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[Recap] 12 Months of Traveling the World — Q&A

Today we celebrate! We traveled the world for an entire year! It’s so weird to think that a year ago today, we were already on the road living this crazy lifestyle. It feels like we just left Chicago, and yet if we’d stuck with our original plan to travel the world for a year, our trip would already be over.

Going away party

Our going away party feels like just yesterday.

It’s starting to really sink in that our days on the road are numbered. These last few weeks somehow are flying by even faster than they have the past year. Our days are just getting busier and busier as we try to cram in as much as possible into what’s left of our trip. In fact, we hit our one-year travel-versary well over two months ago and I’m just now getting this post finished!

For this recap, I decided to do a Q&A. It’s meant to represent the conversations we’ve had with the people we’ve met this past year. These are the questions we get asked most when our trip comes up in conversation. So if you’re willing, I invite you to grab a cup of coffee, get comfy, and have a chat with us just like we’ve done with people all over the world.

Got a question to add? Add it in the comments and we’ll be sure to answer.

What was your favorite country?

Part of me wishes I had a real answer for this. Most of me, though, is happy to say that it’s just too hard to pick a single favorite because the world is chock-full of amazing places! It’s also really hard to judge whole countries when we only go to one city in that country.

But I will do my best to narrow it down! These are the countries that really stood out to us.

[Click the arrows to move through the album.]

Was there anywhere you didn’t like?

We didn’t hate anywhere, but there were definitely places that didn’t speak to us. Our first answer to this question is always Vienna. You can blame that on Wombats Hostel’s crappy wifi, the pretentious coffee scene or the fact that we don’t like the opera, but it was just not speaking our love language. Our favorite thing about Vienna was leaving Vienna.

St. Stephen's Cathedral

One of the things we did like about Vienna was St. Stephen’s Cathedral. We went down to the catacombs and up to the rooftop.

We also didn’t love Egypt. We wrote a lot about Egypt because we really wanted to force ourself to reflect and see if that maybe changed our mind. The truth is just that it didn’t. Egypt has a lot of work to do in their tourism industry before we’d ever really consider going back or tell someone to go there. The historic places themselves are incredible, but the management, trash and scams are just out of control.


The Pyramids of Giza themselves are quite impressive, but the entire experience was just overwhelming.

Other than that though, I think we found something to love just about everywhere.

What was the most challenging place to visit?

Beijing. 100%. We got our butts kicked in Beijing. There were a lot of factors that contributed to our struggles in Beijing.

First, we found very little tourism information and travel blogger content written in English. This was particularly frustrating because we were there for Chinese New Year (note: not the best time to visit). And then when we did find information about events and activities, we’d show up to the place only to find that nothing at all was going on there.

The lack of information would be okay in some places where you can find the city center and just wander, but that’s not the case in Beijing. The streets are winding and their Hutong (alleyway) city planning means that you really have to know where you’re going to even find neighborhoods to explore. Oh yeah, and it’s freezing in February so getting lost is even less fun.

To add insult to injury, internet restrictions in China mean that you can’t use Google or Google Maps without a VPN, and you can’t connect to the VPN without connecting to wifi, and you can’t connect to public wifi because you can’t get the SMS or email code without VPN.

This all culminated at the Forbidden City where we apparently needed tickets in advance and I didn’t have them. I just broken down in a massive fit of tears. (Believe it of not, this kind of breakdown has only happened one other time, when we missed our train in Aguas Calientes.)

But you know what? We still loved Beijing. The Great Wall was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, what we did see of Chinese New Year was nothing short of incredible, and we loved the unyielding energy in that city. It’s one of the places we most want to get back to, because even though it was challenging, it was so, so rewarding.

What was the best thing you ate?

I always ask about favorites, but I can never give just one answer! Maybe that’s because I’m writing this at 6:30 when I’m starving and ready for dinner. But here are some of the best things we’ve eaten in the past year.

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Are you sick of each other yet?

This question comes up a lot. Usually in jest, but I think there’s a bit of truth to it, too.  Not to be sappy or anything, but the honest-to-goodness answer is no. If anything, we’ve gotten so comfortable together that spending time with other people is actually exhausting!

Even before we started traveling, we probably spent more time together than most couples. Back in Chicago, we could both work from home and often did so together on the same days. Our shared hobby is running marathons, and that usually means that we spend hours and hours running together throughout the week. As if that wasn’t enough, we also made a point to spend every Friday night together at our favorite bar. (I wouldn’t necessary call this “date night” because we’re usually more excited to see our bartender and waitress friends than each other, but at least we did it together.) So really, spending every day together wasn’t much of a shock for us.


