Archives For Spending Summary

July was it. Our last full month to travel as our renters were due out at the end of the month. We raced up to Alaska in June so we could get at least of one month of exploring before heading back. We estimated two weeks of heavy driving to get all the way through Alaska, Canada much of the US and back to Texas. This left us with approximately ten days to further explore Alaska. We decided to spend it in some of the biggest Alaskan highlights – Denali and Wrangell-St. Elias National Parks. Then, it was back towards the real world (maybe)*.

Total June Cost: $4,316
Total days in the camper: 30
Total days out of camper: 0
Cost per day: $139
States Visited: Alaska, British Columbia, Yukon, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma
Total Miles: Approx 6,100

Summary

There were a lot of “Wow’s” in July. From one of our new favorite National Parks (Denali), to the huge amount of miles covered (over 6,000) and one of the highest spending months since we started traveling. It was a purposeful stalling in Alaska while the weather was good that caused most of it, but the inevitable can only be delayed so long, and we had to head back south. Emotions were conflicted as nowhere had held us voluntarily captive as long as Alaska and we knew it would be hard to make it back, but money can’t last forever and no more renters meant no more supplemented travel and covered house payment. The real world was calling, and we couldn’t send it to voicemail again.

Spending Details

The Good

We spent most of the month of June exploring the coast of Alaska and only darted inland to avoid the expensive ferries to get to the next coastal  town. As we approached our last few weeks in Alaska, we wanted to make sure and hit one of the most exciting places – Denali National Park. Joining us on our journey to Denali were two familiar faces to the Airstream – Jocelyn’s mom and her dog, Bueno, after they flew into Anchorage.

We scored three nights at the Teklanika Campground in Denali, which is another one of those campgrounds like Yosemite that book up months in advance. However, just like Yosemite, if you’re persistent and flexible enough, you can usually find a few days that work. Teklanika is 30 miles into the park and 15 miles past the turnaround where most cars have to stop, but with the reservation they let you drive into it. Once you’re in the site, you’re not allowed to drive any farther into the park and if you leave towards the entrance, you can’t come back!

They do it for a great reason – to keep Denali wild (with animals and not tourists). The only way to tour the park is on a school bus-like Denali bus that drives the entire road. There are a couple of different types of buses and tours, but with our reservation we were able to buy one pass and ride the buses every day we were there.

Our first day started with a challenging pick up time at 8:15am (hey, that’s early for us) on a bus scheduled to drive all the way through the park (50 miles beyond us) with an estimated total trip time of 8 hours. Even crazier, for the people who started from the entrance of the park, their total trip time is 11 hours!

“STOP!!” we heard screamed from the back of the bus. It was quite startling and we wondered what sort of emergency we were about to experience. Instead, the bus driver simply complied and the lumbering bus slowly came to a stop. The passenger then yelled, “caribou, 3 o’clock”. Apparently, they were previously briefed that when they saw an animal to yell stop, and then the whole bus could have a look.

The bus stopped every 30-45 minutes at various points where you could enjoy an overlook, ranger station with some exhibits or simply a bathroom. It was the random stops that were more enjoyable as they often included caribou, moose or the infamous grizzly bear. It must be the closest thing outside of Africa to a true safari experience. It was a long day, but the beautiful mountain sites of Denali along with the wildlife made it worth it.

But we didn’t see Denali (formerly known as Mt. McKinley) the first day**. The mountain is so tall that it creates its own weather… and apparently it really likes to hide behind clouds. In the summer, you’re lucky to see it one out of three days. We had three days total, so we hoped the law of averages worked.

On the second day, we hopped back on the bus but instead of simply going for a ride,  we strapped on our hiking boots and set out to explore the park. They don’t actually mark trails in the park besides simple nature walks, but instead encourage visitors to find their own way… you know, in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness that’s full of grizzlies! We had already seen five grizzlies the previous day, including the most dangerous – a momma with cubs, so this was a little scary!

However, the Alaskan wilderness is mostly tundra, so it was a smaller possibility of getting lost since you can see pretty far, and you could also see any bears that were coming to eat you! We ended up only going a few miles as it was a little disturbing, but it was beautiful.

Denali National Park quickly jumped to one of our favorites, and we’ll definitely return someday. The road within the park is a combination of dirt and gravel with single lanes passing through incredibly steep mountain passes with drop offs, but it’s done this way perfectly to preserve the ruggedness of the land and give you the true outback experience. It worked.

But we didn’t see Denali on the second day either. As we packed up our campsite and anxiously awaited our next adventure, we wondered if Denali would reveal herself (or himself). We started driving back towards the entrance when we looked back and there she was, a towering mountain that had lurked just outside of our site behind the clouds for three days. It was huge, dwarfing everything around it.

The only thing better than seeing it from far away would be seeing it up close… which we were scheduled to do! Jocelyn’s mom decided to treat us with a Denali flightseeing tour! It was scheduled as a two hour flight with a glacier landing. We had never done one of these before even though we really wanted to in places like New Zealand, so this was a real treat. We boarded our flightseeing plane with five other people, and I was lucky enough to sit in the co-pilot seat to get a bird’s eye view of the action***.

The clouds cooperated as what seemed like one tall mountain instead proved to be a large complex of mountains, glaciers and sheer cliffs. If you ever want to feel small in life, this is a good place to do it. The small mountains are 15,000 feet tall and are dwarfed by the tall one, Denali. The ice fields and glaciers drape the mountains and valleys with new snow and old ice.

After flying around the mountains, we headed to our landing strip… an ice and snow field on the top of the glacier. The plane was equipped with snow skids and the pilot brought it down beautifully. We hung out on the glacier for a while and stood in awe of the mountains around us.

After our flight we headed back to Anchorage before Martha flew out the next day. Denali was a fitting climax to the trip. We’d spend the next few weeks driving back to Texas and back to reality.

Our spending report was pretty bad, but we were okay with it. We had a great previous six months where we kept our spending under control, and the number of miles driven guaranteed we’d pay the petrol piper. The one bright spot was our camp site spending as it’s pretty easy to find free or under $15/night spots in Alaska.

As we headed back to the “lower 49”, we passed through British Columbia and down through the Yukon and Alberta. Our driving safari continued and one day we saw 19 bears as we drove! In the beginning we were excited and stopped to take pictures, but by the end we treated them like deer as we had to watch to make sure they weren’t in the road. We stopped in the Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park for some great hiking and views.

