Over the course of the last 200 days we have travelled over 65,000km, through 24 different countries by train, plane, bike, yacht, ferry, bus, tram, cable car and by foot. We thought that we would write a brief summary of our top recommendations and learnings that you will all find useful in the future. To keep it brief, we have restricted it to five top fives.
Top five experiences (In no particular order)
Throughout our journey we have met some very special people, naturally our top experiences involve some of those people.
- Meeting and staying with my Irish Family in Northern Ireland, while brief it was a very special time for us to connect with my history.
- Visiting the Dolgins in New Jersey. We visited Stephen and Tricia near the beginning of our trip and we became firm friends. Again we were truly humbled by their hospitality.
- Sailing the Southern Ionian with the Kisslings. We had a very special two weeks sailing with Andrew, Gillian, James and Alexandra in the European summer. It was a lovely time hanging out with family and making wonderful new friends.
- For three weeks near the end of our trip we ‘woof’d’ on an olive grove in a tiny town in the north of Italy. Our hosts were fantastic and the scenery was magical! We were also pretty proud of our dry stone walls.
- We feel like we have learnt a lot about the fragility of the human condition on our journey and there were a few significant places that really challenged us. Our trip to Gallipoli (walking the peninsula in the searing heat for 8 hours), our visit to the 9/11 Memorial in New York and our visit to Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina have all impacted our outlook on life in different but meaningful ways.
Top five random events
Some things you can’t plan, and that is what we have grown to love and have been some of the most memorable parts of our trip.
- We went out for dinner at a Nepalese restaurant in Amsterdam and were fortunate enough to be sat next to a Humans Rights Lawyer from China. What he had experienced was truly unbelievable and his conviction and passion to fight for what he believed in was truly amazing.
- While in Turkey we were without a car and therefore walked most of the time. On one occasion we were walking to the bus station from our accommodation (an eco-farm in the countryside) and were stopped partway along the country road by an elderly man and his wife. The refused to let us continue until we had taken rest with them in the shade and while none of us could speak each others language we had a lovely time.
- Our air bnb host in Montenegro was a very unique man. We were welcomed to the scene of an ex-yugoslavian army jeep on the driveway with grappa being brewed across the bonnet. We were offered samples along with homemade sausage and donkey cheese!
- While in Sarajevo, we read on Tripadvisor that the 1984 Olympic Bobsled track was a must see. It had been used by the Serb army as an artillery base during the war and still had landmines nearby. Our accommodation was not far from the location and so we thought we would follow our GPS and walk. Sarajevo has numerous wild dogs, many of whom we met along the way ….including a Rottweiler! Despite our best efforts and off road wandering we didn’t make it to the course, but did manage to get great views over the city. We found out that night that you should never wander the hills without a guide and that they are littered with landmines!
- The final random event happened in Macedonia. We were heading out of Serbia and Justin started feeling a LOT under the weather. Turns out he had contracted hand foot and mouth disease and as time went by he became covered in spots and feverish! Not ideal!
Top five Roads
- The back road to the top of Mt Lovcen, Montenegro. It was a winding back road with 25 hairpin turns with sheer cliffs on the side. One of the only times we legitimately feared for our lives.
- The hill to the town we woof’d at in Italy. Apricale is perched on the side of a hill and the road to get there is narrow and winding.
- The road from Mostar to Neum in Bosnia and Herzegovina. All started off well, double lanes, road markings and barriers…. It quickly became a one way, winding and narrow path through the hills and we were unable to leave the road because of the risk of landmines.
- Driving through the centre of Florence… need I say more?
- In New Zealand the maximum speed on any road is 100kmph, therefore driving 170kmph on the autobahn was very memorable.
Top five ‘wouldn’t do again’
- The twenty hour ferry from Greece to Italy.
- Not checking the timing and toll charges on some roads so paying out our eyeballs to drive on the fast road.
- Booking a return ticket before starting our trip
- Boarding a 14 hour bus while still suffering the effects of food poisoning in Turkey
- Sleeping in the tent with no bed mats… ie on the solid ground!
Top five meals
- Mexican in LA (ALL OF IT)
- Calimari and Goulash in Zell am See
- Çevapi in Mostar
- My Birthday lunch of Turkish bread in a roadside café in Bodrum
- Ethiopian delights in Amsterdam
We have had so many more wonderful and life changing experiences, but we’ll leave those for conversations with friends and fellow travellers!
There are two songs that I’m going to be listening to on repeat for the next wee while to reminisce on our wonderful time travelling and being fancy free: Mr Probz, Waves and Ellie Goulding Burn.