Greetings from Pátzcuaro, Mexico!
Grab a cup of coffee for this one. We’ve got a lot to catch up on!
Is it really the middle of summer already? I feel like it was just a few short months ago we were tromping around in the enduring snow of the Swiss Alps. Oh, that’s right, we were!
After a very fast travel schedule that has taken us entirely around the globe during the past year, we have finally slowed down in this small and charming town, here in Mexico’s central highlands.
It’s been such a whirlwind since our late Spring Travel Update, as we left off in Turin, Italy. That was three months ago, right before we made our final push to complete our long-held travel goal of circling the entire world without using any flights. Spoiler alert: we did it!
Yet much of the plans we laid out during that April travel update have greatly evolved from what we initially had on our agenda. Although we still came to Mexico, our entire itinerary here was basically ripped up. In fact, at the time of writing our last update in Italy, we hadn’t even heard of the small town of Pátzcuaro. Yet here we are!
So from Turin, Italy, how exactly did we wind up in Pátzcuaro, Mexico?
This update will connect all those dots to elaborate how the heck we got here, what changed, and what’s next. Buckle up. It’s been quite the ride!
A EuroTrip that Almost Wasn’t
After busing our way across the French border, and bouncing from Grenoble to Lyon, we were greeted in France with a rail strike. That made for some significant logistical challenges since the strike snarled all forms of transportation. Stranded rail passengers filled other forms of transport.
There were moments that we wondered if we would be able to reach our cruise departing in England a week later. The rental car reservation we had booked weeks in advance was suddenly canceled. We looked to buses, but they were all full. Yikes!
Lingering in Lyon
We were temporarily stranded in Lyon, booking more nights than we’d anticipated. Thankfully, Lyon proved to be a delightful city to get stranded in. That in itself came somewhat as a surprise to us. Three unexpected aspects to Lyon:
🍽️ Lyonnaise Cuisine: Not only was it the best French meals we’ve ever eaten, they were also among the most budget-friendly in France, thanks to the set meals served up in traditional bouchons.
🏛️ Unesco: The history and architecture, from ancient Roman amphitheaters to traboules, which are a vast series of hidden passageways that weave all throughout the old quarters.
🍺 Beer: We were shocked to see what a beer-drinking city this was, as everyone on the sunny patios throughout Lyon was drinking beer. Oddly, there was never a wine glass in sight!
And there were many beers to ease our travel woes, as we were hit with disappointing revelations regarding our onward plans. We spent much of our time in Lyon going from one rental car counter to the next, in attempts to find an available car that wasn’t insanely price-gouged. Most remaining cars were being offered in excess of $1,000 for a week rental. That’s definitely not something even in the realm of consideration for these two budget-travelers to pay!
Yet after days of phone calls, research, and visiting dozens of rental car agencies, we finally snagged a car at a reasonable rate and off we went!
The Back Roads of Europe
Our weeklong road trip across Europe was condensed into a shortened time span. But we were determined to make the most of it.
It was a great trip across France, Switzerland, and Belgium. We purposely avoided highways and big cities, opting instead for only country roads and smaller towns. Often while traveling overland, we are limited to where bus and train connections can deliver us. But a rental car provides the freedom to go wherever we want, so we took full advantage of that. Instead of driving to Geneva, Paris, and Brussels, we hit the back roads and drove across the Swiss Alps and down into some of France’s famed wine regions that included Burgundy, Chablis, and even Champagne!
It was a fast & furious road trip, covering well over 1,300 kilometers in 6 days, staying in a different location each night along the route. Despite this accelerated pace, it was a most enjoyable journey through the European countryside! For the sake of brevity in this lengthy travel update, these were the top highlights:
- Exploring the fairytale Alps towns, like Annecy
- Hiking in the Alps
- Drinking Champagne in the Champagne region
- Seeking out the “best beer in the world” at a remote Belgian monastery
- Simply driving across the beautiful French countryside
- Indulging in traditional Swiss Fondue
Eventually, the rapid road trip concluded in Lille, France. That’s where we dropped off our wheels and hopped onto a bus from France to England.
Did you know that they load vehicles and passenger buses onto cargo trains, which then carries them under the English Channel?
