In 2014 we decided that we wanted to move back to the northwestern US to be near our families and be able to enjoy winter and mountains again. Since that meant quitting our jobs and packing our things anyhow we decided to travel! We planned and saved and come June 2014 we packed up and took off!
Here’s a map of all the countries we visited along the way! Counting the US, since we did travel here first we visited 28 countries. 29 if you believe Tibet should not be ruled by China. In all we spent 411 days abroad, about 6 months each in Europe and Asia. We dipped below the equator in Indonesia, but spent the vast majority of the trip in the northern hemisphere.
We started off our trip with a roadtrip across the southern and western United States. We visited Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington. It was an amazing trip filled with national parks, friends, couchsurfing, family and beautiful sights.
After staying in the Seattle area for a little over a week we flew off to London on July 11th 2014! We stuck to our original plan for the first few weeks during which we visited London, Winchester, Amsterdam and Hannover. At that point our plan required a little modification due to some date changes with our first Workaway. So instead of heading to The Black Forest we spent a week driving around the Rhine Valley drinking (dry) riesling and visiting castles. The Workaway still wasn’t ready for us, so we headed to Switzerland and had an amazing 2.5 weeks. We visited Zurich, Lucerne, Kussnacht, Interlaken, Tschinglehorn, Zermatt, Grachen, Gruyeres and Bern.
At this point our Workaway was ready for us. We spent 3 weeks at Bierhaeusle working, hiking, eating wonderful food and enjoying good company. Then it was time to meet up with my father in Munich for Oktoberfest! We then made our way (still with Dad) to Prague, Kutna Hora, Brno and Vienna. My father went home from Vienna and Sarah and I continued on to Bratislava. From Bratislava we made our way to Stary Smokovec in the Tatra Mountains. Then it was down to Budapest for a wonderful few days.
After Budapest it was time to make our way to Beijing, however we had a special stopover in London for the Harry Potter Studio tour.
In Beijing we met up with Sarah’s mother, Mary and her aunt, Maize. They took us on an Overseas Adventure Travel tour through China, Tibet, Hong Kong and Siem Reap Cambodia. Our stops in China were Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Chong Ching and a cruise on the Yangtze River. In Tibet we went to Lhasa, unfortunately the country is under tight control by the Chinese government and we did not get to go anywhere else. We then visited Hong Kong, another place the Chinese have a chokehold on and spent a few days in Cambodia exploring Angkor Wat before the tour group left us.
Once on our own we spent a couple more weeks in Cambodia, traveled Vietnam from south to north, and then flew to Thailand where we spent 2 months. In Thailand we trekked through the jungle in Khao Yai National Park, met friends in Sriracha, spent Christmas in Ban Chang, experienced New Year’s and went rock climbing in Chiang Mai, drove a rental car around the Mai Hong Son loop, Explored Bangkok, visited Ayuthaya and spent 3 weeks volunteering at a preschool in Ao Nang.
Next up was Malaysia where we explored Kuala Lumpur and went on a jungle trek with our good friend David on Borneo.
Next stop was The Philippines! We spent 30 days here mostly on Luzon, the main island where we had a wonderful time in Manila, trekked through rice paddy terraces, explored caves, saw mummies and experienced a festival complete with dance crews. We then headed south for some R+R on a little island call San Antonio, then further to Cebu City, from whence we flew to Indonesia.
Our Indonesian adventure started with Balinese new year, continued with cooking, biking, hiking, and scuba diving in Bali. Then snorkeling and relaxation on Gili Trawangan, next was our 4 day trek of Mt Rinjani. After that we watched surfers and relaxed in Kuta Lombok before heading over to Java. We experience the cleanest city in Indonesia (Surabaya), explored Mt Ijen, visited Solo and were wowed in Yogyakarta. Our last stop in Indonesia was bustling Jakarta.
From Jakarta we flew to Singapore, our last stop in Southeast Asia. A fascinating place. Definitely unique and interesting amongst its Asian neighbors.
From Singapore we flew to Turkey, where we met with Sarah’s mother and her friend Dana. We explored Cappadocia, then Konya, then rented a car and drove along the coast visiting Chimaera, Kekova, Patara, Fethiye, Kayakoy, Oludeniz, Pamukkale, Kusadasi, Tire and Izmir before flying up to Istanbul to finish it off. Along the way we visited many sets of Roman, Greek and even older ruins. We visited early Christian sites, saw the remnants of regime and official religion changes and all along were fascinated by the current melange of people.
