Greetings from Turin, Italy! It’s been a little while since our last travel update, or any blog post for that matter.
But we’re back here to discuss our latest travel decisions, announce how we’re completing our flightless round-the-world trip, talk about where we want to take this blog, and ultimately where we’re roaming around next!
So grab a beer (or a coffee) and let’s catch up, shall we?
The Latest on Our Travel Goal:
A Trip Around the World Without Flights
For those who have been following us, you already know that during this fifth year of non-stop travel, we’re in the midst of pursuing our travel goal to complete a cheap cruise entirely around the world without using any flights, all while maintaining a low budget.
As we now find ourselves roaming around Italy, we’re happy to report that we’ve made some great progress on that front. Geographically speaking, we have now journeyed about 80% around the world, entirely over land and sea!
It’s been a whirlwind trip that began last July on Canada’s Atlantic coast in Halifax, Nova Scotia. That’s when we spent the summer crossing five Canadian provinces using a series of buses and rental cars, before then chugging onwards towards the Pacific Ocean across the US by rail. Once arriving to the Pacific, we quickly jumped on our first repositioning cruise to voyage through the glaciers of Alaska and cross the world’s largest ocean. That carried us all the way to Japan!
As the Japanese maple trees began to shed their leaves, the October weather not only ushered in autumn, but also began a nearly half-year of traversing the continent.
After temple hopping our way across Japan, we eventually voyaged by ferry to South Korea where we spent nearly a month and a half ushering in the winter, just before the start of the Olympic Games. After plenty of frigid fun and celebrating the holidays, we hopped on another ferry that brought us to roam around China for a month.
Roaming around China starts now! 🇨🇳
From the Great Wall to the Terracotta Warriors, a voyage down the Yangtze, and some awesomely treacherous winter hiking in between, it was quite an adventure that thoroughly wore us out. So by the time we reached Hong Kong, it felt great to get sucked back into the lap of luxury, as we boarded yet another cruise, which began a six week journey by sea, from Asia to Europe!
It started with a two-week journey aboard the Celebrity Millennium along the coast of Vietnam and Thailand, that then brought us to Singapore just in time for the Lunar (Chinese) New Year festivities. Singapore also acted as transfer point to move our luggage to another ship ship. We transferred onto the Costa Victoria, an Italian ship that would ultimately bring us to her home country. That was a 28-day voyage that backtracked through SE Asia before moving onward to Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, and Oman. We finally entered the Red Sea, cruised right through the Suez Canal, and stopped by the Greek island of Crete. Finally, we reached Italy!
That’s where we’ve been roaming around for the past three weeks now. And we’ve been absolutely loving it (way more than we anticipated) as we gorge ourselves on what is arguably the world’s best cuisine while enjoying some fantastic Spring weather amidst all these impossibly charming ancient Italian towns.
What a journey! So that is an extremely abridged recap to catch up everyone who hasn’t been on this adventure with us over on Facebook, where we’ve been chronicling daily updates.
But enough with this quick rundown that’s been the past nine months of our lives. The real question we keep getting asked lately is more forward looking…
Where to next?
Well, we haven’t been entirely certain on that front. Until now. We finally made some plans!
Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?
During our travels over the past five years, whenever we arrive to a new continent, we usually have some sort of exit plan. Often we arrive already with a flight or repositioning cruise booked. Yet when our feet hit the pavement in Italy, we had absolutely no plans beyond a one-week stay we had booked simply to have somewhere to figure out our onward travels. So while we could have been enjoying the sweet ocean views of the Italian Riviera, we instead began tormenting ourselves with our own indecisiveness.
Once on land we finally had the connectivity to begin researching and vetting out the many different ideas swirling around in our heads. Understand, during the prior six weeks at sea, we dealt with a major lack of Internet. On the ship we discussed many interesting travel possibilities, but had no wifi to investigate the logistics of them.
We heavily debated between the idea of
(1) staying in Europe all summer long, or
(2) making a more expedited exit to complete our flightless trip around the world.
That has been the focus of our indecisiveness.
In order to close the loop of our round the world voyage, we need to somehow find an affordable way to cross the Atlantic. Of course, we turn directly to repositioning cruises, as we love taking advantage of those deals, which are often even cheaper than a flight to cross continents. But with repositioning cruises, you are greatly limited by the once-a-year timing when ships make these moves across the ocean. The westbound repositioning cruises across the Atlantic typically don’t get repositioned until October and even into November. That would possibly prolong our stay in Europe for another 8 months, before we’d finally be able to complete our travel goal.
