We were chatting with friends the other night, when they asked: “Where did you spend your 27th birthday?”. We thought about it, thought about it some more, and after a while, we arrived at the answer.
They then asked if we’d been to India, which we have, a few times. We told our story of how we spent almost a month in an Ashram doing yoga, meditation and mantra chanting from 5:00am to 7:00pm — something we hadn’t thought about in a very long time.
The things we’ve experienced over the past 10 years have become a part of us and they’ve shaped us into who we are today. But incredibly, we often forget about these amazing moments on the road.
We decided to make this round-up post (and video) of the highlights from countries we’ve visited (so far), and the things we’ve learned about ourselves, and the world. Looking back on our videos from the earlier days was hilarious — wow, we were so young, and awkward on camera…and our fashion was seriously lacking!
It was a lot of fun reminiscing while watching these old clips, and seeing our progression from young, budget backpackers into the (somewhat) wiser, older, “travel how we want” explorers we are today.
Eight Months Of Planning, and Our Backpacking Adventure Began
With our newly purchased backpacks, hiking boots and travel accessories in tow, us 24 year olds were ready to start our first adventure, to Southeast Asia and the Subcontinent.
The stress and emotional rollercoaster of the past 8 months leading up to the trip (selling our condo and possessions, quitting our jobs, and saying goodbye to friends and family) seemed to immediately lift as our plane took off towards Bangkok.
In place of that stress was a sense of adventure. We felt like explorers discovering somewhere new (as if we were the first people to visit Bangkok!), and a complete sense of freedom washed over us.
There’s nothing like the first time when you decide to quit your job to experience long-term travel. We may forget certain events, and our timeline of travel may be a bit blurry, but we’ll never forget that feeling.
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What We’ve Learned On The Road
That first year abroad was eye-opening and life-altering. Experiencing 100% freedom from work, routine, society, and social norms back home, is something that I hope everyone gets to feel at some point in their lives.
Our minds were expanded, and borders blurred and our hearts opened. Learning about other cultures, the religions they believe in, and how they spend their day-to-day lives is how the world becomes a more connected place. Free from biases and ignorance, and filled with acceptance and love.
From our experiences abroad, we’ve come to learn that the media doesn’t portray countries in the same light that we see them in. The negative, fear-mongering stories on TV, and on social media, isn’t representative of the places we’ve been — or if it is, it may be just in one city, one neighbourhood, one small island, but not the entire nation or region.
We’ve also realized that humans all want the same things from life, no matter where in the world they come from, their race, or their religion. We all want a strong community of friends and family, health for ourselves and our loved ones, a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs, and (most of all) to be happy.
We’re all the same!
Once we lived all of this during our first year abroad, we knew there was no way we could continue living solely in Canada. We’d only seen 10 countries in Southeast Asia and the subcontinent, but we were hooked. We needed to see more of the world, learn more truths about our planet, meet more people and experience new cultures.
Highlights From Our Escapades
Thinking back on all of the countries we’ve visited and the memories made, it’s really hard to pin-point the top highlights. Some of the most memorable things we’ve done have been minute, while others have been on a grander scale. Here are 3 highlights that come to mind.
Highlight #1: Iranian Best Friends
During our month in Iran, we met a couple at a waterfall. They urged us to call them when we visited their city of Esfahan so they could show us around. When the time came for us to travel to Esfahan, we got in touch. As it turned out, not only did they want to show us around, but they wanted us to stay with them.
Apart from our 10 minute encounter, we were complete strangers. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think many people in Canada or in the West would meet someone for just a few minutes, and offer for them to come and stay in their home — we certainly wouldn’t have.
We ended up staying with this couple for a week. We had dinner parties with their friends, explored the city, and chatted about life in Iran. We dined on home cooked Iranian food, met their families, and in return, (without the proper ingredients) we attempted to cook a classic spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread and salad — a meal they hadn’t tried before.
That crossing of cultures and their generosity and hospitality is something we’ll never forget, and is a highlight of our travels.
Highlight #2: Alone Together On The Steppe
Before visiting Iran, we had been in Central Asia and Mongolia. We took the Trans-Mongolian train from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar and started our month trip in Mongolia. While the whole country was an epic adventure in itself, one of the main things that we’ll never forget is independently trekking in the middle of nowhere, through the steppe.
