Countries visited: 26
Countries with English as an official language: 6 (United States, Ireland, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Fiji, and New Zealand)
Borders crossed: 31 (15 by air, 7 by train, 4 by bus, 4 by car, and 3 by water)
Nights spent in transit: 8
Buses (not counting local buses): 35
Boats and ferries: 23
Scooter crashes: 2
Countries where we drove on the left: 5 (Ireland, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Thailand, and New Zealand; Japan, India, and Malaysia also drive on the left but we didn’t drive there)
Forms of transport: 24 (camels, auto-rickshaws, bicycle rickshaw, songthaews, tuk-tuks, scooters, motorcycles, vans, moto taxis, trains, ferries, speedboats, longtail boat, row boat, slow boat, metro/subway, streetcar, cars, pick-up trucks, auto-taxis, river/canal taxi, cable car, funicular, houseboat)
UNESCO World Heritage sites visited: 42
Photos taken: 31,467 (an average of 77 a day taking up 450 gigs of storage!)
Addictions to delicious Cadbury candy bars not available at home: 3 (Moro in Ireland/Northern Ireland; Tempo in South Africa; and Moro Gold in New Zealand)
Days where it rained: 105
Overall percentage of time spent in rain: 25%
Countries with squat toilets: 8 (South Korea, Japan, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia)
Times when Amy got really sick: 4 (stomach ailments in Morocco; South Korea; Laos; Vietnam)
Times when Sean got really sick: 5 (stomach ailments in Morocco; South Korea; Thailand; India; Vietnam)
Number of hospital visits: 2 (both Sean for the same bacterial infection, including a two night stay)
Number of mosquitoes bites: impossible to count (There were times where Amy would have 30+ on one limb alone, despite using bug spray!)
Number of “Thai tattoos”: 1 (Okay, it actually happened in Vietnam. And it’s not a real tattoo. Just a nasty burn from a scorching hot moto-taxi exhaust pipe.)
Different beers drank: 127
Books read by Amy: 58
Books read by Sean: 2. (At least 2 others were started but not finished.)
Number of times we heard You Can Call Me Al: 4
Cheapest accommodation: $6.61 in Chiang Khong, Thailand
Most expensive accommodation: $146.43 – a 50 square foot room in New York City on our very first night
Cheapest activity: $0.48 admission fee per person to the Hanoi Hilton
Most expensive activity: $175.50 per person to scuba dive in Kauai, Hawaii
Cheapest dinner: $1.95 for dinner for two in Vietnam
Most expensive dinner: $143.35 for dinner for two in Kobe, Japan
Sean’s cheapest haircut: $3.33 in Saigon, Vietnam
Sean’s most expensive haircut: $34.58 in Paris, France
A couple of weeks ago, Akila and Patrick from The Road Forks (who, by the way, just took off on extended European travels with their two dogs in tow – check out their blog to follow along) kindly nominated Surrounded by the Sound to take place in Tripbase’s My Seven Links Project. The goal of the project is to dig out some old posts and bring them to the light of day. Since I’ve got over a year’s worth of posts from the trip’s beginning to end, and I’ve been pondering various trip wrap-up post in my head, I was happy to participate. So here goes:
Most Beautiful Post: Kodachrome
How to narrow down the most beautiful post out of all of the posts about the stunning places we’ve visited this past year? I could pick any of the posts about New Zealand, our last (foreign) destination and consistently the most jaw droppingily beautiful place we visited, hands down. But choosing New Zealand feels like cheating and besides, you’ve seen all those posts lately. I could pick natural wonderlands like Plitvice National Park in Croatia, Kruger National Park in South Africa, or the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland. Or, how about a little village in Japan, the month of April in Paris, or beach paradises in India and Thailand? I mean, I have a whole category dedicated solely to pretty things covering the gamut from cities to flowers to ruins to people to beaches to sunsets. But I think my most beautiful post may be this early one from Marrakesh, Morocco. One of the most amazing parts of travel is the way it opens your eyes to beautiful little things in everyday life. When I look back at this post, with nothing more than pictures and a song running through my head, I am catapulted back into the early days of our adventure amidst Marrakesh’s calls to prayer, scooters, dust, tourists, souks, spices, and, most of all, colors. It didn’t take long to figure out that travel and Kodachrome are one and the same.
