Goodbye 2010: Our year of travel in pictures

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An amazing year is coming to an end – our first as full-time travelers! Rather than rattle off a list of everywhere we’ve been, check out our year in pictures, from the pre-trip ‘planning’ phase to the rather unexpected place where we are ringing in the New Year!

In January we made the semi-spontaneous decision to become digital nomads and to leave London, where we had been living since 2007.

In February, we packed up our apartment and Dani drove a few boxes to her hometown of Erfurt in Germany, where she stored our stuff and said goodbye to friends and family.

Jess did the same in March, home in chilly Chicago.

In April, we met again in Britain and spent one last ‘stay-cation’ in the seaside town of Brighton, before starting off the trip of a lifetime:

We started our adventure in Las Vegas, of all places…

…before heading to San Francisco up the Pacific Coast Highway in May, the first of many road trips to come.

June saw us exploring the Arizona desert during our Tucson house-sit, then the canyons (Antelope, Canyon de Chelly and the Grand Canyon) in the north during one last road trip in the U.S.

We stopped in Los Angeles again in July…

…and from there we flew into Mexico City, where we started our Mexican adventure.

We spent August exploring Southern Mexico from Oaxaca to the Pacific Coast, San Cristobal, Palenque and the Yucatan.

In September we discovered the beautiful beaches of Belize

…and in October we began our two-month tour of Guatemala, which included Mayan villages, market towns, volcano climbing, the colonial town of Antigua and Lake Atitlan.

In November, we took a 2-week detour to El Salvador, where we found some rough Pacific beaches, hiked a volcano crater and visited colonial towns like  Suchitoto (pictured) and those on the Ruta de las Flores.

In December, we headed to Honduras, where we finished the ‘Maya trail’ by visiting the last of the series of Maya ruins at Copan. We’re ringing in the New Year at Lake Yojoa, before heading to Nicaragua to start of 2011!

Happy travels to all fellow travelers and happy New Year to all our readers out there!

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Polaroid of the Week – Goodbye, London…

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Saying Goodbye to London is definitely not easy for us! We’ve had three wonderful years here, experienced how different living East feels to living West. We explored more of the ‘Big Smoke‘  in that time than most native Londoners did in their entire life, and will miss our walks by the canals, the multi-cultural buzz of Edgware Road, the graffitis in East London, the vibrant markets, hanging out in one of the parks, a good ol’ Brick Lane Curry, Camden Market Food, riding our bikes along the Thames, chilling at the Southbank, stumbling over old-fashioned, traditional, typical English pubs, Soho’s independent cofffee shops, strolling around Abney Park Cemetery, and so much more…

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Lessons learned: A volcano, a Hindu Temple and Letting Loose

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We are going on a trip. A long trip. We are attempting to convert into a digital nomad lifestyle and take our work on the road with us. First we are stopping in Las Vegas, and then it’s up the coast of California, down to Tucson, through Mexico and down into Central and South America from where we will go to New Zealand, Australia, Asia and back to Europe.

Goodbye London

Before we even take one step toward this new adventure, a few things have happened in the last few weeks which have already served as important lessons for the road.

Lesson 1: You can’t beat Mother Nature

The eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökul volcano caused a complete shut down of UK airspace for 6 days and closed down all of Europe’s airports for days due to concerns about the ‘ash cloud’. I had certainly never uttered the phrase ‘ash cloud’ before, let alone even heard of Eyjafjallajökul. But there we were, just two weeks before the start of our world tour, and a volcano in Iceland was looking to cause us to postpone, re-book and re-arrange much of our initial U.S. leg of the trip. Mother Nature had flexed her mighty muscles and taken down an entire global infrastructure with just one eruption in a far off place. Fresh produce rotted in warehouses in Spain, flowers died in airports in Africa on their way to Amsterdam, Chinese car manufactures shut down while awaiting car parts from German suppliers. Not to mention the thousands upon thousands of displaced travelers fighting to return home.

As far as I could see it, that was the only positive thing regarding our new lifestyle. Had we already been mid-trip, we would have just dug in and gotten comfortable, because after all, the point of the nomadic lifestyle is the mantra – wherever you go, there you are. Enjoy it, live the moment, there is nothing to rush to or away from, you can move at your own pace, or, should mother nature flex those wings, you move respectfully at her pace instead.

Lesson 2: Always take the time to go and see it, whatever it is!

Still in London for another week, we finally headed to Neasden, north London, to visit Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, otherwise known as Neasden temple. This intricate hindu mandir (temple) was crafted in India using 5,000 tons of Italian Carrara marble and Bulgarian limestone, and then shipped in over 26,000 pieces to London where over 1,000 volunteers reassembled the marble pillars and white pinnacles, creating a masterpiece that at once seems completely out of place yet as though it fully belongs in a city as great and multicultural as London. It was as though our travels had begun, complete with witnessing unfamiliar practices with a mixture of awe and discomfort at our clear role as out-of-place westerners.

We have been waiting three years to go see this temple, but we both couldn’t have been more relieved and inspired when we finally made. We decided that rather than take public transportation, we would go with car hire – London can be such a large city, and we wanted to see as much as possible with our new nomadic eyes. Because of this new perspective, our Neasden temple experience was much more interesting for us than it would have been before. With this new attitude we realize that if you have heard that something is awe-inspiring, or you have the gut feeling that you really want to go see something, take the time to go and see it. Otherwise, what is the point of this new nomadic lifestyle anyway!

Lesson 3: Let Loose

Packing up our stuff for a trip around the world teaches us another important lesson: How much do we really need? After moving to England as students in 2006 with nothing more than a backpack and a couple of bags, we managed to cram our apartment in London with countless ‘essential’ things during the last three years and in the end, we filled up an entire moving van with our two-bedroom apartment. Now, the challenge becomes figuring out what to pack for a year of vagabonding.

A 75 liter backpack has a very limited amount of space, so the entire closet we’ve managed to hoard thanks to various shopping sprees will have to go down to a couple of pants, shirts, a jacket, some socks and underwear, decent footwear – and that’s it. We will leave behind the fancy dresses, skirts, jackets, jeans… and all the other things that make us feel comfortable – like our favorite coffee mugs, my beloved blender, our awesome stereo system and brand new flat screen TV.

Eventually we realize that most of it we don’t really need – it’s just stuff that makes us feel at home. While a lot of things will surely be missed, letting go of our belongings is a good way to learn to appreciate certain things again which normally we take for granted.

After a year, or how ever long our journey will last, after having been in rural and undeveloped areas, we will either be more thankful than ever to own so many things that make life easy, or just decide to scale down again and ditch a whole bunch of needless stuff we think we cannot live without at the moment.

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