J. asked me this morning how long we have been traveling. We were both shocked that it has been just over 100 days since we started this journey. I wanted to do a recap of our favorite places, experiences, and all the different animals we have seen. So, here it goes:
Places we have seen so far:
Bukhit Lawang, Labuan Bajo, Lembongan, Lombok, Gili T, Ubud
Our favorite places we have visited:
J.: Chiang Mai Elephants-It was his dream to be up close to elephants. We stayed on a reservation that rescued elephants. For him to be able to spend so much intimate time with them, watching, playing, bathing was like waking up to a dream everyday.
Me: Chiang Mai Elephants-For me this was my favorite for a different reason. I was so moved by the resiliency of the Karen people from Burma who are refugees from their country. They had such a peaceful nature and joy in them that I was so moved by. Watching their love and respect of the elephants and nature was really important to me. They made us amazing food and we met some really cool tourists there.
In Sri Lanka:
J.: Whole country amazing-It is impossible for J. to narrow down one place in Sri Lanka. For him the whole country was a combined experience. He found at every moment he wanted to take in all the landscape, the food, the people and the culture. It seemed as if every moment was a spectacular experience.
Me: Whole country amazing– Sri Lanka was like a dream for me. The majestic mountains, the rich Buddhist culture, the amazing people and the resiliency of the citizens were so inspiring and moving to me. Everywhere we looked was beauty and kindness in its most authentic state.
J.: Bukit Lawang-The best way J. can describe Bukhit Lawang is a Swiss village minus the cold and snow. The landscape and scenery were breathtaking, perfectly manicured, and stunning. He loved the fact that we could trek, stroll and hang out in one little place.
Me: Bukit Lawang– This village was the closest thing to perfect I have ever experienced. The people were so kind, the landscaping was perfect, their respect for the planet, the animals and each other was amazing. It is extremely walkable and there are many treks, markets and things to see, but mostly I enjoyed just sitting on the river staring at the incredible rain forest.
Morocco: Too early to tell
Our favorite experiences so far:
J.: Washing the baby elephant (this is what prompted this entire journey we are on)-to be so close and personal with the large creatures that you usually only get to see in zoos in a more natural setting was so moving for him. We were able to spend enough time with them to start to understand them, like watching them wag their tails, and steal his hat, or charge him to play with him. He actually had tears in his eyes as he stood next to them, feeding and petting them, taking in their graceful nature.
Me: Monks in Khao Yai National Park-this was one of those perfect moments in your life. The setting of only a few people at that hotel allowed us to feel the kindness and peacefulness of their nature. It was impossible to be unchanged by the experience of giving them an offering and sitting with them while they prayed.
In Sri Lanka:
J.: Adam’s Peak- J. was so happy to be able to climb this with his best friend. It was a great experience for them to be there for each other encouraging each other the whole way. J. says it would have been impossible for him to do on his own.
Me: Adam’s Peak– The feeling of pushing yourself beyond where you thought you could go, the reward of achieving a goal and the power of determination moved me more than anything I have ever experienced. I was so proud of myself for not giving up, or giving in.
J.: Diving with the Manta Ray & seeing a baby Mola-Mola and Hiking with the Orangutan- Playing with the baby elephant was a dream for J. but seeing these creatures in their own natural environment just by luck was more than he could have expected. The incredible feeling of being chased by a large male orangutan and then being able to stand within 10 feet of him took his breath away. It was the same with the Manta and the Mola-Mola. J. felt the blessing of our experiencing things many people never get to so strongly in these moments.
Me: Diving with the Manta Ray & Hiking with the Orangutan-it is impossible to choose between these two-The incredible experience of being so close to these large creatures and being able to observe them in their natural habitat was like nothing I could have imagined. It was like being invited to the most exclusive of shows. The Manta were doing a mating dance over our heads as we clung to the bottom of the ocean and stared in disbelief. I may have actually yelled out a few expletives in complete shock as they passed so close you could feel the water and air move on your skin.
J.: Winning in a Singapore Casino (2nd country he gambled in and 2nd country he won)- J. had so much fun sitting at the black jack table with several Asian women cheering him on encouraging him to bet more and win more. He has a goal of beating a casino in every country that has a casino so he is on his way!
Me: Eating the some of the best Mexican food I have ever had! I know this sounds crazy but it is true. We found this great little restaurant and the comforting feeling of Mexican food combined with a great waiter, good beer and sitting outside in such a clean city felt so right to me. Sometimes it is the craziest thing that can have an impact.
Too early to tell
Lessons We Have Learned So Far:
- Changing cultures requires patience and understanding.
- Living out of a suitcase makes life so simple. I have only a few outfits to choose from and 3 pairs of shoes so I don’t waste time or money on fashion.
- The constant stimulation of new cultures, languages, and sites can be more exhausting than you would think.
- Patience is required for everything!
- I need to continue to improve my foreign language skills.
- No matter what culture, we are all similar, we all want the best for our families, our health and our lives. We want to be happy and free to do what we want, worship who we want and live the lives we envision.
- American poor is not poor compared to the rest of the world
- Third world countries need help with their stray dog and cat problems. I wish I were a vet so I could volunteer to do free neutering in the countries I visit.
- Kindness is understood and appreciated in every language.
- You still need a Netflix fix now and then no matter what country you are in.
- Take advantage of good wifi when you have it.
- No matter how many pictures you take it is impossible to convey the beauty of a country or a culture, some things can only be felt.
- Patience. Most countries move much slower than America so be patient, adopt the pace and you will be much happier.
- It is extremely important to understand a culture, even if you do not accept it you need to understand you are in their country.
- Hire a tour guide or driver. I never did this before but we have learned so much about the cultures, beliefs and customs from our drivers and guides. It helped us to learn and grow and also appreciate where we are much more than without them.
- Pack for your trip, then take out about 50% of it because you probably won’t need it, care about it or use it where you are going. (A lot of local airlines will charge you over 20 kilos so it gets really expensive to have overweight baggage.)
- Let your hotel or hostel recommend people to you for drivers and guides. Their reputation is on the line so they will only use good people.
- Be cautious when taking tours or being offered to go see people making things. They are almost always ploys to get you to buy things, so you will get some pretty hardcore selling at the end.
- In Thailand if someone tells you the tourist attractions are closed and you can go with them or someone else for tours for cheap, it is a scam. Don’t go. The tourist attractions don’t close during the day. They make commission for bringing you and the shops are usually pretty intense about you buying.
- Unlike the American culture bargaining is expected in the markets and with cabs. When you are hiring cabs agree on a price, as the final price, before you get in.
- Some of the best experiences we had were not the ones in the tour books or mainstream blogs. Our hotels, or drivers often recommended things we had no idea existed. The locals always know the best places and usually love to show them off.
- We loved having the locals and hotel staff tell us where to eat. This way we avoided the tourist traps, usually saved money, and had a more genuine experience.
- I have learned not to judge people by the color of their skin, their religion, or their financial standing. I have learned amazing things, had the best conversations and been shown the most kindness from some of the poorest people I have ever met. If I would not have stepped outside of my comfort zone I would have missed the best part of traveling.
- I have learned I am like the Sahara desert, just one grain of sand in a massive desert. I just move with the wind and am a small part of a much bigger community.
Animals & Creatures We Saw in Thailand:
Animals & Creatures We Saw In Sri Lanka:
Animals & Creatures We Saw In Indonesia:
I can’t wait to share the next 100 days of adventures with you!