Worst Bus Ride Ever

Reflecting back on our trip, I can’t help but remember the world’s worst bus ride. Which unfortunately we decided to take overnight. With a bunch of humans who get carsick. Thought I’d share a map of the route. This is not a joke. (But I wish it was)

Brush With Death

Z finally edited the GoPro footage of his near-goring experience in Pamplona. Check it out while you remind yourself why you’ll choose not to do this in the future.

And for the outsider’s perspective on the scene, scroll to 10:57 on the following video:

All Walks of Life

On a trip like the one we just returned from, you’re bound to meet loads of interesting people from all different backgrounds.

The first “Travel Friend” we made happened to be a Brazilian guy named Tiago who spoke only Portuguese. Despite the language barrier, we hung out the whole week and he showed us all around Salvador, Brazil. Who knew that language was only a minuscule part of communicating and getting along with people?

On our trip to Iguazu Falls, I got to know a girl who grew up in Zimbabwe and left for an extended vacation to Europe in the year 2000. While she was away from home (and fully intending to go back), the country was forever changed as a slew of economic sanctions were put in place. As most of you probably know, the country deteriorated dramatically, and fast. She never returned, leaving all of her childhood belongings with her father who moved abroad several times since, and lost or got rid of most of her things along the way. She ended up working in London for many years, but was not happy with her life there so picked up and left in hopes of finding a new life and new work abroad. Can you imagine having no belongings in this world besides the pack on your back? Quite scary I’m sure, but also, I imagine, very liberating. Nothing, literally nothing, keeping you from trying to do what you want to do or live where you want to live.

On this same trip to Iguazu, we met Rob. Rob was sort of the annoying-little-brother type to me. The 8-years-my-junior kid who says and does dumb, ridiculous things but you can’t help but love him because the truth of the matter is, the stupid things he does/says always tend to be hilarious and provide for a full day of entertainment. Like the time he decided to save money and sleep in a favela (slum) during Carnivale despite my telling him it was a terrible, terrible idea. And then he was robbed of his passport, all of his credit cards, and his glasses.

And we certainly will never forget Mike who we met in Argentina simply because we were at the table next to him at dinner and he started chatting with us since we spoke English. A over-privileged American who speaks four languages and has lived all over the world, Buenos Aires was his newest conquest when we met him shortly after his arrival. A few days spent with Mike pretty much filled our monthly quota for Lacoste-wearing, crude remark-making yuppies, but was endlessly entertaining nonetheless. And most importantly, he taught us how to do a spot-on Hitler impression using the wrapper from a pack of cigarettes.

Kelly and Bob, who we met in Mendoza, Argentina and crossed paths again with in Cambodia. Canadians that you might even mistake for Americans, and that’s a rare find.

And we were lucky enough to have an amazing group on our tour of the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia. We scored big time with a really cool Australian couple, Sophie and Duncan, that managed to not want to kill us after being crammed into a vehicle for four days with them. I think mainly because we taught them how to play a rousing game of hearts, and Duncan envied Z’s beard.

Oh, and did I mention I felt extra good about myself that week because Sophie is pretty much a supermodel? So… that was that.

Kendra and Dan were the wild butter-churning New Zealanders we partied with in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on St. Patty’s day. Their camaraderie ensured we had a hangover well into the following day.

And it would be a sin to forget The Belsh and Frenchie, who we met on our diving trip. They not only showed us their perfection of a hair-braiding chain, but also taught us the importance of not calling French people Frenchie, because they tend to get offended.

And this is just a small selection of all of the amazing, fun people we met who I hope we get a chance to see again someday in our future adventures. The last time I travelled, I had a discussion with a travel friend about what we’d do if someone we met on our trip contacted us 10+ years later. Would we remember them? Would we offer them a place to stay if they were heading to our city? My answer – for sure! But chances are, I’ll be contacting them first.

World Heritage

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site list is well-known to any world traveler. This list is comprised of 981 sites throughout the world that the UNESCO World Heritage committee considers as having “outstanding universal value”.  During our trip, here are the UNESCO World Heritage Sites we visited:

Historic Centre of Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

 

Central Amazon Conservation Complex, Brazil

 

Iguaçu National Park, Brazil

 

Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea, Brazil

 

Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

 

Historic Quarter of the Seaport City of Valparaíso, Chile

Our camera got stolen with this memory card in it, so sorry, no photos!

 

Lines and Geoglyphs of Nasca and Pampas de Jumana, Peru

 

City of Potosí, Bolivia

This is the village where we spent a night on our four day tour to the Uyuni Salt Flats which took us through Potosi.

 

City of Cuzco, Peru

 

Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, Peru

 

Historic Centre of Lima, Peru

 

Angkor, Cambodia

 

Hoi An Town, Vietnam

 

Complex of Hué Monuments, Vietnam

 

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

 

Town of Luang Prabang, Laos

 

Historic Centre of Rome, Italy

 

Vatican City

 

Piazza del Duomo, Pisa, Italy

 

Historic Centre of Florence, Italy

 

Cinque Terre, Italy

 

Works of Antoni Gaudí, Spain

 

Teide National Park, Canary Islands, Spain

 

The Job Situation

I had a good question come to me recently from an old high school friend who’s been following our travels.

The question was: I’d love to hear more about leaving your jobs – are your (former?) employers letting you come back to your job? Or are you looking for something new?

