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Author: Shelby

The Things We Miss

The Things We Miss

We drove away from our home in Denver almost 7 months ago. In these past 7 months we have visited 23 countries (and counting) in a few different parts of the world. There have been times of pure excitement and exhilaration, but also times of fear and doubt. We have learned a lot about the world and other cultures, but we have also learned the value of home. We miss our favorite brewery up the road and running into Target when we need shampoo. Here are a few of the things we miss most:

Phloyd & Leo

Oh, I miss these furry kids of ours so much. They aren’t so good at picking up the phone to let us know how things are. Jen (my sister-in-law) and Karoon (my future brother-in-law) are taking such good care of them and the Snapchats remind us of that all the time. We are so thankful for them loving our animals like their own, but damn…we miss them so much our hearts hurt! The dog and the cat also decided to become best friends since we have been gone which gives us all of the feels.

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Friends & Family

This one is a give in, but it had to be acknowledged. We are used to living across the country from our families, but being across the world from them and in completely different time zones has been really hard. We missed Thanksgiving and Christmas — we never spend these holidays without our families and I am not sure if we will ever choose to be away for the holidays ever again. We have also missed birthdays, celebrations, baby showers and weddings. Facetime, text, and calls are great ways to keep in touch but it is not the same as being there for the important moments.

Our Bed

There is nothing like crawling into your bed and resting your head on your pillow. Everything is just the way you like it and it is one of my happy places. We have slept in beds of all shapes and sizes — some are great, some are terrible. All I know is I cannot wait to sleep in my own bed once again! Especially my pillow and the presence of a top sheet (it is the perfect layer but it has not caught on other parts in the world). To date we have slept in 63 beds.

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Mini hotel room in Christchurch — we kept the suitcases under the bed it was so small!

Coffee

I am not a huge coffee drinker, but I do love to make a cup of coffee from my Keurig, add some french vanilla International Delight, and go on with my morning! I don’t always drink the whole cup but there is something about having my coffee in the morning that makes me ready to face the day.

Scott on the other hand is addicted to coffee. Black, dark roasted, drip coffee if he had his way. There is coffee all over the world, but it is rarely just the way he likes it. Depending on where we are in the world there is espresso, Vietnamese coffee (always sweet), poorly made coffee, and Nescafe powdered coffee. We are always on the hunt for coffee that Scott enjoys, but sometimes I feel like we spent a portion of everyday trying to get the man some caffeine in his system! We have had some fantastic coffee, but we have also had absolutely horrrible coffee too.

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Vietnamese coffee gets top awards in my book.

Not Living Out of a Suitcase

We are tired of packing and unpacking. My bag slightly explodes when we get somewhere and there is no way around it. We miss having clothing options that are different than the usual 3 things we always wear everyday. We have purchased some new clothes along the way, but since we are living out of a carry-on size bag there are only so many options you can carry.

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I have photo evidence of the whole we wear the same outfits all the time thing. The two photos were taken almost 4 months apart on different continents. We are wearing the EXACT same clothes. I will not be able to get rid of all of these items promptly upon our arrival back home.

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November 2016 in Sydney, Australia
March in El Chalten, Argentina (Patagonia)
March 2017 in El Chalten, Argentina (Patagonia)

Grocery Stores/Cooking

There have been occasions we are in apartments with kitchens, hostels with shared cooking spaces, and living in a van with a mini-kitchen attached. We have done a bit of cooking, but for the most part it has been limited. If we were to buy all the things needed to cook a meal (oil, salt, spices, ingredients) we would go broke. Sometimes these kitchens lack really obvious and necessary items for cooking a meal such as a knife or a pan. It is way cheaper in most places to just eat out and you also get to eat the local cuisine, which is one of the main reasons we love to travel.

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In Asia we stayed in some apartments that were equipped to cook a meal. On a few occasions we would go to get groceries and there would be meat that has been sitting out in the open (not on ice) for hours. This was a bit scary and I could not talk myself into buying and cooking this for dinner. Most likely I eat the exact same meat at a restaurant, but ignorance can be bliss. New Zealand and Australia we were able to cook a bit and visit the grocery store. They were much like the stores we are used to back home and they made us miss grocery shopping and cooking most of our meals.

Salads

I love eating salad more than most people. It is refreshing, crisp, and I rarely ever get tired of eating salad (there are so many different forms how could I ever get bored?). Asia is not a good place to eat salad. A good rule of thumb is to eat only foods that have been cooked as the heat kills any germs or bacteria. The water used to wash lettuce is generally not water I should be consuming and in most places salad has not been on the approved list of safe things to eat. I have had some unwashed vegetables and been fine, but a giant bowl of salad seems like I am just tempting fate. Fortunately this situation has improved since we have spent time in Europe and Argentina, but people just don’t understand salad as a meal. It just isn’t a thing. A serious desire to eat salad was never something I anticipated, but I cannot wait to eat all the salad I could ever dream of when we get back.

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We hit up the salad bar when we found a Whole Foods in London

Cell Phone Service

Every country we go to we have to buy a new SIM card in order to be able to use our phones while we are out (we really like being able to look up places and use Google Maps). It is not always cheap and it is always a battle for us to use as little data as possible. We can sometimes get in-country call time or texting, but this is not always the case. When locals need to contact us for any reason we generally have a hard time. Usually calls, texts, and other communications to home are saved for when we have Wi-fi and even then we are at the mercy of an unknown wi-fi connection. Sometimes we have great internet and sometimes we can barely book our next place. There have been several instances where we need to use our cell phone numbers to receive a bank access code or password to a wi-fi…we never get these codes. In cases where we have to call a support desk in another country (or the US) we have to use Skype to call, but we need a good wi-fi connection to do this. We carry one of my old cell phones with an in country SIM card. We travel with three phones and none of them work at all times. These are all first world problems, but we miss having our phones fully functional at all times and being able to pick up the phone to make a call when we need to.

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Driving

I don’t even like to drive so I never expected this to make my list. Driving a car provides you with a freedom to go anywhere you want, whenever you want — you aren’t restricted to anyone else’s plans, a bus schedule, or a specific route. We have had the opportunity to drive in South Korea, Australia and New Zealand on this trip and we have loved the freedom it gave us!

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Paychecks

Payday is the best day. Just as the balance in your bank account starts to feel really sad and empty by the end of the month a sum of money is deposited into your bank account. It is magical! I won’t get into the sad feeling that paying bills causes shortly after payday, but we miss payday! It has been a great half a year of fun-employment, but our savings account does not think it is the greatest thing to have ever happened.

Side note: It will also be great to not have to convert how much something actually is all the time. I look forward to the day when $20 is actually $20 and not 455,000 Vietnamese Dong, 314 Argentine Pesos, or 73 Qatar Riyels.

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Craft Beer

We live in one of the premier craft beer cities in America. We miss the perfectly hopped IPAs, floral pale ales, or a session-able saison. Every country has their beer of choice, but for us Tsingtao, Saigon, Angkor, Sapporo, Chang, Singha (I could keep going…) just don’t satisfy us the way a craft beer does! We have had some craft beers on this trip in Thailand, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Vietnam but they are usually way more money than we can comfortably spend and it is a rare treat. IMG_1390

IMG_0498 Routine

This is a big one. We have ZERO routine. Sometimes we start to make some semblance of a routine and then we continue on our way to another country, city, or apartment. As soon as we figure a place out it is time to move onto the next. It can be exhausting not to have a routine. I expect no sympathy, but it has been one of the hardest parts of this trip.

