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A Long-Awaited Return

When Zhou and I first started blogging prior to our trip, we assumed the alias “Kevin and Zhou.” I like to think of the name as a bit of creative genius on my part, but Zhou wasn’t satisfied (most likely because her name came second). After a few months she came up with the “no hurry curry” moniker, a cheesy, desperate grab for attention that I didn’t think we needed. If people don’t like us as Kevin and Zhou, they’re not going to like these slow-moving spices. But eventually the name grew on me to the point where now, almost three years later, I look at my life as part Kevin, part no hurry curry.

Sadly though, life beckoned and no hurry curry got left behind. The blog, once attracting millions of viewers each day, now sits in the attic collecting cobwebs. Occasionally we check out the stats and see that one or two people accidentally stumble on the site before hurriedly clicking away in fear of becoming infected by old news. The only thing keeping it from being taken to the junkyard to join obsolete friends Myspace, Macaulay Culkin and Denny’s is its ranking on the google search engine. Have any of you googled “no hurry curry” recently? We’re still number one!

But I digress from the purpose of this post. For the past several months I’ve been a bit embarrassed that those visiting the blog for the first time land on a post that wasn’t even part of our original trip, and then below that are a bunch of wrap-up posts. I have these grand delusions of a fun interactive map welcoming everyone to the blog, with links to our favorite spots and pictures. I have no idea how to make that work though, so instead I want this post to introduce Zhou and me whoever is willing to listen, and then talk about our trip a little. So here goes…

:: ahem ::

I have no idea exactly when we first came up with the idea of a round-the-world trip, and even less of an idea where it switched from fantasy to reality. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if the decision was made while I was watching Survivor and only half-listening to what Zhou was asking. Once the decision was made, we spent nearly a year planning and researching more about travel than I ever thought existed. How do we avoid all cold winters, hot summers and rainy seasons? Can we really live for that long on three pairs of socks and four shirts and no cell phone? Where will we watch American football? What visas do we need? Shots? Diarrhea medicine? Zhou wrote all about it here.

Although at the time it felt like the trip would never come, in retrospect I wish we had more of a build up. The trip itself could only last so long – at some point the money will run out as will your ability to live out of a backpack while hopping from hostel dorm to hostel dorm. But the lead-up to the trip can be as long as you want. In an ideal world, we would have figured out our plan as soon as we graduated from college, then lived our frugal banking lifestyle for two full years knowing that at the end of it was this fantastic pot of (anti)gold. (That is, the dream of spending $50,000.) I wouldn’t have wanted to push it the other way (ie accepting third year offers at the bank and then traveling) because we really don’t want to be the 40 year-olds who are just earning PhDs and have nothing tangible to show for it.

Anyway, September 10, 2009 eventually did come. Five days earlier we threw a massive party where we invited our friends and family from all over the world to come celebrate with us (Zhou sometimes refers to this as our “wedding” but I’m pretty sure it was a send-off party). It was great to get sick of all these people before leaving, because then we felt like we weren’t leaving anything behind. (Ok just kidding, and here’s my proof.)

There’s no great way to sum up the next ten months, but we have about 800 – 1,000 pages of blog posts that I invite you to peruse – they cover the trip in pretty good detail. This was our route:

296 days, 31 countries, 6 continents

It felt like we covered so much of the world, but as the trip went on we realized how much there was out there that we were never going to get to see. Upon our return we put together a tentative itinerary for “no hurry curry part 2: bigger, longer and uncut,” but even if I shaded those countries in the above map the white would far outweigh the gray. It still amazes me how the more you see and learn and do, the smaller you realize you are.

If you’ve stumbled upon this blog while planning a trip of your own, you probably don’t want to hear about what we didn’t cover. You probably want to know what we thought about what we did experience. And that’s good, because that’s what I want to talk about.

So country-by-country (defining the term “country” quite loosely), here’s what we did. And to make my wife-who-didn’t-change-her-last-name-from-Zhang-to-Curry happy, I’ll run the list backward alphabetically, starting with Z.

Jump to: Zambia, Vietnam, Uganda, Thailand, Tanzania, Zambia, Taiwan, Spain, South Africa, Singapore, Portugal, Peru, Patagonia, New Zealand, Nepal, Malaysia, Malawi, Kenya, Japan, Hong Kong, England, Egypt, Easter Island, China, Chile, Cambodia, Botswana, Bolivia, Australia, Argentina

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Zambia

Cities covered: Chipata, Lusaka, Livingstone

Must do: Devil’s Pool in Victoria Falls

(Click here for a more detailed breakdown, or here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

The Devil's Pool

Victoria Falls

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Vietnam

Places covered: Ho Chi Minh City, Dalat, Lak Lake, Buonmathuot, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi, Halong Bay

Must do(s): Easy Riders Dalat and Halong Bay

(Click here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Dalat, from our hostel

Nha Trang

Halong Bay

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Uganda

Places covered: Jinja, Kampala, Lake Bunyonyi, Nkuringo, Bwindi Forest

Must do: Gorilla trek, white-water raft the Nile

(Click here for a more detailed breakdown, or here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Jumping into Lake Bunyonyi

Children at work

Gorilla trekking

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Thailand

Cities covered: Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, Bangkok, Chiang Mai,

Must do: Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School, drink the fruit shakes

