Taking Stock: 200 Days on the Road

Posted by on Oct 23, 2014 in Taking Stock | 25 Comments

200 days on the road

We have made it. 200 days on the road. 4800 hours of travelling, exploring and living in 16 countries. More than 12000 km of rocky roads, smooths highways, dirt paths and wooden bridges. We have slept in about 97 different beds, some soft, some hard, some bedbug-free, others outside under the stars. We have ridden on about 49 buses, 15 mashrutkas, 8 trains, 6 jeeps, 4 bicycles, 2 donkeys and a horse.

We have eaten our weight in rice, consumed about 33 bowls of noodles and way too many potatoes. We have crossed mountain passes of 4800m and dwelled at one of the lowest land depressions on earth. Since our last 100 days on the road, we have bumped our way through the “Roof of the World” in Tajikistan, enjoyed the capital of Kyrgyzstan, whizzed through Kazahkstan and finally find ourselves closer to our destination in the Middle Kingdom.

6 months on the road feels like so much more and nothing at all. We have learnt about places we knew nothing about, already-high curiosity levels further provoked. I have discovered cultural aspects to admire, practices I cannot accept and re-evaluated the values I hold dear. It has made me appreciate every day how I have been raised as a woman and above all the faith that has been placed in me, allowing me to “dream big”. The world is our oyster and this journey has done so much to show me how lucky we are to be able to truly believe this. The freedoms that we have been given, fought for by those before us.

China has demonstrated how much it has changed and how much it hasn’t. The barriers more hidden, the people seemingly happier, restrictions in life made up for by consumerism and the chance to “get rich”. It is still loud and full of life. The understated elegance of Iran and the subdued sadness of Central Asia, contrasted by China’s noisy and boisterous streets.

For me, it is symbolic to have arrived through mountains, deserts and lakes to the other side of my heritage. A journey by land that opened my eyes to the similarities and differences between the two poles, the West and the East and all that lies in between. The influences that travelled the Silk Road and the imprints left by its conquerors, past and present.

What has changed in us since our last 100 Days on the Road?

200 days nico lijiang

200 days gabi lijiang

#1 THIS is our life

And we hope it will never end.

#2 Happiness is in direct correlation with expectations

When you expect to see a gorgeous landscape, only to find that 500 other tourists have decided to visit the famous landmark on the same day, you can sulk behind the wall of people or you can entertain yourself by taking photos of the busy crowd instead. Surprise bonus: it will teach you more than a lesson or two on new creative ways to take the “selfie”. 

When you expect the bus to leave after you have walked in the dark at 5 in the morning to get to the station, only to find that it has been cancelled due to a landslide (eek) on the road, you can throw a fit or you can walk back in the dark up the hill with all your bags and have a hot coffee while thinking early mornings are so peaceful (I should do this more often).

Something always goes wrong, but we have started to see this as “meant to be”. It usually turns out better than we would have planned anyway.

#3 Our most repeated phrases:

Seeeeh-riously? (in Nico’s french accent) followed by our jaws dropping at something absolutely dazzling.

We are so lucky. Every single day.

#4 Um, you need more than you think

OK, let me take that back slightly, you do need less than you think (see point #4 100 Days), until everything you own starts to have holes, stains and a strange smell no matter how many times you try to wash it.

#5 A hot shower with strong pressure is not to be taken lightly

Ah! Pressure! Ah it’s hot! 2 minutes later…ah! It is STILL hot! Any shower that involves more than a trickle of water with relatively constant temperature is a glorious surprise followed by pure ecstasy. In this cold region of China, if we were not worried about leaving enough hot water for each other or generally saving the water of the planet, we would stay in one of these rare gifted contraptions forever.

#6 The “Silk Road Adventure” is easier than you think

We thought we were embarking on a crazy adventure, into the dry deserts and lost lands of Central Asia, the peaks of the Himalayas, the wide plains of Western China. It would be tough, it would be rough. Occasionally it was tough, occasionally it was rough, but in general it was much easier than we predicted. Above all, it has been safe. No one has robbed us, no one has hurt us (touching wood here) and except for one non-existent ferry ride, one cancelled bus and two tires popping off two different cars, the road has generally been smooth.

Instead, we have seen so much, we have experienced so much. We have met wonderful people. It would have taken us a lifetime of working-holidays to see what we have seen in 6 months.

Do not think too much, it’s time to pack that bag and just go.