It’s such a strange thing! This was our second time experiencing this travel oddity and I’m still fascinated by it. Anyways, after bouncing around on the tracks below the English Channel, our bus emerged onto UK soil.
The next thing we realized, we were suddenly roaming around London on an unusually warm and sunny Spring day!
It had been about 200 days since we arrived in Japan, where we’d been solely in countries speaking foreign languages ever since, from Mandarin to Greek, and many more languages in between. So walking through the streets of London was quite a bizarre feeling for us since we could actually understand what everyone was saying – what an amazing concept!
From London, it was a short jaunt by train that carried us to the storied port city of Southampton. This is where the Mayflower and the RMS Titanic, among other famous ships, had departed to set sail across the Atlantic in centuries prior. It is also where our stage was set to finally complete our flightless trip around the world!
After nearly a month and a half, our short stint roaming around Europe had come to an end. It was time to cross the Atlantic Ocean and accomplish our travel goal!
Blissfully Crossing the Pond
We had scored a last-minute repositioning cruise deal aboard the Norwegian Bliss for its inaugural sailing. The massive 1,094-foot (333 meter) long vessel that can carry up to 7,000 people was debuting as the eighth largest cruise in the world! It had been custom built in Germany and this transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York City would be the Bliss’s first voyage ever with passengers!
We were certainly concluding our round-the-world trip in style.
As we boarded, the Bliss still had that new
car ship smell. It really did! The crew aboard this sparkling new ship had told us they just peeled off all the plastic from the furnishings only days prior to us boarding.
Their hard work and preparations paid off, as we were really impressed with Bliss! The ship was, well, blissful. As we’ve mentioned before, cruises like this act like chicken soup for the long-term budget traveler’s soul. And the Norwegian Bliss was just what the doctor ordered!
After having spent much of the prior week slumming it up in cheap, €35-per-night, French roadside motels, we had now stepped onto a world of luxury on this five-star ship. We can honestly say that it’s been our favorite cruise ship we’ve ever sailed on.
We even managed to score a free balcony upgrade! If you’re curious to know how we pulled that off, it’s all detailed here:
How To Get a Free Balcony Upgrade on a Cruise.
After such fast-paced travel, we had planned to spend our time relaxing as we crossed the Atlantic.
Instead, we spent our time racing across the longest karting track at sea!
And going around loops of inverted waterslides!
After the thrills and spills, we would retreat to the most-impressive observation lounge to watch for dolphins, kick back a few pints at the brewhouse, and catch one of the many awesome stage shows that they packed the itinerary with each day. And don’t let the massive size of the ship and the kid’s activities fool you. The Bliss managed to maintain a very intimate and sophisticated feel throughout to entire cruise. With dozens of bars & restaurants and so many amazing spaces, the ship never felt crowded, instead delivering a sense of calm and tranquility as we crossed the Atlantic in style.
The Bliss truly lived up to its name.
In between all of those days at sea, we stopped smack in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where we had a full day to roam around the island of São Miguel. That’s a part of the Azores, an independent territory of Portugal, that is such a fascinating place, full of cliffs, lakes, and volcanic mountains. We grabbed a rental car and explored as much as we possibly could before venturing back to the Bliss.
After voyaging a bit further across the Atlantic, we finally returned to where this journey began: Halifax, Nova Scotia!
We did it.
Arriving in this port was the culmination of a year’s journey around the world entirely over land and sea.
It was almost unthinkable. As our journey progressed, there were a number of times when we doubted that we were actually going to be able to pull this off. Between visa immigration issues, nearly missing important connections, financial concerns, and even rail strikes, there were many challenges jeopardizing the completion of our travel goal.
Yet we did it.
And we somehow managed to do this cheap cruise around the world on a budget.
So we stepped foot off the Bliss and made it back onto land in Halifax, to close the loop on circumnavigating the world without flights.
It was great being back in Halifax and we spent our time celebrating this milestone with some of the great beer that Nova Scotia’s capital is starting to become recognized for. The weather was not ideal, yet we still made the most of our day back in this city we’ve enjoyed so much.
What’s so great about Halifax and what’s there to do?
Check out our complete travel guide for Things To Do in Halifax on Any Budget
After a rainy day in this otherwise uplifting city, we jumped back aboard the Bliss to return to the US. We savored our final days at sea, indulging in our fancy four-course meals, going to Broadway-style shows and checking out the New York comics in the ship’s comedy club.
