THE BIG TRIP RECAP: Best, Worst, and Cost Breakdown

Now that we’ve been home for a couple weeks and have had a chance to settle back in to a a new “normal”, it’s time to recap our 240-day trip around the world.

We’re covering the highs, the lows, and even revealing exactly how much everything cost! Without further ado, here’s what we came up with…

Top 3 Places


This question is almost impossible to answer because each place is so different. How can you compare an exotic beach to a snow covered mountain, or gauge how much your personal experience somewhere influenced your objective opinion about it? You can’t—but we’ve done our best to narrow it down to the places that really blew us away.

1. Machu Picchu

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The more of the world I saw, the more I realized just how special Machu Picchu is. It’s beyond the stunning view you see in photos—the surrounding landscape is equally as breathtaking in person.

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Towering peaks shrouded in layers of cloud and fog transport you to back in time to a prehistoric world. It’s a feeling that can’t quite be put into words—you really must experience it in person (I urge you to do so!)

2. The Italian & Swiss Alps

This famous mountain range cuts through multiple countries and when we first visited them in Italy, I was left speechless.

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Every winding turn during our road trip through the Dolomites in northern Italy had me gasping in awe. I think it is truly the most breathtaking place I’ve ever been to.

The Switzerland side is equally as stunning, with its storybook scenery of hilltop chalets and bell-wearing cows—if only it wasn’t so expensive!

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3. Greece

It’s no secret that Greece is my heaven on earth.

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From the food to the blue and white houses to the culture and crystal clear waters, I relished every moment of our 17 days there.

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I’ll never forget the memories and feeling of pure bliss on those islands. It’s my happy place, always and forever. And our Greece video was easily my favorite to make.

Honorable mentions: Southern France; Matera, Italy; Huacachina, Peru; Ilha Grande, Brazil

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Top 3 Experiences


1. Our Engagement

Of course, this was perhaps the best moment of my entire life, let alone this trip!

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It came as a complete surprise and changed the dynamic of the eight months to follow. Read our engagement story here, and watch our Brazil movie to see it on video.

2. Lucas’ Birthday in Carcasonne, France

For Lucas’ 30th Birthday we planned to be in the medieval castle town of Carcasonne, in the South of France. His birthday falls on Bastille Day, which is the French Independence Day, and Carcasonne puts on the country’s second best fireworks show (behind Paris).

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It was the first week of our road trip in Europe, and we were both on cloud nine. We frolicked through the castle walls and ate copious amounts of cheese and baguettes, sipped on French wine while picnicking in a vineyard and stared up at the fireworks while daydreaming about our future. It was pure magic, and honestly the best week of my life. Check out our France video if you haven’t watched it yet!

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3. Boat trip in Rincon Del Mar, Colombia

This was one of those surreal experiences we won’t soon forget. We were staying in a tiny fishing village on Colombia’s northern coast, and hired a small boat to take us swimming with bioluminescent plankton at night. On the way out, a massive lightning storm followed us across the open ocean. We eventually made it safely, dragging the boat through a hidden passageway to a secret lagoon.

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There we snorkeled amongst sparkling blue algae like a scene out of Avatar, as the night sky was lit up by the most dramatic spiderwebs of lighting we’d ever seen. I wish it was something we could capture on photo or video, but that night will live on in our memories forever.

Honorable Mentions: Dune buggying in Huacachina, Peru; all night street party in Porto, Portugal; sunset swimming in the Amazon, Ecuador; sleeping in our car in the Italian alps; local fire festival in Milos, Greece; reunion with friends at Oktoberfest; waking up to the Matterhorn in Switzerland; double rainbow storm in Ella, Sri Lanka; Bride & Groom competition in Pushkar, India

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Least Favorite Places


It’s easy to gush about your favorites, but what about the ones that fell short? Here are the spots we wouldn’t recommend to anyone.

1. Jaipur, India

We arrived in Jaipur after a rough experience in Pushkar left me feeling under the weather and jaded towards India. Jaipur was known as the mecca for shopping—filled with a plethora of handcrafted items, pink buildings and palaces. Imagine our disappointment when we saw this:

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Polluted, filthy, crowded, noisy and no decent shopping in sight. We did manage to have a beautiful wedding band custom made for Lucas, and the Monkey Temple was a lot of fun but those were the only two highlights. This was a lesson to always keep your expectations extremely low to avoid disappointment.

2. Salvador, Brazil

This was a similar situation for us—I became ill with the flu just as we arrived in Salvador, after raving reviews convinced us to fly there.

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The city itself wasn’t horrible, but we couldn’t explore most of it as we were told to stay near our hostel because of how dangerous it was. Armed police lined the streets all day and night, and multiple people from our hostel had been robbed. It was the most dangerous place we visited and just not worth the risk to go there.

3. Tangier, Morocco

Chalk this one up to too-high of expectations, once again. When you think of Morocco, you immediately visualize pristine palaces covered in colorful patterned tile and intricate wood carvings, right? Think again.

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Those instagram-worthy places do exist, but they’re usually hidden behind the closed doors of hotels or mosques, many of which you aren’t allowed in, or have to pay to enter. From the outside, Morocco looks like any other developing country, complete with the array of less-than-pleasing smells and sights that come with it. Once we accepted this and adjusted our expectations accordingly, we came to appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of Morocco… but I still wouldn’t recommend Tangier as a place to visit.

Top 5 Favorite Photos


Almost an impossible task to pair down eight months into just five photos, but here they are—chosen both from personal preference and your favorites on Instagram:

1. St. Magdalena, Italy

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2. Machu Picchu, Peru

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3. Pushkar, India

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4. Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

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5. Lago di Braies, Italy

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How much did it all cost?


That’s the million dollar question! We sat down the other night and combed through every single bank and credit card statement over the past eight months. Before traveling, we knew we had enough money saved up to cover our expenses—and don’t forget, I still have an online shop I run remotely—so it wasn’t necessary to determine a specific budget beforehand.

With that said, we’re always budget minded with everything we do in life, and will travel as inexpensively as possible (without completely sacrificing comfort). And while we did spend over 3 months in Europe, more than half the trip was traveling within more affordable countries. PSA: America is one of the more expensive countries in the world, comparably.

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Unfortunately, many places aren’t up to date on technology and don’t accept credit cards, so all of our cash purchases (nearly half of our expenses) are unaccounted for. So while we do know how much we spent overall, we don’t have an accurate breakdown by category. Instead, we’ve tried to break it down by country—which still isn’t entirely accurate as some of the cash spent was brought with us from home, or converted currencies along the way. Basically, use this information as a general idea and not a guidebook 🙂

The breakdown below includes everything—flights, visas, trip insurance, accommodations, food, travel, shopping (not including our wedding rings), etc.  Important note: Last year, we both opened Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card accounts and received 100,000 bonus points each. We used the card almost exclusively and by the time our trip ended, we were able to redeem 512,000 points on air travel which equaled $7,700 in flights. We ended up paying another $1,670 out of pocket for airfare. That was a huge savings!

3 Weeks in Brazil: $3400

3 Weeks in Peru: $2425

8 Days in Ecuador: $900

3 Weeks in Colombia: $1187

2 Weeks in Portugal: $2716

10 Days in Spain: $2704

10 Days in France: $1869

4 Weeks in Italy: $6855

4 Days in Malta: $990

17 Days in Greece: $3026

17 Days in Croatia: $2918

4 Days in Munich: $974

1 Week in Switzerland: $1308

14 Days in Morocco: $1726

1 Week in Sri Lanka: $924

3 Weeks in India: $2636

4 Hours in Tokyo: $145

Grand Total: $37,937

When you break that down by day, we averaged $158/day for both of us, or $79/person per day. Not bad, considering rent alone in San Francisco cost $110/day for our room in a shared apartment. When you add in all of the normal living expenses, we definitely spent less while traveling the world.

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We certainly could have scaled back and sacrificed things like renting cars for road trips, the occasional splurge for dinner or a nicer AirBnb, or extras like boat trips and excursions—but those became some of our favorite moments and what made the trip special.

Alternatively, we could have easily spent 2-3x as much by staying in comfortable hotels, dining out for every meal and filling our day with activities. This is what you normally do on vacation, which is why it’s difficult for people to understand how they could afford an extended international trip. But you see—this wasn’t a vacation. It was replacing our existing lifestyle with one of a nomads—trading in our apartment for a temporary bed in a new city every few days. By committing to this lifestyle change, we were able to replace most of our monthly expenses rather than add to them.

