Over the course of starting this blog in 2012 I moved to China, got married, moved to Vilnius, and had a baby. And with that, my travel style changed from hostels and solo female travel, to couple travel, to family travel and Airbnb accommodations. All of these forms of travel are so different and all are fun. It kind of irks me that some travel articles are all or nothing: only solo-female travel, only couple travel, budget travel, off-the-beaten-path travel, family travel, etc. There are few articles that highlight how your travel style may change over the years, as other aspects of life normally does as you 'grow up.'
So, with this evolution of my travel style I thought that I'd like to reflect upon some of my biggest, boldest, and favorite travel memories since the beginning In Search Of.
1. Hiking Yakou Shan I lived in rural China off and on from 2010-2012 while I was conducting my PhD research. It was awesome and I was pretty much fearless. When I arrived in Kunming in 2010, I was inexperienced, hadn't even booked an accommodation (though I did have the address to a hotel!), and my Mandarin sucked. Luckily, I learn most things quickly and was able to pick up spoken Mandarin, meet some friends, and get a good jump on my research.
I felt most accomplished after working with a colleague to organize an extensive botanical collecting trip to rural Nujiang Prefecture, Yunnan Province. During the trip, I hiked all day, spent my evenings toasting workers at the local forestry bureau and singing karaoke, and worked late into the night pressing plants and writing field notes. It was utterly exhausting and oh so fun.
I hiked over a snow-capped mountain (Yakou Mt) and unglamorously slid down the peak on my butt. I ate rice cooked with fatback, drank from streams, and peed in the woods. I saw an adorable pika and collected quite a lot of rhododendron. This was certainly and extreme adventure that I'll remember forever.
2. Kayaking the Mekong On a Chinese visa run I decided to visit Vientiane after a friend raved about Laos. It was a beautiful country with friendly people and great food. I only had a couple of days to explore the city, but I decided to take a day-trip out of Vientiane to kayak the Mekong. I took several tuk tuks and a truck to the river where I met with my guide. It was certainly a special way to see the country!
3. Moving to Lithuania and Europe travel J and I got married right before moving to Lithuania. Though we immediately thought that Vilnius was a gorgeous city, we struggled settling into life here as we had numerous issues with our apartment and residence permits. Eventually we moved apartments and got our permits, and our travels outside of Vilnius really helped to take away some of our stress. Over time, the struggles lessened (or at least we got used to it!) and we liked Vilnius and our European adventures so much that we signed on for a fourth year.
One thing that I love about living in Europe is the ease at which you can travel from country to country. Since moving to Vilnius we've traveled to 13 countries, with two more in the coming months. With only a couple hour flight, I'm able to taste delicious new foods, see famous works of art, ancient cities, and more.
4. Bringing J to China and his first hot pot In 2014, J and I took an epic trip to China; we visited friends in Beijing, biked around Xi'an on the city wall, and ate our way through Yunnan. It was fun to be able to introduce J to my old roommates, show him the city in which I used to live, and watch him experience incredible local cuisine. It was also funny to watch J sweat with all of the spicy hot pot! It was an awesome trip, but made me really miss my China days.
5. Motorbiking around Lugu Hu We visited my anthropologist friend, K, in the Lugu Lake area of Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces. This was probably one of my most memorable experiences while traveling with J. J also frequently talks about this part of our trip, so I know it was a great adventure for him as well. I wrote a ton about this trip here on the blog and on Travelettes.
6. Our first trips with Baby ISO Traveling with a baby is obviously very different than solo travel or couple travel, but it is just as exciting. From diapers that explode on planes, to fun yet exhausting car trips, traveling with a baby is always an adventure and is so worth it. I can't tell you how many times I've had people ask me what's the point of traveling so much with such a young baby (he won't remember it), but we are building memories as a family exploring the world. There can't be anything wrong with that!
With Baby ISO we've taken a road trip around Lithuania, traveled to the US, and visited Frankfurt, Madrid, and Luxembourg. It is fun for J and I to take this trips, and Baby ISO gets exposed to new things, even if he won't remember it at all.
Despite this evolution from solo female travel to family travel, some things have remained the same. I still look for budget travel options, memorable experiences, and cultural exchange. From eating congealed pigs blood to amazing meals with BookALokal, food is also a major factor in my travels. The takeaway message here is that no matter how you travel, one form of traveling isn't better than the other -- it will likely change throughout your lifetime anyways.
As Baby ISO gets older I'm sure my travel style will continue evolving. I'm looking forward to it!
How has your travel changed over the years?
P.S. I recently participated in a great online travel writing workshop with Pink Pangea and I just think they have a great site with excellent articles. I'd love to participate in one of their in-person writing workshops, but can't this summer. You can participate in one of their in-person courses by applying here: http://www.pinkpangea.com/pink-pangea-retreat-application/. Just mention PinkElizabeth in your application for 50 USD off of your trip!
Let me know if you do go because I'd love to hear all about it!