Expectations Revisited

Sitting in the Columbus airport at the beginning of our trip, we put together a list of things we expected to happen. Looking back at the list now, we were pretty accurate with things. A lot of what we thought would happen – did, and some things that we couldn’t have expected also happened. So here’s a little look back, starting with the original list of expectations. (Post trip comments are in italics)

  • Both: Expect to be sore from carrying our heavy bags around. (Day one and this has already proven true) We got used to carrying them, but that doesn’t mean we liked it. We also picked up a lot of other stuff that we didn’t start with that we lugged around – mostly groceries. The worst walk with bags was the mile and a quarter walk on our way out of Rome when we had a couple bottles of leftover wine, a few bottles of leftover beer, and a couple liters of water – and it was around 100 degrees. So…much…sweat.  At the end, throwing stuff away and leaving things behind gave us a literal appreciation for the phrase “a weight off your shoulders.”
  • Jenny: Expect London’s weather to be equally or more crappy than the food. (Day one, and this has also already proven true)  We did have rain both times we were in London, but it was also really nice the second time through. Traditional English food – can’t speak highly for that. London is like any big city that probably has more than its fair share of good restaurants, if you want to pay for it. 
  • We both expect to get lost, more than once, in multiple cities.  Of course we got lost. Worst moments – probably Jenny getting lost on her own looking for a bathroom in Venice, and Steve being totally and completely turned around while outside the walls of Vatican City. He still thinks the map was wrong. 

    Fez-Medina-map-November-2012

    “Don’t need a map, I got this”

  • We both expect this trip to be good training for our future run on the Amazing Race. It could happen, right? Heck yeah, let’s do it! Really though, traveling is a skill that gets better with practice. Things that were difficult in the beginning were easy by the end. We’ve done a practice round. :)
  • Jenny expects to get tan. Steve expects to get freckled. Jenny has some amazing feet tan lines from her sandals. Steve…. has freckles…
  • Other than our skydiving birthday, we expect these to be among our most memorable. Steve will be in Spain during his, Jenny will be in Nice, probably by a beach. We went to a Flamenco show in Madrid on Steve’s birthday and were on a rocky beach in Nice for Jenny’s. Definitely good birthdays. 
  • We expect to get sick of each other at some point. (Insert joke about being day one and this expectation already proving true). Despite never being apart for more than an hour at a time the entire trip, we never really got sick of each other. In the beginning there were some tense moments as we tried to find our rhythm in strange places. After a while you learn to recognize when one or both of you are stressed because you’re tired or hungry or lost and how to deal with that. 
  • Steve expects to get cranky at some point. (Yep, this happened in a crowded London bar that was too much for him to handle after running on 30+ hours with only an hour of plane sleep) See above. Don’t ask Steve questions when he’s tired and lost. 
  • Jenny expects to get homesick, to cry, and apologized ahead of time. (Day one, and we both miss our cats already. They probably already forget who we are…) We definitely missed the cats, especially by the end. For the most part we were moving around so much that we didn’t really have time to get bored (that’s when you get homesick). We Skyped with Jenny’s family several times, wrote emails, and kept up with each other’s worlds. We got to visit directly with Steve’s parents, so the homesick feelings never got quite as strong as we expected. 
  • Steve expects to spend way more money than we had planned. More, yes. Way more, nah, we did ok. We spent very reasonable amounts on lodging (thanks AirBnB), ate no more than one meal a day at restaurants, kept it to one major attraction per day, and didn’t buy lots of junky souvenirs. Transportation cost a lot more than planned and we’d do things differently if we had it to do over (more budget flying). 
  • Jenny expects to want to eat out way more than we should, and to get shot down by Steve.  See above. Food is horribly expensive if you have to eat at restaurants all the time. Factor in a weaker dollar against the euro and pound, and you can’t eat a simple lunch for less than $30-40. Grocery stores, home cooking, and street food kept the budget in line. 
  • Pizza and beer cures hanger.

    Pizza and beer cures hanger.

