End of the Road

I’ve read tales of people returning from long trips and finding it very tough to return to normality. I should reserve judgement, but I doubt that will be the case with Alice and me, especially as our life will be quite different post-travel.

As I think back over the past 9 months, I have a huge number of great memories. I have learned on this trip that I have a strong tendency to remember the positives of travel and forget the negatives. Just this morning I was fondly thinking back to jogging around Brisbane, fondly remembering the sense of space and the freedom to run about cities with no time limit or commitments. At the time, I was pretty bored of Australia.

As I’ve written before, I don’t regret one day of our three months in NZ and I feel that we’ve had the right amount of time in Patagonia too. A key lesson is not to rush a country. In retrospect I would have learned some Bahasa and spent all of the first two months in Indonesia; this isn’t to say that I don’t have amazing memories of snorkelling in the Philippines, a country I found rather unpleasant at times, or Vietnam, which had food that I loved but made me sick(!)

Overall though, I have scratched just 6 new countries off the map that my Highgate colleagues bought me when I left London. It can be very tempting, especially for someone with my slightly aspergic personality, to see the map as a target and plan accordingly. I’m glad we generally didn’t fall into that trap (ok, two days in Uruguay was indulgent). This is my number one piece of advice: don’t try to visit too many countries. Instead, think carefully about which countries you really want to visit and why.

So apart from a shaky start, I feel that our overall plan was pretty good, but even so, Alice and I both missed home (partly friends and family, but partly just the comfort and stability of not moving around all the time) quite a lot at different times. In future, I doubt we’ll ever travel for 9 solid months again; instead, we would prefer three 3 months stints, with some time at home to relax in between. If you’re planning a year of travel and you can afford this approach (and I don’t think it would cost much more than ours), I would seriously consider it.

Driving through the outback in Australia.

I almost don’t want to write this because it sounds snooty, but when I think back over the 9 months, I feel a sense of privilege. To have been born in a country and at a time where world travel is so easy and affordable is very lucky. For even my parents’ generation to have undertaken such a journey would have been much more adventurous and arduous.
But just to be able to take nine months off work is a luxury that so few people in history have been able to afford. On top of seeing a lot of new places, I’ve read books, listened to hundreds of podcasts and spoken to an even greater number of people in foreign languages, learned to appreciate my family more, improved my empathy and ability to compromise (a bit!), made friends who I hope to stay in touch with for life, and written this blog. It’s been great.

The Small Print

We set ourselves a budget of £60 per day, excluding flights. This was fairly arbitrary but would mean that we could last 2 years without earning if necessary. And despite a flourish of luxury at the end, we have actually stuck to it, thanks to being under-budget for most of the trip.
In total, we spent £18063. We didn’t splash out on many extravagances but we also didn’t really rough it; we only spent about 10 nights in dorm rooms. How did we do it?

I used several spreadsheets to consider alternative routes around the world, trying to visit countries at the optimum time of year to get good weather but avoid the worst of peak season. Another tab on the same spreadsheet shows some of my research as to how to get cheaply between the places we visited.

The x’s represent ‘best’ months to be in a country, with green cells showing a path through these. This was the final plan we went with, cut short by getting a job that started in April!

One key point is that we were flexible: other than the vague targets of Oceania and Patagonia, we had no must-see places, so we allowed flight prices to guide our trip.
One strategy which saved some money (and a lot of hassle) was to travel hand-luggage only until we needed camping gear. If you don’t want to camp/hut in NZ and Patagonia, then you’re missing out, but it means you could do hand luggage only for the whole trip.
Alice was amazingly dedicated in recording every single expense along the way; you can read the gory details here.

Airbnb. The wonders of the sharing economy mean that a double room is now as cheap in Australia and New Zealand as it is in the Philippines.
We did spend about 15 nights camping in places where we could have paid for accommodation, in Australia and NZ if there were no cheap Airbnb’s and when we stayed with friends who had hired a campervan.
We spent 21 nights staying for free with very kind people along the way; from our past Airbnb guests and old university friends to a lovely couple we met in a NZ hut.
On that note, we also spent 30 nights in NZ mountain huts (total cost £50pp with an annual pass) and 10 nights camping in the Patagonian Mountains. Many people may see these nights as ‘roughing it’ but when you wake up to views like this and a cabin all to yourself, I class it as luxury.

The aptly named ‘Sunrise Hut’ in New Zealand.

So, if you’re not into camping, hutting and don’t have any generous friends to host you around the world, you’d need to budget for another 75 nights of accommodation: around £1000pp.

Food and Drink
We ate out 3 meals a day, every day in Asia, as food is so cheap and kitchens hard to come by. After that, we were glad to be able to cook most of the time when we got to Australia and NZ. For those five months, we ate out about once a week and in Patagonia about every other night. We tasted around 80 beers in Australia, but rarely more than 100ml of each! If you want to eat and drink out more in Aus and NZ, you’ll find it really hard to stick to our budget.