Most Popular Post: Random Lessons From a Year Abroad
My most popular post by far is Random Lessons From a Year Abroad (which got even more attention after a little old stumble from Jodi at Legal Nomads – thanks again, Jodi, for sending your many readers my way). Which is kind of funny, because I wrote this post off the cuff. It was one of those posts that I could have kept adding to forever and ever but for once I didn’t overanalyze it and just posted it. I’ve always felt appreciative when others wrote about what it really is like to travel, especially all of the conflicting emotions that percolate behind the surface, so I was happy to share what was on my mind after one year on the road and even happier it seemed to hit a chord with some.
I don’t really do controversy, per se, but this category winner has to go to the two part series, Adventures in Eating in Japan, Part One and Part Two. I started noticing an unusual amount of traffic on these two posts coming from some Japanese websites. Now I’m not certain, you see, because the websites were all in Japanese, but I’m pretty sure the Japanese were up in arms about me mentioning that Japan is a rather expensive country in which to travel. Their beef (literally) was that we spent $143 on a rather touristy (and ultimately unfulfilling) meal of Kobe beef. True, but even minus ridiculous splurges, Japan can be a budget-buster. At least they didn’t seem to mind that I exposed their love of whale meat. : )
Most Helpful Post: The Slooooooooooow Boat to Luang Prabang
In reading other travel blogs, I’ve learned that reading a blow by blow of the logistics of someone else’s travels is only interesting if you happen to be going to the same exact place and need more information. So I avoided writing too many posts specifically about logistics and instead tried to weave tips into our stories, like in this post about budget accommodations in houses of Croatian Grannies or this one about visiting Petra. There were a few times – usually when I couldn’t find specific information I needed – that I dedicated a whole post to logistics, like this one about Tips for a DIY Safari in Kruger National Park. My most helpful post is a bit of a hybrid; it’s about our experience on the slow boat from the Thailand/Laos border to Luang Prabang down the Mekong. It’s a common trip, and judging by the outside interest this post has received, I think people are curious (like I was) to see what they are getting into before they commit to a two day adventure.
A Post Whose Success Surprised Me: Tom and Jerry, Sun-Lit Scenery and Porn: Just Another Trip to the Desert
Why, oh, why do people want to find porn with Tom and Jerry in it? Are there some sort of male porn stars named Tom and Jerry that I am not aware of? I am still surprised to see this post about spending September 11 in Wadi Musa, Jordan getting hits day after day. Sadly, it is not because people found my post to be full of insightful social observations or beautiful desert scenery; nope, they just have a fetish for a cartoon cat and mouse.
A Post I Didn’t Feel Got the Attention It Deserved: Hog Tales, Vietnam Edition
I don’t know that any of my posts deserve to get attention, but there are many that I write and then don’t hear much about. One example is my recent post about returning home. I’m guessing by disappearing for a few months after our return I answered the question in the post title. I am not going to be posting as often now that our trip has ended, but I like writing. At the very least, I still want to wrap some things up on here about the trip. So if you are still inclined to read what pops up from time to time, make sure you subscribe by email or add the RSS feed to your Google Reader. But since my last post is not really part of the archives that this 7 Links project is designed to unearth, let’s go with Hog Tales, Vietnam Edition, the story of our three days riding around Vietnam’s Central Highlands on the backs of the motorcycles of two Easy Riders. Sean and I had a lot of fun seeing Vietnam through the eyes of My and Mr. Pepperman, and I think this post captures the quirkiness of the experience.
A Post I am Most Proud of: Impressions of India by a Type-A Personality
India is complicated. It took me a long, long time to put together my thoughts about India down on paper (well, on screen). When people ask now what my least favorite country was I’m tempted to say India. But it’s not exactly true, because even though India was challenging for me while we were there (in essence because it is so radically different from the American society I’m used to), it is the country that lingers with me the most. When I look back at my posts from Calcutta, the Andaman Islands, Fort Cochin, and the Kerala backwaters, in particular, a smile breaks out. So I am most proud of my introductory post about our time in the country because I think I finally captured, in words, my jumbled emotions about India – by far the most fascinating country we visited.
