The Great Adventure Continues...

Trip Start Jan 03, 2004
Trip End Dec 2004

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Flag of United States  , Colorado
Saturday, June 11, 2005

The tan lines have faded, the matching black backpacks have been stored away, and the foreign currencies that used to jingle in our pockets have been replaced by various cards -- driver's license, insurance, credit, and one frequent sipper card from the coffee shop down the street. Our six months of readjustment after a year of traveling is very nearly complete.

We apologize it's taken six months to send out this latest travelogue, which we promised would be the end-all, say-all synopsis of the highs and lows of our trip. We had a few matters to attend to first, such as where we were going to live (we bought an old brick bungalow in north Denver), how we were going to make a living (more about this later), and how we were going to get around (determined to get by with one car, Andy is learning the bus routes so Jill can tool around in the Toyota Corolla we leased). The good news is we're feeling happily settled in Denver, Colorado. Our life adventures continue to thrill and challenge us, except now our friends and families come in handier than our quick-dry underwear (hence the title of this travelogue).

We've had some time to appreciate what an incredible experience it was to take a year-long honeymoon and reflect back on how much we saw and did over the course of last year. We've condensed many of our stories into "bite-sized" versions that can be retold at a cocktail party or to the incredulous person who asks: "How did you pack for one year?" Truth is, the whole of our experiences could never be completely retold -- each day we learn more about how we've changed or a memory of a split-second experience will bubble up and put a smile on our faces. But we hope our travelogues gave you a taste of what it was like.

Many of you have already heard what our favorite place was (Jill's was Italy and Andy's was Vietnam), so we thought you might like to learn more about some of the unexpected surprises from our travels. We would also like to pass along some of our pearls of wisdom about traveling in hopes that our experiences inspire some of you to dust off the ol' passport (or get a new one) and plan an international excursion.

Top experiences (in no particular order):
Motorcyle trip in Vietnam, Volunteering on the farm in Italy, Tracking mountain gorillas in the Congo, Hiking the Himalayas in Nepal, Teaching in Italy, Glacier trekking in Patagonia, Exploring the temples of Angkor Wat.

Countries visited: 23
Longest stay in a country: Italy (7.5 weeks)
Shortest stay in a country: Lesotho (4 hours)
Cheapest country: Laos
Most expensive country: Great Britain
Hardest language: Vietnamese
Easiest language: Spanish
Best city: Rome (Italy)
Worst city: Bombay (India)
Best church: La Sangrada Familia (Barcelona)
Best museum: Haus der Musik (Vienna)
Best beach: Railay (Thailand)
Best castle: Prague (Czech Republic)
Best beer: Pilsner (Czech Republic)
Best temple: Bantay Srei (Angkor Wat)
Best view: Gokyo Ri (Nepal)
Best mountain: Cerro Torre (Argentina)
Best wildlife: Gorillas (Congo)
Best party: Songkran (Thailand)
Best waterfall: Kuangi Si (Laos)
Best bike ride: Hell's Gate Park (Kenya)
Best city park: Luxembourg Gardens (Paris)
Best looking women: Rio de Janiero (Brazil)
Best looking men: Rome (Italy)
Best lunch spot: Quiberon (France)
Best meat: Bife de Chorizo (Argentina)
Best breakfast: Pousada Santa Clara (Brazil)
Best cheese: Tome d'Pyranees (France)
Best chocolate: Mamushka's (Argentina)
Best coffee: Italy and Vietnam (tie)
Best smell: Town of Ravello (Italy)
Best sandwich: Kebab (Poland)
Best haircut: Saigon (Andy), Chiang Mai (Jill)
Best shopping mall: Pretoria (South Africa)

Where we want to go next:
1) Bali, Indonesia
2) Dalmatian Coast, Croatia
3) Oaxaca, Mexico
4) Kyoto, Japan
5) Lalibela, Ethiopia

Travel tips:
1) The more we liked a country tended to correlate with how long we stayed there. Staying in a country for a month or more allowed us to learn the basics of the language, become comfortable, find favorite eateries, and meet locals.
2) Traveling can be tiring. In retrospect, we're grateful that we peppered in times of non-travel into our itinerary. The times we stayed in one city for two weeks or more to study, volunteer or work gave us time to rejuvenate.
3) Items we couldn't live without: a digital camera, PacSafe money belt, travel laundry kit, sunglasses, an emergency stash of US cash, and wrinkle-free, quick-dry T-shirts.
4) Items we took but didn't really need: walking shoes (sandals and hiking boots were all we needed), mosquito net (most hostels had them) and jeans (too heavy for hot weather and hard to pack).
5) Don't let language keep you from traveling to a country. English has amazingly become the international language. Most folks in the travel industry (hotels, restaurants, train stations, airports) speak English. And if you're in a pickle (like being left at a bus stop at 1 a.m. in the middle of Brazil), there'll most likely be someone who speaks enough English to assist you.
6) Southeast Asia was the best region for the budget traveler and a great place to start a round-the-world journey. The people are friendly, the food is world-class, the cost of living is minimal, and there are some great tourist facilities. It helped break us in to traveling.
7) Mix it up so you don't get worn down or start losing your sense of awe. Don't go to one big crowded city after another. Likewise, don't try to see all the museums or beautiful churches in one day. Spread it out and you'll appreciate the attractions more.
8) Do it yourself. Believe it or not, you do not need to book all of your hotels, transportation and tours before you leave. You end up paying a lot of money to travel agents and middle men, and you can easily get locked into an itinerary you later regret. You'll appreciate the flexibility and unexpected surprises that come with independent travel.
9) Keep an open mind and be patient. America may be the birthplace of fast food and convenience stores but many foreign cultures resent our harried lifestyle. You will undoubtedly experience delays, cancellations or other logistical snafus while traveling. Take a deep breath, relax and make the best out of it.
10) Just do it! Anyone can think of a million excuses not to travel. Bottom line: life is short and the world is a very large place. There is something for everyone out there.

It was hard to readjust to normal life but we feel we have made impressive strides. As we mentioned, we bought a new home back in April and have been trying hard to become good homeowners. Jill fixed a broken faucet and Andy successfully used our new charcoal grill. Most importantly, we've taken care of Jill's niece and nephew on several occasions without any ER visits (knock on wood), so we may be ready for our own kids in the near future. That may be our biggest adventure of all!

Still infected by the travel bug, we have also taken a few shorter trips this year. Earlier in the spring, we went to Oklahoma City for a friend's wedding and stopped in Santa Fe on the drive back to Denver. Last month, we took off on a road trip to several of southern Colorado's national parks -- Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the Great Sand Dunes, and Mesa Verde. The beautiful scenery reaffirmed our decision to move back to Colorado.

As for this summer, there is much in store. Andy was accepted into the Ph.D. program in international studies at the University of Denver and begins classes next week while working part-time as a research assistant at the National Conference of State Legislatures. He will also teach international conflict resolution again this summer for six weeks in Argentina. Jill will be telecommunting from home, working on a high school reform project for the non-profit organization she worked for in Santa Cruz.

We hope to stay in touch with all of you as we begin this new chapter in our lives. The past year and a half have been a dream come true, and we hope our good karma remains with us. (In a year of travel, neither of us got seriously ill, lost anything important, or had anything stolen.) If you'd like help planning your next overseas trip, feel free to contact Andy. He's always looking for an excuse to read travel guides, and planning any trip gives him a high for weeks. He's weird that way. Jill's also available to discuss immunizations, insurance, and visa requirements.
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