Routine was one of the things that drove my desire to go on a trip like this. The daily monotony of waking up, going to work, coming home, cooking dinner, and going to sleep felt as if it was the same story on repeat everyday. Being away from this routine has made me want that routine and monotony all the more. Don’t get me wrong — as soon as I am gainfully employed again and have a routine I am sure I will long for the freedom I have now. The grass is always greener. The thing that will be different is my perspective. This year has been such an adventure, but so is every year. Next year might not be filled with seeing the Wonders of the World, eating exotic foods, and getting our passport stamped — but I can guarantee that it will be filled with exciting adventures too (even if some of those adventures involve getting a day job).

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We miss home. When we get home we will miss traveling — maybe when we return home we will have to write another post about the things we miss about traveling 🙂

Middle East Recap

Middle East Recap

We decided to head to the Middle East for a few days before heading out of Asia. It has been bittersweet leaving Asia, but I am more than ready to move on to other parts of the world. The Middle East was never on our list of possible locations, but after hearing such good things about Dubai we decided to see what we could do. We were able to get a flight that gave us an overnight/all day layover in Doha, Qatar and then three days in Dubai, UAE. This worked well for us since there are so many flights to Europe from Dubai (and we are going on a Euro-trip — which has already happened now, but at the time of writing this was an accurate statement)! As always, all of the really good pictures featured in this post were taken by Scott and the rest I must claim as my own.

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Our trip through the Middle East was brief, just skimming the surface. We would have loved to make it to Oman, other parts of the UAE (United Arab Emirates), and Kuwait. Honestly, we were not entirely sure what to expect and how we would feel about this region so this time we settled for a brief introduction. I really regret that we did not spend more time exploring this region of the world. There is so much negative press about the Middle East. And yes, there are parts of the Middle East are dangerous and full of political unrest, but there are also parts that aren’t.  It has been enriching to experience cultures far from what we know and we are so glad we made it to the Gulf.

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The most interesting part for me was to observe a cultures so deeply rooted in Islam — this could be seen everywhere from the Islamic call to prayers blaring on the loud speakers throughout the day, shop days/hours open, and the completely different style of dress than what we are used to seeing. Islam is one of the most misunderstood religions in the world, especially for people living in the Western world. I believe that an understanding and appreciation of other cultures, beliefs, and customs only makes the world a better and stronger place. On a completely unrelated and less serious note, it was so damn hot outside! We were there in the most mild part of the year and I was melting in the desert sun (it did not help that I made sure to wear clothes that covered my knees, elbows, and shoulders most of the time). I cannot imagine how hot this region is in the summertime, nor do I want to experience the extreme heat for myself — this former Texan just cannot handle it.

Doha, Qatar

As we are booking flights there was a 24 hour layover in Doha….uh, so where is that? After a bit of research we decided to go for it – it is safe, there are some cool things to see and it was a bonus location we did not have to buy a ticket to see. Doha is a really cool city full of beautiful buildings, museums, markets (souks), and really good food. Doha will be hosting the World Cup in 2022 so I am sure we will be hearing more and more about Qatar in the next few years.

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Souk Waqif

We arrived at 10 am trying to see the souk before the long lunch break that occurs daily. The souk was supposed to reopen at 4, but we had to be heading to the airport around then so the morning was our one shot. We get there and everything was shut down. Apparently Friday is the worst day to explore Muslim countries as a lot of people go to pray in the morning/afternoon. All of the restaurants were open so we decided to sit on the patio, people watch, eat (so much hummus!), and do as the locals do and smoke some shisha (hookah – it is tobacco, not drugs). A few shops opened up by the time we were leaving so we were able to pick up a magnet, our one souvenir that we buy from every place we go. Although the souk was less lively than usual we still really enjoyed our time here.

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The Museum of Islamic Art

We showed up at the Museum of Islamic Art not having any clue what to expect. I had seen it on every list of things to do in Doha so we figured why not. The museum building was designed by I.M. Pei and it is incredibly beautiful (inside and out) – if the entire museum would have just been this building I would have been happy just standing there looking at it. Lucky for us though there was a lot of art, tiles, bowls, rugs, and so many different items to be seen. It was one of the nicest and well-put together museums I have ever been too – also, admission was free! There was even an exhibit about Mohammad Ali and we thought it was pretty cool to see all the memorabilia.

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I am not sure I could make it living in an Islamic country, especially one this warm (I am melting)

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Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Eighty percent (80%)of the people who live in Dubai are not from the UAE. There is nowhere else in the world with that kind of statistic. There are people from all over the world, but many people in Dubai we met were from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh. It was interesting to learn more about this city that was seemingly born overnight. There is so much wealth in this city and it is visible…every few seconds another Bentley, Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, or McLaren drives by. It is a city that is excessive, unnecessary, and really beautiful.

On top of the world -- I mean the Burj Kalifa
On top of the world — I mean the Burj Khalifa

Dubai is a vertical city – we would go for walks trying to find street food and there seemed to be none around. It is hard to explain, but everything we know about cities with their life on the streets seemed to be non-existent in Dubai. There was one day we were exploring the souks and were in desperate need for food. We popped into a local hotel to ask where the nearby food was and they responded that there was none around. I asked where the workers of the souk ate and he mentioned something about a cafeteria, but there was maybe one restaurant in a half-mile area. Most cities have street food vendors on just about every street corner, but Dubai seemed to have none of this. We didn’t starve and there are a ton of places to eat (Shake Shack was one of our favorites), but we struggled to locate the local, quick, and cheap food scene we usually thrive on as budget travelers.

Burj Khalifa

The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, is located in Dubai and we could not get over it. The building stands at 2,772 feet and was constructed in just 5 years. We went up to the 125th floor to check out the view of Dubai from above – you are super high up from the observation deck and the building goes up many more floors from there. You can even pay more and head up to the 148th floor if you really want the full experience.

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The building is located next to the largest mall in the world (by land area) and the entire area is excessive and so very…Dubai. We spent a few hours wandering around the Dubai Mall looking at waterfalls, aquariums, shopping, and then exploring the surrounding areas. Much like the Bellagio in Las Vegas there is a fountain show that occurs every half hour in front of the Burj Khalifa and afterwards the building is lit up with different colors and patterns.

Casual aquarium in the mall
Casual aquarium in the mall

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Desert Safari

My belated birthday present (after many other failed attempts at excursions) was in the form of a desert safari. It was quite touristy, but we embraced being super tourists and had a fantastic time! We took a Landcruiser fit with a roll cage into the desert and rode over all the sand dunes – it was exhilarating and terrifying all at once. We asked after the fact if anyone ever crashes and he said usually it happens once per week. It really should not be surprising considering how fast we went over some of those sand dunes, but I was happy to not know about this risk until afterwards. We did a lot of things: dinner in the desert, rode a camel, learned about falcons, smoked shisha, and ran up as many sand dunes I could manage. We had a fabulous evening in the desert and we made some friends along the way!

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Souk Hopping

The last morning in Dubai we went to check out all of the souks! The gold market and spice markets are some of the most recommended things to do in Dubai. We found these markets to be full of pushy, almost aggressive, vendors and could hardly get out of there fast enough. The spice market smelled amazing and was beautiful, but the vendors pulling on your arm and physically preventing you from walking was far too much for us.DSC_0855-Edit

Our favorite of the souks was the fish market (if you have read this blog at all you will know this is no surprise). The fish market is not at all geared towards selling things to tourists, although they sure did try to get us to buy everything. In addition to selling fish/seafood here they also have a meat section, produce section, and a row of vendors selling dried dates. The people working the market were incredibly friendly to us, were receptive to us taking pictures and asking questions, and were insistent on us holding their seafood and taking photos with them. It was one of our favorite spots in Dubai!

