The other day I was talking to someone about our trip and inevitably, the question of cost came up. I sent them here to check out our ‘Roundups’ and they pointed out that we never in fact posted one for New Zealand. Ooops. The best of my intentions after we returned somehow never panned out. I just pulled our scrapbooks off the shelf and realized we also never finished the Australia and New Zealand sections. Jeez! Clearly I have some work to do. I’m going to post that roundup in the next week, even if it is more than a year overdue. Feel free to hold me to that, if anyone is even still checking in on this blog!
Recently we started saying things like;
“A year ago we were flying into New Zealand.”
“A year ago we were hiking the Tongariro Crossing.”
“A year ago we were kayaking in the Kenepuru Sound.”
Yesterday, one year ago, we were flying home. We flew out of Auckland late in the evening on February 7th, and landed in San Francisco mid-morning on…February 7th. Very time-warpish to have two full days of the same date. We drove up the coast to the town I went to college in and proceeded to stuff our faces with burgers (real American hamburgers!) at one of my favorite local breweries. We were a mess. We had been wearing the same 3 outfits repeatedly and hadn’t cut our hair for over 15 months. We felt both out of place, and totally comfortable.
It’s stunning how time can go both so fast, and so slow, all at once. A lot has happened in the last year. We’ve moved back to my home state. We got our cats back from the friend who cared for them while we were away. I’ve gone back into teaching. Justin’s branching out and trying out new career ideas. My youngest brother bought a house. My other brother moved home from Thailand, and then moved back out to Indonesia. My father was diagnosed, treated, and is recovering from cancer. My mother walked the Camino de Santiago. We’ve reconnected with old friends, and made some new ones. There have been weddings and babies. We bought a car and a season ski pass and a couch. We have settled back into a routine.
There have been lots of questions about whether we miss traveling, or New York. The truth is that we don’t really miss anything. I believe that if you are missing things from your past, then you probably aren’t living to your fullest potential in the moment. We have had an amazing life so far and we hold the memories of places we’ve been and people we met in our hearts, BUT, we love – being able to see family regularly – the mountains – having an apartment that is more than twice the size of what we had in NYC for less than half the rent – knowing that we don’t ‘need’ things to be happy – having a routine and a home that’s comfortable and safe at the end of each day – feeling purposeful in our work – taking walks in our new neighborhood and discovering our new favorite places to eat and drink and read.
We have no idea what the future holds. We hope there are a lot more adventures left to be had, but we’re not going to spend a lot of time worrying about that. For now, we’re happy right where we are.
I’ve read a lot of posts in the last few years about the kinds of internal shifts that happen to people when they travel. I’ve also read a fair share about people who expected to come back transformed, and then were surprised when they felt like nothing much really had changed. I didn’t anticipate a big revelation personally because, quite honestly, that occurred after my first international trip to Italy when I was just out of high school. It was that particular trip that sparked my wanderlust, and opened my eyes to the fact that there is a lot going on outside of my little bubble.
The thing is, there’s also a lot going on inside our bubble. We have nieces and nephews that we didn’t see for nearly two years. That’s way too long, especially when we’re talking about young children who can change drastically in the span of just a few months. In addition, when we returned we felt pretty out of touch with the lives of our friends. We have a close knit group and without the daily communication that we had pre-trip, we missed a lot of the minutia of life that contributes to the deep understandings we have about each other.
The world is a huge and amazing place and we feel so blessed to be able to have seen and experienced all the things we did. After 15 months away from it all, we are more certain than ever that all the most important things to us are right here at home.
Just after we returned my father was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and it has been a whirlwind of doctor’s appointments, periods of anxious waiting, and months of chemo and radiation that will now be followed by more months of anxious waiting to see if the treatment has been effective. I have lived at least 1000 miles away from my family for more than 15 years, and to be home for this has been another big wake up call for us.
We embarked on our journey partly because of the realization that life is precious and fleeting, and we have returned to our roots for basically the same reason. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how many places we’ve been, or how many mountains we climbed. What really matters is that we are surrounded by the people we love, and those who love us, because as we already knew, it can all change in an instant.
I just renewed this blog’s address because I really do plan to post more about our trip. We never did finish the New Zealand Roundup, and I have started posts about how we kept our budget, gross things we ate and the incredible scenery we tramped through. Not to mention that we’re not done with travel, we WILL be having more adventures in the years to come, it’s just that our priorities are elsewhere right now. So keep us in your reader, and you’ll be hearing from us again eventually. In the meantime, if you have any juju, thoughts, prayers, or love and light to send to my dad, we’ll take all we can get.
