Archive for November, 2011

One Year Abroad

Posted by Arlo on Nov 10, 2011 under Postcard Valet, Travel, Website

Last year, on November 10th, our flight from Miami to Quito kicked off our trip around the world.  Since then, we’ve traveled tens-of-thousands of miles across five continents, seen amazing sites, and met amazing people.  One year later, to the day, we’re still going strong.  We just arrived in a new city, Thailand’s Chiang Mai, and because of a fantastic coincidence, we happened to arrive during their Festival of Lights (Loi Krathong.)  We pretended the whole city was turning out to give us a huge anniversary party!

Originally, our year of travel was supposed to begin on July 1, 2010.  We’d budgeted $100/day for the entire year, setting aside a whopping $36,500 for our trip.  But we had setbacks and delays in the States which eventually delayed our trip by three months.  By the time November 10th rolled around, we had already been gone from home 140 days.  Assuming we’d stuck to our travel budget, that was $14,000 already spent.  We discussed it and made the tough decision to start again at zero – time-wise and money-wise – when we flew to Ecuador.

We did fairly well in South America (aside from spending too big a chunk on the Galapagos Islands), but Africa pitted our travel budget spreadsheet against us.  We regained some ground when we stayed with friends and family in Europe and Russia, saving on housing, but the transportation costs caught us again.  By September 12th, we had exhausted the $36,500 we’d set and realized that any remaining travel costs would be coming out of our savings.  We had fallen 58 day – almost two months – short of our goal.

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PVX: McDonald’s in Estonia

Posted by Arlo on Nov 8, 2011 under McDonald's of the World, Postcard Valet, PV-Podcast, Travel, Videos

Okay, I’ll admit it.  Sometimes recording these McDonald’s podcasts gets old.  After doing so many, back to back, I feel like they’re all the same.  Boring.  The last few visits we’ve tried to saying something new in each one, even if that’s just in the intro on closing.  Hopefully that’ll come through as we move forward.

Keeping to a weekly posting schedule has almost caught us up, too!  After this one in Estonia, we only have Russia and Dubai to edit.  However, by the time we get through posting those two, I’m sure we’ll have a recording for Thailand, too.

Back to this video:  As an intro, I tried to list off, from memory, the 25 different countries where I’ve eaten at a McDonald’s.  Fell three short because I forget Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico.  Also, yes, I know that Amsterdam is a city, not a country.

Don’t know if you know about it, but we have a page where we track all this: McDonald’s of the World.

Finally, we probably shouldn’t have tried to record this video outdoors on a day with such fickle weather, but the area was beautiful and I wanted to incorporate as much of old town Tallinn into the edit as I could.  Filming outdoors has its own set of challenges, however.  Have you seen the video yet?  Did you, like me, think you were hearing a horse trotting down the cobblestone street?

Thoughts on Estonia

Posted by Arlo on Nov 7, 2011 under Postcard Valet, Thoughts On..., Travel

The easiest way to get from Helsinki, Finland, to St. Petersburg, Russia, is by train.  It’s a straight shot, takes about three and a half hours.  Since St. Petersburg was our next destination, taking the train was everyone’s first suggestion.  We didn’t take the train.

We skipped a lot of Europe when we skipped from Bulgaria to Finland, and I wanted to see at least some part of it before we slipped into Russia.  Estonia, which was right across the Baltic Sea, was an easy choice.  Close, cheap, and also sharing a border with Russia.

We left Helsinki on a giant cruise ship (the word “ferry” just didn’t seem to apply) and a couple hours later, we were in Tallinn.  We spent a night and a day there, exploring the city, and loved every minute of it.

European Union

Estonia was our first border crossing within the European Union and we weren’t prepared for it.  We disembarked from the ship with a few hundred other passengers and followed them through the long and twisting corridors of the ferry terminal.  We passed through a couple glass doors and suddenly found ourselves standing next to a line of taxis.  Hey, what the heck?  Did we somehow miss immigration and customs?

Nope.  There was no immigration, no customs.  As we skipped back into the terminal to withdraw some more Euros from an ATM, I reflected on just how much more convenient life in the Union must be for the people of Europe.  Crossing from country to country didn’t seem to me to be much different than crossing from state to state in America.

Only bummer is we didn’t get any new stamps in our passports!
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PVX: McDonald’s in Finland

Posted by Arlo on Nov 1, 2011 under McDonald's of the World, Postcard Valet, PV-Podcast, Travel, Videos

We only really had one opportunity to eat at McDonald’s while we were in Helsinki and neither Oksana nor I were hungry at the time.  Unfortunately, I think that sort of shows in the video.  Hunger being the best spice and all that.

Anyway, we made a big deal about how incomprehensible the Finnish menu was for us, but we actually had a very helpful person taking our order.  He was an older gentleman with perfect English.  When I told him I’d have the 1955 burger, he nodded and said, “Good choice.  You’ll like that one, it’s very good!”  I’ve never had a McDonald’s cashier validate the deliciousness of my order before!

Just for fun, here’s the official Finland McDonald’s menu (at least for the Helsinki restaurant we visited.)  Can someone tell me what a Tuplajuustohampurilaisateria is?