(Click here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

A beach in Phuket

Gold statues

Flight of the Gibbons

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Tanzania

Places covered: Arusha, Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Korogwe, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Iringa

Must do: Serengeti, hang with Masai warriors

(Click here for a more detailed breakdown, or here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Lion in the Serengeti

OHIO with Masai warriors

Zanzibar

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Taiwan

Cities covered: Taipei

Must do: Eat at La Zhong Jian, Kanpai and The Diner

(Click here for a more detailed breakdown, or here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Biking with Tina

Sun Yat-sen Memorial

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Spain

Cities covered: Madrid

Must do: Madrid is just a cool city in general

(Click here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Some plaza

Bar Melos sandwich

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South Africa

Places covered: Thorny Bush National Park, Kruger National Park, Johannesburg

Must do: Thorny Bush

(Click here for a more detailed breakdown, or here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Wild animal

Hippos in Kruger Park

Elephants crossing road

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Singapore

Cities covered: Singapore

Must do: Singapore Zoo, (probably Pool in the Sky too, but we couldn’t afford it)

(Click here for a more detailed breakdown, or here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Singapore Zoo

Street luging Sentosa

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Portugal

Cities covered: Lisbon

Must do: stay in one of the many amazing Lisbon hostels

(Click here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Tower of Belem

Thieves' Market

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Peru

Places covered: Puno, Arequipa, Cabanaconde, Cusco, Inca Trail, Ica, Huacachina, Lima, Iquitos

Must do: where to begin? Everything was amazing! The Amazon, Arequipa, the Inca Trail, Machu Picchusandboarding Huacachina

(Click here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Machu Picchu

Floating Islands of Puno

Amazonian child

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Patagonia

Cities covered: Rio Gallegos (A), Ushuaia (A), Puerto Natales (C), El Calafate (A), El Chalten (A), Perito Moreno (A), Bariloche (A), Osorno (C)

Must do: Big Ice on Perito Moreno glacier, cruise to Antarctica…

(Click here for a review)

Top pictures:

Torres del Paine

Big Ice on Perito Moreno

Bariloche

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New Zealand

Places covered: Rotorua, Taupo, Waitomo Caves, Auckland, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Te Anau, Routeburn, Wanaka, Paihia

Must do: skydive Lake Taupo, the Routeburn Track, visit Queenstown

(Click here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Skydiving over Lake Taupo

Lord of the Rings country

Routeburn Track

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Nepal

Places covered: Kathmandu, Annapurna Circuit, Pokhara, Chitwan National Park

Must do: Annapurna Circuit! Annapurna Circuit! Annapurna Circuit!

(Click here for a more detailed breakdown, or here for a review, or here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Beautiful Annapurna

Thorong La Pass

Chitwan National Park

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Malaysia

Places covered: Kuala Lumpur, Penang

Must do: scooter around Penang

(Click here for a more detailed breakdown, or here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Temple on Penang

Petronas Towers at night

Featured on The Amazing Race

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Malawi

Cities covered: Chitimba Beach, Kande Beach, Senga Bay

Must do: barter off pencils and your old socks

(Click here for a more detailed breakdown, or here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Boarding the bus at a market

The Wheelhouse campsite

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Kenya

Places covered: Nairobi, Lake Nakuru National Park, Eldoret, Masai Mara National Reserve

Must do: fend off baboons in Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara

(Click here for a more detailed breakdown, or here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Eldoret campsite

Cheetah loses gazelle

The Masai Mara

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Japan

Cities covered: Tokyo

Must do: Japanese baths

(Click here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

The famous shopping intersection in Tokyo

Tsukiji fish market

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Hong Kong

Cities covered: Hong Kong

Must do: eat

(Click here for a more detailed breakdown, or here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Hong Kong nightlife

Giant Buddha on Diamond Hill

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England

Cities covered: London, Bath

Must do: Wimbledon, wander the city

(Click here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

The Queen at Wimbledon

Buckingham Palace

Bath

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Egypt

Places covered: Cairo, Luxor, Nile River cruise, Aswan

Must do: the ancient, ancient history of Cairo

(Click here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

The Great Pyramid

Karnak temple in the morning

Luxor Temple at night

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Easter Island

Cities covered: Hanga Roa

Must do: just go there, it’s beyond amazing

(Click here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

My favorite picture from the trip

Ahu Tongariki

Moai sunset

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China

Cities covered: Beijing, Xi’an

Must do: pandas, splurge on the sleeper train

(Click here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Pandas in Xi'an

We took this ourselves!

