Tuesday, August 8, 2023

10 On The Road Thoughts

I've been traveling through Mexico for three months, with a week left before traveling back to the US. We'll be crossing over in Eagle Pass, Texas, but being a Californian, I still have 1,700 miles to go (at around 300 miles a day). I have some thoughts for living and traveling on the road, especially here in Mexico. Here's a brief list:

  1. Are you living in or out of your RV? My goal was to experience as much culture as I desired, while also having a home as a refuge. That home could be a nice hotel room or in my case, a new RV. If you have a small RV (a van here is ideal) or a small budget for a cheap room, you're probably living out of your accommodations. You spend as little time there as possible. You might go small as a strategy to force yourself outside, but I didn't want to take that chance with my kid and months away at a time. If you have nice accommodations or a larger RV, you can live in it. If I have adequate power, my experience in my RV is the same in a beautiful mountain town as it is in a Wal-Mart parking lot. With size comes problems, so it's no free lunch. Decide which of these appeals to you. My advice, go small and spend your money on language improvement. Being outside and talking with people is key.
  2. Who is Going? I originally planned on a truck camper, a much smaller option. The main problem was nobody I know would want to live in a 35 square foot tiny home with me, at least not for months at a time. I looked at who would come with me, and what I would need to entice future travelers. Eventually I decided I wanted all the comforts of home, just in case the outside world wasn't what we bargained for. It has been derogatorily called a cocoon, a bubble, a box, but it's home to me.
  3. Telecommunications. We found our AT&T phones had 5G Internet traveling in the US, but were often bricks in Mexico. Starlink was the answer. It's not perfect; it drops out on occasion. Mine failed early on and I've been moochnetting off a friend. At no time was it so bad I couldn't use it for work. Just forget about cellular as a solution; it won't work reliably everywhere. However, I did buy a local phone, a Wal-Mart Android phone that cost me about $150 and uses local cell services (their BAIT network). It saved us when the AT&T phones dropped to 3G, usually when I'm using Google Maps. I sip data on my Wal-Mart phone, while my AT&T phone was set up to guzzle bandwidth.
  4. Budgeting and Money Management. Movement is money, so traveling to and from your main destination is probably the most expensive part of the trip. Slow way down. Also, save up for those times. In Mexico, you use a lot of cash, and ATM and currency fees are sometimes nuts. I use a Schwab account that reimburses me for fees and does a more favorable currency conversion. I only use this account for travel. I also use credit cards that don't have currency transaction fees; Capital One and now Chase are both pretty good. Nobody wants your Amex.
  5. Be Adaptable. When I drove through Mexico five years ago in a Jeep, there were times it broke down. When a battery cable came loose, we got to the next town when my buddy used a nail off the side of the road. In RV living, you will need to do home repair or find people who can. I'm waiting for the carpenter to show up today. Maybe he will, maybe he won't. I have nine items on my repair list for when I get back; none stop me from enjoying myself.
  6. Gradual Removal from the Workplace. I took a day off a week, then weekends, then a two week vacation and eventually worked up to 10 weeks five years ago. After COVID, I stopped working on site. What I've found is being prepared means there is no difference between working from home and working abroad. I do have a small problem with the state tax officials, who want me to call them on an 800 number (no bueno), but I had my manager send them a letter.
  7. Management is Key. Delegating day to day operations to a responsible team takes years. There are things I could delegate that seem to ask for it, but they're so key to the business, I keep them for myself. Learn which are which through trial and error. There should rarely be a case in which the on site staff don't know the answer. This takes years to develop.
  8. Things You Can't Get. There is very little you can't find on the road. I bought a new laptop before I went because I knew it would be a crisis if my five year old model failed (it had problems). It turns out there are unofficial Mac stores in every city. My list of unobtainable items are mostly conveniences, like Swiffer pads for my mop. RV parts and accessories like tank treatments are completely absent here. Amazon.mx is so lame I never bothered trying.
  9. Learn some of the Language. I was woefully unprepared on this trip, with about 60 Duolingo Spanish lessons over three years. Yet, I spent ten days on my own without my Spanish speaking friend, living my life, going to the movies, getting work done on my truck, buying groceries. Sure, I failed at times, but I also got everything done and built confidence. I know way more Spanish than five years ago, and I know a lot more than when I started this trip. I'm planning to come back soon to do a Spanish intensive.
  10. Wonderful Discoveries. I discovered micheladas, a beer and clam juice concoction that hits the spot on hot days. I like toasted corn crackers and my go to at any restaurant is consome de pollo (chicken soup). The food on this trip has been so-so and I've done a lot of cooking in the RV. Eggs are in the cupboard, rather than the refrigerator. All the cheese seems to be manchego, so a specialty cheese shop is a blessing. Regional breads of every kind are the go-to snack at any time of day. I drink about a bottle of jamaica a day, unsweetened and designed to be the base for some family's sugary beverage. The people have been wonderful, especially the times I've been able to hold a brief conversation in Spanish. It's the small things.

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