By , April 11, 2013 4:08 pm
Surprise! We're home!  Not in Bulgaria, silly... in Saskamoose-a-bush, Canada, the land of ice and snow. Okay, maybe you've already been surprised. Probably because we've already been home for three weeks as any astute Facebook follower would know. If you didn't know, don't feel bad. It just means we get to surprise you now. Surprise!

How long are you home for?

Ah, right to it. The first question everyone asks. We're going to be home for a while, but not forever. Our rough plan/dream is to go to Bhutan where Ashley will teach math for a year and I'll either work online or, more likely, go hiking every day and work on my photography. It can always use a bit of work but unfortunately doesn't pay so well.

Where the heck is Bhutan? 

This is the second most common question we get.  Bhutan is a small country located in the Himalayas. It's south of Tibet, east of Nepal, and north of India and Bangladesh. Aside from its premium geographic location, the kingdom is most well known for its so called "happiness legislation". Basically what they've done is given up on the traditional measure of GDP employed by most of the world to determine how well the country is doing, and instead have decided to use the measure of happiness. I have no idea how they measure it, but they do. Government policies are thus made with the goal of increasing national happiness, which has had some interesting results. The most relevant to would-be travellers like us is their restrictive travel visa. It turns out that cultural preservation makes the Bhutanese happy, while being surrounded by throngs of foreign tourists does not. Travel visas are limited in number, short on time, restrictive on movement, and are very very expensive. Which is why for years, Ashley and I had written Bhutan off as a dream travel destination that we would likely never see. Until now... What we've found is a volunteer job opportunity that Ashley is qualified for. Applications open in May. Successful applicants are announced in September. If she's accepted (fingers crossed), we'll be moving to Bhutan in January 2014! If not... we'll do something else. Probably something like teaching English abroad.
Map of Bhutan

Map of Bhutan

Whoa, January! Is Traveled Earth shutting down until January? What will I read on Fridays?

Don't worry... we're not going anywhere. We've got a back log of, oh geeze, like two months of stories from our time in Thailand and Cambodia. I'm working really hard on getting our photos ready to publish, I promise. By that time, this ice ball we call Canada should have thawed a bit, school will be out (relevant as Ashley is working as a substitute teacher right now), and we'll be travelling Canada. We currently have a poll on our facebook page. You can help us decide which way to head out (East or West) by voting and sharing the poll with your friends. After our brief (2 month) cross country tour we'll be headed home for some more work until the cold sets in. Having skipped two winters, and finding this spring quite unbearably cold, I've got a pretty good feeling we'll be re-locating someplace warm a few months before our scheduled arrival in Bhutan.

Phew, I can live with that. So how's home?

It's good and bad in ways, but mostly it's just a little weird. It feels so familiar and yet so different from what we're used to.  It's been great meeting up with family and friends. We surprised both of our parents (we told them we were coming home in mid April and showed up without warning at the end of March). Their reactions were priceless. We've rekindled our love of board games. We're cooking up a storm now that we have not only a kitchen, but a whole array of seasonings and spices.  Ashley's even started watching a little TV and movies again (I haven't gotten there yet, but probably will soon). Price shock has been hard. Rental rates in this city are unaffordable for us at $1,000+ a month for a single room apartment. A single restaurant meal for one person costs more than what we are accustomed to spending for the two of us during a whole day. It's also impossible for us to get by using only public transport. To get to work on time, Ashley needs a car. To visit my parents we need a car (there are no buses). So we bought a car.
Toyota Echo - The newest member fo the Family

Toyota Echo - The newest member of the Family

As you can tell from the picture above, it's been cold. It was 38 °C the day we left Bangkok, and -14°C when we arrived back in Saskatchewan. That's a big difference.  We knew the weather would be iffy coming home this early, but a windchill of -27°C on April 9?  Come on! Some other odds and ends:
  • Vegetables/fruits are expensive and taste terrible here. We've always known that. Everything is picked green and trucked long distances. At least in the fall we can hit up farmer markets.
  • It's nice being able to control what we eat again. Having a full kitchen is bliss. It's been a glut of whole grains and beans. My bread starter is almost done, so fresh bread should be on the table soon.
  • It's weird not seeing/hearing chickens. Especially in the morning. I miss them. The factory eggs they sell in our stores are the most flavourless, sickly, pale food items we've seen since we left home (maybe the zero calorie peanut butter we saw in Florida was worse). Fortunately, we found a source of free-range eggs.