And there you have it… almost eight months of travel boiled down into one single post. I hope this was helpful to those wanting to know how we made it work, and that our trip has given others inspiration to get out there and see the world! Can I ask which country was your favorite to follow along with? Did any particular photos/stories convince you to make travel plans? Connect with me in the comments below or on Facebook and Instagram 🙂

Just in case you missed it, here’s the full lineup of the travel videos we made. These were so much fun to create, and a much needed creative outlet for me personally while I was away. Do you have a favorite?

3 Weeks in Brazil (& He Proposed!)

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17 Days in Peru: Cusco to Lima

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Eight Days in Ecuador

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3 Weeks in Colombia: Our Backpacking Adventure!

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2 Weeks in Portugal: New 4k Drone Footage!

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A Road Trip Through France: The best week ever!

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Malta in 4k

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One Month in Italy: A cinematic travel film

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Greece: A Blue Ocean Paradise

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Switzerland in September: A 4k aerial film

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Morocco: A Vlog Story

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1 Week in Sri Lanka: The Vlog

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Thank you all again for following along—I hope you enjoyed the ride! As always, if you have any questions about anything related to this trip, feel free to drop me a line. I’m happy to answer and share my experience with you!

Hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season…

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India: Part 2

Day 225-228: Jaipur

The sky in northern India is a deep shade of ivory.

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At 5pm, a red sun is extinguished by the thick layer of pollution far above the horizon, signaling the days end.

No one seems to notice, and time never slows down for the billions living in India, in a perpetual frenzy to get wherever they’re going.

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We left Pushkar by public bus—a bumpy four hour ride where I couldn’t escape the unapologetic stares from local men.

I’d just become ill with the flu, and was praying for a comfortable bed and shower at our hostel in Jaipur.

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Jaipur is best known for handmade wares, jewelry and shopping. It’s also home to several palaces and forts, and it’s one corner of the “Golden Triangle” tourist route, along with Delhi and Agra.

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The city itself was the most congested we’d seen, with enough filth and trash to cover a landfill. The constant barrage of horns and yelling could be heard from every corner, including under the blanket from our bed. And this is supposed to be one of the nicer cities.

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 As much as I wanted to hide under the covers and sleep for three days, we had come here on a mission: to buy Lucas’ wedding band!

Back in April, we had my ring custom made in Brazil, and thought it would be neat to have his made on this trip as well. We settled on Jaipur with its reputation for the best jewelers.

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We found a trusted shop, the process was simple and painless, and we couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out! We love that the stories and memories from this trip will always be wrapped around our finger.

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While the ring was a success, the rest of Jaipur was a disappointment when it came to shopping. We’d planned to finish all of our holiday gifts and souvenirs here, but we struggled to find anything worth taking home. They do have great fabrics and tailors, and I picked up a couple more items, but I’d never make a special trip to Jaipur for anything else.

There was one place we couldn’t get enough of however—the Monkey Temple!

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After climbing a winding mountain road past cows, goats, litters of pigs and wild gypsy children, you descend into a canyon  towards a hidden temple.

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Meticulously built as if it were a grand and significant place of worship in its day, now it looks more like something out of Jumanji.

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Tribes of monkeys run wild, scaling the walls and rooftops, chasing each other through empty corridors and jumping on tourists heads. They’re precious and friendly monkeys though, and we could have stayed there and fed them peanuts all day. And showed them the latest iPhone apps.

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Apart from the ring, those monkeys were the highlight of our three days in Jaipur, and that afternoon we were on a train to Agra.

Day 229-230: Agra

Agra is famous as home to the Taj Mahal, and infamous as the city everyone loves to hate. Even locals say not to stay there longer than a day. When our train pulled in that night, we noticed how foggy it was, and then quickly realized it wasn’t fog—it was pollution.

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The thick air had a very specific stench that soaked into your skin and clothing. We stayed indoors as much as possible. From what we did see of the city though, I thought it was much nicer than Jaipur.

We were up at 5am in hopes of beating the crowds at the Taj Mahal. What we didn’t realize was that the gates didn’t even open until after 7am, so our hopes of a sunrise there were dashed.

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Still, the crowds were pretty light and there were plenty of nice photo ops.

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You can’t see the sky in Agra, but the pollution actually gives a beautiful, ethereal quality. Always find the silver lining 🙂

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 For sunset, we found a viewpoint across the river to see the Taj from a different angle. It was quite a peaceful and serene setting. I’m not sure why everyone hates Agra so much…

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The next day we had an appointment to visit rescued elephants at the Wildlife SOS, just north of Agra. I’d been researching ethical sanctuaries in India, and this was the only one confirmed.

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Two years ago in Thailand, I first learned about the shocking and cruel treatment to captive elephants, and fell in love with the sweet creatures during a visit to a sanctuary.

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Unfortunately there are still hundreds of privately owned elephants in India today, used for everything from rides for tourists to religious/temple celebrations to begging on the street. The torture they put them through behind the scenes to domesticate and “break their spirit” is heartbreaking.

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Many of the elephants were injured and blind, but they were so sweet and gentle. We learned their story, walked with them and fed them, and I didn’t want to leave.

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Wildlife SOS operates on volunteers and donations, is actively in the process of trying to rescue more animals, and we were happy to contribute to such an important cause.

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By that evening, we were on an overnight train to Khajuraho.

Day 231-234: Khajuraho

The sleeper train situation looks pretty awful, but it’s actually nicer than many of the hostels in India. Even with screaming babies, snoring men two feet away from your face and squatty potties with no toilet paper. I feel like we should earn some sort of certificate for “Professional Traveler” after successfully completing four overnight trains in India.

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We arrived in Khajuraho, and it was like a breath of fresh (well, only halfway polluted) air.

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It’s a small town out in the rural countryside, dotted with temples and very few cars.

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We found a yoga/meditation center and decided to stay for four days, giving ourselves a mini retreat from the chaos between cities.

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It was just the break we needed. We did yoga every morning, rode bicycles around the temples, I was treated by a holistic doctor and finally began to feel better by the time we left.

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On our last night, we drove out to a house on the river in a forest of monkeys, with the owner of the hostel and a group of travelers from around the world. We watched the sunset and shared stories over a bonfire and homemade Indian food. That night we saw the stars for the first time in India, and I realized that despite what we’ve experienced here, our time is so precious, and there’s nowhere else I want to be right now than in this moment. Soon, we’re going to miss this.

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Day 235-236: Varanasi

The next day, we woke up on a 14 hour train to Varanasi. Considered to be the holiest city in India, Varanasi sits along the Ganges River where worshippers come to bathe, participate in religious ceremonies and cremate the dead.

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We knew going in that this would be the most intense place to experience Indian culture, and it sure lived up to its reputation.

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We arrived in the afternoon and immediately wandered along the riverfront, observing the activities at each ghat (wide staircases leading down to the river). After a few minutes we came across a crowded area with burn piles. It was one of the two “burning ghats”, which is where the cremations happen.

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In the Hindu religion, Varanasi is the most sought after final resting place, allowing your soul to enter directly into heaven after the sacred ritual. Worshippers travel here from all over India to secure the highest afterlife for their deceased loved ones. Children, holy men, pregnant women and those killed by a Cobra bite are exempt from cremation, and simply pushed out into the river.

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We sat on the steps for some time and watched the rituals—bodies carried through the streets by chanting men then dipped into the river; a man shaving his head before performing ceremonies with mourning families; logs stacked on bodies wrapped in blood soaked sheets and set on fire. Captivated, we tried to make sense of our surroundings as goats in t-shirts frolicked around us and old bearded men tried to take our money.

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The Ganges river is filled with pollution, trash, ashes and corpses—yet because it’s a ‘holy’ river, they believe it’s clean. Twenty four hours a day they come to bathe, wash their laundry, even brush their teeth in the murky water.

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When you realize that this river, filled with matter in all stages of decomposition is actually the cleanest place to be in Varanasi—then you begin to understand just how filthy this place is.

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The streets are like a war zone, where every step is a careful maneuver around cow dung, tobacco-filled spit, rotting food, bits of ceremonial waste and oncoming traffic. You learn real quick to only breathe through your mouth.

