This past month of travel took us from landlocked Central Europe all the way to Fort Lauderdale, FL USA without taking a single flight. October was a jam-packed month of travel taking us 6,823 miles on this whirlwind escapade from camping out during the final days of Munich’s Oktoberfest, to a cruise across the Atlantic Ocean, and finally to rediscovering my own hometown of Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Although now home, after 23 very full months roaming around the world, we’re not quite done traveling yet.
October at a Glance:
- Time Period: 1 month – October, 2015
- Countries: 7
- Slovenia, Austria (transit only), Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom, Azores (Portugal), USA
- Number of Beds (and bus seats) Slept In: 8
- Distance traveled: 6,823 miles
- Place-to-place transport segments: 9
- Planes: 0
- Boats: 1 cruise (2 segments)
- Trains: 1 (part of bus segment crossing English Channel)
- Busses: 3
- Car segments: 4 car
Leaving Lovely Ljubljana
Our previous not-so-monthly update left off in the charming city of Ljubljana. Slovenia’s capital with a funny name was the perfect place to rest up before the insanity that lay ahead of us. Quaint cobblestone alleyways meander through the central part of town as ornate bridges crisscross over the Ljubljanica River, with a castle or historic building always looming somewhere in the background. We found it to be a completely underrated European capital city, which is on par for our sentiments of Slovenia as a whole.
But it was time to begin one of our longest months of travel yet and begin our overland & overwater journey back the USA. A bus straight through Austria treated us to beautiful Alps views as we journeyed towards Munich to take in the final four days of Oktoberfest.
The Verdict on Oktoberfest
We weren’t quite sure what to expect about Oktoberfest. Sure, we love beer and a good party. But we also get really annoyed with crowds (borderline agoraphobic) and despise being price gouged. Both of these unpleasantries were sure to be expected in full force at Oktoberfest.
So what’s the verdict? For us, Oktoberfest was awesome and completely lived up to the hype. Yes, there were crowds but we were having so much damn fun it didn’t matter and we always managed to somehow find a seat somewhere. Meanwhile, we found those $12 liters were worth every cent, not only due to the size but for the entire experience you have at Oktoberfest while drinking said beer.
We loved all the singing, the dancing, the beer itself, the atmosphere, and the rides (yes, there’s rides!). Yet perhaps best of all we loved the many random drunken conversations you have with people from all over the world, all while bonding over countless liters of Munich’s signature Fall beer.
What made our experience even more fun was that Heather’s cousin and his girlfriend joined us in Munich to experience these four drunken days of shear craziness. So it was great having friends along to cheers with every time the Oompah band played the Ein Prosit song.
See our latest travel guide for ways you can experience a cheap Oktoberfest on a budget.
We actually camped out all through Oktoberfest with Stoke Travel, who we first traveled with during the Wine Fight in Haro, Spain over the prior summer. It was an absolute blast and the party atmosphere continued back at camp. But after camping for four days and going strong at Oktoberfest every single one of those days, you’ll inevitably grow exhausted. We were ready for a bed. That bed would have to wait though because we still had one more night of Oktoberfest left in us and other subsequent travel plans on the agenda.
Bleary-Eyed in Brussels
Always on the search for the most economical transport, our ticket out of Munich was a cheap overnight bus to Brussels. So after attending the very final night of Oktoberfest, we grabbed our luggage and hopped on the midnight bus to the capital of Belgium.
We arrived to Brussels shortly after Noon feeling like wounded soldiers. The past four days of heavy drinking at one of the biggest parties in the world was now worsened further by a completely sleepiness night on the bus. We were ready for a bed. But that bed would also have to wait. It was time to roam around Brussels for about 12 hours.
With our energy zapped, we kept things simple and revisited some of the main sites and bites we had enjoyed before from a prior visit.
So after quickly taking care of travel chores such as laundry (much needed), we said hello to the Manneken Pis and strolled into the UNESCO declared Grand Place. It was then onto an evening of gluttony as we indulged in Belgian frites, Belgian waffles, and Belgian chocolate.
Our final stop was for some Belgian beer at the famed Delirium Café, which was an appropriate tribute to our state of being at the time of visit. After a few lambics, saisons, doubles, and triples, it was seriously now time for a bed. Nope.
From Belgium to England …by Bus?
The high-speed Eurostar train can whisk you from Brussels to England in just a few hours, running several times during per day. But it also comes at $300 expense for two people. When comparing that with a $5 overnight direct bus ride, we simply couldn’t turn down the savings, so we endured yet another dreaded bus ride. It would be another sleepless night.
We were a bit confused about how exactly a bus was going to travel across water to get us to England. Sometime around 3 am in the morning we went through UK customs and the bus was then loaded into something that looked like an oversized shipping container.
We began to rock a bit and I figured that we were on a ferry crossing the English Channel. It seemed rather unsafe being sealed into this crate. What if the boat sank? Where were the life jackets? As we chugged along further, I eventually realized that we were actually loaded onto a train traveling under the English Channel.