The Bad

We drove a whole lot, but we knew it was coming. We delayed as much as we could, but the time had come. We typically try not to drive more than 4-5 hours per day, but there were probably 7-8 days in July when we drove over 8 hours. We also paid for it in the gas category with $1,300 for the month… so lucky gas is half the price of what it’s been at times in the last decade!

I mentioned it last post, but it’s also scary to see how quickly climate change is impacting Alaska. The glaciers are receding and the animals are feeling the impacts. The most observable for the animals is the caribou impact in Denali. The guides told us that with the warmer temperatures, mosquitoes are hatching two weeks earlier than normal. It doesn’t sound like a big deal until you see how impacted the caribou can be by them. We passed by one caribou with its head shoved into the ground. The driver told us the reason was to keep the mosquitoes out of its ears and nose. We came back four hours later and it was still there.

We also saw a caribou shaking like a wet dog and another running through the rivers. All three of these actions were attempts to get away from the mosquitoes. With the pests hatching two weeks earlier, the caribou have less time to fatten up before they have to start running from bugs, and this seriously jeopardizes their chances of surviving a harsh Alaskan winter. Their main source of food, lichen, is also getting driven further up in altitude which makes it harder for them to eat.

But hey, let’s keep debating what’s causing it and not take any action****.

The Ugly

As we made it down to Canada and close to the US border, we still hadn’t heard from our renters if they were moving out at the end of the month. The contract said they’d have to give us one month notice, but they were working through a home renovation, so we gave them two extra weeks. It was mid-month and they asked if they could stay another month! We were okay with it since it would allow us to explore in August, but we wished we knew earlier so we could stay in Alaska.

+1 month. We made it back down to family in Oklahoma and hung out there and Boulder before heading out on our next adventure. The August spending report will now be more than normal spending on a house, it’ll be continued travel spending, and we couldn’t be happier!

 

*If you made it all the way down here before reading the asterisk, you know why it was “maybe” back to the real world. If you skipped down here… well, then read the rest of the post and you’ll know why 🙂
**I stick with the native Intuit name of the mountain rather than the name given later after a president who had nothing to do with and never visited the area. 
***OK, luck wasn’t the simple reason I was sitting in the front seat. The pilot asked our group and I waited at least a few seconds before I claimed it 🙂
****The irony is not lost on me that in the same section I talk about driving 6,000 miles and then complain about no actions to stop global warming… I guess I embody the problem!

These are probably two of Jocelyn’s best pictures from the trip, just incredible. All three were taken in Denali National Park while on the bus during the tour! If you’re not too grossed out, check out the fox… it appears to have a bird and rabbit!

Pictures from the drive home through Canada… bear cubs playing, moose twins and a grizzly crossing the Alaska Highway with a motorcycle!

 

Pictures from our flightseeing tour around Mt. Denali!

Denali National Park

 

We also spent a few days in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and did some great hikes

Pictures of the Denali landscapes… and a view of Penny Lane and Denali!

Bears all around Denali National Park…. see why we were scared to go hiking on our own?!

June was our time to make the long and scary drive up through Canada and into Alaska. I won’t get into much more detail on the drive as I already covered most of it, but as always, I’ll break down the costs and add some more details along the way. After floundering a bit in Washington and staying in casinos for five nights in a row due mostly to exhaustion, we hoped Alaska would renew our energy and let us finish our trip on a high note… and Alaska delivered.

As with previous travels to scary places like Myanmar and Vietnam, the fear quickly subsides as the journey progresses. The unknowns become answered, and the fear and anxiety lightens as we progressed in the journey. Alaska went from a far away dream, to one of our most desired destinations to revisit. Combined with the amazingness of Canada, it has quickly jumped to one of our favorite places in the world, and the expenses were quite manageable.

Total June Cost: $3,733
Total days in the camper: 30
Total days out of camper: 0
Cost per day: $124
States Visited: Alaska, British Columbia, Yukon
Total Miles: Approx 4,500

Summary

We prepared for the worst and hoped for the best as our Canadian and Alaskan journey began. We loaded up on groceries in Washington and scouted out free sites along the route. Although the total driving miles were quite daunting, gas prices were much lower than we had planned, thanks to a favorable Canadian exchange rate along with cheaper gas prices overall. Amazingly, we spent less in June than we did in four other months while on the road! We skipped some of the things we might have done if we were on a regular one-week type vacation, but those are the financial sacrifices we’re willing to make to enjoy such a long journey. Let’s get into the details:

Spending Details

The Good

Alaska was the planned highlight of our trip even before we started renovating Penny Lane, so the chances of disappointment were pretty high. We could drive 60 hours through backwoods wilderness to find a fake Alaskan tourist town full of tourists and domesticated bears*. Instead, we found the Alaska we hoped to find.

An untouched wilderness with rugged landscapes, beautiful glaciers, deadly animals regularly crossing our path and unforgettable experiences. Okay, so we didn’t exactly “hope” for deadly animals crossing our paths, but we were okay with it since it meant we would see bears! Each day we kept a running total of how many bear, moose and bald eagles we saw and the numbers fluctuated from 0 to double digits depending on where we visited. At times it felt like we were in a drive through safari, except these animals had no boundaries.

That doesn’t mean you’ll automatically see a boatload of animals if you simply cruise into a port and take a quick drive into the interior. We talked to numerous travelers who hadn’t seen many animals at all, but most of them didn’t have the luxury of truly exploring as we did.

However, that exploring meant a lot of driving and a lot of roughing it. We never really knew how easy it would be to find potable water so we limited our showers probably more than we needed to**. When we stopped in Valdez, we decided to splurge on a full hook up campsite so we could shower as long as we needed. If you’re not versed in camper talk, a full hook up basically means electric, water and unlimited use since you’re hooked directly up to the sewer system. It also included Wifi and cable tv, so you can imagine we took some well deserved time to veg out.

Actually, it was hard to veg out because we were still in Alaska! I can guess what you think of when you hear “Valdez” (yes, those sad pictures of birds and seals covered in oil), but thankfully the town and environment have moved beyond that. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Alaska, with the small port town surrounded by mountains which are draped in glaciers. We spent a lot of time just enjoying the views. Our RV park also had a strange attraction: Bald Eagle feeding. They have a license from the state and can only do it when the salmon aren’t running, which happened to be the time we visited.

We watched as a man flung small fish into the air in sync with the diving eagles that would swoop down to catch them in their talons. It was all taking place 20 feet in front of us and while it felt a little strange to see the wild birds fed, it was an incredible site. There we probably two dozen eagles that sometimes took turns and other times battled for the same fish as they dive bombed down towards us. They were beautiful and powerful birds with massive talons that could inflict some major damage on us weak humans!