While a lengthy summer in Europe is very appealing, a further complication to lingering here is something called the Schengen Area, which only allows travelers to stay within all of the 26 European countries participating for a total of three months during a six-month period. The ability to stay for only three months, throws quite a big wrench into a 8-month stay. Where could we linger for possibly five months outside of the Schengen Area? That’s nearly half a year! The countries in blue in the map below are all part of the agreement, limiting our time to only three months inside the blue. (Yellow plans to join in the future.)
Can you even name the European countries in yellow and grey? That’s where we’d be confined to for about five months!
Thankfully, Croatia and much of the Balkan countries aren’t involved in the Schengen Area, so we began strongly considering spending a prolonged summer in these southeastern European nations that we’ve enjoyed in the past. In fact, we picked out some apartments for month-long stays and even charted a road trip and some hiking routes to pursue. We grew increasingly excited about these summer plans along the Adriatic Sea.
Yet we also began to change our minds at an increasingly rapid pace.
After coming 80% of the way around the world within a nine-month period, we dwelled on delaying the completion of this round-the-world journey for another eight months. We also didn’t like the fact that we’d be forced to travel East when we really needed to make progress West.
In addition, we would have to play the waiting game, gambling on the instance that the Fall repositioning cruises we’re eyeing will indeed drop to an affordable rate. While we’re quite confident that there will be no shortage of repositioning cruise deals at around $500 (or even less) plying the Atlantic waters later this year, we had an added complication. In order to truly close the loop on this flightless round-the-world journey, we need to return to where it all began: Halifax, Nova Scotia. But few ships pursue such northerly itineraries, instead favoring routes that often swing into the Caribbean. Our requirement of a Halifax port call further restricted our departing transatlantic options.
Meanwhile we have some uncertain circumstances playing out in our personal lives that makes staying in Europe for another eight months a potentially risky move that could even force us to get on a plane instead of completing this journey by sea. (Gasp!) Also, we’re now in a situation in which we greatly need to focus more on working rather than traveling. And while we could easily work online in Europe, this continent has endless travel temptations to woo our wanderlust, distracting our attention to get much needed work completed.
While all this was playing out in our heads, it ultimately took a formerly sold-out cruise that reappeared and also a few cats that really swayed our decision to pull the trigger on completing our travel goal – right now. (We’ll explain the cats in a minute.)
Despite our yearning to stay in Europe, it all became clear that a more sensible move for us is to go ahead and complete this flightless trip around the world.
So here’s the big news:
Later this month on April 30, 2018, we will be returning to Halifax by sea to complete our flightless trip around the world!
You may be wondering with repositioning cruises making the westbound journeys in the Fall, how we’re able to hitch a ride back to North America in April. Here’s how that’s playing out…
A Bliss-ful Voyage Back Across the Atlantic
Occasionally there are repositioning cruises that occur outside of the normal seasonal shifts. One of those instances occurs when brand new cruise ships are launched, as they are typically built in Europe yet need to be moved elsewhere. But such awesome new ships won’t make the epic voyage across oceans empty! As a result, cruise lines will form a repositioning cruise out of the journey, as the ship is transported to its end-destination where it will perform a regular itinerary.
As such, there happens to be a brand new Norwegian Cruise Line ship that is being moved to North America at the end of April. Guess where that ship happens to stop along the way: Halifax, Nova Scotia! Perfect.
Before we had arrived to Italy, the rates for this voyage on what is a truly world-class ship were well beyond our budget. But as the trip got closer, prices dropped within reason, making this early voyage across the Atlantic something we could not ignore.
We had to do it. So we proceeded to book our exit from Europe.
Yet to our horror, we found that the ship had entirely sold out! This was an option that completely disappeared off the table. Once again, we resumed making plans to stay in Europe for the summer.
But a few days later, NCL had some cabins for sale again after all. We jumped on it!
So on April 21, we are thrilled to be among the very first passengers to board the inaugural cruise of the Norwegian Bliss, as she makes her maiden voyage from Southampton, England across the Atlantic Ocean into New York City!
We frequently use repositioning cruises as an affordable and convenient means of transportation, and tend not to get overly excited about all the latest and greatest features. Really, any cruise ship is great in our opinion. We’re never disappointed.
