Even though we are now adjusted to a less nomadic lifestyle with fancy perks such as our own bed and a closet to put our clothes, we still fantasize about our next adventure. The final two months of our trip were heavy on city-centric sightseeing so for my next vacation I’ll be looking for a bit of beach time! So I was excited when a resort based in the Florida Keys, invited me to dinner to learn more about their property! Hawks Cay Resort, Villas and Marina, located on Duck Key is situated roughly halfway between Key Largo and Key West. Over the past few years Jeremy and I both have had multiple friends take trips down to the Keys and rave about its tropical feel and laid back atmosphere. It definitely has risen to the top of our “must visit” list.
Guest Post by Gregor McGleish
Just like flight delays and the occasional layovers, hunger can strike at the blink of an eye. Come to think of it, it’s probably one of the reasons why convenience stores are like an oasis in the middle of a desert at an empty airport terminal. We all know how the challenges of travelling entails more than just long plane rides, bouts of boredom, and unavoidable language barriers. Add those to a grumbling stomach, and we’ve got the perfect recipe for a ruined vacation.
After another successful high-speed train ride we arrived at our final destination, Tokyo. Looking back on it, we couldn’t have picked a better place to go out with a bang! Fabulous meals, bright lights, all you can eat sushi, and late nights of Karaoke, was the perfect end to six months of exploration. We ended up finding an Air BnB a couple of stops away from the Shinjuku area, in a great neighborhood with reasonably priced local restaurants and an amazing bakery we frequented almost daily.
When mapping out the grand itinerary before we left home, we had Korea in mind but didn’t necessarily know what it offered as a tourist destination. We knew it would make geographical sense to go after China and before Japan, the final leg of our journey. Luckily we didn’t make any changes because we ended up having a great time in Seoul. It offered history due to the Korean War and current conflicts with North Korea, an interesting shopping and fashion culture and an amazing food scene.
When you’re on the road for so long, sometimes you just need a few days in a place that feels like home. So after two weeks in Cambodia and almost a month in Vietnam we decided to head back to Thailand, this time to the North of the country. We planned on spending about a week in Chiang Mai and three days in Pai before heading out to see the rest of the cities on our list. Immediately after arriving in Chiang Mai we felt like this place had the perfect vibe we needed to rest and recharge. In fact, over the next five days we lived like locals: I found a great Thai iced coffee stand I frequented many times, we went to the dentist, the doctor, Jeremy caught some NBA playoff games and we hung out with a couple of different traveler friends we’d met over the course of our trip.
POST BY JEREMY
Halong Bay is a popular tourist attraction about three hours outside of Hanoi. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and between the green waters and massive limestone pillars appearing right out of the sea, it was one of the most beautiful places we have visited so far. We were very lucky to have seen any of it as our trip nearly didn’t happen. The planning was in the works for a while. Almost all of our travel buddies who had been to Vietnam said a trip to Halong Bay was worth doing and if you were going to do it, then do it right. Essentially this means, don’t let this be one of the activities you decide to penny pinch on.
If you happened to ask me what I was most excited about doing in New Zealand, I probably would have told you about the Tongariro Crossing. The Tongariro Crossing is an all day hike that traverses multiple active volcanos (including “Mount Doom” from Lord of the Rings) and has some of the most interesting landscapes in the North Island. We’d pre-booked a shuttle to take us on one of the two days we’d be in the area but nature seemed to have a different plan for us. Rain, lots and lots of rain. With rain, comes slippery slopes and falling rocks and so the whole Tongariro Crossing was shut down for three days in a row making it impossible for us to do the hike during our time in the area. Needless to say I was beyond disappointed, but part of learning to live like a traveler is rolling with the punches so we decided to turn the rain in our favor and booked a white water rafting trip instead!
So now that you all know our plans I’m sure you’ve got a couple of questions for us so we’ve put together a little Q&A session for you covering the who, what, when, where, why and how we are traveling the world!
WHEN did you decide to travel the world?
This is something we’ve both wanted to do for a long time and we’ve been planning this for over a year! It was not a decision that we took lightly and something we decided on together after a lot of number crunching, emailing with other travelers, research and more. We didn’t make a final decision to book our first flight until this past September and we didn’t even book a flight to our next destination until one week before our wedding. It’s taken a lot of to get to this place of confidence in our decision as we near our departure date.
