It’s been amazing from start to finish and neither of can quite believe it’s over.
It’s been really hard to remember everything that we’ve done and so it’s great that we have this blog to remind us. We wrote this primarily for ourselves so that we can look back and see what an incredible ride we’ve had over the past year, but we’ve been really lucky that so many of our friends and family have kept up with our travels too using it.
We fell extremely fortunate and grateful to have had the opportunity to take a year out and travel. We are fully aware that not many people can do what we’ve done and that some people don’t understand why we’ve spent all of this money on, what’s effectively been, one amazingly long holiday. However, as anyone who knows us well will know travelling has been a huge and important part of our lives for a long time, and to us, experiences are so much more important than things. When you travel you see so much and meet so many people, that your mind is opened to just how amazing this world actually is. Believe it or not, our bucket list is actually longer now than it was when we started! We would encourage anyone to travel- we’ve met all sorts of people who are also following their dreams by seeing the world- young families (with 2 little kids in tow- kudos,) retired couples, friends, siblings.
We’re excited and ready to go back to London now- it’s been 5 years and we’re looking forward to buying our house, getting our new little pugs (Bazza and Paul) and having some sort of routine again. It will be hard at first to get used to it all again and the urge to travel will inevitably kick in again soon but we will persist!
So, here’s just a few of the amazing memories we will take from the past 12 months:
Sunset over the Mekong Delta, Vietnam
The many faces of Angkor, Cambodia
2 days of Zip lining through the jungle, Laos
The mighty Vanatar, New Zealand
Mount Cook, New Zealand
The Kepler Trail, New Zealand
Wine tasting and cheesing, New Zealand
13,000 ft of skydiving, New Zealand
Finding this one again, New Zealand
Christmas Day kayaking, Fiji
Diving with a school of Hammerheads, Fiji
Climbing the most active volcano in South America, Chile
Hiking the Inca Trail, Peru
Cycling 18km into the Atacama desert to find the salt water pools, Chile
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
The Amazon Rainforest, Bolivia
Unexpected treasures, Spain
Dixon-Atkinson reunion, USA
There’s so many, many more.
So that’s all from us, we’re off back to London and onto a new chapter but these memories will stay with us always. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading.
Much love, L and S xx
Hello from our final stop- the beautiful San Francisco.
After a 7 hour bus from LA, we arrived to a decidedly different climate from the one when had left. It was a) windy, b) cold and c) foggy. What’s going on San Fran? Here, layering is clearly the way to go, one minute it’s cold and Sam’s alpaca jumper is out, the next I feel like reaching for the sun screen and flip flops.
We’ve hit SF during pride weekend and man, it’s busy!
This is such a beautiful place and we’ve spent pretty much the whole time walking. We haven’t even taken a streetcar (although Sam did drag me to the museum) as the whole city, whilst very hilly, is walkable (good job we brought decent shoes for this.) We’re staying near Fisherman’s Wharf, which is col but super touristy, so we decided to head west along the bay to the Golden Gate Bridge. Now, we’ve seen a lot of bridges this year, so it could just be bridge fatigue, but we were expecting something….more? To us, the Brooklyn Bridge was way more impressive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still cool to see and walk over, but I don’t know if I’d necessarily come bak to see it. We then hiked out to Lands End, which was a lot further than google maps led us to believe. Such a great area with lovely hiking trails and barely anyone there. Yes, it took abut 3 hours to walk there, but at least we got the step count up!
Then came possible the most exciting event of the past month- OBAMA AND THE OBAMACADE DROVE RIGHT PAST US! We, and everyone around us, were giddy with excitement- he was SO CLOSE. Now, this might not be such a big deal for Americans, and particularly those who’ve seen him before, but to Sam and I, who absoltuely adore Obama and everything he stands for, it was a huge deal.
No lies, there were about 50 vehicles in the Obamacade. There is no way anyone is getting to him.
We took a ferry over to Sausalito, a cute town 30 mins across the water. From here, we took a bus to Muir Woods to visit the Redwoods- holy moly those are some big trees.
There’s great hiking here and we spent several hours exploring, to get views like this:
It probably would’ve been better for us to hire a car whilst were in San Fran- we could’ve gotten to Muir Woods a lot faster, visited Sonoma and Napa Valley for wine (although at this point there is a case to be made for us not needing anymore wine) and generally would’ve helped with the many many steep hills in the city, however it basically comes down to the fact that we’d rather spend our remaining money on seeing/eating/doing rather than a car!
We have found spectacular Chinese food here- good enough to give our favourite Schezuan places in HK a run for their money- it’s meant we’ve eaten it pretty much every night but after a year away from it, we just don’t care! Best Xiou Lin Bao we’ve had in a long, long time.
As Sam’s presenting at the Redhat tech summit, we’ve been given a very fancy hotel for our last night in San Fran- after a sob story about how travelling was coming to an end, we’ve ended up in a suite- thanks Sam and your ridiculously clever brain! There’s something super satisfying about the fact it’s all free and I don’t even have to do any work for it, unlike Sam who is presenting for an hour to a roomful of tech experts tomorrow.
After his presentation we’re going to scoot off back to LA for our flight to London- sob sob. It’s been awesome and we have so many memories still to process, but the real world awaits!
We will be writing a final post very soon.
Hello from Santa Monica, Los Angeles!