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We set our alarms for 5am to watch the sunrise over the Ganges by boat. This is without a doubt the best way to see Varanasi.

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The smoke from the constant cremations forms a thick layer above the river, creating a dreamy setting to witness this holy final resting place change color as the sun rises.

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That morning, we withstood the chaos on the streets for as long as we could stand it, then retreated back to our hostel to wait for our night train. One day was more than enough time to spend in Varanasi.

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Day 237-240: New Delhi

After sixteen hours in a delayed train, we had arrived to our last and final stop. It was a bittersweet realization, but one we had both been looking forward to.

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New Delhi is India’s capital city, with 26 million inhabitants in the metro area. At this point in our trip, we were thrilled to see taller buildings and neon signs which signaled a more developed civilization.

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The neighborhood we stayed in had a main bazaar road, and reminded us a bit of Bangkok (without all the backpackers). We were pleased to find great shopping here, and stocked up on souvenirs and Christmas gifts.

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One thing we’d been wanting to try during this trip was a cooking class, and with Indian food being one of our favorite cuisines, Delhi was the perfect place to make it happen.

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We found a lady offering private classes in her home, and took the metro across town to meet her one evening.

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The class took several hours (Indian food is complicated!) and we made four dishes, which were easily the most delicious we’d had in all of India (and a contender for best on this entire trip!). She sent us home with boxes of spices, and we’re looking forward to recreating them for our friends and family at home.

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As we were approaching our last day, the idea of getting tattoos came up. At first it was a joke, but then it somehow morphed into a good idea, and the next day we were in a tattoo shop.

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I’ve always said I’d never get a tattoo, but in this moment, something inside me changed. After such a momentous year for us, we felt the need to memorialize this trip in a permanent way—and a tattoo seemed like the best way to do that.

I decided on the word ‘Gratitude’ written in Arabic.

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Gratitude is the one thing I’ve gained most from this trip. Experiencing cultures from all corners of the world and walking in their shoes is incredibly humbling, and puts life into perspective. You can’t help but shift into a more grateful state of mind, and with gratitude there is no fear, no hate, no negativity. It’s essential for living a good life, and this small reminder will now always be with me. I think Arabic is the most beautiful written language on earth, and am in love with the way it turned out.

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Lucas came up with the idea of two camels being led by a shepherd. The camels represent both of us, and the shepherd represents our purpose that is guiding us—our what or why in life. Our purpose may change through the different seasons of life, but it’s a reminder to follow what’s true and not stray from it.

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You’ll have to excuse the swollen and scabbed appearance in these photos—they’re still healing and will look quite different in a couple weeks. The ink is actually a medium brown which will look more like a henna once it’s healed. We absolutely love them and what they represent. Oh, and here’s how my infamous travel sandals look after 8 months and approximately 970 miles across 5 continents later… I need to preserve these things forever 😉

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What have I learned from the past eight months?

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That there is an incredible amount of beauty in the world, and so much more good than there is bad. It may not seem that way right now, because those who are negative are the loudest. Negativity is a cancer that can spread like wildfire when left unchecked, and only positivity and love can stop it. The majority of us are fighting the good fight and we can’t forget to speak up.

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Never forget how fortunate you are to have your freedom. Use that freedom to choose happiness, to travel the world and see the beauty that exists. It’s all around us, you just have be looking for it.

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Time isn’t measured by minutes, but rather in the richness of moments. Fill those moments with gratitude and you’ll live wealthier than you could ever imagine.

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Thank you for following us on this journey around the globe. Now we turn the page to end this chapter as we prepare to begin our longest, and hopefully most rewarding one yet.

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Stay tuned for the final piece of our travels—the India vlog!

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Sri Lanka: The Vlog

As I press publish on this post, we’re on a plane back home to the states—for good! Our trip has finally come to an end (I’ll talk more about my feelings on this later) but I still have a few more posts coming your way to recap the final days.

Now that it’s all over, our visit to Sri Lanka feels like ages ago. We spent a week there in late October, just before arriving to India. One week is entirely too short to spend in this country and we didn’t get to see everything we’d hoped to, but we still got the “Sri Lanka experience” with a few surprises along the way.

Click below to watch what happened, our favorite and not-so-favorite memories, and also how we handle all of those long travel days (trust me, it’s not glamorous!):

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Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends. It feels great to come home.

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India: Part 1

Day 216-220: Kochi, India

They say you either love India or you hate it.

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It’s a place of opposites—a constant battle of extremes struggling to stay in balance. Chaos and peace, beauty and filth, life and death—all weaved together to form the fabric of a vibrant culture. Each day I feel like I’m walking the fine line between a nightmare and a dream.

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India is the one place that captivated me as a child. Thanks to movies like A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and Aladdin (I now know that’s not technically India, but still) I was mystified by this exotic land of jungles and elephants and ancient temples. I decorated my bedroom with jewel toned bedding and silk pillows, statues of Buddha surrounded by candles and incense, even covered my walls with a desert sunset mural. It was a phase that lasted years, and even when it passed, that sense of awe and wonder for India always remained.

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In recent years, that pedestal has been chipped away at with harrowing tales of illness, pollution and danger. Every word of advice from other travelers is preceded by a warning. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart, they’d say, and the last place you’d travel to in search of a quiet, relaxing vacation.

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That made it the perfect place to end our eight month journey so we could go back with a true appreciation for the luxury and comfort of home.

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The first day upon arriving in a new country is always the most exciting, and even after 20 countries in eight months, it hasn’t lost its thrill. We arrived in Kochi, trying to make sense of all the new sights and sounds and smells, which every country in Asia has in abundance.

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India is the world’s second most populated country, just short of China, and even in the calmer south you can’t escape the sheer volume of people. Drivers behave as if they’re in a video game, weaving their way within inches of other cars and motorcycles, pedestrians and animals. The bigger the vehicle, the more right of way you have. Pedestrians are at the bottom of the food chain—cows are at the top.

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Trash, broken objects, people and animals lie motionless along the sides of every street. At first glance you assume there’s been an accident, but after a few days you become desensitized and accept this new normal.

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We began our three weeks in Kochi after learning about boat tours offered along the backwaters in India’s southern state of Kerala.

A quick hour drive from town, we were packed in a van with other travelers and set out into the murky, stagnant river guided by a man with an oar who didn’t speak much.

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It was a swelteringly humid day, and we sipped on fermented palm leaves bought from a local as he rowed by, while exchanging stories with other travelers in our boat.

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We stopped by the home of a family and watched as they made rope, and then gathered into a makeshift shelter where we were served a delicious lunch prepared by the villagers.

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While we enjoyed our time, I can’t say I’d recommend coming all the way to southern India just to experience the backwaters. On our last day in Kerala, we hired a driver to take us up to Athirapally Falls, which we found to be much more worthwhile.

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You have to watch out for the monkeys here, though—they’re quite aggressive. We saw them go after a few terrified children, who probably have a complex now.

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After getting stuck in Kochi for an extra day (thanks to Air India who canceled our tickets with no explanation), we finally found a last minute flight up north.

Day 221-224: Pushkar, India

While traveling, we always seek out local festivals/events in each country. Those experiences more often than not become the most memorable part of our trip, and the Pushkar Fair 2017 was no exception.

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Originally the world’s largest camel trading event, the Pushkar Fair is also home to a major religious celebration, with hundreds of thousands making the pilgrimage to Pushkar Lake, considered to be India’s holiest.

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The week of activities also includes a fair with hot air balloon rides, concerts, games, competitions and cultural ceremonies. It has become one of India’s most popular annual attractions.

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On the evening of our arrival, we wandered the streets of Pushkar, trying to absorb an entirely new level of chaos. The air was thick with smoke and dust, and the sun cast a pink glow onto the town, providing an ethereal backdrop for the characters of a movie-like scene we’d suddenly walked into.

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We were surrounded by camels decorated head to toe, children painted blue, cows with extra legs, men with moustaches that reached the ground and bands of gypsies who tried to corner me and force a henna tattoo.

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Every few steps revealed a new sight to behold… but apparently to everyone else, we were the main attraction. Families, groups of men and women followed us around, asking to take selfies. Flattered, we obliged. A photo was never just one photo though, as every person in the group needed their own, with ten different camera angles.