It all felt like an appropriate way to ease us back to our home country since we eventually woke up early on a morning in May to what is arguably one of the most iconic sights of America: the skyline of New York City!
Roaming Around the USA
Upon arriving to the Big Apple, we only spent a brief morning in Time Square before quickly jumping on a southbound bus to visit family in Virginia. Really, that’s what much of our time back in the States was dedicated to, visiting friends and family.
After being away for long periods of time, there’s so much catching up to do. We always relish our time back in the US visiting loved ones.
So that’s exactly what we did. From Virginia, we got on our first plane all year long and went to my hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The visiting continued as we made our way across the Sunshine State, from Fort Lauderdale to Melbourne, Gainesville, and Fort Myers.
Lots of babies had been born since our last pass through the US, so it was fun for us to not only catch up with friends, but to also meet the new additions to their growing families.
Besides all the visiting, we spent much of our time back in the US simply doing onward planning and gearing up for our latest adventure, roaming around Mexico! The past year of intensive travel has really taken its toll on our travel gear. So it felt awesome to finally throw away my ripped jeans and sneakers full of holes, to finally replace them with new ones. (How did they even let us on that fancy ship?) It was fun to get some new gadgets too, as lots of new tech stuff has come out during the past year!
Want to know what we’ve packed for our Mexico trip?
Check out our: Ultimate Travel Pack List & Packing Tips.
Once we were all packed, it was time to return to one of our favorite countries that we travel through most often:
Consistently Evolving Travel Plans in Mexico
If you read our Spring Travel Update, then you may recall that we had planned to fly directly into Central, Mexico, where we were going to begin a housesit to watch some cats in the lakeside town of Ajijic.
Well, it’s funny how plans change.
Shortly after arriving in the US, our feet were already starting to get itchy. We had a bit more time on our hands before our housesit was set to begin in late June. So instead of lingering in the US, we decided to fill that time by revisiting one of our favorite regions in Mexico: the Yucatan!
Roaming Around a Soggy Yucatan
We opted for two weeks of roadtripping along the Riviera Maya before retreating the Central Highlands. We had visions of basking on the beach in some remote corners of southern Mexico we’d yet to explore, such as finally visiting the oceanic side of Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
Well, Mother Nature had alternate plans for us. We landed in the Yucatan amidst pounding rains. Our arriving flight seemed to usher in the rainy season a bit early this year.
Two tropical waves were slamming into the Yucatan. These torrential rain storms flooded the streets and even our hotel room! Cruise ships were diverted from Mexican ports and some families were even forced to evacuate their homes. It was quite the unexpected turn-of-events and so we adjusted our plans accordingly.
Rather than snorkeling on coral reefs, we instead went free diving in the clear waters of underground caves, known as cenotes.
Yet ultimately, we retreated to the drier side of the Yucatan peninsula and returned to a very familiar city for us: Merida. It’s the one place in the world where we’ve now spent more time than anywhere else in the world.
Want to know what the appeal is that keeps bringing us back to Merida?
Read our full guide on Things To Do in Merida, Mexico
Although we based ourselves in Merida, we really spent much of our time exploring the many ruins, cave systems, cenotes, haciendas, and beaches which are all in abundance, surrounding Merida.
We’ll have much more on all those awesome adventures in upcoming blog posts!
Yet after all our Yucatan adventures, it was on to begin our housesit in Ajijic.
…Or so we thought.
Arriving In Mexico’s Central Highlands to a Change of Plans
We packed up from the scorching hot weather in Merida and flew into Mexico’s cool central highlands. We allotted for a few days to roam around Mexico’s second largest city, Guadalajara, before heading over to the lakeside community of Ajijic to settle in for a month while looking after some cats.
Yet two days before our Ajijic housesit was to begin, we were alerted to a sudden change of plans. The person who we were going to housesit for had fallen ill. They were forced to suddenly cancel their travel plans. As such, our services were no longer needed.
We were a bit taken back; since our decision not to spend the summer in Europe was partly influenced by this housesit in Mexico. But the world works in mysterious ways, and we’re ultimately quite happy with how things have worked out.
We quickly formulated new travel plans in Mexico. Given this last-minute change, the folks in Ajijic did offer to host us at their house for as long as we needed.
