6 Months & 12 Countries Later: My major takeaways, travel hacks & places you gotta see to believe

In March of this year (2013) my wife and I quit our jobs, gave up the lease on our apartment, sold half our stuff and threw the rest in storage to take off on a trip around the world.

I loved my life. I was making great money working in an industry I was passionate about. I had a sweet apartment in the heart of the most beautiful/inspiring cities in the world (even after everywhere I've been). Deciding to leave it all not only seemed foolish, but it was one of the scariest and most difficult decisions I've made in my life; which is precisely why I knew it had to be done.

Travel always seemed like an activity for trust fund babies, hitch-hiking hippies or people trying to escape their miserable lives. For me, none of the stereotypes fit. I have some savings that I worked my ass off for, I love to shower and I certainly wasn't escaping or looking to "find myself"; in fact quite the opposite. My biggest fear was actually losing the pieces of myself I had worked so hard to build. But in the back of my mind I always knew I wanted to see the world. I wanted to see how other people live and discover first hand whether "living the American dream" is really all it's cracked up to be. Instead of waiting until retirement, I'd rather do it now so I could enjoy it more and have the stories and experiences to carry with me my entire life.

12 countries and 6 months later, here are my three major takeaways:

  1. You can travel the world, but the places mean nothing compared to the people you experience them with.
  2. The freedom of flexibility is worth fighting for. Society is constantly trying to pin you down which leads to missed opportunities. Don't let it.
  3. It is incredibly liberating living with only the things strapped to your back. You have so much stuff that you think you need, but really it's dragging you down.

For anyone considering going on a similar adventure, here are a few things we had to figure out before we left and a few more things we learned along the way:

  • We budgeted for $100 per person per day. It's definitely more than I wanted to spend (and we came in under budget) but it gave us a safe cushion.
  • We made sure to have enough savings when we got back so 1) we wouldn't have to live with our parents 2) we had time to get some income streaming in.
  • Sell your gadgets on Amazon! It payed for the first leg of our trip and we knew there'd be newer versions of them when we got back.
  • We each brought our own laptop on the trip. We weren't sure we'd need two, but it turned out to be a must during travel planning days.
  • Travel planning days suck.
  • Bring an unlocked iPhone so you can pick up SIM cards in each country. It also acts as a great camera.
  • You're going to be hitting the ATM a lot. Get a Charles Schwab checking account with no ATM fees, get reimbursed for every ATM fee the ATM charges you and no foreign exchange fees. Worked like a charm.
  • Just in case, leave scans of your passports and credit cards with family before you leave.
  • Get vaccinations before you quit your job, some may be covered by your health insurance.
  • World Nomads offers great cheap travel insurance. I hated spending the money, but also lucky we never needed it.
  • Pack as lightly as possible! You can always ditch things and buy new stuff along the way.
  • Ordering coffee in other countries is difficult (like in Singapore for example).
  • Plan as little of your trip as possible. The best opportunities we had happened because we were flexible.
  • Bring a bandana aka sweat rag. It gets hot and you're going to sweat!
  • You're going to be carrying a lot of junk around. Cargo shorts are your friend.
  • If you wear glasses, get contacts! I cant imagine if I had to wear my glasses this whole trip. Contacts give you MUCH better peripheral vision.
  • Hostel prices are per person, so if you're traveling as a couple a room at a cheap hotel is usually comparable. However, sometimes the social atmosphere of a hostel makes it worth the money.
  • In South East Asia honking your horn simply means, "hello, just a heads up I'm about to cut you off".
  • Planning around events and festivals is great if you can pull it off, but planning around weather is more important.
  • Its SO difficult to remember everywhere you go. Foursquare is by far the best way to track all the places you've been without spamming everyone you know with every move you make.
  • Kobe Bryant is a global phenomenon. Enough said.
  • An authentic gyro in Greece contains french fries. Who'da thought?
  • A greek salad in Greece is called a "Greek Salad", french onion soup in France is just called "Onion Soup" (and both are amazing).
  • The people you meet along the way mayyy let you crash with them when you visit their country later in your trip, and we'd happily do the same!