After Valdez, we continued our touring which meant driving back inland (through amazingly beautiful landscape) and then diving down into the next set of port towns on the Seward peninsula which includes the port towns of Whittier, Homer and Seward that we were set to see.

While in Seward, we decided to splurge on at least one tour to see what they were all about. We took an all day boat cruise into Kenai Fjords National Park that included wildlife and glacier viewing. The trip started with the captain promising one of the smoothest cruise days of the year thanks to smooth seas and a few minutes later we stopped to watch humpbacks feeding right in the bay. To make it even more special, it was a mother humpy teaching her baby to lunge feed!

We cruised out of the bay past a Kiitiwake rookery and cut across the smooth ocean into the Kenai Fjords bay. We had already seen a few glaciers up on the peaks, but now the tidewater glaciers were coming into view as we approached our next stop. The captain expertly guided our large catamaran*** around icebergs as we pulled within a quarter pile of the large tidewater glacier. We sat in awe as we watched small chunks of ice “calve” off the glacier and into the ocean. We could hear the large glacier creak and groan as the “river of ice” bulldozed its way down the mountain and into the sea.

Our next stop was an even bigger glacier, Aialik glacier, which is a full mile wide and 300-600 feet high where it meets the water! As we approached, sea lions and otters played in the iceberg strewn waters and used them as rafts as they soaked up the sun. The iceberg dwarfed the other boats already viewing at the base as we pulled up to take it all in. It was stunning and a feeling of regret passed by me as I realized our overuse of exaggerated terms in the US such as “awesome” were trivialized with their daily use… when in fact, they should be preserved for moments like this.

We headed back to sea and noticed other boats ahead of us that had stopped. It was then our captain notified us of another treat – we’d get to view a pod of orcas! We motored closer and drifted along as a dozen or so orcas spread out before us. It was a great ending to the cruise and made us wonder if the cruise was always the productive or if we were just lucky.

On the expense side of things, we did really well. There are many cheap and free places to camp along the highways leading to Alaska and within Alaksa itself, so we were pretty happy with our $16/day for campsites. We only went out to eat once (another sacrifice considering the amazing sea food there) and kept our grocery costs down by stocking up before we left. We prepared for the worst, but fared really well. Gas was the biggest expense as expected, but it was mostly due the large number of miles rather than the high price (it only averaged around $3/gallon).

The Bad

Tourism in Alaska can be cheap, but is mostly expensive. For most visitors who only have a week to visit, their time will be filled with tours and adventures… all of which cost a pretty penny. The expenses can easily justified as it’s the trip of a lifetime, so I’d say save accordingly and go for it!

But yes, it’s expensive. For our Kenai Fjords day cruise we paid $430 for the two of us, but we also upgraded to the all you can eat salmon and prime rib lunch buffet! $215/each isn’t killer on a regular vacation, but it was a lot for us.

We also eyed additional tours such as the brown bear viewing in Katmai National Park which included a flight and guided hiking, but it was almost $800/each! Glacier hiking, boat tours, plane tours, sea kayaking, dog sled rides… you can do it all, but be prepared to pay. It would’ve been great to do tours in all of the amazing places we visited, but the costs would’ve definitely set us over the top of the budget!

The weather can also be pretty nasty, even in the Alaskan summer. We were lucky to see highs move out of the upper 50’s or lower 60’s and many days were filled with clouds and rain. The interior is usually sunnier and warmer, with it even reaching 90 once in Whitehorse, but we spent most of our time exploring the coast and feeling constantly wet.

The Ugly

The land where the sun never sits sounds appealing until you spend more than a few days there. Here’s a sunset timeline from the Equinox (June 21st):


Yes, that’s right, 1 hr and 5 mins of darkness… and it’s not really even that dark! The sun started flirting with the horizon in the late evening, but just can’t quite make it down until very late. We had that opposite experience Iceland when 20 hours of sunlight transformed into 20 hours of darkness, and it’s just as troubling!

The locals fully embrace the long summer days because they know darkness is coming, pulling into campsites at midnight and instead of quietly setting up sites and bunking down, they’d start a campfire and eat dinner! It was entertaining and maddening all at the same time. We tried to stay on a decent routine of going to bed by midnight, but the light easily made it’s way through our attempts of blocking it. We’d block the windows with our car sun shades, close the curtains and then cover them with blankets or clothes… and it still didn’t help much! After falling asleep, the sun would be tapping on our eyelids again at 4am to nudge us back awake.

It was a fun experience for a few days, bearable for a few weeks, but I don’t think I’d be able handle it long term!

Oh yeah, there’s also the whole global warming thing. Whether you believe it to be fully caused by us or not, it’s wreaking serious damage on Alaska. In fact, if you want to see glaciers, you should probably visit in the next 5-10 years because after that, many of them will only be accessible with a long hike. The rapidity of the melting isn’t unprecedented as there were high melting periods in the 1950’s, but it’s happening quickly with no signs of stopping. It’s also changing or eliminating food sources and habits for the animals and birds, and putting many of them in danger of not living. But that’s a whole other discussion.

Back to how greatness of Alaska. Obviously, if one of our biggest complaints with Alaska is “too much light”, we didn’t have much to complain about. As mentioned in the beginning, it quickly jumped to one of our favorite places in the world, and we definitely want to return. While it can be intimidating to plan and execute the trip, it’s worth it. Even if you don’t have two months to plan a driving trip through the state, an Alaskan cruise would still suffice, although wildlife viewing expectations should be tempered.

As we reached the end of June, we had another adventure ahead of us: Denali National Park. After that we’d have a few more weeks before we needed to head back to the “lower 49”, as the locals called it. Reality would soon be calling, but first we had more exploring.

 

*Okay, so there was one of those “fake” Alaskan tourist towns and that was Skagway. While it might have been a cool frontier town at some point, now it’s filled with tourist shops selling diamonds, furs and all sorts of tourist goods. The other towns make fun of it and say the cruise ship companies own it!

**I used to be a shower every day kind of guy, but when water and holding tanks are limited, it’s not so easy! We switched to showering once every two days… and a few times beyond that! As we learned when traveling the world, people don’t notice they smell… but luckily we had each other to keep ourselves accountable!

***We shared our Kenai Fjords cruise with around 80 other people. While it take away some of the experience when everyone rushes to the side of the boat and you’re trapped three rows back, it’s nice knowing your large catamaran won’t be sunken like the Titanic!

Some of the spectacular wildlife and sites on the Kenai Fjords cruise… the middle picture is a Humpback whale teaching its baby to lunge feed! You can see the baby on the side of the momma.