It’s the ports themselves that tend to get us most excited. Despite our very frequent use of cruises, we’re not really “cruise people” who geek out on the shopping atriums, get dressed up for the nightly parties or get caught up in all the cruise hoopla. We don’t ever even lounge by the pool. Ever! In a way, we’re horrible cruisers.
But I have to admit; we are indeed geeking out a bit about this upcoming voyage on the Norwegian Bliss. First of all, we’re just happy to get back on a Norwegian ship again, as they are among our favorite cruise lines.
Norwegian’s “freestyle” mantra really clicks with us. There’s no pre-assigned dining times, table assignments, or stuffy formal nights. You’re free to eat whenever you want and how you want, which is very appealing to us and sets the tone of the entire cruise. Ultimately we find that Norwegian provides a more casual experience without sacrificing on the high quality. Plus, Norwegian always has the best entertainment!
But in addition to the freestyle attitude, this new ship is freaking amazing! The ship is actually topped with a two-story go-kart track! While we’re smack in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, we’ll have the opportunity to challenge each other in a karting race, twenty stories high above the sea floor! It’s hard not to get excited about that and that’s just one of the many novel aspects Norwegian has built into their newest ship.
But before we begin that upcoming transatlantic voyage, we’ve still got a lot of ground to cover between Turin and Southampton in order to make this connection onto the new ship. And there are some major travel hurdles presenting themselves in between these two locations.
An Expedited EuroTrip 2018
Since we’re not able to linger the summer away on this lovely continent, we’re going to instead try to pack in as much as we can in the short time we have remaining now between Turin and Southampton, England. Over the course of the next two weeks we’ll be eurotripping at an accelerated pace, exploring new regions and perhaps returning to some old favorites.
As we’ve been thoroughly enjoying many of Italy’s secondary regions over the main touristic draws, we’re going to continue that theme as we venture into France next. We’ll be completely bypassing the French Riviera, the Loire Valley, and even Paris. Instead of having another look at the Eiffel Tower, we’re eager to get out into the countryside along the French Alps and further into the Champagne region.
One travel problem we’re facing in France is that there is currently a major rail strike affecting France. Every three days, rail workers are striking for two days, which is shutting down all trains across the entire country. It’s resulting in travel nightmares. (Note: if you happen to be traveling through France now and through the summer, check this regularly updated strike calendar and be sure to plan around it.)
With rail as our primary use of transport in France, this rail strike has greatly affected our upcoming travel plans through the country. So we’ve instead secured a rental car to work around that. The added benefit of wheels gives us the ability to delve deeper into the countryside.
We’re currently charting a course that briefly swoops into Switzerland and maybe even another country or two. Eventually we hope to leave enough time to return to the European country we’ve visited more than any other.
It’ll be our fourth visit there!
And there’s one thing that keeps us returning…
We hope to make it back to Belgium’s hops fields that are littered with countryside pubs and the occasional monastery that includes trappist breweries operated for centuries by monks. Plus, chocolate. And waffles. Oh, we must leave some time for Belgium!
So What’s Next for This Blog
Ever since we began this flightless round-the-world trip, you may have noticed we’ve been traveling at a very aggressive pace, often racing across one country to the next. As a result, this blog has suffered greatly from all our worldly roaming. We haven’t given ourselves or the time or the connectivity we need to create meaningful awesome new content.
Since leaving Canada last summer, we’ve only taken one small break from our constant travel habits. That was way back in October, when we enjoyed a month long stop in Kyoto, Japan. Since then, we’ve been in travel mode, full speed ahead!
We simply haven’t had the time to focus on the blog like we really want to. Despite our neglect, the site somehow continues to grow thanks to many of our older posts. It’s extremely encouraging to see that we even reached a milestone of 161,000 page views in a single month. We couldn’t believe that! To put it in perspective, more people have viewed our humble little space on the web, than watched last night’s episode of Anthony Bourdain. That’s crazy to us! Yet it’s likewise motivating to make the effort to grow this space into something more. We simply need to carve out some time to take it there, as we chronicle all the travel pursuits we’ve been uncovering during the past year and before.
During our fast travels, we’ve been taking countless notes, recorded hours upon hours of video footage, and have literally taken tens of thousands of photos. We’re actually traveling with an arsenal of 4 (four!!) external hard drives, just to save all this precious data. We can’t wait to finally slow down and share in detail so many of the incredible travel experiences and destinations we’ve come across.