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He is trying to talk me into holding the fish for the photo
He is trying to talk me into holding the fish for the photo and I am not interested

The Stats

Total Number of Nights: 4

Languages: Arabic

Currency: $1 USD = 3.64 Qatar Riyels = 3.67 United Arab Emirates Dirham

Number of Miles Traveled:  4,000 (including our flight from Vietnam)

Number of Miles Walked:  28 miles (average of 7 miles per day)

Steps Taken:  60,335 steps (average of about 15,100 per day)

Transportation Used: Taxi, Uber, hotel van, and plane

Type of Accommodations: Hotel (2)

Number of Beds: 2

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Vietnam Recap

Vietnam Recap

After India we had planned to be moving on from Asia, but instead we headed back to SE Asia, specifically Vietnam, to meet up with our friends Andreas and Ellen. It was awesome to be able to see them and experience Vietnam with them! We ate at tiny tables, fell in love with Vietnamese coffee, admired the lanterns in Hoi An, drank too many beers, and ate an unthinkable amount of pho.DSC_0234-Edit

Before this trip I had read really mixed things about Vietnam. People either love it or hate it. Some people mentioned that they felt as everyone looked at them like an open wallet (which might be true, but I feel like that is the case everywhere in SE Asia) while others felt like as Americans they were treated poorly (especially in the north). We had an amazing time catching up with friends, learning more about the Vietnam war, and exploring this incredible country! We did not make it to the north and will have to return back to that part of the country on a future trip.

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Cities Visited

Hoi An and Ho Chi Mihn City (Saigon)

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Things We Liked

Food (pho! Shellfish!), tiny tables/chairs at restaurants (although uncomfortable), friends, history there, learning about the war, easy to get around, street food, Vietnamese coffee, inexpensive everything, and craft beer.

Vietnam felt so calm and clean (at least compared to India), but it still had enough chaos — we love large Asian city chaos, especially Scott.

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Things We Disliked

Motorbikes, playing frogger to cross the street, hot weather, motorbikes on the sidewalks, and bad internet connections.

There is nothing like eating a steaming hot bowl of pho in a tiny chair located on the sidewalk in 90+ degree heat.

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His work selling at the market is done for the day so it is time to nap and forget about the heat

Highlights

1. Catching Up with Friends

We met up with our friends Andreas and Ellen in Vietnam…it is amazing to see friends across the world and get to experience new places together! We get a bit homesick at times and it has been incredible to see people we care about all over the globe. Vietnam could have been a complete dump and we still would have loved it since they were there (really though – Vietnam is awesome). We biked to the beach, ate pho, visited museums, drank beer, wandered aimlessly, and swapped India stories (they had just come from there as well). It was wonderful.

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2. Learning about the War (Independence Palace and War Remnants Museum)

Learning about the Vietnam War (which in Vietnam is referred to as the American War, Resistance War Against America, or the US War of Aggression) was really fascinating to us as Americans. It is our history too and to learn about it from the other side of things was a bit hard to hear at times (and maybe a tad bit one-sided), but very educational. We visited the War Remnants Museum and Independence Palace, the place where the war officially ended in Saigon. Side note: it is really interesting to see that most of the planes and tanks they have are US military equipment. It makes sense, but I suppose I never really put much thought into it.IMG_2912

Motorbike City

Saigon has the most motorbikes I have ever seen. Everyone rides them – even Uber has a motorbike option. We got used to crossing the streets dodging motorbikes and playing a game of Frogger to cross every intersection. What I did not get used to is the motorbikes driving on the sidewalk. We have seen this a few other countries, but nowhere else has it annoyed me more. Perhaps I would have felt differently if I was on a motorbike, but I was not sorry to say goodbye to the scooters when it was time to go.DSC_0451

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The Case of the Missing Shoes

The place we were staying in Saigon was a guesthouse with 5 rooms. They asked us to remove our shoes when you enter the lobby and leave your shoes in the shoe rack next to the front door. It was a bit odd to have to go shoeless in the elevator, but we followed the request with no complaints.

One morning we were headed out we got to the shoe rack to find that Scott’s shoes were not there. We figured they must be on another rack somewhere so we asked the girl working there and were met with a look of panic. The shoes were missing. We left them with a picture of what they looked like and went on with our day. When we returned in the afternoon all of the staff had been watching security videos of the front area and could not figure out when they went missing. They apologized a million times, offered to reimburse us the cost of the shoes, and were so nice about the whole incident. We tried to be understanding as possible as we know nobody wants to steal a pair of shoes – we are sure the guy who checked out that morning took them by mistake, but they were gone for good.IMG_3118

Handmade in Hoi An

Hoi An is famous for their lanterns and their custom tailors. Walking around the city you find shop after shop offering custom suits, dresses, shirts…whatever you can dream of they can make it and return a completed product in 1-3 days. Obviously, we couldn’t leave without getting Scott a suit and Andreas joined in on the fun by ordering a sport coat. The whole process took 3 days. The first day you are able to choose the color, fabrics, and cut of the suit that you want. They took some measurements and within a day they had a preliminary suit. We returned two more times to make sure that their clothes were going to fit just perfect!

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Biggest Disappointment

The Cu Chi Tunnels are a must see when passing through Saigon (so we hear). They are a day trip away from the city, but it is not overly expensive or hard to make the journey to see the series of tunnels that were used during the Vietnam War. We were in Saigon for 8 nights and did not manage to make it there. We have no excuses why we did not go, but we are bummed that we missed out.

The Stats

Total Number of Nights: 12

Languages: Vietnamese

Currency: $1 USD = 22,500 Vietnamese Dong

Number of Miles Traveled:  3,250 miles (including our flight from India)

Number of Miles Walked:  72 miles (average of 6 miles per day)

Steps Taken:  154,932 steps (average of about 12,900 per day)

Transportation Used: Taxi and plane

Type of Accommodations: Hotel (1), Airbnb aparment (2)

Number of Beds: 3

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India Recap

India Recap

It is impossible for me to convey all of my thoughts on our time in India in this post. It is the first place where I feel that pictures don’t capture the true essence of this country or our experience here. In our 17 days through India we were only able to get to know such a small part of this country – even if we had more time I am not sure if I could ever fully grasp the vastness of this place. IMG_1576

There are 1.3 billion people that live in India – in a space 1/3 of the size of the US. The terrains vary from mountainous in the Himalayas to deserts and plains. There is no common language spoken throughout the country, but instead there are over 22 official languages. In addition to these official languages, there are 1,652 recognized languages spoken in India (only 150 of these languages have a sizable speaking population). India is a spiritual place with many religions being practiced across the country such as Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, and Jainism. The food, culture, and languages vary as well. India is comprised of 29 states and it is overwhelming to try to understand all the differences.IMG_1388

Our time in India can be looked at as two separate parts: our time in Delhi and our time in Kerala. We spent 6 days in Delhi before heading south to Kerala to meet up with Scott’s sister, Jennifer, and her fiancé, Karoon. We had been looking forward to seeing them in India our entire trip and it was amazing to be able to travel with them and Karoon’s family (which is now our family too – marriage has a pretty cool way of joining families). Our experience in India would have been completely different if we had not met up with the Mackencherys and we are so grateful they welcomed us into the family as one of their own. 

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India tested our patience. It could be exhilarating and terrifying all at once. India can be raw, intense, overwhelming and chaotic – it is also beautiful, full of kindness, eye-opening, and oh so colorful. I cannot un-see some of the things I saw, but I’m not sure I would ever want to. My perspective of the world has been changed forever and India holds a special place in my heart. We both really loved our time in India. It was possibly one of the hardest places we have traveled so far, but the positives far outweighed the negatives. We really loved our time in this incredible country.

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Places Visited

Delhi, Agra, Cochin, Ballussery, Ottapalam, Calicut, Vayittiri, Alleppey

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Things We Liked

Traveling with family, food, not having to plan accommodations or logistics for a while, head wobbling, Kerala and the South, houseboats, New Years Eve, being with locals/people who knew the language (!), hospitality, and the Delhi Holiday Inn (it was like no other Holiday Inn I have ever seen).