 

All about the glaciers… the top picture is Portage glacier along with dog caused glacier melting.. the bottom two are from Worthington Glacier

One of our favorite hikes in Alaska – Crow Pass. Along with some more hiking pics below.

Hiking to the top of Worthington Glacier… Lucy really likes to walk over to the edges of cliffs and look down… it’s really quite unnerving.!

 

More views from the Kenai Fjords cruise… the top glacier is the Aialik glacier

 

Mountain views and emerald water kayaking… Alaska and Canada has it all!

 

Entering the month of May meant we had survived eight months of nomadic living; no permanent place to lay our head at night, always in search of the next great camping site and a return to the basic needs and wants of life. Some people ask us what our favorite place has been while others ask us how we’ve survived that long in a tiny camper without killing each other, both very valid questions!

We were lucky enough to catch up with many friends in April and this continued into May as we headed to Portland. We spent a few days with a friend there who just happened to have an extra apartment! We also made a side trip to catch up with family for a few days in Colorado and Oklahoma before heading north… to the last great frontier… Alaska! But first, we must cover May.

Total May Cost: $4,044
Total days in the camper: 21
Total days out of camper: 10
Cost per day: $130
States Visited: Oregon, Washington… and British Columbia, Canada!
Total Miles: 2,400 (+ 4,600 side trip)

Summary

Our expenses were higher in May as we prepared for our northern exposure and made a fun side trip to catch up with family we hadn’t seen in five months. To lessen the impact of the extra mileage on the 4Runner, we rented a car in Portland that was more comfortable and had much better gas mileage. This paid off as in total we drove almost 5,000 miles in ten days… I’m sure the rental car company wouldn’t have agreed to our $18/day if they knew we were driving that far*. We saved a lot of money on campsites because we stayed with our friend in Portland and also stayed with family for a few days. I broke out the side trip costs just so they don’t distort the other categories too much, but I like to keep all expenses in the totals just so you have a realistic expectation of what this trip will cost us (with surprises and all). Here are the details:

Spending Details

The Good

The best part of Oregon – which is a similar theme to our entire trip – was catching up with friends who we hadn’t seen in a long time. In Portland, we caught up with a former co-worker and friend from my Accenture and HP days (when I actually had a job). He moved his family to Portland a few years ago from Houston and really likes his new city, so we were excited to see it… and also excited to use his extra apartment which he hadn’t rented out yet! He let us stay in it for as long as we wanted, but our need for tortured travel meant we only stayed two weekends on either side of our extra road trip.

Let’s talk Portland first. Sure, there are shows making fun of it like “Portlandia”, but it actually does a decent job of pointing out quirks of the city’s inhabitants. It’s full of nice and interesting people.. and yes, things like four people stopping at a four way stop and waiting for an hour as they all try to wave the other people on really could happen here. But don’t let the niceness fool you, we also talked to people who had friends lower themselves off the main bridge in town to block the oil company (I believe Exxon) from disembarking on their mission to explore and map oil in the Arctic Ocean. These are people who are nice for the right reasons!

We really loved our friend’s neighborhood in Portland, the Sellwood area. It was obviously designed in a different age when houses were neighborly instead of compound-y. The front porches were active with friendly chats and only a few blocks away are some of the famous Portland food carts. You can walk down to the river with a large public park and even an amusement park, or catch up with neighbors at “share square”, a designated street crossing where each corner involved sharing: a tiny library, neighborhood bulletin board, small playground and a hangout area. It also helps to be there in the right time of the year, there was some rain, but it was offset with beautiful sunny days that highlighted the streets full of flowers. It reminded us of our former beloved neighborhood in New Orleans.

We parked Penny Lane and the 4Runner in Portland while we made a quick side trip to Oklahoma to celebrate my dad’s birthday. Sure, it’s hard to call a 28 hour drive a ‘side trip’, but with a rented hybrid including satellite radio, we enjoyed it! We also stopped on the way back in Boulder to spend a few nights with family there. It was nice to have real showers and real beds for a while, but the north was calling and we returned.

As we continued on, we left Portland and headed into the interior to explore some of the state and national parks. We first headed into Bend to see what the city was all about. I previously discovered a love for Deschutes’ “Black Butte Porter” beer and when I found out they were in Bend, that became a must visit. We spent an afternoon sampling beer and food before heading to their brewery and taking a full tour. This was on a workday (I think Tuesday) so let’s say it was for scientific taste-testing and to make sure I agreed with company standards. It passed.

We based at a state park south of Bend and spent four days exploring the area. We first went north to Smith Rocks State Park and watched as the landscape which had already turned from the sub-tropical rainforest of the coast, to a drier mountain climate in Bend, change again to an almost desert like landscape of Northeast Oregon. Smith Rocks State Park is centered around desert mountains and is a world renowned climbing site. We headed out on a 5-6 mile hike with Lucy and little did we know, would become very important in someone else’s day.

As we rounded a corner on the steep ascent, we saw a lady with a big dog standing next to the trail. The dog was out of control, so we stalled a bit hoping our mountain selfies would give her enough time to move on. It wasn’t for our own safety, but more because we don’t always know how Lucy will react. Sure, we think she’s the best dog in the world, but after she penned a little dog earlier in Oregon, we have been a little more careful!

Okay, I guess I should tell that story first – we were hiking with her on a leash, when a little Jack Russell, off-leash, came charging at us from down the trail. We’ve adopted the approach of unleashed dogs are calmer because they’re not in “protector mode”, so we let go of Lucy. Lucy met charging little Jack like a Patriot missile, but Little Jack is apparently a little Napoleon as his owners told us afterwards, and Lucy wasn’t going to cower to his demands as she’s ten times bigger. Instead, she quickly flipped him on his back, penned him down and probably used some dog words not appropriate for the blog. We removed her and since we were in Oregon, the owners profusely apologized and refused to lay any of the blame on Lucy, even as we insisted it was partially her fault! Such nice people.

So yes, we’re sometimes hesitant with her, but back on Smith Rocks, the lady wasn’t budging. We headed up and as we approached her, we could see the fear in her face. She was dog-sitting for friends who were climbing the mountain and the large German-Shepard mix had taken control of the hike as it kept jumping at and scaring her. She asked if she could try walking with us and we agreed, hoping the wise and calm nature of Lucy would calm him. Instead, she growled at him and he submitted to the wise old lady. She continued along with us as we realized they would become new participants in our day. It was cool though, because it kept Kujo under control.

