We have come to the end of the road and after 379 days without a home we are content to be back in familiar territory. After researching destinations, hotels, transit, activities and other travel needs on a daily basis, being home ironically feels like a vacation.
Since our last update, we wrapped up our tour of South America and headed east to catch the highlights of Central Europe.
We started our tour of South America in Buenos Aires. Many people love BA but, unfortunately, we cannot share their feelings as it has made our list of least favorite cities. The highlight was La Recoleta Cemetery where Eva Paron is laid to rest and that doesn’t say much when the cemetery is the highlight.
From there we headed west to wine country. We spent a week at the foot of the Andes in Mendoza pairing Malbec with empanadas. Now a trip to the liquor store feels like tripping down memory lane.
Happy to leave Argentina in the rear view, we had a stunningly scenic bus ride over the Andes Mountains into Chile. After the scary first impressions of Valparaiso, we ended up loving this quirky and colorful seaside town. Halfway between Valparaiso and our next stop in Santiago was one of Chile’s premier wine regions, the Casablanca Valley. We took a day trip to taste the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay wine this valley is famous for.
-Valparaiso is famous for street art-
-Veramonte Winery, Casablanca Valley-
By this time we had visited most of the world’s major wine regions outside of Europe and we were blown away by the size and yields of these Chilean vineyards. We stayed just a few days in a happening college area of Santiago which we enjoyed before we flew off to Iguazu Falls.
With one look, Iguazu Falls ruined every other waterfall for us. There is nothing that can compare to seeing 275 waterfalls! The falls are so vast they straddle two countries, Brazil and Argentina, and it took us three days of touring the park trails to check this Natural World Wonder off the bucket list.
-A view from the Brazil side of Iguazu Falls-
Next came one of the most anticipated destinations of our trip, Rio de Janeiro, for 2016 Summer Olympics. After over a year of planning for the games, we were right in the heart of the action. Walking into our first Olympic games was a feeling we will never forget. We enjoyed a safe and zika-free eleven days in Rio where our biggest problem was trying to find Olympic TV coverage in English.
-Posing with the rings outside of Maracanã Stadium-
Of the four countries we visited in South America, Peru was the standout. We had high hopes for it and it exceeded all expectation. September was the perfect time to visit as summer crowds had left and the weather was still dry and sunny.
We started in Lima where we witnessed the saint’s day celebration of Santa Rosa de Lima, an unexpected and magical moment that got to the heart of the country that is over 80% Catholic. From there, we started our tour with Peru Hop which was a highlight of our year.
-Procession through the streets of Lima in honor of Santa Rosa de Lima-
We saw the stunning diversity of Peru from bird life in the Ballestas Islands, the mysterious Nazca lines, towering sand dunes, the second driest desert, and deepest canyon, to Lake Titicaca. Topping it off was Machu Picchu, our second World Wonder behind Christ the Redeemer which we saw in Rio.
-Feeling on top of the world at Machu Picchu-
From Peru, we set our sights on Poland to start our journey through Central Europe. Poland doesn’t get the credit it deserves and it quickly became one of our favorite destinations in Europe. See why here.
Heading south, we spent a few days visiting highlights we missed on our last trip to Prague before visiting the storybook town of Český Krumlov. We had a perfect Bavarian Oktoberfest experience at the Wiener Wiesn Festival in Vienna before spending a weekend in Bratislava.
-Wiener Wiesn Festival in Vienna, Austria-
Further down the Danube, we paused in the heart of Europe, Budapest.
-Smiles in Budapest-
Next, we made our way to the Green Capital of Europe, Ljubljana, which served as our base to explore the natural beauty of the country including the Slovenian wine country, Brda.
We ended our trip with a tour through Northern Italy starting in Venice and heading east through Verona and Lake Garda before ending in Milan.
-Spending the day in Burano, an island just outside of Venice, Italy-
-Enjoying the serenity of Lake Bled, Slovenia-
With all this action packed into the last three months, you can see why we are happy to stow our luggage! Here’s a final update on our trip stats and a recap video of where we’ve been over the past twelve months:
- Number of countries visited (outside the USA): 25 (Kenya, United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong (China), Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy)
- Number of different currencies: 23 (Kenya and Cambodia also accepted USD)
- Air Miles Traveled: 81,081 (3.3x around the Earth)
- Number of flights: 40 (and only 1 cancellation!)
- Number of airlines: 18
- Favorite airline: Virgin Australia
- Least favorite airline: Air Asia
- Number of overnight buses: 4
- Number of Accommodations: 107
- Hotel points redeemed: 245,000 (25 nights)
- Airline points redeemed: 580,299 (14 flights, 2 business class)
- Loads of laundry done: 22
- Best Food: Khao Soi (Specialty of Northern Thailand)
- Weirdest Food Eaten: Guinea Pig (Cuy)
- Top 3 Accommodation: 1) Dream Mango Villa, Siem Reap, Cambodia) 2) Doubletree Hilton Kuala Lumpur 3) Mara Explorers and Backpackers, Kenya
- Scariest moment: 4.3 magnitude earthquake in Yangon, Myanmar
- Insurance claims: 1 (to cover rooms when our flight was canceled)
- Doctor visits: 1 dentist (cleaning), 2 eye doctors (LASIK checkup)
- Number of times scammed: 1 attempted bird poop scam in Buenos Aires
- Number of Housesits: 2
- Place we are most excited to go to next: South Africa (one day)
- 3 favorite cities: Krakow, Poland; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Tokyo, Japan
- 3 least favorite cities: Buenos Aires, Argentina; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Penang, Malaysia
- Biggest language barrier: Border crossing between Argentina and Chile
- Biggest annoyance: Finding a gecko in the room
- Squatty potties used: 1
- Most pleasantly surprising place: Vietnam
- Live Penguin encounters: 3
- Biggest Unexpected Expense: Having to purchase airfare we expected to use our Air Asia Asean passes for.
- Countries that were covered under T-Mobile Service: 22 of 25 (not Laos, Myanmar or Vietnam)
- Times we wanted to kill each other: Maybe one or two
- Most Unique Transport: Motorbike with side-cart (and Chris riding on the back of the motorbike with Thai gentleman half his size as the pilot)
- Cheapest Beer: Hanoi, Vietnam (5,000 Dong ~$0.23 USD)
- Most Expensive Beer: Sheraton Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 38 Ringgits at hotel bar = $8.68
- Favorite movie on the road: Unstoppable (about a runaway train)
- Lost items: 6
- Number of free walking tours: 17
- Visits home: 2
- Souvenirs we buy in every country: Postcards and Christmas tree ornament, and keep some currency, pressed pennies
- Hottest Place: Siem Reap Cambodia
- Coldest Place: Colca Canyon, Peru
- Pictures Taken: 18,446
- Places to Visit before you die: Cambodia, Bali, Peru, safari in Africa
- One Piece of Travel Advice: Earn points and miles to travel for free
A big thank you for following along with us as we crisscrossed the globe! We would never have thought a trip like this was possible a few years ago but slowly we found a way to overcome our fears, excuses, and financial constraints to achieve our dreams. We hope we have sparked your sense of wonder and inspired you to take action on some dreams of your own in 2017.