Greetings once again from Fort Lauderdale, Florida!
Welcome to Part 2 of our 2018/19 Winter Travel Update. If you’d like to see what we’ve been up to in Mexico over the past five months, you can check out Part 1 here.
While yesterday’s post took a look at the past, we’re now taking a look forward to glance into where our heads are at five years deep into this nomadic journey and where we’re heading next!
5 Years of Non-Stop Travel!
It was a snowy morning on December 15, 2013.
That’s when we drove off from our empty home in Michigan to sell our cars, leave behind life as we knew it, and embark on an unknown journey around the world that lay ahead.
We were equally as nervous as we were excited to begin an unconventional path of taking what was supposed to be a year-long career break to travel the globe.
Yet that one year trip somehow morphed into a nomadic existence and a life that is now so very full of travel.
We almost can’t believe it ourselves, as this was never our intention. Yet five years and 80-some countries later, we’re still at it, roaming around the world!
Now every year when December 15th rolls around, that’s the date we celebrate our travelversary, preferably somewhere with less snow, to do something a little special.
This year on December 15, it will mark exactly a half-decade since we began roaming around the world!
These past five years have been an absolute blast and the time has zipped by. During the start to next year, we plan to post about some of our reflections during a half-decade of traveling the world.
We’ll be revealing some of our favorite experiences and better explaining how the heck we’ve managed to stay traveling for so long. So stay tuned for all that.
But will there be a year 6 of roaming around the world? We discuss our thoughts on that matter next.
Roaming Around the World: Year 6?
After five years of travel, we’ve found ourselves back in the US at a crossroads, largely pondering and debating our next move.
We regularly float around the idea of returning to “normal life.” It’s a thought we revisit towards the end of each year of our roaming.
After being on the road, constantly moving around for five years straight, it can sometimes be an appealing proposition to consider.
But, nah, we’re having wayyy too much fun doing what we’re doing!
There’s a lot more of that map we’d like to color in. Perhaps an even stronger desire is to explore some of our favorites more deeply. At this point, knowing how many amazing places there are all around the world, we have a nearly endless list of locations we’d love to return to.
Yet the idea of having a home base is actually an attractive one for us. But one of the key tactics that allows us to afford constantly traveling around the world is not having the financial burden of a home. It’s an either-or proposition for us: travel or have a nest. Sure, we’d like to have our cake and eat it too, yet doing both would be an impractical financial drain that simply wouldn’t work for our situation.
So travel wins out! It’s difficult to fathom giving up the complete freedom and flexibility this nomadic life has allowed us. It’s hard to wrap our heads around going back to an office gig with only two weeks of vacation, as is standard in the American workplace.
Meanwhile, this website continues to grow which is exciting, as it becomes a greater chunk of our complicated financial puzzle. It’s thanks in part to marketing partnerships and the ads that sometimes clutter this site, that keep the servers humming and helps fund our travels.
They’re critical for us to keep the travel guides on this site entirely free for visitors so they save money while planning adventures of their own. So thank you for reading, which indirectly does indeed indirectly help us to continue this dream!
And we’re thrilled that people find our informative posts helpful, as just a few days ago we actually just reached a huge milestone of our three-millionth page view – exciting!
So we’ve decided for the time being to keep plugging away at what we love. And that’s travel!
Meanwhile, we still would like to somehow have that cake and eat it too. So that’s a long-term goal and vision we’re working towards. But we’ll never stop traveling.
So Where to Now?
Let’s work backward to solve that little mystery.
Our recent roams around Mexico felt great. It enabled us to work on our online projects while still having many fun travel adventures in between, and all with the added benefit of a low cost of living/travel.
Mexico is always such a welcoming and inviting place for us to return to. We’ve gotten comfortable there and know our way around. We’ve spent some time there each year during the past five years of our worldly roaming, so you know it’ll be on our agenda next year too. As we ponder where to roam in 2019, our eyes are indeed glancing south of the border.
We have some personal commitments in the US next year, so we don’t want to stray too far away. Plus, as we mentioned in the last update, we may even run a tour in Mexico next year!
