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Best Of Lists – The Year End Review

By on January 4, 2015

It’s the end of the year and a bit late for this but it’s time for a bit of review. Let’s run through a few lists in no particular order. And here’s an interactive map of the trip!

Most people’s first question is a toughie: What was your favorite place? For the most part, we had fun and loved everywhere we went, so the favorites list would more likely look like a list of places we would do anything to get back to someday.

Would Return in a heartbeat

  • South Island, New Zealand
  • Thailand (the islands are paradise, but the entire place is pretty awesome)
  • Hoi An, Vietnam
  • Sapa, Vietnam
  • Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Alaska

While we would go back to pretty much anywhere, these are the places we loved and could live there (in and out of the USA).

Would Live In

  1. Wellington, New Zealand
  2. Chiang Mai, Thailand
  3. Queenstown, New Zealand
  4. Budapest, Hungary
  5. Vancouver, Canada

In the USA

  1. Bend, Oregon
  2. Alaska
  3. Whitefish, Montana
  4. Portland, Oregon
  5. Denver, Colorado
  6. Bozeman, Montana

Would Go Somewhere New Instead of…

  1. Northern Sri Lanka
  2. Nha Trang, Vietnam
  3. Kuta, Bali, Indonesia (the rest of the island is great)

Things we missed that we wished we could do

  • Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand
  • Songkran in Chiang Mai
  • Koh Rong, Cambodia
  • Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  • North Cascades, Olympic, and Mt. Rainier National Parks in Washington
  • Alaska in the summer

Food

I am not really a big food connoiseur, but one of the amazing parts of traveling is having the opportunity to try new things and grow some new taste buds. From all of the new tastes of the year, I never had any major stomach issues. The worst I’ve experienced this year was when I got back to the states; eating more dairy products, sugars, beef, and cheese didn’t sit well with my stomach.

  1. Thailand
  2. Jordan
  3. Sri Lanka
  4. Malaysia
  5. Hungary

Nicest people

This list is REALLY hard; pretty much everywhere we went people were outwardly nice in trying to help. I would say I ranked these based on general interactions with hostel owners, shop owners, and locals.

  1. New Zealand
  2. Fiji
  3. Laos
  4. Jordan
  5. Sri Lanka

Sketchiest place

I have gotten this question a lot over the past few months since I have returned to the US, and there really isn’t a good answer. The most fearful time during my trip abroad came when a Sri Lankan man asked me to come with him to an 8 year old’s birthday party. I found myself getting in and out his friend’s tuk-tuk at seemingly random places all over town for confusing reasons. Nothing came of it and they all turned out really nice in the end – just the most confusing night of my trip. I would say sketchiest place goes to Istanbul. The city is beautiful, but because of Turkish culture, the streets are rampant with horny horny Turk men at night. Going out with a group of girls from the hostel becomes a little of an obstacle course.

Top Hot Springs – If we are talking IN MY LIFE, the Blue Lagoon in Iceland wins it, but this is just for the trip soooo….

  1. Chena Hot Springs – Fairbanks, Alaska (The colder the better, was about 8°F/ -13°C; They are natural hot springs fed into a lake surrounded by snowy rocks and trees. Add to that the northern lights and you have a special place. The owner even offered us jobs.
  2. Széchenyi Thermal Baths – Budapest, Hungary
  3. Boiling River – A boiling river flows and mixes into a cold river just inside the northern entrance to Yellowstone, Wyoming
  4. Glacier Hot Pools – Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
  5. Flagg Ranch – Just south of the southern entrance to Yellowstone, Wyoming

Top National Parks – Asterisk: We went to a lot of National Parks and as it got colder, parts or pretty much all of them were closed.

  1. Glacier
  2. Grand Teton
  3. Zion
  4. Yellowstone
  5. Crater Lake
  6. Denali (*we didn’t get to see much, but this one might be #1 if we saw it in it’s prime.)

