Top Highlights of our Six-Month Journey Abroad

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails, explore, dream, discover”
– Mark Twain

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While we were traveling, I kept a daily journal of our experiences, emotions, thoughts and discoveries, and every day was more exciting and humbling than the last. It was a challenge to recall and compile all of our lasting memories into one post, but here’s a little peak into our life of travels and the experiences that hardened our bodies, shaped our mentality, softened our souls, encouraged our creativity, and nourished our minds.

OVER THE LAST SIX MONTHS, WE:

1) Went slickrock biking in the mountains of Moab Utah
Slickrock Biking in Moab

2) Danced and kissed in a torrential down pour in the cloud forest of Mindo, Ecuador
Mindo Rain Kiss

3) Broke down crying (me, not Sasha) for no apparent reason in Cuenca, Ecuador two weeks into our travels (in the moment I felt overwhelmed outside of my comfort zone with bad food, unsanitary water, dirty streets, terrible pollution, high elevation, and other conditions that we take so highly for granted in America)

4) Encouraged our tiny put-put car to make it up the high altitude roads in the Andes (I still can’t believe that car made it around the entire country of Ecuador without breaking down)

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Can you believe Sasha fit into Put Put Red?

5) Flew free on the Swing at the end of the World in Banos, Ecuador

6) Experienced giant bugs, the size of a fist, fly at our faces in Minca, Colombia

7) Soared over waterfalls and streams superman style on a zipline all to ourselves in Banos, Ecuador
Superman Zip Line Banos1

8) Got massaged in a mud volcano and came out looking like mud warriors straight out of a Sci-Fi movie in Cartagena, Colombia

9) Was wiped out for three days with travelers diarrhea in Medellin, Colombia

10) Were guided to a coffee plantation farm by Eddie the hostel dog in Salento, Colombia (he proceeded to wait for us to complete our 1.5-hour tour, then guided us the entire way back (over one mile each way)

11) Picked up a solo hitchhiker who had traveled all the way from Poland to Colombia completely by hitchhiking (including on boats) and had spent a total of $1,500 in his 9 months of travel (we spend that in about 1 – 2 weeks)

12) Missed our flight from Denver to Charlotte on the way to London and made the mistake of starting our laundry at home one hour before we had to leave the house
Note to self: Don’t book 12:00 AM flights, and don’t do laundry when you need to leave the house in one hour
(We ended up taking up two rows of empty seats on our three-hour flight to dry our soaking wet laundry. The flight attendants joked asking if this was laundry day. Yes, yes in fact it was)

13) Accidentally forgot to check Sasha’s Russian passport expiration date and ended up being “stuck” without him being able to leave his own home country in Russia for a whole month while they processed his new one. Because it wasn’t finished on time (gotta love Russian bureaucracy), he missed his flight to Athens. I continued on without him and we had to re-pay to re-book him to come for the next day. We were not refunded for the flight that he missed, which we booked on points (that one hurt)

14) Participated in a traditional Russian Banya ceremony where we were slapped in the nude with steaming hot Birch leaves collected from the forest earlier that morning by our host at a dacha (summer house) in St. Petersburg

15) Were wowed by the talented singing in operas at the Mariinsky theater in St. Petersburg Russia and symphony-worthy performances in the subway stations of Moscow

16) Got engaged at Elafonisi Beach in Greece
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17) Swam in my birthday suit in crystal-clear waters at a nudist beach on Crete

18) Admired all the stylish (and unstylish **no names, Sasha’s**) 😉 floppy hats in 43 degrees C (110 F) at the Parthenon in Athens
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19) Felt immense spiritual energy meditating on a bench in front of Apollo’s Oracle in Delphi…we later learned that it is one of those sacred places in the world with healing energies and powers. Having experienced it first hand, I absolutely believe this

20) Felt small underneath the Monasteries atop the cliff sides of Meteora in the mountains of Greece

21) Marveled at Zagori Gorge in Ioninna

22) Set a minimum daily quota of consuming two Greek salads in Greece, and two gelato each in Florence

23) Met two guys bicycling from Germany to Thailand (an adventure that will take up to two years.) If you ever thought you were a badass, these guys just stepped it up to a whole new level!
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24) Felt like sardines attempting to squeeze our way to get the best view of Michelangelo’s painted ceiling at the Sistine Chapel in Rome
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25) Kissed at sunset looking towards the Ponte Veccio bridge in Florence
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26) Challenged our physical strength by hiking to the summit of Monte Serva in the Dolomites of Northern Italy
Monte Serva Pano

27) Visited the Biennale and took a boat ride to the island of Murano in Venice. Also, got bit by over 30 of the world’s most itchy mosquitoes. For the next few days it felt like I had the chicken pox
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28) Experienced one of the highlights of our entire trip cooking a multicultural meal for dinner with our Airbnb hosts in Vescovato, Italy, speaking in four different languages and somehow getting by with fervent gesticulations, food, and huge smiles and laughs