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Mothers placed their babies in our arms as if we had healing properties, and pushed their confused children at us.

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As westerners, we knew to expect this, though it was definitely much more than we had anticipated. In four days at Pushkar, there were more photos taken of me than in my 32 years on this earth combined. No joke.

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On Day 2, we made our way down to the lake to witness the religious bathing ceremony. This took place constantly all day and night, with the highest concentration of worshippers on the last night during the full moon.

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Before we knew it, we were separated and whisked away by priests, handing us a tray of flowers as we knelt with them on the steps. We did some chanting, threw our flowers into the lake, they marked our forehead with pigment and somehow got us to donate all of our money to avoid bad karma. An expensive lesson, but at least the money goes to a good cause (we hope).

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Later, were approached by a local asking us to participate in an Indian Bride and Groom competition. With no plans for the day, we decided “why not?”, and showed up at a salon at 4:30 pm to get all dolled up by an enlisted glam squad.

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If you think American weddings take a lot of preparation… you’ve never been to India. We spent nearly five hours in that room, getting fitted with layers upon layers of clothing, jewelry and makeup. Running late, they rushed us backstage where we met 50+ other foreigners dressed in similar Indian attire, and equally as confused about what to expect.

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The show began an hour late (nothing in India starts even remotely on time) and we were quickly instructed to just appear on stage and slowly walk/dance as an Indian bride would. Great, clear as mud.

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Apparently this competition is a pretty big deal in India. There were thousands of people in the audience, along with rows of TV cameras and photographers and a drone filming everything.

I hadn’t brushed up on my Indian dance moves, so when it was my turn I had a little fun with it—strutting down the catwalk in my best Miss America impersonation.

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The rest of the competition was basically a blur—there was more dancing and I was called up to answer a question (I killed it, by the way 😉 ) and then it was time for crowning.

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My stud in blue claimed the 3rd place Groom! So proud.

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I was not as fortunate however—I think my dance moves were a little too bold for the judges.

We were then rushed off stage as a fight broke out, Lucas was interviewed by news cameras and our Indian glam squad grabbed us by the arms and shielded us from the unruly fans outside.

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It was all over in the blink of an eye, and we laughed as we walked back to our hostel saying “wait, did that really just happen?”

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On the final day of the Pushkar Fair, there were supposed to be hot air balloons flying over the lake at sunrise. We wanted to make the most of our last day, so we decided to get up at 5:30am and walk to a temple on top of a hill to witness the event. The streets had been incessantly loud and hectic, so we were looking forward to a quiet walk with few people around.

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As we left our hostel in the dark, we were surprised to find it even more crowded than normal. It was the final day of the fair, and the most religious, when all of the pilgrims gather at the lake to bathe. We just didn’t know they’d all come at once for sunrise.

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As we neared the lake, the crowds became more dense. I grabbed Lucas’ hand tight so we wouldn’t get separated. Soon we were at a complete standstill, with thousands of heads in front of us as far as the eye could see. We looked on our map to try to find a way out, but the roads had been blocked off. There was no escaping this.

Then came the pressure. Suddenly we were pushed into the people in front of us until we became one large mass of bodies. Everyone was yelling, my bag was getting ripped from my arm, screaming children and babies were thrown on tops of shoulders to avoid being crushed, and I yelled to Lucas in a panic “Get us out!” But there was nothing he could do.

I felt men’s hands on my body, squeezing and groping me. “STOP!” I screamed, unable to move to see who was doing it. Finally I grabbed onto one of the mans’ fingers, traced his hand back to his face and it took everything I had to not punch him, which would have resulted in getting trampled.

It was a nightmare, and instantly tarnished the way I felt about India.

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Eventually we managed to jump on top of a counter in a storefront as the mass continued to push forward. Shaken and on the verge of tears, we waited until there was an opening, and took the first side street to safety.

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There never were hot air balloons that morning after all, and the lackluster sunrise was muddled by thick clouds of sand.

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After four days in Pushkar, we were ready to get out. I woke up with the flu on the morning we left for Jaipur, bracing myself for the remaining two weeks in India. We were about to enter the worst of it—a constant barrage of pollution, noise, crowds and sickness that we couldn’t hide from. We questioned our sanity in continuing down this path when we could simply hop on the next plane out… but we were committed to experiencing all of India, both the good and bad.

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We have only two cities left, and I’m still sharing all of the crazy/shocking/beautiful pieces of each day over on my instagram stories. There isn’t a dull moment, so feel free to follow along if you need a little spice in your life.

Part 2, coming soon…

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Morocco: A Vlog Story

After abandoning our plans to make a video for Morocco (thanks to the whole drone debacle), in a spur of the moment one night in Tangier, we instead pressed Record on our phone. That first clip turned into hundreds over the next two weeks, and we wound up with a new documentary style vlog—something we’ve never done before (click to watch):

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I was still able to make a quick video from my DSLR footage, so make sure to watch until the end for that! We had a lot of fun with this new format, and are already working on similar vlogs for both Sri Lanka and India. We might even continue the vlogs once we move and start up our real estate company in January (either way, there will be a lot more video!)

Let us know if you’re a fan of the new documentation/vlog style—your feedback is very helpful! You can reach out directly on my instagram, facebook or snapchat @jennasuedesign.

At the time this goes live, we’ll have only two weeks left on our round the world trip! We’re focusing on getting the most we can out of our last days in India… and so far, it has been the most intense country yet. Lots of stories on the way (or keep up with my instagram stories to see it all live!)

Hope you’re having a beautiful November…

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A week in Sri Lanka

Day 209: Colombo, Sri Lanka

Getting to Sri Lanka from Morocco was no simple task—from the moment we left our riad in Marrakech it would be another 43 hours until we stepped inside our hostel in Colombo.

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The travel process began with an overnight train to Tangier, a half day at the airport followed by a flight to Spain, another layover followed by a redeye to Delhi, then a third layover with a third flight to Colombo, ending with a three hour taxi to our hostel. It was our longest travel day(s) on record, and left us borderline exhausted but equally as excited to be in a new country.

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As soon as we stepped off the plane in Sri Lanka, that familiar wet and humid Asian air filled our lungs. Palm tree jungles as far as the eye can see, smoky skies from burning trash and the putter of tuk tuks racing through the streets. I’m immediately taken back to my Southeast Asian backpacking days, and a wave of nostalgia washes over me. This is my happy place.

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Almost exactly two years ago, Lucas and I met in Vietnam, and the striking similarities here in Sri Lanka sparked fond old memories for us. It’s amazing how much your environment dictates your experiences and ultimately your entire life (and this is why travel is so important!)

Day 210-211: Kandy, Sri Lanka

With only one week before our flight up to India, time was limited so we only spent one night in Colombo before heading inland to the mountains.

We had the option of renting a private car/driver for the week at $45/day, but we wanted to experience Sri Lanka as the locals do—so instead we opted to take the train.

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The trains here are famous for being quite the spectacle, and we wanted to experience it firsthand.

The first and second class reserved seats are always sold out months in advance, so we ended up in the free for all section. As our 12:00 train arrived, every seat had been claimed before we even had a chance to grab our backpacks.

Sri Lankans are ruthless—when the train pulls up, they’re throwing their bags and their babies through the window to get a seat as it’s still moving. We stood no chance.

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Debating on whether to wait three hours for the next one, we push our way to the back and get cozy with the locals. The train cars are crammed with as many people as they can fit, including bodies hanging off the train—which turns out to be the most coveted spots for the breathing air and views.

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Lucas was practically sitting in this woman’s lap while I had some guys’ arm pits on either side of my head and for two hours we can’t move an inch. Finally, someone in the seat beside us jumps off and we’re able to grab their seat and witness miles of jungle landscape rolling past us for the remaining two hours.

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At $1 per train ticket, you really can’t complain.

Before nightfall we arrive in Kandy, a charming little town on a lake and the hub for the center of the country.

It was here that we got our first real taste of Sri Lankan food—as delicious as it was cheap! Full meals cost around $2 on average, and our favorite dish was kottu (a stir fried mix of cabbage, veggies, bread and spices). From street food to restaurants to home cooked dinners, there wasn’t a meal we didn’t completely devour (and nope, we didn’t get sick once!)