Obviously we lived different lifestyles in different countries, so this chart doesn’t intend to give an idea of the relative cost of living in these places, and is affected by our changing attitude towards the end of our trip.

I mostly used kiwi.com, which is particularly excellent for finding bargain single fares when you have flexibility about where you want to go. Skyscanner and Kayak are better if you have fixed departure and destinations, with the latter more useful for return flights with a few days flexibility either side.
These days, most short haul flights are very cheap (<£50 if you are flexible on day, except for Aus-NZ which is heavily taxed) but long haul bargains are harder to find. With kiwi, I found good value flights from Dubai to Manila for £90 (yes, hard to believe) and Buenos Aires to London for £300, so we planned our trip around these. We had to stump up £460 each for Christchurch to Santiago, one route which has not yet been reached by low-cost carriers.

With kiwi.com, you can draw departure and arrival circles, if you’re flexible about where you want to travel.

Overall, I’m certain that buying 18 single flights was significantly cheaper than buying a round-the-world ticket. We usually booked one country ahead, because of the need to provide proof of onward travel, but this still gave us some flexibility to change our plans depending on how we were feeling.
If you wish to follow my advice on taking a few shorter trips rather than one big one, the fact that long haul returns often don’t cost that much more than singles is in your favour.

Other Travel.
We hired a car in NZ for the full three months and it cost £12/day. Cheaper were available and I regret not choosing them, as most rental cars seem equally old! Between two people, the value of this freedom was probably worth it but if you’re on your own, hitchhiking is very easy.
In Australia, we took advantage of camper-van and car relocation deals to drive the whole country. If you want to see the outback, this is a great idea, but be aware that the fuel for such long journeys is not an insignificant cost!
Elsewhere, buses dominated, except for a few choice train rides in Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia, which we did for (geeky) fun rather than budget reasons.

You’ll see that we spent relatively very little on ‘Sightseeing’. Mostly, we climbed and looked at mountains, which is conveniently free in most parts of the world. In cities, we tasted beer and visited museums and galleries.
Particular (free) favourites were tours in Perth’s botanic gardens and Melbourne’s main art gallery, a gallery of traditional Vietnamese dress in Hoi An and the Welsh history in Gaiman, Argentina.
We don’t have a bucket list, nor do we particularly enjoy organised fun, which meant that we didn’t spend the money on the expensive tours in Asia (more fun to rent a scooter for around £5/day) or bungee jumping in New Zealand. It’s hard to strike a balance between being tempted by FOMO and later regretting not doing something.

Overall, I didn’t find it hard to stick to the budget as I’ve got my grandad’s thrifty genes, but Alice often wanted to spend more and this sometimes led to conflict. Part of me thinks that 10-20% higher budget would have made things significantly easier but I’m not sure; it may be that whatever your budget, you always feel restricted.
If we’d known that I was to be starting work again in April, we’d have spent more. This may have led to more type I fun, but I don’t think it would have affected the levels of type II fun. Above all, I love good value. I hope you’ll agree that our last 255 days have been a bargain.

Argentina vs. Chile

Durante los últimos dos meses, hemos cruzado 5 veces la frontera Argentina / Chile. Cada vez, había una pista de ripio, demostrando, quizá, la animosidad histórica entre los Países. ¡¿Entonces, que están las diferencias y cual preferimos?!

Tecnología: En Chile se puede subir en bus con la boleta en su móvil. En Argentina, reservamos una vez por internet y cuando llegamos al terminal, nos enviaron al imprenta al lado. Se puede pagar con tarjeta con más frecuencia en Chile y hay un banco que no carga para retirar moneda. En Argentina, se debe pagar entre 6-10 Euros cada retiro.
Chile 2 – 0 Argentina

Ciudades: En el sur, las ciudades de Argentina (El Calafate y Ushuaia) son más desarrollados, con mejor restaurantes, cervecerías y supermercados, que los de Chile (Punta Arenas y Puerto Natales). En el Norte, nos gustó mucho Santiago y Puerto Varas en Chile. En Argentina, Bariloche está ubicado perfectamente entre los montañas y los lagos, pero era ruidoso y es muy turístico, de manera similar a San Martin.
Chile 3 – 1 Argentina

Parques Nacionales: En Argentina, visitamos Los Glaciares (dónde se encuentra Cerro Fitzroy), Tierra del Fuego, Nahuel Huapi y Lanín. Todos los cuatros tienen vistas magníficas, no cuestan nada para entrar y se puede acampar con libertad. En Chile, en Torres del Paine se debe reservar por adelantado y pagar mucho. En Volcán Villarrica no nos permitieron subir sin guía, pero hicimos un sendero interesante circa de Volcán Osorno. En Chile, hay más lluvia así que es más verde, y en general, no había tanto viento e hizo más calor
Chile 4 – 5 Argentina

