So this will be a fairly massive update as I have not posted in quite some time. There was something about Konstanz, and more specifically our pace, that left me uninterested. What I learned, overall, is that on this trip, one month in a single location is too long. It too short to really integrate into a location and make friends, but is too long to perpetuate a sense of curious wondering; basically I lost my itch to explore and didn’t replace it with anything. Sounds kind of depressing, so I’ll focus mostly on the good stuff.
The family had fun, I had fun. We ate well, we started exercising again which is surprisingly difficult to do when every travel day deals new schedules. We didn't get int he car and drive to local area attractions as much as I think we could have. Parking was somewhat challenging, so when we got a parking stop I think we were reluctant to give it up.
Konstanz was beautiful and while it didn’t have stellar German food, it had a wide variety of fantastic dining options: Vietnamese, Chinese, French, Turkish, Döner, Sushi, Italian, etc. Everything was walkable and we ended up going to the grocery store almost daily to buy just enough ingredients to cook dinner for that evening. We likely cooked it home four days per week.
The highlight for me was a bolognese that Zoe made that took four hours of cooking. We had it on a simple spaghetti and it was truly divine. We rushed it to four hours (10pm was as late as everyone was willing to wait) and the unused portion stayed on the stove for 3 more hours... that was doubly divine the next morning.
Our last night there, we went out and had sushi on a conveyor belt, it was fantastic and Gianna was highly appreciative; she’d been without sushi for so long she was starting to twitch.
Oktoberfest began while we were in Konstanz and right here on the border of Switzerland and Germany, they throw a very nice Swiss/German Oktoberfest and it is wonderful. The kids like the rides, the food and the atmosphere and Lisa and I enjoyed the beer, the food and the atmosphere. German beer should always be served in 1L steins.
My friends back home know I like me some Schnitzel; it is one of my favorite foods. It it kind of funny because it isn’t fancy, it really isn’t amazingly flavorful, and it is drop-dead simple in both preparation and presentation; it’s like the adult version of a kids chicken goujon (nuggets) meal. All that said, I like it a lot and there is plenty of it around the Konstanz area. I’ve been thinking quite a bit on whether I like veal or pork schnitzel more and I’ve decided that some questions just don’t need answers.
The airbnb host claims we did some cosmetic damage to the walls, however that damage was preexisting; we’ll see where that ends up. Aside from that somewhat sour finishing note, the apartment was quite nice and in a great location. The TV was small, but had an HDMI port so we were able to watch movies and shows and American football, which we only did about twice per week.
A lot of my friends think that I’m on a year long vacation. I will say that worrying about the budget and logistics of this fast-paced trip and the safety of three kids in about thirty five different countries is far from relaxing. Most of the things people do preparing for and concluding a trip to another country (budget, lodging, reconciliation, currency exchange, legal issues, immigration issues, etc.) are done before and after the trip. In our case, we have to do a significant part of this while on the road. So, while I had intended to stop working to focus entirely on the trip, that did not happen and we’re doing the trip and I am working at the same time.
I did a lot more work in Konstanz than I'd done at any other previous stop. The Internet there was annoyingly unreliable, but passable for work. I worked more than eight hours per day quite often. I re-learned quite a bit about telecommuting as I’ve not done that extensively in a while. I miss in-person interactions with people and I miss the team back home. They’re awesome and it is nice to assist from many thousands of miles away, but the types of interactions I enjoy most are lost. I suppose it would not be so bad if I had a vibrant social life here in Konstanz, but it wouldn’t completely fill the void.
I mentioned above that logistics are a lot of work. Lisa and I didn’t use a travel agent for the trip (aside from our upcoming three-week stay in India), and given how things are planned, you can’t really plan things a year in advance. That means the second half of the trip was an idea, not a plan. In Konstanz, we had to make those ideas into actual travel, lodging and activity plans. Honestly, activities don’t always get planned. With five people, travel and lodging must be planned well in advance.
We’ve booked our second half macro tickets and updated our online itinerary (for those that follow along). What’s a macro ticket you ask? I made it up, so I should explain. The “around the world (RTW) tickets” with most airlines limit you to a certain number of segments and total mileage. We’re using StarAlliance which limits to 16 segments and 39k miles. So, if you are doing a lot of country hoping, you find other ways to get from point A to point B inside a tight landmass to save segments. An example is that our current RTW tickets take us from Singapore to Thailand to New Zealand, but we’re visiting Cambodia and Vietnam as well. So, we booked our own separate tickets (what I call micro tickets) from Bangkok, to Phuket, to Siem Reap, to Phnom Phen, to Ho Chi Men, back to Bangkok.
We’ve book our next round of macro tickets from Houston to Dulles (via Ecuador, Costa Rica, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong and Istanbul). Now to backfill all the micro-tickets and lodging. It’s incredibly time consuming and requires a good Internet connection to make progress.
We’re going to a lot places on this trip that have great shopping, but we’re really not a shopping sort of family. I suppose if we see something amazing that could be a home furnishing then we could buy it and send it home, but so far that hasn’t happened. The idea of buying “stuff” and not shipping it home seems insane; why would we want heavier packs?! However, I broke that rule. Through a variety of circumstances, which I will get to in a moment, I want to take pictures that could potentially be printed enlarged to “quite large” sizes and I truly missed my DSLR from home. I love the Sony RX100III, but there’s something I like much more about a DSLR. I had an old Canon 20D at home and some beautiful glass, but I didn’t bring it because I though it too cumbersome. However, as we move toward more exotic places I’ve never been (Africa, India and Southeast Asia) I’ve been feeling the need for my DSLR.
Now that all modern cameras are digital, it really is a “go new or go outdated in a year,” so I did just that. I bought a Canon 5DS R and it’s nuts! I changed from my should-sling day back to an actual day backpack and ultimately added about seven pounds to my overall load. A few of the pictures I’ve taken have left me quite satisfied with my decision. A good photographer can take beautiful pictures with almost any camera… a good photographer I am not. I believe I’ve just upped my chances and preliminary empirical evidence is substantiating that.
Diving in a bit more personally than I usually do, Lisa and I are more of a team now that we have ever been.
People often joked that I’d return from the trip divorced. I suppose that should be put in context. It wasn’t a statement about me or Lisa or the two of us in particular, but more of a general statement of a married couple that is habitually used to so much individualize time and purpose suddenly being joined at the hip for everything always. And, reading that sentence to myself, I actually understand why they brought it up… that could end badly. When we left I wasn't sure we'd always get along swimmingly, but we've been through some tough stuff and I was not seriously concerned about falling apart.
Now, everyday we interact and I remember why I fell in love with her, why I wanted to marry her, and no matter where I am in the world I feel at home with her near me. She is absolutely my other half.
Well, we left Konstanz for Seville via Italy, but that’s another post.