Forbidden City

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Chile

Cities covered: Santiago, Valparaiso, (see Patagonia)

Must do: get lost in colorful Valparaiso

(Click here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Santiago street music

Streets of Santiago

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Cambodia

Cities covered: Siem Reap, Phnom Penh

Must do: fish foot massage, learn about Khmer Rouge, the temples

(Click here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Angkor Wat

Contemplative monk

Temples

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Botswana

Cities covered: Kasane, Elephant Sands, Kwa Nokeng

Must do: get close with angry elephants

(Click here for a more detailed breakdown, or here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Elephant Sands campsite

Chobe River

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Bolivia

Places covered: Tupiza, San Antonio de Lipez, Laguna Colorada, Puerto de Salar, Uyuni, Sucre, La Paz, Copacabana

Must do: Southwest Circuit and Salar de Uyuni

(Click here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Salar de Uyuni

Zhou in the Salar

Copacabana

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Australia

Cities covered: Sydney, Byron Bay

Must do: I want to live in Sydney

(Click here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Sydney harbor

Byron Bay

Darling Harbour Bridge

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Argentina

Cities covered: Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Salta, La Quiaca, (see Patagonia)

Must do: Patagonia

(Click here for the list of posts)

Top pictures:

Mothers of the Disappeared

Mendoza winery

When planning two summers ago for our round-the-world honeymoon, we had two main constraints: the size of our carry-on luggage and the portion of our savings we could spend while still being able to start life over again after the trip. Although we put a lot of time and effort into researching how to conserve space in our packs, once we hit the road it was relatively easy to maintain our pack size.

Our budget, on the other hand, never went away. With every new country we set foot in, we had to re-strategize the best way to save money while still doing everything we wanted to do. Would we be able to eat out or would we have to do our own cooking? Could we book a private room, or was it another few weeks in dorms? How would we transport ourselves around the city and country?

Within a couple months, though, we better at sticking to our budget than Ron Burgundy was at sticking to his teleprompter. There couldn’t possibly be a world where someone cleans your room for you and you could eat all you desired… until now.

As we mentioned in our last post, my parents invited us along on their 30th anniversary Mediterranean cruise. I honestly didn’t know how to prepare for something like this. I’m going to have to pack a suit. I can no longer use the “it’s too expensive” excuse to Zhou. We’re going to have to look into group tours. Heck, we might even upgrade from hostels to Italy vacation home rentals. For those of you who haven’t been on a cruise before, imagine being in Cleopatra’s shoes back in 45 BC. If you want another bunch of grapes, someone will give them to you. You can hop in the baths (now known as pools and hot tubs) whenever you want. Your room is always made up and a (towel) animal is always waiting for you. It’s incredibly difficult to describe how awesome they are. Suffice it to say that my brother gained over 4% of his body weight in the week we were on the ocean. And this is a guy who has a harder time putting on pounds than Kirstie Alley has taking them off.

I’m thankful that my parents hit their 30th anniversary the year after our big trip. It’s very easy to adjust from budget travel to luxurious Royal Caribbean cruises, but MC Hammer tells me it’s not so easy going the other way around. Plus, we saw some fascinating, historical places; and best of all, we were able to share them with Mom, Dad and Steve.

The only way to really know where you're going in Rome is by getting in the map.

The food was good. The fearing for Steve's life was not.

From the back row of the Greek Theater in Taormina, Sicily.

Along the ocean on Crete.

The Currys and Mehmet, our tour guide at Ephesus.

It's always fun to take pictures of those taking pictures, especially when it's your family at the Parthenon.

I wish I would have had this picture to include in my eighth-grade report on the Colosseum.

We did not do this.

Zhou bought this hat so she could block other people out of photos.

Steve's a half inch shorter but needs height validation.

If you've never quad-biked before, do it. Just don't lose your wallet (we didn't).

Inside the Colosseum. Unfortunately this was the day after Steve left.

Eventually though, they all had to go back to their jobs, leaving Zhou and me stranded in Italy with a couple more weeks to kill before heading home to get ready for classes. The trip had gone so smoothly up until that point that something was bound to go wrong. Sure enough, no sooner did we say goodbye to Mom and Dad in Venice than did we find out about an Italian train strike, stranding us in Florence for the night.

It’s these types of unforeseen circumstances that used to lead Zhou to title a post something along the lines of “Worst Night Ever.” However, this year-older, year-wiser Zhou took the change in plans in stride, found an internet cafe and booked us a cheap hostel within walking distance of the station. Unfortunately, the directions made one small error: the first turn out of the train station said left instead of right. Thus our 15-minute walk turned into an hour-long trudge from one set of bad Italian directions to another.

It’s these types of unforeseen circumstances that used to lead Zhou to title a post something along the lines of “Worst Night Ever. II.” However, this Zhou held up surprisingly well. She arrived at the hostel in as good of spirits as I could have possibly asked for. Her eyes were still dry and my arm wasn’t bruised, so I’d call that a victory.

Anyway, as I stood there to check us in I heard Zhou let out a little gasp next to me. (Notice the all-important ‘p’ in the word gasp.) She tapped me on the shoulder and told me to look down. In her hands was a book she’d picked up off the book exchange called “How to Teach Your Dog Quantum Physics.” But perhaps even more exciting than that was the folded-up 50 Euro bill tucked into the book! She mouthed “what do we do?” to me, all while the receptionist was looking down at her computer. She then put the book back in the exchange, I immediately picked it up pocketed the cash.

Look, I have morals. I’m all about giving money back when we know who it belongs to. But one of the first rules of hostel traveling is “What you find in a book on a book exchange is rightfully yours.” We even went back later and exchanged for the book!

But the best news came when we got back to our room. I explained my actions to Zhou and then pulled the Euro note out of my pocket. Lo and behold, it wasn’t just fifty – we had found 200 Euros!

There are several morals to this story. First, if you’re reading this and you remember leaving 200 Euros in a Florence hostel, sorry, but we’ve already spent it. Second, as I was quick to point out to Zhou, the travel gods love flexible travelers who do not complain about changes in plans. Third and finally, Florence is one of the best cities in the world.

