Day 365…A whole year of traveling the world! Wooo-hoooo!
We have had a great year…no regrets, no turning back, always moving forward, always a new place, but as travelers, not as tourists. Hotel concierges are accustomed to asking, “Do you have dinner plans tonight?” – as most people are on a week’s vacation, and they wish to make suggestions. For us, it is a little ridiculous, as we cannot go out to a restaurant every night, and we cannot see sights or tourist attractions every day. We are living our lives, and that means that days must be devoted, at times, to banking, reservations, correspondence, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. After a cruise, in particular, where dinners have several courses, we are ecstatic to have a picnic in our hotel room of cheese, crackers, apples, and peanut butter. Often, we buy a rotisserie chicken and salad at a grocery store for dinner. Since we have a breakfast buffet every morning of our lives, we usually skip lunch and eat a light dinner. In places known for a certain food, we will of course go to a restaurant and try it, but we don’t “eat out” every night. Sometimes we have a hotel room with a kitchenette. Then, we really enjoy cooking, as we so rarely get to prepare our own food. But we are first travelers, not tourists. We try to live within the culture we are visiting.
We ended our first year by traveling almost three times around the planet, over 65,000 miles. We came in 25 percent under budget, thanks in large part to making a budget (the first time in our lives for both of us), many free nights from our Hilton rewards program (which we typically redeem for the most expensive Hilton hotels), and living rather simply. We go wherever we choose, we enjoy cruises, we see live theater and live concerts, we indulge in massages every so often, but mostly we are just happy to be where we are and with each other. We found you have to really really really love and like the person you are with for 22 hours a day (everywhere except the gym), or you are doomed. Driving the US and Canada for 7 months takes lots of compromise with the other person. We loved it, and look forward to driving trips this year in New Zealand and Western Europe.
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For the next three headings of Favorite Place, Biggest Surprise, and Best Thing we Learned, we wrote them separately so as not to influence each other’s thoughts.
FAVORITE PLACE VISITED THIS PAST YEAR
Jan: The South Pacific, and in particular the islands of Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora. They are sparkling, beautiful, laid-back, and oh-so-calm. No worries!
Mike: Australia and generally the South Pacific. The weather, water, and vegetation are much the same as the Caribbean, but with much less hard selling by the locals. See the end of the next section regarding scooter rental for the downside of that attribute.
BIGGEST SURPRISE THIS PAST YEAR
Jan: I was very surprised by Havana. I expected it to be more repressed and sadder than it was. We found a vibrant city with interesting, avant-garde street sculptures; colorful art; businesses trying to start up and stay alive; wonderful food in an open-air courtyard restaurant; interesting residents and tour guide who shared freely about life there.
Mike: People with whom you have had great conversations, who gush excitedly about keeping in contact (without any prompting or encouragement), never email you and you never hear from them again. Even people with whom you have spent a day and had dinner with never contact you again.
American cell phones (Google Fi), which work all over the world, in 200+ countries and territories, and in the most out-of-the-way places that most Americans have never heard of, don’t work at all in American Samoa (a US territory). However, they work in the Independent State of Samoa (NOT a US territory). Go figure.
We have gotten in the habit of renting a scooter or car in many places and traveling on our own when we have just a day in port. It is surprising that vehicles are hard to come by in many heavily-touristed ports in the South Pacific.
BEST THING WE LEARNED THIS PAST YEAR
Jan: Doing with very, very little…much less than I ever thought possible…is very freeing and very possible. We travel with just a backpack and a year ago, gave away everything we owned. Not easy, but we did it. When I discovered “purse-free” pants with zippers to hold essentials, it was very weird, as a woman, to be without a purse. I always had a huge purse, and at one time, I carried glue, scotch tape, scissors, Liquid Paper, etc. Office supplies! Now I just walk out the door, as I always have lipstick, eye drops, folding reading glasses, and ID in my pockets. It is the most freeing thing you can imagine.
Mike: Your mind adapts to your schedule. For instance, if you are on a cruise for a week or a month, you find yourself happy to be there for that time and are ready to move on near the end of that time.
Since I retired several years ago, many people have asked me if I missed working. My answer has always been that I haven’t missed it for a second. I now have to add that after a year of traveling, I have not missed owning a house or staying in one place for a second. From the time we sold our home I have felt nothing but a sense of freedom. You miss some friends and family you don’t see often, but if you are with the one you love, you are at home.
Choosing just one favorite photo from the year is challenging! But we kept returning to the many times we either were on a drop-dead gorgeous beach, or looking at one from the ship. We made two trips to the South Pacific this past year, and have been here from November on. So we wanted a photo with a beach, a palm tree, and the water changing from white to greenish to blue. Our “Photo of the Year” is a recent one, but it encapsulates our favorite region this year, the South Pacific.
Number of countries or territories visited: 26
US States visited: 38
Canadian Provinces visited: 10 (i.e., all of them)
Land miles traveled: 25,000
Cruises: Seven; 156 days at sea
Nautical miles traveled: 35,166; Converted to land miles: 40,410…..
Circumference of the earth: 24,901 miles
Number of flights: 0
Days of Boredom: 0