Author Archives: Dan

Summing Up Our Trip Around the World

Taking three months to leave our jobs and throw caution (and all our savings) to the wind turned out to be the type of experience we will look back fondly upon for the rest of our lives. In 86 days we took 32 flights, traveled through 12 countries, across four continents, meeting countless interesting people from all over the world and getting to spend every day being active and exploring together.

As our trip was nearing a close, we could have easily done another three months. Traveling that much did little to quench our thirst for it — in fact, it fueled the fire. Every traveler you meet has other favorite places to consider. Like our list of books to read, the number of places we want to go continues to far outpace our ability to get there.

The most common question we get is, “What was your favorite place?” The sheer diversity of what we experienced, with all sorts of different activities and highlights, makes that a really challenging question. But to give it a shot, a few of the highlights that do come to mind:

Futaleufu river rafting in middle-of-nowhere Patagonia, the Torres del Paine trek in Southern Patagonia, gorilla tracking in Rwanda, summiting Kilimanjaro, the 4,000 temples of Bagan in Burma, our Inle Lake trek in Burma, and Kangaroo Island in Australia.

But really, the highlight wasn’t any one place, but rather the overall experience. Living with just a backpack, exposing ourselves to as much of the natural world as possible in three months, being super active and outdoors every day, meeting interesting people, and getting to do it together just after getting married is what makes this memorable.

Here we are 18 months later, writing our conclusion, and we’re as wistful and nostalgic as ever. We hope we maintain a lifelong passion for learning and exploration, and hope that our curiosity never wanes.

– Jill & Dan


Down Under: Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef

(The 18-months-late update…)


For our last stop on our three-month trip we went to yet another ridiculously amazing and animal-named island: Lizard Island, in the Great Barrier Reef.


After a harrowing 45 minute flight on what appeared to be another Toyota Corolla with wings, and a pilot who looked like she had just celebrated her 16th birthday, we took off into a complete storm where visibility was about 3.5 feet (we knew because we were basically sitting right next to the pilot). The turbulence was strong to quite strong. Let’s just say Jill was not wild about this transfer.

Once we got there, we understood what the hype was all about. While very different from Kangaroo Island, Lizard Island was out of this world in its own right. The food could not compete with Kangaroo Island, but the scuba diving, hiking, and 14 private beaches made it just as memorable. Since you can only get there by puddle jumper and a private runway on the island, it has a laid back, middle-of-nowhere island feel – with no locks on the bungalow doors. We loved it.


Dan in his pensive perch pose again. After a nice hike to the island’s peak.

On our hike

A hot but beautiful hike


We don’t have any photos from our scuba diving day at Cod Hole, but it was the most amazing scuba adventure we could ever imagine. The only problem was that even Jill’s faithful bonine dosage was no match for the rough waters, and she spend most of the boat ride taking deep breaths (etc.) over the edge. She was so sick by the time we were ready to start the dive, that the dive masters threw her in the water first – ignoring her anxious question, ‘Is that a shark right there??!’ (Dan later admitted that yes, he did witness his wife being tossed overboard amidst dorsal fins, all in the name of seasickness).

The next day the Lizard Island crew dropped us off via motor boat with a delicious picnic at a private beach, and came back for us a few hours later. See below for the picnic, Dan getting to act like a four-year-old practicing his karate kicks, and laying down in the surf without a care in the world.

Our private beach again

Our private beach for the day

Daniel-san practicing his karate kick. Pretty good form, no? And pretty tan too.

Daniel-san practicing his karate kick. Great form, better tan.

Dan laying in the surf on our private beach for the day.

Dan laying in the surf on our private beach.

Our "picnic" which was a tad more gourmet than most picnics we've had.

Gourmet picnic heaven

Met a wonderful family from Connecticut -- Bob, Joanna, and Robert.

Our new friends — a wonderful family from Connecticut — Bob, Joanna, and Robert.

Saw about a thousand of these massive guys. Aptly named island.

Saw about a thousand of these massive guys. Aptly named island.

Thank you Kim and Danny! Surprise treat with a private dinner on the beach, as a wedding gift.

Toyota Corolla 2007, with ducktaped wings.

Toyota Corolla 2007, with ducktaped wings.

