Today marks the day that we have officially been traveling the world for ONE FULL YEAR. Last year, we were sitting at the Celebration Tea Room in Celebration, Florida prior to our trip back to the airport. Our flight was supposed to leave late at night on March 26th, but ended up leaving at 7:20 PM on March 28th - what a crazy start to our travels that experience was!
Below is our emotional journey over the year - but you can skip to our highlights and lessons learned near the bottom if you’d prefer (for a shorter read).
Emotions before we left Orlando, Florida
We really enjoyed living in Orlando - not just the home of Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld - but also the various springs, kayaking, and natural beauty. It has some of the best quality food from all around the world, and not just at EPCOT or Animal Kingdom, but all across the Greater Orlando area! Additionally, we were both working at our favorite careers to date - Jenny as an Assistant Store Manager at the Japan pavilion of EPCOT and Bradley as a Senior Consultant: IT Department Controller at Disney Vacation Club (through Ciber Global). If that wasn’t enough, Jenny’s parents, her sister, brother in law, nephew, and nephew-on-the-way, were also all living just a half hour drive away! Leaving Orlando was a difficult thing to do for sure - we traded away an amazing situation for an unknown adventure - and the 44+ hour delay on our flight out wasn’t making it much easier! But we sold or got rid of most of our stuff, packed the rest into two carry-on size suitcases, and made it to our first destination – Paris.
Emotional Start in Paris, France
Arriving 2 days later than expected meant we had to cut a few things out of our plans - but we ended up learning how to do most of the famous sites for free, and how to travel around the city for cheaper than we expected. Long-Term travel also means doing laundry while we are staying at Airbnb’s, something we generally don’t have to do when we are “on vacation”, and definitely cheaper than paying for hotel laundry services all the time… but that means it was also eating up time we were already lacking on – a bit stressful.
As we were walking along the Seine river near Notre Dame, we were suddenly struck with some unfamiliar emotions. “We are here. We are actually in Paris.” It wasn’t that we we had never been to another country before – but this time we didn’t have a return ticket. It kind of felt like we were lost… we no longer had a home to go back to! A little scary.
Shortly thereafter, though, we ended up seeing the first real-life EPCOT icon on this trip, the Eiffel Tower! Additionally, we were lucky enough to spend two of our five days at Paris Disneyland Parc & Walt Disney Studios Parc! However, Paris was COLD at the end of March and we are warm-weather people - so we headed off to the only real warm place in Europe: The Canary Islands!
Building the EatWanderExplore Website in the Canary Islands
We finally had a little bit of time to start working on the EatWanderExplore website when we arrived in the Canary Islands (Spain). But, what were we supposed to do to make sure it was a site that people would want to visit? Blog articles and photo galleries is where it started, but we also made a few magical videos as well. We now had to figure out how to fit “work” into our long-term travels and then it became real that this wasn’t just an endless vacation, but also a job. That was a tough adjustment, especially since we hadn’t yet figured out how to appropriately plan our weeks yet.
We visited 4 islands in the Canaries over a month and wondered how chaotic the next few months would be - would we even be able to make it two more months?
Changing Plans, Culture Shock, and Many Contrasts in Morocco
Morocco was a bit of a shock compared to Europe. We had to leave our drone at the airport because they are illegal there - so we also had to change our plans, cancel our bnb’s in Chefchaouen and Tangier, and extend our stay in Marrakesh so that we could leave Morocco from the same airport with our drone. It was also Jenny’s first time in Africa, and the questionable level of cleanliness - as well as the drastic clash of extreme poverty to quality establishments - was everywhere.
Our Airbnb - which was more like a mini-hotel, ended up having a plumbing issue, one that made the bathroom smell as if a creature may have actually died in the pipes (no exaggeration). But, they did move us to an even nicer room - without a plumbing issue - for no extra charge. Our laundry, however, could only be washed by them… and the turnaround was roughly 48 hours!
Keeping with the contrasts, we may not have desired to re-visit Marrakesh if all we saw was the Medina - but we went on a few excursions to some waterfalls and a unique valley that completely blew us away - we did not expect to see such amazing natural places in Morocco - nor did we expect to find some really great affordable food there either, but we did! Off to Italy…
A Bad First Impression in Italy
Our expectations of Italy were really high to begin with, as we were originally planning on just living in Italy for an entire year, but Italy really missed the bar and Jenny almost doesn’t care to even try to go back in the future. When we arrived in Italy, we ended up having to book a second night at a hotel due to our change of plans in Morocco because of the drone, but a second night wasn’t available at the first hotel. So, we stayed our first two nights in different hotels. Transportation to the hotels ended up costing us $106.71 because we didn’t realize how expensive Ubers were in Italy. Boy, did we feel ripped off - so much so that we ended up writing an article about how to effectively use transportation in Italy without getting ripped off.
We also made the big mistake of trying to stay in all of the biggest cities and learned that we just aren’t city-folk. Pompeii, Amalfi, Capri, Naples, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, and Venice. In the end, we enjoyed Florence and Cinque Terre the most - and learned how to do things for free in Florence as well. We also enjoyed our quick 2-day trip of Ravello, Amalfi, Positano, and Capri - although we found it to be extraordinarily congested and cramped. When we make our way back to Italy we will be staying outside of the cities instead.
As we were trying to figure out how to stay on budget near the end of our 45 days in Italy (while in Cinque Terre) - because we show our budget publicly and would hate to look like we can’t budget correctly - we also learned that Jenny was pregnant! What an amazing thing to find out just before we intended to hike the trails of Cinque Terre between 5 different cities! Either way, it gave us something else to research while we were in Venice.
Feeling like Real Travelers
We finally started feeling like traveling was our way of life as we entered Innsbruck, Austria and were instantly reminded of our 2-week trip to Switzerland and how much we loved it - a trip we took only 9 months before starting this adventure. We would later find out after visiting Munich, Germany, that our favorite area in Europe is the entire Bavarian Region. So, we really found Innsbruck and Salzburg to be charming enough to potentially live in longer-term!
The next 3 months in the U.K. were focused. We had learned how to explore the beauty of nature, and the cities, while building up our website and blog. We spent our summer exploring the Peak District, Sheffield, Nottingham, Edinburgh and the Highlands of Scotland, some amazing caves and a stunning coastline in Wales, and London. We also learned that English Scones are better than American Scones, and found a number of Harry Potter Filming Locations along the way!
It was exciting to tell our family, friends, and followers about our pregnancy while we were in Edinburgh - where we also met our first real travel friend, Cezary, and his then fiancee, Maria (now wife)! Later, we coordinated a few days with a couple of our friends from Florida while we were in London! We hadn’t realized just how much we missed friends until we had time with them - and then we were sad that it didn’t last longer!
The Filming Locations of Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland
While Bradley is kind of addicted to the show Game of Thrones, it wasn’t even on our radar of things to do in Northern Ireland until we arrived in Dublin and did a Historical Walking Tour there. In fact, we only had 5 days scheduled in Northern Ireland, and really only 2 days of activities. We ended up going out every single day as a little tourist brochure selling a Game of Thrones tour turned into a bit of research and a couple of stops to see if it was worth it. It was so amazing that we turned it into a do-it-ourselves drive along the coastline to all of the majestic sites - and we are so glad that we did!
Exploring the Republic of Ireland
Yes, we also learned that Corned Beef and Cabbage is not really a traditional Irish dish - it’s an American-Irish dish! The Irish tend to eat “Bacon and Cabbage” which is quite a bit different! Learning from our distaste of cities in Italy, we stayed a bit outside of Dublin, near Powerscourt Gardens and Waterfall, and in Kilrush, a smaller city not far from Bunratty Castle. We were even able to sneak in a day in Killarney after we explored the Ring of Kerry and the “The First Jedi Temple” island of Skellig Michael. Now, Killarney is high on our list for “THE spot to stay in Ireland” for it’s old Irish charm!
Waffles, Fries, and the Peeing statues
We only stayed in Belgium for 1 week, and it was the first time we decided not to really “plan” for anything to do. We needed a break! So, we set ourselves up in Bruges and just enjoyed what we saw. What a charming little city! We definitely enjoyed our stay there. We also managed to spend 2 of our days in Brussels because a friend-of-a-friend lives there and gave us some amazing expat advice, showed us some of the best locations in Brussels, as well as the peeing boy and girl statues - which made for a great “gender announcement” for our baby-to-be - and even the location of the best waffles in Brussels (point in fact, they were Liege waffles!). We even experimented and found a fairly convincing recipe for them!
Friends, Rothenburg, Cinderellas Castle, and Oktoberfest
Nearly two months after meeting up with our friends in London, we got to meet up with another group of friends to explore Germany! Traveling with friends really is a different experience – and we really enjoyed exploring Rothenburg and Munich with them. Rothenburg was quite possibly the most quintessential old-world Christmas village that we had ever seen, but it also had some things that inspired Disney’s EPCOT Germany pavilion.
A few hours away was the Castle that inspired Disney’s Cinderella’s Castle – and was a “must-do” for us. It was AMAZING, even though some of it was under construction.
And then, who knew that Oktoberfest was a giant carnival? Yes, there were rides and fair-food everywhere! We also found some fairly pricey traditional German meals there; However, there was also only a LIMITED SELECTION OF BEERS! It was fun and all, but we simply couldn’t believe that there were no DUNKELS or Dark Beers at Germany’s official Oktoberfest… WOW!
As Germany was also starting to get cold - it was the end of September - we were ready to move on to somewhere warm.
Athens, Ferrying the Greek Islands of Mykonos & Santorini
Greece was the warmth that we needed! It also turned out to be a much more affordable European destination than we expected – plus, we felt a lot more relaxed than we did when we were in Italy. Athens had plenty of ancient history for us to explore, and plenty of gyros to eat!
