Kim and I recently celebrated our one year travel anniversary! Wandering Sasquatch might be less than 3 months old, but I am already putting the one year notch in my world travel belt.
It’s funny to think back to when Kim first told me that she wanted to trade in our old lives for a life of travel. I was skeptical at first, hesitant to agree to anything, then thinking “well, how about 6 months? 6 months should be plenty of time to travel.” 6 months became a year. Now, I can’t even think about going back to our old life. All I know at this point is one year is not nearly enough. Hell, one decade might not be enough. Oh, how the road changes you.
The past year has taken Kim and I to a myriad of places. We have experienced the grandeur of the American west, the simple beauty of small South American villages, and the life-bursting colors of Asia. We have hiked on the earth’s ceiling in the Himalayas and in the bottom of the world in Patagonia. We sailed in the remote waters of the Galápagos Islands and explored the crowded/crazy/how-the-hell-do-you-describe-it-ness of India. It has been a year of ups and downs (but who am I kidding, mostly ups!), more Coke-and-Snickers bars meals than I like to think about (damn you travel days!), and even a Sasquatch encounter (although, sadly, no Yeti encounters……yet).
So here is my compilation of the past year by the numbers, as best I can capture it. In the immortal words of Marty DeBergi (Spinal Tap anyone?): I wanted to capture the sights, the sounds…the smells of a hard-working [Sasquatch] on the road. And I got that. I got more…a lot more. But hey, enough of my yakkin’, let’s boogie!
Number of countries visited: 9
Kim and I spent the first three months of our newfound jobless freedom visiting friends and family spread out across the U.S. and exploring the National Parks of the west. After exploring our own country, we flew to Ecuador and spent the next 4 1/2 months in South America. We had a two-day stopover in Germany that let us stay with our friends Ali and Andy over Christmas. After stuffing myself on sausages and homemade christmas cookies (which my mom actually sent to Germany ahead of our arrival – thank you again, Mom!), it was on to India for 3 months, then to Nepal.
Before we set out, I would have thought that we would have visited double the number of countries in a year. But, as I found out, moving around a lot is exhausting, both physically and emotionally, and traveling like a tortoise is a much more fulfilling way to travel.
Miles driven: 12,091
All of these miles were driven during our 3 months in the US. We drove across the country – literally from one coast to another – in our 19-year-old car that seems to be falling apart piece by piece, then back again, zigzagging our way across the west. A road trip is the best way to see the United States, and we had a great time getting to know our own country better before our big date with the rest of the world.
Number of different beds slept in: 92
This number feels a little low, but seeing as we had multiple three-week stays in places and nearly three months in the same bed in Goa, 92 beds is a lot of different beds. I know I am probably jinxing myself by saying this, but it has to be some kind of miracle that neither Kim nor I have contracted bed bugs, lice, or leprosy by now.
Nights spent under the stars: 31
A total of one month camping in one year! Most of these nights were during our National Parks road trip, camping in Grand Tetons, Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Grand Canyon, and Sequoia Kings Canyon National Parks. But we also spent nights camping in Peru along the Inca Trail and in Chile while hiking in Torres del Paine. In my book, any night spent in a tent is a
good great night.
Night buses: 7 (all in South America)
Night buses became my favorite way to travel in South America: you get where you want to go and you can save a nights payment for a guesthouse/hostel! If you can get past the incredibly bad and violent movies that are played on the buses, with the volume seemingly cranked to 11 (sorry, Spinal Tap again), buses are the best (and pretty much only) way to see South America. The best buses we found were in Argentina, where the seats folded completely flat (‘cama’ class), were given a hot meal, free wine, and a personal television screen with movies on demand. Not a bad way to travel!
Nights slept in airports: 4
Four nights is plenty of time to become an expert on how to sleep in airports. Here is what I have found essential: have a blanket or sleep sack, make sure there is something soft in your day pack to use as a pillow, and bring headphones or earplugs. Once you have these things, just find some place, claim it as your own and ignore everyone else around you. The best places I found were next to kids play areas: kids don’t use playgrounds at 3 a.m., and if they do, the stink-eye from a grumbly, disheveled, heavily bearded man will normally send them scattering and maybe crying. Don’t look at me that way – we Sasquatches aren’t pretty to begin with and when we don’t get our beauty sleep, kids cry at the sight of us anyway.
Nights on a train: 1
This was in India, of course, and was our introduction to the country. More on this below, but the trains seem to be a fantastic microcosm of India.
Add it all up that’s 135 different beds, campgrounds, or kids play areas slept in during the past 365 days. Whew! Who needs a nap?
Money spent: ummm….well….see….about that….
I don’t really know. When we started out, we started keeping track of every dime we spent. (Ok, Kim kept track of every dime spent.) But after a little while, we realized that it was stressing us both out too much tracking what we were spending. So we made the decision to stop tracking our financial hemorrhaging and just enjoy ourselves as much as we could. I know not tracking our spending might be a travel blogger sin, but it works better for us this way. (And if this really is a travel blogger sin, please pray for my hairy soul.)
Best expensive experience: Galápagos Islands
There is no way to get around it: the Galápagos are expensive, but the trip is worth every penny. Spend a week sailing around the islands and you will swim with sea lions and sharks, hang out with giant turtles, see lizards of every color and countless varieties of birds. There really is no other place like it on earth. It was one of the first things we did once we left the States, and I still think about it all the time.
