9 July 2015

intermission: aroundtheworld q&a

a few readers have left some questions about our trip around the world. i’m taking a break from sorting through pictures and composing blog posts about specific adventures we had along the way to answer these! please feel free to add questions in the comments of this post, and i’ll do another q&a :)

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I would love to know the logistics of the trip.... what did you pack for the trip...did you hand wash or find laundromats...did you eat out every meal, or what did you eat on the run? How did you decide where to stay and how to travel from one place to another. It looks like such an amazing adventure, it's incredible how you pulled it off. It would be fun to try and replicate a small part of it.

on packing:
one saturday before we left, we spent probably four hours at our local rei finding the right backpacks and also purchasing gear for our trek in the himalayas. we ended up loving the backpacks we used for many reasons - they were just the right size, zipped open like a suitcase (rather than being top-loading with a drawstring), had a daypack that could be worn on its own, stuffed in the back or clipped on the front, and had just the right amount of compartments and padding. ((they are rei brand, grand tour model))

we packed only the bare essentials to get us through eighty days and a myriad of climates and activities. i brought three pairs of pants (two specifically for hiking), about seven shirts, a cardigan, a fleece jacket, a puffy coat, flip flops, walking shoes, hiking boots, a dress for church, a comfy stretchy skirt, seven pairs of underwear and five pairs of socks, one pair of exercise clothes and my running shoes, and thermals, a hat and gloves. you’ll get well-acquainted with those clothes as you look at photos from our trip :) i packed everything in separate ziploc bags (one for shirts, one for pants, etc), which made finding things and repacking much easier. i also had a big bag for toiletry items which included a smaller bag full of medicines. we also had a ziploc full of electronic equipment. after our hiking trek in nepal, we sent a big package of things home to the united states so we could travel lighter the rest of the trip.

i definitely did my fair share of hand laundering in bathtubs and sinks, but we also were able to find laundry services that were very affordable in different places throughout our trip. lots of hostels will have laundry machines available, which is so so nice!

this was another question a reader left, which has me totally flattered: How did you always manage to dress cute when you packed so little? ha! i definitely did not feel so cute many times on the trip, and holy cow did i get tired of those clothes! but you just make do and be happy :)

on eating:
we ate out for many meals as we were on the go very often, but when we could we bought food at grocery stores and had picnics along the way (we did that most in new zealand). we ate a lot of cheap street food, filled up quite a bit at breakfast when it came with our hotel/hostel stay, and asked for food recommendations from many, many locals and/or fellow travelers. we did have a few special, not super cheap meals when we felt that would really add to our experience in a certain place.

on accommodation:
we booked all of our accommodation before we left the united states, after scouring through lots of reviews on tripadvisor and booking.com. we discovered that if a place has a rating of at least four stars on tripadvisor and/or eight points on booking, it would be a pretty great place to stay. we found some really, really awesome inns and hostels and hotels, many of which really added to our travel experience. we were also excited to partner with some hotels and feature their properties on this blog (here’s one example; a few more to come).

I'm interested in the logistics of the trip. Did you plan out everything in advance or find transportation to some destinations and activities as you went? My mind is blown.

we had basically one month to plan the trip since we were consumed with deciding where to move up until february. it was a mad dash, but we organized a lot of things in advance. i am generally more of a spontaneous traveler, but the boy really likes things to be in order – so we secured all our accommodation, major travel (airplanes and trains) and big activities in march from the united states. i ended up being so so glad that we booked as many things as we did before we even left because it made things pretty smooth along the way a lot of the time. there were also quite a few things we did on the fly – we both definitely wanted to leave room for that and there were some awesome serendipities.

Did you do one way tickets and play it by ear, or do you have everything pre-purchased and arranged ahead of time? Did you purchase an alliance aroundtheworld trip, or arrange your airfare on your own?

when we first started thinking about taking this trip, we researched around-the-world tickets offered by airline alliances, but found them to be quite expensive and not very flexible. next, we worked with a company called airtreks – they custom build itineraries for you by finding the best rates for your dates and places and then organize all your documentation. the folks at airtreks were super helpful and found us a pretty great deal (for sf—>new zealand—>china—>turkey—>south africa—>argentina—>ecuador), but because the boy is very thorough and very willing to put in some effort to save some money, he double-checked all the flights they pulled to make sure we couldn’t get a better deal. he stayed up all night one night working on this (literally), and ended up saving us about $1000.

after we had our main flight legs booked, we purchased within country flights, made rental car reservations, and bought train tickets. ian did an incredible job keeping track of all these different bookings. we had a massive spreadsheet with columns that included: date, city where we were sleeping, accommodation confirmations, travel ticket information, activity details, and costs for each. again, not every single hour was scheduled beforehand – just the big stuff that may sell out or need to be booked in advance.