A year ago today we were wandering around Arequipa, Peru preparing for my dad’s upcoming arrival. A year ago tomorrow would be the first time seeing either of our families in nearly eight months, a record we hope we never have to approach again. We reminisce every day about our travels, which now feel like they occurred decades ago. Sometimes there’s simply an unspoken acknowledgment of the hundreds of pictures on our walls, on our coffee table, in my office cubicle. Other times it’s a bit more obvious: a couple weeks ago we shared stories with one of our newfound friends who was visiting nearby Washington DC from her home in Italy.

This week though, we have a new, more public way to reminisce. We’ve been published in a free photo ebook featured here on Lonely Planet’s website! (Please beware that the book pdf may take a minute to download.) This book was  a collaboration between us and 39 other travel bloggers, almost all of whom put us to shame because they are currently traveling and blogging. I’ve been amazed by the different places and perspectives covered in the ebook, and even more amazed that some of the authors travel and write about it full time.

Speaking of writing, holy cow this is difficult! I have no idea how Zhou and I churned out award-worthy material day in and day out for 299 consecutive days. I’m only just beginning my third paragraph of this weekend and I am out of breath. To put this in perspective, we have been looking into converting our blog into a set of books, but found out that it would take about 8-12 volumes and cost over $1,000. Jimmy Encyclopedia himself probably didn’t have that much material when he printed his first edition. (For those of you wondering, yes, Jimmy Encyclopedia was good friends with little Billy Bolivia.) Now I’m stretching myself just to write 200 words…

I do though, have one more piece of news to share. Zhou and I have accepted my parents’ invitation to join them in celebrating their 30th anniversary, and in doing so, we’ll be heading to Europe in one month! My parents are taking my brother and us on a cruise in the Mediterranean, followed by a couple days in Rome and in Venice. Zhou and I plan to follow this up with a trip to Cinque Terre and then Paris on our own. In total, our real next, longer around-the-world trip will actually be much shorter (27 days) and will not come anywhere near circling the world.  The question is, should nohurrycurry return? It would be an entirely new chapter – gorging on buffets, dressing up in fancy clothes, gambling, and showering nearly every day – and one that I’m not entirely comfortable with. Oh, who am I kidding? I can’t wait to ditch the smelly clothes and dirty hostels when we hit the road again! This will, unfortunately, be our last around-the-world trip until retirement, so we’ll be sure to make the most of it. If we choose to start blogging again, see you all from across the pond.

Oh, and happy anniversary, Mom and Dad, and happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

We miss traveling. While we were on the road, I didn’t think we would miss it this much. Every day at work, I think back to what we were doing at this time last year. Today we were safariing in the Serengeti, having just watched a cheetah (unsuccessfully) chasing a gazelle. Quite a contrast to sleeping in late to recover from the long week of staring at data of TARP participants.

So you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to do it again. Yes, we’re going to pack everything into two small backpacks, move the rest of our stuff into our parents’ houses, and spend a lengthy period of time hopping from crowded dorm room to airport corridor to crowded dorm room. Zhou has decided to finish up the year and get her Masters, then put the PhD on hold for now. There’s just too much to see.

1) During the last week of next August we’ll fly one-way ticket to Europe, just like we did a little over a year ago. It’s amazing how much money we saved by purchasing our RTW ticket starting in London, so it only makes sense to do it again. This time though, we’ll fly into Rome on our one-way, and spend a month and a half taking the Eurail around. Countries covered: Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

2) To begin the RTW ticket portion of our trip, we’ll fly from Amsterdam to Capetown, where we’ll do another Acacia tour, the 19-day Desert Tracker from Capetown to Livingstone beginning on October 1. (Come join us!) If we had to pick something we regret missing last time, this would probably be it. If you ever get two months to overland Africa, don’t wimp out and select Acacia’s 46-day tour; man up and pick the 58-day. Countries covered: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia.

3) Unfortunately we have to use two of our 16 RTW legs to get from Capetown to Rio de Janeiro (stupid limited coverage in Africa), but fortunately we’ll get to see Brazil next! We’ll spend a few days in Rio before overlanding down to Iguazu Falls, another one of our unfortunate misses last time. From there, we’ll one-up our 53-hour bus ride to Ushuaia, this time by spending 70 hours in a bus, again heading to Ushuaia. The only difference this time is we’re going specifically for an Antarctic cruise. November is supposedly the best time to go, so we’re not going to miss out. Countries covered: Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Antarctica.

4) Ushuaia isn’t one of OneWorld’s covered cities, so we’ll book our own flight back to Rio, where we’ll hop on a RTW leg back to Sydney. Our 12 days in Australia last year weren’t nearly enough, so we’re booking six-month train tickets on the Ausrail and covering everything we possibly can: New South Wales, Melbourne, Queensland, Darwin, the Outback, Uluru, everything. The country is absolutely amazing, and we want to do it right this time. From late November to early March, we’ll only cover one country: Australia.

5) We’ll fly out of Sydney and into Tahiti (via Auckland), where we’ll island hop in the South Pacific, all the while singing “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair.” We had to skip this area last time because we couldn’t fly from Tahiti to Easter Island, which was our number one island priority. Our most anticipated stops during this part of the trip: Vanuatu and Jellyfish Lake in Palau. Countries* covered: Tahiti, Fiji, Vanuatu, Cook Islands. (We use a loose definition of the word “country.”)

