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


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.


  1. kbau
    January 5, 2015

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    Cool experiences Schwab, thanks for sharing your lists! Something to think about for future trips for sure.

  2. Jesse
    January 5, 2015

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    Cities to live in/in the USA – sad to see Columbus didn’t make the list! Anything else cool in Iceland other than hot springs? Wondering if it’s worth a couple days’ pit-stop on the way across the pond.

    • Steve
      January 8, 2015

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      Jesse its definitely worth a few days in Iceland anytime you can get it!

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