Total countries visited during trip: 38
Total countries previously visited by Sadie: 31
Total new countries for Sadie: 31
Total of countries previously visited by Mark: 29
Total new countries for Mark: 31
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, 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
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. The Pantenal. Machu Pichu. Yosemite. New Orleans. The Amazon. 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’s, 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 16 weeks of it.
Trip 3: Europe & Asia
Duration: 6 months
Dates: Sept 2017 – Dec 2017
Countries visiting (in rough order): Hungary, Russia, Mongolia, China, South Korea, Japan, Philippines
Things we’re most excited about: Returning to the Philippines. The Trans-Mongolian Express. Japan. Diving. Beaches. Wildlife. Food Sadie can actually eat.
This trip is sort of like a night out. It starts off with a few shots of vodka, slowly becomes wilder and less regulated, the drinks get cheaper and more plentiful, you begin to lose your clothing and then it all ends with a and a cheeky curry and a dodgy tummy.
We begin the trip with a quick stopover in Hungary before heading to Moscow to board the infamous Trans-Mongolian Express. Similar to the Trans-Siberian Express (but allegedly better), this journey involves a 7-day-long train ride through Russia, the nomadic plains of Mongolia, past the Great Wall of China and on to Beijing. There are no showers, itsy bitsy cabins and it only stops just long enough for you to grab some local chow at the station before moving on. The official website actually recommends bringing your own vodka for the journey, in order to make friends with the many Russian passengers. We can’t bloody wait.
Our last visit to China in 2014 only lasted 6 days, which “apparently” isn’t quite enough time to do the country justice. It’s rather sizable, after all. We were visiting a friend who was teaching with the British council in Suzhou, so we split our time between his (very cold*) apartment and Shanghai. Although we enjoyed the trip, and unsurprisingly adored the food, we found the level of pollution in the cities thoroughly depressing. We promised ourselves that if/when we returned, we would spend our time in rural china, so this time around we have 3 weeks to do just that. And eat our weight in Dim Sum. Obviously.
From there we head on to Japan, which is quite easily the most expensive destination we have included, but by all accounts is worth every penny. Once bankrupt, we are crashing with some chums in South Korea, moseying over to the Philippines* to merrily hop, sunbathe and dive our way around the islands, before heading to on to Australia…
*Just one of China’s many government-controlled oddities – only the northern half of the country is entitled to central heating, leaving all the cities just south of the border (including Suzhou) to freeze in the wintertime.
*We visited the Philippines back in 2014 for 10 days and had to tear ourselves away. Amazing place.
Trip 4: Oceana & Asia
Duration: 9 months+
Dates: Dec 2017- June 2018
Countries visiting: Australia, Fiji, Indonesia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia
Things we’re most excited about: Catching up with friends. NZ’s South Island. Fiji. Diving the Great Barrier Reef. BBQs. Living somewhere new.
After 15 months of being useless vagabonds (and depleting our bank accounts) we will definitely need to earn some dollars. We hear Australia is the place to do it, and after spending a whole 36 hours in Sydney, we feel we could live there (ha).
The plan is to visit friends and work in Australia and New Zealand, save a few pennies and finish with a jolly good old jaunt around the Southern Hemisphere.
Originally we had intended to visit Australia later, and for less time, but given Britain’s current predicament, and our disdain for its future, we decided that there we were less inclined to rush back. We will return to our homes, and reality, in 2018…perhaps.