We had plotted a route using Google Earth, and packed everything we’d need for 8 days of hiking and camping. For a water source, we used the river that we were following, and for food, we ate lenok fish that Nick caught in the river, and dehydrated packaged meals.
On more than a few occasions we were invited into gers (yurts) by the local families and nomads along the way. There we were, sitting around with a family who were incredibly curious as to why us foreigners were: a) in the middle of nowhere, b) walking, and c) didn’t have a horse — they thought we were lost.
Of course, all of this was communicated using sign language, our phrase book and some photos we had taken. All while *enjoying* a bowl of fresh fermented mare’s milk, a few bits of dried mare’s cheese, and a bowl of horse meat.
On two separate occasions when we were setting up our tent, we had men come over and just sit there and watch us. They didn’t say a word. They rode up on their horses, looked around, sat and stared, and then took off. Another man with his two small sons brought us some firewood — a hot commodity when you’re living on a tree-free steppe.
The silence of being out in the rolling hills, with nothing around but a few other nomadic families was the experience of a lifetime.
Highlight #3: Hitchhiking & Sailing To Forgotten Islands With Friends
Finally, my third highlight is from Mozambique. We were travelling here for about a month and after just a few days, we met a backpacker from Germany, Henrik. We were in the beach town of Tofo, and immediately, we became close friends.
One night over dinner, he pulled out a large map of the country. We studied it, and decided that surely there had to be a way to get to the remote Quirimbas Archipelago located off the northern coast of the country.
We were in the south at this time, and the journey to get there would be long, and if you know anything about travelling by land through Africa, it would most definitely be rough.
After hitchhiking for 3 days, and a night spent in a hotel in the middle of nowhere, we arrived in the town of Nampula — we were getting closer to the islands.
One more day of hitchhiking in the back of a jeep, sitting on milk crates and jerrycans, and we would arrive at the “ferry” port, which was just an area where some fishing boats crossed from mainland Mozambique to the island of Ibo.
Once we arrived on the islands, the past 5 days of strange experiences, and uncomfortable transport melted away. We stayed in a small guesthouse, and from there planned a 3 day sailing trip aboard a traditional dhow boat with some fishermen.
We were ready to explore the Quirimbas Archipelago!
We sailed off to the islands of Matemo and Rojas, which to this day are still some of the most pristine, stunning little gems we’ve ever been to. Sleeping under nothing more than mosquito nets on the sand, swimming in crystal clear water, and dining on freshly caught fish made the journey to the north worth the (massive) effort.
Countries We’ve Visited and Lived In
Finally, here’s a list the 65 countries that we’ve travelled to over the past 10 years, and in some cases, lived in. Many of the countries we’ve also returned to multiple times.
If you want to read more about each individual country, just click the link to find travel tales, travel guides, videos and tips for your trip.
Here’s where we’ve travelled to, sorted by region:
South / Southeast Asia
Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia and Borneo, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Myanmar, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Philippines.
China and Hong Kong, Mongolia, Russia, Japan.
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan.
Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran.
Morocco, South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya.
Europe / Western Asia
England, Scotland, Spain, Bulgaria, The Republic of North Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Italy, Malta, Greece, Germany, Georgia, Armenia, Czech Republic.
North and Central America
Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Belize, the United States.
Grenada, Puerto Rico, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines, Cuba, Barbados.
Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Ecuador, Peru.
Advice For You
Long-term travel is like having a child — financially, there’s never going to be the “perfect time” and if you take the leap, your life will never be the same afterwards.
Quitting your job, selling your possessions, and taking off into the unknown is a daunting thought. When you’re used to a routine, stability and the “known”, setting the familiar aside to experience something outside of your comfort zone can seem a bit scary.
But, if you’re feeling a “pull” to switch it up and live a freer lifestyle, my advice to you is to follow that feeling. Seeing the world definitely isn’t something you can just do on a whim, but with some planning and preparing it is possible and we recommend just going for it — no matter how long it takes you to prepare.
For more information, have a look at our Getting Started posts, and to help sustain yourself once you’re on the road (and that travel bug kicks in!), check out our ways to make money abroad.
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