[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Michelle and Shaun met in 2010 while working for an international adventures travel and volunteerism company. After traveling together and separately, they decided it was time to go on a trip around the world! They have been on the road since January 8th 2016 and are currently in Asia!
We were lucky enough to meet this lovely couple in Montevideo and asked them a few questions about their world trip![/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
Which place surprised you the most?
M: Nicaragua. We have a good family friend who is from there, and have had friends visit for surf trips – so the idea in my head was of a tropical, relatively accessible, tourist-ridden vacation place full of Gringos (foreigners).
And while that’s true in some places, in reality, we found that Nicaragua is much more diverse and complicated than I’d imagined. Sure, there are many cities full of backpackers with english speaking menus and services. But there are also many places just off the main tourism trail that few foreigners visit. When we were in those places, I was surprised by the deep cycles of poverty we saw – even more so than other places we’ve visited in Latin America. I was also surprised by the edginess of the experiences we had: walking over boiling hot pools in a person’s backyard during a lightning storm, wearing sandals. Walking up to the edge of a volcano and looking down at lava from a shockingly close distance. Learning more detailed stories from people’s perspective of the country’s political revolution, which of course the US plays a strong antagonist role in. It was all very moving, eye opening, and not what I expected.
S: Panama. When we arrived for our layover one of the first things we did was go to an Intercambio to exchange some of our leftover Colombian pesos. I asked the lady to change them into the local currency and she replied “So you want US Dollars?” I was confused, but then she explained that in Panama their currency is the US Dollar. This was my first piece of reverse culture shock that I experienced on the trip. Everywhere we went in Panama City (the airport, the historic part of town and the canal locks) was very Americanized, and that was super surprising to me.
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What are you disappointed about?
M: I wish we could’ve spent more time in Brazil. Out of everywhere we went, this is the one country that I felt like we barely scratched the surface on. Spending a few days in Rio, we saw all the major tourist attractions and beaches, but there were so many more people had recommended just a few hours north or outside of the city. We also met a friend of a friend who works in creating safe community spaces in favelas through progressive architecture projects, and I would’ve loved to have spent more time working on something like this.
S: I wish that we sought out more live music in South America. Even small shows in local bars and things. It is such a nice way to get a feel for a new place and absorb some of the culture. The few shows that we did get to were amazing, and it is definitely something I want us to continue seeking out for the second half of our trip.
What is the most beautiful thing you’ve seen so far?
M: Wow, that’s hard. Beauty is so relative, and has come in many forms during our trip so far. In terms of natural beauty, I’d say a triple tie between the glacial mountains of Patagonia, the Andes Mountains in Peru, and the peak of Mt. Kinabalu at sunrise. In terms of human beauty, walking through Tokyo to me felt like being in a modern art museum. People’s sense of fashion, the lights, colorful umbrellas in the rain, the design of everything from the buildings to the plants to the street crossings. I love everything about that city.
S: I would echo Michelle’s sentiments on Patagonia. I’ll never forget when our friend Greg and I were standing on top of a waterfall looking out over Glacier Grey, and we were buzzed by a pair of Condors gliding over the ice field. It was a special moment. I would also add the Falls at Iguazu – such raw power and the immensity of it was so beautiful.
Most Crazy/Weird Experience:
M: Eating live grubs in Borneo with our friends Tess and Rene was pretty out there. (I chickened out and ate the fried one, I couldn’t handle the idea of eating something alive.) Also, waking up to a giant poisonous spider on the inside of our tent in northern Colombia, and never figuring out where it ended up when Shaun tried to kill it. Oh, and the Robot Show in Tokyo. That wins, hands down, for weirdest experience of our trip thus far.
S: The only thing I would add to Michelle’s answer above would be the abundance of people riding horses and talking or texting on cellphones. The paradox struck me every time I saw it – which was frequently, in smaller towns in Peru, Colombia and Nicaragua.
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Where are you at this moment?
On a high speed Shinkansen train from Hiroshima to Tokyo.
Which countries have you visited in the last 6 months?
12 so far: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Singapore, Malaysia, Peru, Colombia, Panama (for a 7 hour layover), Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Japan. Well, 13 if you count our week back to see family in the U.S.
How is your budget versus actuals?
It has varied by week, but overall we’re spending a bit more than we thought. We use a google spreadsheet with several categories to track our progress: our transportation budget of $22,000 for the whole year, which we’re on track and have spent about half of. Then: accommodation ($40 USD per night), food ($40 USD per day) and Activities/Misc Spending ($30 USD per day). About 30% of our time we’ve been under budget, 70% about $15 USD a day over what we planned. That being said, Michelle was able to stay with her company and work several extra months, so that, very luckily, made up the difference in what we’ve overspent.
Cheaper than we expected: everything in Colombia. We were under budget almost our entire time there, and it helped significantly to have our own apartment where we could cook and buy grocery store food instead of eating out.
More expensive than we expected: the trains in Tokyo. Three destinations by train (Hiroshima, Kyoto and back to Tokyo) was the same cost as all of the flights we took in South America.
[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]Follow Michelle and Shaun by reading their amazing stories on the All Bon Voyage blog![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]