We lived our dream and travelled around the world in 6,5 months on a sabbatical. Our journey began in December 2016, and we returned to home in summer 2017. We ended up being hungry for reaching new countries, but got to settle down and take it easy in a few. Below is our journey in numbers and top three destinations as well as top ten experiences described in brief:
abt 60 000 km travelled, 6 continents, 20 countries, 29 take offs and landings, 5 boat trips, abt 10 000 km driven with 7 different rental cars, 3 long-haul bus trips, 67 different accommodations in 190 days.
Top three destinations
If you are expecting extreme adventures, you are reading a wrong blog. We travel with some sort of comfort as a family and get kicks out of ordinary family stuff like taking a walk in beautiful landscape, having fun in a neat new playground or having fun in water on a turquoise white sand beach. We don’t do extreme sports nor live dangerously. Quite the contrary we look for safety and comfortable that fits everybody as well as more homelike accommodation and food. Based on these we selected our route and destinations too.
So here’s our top three:
1) Breathtaking New Zealand nature:
Cute hills with millions of sheep, stunning mountains, turquoise seaside bays, exciting sea life, volcanoes, smelly hot springs and mysterious indigenous maori culture, earthquakes and rebuilding. Constantly changing landscape offers a wide range of scenery to everyone and overwhelms with its beauty. New Zealand was high up in our bucket list and our route planned basically around it!
2) Lazying in Belizean Cayes:
the second largest coral reef in the world spreads wide on the Caribbean and surrounds tiny little thread of islands. Larger touristic island of Caye Ambergris to tiny uninhabited islands and everything in between. We stayed in Caye Caulker and completely loved the smooth, relaxed and lazy days spent on this narrow island. Will definitely go back for some sunshine and snorkeling!
3) Relaxed cities of Santiago de Chile, Brisbane and Singapore:
All three did it for us – we fell in love with each. They are all different, yet all very relaxed and easygoing. All very international, yet you can find true original and uniqueness local details and ambiance. We could and would like to stay longer in any of the three!
Top ten memorable experiences
17 out of the 20 visited countries were new to us. An amount like this guarantees absolutely remarkable places, amazing culture and memorable experiences along the way. Hundreds of little details are stored in our mental hard drives as well as in pictures and stories.
This is our top ten memorable places or experiences of our round-the-world journey:
1) Machu Picchu & Cusco: An absolutely stunning experience to see such a sacred place as Cusco and a mystic hard-to-reach lost city of Machu Picchu. A once-in-a-lifetime experience that we will all remember forever for sure. MP was such a magical place, not only due to it’s location and history. But you can feel the spirit when there. Cusco on the other hand is an overwhelming Inca capitol and so intriguing, even for it’s location in high altitude. Beautiful and fascinating history and culture – right in the middle of their current everyday lives.
2) Ancient Indian heritage: related to #1, but on a larger scope. Prior to our departure for our RTW we had decided to take this trip partly as an excursion to world history, religions and cultures as well as nature. So, exploring indiginous people where ever we went was almost self-evident. And how stunned we were at the end, to see how dominant part colonialization played in nearly all the cultures we visitied – and almost everywhere at the expense of the original cultures. Especially Mexico, Guatemala, Peru and partly the Caribbean islands turned out to be important learning points for us all – not just our son homeschooling.
3) Crossing the Andes on a bus : Breathtakingly beautiful passing the mountain range in front seats on top of a double decker bus. Le´s just say that luckily weather conditions were favorable and our driver was a calm professional. Some amazing scenery with the highest peak in South America, Aconcagua (6962m), just next to you while your bus curves the tiny roads in +4000m above sea level.
4) Roadtripping in a campervan in New Zealand: As New Zealand with it’s amazingly beautiful nature was one of our top three destinations, we bring it up here too – as an RV lifestyle experience. We did not consider ourselves as campers, however, after roadtripping with our lovely oldish Bertta for nearly three weeks, we were bitten by a campervan bug. No reservations, freedom camping sites and occasionally nearly luxurioys campgrounds were just stunning. You just park your van and enjoy the everchanging fabulous scenery.