We ventured down the mountain and agreed to part ways as she could see her friends climbing and figured they would be down soon. We broke off the trail and had lunch while Lucy cooled off in the river. As we continued on, we could hear an obnoxious barking which echoed down the canyon and shortly after we saw the owner standing next to it. It was then Jocelyn realized it was our friend again. Kujo had totally taken over and our friend’s last resort was to tie him to a nearby tree and panic… she broke into full tears as she saw us coming. I’m not always good with hints, but I guess this one was clear enough. We told her we’d get Kujo back to their campsite so she could tie him up and wait there for the owners. I took his leash and he challenged me with a nip and bark – and Lucy nearly broke her leash away from Jocelyn trying to get over to him, but I got him back under control with some Cesar-like mind tricks**. We led him back to the campsite with no issues and a relieved (and soon to be quitting) babysitter found some peace.

Our next day trip was to Crater Lake National Park. We kept the camper at the state park in La Pine so we wouldn’t have to drag Penny Lane on the five hour round trip South. From previous research, we knew most of the park was still closed due to snowed in roads (even in mid-May!) but we still wanted to see the lake. As we approached the Rim Village, we saw parking lots boxed in with snow 15 feet high and crammed with cars and tourists excited to see the lake. We found a spot and hiked up the snow hill to see the view. It was a gorgeous deep blue panorama with reflecting clouds and a snow-covered crater.

It’s here I steal some content from the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He visited with his son and said something was wrong the place. It was just too perfect – like humanity had never been there. He said it would be better if they piled some beer cans around the rim or maybe even a giant beer can pile in the middle. We caught our view and spent just as much time watching the other tourists swarming the sides before heading back to their cars and checking Crater Lake off their list, just as we did.

The Bad

The only bad from May was our own damn fault. It was the lack of respect we gave to Washington. Maybe it was due to exhaustion caused by nine months of nomadic travel or maybe because we were getting excited for the last leg of our trip, but either way, we didn’t do Washington justice. The highlight is we stayed at casinos for five nights – which meant free stays – and since we had free stays, we of course had to gamble.. and guess what, we actually won on slots and craps! I much prefer losing because then my appetite for gambling is gone for a while, but it’s nice to have some income when you don’t get income.

We did see Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington and enjoyed some camping near it, but much of the park was still under snow. We headed to Olympic National Park afterwards but the casinos were kinda far so we didn’t do much exploring in the park. Actually, we drove to the national park campsite but didn’t have cell phone reception, so instead we opted for the casino which had free electric hook ups! It was also cold and rainy since we were back on the coast, so we weren’t having much of it. We hopped the ferry to Whidbey Island and stopped in Bellingham to stock up for our final northern leg. Our grocery expenses were higher due to this stock up, but the investment will surely pay for itself as we experience the much more expensive shopping in Canada and Alaska.

The Ugly

We’ve seen our share of poverty as we’ve traveled the US, and unfortunately the closer you are to Native American reservations, the more noticeable the poverty becomes. We saw this throughout the Southwest as well as up through California and Washington. But the extreme poverty wasn’t limited to reservations.

One of the more unsettling impoverished towns was Aberdeen, Washington. As soon as we rolled into town, we noticed things weren’t quite right. Our visit to Walmart was full of faces that seemed to tell stories beyond our comprehension, and driving through downtown made it more noticeable. The few buildings that weren’t boarded up housed government and social services. After a Google, we learned it used to be a thriving logging town, but after federal regulations made logging more difficult, business dried up. I’m not sure what happened as there was still lots of logging in Oregon and parts of Washington, so maybe there was more to the story than just that. The town is now plagued with poverty and opioid addiction, which doesn’t lead to a happy ending. It’s the same story playing out in many places in the US.

We ended May on a high note as we crossed the Canadian border and checked into the Sheraton in downtown Vancouver. I still have hotel points, so we decided to spend two nights resting and soaking up as much hot water, wifi and tv as we could. Lucy did well as an urban dog forced to use sidewalks as a bathroom and riding elevators 27 stories… she’s so refined.

We made it to Canada. It almost feels like we did this entire trip just so we could make the last drive into Canada and Alaska. The unknown challenges and dangers were outweighed by the possible thrills and experiences, so the trip was a go. Google Maps said it was 48 hours of driving to Anchorage, so we rest and make it our mission in June.

*Okay, I have to admit it. I was actually upgraded to a nicer hybrid for an extra $8/day… usually I’m the King of don’t-try-to-upgrade-me, but I did some quick math to determine it was worth it… even though a little piece of me died. 

**Actually, there were no Cesar (the dog-trainer) mind tricks, I instead used my mom’s old farm trick, stepping on his back feet when he tried to jump on me. He didn’t like that, but it got him under control!

Meeting up with friends is always one of the best parts of the road trip!

Mt. Rainier National Park

Crater Lake National Park – I love the bottom pic because it looks nearly the same right side up as upside down!

Snow in La Pine State Park, Deschutes Brewery and Smith Rocks State Park

Silver Falls State Park is probably one of our favorite state parks. The nine mile trail takes you around some of the most gorgeous waterfalls in the area.

Mt. Hood National Park

April had a lot to contend with after the stellar March report of low spending and magnificent scenery. However, April had an Ace in the hole that made it an even more special month – meet-ups! We were lucky enough to meet up with Susan Cooper, the legendary blogger who’s helped me from the start, our friends from New Orleans, a friend in Roseville and a friend in Portland!

Total April Cost: $3,393
Total days in the camper: 27
Total days out of camper: 3
Cost per day: $113
States Visited: California, Oregon
Total Miles: 2,590

Summary

We started the month still reeling from the damage Penny Lane sustained during the drive into Yosemite, but the pain was tempered after we received an incredible camping spot for six days (without prior reservation) in the National Park. From there, we were off to all of our friend meet-ups as we finished California and by the end of the month would end up in Portland. Three of the visits were with friends who lived there, but one visit was with friends who were flying into meet us in wine country. They agreed to meet us, but with one condition, they couldn’t be blamed for a high spending report! Our $109/day spending surprised us as it was on the low-end, so even though I hid a few expenses during our wine country week, we still came in below expectations!

Spending Details

The Good

At this point in the journey we had spent three months exploring the southwest and only conversing with strangers who we met along the way. This can sometimes result in instant friendships as is did with neighbors in Joshua Tree and Death Valley, but more often than not, it doesn’t. But April was guaranteed friend time as we were to meet up with friends in various cities as well as friends who flew in to share a vacation.

