It’s awesome to say that we’ve officially been traveling for over a year! We spent it learning about other people and places, and we learned a few things about ourselves too.
We are comfortable ordering food pretty much anywhere in any language, even if it involves pantomiming. We have become more adventurous eaters, often going out of our way to find the better, cheaper local food. When the little old lady shakes her head and points to something else on the menu, don’t ask questions - it’s going to be delicious! We can figure out any toilet or shower, even the ones that electrocute you. Living out of one daypack and backpack per person has taught us to be minimalists. Everything we need for all four seasons, rain or shine, is in those bags. There are things we miss every now and then, but for the most part it’s pretty liberating not being constantly concerned with stuff. These might sound basic, but they were not at first. They took practice, patience, and a lot of good humor.
Apart from learning about ourselves, we’ve also learned a lot about the world and the people we share it with. Lesson one? The world isn’t a big scary place, and most people are genuinely friendly. Sure, you can find dangerous parts in any city or country, but be smart! Do your research, keep your head up, and trust your instincts. There have been numerous times when our parents were concerned about our safety - Columbia (you’ll get mugged!), Rio (you’ll get Zika!), India (you’ll get raped!) - but there hasn’t been one instance in which we’ve felt unsafe. Yes, there will be times when you’ll be ripped off or you run into the occasional jerk, but most people are happy to help if you ask for it. Don’t be afraid to ask! You might even learn a few things or get invited to share a beer.
We’ve also learned that long-term traveling isn’t as expensive as you might think. “How much did you save up?” is one of the top questions we’re asked. The answer? That doesn’t matter! Traveling is much cheaper than people assume because you aren’t vacationing. You aren’t staying in the luxury, five-star hotels or eating at the #1 rated Trip Advisor restaurant every night. You’re staying in hostels that can be as cheap as $2/night (and include breakfast!) or staying at a private room in an Airbnb and living with a family. You’re eating whatever the native foods are and sitting on plastic stools in market stalls elbow-to-elbow with locals. Yes, you’ll splurge on Western food every now and then because hello: pizza! But for the most part, travel is about experiencing how people actually live in the area you’re visiting.
Finally, do we have any regrets? Hell nah! Well ok maybe we should have skipped a few things, but those were learning experiences and for the most part we’ve been pretty smart in our research and doing things we actually want to do. We’ve had several people ask us if we worry about finding jobs when we come back home since we’ll have a gap in our employment. The way we see it, we’ve been gaining experiences that working a 9-to-5 wouldn’t ever be able to provide.
And now for some stats!
- Number of continents: 4
- 5 if you count a couple hour layover in Casablanca, Morocco. We were supposed to have a 15 hour layover there and make Africa an official stop, but 12 hour delays are what happen when you fly Royal Air Maroc.
- Number of countries: 31
- 5 in North America (not counting the US)
- 7 in South America
- 15 in Europe
- 3 in Southeast Asia
- 32 total if you count a 20 minute bus stop in Bosnia & Herzegovina when we were traveling from Dubrovnik to Split, Croatia.
- 33 total if you count a miserable six hour layover at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia since that’s probably the only time we’ll ever even be able to travel there (they do not currently issue tourist visas).
- Favorite country: Peru
- Thailand is a close runner up, but we’ve only been to Bangkok and the north so we don’t have a judgement on the southern part of the country yet.
- Least favorite country: Bolivia or India
- Favorite cities: Rio, Brazil and Budapest, Hungary
- Favorite region: Patagonia (in Chile & Argentina)
- Places we want to return to the most:
- Patagonia with camping gear so we can do more hiking.
- Colombia since we only made it to Bogota, and there are so many more amazing places to visit there.
Food & Drink
- Favorite food:
- Street food: Mexico
- Overall: Thailand
- Worst food:
- While we desperately miss our American craft beer, the best beer scene we encountered had to be Krakow, Poland. Mikkeller Brewing out of Denmark is amazing, but unfortunately way above our current price point.
- With Europe as the exception, whenever we’ve found good beer abroad, we later learned that it almost always has an American as the Brewmaster. Figures.
- In general, most countries have a couple generic light beers that everyone drinks. While we won’t say no to a cold one, hunting out the good beer bars has given us the opportunity to meet a lot of awesome people from around the world who share our passion!
Packing & Clothing
- Most essential packing items:
- Hiking boots: sneakers just don’t cut it when you’re hiking through the mountains, snow, and mud.
- Same rule as Day 1: always carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer!
- Imodium. Hopefully not used frequently (or at all!), but if you’re eating sketchy foods, you’ll never want to be without it before a long bus ride.
- We made an effort to pack versatile clothes, and we got rid of items we realized weren’t essential.
- Overall packing tip: other countries have stores too! You don’t need to stock up on toiletries, specialty clothing, etc. Some things like contact solution might be more expensive, but there’s no reason to carry around extra weight so you can have your special brand of shampoo.
- Clothes we’ve lost along the way:
- Two pairs of jeans after the knees blew out.
- Two pairs of shorts and another pair of pants because they were too big from the weight we’ve lost. Walking five to ten miles a day helps, plus sometimes we see who can get the hangriest before we finally cave and find a place to eat.
- Vesper’s sneakers wore out a week ago (hole in the bottom let in too much water), but he’s refusing to replace them and plans to only wear his hiking boots and flipflops until he deems it absolutely necessary to buy new ones.
- The Ali Baba pants we bought in India fell apart pretty fast, but served their purpose while we were unable to wear shorts.
- Cheapest country: Mexico
- Most expensive country: Norway
- We’re proud to say we’re currently under budget! We spend a lot of time recording expenses and tailoring our activities to stay on track. Although Europe was hard on the wallet, Southeast Asia is a great place to help us bring our costs down.
- We continue to DIY as much as possible. Yes, organized tours and excursions are convenient and easy, but you almost always pay a huge markup for these. By doing it yourself, you get to meet and interact with locals, try what you actually want to, skip the things you don’t care about, and save lots of money. Going this route usually involves more time and patience, but if you have that luxury: do it! Or, if it’s the type of activity that requires a tour, try and book with the agency directly to cut out the middleman and save money that way.
- So far, we’ve only found Europe to be the place where booking ahead will save you money. South America and Southeast Asia are awesome places to fly by the seat of your pants and not worry about costs as you go where the wind takes you.
- Don’t think you can afford long term travel? Think about how much you’re paying per day just on your rent or mortgage. Back in Madison, we were paying over $50/day on rent and utilities alone! Now we’re averaging less than $20/night on lodging - and, no offense to Madison - enjoying it in some way cooler places.
Thanks for following along with us on this amazing year long adventure. We thought this traveling thing was going to get old, but it definitely hasn’t. And don’t worry! We’ll come back someday, just not today. Here’s to several more months on the road!