Our Fave Five: Top 5 Countries We Visited

The number one question we get from people we see these days is, “What is the favorite place you have visited?” To us, this is one of the easiest questions to answer! There were so many countries we went to and had such a great time, but there were a handful that made a home in our hearts. Here are the top five countries that left an impression on us we will never forget.

1. Iceland

We have been to Iceland for three consecutive years and we know we will be back. It is one of the most amazing countries because of it’s strong connection to magnificent nature, it’s roots in Norse mythology, and it’s friendly inhabitants. It’s easy to fall in love with the land of fire and ice.

2. Japan

Japan’s culture rushed over us like The Great Wave of Kanagawa. From 1639 to 1853 Japan remained isolated from the outside world and as a result, their cultural identity, which is steep in tradition, is one of the most unique in the world. Every moment in Japan was a true treat.

3. Scotland

Scotland was a real surprise for us. If you had asked us what we knew about Scotland prior to our visit here we would have said, “They have bagpipes, kilts, and red hair.” All three are absolutely true, but what we discovered was there is so much more. The nature, the people, and the overall vibe of Scotland left it’s mark on us and we cannot wait to head back and spend more time drinking in more of this wonderful country.

4. Maldives

We spent nine days in paradise on the island of Thoddoo, an agricultural island with a few guest houses run by the locals. Thoddoo is covered in papaya fields and palm trees and is surrounded by the most pristine white sand beaches and most unbelievably turquoise waters. Right off the shore is a wonderful reef full of life. Every day we snorkeled and saw a family of sea turtles, numerous types of colorful fish, and even an octopus! When we dream beachy dreams, Thoddoo beach is what we see.

5. New Zealand

We have spent nearly a month exploring both the North and South islands of New Zealand and each is absolutely stunning. From challenging great hikes to easy-going great sites, New Zealand did not disappoint. Not to mention, Kevin is a huge Lord of the Rings fan and seeing Hobbiton was a dream come true!

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🇳🇿 Day 5 Today was the day for Milford Sound! We woke up and made the five hour drive to see it. Along the way we made multiple stops for photo opportunities. Some of the coolest pictures we took were just random moments of Kevin yelling, "Pull over, I have to take this picture" as Brad swerved to the shoulder. When we arrived, Milford Sound was very misty and visibility was super low. Fortunately we had plenty of time to walk around and explore. We ended up cooking some spicy chilly for dinner and waited for the sun to go down. As the sun began to fall and the mist rise, the true beauty of the mouth of Milford Sound showed itself. With no one else around, we headed off road and walked right to the edge of the water and enjoyed the views all to ourselves. On the way to our campsite for the night we made a few more little stops while we still had light. Laying in our campervan looking through the moon roof at the stars again was a magical ending to this wonderful day. #newzealand #milfordsound #nzsouthisland #roadtrip #nzroadtrip #nature #naturelover #naturephotography #photography #photographer #travel #travels #travelphotography #picoftheday #mountains #fjord #travelblog #travelstory #traveldiary #wanderlust #gay #gaytravel #beautifuldestinations #worldplaces #wow #backpacking #mustsee#twoenroute

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We are two en route to revisit our fave five countries

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10-Day Road Trip around New Zealand’s South Island

Day 1

Our New Zealand South Island campervan adventure begins! We had an overnight flight from Melbourne to Christchurch so we arrived tired. We picked up our campervan and headed out for adventures. We purchased a DOC (Department of Conservation) campervan pass for $40 NZD which gives us free camping at certain sites for 7 consecutive days. SCORE! We drove about two and a half hours from the airport to our campsite. Any further we felt would be dangerous because of fatigue. 

After checking in, we decided we needed to stay awake until at least 20:00 so we were on a normal sleep schedule for the next day. We immediately made coffee on our stove in the rear of the campervan knowing caffeine would be essential. Next, we decided to get our blood pumping and go on an hour hike to see a waterfall.

After the falls we came back, took showers and cooked dinner. With our bellies full, it was going to be harder to stay awake for a few more hours. We decided to watch a movie involving extra-terrestrials (always keeps us awake). Finally, 20:00 hit so we rolled down the shades and swan dived into a wonderful deep sleep. Day one was a success. 

Day 2

We woke up refreshed and drove towards Mt. Cook. On the way we stopped several times to take photos around Lake Tekapo, a stunning turquoise glacier fed lake. We arrived at our campsite, parked, geared up and headed out for our 3-hour return hike on the Hooker Valley Track. 

On the journey we crossed over multiple suspension bridges with stunning views of rivers. One bridge even gave you a great view of the Mueller glacier and lake. Along the way, it started to get very cold, rainy and windy. Fortunately, we are prepared for weather like this! 

Finally, we reached Mt. Cook. Wow! It was well worth the small hike there. On Mt. Cook is the Mt. Cook glacier and at the base is the glacier lake with large chunks of ice floating about. 

After returning to our camper, we cooked dinner and watched the stars come out. It was amazing to get to see the milky way! We were too busy being in awe to take any photos of that! 😜 Happy day!

Day 3

Today we woke up to heavy rain in Hooker Valley so we checked our weather apps and found that Cromwell, New Zealand’s wine country, was the only region of NZ that was supposed to have beautiful weather, so of course we headed that way because who doesn’t love wine?

As we headed towards the grapes we stopped in Lindis Valley for a quick hike. The landscape was so beautiful! The mountains looked like they were covered in basil seeds and flanked us on all sides. 

When we made it to Cromwell we drove around through wine covered hills and found a great winery to do a tasting. This part of New Zealand is known for its world-class Pino Noirs so of course we had to try them. However, because of the sunny summery warm weather, we felt a white would be best! 

After relaxing for a few hours with a bottle of Pinot Gris we made our way towards our Queenstown campsite. When we arrived it was raining heavily, which made for a fun dinner cooking experience! With dinner done, we curled up with a cocktail and watched a movie. Perfection!

Day 4

Today was a beautiful day. The weather was sunny with a high in the low 70s, Brad’s idea of summer! Since the sun was smiling, we felt it was perfect for an all-day hike. 

We made it to Roys Peak just after eating lunch on the banks of Lake Wanaka. We started the first half of our 16km journey up the mountain and quickly found out the incline was steeper than we thought. Fortunately, the weather was perfect and the views, while hiking, went from great to amazing so more frequent stops were a must for more fabulous photos!

After 4-hours challenging ourselves on this uphill battle, we finally made it to the top! It was the first time either of us had been at the top of a mountain and could see nothing but other mountain tops all around us. We were on top of the world and we had it all to ourselves. 

Pushing through the pain, we let gravity take hold of us as we made our decent. The downhill journey only took us 2-hours. When we made it to the bottom we opened the back of the campervan and cooked a large, well deserved, dinner consisting of rice and spicy chicken curry. We had left over tortillas from last night’s tacos, so we improvised and used them as naan. Yum! 

Day 5

Today was the day for Milford Sound! We woke up and made the five-hour drive to see it. Along the way, we made multiple stops for photo opportunities. 

Some of the coolest pictures we took were just random moments of Kevin yelling, “Pull over, I have to take this picture” as Brad swerved to the shoulder. A really neat detour was the mirror lakes. There was a slight breeze in the air, so it wasn’t still like glass, but the view was nothing to complain about. Only a little ways away and we would be to Milford Sound!

When we arrived, Milford Sound was very misty and visibility was super low. Fortunately, we had plenty of time to walk around and explore. We ended up cooking some spicy chilly for dinner and waited for the sun to go down. 

As the sun began to fall and the mist rise, the true beauty of the mouth of Milford Sound showed itself. With no one else around, we headed off road and walked right to the edge of the water and enjoyed the views all to ourselves

On the way to our campsite for the night we made a few more little stops while we still had light. Laying in our campervan looking through the moon roof at the stars again was a magical ending to this wonderful day.

Day 6

Today was a more relaxed day. We woke up to a little rain so we headed south to get away from it. Stopped for lunch along Lake Te Anau then went to the DOC (Department of Conservation) information center to see what new adventures we could find in Southland and Otago. 
We continued south east and took our time admiring how different New Zealand looks down south. 

We decided to call it an early day and head straight for our campsite. The campground was the most amazing yet. We were at Purakaunui Bay, steps from the beach with towering cliffs to one side and forest to the other. It was spectacular. 

After some food and wine, we relaxed and watched the sun go down. We were even lucky enough to see the amazing milky way again! Mother nature at its best!

Day 7

Our road trip today took us along The Catlins Heritage Trail and part of the Southern Scenic Route. 

We first journeyed to Waikawa Harbour for beautiful views while we chowed down on PB&J sandwiches. Next up was Curious Bay which was so incredible! It’s a 180-million-year-old ancient fossil forest with petrified trees from the Jurassic era.

We hung out waking the shores for a few hours admiring them while listening to the huge ocean waves crash against the cliffs. 

We then made our way to slope point and did a quick 20-minute hike through a sheep farm to the southernmost point of New Zealand’s south island. 

Continuing east, we made it to this lighthouse on Waipapa Point. Talk about a quintessential looking lighthouse. Hung out for a bit exploring the beaches nearby and saw a few sea lions hanging out on the beach! So, cool!

Our last few stops of the day were the 22-meter-high McLean Falls and the three-tiered Purakaunui Falls. We then headed back to our beach side campgrounds for the evening. Our New Zealand road trip has been so amazing so far!

Day 8

The pretties just keep on coming! Today we drove west and north along New Zealand’s scenic coastline. Our first stop was and hour hike to Jack’s Blowhole, a 55-meter-deep crevasse 200 meters from the ocean. It was a sea cavern that the ocean eroded to the point of it collapsing. 

Our next destination was Nugget Point. We came here to see Tokata Lighthouse but ended up falling in love with what laid beyond. These beautiful rock formations were giving us life! We love how they, so perfectly, trickle away into the vastness of the ocean. A real surprise and a fantastic treat. 

Next, we journeyed along the coast north, past Kaka Point and Dunedin City, to our campsite for the evening. This site was nestled in Trotters Gorge. Could not have asked for a better day.

Day 9

The Otaga Peninsula was our main goal today. We drove the winding roads along the beautiful coastline for almost an hour before heading a little inland and uphill to get to our hiking location. When we made it to Sandymount, we drank in the views overlooking part of the peninsula and knew this was going to be a pretty place for a hike. 

Our first stop on the hike was lookout point, the top of the hill. The view was obstructed by all the shrubs around so we didn’t spend too long there. Next, we made our way down and hiked along the edge of the mountain overlooking Sandfly Bay. An ironic name, since sandflys have been biting at us for the past 10 days. Who knew flies bit! 

As we continued along the edge of the mountain we came around to Lovers Leap, a bridge like rock formation over the ocean. We were the only ones there so we took our time to enjoy the peace. 

After our hikes for the day, we decided to head back into Dunedin. The city is a small town with a few spots to see, like the train station and church, but other than that not too much. We walked around looking at the art galleries, gift shops and street art. We settled in for a craft beer at a local pub in the city center while we charged our laptop and watched the locals stroll by.  

Day 10

Today was the last day of our New Zealand South Island Road Trip before spending a few days in Christchurch then leaving. 

We woke up and started our 5-hour journey back to Christchurch. We figured we would make a few detours along the way to see random things that may have caught our attention but we quickly found out there was not much between Dunedin and Christchurch to see. We powered through the book we had been listening to and finished it as we made our way home. 

Reflecting on our journey around the South Island was a bittersweet moment. We loved all the beautiful things nature provided for us but we are excited to continue onward. Two more days in Christchurch then off to Sydney! Cheers! 

We are two en route for future road trips. Kia Ora

Finding our Dogs a New Home

Meet Juno & Okra. These are the four-legged fur babies we love and adore, and now we have to leave them behind. Going through the process of what we were going to do with them was emotionally difficult. However, it had to be part of the process.  

Juno is a six year old rat terrier mix. We first rescued her in 2011 and she quickly became our little girl. She has lived with us since our first home, a condo in Oak Lawn, to now, our extended stay hotel. Along the way we entered her into the Cutest Dog in North Texas contest and she made it to the top 4 dogs. She officially became the cutest mutt in north Texas in our eyes. We tried getting another dog, but Juno liked having us all to herself. After a few years we decided a partner in crime was not in the cards for Juno, or so we thought…

Okra, the accidental partner in crime, was a dog from the streets. One Saturday, Kevin was driving home through the neighborhood and saw this dog running down the middle of the street just as happy as could be. After chasing her for three blocks and bribing her with he leftover crumbs from his blueberry muffin, he finally caught her. The moment Okra leaped through the door of our home and met Juno they were best of friends! Our chocolate brown Chiweenie, has now been part of the family for just over a year. It’s funny how the unexpected happenings in life become the happiest.     

When looking at every decision we had to make when talking about traveling the world, we knew that the dogs would be one of the most difficult. At first we thought we would look into trying to take them with us. We knew they would want to see the world! Correction, Okra would want to see the world, Juno is a little scaredy-cat, but she would survive.

We found that taking our dogs with you around the world is almost impossible. A lot of countries will keep your dog in quarantine until they give them a clean bill of health. For example, in New Zealand you are required to have an import permit you have to get prior to arriving and our dogs would be quarantined for a minimum of ten days. Additionally, if we had a certain breed of dog, they would have been banned outright. Things like this would not only make our WTR travels much more difficult it would not be fair for Juno and Okra.

Aside from taking them with us, the solution that made most sense was finding them a new home. This was an important decision to make. First there are a number of factors we had to consider when narrowing down potential new homes for the dogs. We had to decide if we wanted them to stay with a friend, family or someone completely new. Fortunately, we both come from pet loving families, however, seeing if someone will keep your dogs for an indefinite amount of time is a lot to ask. In the end Kevin’s Dad and Step-Mom agreed to watch Juno and Okra. They already have two big outside dogs, two small inside dogs, and a cat. Two more dogs would not be too difficult. Kevin also has a teenage brother and sister who live there which would be great for the dogs. Specifically, Kevin’s brother is naturally drawn to animals and will be a protector of our dogs. 

The hardest truth we had to come to terms with is the fact we may never get our dogs back. We are aware that over the course of a year, our family may become very attached to Juno and Okra and it would be wrong for us to come back and take them away. 

At the end of the day, the most important thing is what is best for the dogs. We feel confident in knowing that they will be provided for and loved while we are gone. We will miss our girls very much but are excited to come back and tell them about our awesome adventures. 

Juno and Okra are two en route to a new home.

Choosing The Backpack

When we chose to live on the road for more than a year we realized one of the most important items we would have was the pack on our back. After some initial online research we knew this was something we would need to purchase in person.  We would need to try it on, feel the quality of the interconnections in the zipper, how the materials felt between our fingers and all the other feel goods the internet can’t offer.  For us that meant a trip to REI.

 Photo from  Preston Hollow Advocate
Photo from Preston Hollow Advocate

Since we are mainly “urban backpacking” those large monstrosities of outdoor hiking bags were immediately eliminated. Which unfortunately, is most of what is on the market. When it came to what options were still available, we initially had thoughts like, “there is no way we can live in anything less than 70 liters each.” Between needing outfit options, creature comforts, electronics, and toiletries, we felt 70 liters was even going to be hard. Keeping in mind that we plan to live out of this bag for over a year we wanted to have room for everything we would need, but also knew carrying extra unnecessary weight was going to quickly get old (and painful). It was time for us to do some serious research to figure out what was going in our bags before making a final decision.

Most people we spoke with and blogs we read had a general consensus that 20 lbs (all-in, filled to the brim) was the target weight for a pack. In order to stay around that weight, we knew 70 liters would be too big.  Filling 70 liters to the brim gets you well past 20 lbs, ouchies. Now that our backpack was shrinking, another question came up; did we want to have a carry-on size pack? We decided that this was a must. Not only would this make it easier to carry on our back, it would be easier on all forms of transit. As an added bonus, often times carry-ons are free while checking a bag costs extra and the more dollars we save the more days we travel.

Since we are going to be taking all forms of transportation in many different countries, another key feature we felt was a must was security. We wanted to make our packs appear to be hard to try and break into or steal especially since everything we own will be inside. Security features we looked for were tear resistant fabric, high quality construction, and lockable zippers.

  Image from REI website
Image from REI website

With so much security built into one bag, we wanted to make sure the bag was still easy for us to use. The last thing we want is to be in a situation where we need something quickly and are not able to get to it with ease. Some great features we saw on bags was being able to open them like a suitcase so you could quickly and easily get to everything,  smaller compartments to help with organization, and the ability to attach and detach a removable day pack for when you just need a few things with you and can leave the bulk of your items stuffed away someplace safe (not on our backs).

After we looked at what different backpacks offered and compared them to our must have list, we chose the Osprey Porter 46. It is a carry-on size, 46 liter pack with a suit-case style full zip opening for ease of use, great security, and the ability to attach a 13 liter day pack (Osprey Daylite). As an added bonus, the Porter 46 even has compression sidewalls that help keep everything snug and secure no matter what’s inside. Packs purchased!

 Image from REI website
Image from REI website

As is often the case, before committing to something long term it is a good idea to give it a short term trial. We purchased the Porter 46 and Daylite to take with us to New Zealand in April.  This allowed us to make sure the packs fit well, held up, and actually fulfilled our wants and needs. From storing them overhead on the plane to only taking the Daylite with us around town, they did great.

 Piha Beach with only the Daylite, New Zealand, 2016
Piha Beach with only the Daylite, New Zealand, 2016

We are two en route to backpack the world.