I stopped, took a breath, and let out a huge sigh. I was choked with the feeling that I have been running too fast, for too long and for no reason. Book one night here, two max… breakfast, walking tour, lunch, research places to go, watch sunset, eat dinner, edit photos, crash. Rinse and repeat. I was starting to feel like time was controlling me rather than the other way around, and I’m not proud of that. In the last three months I’ve written three blog posts. three. Jazmin and I have been to 13 different countries in that time frame, yet I have written nothing. We flew from Egypt to Greece and then made our way through the Balkans (Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia) and then separated for a week while I went to Germany and bought a camper van. We reconvened and drove from through Switzerland to France, and are now making our way through France to Luxembourg, Belgium and Amsterdam. All that aside I miss writing and updating everyone, it is part of what makes me happy so for the 20th time, no more extended breaks. Another big sigh of relief.
So, we’ve been busy on this side of the world. Let me try and break down the travels by a series of questions I have been asked on many occasions
You: What’s your favorite place?
Me: There isn't a place I wouldn't go back to, but I often lean towards South Africa as an all around amazing destination. Good food, cheap and amazing wine, plenty of activities (golf, hiking, safaris, bungee jumping, shark diving) and loads of history / diversity.
You: Where has the best food?
Me: Greece. I’ve been to Greece twice and I’ve had the best meal I can remember both times. It’s not all souvlaki and gyros (although they are amazing), but traditional eggplant dishes, stuffed tomatoes, grape leaves and the freshest ingredients.
You: How do you afford all of this?
Me: I sold a lot of real estate and saved a lot of money. I also sold my car, rented out my house and went from having a lot of bills to pretty much none. Seriously, I even suspended my phone contract for the next 6 months which saved me $90 a month. On the other end, I’m a perpetual budget traveler. Jazmin and I cook 90% of our meals, we shop at cheaper stores and we don’t buy anything that isn't absolutely necessary.
You: How many times have to been robbed?
Me: 0 and I plan to keep it that way. If you travel smart you can avoid 97% of danger. I have lost one phone and one go pro camera pretty much back to back, but that was over a year ago.
That pretty much sums up any questions most people would ask, but for the sake of getting information out there I’ll throw a couple more questions in that are worthy.
You (kind of): What’s in your bag?
Me: I have one duffel bag and one camera backpack so I’ll break it down that way. Duffel: 3 t-shirts, 1 long sleeve, 1 collared shirt, 2 tank tops, 2 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of swim trunks, 1 pair of black pants, 1 pair of hiking pants, 1 pair yoga pants, 4 pairs of boxers 4 pairs of socks, 1 travel towel, 1 hippy tapestry (picnic blanket/beach towel) 1 pair of nikes (which I’ve had for 5 years+), and some minimalist sandals (thanks Summer and Justin!).
Camera bag: Sony A7RII, 3 lenses, tripod, microphone, batteries, memory cards blah blah blah.
You: How do you do laundry?
Me: When I couch surf or Air BnB I often do laundry then. Otherwise I take it to a fluff and fold, but realistically it’s a lot less often than you would think. The trick is buying quality fabric that doesn't stink or wrinkle (see also: lululemon), and then just not wearing socks…or boxers…
So, my life is contained in one duffel bag, one backpack and one beautiful 1987 Transit Van. Oh, I almost forgot to introduce everyone to my new home, everyone meet Dan the CamperVan.
It has always been a dream of mine to travel Europe (or anywhere for that matter) on my own schedule and in my own van. Jazmin will attest that I spent every morning and night for about a month, looking for a suitable van. I finally found one and had my friend from Vegas call him (damn suspended phone, and thanks Joe!) and tell him I would be there in two days. Two days later, soaked in rain but excited I bought an american van, in Germany…strange I know. I paid $3,800 euros for the van but am sure I will make most if not more than that back when I sell it. I know, I know, how does that make me a budget traveler, buying a van. Well, you look at the price of hostels and hotels in Europe then factor in transport. Basically my expenses are gas and insurance, and I have complete freedom. Instead of a $40/day budget which is common here, we can get by on half of that, gas and insurance included.
My favorite thing about van life so far? Parking near the most beautiful scenery for free. One thing that took getting used to? Dan is a manual van and I was not an expert shifter (I’m a lot better after 1,200 km). Driving a (old) van is great because it really forces Jazmin and I to take our time. Hammer down in his fourth and highest gear Dan flies down the autobahn at roughly 110km/hour…. that’s right 66 mph down hill. We stopped driving on said autobahn and relished the slow pace on the back roads. I’m back to the speed of happy travel. The wheels are turning and the grin is growing with each castle, pasture and mountain range we pass.
I want to say thank you to everyone keeping up and reading the blog. The most incredible thing about this journey has been and always will be you guys. IF you guys have any questions you want to ask please, please leave me some in the comment section and I’ll make a habit of answering them in the next blog post.
-Joe + Jaz