We weighed out that option but instead decided to head in a different direction.
Last year, one of our favorite cities we visited in Mexico was Guanajuato. So being only four hours away by bus, we decided to retreat to this friendly and familiar town, while we reshuffled our onward travel agenda through Mexico.
The nearby colonial city of Querétaro had been loosely on our radar but we knew little about it. So we rolled the dice and booked an apartment through Airbnb to base ourselves there for two weeks while exploring the area and determining our next moves.
Turns out, Querétaro is pretty awesome! Mountains and vineyards surround this historic town. The only downside to coming here was the abundance of sites and activities further distracted us from our growing to-do list we had planned to begin tackling by this point. Oh well, at least we had fun exploring some new places!
Read More About: Things To Do in Queretaro
Meanwhile, during all this readjusting of our plans, we were connected with a lovely expat couple living in the town of Pátzcuaro. Turns out, they were looking for someone to look after their pets and home while they head off to do some traveling of their own. The timing couldn’t have worked out any better and Pátzcuaro seemed like just the charming and tranquil mountain town that we tend to enjoy.
So after a brief stopover in the city of Morelia, we soon arrived at our new temporary home here in Pátzcuaro, Mexico!
So What Now?
We’ve actually been getting settled here for over a week now. We’ve yet to do much exploring, but we’re really enjoying it here so far! This past weekend was a big annual balloon festival, so it was a really festive way to get to know the place.
The town is set in a really a scenic location. The people are friendly, both the locals and the small expat community. And the summer weather has been absolutely refreshing.
We’re actually way up at over 2,100 meters in altitude (1.3 miles high), so this elevation provides for a most pleasant eternal spring-like climate. It warms up to low 70’s f (24 c) in the day and cools off into the low 50’s (11 c) overnight.
There are lots of hiking opportunities, interesting day trips, and fun cantinas. I think we’re gonna like it here.
But we’re also so excited to have pets again!
One thing that we’ve really missed while being nomadic over past five years is the ability to have pets. So house/petsitting gives us an opportunity to care for some furry friends over a prolonged period of time.
Here in Pátzcuaro, we have two happy dogs and three friendly cats to share affection with over our six-week stay here.
Yup, we’re here for a month and a half! Did you know that’ll be the longest we’ve ever stayed put in one place since we left our home in Michigan nearly five years ago? We’re really looking forward to some downtime.
After maintaining such a rapid pace of travel over the past half-decade, we now find ourselves reveling in finally slowing down and getting to know a place more intimately than you can just breezing through in a few days. But we’ve also got so much to catch up on. And Patzcuaro feels like the perfect setting to do so.
So Where to Next?
Once September rolls around, we’ll actually be heading to Ajijic after all!
We got connected to a completely different housesit in this popular expat community. So we’ll continue our slower pace through Mexico during a 5-week housesit in that lakeside community. That timing spans over Mexico’s Independence Day, which we’ve never been here for, so we’re really looking forward to the big fiesta!
That brings us into October. After our final housesit, we’ve invited some friends down to Mexico so we can play “tour guides” to show them around some of our favorite spots here in one of our favorite countries to roam around as one grand hurrah before we depart from Mexico ourselves. We’ll take you along virtually too. And who knows, maybe we’ll need to make it an actual tour offering one day!
After that, we’re kicking around a few ideas for the Fall. We may remain in Mexico for the famous Dia de Los Muertos festivities. We may explore some regions of the country we’ve yet to experience. Or we may take an entirely different direction altogether.
Fall brings some of the best last-minute cruise deals ever, both for repositioning cruises and Caribbean itineraries. So we may decide to take advantage of that and jump on another ship (or two!). Fall rates often drop so low that it can actually be cheaper to live in luxury on cruise ships than it is for us to live on land back in the US. So we have some crazy ideas to potentially experiment with that concept and prove the finances of it all to show how it can actually be done.
We’re not planning to stray too far at sea though, as we’d like to potentially spend the holidays back in the States this year. But who knows what may be in store for our ever-evolving escapades! The universe may pull us in another direction entirely. After all, a few months ago, we never imagined that we’d be writing our latest update from a town called Pátzcuaro.
New Blog Posts and Schedule!