But first, came Yosemite National Park. We’ve been fortunate to see many beautiful places, but this park ranks at or nearly at the very top! It’s a great one to visit even if your only plan is to drive around and never put on hiking shoes. From the towering monoliths of El Capitan and Half Dome, to some of the tallest waterfalls in North America, there’s beauty every direction you turn, but there’s even more beauty when you make it up some trails. We completed 4-5 pretty good hikes ranging from five to ten miles to see more waterfalls and get off the valley floor, but there’s still so much more we could’ve done if we were later in the season and snow didn’t block our paths. If you’ve never been, you should definitely add it to your list.

After we left Yosemite, we coordinated a dinner meet up with an old coworker and friend who lives in Roseville, California. We worked together for a few years and occasionally met up when we traveled for work, but we hadn’t ever meet each other’s significant others. I’ve said it from the beginning, but one of the most rewarding parts of the trip is to meet friends in their home and their city, people who we may have never seen again if we didn’t arrange it. We had a great dinner and got to tour their newly remodeled home. It was nice to get reconnected back to a former life, even if it was only for a night.

The next day we arranged to meet up with one of my favorite virtual people who I had never met before, Susan Cooper. We connected six or seven years ago as we were both starting our blogs and were trying to figure out how to make them big time. You know, those blogs you read about where the creators are making millions of dollars posting pictures of their dog. Well, neither of us have made our million, but we’ve been lucky to meet some interesting people through the process. We met Susan and her husband in one of their favorite little spots outside of Sacramento. They were incredibly nice and our only regret was we didn’t get to spend more time, but they graciously invited us to stay with them next time we’re through. That’s one thing we thought we’d have plenty of when we started this trip – time – but as we always do, we made ourselves rush as we squeezed them in between Yosemite and wine country.

Up next, we headed to Healdsburg in Sonoma County with our friends who were flying in from New Orleans to meet us in one of their favorite spots. You’d think there would be amazing little campgrounds everywhere in wine country, but surprisingly, there’s not! We ended up in a “full-timer” RV park where our campers were stacked in like row houses and Lucy had to search the whole lot for some grass*. It wasn’t the serene woodsy campsite where we wanted to show our friends how we lived with one in nature, but it was a place to park it at least.

We spent five days exploring the Sonoma area and were lucky enough to meet some of their friends who they knew from their many previous trips. From the “father of organic wine-making” Lou Preston (you should try his win, it’s really good) to some really great artists, we got to meet some really interesting people. We were even lucky enough to get an invite to a dinner at one of their houses with great conversation – and more great wine. It’s so amazing that people will take in strangers and make them feel so warm.

After all of the friend stops, we had two weeks to make it up the coast and into Portland where Jocelyn would have to fly out at the end of the month. We spent four days at one of our most amazing campsites yet in the King’s Range National Conversation Area, which lies within the Lost Coast. It’s one of the most rugged coastlines we’ve ever seen and the difficulty of traveling there meant we were nearly the only people at the site. We hiked up the coast a few miles to see the northern most colony of elephant seals and explore the natural beauty where the mountains meet the coast.

One of my most anticipated parks came next, Redwoods National Park! I’m obsessed with big trees, and the tallest trees on earth didn’t disappoint. We had some really fun hikes within the state and national parks and really enjoyed getting to spend time with these ancient wonders. Yes, I’m one of those weirdos who talks about trees like they’re people.

As mentioned earlier, we were pretty happy with our overall spending. We’ve established a new “west coast” norm which seems to be around $40/day cheaper than the east coast. Our food budget was one of the lowest yet as we have seemed to maximize our meal efficiency with Trader Joe’s, but as we head into Canada and Alaska, these number will quickly shoot up – unless of course, we can catch our own fresh salmon**.

The Bad

All of our expense items were pretty well under control, even though I laundered some extra money that was spent our vacation-trip. That’s the good part of being the trip accountant, I know how to hide expenses when necessary.

We also had some additional travel expenses as Jocelyn flew back to Dallas to emcee event at our alma mater, Oklahoma State. I stayed back at a state park just south of Portland with Penny Lane and Lucy as it was too difficult to find sitters for both of them that would’ve allowed me to travel. It turns out, we probably picked one of the worst parks for me to spend six days.

We’ve stayed in parks before where it was pretty obvious people were living in them full time. Most public parks (state or national) limit the amount of time you can stay because of that exact reason – they don’t want people moving in full time. But as we’ve learned, not all campgrounds enforce it.

As we’ve been exposed to more socioeconomic diversity on the trip, we’ve definitely gained empathy for people in tough situations. People who lost their jobs, lost their homes and are doing everything they can to hold on. However, we haven’t gained empathy for people who aren’t honest. We had a previous strange experience outside of New Orleans where we had a load of laundry stolen from the dryer, so our tolerance for this was already low.

Luckily, at this park we didn’t have anything stolen, but there was more than one time we caught some of the “locals” in the park surveying other people’s property, which is usually the first step of “the steal”. There was an unsavory crew of 3-4 barely functioning RV’s where people were always loitering around. I’d walk by and say hi, but usually no more response than an untrusting stare back at me. It wasn’t real cool, but I wasn’t worried enough that it made me leave… I’m pretty comfortable in protecting my own property thanks to by big companion – Lucy!

It was more of a nuisance that reminded me of the life in the real world.

The Ugly

I don’t think I have an ugly for this month. The expenses were under control, we had great times with friends and we saw beautiful scenery.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you about Oregon. The southern coast is filled with incredible beaches where beautiful stretches of sand meet the rugged coast. It’s filled with state parks that presumably get packed in the summer, but during our visits we had miles of coastline seemingly to ourselves. Lucy loved running up and down the beach, chasing birds and seeing what smelly stuff she could find.

I guess the only thing that could’ve been better was the weather – so maybe I do have an ugly. Everywhere we went around California and Oregon we heard about their record rainfall and snowfall this year. We felt it as we had many days in a row when we didn’t see the sunshine, but instead a lot of rain and cold. We had at least three to four weeks of this damp, cold weather that made us ready to get off the coast. Portland was our first trip inland, but I’ll cover that in next month’s review. The good news is we’ve found warmer and dryer temperatures now!

 

*Interestingly, as we’re on the west coast, there’s many places where it’s easier to find “grass” than grass
**It’s funny, because everywhere we go we wish we brought our fishing poles. But then we remember we’re not big fisherman, and we usually end up giving up pretty quickly because we aren’t any good at it

Friend time — the pictures on top are in wine country with our friends from New Orleans. The picture on the bottom is with Susan Cooper and her husband!

The Lost Coast! This pristine land in northern California is a protected conservation area with ~26 miles of untouched coastline.

Up the coast from California to Oregon – beautiful beaches

Pictures from Redwoods State and National Parks

The top picture is from Mendocino, CA – the place we’ll retire to (if we ever get rich); the other two are from the California coast

Yosemite National Park

More from Yosemite National Park – just beautiful!

I’m three years delayed in posting this because I was debating if I want to expose this data… although if you really wanted to know how much we spent on our around the world trip, you could’ve just added up the expenses from each country spending report! However, I came across the data again and thought it would be helpful to post for others who are considering a similar trip.

In 2013, my wife and I went on a round the world trip of our dreams where we rode elephants in Laos, visited the incredible ruins of Angkor Wat, camper vanned in New Zealand for a month, experienced the Northern Lights and did many other things we never thought we’d have the fortune to do. In 250 days we traveled across 5 continents, 25 countries and took over 52 flights.

We’re more “explorers” than “beach bums”. We had a long list of places we wanted to see with limited time, so instead of lying on a beach for two months in Thailand (which would’ve been very cheap), we averaged a new city every 2-3 days and a new country every ten days. We moved pretty fast, but we did have a few extended stays in countries to catch our breath.

That’s one major thing to consider if you’re using this information to determine if you can afford to take a similar trip. Many people do year-long backpacking trips on a much smaller budget than ours by focusing only on a few countries or areas. But if you want to see the entire world in 250 days with two people, it might look something like this. Just like I do with all of my spending summaries, lets get into the numbers.

Total Trip Cost: $56,096
Cost per day: $224
Total days on the road: 250
Travel stats: 5 continents, 25 countries, 52+ flights

Summary

My wife and I both had dreams of traveling the world, but they always seemed similar to my dreams of becoming a professional baseball player as a kid – something that sounded cool but that I wasn’t willing to put the time in to make happen! However, when her work contract was coming to an end in 2012, and I was becoming restless at work, we fell into a dangerous spiral of not calling each other’s bluff as we started ‘planning’ our trip. “Want to travel the world? Sure! Should we just quit our jobs? I’m fine with it! Then I’ll book the first flight. Sounds good to me!”

Neither of us wanted to be the reason it didn’t happen, so our trip started taking form. I researched and realized we needed at least six months to get all of our vaccinations and plans in order. Luckily, I was granted a one year unpaid leave at work which lessened the stress considerably since I had a job to come back to, and then we sold our house in New Orleans which took less than a week to go under contract. This was actually going to happen.

The trips plans started with an “okay, where do you want to go?” where Jocelyn named many countries that sounded like they were on terrorist watch lists or you only hear about when the bird flu breaks out, but it was good logic since we wanted to go now before we had kids. We decided to go west to east and booked our first one-way ticket to New Zealand, with a nice ten day layover in French Polynesia! From there, we figured it out as we went and made changes as we talked to other travelers who filled us in on must visit destinations.

It was a lot of money to spend, especially for a money guy like myself who knows how bigly it could be in twenty years when invested right, but we made the decision to do it because we also knew we would probably have many more limitations in twenty years and this might be our only shot until we’re 80. So we committed, and luckily, we were able to pay for the entire trip with the profit we earned from renovating and then selling our New Orleans house. Let’s get into the details.

Spending Details

The Good

The “best good” was that we took the trip. We didn’t leave it as one of those things we ‘want to do someday’ that never happens. As a few years have passed since we returned home, I’ve forgotten some of the memories along the way, but I’ve also continued to gain from the perspective we received from the trip. We realized how lucky we were to win the birth lottery. Instead of born into a slum in the developing world where our best hope would be good health, we were born into a world of privilege and opportunity. We were born into one of the most powerful countries in the world where other people would sacrifice their own life just to give their family a chance to live there.

We also realized how lucky we were to have each other. When we came back to our jobs after traveling, we saw our incredible fondness for each other fade as career and life demands stacked up. I explained it to a friend that I never had before understood how old couples could be so in love with each other, but the trip taught me how. I could count on one hand the number of times I was apart from Jocelyn for more than one hour, and neither of us liked being apart (for too long). It’s like we had squeezed decades of life into a single year. We depended on each other so much, sometimes for survival, and we were able to see the incredible strengths of each other. When I was very sick with food poisoning for a few weeks in SE Asia, it was Jocelyn who took the trip planning over and took care of me. When the taxi mafia in Jordan tried to rip us off and I firmly stood up to them, it was her who had my back and helped us get our (cheaper) ride.

And the things we saw. From some of the world’s most incredible archaeological sites like Petra, Angkor Wat, Bagan or even Jerusalem, to the stunning natural vistas in New Zealand, Nepal, Turkey or Iceland (and of course, the Northern Lights). We saw one of the richest areas in the world in New Delhi, India with slums just adjacent. We gained perspective from a non-centric US view, like the “Museum of American Atrocities” in Vietnam and learning facts like we bombed the hell out of Cambodia and Laos at the same time as the Vietnam war, making Laos the most bombed country per capita (although a new country might have taken that honor by now).

And the people we met. People living the simplest lives in Myanmar, barely getting by on what they could pluck from the land and wheeling barrels of water from charity-sponsored wells back to their shacks. Or one of our scariest times when we took the public bus in Jordan and thought we might die, but instead found one of the nicest people of the trip who talked with us for over an hour as we both laughed and bonded over no common language, but instead one we had to decipher from each other. Or the hotel manager in Siem Reap who practiced English every day on the computer while fully committed to his job, but leaving his three year old girl at home alone because they couldn’t afford a babysitter.

From an expense perspective, it was pretty interesting to take a look a few years later. The most surprising low expenses to me are for lodging and food. It’s pretty amazing we only spent a combined $30 per day on food, but that ranged from a less than a dollar for Pad Thai in Bangkok to over $30 for the cheapest lunch we could find in the UK. The food in SE Asia is cheap, but also some of the most incredible food we’ve ever had. It blew me away that each country has a fairly unique flavor developed through mixed cultures (like the French-inspired Vietnamese food) and availability of ingredients. Their use of herbs was delicious and amazing.

We typically stayed in a range of properties from lower end hotels to nice hotels thanks to my Starwood hotel points. At first, we thought we’d stay in hostels the whole time to keep costs down, but after seeing the price for two people and the conditions of some of them, we opted to stay in hotels instead. We didn’t want to be those dirty backpackers wearing hammer pants* and growing out trustafarian dredlocks. It is amazing how far $25/night can go in countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, with beautiful hotels nicely appointed with plush pillows and soaking tubs. We stayed around 50 free nights at Starwood properties around the world thanks to hotel points, which usually included free breakfast (thanks to my hotel status) and oftentimes a lounge for evening drinks and dinner.