We spent a few days in La Paz, Bolivia after our awesome salt flat tour, and every day we’d walk through a market near the hotel to find the woman who made these pastries. She’d be there bright and early with fresh sugary goodness for us to try. We must have eaten dozens of these treats over the span of four days. Delicious!
Today’s photo comes thanks to my brother in Thailand. It’s been a cold spring here in Colorado, and this photo makes me look forward to summer even more. We spent a few weeks hanging out on the beach loungers in front of Maya Beach Club on Koh Tao, and I have to say, they get some of the best sunsets nearly every night.
In light of the fact that we have spent the last three days moving into our new apartment, it seems like the perfect time to address the question that all long-term travelers have to deal with at some point.
What are you going to do with all your stuff while you’re gone?
We knew we were coming home in less than two years, and we also had planned to settle in Colorado, so we chose to get rid of the stuff that we didn’t think we’d want/need later, and we drove everything else out to Colorado and loaded it into a storage unit. The biggest argument long-term travelers have against storing everything is that, well, it can cost a fair amount of money. Depending on where you are, and how big of a unit you have, you could be spending anywhere from $50-$200/month. If you are living in a city, your best bet is to drive out, usually a half-hour will do it, and you’ll find rural storage units that can cost 1/3 of what you’d spend in most major cities.
It might seem, at first glance, that the $1000-$2000 needed to keep your stuff could be better used towards travel, especially when you factor in the money you could make selling it all! The thing is, if you know you are coming home, you need to realize that you still are going to need a bed, dressers, bookshelf, couch, TV, dishes, towels, sheets, silverware, cups, pots and pans, a microwave, etc… when you return.
We have a really nice mattress that is only a few years old. We have basically brand new dishes, pots, pans, glassware and kitchen appliances, most of which were wedding presents. We bought a new TV just two years before we left. Realistically, we would have had to spend far more money to replace these items than we ended up spending to store them, even taking into account what we might have made if we sold them. If you don’t have high quality items, or many items at all, then storing things might not be worth it, especially if you have family or friends that are willing to keep a few personal items for you.
If you go the storage route, there are some things you can do to make packing, and unpacking it all just a bit easier when you get back.
- Bike boxes, usually free from bike stores, are great for flatscreen TV’s or artwork/mirrors.
- Shredded paper is fantastic for packing material. Just start shredding everything you’d normally recycle. You can get a cheap shredder for $20 that will do the job nicely.
- Number your boxes. Then, make a list where you give a basic description of what’s in each number box. For most things it can be as simple as just labeling the room the box should go in. There are a few things you’ll want to name specifically though – like your wifi router, or the corkscrews…
- Tape up all the edges of the boxes. It’s a pain, but it’s incredible how much dust can sneak into boxes from those edges that weren’t taped.
- Make sure you have a super thick, high quality mattress protector. In addition, wrap your mattress (and box spring if you have one) in another layer, or two of thick plastic. If the plastic isn’t thick enough it will tear, which leaves your mattress open to moisture (and mold…ick) and bugs. If you are going to bother to keep it, keep it right.
- If you store your mattress upright, make sure it is exactly upright, and stack boxes flush with it so it doesn’t sag.
- Cover the furniture in some kind of sheet or cloth in the storage unit. We didn’t. It was a mistake that required many hours of cleaning.
- Put wooden palates down on the floor of the storage unit. This will give you some protection in case of minor water leakage inside the unit.
Storing your belongings isn’t for everyone, but if you know you are coming home eventually, and you have even a few expensive items that you’d like to keep for the future, it might be worth it in the long run.
If you are a long-term traveler and have a different solution for dealing with your ‘stuff’ while you’re gone, let us know in the comments!
Number of days spent in country – 48
Cities/towns visited – Bussleton, Margaret River, Alice Springs, Kings Canyon, Yulara, Cairns, Port Douglas, Sydney, Manly, Melbourne, Hobart, Sorell, Port Aurthur, Coles Bay, St Helens, Pyengana, Scottsdale, Launceston, Westbury, Deloraine, Meander, Chudleigh, Mole Creek, Gowrie Park, Strahan, Queenstown
Number of different lodgings – 20
Flights – 6
Bus journeys – 14
Boat rides – 6
Combi/collective/taxi journeys – 3
Car rentals – 5
Australia was a challenge on our budget, partly because it’s really expensive, and partly because we were travelling with family for most of the trip. We took a lot of cross-country flights, which bumped up our budget in a major way (you can see from the chart the travel costs were HALF our budget). Our accommodation costs were also significantly higher than if we had been on our own, though we did share rooms or get family rooms most of the time and we had two weeks of basically free nights from time share exchanges and hotel points from my mom.