The food was one of the best cuisines we have experienced. I never got tired of Indian food and I can’t wait to find all the good places back in Denver when we get home! 

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Things We Disliked

Trash, dirtiness, trash fires, pollution, serious fog, Delhi, con-artists all over Delhi, constantly being on our toes, hard beds, worrying about getting sick, moving around a lot, Christmas away from home, getting sick (a virus not Delhi belly – miraculously we avoided stomach problems in India), and less than ideal showers.

Many of the things that we disliked about India are specific to our time in Delhi – we just really had a hard time liking that place.

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It just looks like a bad photo, but the fog was really so bad you could not see 5 feet in front of the car.

Highlights

1. Family 

As mentioned above we traveled with Jennifer (my sister-in-law), Karoon (my soon to be brother-in-law), and Karoon’s family (the Mackencherys). Traveling with them around India was by far one of the most genuine and authentic experiences we have had to date. Their family opened up their homes, fed us, and shared their lives with us. We were blown away with the generosity we were shown and we are so appreciative! Special thanks to Shermi and Suresh for being so amazing to us.

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2. Taj Mahal

Our main objective in traveling to Delhi was to make our way to the famed Taj Mahal. We aborted our plans to take the train and opted for a private driver to take us to Agra and back. Unfortunately the dense Delhi fog that happens this time of year made an appearance the day we drove to Agra and it was terrifying. You could not see more than 5 feet in any direction. I wrote about our experience in detail at the Taj Mahal in another post found here.IMG_1569

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3. Houseboat

The Mackencherys rented a houseboat in Allepey and we cruised through the Kerala backwaters. It was one of the first days we spent in Kerala and it was a great introduction into such a beautiful place and a stark contrast to our chaotic city experience in Delhi. We had so much fun this day enjoying the scenery, playing games, eating/drinking well, and watching the boats cruise past. This day was very long with nearly 8 hours (9 hours? Who knows!) spent in a mini-bus with little air conditioning, but the boat was so fun I have forgotten all about that! It was a highlight of our time in India.

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Lowlights

1. Delhi

Delhi was our first stop in India. At this point, we have been a lot of places – many with high levels of poverty – and maybe we underestimated the culture shock we would experience. Obviously we are on a budget and our trip to India was no exception (although maybe it should have been the exception). We were dropped off at our hotel in the middle of the city centre and in the midst of chaos at 1 am. If we had not been so tired we might have put up a fight about this place…dirty/stained sheets on the bed and excessive noise waking us up every 30 minutes (it sounded like a construction site existed one floor above our room).

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Walking was near impossible in the city and I felt infinitely safer in an auto-rickshaw (tuk-tuk) than on my own two feet. It felt as everyone was trying to scam us and we have never felt so on edge. It was uncomfortable, unpleasant and I will never return to Delhi again. It did not help that I had a virus and was sick our entire time in Delhi. After several days in the budget hotel we checked into the Holiday Inn as a Christmas present to ourselves. We spent two days at the hotel recovering from sickness, getting past culture shock, and celebrating Christmas away from home.

I am incredibly grateful this was not my entire experience in India. India is so much more than our experience in Delhi (and I wish we could redo Delhi because it is probably unfair to view Delhi the way we do). India is such a big and diverse country I can hardly wrap my head around it. We headed south and our experience could not have been any more different. I do not regret our time in Delhi as it was one of the most eye-opening and humbling experiences from our trip, but I am certainly glad I do not have to go back either!

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2. Trash

There have been a lot of countries that we have complained about the amount of trash everywhere. India took this to an entirely new level. Trash littered every street/open space you saw and every few steps there was another trash fire.

In the US we are able to put our trash on the street and then it disappears to places most of us don’t like to think too hard about. Burning trash in India is a common practice. This causes a wide range of problems including the introduction of dangerous particulates and toxins in the air and causes many health issues. It was hard to see trash and trash fires everywhere you went.

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Other Happenings

Partying with the Indians

There was a small party at Karoon’s grandparents house (a housewarming of sorts – renovations on the house had recently been completed) and we were invited! Jen and I were outfitted in Salwar Khameez and the guys in lungis. Apparently Scott looked as if he had been born to wear a lungi as he was complimented on his appearance so many times — unfortunately as he was learning to tie his longer version of the lungi into the short version Scott’s Iphone fell out of his shirt pocket and shattered upon hitting the ground. The driveway was covered with huge, beautiful colored tents and they were really stunning. A traditional lunch was served on banana leaves, people sat down in shifts to eat, and of course the proper way was to eat with our hands (we were well practiced at this point). The party was over as quickly as it started and it was wonderful to be included in the fun.

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NYE 2017

We rang in the New Year in India and it was one of my favorite NYE nights I have ever had. Usually I feel like NYE is so overrated because there is so much pressure to find the best event, dress up and have the greatest night. It ends up costing a ton of money and isn’t my favorite. This year was so low key and it tuned our perfect. It started with the guys heading to the “liquor store” — the state of Kerala is dry so alcohol is not easy to come by. I wasn’t there so I can’t talk about the liquor store too much, but I am sure Scott could write an entire blog post about what that was like. They had to wait in a line to get up to a fenced off area where they keep the hooch. Upon arrival home everyone changed and showered before they felt clean again. I hear it was very memorable.AFE90D86-194E-4EC5-9D4D-018BCB0D9CFE

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We sat on the porch for hours drinking, talking, and trying to find a countdown to use. We finally ate some dinner just after 12:30 am and then went to bed. It was the most low key night and it was perfect in my mind. Cheers to a great 2016 and we are looking forward to what next year brings as well!  

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Family Photos

A professional photographer was brought in to do family photos. We were in them and we were welcomed into open arms into the photo session — we even have a nice prom style photo to keep forever! The pictures are our favorites and hopefully one day I get the digital copies (I have a few pictures of a pictures that are not terrible). After we were in the family photo we were sure they would take one without the random, not so random white kids (at least Scott and I), but we are in them and I love them. Thanks for welcoming us into the family — we are forever thankful.

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The Stats

Total Number of Nights: 17

Languages: Malayalam, Hindi, and English

Currency: $1 USD = 67.8 Indian Rupee (INR)

Number of Miles Traveled:  8,200 (including our flight Melbourne and Malaysia)

Number of Miles Walked:  83.8 miles (average of 6 miles per day)

Steps Taken:  180,246 steps (average of about 12,875 per day)

Transportation Used: Car, houseboat, tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw), taxi, Uber, van

Type of Accommodations: Hotel (5), house (2 places—4 beds), plane — overnight flight (1)

Number of Beds: 10 (!) – the most beds in one country to date

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Scott got a job at an Indian hotel for a day
Scott got tired of unemployment
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Yoga in Vythiri Village

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Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

We arrived in Delhi with one goal in mind – to make it to the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is the famous ivory-white masoleum completed in 1653. Before arriving in India we did some research, consulted a lot of travel blogs, and crafted a plan for seeing the Taj Mahal. We would take the train to Agra in the morning (location of the Taj), see the Taj Mahal, stay the night in Agra, and take the train back to Delhi the next morning. Other travelers have had a good experience with trains in India and they are relatively safe when compared to driving the same route since the roads are not great in India (this news story a month before we arrived did not totally make us comfortable (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-38041755), but we were ready for the adventure nonetheless! Side note: All of the good photos in this blog were taken by Scott and all the rest were taken by my phone 🙂

Photo credit: Scott

To Train or Not to Train and the Great Delhi Fog

The Indian train system is really confusing and tickets tend to sell out in advance…naturally even with this knowledge we did not plan ahead. The online ticketing system is the most frustrating thing we have ever used (props to Scott for trying so hard) and we ended up needing to make a visit to the Delhi Train Station either way. We ended up with round-trip tickets to Agra 3rd class for the next day. We would have liked to go 1st or 2nd class, but we are no divas! We started to do some thinking and more research…maybe we aren’t as adventurous as some of these travel bloggers. We aren’t total divas, but we also value our space, safety, and relative comfort. Maybe we made a mistake. As we started to backtrack, I also started to feel sicker by the minute. It was really terrible timing to come down with a virus. Our train tickets ended up going unused and we hired a driver to take us to Agra to see the sites and then drive us back to Delhi. I had read that this time of year there could be VERY dense fog and it can delay trains, planes, and cars. Of course I assumed that it would not be a problem for us.