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Day 212-213: Ella, Sri Lanka

After just one full day in Kandy, it was already time to move on. We’d heard great things about Ella, a mountain town seven hours south, so we booked a Homestay there for the following night.

Not wanting to be stuck standing in a train for hours, we went to the bus station to see our options. This proved to be impossible, as the bus “station” was merely a line of snack vendors and hundreds of locals fighting for elbow room on a podium as unmarked buses with blaring horns squeezed past the madness. There was no one on duty and no signs in English, so we gave up and found a tour agency in a hotel.

Reluctantly, we handed over $60 for first class train tickets (later finding out its illegal for them to buy/mark up/resell) but a guaranteed seat for such a long journey was worth the cost to us.

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The train ride from Kandy to Ella is touted as one of the most scenic in the world. We settled into our seats, quickly realizing that they weren’t even necessary as we found ourselves hanging off the doorway most of the time.

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Those seven hours flew by fast with plenty of breathtaking views to admire. It’s really a must-do if you find yourself in Sri Lanka!

That afternoon we arrived in Ella, and settled into a beautiful homestay we’d found for $25/night. At that price, it wasn’t the cheapest option available, but the view from our balcony made it worth every penny.

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Just before sunset a double rainbow appeared, then the sky turned pink and the fog started to roll in. Birds and insects began chirping all around us, there were flashes of lightning and thunder and then monks begin chanting in the distance, filling the valley with their echoes.

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It was one of those speechless and truly memorable moments that will stand out on this entire trip.

The next day we hired a tuk tuk to take us around. Our first stop was a Buddhist temple inside of a cave.

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Afterwards we watched the train pass over the picturesque Nine Arch Bridge.

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From there we drove out to Rawana Ella Falls, a popular spot for locals to bathe and wash their hair.

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A group of monkey mamas and their babies were playing in the street, and we yelled for our driver to stop so we could snap a photo. Just look at those sweet faces!

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Every afternoon, like clockwork, it downpours during monsoon season. Our day in the outdoors was cut short so we waited out the storm under a cafe, drinking local tea and devouring kottu. While this weather means we don’t get to spend as much time exploring and seeing the country, it’s also so nice to just be able to relax in bed and listen to the storm. It feels like we’re constantly on the move and filling our day with activities, so the downtime in Sri Lanka was savored.

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The next morning we went on a quick hike to Little Adams Peak—a mountain ridge with sweeping views of Ella Rock, distant waterfalls and the surrounding forest.

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Buddhist shrines and pups greeted us at the top.

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Just before the afternoon storm hit, we caught a ride to our final destination of Haputale.

Day 214-215: Haputale, Sri Lanka

We’re greeted by our host, Ikka, and brought inside— it’s a small and modest home to a family of four, who share a bedroom and one small bathroom with no light and a hole in the wall for air. Ikka informed us that the power was out, and would be back on within a couple hours.

We carried our bags to a dark and damp bedroom, painted in bright colors with a ceiling that had seen better days. The air is cold and we layer on what little clothing we carry to keep warm. (Excuse the fuzzy screen shots, but this gives you an idea…)

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Hours pass with no sign of electricity, and we have dinner by candlelight prepared by Ikka’s wife and served by his cute children. Later that night we huddle together on a rock hard mattress underneath a mosquito net for protection, covered in damp clothing and blankets. Coming from our previous homestay that felt like luxury, we had to laugh at our current situation and think of it as a fun glamping trip in the jungle. At $8/night, we were still getting a bargain, and getting to stay with a local family and experience real Sri Lankan village life was icing on the cake.

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By the next day, the power hasn’t returned and all of our devices are nearly dead. We’re assured it would only be a matter of hours, and flag down a local bus to start our last day of adventure in Sri Lanka.

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Haputale is known for its tea plantations, and perhaps the most scenic is at the Lipton Factory. Seven kilometers of winding pathways takes you to the top of a mountain ridge with 360° views. Unfortunately for us it was cloudy that morning, so we weren’t able to see much from the top, but the long walk through the plantation made up for it.

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We leisurely strolled through rolling hills, waterfalls and small villages, stopping to admire and take photos of the scenery. We passed cows, tuk tuks and friendly workers gathering tea leaves who smiled and waved at us.

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At the bottom of the valley is a large tea factory built by Lipton in the 1800’s. We took a tour and learned about the process of black and green tea production, and enjoyed a cup over conversation with a local while waiting for the bus.

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Back at our homestay, the power still had not returned, so we continued to wait patiently as the monsoon passed and the sky grew dark. We hadn’t showered in days, all of our electronics were dead and we needed to check into our flight and book a hotel for the following day. Desperate, we grabbed our bags and ran down the hill in the rain, searching for somewhere to go. Fortunately, another homestay (with electricity) was able to take us in for the night, and we were finally able to reconnect with the world and calm my frantic mothers’ nerves.

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A happy ending to a memorable week in this friendly little island nation. You’ll always find an adventure in Sri Lanka!

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As I write this, we’re nearly a week into our last destination of India, trying to navigate our way through the chaos. There’s so much to take in, and I’m sharing moments of it over on my Instagram stories. Find me there and see how life is lived on the other side of the world!

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PS: Morocco video coming in just a few days!

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Morocco: Part 2

Day 201: Merzouga Desert, Morocco

Six days into our Moroccan adventure, we were ready to escape the bustle of the city  and venture out to the edge of the Sahara.

We arranged a three day, two night desert excursion with a final destination of Marrakech.

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A van picked us up from our riad at dawn and we loaded our bags, not sure what to expect from this “tour”. No one had asked for our names, there was no company name or paperwork, and the only information we had was from a guy who drew a picture of camels and squiggly lines on a piece of paper. This is how most things are operated in many developing countries though—it’s all very informal and casual. You learn to go with the flow after a while.

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Thirty minutes went by as we sat in front of a building, our driver becoming increasingly frustrated, yelling at people on the phone and in the street in Arabic. A young Moroccan man, who we assumed was working with the driver, sat silent in the front seat.

Eventually after circling around the city for an hour and picking up another couple, we were on our way!

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On the outskirts of town, the driver pulled over once more on the side of the road. A petite, white haired lady climbed inside the van, rocking camo leggings with her hands and arms covered in tattoos. She appeared to be between 60-70 years of age, and told us she was from Germany as she squeezed in the back seat alongside Lucas and I.

We exchanged a few words about our recent visit to Munich, but the conversation was brief due to the language barrier. Then she stated she was here visiting her boyfriends family, and pointed to the Moroccan kid in the front. Not wanting to sound skeptical, I replied politely while wondering if “boyfriend” had multiple meanings in German.

Turns out she really did mean boyfriend, and that was confirmed when we slept next to them in the tent that night. Proof that love really does have no boundary!

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The journey to the desert was a long one, punctuated by a break for lunch on the side of an empty highway. Morocco is known for its beautiful details, and you’ll find them no matter where you go. The building could have doubled as a palace, with intricate painted moldings and a crystal chandelier I couldn’t stop gawking at. Only in Morocco will you get design inspiration for your future child’s nursery at a highway rest stop.

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Design inspiration aside, the drive was quite beautiful too. So much of Morocco is covered in canyons and rivers, with valleys of lush palm trees. Some towns felt almost like Las Vegas resorts.

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With plenty of eye candy out of the window, eight hours of being sandwiched in the backseat of a van went by surprisingly fast.

We arrived at a town with instructions to transfer into another van with a new driver. At this point we had two hours left until sunset, and had been promised an hour long journey by camel to our tent site before sunset. We didn’t seem to be anywhere near our destination, and to make matters worse, the clouds and wind had began to pick up.

With no way to find out the plan, we shrugged it off and watched the weather shift outside the window. Sheets of rain and sand flew past our car, blanketing it and turning the sky orange. It was quite amazing to watch, actually.

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For an hour we went full speed off-roading into the desert, nothing around us visible except the hazy silhouette of distant palms. Finally, we pulled up to a large clay complex with six camels resting outside.

Sunset was fast approaching, and we grew anxious as nearly another hour went by with no explanation.

At seven o’clock, just as the days last light fell below the horizon, we climbed aboard our camels and headed into the dunes.

