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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
One of the best feelings in the world is a plane coming in for a landing. It doesn’t matter if it is in a new place to explore or an old favorite, the excitement of knowing we are about to experience new things is thrilling! When going through some of our photos, we realized we had captured moments from our view in the window seat of an airplane. Here are some of our favorites!
We are two en route for more airplane window wanderlust
Today we were reflecting on our day spent at the only remaining wonder of the ancient world. Some people would say that an entire day is entirely too long to spend seeing the pyramids, we beg to differ. Our approach was to take our time, explore every nook and cranny we could find, and soak it all in. Here is our guide on how to visit the Pyramids of Giza.
Where to stay:
The current climate of Egypt can be worrisome and because of this we recommend staying in a western owned hotel as close to the pyramids as possible. We stayed at the Le Méridien Pyramids which is a Starwood property so we knew we could rely on staying there. Most hotels near the pyramids will run you between $45-$75 USD/night.
How to get there:
You can get to the pyramids by many forms of transportation. We recommend Uber. It’s the safest and easiest way to get there and will only cost you around 130 EGP ($7 USD) each way if you are staying in Cairo. The plus side is you do not have to deal with haggling a price with a taxi and then feeling pressured to tip or navigating the hectic public transit routes. However, if you are wanting to take the bus find the 355 or 357 route and if you are taking the Metro, Line 2 will take you to Giza and from there you would need to walk a few kilometers or hail a taxi.
Cost to visit:
The cost to visit is dependent on what you want to do. The general admission into the complex itself is 80 EGP (Egyptian pounds) per person, roughly $4.50 USD, a steal in our opinion. You will also have to decide right then if you want to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu. This will cost you 200 EGP per person ($11 USD). There are some other sites you can purchase tickets to get into at the ticket counter, however, they were not open to enter when we went. We did some asking around and it turns out their is nothing inside of them anyway. The only one worth going into is the Great Pyramid of Khufu.
Getting around inside:
Once inside be prepared to be harassed relentlessly by people claiming you have to show them your ticket (which you don’t), vendors trying to sell you post cards or souvenirs (which you don’t need), guides selling their services to take you around the complex (wikipedia knows more then them), and men on camels trying to sell you a camel, horse or buggy ride around the complex (maybe later).
After shaking off all of the people, we decided to first explore on our own by foot. We are both in good shape so taking on the task of walking the very large area of the pyramid complex was not intimidating. This also gave us the opportunity to get away from the crowds hitting the “hot spots” and the vendors that accompanied them.
Other ways you can get around are by camel, horse, or carriage. At one point we ended up taking a ride on two Arabian horses for the experience. It was the best way to get back to the beginning of after we had walked across the entire complex. The cost for any of these forms of transportation should be 50 EGP ($2.75 USD) per person. Never more! The ride will usually include a stop at some photo destinations along the way. Of course we tipped the guide afterwards to thank him for a fun experience.
5 Dos and 5 Don’ts:
It is easy to fall into the tourist trap so here are the dos and don’ts to follow when visiting.
DO bring food and water. The pyramids are in the desert which means you will dry out quickly. With all the people who will pester you through the day, none of them are food vendors so be sure to pack a lunch or bring snacks for when hunger hits and water for the thirst.
DO wear a hat or sunscreen. Unless you want to hang out in the shadows of the pyramids all day, you will encounter a lot of sun. SPF is your best friend for a long day at the pyramids.
DO go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Climbing inside the inner chamber was a fun experience. This is the only time you may be at the pyramids so be sure to enjoy every moment.
DO ride a camel, horse, or carriage. It seems touristy (and it is) however, the guide will take you out to the best photo spots and you will enjoy the wind blowing through your hair.
DO take lots of photos!
DON’T under any circumstance rush your visit. It’s easy to take a few pictures from the vantage points and say you have seen the pyramids, but truly experiencing them will be an everlasting memory to cherish.
DON’T climb on the pyramids. There are no climbing signs everywhere but people ignore that and crawl all over them. Respect this world wonder so they can be around another 4500 years.
DON’T let the harassers peddling stuff ruin your experience. As long as you do not say anything back to them and walk away, they will not bother you any longer. It felt like they had their own “turf” and once we got a certain distance they would stop following. The also are very intense near the entrance, as soon as you get away from that, they are fewer and farther between.
DON’T talk to anyone other than who you are traveling with. Usually you will be asked 1000 times “Where are you from?” The second you answer, they will continue to talk to you and give you advise, information and directions. They will expect a tip even after giving you information you did not want.
DON’T ride a camel, horse or carriage if it looks like the animals have been mistreated. We know it’s hard to tell sometimes, but when it is an obvious situation of mistreatment, find another person with a better treated animal.
At the end of the day the most important thing to remember to to enjoy the moment. Let the fact that the pyramids you have seen on TV, watched in Movies, and read about in books are within arms reach.
We let our time at the pyramids wash over us and soak into our memories forever. We hope that they will be here for our grandchildren to see and enjoy just as we have.
We are two en route to soak in life’s most amazing moments
One of the fears of being abroad for a year is coming down with a bad case of homesickness. Prior to us leaving for our world tour we had not spent much more than 2-weeks away from home at one time, which really isn’t enough time to get homesick. However, when Kevin was 15 he spent a month in Germany visiting family and remembered at about week three he started to miss home. Well, lucky for us we surpassed three weeks and now start our third month homesick free. Here are five things we find ourselves doing often that we believe are preventing us from catching the homesick bug.
Before we left our home in Dallas, we changed our cell phone plans to Google Fi which offers free texting in over 130 countries around the world. It’s great not worrying about being charged every time we want to send a text to loved ones. It is the quickest and easiest way for us to connect. We just have to remember which time zone we are in.
2. Video & Voice Chats
Sometimes texting doesn’t cut it and we turn to Skype. Skype allows us to have voice and video calls for free over WiFi and allows for a good excuse to stop for a cup of coffee when we see a “free WiFi” sign in the window. There is nothing like hearing Mom and Dad’s voice or laughing with a friend. Skype has become essential for scheduling video dates with our friends and family.
3. Social Media
We do not know about you, but sometimes we love taking some time to scroll through social media. Whether it is Facebook stocking our besties or mindlessly reading news articles of what is happening back home, social media has kept home connected to us and us to home, so keep sharing photos of your lunch, we enjoy seeing it.
4. Meeting Friends Along the Way
While texting, talking, and video chatting with friends and family is good prevention for homesickness, there is no better cure than a hug from one of them in person. Being travel bugs ourselves it is only natural that we have other travel loving buddies. Along the way it has been nice to meet up with friends from back home and make new memories together abroad.
5. Each Other
We decided to take this trip together. Not only is this a trip to see the world, it is a journey of discovery. We will have our moments of happiness and joy, we will have our moments of fear and frustration, and we will have our moments of relaxation and quiet. Whatever those moments may be we must always remember that as long as we have each other we are home. To us, this is the most important prevention to homesickness. Home is where we are when we are together, regardless of where that might be.
Stockholm claims the title “Capital of Scandinavia.” It is the largest city with some of the most beautiful architecture and has an extensive collection of galleried art. However, did you know some of the most fascinating art can be found underground? You literally have to go under the city and into the subways to find it.
On our first trip into the subway, when we arrived into Stockholm, we noticed something was different. The walls were alive with interest. From that moment, we decided to do a little research and found out that 90% of Stockholm’s subway stations host some of the coolest and most unique works of art. A few days into our stay we decided to hop from station to station to feast our eyes on more. Here are a few of our favorites. Enjoy!
We are two en route to explore more underground art.
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!
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.