Bon Voyage, Lizard Island!

Bon Voyage, Lizard Island!

Down Under: Kangaroo Island, Australia

(The 18-months-late update…)

From Sydney we scooted off to Kangaroo Island. Nestled off the Southeast coast, there is nothing between you and Antarctica. At six times the size of Singapore, it has only 4,000 people yet over 100,000 kangaroos, according to our guide. And I have to say, it’s pretty sad to see kangaroo road kill.


The island is stunning, feels fairly untouched, and Southern Ocean Lodge (again thanks to my parents) was out of this world… to the point that I don’t think we’ll ever stay anywhere that nice again unless we win the lottery, and we don’t buy lottery tickets.

First night at Southern Ocean Lodge!

With only 40 rooms and perched up on a cliff, it’s like an Australian version of Big Sur but with no people. At all. Anywhere. It’s impossible to capture the beauty and vibe of this place in a blog post, but we’ll do our best… below are some more assorted photos from our three nights on the island.

View of the hotel from the cliff walk

View of the hotel from the cliff walk

Hotel beach

Private hotel beach down below

Hotel beach

Hotel beach. That’s about as many people as we saw in our entire three days on the beach.

View from Remarkable Rocks

View from Remarkable Rocks

Over 70% of the food you eat at Southern Ocean Lodge is grown or raised on the island. We truly had some of the best meals of our life, three meals a day. Jill’s long-time 30th birthday plan had been dinner at French Laundry (back when 30 seemed really far off…) but after each amazing meal at SOL, we threw the French Laundry non-plans out the window.

Amazing fresh, local, healthy meal at Southern Ocean Lodge

Amazing fresh, local, healthy meal at Southern Ocean Lodge




Remarkable Rocks

Remarkable Rocks

Jill communicating something at Remarkable Rocks

Jill communicating with nature

My pensive pose. Seem to have a lot of these in this blog.

My pensive pose aka go-to blog pose

Beautiful happy wife at Remarkable Rocks

Beautiful happy wife at Remarkable Rocks

Beautiful happy wife at Remarkable Rocks

Path out of the hotel

Path out of the hotel

Lobby view


Other side of lobby

Other side of lobby

Open bar, self-serve, with amazing Australian microbrews and only Australian wines. Spent a lot of time hovering here.

Open bar, self-serve (SOL is all inclusive – great vacation concept which Jill remembers from the Club Med days), with amazing Australian microbrews and Australian wines. Spent a lot of time hovering here…

Our new friends! None of whom were within 30 years of us, but that's our demo.

Our new friends! None of whom were within 30 years of us, but that’s our demo and we loved them all.

Down Under: Sydney, Australia

Not that we expect anybody to care about our journey around the world after 18 months of procrastination here, but we figured we’d post about our last two weeks on the road so that our blog can live a full and complete life. So, here are a few quick posts to sum up our time in Australia, which was our original “honeymoon” plan — two weeks of vacation bliss, thanks to the Saper parents, who gifted this last leg as our wedding present.

We started off with a brief stopover in Sydney.


The Rocks, Sydney Harbor


Mamak Restaurant. AMAZING Malaysian food. As you can see it’s a tad popular. Hat tip to Kay O for the rec!

We enjoyed our first travel reunion, meeting up with our Aussie friend, Nick, who we first met at our tiny river rafting camp in Futaleufu, Patagonia three months earlier. Nick is a “barrister” (fancy name for an Australia litigator), who must wear the cloak and wig to all courtroom proceedings. The good sport he is, Jill and I got to play dress-up.



Dan the barrister


Jill the barrister. #AliciaFlorrick #runningshoes #onesizefitsall

After our Australian rendition of Florrick Agos, we enjoyed a few days walking around Sydney with stops at the Museum of New South Wales, Manly Beach, and our favorite restaurant, Mamak.


Obligatory Opera House couples shot


Jill breaking out a few shavasanas under the Sydney Harbor Bridge

Terrible form/missing SF yoga under the Sydney Harbor Bridge

A stopover in Bangkok with two of our favorite people

DSC04167Gabe and Becca began their two-month globe-trot right as we were wrapping up, so we had the pleasure of spending a few days with them in Bangkok. If I could leave you with just one image that truly captures the essence of Gabe and Becca, it would be this one:


I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I had to. How adorable are the matching pamphlets sticking out of their tooshies? Jill and I were just so jealous that they were starting their epic trip right as we were ending ours.