We finally arrived to Dover around 4:30 am in the morning where we loitered around a McDonalds, sipping coffee until sunrise. Finally, time for bed? Not quite.
No Sleep ‘til Dover
We literally hadn’t slept in days now but we just had to go see the White Cliffs of Dover. We somehow managed to muster up the strength to hike several miles from the city center out onto the famed rock faces that grace the sea. It was truly a stunning site but I could barely keep my eyes open to appreciate their grandeur.
We eventually arrived to a bench where I decided to rest my eyes for just a minute as free-roaming horses waltzed around me grazing on the surrounding vegetation. Apparently that minute of sleep lasted nearly an hour. I awoke and felt like a vagrant, just slumming it up in this otherwise beautiful spot in the world. To use the terms “exhausted” and “sleep deprived” would be an understatement. What were we thinking taking two subsequent overnight bus rides after camping out for four days at Oktoberfest?
But we were happy with sacrificing a few days of sleep in the name of savings, particularly knowing what was waiting for us. It was finally time to step up our game and completely change our comfort level from the prior week. We were in Dover to catch our repositioning cruise back to the USA.
Catching a Star Across the Atlantic
As we approached the cruise port, the ship – the Norwegian Star – literally appeared to be glowing.
We were ecstatic to treat ourselves to the simple comforts we’d been missing over the past week, like a shower, and finally… a bed! We came onto the megaship looking (and possibly smelling) like something the cat dragged in. After an absurdly long shower and what was the best nap of our lives, we felt like a million bucks.
We went from sleeping on a park bench and choking down a lukewarm McMuffin that morning to then sipping martinis and dining on a fine steak that evening while our lovely stateroom was being turned down. This day epitomizes our strange travel style.
On our way across the pond, we stopped for the day in the Azores – a group of volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that form an autonomous region of Portugal. We docked at the picturesque island of Sao Miguel, which we had roamed all around during our first repositioning cruise when traveling eastbound to Europe. It’s full of colorful lakes, sheer cliffs, soaring mountain peaks, and historic churches. So during this visit we simply explored the historic buildings around the capital city of Ponta Delgada and took in a scenic coastal hike.
But it was soon time to hop back on the Norwegian Star and make our final push back to the US. Overall it was a great voyage across the Atlantic. After rushing around the world so quickly jumping from one place to the next, often on a budget, this voyage simply allowed us to relax and enjoy the good life without worrying about where to go next, how to get there, finding affordable places, etc. Heck, we were just excited to put our clothing into a closet after living out of our bags for so long. It was nearly two weeks of bliss, providing for a perfect transition back to the US.
But the voyage was definitely not without incident.
First of all, we ran into the remnants of hurricane Joaquin which created some some big swells. The waves were pushing 20 feet high, sometimes splashing up over our porthole on the fourth floor. Thankfully we didn’t get seasick, so for us it was neat to be able to marvel at the forces of natural out in the open ocean. Others onboard weren’t as fortunate. (See natural ways to avoid seasickness in one of our latest posts: 50 Cruise Hacks.)
Next, the ship had to abort a scheduled port call in Miami. Unfortunately the Norwegian Star had some sort of freak issue with its propulsion system, diverting us directly to our final port of Tampa, two days early. Our plans of touring around Miami were squashed.
Instead we arrived into Tampa Bay on a Saturday afternoon but immigration requirements postponed our disembarkation until the following day. We weren’t concerned though as we were still having a good time even after all of those sea days. We finally had to leave on Sunday morning, a full day early. But Norwegian Cruise Lines took care of us by putting everyone up at a nearby hotel and including some generous food & beverage allowances. This kept the cruise atmosphere alive for another day and also gave us an impromptu day in Tampa.
Back in FLA, USA
Heather and I resided in the Tampa Bay area from 2006-2010, so this was a bit of a homecoming for us. Ironically the ship even pulled in directly to the very spot where we had gotten married.
It was good to be back. After being on the road for so long, it was so great to be able to catch up with friends that we hadn’t seen in years. It was also nice to re-explore the city of St Petersburg, where we had lived, to see how it has evolved since we were last living there.
We love St Pete and could have easily stayed put there for longer, but we had to get back down South to my hometown. So we snagged a rental car to take the back roads across the state enabling us to rendezvous with many gators and providing for a few quick hikes in the middle of nowhere.
Rediscovering Adventure in My Hometown
Arriving in Fort Lauderdale, we had officially completed our circumnavigation entirely around the world!
We linked up with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau to see all the adventure that’s actually right here in my own backyard. This was quite the homecoming! We were fortunate enough to stay at the brand new Margaritaville Beach Resort that recently opened up and we were honored to be among the first journalists (I use that term loosely) to be invited to stay there. It’s truly a fantastic new property that oozes of parrothead awesomeness.
But what we were really here for was adventure! We went kayaking through mangrove tunnels and horseback riding through old Florida scrub forests. We hung-ten on the Flowrider wave simulator and whizzed around the Everglades on airboats after dark. But our favorite adventure of all was a relatively new extreme sport called flyboarding in which you feel like a superhero jetting around over the water!