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Twilight quickly gave way to darkness, and soon we the only thing we could see was the bright Milky Way above us. I gripped the handle tight with each wobbly step as the sand sank beneath Coco the Camel, reassuring her that she was doing an excellent job given the working conditions.

Another sandstorm rolled through and pelted my skin as my scarf came unraveled, leaving my face and neck exposed. At one point our guide, who was aided by only the light from a phone, stopped us and turned around after nearly walking off the edge of a steep dune.

An hour after we’d left, we finally saw the lights of our camp and safely settled in for the night.

There we joined a larger group and gathered around the fire as our guides cooked dinner. We feasted on chicken tajine, shared travel stories and joined in on the drums as they played traditional Moroccan music. After dinner we climbed the sand dunes and watched shooting stars trail across the Milky Way. The day had gone by in the blink of an eye, but it was still the most memorable experience of our time in Morocco.

Day 202: Ouarzazate

The next morning we awoke while it was still dark, and wandered into the desert for the best sunrise vantage point. I chased down a group of camels for video shots while Lucas took a time lapse of the sun rising behind the dunes.

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The rest of our group slowly emerged from the tent and just like that, we were back on our camels to begin our return voyage.

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The sun becomes very strong, very quickly in this part of the world. My eyes were dry and tired from squinting, and I made sure to wrap my shoulders to avoid being burned. In October it’s bearable, but I can only imagine how intense it would have been a couple months ago. Can’t say I’d recommend visiting during the summer!

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As we were disembarking from our camels, we heard a loud thud and looked back to find the German lady on the ground, moaning in pain. She had fallen off her camel and it didn’t look good. Her young boyfriend, still silent and stoic, kneeled at her side while the other camels were ushered away. We all stood around in concern as employees called for help and 911. She was later airlifted to the hospital—hopefully without any serious injury.

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Now halfway through our tour, we began the long drive towards Marrakech. The scenery through the Atlas Mountains was even more beautiful.

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We stopped at a river gorge, and at Aït Ben Haddou—a UNESCO world heritage site made famous by appearances in films and shows like Gladiator and Game of Thrones.

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I was surprised by the similarities of every village we passed between Fez and Marrakech. Most consisted of simple orange clay buildings, unlike the elaborately carved and tiled riads found in the larger cities. But here you really can’t judge a book by its cover, as most buildings are plain on the outside but covered in unique and colorful decor inside.

A prime example is this low budget motel we stayed in the night before Marrakech. We were literally the only guests, and were served a generous buffet for dinner and breakfast. I’m not sure how these places stay in business!

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Day 203-207: Marrakech

After three long days of travel, we had finally made it to Marrakech.

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We were struck instantly by the heat—much warmer than even the desert—and the volume of people, sounds and action swirling around us. Fruit stands and miscellaneous car parts and garbage scattered about in the streets; donkeys and motorbikes and cars honking at each other while converging and swerving around pedestrians; locals yelling over each other and dragging carts of construction material and handfuls of dead chickens.

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The scene here reminded us a bit of the chaos in Vietnam (although not quite that crazy). If you really want to see Moroccan life, come to the Medina of Marrakech.

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After dropping our bags off at our riad, located in a nameless alleyway amongst local residents, we made our way down to the famous Jemaa El Fna square.

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Our Moroccan shopping spree had been done in Fez, and we were still trying to get over the outrageous shipping cost to send it home. The plan in Marrakech was just to observe.

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Until I saw the pom poms. Beautifully patterned blankets and pillowcases in every size and color. These are what I had been looking for, and they were nowhere to be found in Fez. “What if we just shipped one more small box home?” I asked Lucas with my best puppy dog face.

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One small box turned into 3 blankets, 4 pillow covers, a tablecloth, soaps and spices. And another $90 to ship $200 worth of souvenirs. What can I say, I’m powerless over pom poms.

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Apart from great shopping, Marrakech is prime for wandering the Medina and taking in your surroundings. In the square, there’s snake charmers and musical performers, monkeys on leashes and henna artists. There’s rows of fresh juice stands and pop up barbecue tents every evening. At night the heart of the city comes alive, beating with the energy of animated locals and tourists diverting their attention in every direction. No trip to Morocco would be complete without a visit to Marrakech.

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Our last few days in Morocco were spent logging miles through the Medina, getting our fill of foods and last minute shopping, and taking refuge in the quiet courtyard of our riad.

It’s hard two believe it’s only been two weeks since we stepped foot in this country, now that we’ve settled into a familiar routine within a new community.

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In one month our round-the-world journey will come to an end, and we’ve saved the biggest culture shock for last: Sri Lanka and India.

By the time this is published, we’ll have already been navigating our way through Sri Lanka for a few days—hopefully our bodies are surviving the transition… find out what we’re up to at the moment over on my Instagram stories!

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Soon I’ll be able to share our video for Morocco, and this one will be quite different than past films. We’re looking forward to trying out this new format and hope you guys enjoy seeing a different style as well!

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More on that soon…

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Morocco: Part 1

Day 194-195: Tangier, Morocco

There are some places in this world that you fall in love with immediately—a paradise you never want to leave. Somewhere that slides right into your comfort zone and makes you feel safe and at peace.

Then there are others that humble you, reminding you of how fortunate and privileged you are to have the freedom to live any life you choose. Somewhere that challenges your version of reality and to face unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable situations.

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Morocco is the latter. While it doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies or feeling as if I belong there, it does give me a great appreciation for another way of life for millions of people, and gratitude knowing that I get to see it from this lens.

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That type of experience is how you grow through traveling, and it is a gift that’s even more lasting and valuable than the memory of, say, enjoying a piña colada on the beach while watching a beautiful sunset (although those are pretty great too!)

We arrived at the Tangier airport on a Thursday afternoon, doing happy dances off the plane as we stepped foot onto African soil for the first time in our lives. The celebration was cut short moments later when we were told they lost my backpack in Spain, and drones were not allowed in Morocco so they’d have to confiscate ours.

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After an hour of trying to communicate through exchanges of broken English and Spanish with Arabic paperwork, my bag miraculously showed up, but they would have to hold our drone hostage at the Tangier airport—which meant we had to pay several hundred dollars to change our flight and travel plans. Our fault for not checking, and quite the expensive lesson to learn!

While it wasn’t the warmest welcome into Morocco, we chalked it up to another travel experience, and hailed the first cab into the Medina.

Medinas are the old, walled sections found in North African cities. It’s the heart of the town, and where all the history and action is.

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We booked a room inside the Medina for $10/bed in a riad—a traditional home, usually several stories tall with a beautifully intricate, open courtyard in the center.

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Our first impression of Morocco was a stark contrast to the quiet calm we’d experienced just hours before in Switzerland.

We wandered through the narrow, nameless pathways of the Medina, in full sensory overload. Trying to make sense of every scent, sound and sight.

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The air here is stagnant and scented. Weighed down by a thick layer of dust and smoke, there’s an underlying musky meat market smell that permeates into your clothing, hair and skin. Every so often it would be masked by whiffs of spices, incense, fruit and urine.

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Our eyes darted in every direction, trying to process every color, shape, pattern and texture of each door and rug and woven shoe we passed.

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The sounds of Arabic syllables and motorcycles and sheep intertwine like a captivating symphony of a movie score, performing a unique song in every new city.

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In the Medina especially, you can’t walk far without a local approaching you, going out of their way to be friendly and show you around. Or sometimes lying to you, telling you that a street is closed so they can divert you into someone’s shop or restaurant for a commission. Either way, in our experience, this always lead to them asking for money. This was to be expected, and it isn’t the first country it has happened in.

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Street vendors also follow you around in the souks, pressuring you to enter their shops and some even sneak their items onto your table at restaurants, trying to force you to buy it. Parents enlist their small children to beg tourists for money. You learn to develop a thicker skin, knowing it all comes with the territory.

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It’s a lot to take in at once, and easy to become overwhelmed at first if you’re not prepared for it (or if you’ve just spent a week in the most peaceful place on earth).

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Our Spanish skills were put to the test again for the first time since leaving Spain back in June. Arabic and French are the most common languages spoken, but many people also speak Spanish in the north due to its close proximity to Spain.

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The food here is flavorful with signature dishes like tajine and couscous, with meat grilled and seasoned to perfection. We were thrilled to trade in our $30 Swiss burgers for $3 meals. We were also pleased to find healthy options for lunch and dinner, but like most countries, they love their plates full of bread and sugary sweets for breakfast (and coffee cups that are way too small).

