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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

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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.

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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

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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

Lobby

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.

Bagan’s 4,000 temples

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Cape Town Friends

We were lucky to spend two evenings with friends in Cape Town.

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My grandmother connected us with her childhood best friend’s son, Tim, and his wife Sherry. Sherry is from South Africa and Tim is the director of Stanford’s exchange student program in Cape Town. The program focuses on service learning, and students pair up with NGOs in the townships for a quarter. What an amazing opportunity for college students!

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Newlamds hotel - not exactly the backpack hostel (or beckpeck, as everyone in ZA calls it)

Sadly Tim came down with the flu the night we were supposed to meet, but Dan and I enjoyed a lovely wine tasting and dinner with Sherry at the beautiful Vineyards hotel in Newlands. It was great to see a picturesque neighborhood outside of the city proper. Sherry knows everything about Cape Town and we loved her local perspective.

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On our last night in Cape Town we met up with one of my Emory friends, Jess, and her boyfriend, Ganesh. They are spending two months in the city as part of their MBA program. We were super envious of their extended stay in our (new) favorite city, not to mention the 20-day ‘over-land’ tour they had just done through Zambia, Namibia, and more. Lucky ducks!

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We had dinner at Mama Africa, known for the extensive game menu and amazing live African music. It was a great dinner but also SAD as this was the last night in Cape Town for me and Dan, and we felt nowhere near ready to leave.

And I will admit this here because it is extremely rare that I’m wrong (and Dan deserves FULL credit) – but it has to be known – when we planned this trip I was completely uninterested in going to Cape Town.

It was a stop-over to appease my husband.

Had  I been living under a rock? Yes. All I know is that when I brought up Cape Town, people would say, ‘it’s a great city – much like San Francisco!’ I envisioned a foggy, coastal SF-esque city surrounded by Napa-like vineyards. Why go there for vacation when I am there everyday?

Cape Town was also totally off my radar – it’s a loong 24 hours of travel time from CA so I didn’t know anyone who had been there, except for two high school friends who had studied abroad there, but that was eight years ago, when I was South-America-obsessed!

I was ignorant, out-of-the-loop, crazy…thank goodness my travel companion didn’t let me get to him.

Dan – you nailed this one and, yes, now I trust you to pick (some) of our travel destinations. And I’m ready to go back to Cape Town since we left one major excursion off our list….

shark diving here we come!!!

We love Cape Town!

Hello from our new favorite city! Cape Town is amazing – beautiful scenery, perfect weather, tourist-friendly to the extreme, and feels completely safe. I say this with the utmost respect for my beloved Buenos Aires, but after Cape Town, BA feels like Baghdad with European prices (Dan’s apt analogy). And now we are in paradise!

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Baboon sighting on our drive down the coast

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Bike ride to Cape Point

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Gorgeous flowers at the Cape Grace hotel

We are staying at a nice little backpacker hostel in a great area of town. We’ve had amazing dinners every night, including Dan’s adventurous ‘African game platter’ selection with warthog ribs, crocodile ribs, kudu, and ostrich meat. (Interestingly, Dan said the crocodile meat tasted more like chicken than the ostrich – DEElish). Jill opted for the chicken curry 🙂

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More on Cape Town to come, but for now — add this to your list of must-see cities!!