Our driver picked us up at 6 am sharp. He told us the drive should take 2.5-4 hours depending on the fog. This was the first red flag, but I continued to think that the journey would be like any other. Around 30 minutes into our trip we experienced the dense, thick Delhi fog that occurs this time of year. It was terrifying. You could not see anything. All the cars put on their flashers to drive through, but you could only see about 5 feet in any direction. The fog was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I was ready to ask the driver to pull over and wait it out the next few hours, but he insisted that he did this all the time and reassured us that he knew was he was doing (our driver was awesome!). After 4 hours of intense anxiety (maybe I was the only one panicking, but that is besides the point) we had arrived in Agra and were at the Taj Mahal!

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The Taj

As we walked up to the Taj Mahal, it looked like a backdrop to a movie and it hardly looked real. Even with the hoards of people when we arrived it was really incredible. Entering the Taj Mahal was overwhelming so we were very thankful we had a guide to help us get tickets and navigate the security lines. There is a line for Indians and a line for foreigners — the foreigners line was much shorter than the line for Indians, but the tickets cost about 25 times more. This causes a bit of frustration among backpackers in India, but it is what it is. We did get to skip the line to get into the Taj Mahal that all of the Indians had to wait in, were given free shoe covers, and a free water bottle. The Indian tourists did not have any of these luxuries. It did make us feel a bit bad skipping the lines, but we did pay an outrageous amount in comparison to the Indian tourists.

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Our guide told us that it was unusually crowded the day we went and there was people everywhere. If this trip has taught me anything it would be some serious patience. Also, our guide turned out to be a very enthusiastic Iphone photographer who would not let us leave without taking all of the perfect shots. At times he even told others to move out of the way so he could get the shot…it was a bit embarrassing, but I glad that we don’t have only a selfie (they just aren’t as good as a real photo).

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This is embarrassing…

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We put on our shoe coverings to be able to actually walk into the Taj Mahal since no shoes are allowed. It was unexpected that for a building that looks so big from the outside that it is surprisingly small inside — it is basically just two tombs inside. That is all. Although it was not big it was awesome to walk inside and be able to look at all the details such as carvings and all of the white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones.IMG_1543

Agra Fort

In addition to the Taj Mahal, we also made it to the Agra Fort (which admittedly I had never heard of until we went). It is an amazing red sandstone fort built in 1573 and it is beautiful in an entirely different way. I am glad we made the stop here, but I was equally glad to be getting back on the road for Delhi. We arrived back at our hotel around 9 pm – it was a really long day.

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The Taj Mahal was stunning. I am so grateful we had the opportunity to see it in person. I am also grateful we did not have to brave the Indian train system, especially while I was sick. Will I ever go back? Probably not. Some things should just be left at once in a lifetime and for me this is one of those things.

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Melbourne Recap

Melbourne Recap

We were not in Melbourne recently — I am just really behind. Since we left Australia we have visited India, Vietnam, the Middle East and Europe. Whoops. Be on the lookout for more posts to come, but for now here is a recap of our time in December when we went to Melbourne!

The whole point of going to Melbourne was to rest up before heading to India. That was a mistake…we love Melbourne and couldn’t just sit around all day and rest! Melbourne is a really cool city and one that we could see ourselves living in if it was a little closer to our side of the globe.

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Places Visited

 Melbourne (and the Great Ocean Road)

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Things We Liked

 Street art, culture, availability of things we need, Queen Victoria Market, good ramen, food, walkable, English, good coffee, and pretty places!

We liked Melbourne more than Sydney…it had more culture and personality to it. It was a bit rough around the edges, but in the best way possible.

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Mussel stand at Queen Victoria Market that I could eat at everyday for the rest of my life.

Things We Disliked

Expensive city and bugs (on our Great Ocean Road journey some of the stops were not as enjoyable as they looked because of so many flies). Everything else was alright to us 🙂

We left the car to take a picture and this is how it looked when we returned...so many bugs!
We left the car to take a picture and this is how it looked when we returned — so many bugs! There was an equal amount all around us and everyone else around. I almost did not want to get out of the car after a while.

Highlights

 1. The Twelve Apostles and The Great Ocean Road

We rented a car (since we are experts at driving on the left now) to drive the Great Ocean Road. It reminded us a lot of Highway 1 in California and we enjoyed stopping frequently along the way to take pictures. We even got to see some wild koalas! The highlight was the Twelve Apostles. When we first arrived there it had just started to pour. It was so gray and did not show any signs of letting up in the next hour or so before the sun was supposed to set. We were pretty disappointed, but took some pictures anyway. We moved on to see some other beautiful stops just a few minutes more up the road. As we were checking out the other spots the rain stopped and the sun peaked through enough to enjoy sunset at the Twelve Apostles. It was gorgeous and was one of those, “I can’t believe we are actually here” moments!

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2. Movie Night

We went to the movies to see La La Land and the whole night was one of our favorites. We love going to the movies and this whole trip we kept saying we should go and never did until New Zealand when we finally made it to the movies and realizing how much we really loved it. The movie was fantastic (although we were almost scared off because it was a musical) and we would highly recommend it! We got ramen afterwards at one of the most well known ramen shops (ramen two nights in a row — we might have a problem). It was so simple, but this night made us super happy and we have decided to go see a movie once a month in the future (at home too)!

Photo from here
Photo from here

Graffiti Tour

Melbourne is widely known as one of the world’s great cities for street art (and some grafitti). We spent a whole day wondering around the city in search of street art — there are pieces everywhere and a couple of famous alleyways covered in street art. IMG_0720There was also an exhibition going on called the Art of Banksy while we were in Melbourne. For those unfamiliar with Banksy, the famous and anonymous street artist, he is a big deal in the world of street art. He is known for pieces with political and social commentary and most famously for his art featured on public surfaces all over the world. The exhibition featured some of his prints, and the story on his life and art. The exhibition is NOT authorized by Banksy (and may have made him a bit mad), but it was cool to see some of his work in person.

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On Traveling in English Speaking Countries

 It has been really awesome to visit countries that speak English as their primary language. Traveling to places where English is spoken has never excited me. When I travel across the world I have always wanted to feel like I was transported to somewhere very different. I was wrong. Traveling in places where they speak your language allows you to fully immerse yourself in a culture better since there is more overlap of culture and we can directly communicate, ask questions, and understand everything around us.

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I still think I prefer to travel places that the cultural differences, language barrier, and food are very different from my own, but countries that speak English now really excite me. I have a whole new perspective and I am excited to visit other English speaking countries in the future. It has been a great month in places we can fully understand everything and everyone. Not only has it been a nice break from struggling with language barriers all the time, but we also felt that we were able to connect with people more.

Asian Food

All of the cities in Australia we visited had the best Asian food, probably based on proximity to Asia and large Asian populations in these cities. Even after spending so long in Asia, I think that we may never be tired of Asian food. We had ramen two nights in a row (we might have a problem) and I ate the best bahn mi sandwich I have ever had (as I write this we have already been to Vietnam and eaten our fair share of them — the one at the shop outside of Melbourne is still better). I can get behind any city with this much delicious food!

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The Stats

Total Number of Nights: 5

Languages: English (!)