We love each other almost as much as we love Singapore.

Did you ever feel unsafe?

Safety is tricky. Your perception of safety depends on where you’re going, where you’re coming from, and what you’re doing. Unfortunately, it sometimes has to do with the color of your skin or how much money you have.

Our experience on our travels taught us that the world is just not that scary. People are generally good and are just trying to live their best life, no matter where they are in the world. Truth be told, we felt significantly safer abroad than we did in our hometown of Chicago.

When we think about safety, we try to think about statistical safety. The numbers tell us that the most dangerous thing we have done in the past year is get into a car, which is a danger we face regardless of what country we’re in. So I guess the times we’ve felt most unsafe were the few times were rode in a car.

Monkey in Morocco

We rode in a car for three days in Morocco and that was probably the most dangerous thing we did in the past year. We got to hang out with these guys on the side of the road, though, so some risks are worth taking.

What did you do for holidays?

This question is way more fun! Holidays usually involved me having a grand idea about how we can do fun holiday activities, failing, and then drinking at a pub. Here’s how we’ve celebrated the holidays over the past year.

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What’s your favorite place for coffee?

Exploring coffee shops, coffee trends and cafe culture around the world has been so much fun! We have learned to appreciate the coffee scene in a ton of places (except Vienna) and some favorites have risen to the top. These are some of our favorite coffee scenes and why. Also check out our full post on Coffee Around the World!

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It’s been a year, why aren’t you home yet?

I’m glad you noticed! So did our parents.

July 3 in Luxembourg

On July 3, we should have been back home in the US according to our original plan. Instead, we spent a perfect sunny day in Luxembourg looking forward to three more months on the road.

We were originally scheduled to end our trip in the beginning of July. But in February, we were invited to two weddings in Europe in September, two weeks apart. We couldn’t move home to the US and start new jobs for two months and then take three weeks off to go to Europe. We also couldn’t spend the money or vacation days to take two separate trips to Europe for each wedding. It just made sense for us to stay abroad until after the two weddings.

Thanks Wendy & Paulina for giving us a great excuse for three more months abroad! We can’t wait to see you on your wedding days!

Are you sick of wearing the same clothes?

OMG, yes. But also no. It’s actually really nice to not have to think about what to wear everyday. I have one outfit for every type of weather, and based on the weather, I wear that outfit. It’s that simple. Which is so nice at times.

But I’m not going to lie. Sometimes I really miss some of my clothes! I dream about my Chicago Marathon jacket, LuLaRue leggings, London hoodie and J. Crew Pixie Pants. I also miss my curling iron and straightener, which I know isn’t clothes, but is #beauty.

Just for fun, here’s proof that I literally wear the same thing everyday. (Disclaimer: some of these photos are from after the one year mark, but you get the point.)

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How do you do laundry?

Great question considering I basically wear the same clothes everyday! When we first started traveling, I was doing laundry using a Dry Bag and DIY Soap Sheets. That’s now my least favorite way to do laundry.

We stay in a lot of Airbnbs, which often come with a washing machine. This is our preferred method. When that doesn’t work out, we usually look to get laundry done through a local service. This is pretty cheap most places around the world. When it’s not super cheap and/or when it’s not available, we do still used our Dry Bag method.

What are the coolest places you’ve stayed?

We’ve stayed in a wide range of accommodations, everything from a 12-bed hostel dorms to club level at the Ritz. We try to balance hostels, Airbnbs and hotels, because they’re all great for different reasons.

Here’s some of the coolest places we’ve stayed in the past year.

[Click the arrows to move through the album & click the photo for links to more info.]

Isn’t it hard to not buy things everywhere you go?

Well, it probably would be if I ever stopped buying things long enough to find out. I swear my backpack is like Hermione Granger’s bag in Harry Potter. I just keep buying stuff and somehow it keeps fitting.

Have you ever had trouble with language barriers?

We did accidentally buy whipped cream instead of sour cream for our taco bowls so that was pretty tragic. But other than that, we were at least able to get by pretty much everywhere. The toughest language barriers were in Colombia and Beijing.

In Colombia, except for Salento, pretty much everyone only spoke Spanish. Most of the menus and public signs were also only in Spanish, so you pretty much had to be minimally functional in Spanish or have a translator app. Fortunately, the travel blogger world has covered Colombia pretty extensively (in English), so it was easy to at least get the information we needed to know to get by.