Best Beaches/Islands

  1. Phra Nang Beach – Railay, Thailand
  2. Koh Lipe – Island in southern Thailand
  3. Barefoot Island – Fiji
  4. White Sand Beach – Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia
  5. Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

Top hikes

  1. On the Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
  2. Hike to Chi’s house in Sapa, Vietnam
  3. Backpacking trip in the Lizard Head Wilderness southwest of Telluride, CO.
  4. Mt. Batur volcano sunrise hike – Bali, Indonesia
  5. Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park
  6. Flattop Mountain, Anchorage, Alaska
  7. Horton Plains National Park – Sri Lanka high hill country
  8. Ella Rock – Ella, Sri Lanka

Top 5 Experiences

  1. Sapa, Vietnam – Trekked about 17km with a local tribe family to their house in the Sapa mountain valley in Northern Vietnam. Amazing views, cultural exchange, a eye into local life, local food, and sharing “happy water” with the man of the house all add up to be the best experience of the trip.
  2. Mekong Cup with the Phnom Penh Orphans – We were invited to play ultimate with the Phnom Penh team in this international club tourney, and even invited to stay with the guy organizing the team (thanks Greg!) Partied our asses off and played awesome ultimate on an eclectic team in the blazing heat of Cambodia; unreal.
  3. Roadtripping across the country in an 1989 Dolphin – Bought the Dolphin the day after I returned to the US, and spent the next two months touring the Western US.
  4. Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand – spent the day with asian elephants learning commands, riding, feeding, and washing them in the river.
  5. Surf bumming in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka – Stayed at the Beach Hut in this surf town where we would take tuk-tuks to different surf spots. Down days were filled with hammocks on the beach, body surfing on constant big waves, reading, yoga.


Anyone reading this, please leave a comment with some new ideas of amazing places to go to that would make one of these lists. My travel list is always getting longer… which is a good thing.

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Lively Amman and the Dead Sea

By on July 29, 2014

I boarded the plane in the wet wetness of Sri Lanka, and got off in the dry desert of Amman, Jordan. I navigated the visa/entry fee lines in the airport and toyed with the idea of buying a SIM card

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Hike Surf Eat Sleep

By on July 22, 2014

After a night’s sleep in Kandy, I boarded the early morning and highly hyped train south into the Sri Lanka hill country. News was that the train was the best way to get around in the mountains, mainly because it

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On To Sri Lanka – The Tear Drop Of India

By on July 3, 2014

I landed at midday, after a little 3 hour flight. It was an unbelievably quick and cheap trip from Bangkok to Sri Lanka, which was partly the reason for choosing to go to Sri Lanka. The other reasons were that

maria steve afro boat

The Tao of Laos

By on June 23, 2014

On the craziest night bus of all time, we met two French Canadians guys on our way to the Laos (pronounced La-oh) border. We arrived early at the border and almost didn’t have enough money for the visa fees! Actually,

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Happy Water for Happy People

By on June 12, 2014

We flew into Hanoi and took a taxi to the hotel where we met our friends from the states! We had planned to meet up with some fellow ultimate frisbee players who had just winning Women’s College Nationals! It was

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Southern Vietnam: A Scurry up the Coast

By on June 5, 2014

Nursing hangovers, we hopped on the bus to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The southern Vietnamese also tend to call it Saigon and most people might know it better by that name. We have seen our fair share of large

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Roofies in the Penh

By on May 26, 2014

Back when we played pick-up ultimate in Chiang Mai, we met Rachel who put us in contact with her friend Greg in Phnom Penh. He was one of the people organizing the Mekong Cup (ultimate frisbee tournament) in Phnom Penh,

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The Temples of Angkor

By on May 23, 2014

We headed for the Thai Cambodia border and met some great and helpful people on the bus. We were a little nervous for this infamous border crossing, because of all the scammers at the border. So here’s the scam: you

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How’s It Going?