So we’ve made some tentative plans to ultimately head back to Mexico. It’s just too easy and appealing not to return. Nothing is booked yet, but the idea is to potentially get back there as soon as March or even February. Our loose plan is to stay for another few months. Then perhaps we’ll do something exciting to balance out the latter half of 2019.
But we also want to do something fun and exciting… like, now!
Last year we found ourselves celebrating Christmas in South Korea, missing our families. So this year, we’ve decided to linger around the US to spend the Christmas holiday with our family and friends back in our home state of Florida.
It’ll be nice to spend the holidays on our home turf again. But we cringe at the thought of sitting idle in Florida for the rest of the month.
To spend the entirety of December bunking up in mom’s spare bedroom just doesn’t sit well with us. It’s only been a few days and we’re already getting a bit stir-crazy, lol.
And although we’ll have visited 25 countries by the end of 2018, we’ve been in the same two countries (Mexico + US) for the past half a year. So we’re ready to get moving again!
We’ve come to realize that we’re in need of a little escape to change things up. So literally, just a few days ago, we made a split-second decision to pull the trigger on a December getaway.
Decoding The Clues on Where To Next
Did you get the hints from our post yesterday? Let’s review:
💶 Clue #1: We’ll be using the leftover euros from our Italy-France trip earlier this year, but we won’t be stepping foot in Europe.
- As a few people correctly guessed, it’s because we’ll in a Caribbean Island that is a French or Dutch territory, hence using the euro. Guesses of St. Maarten / St Martin were dead-on, but that’s actually not the only one.
🧥 Clue #2: I’m packing a jacket, although we’re not going anywhere even remotely cold.
- The jacket isn’t for cold nor rain. I may need a suit jacket for a few formal nights.
✈️ Clue #3: We’re excited to visit three new countries we’ve never been to before, yet we won’t be getting on a plane.
- Well, that’s because we’re instead using our favorite form of transportation, traveling over water, rather than in the air. We’ve got many ports of call ahead, yet our three new countries will be the nations of: Barbados, St Lucia, and Dominica.
🎁 Bonus hint: We mentioned a clue was buried in our 40 Gifts for Travelers Gift Guide. That hint was the suggestion of surprising a loved one with a last minute cruise deal, as shown below. And that’s exactly what we’re doing!
Cruising To the Eastern Caribbean!
You know what we haven’t done in a while? Jump on one of those cruises we tend to enjoy so much.
So just a few days ago, when we noticed a last-minute cruise deal departing out of Fort Lauderdale, we made a split decision to gift each other a 12-day getaway. Because 🏝️> 🎁.
As I publish this post, we’ve actually just boarded the Holland America Koningsdam, for a 12-day Caribbean cruise! We’re pretty excited about this one too.
We regularly use one-way repositioning cruises as a luxuriously affordable way to cross oceans and get around the globe. For us, cruises have been a means of transport that simultaneously allows us a higher standard of travel that would otherwise be well out of our budget.
Yet we never embark on regular closed-circuit cruises that most people take, simply for a vacation. So that’s what we’re super excited to now be doing for our first time during the past five years of roaming around the world.
Although we’re constantly traveling somewhere in the world, it doesn’t always feel like an endless vacation. Cruises give us those sweet vacation feels in spades and hence we’re really looking forward to that.
Yet our favorite aspect of cruises is moving in our sleep only to wake up in an exciting new place to explore nearly each day. This one is a particularly attractive port-intensive itinerary, as we’re visiting some further flung islands way out in the eastern and southern Caribbean. It’s not the usual Cozumel-Nassau tourist shuffle from Florida.
If you’ve been to any of these islands before, please let us know what you’ve enjoyed most or any tips you have!
We’ll be heading ashore on our own, using our somewhat unusual blend of independent travel tactics while on a cruise ship. It’s just how we roll. Yet we have zero set plans on our agenda in each port. Given our last-minute booking, we’re actively figuring out logistics like the public transport that we rely heavily on while roaming ashore.
In the quick travel research we’ve just done, we’re perhaps most excited to go hiking around the rainforests of the island nation of Dominica, known as The Nature Island. We’re further thrilled to test out the rum shacks of Barbados and the snorkeling around St Lucia.
