Introducing the Something to Declare photo gallery

After spending countless hours in Adobe Lightroom narrowing down and editing the photos from our trip around the world, I’ve finally put together an online gallery with about 800 of our favorites, sorted by location and various other attributes. Many of these photos are geotagged and visible on maps (like this), since we carried a GPS which recorded where we went, and thus where our photos were taken.

Here’s the link:
The Something to Declare Photo Gallery
I’ve also written an article about the photo equipment we took along:
Photography guide


Homeward Bound

After 120 days of traveling, we will board a flight this evening at 5:40pm from Tokyo bound for Seattle. The packet of paper tickets that we left Seattle with on August 20 now contains just one page. We have packed up our stuff for the last time and are now getting ready to check out of our last hotel room of the trip.

In many ways, we feel like we are returning to a very different life and world from the one we left. We are returning to an economy that certainly seemed shaky upon our departure, but had not yet entered the fall that we’ve all been watching for the past few months. We are returning to a president-elect (about whom we are extremely excited) that still had an election battle ahead of him at the time of our departure. We have been closely tracking the news while we have been away, but still have been sheltered by the bubble of travel and are curious to see how things feel upon our re-entry into the real world. We are also returning as two people who have decided to spend their lives together and now we have the excitement and fun of planning those next steps.

We can hardly believe all that we have seen and done over the past four months. We have visited places we never thought we’d see, met some wonderful people along the way, and gained a new sense of appreciation for how fortunate we are. Fortunate to have been born where we were; fortunate to have such amazing friends and family; fortunate to be able to see so much of the world; fortunate to have seen so much of it with each other; and fortunate to have had this four-month break.

While we are sad to see the trip come to an end, we can hardly wait to see everyone at home and catch up in person as opposed to via e-mail. We can also hardly wait to have one home for as many nights in a row as we want and to not have to book new accommodation on a regular basis. I am beyond excited to have the full offerings of my closet back. And Dan is pretty psyched to browse through his 4,000+ photos and geotag all of them.

We plan to make more updates to this blog (about Tokyo and also some post-trip wrap-up), so stay tuned to Something to Declare!

State of the Travelers Address

Dan and I have been traveling now for over one month, so it seems fitting to pull together some thoughts and observations that have not found their way into any of the location-specific posts. It is simultaneously hard to believe that we have already completed one month of our trip and that we have only completed one month of our trip. We have found our groove as (relatively) long-term travelers, but have been so fully in the Europe zone that it feels a bit surreal to think that we’ll be trekking through SE Asia in the not-too-distant future.

With a trip of this length, we’ve had to figure out how to pace ourselves. Looking back on our first week or so in Copenhagen and Budapest, we can’t believe how much we set out to do and see each day. Further on into the trip, we’ve realized that two sights is our maximum in one day and we need to save some time each day for just chilling out. Whenever we haven’t followed these guidelines, crankiness has ensued (usually mine). So we’ve developed a good routine that allows us to make the most of each place we visit, but also not feel like we have to do/see absolutely everything. We’re often happiest when we feel like we’ve gotten a taste of everyday life in a given place — whether that be staying for four nights in a local Budapest apartment, being the guests of Croatian soba hosts who spoke no English, experiencing the kindness of a stranger in Tuscany, or finding a spot at a barrel table in a tapas bar that is occupied only by Spaniards and serves delicious cured jamon that is hand-cut from the leg of a pig right after you order it.

In no particular order, here are some of our observations at the end of Month One.

