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

Brown Cheese…Quintessentially Norway

We love to try new and different foods that are unique to the places we are traveling. Norwegians have their own unique food item and that is Brown Cheese. Why is it called brown cheese? Well… It’s brown in color. 

 Brown Cheese on Toast, Norway, 2016
Brown Cheese on Toast, Norway, 2016

After some internet research we learned that the best way to eat brown cheese is to simply toast some bread, put two slices on, and enjoy! We are sure you are wondering what it tastes like. To both of us brown cheese had a medium firmness, tasted a little sweet and finished with a heavily preserved fish saltiness. It may sound strange however, it tasted good. It was not the best cheese we’ve ever had but recommended for a try if you are in Norway. 

 Brad trying Brown Cheese, Norway, 2016
Brad trying Brown Cheese, Norway, 2016

After buying the smallest package we could find, because we did not know if we would like it, we still had some cheese left over. The following day we made brown cheese and ham sandwiches; delicious. 

We are two en route with brown cheese in our belly.

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.

Defining our American Dream

After spending the better part of a decade working towards the American Dream we decided to step back and rethink what that really meant to us. Ultimately we decided that taking a no regrets leap out of our comfort zone and into a nomadic backpacking journey across the globe was the right thing for us. Ready. Set. Leap!

 Paris, France, 2012
Paris, France, 2012

We started traveling internationally for run of the mill tourist type sightseeing in 2012 and ended up falling in love with encountering new cultures, cities, ways of life, flavors of food, and everything else in between. Travel to us has becoming about opening our minds to how amazingly huge and diverse this world really is.  Each place we visit changes a little something about what makes us who we are, both individually and as a couple.

Growing up we learned about the previous generation’s definition of the American Dream.  Picket fences, ambrosia salad at the neighborhood potluck, and two and a half children are just a few things that come to mind. For us though, the American Dream has become one with fewer pickets in the fence and lot more wanderlust in the heart, fewer marshmallows in the ambrosia salad and a lot more culinary experiences on the street-side, and the same two and a half children in our home just a few more years down the road.

We are two en route to achieve our American Dream.