As we sat down to review this third year of our travels this morning, Dani said something that, although it was an offhand remark, really resonated with me. Instead of happy anniversary, or happy travel-versary, she said ‘Happy Birthday’. Had this journey only lasted six months or a year, the results would have been temporary, but with three years under our belts and no end in sight, it is now clear that April 30, 2010 was the start of entirely new lives for us both.
This celebration also gives us the chance to take a look back at the last 365 days to get a sense of just how much two people can squeeze into 52 weeks. What we have discovered is that life is going to fly by, and at our age years fly by the way that months used to, so why not try to pack in as much as possible into each set of four seasons.
How many countries did we visit? Seven – 7
Unlike in previous years, we spent longer amounts of time in fewer countries. Last year we hit 13, this year, ‘only’ seven.
In the last 365 days, how many borders did we cross? Thirteen – 13
We may have only spent time in seven countries, but we crossed back and forth over and through the Andes several times between Argentina and Chile, which really upped our numbers here to 13 borders. That’s roughly one border per month, but it didn’t work out that way chronologically.
- India to USA (by plane from Kochi to Tucson via Delhi, Frankfurt and Chicago)
- USA to Mexico (by plane from Denver to Cancun)
- Mexico to Costa Rica (by plane from Mexico City to San Jose, with a short stop in Guatemala)
- Costa Rica to Mexico (by plane from San Jose to Mexico City)
- Mexico to Argentina (by plane from Mexico City to Buenos Aires)
- Argentina to Chile (by bus from Buenos Aires to Santiago via Los Libertadores border crossing)
- Chile to Argentina (by bus from Ancud to Bariloche via Cardenal Antonio Samore Pass)
- Argentina to Chile (by bus from El Calafate to Puerto Natales via Villa Dorotea)
- Chile to Argentina (hitchhiked from Porvenir to San Sebastian border crossing on Tierra del Fuego)
- Argentina to Uruguay (by plane from Ushuaia to Montevideo)
- Uruguay to Argentina (by bus from Montevideo to Rosario)
- Argentina to Chile (by bus from Jujuy to San Pedro De Atacama via Paseo de Jama)
- Chile to USA (by plane from Santiago to New York City via Panama and Orlando)
In the last 365 days, we slept in 57 beds. Compared to Year 1, which totalled 104 beds and Year 2, when we slept in 90 beds, 57 beds doesn’t seem like much at all. However, that’s a huge number considering we lived in just one place for almost one month in Tucson, under two months in Mexico and again Costa Rica, six weeks in Buenos Aires and then seven weeks in Santiago. If you took out all our housesits and extended stays in places, it’s roughly one new bed every three days. What we see from Year 3 is that we have really found a balance between housesitting and long-term stays and heavy travel for a few months at a time.
In the last 365 days, how many types of transportation did we take?
22 buses, not including 6 night buses
7 car rentals
6 trains, all in India
More travel by numbers for our third year on the road
# of night buses – 6
These do not count as beds, not even partial beds, even though the bus companies in South America called them ‘semi-camas’ (semi-beds). On six occasions we spent the night traveling on a bus, getting very little sleep, clinging to our bags and hoping not to have to use the bathroom. The scenery during the day is spectacular, but once the sun sets these rides are no fun at all.
# of beaches – 15
We started the year on Indian beaches in Kerala and Goa, then lived on a couple in Mexico and Costa Rica, but even though we followed Chile’s coastline up and down, our South American beach time was limited. Uruguay has gorgeous beaches, and we definitely see ourselves spending more time in Punta del Diablo in the future.
Over one-third of our third travel year was spent living on a beach…so…no complaints here!
# of Housesits – 5
We had a stellar year in this category, with five amazing housesitting opportunities. Our housesits from April 2012 to April 2013 took place in Tucson, Arizona; The Costa Maya in Mexico; Costa Rica; Santiago de Chile and now Brooklyn, New York.
# of books published – 1
You all know that we are huge fans of housesitting, which is why this year we also put together every single possible piece of information you could ever need to be a successful housesitter in our book Break Free: The Ultimate Guide to Housesitting. If you own a home, having housesitters allows you travel for longer periods of time without paying a dime for pet or house care. If you are location independent like us, or want to be, housesitting allows you to stay around the world with all the creature comforts of home, rent free and without all the commitment. We can’t recommend housesitting highly enough and encourage you all to get started!
# of posts published – 163
From May 2012 – April 2013, we hit ‘publish’ on a post every 2 days on average. While we hope each post is informative, useful, insightful, entertaining and filled with travel porn photos, we’re proud that we still have such a passion for travel that we never run out of things to write about. Hell, you should see the backlog of posts lined up on South America, and who knows how much we’ll be able to cover about New York!
# of new elements on GlobetrotterGirls.com – 4
This site saw the addition of three new series – the What I Wonder When I Wander series, our She Said, She Said series and the GlobetrotterGirl of the Month feature. We also started a newsletter (are you getting it yet?) where we share more info about our lives beyond the blog, answer reader questions, offer travel tips, and give things away for free.
