Trip Recap

Our 18 months of travel in numbers..

# of countries visited: 15  (Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, New Zealand, and Australia)

ACCOMMODATION

# of places we stayed: 173

# of nights, in a:

  • Hotel/Hostel: 213
  • AirBnB:  85
  • Camper van, freedom camping: 23
  • Camper van, holiday park: 28
  • Camper van, National Park: 8
  • Klotok boat: 2
  • Villa in Ubud: 14
  • School in Guatemala: 15
  • Bungalow in Utila: 18
  • Junk (boat in Vietnam): 1
  • Gillian's (family friend in Australia):  12

TRAVEL

Modes of transport:  airplane, train, tuk tuk, motorbike, car, van, boat, ferry, walking, trolly, subway, klotok, train, bus

# of flights: 28

# of overnight buses:  5

# of countries we were millionaires: 2 (Indonesia and Vietnam)

OTHER

Average cost per day: $120 overall, MUCH lower in SE Asia and MUCH higher in New Zealand and Australia.  

# of ATM cards stolen:  2

Where we'll go next:  Japan.  Our budget couldn't afford it this round, but we will head there next after our travel funds are ample enough!

# of pounds we carried: At the most, 88 pounds with all of our winter stuff.  At the lightest, 42 pounds.  

Food sickness totals:  Sarah: 2 (Chile and New Zealand)  Eric:  1 (Peru)

Recap of our time Down Under

Out of 5 weeks in New Zealand and 6 weeks traveling in Australia, we were in a camper van for 10 of those 11 weeks!  Let me be the first to tell you, that's way too much time in a camper van!  

BUT, those days spent living like snails meant we got to see a lot of sights and traveled as we pleased which was a huge benefit.  Lunch was whatever picnic area was the prettiest, though finding shower and sleeping spots on our limited budget proved a bit harder.  We loved speaking English Down Under and the familiarity to another Western Culture.  What we did not like was the high cost that came with these benefits!  We were shocked and our budget blown out of the water by the prices from everything from a cup of coffee to a meal in a restaurant.  Since we couldn’t afford anything in a restaurant or shop, nearly all meals were spent in our camper van, see this post for how we survived camper van living for this long.   

RECAP of our time in Numbers:

Countries Visited:  2 New Zealand and Australia (though Tasmania seemed like it's own country!)

# of pounds we carried:  84 (2 bags and a back pack, we were up in weight with all the warm clothes we needed!)

# of times Sarah drove on the left side of the road:  4

# of Camper Vans we rented:  3, one in New Zealand, one in Tasmania, and one in Australia

# of Camper Van Parks we stayed:  58

# of nights in an AirBnB:  4 (Christchurch and Sydney)

# of nights in a hotel:  3

# of nights at one of Gillian & Michael’s houses:  12 (Melbourne, Blue Mountains, and Pearl Beach)

Average cost of a camper van park:  $30

Average cost of cup of coffee:  $4

# of family that visited:  2 (Lynn and Tim, Eric’s parents)

# of meals we ate out after the Roses left:  2  (Eric’s birthday lunch and dinner)

# of food sicknesses:  1 for Sarah, while living in the camper van with Eric’s parents – this one goes down as the worst scenario EVER

Amount of money lost from deposits and currency exchanges going against us:  $650 USD

Favorite cities:  Melbourne, Wellington, Wanaka and Nelson - if these weren’t so far away, we’d consider moving to any of these cities!

Least favorite cities:  None, thankfully!  We enjoyed pretty much every place we went and were so mobile with the camper vans that we could leave any city that we didn’t love.

Best couple we met: Virginia and Michael, the next door neighbors in the Blue Mountains.  They drew us a map of the things to do in the area and had us over for tea before we left.  Our chats with them were some of our favorites!

The map of what to do in the Blue Mountains

The map of what to do in the Blue Mountains

Favorite couple:  Gillian and Michael.  Their generosity literally pulled us out of our campervan and saved us when we needed some consistent hot showers, a nice bed to sleep in, and a bit of room to spread out.  Their houses around Australia made us able to visit some of the prettiest places while still being able to cook our own meals.

Worst accident:  Returning to our camper van in Queensland, we realized our mirror had been knocked off and the camper van scratched from fellow camper vaners.  Luckily the Spainiards stuck around so we could exchange information.  We had to change our plans around and drive out to get it fixed but this made my day because we got free clean sheets and towels.  

Uncertain and excited

The feeling of uncertainty is an uncomfortable one. And it's a feeling that's settled into my stomach, right below the feeling of excitement. This last year and a half, Eric and I have got our shit down. We can pack our bags in minutes, each of us knowing where everything goes. I navigate. He drives on the wrong side of the road. When we meet new people, we reel them into a conversation as a team. I know I can count on him to hold his end. We have been together very single day, mostly every hour and minute, since this adventure began. I look out for him and vice versa. To say we are close is an understatement.