We’re also looking forward to exploring the US Virgin Island of St Thomas and the French island of Martinique, all of which are completely new ports for us to discover.
These are the same islands that were completely ravaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria that swept through in 2018. We understand that they’re still rebuilding, so we’re happy to bring some tourism dollars that way and be a tiny part of their recovery. We last visited St Maarten in 2016 before the hurricanes, so we’ll be curious to see the recovery efforts first-hand and gauge what may have changed.
We’re also intrigued by the upcoming stop at a private island in the Bahamas. Private islands are a very common occurrence for Caribbean cruises; yet it’s something we’ve actually never done. We were happy to learn that Half Moon Cay is a sizable island that’s almost entirely undeveloped.
We’re posting this blog in real time, so we’ve actually just this moment boarded the Holland America Koningsdam as we hit “publish” on this post.
First impressions, she’s a nice ship! It’s actually the newest (2016) of Holland America’s fleet.
It’s also their largest ship! But that’s kinda an oxymoron, like “jumbo shrimp,” as Holland America keeps their ships more mid-sized, which we find nice. Even though it’s their largest, HAL’s Koningsdam’s max capacity of 2,650 pales in comparison to the 6,000+ capacity of the megaships that also are docking here in Port Everglades.
The Koningsdam should prove to be a comfy place to call home for nearly the next two weeks!
Cruising Into a Deal We Couldn’t Ignore
You know we love a good cruise deal. Usually, that comes in the form of a repositioning cruise for us, as those sometimes unpopular itineraries can have very attractive rates. Yet from November through early December, this is also an excellent time to snag a deal on Caribbean cruises.
This is caused by a surplus in supply of empty cabins and a lack of passenger demand during this time. That’s because during October and November, cruises are repositioned from Europe, among other locations, to Florida and the Caribbean. The Koningsdam that we’re now aboard just crossed the Atlantic last month, having come all the way over from Rome to Fort Lauderdale.
As the summer season in Europe closed out, many other ships also made the fall Atlantic crossing to get to Florida in time for high season here. So there’s now a bunch of ships recently relocated to Florida, ready to cruise the Caribbean. Yet “high season” in the Caribbean doesn’t really begin until mid-late December.
This is a perfect little storm of excess inventory of ship capacity, with a lack of passengers to fill them. We were closely watching prices and even saw some last-minute deals in November for what amounted to less than $30 per day.
Cruise lines will sometimes slash prices and offer aggressive promotions during this somewhat awkward time, all in an effort to fill ships. That’s when we swoop in!
With a lull in our travels, it was simply a deal too good for us to pass up. We already found ourselves in Fort Lauderdale, where we’re now departing from. So it’s nice to have no travel costs getting to the ship.
The cruise itself was $500 per person for the two-week trip, which is a decent deal given the awesome itinerary and the fact that this new 5-star ship regularly runs well into the thousands of dollars. We’ve seen better rates. But as we always advise, it’s not just the cruise price itself, but rather all the subsequent bonuses that can even provide cash back, which really makes a cruise an exceptional value. That’s what happened here.
First, they provided pre-paid gratuities, which is a $300 value alone. Then they gave $200 of onboard credit, which we can easily turn into cash and bank it using cruise hack #41 listed in our 50 Best Cruise Hacks post. Then they further provided a $50 rebate for travel expenses getting to or from the port. Since we’ve had a friend drop us off at the port, we’re now able to use that credit towards a much-needed rental car once we return. If this all weren’t enough, they even tossed in a bottle of wine plus a $50 beverage card, so that should take care of our #ThirstyThursday habits.
When booking this last-minute getaway, the travel agent joked “With all these bonuses adding up, I’m beginning to feel like we’re paying you to take this cruise.” Sure, it’s an exaggeration, but she’s really not far off, particularly since we redeemed credit card travel reward points towards the cruise booking.
Since the all-inclusive nature of a cruise covers all our meals in addition to a place to stay, we worked out that it actually costs less to get on this luxury ship than it would be compared to our living expenses if we were to simply stay stationary here in Florida. Now that’s a proposition we can never turn away from!