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Every country seems to have their signature drink, and in Morocco it’s mint tea—all day, every day. It’s their replacement for every liquid—water, coffee, soda, beer and wine. As a Muslim country, alcohol is against their religion, so instead their vice is sweet mint tea and cigarettes.

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Day 196-197: Chefchaouen

After two days in Tangier, we caught a local bus headed to a town by the name of Chefchaouen—known as the Blue Pearl of Morocco.

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This place was one of the first recommendations given to us, and it’s not hard to see why. The Medina of this small desert town is an artists haven.

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Every shade of blue you can imagine covers the walls, ceilings, even the ground. You could spend ten minutes in any one spot, just trying to take it all in. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped so frequently to take photos.

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Oh, and tiny kittens at every corner.

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It’s equally as adorable as it is heartbreaking, with so many starving cats crying out for food. I felt ill every day because it was so upsetting to watch (don’t even get me started on their treatment of donkeys and horses).

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We spent two nights in Chefchaouen and the time flew by—I don’t think we did anything other than eat, sleep, and get lost in the Medina. At sunset we’d head to the roof and listen as the day’s last call for prayer broadcasted through loudspeakers from each mosque, echoing in the stagnant desert air. We’d become used to hearing the Islamic chants five times each day in Tangier, but when the sky darkens in Chefchaouen, the melodic voices have a particularly eerie and mysterious quality.

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If you find yourself in Morocco, I’d put Chefchaouen on the must-see list (and skip Tangier altogether).

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Day 198-200: Fez

The day we left Chefchaouen, I woke up feeling ill with my stomach in knots. I’d been quite lucky throughout this entire trip, feeling proud for having tolerated every level of cuisine for months in South America and Europe. Turns out my stomach has finally met its match in Morocco.

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I survived the four hour bus ride to Fez with the contents of my stomach in place, but it took days to get back to normal. I can only hope this is conditioning my body for India.

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Fez is Morocco’s second largest city, and we came here for one main reason: to shop!

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No one leaves Morocco empty handed, and we’d been holding off on buying any substantial souvenirs/gifts for months, saving it all for the final weeks of our trip.

We read that Fez was one of the best places to shop—both for the selection of items and prices (spoiler alert: Marrakech is much better!) After waiting months for this moment, I was so ready to spend some dirhams.

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Negotiating with vendors here is an art form, and often a very long process. Shop owners are well versed in this skill, naturally, and you have to come prepared. Fortunately, Lucas’ previous career was in sales, so I let him do most of the talking.

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In the end, we walked away with two rugs, two pillow covers, a big market basket (my biggest score at just $8!), spices and beauty products, oils, nine scarves (I should’ve bought 900), table linen, pouches, jewelry and copper mugs. This was over the course of two days and around 15 hours of shopping.

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This may sound like a shoppers paradise, but it’s not exactly the pleasant experience of Pottery Barn when you’re funneled into a pathway bumping into severed goat heads, cornered by men relentlessly trying to sell you rugs every few feet and nearly trampled by oncoming donkeys. Pausing only due to bouts of sharp stomach pain from the sketchy street meat you ate the night before.

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But a rug is worth more if you had to overcome adversity to get it, right? We’ll go with that 🙂

While we did walk away with some great bargains, let’s not forget about postage. There’s no way we could haul our loot around for another five weeks, so we ended up shipping a box back home to the tune of $103. Yikes, that’s almost half the value of the items! Still worth it, but never forget to factor that into your bottom line if you decide to go on an overseas shopping spree.

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After a whirlwind week, our surroundings have finally started to become a bit more familiar and less chaotic. To a first time visitor, Morocco can feel like a tornado that hits you all at once, taking your senses on a wild ride and leaving you in a daze of jumbled, hazy memories. It’s unlike any other place I’ve visited before, and we’re just passengers along for the ride—embracing everything that comes with it.

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There’s beauty in every corner of the world, even if you have to look a little deeper to find it. In some ways, those places are often the most beautiful.

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Stay tuned for Part 2, where we venture by camel into the desert and find ourselves falling victim to yet another (unintended) shopping spree in Marrakech. Or watch as it all unfolds in realtime on my instagram stories. More on the way!

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Switzerland: The Video

After a hectic week in Morocco, I finally had a chance to sit down and sort through our footage from Switzerland. You’ve seen the photos, and those were just a small preview of the magic captured from the sky.

This video is a shorter and simpler than previous formats, as we only had a week to spend and a handful of locations to shoot. It’s entirely 4k drone footage, with a mix of scenes from Lake Lucerne down to Geneva. Autumn is a beautiful time of year to visit, with the trees in shades of red, lovely weather and fewer crowds.

Come join us on our road trip through the windy roads of Switzerland in September (click to watch):

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Morocco Part 1, up next!

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A road trip through Switzerland

Day 183-186: Munich, Germany

After a ten hour bus ride from Croatia, we arrived in Munich and experienced our first taste of the madness that is Oktoberfest.

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I’m not much of a beer drinker, but this event is one of those bucket list items and something Lucas had been wanting to do for years. A few friends from back home flew out to join us, which made it that much better. It’s always so nice to see familiar faces after you’ve been away from home for so long.

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I won’t go into too much detail since this post is about Switzerland (feel free to shoot me a message if you have any questions about the event), but it was a few days of good times and eating nothing but giant pretzels (they are SO good). Munich is a place I’d love to visit again around Christmastime when it’s decorated with lights and garlands and snow… it would be a life size replica of the mini Christmas village set we had growing up. One day 😉

Back to the road trip!

Day 187: Zurich, Switzerland

Two of our friends caught a flight out of Germany, but one stayed behind to join us for a few days in Switzerland. We had planned to spend a week driving around the country, with Zurich being our first stop.

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Zurich is your typical big Swiss city—situated on a river, clean and quiet, and outrageously expensive. Starving after our long day of travel from Munich, we eyed each menu as we walked towards our hostel, skipping every $30 burger and $20 side salad. No surprise coming from the wealthiest city in Europe.

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While we enjoyed the pleasant environment and crisp fall air, we didn’t come to Switzerland for its metropolitan areas. After a brief night in the city, we grabbed the keys to our freedom-mobile and headed for the mountains. For many countries, renting a car is the best way to explore, and Switzerland is no exception. The country is known for its having some of the most scenic train rides in the world, which we originally considered using instead, but those don’t go everywhere and they’re quite expensive. With an average cost of around $70 per day (including gas), renting a car (at least when there’s no snow on the roads) is a no brainer.

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Day 188: Lake Lucerne > Lungern > Interlaken

Although Switzerland is small enough to drive from one side to the other in just a few hours, we had only a week to spend and too many places pinned on our map. We also had to drop our friend off at the Basel airport midway through, which meant we had to skip the southeastern portion of the country *cue the sad violins*

Not wanting to waste any time, we headed south towards Interlaken, passing through the lake regions of Lucerne and Lungern.

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If we weren’t convinced before, these photos prove that the $1500 drone investment was worth every penny (and apparently they dropped the price!)

This gem of a village on Lake Lucerne (with no name on our map) had friendly goat photobombers:

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And then there’s this one, just outside of Lungern:

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The first thing you notice when in the countryside of Switzerland are the bells. All of the animals—the cows, sheep and goats—are outfitted with large bells around their necks. You can hear the distant ringing 24/7. It’s incredibly charming.

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Day 1 of our road trip ended in Interlaken—a town nestled between two lakes.

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The clouds cleared enough to reveal a cotton candy pink sky—a picture perfect backdrop for the countless paragliders floating about.

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Paragliding is hugely popular in Switzerland—the sound of helicopters, and parachutes in the sky are about as common as birds in some places.

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I can only imagine how incredible the view looks from above if this is how it looks from below.

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^This was the view from our hostel. We paid $31 per bed in a dorm room with less than sanitary and comfortable conditions (think black mold in the shower, hard beds and multiple loud snorers)—but that’s the tradeoff for affordability in Switzerland.

Day 189: Lauterbrunnen > Thun > Bern > Basel

The next day, we found ourselves a short drive south of Interlaken—in the storybook land known as Lauterbrunnen.

