Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Post 200, Time to Look Back – Erich, Alrica, Carver, and Syarra

This is our 200th post on the Extravelganza411 blog. We thought that as long as we are accepting this base 10 supremacy of society, it would be a good time to look back on everything we have been through so far.

This is a joint post, with input from everyone about things that we should recall. And we'll start with Extravelganza411 in numbers!

We left Lancaster, PA on August 14, 2015. We traveled within the USA and then abroad. Since that date, we have been on five continents in 20 countries (if you include the USA). The graphs below show you the percentage of our time spent in each continent, and in each of the countries. Note: Vatican City is grouped within Italy, as our time there was not enough for it to really show up as much of anything on the graph. Besides, we didn't spend the night. Though the Pope asked repeatedly if we would, but we didn't want to impose.
The blog itself has had 20310 views in that amount of time. Of these, 16762 are from within the United States. The second highest number of views comes from France with 973. And then, pretty surprisingly, the third highest is from Russia with 333. I'm not sure how we are getting word to Russia, but apparently someone there checks out the blog.

Of the authors, Erich has been the most prolific, followed by Carver, then Syarra, and then Alrica. (And then our one guest blog post from Erich's mother, Joni, reflecting on her stay with us in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.)

Perhaps Alrica has contributed the fewest posts of the four of us, but hers are the best viewed posts. The most viewed post on our blog was the very first one, Getting Out the Door, with 190 views. It talks about starting the adventure and the difficulties in getting the momentum going.

The second most viewed post is also by Alrica, titled Chondrosarcoma, and it has 186 views. This one is about Alrica's unexpected bout with a very rare form of cancer, discovered as we were making our plans to leave.

Finally, Erich cracks into the top three with the third most viewed post, Or Not. This post, with 174 views, tells of the sequence of events in Chiang Mai, Thailand that led to us being (thankfully) kicked out of a house sitting engagement we were supposed to be beginning that day

The least viewed, if you are curious, is Man of Stone by Erich with only 11 views. But in fairness, it was posted less than 24 hours ago, so it hasn't had enough time to make its mark

Or Not is a pretty short title, having only six characters (counting spaces.) But it is not the smallest. That honor belongs to Carver with his post whose title has only three characters. It is called UCH about his work as the Ultimate Chicken Handler at a farm where we house sat in France.

Three posts have only four characters, which you would think would be good for a win, but no. They are Fear by Alrica, Yop! by Carver, and San' by Erich.

The longest title of any post unquestionably goes to Carver. It is The Things I Thought About After Posting My Last Blog Post (including clarifications, and the night before the flight, and yesterday) with a whopping 133 characters. I would tell you what it tells the tale of, but it tells the tale of so many things, you should probably just read it.

Carver has a propensity for long titles as both the second and third longest titles are also his posts. They are The very important person who I can never respect again because the first time I saw him, he had a pigeon on his head with 117 characters, and South Gaul Pop Quiz and Further Plans and my Excitement about Going to Hungary and Why it Isn't all of Gaul with 107 characters. 

While these numbers have been interesting, one set of numbers has been on our minds a lot: money. It has been Alrica's job to keep track of our budget, which we are doing surprisingly well on. Our initial budget was $3000/month. This needs to include things like storage of our stuff in Lancaster and continuing deposits into our retirement account so it is really closer to $2300/month. For the first few months, Alrica kept track of every penny that we spent trying to get a sense of how we were spending our money, dividing it into categories of housing, food, supplies, travel, and communication. This wasn't so bad in South Africa where much of our payments were by credit cards, but by morocco, which is an entirely cash economy, every glass of orange juice became a challenge to remember and record. By the time we got well into Europe, budgeting switched to a monthly function of keeping track to ensure we weren't badly overbudget.  

Many of you might be surprised that a family of four can live off of $2300/month or roughly $75/day. It helps to live slowly. Most of our accommodations have been airbnb's which we get at either a weekly or monthly rate depending on how long we will be staying there. We have used this service 16 times. When it fits our needs, we try to housesit. Housesitting is a service where we stay in someone's home and take care of their pets but no money is exchanged in either direction. We have enjoyed getting to know our hosts, and love playing with their pets. The financial upside is that it is free accommodations from which to explore an area. Travel is our second biggest cost. We try to take buses, public transportation, ferries, etc. where appropriate but flights inside Europe and inside Asia are surprisingly affordable, sometimes more than trains. Our best deal was Berlin to Paris for $52.20 for the whole family, including our two checked bags, followed closely by Bangkok to Chiang Mai for $68. Our 3rd biggest expenditure is food. In France, at $447.85 for groceries alone, this was our biggest expenditure since even the grocery stores were terribly expensive and we cooked almost every meal. In places like Chiang Mai, a full meal was between $1-2 per person so we ate out almost exclusively, just keeping a stock of peanut butter and jelly for those times when it rained and nobody wanted to leave the apartment. Finally, the theft of our backpack, which only had clothing and eyeglasses, in South Africa and cell phone in Morocco cost us $996.88 but left us more careful and cautious.

But we have amassed many things besides just numbers. (This is not in any way meant to diminish the importance of numbers, of course!) Here's a helpful collection. We have found the two most useful phrases to know in any nation you visit are “Thank you” and “Hello”. So we have compiled a table of how to say each of those in the foreign countries we have visited.
Useful, right?
The next most useful thing to know how to say is the numbers. See why we didn't want to diminish their importance.

On our journey we have discovered many amazing foods. Each country has its own specialties, and many of these we do not know how to make ourselves. But there are some we have learned to cook.
  • Pap from South Africa
  • Meatball Tagine from Morocco
  • Crepes from France
  • Tom Kha Kai (Coconut Milk Soup with Chicken and Galangal Root) from Thailand
  • Phơ Bô (Beef Noodle Soup) from Vietnam

In addition to these we have written several posts about foods we have encountered.

We've also written about culture, traffic, methods of travel, birthdays, meeting people, seeing nature and wildlife, seeing cultural sites, getting haircuts, shopping for groceries, and fire hydrants.

We've had highs: the gorgeous sunsets in Greece, the many African animals in Namibia, the Kat Rim Khan night market in Thailand, and our introduction to marsupials in Australia.

We've had lows: Our backpack stolen in South Africa, the hotel room with bedbugs in Spain, the tatami mats in Japan, and, well, we don't yet have one for Oceania.

And most of all, we've definitely learned. We've learned about geography, history, religion, and culture. But most important, we've found out that people everywhere are decent, friendly, and kind. They want a safe world for themselves, opportunities for their children, and peace between all. No entire group is bad, and no individual is perfect. But we're all pretty good.

And if we learned nothing but that, it would be enough to justify the journey.

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