5) Whale watching and smelly sulphur springs: Let’s continue in New Zealand. Whale watching was the single most important plan for our junior when planning for our RTW. And here’s where we actually got to fulfill it. Witnessing two large sperm whales just next to our boat was an amazing experience for all of us. Another amazing experience were all the geothermal activities in the North island: the rotten egg smell of sulphur springs was unforgettable – as were dipping in little natural hot springs.
6) Thundering sound of a volcano in Guatemala: At first it sounded like a massive thunder storm was approaching. That’s what we actually thought until we saw Fuego, one of the three volcanoes that surround the city of Antigua, to puff some smoke and ash out. Luckily it was not to burst really, but I think my heart skipped a few beats whenever it was making the massive sounds especially at night time. During the day time it was nice to study Spanish under the banana trees with beautiful yet powerful thought of being surrounded by three active volcanoes.
7) Exotic wildlife of Australia: Australia is huge with some interesting history, but the most exciting must be it’s wildlife. Being tremendously afraid of snakes (Imean panicy afraid!) I survived a month without seeing a single snake in wild. Spiders we saa many as well as signs posted on warnigns for venomous snakes. However, wild jumping kangaroos as well as the cutest koalas ever where just amazing. Not to mention just the idea of colourful wild parrots flying over you.
8) Chaotic Ho Chi Minh City: As the former capitol of South Vietnam, Saigon is a bustling city with little allies and larger grounds for the billions of scooters and mopeds to appear from any direction you might think of. At first it seemed like a complete chaos, a suicide attemp especially to pass a street on foot with a child. It truly was a memorable experience in good and bad. Once you got the hang of it, what seemed irrationally unlogical, now seemed to be a system of it’s own. A city definitely more for adult visitors than with young kids.
9) Wine & dine in Argentina: Even if you don’t eat much red meat, you have to try the delicious stakes that come from the freely wondering cattle at the Pampa. The best steaks ever I’ve had in Argentina. And boy the red wines paired with steaks…. yammy! We had planned to visit an authentic goucho farm in Argentina, but could not manage to do it on this RTW. Otherwise Mendoza and Buenos Aires were nice, but did not rock our world like we to some extent had expected…
10) Authentic and rustic ambiance in Dominica: Caribbean islands felt a bit similar and just extentions to each other – mainly living on tourisms these days. It seemed as almost all – expect for Dominica – where built around tourism and huge cruise ships stopping by. Dominica, on the other hand, seemed to have the most authentic look and feel with a little rustic vibe. Impact of the Carib indians is still there, beautifl rainforest nature on this volcanic island with quite the minimal or non-existent infrastructure provided some outstanding experiences to travellers.
What did we miss? What would we change?
With many destinations we only scrathed the surface. In a week you cannot deepdive into local culture, habits or many locations; but in a month a little better. There were and still are destinations on our Bucket list still to see – worth at least another round-the-world journey! A few destinations we had to skip just for the limited time, such as some countries in South East Asia (eg Myanmar & Cambodia). Also the French Polynesian and Pacific islands were completely skipped, eg Samoa & Tonga. Similarly, in Australia we could not even think of visiting Uluru & the outback or the Northern Territory on this journey, so definitely have to go back.
Our route crossed thru 20 countries: Norway, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St.Lucia, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Peru, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Spain, France & Andorra. That means only approximately one week per one country within 28 travelling weeks. It also means that we were on the “road” all the time. Furthermore, it means great expenditures on your budget as well as energy levels.
But, would we even know how to take it slower? If and if, but had we had another 6 months time to travel, I’m sure we would have slowed down and settled to a fewer places for longer periods.
Are we done with travelling?
Not a chance! After returning home from our round-the-world journey in summer 2017, we have visited Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Stockholm and Malaga and spent some cultural weekends in domestic cities – just due to not having any vacation days to spend nor the “spare” money to travel further at the moment. Settling back to the so called normal life has taken it’s toll – for example, unfortunately blogging is something tha has suffered almost the most.
We all have some heavy travel fever, all the time. And urges to go to all kinds of destinations. Our junior has asked us many times when can we embarque on a similar journey again… Well, guess we have to earn some before being able to go again…!