So what happens when we get back? Of course we are looking forward to having more space and having a constant place to stay. We are excited not to unpack or research to death what we'll do each day, where we'll eat, and where we'll sleep.

But where do we pick up at home? We are coming home after a year plus of adventures, challenges, and a lot of learning. How does this translate to cultural capital and currency in Seattle?  Some of our friends have never left the country. How do we relate to them now? And then to us? What is said?

When people politely ask, how was your trip, what is the correct one sentence response that they want? How can you sum up something so big into a response? It would take more than a dinner party for us to get through what we have seen, who we have met, and what we have learned. But who would want to hear all of that?! We are realistic, no one. But where does that leave everything that's happened? Is it just the space between us? How do we proceed?

As we come home, beyond excited to see family, our friends, and kitty, there's a feeling of uncertainty. And with all that we have learned over the last year I know that things will work out. In situations as stressful as where Eric has had a knife ready to defend us, everything has worked out. And things will continue to work out at home. But I'm feeling vulnerable. I'm scared for what will come when we return. We have changed. But now will we change back to what we were before we left? What traits will remain?  How will things go forward?

I think at big life transitions there are always so many feelings surrounding the "next".  As I feel uncertain and excited, I have to remember to trust each emotion as it comes and to see where it takes me. 

Camper Van Living

2 months of camper van living has taught me LOTS of lessons that I'd like to pass onto those attempting to do the same type of travel.  Renting a camper van can be a great way to save money in NZ and Australia because you are getting a rental car and a place to sleep all for under $100 a day.  Yes, gas is insanely expensive, but considering we have made every meal and coffee for ourselves in said camper van, I think we have ended up saving a lot of money in the long run.

Organization

Time and time again I think organization is the thing that has kept me sane through 1.5 years of travel.  Our first camper van was a larger model for the 4 of us (Eric's parents came to visit) and then Eric and I moved into the smallest of the options for the rest of our time on the road.  The small camper van is SMALL.  You will be bumping into each other constantly and no position (sitting or sleeping) is ever quite comfortable. 

However, organization can make this process much more enjoyable.  See the list of things below that we purchased to make organization much easier on the road (you could also bring these things with you).  We then have baskets that stay on the counter (on non-stick) that are filled with cooking essentials and other foods.  Think all the spices, rice, oats, fruits, wine, granola, candies, etc. 

Our "pantry"

Our "pantry"

The drawer space is laughable (there is 1 drawer for your food) so these baskets are life savers.  We also then had a bag in the top that had extras (think extra bags of pasta, pasta sauce, tortillas, packaged soups, etc.).  We could then stock up in Tasmania in the bigger and cheaper stores and have a pantry to pull from when we were further off the grid.

There is room for a few things beneath the seats.  We each had a drawer with our clothes.  The other two bins we filled with surplus potatoes, apples, and then our camp chairs and heater. 

Nothing can go on the floor as this is where drawers open, the bed folds out, and where you walk.  So it all must be stored.  Also, everything must be secured before driving or things will roll all around (the fridge also has to be locked for the same reason!). 

Camper Van Parks

Camper van parks are a way of life.  We just found the Wiki Camps app and it's a lifesaver for figuring out where you can park and/or where you can have a shower.  The camper van parks are great to recharge the house battery, charge all electronics, take a shower, and do laundry.  The camper van parks in New Zealand were clean, usually well designed, and sometimes had perks like a hot tub.  Tasmania for some reason all had pretty run down parks that were expensive and didn't offer much.  Each one we stayed in depressed me, they were patches of grass with some sad looking folks in them!  However, Tasmania did have really reasonably priced National Parks and so we usually tried to stay in them.  Wiki Camps is great because you can find free sites or read the reviews to find the costs for the other sites to make sure you are getting the amenities you need.  Traveling off peak season has meant we can always get a spot which is nice!

Favorite, easiest meals

I am a person that makes all food from scratch at home.  However, when you have no counter space, a tiny sink, and you are washing dishes with limited water resources, this is literally not possible.  One pot meals are pretty much the only way to go. 

Breakfast is either eggs with toast, oatmeal, or granola and yogurt.  Fruit goes with all of these, and we also have our own coffee maker to make good coffee.

Lunch is simple sandwiches or leftover of a previous nights meal.  Usually these are quick meals that are easy to prepare and clean up since we are usually on the road for lunch or taking a pause while in a museum to eat our healthy, cheap food.

Dinner is the hardest.  We like to cook and also want our food to taste good so we don't feel too poor all the time!  To accomplish this, at the grocery store, we buy a ready made chicken and I pull it apart, using the meat and storing the rest in tupperware. We also buy a cauliflower, 3 bell peppers (capsicum here), carrots, and other veggies and I prep these ALL at once.  They then go into tupperwares so they can be quickly and easily added to foods throughout the week.  Just because we are on the road we still need to get our veggies!

Chicken soup is a go to.  Also pasta with lots of veggies is great (we boil the veggies before putting the pasta in the pot so they get cooked and then mix them into the sauce). 

What has saved our life and taste buds is the Hansell's line of prepared soups.  They have a range of flavors and we can alternate these to make us feel like we are eating different foods instead of the same thing over and over.  We bulk them up with our own chicken, veggies, and sometimes lentils and beans to make them into a one pot meal.

What we have bought to help with organization

  • Shower caddy (shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, razor, and shaving gel)
  • Bucket for general use (dishes or laundry)
  • 2 bins for food storage
  • Non slip
  • Removable hooks to hang towels and damp clothing
  • Tupperwares (1 large, 3 medium sized) to store food

Here are some photos from in the camper van so you can see what it will really look like when the bed is out!

How a Type A person travels

I used to deny being a Type A personality.  Sure I like things a certain way, and I’m more comfortable leading, but the label of Type A seemed too much.  However, as I have grown up and into myself, I’ve come to love the characteristics that a Type A person exudes.  I am proud of my organization skills, my drive, my desire for perfection, and being proactive. 

How does this translate to traveling long term?  It took an adjustment.  But happily I can report that most of my personality traits just needed to be put to use in a traveling environment.  When we are unpacking and repacking everything we own multiple times a week this can be cause for frustration as it’s hard to find things when you need them. 

So, we streamlined the process.  Everything, and I mean every little thing we own, has it’s place. 

We have plastic bags for toiletries, 1 that is filled with stuff to unpack in the shower (razor, shampoo, conditioner) and the other with bathroom designated items (toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, hair brush, lotion, etc.).  That way when we arrive to a new hotel I can immediately unpack all these essentials right to their new home.  There’s another zip lock bag with rarely used items like bug protection, extra bottles of sunscreen (we stock up in less expensive countries!).  This isn’t unpacked unless we need it.

For our clothes, we each have a small stuff sack with our clothes.  These get unpacked and we keep a pile with our clothes on top of the bag in each room.  This way, when it’s time to pack up, everything is right there to be zipped up and put into our duffel bag.  Before having these bags it was a mess of trying to find underwear mixed within everything in my bag, and it always works out that the thing you are looking for is the last thing you find.  Having to unpack multiple times to find one thing drove me insane.  We also have another bag for beach areas – sarongs, swim suits, small beach bag, and some misc. items like eye covers that we don’t need as often.  This can stay in our duffel bag if we are in a city or comes out first if at the beach. 

There’s an electronics bag that holds all the cords for our electronics and external hard drive.  When your phone is at 3% battery, an i-phone charger cable is tiny when it’s mixed within a sloppily packed bag!

The only things that get to float is our cribbage board.

The purse and backpack we carry are equally as organized.  There’s a spot for headphones, eye drops, toilet paper, aleve, waterproof bag cover, and kindle spot.  Each of us can find any one of the small number of things we have because they are always in the same spot. 

It’s hard enough navigating a new city every few days – being able find what you need when you want it is essential.  As mundane as this all sounds, it’s made traveling so much easier – I’m glad my organizational skills were up to the task and that Eric is happy to go along with my insistence of which spot is which!

Recap of 4 months in SE Asia

SE Asia was a new part of the world for us and this meant encountering a lot for the first time.  One constant was being hot and sweaty in every country we visited!  We encountered some of the best and worst smells of our life, often within a few steps of each other.  We saw amazing scenery and also watched people throw garbage on the ground without a thought. We met some of the friendliest people but also experienced being complete outsiders in a Muslim state.  We learned more about religions, regimes, war, and tried to grasp all the languages we encountered.  Our time here was exhilarating and exhausting.  One thing we will not miss is the no-rules traffic and all the honking!

Countries visited:  Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam

Where we missed but will return:  Laos, Burma

# of pounds we carried:  42 pounds in a backpack and small duffel

# of motorbikes rented: 10 - and in the first 4 cities Eric was getting used to driving on the left side of the road! (Ubud, Yogyakarta, Batu Karas, Wonosobo, Sukhothai, Phucket, Kep, Dalat, Hoi An, Hue)

# of times Sarah drove the motorbike:  1

# of flights we took: 12 (Bali to Indonesia, Surybaya to Borneo, Borneo to Jakarta, Jakarta to Bangkok, Chiang Mai to Phuket, Ko Samui to Bangkok to Siem Reap, Dalat to DaNang, Hue to Hanoi, Hanoi to Saigon, Saigon to Sydney, Sydney to Auckland)

# of Night buses: 0!

# of places we stayed: 37

Average cost of hotel room:  $20 a night, usually including breakfast of some sort.  

Most expensive hotel:  $67/night when Max and Kristin came and we all stayed at the same resort in Krabi.

# of family that came to visit: 4 (Cory, Margo, Max and Kristin)

# of countries we were millionaires: 2 (Indonesia and Vietnam)

Currencies:  Singapore Dollar, Indonesia Rupiah, Thai Baht, Cambodia Riel, Vietnam Dong

Favorite currency jokes:  Dongs (duh)

Average cost of an hour massage:  $7

Average cost of a hair wash:  $2

Haircut range for Sarah:  $1.75 - $10

# of runs for Sarah:  2 - both in Dalat

# of food sicknesses:  0!  We ate literally everything, and from everywhere without getting as much as a stomachache!  

Best descriptor of climate, compliments of Melanie:  Swamp Ass

Favorite cities:  Ubud, Dalat, Chiang Mai

Least favorite cities:  The entirety of Java

Best couple we met:  We had far fewer friends met in SE Asia.  I think that was due to staying in more hotels than hostels like South America and that we were traveling with families so much.  That said, Richie and Claire were by far our favorite couple.  We spent days by the pool with them as we all rested up in Kep, Cambodia.  They gave us brilliant tips for all of Vietnam that we followed throughout our month there.

The view from our favorite bungalow, Q Bungalows, where we met Richie and Claire

The view from our favorite bungalow, Q Bungalows, where we met Richie and Claire

Most generous couple we met:  Gan and Celin.  We shared a miserable 10 hours with Gan on a sleeper bus during the day.  It was hot and uncomfortable but made bearable because of our conversations with Gan that lasted throughout the trip.  While in Dalat with him and his wife Celin, they treated us to two delicious dinners with plenty of beer to wash down our sorrows over our bus trip.  

Not sized for Westerners....

Not sized for Westerners....

Favorite couple to meet in person:  Melanie and Kevin.  Fellow Seattleites, Melanie and I had been emailing since our friend-in-common, Kerry, set us up.  Before Melanie and Kevin set off for their trip I tried to offer some advice and while on the road Melanie and I have commiserated over similar travel experiences.  We got to meet them in Chiang Mai for dinner and had a blast laughing as we all commiserated how time together 24 hours a day means no chance for sneaking sweets like at home!

Favorite hotel:  Kiman.  Throughout SE Asia we stayed in really clean, nice spots.  But when we got to the Kiman we literally high-fived.  It was a gorgeous room with balcony, plenty of sunlight, a desk, robes, slippers, tons of room to unpack, a large Western bathroom, and the largest breakfast ever.  The staff also was so friendly that we shared our Chupa Cups with them!  We stayed a week and could have stayed forever...

Favorite spot we stayed:  Our own viilla on Bali.  We did it right on Bali with our own villa, complete with 2 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, outdoor kitchen and dining area and our own pool (with outdoor shower).  We lived like kings in this villa and loved every day of our 2 weeks there!

Most frustrating day of travel:  It's always crossing the border by land! Kep Cambodia to Can Tho Vietnam.  It was so bad, there's already a detailed blog post about it!  The travel day started in a filled to the brim minivan, backtracking over an hour to drop two girls off in Kampot, bringing us to the border an hour late.  At the border we were asked to pay a $1 health fee but were prepared with our yellow vaccination packets (that we were told to have on us at all times but have never had to at all times), saving us $1!  We were so late everyone in our van missed the last ferry to the islands for the day so they were all upset.  We then got dropped off in a sketchy bus terminal with 20 quick minutes to try to find something edible.  We had no tickets and no one spoke English.  Our promised air-conditioned van with one seat for one person turned out to be a downright lie on all levels.  Windows were down as some of the 30 people (in 16 person van) smoked their way along our 6 hour long journey.  We arrived to Can Tho with my spine literally crooked for the next 2 days, the most painful reminder of the hellish trip we had to endure. 

Coolest local custom/festival we got to experience:  We were on Bali for Gulang Day, a Hindu tradition that welcomes ancestor spirits back to their homes with elaborate poles and offerings.  It was one of the most amazing things I've witnessed in my life and we were so lucky to be there and to be included.

Count of the clothes

Our bags

Our bags

A few friends have emailed us after our Instagram post showing we are down to a backpack and smaller Patagonia duffel bag, asking us how in the world we even less now. 

Truth be told, we are down even further from when this photo was taken, and will have even less after we send home more things with Max and Kristin who are visiting in July (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). 

We copied other blogs and took a photo of all of our clothes to show how few options we have each morning when getting dressed!  Good thing it's less than a dollar to wash a full bag of clothes, so even though we have only a little, we are always clean!!

 

 

 

Sarah's clothes:

  • 5 tank tops (including 1 workout top), 1 t-shirt, 1 long sleeve shirt
  • 3 pairs of workout shorts
  • 1 pair of regular shorts
  • 1 skirt, 1 dress
  • 4 sports bras
  • 2 swim suits
  • 2 hats
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 8 pairs of panties
  • 1 pair of flip flops, 1 pair of running shoes

Eric's clothes:

  • 2 tshirts, 2 long sleeves, 1 (sexy) tank
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 5 pairs of exoffico boxers
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • 1 hanky
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 sarong
  • 1 pair flip flops, 1 pair of Crocs

The rest of our stuff is the boring stuff: toiletries, our computer (see above with all of our cool stickers!), 2 kindles, 1 camera, cribbage board and cards, our bible, oh wait, I mean guidebook, waterbottle, and Steri pen...

It's amazing how much easier it is to travel with so little!

Recap of 8 months in Central & South America

Believe it or not, not all of our days look as pretty as the ones I post on the blog.  We have had awkward travel moments, gotten sick (though surprisingly not nearly as much as we get sick at home!), bad travel days, and met some rotten eggs.  That said, our good days far outnumber the bad, but in wanting to look back at our last 8 months through Central and South America we thought we'd do a bit of a recap that looks at the good, the bad, and the ugly.  These are all our opinions and resulting from the experience we had in each place, we may have hated a favorite of yours - but this is our list, so here it goes:

The 4 of us our last night together in Granada, enjoying boxed wine on the church tower overlooking the city.

BEST travel couples we met:  Liz & Steve were the first.  We still use inside jokes that the 4 of us came up with after we crashed their 2 week vacation in Nicaragua.  This generous, hilarious, and thoughtful couple were a blast and we feel so lucky to have met them and to still call them friends.  They are even going to honor the bet we had and come visit the Superbowl winners in Seattle, since their Denver Broncos didn't fare so well... 

Ruth, with Ronan in the background, on a hike in Ollantaytambo, Peru.

Ruth, with Ronan in the background, on a hike in Ollantaytambo, Peru.

 

The second awesome couple we met was Ruth and Ronan while we were in Patagonia.  We met through a former coworker of mine, Alexis, who is also now traveling the world and whose path we crossed in El Chalten.  We have had hilarious times with Ruth and Ronan in Argentina and again when we saw them in Peru. 

 

 

 

 

WORST travel couple we met:  Matt & Alyssa.  Sadly they were even from Seattle.  We met them on the bus traveling in Honduras when we were still afraid of bus travel and long distances (how far we have come!).  They agreed to come on a crazy adventure with our guide from the ruins that morning.  Matt couldn't share a story without it being from some remote-on-the-edge-of-the-earth place that seemingly he has only been lucky enough to visit.  Trying to play the travel game with us he confidently out-did us on each location - he has seen every corner of the earth!  We were gagging by the end and happy to say goodbye. The silver lining is that we now know what NOT to do. 

One of our favorite meals at El Bolson with a table of friends and amazing, cheap wine and bubbly

One of our favorite meals at El Bolson with a table of friends and amazing, cheap wine and bubbly

BEST place we stayed:  La Casona de Odile, El Bolson, Argentina (the end of Route 40).  We arrived here after 2 hot and boring days on the bus, bumping along the dirt roads of Route 40.  We would have been happy anywhere.  But we loved this place so much we ended up staying 6 nights, most of it raining, but we loved the space, food, and people so much we couldn't leave!  We met friends, like Anneka, that we ended up traveling further on with and had some awesome dinner parties with other guests.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WORST place we stayed:  GM Hostel, Granada, Nicaragua.  GM had awesome reviews online and at first we over looked the prison-cell sized room.  But when we had to take sleeping pills to sleep because of the heat (and no AC) we started to look for other places.  When the owner of the hostel and his girlfriend decided to have loud sex in their room for everyone to overhear during breakfast, we packed and left before they finished their business.  

Our favorite meal.

Our favorite meal.

BEST meal:  The vegetarian pizza at "the cevesaria" in El Chalten.  Life changing and will be a lifetime favorite. Eric added prosciutto to his half...

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOOD SICKNESS stories (aka WORST meal):  I ate a baguette and butter on the 8 hour bus ride from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile.  We were all set to stay with friends in Santiago.  Well, upon our arrival to Santiago, I immediately ran to the bathroom.  By our subway into the city I had thrown up in a bag Eric had already prepped for me (what a guy!).  After almost filling the bag, we had to get off, and find a hotel.  I couldn't subject a friend from college to this!  Before leaving the subway area I had to throw my bag of throw up away...  I'm gagging just thinking about this whole experience.  

Eric's food sickness was luckily confined to our hostel in Lima, Peru.  We were in Lima for 1 night while waiting for a night bus to Huaraz, Peru.  Eric spent the whole day in the bathroom and we had to rent our room an extra night to make sure he could be horizontal when not on the toilet.  

FUNNIEST translation errors:  Sarah:  My first weekend after 2 days of Spanish lessons I thought I'd practice on the police officer at Cerro de la Cruz in Antigua, Guatemala.  I told him I thought he must be hot in his all-black clothes.  Well, Eric's teacher Helen told us later what I'd actually said:  His black dress made him look horny.  Damn vestido and ropa and calore and caliente mistakes!

Eric:  When we needed a few more minutes to look over (and try to translate) a menu on Ometeppe, Nicaragua, Eric asked for 3 more minutes.  Somehow the waiter immediately returned with 2 Smirnoff Ices.  We still don't know what happened here!

Most FRUSTRATING day of travel:  Getting from Lake Yojoa to Leon, Nicaragua.  I even wrote a blog post about it, and it stands as our worst day of travel, so far.

FAVORITE city:  Granada, Nicaragua.  In our dreams we still want to move there for a few years.

LEAST favorite city:  Ica, Peru.  There's one attraction nearby: Huacachina, to go sandboarding.  Get in and get out - don't spend a night in Ica!

Cities we can't wait to RETURN to: Argentina: El Chalten, Mendoza, Bariloche.  Peru:  Cusco and Huaraz.  Brazil: Paraty, Rio de Janerio.

Where we didn't get to go, but still want to see:  Antarctica, Galapagos, the Jungle in Peru, the Panatal of Brazil, the North of Brazil, and the W trek in Chile.  

Notable cities we'd NEVER return to:  (All in Honduras...)  San Pedro Sula (murder capitol of the world), Tegulcialpa, and La Ceiba.  

Most EXPENSIVE lodging:  $175 for a hotel in Santiago when I got food poisoning and we couldn't stay (for free!) with my friend from college.  

CHEAPEST lodging:  Most of our lodging has been between $20-$40 a night, with exceptions for the more expensive countries like Brazil and Argentina.  

PRIZED possessions:  

  • Our Steripen.  I think we have bought 5 bottles of water this entire trip thanks to the Steripen.  It's amazing and anyone who hikes or travels a lot should have one.
  • GoVinos.  My dear friend Jehan gave me these before we left and we loved them so much we brought them with!  They made it all the way through SA without breaking and we used them daily.  They are a must for drinking wine while camping or outdoors. They unfortunately were cracked while sitting on our bag riding in the back of a truck.
  • Cribbage Board.  We play nightly.  We had an ongoing score sheet but it became too competitive and had to start only playing for fun.
  • Eagle Creek Bags.  These keep us sane and organized.  We each have 1 bag for our clothes (we seriously wear the same things over, and over, and over again now!). Can't you tell by the pictures?
  • Braven Jam Box.  This thing works on a charge and is waterproof so it goes everywhere with us.  To the beach, to the pool, outside, inside, and improves every dinner party we have had.  

Things we SENT HOME:  

  • Extra clothing.  
  • Power adapters - we now just buy a cheap one when we get to each country.  
  • Extra cameras - we sent our Cannon G11 home.  The Cannon S110 takes amazing pictures and is so easy to fit in a pocket that we never go anywhere without it.  It also draws less attention so feel safer to tote around.  

BEST thing we spend $$$ on:  Mozy to upload all of our photos to the cloud.  Everything can be replaced but not our photos.  Thankfully almost everywhere has had internet, which means our photos are always safe.  I get more excited than I should when each upload is complete.  

And some numbers from the last 8 months:

# of Countries:  8.  Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil.  

# of ATM cards stolen & location:  2.  1st time we found out on Eric's birthday that our card had been stolen while in Leon, Nicaragua.  2nd time we realized it weeks later when my US Bank account had been drained at "Hands of Love".  We had only used my card once in an emergency in Quito, Ecuador, and it seems someone stole the number then.

# of night buses & locations:  5.  Pucon, Chile to Santiago, Chile.  Ica, Peru to Arequipa, Peru.  Lima, Peru to Huaraz, Peru.  Huaraz, Peru to Huanchaco, Peru.  Foz de Iguazu, Brazil to Florianopolis, Brazil.  

# of flights:  10.  Nicaragua to Houston to Seattle (home for Christmas!).  Seattle to Houston to Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Buenos Aires, Argentina to El Calefate, Argentina.  Santiago, Chile to Lima, Peru.  Cusco, Peru to Lima, Peru.  Guayaquil, Ecuador to Quito, Ecuador.  Quito, Ecuador to Lima, Peru, to Foz de Iguazu, Brazil (that was a long day!).

