As we write this blog, we still find it mind blowing that we have now been on this amazing adventure for a year already! Looking back over all our pictures, videos and these rare blog posts we (Natalie) manages to write - we feel so lucky to be able to travel the world they way we have.
Our first stop was incredible Iceland, which to this day we still can’t get over how beautiful it was. It is like nowhere we’ve been before. We went in the “summer” so there wasn’t that much snow apart from on the tops of the mountains. So the rest of the landscape was like a brown rocky terrain - how we expect Mars to look. We definitely want to go back in the winter to do some glacier walks and to see the Northern Lights - one of Natalie’s top 10 things to do before she dies.
Copenhagen, Berlin, Amsterdam, Prague and Budapest were next. All amazing and all unique in their own way. Prague was probably our favourite place in Europe - the food was amazing, all food and drink was so cheap, and the architecture was like none we’ve ever seen before. So pretty and interesting, and so much history.
Then began our two weeks in Italy - Venice, Verona, Florence and Rome. Sadly we weren’t as blown away by Italy as we thought we would be. The architecture was amazing but the food was a huge let down and we found the people quite rude. Everything was super expensive there too so we couldn’t do or see as much as we would have like.
Sri Lanka was our first stop in Asia, and what an adventure it was. Natalie was keen to visit India before going to Sri Lanka, but after spending three weeks in a country that is supposed to be a mild version of India, her mind has been changed some what.
We then head back to Vietnam after going there briefly in 2012. We loved it this time around and travelled from north to south, exploring as much of the country as we could.
Malaysia Borneo left us feeling disheartened as we loved mainland Malaysia so much three years ago. But our trip meant Jordan got his Open Water PADI Scuba Diving qualification so that was great.
We then came to our incredible 7 weeks in Bali and the surrounding islands. If you’re a regular reader of our blog you will know how much we love Bali. So beautiful, amazing beaches, lovely people, delicious food, and very livable - It will forever be our favourite place in the world.
Finally, October 23rd 2015 saw us start our year living in Australia. Perth was first, then Melbourne and Sydney to decide where we wanted to live. And so we have been living and working in Melbourne - quite rightly the most lovable city in the world - since November 2015.
So what have we learnt during our year of travelling?
Packing - Because we had already been travelling for a few months in 2012, we actually got packing down pretty well this time around. We bought ourselves some awesome (matching!) Osprey backpacks that open up and the front, instead of the top. So when you lie them on their back, the open like a suitcase. Much better access to your stuff if you quickly need to get something. We also bought some packing cubes in different sizes from Amazon which help to separate your clothes so you know what is where. They help keep everything clean if you’re staying in a grubby looking hostel, and for they organise your wardrobe really well. We feel we both brought the right clothes, and the right amount of clothes - 1 hoody each, 1 pair of jeans each, tshirts, shorts and skirts (in Natalie’s case) that went with other items of clothing so we could mix and match and make it look like we had lots of different outfits. Technology wise we brought; our beloved MacBook Pro - great for skyping friends and family, researching the next place to go and organising travel arrangements, and (occasionally!) writing this blog. We also brought with us a compact Cameron digital camera, a GoPro (which has been more trouble than it’s worth, but that’s another story!) and a small but pretty loud speaker to plug into our phones so we can listen to music when lying on the beach or getting ready for a night out. And then of course all the essentials like shampoo, conditioner, sun cream etc. Oh and so super absorbent quick dry towels and a very thin sleeping bag we used when we didn’t like the look of the sheets in certain hostels. All in all, we think we did really well with what to bring. The only we think we should have brought was Natalie’s bright pink selfie stick. That would have made getting pictures of the two of us together so much easier!
Researching - During our travels in 2012 we learnt how important it was to research things like visas, accommodation and things to do after several mishaps - one including having to do an emergency visa for Vietnam, resulting in us being stranded in Singapore airport for 6 hours before we could board the plane. And this trip just reconfirmed how important it is to do your research before you travel. Jordan is the researcher of the two of us, and he is always looking up what to do in our next location, what accommodation to stay in using the brilliant HostelWorld app, and how to get from A to B. Most of this trip would have been a disaster if he hadn’t been so good at researching and absorbing all the knowledge he reads.
Hostels - We learnt to be smart with our choice of hostels, and not always pick the cheapest one. We always used HostelWorld and religiously went to the reviews section first to see what other travellers had been saying about the accommodation. More often than not, the cheapest hostel never had good reviews, so we used to go for hostels that were middle of the range in terms of pricing but with the best reviews and images. We also wanted the best location as well. There’s so much to think about when it comes to booking accommodation! We used to use TripAdvisor as well to see what reviews certain places had, but as we could also book on HostelWorld, the app became our accommodation bible throughout this trip.
Food - It’s common sense to be smart with your food choices, especially when you’re in Asia and you really don’t know what the meat is or what else is in the dish. We have both learnt the hard way during this trip and previous trips by suffering with gastroenteritis and food poisoning. It didn’t stop Natalie getting caught out in a restaurant in Phong Nha in Vietnam though - Just after she’d eaten her chicken and rice dish, she went to the bathroom to see the “chef” plucking and gutting a dead chicken on the men’s bathroom floor! Safe to say she wasn’t feeling too good after that! If a place looks dodgy and doesn’t have many people eating there, we tried to stay away from meat and ordered veggie dishes. Which we did in most of Sri Lanka. Luckily the veggie curries were insane so we ate pretty well during our three weeks there.
Activities - Obviously we (sadly) couldn’t afford to do something amazing in every single location, or country for that matter. So we made sure we did the things that we really wanted to do before we left, as well as doing some things we’d learnt about whilst in each location. For example, we wanted to do a boat cruise through Halong Bay in Vietnam, go to the Colosseum in Rome, have a gondola ride in Venice (80 euros for half an hour and SO not worth it!), climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge, go to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, and go to the Gili islands in Bali. All things we managed to do, plus so much more. Read our blog here on our top 10 things we’ve done during this year long adventure. The key is to budget for things you know you want to do before you leave. And for things you come across whilst you’re there, only go out for one drink, or stay in cheaper accommodation so you can afford to do everything.
This trip certainly has been a learning curve, and we’re sure the next year will bring even more lessons. But we feel comfortable with everything that’s happened this last year (we didn’t have too many disasters - apart from our GoPro breaking) and we can’t wait to see what this next year will bring!