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I had pinned this location after seeing it all over Instagram… and it truly is the mecca of Switzerland. I can’t imagine it gets much better than this.

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We climbed underneath a waterfall, watched the sunlight pierce the clouds to reveal a forest of orange and red trees, and I learned by accident that electric fences are no joke while trying to call a sheep over.

But man, it was worth it.

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By the way—our drone takes some incredible photos, but you can also get pretty epic shots with an iphone as well. More than half the photos from this trip were from my iphone 6s plus, and I’ve taken a few comparison shots to illustrate the differences.

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The iphone’s colors are less saturated and there’s less detail, which is a look that some people actually prefer. The biggest difference, of course, is the ability to shoot in raw and the flexibility that allows you in editing. For scenarios like portraits, interiors or up close subjects, you’d certainly need an SLR/4k equivalent for professional results, but I find that for landscape/outdoor shots (aside from an aerial perspective of course), I reach for my phone more often than not. I haven’t even taken my DSLR out of the bag since Greece.

Here’s a couple more examples… pretty dang close, no?

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But back to Lauterbrunnen. My biggest regret is not being able to stay there longer—it was my favorite place we visited in Switzerland. If you’ve ever been to Yosemite National Park, the similarities are pretty striking, with steep cliffs and cascading waterfalls surrounding a narrow valley, and snow capped mountains in the distance. Except in Yosemite you don’t have pastures with cows and sheep in bells, with historic chalets and barns every few acres. Lauterbrunnen wins.

As much as I wanted to stay, daylight was wasting and we had to make it to Basel by nightfall, so we found another village by the name of Grindelwald, just ten miles to the east.

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Another incredibly picturesque valley town, though much larger and less quaint than Lauterbrunnen.

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We decided it wasn’t worth the $60 cable car ride to the top of the mountain (highway robbery) and set the drone out to get the views for us.

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We ate a lunch of fruit, cheese and crackers in the parking lot (this was what we survived on all week to save money) before making our way back north.

After passing back through Interlaken, we stopped by the St. Beatus-Höhlen caves on the north side of Lake Thun.

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The water level was on the low side so the waterfalls weren’t too impressive, and we spent an hour touring the caves inside the mountain after the mischievous gnome convinced us to go in.

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By the time we emerged it was drizzling outside, so we made one more brief stop in the towns of Oberhofen and Thun to see the famous castles.

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A successful Day 2 had come to an end, and we couldn’t wait to see what Day 3 had in store as we woke up before dawn for a full day of exploration.

Day 190: Gruyères > Zermatt

After dropping our friend off at the Basel airport on the border of France and Germany, it was back to just the two of us. We loved spending a week with our friends, but there’s a different dynamic traveling with only your partner, and we were ready for that again. After 190 days together with no breaks, we’ve only grown stronger… now that is true love 😉

Being in one of the most romantic places in the world doesn’t hurt either. Some might prefer exotic beaches or tropical islands… but there’s something about these towering mountains and chilly fall air that gives Switzerland the edge in the romance department. If you’re looking for a honeymoon destination that isn’t your typical beach locale, I’d put the Swiss alps on your radar.

Note that only the alps only run through the south of Switzerland, so if you’re thinking of coming here for the mountains (as you should), skip the north altogether.

After a couple hours on the road headed back towards the alps, the landscape began to become more mountainous, and the signs more… French. Just like the north of Italy may as well be Austria, the west part of Switzerland is indistinguishable from France.

Our first stop was in the town of Gruyères, famous for its gruyère cheese.

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There’s an old walled village with a castle, which was dramatically revealed as we drove in through the valley, sitting atop a ridge surrounded by low lying clouds and pastures of cows.

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For an hour we were transported back to our time in France, wandering through the old village of folks selling croissants and exchanging Bonjour’s and Merci’s.

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But we couldn’t stay long, because the Matterhorn was waiting.

Out of all the pins I marked for this trip, I was most looking forward to seeing the Matterhorn. Perhaps partly due to fond memories of riding the attraction at Disney as a child, but also because I’m just a sucker for a good mountain. My friends—The Matterhorn delivered.

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The town of Zermatt is the closest you can get to the mountain (without hiking to it, of course) so we booked an AirBnb with an unobstructed view. It’s a car-less town, so we parked in the nearest village of Täsch and took the train in.

Our AirBnb room (shared in a chalet with other rooms) is normally around $150/night but we had a $100 credit in our account. Best $50 ever spent.

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We really lucked out on the weather—it had been cloudy all week, but the day we arrived the sun finally peaked out to reveal the mountain. The king sized bed and comforter were heavenly, and crawled out of bed only once to for a tasty Swiss dinner of raclette, cooked by our hosts.

Watching the sun set and rise over the mountain from our window was truly the most special experience during our time in Switzerland—and one of the most memorable from this entire trip. If you ever find yourself in this part of the world, I urge you to not to miss this.

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Another regret of mine is not being able to spend more time here. I would have loved to taken a cable car or hike closer to the mountain, but the day we left it was raining and we couldn’t afford to spend two more days in one location. Sadly, we had to say our goodbyes from the window of the train on the way back to Täsch.

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Day 191: Zeneggen > Saint-Jean > La Gouille

Once reunited with our car, we decided to take a leisurely drive through the back roads to see what other small villages we could discover. Zeneggen was our first stop.

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The winding, narrow switchbacks along the steep mountain were worth it. Behold, Switzerland in its full fall glory:

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We parked the car and wandered through the villages one main road, without a single soul in sight… except this gang of llamas:

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This one is my spirit animal:

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And this posse of cows:

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One of my favorite stops, for sure.

We made a quick detour through the next valley of Saint-Jean, then finally over to our final destination of La Gouille.

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Apart from the beautiful fall colors, the great thing about visiting Switzerland in the fall is that it’s the off season, which means very few visitors. We only made contact with a few humans during the entire 24 hour period after leaving Zermatt.

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I hope it stays this peaceful and untouched forever.

Day 192: Sion > Bagnes

Day 5 began with a dramatic view of the two castles of Sion, a larger city along the Rhone valley:

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The sky dried up just long enough for us to snap a couple closeups from the air:

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Our Airbnb for the night was located in Bagnes, in a valley at the base of the famous ski town of Verbier. It was easily one of our favorite places yet, and affordable too.

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We spent the afternoon wandering around town, admiring the French chateaus and autumn landscape.

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The clouds finally cleared out and we were able to get a birds eye view over the valley (just wait for the video!)

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We cooked our own dinner and enjoyed it on the patio as the sun lit up the snow capped glaciers in the distance. It was our last night in the alps, and we soaked up every minute.

Day 193: Verbier > Aigle > Rivaz > Geneva

On our last day in Switzerland, we first made a quick stop in Verbier, which has an expansive view of the valley and mountains to the west.

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Then it was all downhill from there—literally, not figuratively 😉

We passed the Pissevache waterfall, just north of Martigny (it was 60° and sunny at this point):

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Then we took a detour in the town of Aigle, which fell on our radar after seeing a majestic castle surrounded by a vineyard. It was even more beautiful in person.

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The whole village was almost too perfect for words. Red and golden leaves fell from the sky as we passed little French speaking children laughing and playing in the streets.

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Each home had its own private vineyard and garden, and as we passed one with a For Sale sign I imagined us moving here. We’d immediately bear five children who each played a different instrument, spoke four different languages, wore ruffled dresses and leiderhosen and began and ended each sentence with “please” and “thank you”, respectively. Surely that’s what every Swiss family is like, right?

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A girl can dream.

We continued north along Lake Geneva, which shares a border with France. A viewpoint sign caught our eye, so we pulled off the main road into the village of Rivaz.

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Another picturesque little French-Swiss town, with vineyards and views for miles.

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As late afternoon approached, it was time to end our Switzerland adventure and return the car to the Geneva airport. In a matter of hours we’d be on a completely different continent, exploring the wildly contrasting African country of Morocco. As always, a bittersweet ending to what was an unforgettable experience.

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Switzerland, thank you for the fond memories. We can’t wait to come back for more!

Stay tuned for the upcoming video of our week long road trip, and check out my instagram stories for the current sensory overload we’re experiencing in Morocco. This place is the polar opposite of Switzerland, and there’s so much to share I can hardly keep up.

Only six more weeks left of this trip around the world…

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