I hate driving. I don’t like driving in my own country, let alone foreign ones. It’s not that I’m bad at it. It’s just that I do it so infrequently that it makes me nervous these days. And so I’m always fascinated by people who travel by car. Back in the early days of this blog I met a group of guys driving a trip around the world. They had crazy stories. A few months ago, I announced we were going to start doing more reader stories to highlight some of your crazy stories. In our first reader spotlight, we’re talking to Ryan who is driving from Seattle down to the tip of South America with his girlfriend! (Which, let’s be honest, sounds like an amazing adventure!)

Nomadic Matt: Tell everyone here about yourself!
Ryan: I’m 33 years old and originally from Seattle, Washington, but after college I spent five years working in Washington, DC in the halls of Congress. When my boss decided to retire in 2012 instead of run for re-election, I opted to take a yearlong sabbatical to road-trip across the American West and to hike and climb as much as I could. When the year came to an end, though, I wasn’t ready to give up the nomadic lifestyle, so I just kept going.

So how did you get into travel?
My first overseas travel experiences were thanks to studying abroad in college, with lengthy stays in Florence, Italy, and Sana’a, Yemen. Both trips instilled in me a sense of wanderlust that stuck with me through my years of working a desk job, and I believe they played a significant role in eventually getting me out there on the road.

What made you decide to go on this trip?
My solo road trip across the American West was an absolutely transformative experience, and the seed of driving to Patagonia got planted in my mind and took root over a few years. I began to think, why just drive across America when you can drive across all of the Americas?

I also like exploring new cultures and foods and immersing myself in different languages whenever I travel overseas. I long to get a little farther afield, to get off the well-worn tourist track, and that can be quite difficult. I’ve traveled the backpacker circuit and schlepped my bag around colorful little towns and hopped on and off public buses — but when you’ve got your own wheels, a whole new world of travel opens up and allows you to get away from the crowds and immerse yourself in local life.

TOKYO – When I’m on vacation, I almost always lose a little weight. This is a) because I am constantly in motion, and b) because I become obsessed with only eating foods that are special. When I’m home, I might eat a box of stale donuts because they are there. But in Japan, I will only eat something if it’s authentically Japanese or otherwise rare and extravagant and worthy of being consumed on my special trip halfway across the globe.

All of the above explains why I had refused to eat anything between breakfast and 2:30 in the afternoon, despite being really, really hungry. I was saving my lunch for Asakusa Imahan, the restaurant that Lonely Planet recommended on its Asakusa walking tour. Asakusa Imahan is a small, upscale Japanese chain that specializes in shabu-shabu. The phrase “shabu-shabu” is onomatopoetic for the sound that beef makes when you swirl it around a bowl of broth. Here’s how shabu-shabu works: You put a big steaming bowl of broth in the center of a table and assemble bowls of beef, veggies, sauce, what-have-you to the side. You cook the beef by swirling it for a few seconds and then you nom, nom, nom it. It’s delicious, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. At this point in the story, I had not shabu-shabued yet.

There are two branches of Asakusa Imahan. I went to the bigger one on Kokusai Street. It was pretty easy to find, and I don’t have any hilarious getting-lost stories. On the way, I found a seedy-looking Thai restaurant that was using MY NAME for its title. I did not appreciate this and thought about suing, but decided to reconsider until after lunch.

When I arrived at the restaurant, I managed to indicate that I was looking for shabu-shabu for one. I say “managed” because for most of my time at the restaurant, I did everything wrong. You could totally tell that I had never shabu-shabued before.

The waitresses were very polite, spoke excellent English, and did not laugh at my errors. I was impressed, because I usually spoke Japanese wherever I went, and typically found my Japanese to be better than the English of the person to whom I was speaking. Not at Asakusa Imahan. I don’t know if the waitresses were fluent in English — or just experienced in explaining the way of the shabu-shabu to foreigners.

The first thing I did wrong was try to enter the restaurant. The waitresses asked me to take my shoes off first. I did and noticed rows of pretty wooden sandals by the entrance. These didn’t look like shoes you would wear on the street, so I thought I was meant to put them on to walk around the restaurant. The outraged (yet very polite) shriek that came from the waitresses indicated to me that I was not meant to wear these shoes. Word to the wise: When you see strange pairs of shoes in a restaurant, ask before trying them on.

Babies don’t come with a manual, but there are plenty of resources out there to keep you up-to-date on important safety recommendations and protocols. Like any job, parents should seek out further education and training to ensure they’re always equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to do the best they can.

To learn a few basics for keeping your baby safe, here is a safety guide to help you navigate some common situations with your new baby.

Bedroom and Sleep Safety

Keep furniture away from the window
Follow the ABC’s of safe sleep – alone (no bedding or stuffed animals), on his/her back, in a crib or bassinet
Ensure changing area is safe by keeping lotions and creams out of baby’s reach. Never leave baby unattended during a diaper change – buckle the safety strap if one is available. Keep one hand on baby at all times.
Bath Safety

Gather and prepare all supplies before beginning the bath
Keep supplies within arms-reach so you never have to leave baby unattended or take your eyes off of baby
Use a gentle liquid soap to clean baby carefully
Use nonslip bath mats in the tub and on the bathroom floor to prevent slipping
Eating Safety

Always hold baby’s bottle, never prop it up while baby drinks
Set-up a designated nursing or feeding spot to prevent falling asleep while feeding baby to avoid sleep-related accidents
Always secure the safety straps around baby in the high chair
Never leave baby unattended in the high chair
Ensure that the wheels are in the locked position when in use
Offer age-appropriate food options and teach appropriate portion sizes and bite sizes to prevent choking
Car Safety

Using a safe car seat is one of the most important ways to protect your baby.
Ensure your car seat is properly installed before using by following installation instructions and having it checked at a health department, fire station, or police station.
Ensure the straps are snug and the buckle is placed at chest level, even with the armpits.
Follow recommendations for rear-facing car seats and age-appropriate modifications
Do not use the car seat as a replacement for a crib or safe sleeping space, even if it seems baby sleeps better there.
Play Safety

Never leave baby unattended, bring baby with you if the doorbell rings, etc. or place baby in the crib or a safe, secure place if you must divert your attention elsewhere
Anchor heavy furniture to the wall so if baby bumps into it there is no risk of a tip-over accident
Be vigilant about vacuuming and keeping baby’s play area free of choking hazards
Cover electrical outlets
Install baby gates to keep baby in/out of designated spaces
Place latches on cupboards and drawers with dangerous utensils, dishware, and appliances.

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