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!)

BRAZIL

17 Days in Peru: Cusco to Lima

PERU

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!

Portugal

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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39 thoughts on “THE BIG TRIP RECAP: Best, Worst, and Cost Breakdown

  1. Thank you for sharing your top three places! They were my top three ‘to visit’ after seeing your photos and hearing about your experiences! Perhaps you could share how you researched and booked your trips? I’m sure you have great insight! Also curious how it feels to be back?! Overwhelming? Comfortable? Disappointing? Ha!

    1. We left with a general idea of the countries we wanted to visit, and figured it out once we got there! Talking to other travelers and going from there is the best way to do it. You have to leave yourself open to opportunity and living in the moment. And we are LOVING every minute of being home… no disappointment at all! We’re completely focused on starting our new business and it’s taking up all of our time — in a good way 😉

  2. What an awesome experience! I’ve loved following your journey and especially loved this post! Best wishes on your new adventure!

  3. Your posts about Peru, but most especially your video, both put the country on my list and shot it to the top. I’ve already told my travel companions that’s our destination for 2019.

    I also greatly appreciated your insight about both Morocco and India, two places which have long been on my list but are now getting the side-eye considering the more realistic picture you’ve painted. I’d still like to go, but perhaps with clearer vision than before.

  4. I enjoyed following your experience. I am not sure I could travel like that…I’m so uncomfortable in other cultures/places. This gave me the motivation to pick a few and make them happen someday in my lifetime. I will say reading the experiences you had in India made me nauseous JUST reading it…there is no way I could stomach it all. The crowds, being pasted against people as far as the eye could see, the smells, the burning and the men groping…oh my…you are a strong woman to endure it all! I’m so glad you are home safe! Also, did you really do all of that without getting robbed or losing any valuables?

    My only other question was when you did excursions or other day trips did you ALWAYS have your expensive equipment on you? I would be so nervous to leave that in any place I am staying, but it seemed some of your day trips would be difficult/ cumbersome to bring a drone or good camera to but where do you “safely” leave it while you are out?

    Congrats on making your dreams come true by way of these adventures! BTW…I am super excited for your next adventure of design/homes/flipping etc. Always my favorite and what lead me to follow you!

    1. Yeah, I really would not recommend India for most people! It is good and important to go outside of your comfort zone, but I’m not sure visiting India is the best way to do that. Lucky for us, and a bit surprising maybe, nothing valuable was ever lost or stolen!

      When the camera bag wasn’t with us, it was kept in our room. Usually it was a private room/airBnb which you don’t have to worry about, and most dorm rooms have lockers. Sometimes there were no lockers but it was a safe environment and we felt comfortable leaving it. Fellow backpackers are generally quite trustworthy in most scenarios — it’s the outside population you have to worry about. I never had a problem with my bags in SE Asia either.

      1. Jen hit the nail on the head with my thoughts on following along about India. I definitely have no aspiration to go there, ever. Have you ever seen the series Departures? I’m from Toronto and the 2 guys in it are local so it may not be all that popular outside of Canada but they left everything at home and travelled the world for a year. Each episode is a different country. When I watched the India episode I felt sad and disgusted, it didn’t seem like something I’d ever want to witness. My roommate however watched it with me and was so captivated she’s added it to her immediate list! It’s neat how everyone enjoys different places/peoples/experiences and just goes to show there are places in this world meant to be explored by everyone!

        I did Italy and Greece this summer and loved every minute of it but the culture change is an adjustment and it’s not even that different from North America in a lot of sense! It definitely has me wanting to travel more but I think more of Europe or Australia/New Zealand will be my next adventure.

        I’m curious to know where is next on your hit list! Now that you’ve seen so much do you think it’s harder or easier to pick a destination? Would you ever do such a long trip again, or recommend it for that matter or do you think it’s more enjoyable in shorter trips?

        Sorry this turned into a novel, loved following along and can’t wait for the house flips! 🙂

        1. I’ve never seen Departures — is it a documentary or scripted? I made a point to not try and ‘figure out’ India before I went, so I could experience it as it was with no expectations or preconceived notions. I still had the same general opinion as most other travelers I spoke to (probably a bit worse). I wonder if your roommate is captivated in a good way, or in a can’t-look-away-from-this-trainwreck-way… I think India is a bit of both. It makes the US/Europe/every developed country feel quite similar, culture-wise.