29) Spent my 30th birthday with new friends enjoying homemade tiramisu, complete with trick candles, and was serenaded by two traveling musicians from Munich who performed a mini concert for us in the living room

30) Hiked the Calanques in Cassis, France, marveling at the spectacular turquoise colors of the sparkling Mediterranean
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31) Ate fresh mussels straight from the sea in Cinque Terre
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32) Stood in awe of the natural-made wonders of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

33) Miraculously made our 45-minute layover from Reykjavik to Denver with a few minutes to spare

OUR TOP HIGHLIGHTS IN EACH COUNTRY

ARCHES & CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK, AND DEADHORSE STATE PARK, UTAH – read the full blog post here

Visited: April, 2017
Length of Time Spent in City: one week
Mode of Transportation: Our own car (we drove from Seattle to Boulder and stopped in Moab on the way)
Highlight: Sunset rim walk around Deadhorse State Park

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ECUADOR – read the full blog post here

Visited: April, 2017
Length of Time Spent in Country: 2 weeks
Mode of Transportation: Rental Car
Cities Visited: Mindo, Cuenca, Baños, Otavalo, Cotocachi, and Quito
**Caveat**: This was one of my very first blog posts, so I was still an amateur and didn’t think to make separate posts for each city like I did for the rest of our trip, so this post is extremely long!
Highlight: Discovering a “do-it-yourself” park called Mirador Del Turi where we were strapped into a makeshift swing and released to look out over the city of Cuenca at over 8,000′ (2,666 meters) elevation
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COLOMBIA

Visited: May, 2017
Length of Time Spent in Country: 3 weeks
Mode of Transportation: Rental car & Uber
Highlight: getting massaged in a mud volcano and then rinsed off in the lake by local ladies in Cartagena
Cities Visited (you can read the full blog posts by clicking on each of the links below):
Bogota
Cartagena, Minca & Santa Marta: Coastal Colombia
Medellin, Guatape, and El Penol
Valle De Cocora & Salento

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LONDON – read the full blog post here

Visited: May, 2017
Length of Time Spent in City: 8 days
Mode of Transportation: foot, bike, double-decker bus, and the Tube
Highlight: trying all the various ethnic foods at Borough Market

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RUSSIA

Visited: June, 2017
Length of Time Spent in Country: one month
Mode of Transportation: Foot, metro & Uber
Highlight: Participating in my first ceremonial leaf slapping massage called Platza at a family friend’s dacha (summer home) in St. Petersburg
Cities Visited (you can read the full blog posts by clicking on each of the links below):
Moscow
St. Petersburg
Kazan
Russian Food & Language

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GREECE

Visited: July, 2017
Length of Time Spent in Country: one month
Mode of Transportation: Rental car
Highlight: Getting engaged to Sasha on Elafonisi Beach at sunset on Crete Island
Cities Visited (you can read the full blog posts by clicking on each of the links below):
Engaged in Greece
Crete Island
Athens & Delphi
Central Greece: Mylopotamos, Meteora, and Vykos Gorge
Peloponnese: Nafplio, Arcadia, and Paralio Astros

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ITALY

Visited: August, 2017
Length of Time Spent in Country: one month
Mode of Transportation: Rental car
Highlight: Hiking in the Dolomites and swimming in the turquoise clear waters of Cinque Terre
Cities Visited (you can read the full blog posts by clicking on each of the links below):
Rome
Inland Tuscany: Siena, San Gimignano, and Florence
Dolomites
Venice
Lake Garda and Emilia-Romagna
Piedmont Region: Turin & Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso
Cinque Terre
20 Things you Should Know about Traveling in Italy

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FRANCE – read the full blog post here

Visited: August, 2017
Length of Time Spent in Country: 8 days
Mode of Transportation: Rental car
Highlight: Hiking and swimming in the Calanques
Cities Visited: Toulon, Six-Fours Les Plagues, Marseille, Cassis

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CROATIA

Visited: September, 2017
Length of Time Spent in Country: 9 days
Mode of Transportation: Rental car
Highlight: Visiting Kamenjak Peninsula and swimming through swarms of non-stinging jellyfish
Cities Visited (you can read the full blog posts by clicking on each of the links below):
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Gems of Croatia & the Istrian Sea
An Overview of Croatia

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If you have ever considered leaving everything to travel long-term or indefinitely, JUST DO IT. There is no good time, so the time is now. I can honestly say that this experience has changed my life in the most positive of ways, and has re-shaped my outlook on life. There are 7 days in the week, and”someday” is not one of them. Remember that you are the artist of your own life. It’s okay to start over on a blank canvas from time to time. So get out there, pave your path and make it a beautiful one. There is nowhere to go, but everywhere.

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