I take pride in being someone who likes to try new things. If I wasn’t, I would never have agreed to put our family’s Toronto life on hold for five months to travel Europe. When I was in my university days, I would pretty much do anything if I had a partner-in-crime, including the time several friends and I hiked deep into the woods of Cape Breton Highlands National Park and spent the night sleeping under the stars, sans tent, with little more than a hatchet to ward off any stray Black Bears who roamed too close. Now that I am in my forties, I am no longer the daredevil I once was, but I still enjoy a good adventure.
These days, I seem to have a lot more routines than I once did. A coffee is an essential part of my morning. I never like to be anywhere without a cell phone, especially if I don’t know the area. Regular exercise has been a part of my routine since I was 22. Knowing that I am not the independent adventurer that I would like to be, I’ve had to make a lot of preparations to allow myself to explore Europe while maintaining a semblance of my usual lifestyle. Here are a few ways I’ve been able to maintain my sanity through the first weeks of our travels in Spain.
Having a Morning Coffee at Home
I have my brother-in-law to thank for introducing me to the Aeropress, a small, portable coffee maker that doesn’t need to be plugged in. The device is a similar to a French Press, only much smaller and less fragile. As long as I can find a way to heat water, I can use the Aeropress, and the coffee tastes great. My only regret is that I didn’t purchase the accompanying Porlex Mini Grinder. Finding quality ground coffee in Spain has been a challenge. I have been making coffee using a ½ pound bag of ground coffee that cost $1.50 and not even the Aeropress can make it taste very good. I’ll be spending the next few weeks in search of the better beans.
Using a Spanish SIM Card
After doing a little research before leaving for Spain, I found a great article that summarizes the main mobile providers in Spain. We settled on Orange because they have an English language website, albeit one that is only marginally better than using Google Translate from a Chrome browser, and they also advertise kiosks with English speaking reps. We were hoping to sign up for a monthly plan, but to do so, we would have needed a bank account in Spain. This left us with little choice but to use the Pay-as-you-go service, for which we paid 14.95 € for 2 GB of data and 30 minutes of talk time.
Since I am used to 6 GB and Yashy has unlimited data in Canada, we spent an hour one day shutting off cellular data from all non-essential apps to ensure that we kept within the 2 GB limit. To do so on iOS, go to Settings > Cellular and the bottom section lets you set which apps can use cellular data. (If you are taking video, the most important one to turn off is at the very bottom, iCloud Drive. If this is kept on, your photos and videos will back up to your iCloud Drive using your cellular network data plan, which would quickly deplete 2 GB of data). Yashy uses Android and she is using a function called Data Saver that seems to work pretty well. Also, if you are using Google Photos, make sure you turn off cellular backups.
Jogging in Spain
I wasn’t feeling well during our first few days in Malaga and enjoyed some down time, which was good because finding a jogging route in a new city can be tough. After a few days of exploration, I was able to identify a number of the main roads where the sidewalks were wide enough for me to go gliding through traffic. One of the streets even had a bike lane on the sidewalk. I have found that running in a new city can be pretty fun but getting lost is easy, especially when I decide to make a turn down a new street when the light turns runs. I’ll be running with my phone at all times and just hope that I don’t end up heading 10 K in the wrong direction with no energy to get home.
For working out at home, there are now countless fitness routines online that are ideal for working out with no weights. I tried Daily Burn a few months ago and was really impressed by the workouts, which were challenging and fun. Daily Burn also has yoga lessons, which are great on the road. We’ve been sleeping in a new bed every third or fourth night and it’s not easy on the back. I have mainly been running and haven’t started workouts yet, but when I do, there will be no shortage of options.
A no brainer. An avid traveller who loves to read but is not using an eBook reader is doing it wrong. I have been using a Kindle for almost a decade now and find it hard to read physical books these days. eBook readers are lighter than almost any book and almost any title you can think of is available. I have enough weight in my backpack between my computer, the Little Monkey’s iPad, and countless wires and plugs; carrying books would literally break my back.
My laptop has an HDMI output slot, which is perfect for plugging the computer into a High Def TV to sit back in the evenings and watch a little Netflix. We haven’t always been in places with fast enough internet to support streaming services, but when we are, having the HDMI output has been ideal. Note that I am not a millennial and have to date refused to watch TV on my laptop. When I was a kid, our TV was 17”. Now that 50” seems to be the norm, I don’t ever want to go back. We’ve been catching on Suits, The Defenders and Luke Cage. What has been great is that in Spain we’ve had access to some shows which are yet to arrive in Canada!
While life on the road has certainly shaken my routine (I still haven’t achieved a regular sleeping schedule), I realize how lucky I am to live in a time when I can pack a coffee maker, thousands of books and movies, and a detailed map of the whole world in my luggage while travelling. While I am only 11 days into our 148 day trip, setting a routine is getting easier everyday.