Don’t worry, we learned “cerveza por favor” real fast.

Beijing was also really tough for the same reasons. It was even harder though because I can’t type Mandarin characters into my phone to look things up and can’t use Google without VPN in China. I also struggled to find much travel information online in English, which didn’t help. We got by in Beijing by pointing and ordering Mexican food.

Beijing Starbucks

Even at Starbucks, where we normally feel right at home, only the seasonal specials had English translations. The rest of the menu was exclusively Mandarin.

What do you do all day?

This is my favorite question people ask, because I think people are usually surprised by our answers. Our life is actually super normal.

We wake up and usually try to find a cafe to work from. Ideally we’ll eat breakfast so we don’t have to get lunch, because Kenny hates lunch. We usually spend a few hours in the afternoon doing touristy things, like museums, exploring neighborhoods, going to churches, and just seeing the sights. Depending on where we’re staying, we’ll either make dinner at home or find a cool spot to get dinner. If there’s night life, we’ll grab a drink at a bar or see what there is to see at night. Then we come home, work some more, watch TV, and go to bed.

Coffee in Cartagena

Most of our days look a lot like this.

Obviously not every day looks like that, but it’s usually about 33% working , 33% regular life things (sleeping, eating, relaxing) and 34% travel-related fun. We love it.

What was your most shocking experience?

After traveling for a year, there is very little that shocks us. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we don’t have a baseline of “normal”. We’re never in the same place for more than a few weeks, so we’re used to seeing lots of small changes across regions, cities and countries. For the most part, I stand by my assessment that people and places are just more alike than different.

That said, I remember two specific times when I was rendered almost speechless by something very culturally different. Unfortunately I don’t have photos of either, but they just weren’t situations I was comfortably photographing.

The first was in Hanoi, Vietnam. We were walking to a coffee shop when we passed a street vendor selling what was very obviously roasted dogs, face and all. We were so flabbergasted that we just stared in shock as we passed. Two seconds later we looked at each other to confirm that we had in fact seen what we thought we’d seen. We did.

(Quick sidebar: I don’t judge Vietnam for the animals they eat in their culture, and I hope you don’t either. We were just surprised. As a vegetarian, I personally don’t think anyone should eat any animals, so I can’t be upset with Vietnam anymore than I am with anywhere that sells birds and goats in the same state. I think if this specifically truly shocks you, you should strongly consider your stance on eating all animals whether you personally value their existence or not. That’s all.)

And the second was in Tel Aviv, Israel. We’d just gotten off the train from the airport and were waiting for the bus. Kenny casually pointed out to me that there were four teenagers (not active uniformed military) right next to us armed to the teeth with automatic machine guns. I was instantly horrified and thought were about to be the next CNN breaking news alert.

Kenny rightfully pointed out that no one else on this crowded sidewalk was freaking out by this, so it must not be anything to worry about. It turns out that open carry is completely legal in Israel and this is in fact totally normal.

What was your favorite mode of transportation?

I’m sure you won’t be surprised by this, but I actually have a lot of favorite modes of transportation!

[Click the arrows to move through the album & click the photo for links to more info.]

What are you going to miss the most when you get back home?

Other than street Bahn Mi and trying new coffee shops all the time, I’d have to say setting my own schedule. I love balancing my day with work and adventure and blogging. I’ll also miss getting to spend so much time with Kenny and just being able to do whatever and go wherever we want to. It’s a luxury. I’ll also miss not having to worry about what I wear.

Things I'll Miss

I’ll also miss waking up to a new breathtaking view every week. Chicago’s pretty, too, though. I guess.

Have you gotten what you wanted out of your trip?

Before we left on this journey, I made a list of reasons I wanted to travel. At the top of that list, I wrote “I want to be able to appreciate the things I have, without being defined by them.”

That is definitely one of the biggest takeaways from this trip. I have always known that I was very fortunate to be born into a middle class American family, but it’s hard to really understand that and appreciate what that means until you leave. This response could get very deep, very political and very emotional very quickly. But in short, it has made me very appreciative of the things I have.

It also made me see that I just don’t need that many things. I have a whole storage unit worth of stuff back in Chicago and I can think of about five things I actually miss. Traveling made me realize just how much stuff I thought I needed, that I just don’t. When I get home, I’m looking forward to really streamlining and reducing my footprint on this world.