Best cheap experience: riding the rails in India
The trains of India are one of the best ways to see the country, but they are an even better way to meet people. A few hours on an Indian train and you’ll see amazing scenery, meet 37 new best friends, and fill your belly with some great food and delicious masala chai. The trains seem to be a place where caste and money don’t seem to matter. Everyone crowds together, chats or plays games with each other and passes the journey in an altogether enjoyable fashion. If you travel to India, riding the trains is an absolute must.
Top 3 hikes:
1. Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
I don’t really know what to say about the Annapurna Circuit quite yet, as we just got off the trail a couple of days ago and I haven’t had enough time to let it simmer. All I know at this point is that it is the longest, most beautiful, and all around best hike I have ever done. Its reputation as one of the worlds top treks is well deserved. (More to come on this soon…)
2. Torres del Paine, Chilean Patagonia
Patagonia is a land of extremes, and TDP gives you a dose of a little bit of everything. Stunning mountains, alpine meadows, glaciers, incredibly blue lakes, hurricane force winds – and you see all of this and more in just 4 or 5 days. This was a hike that, before we even finished, I told Kim that we are coming back to do again at least one more time.
3. Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon, United States
In the past year, Kim and I have found ourselves in some deep dark places: canyons. Every time I thought to myself, life is better in a hellhole (OK, sorry – you can probably tell that I watched Spinal Tap – one of the best movies ever recently. I’ll stop it now.) We have found ourselves at the bottom of Colca Canyon in Peru and the Kali Gandaki Canyon in Nepal (both of which claim to be the deepest canyon in the world), but neither compare to the grandeur of the Grand Canyon. We started on the north rim and exited the south rim three days and 25 thigh-burning miles later. A night at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon is an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. If you go, make sure to try the beef stew – possibly the best stew I have ever had and the recipe hasn’t changed in over 40 years!
Best hikes honorable mention:
Macchu Piccu (Peru), Grand Tetons (USA), Fitzroy Mountain (Argentinean Patagonia).
Stuff Lost or Broken
Number of sunglasses I have gone through: 11
I seem to have found my superpower. I am going to start calling myself Shadeslayer: destroyer of cheap sunglasses. I have such an affinity for consuming sunglasses that it might have its own budget soon. I have lost sunglasses on buses, in the ocean, and even had a pair break in half for no apparent reason while on my face.
The longest I held onto a pair of sunglasses was about 2 months, when a pair lasted from Arequipa, Peru all the way to Rajistan, India, where they flew off my face while sitting in the back of a jeep. The shortest time a pair lasted was on the Annapurna Circuit when, after just 4 days, the lens simply fell out of the glasses while we were walking over a suspension bridge.
Non-sunglasses items lost or broken: 12
This is what we know we have lost or broken: a battery charger, a plug adaptor, a SteriPen, a camera memory card, a razor, a knit hat, our smartphone, one hiking pole, 2 pairs of shoes, a kindle, one pair of jeans, one book, our first aid kit, one headlamp, and a pair of running shorts. Now that I list that out, it seems like quite a bit of important stuff. I guess my superpower goes beyond sunglasses…
Number of panic attacks: 1
On the way to the Goa airport, I had a panic attack while sitting in the back of a cab. Thankfully, our cab driver was kind and patient enough to pull over to the side of the road and wait for us while Kim took care of me as I sat under a tree. Definitely not one of my best travel moments, but one of the moments when you realize the strength of your relationship with your partner who helps you through the rough times.
Volunteer stops: 1
In Banos, Ecuador, we volunteered at Foundacion Arte del Mundo, an after school program that fosters and promotes artistic creativity in kids. They were some of the best times we had while traveling, and we made friends there that we traveled with for weeks afterwards.
My best memories of volunteering show my incompetence with the Spanish language: being schooled in Spanish tongue-twisters by what seemed to be every kid looking for a laugh and a little girl coming up to me with a few pieces of paper and a hole puncher saying, “Yo no fuerte bastante” that sent me on a frantic search for glue. 10 minutes later I realized what she said: “Yo no fuerte bastante” means “I am not strong enough”: she wanted me to punch a hole in her sheets of paper, not glue them together. I don’t think that girl asked me another question.
Number of times sick: 2
I got travelers diarrhea in Quito when I made the oh-so-smart decision of ordering a salad and I had the flu in Mendoza, Argentina, which prevented us from going wine tasting. Remarkably, that’s it. I like to think that brushing my teeth with tap water turns my gut into a super-gut that can handle anything. Hmm, I seem to really be pushing the envelope on this jinxing thing…
Number of dogs I have pet: 472
OK, I don’t really know the exact number, but this number is probably close to the number of times Kim has rolled her eyes and had to patiently wait for me as I make a new canine friend. What can I say, I love animals and I miss our dogs.
Number of sites launched: 1!
2013 was the year I decided to throw my hat into the ring and start my own blog. It is something I thought I would never do, as I don’t consider myself a writer, photographer, foodie, or anything else of note – ok, maybe a guy with an unhealthy obsession with Sasquatch, but I swear that’s it.
I have received a huge amount of support since I launched the site, and I want to give everyone who reads this a huge thank you. THANK YOU! Your comments, questions, and support in general make this writing thing fun and has provided me with a new perspective on traveling.
Who knows what year 2 will bring? It is already starting off with an unexpected trip to Bali – leaving June 1st! Follow along to find out where else it will take us!