    Jenny expects to get hangry often (see above expectation)  We both got hangry a lot. After touring for hours we’d both be tired and hungry and fall into “What do you want? I don’t care, what do you want? I don’t care, what do you want?” We got better at just picking places by the end of the trip.

  • We expect these 11 weeks to fly by. Basically, yep. We often said “I can’t believe we’re already x weeks into the trip.” We moved around so much that there was always something new to do or see. We were getting tired by the last couple of weeks, but even then, it never seemed to drag. Especially after being back in the U.S., it seems like we were there and back in the blink of an eye.
  • We expect that we’ll want to do this again…   Travel, yes, but differently. We covered the major cities of western Europe, but we found that we enjoyed our time in the smaller cities like Seville and Brugge a lot. If we do another Europe trip, it’d be smaller towns where you’ve got more of a chance of running into locals instead of tourists. But we’ve done Europe. There’s a whole big world out there. We’ve never been to South America. Or southern Africa. Or southeast Asia or Australia. So many places to go!

And for some of the unexpected

  • Steve didn’t expect to slip in puke in Paris, get mildly electrocuted in Bordeaux, or have a bird poop on him at the Tower of London…
  • We didn’t expect to hate other tourists so much. Seriously – we could do an entire post on how to be a good tourist, because we saw lots of terrible ones.
  • We didn’t expect to get so annoyed with people trying to sell us stuff. If you visit tourist spots, just remember, you’re just a walking wallet to the business around. By our return trip to London, we would’ve given anything just to be able to walk down the street without somebody trying to get us into their shop or handing us a flyer for a restaurant. As sad as it is, we got trained to be rude to people this summer. If you make eye contact or are nice to people, they’ll prey on you.
  • We didn’t expect to drink so much beer and wine. It was cheap. In some restaurants, they wouldn’t give you tap water and wanted to charge 4 euro for a half liter of bottled water. Beer was cheaper, and you could buy not-terrible wine in stores for a few dollars a bottle.
  • We didn’t expect to eat so many sandwiches and pizzas. Being on the lower budget end, these things were everywhere. We didn’t exactly have the best diet while we were gone…
  • We didn’t expect to use our phone as we did. Steve took his iPhone, kept it on airplane mode, but used it to take pictures of all the maps, reservations, and directions for the summer. It wasn’t a perfect replacement for a live phone or a real map, but we would’ve had a much more difficult time if we hadn’t brought it.
  • Paris620130620050338We didn’t expect to deal with so many different and foreign compact appliances. Stovetops, mini ovens, microwaves, washers and dryers all in languages we couldn’t decipher. Pictograms aren’t universal, so the three wavy lines on a washer in Spain probably meant something different than the three wavy lines in Morocco. Cheers to us for not flooding or blowing up any apartments.
  • We didn’t expect to get stuck by so many doors and gates. Seriously. We felt like morons on many occasions.
  • We didn’t expect to have to hand wash laundry so many times. We tried to book places that had washers as much as possible, but they seemed to be one of the most commonly broken or missing appliances wherever we stayed. Hand washing sucks!
  • We didn’t expect to go through so many books. You have to do something during long train rides. We’d pick up new ones, leave old ones behind.
  • We didn’t expect to see so many people on crutches. There were people on crutches everywhere! At first we wondered if these were remnants of pre-vaccination polio epidemics or something, but somebody finally pointed out that we were in big cities where most people used public transportation. America probably has similar numbers of crutch using people, but they’re driving cars to the grocery store, not visible to us on the street.
  • We didn’t expect to be delayed by Mother Nature more than man. Seriously, Tarifa, can’t handle a little wind???
  • We didn’t expect to experience squat toilets. Curious? Google it.
  • We didn’t expect so many shops and restaurants in Italy to close for the entire month of August.
  • We didn’t expect to be so ready to work again. For better or worse, doing something of value (e.g. work) with your day is a good feeling. There comes a point during travel when the marginal benefit of seeing one more palace or one more painting just isn’t worth much. We were ready to come back, look for jobs, to feel productive, to get our new lives started in Ohio. … Not that we wouldn’t go on another long trip if the opportunity presented itself 😉raw