a 2-3 days stay in a city, it can take me up to 4 hours total. First, I contact local Mensa chapters to see if there is a SIGHT opportunity. I do the Mensa process first and way ahead of time due to the delay that system has. Then, I look on Couchsurfing. I find a few potential hosts, write good personalized requests and wait for answers. I also look on AirBnB and for hostels as alternatives in case I don't find a Couchsurfing host. Finally, if the departure date the next day and I still don't have any lodging (yes, it happened a few times already), my last resort is Hotwire.

So far, out of my 35 nights, here's the break down by accommodation type: university residences: 11 nights, Couchsurfing: 9 nights, Mensa SIGHT: 3 nights, AirBnB: 3 nights, Hostel: 2 nights, Hotel: 2 nights, Motel: 2 nights, Bed and Breakfast: 2 nights, Ferry: 1 night.

But you could say I could save by trying to book all nights in Couchsurfing. I'm not prepared to do that. First, there's the intimacy aspect. I've always lived alone and sharing space with someone in their own home isn't easy for me nor comfy. Also, Couchsurfing usually comes with a big trade-off in terms of mobility in and out of the house. This mobility factor is important when you're used to get up early and go take pictures or when the weather isn't good, or when you need to take a bus early in the morning, etc. Those two factors make Couchsurfing less desirable then one would think. You could spend 2-3 hours in search for a host on Couchsurfing, looking at their offering, their location, the transportation to get there, writing good personalized requests, etc... and receive no answer whatsoever.

Then, there's the transportation issue. I have to browse through different carriers and options to help me get the best deal.

Financially, it was more a hit than I expected. I knew I'd bust my budget on the first month because of various reasons: new to the lifestyle, high transportation costs in Canada, etc. But I did spend much more than anticipated. The important thing is that I know where the money went and why I overspent, so I can rectify for the following months.

First, I'm not prepared enough for the various stops I'm making, on many fronts. First, I need to reserve my transportation earlier than I do right now, to benefit from better prices. Second, I need to begin doing more Couchsurfing requests in a suitable time frame (2-3 weeks before my arrival in the destination city). I also need to use the transit time to do stuff... like read about the next stop, write some blog entries, etc. If I have wi-fi onboard, do some Couchsurfing requests, etc. I also need to put aside more time to write blog entries and plan my visits in the cities, especially since I'll soon visit almost only cities I've never been to.

The weather didn't help in terms of spending... since it was so hot lately, I had to buy lots of smoothies and other icy expensive drinks because water wasn't doing the trick in those circumstances. Buying a $5 smoothie cools down for a while, but it also takes the money away for a meal. On the meal budget, I'm usually doing pretty good spending way less than the $20 planned, including road snacks. But I'm also trying to switch to a 2-meal regiment... having only breakfast and a meal in mid afternoon, plus a snack at bed time. So far, it has been working okay, my stomach reacting strangely sometimes. When possible (if a fridge is available to me) and I stay 3 days or more at a location I buy a box of cereals and a bottle of milk to use as both breakfast and bed time snack. That's a great way to save money. When no fridge is available, I use granola bars as bed time snacks and to keep my fibres count up.

I've begun to buy two tickets on long bus transits when the price is low... to ensure I'd have the bench for myself... and have room to use my laptop, etc. That will allow me to be more productive and be more prepared. It's a bit more expensive.... but I'm still trying to adapt to the lifestyle and find my own rhythm. I will have night buses runs soon... so I'll save on lodging by sleeping on the bus getting there.

So, overall, I'm okay with this summary after one month on the road. I'll adjust and change some elements along the way, and that's normal. Even though I was well prepared on all aspects, nothing can fully prepare yourself before you hit the road. I got no major bad surprises... just a matter of time management.


Related posts:
Itinerary and finances
5 months on the road
First week in Mexico
3 Months on the roads
Two months on the road

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