Each time we sit down and reflect on the last one hundred days, the initial feeling is always a stunned sort of shock at just how much we have seen and done in the last quarter of a year. In our pre-nomadic era, one hundred days could have come and gone without much more changing than a few new purchases, a short city break or two and some crazy nights out with friends. Now, as nomads, we move continents, lifestyle patterns, languages and learn new things almost every day.
In the last 100 days we have been to (only) three countries, driven well over 4,000 miles in three different rental cars, been on several boats, crossed countless major bridges, tasted dozens of new dishes from a handful of entirely new cuisines, met loads of new, interesting people (and made some great new friends), relaxed in our own personal jacuzzi, stayed at a few exclusive hotels as well as some dingy roach motels, and had the opportunity to tour through the eastern and southern US states to get a feeling for what life in America is like today.
One of the best aspects of nomadic lives is that we can cancel or change plans at the last minute. A three-week stay in Lisbon happened randomly when our planned Cross-Canada Road Trip fell through and we were looking for somewhere warm, cheap and European to spend three weeks before beginning our housesit in Ottawa. Lisbon couldn’t have been a better choice. The city has the metropolitan, multicultural feel, casual lifestyle, clear and sunny skies and miles of beaches that come together to be the sort of place we could live in one day.
Instead of just unpacking and staying in the Portuguese capital, we instead flew into Toronto for the beginning of over three months in North America. Just two days after arriving, it was time to pickup a rental car in Buffalo, New York. The sense of freedom we have while traveling in Europe disappears here, as the availability of public transportation is either negligible (United States) or expensive (Canada). In the last months we have gone on to rent two cars for a total of 11 weeks which has been a budget breaker, but totally worth it.
Six of those weeks were spent housesitting outside of Ottawa. This period of time was the longest we have stayed in one place since before our official GloberotterGirls adventure even began. We enjoyed the peaceful, safe neighborhood, the well-maintained house, making our own food and actually settling in to a routine that was really key to several professional and personal successes. In the end, however, that tingling excitement of our next steps started to slowly envelope us into the cloud of euphoria that hits each time we are about to make our next bold move.
After the homeowners returned, we hopped in the car and headed to Montreal and Quebec for a week. By that time we realized just how much we learned about Canada. As most Americans can admit, we don’t learn all that much about the neighbors to the north in school, and Canada doesn’t make headline news much either. We were there for national celebrations like Canada Day and Colonel By Day, ate national foods like Poutine, Beaver Tails and Tim Hortons (it is practically a national cuisine!), visited cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec and explored the expansive countryside, watched shows like Corner Gas and heard enough people tacking ‘ey’ on to the ends of sentences that it almost slipped out our mouths a couple of times.
And so began our mega road trip, through Montreal and Quebec, down across the border in to Boston, and to Manhattan, NYC, where we started the longest ‘leg’ of our trip: the Great American Road Trip: NYC2NOLA. It was an intense four weeks. Constantly on the go, we took a bus from NYC to Philly, on to DC, rented a car and drove over to Asheville and Charlotte before heading down to Charleston, west to Savannah, up through Atlanta and over to New Orleans. Then we extended the trip up through Memphis to Chicago.
The road trip has been as enthralling as shocking, a slap in the face of the hardships of life in America right now. Long talks ensued about life here – from the blatant disregard for health and wellness, crumbling infrastructure (Memphis) to the fascinating bits of local culture we discovered throughout the Northeast and the Deep South. I am from Chicago, which is very different to anywhere we just got through visiting, and as I haven’t lived in the US since August 2001, it is a true eye-opener to rediscover post 9/11, post Katrina, post Great Recession, post Bush, post first-election-of-black-president America.
This was no vacation for us: the whole road trip was about keeping our eyes open all the time, taking everything in, and coming to understand America in a deeper way. It hasn’t been about confirming or changing stereotypes, but witnessing first hand what each place is like, the feel, the attitude and the people.
Next Stop: South East Asia
After a few weeks of friends, family, rest and relaxation here in Chicago, we are heading to Denver for a few days before flying off to South East Asia! We are ready for a new and even bigger challenge after so long on the road. We have never been to Asia and don’t speak any of the languages like we do in Latin America, Europe and the U.S., so this will be a huge step out of our comfort zone. We couldn’t be more excited to explore an entirely new part of the world in as much detail as we have examined our own!
The past 100 days have been so successful only thanks to the people & friends who have helped us make the most of this amazing adventure:
- Jenne and Marcel for taking care of us so well in Canada
- Irene for the great advice and taking us out to see a great band in Ottawa
- Ottawa Tourism for all the advice and bike rentals
- Jacob, Jenne and Brent for bonfires and Dani’s first-ever s’mores
- Brad of Brad Sucks for good music and computer advice
- Dave & Deb from ThePlanetD for the great Toronto recommendations
- Manuela and Lahcen in Montreal for the hospitality and taking us out for some great Middle Eastern music
- Bernarda in Toronto for opening her couch to us and letting us use her Lonely Planet
- Weena and Daniel in Quebec for super sightseeing advice, very comfortable beds, great cheese and a gigantic, delicious chocolate muffin
- AdventurousKate in Boston for recommending that great Thai place and taking the time to hang on her last night in the U.S.
- Aaron of Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures in New York for showing us the Highline Park, sheltering us from the rain at the Chelsea Market, feeding us great Mexica food and showing us all around his fav. Manhattan neighborhoods
- HKHotels for being excellent hosts while in Manhattan
- NYCGo for providing CityPasses which helped us to maximise our time in NYC
- Don Faust for his amazingly thorough and helpful advice about almost everywere on our trip – Philly, New Orleans and Washington, DC
- Page from AllOverTheMap for the off-the-beaten-track D.C. advice
- My Costa Rican ‘brother’ Jorge, who I haven’t seen since my exchange year in Costa Rica in 1999-2000 and his wife Emily, who now live in Washington DC and took us to Little Ethiopia for great Ethiopian food
- Caz and Craig from yTravelBlog for all their road trip recommendations
- Traci from GoBigOrGoHome for the Philly and Virginia tips
- Andi from My Beautiful Adventures for a fabulous lunch and girly afternoon and Charleston travel tips while at Cafe Monte in Charlotte
- Caroline from CarolineInTheCity for the Charleston recommendations
- Our reader Camella for more fantastic Charleston tips
- The Charleston Visitors Bureau for top tips and the city pass which allowed us to see so much of the city in such a short period of time.
- Mike and Juergen from For 91 Days for their in-depth posts on Savannah and putting us in touch with the lovely Erica at the Visitors Bureau who helped to pimp our Labor Day weekend by pumping us full of delicious Craft Brews
- Alex at the Westin who took on the vegetarian food challenge to cook us up some amazing grits patties
- Nicole at Visit Atlanta for great advice on vegan restaurants and two CityPasses
- Nicole, our long lost Georgian friend we know from our time in England at the University of Sussex – it was so great to meet up, drink wine and eat some super yummy southern food at Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta!
- We’d also like to thank our reader Ann who sent us through great recommendations on what to see and eat in New Orleans
- The New Orleans Visitors Bureau for CityPasses
- InterContinental Hotel New Orleans for providing a lovely room in the heart of Nola
- Last but not least, we would like to thank everyone who is following our journey!