Currency: $1 USD = $1.33 Australian Dollar (AUD)

Number of Miles Traveled:  2,138 (including our flight from Christchurch)

Number of Miles Walked: 39 miles (average of 7.7 miles per day)

Steps Taken:  82,895 steps (average of about 16,579 per day)

Transportation Used: Rental car, taxi, Uber X

Type of Accommodations: Hotel (1)

Number of Beds: 1

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New Zealand Recap

New Zealand Recap

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We are head over heels in love with New Zealand. Everyone who has ever been to New Zealand says the exact same thing, but now we get it. We had not planned on going to NZ initially because it is an expensive place to travel, but we decided it was worth it and that maybe we will cut our trip short instead. NZ was totally different than everywhere else we traveled. We mastered driving on the left side of the road, we hiked (or tramped I believe the Kiwis like to call it), we slept in a van for 17 nights, we cooked almost every meal, and we tried to wander down gravel roads as much as possible. My camera struggled to capture the full beauty of the place in front of me. New Zealand reminded us of home a lot (except with a lot more sheep and less people) and it made us excited to return to home to Colorado.

This post contains entirely too many pictures, but with a place so beautiful (and a photographer of a husband) I could not help it…enjoy!DSC_0152

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Places Visited

We road tripped around the South Island so we would not try and cram too much and feel rushed everywhere. We will just have to come back and hit the North Island on a future trip! We drove a total of 2,464 miles in 18 days.

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We started in Christchurch before heading south around the island (clockwise) before heading back to Christchurch. Highlights of the places we visited were: The Catlins, Milford Sound, Queenstown, Wanaka and Blenheim.

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Things We Liked

English, freedom, camper vans, nature, cooking our own food, grocery stores, hiking, small towns, cheap wine, van life, not carrying our suitcases around, and feeling comfortable.

We also liked the differences in English…my favorite is when they call the cooler the chilly bin. I think I might bring that one back with me 🙂IMG_9148

Things We Disliked

Bugs (SO many bites), expensive, rainy days (and fog covering the mountains), gas stations that were few and far between, spotty internet service/paid wi-fi, lack of available showers (this was due to the fact we were living in a van), and terrible gas mileage.

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Not pictured: thousands of bugs biting us — we could only stay long enough for this picture

Van Life

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We called our trusty camper van, Monty, home for our time in New Zealand. Our trip revolved around the van: it was our transportation, our kitchen, storage, and our bed. By the end of the trip we were ready to give her back (sleeping in a van every night gets old and also makes you feel homeless), but we also became very attached! The van had places to sit and a table for hanging out in the day and you could remove the table and set up a bed. The bed was surprisingly comfortable for it being just a couple of cushions you push together. We would drive around all day and then every night we would have to locate a campsite to park our car in. New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) makes it pretty easy to do with DOC sites all over NZ, although they all cost a small sum of money to stay there ($11-$19 USD for the two of us). They all had toilets of varying cleanliness and that is about it. Every few nights we would pay almost double (around $30 or more USD) to stay in a holiday park to take advantage of a nice shower. Our only complaints were having to setup/tear down the bed everyday, the lack of showers, and having to pay so much money for a parking spot to park our van overnight.

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Our little kitchen on wheels

Painted camper vans are all over New Zealand. Ours was no exception! We loved the art on our van and we even got to meet the artist while getting gas about an hour from Christchurch. We rented from Escape Camper vans, but Wicked Camper vans was also very popular…all of their vans were slightly inappropriate (I would have HATED to have one of them) but they entertained us so much!
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Favorite Campsite

Moke Lake outside of Queenstown wins the prize for our favorite campsite. The 5 km drive to the campsite off of the main road was entirely gravel and filled with sheep and cows. We enjoyed this site so much we stayed for 2 nights! Bonus — the ranger who lives at the site was awesome and we loved chatting with him.

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Highlights

 1. Roy’s Peak 

There were very few things on our must do list in NZ, but Scott was set on hiking up to Roy’s Peak. The hike was 3 hours straight uphill in the heat through fields of sheep to get to one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. The 5 hours spent hiking was well worth it (although if you asked me on the way up I probably would have not agreed)!

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2. Wine Tasting in Marlborough

If we are nearby a wine region we are going to go check it out. We have been to Napa, Sonoma, and Temecula in California and also went to some wineries in Croatia. It was only natural that in New Zealand we would go check out the wine scene in Marlborough, which is known for the sauvignon blancs. We had rented bicycles in Temecula on a trip a few years back and we had heard that Renwick/Blenheim were great places to go on bicycle wine adventures…it did not take much else to get us to sign up! We chose to go with Wine Tours by Bike and we could not have had a better experience. They picked us up at our holiday park and we picked up our bikes. We were within 30 minutes biking to over 15 cellar doors (they call the tasting rooms at wineries cellar doors in NZ), they were all close together, there were no hills and we were able to avoid roads with a lot of traffic.

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In the middle of our cellar door visits we had lunch at Wairau River Wines. The lemongrass pork burger (with coconut satay sauce) perfectly paired with a reserve Viognier made us melt it was so good. Along the way we picked up a bottle of wine or two to enjoy our last few nights in NZ and stored them in our handy wine bottle holders attached on the back of our bicycles. We even found out that one of the wineries is in Mondo Vino, the liquor store up the street from our house and we cannot wait to seek out a bottle when we get home. We love wine tasting. We love biking. We love eating. Our bicycle wine tour in Renwick was a perfect day for all of those things!img_6708

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3. Movie Night in Wanaka

Every place we have been we have talked about going to the movies, but never seemed to make it there. We found out there was a a theater in Wanaka called Cinema Paradiso to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (the new JK Rowling movie). The movie theater was so unique and was a local hangout. The theatre sold food and beer, they had couches in the theatre, there was intermission halfway through (and they waited for everyone to come back before resuming), and there was freshly baked cookies for sale during the intermission. More movie theaters should take a page out of their playbook…or at least get on board with the freshly baked chocolate chip cookies!

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4. Milford Sound

Milford Sound is spectacular. We drove up one day and the mountains were covered in fog, it was rainy, and we could hardly see anything around us (except for a bunch of awesome waterfalls running down all the mountains covered in fog). It was spectacular even with the bad weather. We had planned to stay in Milford Sound overnight and do a cruise the next day. We arrived around 6 pm only to realize that we had underestimated the size of the town where Milford Sound is and there was nowhere to stay. The one holiday park was booked solid and we had to drive back 2.5 hours to the closest large town, Te Anou, to spend the night. We checked the weather report and the next day was supposed to be beautiful so we booked a cruise and decided to head back to Milford Sound for day two. We are SO glad we did.

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Day 1
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Day 2

The cruise of Milford Sound lasted around 2-2.5 hours. We saw waterfalls, cliffs, snow-peaked mountains, penguins, sea lions, and rainbows. We had heard that Milford Sound Cruises are overrated and we have to fully disagree with that. It might have had something to do with the perfect weather, but it was stunning. The pictures fail to do this place justice.

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5. The Catlins

We loved our time in the southern most portion of the South Island, known as The Catlins. Gas stations were few and far between, there was an abundance of sea animals (penguins! sea lions!), the scenery was stunning, and there just wasn’t that many people around. Nugget Point and Cathedral Caves were my personal favorites, but everything we saw in the two nights we spent here were some of our favorites!

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Lowlights

1. Franz Josef

Most people come to Franz Josef to check out the famed Franz Josef Glacier and we were no exception. As a birthday present we were going to go climb the glacier which involves a short helicopter transfer to the ice and then a few hours hiking and exploring one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world (before it is gone). We arrived in town the day the tour only to see rain in the forecast. We woke up the morning of the tour and it was pouring. The tour was off and we were pretty bummed, but they could get us on a tour the following day and the forecast looked perfect so we decided to stick around another day in hopes of climbing the glacier! The second morning we woke up to sunshine and we were sure it was going to work out! We arrived at the place as it started to sprinkle and the tour was off once again. I suppose it wasn’t meant to be.

