Friday, May 11, 2012

Do's, Don'ts and Favorites

OK so I guess this is a wrap up of our travel blog (boo hoo!)  I wanted to give some advice for others interested in undertaking a similar odyssey and share our favorite places for those contemplating a more traditional trip.

New Favorite Places - Top Picks from our Trip

Prague, Czech Republic
The Serengeti, Tanzania
Cape Town, South Africa
Sydney, Australia
Hoi Ann, Hanoi and Halong Bay, Vietnam
The North Island, New Zealand
Easter Island

Old Favorites that were still great

Paris, France
London, England
Heidelberg, Germany
Rome, Italy
Santorini, Greece

Places we wish we'd gotten to see

Barcelona, Spain
St. Petersburg, Russia
Machu Picchu, Peru
Istanbul, Turkey
Luxor and Aswan, Egypt
The Great Barrier Reef
The Panama Canal
The South Island, New Zealand

Places we could have done without:

Madrid and Valencia, Spain
Vientiane, Laos
Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam
Bucharest, Romania
Fez and or Marrakesh, Morocco (one was good, didn't need both)

Regarding what to take on an around the world trip, here is a list of things we used regularly and were happy that we had:

High Quality Backpacks
Charles Schwab ATM card (no fees anywhere EVER!)
Back up debit/credit cards
Student IDs (including mine, accepted lots of places)
Sleeping pills (Ambien, worth its weight in gold)
Motion sickness patches
Travel underwear (yes they proved sturdier than the regular kind)
2 laptops, 2 iphones, 2 ipods, 1 ipad and a Kindle (yes really - we used them ALL every day)
Digital camera and a back-up hard drive
Electricity adapters
A cover/rechargeable battery for Mark's cell phone
Travel sewing kit (I can't even count the number of times)
Hats/bathing suits/flip flops/sunglasses
Small first aid kit
Laundry Line
Travel Woolite Packs (and when those ran out just carrying clothing detergent in plastic baggies worked even better)
Toenail clippers
Elastic Headbands
Hair Dye (for yours truly)
Leatherman knife with scissors and corkscrew
Salt n Pepper

Things we took and didn't use/need:

Two way radios
Excessive amounts of bug spray
Kids travel clothes (let them take what they are comfortable in)
Jackets (too heavy and worn too infrequently - we gave them away)
Ear Plugs
Electricity Converter
Money pouch designed to wear under clothing
Water chlorinating tablets

In general - things I'd do differently if I had to do it again:

Take less stuff
Go home for Christmas
Set up more volunteer opportunities from home (this proved difficult on the road)
Itinerary (fewer islands, more cities)
The kids taking classes online (I wish I had made the effort to design a trip specific curriculum in World History and Literature and home-schooled them.  Admittedly this would have taken a lot of time but would have been worth the effort.)

Things we did right:

Just going!
Keeping a blog/taking lots of pics
Procuring last minute discount accommodations on and
A route that avoided winter
Having people meet us
Our no souvenirs policy "We are experiencing not acquiring."
Itinerary (3-7 days in each spot and 9 months versus 12, also keeping things flexible)
Tossing stuff when we no longer needed it (freeing)
Budget (Grand total cost of the 9 month trip $124,000 - or $31,000 per person.)

and finally - What the kids learned, as in "It's an EDUcation not a vacation."

The value of a dollar (the change in their perception was HUGE)
That Southern California is not the center of the universe (um yes they really thought that)
How to be less materialist and dependent upon stuff
That they can live any life they choose - their horizons were broadened
About man's inhumanity to man
That they are truly blessed

So . . . . .  unless I get another wild hair, this is the sign off to our Round-the-World blog.  We are nearing 10,000 hits, and I want to thank all of you who have been reading it!  It was an amazing trip, and we were all both proud of and humbled by our experience.

I am happy to answer any questions anyone might have or provide advice as needed to others considering an extended trip.  You can reach me at

Saturday, April 28, 2012


1.  That it is not really a small world but rather a BIG one, 9 months barely makes a dent.

2.  That where you are is less important than who you are with.

3.  That there are more kind people in the world than evil.  But that sometimes it seems like the evil ones get more done.  They definitely get more press.

