Big Changes in 2018: When Trip Planning is More than Half the Fun

This past year has brought big changes to my life, most of them really good (understatement). However, I’m probably looking at a reduced travel schedule (wah wah). This means I really need to find ways to enjoy the trip planning process and make the most of the time before and after my travels. This approach is nothing new to Global at Heart; however, its importance is underscored now. 

So, What Happened?

As 2017 began, I was working on becoming a more adventurous solo traveler, defining and building Global at Heart, planning trips for myself and others, and funding it all through freelance gigs. 

Then just a few weeks into January, I was sitting at my desk late on a Tuesday night, writing a post about Singaporean food, when I got a text from my friends Shanon and Mandy: “We found you a guy.”


Big Changes

I’ll spare you the details, but fast forward to now: That guy (we’ll call him “N” since he’s quite social media shy) lives with me, and we have a French bulldog puppy named Archie. 

<pause for squee>

Archie the Frenchie
Archie attempts to pack himself; it’s really hard to leave those ears at home!

So, yeah, my life has changed quite a bit since this time last year, and I’ve accepted that it means some changes to the travel part. I now have a willing, live-in travel companion. However, he’s got a regular job, one that requires him to go to the office every day and limits his vacation time. So we have to get creative with our planning and really make the most of our trips together. It really just means that the principles of living “global at heart” are that much more important.

You talk about travel like I talk about going to Dunkin’ Donuts for a coffee.

A Difference of Perspective

N and I have been to London together and we’ve taken a few road trips to visit friends and family. I’ve also taken several trips by myself and with my hockey teams. Missing someone at home sucks! But travel, I must.

So far, traveling as a couple has been pretty much everything I’d hoped (aww). Life on the road with N has been similar to life at home: nearly frictionless with the daily fun of sharing experiences and broadening each other’s perspective on things from food to movies to history to sleeping in vs getting up early. The only problem is that we don’t travel as often as I’d like.

“You talk about travel like I talk about going to Dunkin’ Donuts for a coffee,” he said.

Ah yes, we have some work to do.

Drinking Buddy
Just who is this mysterious drinking buddy?

Enter “Global at Heart”

Though he studied abroad in Europe for undergrad, N hasn’t made travel a priority as he’s been focused on his career. His current schedule and limited vacation time mean that we can’t travel together as much as I have been traveling without him.

This doesn’t mean I’m completely grounded, but surprisingly (?) I now want to be home with him and Archie. So how can I balance my raging travel desires with my intensified homebody urges? Of course the answer is right there in front of me: taking the Global at Heart approach.

Here’s my plan:

  1. I’ll steel myself and continue to travel internationally for hockey (oh the sacrifice). This year’s big trip is Scandinavia and Russia, but I’ll also be playing in Canada a few times and around the Midwest.
  2. N and I are going to get as much “shared experience” out of our planned trip to Japan as far as we possibly can.
  3. We’ll fill in with domestic trips to see our friends and family sprinkled around North America, and we’ll take advantage of miles and flight deals whenever we can get away.

For now, let’s focus on point #2.

Stretching the Travel

(So far) N and I have one international trip slated for 2018: Japan in September. The preliminary agenda is to spend a few days in Tokyo, take the Shinkansen to Kyoto, and then spend the last couple of days more rurally, staying at a tiny ryokan and hiking a bit of the Nakasendo road. I’m excited; I’ve been to Japan several times, but this will be my first non-work trip.

If you’ll permit me to mix my metaphors, I plan to stretch this as far as I possibly can and squeeze every last drop of global-at-heart goodness out of it. Right now, that means making the most of the preparation and pre-immersion stage – i.e., really nerding it up.

Basically we’re expecting to be (healthily) obsessed Japanophiles for the next 8 months. Why not? Travel and vacation time are too precious not to enjoy the entire process. And it will help us appreciate and participate more fully in the place and culture during our visit.

Unagi and green tea
We are going to eat all the things in Japan… except maybe unagi, which isn’t my fave.

The Japan Plan

So here’s what we’re going to do:

  1. Take introductory Japanese language lessons. I signed us up as a Christmas present. Obviously, we won’t be fluent, but we’ll be just a little less clueless.
  2. Find some anime I can enjoy. N’s a fan; I don’t get it. I’m hoping I can find something that at least helps me to understand the culture a bit more.
  3. Learn how to be Japanese baseball fans. We both love watching sports, so we want to go to a game and get the spectator culture right.
  4. Revisit the Japanese films I studied in college. Film and literature are still my personal favorite (mediated) ways to absorb cultural goodness.
  5. Reconnect with friends who live in Japan. It’s been too long… We don’t expect them to be tour guides, but spending a bit of time with them and getting their perspective is important to us.
  6. Figure out where to get the best ramen. We’ll establish a solid baseline for comparison in Chicago first.
  7. Choose our accommodation, meals, and drinks veeery carefully. We will, however, leave ourselves open to spontaneous opportunities.
  8. Figure out the train system in advance. Having a transportation plan is a bit of a stress mitigator for me.
  9. Take advantages of programs at Chicago’s Japanese Cultural Center to learn more about Japan’s geography, history, and culture. Also, N thinks Kendo is badass and wants to try it.
  10. Look for some hockey connections. Hockey diplomacy is a big part of what I do.

The whole goal of this is to prime ourselves for a richer, more lasting, shared experience. We want to better understand and interpret what we experience and to extend that experience beyond the short time we’ll actually be in the country.

Wrapping It Up

So, over the past year in my life, everything has changed, and nothing has changed. I am still passionate about travel, and I am still passionate about staying home — it’s just intensified.

Though I mildly resent the congratulatory sentiment of the well-meaning people who say “I’m so glad you’re finally happy!” (who says I wasn’t happy before?), I do have to admit that I like life even more with N and Archie in it. I have partner to share in some of my adventures and who doesn’t stand in the way of my other ones. On top of that, the cutest puppy in the world keeps my lap warm while I work.

Of course I’m holding out hope that once I get him hooked on travel, N will find more creative ways to maximize his vacation time, but in the meantime, I’ll work with what I’ve got. 😉

Want to have more Global at Heart moments of your own? Let me help you with a personalized travel plan.

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