What sort of camera did you capture this all with? Your photos are stunning!

thanks! we used my canon rebel sl1 (essentially the most basic digital slr you can buy – and i love this one because it is so light!) and our gopro hero4 (one of the best purchases ever – we are excited to use it throughout our adventures in the coming years now that we really get how to use it!). as i’ve gone through our pictures i’ve wished i had a photo or a video of this or that, but i feel like we had a pretty good balance of taking photos to capture, share and remember while also seeing the world and soaking in different experiences without a camera lens in front of our eyes. it can be exhausting to document everything, especially with a particular aesthetic, and we decided we’d rather really absorb things into ourselves rather than too much into our memory cards :)

I would be interested into your opinion on how different the food was and how well a vegetarian might eat in different countries. Oh and your opinion on the influence of regional tastes in franchise products.

food is such a huge part of traveling! we loved trying all different kinds of tastes and experiencing different cuisines. sometimes it was difficult and sometimes we really craved the familiar, but for the most part we really enjoyed eating in each different country. our favourites were the curries in tibet and nepal, the succulent and well-spiced meats in turkey, nando’s (a south african chain that is popular in england!) in south africa, the steak in argentina, and the chicle and coconut ice cream in the galapagos islands. since we are not vegetarians, it’s a bit hard to comment on how well a vegetarian might eat in different places, but we did notice that there seemed to be plenty of non-meat options most places – i tended to avoid meat in some situations where it seemed a bit questionable. we were both so lucky to not get very sick the entire eighty days. we each had about a day and half when our bellies weren’t feeling awesome, but overall we felt really great even after trying so many unfamiliar foods.

it is pretty fun to see the influence of regional tastes in franchise products! i’ve noticed american chain restaurant menus with local tweaks in my previous travels, and it’s so interesting! we didn’t eat at many american chains this trip, so we didn’t have tons of exposure to this together, but we did enjoy several flavors of dorritos that we had never heard of! :)

How did you experience politics and the human rights situation in the countries you visited?

this is an excellent question, and one i intend to answer more anecdotally as i continue to blog about our trip.

i haven't delved into politics/social issues that we encountered and learned about much so far because i'm mostly just trying to catch up on posting pictures while things are still fresh in my mind! sorting, editing and posting the photos takes quite a lot of time and energy, and life hasn't stopped moving since we got back to the usa! there's sooo much to share from an experience like this, and sometimes i have to get a little choosy. while the purpose of this blog isn't really to educate and/or convince concerning certain political/sociological matters, i do want to share more about our exposure to different social issues we encountered – so keep reading :)

If you had to decide again what to do, would you decide on the same itinerary or would you choose fewer countries but spend more time in them?

if i had to decide again in the exact same circumstances, i think we would choose the same itinerary. while we did cover a lot of ground, we felt like we planned in such a way that we got a pretty good taste of each destination, and we essentially wanted to get to as many diverse places as possible when we had so much time to travel – something that might never happen again in our lifetime, or at least while we are young and have lots of energy :)  but both of us are very decided that this really was a once in a lifetime experience. in different circumstances, we would choose fewer countries with more time spent in them (and less time traveling at once), and that’s what we are looking forward to on some future trips …  not to say we won’t try to pack many places into a trip in the future, but there are definitely virtues (and vices!) to both approaches.

Is there any chance on a future post that you can explain how you afforded this trip?

definitely. the boy is planning a guest post all about finances. but the short answer is that both of us saved a lot over the past twenty years, we invested wisely, and we put in the work to travel quite cheaply.

{leave any other questions in the comments for q&a round two}

8 comments :

  1. Great answers to the questions I was wondering about.

    3 questions I have:

    How did you keep the memory cards safe?

    Did you write the dates on the back of the magnets so you'd remember which day(s) you bought them?

    Did you also buy postcards to include with your pix etc?

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  2. Do you wish you had spent more time in some locations rather than hitting so many different places?

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  3. Would you tell us how things ended up with your job? I believe you were teaching - what happened to your class for the rest of the year?

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  4. I'm not as interested in how you afforded it, as much as just how much something like this costs for others that want to do it and the best tips of saving money! Can I rent Ian to book a trip for me!

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  5. I'd like the template for Ian's spreadsheet!

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  6. Sounds awesome. Someday we should get together and talk about your travels. Enjoy the rest of your time before you head overseas.

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  7. I've enjoyed reading about your trip and love how positive you are about the whole trip but I would love some top 5 or 10 lists. Like top 5 places and why. Or top places for high risk adventure. Or top places for food/nice people. I know this probably will be insanely hard but for those of us that have to narrow down a trip to 1 or 2 locations I'd love your opinion on what spots depending on what we are looking for. Thanks for sharing such an amazing adventure!!!

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  8. Thank you for answering my questions! I will continue reading anyway, but I must admit I'm looking forward to these kind of anecdotes. As for the virtues and vices - I can relate (on a smaller scale). We did a ten day cruise in the Western Mediterrean Sea which was a great experience. But we wouldn't want to do it every summer (more than six hours for Rome would be nice...).

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