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Month 12 Roundup

August 18, 2014


Days on the road: 365
Number of beds: 14
Countries visited: Russia, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Turkey
Postcards sent: 10

month12_062014_housetolaos_0013Beautiful Mount Ushba, Svaneti, Georgia


Wow. It’s been a year since we left the US – our home, our cat, friends and family. Without hesitation – best.decision.ever. We would do it again in a heartbeat.

month12_080714_housetolaos_0019Sunset over Sarande, Albania

Looking back through our monthly roundup posts it’s amazing for us to realize how much we’ve seen, experienced, and learned – about others as well as ourselves. Our biggest concern at this stage is that there have been so many cool, funny, peculiar experiences in such a short amount of time that we will forget or they will start to blend together. So recently we made a resolution that whenever someone asks us about our preferred place/stressful incident/most valuable lesson, we would tell a different story every time.  Not because we are lying liars, but because its truly impossible to pick our favorite or most significant moments among such a vast pool of awesomeness. Luckily for us we also have quite a bit of looking back as we write up our blog posts and go through the pictures for each country – so excited for that!

month12_072814_housetolaos_0016Lunch spread in Budapest, Hungary

For this one year anniversary (!!!) of roundups, we thought we would do a review of some stats, and look back and introspect a bit.

month12_080314_housetolaos_0018Downtown Belgrade, Serbia

Raw data from the last 365 days:

We sent 68 postcards out to friends, family and a few strangers who signed up to our offer : )

We slept in 161 different beds, which brings us to an average of 2.28 days per bed. That’s a lot of new places to rest your head!

We’ve traveled by 19 different modes of transport: plane, train, metro, bus, 4×4, car, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle, pedicab, rickshaw, tuk tuk, tractor, slow boat, regular boat, speedboat, ferry, hydrofoil, and on foot. We’ve missed out on taking a helicopter (in Georgia) by a hair, the company in charge was switching to a new fleet of helicopters. To our great surprise we did not make any journeys on animals – no horses, donkeys, or camels for us. We did ride an elephant once as entertainment, and regret that decision.

month12_080214_housetolaos_0017Macedonian flag over Kale Castle, Skopje, Macedonia

We visited 18 countries. In most we spent several weeks to a month, some we breathed through. Here’s a list starting with a longest stay through the shortest: Thailand (2.5 months), Russia, Vietnam, China, Laos, India, Georgia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Japan, South Korea, Albania, Hungary, Mongolia, Serbia, Macedonia, Turkey (this one we will actually spend about 3.5 weeks, but its only been a day as of our 12 months’ anniversary), Slovakia (30 minutes – we walked over from Hungary to get a better view of the Ezsergom Cathedral).

month12_072714_housetolaos_0015We cheated by going to Slovakia to get a better view of a castle on Hungarian side.

Fun fact: At the height of their power, Mongolian warriors have made it to every single country we have with exception of Albania and Macedonia. We seriously think about this every time we come to a new country now — have the Mongols been here?!

month12_101513_housetolaos_0003Shibu Onsen in Japan is known for its hot springs. Some hotels leave eggs in a hot spring water to get them cooked, any person passing by can leave small change in a exchange for a freshly boiled egg.

Now as we mentioned, we plan to tell a lot of different stories about our best of, our most of and least best of, and Sergey will also give out as much advice and tips as anyone is willing to stand. Each time different — but all true. Since we don’t want to pick favorites,  we won’t go into our most spectacular or most stressful experiences here. Instead lets do a little introspection on the start and end of this trip.

month12_041614_housetolaos_0009Songkran celebrations in Savannakhet, Laos


How did the idea for RTW come about:

The original idea is to move far far away to a cool city where we can hang out, potentially work, and enjoy ourselves. The thinking about the move has started even before the renovation of; yet entire project set us back a year or so. We were set to move to Moscow, however, after a visit two years ago, where we found our friends working long hours, and prices being far from accessible for relaxed living, we ruled that option out. We wanted to move somewhere fun and not work, but hang out. I am not certain as to who came up with idea of long travel, but it took root and were excited to see it come to fruition.

month12_100413_housetolaos_0002Shop owner showing off freshly stripped eel in Busan, South Korea

Biggest worry before the RTW:

Well, I did not really have any worries, to be honest. Instead I wanted to take advantage of this unique opportunity to challenge myself beyond my comfort zone. Shoot with a fixed lens, talk to people without a local language, try foods that I could not pronounce. I strongly believe that comfort kills; it makes a person dull and less eager to change. The biggest worry was to see all these challenges come to life.

month12_052614_housetolaos_0010Freshly caught squid is drying in the sun of Hoi An beach, Vietnam

Biggest worry now, with end of RTW being on a horizon:

When you get out of the hamster wheel of daily grind, you realize how unnecessary the daily grind really is. Going to work for a steady paycheck, meeting with friends for dinner/drinks, running errands, going to work for a steady paycheck, repeat times 40 years. The short US vacations hardly allow for one to shed that circular mentality. Coming back to US mainland, I want to maintain our “wild” spirit and find ways to earn money without actively engaging in work, i.e. passive income. There is just so much more to life than daily grind, so many things to see and experience. I suppose I worry I will slump back into busy-bee mentality, complemented by bi-monthly paycheck.

month12_071514_housetolaos_0014Sergey eating cake with Polina on the shore of lake Onega, Petrozavodsk, Russia.

