To sum it all up.

We have been home now for a month and what a busy month it has been, we had 2 weeks in Auckland seeing friends and family and then we moved to Hamilton where I started my new job on moving day. Mr Logistics (Mike) organised the move, unpacked the boxes and organised our new and temporary home. We finally have wifi – as opposed to 1GB on our phone so now it’s blogging time!

 

2015 was quite a year and here is a summary.

  • 50 weeks
  • 34 flights
  • 20 countries
  • 13 languages
  • 7 workaways
  • 3 experiences of volunteering in SE Asia
  • 6,000 ish photos
  • numerous bus trips, boat trips and a few train trips
  • 6 different underground systems
  • 7 different sim cards and anyone’s free wifi that we could find.
  • We swam in the Andaman Sea, the South China Sea, the Atlantic (well paddle) the Mediterranean Sea, Miller Lake (Ontario), Crystal Lake (Michigan) and more pools than we can count.

Here’s a few things we learnt

  • You don’t need a big backpack, everywhere we went was suitable for a suitcase, so 3 months into our trip we swapped backpacks for 4 wheel cases. SUCH A GOOD IDEA, after all we are 53 and 55 not 23 and 25. From here on in we used 4 cases, 2 large and 2 cabin size, they had 4 wheels each, TSA locks and were hard cases. Our brand was Wimbledon, they didn’t cost a fortune but weren’t dirt cheap. Thanks KL for such good shopping. These cases made it home and while they have knocks and scratches we are proud of they still have plenty of life left in them.
  • Katmandu packing cells are brilliant. When you are in and out of a suitcase for a year these were a great idea for being organised.
  • Sat Nav is a tool but not the only tool, ours is a Garmen and was really useful but you still need to double check on a paper map or on your phone. However, don’t rely on your phone as you may find yourself without internet. Our satnav was capable of taking us up some interestingly narrow and windy roads that may be shorter in theory but are definitely longer in reality. Check on a map first.
  • I bought a good quality pashmina in KL and it turned out to be one of the best things I bought all year. If you can buy one, spend as much money as you can afford. They cover you up when needed eg temples, they cover you up when you are cold eg as a scarf or shawl, they double as a blanket on a plane and they can dress up a very basic outfit when needed. Mine is 90% pashmina (wool from the neck of a goat, it is finer than cashmere) and 10% silk. A good quality one feels very soft, can fold up very small and its creases will drop out when hung. Remember if the price seems to good to be true it probably is. Buy one from a reputable dealer and bargin.
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The mighty pashmina used as a scarf in Ireland
  • Buy shoes that work for you. You will most likely spend hours on your feet and well fitting shoes make such a difference.
  • We booked almost all our flights through google flights, listen to local advice and be prepared to spend a lot of time organising flights. If you are travelling on a budget this is the price you pay. Remember not all airlines are on google flights so sometimes you need to look elsewhere.
  • Most of our accommodation was sourced using booking.com We quickly got to ‘genius level’ which gave us great discounts and booking.com has accommodation at all levels in all countries. Remember that things vary from country to country, luxury accommodation in Asia is cheaper than basic accommodation in London or Paris. Just because it says B and B doesn’t mean you will get breakfast. Some of our best accommodation was in smaller hotels and in the ‘old city’.  Free breakfast is great, you fill up and don’t need to eat for hours (good for the budget).
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Our gorgeous hotel in KL Ramada Plaza
  • On the subject of free breakfasts. This is a touchy topic and you often have to regard this as a fuel stop not a gourmet experience. We have had breakfasts that vary greatly in quality, rubbery eggs, cold meats and cheese, curried chicken, fried noodles, rice porridge, fluffy white overly sweet bread, reconstituted milk, cardboard like waffles, the list goes on. I truly feel sorry for the hotels who are trying to produce breakfasts that suit all tastes. No one wins really, just regard it as a fuel stop and fill up. Save the real food experiences for later in the day.
  • Instead of going to the well known places seek out the similar but less known eg we have been to Stonehenge before and this time we went to the Avebury Stone Circle in Wiltshire. Truly amazing, in a small village and not a lot of tourists. Don’t queue for the Louvre and stand in a crowd to see the Mona Lisa, see other equally impressive museums or art galleries at a fraction of the price or better still free eg Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (Barcelona)  which is huge and your ticket lasts 2 days or try the smaller Kelvin Grove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow or the V & A in London.
  • workaway experiences made a great year even more memorable. Workaway gives you the opportunity to live like a local. Workaway experiences vary and even the not so good ones give you the opportunity to learn something about a place and its people. We would highly recommend this as a way to travel. We met some truly interesting and generous people we hope to see again one day.  We got to work on a Scottish estate, pick blackberries in the Slieve Bloom mountains (Ireland) eat pizza in a piazza in Mantova (Italy) make glass and perfect our nail gun skills in Devon and try a slice of life in Malaga (Spain).
  • If possible don’t over plan your trip. Allowing for a bit of freedom means you can say yes when a golden opportunity presents its self. This is how we got to volunteer in a school in the Cameron Highlands, or go to Malta

So our overall impressions? This was a great idea, it wasn’t all easy, it wasn’t cheap but we discovered things about ourselves and each other we didn’t know eg I’m not that good on a motor scooter and Mike can mend a dislocated thumb, what Mike and I have is something special, we  survived with very few disagreements and our marriage is stronger than ever.  We discovered that there are some very, very good people out there making a difference; read more here, here and here .

In New Zealand we actively encourage our young people to take off and see the world but I would recommend you do it again in your 50’s. You see it with older eyes and with experienced minds. We have a different perspective on many things now and the adventures have not come to an end. Consequently we have taken off to a job in a new city, we are meeting new people and finding new places to visit. Most of the time we stayed between one and three weeks in a place and it is now week 3 in Hamilton and I wonder if we should be packing our bags and moving on……mmm not just yet!

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This is my photo of the year, taken in Puy l’Eveque, France at about 9pm after a meal at a local galette cafe. Happy memories

The blog will continue, I am going to share food and recipes that I have gathered as we have travelled. I hope you will continue this journey with us!

 

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