By on May 20, 2014

Today marks 100 days on the road. There have been highs, lows, and middles, but looking back, even the lows are highs. I have no complaints about life. During these past 100 days, I would say we have lived more

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Bangkok Not-So-Dangerous

By on May 18, 2014

Our first night train experience this trip turned out to be a comfy one. The Thai trains are in great shape complete with full length sleeper berths and a nice dining car. We ate some dinner and it had a

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The Chiang Mai Experience

By on May 16, 2014

It was a record… we were in our room laying on the bed less than an hour after wheels down. We flew from Phuket in the south of Thailand to Chiang Mai in the north. Usually it takes some time

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Phi Phi and Back to Lanta

By on May 6, 2014

When we got to the beautiful island of Koh Phi Phi, a new face was introduced to the mix. Zak was one of our roommates from St. Louis, and was just coming off a month med school rotation in Chengdu,

maria in the sand

From the Beach to the Beach

By on May 3, 2014

We boarded the ferry at Koh Lipe and readied ourselves for the 5 hour journey north through islands in the Andaman Sea on the west coast of southern Thailand. For Maria, that meant finding a good three seats together to

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The Koh Lipe Zoo

By on May 1, 2014

After another overland border crossing, our shared minivan drops us near the Pak Bara pier and we are in Thailand, land of a million Thais. Once there, we booked a ticket on the ferry and found an agency who could

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Last Stops in Malaysia

By on April 27, 2014

Ipoh (ee-poh) is only 2 hours north of Kuala Lumpur by bus, so the easiest thing to do is to just head to a main bus station in KL and bargain for a bus ticket. We had to make sure

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We Shipped Our Pants

By on April 20, 2014

Early in the morning we made our way to one of the bus stations in Singapore, we had booked a bus to Melaka in Malaysia! It was going to be our first overland border crossing… first of many I hope.

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Singapore Me A Beer, Wait I Don’t Have Enough Money

By on April 15, 2014

We arrived in Singapore and the tone was immediately set by the vibes in the airport. It has an amazingly nice, clean, and efficient airport, which we later found out is one of the nicest in the world. We jumped

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Gettin By in Padang Bai

By on April 7, 2014

We left Ubud and got a shared taxi to Padang Bai which would end up to be our home base for the rest of our time in Bali. Padang Bai is just a small coastal town, and most travelers who

mount batur at sunrise

The Mood in Ubud

By on March 29, 2014

Ubud (Oo-bood) is the cultural capital of the island and the center of arts and crafts. It’s also the town they talk about in Eat Pray Love. We were staying at the Jati Home Stay (a homestay is kinda like

kuta beach low tide

Bali: First Stop Kuta Beach

By on March 28, 2014

Welcome to Indonesia! Now that we are traveling in SE Asia, and are going at a slower pace, I am thinking that these blog posts will be a little different. Probably shorter and a little more frequent. We’ll see how

walking through hooker valley

Living in a Van Down by the River

By on March 21, 2014

After working everyday and generally kickin’ it back during our afternoons in Punakaiki, we decided to rent a campervan to drive around New Zealand with the time we had left. The only problem was… we figured in our heads that

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WWOOFing… woof

By on March 6, 2014

I found someone who wants to adopt me. His name is Hamish, and he is a kind happy soul. We told him it was a package deal though, so really he is going to adopt Maria and I. We will

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We’ll Do It Live

By on February 25, 2014

We landed at Christchurch airport in the South Island of New Zealand at 1pm. All we had booked was a hostel in Lake Wanaka and the plan was to rent a car to take us there. We soon found out

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Professional Hammocking in Fiji

By on February 17, 2014

BULA! Last I left off, Maria and I were buying new backpacks at the last minute and jumping on a flight to Nadi, Fiji (pronounced Nandi). We actually went to Dick’s again on the way to the airport where Maria

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Fiji or Bust

By on February 8, 2014

13000 feet up, checkin’ out the other people around me. My heart is racing and I never would have thought I would be this excited to jump out of a plane. At 14000 feet I know I’m the first to

Maria and Schwab in Paris circa 2011!

Long Story Short…

By on January 29, 2014

Welcome to the blog! This is going to be fun. But first an introduction is in order… Some of you know me as Steve, some of you know me as Schwab, some as both of those names put together (crazy!).