#7 Frustrations & Solutions

We have time and not enough time. We have great conversations and not enough language. We possess new knowledge and not enough history to make sense of it. Having something always leaves you wanting more. We do have more time to work on our interests, more time to read, write and photograph, but stolen moments in between bus rides, train rides and visiting places are not enough.

It would seem we have been gripped by madness, what do you mean you don’t have enough time?! You are on “holiday”! Yet somehow we want more.

We want more time to get to know a place, to speak to its people, to understand their lives and stories. We want to speak their language and go beyond what people eat and do. We want time to research and study.

We will slow down. After 200 days, we now look at places with new perspective, we focus on details, we look at patterns, we try to find answers to our questions. We now know that we will find a place and stay put, taking the time to get to know it, taking the time for slow travel.

#8 We have become weather experts

A large portion of our time is now spent outdoors, meaning decisions revolve around the weather. When there is a trek to be done or only 2 days in a town to be enjoyed, the first question is usually, is it raining? Or more recently, is it freezing? Nico’s iPhone weather app has become our guide, giving us sunny hikes and warm days for most of this mountain region and we are planning on sticking to it.

#9 Staying close to home

Extended time away from friends and family makes us realise that as we absorb all the new, we do not want to lose touch with the old. The relationships we have built over time, the friendships we have maintained over years are just as important to us as the new ones we form on the road. The comfort, familiarity and trust, are just as important as the unknown, the exciting and the exotic. We are aware of being away, aware of the effort we want to put in to stay close and we are grateful for the people we have in our lives.

#10 It is all about the people

After travelling for an extended period of time, it is dangerously easy to become slightly blasé about another historic monument, soaring mountains, turquoise rivers or fascinating museums (uh, we have actually only been to one). Thankfully, we are not there yet. But what brings these monuments to life, what makes these mountains awe-inspiring, what makes this village memorable are its people. It is impossible to become blasé about people. Engaging with families, sharing meals, talking to the older generation, these are usually the moments we remember the most, the moments that made us feel most alive, the moments where we thought, this is all worth it.

#11 Every travel blogger’s biggest fan is their mom

Is there anyone out there? This is for our fellow travel bloggers. We have met many on the road who put in time and effort to relay stories from afar, but just like us, sometimes you question who you are writing for. Of course, it will be a wonderful collection of memories for ourselves, but it would be nice if there were occasionally a stranger who found our stories interesting. Many of us think that if we put it out there, people will come. But the truth is, with the internet being bombarded with information, it takes more time and more effort, no matter what the quality, for your story to be worth someone’s time. In the day and age where “followers” and “likes” are used as value markers, almost no travel blogger can say that they are immune to numbers. You stick to what you do because you love it, but thankfully there are our mamas out there “liking” and “sharing” everything we do.

#12 The Toilet is always on the Dark Side

The joys of the public toilet. As with spitting habits, it seems the closer we got to China, the worse the toilet experience became. Scandalised at first by doorless stink rooms, the squatting holes in a row seem to get nearer to each other with every pit stop, making it  impossible to do your business without brushing the knee of your bent neighbour. Growing up in slightly prudish circumstances, I can get used to the naked hot springs, I can even stomach the doorless squats over one long drain pipe, but why is it necessary to tinkle in harmony? Of all the group activities available to mankind, there are not enough reasons to justify peeing in unison. It has been an “easy” journey so far, just remember that along the way, the toilet is always on the Dark Side.

200 days toilet

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25 Comments

  1. Marc
    October 23, 2014

    So good to hear such beautiful things!

    Can totally sympathise with the last point (and many others) you can do it rough and tough but one needs some luxuries.

    How many 100 more days?

    Reply
    • Nico & Gabi
      October 28, 2014

      haha yes, luxuries indeed, our requirements to qualify as “luxury “are quite low now! Many many more 100 days hopefully, want to join us for our next 100?

      Reply
  2. Daniel
    October 23, 2014

    This is precious insight to live by Gabri! Thanks for sharing. ( #10 is my personal favorite:)
    When we meet next time I’m making/buying you a 5-courser of whatever you missed the most the last 200 days, in return I want to hear everything about your adventure – can’t wait!

    Reply
    • Nico & Gabi
      October 28, 2014

      Yippeee, sounds scrumptious Dani! Now all we have to do is choose a time and place!

      Reply
  3. Alvaro Zuniga-Cordero
    October 23, 2014

    Utterly interesting and beautifully written. Although some of the points you make seem very specific to the adventure you have undertaken, I believe they all hold important lessons for life in general. Yes, even the toilet ones… And I am sure you know it. Thanks for sharing all this. Cheers!