All I Need

All I need is fresh air, this guy, and maybe some Shamrock Shuffle swag.

So yes, I did get what I said I wanted out of this trip, but I also got so, SO much more than I ever expected and can even probably realize at this time.

What’s the worst thing that’s happened on your trip?

I almost don’t even want to answer this question because I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop. The honest-to-goodness answer is just nothing. We haven’t missed a flight, we haven’t had any injuries, we never got bed begs, we’ve never had anything stolen. Aside from a few colds, we haven’t even gotten sick. It’s honestly been such smooth sailing.

We did have a few hiccups along the way, like missing a train in Peru and getting dropped off on the side of a highway in China, but even those things turned out completely fine. I think our travel “luck” actually has a lot to do with how we travel. We’re not staying in the cheapest places we can find, we’re vegetarian, we’re very aware and cautious people — we’ve done a lot to mitigate some of these risks and fortunately that has worked out well for us.

That time the taxi driver left us on a highway instead of our hotel in Shanghai Disneyland.

What made you want to do this?

Well, it was fall 2016 and we each had very influential bosses leave our jobs. We were both ready to quit and try something new. We had to go to Hong Kong the following December for my brother’s wedding, which kind of derailed our family planning schedule. So we kind of just had a year to play with. Next thing I know, I get a text from Kenny saying “We could just travel the world for a year.” And that’s exactly what we did.

There’s never a perfect time to take a year off. I missed bachelorette parties and showers, the birth of my friends’ children, and holidays with our families. We also worked our travel schedule around FIVE weddings around the world. But it was something we knew we had to do, and our friends and families were (mostly) so supportive.

Elephants in Thailand

You really only have to show someone one photo of a romantic moment with an elephant for them to completely understand why your quit your job to travel the world for a year.

We didn’t even fully realize it at the time, but we were at a perfect point in our lives to do something like this. We had the money to do it pretty comfortably and we didn’t have any other commitments (aka kids), so we kinda just dove in.

It turned out to be the best decision of our lives.

Goodnight Hong Kong

Sunsets and Skylines in Hong Kong

And that’s a wrap! If you have any other questions about our year, please hit us up in the comments! As always, thanks for following along!


Tuesday 29th of January 2019

Enjoyed reading your blog - running, travel and rest (I still have yet to read). How awesome for both of you to have traveled the world. Thanks for sharing your journey.


Wednesday 30th of January 2019

Thank you so much, Terri! It's been such an incredible adventure. It definitely instilled a passion for travel that we will carry with us for a very long time.

Mateo Raft

Tuesday 2nd of October 2018

I didn't like Vienna, either. I'm posting this comment in case others are on the fence about visiting. Other Austrian cities might have been more interesting, but Vienna was a place I should have skipped.


Sunday 14th of October 2018

Thanks so much for adding your feedback! I'm happy to hear I'm not the only one who didn't love it. Sometimes I hear people talk about how much they love it, and I think "Am I crazy!?". Glad to hear I'm not. :) Happy travels!


Monday 24th of September 2018

Hey guys—just wanted to jump in and say how helpful your blog has been in planning my own year long trip. The attention to detail in each post (bus station info, photos, etc.) is unmatched and has made our lives 100x easier. My wife and I are heading out on our extended honeymoon 11/14/18 and will be using your guidance as much as we can! We selfishly want your trip to continue so that we can have a never-ending list of tips and tricks in our back pockets. ;)

Thanks for everything!


Sunday 14th of October 2018

Wow! This is the absolutely best comment I've gotten in the past year and a half of having this blog! This is all I've ever wanted as a blogger, and I'm so, SO happy you have found this blog useful! First off - now that we're back, I have more time to actually write more and better content! I have a laundry list of posts that I will be pouring out in the coming months so I hope you'll continue to follow along and get even more info. And second, I'm so exciting that you and your wife and going on your own trip! May I ask where you're from? Also, if you have a blog or instagram or anything you'll be using to share your trip, I'd love to follow along! I hope you're enjoying your final stage of planning and are getting read to embark on your epic adventure!


Wednesday 19th of September 2018

What's on the list of places you missed that won't make it into the trip?


Saturday 22nd of September 2018

Oooh great question, Justin! I think our biggest misses were South/Central Africa (South Africa, safari, Victoria Falls) and India. On top of those, my top bucket list destinations are Patagonia, Bolivia, Antarctica, Iceland and Croatia. So we've still got some work to do!