Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How to Survive Hours in the Car

We've been doing a lot of driving this summer.  The second half of the year we were in Turkey, we couldn't drive within the country due to restrictions, and since we were on the coast, that meant that to travel, we had to fly.  I love flying and it's become second nature to us after this year, but driving definitely has it's benefits.  You can really see the landscape and the culture of the country you are traveling in.  Last summer (2015), before all of the chaos in Turkey, we were lucky enough to drive down the southern coast of our new home country and man oh man was it beautiful.  Both Mike and I remarked at how similar it was to the drive along the coast of California.  Plus, driving allows you to stop and check out places along your route.  I'll never forget seeing signs on that drive in Turkey that advertised all sorts of different foods.  We must have seen a different sign advertising a different food every kilometer.  We were so excited and hungry by the time we arrived, only to find out that the foods they were advertising were variations of kofte (Turkish version of a meatball).  While we were a little disappointed, we embraced it as the full Turkish experience.  I'm sure in Germany, you could replace kofte with sausage and have a very similar experience.  We've learned a thing or two in all of our driving trips and now feel just as comfortable driving as we do flying.


  1.  GPS. In order for our marriage to survive, we need a GPS.  It was the best Black Friday purchase we ever made.  The number of arguments and tears have drastically decreased since that purchase.  
  2. Snacks.  I'm all about snacks and I usually put myself in charge of that department.  There is nothing worse than being stuck in the car and being hungry.  Plus, if you're like me and get motion sick, being hungry just exasterbates the problem. One time when we were driving to Istanbul last summer, we discovered that there is NOTHING between Izmir and Istanbul.  I mean nothing.  I longed for the McDonald's at every exit that we have in the United States.  That's just not a thing in Turkey (probably because having a car and traveling is such a luxury).  After that miserable experience, I swore to never drive anywhere without snacks.  I try to make them relatively healthy, but sometimes I'm guilty of baking a loaf of banana chocolate chip bread.  Judge away, but it's so good. 
  3. Water.  I'm pretty cautious about this one.  I have the worlds smallest bladder and if I drink ANYTHING, I'll have to stop for the bathroom.  Therefore, I don't normally bring water unless I know we're in for a really long haul.  I just plan to drink a TON when we arrive at our destination. That being said, Mike almost always asks for water or something to drink, so we usually have something in the car. 
  4. Comfortable clothes.  If I'm going to be sitting in a car for hours on end, I'm going to be comfortable.  It's the same for flying.  I always have shoes that I can take off and slip back on easily when we stop for lunch or a bathroom break.  I also try to wear layers.  Mike is a lover of the AC and I am not. Therefore, it may be 85 degrees outside, but you better believe I'll have my cardigan.  Judge away. Last, I try to wear looser clothes.  I don't wear my tighter jeans or more fitted shirts because that's just not comfortable. Loose and flowy always win.  If we're going to a beach or somewhere super casual, I'm usually just in gym shorts and a tshirt. I try to look somewhat presentable when we roll up to our hotel, but I'm always trying to find that happy medium of comfortable and presentable. 
  5. Entertainment.  Mike is almost always the driver, which means he gets to pick the entertainment.  It's only fair.  Plus, I'm usually napping (those Russo genes!), so it's more important for him to enjoy what's playing.   We have the necessary cords to play our music from our phones, but that either requires having a lot of playlists on your phone (more music = more storage), or you have to use data (more data = more money), neither of which are ideal.  While we have been known to rock out to Backstreet Boys and 'NSYNC for a decent amount of a road trip, I can only listen to the "I love the 90s" playlist so many times. Once we realized that we'd be able to drive to  a lot of our destinations,we started to reevaluate our entertainment situation and decided to try books on tape. We downloaded the Audible app and got the three month free trial.  Along with that, you get a free book download a month, so three free books.  We had so much fun listening to our first three months worth of books, that we decided to continue our subscription to Audible, at least for the year we're in Germany.   We still get our free book download a month and, as long as the book is worth more than $15, we've earned back our monthly fee.  It's been a great distraction on days when we've had a long drive or the scenery stays the same.  Plus, we've definitely had a time or two where we've gotten to our hotel and then stayed in to finish the chapter or book. Our biggest hurdle is finding a book that we both will enjoy.  Mike is a big sci fi/ fantasy reader, while I'm more of a coming of age or mystery fan.  The easiest compromise is historical fiction.  We've done a few WWII books and are now trying to branch out and find some that are more relevant to Turkish/Ottoman history (if you have any recommendations, send them our way!) What books have we listened to?
  • Modern Romance: An Investigation by Aziz Ansari.   This was our first audiobook and we weren't sure what to expect.  It's nonfiction and narrated by the amazing Aziz himself.  That was probably the best part.  The study that he conducted on modern romance around the world is fascinating and he proves himself much more than just a comedian.  We both enjoyed it, although I thought it was a little bit slow at times.  It combined my undergraduate major in Communications with Mike's love for quantitative data, so it was a perfect combination for us. 
  • Boys on the Boat written by Daniel James Brown and narrated by Edward Hermann.  This was probably my favorite book that we've listened to so far.  It takes place in the years leading up to the 1936 Olympics and is about the boys that make up the crew team that represents the United States in Hitler Germany.  It was perfect to listen to while the 2016 Olympics were taking place and I definitely found myself more interested in rowing after listening.
  • The Martian written by Andy Weir and narrated by R.C. Bray.  I was a little hesitant about this one since it's science fiction, but the fact that they made a movie out of it meant that I should be able to follow along and enjoy it.  I was right.  We both got into this book and found ourselves hanging on to every word the narrator said (although I did wish it was Matt Damon narrating).  Towards the end, it got a little long/technical in my book, but that didn't end up being a huge deal and I was still able to follow along. I definitely want to watch the movie after listening to the book. 
  • The Book Thief written by Markus Zusak and narrated by Allan Corduner.  This was another historical fiction novel that we both really enjoyed.   It had been on my to-read list for a while, especially after they made a movie out of it, so I was excited to listen to it.   Again, we both really enjoyed it, although I think me a little bit more than Mike.  It was another great perspective into Nazi Germany and Europe at that time.    We finished it after our less-than-stellar day in Wiesbaden and then ending just crushed both of us.  We just drove in silence for what seemed like forever while I frantically looked for an upbeat podcast or something to kill our last couple of hours.  That being said, it was a wonderfully written book and both Mike and I found ourselves close to/in tears at different points in the book.  I'd watch the movie, but I don't think my emotions can handle it.
Next on our list is The Girl with all the Gifts by Mike Carey.  It's definitely right up Mike's alley of distopian fiction, but I'm willing to give it a try.  Although, that means I get to pick the next book ;)  We're hoping to find a Turkish historical fiction book, but we're not having quite as much luck as we are with WWII.  We'll keep looking....

Do you guys have any books/audiobooks that you think we'd enjoy? Any tips for making a road trip great?  Let's hear 'em!