    Reply
    • Nico & Gabi
      October 28, 2014

      Tell us about your own adventures too Varo, a catch-up is long overdue!

      Reply
  4. Laila
    October 28, 2014

    I totally understand what you mean with #11! But I just found your blog and I love it, so please continue sharing photos and writing 🙂
    xo

    Reply
    • Nico & Gabi
      October 31, 2014

      Thank you so much Laila, means a lot to us! Gabi x

      Reply
  5. tammy
    November 2, 2014

    Yeah! Another 200 better days to come! Love to read your stories! Thank you for sharing! I am the biggest fan after all!

    Reply
  6. Rosie and Nick
    November 3, 2014

    Congratulations on your 200-day milestone! We have been traveling for about the same length of time as you. I love all the points above, and especially identify with clothes that just keep smelling weird, the bliss of a good shower and not having enough time, despite having ALL the time! We’re heading to China early next year so I’m avidly reading your articles. Travel on! p.s. love your photography!

    Reply
    • Nico & Gabi
      December 1, 2014

      Thanks guys! Good luck on your journey and let us know if you want any specific info for China!

      Reply
  7. Eva
    November 14, 2014

    Hi you two!

    I enjoy your blog – especially the 100 / 200 days – reviews. Just great! Remembers me of our 363 days of travelling (we met in Khiva, visiting the sand castles together, the “nice german couple” 😉
    I like your expectation-happines-point #2 – it’s so true. Far away and back home as well. We’re back since August, enjoying the comfort of the modern, safe, regulated lifestyle (yes, hot shower and clean toilet) but will always remember our journey, keeping in mind our experiences, that anyway changed our way of thinking and hopefully will do such a thing again.

    Safe travelling! Go on like this!

    Eva & Johannes

    Reply
    • Nico & Gabi
      December 1, 2014

      Hi Eva & Johannes! So nice to hear from you again! Happy you’ve settled in back home, how is the re-entry going? Am sure you’ll get itchy feet again soon to be on the road, but in the meantime enjoy those nice showers 🙂 Big hug, Gabi & Nico

      Reply
  8. Mariana
    December 17, 2014

    “it would be nice if there were occasionally a stranger who found our stories interesting”
    Hello, I’m a stranger and it is indeed very nice!!
    Love your blog, just amazing.

    Reply
    • Nico & Gabi
      December 19, 2014

      Thank you Mariana, that is so great to hear!

      Reply
  9. Naomi
    January 8, 2015

    Hi! Another stranger here, LOVE your gorgeous photos and food descriptions. Can’t wait to read about Laos!

    Reply
    • Nico & Gabi
      January 16, 2015

      Thanks a lot Naomi, we’re working on Laos posts now 🙂

      Reply
  10. JC
    January 9, 2015

    i have so much time on my hands now (even though i am in the office) that i cannot even recall how i stumble upon your blog. and, i am so glad i’m here. love it. i’m not very adventurous but your writing is tempting me to try living life to the fullest before i die. hmm but i don’t think i can share toilets… ever.

    Reply
    • Nico & Gabi
      January 16, 2015

      So glad you found us and very happy it is tempting you! Am sure you will find your own adventurous journey, even without ever sharing a toilet 🙂

      Reply
  11. Christina Yee
    January 9, 2015

    Hi Gabriella n Nico ,

    Here’s another stranger reading yr adventures.

    Your description is vivid and I’ve enjoyed reading yr blog. The photography is excellent too .

    Congrats on achieving the 200 days milestone! ‘Jia yu’ on yr next leg!

    Blessings,
    Christina

    Reply
    • Nico & Gabi
      January 16, 2015

      Thank you very much Christina, that means a lot to us!

      Reply
  12. Jamie
    January 17, 2015

    My husband and I are about to embark on our second extended trip, and while I plan to blog along the way, I was worried that the travel blog was dead. I am happy to know that I just wasn’t looking in the right place!!! You have captured wonderful stories, so thank you. I will now begin digging through your archives for ideas.

    Reply
    • Nico & Gabi
      January 30, 2015

      That is so nice Jamie! Where are you heading to? Good luck on all your travels and look forward to reading about them!

      Reply
  13. Becky
    June 8, 2015

    I just found your blog via the Saveur awards. I am absolutely blown away by this masterpiece you have created! This little patch of internet is wonderful and I will be coming back here again and again and again.

    Reply
    • Nico & Gabi
      June 8, 2015

      Thanks for your sweet words Becky, hope you will continue to enjoy it and good luck on your food adventures!

      Reply

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