After Turkey was Greece! Mary’s friend Dana left from Istanbul and it was there that her friend Mona joined us before we all flew to Athens together. We spent a few days in Athens and then headed south to Mykonos, Santorini and then spent several days on Crete. We flew from Crete up to Thessaloniki and then made our way south stopping in Meteora and Delphi (where we celebrated my 29th birthday). On the last night of our Greek adventure with Mary and Mona we saw a wonderful ballet performance in Athens at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.
The next day Sarah and I attempted to fly to Bulgaria, missed our flight and wound up back on Crete where we spent the next 10 days. It was lovely. On our second attempt to fly to Bulgaria we succeeded.
We had a wonderful time in Sofia, lived in Plovdiv for 10 days, and explored Veliko Tarnovo before taking a train to Bucharest, Romania.
In Romania we rented a car and headed north. We stopped in Sinaia to be wowed by palaces before moving on to Brasov where we spent our anniversary. We continued along to Sighisoara via a few Saxon villages with fortified churches, then to Sibiu. After Sibiu we took a fantastic drive on the Transfagarasan Highway, Top Gear’s reigning “best road in the world”. This brought us to Pitesti, a mildly interesting modern city. We ended our time in Romania with a few days in Bucharest, which is a really cool city.
The next step was a flight to Riga, the capital of Latvia. We had a great time exploring this city and we met up with our friend Janis, a native Latvian who worked in The Black Forest with us. Riga was wonderful and we hope to go back and see more of Latvia.
From Riga we took a bus to Tallinn, Estonia. A wonderful little city with medieval towers and walls all about, fascinating culture and an interesting and tragic history.
Next we took a ferry to Helsinki, Finland where we met with Mary and Maize again. We had a wonderful time exploring Helsinki and then road tripping through Turku, Rauma, Vaasa, and Tampere. There were lots of fascinating stops along the way. At the end of our road trip we flew to Kirkenes, Norway where we boarded the MS Richard With, a Hurtigruten ship bound down the Norwegian coast to Bergen.
The cruise was awesome. Incredible scenery, wonderful excursions, midnight sun, fantastic fjords, gorgeous scenery and lovely food. At the end we disembarked in Bergen and spend a couple days exploring that town before taking the “Norway in a Nutshell” tour through Gudvangen, Flam and Myrdal, which deposited us in Oslo. Mary and Maize spent a couple days in Oslo with us before flying home. The next day my brother and parents (Alex, Ken, and Wendy) flew in.
We spent a lovely few days in Oslo before taking a bus over the border to Arvika. In Arvika we rented a car, which took us family hunting. We found grave sites, visited the home my great grandmother grew up in, enjoyed local cuisine and had a merry time. Then we drove down the coast to Gothenburg, which was a fun town with lots going on at the time. From there we drove to Stockholm, a really cool city with lots of interesting history. While in Stockholm Sarah and Wendy got in touch with a 2nd cousin they had tracked down through Ancestry.com.
We sent them a message and got a reply. The next morning I gave them a call and within a few hours we were on a ferry to visit them in their home ont he island of Blido. It was wonderful! From Blido we took a water taxi down to Svartso, where we hiked, biked, picked blueberries, swam in lakes and the Baltic Sea and generally relaxed. We then had lunch with two more of our cousins who came out from Stockholm to visit. From Svartso we took a ferry to Grinda, where we passed a nice day in a little cottage.
After our time in the Archipelago we took a ferry back to Stockholm on Wendy’s birthday. For her birthday dinner we met with 3 cousins, it was really wonderful getting to see family in Sweden!
Next we rented another car and drove down to Hanaskog where my great grandfather came from. We did not find any graves or family, but it was a nice little town and we enjoyed it. After that we drove down to Malmo, where we had a nice afternoon and bought Alex a birthday cake. From there we took a train across the water to Copenhagen. We had a great birthday dinner for Alex and then spent the next few days exploring the incredible city of Copenhagen, interesting place and people, lots of fun!
From Copenhagen we flew to Seattle with a quick stop in Reykjavik, which we hope to return to someday.
Thus ended our big trip! It was absolutely incredible. We saw many amazing things, learned about history and other cultures, tasted wonderful new foods and met many wonderful people both travelers and locals. We can’t recommend highly enough travelling and seeing the world. It’s an enriching experience and one you will never forget.