# of times as conference panelists – 1
Technically only Jess was a panelist at the Meet, Plan, Go event in Chicago last October, combining the stint with a trip home to see her family while Dani held down the housesitting fort in Costa Rica. The event was an amazing opportunity to connect with over 150 people who were all about to head off on long term trips, from a month or two to complete location independence!
# of pizzas – 45
Considering the fact that we got healthier than ever this year doing the Insanity workout and eating healthier than ever before, this number seems a bit high. However, yes, in the last 52 weeks we scarfed down 45 pizzas, 15 of which were in our six weeks in Buenos Aires. Somehow Jess still dropped three sizes, so no harm, no foul!
Although it felt like we spent much of our time traveling through barren South American landscapes, we actually spent time in 14 cities this year including major world cities like New York, Chicago, Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Santiago, as well as smaller cities like Valparaiso, Chile and Rosario and Salta, Argentina.
# of things lost – 7
This number is entirely an estimate, because we often don’t even realize the things that we lose along the way. We’re not big on possessions so most of these didn’t affect us, but losing Dani’s iPod somewhere in Santiago and the charger and cable in northern Argentina hurt a bit (okay, a lot). We also lost a bikini top, an iPhone charger and cable, Jess’ driver’s license, a good razor and at least 10 pairs of socks.
# of amazing wildlife animals – 11 (rough estimate)
We saw elephants (and cows) in India, and lived on the beach in tropical Costa Rica last yaer, which meant we had monkeys and coatis right outside our backyard. Dani witnessed the incredible sea turtle Arribada in nearby Ostional beach there, too. In South America, there were penguins, sea lions and ñandus in Patagonia, alligators at Iguazu Falls, plus llamas and their relatives guanacos and vicuñas, flamingos and loads of different birds in northern Argentina and Chile.
Despite this being my healthiest year since my early 20s, I spent much of it quite injured. In fact, after a residual knee injury caused serious knee pain in India, what spurred the health kick was being rammed by a cow in Palolem and being unable to walk for three weeks (I guess I really needed a swift kick in the ass, no?) After resting and healing up nicely in Tucson and Mexico, I broke my baby toe walking barefoot on the beach, which sidelined me for another month. We started the Insanity workout in September and rocked through this plus outdoor park workouts even as we traveled through Chile, but feeling so much healthier than ever, I pushed it too hard and strained my ankle which meant Dani had to do most of the Patagonia hiking without me. I’m happily ending this third year injury free!
# of photos taken – 13,001
Dani took just (just) over 13,000 pictures over the last year – an average of over 1,000 photos per month. Surprisingly, this is less than last year, when she snapped 15,437 pictures.
Budget – How much does a year of travel cost?
Budgeting is not something that comes easily to us, but damn if Dani isn’t diligent about tracking our spending. This year we started using the TrailWallet app, which helps us keep track of and categorize every single peso, rupee, dollar and pound we spend each day and categorize it to see what areas make the biggest dent in our bank accounts.
If there is one thing we can say about our budget, it is that we are now more confident in spending money. Looking back at our first year, we only spent $28,484 between two people. Back then, being unsure of how to sustain our earnings, we were clearly shoestring travelers.
As soon as we were sure this was going to be a lifestyle, not just a ‘trip’ we knew we had to start living more comfortably. This meant that in our second year, spending increased by almost $10,000, reaching $38,152 for two people.
This seems to be our ‘comfort zone’, and even though it seemed like we were just hemorrhaging money traveling through South America in high season, we ended our third year of travel on a similar budget, spending $37,588 between 1 May 2012 and 30 April 2013.
That said, there are some huge difference in how much we spent in each place – in India for example, we spent just over $500 each per month, while in Buenos Aires, Argentina that shot up to almost $2000 per person per month.
Our top 5 favorite places
So remote we had no cell reception and were entirely off-the-grid, living on a remote Mexican beach for two months gave us the chance to live a life that few people ever have. Life was so laid-back here, in fact, that when my sandals broke, I just went barefoot for two weeks before we made a trip to the big supermarket, three hours away.
We knew we’d love it here, but had no idea just how much. The attraction is not only because of the architecture, or the pizza, or the street art, or the Argentine accent (which we did get used to and ended up really loving) or the combination of the above. It is all of that on top of the open, friendly community of that welcomed us with open arms and within days we had full social calendars as thought we had been living there for years.
This town thousands of kilometers north of Santiago and over 4,000m (13,000ft) above sea level is like Mad Max meets rock festivals. Just a few minutes out of town, the landscape looks like the moon or Mars and is just outside of the Atacama desert, the driest in the world. Yet in town, the food in restaurants lining all sand roads is sophisticated and complex, live music spills from bars late into the night and the hotels range well into luxury.
