Author Archives: Rachel

One Year Later

What happens when two people quit their jobs, sell their cars, store their stuff, find temporary placement for their 3 pets, pack a couple of backpacks, backpack around the world for 10 months and then return home- homeless, jobless, petsless, carless, and penniless (well not literally penniless)?

They get jobs, find a home, get their pets back and add another one, buy cars, and start living life again. Yes, you can leave it all behind and come home and get back to normal if that’s what you’re after. It can happen and it does happen and we’re (along with lots of other people) living proof. Since we’ve been reflecting on our adventure as our 1 year anniversary has come and gone, we thought we would share “a one year later” update for anyone thinking about a great adventure of their own and curious about what happens when it’s all over. Continue reading

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Filed under culture shock, Details, home, Preparation

A New Reality

It’s been more than a month since we’ve been home now (40 days to be exact) and we’ve certainly had our ups and downs adjusting to life back in the States. We were excited to come home to the comforts and conveniences we knew, and to spend time with our friends and family. As Nick mentioned, it was both a comforting and strange re-entry, because although it was familiar it seemed very foreign at the same time.  Continue reading

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Filed under culture shock, home, Musings

Maharajas, Palaces, and Tombs, Oh My!

We finally found it. The India that everyone talks about: crazy, chaotic, overwhelming India. For 2 weeks we kept saying to ourselves, I don’t get it…this is not nearly as bad as people said it would be. We kept wondering what they were complaining about. Well, they were probably complaining about the provinces of North-Central India. Southern India is laid back and peaceful and so is the far North, but once we made it back to Delhi after Dharamsala, and then to Jaipur and Agra, we finally experienced the side of India that scares many tourists away and causes many never to return.

Our first experience in Delhi was pretty good. We were there for less than a day, in transit between Goa and Dharamsala. On our way back from Dharamsala, we had to spend another night and full day in Delhi. We had had a pretty awful overnight bus ride from Dharamsala and arrived at 5:30am exhausted and ready to get to the hotel. We hopped into a cab at the bus stop, agreed to a price of 600 rupees (approx $12 & probably about 4 times too much), while very tired and not in the mood to haggle. Well when we arrived at our hotel, the driver demanded 600 rupees per person! That’s about eight times the normal fare. Unfortunately the combination of tiredness and not having exact change meant Nick agreed to pay the driver 800 rupees, a fantastic ripoff. But wait! There’s more…

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Filed under Cambodia, Crossing Borders, culture shock, home, India, Laos, Recommendations, Thailand, Tours, Transportation, Vietnam, Wonders of the World

1.2 Billion

…people in a country one third the size of the United States. The population of the US is approximately 311 million. Imagine if our country was 1/3 the size and the population increased by almost 400%! Knowing this, we were expecting to arrive in Mumbai and be completely swarmed with people. This was not the case at the airport, but as soon as we got into our ride to our hotel we were greeted with the sights and sounds of congested Mumbai traffic, and it was nearly midnight! With horns blaring and traffic going every which way without any semblence of order, we were welcomed to the world’s 4th largest city (pop. 20 million).  Continue reading

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Filed under culture shock, Food, India, Lodging, Transportation

An American in Vietnam

In the last post, Nick said he knew Vietnam would be a very different experience than any we’ve had before, and this certainly proved true. From the beautiful mountain scenery and ethnic hill tribes of Sapa, to the serenity of Halong Bay, and the bustling capital of Hanoi, North Vietnam was a healthy dose of true Vietnamese culture.