Things we are glad we brought:

  • Laptop. My MacBook has proven totally useful for working on the blog during train rides, getting the most out of any free WiFi (pronounced “WeeFee” in many parts of Europe) we can find, and most important, providing a soundtrack via iTunes in our various hotel rooms.
  • Rick Steves Guidebooks. You’ve seen his name pop up in previous blog entries and let me now take a moment to introduce you to Rick Steves, if you haven’t already met him. Rick was our travel companion from Budapest to Arles, in the form of three different guidebooks. We were very sad to part with him when we left France and still can’t remember why we chose Lonely Planet over Rick for Spain. Anyway, he provides great advice, history, self-guided walking tours, etc. We refer to each book as a person. “Where’s Rick?” and “What does Rick say about this place?” are two common questions. In Italy we even said hello to a few other people that we saw carrying Rick around. He proves to be a common bond between travelers, as anyone else that we approached shared our enthusiasm for Rick and his frank advice.
  • Packing Cubes. We will now add our voice to the choir: these things are a godsend when traveling with a backpack. They basically function as dresser drawers and make packing and unpacking so much easier and efficient. Our friends Casey and Mike use them regularly when traveling and we’re thinking of following their lead when we get home.
  • Chacos. Although not the most stylish footwear choice, these functional shoes are comfortable, airy, and sturdy. I brought these, a pair of New Balance sneakers (which I also feel passionate about), and a pair of plain black flip-flops for those “dressy” occasions.
  • Zip-off Pants. While I drew a line and did not bring these, perhaps I should have. Dan reluctantly bought a pair before we left and now admits they were a great idea. They proved handy when we visited the Vatican — and now he’s taken to wearing them on a regular basis. As relatively long-term travelers, we’ve had to let our vanity go and we’re fine with that. Usually. I must admit to having a bit of a tough time amidst all of the fashionistas in Rome and Milan.

Interesting Facts:

  • We have not taken one taxi yet. We have only traveled via foot, rental car, and public transportation.
  • When fully loaded, my pack weighs 10.9 kg and Dan’s pack weighs 11.2 kg. We know this because they were weighed prior to our RyanAir flight to Malaga, for which there was a 15 kg limit for checked bags.
  • The European version of zip-off pants often feature the zip-off at a capri length instead of shorts length. We’ve even seen pairs with two sets of zippers — one at capri length and one at shorts length.
  • You feel really foolish accidentally saying “Grazie” or “Oui” to someone in Spain. Yet we managed to do so on several occasions.
  • If you want to feel mature in age, a good plan is to book a room in a hostel that is ranked high in the “Fun” index on HostelWorld. We found our average roommates’ sleep schedules to be offset from our own by about three hours (and we weren’t going to bed that early).

42 E and 42 F

  • 42 E and 42 F: Our seats on SAS Flight 938
  • 4: Number of hours until the above flight departs
  • 31: Number of pounds that my pack weighs with everything in it
  • 40: Number of pounds that Dan’s pack weighs with everything in it
  • 121: Number of days that we will be traveling with the above backpacks
  • Pumped: How we feel right now about the trip

Our Itinerary

It’s two and a half weeks out, and we’re finalizing our two Star Alliance “Round the World” tickets, consisting of 12 flights and several “overland segments” painstakingly assembled by our travel agent. Here’s our current plan:

  • Aug 20: Fly from Seattle to Copenhagen
  • Aug 24: Fly from Copenhagen to Vienna
  • Aug 24 – Sept 28: Travel overland through Budapest, Croatia, Italy, France, and Spain
  • Sept 28: Fly from Madrid to Istanbul
  • Oct 1: Fly from Istanbul to Windhoek, Namibia via Johannesburg
  • Oct 2 – Oct 22: Travel through Namibia, South Africa, and possibly Botswana
  • Oct 22: Fly from Cape Town to Singapore
  • Oct 24: Fly from Singapore to Bali
  • Oct 24 – Oct 29: Relax in Bali
  • Oct 29: Fly from Bali to Bangkok
  • Oct 29 – Dec 3: Travel overland through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam
  • Dec 3: Fly from Bangkok to Hong Kong
  • Dec 7: Fly from Hong Kong to Osaka
  • Dec 7 – Dec 18: Visit Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo
  • Dec 18: Fly from Tokyo to Seattle
  • Dec 18 – ???: ???

More details to come!!