Total US dollar amount spent – $10, 121
Average cost per day, per person – $105.43. We spent around $121 when we were travelling with our family, $70.53 when we were on our own.
Average lodging cost per night, per person – $39.10 We only had to pay for lodging for 25 of the 47 nights we were in Australia, thanks to some timeshare exchanges, loads of free-camping in Tasmania, some couchsurfing, and the generosity of a few friends of friends. We stayed in motels with my parents, and spent a week in an airbnb apartment in Melbourne. Australia had the most expensive lodging, even when looking at the cost of staying in hostel dorm rooms, that we encountered on our entire trip.
Most expensive lodging, per person – $76.50 at the Ayers Rock Resort. Yikes.
Least expensive lodging, per person – $3.20 for a campsite outside of Strahan, Tasmania.
Average food/drink cost per day, per person – $19.20 With a few exceptions we self-catered. We did have quite a few fish and chips lunches, and a few very nice dinners out.
Travacalm – You may know that I have a bit of a problem with motion sickness. And by a bit, I mean a huge problem. This is particularly true when the motion involves water, and it is a rare occasion that I escape a boat ride without throwing up at least once. So, you can imagine my delight when I was introduced to Travacalm, which appears to be the only motion sickness medicine that ACTUALLY WORKS! I discovered it on our snorkel trip to the Great Barrier Reef (more about that below). I spent the whole crazy choppy trip out to the reef literally willing myself not to puke as at least 5 people all around me were getting sick. I could only hold out so long though, and ended up being pretty sick just prior to getting into the water. Fortunately, being in the water really helps, so I was feeling much better by the time we were ready to head back to shore. One of the crew members was handing out Travacalm to those of us with seasickness and for the first time in my life I survived a really rocky ride of nearly an hour and a half back to shore without feeling so much as a twinge of dizziness. You can’t buy this stuff in the USA, so I promptly went to the pharmacy and bought 10 boxes. For real.
Wavelength Great Barrier Reef Snorkel trip – If you get all the way to Cairns or Port Douglas, you’d be remiss to not make it out to the Great Barrier Reef. There are quite a few companies ready to take your money, so you need to really look around for what you want. For us, it was important to have a trip just for snorkeling, and we didn’t want to be on a boat with hundreds of other people who would then be crowding around us in the water and scaring all the fish away. That’s why we went with Wavelength. They take only about 30 passengers, are totally snorkel dedicated, and ended up being a great choice for us. They give you a full-coverage stinger suit (to protect from jellyfish stings) and pool noodles to help you float lazily along.
$2 sushi rolls in Melbourne – Another way to ease your budget blues! You can get cheap and tasty sushi rolls all over the city. I only needed two to fill me up for a lunch!
Fish n’ Chips – As a former colony of England, Australia really has nailed the art of fish n’ chips. We sampled this classic favorite all over the continent, and it rarely disappointed us. It was also pretty easy on our budget, especially compared to the high cost of restaurant meals.
Bondi to Coogee Beach walk outside of Sydney – We spent the better part of a day strolling along this famous coastal walk, and it was totally worth it. Especially when you end at a rooftop bar overlooking the ocean. Bliss!
Getting out into the wilderness – Australia has some serious nature. From the Outback to the Gold Coast, to the rugged mountains of Tasmania, to the wine valleys, to the rain forests north of Cairns… this continent has it all. I highly recommend reading Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country
to get a real sense of just how wild Australia really is.
Wine Tasting – Australia is famous for a lot of things, one of them is fantastic wine. You can visit a variety of different wine regions, but we spent most of our time in the Margaret River Valley, which is south of Perth. It was awesome, and most of the tastings were FREE! Just make sure you have a designated ‘skipper’.
Tasmania – If you like nature and hiking and camping and beautiful scenic vistas, then you should go. Really, just go. Make sure you have at LEAST 10 days to really do it justice. We had 16 and we could have easily spent twice as long.
Australia was great, and the only part we really disliked is that the US dollar is not so strong at the moment…which made it a very expensive trip. Still, that’s not Australia’s fault, but just be prepared to drop more cash than you might have originally planned for.