          Tough to say if there will be another extended trip like this in our near future. Certainly a month or so here and there, and longer when we have the financial means, but we need to focus on our business for a while. I think it’s easier to choose now that we’re more familiar with different cultures and have caught glimpses of many places along the way. As for our next destination, an African safari is high on our list 🙂

          1. It’s a documentary, they actually film it themselves. It’s on Netflix here but I don’t know if the US one would carry it. I find it on Kodi too.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Departures_(TV_series)

            I think she is just into experiencing other cultures first hand, and seeing the way other people live. Too adventurous for me LOL. She’s done SE Asia and a lot of South America. She also climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and did a safari in Tanzania and loveddddd it! I’m sure you will too! 🙂

  5. oh my goodness, jenna, this is so helpful and so incredible! i’ve been following along since the beginning of your travels, and have found your honest take on living the nomad lifestyle so refreshing and inspirational. i so appreciate you putting this together for those of us looking to take shorter trips to these locations. i too LOVED greece – is there anywhere more beautiful?! – and am hoping to make it to italy next year. welcome back to the good ol US of A!

  6. Thank you for your transparency and honesty about this experience, Jenna! Your photos are truly stunning and it was fun to travel vicariously through you guys. The videos and posts have definitely helped me tailor my travel bucket list, so merci! I’m excited to see what’s next from y’all design-wise but I hope you are enjoying some down-time with friends + family back in the states! <3

  7. It is SO helpful to have such a high level overview of your favorites, least favorites, and budgets. I really appreciate your transparency, and really value your opinion considering you’ve been so many places! I’m trying to figure out where I want to take my next vacation, and Peru was at the top of my list (along with Galapagos and Morocco) and now it’s been decided – Peru! Obviously I will be seeing Machu Picchu but I’m trying to figure out which trek I want to take to get me there. The Lares Trek is appealing to me because it is less crowded and you really get to take in the culture of the villages. Did you hear anything about the Lares Trek, or do you have any insight?

    I’m glad you took the opportunity to travel the world. What an awesome experience. I’m really envious of your bravery to do that. I can’t see what you and Lucas do with your business now that you’re stateside!

    1. Also, it’s interesting to hear your perspective on India. I assumed it would be among your favorite places. One of my friends has a business importing the most gorgeous block-printed textiles and artifacts from India (Jaipur mostly) and LOVES the country. Given her love for the place I figured you would love it, too, since you both have such a keen eye for style. If you’re curious, I encourage you to check out her work at melaandroam.com. I think you would love her product.

      I went to India on a work trip (just to Mumbai with a quick side trip to the Taj) and I can definitely see how it wouldn’t be for everyone. My husband would DESPISE it… the overpopulation, the filth, the smells. I found it to be fascinating, although I haven’t been to anywhere near as many places as you have. It just goes to show your particular experience at that point in time (your rough experience in Pushkar and being sick) really shapes your opinion of the place you’re in.

      1. I did pick up a block print blanket from Jaipur… they have the best selection! But that’s about it as far as shopping there goes. So true that your experience completely dictates your overall opinion on a specific place, it’s hard to separate the two.

    2. Yayyy! We didn’t look into any treks while there (I was still recovering from the flu) so unfortunately I can’t give any specific recommendations. I might suggest waiting until you arrive to talk to folks/other travelers in person about your options. There’s so many tours/treks out there and you generally don’t have to reserve them in advance. Good luck and have fun!

  8. Thanks for sharing all of the cost details…it wasn’t as expensive as I thought it might be! The mind shift from vacation to nomad is crucial. It’s too easy to indulge in vacation mode – but in everyday normal mode most people are more frugal. It was so fun to follow your journey and live vicariously through you while we restore our old 100+ year old house. It made me question what I was doing with my life for sure. 🙂

    I think I really started to love the trip when you made it to Europe. Portugal blew me away but then you did the road trip in France AND THEN ITALY and I was like frothing because I couldn’t get enough. AND THEN SWITZERLAND. I’ve done a lot of traveling but not to Europe and I feel like I know how to navigate now thanks to you! I must say – I’ve wanted to visit India for over a decade mainly to practice yoga in Mysore and now I’m seriously jaded after your experience. I don’t think I have it in me to fly across the world and deposit myself in that scene. Especially since you shared the same sentiments I had prior to your visit. Again, thanks for sharing – it was so insightful. Also – thanks for engaging on instagram. A lot of people on there with as many followers as you have often don’t and that was a breath of fresh air! I can’t wait to see what you 2 do next.