The experiences and our perspective change will last a lifetime, and will continue to define our future. If not for that trip, we probably wouldn’t be on the road today on another one year sabbatical, and there’s no telling what wouldn’t have happened in the future.

The Bad

Entitled citizens from the US have earned a negative reputation across the world for decades, and we experienced our fair share of bombastic party-goers ruining pristine beaches in Moorea and dirty American backpackers supporting the drug culture in Vang Vieng, Laos. However, we also learned there are other countries who also complete for the most annoying travelers! Whether it be the Chinese whose new found wealth have allowed them to travel the world in swarms of tour buses while they disregard cultural sensitives like climbing Uluru, or the Australians who treat the beaches of Bali like Texans and Floridians treat Cancun (I can say that because I’m a Texan). But who knows, locals probably frowned on us a number of times as well**.

From an expense perspective, the bad comes with our total spending on flights, over $16,000! However, when you begin to break the number down, it’s not so bad. We took over 50 flights (so 100 total) which makes the total cost per flight $160. That includes major one-way flights like LA to Auckland, Beijing to Vienna and London to the US (with a stopover in Iceland). I spent a lot of time researching around the world flights, but most of them only included 10-15 legs, which would’ve meant we’d paying for another ~30 flights on our own… and their price wasn’t much cheaper than our overall amount! Flights in Australia and SE Asia were very cheap, even when booking only a few days in advance.

The flights also saved us a lot of time. Although my favorite phrase was, “we have more time than money”, we still took shortcuts when the price was right, like a 3 hour flight to Kathumandu, instead of an 18 hour bus ride that would be quite dangerous.

If we would’ve slowed down and visited fewer cities, we probably could’ve cut the costs in half. However, the big one-way flights which you’ll want to take (unless you want to ride on a cargo ship for three months across the Pacific) account for the biggest chunks of cost. In fact, the three big one-way flights listed above were $4,418 just by themselves. You’ll have to spend some money to do these big trips, the key is to be smart with your budget and know where you can make trade-offs.

The “Travel Admin” category is also quite scary at over $5,000. This category includes things like immunizations, clothing and supplies for the trip, visas and a few medical expenses along the way. We only got two visas in advance, India and China, as they required quite a bit more paperwork, but the rest of the visas were fairly easy to obtain in advance or on arrival (but that was three years ago, no telling how it’s all changing now with our present happenings).

The Ugly

While it’s tempting to add food poisoning as an ugly, I’m reluctant because that’s just a thing that often comes along with travel***. I could also talk about how we got scammed numerous times, but that also comes along with the travel! We never got robbed, never experienced acts of violence or even much rudeness and the scams were all for pretty small amounts. I call that a win.

However, there was one ugly that bit us a few times… currency exchanges. While traveling Australia and New Zealand, their currency was at one of the highest rates ever against the US dollar, so their already expensive countries stung even more. We tried to keep our daily costs down by cooking our own food – I even once smuggled a steak dinner I cooked in the camper, into the hotel. However, the big items like flights, camper van rentals and fuel really added up.

Our biggest ugly came in Australia when we rented a camper van for two weeks. They charged a $5,000 deposit which is just ridiculous, but then they took over six weeks to refund it. That gesture was crappy enough, but what made it even worse was there was a major change in currency valuation over those two weeks which meant we got over $500 fewer dollars back than the original $5k charge! It was very messed up and we even wrote a post on it where many others have joined in their hate for Appollo camper vans in Australia (I’d recommend not using them).

We also had some crazy experience like the taxi mafia above, we were nearly denied boarding because we didn’t have proof of onward travel when leaving Australia (although I lied our way out of it), and we (mostly me) had some really nasty bouts of food poisoning which explains why I seem to have lost half myself through SE Asia. Come to think of it, we probably shouldn’t have gone in the cage and sat with the adult tigers.

 

But the uglies just weren’t that ugly and the scaries weren’t that scary. I just read Orwell’s 1984 and he wrote, “If he were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself…”. That’s one of the biggest takeaways. Places like Vietnam, Myanmar, Jordan and Morocco sound scary for a Westerner. They sound scary because our government and media make them sound scary – sometimes purposefully and sometimes not. But in the end, they’re made up of people who have hopes and ambitions like the rest of us, who favor peace over war, who want their kids to experience a better life and who love to smile and laugh.

In fact, that’s the same thing we’re learning on our current trip. I’m writing this from an Oregon State Park that obviously has quite a few people living in their campers or cars full-time. Not the people who have the super-cool Instagram accounts and are doing this to experience freedom, but the people who are down on their luck. Their old beat up cars and worn clothes give them a dark appearance and my instant reaction is to ignore them and hope they’ll do the same for me, just as I would’ve done with someone begging for money. But when we’re allowed contact and discover the truth, we realize they’re just like us. They have hopes and dreams for themselves, ambition to make their kids’ lives better than their own and they don’t plan to be living in a camper forever. They’re just like us.

 

*Technically, they’re not hammer pants, but they look like it. They’re found all over SE Asia, but mostly in Thailand where young backpackers make them their choice outfit. They’re just a step above sweatpants. We did buy a couple of pair but mostly wore them where they should be worn – indoors (like sweatpants)
**While in Laos, I learned how to say hello – “Sabadee”. From then on, I’d always excitedly greet locals who seemed to appreciate it… but they might have also hated it
***Although food poisoning hitting when you’re on a small boat on Inle Lake in the middle of rural Myanmar, with the next stop being a “Bermese cat house” where you get to play with ~30 cats who are mostly just staring at you should shouldn’t be on your bucket list

 

Petra… absolutely incredible

We saw the Northern Lights on the second to last night of our trip!!

Tigers in Thailand

A Burmese lady smoking a handmade cigarette in Inle Lake, Myanmar.

How would you react if a King Cobra came out of a basket? I think Jocelyn handled it pretty well!

Sunset over Bagan, Myanmar. There are over 4,000 temples dotted across the desert landscape.

The Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand

The Glacier Lagoon in Iceland

Believe it or not, this castle was actually built in the middle of the lake in India!

Our best pose at the Taj Mahal… our tour guide insisted we take a “romantic” picture

Kids playing in Inle Lake, Myanmar… this is when my stomach started rumbling…

We learned a lot of patience on the trip… with so many delays, canceled flights and detoured routes.

Monks laughing in Myanmar