Here's a FULL rundown of the places we went and the things we did with links to our favorite photos. It's a bit exhaustive, but I wanted to have it all in one place as a reference:

Japan

  • Arrived in Tokyo just as the cherry blossoms were in full bloom - 3/25/2013
  • Went to a Tokyo Giants game against the Osaka Tigers and had a good laugh at how the entire team is a knock off of the SF Giants - 3/31/13
  • Visited some beautiful shrines and temples in Kyoto - 4/4/13
  • Went ramen hopping to some of the best spots in Japan with some new local friends - 4/5/13

Philippines

  • Canceled our flight to Seoul Korea last second and flew to The Philippines instead to meet-up with some friends we made a week earlier in Japan - 4/7/2013
  • Went island hopping around Cebu in by far the most beautiful water I've ever seen #iHop - 4/13/13
  • Swam with whale sharks in Oslob - 4/10/13
  • Found the most epic spot to kick it EVER on Tingko Beach - 4/10/13
  • Visited the top of the world for a beautiful view of Cebu @ Tops - 4/11/13
  • Met some great friends on CouchSurfing in Boracay and went island hopping to one of my top 5 favorite beaches of all time; Puka Beach (yes the sand is made of puka shells) - 4/19/13
  • Went cliff jumping on an all day adventure to Ariels Point - 4/21/13

Singapore

  • Met up with our newly engaged friends Alicia and Drew at the top of The Marina Bay Sands Hotel - 4/30/13
  • Explored Singapore with our new CS friend Faizal, not to mention checking out one of the strangest places I've ever seen - 5/2/13

Bali

  • Stayed in my new jewish brother from another mother, Aron's Magical Balinese Villa in south Bali - 5/4/13
  • Surfed for the first time on Kuta beach (not to brag but I surfed the first wave I saw LOL) - 5/5/13
  • Hung out with hundreds of insane monkeys and explored the rice paddies in Ubud - 5/8/13
  • Got my open water scuba certification at Big Bubble in The Gili Islands - 5/19/13
  • Posted up in a beautiful villa (with blazing fast wifi (for Bali)) for a full week in Ubud and built my new company website and half of my new product - 5/16/13

Malaysia

  • Met some awesome people at Sunshine Bedz hostel in Kuala Lumpur and went as a group to explore the Batu Caves - 5/24/13
  • Took the night train to Georgetown and explored Fort Cornwallis while we waited for our Thai Visas - 5/26/13

Thailand

  • Visited Phra Nang, arguably the most beautiful beach in the world while hanging with new friends in Krabi - 5/29/13
  • Hiked Krabi's Monkey Trail to Pai Plong Bay - 5/30/13
  • Celebrated our 1 year anniversary in a beautiful resort in Koh Samui. Sat poolside in a beautiful cabana for 3 days and did nothing #Heaven - 6/1/13
  • Scuba dived in the pitch black of night to earn my advanced open water scuba certification at Roctopus in Koh Tao - 6/4/13
  • Visited another insanely beautiful beach off Koh Tao called Ko Nang Yuan and climbed the mountain to get this pic - 6/7/13
  • Stayed in Bangkok for a couple nights and went on a few Wat tours - 6/10/13
  • Ate my first bagel in months before getting the hell out of Bangkok - 6/12/13
  • Headed to Chiang Mai and found an apartment with this beautiful pool and a gym for $380/m - 6/15/13
  • Cranked for a solid month on my new business! - 6/13
  • Had a blast shopping at Mueang Mai Market, the local produce market in Chiang Mai - 6/16/13
  • Bathed, fed and looked after rescued elephants at The Elephant Nature park- 7/3/13
  • Played with baby tigers at The Tiger Kingdom - 7/12/13
  • Made a ton of amazing friends through the DynamiteCircle and had an unforgettable time with them in Chaing Mai - 7/16/13