6) Eventually we’ll make our way to Japan, where we’ll spend three weeks touring everything except for Tokyo. We’ll climb Mount Fuji, visit the famous gardens, hot springs and pagodas. If we’re lucky we’ll even get to ride the Bullet Train once or twice before flying into Shanghai to tour southern China. Last year we froze to death in both China and Japan, and therefore didn’t stay as long or do as much as we wanted. We loved everything (especially the pandas), but it was just so darn cold. Hopefully just over two months this time will allow me to get a better feel for my home away from home. Countries covered: Japan, China.

7) Next stop is a new part of the world for both of us: the non-African part of the Middle East. I’m going to use my financial knowledge to help us solve the crisis in Dubai, then we’ll skip over to the West Bank, to continue with the banking theme. We’ll hit Istanbul, Constantinople and Istanbul, then head across the Mediterranean to the old Acropolis and then the home of my cousin-in-law, Croatia. There’s no doubt that this part of our trip will be rushed, but we’re quickly finding out that no matter how much of the world we’ve seen, there’s not enough time to see what’s left. Countries covered: United Arab Emirates, Israel, Turkey, Greece, Croatia.

8) A flight back to Amsterdam will mark the end of our RTW ticket, but not the end of our trip. We’ll book a one-way flight in early July 2012 to Quito, Ecuador. This was the part of our last trip that we cut out when Zhou found out UVa’s grad program started so early, so we can’t miss it this time. We’ll do a seven-night Galapagos cruise, then bus into Colombia to buy some coffee and arrest some drug traffickers. In all seriousness, we’ve heard Colombia is one of the nicest countries in the world from multiple sources, so we’re looking forward to seeing past its stereotypes. Countries covered: Ecuador, Galapagos Islands, Colombia.

9) Our final segment in what will probably have to be our final around-the-world trip of this stature will be an overland journey up through Central America. This one will be very open-ended since we won’t have any pressing thing to get back to in the States. Our limiting factors here will be traveling stamina, homesickness, and of course, money. If we find we’ve had enough of hostels and buses, we’ll have to save this journey for later. But the goal will be to start across the Panama Canal by the beginning of August and not hit Arizona until late September. Countries covered: Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico.

RTW Part 2 Trip Statistics: 7 continents, 34 countries, 13 months.

In all, this trip will be bigger, longer and a lot more expensive than the last one. We might have to get back into banking for a couple years afterwards to pay for this one, but we’ve decided it’s more than worth it. It’s really hard to stay in one place after having a taste of what the world has to offer, and after three months back in the States, we’ve realized we just have to travel.

Ok… This whole post has been a lie. We don’t have the money, we don’t have the time and we have too many obligations back home to do another RTW trip. Zhou is not going to quit her PhD program, and I’m not going to quit another job right now. We have our two little kitties, our new routines and our life plans, and we can’t set them back two-three more years. The real take away from this post is that these are the next places we want to cover. I would estimate that a trip of this type though would run us somewhere around 2.5 – 3 times as much money as our last trip, so unless someone introduces themselves one day and tells us he’ll give Zhou a PhD, give us $150,000 and let us take our kitties with us, then this trip won’t happen.

Instead, tomorrow we’ll wake up and eat our Sunday morning pancakes. I’ll go play flag football and then Ultimate Frisbee. We’ll sit close to our computers and watch our fantasy football teams all afternoon, and probably play fetch with Penny while Cairo tries to hog all the attention. If Zhou can get away from studying for the night, we’ll watch a movie and have fruit shakes, otherwise maybe just one episode of The Big Bang Theory. All things considered, our new life as we know it sure is good.

So…We’re Home

Before we left on the trip, I read quite a few blogs of people who went on RTW trips, and I noticed one thing that they all had in common – no matter how diligently they posted during the trip, nobody really posted much after they got back. And I thought to myself, “I won’t do that. I’ll let everyone know what it’s like after we get back! I don’t want them to worry that we’ve become homeless and jobless and are slowly starving to death while dreaming about going to Namibia!”

Um…yeah. That was the plan. But now I get why no one writes after they get back. You see, there’s this thing called REAL LIFE that takes up a lot of time.

A page from my econometrics notes.

Kids, don’t go to grad school. You’re just asking for pain. I thought matrix algebra and I parted ways to our mutual benefit after sophomore year of college. Ditto for partial derivatives. Boy, was I wrong. And being in a relationship with them is even worse and more demanding than I remember. Kids, if you think you like math, get a PhD in economics. If you think you like economics, think harder.

So here’s what else has been going on in our lives since we’ve gotten back. REAL LIFE has taken over. Kevin just had his first day of work last Monday after 14 months off. I’ve been in school for a month and a half. We’ve moved to a new city, furnished and decorated a new apartment and are now contributing, upstanding members of society.

Oh, and we got two kittens.

(That back wall is filled with photos from our trip. There is one large photo missing because we broke the frame. Don’t worry, I would NEVER arrange a wall of photos like that with a huge blank spot.)

I painted all the curtains myself. This was before school started.

