Friday, August 3, 2012

Leaving, Minus the Jet Plane

I'm typing this from an apartment in Brooklyn. We've been staying with Bobby's friend Nikki, as we get ready to get on our boat. We arrived here night before last on a train. We will not, at any point in our trip from Fort Collins, Colorado, to Tirana, Albania, be on a plane. Here are our travel plans, in map form!

We've already completed the first leg of the trip: a two part train ride. Denver, CO, to Chicago, IL, a 6 hour layover in Chicago, and then Chicago to New York's Penn Station. We got on the train Monday, July 30th in Denver at 7:30 p.m., hit Chicago at 3 p.m. the next day, got back on the train at 9:30 p.m. that night, and rolled into New York at 6:30 p.m. on August 1st. Altogether, for two days of train travel, it was painless. We're Amtrak veterans, though, and we genuinely enjoy trains, so that definitely helps. We also made some great friends on the train, too, and that's always a bonus.

Excuse the blurry picture, this is a bad copy
The next part of our trip starts today, when we get on the Queen Mary 2 bound for Southampton. This has been on my bucket list for almost 6 years, so I'm over the moon. That will take us about a week. Once we land we'll be in London for 4 days.

After London, we have 16 days to divide between France and Italy. Right now we're thinking Paris and Nice in France, and Venice and Florence in Italy. That will get us to Bari, Italy, where we board an overnight ferry (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) to Durres, Albania. From there we'll either take a 30 minute bus ride or an hour train ride to our final destination- Tirana, Albania.

Why all the boats and trains, and no planes? Is this some ironic hipster steampunk rejection of technology? Basically we love trains, we have the time, the transatlantic was on my must do list, and lastly it's just kind of ridiculous and fun and why not? I hate planes (this is legendary) but I get on them anytime I need to. But since I didn't need to, hey, I'm not complaining. We also wanted to take advantage of needing to move to Albania by turning it into a huge trip, because, again- why not? Once we get to Albania most of our travel will be limited to trains/buses/ferries, and of course we'll both be working, so it will be our real life, just in Albania. We wanted to travel while we could, and so far, it's been great.

Once we get on the boat this afternoon, posting will be spotty. I will probably end up just doing a huge backlog of posts once we hit Tirana. For now, we're in Brooklyn and there is delicious food to be eaten. See you on the other side of the Atlantic!

We're Movin' Out

Despite packing and organizing bit by bit for about a week in advance, we found ourselves scrambling on the last day to get everything in order and out the door. To be fair, this is because everything we own has to go on our backs or in our hands, and it was hard to know exactly what that amount looked like until we started packing. I had also put off a large scanning job until, oh, you know, the night before/morning of the move, and I spent a good 8 hours scanning and shredding when I should have been folding and packing.

I know that most people, when moving overseas, do something like pack a suitcase or two and then mail a box or two or seven. When I moved to Japan, I had a big suitcase and a small carry on, and then I shipped a huge box of winter clothes surface mail, so they arrived right when the weather started to turn. We decided not to go that route for two reasons- money and money. As it turns out, it costs about $700 to ship a slim 10 pounds from America to Albania. That's the first money issue- shipping is just obscene. The other money issue is that our entire apartment was furnished for a little over $200 thanks to local thrift stores, and we aren't knick-knack people, and most of our clothes were old and kind of full of holes- well loved hoodies with elbow vents, or well worn jeans patched all over. Basically, it would be cheaper to just give everything back to Goodwill, toss the hole filled clothes and old shoes, and start over in Albania. Once I had given away 75% of my closet, things were looking like this:

That's all seasons, all occasions, from snow pants and winter jackets to workout clothes and jeans, work slacks to cocktail dresses. That's also all the shoes/bras/underwear/swimsuits/socks/you get the picture. I thought this looked pretty lean. Once I started packing my backpack, I quickly realized I would have to get rid of about 50% more.

In the end, with the exception of a little trunk, a small filing box, and two small boxes of keepsakes (all living at our parents' houses for now) we gave away everything except clothes/electronics/camping supplies (we love to hike and camp, and our gear was expensive, and we thought it might come in handy if a fun opportunity presents itself). This is me with everything we own in the world:

I'd been on a train for 2+ days and hadn't had a shower in almost 3- focus on the luggage.
We each carry a hiking backpack, pull a rolling suitcase, and carry an odd bag/extra small backpack. I think my pack weighs about 50 pounds, which is about average for carrying a pack, so it's not too bad.

From everything I've read, Albania has tons of stores to get everything you might need or want, sartorially speaking, so we'll just fill in the blanks of clothes/shoes when we get there. For now, everything we actually need we have, and a lot of people can't say the same, so we're not complaining.