4.  That most prices are negotiable, if you are willing to ask but also willing to walk away.

5.  That European colonization still hurts.

6.  That you can get Pantene shampoo and pizza anywhere but not hot dogs, macaroni and cheese or iced tea.

7.  That many Europeans and Australians think America's glory days are behind us.

8.  That I prefer cities to beaches - or even better perhaps cities with beaches (5 out of 7 of my trip favorites.)

9.  That our children are brave.

10.  That I love my family and they love me - even when subjected to each other 24/7 for 9 long months.

But most importantly . . .

that what we have at home is darn good and worth coming home to, and that there is no where in the world I'd rather be - at least for now.

What coming home looked like.

Recycled for when we picked up Wilder.

The view from the top of Pinnacle Peak by my parent's house in Scottsdale.

A really warm welcome at Chaminade.

My besties sent this package all the way to Africa for my birthday.
When it didn't arrive in time for us to claim it, Africa sent it all the way back.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Easter Island

Easter Island, otherwise known as Isla de Pascua or Rapa Nui, is said to be the most remote inhabited island in the world.  It is a 5-hour flight from its closest neighbor, mainland Chile, or a bit longer in the other direction to Tahiti.  It is famous of course for it’s Maori, over 1000 large heads carved from volcanic rock by an ancient and unique civilization.

I have wanted to come to Easter Island since I learned about it in elementary school, and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed.   It's a very special place.

Almost 5000 people now live on the island, which is triangular in shape, with a perimeter of 28 miles.  We were most struck by its culture, a very interesting and unique combination of Hispanic and Polynesian.  Islanders recount memories of growing up before a single plane ever landed here, tell stories of their isolation and recall the severe shortage of all supplies.  History in general feels very close here.

Now however, other than fish and a few vegetables, everything eaten on the island is imported.  Food is understandably then very expensive.  Luckily, breakfast of yogurt, bread, fruit and cold cuts was included with our lodging.  It was enough to work for lunch as well.  On one lucky day we got empanadas. 

The apartment itself was about a 15-minute walk out of town but featured views of the ocean and coastline from the living area and long front deck.  It wasn’t fancy, nothing on the island is, but it was roomy and did feature weak wifi if you sat in one particular spot in the kitchen.  Our trouble with the time change was finally resolved as we essentially missed one night of sleep to catch our early morning flight out of Santiago and so were exhausted enough to sleep through our first night on the island.

Also negotiated along with our lodging were 2 half-day tours with its owner.  Our man Paul, originally from Wisconsin, first came here in 1962 to help with one of the early restorations of the Maori.  He had a lot of information and different theories about everything and also criticisms of the some of the restoration attempts.  We did our best to follow it all.  Regardless, seeing the Maori, whether they were stood back up in their ceremonial locations, or still half carved in the mountain, was just super cool.

The island has lots of wild horses on it.  If you live on the island and you want a horse, all you have to do is go get one.   On one very special day we went on a 4-hour ride to the top of one of the island’s three volcanos.   It was a spectacularly beautiful day and the horses were healthy and liked to run.  All in all it was an amazing experience.  My 45-year old body though didn’t respond well.  I was seriously hurting for days afterward.  Still it was worth it, one of the great days of our trip and a well timed high here at the end.

Another highlight was a dance show put on by one of the Rapa Nui extended families.  I have never seen a native dance done with more energy or physicality.  Mark and the kids got to give it a try while I snapped pics.

On our last day on Easter Island though, we received word that our very dear friend had passed away at home.  While it was not unexpected, it was still tragic.  Ted Lewis was more full of life than anyone we’ve ever known, and he was far too young to go.   His wife and daughter are precious to us, and we want to be there grieving with them.  Once again, as throughout our 9 months, we aren't able to be.   Ted was one of the biggest supporters of our trip, but not being there for him hasn't felt good.  This trip has had a high price.

All our love to you - Ted, Andrea and Julia

But we are done for now, seeing the world, and have begun to make our way back.  It will take us nearly four days with layovers to reach Phoenix and a few more after that to get our auto insurance reactivated and make the drive to Los Angeles.

We are coming home (cue music.)