So, back to the kittens. Here’s what happened. We had always planned on getting a kitten and a puppy when we got back. I think this was partly so we would have an incentive to come home. The plan was to get a kitten after we got settled in Charlottesville and to then get a puppy in late October/early November – and being the fiscally responsible people that we are, we agreed that we would wait until Kevin had a job before we got any pets at all. Well, I convinced Kevin that it would be ok to get a kitten even if he didn’t have a job, because kitties don’t eat THAT much, hey, you need someone to keep you company while I’m at school all day, let’s just go look at them, we don’t have to get one, and SHE IS SO CUTE! So that’s how we ended up with Sofia, a teeny-tiny, beautiful gray kitty. Unfortunately, it turned out that Sofia was a very sick little kitty who died after just two days with us. I had never had a cat before so I was completely blown away by how much I loved her after just one weekend together. (It probably helps that she was the sweetest kitty ever.) We both had a tough time for a little while after that, but we eventually decided that we needed to get a new kitty. So we went back to the animal shelter to look at kittens. But none of them were right. And so we went back again a few days later. And this time we found the right one – the only problem was, the right one was actually TWO right ones.

Meet Penny and Cairo. I dare you to tell me you would have only taken one home.

I don't even know which one this is.

A favorite spot.

Admittedly they spend a lot of time trying to kill each other. I like to think that's how they show they love each other.

Also, sometimes I worry they're the devil.

If personality is anything to go by, Cairo is definitely the first-born twin who likes to bully/take care of his sister – depending on his mood. Penny is the adoring little sister who always wants to do whatever Cairo’s doing, which annoys him to no end. The kitties are adorable and awesome, and I giggle uncontrollably every time I come home and see one – then two – little heads poke through the curtain and stare at me as I walk up to our apartment. It’s amazing.

So we’re doing really well. We both really like Charlottesville, we’re making friends and settling in, we have the two best kitties in the world (when they’re not busy being the devil), and really, despite this whole grad school thing, I don’t think I have any reason to complain. But still – part of me wishes we were on the road.

One of the reasons we took this trip last year was to “get it out of our systems.” You know, travel a lot now while we’re young with no responsibilities and THEN settle down and be real adults for the next 30 or 40 years until we retire. But that’s not what happened. Instead, our list of places we want to travel to is now longer than it was when we left. There are so many things left to see and do, and I’m determined that we eventually do it all. I’m harassing Kevin to think about getting a PhD and become a professor so we can both have summers off to travel. I wave away his comments of, “But I don’t like teaching” with the response, “You don’t know that! Besides, it’s mostly research!”

I think my campaign is working.

So though this is the last blog post of the trip, it’s definitely not the end of our travels. I’m already planning a trip for next summer.

Thanks again for reading! (Aren’t you glad I wrote this? Aren’t you glad you know we’re not homeless and jobless and slowly starving to death?)

Since we’ve been home, we’ve both been procrastinating on our wrap-up blog posts. Part of this is because “real life” matters have intruded into our lives. Who knew that finding an apartment was so complicated and time-consuming? Not I! So here we are, over three weeks later and I’m just now writing this. Sorry about that.

Now let’s get down to the numbers. In just shy of 10 months on the road, we spent $45,918.24. Here’s a list of our total costs by category, from most money spent to least money spent. All totals are for the both of us, and everything is in US dollars. (For exchange rates, we used the rates that we received from our ATM withdrawals.)

Transportation costs:
– RTW tickets (14 flights, two surface sectors): 5,982.40
– All other flights (13 legs each): 2,639.06
– Bus rides: 2,194.07
– Subway/monorail/tram/metro: 494.77
– Trains: 314.21
– Taxis: 302.40
– Car/scooter rentals and gas: 232.34
– Airport taxes: 85.40
– Bike rentals: 23.11
– Ferry/boat: 10.22
TOTAL TRANSPORT COSTS: 12,277.98

AFRICA TOUR: 8,154.93

Excursions:
– Whitewater rafting: 280.00
– Devil’s Pool: 120.00
– Annapurna trekking permits: 54.79
– Paragliding: 206.44
– Chitwan National Park: 120.00
– Day trip to Ko Phi Phi: 78.55
– Flight of the Gibbons: 125.68
– Easy Riders Dalat: 420.00
– Ha Long Bay Marguerite Junk: 102.40
– Kool Katz Surf Camp: 213.52
– Skydive video*: 129.71
– Milford Sound cruise: 149.03
– Routeburn permits: 122.78
– Penguins: 129.87
– Torres del Paine: 57.37
– Big Ice trek: 337.66
– Los Glaciares National Park: 38.96
– Salt flats tour: 338.00
– Floating islands day trip: 28.27
– Inca trail: 1,057.74
– Dune buggy and sandboarding: 31.80
– Muyuna Lodge: 1,217.78
TOTAL EXCURSIONS COST: 5,516.06
*Skydiving itself is not included because it was a gift.

