January 2012

As we strolled down a cobblestone street  in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico,  earlier this week, Tim said, “Say, you know, it was almost a year ago to the day  when our wild-eyed idea to sell up and see the world came to life!”

“You’re right,” I agreed at once.  “This calls for a celebration! If we weren’t on this nutty diet, I’d have a martini to mark the anniversary properly.”

The World at our friend Mary Rapp's studio in San Miguel de Allende

We stepped into Harry’s Louisiana Cafe, a local Gringo hangout that features excellent authentic New Orleans food and a welcoming bar full of fun and laughter.  We had mineral water with a little lime instead of something more exciting because we  have been on a drastic diet since Thanksgiving.  It’s been effective but unimaginably dull.  The holidays were tragic in the culinary sense and abstinence from things we love like cheese, potatoes, tortillas, and, even wine, gin and tequila are off my list right now.  It’s made me a little testy.

During our month in Mexico not one morsel of Mexican food, let alone a margarita, has passed our parched lips.  We are thinner and  better looking,   but it hasn’t been much fun.  Our reward will be a shopping spree when we reach the U.S. in February.

As we’ve muddled through our days of deprivation, our only consolation has been the thought of how much fun we had getting pudgy in the first place.  It’s cold comfort when you’re facing yet another miserable protein shake instead of a homemade tortilla full of melted cheese topped with a luscious ranchera sauce.

Talk of our over-indulgence in Mexico, Argentina and other destinations in the last year led to contemplate what we’ve learned during nine months of living home free on the road. Everything on this list might not apply if you’re going on a tour or staying in posh accommodations, but you may find some good suggestions all the same.  Here’s our list of Worldly Lessons:

1.  EAT SMART:  Watch your weight or you’ll have to face the caloric music one day. Also, know the safety rules of food and drink for your destination and observe them fastidiously!

2.  TRAVEL LIGHT:   Take nothing with you that can’t be washed except your coat.  Don’t take every credit card you have.  A couple will do since it’s a pain to replace them if you do get pick-pocketed.

3.  CHECK LIST:   Prepare a check-in list, especially for rented apartments and houses.  Once the agent has left you might have a really hard time getting his or her attention again, especially if you didn’t learn how to use the phone.  I’ll publish our list soon so you can get the idea.

4.  COMMUNICATIONS:   Have your communications and entertainment boogie down.  Know what your options are before you leave, so you’re sure to have reliable equipment with you.

5.  AIRPORT TRANSPORT:  Arrange transportation from the airport ahead of time, especially when you’ve taken al ong flight and can’t’ speak the language.  Seeing your name scrawled on a scrap of cardboard at the end of a 20-hour marathon is a wonderful sight and worth a few extra bucks.

6.   LOCAL MONEY:  If you’re arriving middle of the night, have local money with you.  You might not get the best exchange rate at your point of departure, but it’s worth a small hit to have some local dough right of the bat for emergencies and incidentals.

7.   COFFEE OR TEA:  If you’re caffeine freaks, take some coffee or your favorite tea bags along.  You’ll buy time before you have to tackle grocery shopping in a new place.

8.   PICK YOUR COMPANION:  If you’re running away from home, you’d better really like the person you’re with. A  six weeks stay in Buenos Aires in a 500 square foot apartment surrounded by people who didn’t much like us was a true test of our regard for one another!  Seriously!

9.  OTHER PEOPLE’S LIVES:  People back home don’t wait around for you to phone them.  They’re busy doing their things so don’t get your feelings hurt when it’s hard to find a “chew toy” who wants to hear all about the exciting things you’re doing.  Same goes for the people who live in your destination city.  They are not your concierges.

10.  GADGETS:  We don’t carry many, but we think these are essential:   A portable LUGGAGE SCALE.   You do NOT want to be one of those poor souls pawing through their underwear on the airport floor as they reapportion weight in their bags, CLOTHESLINE:  We like those braided rubber ones because you don’t need clothespins.  Perfect for undies an socks.

11.  SPORTCOAT:  A man needs a sportcoat.  You never know when you’ll be invited to a fancy-shmancy dinner party or decide to attend the opera.  They also look really sexy with a white shirt and a pair of jeans!

Our list will probably grow considerably this year as we plunk ourselves down in rented digs on a seven-month-long journey.  It will be interesting to see what additions will appear after that adventure!

In the meantime, our nifty luggage scale will register a lighter load since we’ve both pared off a couple of sizes in our clothes.  Every little bit helps. Since we’re going to take a break from our spartan diet for a few weeks, my darling spouse is taking me to Harry’s for that martini I’ve been dreaming about!  We might even splurge and have some extra broccoli!