It would take a stellar year to knock Tucson off our list. There is just something about this low-key, sprawling town 80 miles from the Mexico border that keeps it so high on our list – it might just be the mix of the saguaros, the colors in the sky at sunset, the owners we housesit for and the wild west meets Mexico feeling in the food and art around town.
Cafayate and the surrounding countryside was an unexpected gem. The landscape is a combination of bright green vineyards like Napa Valley, red rocks like Colorado, mountains resembling the Grand Canyon and rock formations like Monument Valley, and that all with the snow capped peaks of the Andes in the far background. The town itself feels like a sleepy village and we could have easily spent a week or more here.
Although New York City belongs on this list, we’ll save it for next year as we are absolutely certain that no matter where our fourth year takes us, the Big Apple will sit as one of our top five choices. It feels amazing after traveling through Argentine Patagonia and the Chilean desert to be in such a densely packed global city, yet after less than a week we already feel right at home in our Brooklyn four story walk up and know we’ll love every minute of our six week housesit here.
Our top 5 best food moments
Huevos Rancheros in Mexico
The house we lived in was so remote that grocery trucks and tortillas delivered by motorcycle were often our only way to stock up on food between big six-hour round trips to the city. Luckily, Dani perfected the art of Huevos Rancheros, a meal we ate once a day, almost every day, for two months.
Pizzas in Buenos Aires
We’ve raved about this everywhere, so if you don’t already know, find out more about our love of Buenos Aires pizza.
Homecookin’ on the Houseboat in Kerala
Indian food in Malaysia was actually much tastier than in India itself, we found, but our personal chef on our three day houseboat cruise performed magic and miracles to create delicious Keralan feasts three times a day, causing us to spend the entire cruise in a gluttonous food coma – heaven!
Green smoothies in Santiago
The further along the year progressed, the healthier the two of us got and during our Santiago housesit, we started making green smoothies for breakfast everyday – including spinach, bananas, orange juice, and other fruit and veg. We had glowing skin and loads of energy and missed these so dearly as we traveled the next three months without them.
Food in San Pedro de Atacama
Most restaurants in San Pedro offer three course meals for $15 (incl wine or cocktail) and never once were we disappointed by a meal. We’ll cover this in more detail soon, but who’d’a thunk we could eat like queens in the middle of a desert?
Our top 5 best hotel stays
From luxury to budget and everything in between, we had some amazing accommodation experiences this year!
El Patio 77, Mexico City
We had a sampler of three gorgeous bed and breakfasts during an extended weekend in Mexico City, but eco-focused, traveler-friendly El Patio 77 won above Casa Roa and the Chill Out Flat B&B with its minimalist yet arty design, integration of green technology and location in a quiet neighborhood just three stops from Mexico City’s Zocalo, or central park. Read the Hotel Tip of the Week here.
Hotel Monaco, Denver
With several locations throughout the US, the Monaco has had the chance to perfect its offering to guests, and our stay at the Denver Monaco won us over entirely. This is partially because it is a Kimpton hotel, a chain we are always willing to spend more to stay at, but we loved the wine and cheese hour, the takeaway coffee bar in the morning, the pet-friendly food and water bowls downstairs and the friendliness of the staff. Read the Hotel Tip of the Week here.
Say you arrived to the end of the world, weary and wind-whipped like we did. Then this comfortable, warm, friendly bed and breakfast in Porvenir would be exactly where you would want to stay. We recharged our batteries, gobbled down homemade soups and warm foods and talked travel with the personable owner. Read the Hotel Tip of the Week here.
Casa Kreyenberg in Valparaiso Chile
Sometimes we imagine ourselves running a bed and breakfast one day, and if we ever do, we hope we stay as down to earth as the owners of this great spot in Valpo. We stayed here for a week and would return again and again. Read the Hotel Tip of the Week here.
Hostel de la Viuda, Punta del Diablo, Uruguay
This beach town is so relaxed and spread out compared to chic global beach spot Punta del Este a few hours up the road. Most visitors rent out the gorgeous houses here, but we stayed at Hostel de la Viuda, which was relatively inexpensive with a super clean and well-stocked kitchen, friendly staff, fast wi-fi, good music and adorable pets. Hotel Tip of the Week: Coming soon!
And a thousand times thank you!
A huge THANK YOU to everyone who has been following our journey! Those of you who read our posts, stay up to date with our whereabouts and leave comments on our Facebook page, email us your travel plans and questions and use our travel articles to plan your own trips or even decide to break free entirely – we just can’t thank you enough! Nothing makes our day more than the heartfelt emails from people who have followed our recommendations for a favorite food spot or hotel and loved it as much as we did, and nothing inspires us more than the emails from those who have decided to bite the bullet and make travel a lifestyle as a result of what goes on here on our website. Three years ago we never dreamed we could have an impact like that, even for one person, and we couldn’t be more thankful that you are here!
Tops and Flops
To find out more highlights of our third year as GlobetrotterGirls, check out our Tops and Flops posts: