April 14, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve been meaning to update the Postcard Valet FAQ for a long time; lots of people keep asking us what our favorite place was and now I have something to point to!  This’ll go up on it’s own page, too, but I realized it serves as good summary of certain parts of our trip and thought I might make a post about it as well.

If you have a question that’s not on here, let me know.  Be happy to add something to the list.

Post Travels FAQ

Index of questions:

Q: How long did you end up traveling?

Q: Where are you now?

Q: What are your plans for the future?

Q: What was your favorite place/tour/country/thing out of all your travels?

Q: What was the craziest/most disgusting thing you ate?

Q: Which countries did you visit?

Q: Which country was your favorite?

Q: What was your least favorite country?

Q: What was the most dangerous thing you did?

Q: Did you have any trouble while traveling?  Was anything stolen?

Q: How much did you spend?  Were you able to stick to your $100/day budget?

Q: Did you ever get sick on the trip?

Q: Are you still married?  How has being together 24/7 for 18 months affected your relationship?

Q: Do you miss it?  Does life seem boring now that you’ve slowed down?  Did you burn out on travel?

Answers:

Q: How long did you end up traveling?

A: Almost exactly 18 months.

Although… that answer doesn’t really tell the whole story.  In our minds, there are three or four distinct parts to our time away from home:  Crossing the US and Canada, staying with family, active travel, and living in Australia.  Continue Reading »

April 11, 2012

An Invitation to Visit Australia

As I mentioned previously, Oksana and I have decided to spend a year living and working in Australia.  However, we’re trying very hard to replenish some of the savings we burned through traveling around the world, so playing the tourist isn’t something we’re planning to do while we’re in Brisbane.  Though it’d be a shame to live an entire year in Australia and not see anything outside of Brisbane…

So we’re making plans.  Plans which may involve you, especially if you’re one of our friends or family members (or pretty much anyone on our Facebook or Twitter list!)

Although I haven’t really had the opportunity (yet!) to share what happened on our Galapagos trip – the one where we invited friends and family to come along with us – both Oksana and I viewed it as a big success.  We had 5 people join us in Ecuador; a good friend, his cousin (who we’d never met at all), and a family of three I barely knew in passing.  We all hit the streets of Quito, found ourselves a luxury cruise at a reasonable price, flew out to the islands, and spent a week together on a boat.  Afterwards, our friend stayed an extra week with us in Ecuador, where we took him on a day trip into the jungle.  I think it’s safe to say a good time was had by all.

Solo travel has its own rewards, but there’s something immensely satisfying about sharing adventures with other people.  For that reason, I’m not only glad I got to travel the world with my wife, but I’m also thankful that other people joined us, as well.

I know that many people consider Australia to be on their “bucket list,” that is, a place they want to visit before they die.  If you’re one of them, why not consider joining us Down Under later this year?

Continue Reading »

April 9, 2012

Living Down Under

When we were planning our trip, it was only supposed to be a year-long thing.  July 1 to July 1.  We were both hoping that our jobs could be held for us, but in my case, that didn’t work out.  I’m glad.  We would have lost out on a world of opportunities if we’d had to rush back to the daily grind.

Just after we left the United States, we heard about one of those opportunities from a fellow traveler in Ecuador.  He (or she; wish I could remember who it was!) told Oksana about Australia’s Work and Holiday Visa program.  Basically, if you’re 30 or under, you can apply to live and work in Australia for up to a year.  I was over the age limit, but Oksana was both qualified and intrigued.  It seemed like a risky proposition at the time – spending almost 3 days worth of our travel budget on the application fee – but ultimately we decided to give it a go.  Maybe, if everything worked out just right, we’d be able to extend our trip.

Two or three days later, she received confirmation that her visa had been approved.  It stipulated that she must enter Australia by December 28th, 2011.  Perfect!  We had a full year to decide if we were going to use it.

By the time we were in Thailand, we had met many Australians while traveling and most of them had suggestions about where to stay and how to go about finding work.  During our month of downtime in Phuket, Oksana started the job hunt, mostly using Seek, Australia’s job search site.  She sent her resume to dozens of recruiters and companies and collected an impressive set of rejection letters.  We learned that companies don’t often give interviews to applicants who can only work a maximum of 6-months in one place…

Getting her resume out there wasn’t a complete waste of time, however.  She had a least one Skype conversation with a recruiter that specialized in auto-industry work.  He confirmed what we already knew: Just after Christmas (which was when we were planning to arrive) was literally the worst time of year to be looking for a job.  Nobody’s hiring during the summer holidays.

He asked her to contact him when we arrived, though.  Maybe something would turn up.
Continue Reading »

April 4, 2012

PV Infographic 3: Transportation

I usually put a picture up at the top of every blog post, but I think I’ll place this one down below the text.  I’m sure you’ll understand why when you see our next infographic.

This one’s all about transportation.  Specifically, the time we spent traveling from place to place on our trip.

It was easy enough for me to collect this data.  I spent a lot of time on my iPhone on those long bus rides.  Watching movies, reading books, and listening to podcasts; it really wasn’t such a bad time.  At some point during the long ride, I’d remember to jot down the beginning and end points in the Notes app and, once the trip was done, I’d count up the hours we’d spent on the road and jot that down, too (rounding to the nearest quarter hour.)  While I did the same for trains, boats, and minivans, I neglected to write down much of anything about our airline travel.  I had to recreate that data by digging through archived emails for the itineraries.

For obvious reasons, I didn’t keep track of any travel within the cities and towns we visited.  Taxis, metros, city buses and the like were too frequent and too short to worry over.  To that end, what you see below is only the intercity travel.

I’ve been looking forward to totaling up these numbers and sharing them with you ever since we took an epic 34-hour bus ride in Africa.  I knew the numbers would be impressive, but even I didn’t expect the total we came up with.  Look at that first number:  737 hours and 45 minutes of travel.  That’s 30.74 days we spent moving from one place to another.  One entire month of our 13-month, ’round-the-world trip was spent sitting in a bus, plane, train, boat, or automobile !  (Over two weeks of our lives spent in bus seats alone!!)

It kind of boggles the mind.

(Make sure to click the image to see a larger version.)

Postcard Valet Infographic 03, Transportation

March 25, 2012

Thoughts on Singapore

While on the bus from Malaysia to Singapore, I reflected on all the Southeast Asian countries we’d traveled through.  Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, in that order.  I realized that (excepting a small backwards step to Cambodia) we had been easing ourselves back into the first world with every new country we visited.

Once I started to look for them, I found arguments to support this theory everywhere.  Bathrooms steadily improved, from bucket-flushing in Laos to modern toilets in Thailand and beyond.  Hotel keys changed from big, metal skeleton keys to RFID-enabled plastic cards.  Safe drinking water was more readily available; we could once again drink from the taps in our Singapore hotel.  Internet access speed increased and wifi hotspots, while more prevalent, were also more often locked down and monetized.  English in Laos was only found in hostels and travel agencies, but by the time we arrived in Kuala Lumpur it was the de facto standard.  In Singapore, we could watch the local news (a novelty for us!) because the major newspapers and television news broadcasts were all in English.

Perhaps the most obvious indication that we were climbing back up to U.S. standards was the lessening number of scooters on the road.  It was literally impossible to view any stretch of road in Vietnam, no matter how short, and not see a motorcycle somewhere.  There were fewer in Cambodia, fewer still in Thailand.  By the time we arrived in Singapore, it was almost all cars again.

Anyone who has traveled extensively knows that reverse culture shock is a very real thing.  Setting aside the psychological problems that some travelers cope with after being in a third-world country long enough (being unable to share experiences with friends and family because they’re don’t care about or, conversely, are jealous of them; difficulty readjusting to “the daily grind,” etc.), there are many surprises – some good, some bad – waiting for you when you return home.  Toilet paper in public restrooms.  Drivers sticking to their lanes.  People showing up to appointments on time.  Having to make hundreds of choices in a grocery store.  High prices.  The constant barrage of advertising.

Personally, I’ve noticed it always takes me at least a week to stop mentally preparing my approach to each and every person in public.  How do I translate my question into Spanish?  What gestures can I make if they don’t understand me?  Shut up, brain!  I’m back in the States!  I can just ask in English!

Continue Reading »

March 23, 2012

PVX: McDonald’s in Singapore

The final McDonald’s — country number 29! — in Singapore.   Our video record of eating at the restaurant chain sort of ended with a whimper; the signature meal was the same as in Kuala Lumpur, so we didn’t get to try anything new and exotic.  Come to think of it, the most memorable thing about it was that it was Christmas day and some of the cashiers had on Santa hats.

As I mention in the video, Oksana and I already ate at an Australian McDonald’s in 2008, so even though we’re going to be living in Brisbane for the year, it’s not like we’re in a hurry to take our camcorder down to “Maccas” (as they call it here.)  Still, you can bet we’ll probably record another video before we leave.  The McOz has a slice of beetroot on it!

March 16, 2012

PVX: McDonald’s in Malaysia

It had been awhile since we’d eaten at McDonald’s.  Neither Laos, Vietnam, nor Cambodia had the franchise, so we had to wait until our Southeast Asian loop was done before we could eat there again in Malaysia.  Wasn’t hard to find a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur; there was one right outside our hotel.  Oksana went for the Malaysian variation on fried chicken and I tried out the seasonal Prosperity Menu (I guess it only occasionally comes around, like the McRib back home.)  Mmmm…  I can still taste that black pepper!

Not much else to say, except that we saw something new and McDonald’s related around town.  Lots of cars had what looked like Golden Arches parking stickers on their windshields.  Turns out that signifies the driver is a member of the McDonald’s VIP Drive-Thru club, which, I guess, entities them to a small freebie once a month.  Don’t know what McDonald’s gets out of that, but judging by the number of stickers we saw, it seems like it’s a very popular club.

Continue Reading »

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Welcome to Postcard Valet

Postcard Valet is a travel blog and video podcast by Arlo and Oksana Midgett. They just returned to Juneau, Alaska, after almost three full years of travel and living abroad. Many of their stories, photos, and videos have yet to be shared...

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Scariest Story:
Zanzibar is Dangerous

Favorite video (15 min):
Salar de Uyuni

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McDonald's in Every Country

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