Mmmm….fried bugs. You can find carts full of fried bugs all over SE Asia. Apparently they are not only filling, but can be really healthy for you. Some seem like they’d be more horrible to eat than others (see the giant cockroach?) whereas others are so crispy that they just taste like a very well done french fry. One thing I didn’t know about eating bugs is that in Thailand, most of these critters are raised in captivity for the sole purpose of being sold as snacks. Yum!
A year ago today I wrote a post about the heart of why we decided to take our career break to travel around the world. Part of me wanted to write it to answer some of the questions we’d gotten about why we wanted to take this kind of a trip in the first place. Another part of me wrote it as a way to recognize some of the terrible moments of loss that caused us to re-evaluate our path in life.
We’re done with the trip, and in a bit of a state of limbo. We’ve returned to my home state of Colorado, and are in the middle of the hurricane that is searching for new jobs after not working for nearly two years.
Now that we’re home, people want to know if we think we’ll miss all the travel or if we think we’ll be happy here. I’ve learned to not anticipate how I will, or will not feel about something. Right now I’m very happy. I was ready to come home and see my family and friends. I have been longing for my own space, a garden, the intellectual challenge that comes with my line of work. Right now I don’t miss travel, but that’s partly because I know our travel will never really be done. We’ll always have a strong sense of wanderlust, and I’m sure we’ll be travelling as frequently as we can, just as we did before this trip.
One thing I do know for sure is that we are much more focused on living the rest of our lives with as little regret as possible and we’ll continue to listen to what burns inside of us because really, those are the things our dreams are made of.
Below is our post from April 1, 2012
‘Living The Dream – Why We Chose To Leave It All Behind’
Recently we met a young couple who genuinely didn’t understand why we embarked on this huge journey. They wanted to know why we didn’t seem to miss our clothes, our home, our ‘regular’ lives. Why aren’t we worried about what happens when we go back, or when we run out of money? Why aren’t we worried about our careers? Why would we choose this unstable sort of life?
These are all valid questions, and some can be answered at least partially by checking out our “About Us” section.
We’ve been on the road for almost five months and we’ve thought a lot about the things that motivate us to travel, and the reasons behind the decisions that have landed us where we are in life.
I’ve started this post a dozen different times and discarded every attempt at an answer until now. It’s a complicated answer because life is complicated.
Why do writers write? Why do athletes compete? Why do artists create? Most of them will tell you that it’s because it is their passion. There is something that burns inside of them and says “This is what you must do”, and so they do it. If you ask Justin if he has a burning passion for travel he’ll say no, but he does enjoy it. If you ask me, I’ll say yes, I have a passion for travel, but it’s not all encompassing. We have a love of the world, a desire to see new things, to immerse ourselves in different cultures, to meet new people. Yes, it can be frustrating to not have a huge wardrobe selection, or to have to move every few days, or to have to sleep in dorm rooms with 20 other travelers, but the benefits of what we are doing far outweigh these minor issues.
This alone might be answer enough for most people, but there is more behind it.
We’ve lived fairly comfortable lives. We had the opportunity to earn university degrees, we had careers that we enjoyed, family and friends we love, and we could have settled comfortably into a nice routine in Colorado and lived out our lives pleasantly…but…there’s always a ‘but’.
People talk about living life to the fullest, taking advantage of every moment, every opportunity. Most people don’t follow that philosophy in their everyday reality though. Life is busy, things get in the way. All those responsibilities build up and we have a hard time looking through them to where those moments and opportunities might lead us. I’m as guilty as anyone else of living like that. The conventional wisdom tells us to work hard. Save money. Plan for the future. We were on that path. We were saving money for a down-payment on a home. I was pushing myself professionally to make sure my career path had an upward trajectory. We were diligent about putting money aside for retirement.
Then, over the last few years, a number of things started to jolt us out of that cocoon of complacency. A close friend’s mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. My mother was hit hard financially and lost her home to the bank. A schoolmate from when I was a child died from a brain tumor. A classmate from high school died from melanoma. Three years ago today, one of my most dear friends was murdered by her ex-husband.
Everyone knows life is precious and fleeting, but these events sucker-punched me. There were things that had been left unsaid, regrets, and ‘should-haves’ and the weight of them felt terrible. We came to realize that while we had a great life, we weren’t actually taking advantage of what it could be. It became painfully clear that despite the best of plans and the most careful of arrangements, it can all be gone in an instant. We took a good long look at ourselves and asked,What is it that we dream of? Why don’t we follow that dream and see where it goes?
That burning passion that writers and artists and athletes have for what they do? Well, I don’t exactly have that, but the thing that burns inside of me says take the chance. So we did.