And just to be perfectly clear, this isn’t some sort of blogger discount, sponsored post, or anything like that. These are deals that are out there for anyone to grab. We always look at a variety of booking sites, but booked this cruise deal through Priceline Cruises, which is where some of those generous bonuses came from. For further reading, we’ve detailed our tactics here on how we search for cheap repositioning cruise deals.
So Where To After That?
We’ll be back in Florida just in time to celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year. And we ultimately plan to return to Mexico in a few months that follow.
As you know, we absolutely adore Mexico. Yet we just came from there. We’re not quite ready to go back just yet. This is Roaming Around the World after all, and not Roaming Around Mexico. So we have a few ideas in the works to mix things up a bit without straying too far.
We are planning to take off again in early January but have yet to determine exactly where. As the roaming continues, we’ll just see where the wind blows and what other travel bargains we may be able to exploit.
But for now, we’ve got a sail away party to attend and a piña colada that’s melting.
We’ll be out at sea for the next few days, so bear with us as our connectivity may be scarce until we arrive at St Maarten on Thursday. See ya there!
We wish you all happy holidays, merry Christmas, and perhaps most importantly: happy travels to you into 2019!
-John & Heather
Christine Milton says
Hi there, I have to say, you are stopping by the islands at a great time. There is a little Christmas breeze in the air so it’s not stifling hot. I live in a small fishing village on the island of St. Lucia. We have 1-3 cruise ships in each day. Snorkeling is not as good as I had hoped here. With that said, we recently went to Sugar Beach and WOW!!! It was amazing. Your boat will dock around Castries. Sugar beach might be a bit tricky to get to. Anyways, Castries is looking very festive these days. If you know what day you will be here I can see if there is anything going on. Otherwise, I bet you would love to hike around Pigeon Point which is North of Castries about 45 min. by bus. There is a nice town, Gros Islet with a beach and local food. You can actually catch a Gros Islet bus on the other side of the public market. It would be about $2-4E to get to Pigeon Point. Or the tourist beach is Reduit (also north of Castries) and you can take a water taxi to Pigeon Point.
As for Dominica, we were there for the hurricane and had to evacuate. What a lovely island. They are bouncing back quite nicely. Roseau is nice to walk around but if you can finagle some sort of tour to a waterfall ot Tetu Gorge (sp), I would do it. You will help out a local and it’s pretty. Or just take a bus to Soufriere for a mud bath and Scots head for some nice snorkeling and a little hike. This is only about an hour from Roseau. There is also Champagne Bay where bubbles come up because there is a lot of thermal energy under the sea.
And Barbados—anywhere you go is amazing!!!! Never in my life have I seen so many gorgeous white sand beaches. The buses are super easy. Anywhere you would like to go for $1 US. 5 min. ride or 2 hr ride costs the same–$1. St. Lawrence Gap is a nice place to go. It’s the tourist area but wasn’t touristy in April when we went, not sure about December Oh and also Brown’s Beach in Bridgetown. You can snorkel right from the beach to a shipwreck where turtles hang out. Barbados is just a lovely place with great food, great beaches and lovely people.
John Widmer says
We did exactly as you recommended and took the local bus from Castries to Gros Islet. Love, love, loved St Lucia! Of all our stops, St Lucia was our favorite. We enjoyed the local vibes and rum shacks in Gros Islet and had a nice hike on Pigeon Point and a bit of snorkeling too. Walking around Castries, we sensed that Christmas was indeed in the island air.
We also took your advice for Dominica and found a nice taxi driver to take us up to Titou Gorge, Trafalgar Falls, and some of the other little attractions along the way. Great day exploring the Nature Island. Will have to go back for the mud baths and the champagne beach.
For Barbados, we did indeed walk right to Brown’s beach and snorkeled the shipwreck and saw the turtles. Went right from shore without a boat and it was great! Such beautiful beaches in Barbados and I’m still drooling to get my hands on another cutter.
Thank you so much for all the thoughtful recommendations that ultimately proved very helpful as we planned our days ashore!
Fantastic. Have a great 2 weeks and thanks for all the tips. Hoping that my wife and I can start our RTW journey in 2019. Yous 2 are very inspiring