Missing a Friend

Some people leave this earth long before their time, making death and the closeness feel much more abrupt and unfair.  Unfortunately, a friend of mine was taken from this earth in an avalanche in February.  There hasn't been a day that I haven't thought of him and his wife.  The first few days I couldn't stop tears from flowing for her loss, for our loss as his friends, and for the earth's loss.  This was a friendly, intelligent guy who always was smiling.  I also couldn't help imagining myself in her place. How would I feel if I couldn't wake up to Eric every morning?  I literally cannot imagine what she is going through and trying hurts my heart more than I can bear to try.  I also couldn't stop obsessing about death in an avalanche and how that would feel.  I hope he went without pain, stoked to be in the back country exploring.  

When I was writing an email to her, I wanted to express what I would remember most about her husband.  For him, it was his hugs.  Eric and I have both always called him a hugger.  Arriving at their house we could both always expect a big hug, and this was what I shared with her in my email.  What a cool thing to be remembered for - always greeting someone with a genuine, huge, hug.  Selfishly, this made me reflect on myself and made me think about what I will want to be thought of when I leave this earth.  What is important?  What is the first thing that will come to mind when gone?  

Life can be so unfairly short and his death brought this into sharp focus for me.  It makes me think about what is important in my life, and should I live to 35 and not 90 like I'd like - how should those years be filled?  What do I want to spend my time doing?  Working?  Probably enough to make a living, and I want to enjoy what I do.  But family and friends remains at the top of my list of importance - for both where my time and efforts should be spent.  

In memory of him, I will give longer hugs, and also try to keep in the forefront of my mind what matters and what will be remembered.  Small things going wrong that can sometimes overwhelm me need to be more quickly forgotten.  Big picture ambitions need to be remembered and put into focus instead.  

Lastly, his death made me grateful.  Grateful to be on this trip with the love of my life.  Grateful for the family and friends that have supported us on this journey and stayed in touch with us as we have gone along.  Grateful for each meal, pretty sight, friend we have met, and for my body for taking me on this journey.  Grateful for each day.

Shane, you are already missed, and will be remembered. 

Some thoughts on Tough Travel

We have been on the go for 6 months now – hard to believe. We have slowly been easing our way into long term travel from our time spent at my cabin in the San Juan’s, to coming home for Christmas, to now, where we don’t know when we’ll be home next. 

The other day after leaving the vegetable store Eric was going to take the produce home and I was going to run to the grocery store for a few more ingredients.  A few minutes later I spotted him, slowly walking the wrong way back to our hostel.  I ran after him to see what was going on and he replied that he had totally forgotten where we were staying and how to get there. 

I realized how sometimes it’s hard to be on the road continuously.  We take so much for granted at home – for starters speaking the same language!  But we also know the common courtseys, our way around our hometown, where the grocery store is, where an ATM is, what all the foods are called, and of course, where our house is.  Well, in each new city that we go to, we have to figure all of this out, in every new location.  When we move along too quickly (as happened recently in San Martin de los Andes because of high season bookings) it’s easy to forget what city we are in, and even easier to forget where we are staying.  We also have to find our way around new rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens.  We try to unpack and repack things in similar places so it’s easy to keep track, but just with the few items we do have it’s frustrating to not be able to find what I’m looking for.  Each place is different, sometimes we have our own bathroom, and other times we are sharing.  I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night before and forgotten where the bathroom is!  And it's always a hunt each time in the kitchen for where things are!

As we settle back into being on the road we are trying to find places to stay for longer periods so as soon as we learn the good spots we can start frequenting them instead of moving on.  I don’t think we will ever get past the language barrier and I would love it if someone explained to me why fruits, vegetables, and meats are called different names across South America, but having a few things be easy to expect makes it that much easier. 

On the move

Planning

While we were visit friends and family at home for the Holidays I tried to explain how we spend a lot of our time traveling.  You know all the leg-work you put into a trip before you go so when you arrive it's seamless?  Well as we travel a lot of our time is spent doing this same pre-planning for each city.  We have to pick our next destination, figure out how to get there, research the best place to stay (searching AirBnb, guidebook recommendations, and TripAdvisor), and then plan when to go.  Then all of our stuff must be packed for travel days that are always stressful as we are carrying everything we own around new places and cities. 

Planning our trip down to Patagonia from Buenos Aires has proved to take much more planning than we are used to.  First of all we arrived to BA over New Year's which meant everything was closed and we couldn't get any of our funds out from Xoom.  It is also now January here, high summer, when people are leaving the city to travel themselves so flights are insanely expensive and also completely full.  Where we are going, El Chalten, is also a very, very popular destination so most of the place we contact have already been reserved.  We have spent a lot of time reading through books, looking at other traveler's websites, and walking to travel tour companies to ask questions!  I'm not joking when I say it's a lot of work to travel! 

All this trip planning I thoroughly enjoy.  I have been lucky to travel my whole life and love to have my nose in a travel guide, making elaborate spreadsheets to figure out where we are going and staying. I was also an Anthropology major and love learning the histories of the places we visit and about the people's current lives.