This week has mostly been a relaxing week and it’s been wonderful. The weather has been perfect sun, with a nice breeze so it hasn’t been too hot like it was in New Orleans. We’re a few blocks away from an absolutely gorgeous beach that goes on for miles, and it’s even close to the main street full of cute restaurants and places to drink. This is a very, very nice place to be.
After taking the first day out as a beach day (after a year of travelling we’re pretty knackered. Sounds wrong I know but it really does take it out of you) we broke our rule of avoiding tour buses. Los Angeles is MASSIVE and it’s almost impossible to navigate without a car. Our amazing AirBnB host June recommended a tour which had consistent 5* reviews on Tripadvisor so we decided to give it a whirl, as it ticked off all the major sites in one day. And it did not disappoint!
It fortunately wasn’t a walking tour- we were driven from site to site and given info en route, then left for 30 minutes-1 hour to explore at each location. Absolutely perfect for 2 people who hate being paraded round as dumb tourists! We went to Venice, the home of muscle beach and where the bodybuilding movement was created by the amazing Arnold Schwarzenegger and co. We then got to go through Beverly Hills and to Rodeo Drive, where there was a classic car festival on for fathers day which I really enjoyed, and I think even Laura did! After going to a food market for lunch we then got to go to Hollywood to see the famous sign and walk the walk of starts. I think this was the most surprising part of the tour- it’s not a very good road! It has kebab shops on it for christ sake. Marilyn Monroe’s star is outside a McDonalds! Still, Laura was very pleased to find Colin Firth’s star, and we got to see Donald Trumps star a day before it got vandalised with a mute sign :).
The rest of our time has been spent eating, drinking, and relaxing in the sun. LA is very laid back, with seemingly everyone riding skateboards everywhere and spending all their time on the beach. There’s an awful lot of plastic surgery around and we’ve overheard some of the most fake, boring, inane conversation known to man. Conversely, there are also lots of friendly kind people, and there are still enough normal sized people around so that we didn’t pick up a complex (although we’ve both signed up to do the Manchester Half Marathon in October. Related?)
We’re now ploughing on to our last stop- San Francisco. I really can’t believe it’s almost over, and I also can’t believe that I have to do a presentation at a conference in 5 days. I’m woefully underprepared, but fingers crossed I’ll be able to pull it out the bag. I suspect Laura may get quite a lot of alone time in SF whilst I practice!
This place is hotter and more humid than HK, the Atacama desert and Dubai all rolled into one. It’s 38 today with around 80% humidity- going outside is an achievement in itself. There’s also been MASSIVE thunderstorms this week too, so you have to walk around with umbrellas at all times (not that they do much good.)
So, having seen New Orleans on TV as a backdrop so many times, we had an expectation of what it’ll be like when we arrived and to an extent it’s matched, but as we’ve discovered there’s a lot more (and much better) things to do than just the French Quarter. Don’t get me wrong- the French Quarter is stunning in terms of it’s Creole and Spanish architecture, and there’s incredible food to be found alongside amazing jazz clubs every night, but there’s also SO MUCH BOOZING.
It’s the US equivalent of the Koh San Road in Bangkok (hideous.) Nola is one of just 7 places in the entire country where public drinking on streets is allowed so everyone boozes it up all day and night with insanely cheap drinks. There’s also no curfew for bars. If you’re into all that, it’d be very cool- at night loads of people go from one bar to the next with their drinks, to listen to jazz. It’s just that with all this booze comes ALL OF THE IDIOTS. There’s one street in particular (Bourbon) which should be avoided at all costs. Just don’t.
Music is ingrained into people, there’s jazz and blues pretty much everywhere you go, and it’s really cool to hear. Last night we went to a few bars with incredible musicians playing for free- most don’t have a cover charge, just a 1 drink minimum. Shows start around 6/7pm and go on through till after midnight.
We took couple of free walking tours- one about ghosts in the French Quarter and another about the culinary history of Nola. The info we got was great, particularly about the cajun and creole influence on food. Food here is a BIG DEAL. Foodies could easily spend a few weeks here (although you’d probably gain 10 lbs.) We tried, amongst other things, the gumbo, alligator (surprisingly yum,) red beans and rice, snowballs, jambalaya, chicory coffee (drool) and beignets. If you ever find yourself here, go to Cafe du Monde for the beignets- it’s an institution here and everyone we’ve met who’s been here hammered it into us that this was the 1 thing not to miss out on. So. flipping. good.
For a change of pace, we went kayaking on the Bayou- we wanted to see the big alligators up close and personal, but no luck. Awesome views though. We also wandered round the Garden district- clearly where all the money is (couldn’t find Beyonce’s house though I did look.) We took the ferry over to the West Bank when the city got a bit too much and hung out in cute coffee shops.
Katrina isn’t really talked about here, although there is a fierce sense of patriotism to the city and you get a real sense of love and loyalty from locals. They’re all passionate about Nola and love to tell you about the best places to go, what to eat etc. This is a city that’s totally committed to preserving its history- houses are, for the most part exactly as they were 100 years ago. People sit out on porches to drink their coffee, all neighbours chat in the streets and everyone knows everyone. People seem very content. It’s a city with a big personality and feels totally different to DC and NYC.
As much as we’ve loved it here, the heat and the relentless sightseeing pace is wearing us out so tomorrow it’s off to LA to hopefully kick back and sit on the beaches of Santa Monica for a few days. Well, that’s Sam’s plan- although I did pick up a sneaky little guide book so who knows?