Precios: Son generalmente más barato en Chile. Alquiler de coche era carísimo en Argentina: Pagamos 70 Euros por día en Puerto Madryn y 50 en Bariloche. En Chile, cuesta la mitad (¡y en Nueva Zelanda, 15 por día!). Otras cosas especialmente caras en Argentina: vuelos internos, avena y buen yogur.
Chile 5 – 5 Argentina

Gente: No puedo distinguirlos. Tuvimos buenas experiencias en ambos países. Si habla un poco de Castellano, todo el mundo aquí es amable.
Chile 5

Chile 6 – 6 Argentina

Comida: Ambos son bastante limitados a carne con papas o puré. Hay también pasta, gracias a la influencia italiana, pero no se encuentra comida de otras partes del mundo. Sin embargo, comimos unos bifes y corderos excelente en los dos. Pero, al contrario de la reputación, el bife en Argentina era generalmente peor que en Chile. A menudo, era demasiado cocido. ¡Aun cuando hice gran esfuerzo explicar cómo cocinarlo!
Chile 7 – 6 Argentina

Por tanto, el ganador es Chile. Pero si venís en América del Sur, no podéis echar ver Fitzroy o la vista desde Cerro Campanilla a Bariloche.

Eight Month Update

Our eighth month started with a 12 hour bus journey to the “fin del mundo”, Ushuaia. The southernmost city in the world may only be on an equivalent latitude to the UK’s Lake District, but it’s far south of anywhere in New Zealand or South Africa, so maybe it does deserve the title.

Looking down over Ushuaia

Climatically and Geologically, it’s more like central Norway than northern England. The cold south Pacific currents that affect Fitzroy’s climate are here too, but fortunately(?!) gas prices are ridiculously low so the poorly insulated buildings are kept toasty warm.

We ventured out into our tent for a beautiful, if chilly three day trek, which saw the first true wild camping of our trip. After the first night, on which we had a lake to ourselves, the second and third days brought fast changing scenery from farmland to native forest and a bushline campsite with glaicer views to a rocky, barren mountain pass.

Looking back to Laguna del Caminante, where we had camped the night before.

The knowledge that we are soon to regain an income has changed our attitude towards money, and this has definitely made life easier. We’ve remained relatively controlled but haven’t tried to stick rigidly to our budget. I’m looking forward to seeing the final addition and how much this effects our spending.

We’ve just finished a ten day stint with Alice’s parents. We were very keen for them to visit us at some point but it took until now for them to find the free time. It was Jane’s first trip outside of Europe; Martin’s only previous long haul trip was to California, so quite an adventure for both of them.

Argentinan culture isn’t quite as foreign as they expected but vast deserts, penguins and the Andes gave them some new experiences. I love planning holidays so was delighted to act as tour guide, but it was slightly more tiring than I expected.

Now for two weeks rest and relaxation before the end of our trip and a return to (a new) normality.

Looking out over what Martin described as the ‘best view ever’. I agree, it’s pretty hard to beat.

Pas de Bucket List pour les Français

Lorsqu’on fait une voyage autour du monde, on entend souvent parler des ‘Bucket Lists’: Les gens vous demande de ton Bucket List où ils vous parlent de les siens. Ils parlent de ‘Bucket List Experiences’ comme si tout le monde veut faire les mêmes choses.

Moi, je n’aime pas l’idée.
Pourquoi pas ?

Au début, parce que tout le monde ne veut pas faire les mêmes choses.
Une amie, Ilana, m’a envoyé une message après ma première blog, dans lequel j’ai porté plainte qu’il est difficile d’échapper la route touristique en Asie. Elle était d’accord que beaucoup de gens suivent, comme les moutons, ce qu’on est ‘censé’ faire. Elle a ajouté que cela le rend difficile de vraiment connaitre les pays qu’on visite ; ça peut sentir comme on visite une forme de Disney.

L’idée de faire un ‘repas de famille’ au Vietnam était intéressant, mais la réalité nous a déçu.

Une autre raison, c’est que si on attend une chose avec tant d’impatience, on sera souvent déçu. Je critique souvent ma mère, mais je me souviens de quelque chose qu’elle disait régulièrement : il ne faut pas avoir trop de expectations, car la vie n’arrive pas à les satisfaire.

Nous n’aurions jamais trouvé cet endroit si nous avons suivi seulement les routes touristiques en Nouvelle Zélande

Je préfère arriver dans un endroit nouveau et découvrir ce qu’on peut y faire. Nous n’avons réservé ni les ‘grands chemins’ du Nouvelle Zélande, ni le ‘w trek’ de Torres del Paine et c’était la bonne décision. Soit, ça marche au dernier minute, soit on trouve des autres choses à faire, qui s’avèrent être meilleur qu’on pourrait jamais estimer.