Another silly worry is not being able to get an entire fish at a restaurant, bones, head and everything. It is impossible to eat fish any other way, as it is no longer a fish but sterilized piece of meat. Once we were in Luang Prabang, a very westernized town in Laos, and we went to have dinner at a restaurant owned by a guy we met on the bus previous few days. When trying to order fish and inquiring about the way it’s prepared, the waiter excitedly smiled and assured us it is going to be a fillet and we shouldn’t worry about bones at all! We laughed and ordered burgers. But as a whole, I am concerned about the food and how it is sourced and priced in US. It will be a rude awakening for me.

What’s next destination most excited about after the RTW:

I kind of want to go back to South East Asia and stay there. South America excites me and I do want to travel and spend at least 6 months traveling around, but I would move to Vietnam in a heartbeat.

month12_020214_housetolaos_0007Local traffic is a collection of autorickshaws, cars, bicycles, elephants and pedestrians, Jaipur, India




How did the idea for RTW come about:

Actually it’s a bit of a nebulous thing. I remember talking to Sergey about the possibility taking a longer trip – like, wouldn’t it be cool? – a few years back. Then we got our cat in November 2011 and at the time I was absolutely certain that we would no longer consider any long term travel…how could we leave behind our beloved orange munchkin? [Turns out its not so hard if you own a residence and your tenants agree to take over as caretakers.]  Fast forward to Christmas 2012 and completion of our house renovation – we knew that we wanted to take a bit of a break from DC and live abroad for a bit. So we went about considering different options, maybe a transfer to my former company’s office in London, potentially a job elsewhere in Europe, or a move to Sergey’s old stomping grounds of Moscow. But none of these options materialized and at the same time we realized that between some savings and money from refinancing our house, we had a nice cushion that would allow us to not to work for a bit. So we just kind of came up with this idea. We didn’t really talk through it, or have to convince one another – it just happened. At least that’s how I remember it.

month12_121613_housetolaos_0006Overpriced hot-air balloons create a pleasant ambiance over the magnificent temples of Bagam, Myanmar

Biggest worry before the RTW:

I clearly remember being worried only about one thing. It was not being able to hack it, i.e. being homesick, being physically sick, just not having the spirit or the desire to continue with the trip after a month or something like that. If that would happened – I feared not just for failure but for disappointing Sergey. I supposed that he could have gone on without me, but he would still be so disappointed in me. One month into our trip, I totally knew that I could do this travel thing long term. We’ve both been down in spirit, and physically ill, but I don’t think either one of us seriously considered cutting our trip short.

month12_111413_housetolaos_0004Grandfather and his grandchild greeting us in a small village near Yangshou, China

What I didn’t worry about is either safety or finances. On the first count, safety just wasn’t one of those things that ever crossed my mind. Neither the physical everyday kind of thing nor from the serious illness or accident type. If it did, I might have been worried. As for finances – rough back of the envelope calculations, plus some research online figured to be enough so we went with it. The worst thing that would’ve happened is we would have run out of money (we still might) and then we would just come home…

month12_111913_housetolaos_0005Amazing attention to every minute detail make the Grand Palace of Bangkok, Thailand.

Biggest worry now, with end of RTW being on a horizon:

Incidentally, finances. Not seriously, but its one of those things where I will let a breath out once one of us finds a job. We’ve got a cushion for coming home, both via savings and ability to rent out extra bedrooms in our house.

Bigger worry is reintegration. I worry about being constantly alert at how much things cost in the US, how big the portions in the restaurants are, how wasteful the society is of finite resources, and how I am going to be the most annoying person to talk to if I don’t remember to keep my mouth shut about all of these thoughts. But seriously, you want me to pay how much for this goat cheese?! Also, I am kind of worried to feel left out of friends’ insider jokes about stuff they did over the past year while we’ve been gone.

month12_081514_housetolaos_0020Shoe cleaner is having a smoke break on a street of Istanbul, Turkey

What’s next destination most excited about after the RTW:

We didn’t get to go to South America on this trip, but I am super excited to explore the continent. Argentina in particular. But seriously every last country around the globe sounds pretty good as well.

month12_091613_housetolaos_0001Albino camel could care less about your presence in Mongolian steppe.

That’s it guys!

We are looking forward to our final month on the road before we return to the US. Once back stateside, we’ve actually got a bit of a travel plan hitting up no fewer than 8 big time cities in the USA. Maybe a few more. Depends on timing, funds, and other such factors. Stay tuned for those updates and let us know if you’ve got a couch for us to crash on!

month12_032714_housetolaos_0008Monk getting his beach on in Kep, Cambodia. 

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