Total countries visited during trip: 40
Total countries previously visited by Sadie: 31
Total new countries for Sadie: 33
Total of countries previously visited by Mark: 29
Total new countries for Mark: 33
Trip 1: Central America
Duration: 8 weeks
Dates: October 2016 – December 2016
Countries visiting (in order): Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba, USA (New York), Norway (Oslo).
Things we’re most excited about: Mexican food. Diving. Hiking. The Caribbean coast. Ruins. New York at Christmas.
Central America. It’s one of those destinations which conjures up images of dense jungle, pristine beaches, ancient ruins, chaotic cities… and crime. Sandwiched between the drug cartels of Colombia and the eager recipients in the US, Central America has become the primary route for drug smugglers, which, when coupled with a turbulent history of civil war, has left crime aplenty in its wake, and an unshakable reputation for danger.
Largely this is unfounded. Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama have all made amazing progress – championing ecotourism and safe travel. There are also large parts of Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize and even Honduras which are considered perfectly safe to travel to, with many seasoned backpackers spreading the word that the news reports are to be ignored, the crime rates are improving and with a wary eye and a wise head you will be absolutely fine.
Truthfully though? We are still a tad nervous.
Unlike SE Asia and South America, CA doesn’t tend to crop up in your usual gap year travel route. As a rule it tends to attract more experienced (and Spanish-speaking) backpackers*. I think this is a large part of its appeal though. It feels more “off the grid” than other destinations, even if it isn’t. It also has an incredible history. Amazing nature. Cracking food. Adventure. World-class diving. And rum, lots and lots of rum. We might be jumping in at the deep end with this one, but there are certainly worse waters to paddle in.
*Or Americans, because, really, how could you not venture southwards on your spring break?
Trip 2: The Americas
Status: In progress
Duration: 6 months
Dates: January 18th 2017 – Mid July 2017
Countries visiting (in order): Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bahamas, US, and Canada.
Things we’re most excited about: Steak. Wine. Patagonia. Torres del Paine. Machu Pichu. Yosemite. New Orleans. Grand Canyon. Vancouver. Bahia.
South America is big. Like, really, stupidly big. Chile alone stretches 4,270km from North to the South, which is a greater distance than the journey between Oslo, in Scandinavia, and Marrakech in Northern Africa. The contrast between the North and South of Chile is equally astonishing. From empty desert to frozen tundra, the mountains of Patagonia, the green vineyards of Santiago and the surfer-filled beaches of the North-East, Chile has it all…and that’s just one country.
South America’s diversity is unparalleled. You want a wetland the size of Europe? Brazil has that covered. Salt flats which are home to thousands of flamingos? Bolivia will sort you out. Insanely well preserved Incan sites, nestled amongst pristine rainforest? Head on over to Peru. Caribbean beaches? Colombia has a fair few. Entrance to Antarctica? Argentina is ready and waiting. Oh yeah, and then there’s this massive jungle in the middle of it all that you might have heard of. The Amazon? It’s kind of a big deal.
In summary, SA has it all and more. We could quite easily spend a lifetime there. Unfortunately though, we only have enough money saved for 2 years on the road, so once we’ve spent 4 months working our way up the continent, we’re heading over to the Bahamas to stay with family (because all that backpacking is tiring and obviously we will need a holiday*), then on to the US and Canada to bankrupt our pitiful traveler’s budget. It almost seems churlish to try and lump stuff in together, but what are you gonna do?
*We’re actually only half kidding there. How annoying do you find it packing and unpacking on a 2 week holiday? Try 18 weeks of it.
Trip 3: Europe & Asia
Duration: 4 months
Dates: Sept 2017 – Dec 2017
Countries visiting (in order): Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Malaysia, New Zealand.
Things we’re most excited about: Seeing friends all over the world, rural China, diving in the Philippines, our new home.
Our last trip before settling into our new lives as Kiwis. Well, not really, because we’ll be heading to Italy to get married in summer 2018, but that’s beside the point.
Most normal people would be happy with what we’ve done thus far, but apparently not us. We made the executive decision to try living our lives somewhere else for a few years, and NZ seemed like the obvious choice. It’s beautiful, it’s clean, it’s safe, they speak English, and they filmed Lord of the Rings there – what’s not to love? We also are fortunate enough to have some wonderful friends there who are holding our hands through the moving/job seeking/settling in process, which is a lovely added bonus.
See the thing is, NZ is a long way away from home, so there is a lot of stuff in between on the way. We decided that as environmentally committed travellers (shush you), we may as well hit some stops on the way. From visiting friends in Finland and South Korea, to touring round the fascinating cities of Russia, to the beaches of the Philippines and the temples of Japan, this trip has a little of everything. It will also hopefully sate our wanderlust enough to be happy in one place for a while, and give us a much-needed chance to top up our somewhat decimated bank balance.