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We did get a peak at Fox Glacier

Although we were bummed about the glacier tour, we were far more crushed to learn some heartbreaking news about someone we met just over a month before. While in Japan we were able to see one of Scott’t long time friends, Eric, who is a Marine F/A-18 Fighter pilot stationed in Japan. He introduced us to one of the other pilots he was stationed with, Jake, and we hung out with him a few times in Tokyo. When in Franz Josef we found out that Jake was killed in a plane crash during a training routine off the coast of Japan. We were devastated. All we could think about was hearing him talk about how much he missed his wife, son, and how he couldn’t wait to meet his baby girl who is due in January…we were heartbroken thinking about how much they must hurt. We cannot begin to imagine what all of his family, friends, those serving with him, and all those who love him are going through. It was an honor to be able to thank him for his service and an honor to get to know him.

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Tokyo by night with Jake (left) and Eric (middle)

“On occasion, though not often, we are presented with a tangible way to thank a hero for his service. Jake Frederick made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, for you and for me, on December 7, 2016. He was a Marine F/A-18 Fighter pilot, and was finishing up another long deployment, when a mishap during a routine training flight took his life.

Left behind are his beautiful wife Kiley, three year old son Colt, and their baby daughter, who is due to be born in January. Kiley has served them all selflessly since their military journey began, sacrificing many things for their family.

They are raising money for his family. If you feel generous this holiday season or would like to thank a hero for his service you can find the GoFundMe to support his family here.

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The Stats

Total Number of Nights: 18

Languages: English (!)

Currency: $1 USD = $1.42 New Zealand Dollar

Animals Spotted: Penguins, sheep, cows, fur seals, sea lions, hedgehogs, deer, lots of birds, kea (parrots), and so many more!

Number of Miles Traveled:  3,792 miles (including our flight from Australia)

Number of Miles Driven: 2,464 miles

Number of Miles Walked:  105 miles (average of 5.5 miles per day)

Steps Taken:  224,790 steps (average of about 11,830 per day)

Transportation Used: Camper van, bus, boat

Type of Accommodations: Camper van (1), hotel (1)

Number of Beds: 2

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Sydney Recap

Sydney Recap

Lauren, Scott and I all headed to Sydney, Australia for almost a week. It was the first country I have ever visited that also speaks English as the primary language (besides the USA and Canada). It was an awesome change of pace to be able to communicate with those around us, understand menus, and to not stand out like a sore thumb.

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Sydney reminded us of San Diego (minus the driving on the wrong side of the road, cool accents, and being across the world). Scott kept referring to Australia as “Bizarre-o America” since it felt like we were in the US the whole time. To be honest, if I were to have flown halfway across the world on my two week vacation to go to Australia I might have been disappointed. When I travel internationally I love that smack you in the face difference of cultures, food and people. With that being said, after spending three months in Asia this familiarity was just what I needed and what I craved. It was almost reverse culture shock for us and it was overwhelming at times. It made us miss home more than any other place and I can see why people love to travel to Australia.

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Places Visited

Sydney (and surrounding areas)

We only made it to Sydney this time around, but after our 3 weeks in New Zealand we fly back through Melbourne to see a bit more of Australia!

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Things We Liked 

Being able to communicate (ENGLISH!), beaches, ocean walks, people watching, cool/trendy parts of town, easy transportation, availability of everything we know, feeling comfortable, and not standing out. 

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Things We Disliked

Expensive and limited options for budget accommodations…we disliked very little though!

Highlights

1. Ben Harper at the Sydney Opera House Forecourt

One night while drinking a few beers in Bali Scott mentioned that Ben Harper was playing in Sydney our first night in town and that tickets were still available. When we looked a bit further we noticed that the concert took place at the Sydney Opera Forecourt, which is the courtyard in front of the Opera House with views of the Harbour Bridge as well. This was the last straw and we booked tickets immediately.

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Ben Harper puts on a great show and we had been missing some live music in our lives. Also, the venue was incredible and one of the coolest venues I have ever been to (my beloved Colorado venues of Red Rocks and Mishiwaka have my heart, but I am also a bit biased). It was overall one of the most memorable nights of our trip!

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2. Sydney Fish Market

We have realized that we love fish markets. If a city we visit has a fish market you can bet your money we will visit it. The Sydney Fish Market was much different than the Asian ones, but it was so fun. We wandered around the stalls selling fresh seafood and settled on our lunch of oysters, salmon sashimi and sushi rolls on the water.

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The Tokyo Fish Market was not for tourists. It was a working market that let tourists get a peak at the end of their workday. It was fast moving and we were just trying to stay out of the way. The Seoul Fish Market was mostly for locals. It is open 24 hours and you could go in, pick out your seafood, and have them grill/cut up whatever you purchased and serve it to you in a nearby restaurant. It was awesome, but the whole time we were never really sure what was happening since we don’t speak Korean. It was overwhelming. The Sydney Fish Market is for both tourists and locals. It was really nice to be able to read signs and order exactly what we wanted. We even learned what some things we have been eating in Asia or have seen in our travels actually are – like I said, those signs in English are really magical to us!

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3. The Coast

The beaches, beach walks, and all the areas on the coast around Sydney are amazing. We checked out Bondi Beach, manly Beach and did a couple of the ocean walks. They say a picture says a thousand words…so here are a few.

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Thanksgiving

We certainly missed home this Thanksgiving. We usually spend the holiday in Connecticut with the Berkes and it is probably Scott’s favorite day of the year. We weren’t planning to seek out Thanksgiving food or turkey…it seemed as if we might end up at a hotel somewhere eating bad food feeling worse about being away from home for the holidays than when we started. So instead we took the ferry to Manly Beach to do the Ocean walk and explore before getting dinner in the area. The views were incredible and the weather could not have been more perfect.

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We found a brewery in the area, 4 Pines Brewing Company, so we decided it would be as good as a place as any for Thanksgiving dinner. When we got there we found of they had a Thanksgiving special of one pumpkin beer and a turkey leg (with sweet potato mash and green beans) so naturally we all ordered one of the specials. The food was delicious and they gave us another round of pumpkin beers on the house since we are American. My enthusiasm level for pumpkin beer every fall is incredibly high and I generally try to taste test as many kinds as a can. Unfortunately this year I have not been able to have any (apparently it is an American thing), but they brewed up a batch special for the holiday. We watched the sunset from the patio and our evening was really great!

It was nothing like being home (there is nothing we could have done to replace how much we love spending Thanksgiving surrounded by family), but we made the best of it! We were sad and missing home on Thanksgiving for sure. It was awesome to have Lauren there with us to celebrate too!

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The Stats

Total Number of Nights: 5

Languages: English (!)

Currency: $1 USD = $1.33 Australian Dollar (AUD)

Number of Miles Traveled:  4,275 (including our flight from Indonesia)

Number of Miles Walked:  51 miles (average of 10.2 miles per day)

Steps Taken:  109,649 steps (average of about 21,930 per day)

Transportation Used: boat, bus, taxi, metro

Type of Accommodations: Hostel (1), hotel (1)

Number of Beds: 2

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The Art of Making Mistakes

The Art of Making Mistakes

I am not sure if we just got to confident or started to relax a bit, but either way we made some mistakes on the Indonesian and Australian legs of this trip. We were with our friend, Lauren, for these legs of the trip and naturally we brought our A-Game to show off what experienced travelers we have become. Some mistakes were not so bad and others could have turned out really terrible.

In an effort not to just talk about the awesome parts about traveling, I give you the mistakes we made (in the course of two weeks).

Mistake 1: Paying for two hotels for one night.