Budgeting

Fortunately for me, in the past a two-week vacation has been budgeted for and we can allow for (lots of) splurges.  On a trip like this, that we are trying to be on the road for at least a year, it means every dollar really counts when we have nothing more coming in.  This means the better we can plan and make educated decisions, the longer our funds will last.  If we have a kitchen where we are staying it means we can cook our own food, but sometimes this costs more as street food can be so cheap the math doesn't add up. We have to include transportation costs leaving and coming into cities and it's always more expensive in a new city as we are finding the places that we like to eat the fit our budget.

Our spending is different on this trip.  Every city has it's "must visit" fill in the blank here.  Whether it's a restaurant, museum, zip line, tour, or site to see, we have to weigh if this will be the best fill in the blank, and worth the splurge.  For example there was this "incredible" French restaurant remotely located on Utila that everyone raved about.  It had a fixed menu (more than our usual budget for the day) and required a boat taxi to get there.  If we had been on Utila for 2 weeks we would have done it without a second thought.  But spending this much for one dinner, a French dinner nonetheless, gave me pause.  We had been in France not even a year ago.  Would the dinner be better than that?  Was it worth a day of travel?  But also will we look back and realize it's pretty hard to get back to Utila and we wish we had checked every restaurant, activity, etc. off the list?  These are questions we weigh with every expensive purchase and honestly it's tiring! 

Food

For those that know me, know I obsess over food.  I think constantly about my next meal and where it will come from.  This is no different on the road but instead of pouring over food blogs for dishes to make at home I'm looking all over TripAdvisor and in guide books.  For the last 5 years I've been a vegetarian after learning more about the food system in the US.  While not impossible to only eat vegetarian while traveling it has been nothing close to healthy.  Fried vegetables come to mind when thinking back on Central America.  I don't care how much spinach is in something, if it's fried I'm probably better off not eating it.  It has meant a lot of beans and rice on the road (and I was distraught to find out beans and rice I'd been dutifully consuming in Nicaragua were made with lard on the last day!) while Eric gets to eat meat right off the grill.  As he loses weight, I gain. 

One thing that makes this easier is having a kitchen where we stay.  These kitchens however have been hit and miss - sometimes they are well-enough stocked to make a simple meal, and other times it's just another box of amenities to check on the website.  When we are in a place long enough we can stock up on the basics (butter, oil, salt, pepper, basic spices, coffee, sugar) to make our own food.  Elaborate meals are out of the question as we'd have to buy (and then leave behind) all random ingredients.  Instead we have been making meals that are the easiest to purchase for, and make, in sub-standard kitchens.  We have come to love eggs in all forms, sandwiches, and pastas filled with veggies  When it's cooler where we stay roasted veggies will be added to this menu!  It's nice to be able to make our own food and eat like we would at home. 

When we are eating at restaurants in new countries there's different lingo to describe the same food item we knew under a different name.  This means we are always somewhat guessing when we order and crossing our fingers when it arrives that it will be palatable and appealing.  We also weight the costs as of course the best option is usually the priciest.  As we continue through South America I'll continue to try to eat my best with the options I have available. 

Exercise

Another thing I found myself explaining when I was home was why I have been so bummed to not be working out like I was used to at home (at least 5 days a week, both strength training and cardio, often in the beautiful WAC gym with ladies that are awesome).  I also was training 14 hours a week to complete a half ironman before we left and used to a lot of exercise. 

First of all it's been freaking hot.  I don't care how much I want to work out but it's not going to happen when it's 90+ degrees and 100% humidity.  It's not enjoyable one bit to be dripping with sweat in the corner of our AirBnB or hostal and falls to the bottom of my list of things to do.  When it's cool enough, and there's space where we are staying, I do a little strength/cardio circuit of moves that are mostly standing (I'll be doing this workout usually on the tile floors that are both uncomfortable and not necessarily clean).  Only 4 times in the last 2 months have I been able to run.  And I love to run.  But the roads have been horrible, the cities unsafe, and once again, it's hot!  Knowing myself, I feel so much better when I can workout so I'm constantly trying to figure out how to get a workout in, but it's usually only a strength/cardio circuit a few times a week in the morning while Eric's still sleeping.  We also try to hike as often as possible but this is obviously defendant on where we are.

Thus, with all of this: Our Trip Motto

We are doing our best.  A lot of time as we travel things don't go as well as planned or unexpected things come up.  I can't always eat as healthfully as I'd like.  I can't exercise with any sort of regularity or do activities I like, ie running.  Sometimes we are dirtier that we would be at home.  But we constantly remind ourselves and each other that we are doing our best. Luckily the people we have met and the places we have gone have been more than worth all the adjustments that it takes to travel for this extended period of time without the comforts of home.