We recently met up with a friend here in Italy who said “I get the impression you’re travelers first, and bloggers second.” I hate to publicly admit it, but he’s absolutely right!
So we’re looking forward finally switching things the other way around. We want to spend a few months at leasat trying to be bloggers first, and travelers second.
We greatly want to resume showing the message that we sometimes preach, demonstrating how seemingly costly travel experiences can actually be affordable realities.
We’re itching to show how you can travel to “expensive” countries like Japan and still maintain a low budget without sacrificing too much. We can’t wait to elaborate on the cost savings involved on planning your own China itinerary. We’re excited to detail what an incredible value Italy is during the off-season. Yet we’re perhaps most excited to show how you don’t have to spend $50,000 to take a world cruise, as such a feat can be completed for nearly $50 per day! We desperately want to outline a tool kit that can help you to afford to live out some of your travel dreams. It’s coming. Bare with us. We just need a bit of time to get this all out there.
In addition to those informative posts, there’s so many fun travel tales we have backlogged that we likewise look forward to sharing. Did you know that we got hopelessly lost hiking in some remote mountains in Korea and accidentally wound up at a snowy mountain top temple, where a lone Buddhist monk then befriended us with some tea and a 10-hour hike across treacherous cliffs! These are the stories that are waiting to be told.
So we actually managed to get hopelessly lost while trekking across this mountain ridge line here in South Korea. But then we reached a mountaintop and stumbled across a lone Buddhist monk. It felt like something out of a movie. He invited us into his humble and remote dwelling for some green tea. Then he led us down a secret path, taking us to this spectacular viewpoint along the way! It was such an amazing experience, proving that sometimes it's good to get a little lost.
But we first need to slow our travels and get to work.
If only there was somewhere in the world to do that…
Slowing Down in a Reliable Favorite
Once we arrive back in the US in May, we’re planning to spend a month or so visiting friends & family while also taking care of the many mundane tasks that have gone neglected when you’re busy gallivanting around the globe. We’ve got twelve months worth of mail to sift through, late taxes to file, and worn travel gear to replace.
But we won’t be staying put for long. We’ve got some cats to look after. Oh yeah, the cats!
As we currently find ourselves in a situation where we really need to be working and blogging more than traveling, we’ve been contemplating a prolonged return to one of our favorite countries.
There’s one country in the world we can always rely on. It’s a place where we can…
(1) be productive,
(2) live inexpensively, and
(3) enjoy life.
It’s also a quick and cheap flight from the US, should the need arise.
We can legally stay, visa-free, for up to six months at a time.
We love the culture.
It has some of our favorite food in the entire world.
It’s the only country we’ve traveled to every single year for the past four years.
Of course, it’s Mexico!!!
We’re absolutely thrilled to be returning to Mexico for the balance of the summer and into the Fall!
(Note: you can find some of our old posts about Mexico here, to see some of the places we’ve enjoyed in the past.
We’ve been contemplating returning to Mexico ever since departing back in June of last year.
What really swayed us even further was an opportunity that recently presented itself. A friend of a friend, who lives in Mexico, is leaving for a month and needs someone to housesit for them and watch their three lovely cats.
So after having been away from Mexico for a full year, we’ll be returning this June to housesit, care for some gatos, and eat lots of tacos!
(Homer Simpson voice) Mmm… tacos!
We’ll be returning to the pretty mountain lakeside town of Ajijic, that attracts many US and Canadian expats and early retirees. We visited briefly last year and really enjoyed it. And it’s less than an hour away from Mexico’s second largest city, Guadalajara, which is really an awesome place. There’s always something fun going on there!
Here’s a glimpse into Ajijic from our brief visit last year:
Roaming around Ajijic!This scenic lakeside town in the Central Highlands of Mexico is where we’ve been hiding out for…
Beyond the month housesit, we’re unsure of whether we’ll stay in the Ajijic area or move onward to elsewhere in Mexico. But one thing that is for certain is a plan to linger south of the border for at least a few months, to give us time to focus on working, blogging, and sharing the past year’s worth of travel adventures across the Interwebs!
Happy Travels to You!
As we wrap up our grand journey of our cheap world cruise later this month, we look forward to opening a new chapter of travel adventures. And as we all approach the summer travel season, we wish you all happy travels wherever in the world you may be roaming!