Food:
– Africa (this is the food we had to pay for outside of our tour): 440.05
– Asia: 1,754.46 or 17.90/day
– Australia/New Zealand: 715.31 or 21.04/day (we mostly cooked)
– South America: 1,415.91 or 17.27/day
– Europe (includes Egypt): 944.42 or 28.62/day
TOTAL FOOD COSTS: 5,270.15

Lodging:
– Africa (outside of the tour): 321.50
– Asia: 753.89 or 7.70/night
– Australia/New Zealand: 1,033.45 or 30.40/night
– South America: 1,274.70 or 15.55/night
– Europe (includes Egypt): 1,230.54 or 37.29/night
TOTAL LODGING COSTS: 4,614.08

Gear:
– Camera and accessories: 762.60
– Netbook: 378.00
– Clothing, packs, sleeping bags, etc.: 1,720.60
TOTAL GEAR COSTS: 2,861.20

Medical:
– Travel/health insurance: 1,010.00
– Immunizations and meds (pre-trip): 894.08
TOTAL MEDICAL COSTS: 1,904.08

VISAS: 1,759.36

Sightseeing:
– Africa: 8.04
– Asia: 386.01
– Australia/New Zealand: 426.59
– South America: 93.47
– Europe (includes Egypt): 334.90
TOTAL SIGHTSEEING COSTS: 1,249.01

Entertainment:
– Tickets to musicals: 190.64
– Movie tickets: 14.17
– Wimbledon: 59.26
– Mini golf: 14.29
– Poker tournament (Kevin): 7.14
– Fish massage: 5.00
– Cooking class: 24.00
– Bowling: 9.73
– Philharmonic (KL) tickets: 8.85
– Other: 12.18
TOTAL ENTERTAINMENT COSTS: 345.26

TIPS: 347.14

Miscellaneous:
– Money stolen on Chobe River cruise: 110.00
– Qantas ticket change fee: 90.00
– Hard drive (bought in HK): 63.83
– Five-Euro note found in Singapore airport: -7.54
– Leftover Taiwanese bills (gave to Tina): 9.32
– Change for buses given to us by Wang family: -6.09
– Phone call in Thailand: .36
– Bribe to Cambodia border patrol: 3.02
– Printing/postage fee for Asia miles forms: 3.02
– Lost key fee: 4.45
– Money won at Sky City Casino: -10.71
– Supplies for Routeburn: 14.29
– Printing Andesmar tickets: .76
– Bag check at Machu Picchu: 1.06
– Money accidentally thrown out at Lima airport: 14.13
– Daily Mail and keychain at Wimbleon: .74
TOTAL MISCELLANEOUS COSTS: 290.64

SOUVENIRS: 268.60

GIFTS: 214.58

POSTCARDS AND POSTAGE: 204.57

CLOTHING: 126.83

PERSONAL CARE: 113.56

INTERNET: 89.68

LAUNDRY: 83.41

SHIPPING BOXES: 73.86

ATM FEES: 70.31

TOILETRIES: 54.48

BOOKS: 16.25

TOILET: 7.35

(FORCED) DONATION: 4.88

GRAND TOTAL: $45,918.24

A few things haven’t been included in that total. They are: any gifts (cooking class in Chiang Mai, hotel in Chiang Mai, gorge swing, skydiving, train tickets to Xian, etc.), bills and change that we kept as souvenirs (one each from each country) and bills that we have left over that we haven’t changed back to US Dollars. We ended up with substantial amounts (over $10 worth, that is) of Yen, Euros and British Pounds that we still need to get exchanged. I should technically include our bill and coin collection under souvenirs, but I’m too lazy to count it up and add it in. Just as a guess, it probably cost us about $50.

There were a few things that jumped out at me when I put this together.
1) Our transportation costs were over 25% of our total costs. Doesn’t that seem a bit high?
2) We spent more money on excursions than food. Doesn’t that also seem a bit high?
3) Total food and lodging for two people over 10 months cost us less than 10,000. That’s practically how much I paid in a year’s worth of just rent in Charlotte.
4) Compared to our cost of living for 10 months in Charlotte, we spent about the same amount of money traveling the world. Huh.

We also have a table of our average expenditure per day by country. The expenditures include food, lodging, transportation within the country, visa fees (if any), sightseeing, excursions, etc. The only things it doesn’t include are the cost of actually getting TO that country and any pre-trip expenditures (gear, immunizations, health insurance, etc.).

Average spent per day by country:
China*: 45.33
Singapore*: 46.57
Nepal: 47.82
Malaysia: 56.06
Taiwan: 68.25
Thailand*: 68.29
Cambodia: 79.00
Bolivia: 83.80
Japan: 85.08
Hong Kong: 86.96
Spain: 88.71
Vietnam: 92.28
Egypt: 92.87
Chile: 99.79
Portugal: 112.86
Argentina: 118.17
New Zealand: 119.79
England: 127.01
Peru: 131.36
Australia: 134.03
*We had free housing for some or all of the time in this country.

Here are some thoughts about these numbers:
1. The first half, with the exception of Bolivia, is made up of all Asian countries. This is not only because food and lodging are cheap in Southeast Asia, but also because sightseeing is relatively inexpensive. It is much cheaper to get a ticket to the Angkor complex for three days than to see Machu Picchu in one day.
2. Bolivia comes out to a surprisingly low average, considering the cost factors in our visas ($135 each) and our four-day salt flats tour.
3. Japan and Spain are two countries I would have expected to come out with higher averages. Tokyo and Madrid aren’t cheap, but Japan and Spain came out under $90/day because we stayed in one city and in that one city, we didn’t do anything but eat and walk around. So that means all we had to pay for was food, lodging and some transportation.
4. Vietnam, Egypt and Peru are three countries that come in much higher than I expected, since all three are relatively cheap countries. But in this case, the cost of our excursions really brought the average up. In Vietnam it was the Easy Riders tour and Ha Long Bay. In Egypt, our sightseeing expenses added up to over $160 and our cruise came out to about $110/night. In Peru the Inca Trail and Muyuna Lodge were the biggest costs.