Over the past few months, we’ve been continuing to travel way faster than we can write about our experiences. Old habits die hard.
But now that we’re finally situated in Mexico, that’s all changing. We’re getting back to work. Starting now, I’m making this website my full-time job.
We’re really looking forward to finally writing all about our adventures from the past year and beyond. We have so many travel tips, guides, and stories to tell and we’re excited to now finally get that out there.
I know some of you have been patiently waiting for our BIG post all about how we pulled off this world cruise on a budget. And that’s the first thing we’re going to cover.
Update – here it is: How to Plan a Cheap World Cruise.
Then, expect a brand new post on RoamingAroundTheWorld.com each and every Sunday thereafter!
As a kid, I can remember waking up on Sunday mornings to find the travel section of the newspaper, in which I’d read every article as inspiration for a grand adventure that I’d perhaps one day take.
So I’d like to keep that tradition alive by publishing a new post, each Sunday morning. Perhaps it’ll help fuel your wanderlust and inspire a travel adventure of your own!
That’s “see you later,” as they say around here in Mexico.
Thank you for virtually joining us here on the blog as we recount the many twists & turns of the past few months. It’s been a fun & wild ride. Yet we’re now ready to continue our journey on a much slower pace, getting back to work, and settling in with our animal friends!
We’ll continue with periodic updates from Patzcuaro over on Facebook and Instagram. So be sure you’re following us over there.
We hope you have a great rest of the summer wherever in the world that you may be roaming!
-John & Heather, and our new dog friends
I think what works best is to have a plan but to be flexible enough to change plans if need be. Like you said when you planned you didn’t even know of Pátzcuaro. You guys have had quite an adventure though.
Barbara Wroten says
Hi Heather and John, Just read the entire saga out loud to Jon. We are sitting on the balcony our apartment in Bucharest. I really enjoyed reading the whole saga and your connecting all the dots on how you wrapped up your round the world without flights adventure. I’m researching your favorite towns in Mexico as potential destinations for next winter/spring, thanks for writing about them. Glad you are enjoying a slower pace for awhile…I’m sure it’s a great benefit to you and your furry friends.
All the best,
John Widmer says
Yes, we’re greatly enjoying finally slowing down a bit as we get settled into Mexico with our furry friends. We look forward to seeing where you may land in Mexico come the winter/spring. We have too many favorites down here. 😂 Enjoy that balcony in Bucharest and happy onward travels ahead!
Teri Castro says
Thanks John and Heather! I pull your website up at least several times a week and look forward to reading about all of your adventures. I took some of your suggestions about Africa when my teenage Son and I went to Africa last summer. You always have such good suggestions. Take some much needed time to regroup, before you start out again. Your journal is invigorating! Thank you! Teri C. Dallas, Texas
John Widmer says
Thanks Teri! So glad those suggestions for Africa proved helpful. Ever since leaving the contitent we’ve been craving a return trip. We are enjoying this slower pace in Mexico as we regroup and determine what may be next for us. Thanks for the lovely comment and words of encouragement. Happy travels to you! 🙂
marian anderson says
WOW~~~~This was a lot of work for you guys, loved reading it all and seeing how organized you are….Don’t you EVER get tired? I personally would love to see many, many more photos of the local arts and crafts. I guess you don’t get into that when you don’t have a home to hang your hat in yet. I do though, it is often the focus of my travels as much yours is in finding the best brewskis. My house is a travelog of all the best artsy representations of every unusual place I have traveled to. A folk culture museum my friends say. A big pain in the arse my cleaning lady says !! Maybe you could start stashing for that day when you are rich and famous and do have a peg for your hats and treasures. Your traveling buddy, Marian (las Cruces, NM )
John Widmer says
Thanks Marian! Yeah, we do get tired of constantly moving so rapidly, so it’s nice to finally slow down again for a bit. We’ll try to post some things about the crafts of this area, as that is what really what this region is famous for. There are small villages all around here that each specialize in their own crafts, from guitars to copperware to balloons, and so many things in between. We rarely buy and souvenirs since we have to schlep it all around and ultimately have no home to put it, but I have a feeling that we may be strongly tempted to buy a few crafts as we make our way to these villages. If not, then at least we can hope to find some more brewskis, hehe! 🙂 Happy travels to you too!!