Italy

  • Headed to Rome for an intense 4 days of sightseeing. Went gelato hopping and stopped at the Piazza del Campidoglio to eat some bread, cheese and wine (first time we'd had bread in months!).- 7/18/13
  • Cheered with hundreds of people during an intense lightning storm at the Colosseum. Seriously one of the coolest touristy things we'd done so far. - 7/19/13
  • Marveled at Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in Vatican City - 7/20/13
  • Headed South to Sorrento and took a "mini cruise" of Capri & the Amalfi Coast - 7/23/13
  • Barely survived a (sick) night in the hell hole that is Naples - 7/24/13
  • Hopped a train to Florence, the city that smells like leather, and climbed hundreds of steps to the top of The Domo - 7/25/13
  • Took a day trip to Pisa to snap corny selfies of us holding up the Leaning Tower - 7/26/13
  • Drank spritzs in Venice, one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen - 7/27/13
  • Our beach day at Spiaggia Lido in Venice was cut short by a thunderstorm - 7/29/13
  • Packed our bellies full of spaghetti carbonara in Milan - 7/30/13

Greece

  • Spent a few nights at "The Pink Palace" on the island of Corfu. Its basically an all inclusive hostel. The island was beautiful, the boozecruise was a total shitshow! - 8/2/13
  • Crossed the mainland to Kalambaka to visit Meteora, a bunch of beautiful monasteries built on the top of massive cliffs - 8/4/13
  • Dropped our bags in Litochoro before making a 2 day ascent up Mt. Olympus to Mytikas, the highest point in Greece and home of Zeus. - 8/6/13
  • Hung out on the black sandy beaches in Santorini - 8/8/13
  • Went on a day cruise in Santorini and climbed the volcano - 8/10/13
  • Took the most epic photo of our whole trip in front of the Parthenon in Athens - 8/13/13

France

  • Casi won an all inclusive trip to Paris! courtesy of EasyPass Tours - 8/15/13
  • Spent countless hours picnicking at the Champ de Mars gazing up at the Eiffel Tower (& Katester came to visit!) - 8/16/13
  • Caught a peek of The Mona Lisa at The Louvre & Picasso at Musee d'Orsay - 8/18/13
  • Lived for a week in The Abbey de Pontlevoy, a MASSIVE 11th century French chateau - 8/19/13
  • Went chateau hopping and sunflower field gazing across the French Countryside with Katester - 8/20/13
  • Took a day trip to La Rochelle and drank some cognac at the Hennessy factory in Cognac, France - 8/22/13

Switzerland

  • Stayed in a family friends beautiful apartment in the hillside ski town of Champery - 8/27/13
  • Visited CERN and had our minds blown touring The Large Hadron Collider - 8/28/13
  • Checked out the colliding rivers and met up with our new friend Tam for drinks in Geneva - 8/28/13
  • Day-tripped to Zermatt and went to Glacier Paradise to catch a glimpse of The Matterhorn - 8/31/13

England

  • Admired Big Ben and drank a pitcher of Pimms on The Thames with friends we met in Thailand - 9/2/13
  • Rode bikes around Cambridge and pretended we were smart enough to go to school there - 9/5/13

Iceland

  • Only a 2 hour layover in Reykjavik on our way back to the US, but it was cool just to checkin and catch this photo! - 9/6/13

And thats just a bulleted recap! Casi has been blogging every step of the way, so if any of those places peak your interest be sure to read Casi's blog.

We never could have imagined things would go so well. We've been state-side for a whopping 48 hours so only time will tell whether we acclimate to the American lifestyle we once had, though I'm fairly certain things will be different this time around.

Have you been on a trip like this? How was it? Have you considered doing it but never pulled the trigger? What are you afraid of?


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