#sweatstains. It was about 100 degrees that day.


So we toured the Grand Palace with our two long lost friends, got group foot massages (twice), enjoyed some good food, and had a few drinks.


Coconut sisters


Hello, $10 foot massages!

DSC04148 DSC04156 DSC04154 DSC04208

On our first day, the girls went back to nap, so Gabe and I wandered off down a series of random side streets until we were among 100% locals. We found this big gregarious dude cooking street food and decided to try it out — amazing salad!

photo 1 (1)

Big gregarious dude

photo 2

Amazing salad

A few beers later, and things got interesting. One thing led to another and before we knew it, we were having a pushup contest on the dude’s floor. Here are Gabe’s sub-par pushups (ok, they’re not bad form actually):

But he was still 20 pushups shy: Tramiel 26, Saper 46. The sweet smell of victory.

All in all, a great yet brief few days with two of our favorite people in the world. We wished them well on their journey, and we were off to Australia to wrap up ours.

Chilling in Luang Prabang, Laos

From Cambodia we set sail (figuratively) to Luang Prabang, Laos for some utter relaxation in one of the most quaint and serene places we visited.


Sunset view from Mount Phusi, right on the edge of town.

DSC03961      DSC03963


Someone feed that boy a bagel.


Nestled in between the Mekong and Nam Kam rivers, Luang Prabang is a small French-influenced Buddhist monastery town. The Laotian government has somehow managed to keep it incredibly well preserved and true to form — while plenty touristy, you don’t feel it. A very hard balance to strike that they have done masterfully.


We found Biggie.

DSC03906 DSC03897


The rivers are lined with amazing villas, restaurants, local woodwork stores, silk shops and cafes.



Three Nagas restaurant. Thanks for the rec mom 🙂


Jill hammered. Wait, my mistake — dead sober.

We stayed in two awesome cottages (both under $40 a night), with free bike rentals.  It’s the perfect town to aimlessly pedal around.  Stop in a cafe, read for hours uninterrupted at the AWESOME riverside bar called Utopia,  take a river cruise up the Mekong, and enjoy a spectacular 360-degree sunset view over the town and rivers atop Mount Phusi. You can also ride elephants, which we opted out of — free the beasts!



Greatest bar of all time: Utopia

photo (1)

Jill’s reading the same book as her teenage friend next to her: “Game of Thrones, Book 1.”

A very cool experience that is quintessential Luang Prabang, is the giving of the alms in the mornings. You get up at dawn and watch the monks walk up and down the streets collecting their food for the day from locals (primarily). It is getting quite touristy with a lot of folks snapping pics (us included), but still a serene way to start the morning.

DSC04045 DSC04052 DSC04065 DSC04080

We also ran into Jill’s friend Sarah from Piedmont, which was good fun. She has been a Backroads bike trip leader the past few years, and was there with a few of her other guide friends. So we enjoyed some delicious Laotian street food together.

photo 1 photo 3

We had been told by a number of a friends and family that Luang Prabang had been a favorite destination in Southeast Asia. It did not disappoint.

DSC04096 DSC04112

DSC04086 DSC04113 DSC04119

Inle Lake


Our trek led us into one of the hundreds of finger-like canals that feed into Inle Lake.  It is a stunningly beautiful place, with homes on stilts over farmland that somehow grows right into the lake. The lake is fairly large at 44 square miles but the average depth is only five feet.



We saw men up to their chests in water tending to the crops. Women were rowing long sleek canoes filled with vegetables. Inle Lake is known for the “leg rowers,” where men hold a single paddle with one leg, standing on the other leg at the back of the boat, gyrating their body rhythmically to row. It keeps their hands free for fishing and farm work.




While there were certainly some tourists around, Burma kept its “untouristy” streak going strong at Inle Lake. It is serene, unique and still feels relatively untouched.