We booked a place on Gili Air for our first 6 nights in Indonesia before Lauren arrived. We realized on the way to Indonesia that we could not catch a boat in time to get to the island that day. We really should have looked into that before we were on our way to the airport. We had to pay for a night of accommodations in Gili Air since we could not cancel and had to find another place to stay near the airport in Kuta Beach (which was a mistake in itself).

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Mistake 2: No cash on an island.

We forgot to get cash out before heading to Nusa Lembongan where there is 1 ATM on the entire island. The ATM was out of cash and Lauren had to spot us some cash. Not a big deal, but we know better than to show up on a tiny island with no money.

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Snorkel stands way out number ATMs

Mistake 3: We forgot to get Australian Visas!

On our last day in Indonesia we realized we had forgotten to get our electronic travel certificates (ETAs) around 1:30 pm. We had a flight out at 10 pm that same day to Sydney. The three of us applied for our ETAs and two of us got approved immediately. Scott was the unlucky one that had to have his application reviewed by a person. They say that happens a lot and to wait 12 hours before contacting them about the status of his visa (they usually approve it in that time span). Problem was that our flight was in 7 hours and they would not let him on the plane without the ETA. So naturally we panic.

We take a taxi to the nearest Australian visa office. It is essentially the DMV of visas for Indonesian people. They could not help us, but we sat there waiting to talk to someone because we were grasping at straws. Suddenly Scott gets an email saying his visa was approved. Crisis avoided! We left the visa office feeling incredibly lucky that we all got to go to Australia.

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Mistake 4: Not reading the fine print of baggage policies on budget airlines.

We arrive to the airport with just under 2 hours until our flight. That should have been plenty of time, but the line to check-in took so long to get through. We were flying Jetstar (the equivalent of the Spirit Airlines of Australia). The limit was 7 kg each for a carry on bag. Usually nobody cares, but we had the world’s greatest rule follower checking our bags. We were overweight and had to check them.img_1558

Jetstar is similar to Spirit Airlines (or Frontier) where you have to purchase your checked bag in advance to check-in at the counter or else they charge you around 5 times as much. We obviously did not know any of this. The clerk said he would be nice and we could carry on 2 bags and just check 1. He said it was $120 each. We clarified many times….this is 120,000 IDR, right? Yes, yes. IDR. Indonesian Dollars. Okay. Why don’t we just check all three if it is only going to cost us $27 to check all of the bags…that would be worth it!

We are taken to another guy to pay the fee. As he takes the credit card he mentions $320 Australian Dollars. WAIT A MINUTE. STOP. They were going to charge us $270 USD to check three bags. We ran back to the clerk and he seemed very angry we had misunderstood him. In our defense, his English wasn’t great and we would have never agreed to pay that much. In a last ditch effort to save our wallets we talked them into letting us go with the original plan he suggested to only check one bag and we paid our $90 (begrudgingly)…Jetstar won this time.

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Our bags really aren’t THAT big.

Mistake 5: Not arriving at the airport 3 hours early.

I mean, who would have known? This luggage debacle and check-in took so long that we got through customs with not a lot of time to spare. We looked at all the boards and NONE of them had our flight showing. It had not been updated for hours. We run through the airport and finally find our flight on the board…the status was the dreaded “Final Call” so we sprinted to our flight. We almost missed our flight and we were at the airport almost 2 hours early. I hate being late at airports. I just don’t do it.

That is the story how Scott and Shelby became those people that arrive at airports 3-4 hours early from now on (kidding…maybe).

So there you have it — the mistakes we made in Indonesia and Australia. It doesn’t matter how much you travel or how much you have your shit together…there is always the potential to screw something up 🙂

Happy New Year!

 

Indonesia Recap

Indonesia Recap

Indonesia is a country comprised of 17,000 islands. We barely scratched the surface in our visit there, but we loved our time exploring as much as we possibly could. Scott and I flew into Bali where we spent a day or two before taking a boat to a little island called Gili Air. It was much needed time to relax and to try and get over the virus I had caught in Korea. After a few days we headed back to Bali (Ubud in particular) to meet up with one of my best friends, Lauren. We spent 3 nights in Ubud drinking fresh juice and doing yoga before heading off to a new island, Nusa Lembogan.dsc_0804

Our time in Indonesia was a great mix of relaxation and adventure. I also think that it might be one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to and I am so thankful our travels took us to Indonesia. We found paradise!

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Places Visited

Kuta Beach, Gili Air, Ubud, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan (we took our bicycles over to this smaller island for a day trip)

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Things We Liked

Beautiful scenery, traveling with Lauren, surfing, seeing sea turtles (!), free breakfast everywhere, cheap, yoga, chill vibe, fresh juice, and biking. Also, the beach! The beaches were absolutely stunning.

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Things We Disliked

Trash everywhere, Kuta Beach, difficult transportation, aggressive vendors, no sidewalks, living in luxury when people have so little, bugs that bite (especially when they like to bite just me), lack of ATMs on islands, and uncomfortable/potentially unsafe boat rides to the islands.

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Highlights

1. Surfs Up!

Scott, Lauren and I decided to give surfing a try…we are so glad we did as it is so fun! We took a lesson with Newbro Surf School and our instructor Robot taught us the basics while we were still on land. We took a boat out to the break in the waves and rode the waves for the next few hours. We were all able to get the hang of it and we had so much fun! We all need some more practice, but we would all gladly get on a board again.

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2. All the Outdoor Activities

There was so much to do in Bali and the surrounding islands. In Gili Air, we went snorkeling where we saw beautiful reefs and even a sea turtle. We did a stand up paddle boarding tour at sunset. We met up with Lauren and the adventures just kept coming! We did yoga, we took a surf lesson, explored trails, and we went mountain biking a few times (a few of the times it was quite by accident, but awesome nonetheless).

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3. The Islands

We really liked Bali. It is a large island and it isn’t necessarily easy to get around from place to place. We only hit the usual places tourists hit, Ubud and Kuta. I would have liked to see more of Bali, but for me I loved all the smaller islands we visited on our trip in Indonesia.

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Gili Air is one of three islands that make up the Gili Islands (Gili Trawagaran is the largest, known for being a party island, Gili Meno is tiny and there is not much there, and Gili Air is supposed to be a perfect mix of these two islands…so Scott and I knew this was just where we wanted to be.) The only activities on the island are snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, diving, yoga, and walking around. The island was small enough where you could walk anywhere in about an hour and there were no motorized vehicles on the entire island. It was peaceful and was just what I was looking for at the time.

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dsc_0502Nusa Lembongan was totally opposite of Gili Air, but in the best way possible. There was so much to do there and you could stay there for a while and never get bored. The island is much bigger than Gili Air and most people get around by motorbike. All of us decided the safer, and maybe more fun option would be to rent bikes and explore the island. Everywhere we would go there would be another beautiful place and it never got old.  We even rode our bikes over to Nusa Ceningan which is much smaller, but equally beautiful.

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Lowlights

1. Getting Sick in Paradise

While I actually got sick in South Korea and traveled to Indonesia with a bad virus, I was sick for the first week of our time in Indonesia. Thankfully it was before Lauren arrived in Indonesia so I was able to rest and try to get completely better before she arrived, but really I would have preferred to have not been sick at all.

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View from our room in Gili Air

2. Presidential Election

I am not getting political here, but I will say it was a tough day for us. I will just leave it at that.

The Stats

Total Number of Nights: 13

Languages: Bahasa Indonesian and Balinese

Currency: $1 USD = 13,375 Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)

Number of Miles Traveled:  4,275 (including our flight from South Korea)

Number of Miles Walked:  83.8 miles (average of 6 miles per day)

Steps Taken:  180,246 steps (average of about 12,875 per day)

Transportation Used: boat, taxi, and van

Type of Accommodations: Hotel (3), guesthouse (1), plane — overnight flight (1)

Number of Beds: 5

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