Our 10 days in Northern Vietnam was unintentional, as we had originally planned to spend about half that time there, and then move south along the coast with Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon as our final destination. Because we had to wait a week for our Indian visa to be processed at the Embassy in Hanoi, we made the best of our extended stay and toured the North as much as we could. However, this meant much less time for us in the south so we decided to fly to Danang, about half way between Hanoi and HCMC, and then on to HCMC.  Continue reading

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Filed under Friends, strange but true, Tours, Vietnam

On bad coffee and toilet paper

We’re sitting in our hotel in Hoi An, Vietnam waiting from 6:30pm to roll around (it’s 5pm) so we can catch our ride to the airport, and thinking about home. The topic came up when I said, “man I wish there was a Barnes & Noble here so we could read magazines in the cold air conditioning while we wait” as we walked around in 90 degree heat in the afternoon sun, sweat covering our bodies (and no Barnes & Noble in sight).  I want to go to Barnes & Noble (a mega-bookstore chain for our non-American readers) because I am tired of these travel days where we have to check out of our hotel at noon when our flight isn’t until 9pm. If we were staying at say, a Hilton, we would have nice air-conditioned lobby to lounge in before we head out, but because we stay in budget hotels and hostels, we often board the bus/train/plane after a full day of walking or waiting around in the heat. I know, I should shut up because hello, I’m in Vietnam and should be grateful but these things wear on you after 8 months of constant travel and I don’t feel guilty for admitting it! You would get tired of it too and would wish for a Barnes & Noble or a Starbucks if you were in my shoes, promise.  Continue reading

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Filed under culture shock, Details, home, strange but true

Lovely Laos

Laos was wonderful. We only spent 8 days in the country, visiting just 2 towns, but we thoroughly enjoyed the easy going nature and slow pace of the Lao people. Nick thinks it might even be his favorite country we’ve visited. It was hard to believe that Laos holds the unfortunate title of being the most bombed country in the world, and apparently 50% of the country is still littered with unexploded bombs. They have Americans to thank for this, as we dropped 260 million bombs on Laos during the Vietnam War, more than all of WWII! You can see many of the old bomb casings around the towns, now being used for things like flower posts and table legs. Despite the fact that we mercilessly bombed their country, the Lao people do not seem to hold this against us and we felt no ill will while enjoying their beautiful country. Continue reading

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Filed under Crossing Borders, Drinks, Food, Friends, Laos, Transportation

Puppy love in Koh Samui

Compared to Phuket, Koh Samui was a quiet little paradise. Phuket was fun, but a typical tourist beach filled with beach chairs and umbrellas, shops, restaurants, and large resorts- actually very similar to where we live in Florida. It was certainly nice to have a lounge chair and umbrella on the beach everyday, but it felt more like a vacation than the kind of travel we have been doing the last 7 months.  So when we arrived in Koh Samui we were very happy to find what we had been hoping for- a quiet beach with a simple wooden bungalow, and plenty of local flavor.

Ko Samui

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Filed under Thailand, Transportation, Volunteering

For the love of Africa

Africa is a continent full of contradictions. She will both astound you with her beauty and crush you with her tragedy. She is welcoming and isolating, joyful and painful, free and oppressed, breathtaking and heartbreaking, all at once. But for many of us, her contradictions are part of her enchantment and bring many a traveler back to her time and time again, while convincing others never to leave. This quote by Hemingway was in our backpackers in Livingstone, and while there were a few days when I was sick and would have disagreed, I can hardly argue with his sentiment:

@ Jollyboys Backpackers

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Filed under Crossing Borders, Drinks, Food, Wonders of the World, Zambia

From Zambia with Love

Africa has always held a powerful allure for me. I was born in Tampa, Florida and grew up going to Busch Gardens, an African themed zoo in Tampa. Animals fascinated me from a young age, and because of Busch Gardens, my fascination has largely been of the African variety; Nairobi, Timbuktu, Cairo, Uganda, Congo, and the mighty Sergengeti are all represented in the park. Not only did we spend countless weekends as a family at the park, but I spent quite a few summers at Zoo Camp, Busch Garden’s camp for kids. It may sound corny, but I owe much of my love and fascination for Africa to Busch Gardens. Africa is the Holy Grail of wildlife and nature travel for me, and our Zambian safari did not disappoint. Continue reading

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Filed under Lodging, Photos, Safari, Tours, Zambia