We have some differences over what to consider the official start day of our trip. When someone asks – how long have you been traveling, Sergey announces that we have been on the road since 3 August, which is when we moved out of www.victorianinbloom.com in DC and became homeless; for Jenia, the trip started on 1 September, when we took the first train from Moscow to Nizhniy Novgorod.
We compromised on departure date on 12 August, the day of flight from New York to Moscow. As such we have now been traveling for a month – our thoughts and notes on the experience (and Russia) so far –
Days on the road: 30
Distance traveled: 10,142 miles
- by plane – 3829.23 miles / 6162.56 km
- by train – 5920.4 miles / 9528 km
- by bus – 370 miles / 596 km
- by boat – 2 miles / 3.2 km
- by car – 20 miles / 32 km
Number of beds: 13 (including 5 different train bunks)
Items lost: 1
- Jenia’s scarf in Domodedovo Airport
Items ditched: 4
- Shampoo bottle
- Sunscreen bottle
- Vaseline Container
- Jenia’s Straw Hat
Items Acquired: 2
- Camel wool hat for Sergey
- Magnet from some lady from Yakutiya
Postcards sent: 0
Take good care of your immune system – travel wears you down; vitamins and medicine came in handy for Jenia on the road almost right away. We didn’t pack a huge arsenal, and it is true that you can pick up almost any medicine abroad, but who wants to go to the pharmacy hung over/sick? Ibuprofen has been clutch, especially for Moscow.
At the same time, we didn’t go to the travel doctor in the US because of the expense and have been able to take care of vaccinations relatively cheaply in Moscow, about 1/10th of what it would be in US. We were able to buy cipro, antibiotics for the stomach sickness, over the counter – yay, developing countries!
Overall, outside of runny noses here and there, we are in a good shape.
(this update was brought to you by our parents)
It was rather pleasant to ease into the trip by being stationary in Moscow and Petrozavodsk for the first 2.5 weeks. We were able to adjust to the time difference, food, and culture before jumping into heavy traveling mode.
Once we started train travel, we quickly realized how tiring it is to switch cities every day or so; it was especially hard to visit a city for a day and leave the following evening. Building in a few days off here is essential, as it allows your mind to intake all the stimuli you’ve experienced and your body to rest. We had 3 nights and 2 full days on Lake Baikal, magical place, which was incredibly helpful to recharge and get our bearings after going from place to place every day.
We still haven’t found our traveling rhythm – which has caused some stress for both of us. Interacting and communicating 24 hours a day, every day, in a constantly changing environment is very different from routine day-to-day with work and friends serving as a buffer. Our worst moment was in Yekaterinburg where we had to split up to cool off. But we are getting the hang of it, give us another month or so and we should be all set. Best advice for traveling newbies – be patient and forgiving. In the beginning there is great amount of stress, which you may not be used to yet. We knew coming into Russian leg of our trip, at least in theory, that we are traveling rather fast, but now we felt what it really means.
Our light packing, for the most part, has worked out fairly well. Jenia only brought 2 t-shirts, which was a mistake. If one gets dirty, another you wear, you really want to have another clean. She picked up one more from a friend, so all good on that front now. Two auxiliary bags have made our life much easier – a foldable grocery bag and a foldable day bag. We pack extra pieces from the backpack and purse in the day bag when we want to check our luggage at the train station. By the way, pricing varies drastically from city to city without any rhythm or reason.
Weather and Season
Weather is a big factor in how much you enjoy a place (at least for Jenia). Of course, it’s still possible to sightsee in the rain, but the mood just isn’t the same. Russia really is best in the summer, since the spring and autumn is full of gray, rain, and cold. Winter is a whole another story because of the snow (and a whole different level of cold).
Early to mid September is really probably the end of a shoulder season in Russia, before the real fall sets in across much of the country. It was pretty cool for most of the time of our travel between 8 and 15 degrees Centigrade, with some nice days here and there.
I never thought I was much of a hiking person – but that might be changing (Jenia). We haven’t done anything too strenuous or multi-day, but we did some serious walking and climbing in Krasnoyarsk, about 13km, and Olkhon Island, around 15km over two separate trips, and it sort of becomes addictive.
For Sergey, 3g and wifi internet access through our Russian sim cards was a great add-on, so the next leg will provide a true challenge. Wifi will be sought after for both blog and sanity purposes for sure.
There you have it: a month on the road flew by so fast that we barely noticed it.
Thank you all of our old and new friends who helped us along the way!