En écrivant ce blog, j’ai demandé aux deux Françaises l’équivalent de l’expression anglaise ‘Bucket List’. Elles m’ont dit qu’elle n’existe pas. Tant mieux que je déménage en France !

Ok, J’admette qu’il y a des expériences ‘Bucket List’ qui vaut la peine !

Como Viajar Alrededor del Mundo

Ultimamente, unos amigos míos me han preguntado sobre lo que hemos aprendido durante tanto tiempo viajando. Pues aquí voy a escribir unos consejos y deciros unos errores que hemos hecho, para que no los hagáis vos-mismos.

La cosa más importante que aprendimos durante las primeras semanas era que siempre vale la pena pasar mínimo de 2 noches, idealmente 3 en cada lugar. Empezamos descubrir nuestro plan como, por ejemplo, “3-1-2-1-2”, en que cada número indique la cantidad de días que íbamos a pasar en un lugar. Descubrimos rápidamente que 3-3-3-3 es mucho más relajante que 5-1-5-1. Puede ser que unos lugares tienen más que hacer que otros, pero hay siempre algo y a veces, las sorpresas te gustan más que lo estimado.

Otro error de los primeros meses era que planeamos demasiado por adelantado. En particular, ya habíamos reservado nuestros vuelos entre los países de Asia, dejándonos solamente 2 semanas cada una. Eso quería decir que no tuvimos tiempo para cambiar nuestros planes, cuando descubrimos nuevas cosas que quisimos hacer.

Después, fuimos en Australia donde Intentamos hacer demasiado sin suficiente tiempo: un error bastante clásico. Si, vimos mucho del país, pero nos habríamos gustado pasar más tiempo en Sydney y Melbourne. En Nuevo Zelanda, las cosas pasaron mejor y la idea de alquiler un coche durante todos los 3 meses era bueno. Si tiene más tiempo, valdría la pena comprar un camper, pero la alquila de coche es muy barato y más fácil.

Mi último consejo se trata del plan grande del viaje. Elegimos la ruta, Asia, Oceanía, América del sur, porque los vuelos eran más cortos (y así más baratos). Sin embargo, habríamos apreciado visitar los países de Asia, con sus precios baratos de comida y hoteles, después de Nuevo Zelanda. Así, nos habríamos descansado mejor entre las montañas de NZ y América.

Planeando un viaje alrededor del mundo y tiene más preguntas? Dígame.

Deutsche Deutsche Über Alles

Meistens, will ich diese Artikel schreiben, weil ich die Idee der Titel hatte, und ich glaube, dass es ein gutes Wortspiel ist. Was meine ich? Ganz klar: Es gibt Deutsche überall. Während unser Reise, haben wie viele andere Reise getroffen und es scheint mir, dass die Hälfte von ihnen Deutsche gewesen sind.

Neu Zeeland ist bekannt als Lieblings Reiseziel der Deutschen und ja, gab es viel dabei. Ein Deutscher hat mir eine Geschichte erzählt: er war mit zehn Freunden bei ihm und sie redeten über Neu Zeeland. Er war der einzige, der niemals das Lände besucht hatte.

Aber nicht nur NZ. Überall haben wir Deutsche getroffen. (besonders wenn wir auch Deutschsprachiger enthalten) In Asien, gab es weniger, aber immer noch in Malaisen und Indonesien waren sie da. In Australien, gab es vielleicht eine große Dichte von Deutsche als NZ und hier in Südamerika, sind sie am häufigsten, die wir getroffen haben.

Wir haben diese Mensch viermal getroffen!

Also, warum reisen Deutsche so viel?
Einige wollen ihrer Englisch verbessern, da es ist oft wichtig für Arbeit in Deutschland.
Kommt es von den Tagen, als es Wehrdienst gab, daher viele Deutsche die Zeit und das Geld hatte, so zu reisen?
Generell, sind die Deutsche scheint mir offene Leute, die gut mit Menschen von anderen Ländern auskommen und wollen anderen Ideen kennen zu lernen. (Natürlich ist es nicht immer so!)
Es wird jetzt verändert aber haben die Deutsche bis vor kurzem lange studiert, oft bis 25 oder älter. Die Studenten in Deutschland können sich vielleicht das Reise leisten, wegen der Uni kostet fast nichts?

Aber natürlich, es könnte sein, dass wir eigentlich nicht mehr Deutsche als andere Nationalitäten getroffen haben, aber sogar habe ich sie öfter bemerkt.

Da sind ein paar meiner Theorien. Was glaubt ihr?

Mit eine Deutche und eine Schweize (und ein Australier)