Where we saved money:
The number one way we saved money compared to other travelers was on alcohol. I had a few glasses of wine here and there, and Kevin didn’t drink at all. We also saved money on food. We had three meals that cost more than $40. We had eight meals that cost between $30 and $40. Over 90% of our meals cost less than $17. In countries where street food was delicious and cheap, we ate street food – that was a no-brainer for us (it helped that neither of us ever had food poisoning). Where eating out was expensive and not that different compared to home (Australia, New Zealand), we mostly bought groceries. In Argentina and Chile we did a little bit of both. It was too expensive to eat out all the time, but it would have been a shame not to eat out some of the time. We also saved money on lodging. We didn’t necessarily stay at THE cheapest place available, but we did stay at the cheapest place available at the lowest quality I could stand. In the more expensive countries, this meant staying in dorms. In the cheapest countries, we’d get our own room with attached bath – pure luxury!

Where we splurged:
If either one of us really wanted to do something, we did it. Sometime it was something small – like having Papa John’s for dinner (Kevin) or having two ice cream cones in one day (me). Other times it was something much bigger, like shelling out over $150 each to climb on a glacier (totally worth it) or spending $500 each to spend an hour with mountain gorillas (also totally worth it).

The bottom line is – your budget is your own. We talked to some people who thought we were traveling very cheaply and we also talked to some people who assumed we were living like kings when we told them how much we had spent. In the end, I think that both of us were satisfied with what we splurged on and what we saved on. Looking back on it, I can’t think of anything that I wish we had done that we didn’t do because of money, and I don’t regret spending money on the things we did do. I would call that a success.

Goodbye For Now

7/2/10

Today was our official last day of the trip. Boy, that is a heavy sentence, isn’t it? Official. Last. Day.

As far as “lasts” go, the last day of a 10-month around-the-world honeymoon isn’t one of the best lasts that happen in your life. It’s not like “last day of sixth grade” or “last day with braces” or “last day of work” or “last compulsory blog post writing.” (Kidding, kidding! Sort of.)

I think Kevin and I both expected some extreme culture shock arriving in the United States, which would only have served to make our “last day” even more markedly last, but we didn’t really. Kevin tried to salvage our shattered expectations by pointing out things that were different. “Can you believe we have to pay FIVE dollars to leave the airport?” he asked, outraged, as we left JFK. “We never have to wait for more than five minutes in other cities’ subways,” he grumbled as we sat for ten minutes waiting for the A train. “Hey, look, it’s Wendy’s! We haven’t seen Wendy’s since we left the States!” when he saw another rider bring a Wendy’s bag onto the train.

But despite all of Kevin’s attempts to make me feel otherwise, I still felt like we were on the road. After all, we might have been in New York City, but we still weren’t home. We were still wandering around the streets of a city in our same clothes, carrying our same backpacks. We were still getting shouted at by people trying to sell us stuff. We were still traveling.

And that feeling didn’t leave me all day, as we hung out our friend Rachel’s apartment during our long layover, as we found our way out of the city and to LaGuardia, as we sat patiently and waited for our delayed flight to Columbus to take off – and even after we touched down in Columbus. Hey, we’re still Kevin and Zhou, world travelers! We’re on an adventure!

But when we saw Mom and Dad Curry drive up in their loaner car with a giant “‘08 CERTIFIED PREOWNED” splashed across the front windshield, it gave me a jolt. We weren’t going to be “Kevin and Zhou, world travelers” anymore. We’re just going to be Kevin and Zhou.

We aren’t quite home yet, and we won’t be for another few months, but we’re on our way. It’s sort of a limbo time for us, and there are definitely a lot of mixed feelings. On the one hand, what is sweeter than coming back and being able to spend time with all of the people you love and who love you? What’s better than being greeted by your own small Christmas tree with tons of Christmas presents underneath it in the middle of the summer? (Not much, I’ll tell you that.) But on the other hand, now we’re just “Kevin and Zhou, normal people.” We’re not going to wake up in a different country every few weeks. We’re not going to pinch ourselves every other day and say, “Can you believe we’re doing this?” We won’t have to navigate through other countries without understanding a word of the language. We won’t have constant stomachaches anymore. Instead, we’re going to find a place to live. We’re going to hang out with our friends. We’re going to eat too much popcorn (me) and watch too much sports (Kevin). We’re going to get a puppy.

A puppy! You know, when it comes down to it, I think “Kevin and Zhou, normal people,” are going to be pretty darn happy.

Hi everyone. I’m sorry to say that NHC, international edition, has come to an end. We’ve both enjoyed writing this blog (well, we enjoyed it 90% of the time), and we hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. Though this will be our last daily blog post, we do have several wrap-up entries that we’ll be writing and posting sporadically over the next few weeks (budget overview, stat contest, etc.). We’re not entirely sure yet what the fate of NHC will be after that, but please stay tuned for updates.

Thanks for your comments and emails, and most of all, thanks to all of you for reading.

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