(Thanks M.C. for the question and the nice message!)

Well, the job thing is definitely the number 1 consideration when planning a trip like this.

Here’s the short answer: We quit our jobs.

Here’s the long answer:

Z had been working at his job since college (7+ years). He was working in sales in the logistics industry (C.H. Robinson Worldwide) and doing very well, but he was ready for a change and to move up in the field. It was a good breaking point. Rather than jumping right into searching for a new job, it worked out well for him to leave his old job and put off the job search until after we returned from the trip. So now he’s back and starting to look for management/supervisory-type positions in the logistics industry.

I was working as a residential real estate broker. As a Realtor, we’re actually independent contractors, so I technically did not need to “quit”. I just had to stop taking on new clients and transition pending transactions/past clients to a colleague of mine who would finish everything up and handle any new business that popped up. I found a colleague who meshed well with how I ran business and overall my clients really liked working with her, so it was a really great fit and I was lucky to have someone I trusted back home to handle everything. Now that we’re back, I technically still have my real estate license “hung” with my brokerage (Coldwell Banker) and could help people buy or sell real estate today if I wanted. My original intention was to jump right back into the business when we returned. But as time passed on our trip, I had a change of sentiment and decided I wanted to look for something in the more analytic/financial side of real estate, working on bigger and more complex projects, possibly even in commercial real estate. So, instead of coming right back to be a Realtor, I have also started sending my resume out for job positions available with real estate investment, management, or services companies, or private equity firms that focus on real estate ventures.

So. That’s how it was done work-wise. A bit risky, of course; we certainly don’t know how long we could be looking for work. But no matter what direction this goes, I will absolutely never regret taking the trip and leaving behind what had to be left in order to do it.

And if any of you know of any companies looking to fill positions like those mentioned above, drop me a line! Thanks!

Moving Day

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I’ve been trying all day to figure out why we were able to travel for nearly 8 months with about 30 pounds of stuff strapped to our backs, yet we needed to rent a Uhaul to move all our stuff back into our condo. And we didn’t even move any furniture.

Sipidan Reel

We had a family get-together last weekend at which Z’s Uncle Jeff made the bold claim that the scuba diving in the Maldives is better than the diving in Malaysia (Sipidan Island, off the coast of Borneo). He hasn’t dove in Malaysia and we haven’t dove in the Maldives so obviously both sides of the argument were so well-informed 😛

But it got me to thinking I haven’t yet posted any of the videos we took in Sipidan.  The first is near the end of one of our dives, which is why it’s so close to the surface. If you change the quality setting (the little gear at the bottom right) to 720p HD you’ll get the best quality video.

Ouch.

And this is what happens when you kick a sea urchin.

 

How Much?

Well, for those who don’t know yet, WE ARE BACK IN THE STATES! It was bittersweet for sure, but at the end we actually were ready to be home. The timing really worked out just right. The physical travelling from point A to point B gets tiring, every few days having to learn a new city and figure out transport options to our next stop, so it is nice to be settled back home. However, there is still a huge world out there and this trip merely fed an addiction for travel that I’m sure we will never be able to kick.

For the Chicagoans I haven’t contacted yet – I will! We are actually still in the suburbs until our tenant moves out of our condo in August. Once I’m back in the city, you better believe we’ll be meeting up for lunch or drinks sometime soon.

Now, since I’ve been back, I’ve already been asked the same question several times (usually in a hushed whisper, with the head down, looking around to make sure no one else is listening) – how much did it cost us to do this? I’m happy to share as I believe it’s a helpful way of showing people that it CAN be done and HOW. If you feel it’s inappropriate to share this type of thing publicly with the world, that’s fine, you don’t need to read it. But for anyone interested, check our expenses page for more information.

Some people might think what we spent is an astronomical amount, others may think they never could have done a trip like this at that cost. It really comes down to travel type. I would say we were frugal/budget backpackers, but not cheap/shoestring backpackers. We did eat out now and then, occasionally we bought souvenirs or new clothes, but we did these things in a very limited and frugal fashion. We skipped a lot of things that we felt were too expensive, but once in a while we splurged on something we felt we HAD to see (Machu Picchu in Peru for example). A serious budget traveler could cut down on this budget a fair amount, and a luxury traveler could easily spend 2-3 times as much (or more).

Here’s what it comes down to. We came home to friends who have bought new condos, are building homes, having babies, have new cars, paying for grad school, etc. We could have done these things as well but we have sacrificed that lifestyle for the time being in order to make this trip possible. It’s really a matter of preference and if a trip like this is something you really want to do, it can be done. For more info on tips and suggestions on budgeting/saving for a trip like this, feel free to drop me a line.

You can also read a little bit about how we saved up for this trip here.

In the meantime, keep checking back on the blog since we’ll be updating with other fun information, videos, and pictures that we were unable to during the course of the trip.

Europe Unfiltered

I know, I know. I couldn’t contain myself.

Cinque Terre, Italy

A well deserved prosciutto and cheese lunch after an afternoon of hiking.

The four of us too scared to smart enough not to run with the bulls in Pamplona.

Beautiful skies in Madrid.

And lots of fun plazas.

Last day of the trip out on the ocean!

Mount Teide volcano in Tenerife, Canary Islands.