We stayed at the Golden Island Cottages 2 which was fantastic. It was our “splurge” in Burma at $80 a night. It is centrally located on the lake and all the rooms are private cottages on stilts over the water, with open lake views on one side and the bordering hills on the other. An amazing place to stay.





Unfortunately… Inle Lake was the only place I got sick during our three months on the road (I think my large intestine was trying to eat my small intestine but only for 24 hours). Nonetheless, the place was still unquestionably a highlight of the trip.


Bagan’s 4,000 temples

From Yangon we went to Bagan for some premium temple viewing.


Beginning in the 11th century and spanning the next 2,500 years, over 10,000 total temples were built, of which over 2,200 still remain. It is truly a sight to behold. There are dozens of temples that could each be a major destination in a more developed tourist market.



Bagan is quite flat so renting bikes — at fifty cents an hour or $3 a day — is the way to go. We biked all over the three main corners of the city and stopped at a number of temples that caught our eye, leaving our bikes unlocked outside for an hour or two (along with our shoes), no problem. It’s an extremely trusting culture.







One of our favorite restaurants from the entire two months so far was a vegetarian Indian joint in Bagan’s Old City, called “Be Kind to Animals the Moon”…which was also the coolest name of any restaurant we’d been to.


We took a sunset boat ride one evening and then climbed the steps of the famous sunset-viewing temple, the Shwesandaw Pagoda, where you can see hundreds of temples dotting the horizon in all directions. That hour alone was worth the trip to Bagan.





A great few days in what we’re sure will soon become a tourist Mecca for temple viewing.






Yangon, Burma

We flew from Kilimanjaro to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) where we had a hellish five-hour layover before a hellish redeye to Bangkok. After a brief 36 hours in Bangkok to get our visas for Burma/Myanmar, we headed to Yangon, which was Burma’s capital city until 2006.


Burma is at an interesting inflection point in its history. Even after a week in this country, we still have no clue what it’s really called. And apparently neither does our President.



The historically oppressive government has been liberalizing, and after being shunned by the West for decades, it is finally opening up to tourists. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit this country of 50m people. They just got their first ATM in November, they don’t take credit cards yet and you have to exchange crisp US $100 bills. The people are enjoying their first sips of Coca Cola in 60 years. Tourism is on the rise but is still under-penetrated, which we really grew to appreciate on this trip. You can walk around Yangon (4.5m people) for half an hour without seeing another tourist. And Lonely Planet considers it the safest city in Southeast Asia.




Yangon is typically just a stopover city en route to Burma’s more spectacular sites such as Bagan, Inle Lake and [from what we hear] Ngapali Beach. Prices are still insanely low in the city — take a cab anywhere for $2, or have a great meal for not much more. Foreign investment has started to pour in, so you’ll see old decrepit buildings alongside brand new apartment complexes.


Yangon’s biggest attraction is the massive Shwedagon Pagoda, a sprawling hilltop Buddhist temple that is best experienced at sunset to see the dome caps glow in the orange light.










So we exchanged a few hundred bucks for about $10 billion Burmese Kyat (see below for our Scarface-sized mountain of Burmese cashola) and were on our way.


Back at Mbahe Farm — Last stop in Africa

Jill was dying to head back to Mbahe Farm (base of Kilimanjaro) for a night or two before heading to Asia. Fortunately they had some room.

She enjoyed an afternoon of cooking lessons with Leonard, Mbahe’s beloved chef from Zanzibar (and who everyone affectionately calls “Sugar Ray”). With bananas grown on the farm, Jill and Sugar Ray made some out-of-this-world banana bread. I chopped half an onion for a soup, got distracted, and called it quits. But Jill was in heaven, which is all that matters.







There were two other women staying there, who serendipitously happened to be volunteering at a local school. We told them about our time at Majengo over the prior week, and they invited us along. We had absolutely no plans that day so we were happy to join them.




It was great fun. We helped seventh graders work on their map of Africa, first graders do an art project, Jill perfected her “Heads-shoulders-knees-and toes” skills with the preschoolers, and I gave a soccer clinic to about 20 of the seventh graders on their break.




Simon (founder of SENE and whose family owns Mbahe) and his wife Tara were there, with their two kids, Aiden and Kari. So it was great to spend time with them as well.





A wonderful way to wrap up our time in Africa.