News from Bulgaria.

We got some bad news from Bulgaria this week. Our car has been stripped. They removed the LPG kit, broke the rear window, and stole the tires. And no, we don't have insurance. It was a $500 car.
Broken rear window - no rims

Broken rear window - no rims

Missing LPG kit

Missing LPG kit

Our house was also broken into. We didn't really have much in there, maybe $100 worth of tools which I'm sure are now gone. That's pretty sad news for us. Not so much because of what was stolen/damaged, but because our dream has been squashed. Our plan for the house was to visit it over the next several years and slowly improve it and the yard when we had money. Our goal was to only move there full time once we could afford to do it. But now, we've come to realize that any improvements we could make, like installing new appliances, toilets, cupboards and the like would most likely end up as somebody else's improvements in somebody else's house when we're away. Not sure what we'll end up doing with the place now, but if you're looking for your own house in Bulgaria we're open to offers... If you missed our Bulgarian House Saga, you can read more on it here and here.

Back to the regular schedule.

That's our real-time update for now. Stay tuned for posts on S.E. Asia. Our final trip stats and reflections will be published after that.

9 Responses to “Back in the Freezer (aka Home)”

  1. Talon says:

    I’ve been hoping to find something similar to enable us to spend time in Bhutan. At $250 USD per person per day, it isn’t going to happen in our near future otherwise! How exciting for you guys! I hope Ashley gets the position.

    I am so sad to hear about the home in Bulgaria. I guess it’s better to find out now rather than after you’ve upgraded a bunch of stuff. I’m supposing hiring someone to watch over the place isn’t realistic.

    Sounds like you’re dealing with the culture shock OK. I don’t even want to imagine going back.

    • Mike Lenzen says:

      There’s nothing of value in the house itself, so I don’t see a point in hiring someone to watch it. I just hope they don’t damage any doors or windows next time the poke around inside.

      The car on the other hand… A bit more extreme than I envisioned. I thought owning a crap junker would be enough to keep it safe.

  2. Ange says:

    We’ve been stuck in this weather all year and I can tell you we are done with it. I am usually pretty positive, I stay positive all winter long because I know at least in March we’ll get a few days of spring and a few of winter, and in April we normally get a majority of spring days with only a short few winter days and so the trend goes until June. However, it’s been winter with zero spring days. I don’t consider the melting we’ve had spring as they haven’t been overly nice days and they’ve been too few and far between and the snow just doesn’t stop. Oh well, still trying to stay positive, hopefully things will turn around by the end of the month.

    Really hoping that Bhutan becomes a reality for you guys. So sorry about your home and car in Bulgaria. Hope you guys can figure out a positive solution for the house. Definitely disheartening news.

    • Mike Lenzen says:

      The good new is that it’s spring in Bulgaria. Even our barn has green weeds sprouting as seen in the photo. I guess crime is a reasonable trade off for nice weather.

  3. Lorelei says:

    Welcome home!!!!! Definitely not what you hoping to come home to….weather wise! So enjoy reading your blog. Great read, maybe someday, you can compile all this into a book…take care:)

    • Mike Lenzen says:

      I’ve thought about making a book of it. Even if it’s not for publish, it’d be nice to have as a record. Websites cost money to serve, and software/browsers continually change. Books last a long time if looked after.

  4. Rhonda says:

    Well well, not the news I expected but Bhutan would certainly be exciting! Good luck adjusting to being home and really good luck on the Bhutan opportunity!

    • Mike Lenzen says:

      Thanks Rhonda. Ashley’s filling out the application for Bhutan today. Adjustment has been tough so far. The ground is still all white. Un-helped by another snow dump just yesterday.

  5. Ken says:

    So soon give up? Oooh nooo… Protect your home in Bulgaria and enjoy the beautiful side of lovely Bulgaria!

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