WHAT inspired you?
We have always individually loved traveling both within the U.S. and abroad. A couple of years ago we were into Anthony Bourdain’s shows, No Reservations, The Layover, and now Parts Unknown. Every time we watched a new episode our wanderlust grew and we started discussing the possibility of seeing these places in person instead of from our couch. Jeremy wanted to experience Thailand, I desperately wanted to visit New Zealand, and we realized in addition to those two places, there was so much to see in this big world of ours. The more we started talking about it openly as an idea with friends, the more we found that there were other young professionals out there that took a similar trip, usually for a full year and were still doing extremely well in the professional world upon their return. One day about a year and a half ago during a rainy evening at the Bucktown Pub we decided that there was some way we needed to make our dream a reality.
HOW can you afford it?
This is something we talked about doing together long before we were engaged and married, and we’ve also accumulated enough airline miles to get us to our first destination (New Zealand) practically free of cost. In addition, after discussing the possibility of making our trip a reality we opened up a savings account to put money into each month from our paycheck specifically for this trip. We’re both not spenders on lavish items by nature and you wouldn’t believe that by cutting out small things like Starbucks coffee, dining out, sporting events, concerts, how much money you can save. It’s unlikely we’ll be staying in any hotels, opting instead for hostels, Air BnB, homestays, and camping. I’ve also got us on a pretty strict budget so we can come back with a cushion to restart our lives in Chicago.
WHERE are you going?
We’re starting in New Zealand and then will be off to Australia followed by exploring Southeast Asia (Bali, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos) for three months and other parts of Asia (China, S. Korea, Japan) after that. We WILL be back by late August as Jeremy’s sister is getting married over Labor Day and we’re so excited for the festivities!
WHAT about your stuff?
We each have backpacks designed for long term travel, many different travel gadgets, medical supplies, clothes and more. We aren’t bringing a lot, we’ve sold and donated a lot of stuff and put the rest into storage. It’s really amazing how much stuff you find you don’t need when you have to decide whether it’s worth storing or not. We hope that our travels both make us realize that you don’t need a lot of stuff to make you happy, and also help us appreciate what we do have more when we get back.
WHAT about your apartment and jobs?
We rent our apartment and lucky enough our landlord confessed she planned on selling our place at the end of our lease when we asked if it would be possible to move out two months early, and so she let us out of our lease without any financial consequences. As far as our jobs go, we will be leaving them. We’ve both been at our companies for a long time and it is going to be sad to say goodbye to a lot of great coworkers and benefits, but it’s also the perfect time in our careers for a reboot. We know that we’ll come back as more creative people and our worldly travels will make us even better employees.
Are you worried about safety?
Yes and no. While we love Chicago, the city has seemed to have gotten more dangerous than when we first moved here and the number of occurrences of armed robberies just doesn’t occur where we are headed compared to Chicago. We’ll also be together pretty much 24-7, which I’m sure will take some getting used to considering we’re apart 10+ hours a day for our jobs, but we’ll be safer together than apart. We’ve also enrolled in the smart traveler program with the U.S. government, and a have a plethora of documents and information about each country and U.S. embassy in countries we plan to visit.
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Change is scary, it is exciting, can be eventful and in the end hopefully fulfilling. Beginning on February 9th our lives are about to change. After much planning TT#1 and I will be departing Chicago to travel throughout New Zealand, Australia and Asia for 6 months with nothing but the packs on our backs (and with the benefits of being in the 21st century, our smartphones and internet!)
With our wedding coming up in October, I’ve been thinking a lot about honeymoon destinations. Of course, we want to go somewhere with plenty of delicious food and restaurant options, and there are so many places to choose from. From cities across the US to the Caribbean, Central and South America, all the way to cities in Europe, Asia and beyond, there’s a whole world of food to explore. Every country and region has its own culinary culture, so it’s difficult to know where to start. Here are some of my favorite candidates for a foodie honeymoon, where we can eat to our hearts content (goodbye wedding diet!) and enjoy our first days as a married couple.