Thanks for indulging my trip down memory lane. Hope you found some posts you may not have seen before to give you some more reading. To continue on with the My Seven Links Project, I nominate these bloggers. I’ll be looking forward to seeing what they write.
Happy Mother’s Day to our moms. We’re sorry we missed Mother’s Day two years in a row! But we’re really excited to see you again soon.
- Did you know that the rest of the world calls the letter “Z” zed? I didn’t, but it’s true.
- I’m sorry to report that we are not any better at mastering the New Zealand accent. Although it is in the same general family as the British/Irish/South African/Australian ones, the Kiwi one is definitely unique. I met an Australian woman doing laundry the other day and we got to chatting about accents and language. I mentioned that we’re learning that some of the words we use are American English (like apparently the letter z!) She replied, Honey, American English ain’t English. I refrained from replying, Honey, ain’t ain’t a word in any language.
- Speaking of laundry, doing laundry (in a machine!) every four days (coinciding with the number of underwear and socks we own) is pure decadence.
- Speaking of accents, on the radio the other day, the Kiwi radio host was making fun of quote, ridiculous British accents, end quote.
- Speaking of Britain, talk of the Royal Wedding was EVERYWHERE in New Zealand on Friday. (Yes, I watched. Yes, I loved her dress!)
- You knew it was coming, but I am over this campervan. Being hemmed in by the rain doesn’t help and we find ourselves venturing out to eat more and more despite the crazy prices. I swear the campervan is getting smaller. As I write this, winds and rain howl at our campground outside our campervan shaking it from side to side. We didn’t have power at the campground when we arrived but it came back on a few hours ago. Driving here today, the winds whipped everything sideways. Luckily, not our campervan, although it seemed like a distinct possibility at times. The tall roof is like a sail. Everywhere we go, we hear how the weather just took a turn for the worse or that it’s going to be an early winter. Except for two glorious days in Rotorua, it’s been nothing but buckets of rain since we got to the North Island.
- It’s May 1: twelve days until home and less than two days until we re-enter the United States. Insane.
- Except, really, it’s twelve or two plus one. In the most exciting news around these parts, we discovered that we’ll be time travelling on Tuesday and experiencing May 3 twice. Yesterday, we finally took a closer look at the crazy flight we booked back in January. At the time, it seemed like a good idea to add a Hawaii stopover in for super cheap prices. What we forgot about was the many legs of flying required to get those cheap prices. Going by the local time at each stop, we fly from Auckland to Fiji at around 1:00 on May 3. We then have an 8 hour layover, and take off again at 11:59 on May 3. We then land for an hour at Christmas Island (which apparently is somewhere in the Pacific Ocean and luckily is not the Christmas Island over in the Indian Ocean) around 6:30 a.m. on May 4. Then, in the really mind blowing part, we fly for a couple of hours more to Hawaii, and land around 10:30 a.m. Except, it won’t be May 4 like we thought. Because we cross the international date line, it will be 10:30 a.m. on May 3. So that means we have 8 nights in Hawaii, not 7. An extra day in Hawaii? Awesome. Too bad we booked our interisland flight from Oahu to Kauai and rental car on Hotwire starting on May 4. Oops.
- Even though our guidebook tells me New Zealanders are not that religious, they have some seriously strict laws about Easter. The government prohibits most businesses from trading on Good Friday and Easter, dashing many of our plans. Also, and most importantly, you can only buy alcohol in restaurants and only if you have the intention of eating. Thus, the true story of how the NZ government forced us to eat a scrumptious $28 NZD pizza on Good Friday.
- Kids from New Zealand get two! weeks! off from school for Easter.
- It is weird to eat chocolate eggs wrapped in pastel colored foils while the leaves outside are the deep colors of autumn.
That is all. May your Easter be filled with lots of chocolatey goodness.