    1. I could die happy just traveling around Europe forever… it’s truly the best continent on earth! If you have the money to spend in India (it is cheap), you could stay at a nice resort and limit your exposure to the “outside world”. I think people who do that and are able to practice yoga all day, eat delicious food and travel by private car have a very different experience 🙂 Who knows, maybe the situation there will look completely different one day.

  9. So sad that your travels are over (for now!) I really enjoyed following along and got excited when I saw a video was being posted. We are heading to Greece this summer and was happy to hear it was in your top 3!! Also going to Portugal and Spain. Thank you for making it feel like I was on the trip with you both! Happy wedding planning! Merry Christmas!

  10. Wow – I am really impressed with the cost breakdown – something I will be referring back to again for sure! I think for me seeing your trip to Switzerland made me want to see it one day. It is so beautiful!

  11. As an European, you made me want to travel to Portugal, Switzerland and Greece! I was a bit sad you couldn’t come to Belgium but I’m sure you’ll be back in Europe in a near future 😊 By the way, I’m going to Philippines next January as you made me on top of my travel list after reading your posts from your previous travel. Any tips welcome 😉 Big kisses from Brussels

    1. We met many wonderful folks from Belgium, and wish we could have made it up to northern Europe! One of these days 🙂 Take a look through my Philippines post again for specific recommendations — don’t miss Palawan/El Nido and Coron!

  12. Very interesting post, thank you! I do think it’s important that you noted this was not a vacation in a typical sense (or any sense at all, I suppose). I’ve seen some of the comments on IG about “how can you afford this”, etc, and people are just comparing it to when they go on vacation for 1 week and how much that costs…then multiply that by 8 months.

    I truly enjoyed following along and can’t wait to see what you guys do next. I will always come back to your posts any time we are considering international travel or if I need some gorgeous photos or fun travel stories.

    My husband just emailed me today and said to look up pics of Malta because he/we may get a chance to travel there for his work. I said – Jenna Sue went there, here is her post! haha!

    1. You are 100% correct! It’s a complete mindset shift. I really hope you get a chance to visit Malta — it really surprised us! Tip: try not to research too much beforehand. It’s much more fulfilling when you show up with zero expectations and can fully live in the moment/experience it with fresh eyes.

  13. Thanks for sharing this post. It was very informative and I’ve been wanting to know your recommendations. The biggest questions I have are how you navigate the language and communication barrier? It’s my biggest concern while traveling. Are their apps, books, etc that you use and could you give advice in this area? Thanks so much for sharing this experience.

    1. Good question Amy! While knowing the language makes life much easier and the experience richer, you can always convey basic survival needs (‘toilet’ is surprisingly universal) or by hand gestures/expressions. Any tourism-based company will have someone who speaks English, and technical stuff like accommodations/travel can be booked online beforehand. There were definitely some frustrations around directions/transportation but we always figured it out, even if it took extra time/money. It’s very rare you’ll end up somewhere that no one speaks any English, and even then, you really don’t have to know the language to survive!

  14. I have enjoyed your posts and videos – definitely a life changing and the most memorable experience ever! So many of us say we couldn’t do it but we can!!! Thanks for sharing your journey. I can’t wait to see what you do next. I look forward to seeing how your travels influence your decorating! Enjoy a wonderful holiday with family and friends!
    Jane

  15. Good on you, keeping such close tabs on your expenses. And then sharing.

    My question is, how does it feel to switch back to a less nomadic lifestyle? Are you relieved? Confused? Nostalgic? Maybe just ready to jump into whatever the next adventure is?

    And it will be so much richer for all that wealth of travel!

    Loved all of your fabulous “favorite photos”. Raw talent.

    Welcome back!

  16. Welcome home Jenna. I have loved following your adventures, and excited to see what’s next for you both. I’m happy you’re home! (Sorry,it’s the Mom in me!!)
    The cost breakdown was very interesting to me. Not quite as expensive as I thought it would be. Makes me kinda sad that we didn’t do something like this in our younger years.
    SO happy that you’re loving life! Hugs to you!

  17. Thank you so much for inviting us to be part of this amazing journey. It was such a joy to follow along- reading your posts, seeing the pictures, watching the videos. I had started reading your blog because I loved your design style before your first traveling adventure a few years ago, and it is so thrilling to vicariously experience the places you visit. Your photos and videos are stunning, a welcome daydream escape from my quieter life. After reading about your adventures, I think I’d really love to visit Carcasonne as well. I share a birthday with Lucas, and it’s been a dream of mine since childhood to celebrate my birthday in France someday… 🙂 Best wishes on your new endeavors upon returning home!

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