We tried the island-hopping experience of taking a ferry to Mykonos, and then to Santorini. However, the first ferry ended up going late into the night and the winds and water made for a really terrible and cold experience – plus the food on the ferries is heat-lamp style and made us feel ill as well. Mykonos’ Old Town was a pretty cool place to stop, classic white Greek style buildings and streets, but probably the only place you’d need to see there. Then we explored Santorini, and did an amazing hike there. Santorini can really be done on a budget!
Chaotic Cairo, an affordable Tour up the River Nile, and Salespeople
Two of our Airbnb’s were canceled at the last minute – owned by the same person – because we didn’t schedule any tours through him (what a sham!). However, our first Airbnb host, outside of Cairo in the peaceful new suburb of Madinaty, allowed us to extend.
We had learned over the many months of traveling that it is usually more affordable and flexible to do self-guided tours and itineraries. But when we arrived in Egypt we realized that taking a tour was about the same cost as doing it ourselves, except the tours came with guides and we didn’t have to do any of the planning and logistics. So, when our Airbnb’s got canceled - we also decided to fit in a week-long tour from Cairo to Aswan to Luxor to Abu Simbel and back to Cairo – a blessing in disguise! We decided to treat the tour as a babymoon, and Jenny’s belly was finally starting to pop (people were noticing!).
Egyptian salespeople are pros. People on the street in Cairo seemed friendly, but more often than not would be salesmen working to get you into their shop. They start off by asking where you’re from and then their brother/wife/cousin lives there or is from there, what a coincidence! It all ends up being a carefully planned sales pitch to escort you to their shop, offer you tea, and make you feel uncomfortable for leaving until you purchase something. While we loved Egypt for the rich history, delicious food, and genuine hospitality, the fake hospitality from salespeople was exhausting. We felt obligated to write about this experience and a number of other stories to help future travelers.
Cape Town - Our home for 3-months and the Birthplace of our Son
We couldn’t have chosen a better place to set up a 3-month home base, even though we ended up having to switch hospitals twice in the third trimester while we waited for our son to arrive. Cape Town, South Africa quickly became one of our favorite places with all of its natural beauty, delicious foods, and kind people. Christmas caroling at Kirstenbosch, eating at the Neighborgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill, and visiting the Penguins at Boulders Beach are just a few of the amazing things we got to do there. We want to go back to South Africa and do Kruger National Park, but we were fortunate enough to visit three safari/game lodges near Cape Town!
Arriving in Southeast Asia - Bangkok, Thailand
This was actually Bradley’s first time to Asia and our first time traveling with our son, Waltoshi! We had three flights from Cape Town to Johannesburg to Hong Kong to Bangkok and almost missed the first one because of a blowout diaper. Thankfully we made it, and arrived safe and sound in Bangkok where we were immediately greeted by heat and humidity. The insta-popularity of traveling with an infant in Thailand has resulted in more interactions with locals as they smile and wave at Waltoshi and then want to engage in conversation with us. It has been a fun experience so far, but the bulk of our Thailand excursions and adventures start next month!
Highlights and Lessons learned from one year of travel
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE YEAR
Seeing the beauty of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco
Finding out we were expecting
Eating local foods like Lemon cream pasta (Italy), Liege waffles (Belgium), Bacon and Cabbage (Ireland), and Orzo “bird tongue” soup (Egypt)
Visiting gorgeous GoT filming locations
Exploring all the caves – Cueva de los verdes (Canary Islands), Poole’s Cavern (England), City of Caves (England), Dan-Yr-Ogof Caves (Wales), Cango Caves (South Africa)
Hiking volcanoes in the Canary Islands
Meeting up with friends in London, Brussels, and Germany
Taking a cruise down the River Nile and visiting Aswan, Luxor, and Abu Simbel
Celebrating our first year of marriage
Enjoying the beauty of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Having parents visit in Cape Town
The birth of our son / Becoming parents
We’ve visited 16 countries – mostly in Europe, a few in Africa, and one in Southeast Asia. We’ve learned how to drive a manual right-hand drive car, how to say “hello” and “thank you” in multiple languages, and which apps are the best to use in each country to order delivery food.
We’ve had misadventures like flights being delayed for 44+ hours, Airbnb hosts canceling our stays the day before we were supposed to check-in, booking hotels to save on costs only to find out the shuttle is over $40 each, and having to change hospitals 3 times in the third trimester of my pregnancy. We’ve learned the difference between travel and vacationing, and the importance of deliberately scheduling downtime.
There were definitely some days when we wondered if we’d still be traveling the next month or if we’d end up going back to the US. But we worked together to keep adventuring and have had some amazing experiences the past 365 days. Of course there are times when we miss things like having family and friends nearby, being a regular at a local restaurant, or even getting a steady paycheck. After one year of continuous travel, are we ready to “settle down”? It seems that travel begets travel and our wanderlust and sense of adventure has only continued to grow. We’re thankful for your support and are looking forward to what the next 365 days will bring as we continue to explore and help others learn to travel forever, with our FREE Nomad Guide, too.
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Jenny & Bradley of EatWanderExplore