Top moments from our 2017 RTW trip

As the year wraps up, my photo editing from our incredible round the world trip is far from over and my blog is even further behind, but I am enjoying these last few days thinking about all the truly amazing experiences we had this year. Until I can catch up, here are some of my favorite photos and memories from this year!

Breathtaking scenery:

Patagonia’s incredible rough terrain probably wins out for 2017. From the Perito Moreno Glacier to Torres del Paine to the jagged mountains and ice fields surrounding El Chalten, we were constantly awestruck by the power and beauty of nature. Rising at 4:30am and eating pão de queijo in the dark while waiting for Cerro Torre to light up in a brilliant, fiery blaze for a minute or two was definitely a highlight.

It was hard to compare nature’s work to the exquisite Japanese architecture we saw later on, the ancient and crumbling ruins in Bagan and Siem Reap, the unending Burmese golden temples and structures, the massive Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, or the true wonder of finally beholding the Taj Mahal in the first light of dawn.

Nor could we forget the amazing underwater landscapes from the Philippines or Maldives especially, the fantastic crystal clear water and the whitest sand, endless beaches on the Abel Tasman trail, or the sensational landscapes surrounding us in Southern Africa, from Sossusvlei in Namibia to sunset bush walks in Botswana and sweeping canyons in South Africa that we later compared with American canyons on our trip to the Grand Canyon and beyond.

Moments with Kay:
Who could forget all the nights we spent this year camping under the stars, huddled in our sleeping bags to stay warm? Or the countless trails we hiked and climbed until we reached the top. All the hours I spent looking at Kay’s backside from the trail, or as a little speck when he was much further ahead. The moment that still makes me laugh the most is thinking about him zip-lining on the Huemul Circuit with too much weight for the low line and getting soaked in freezing water when he inevitably got stuck in the middle.

After a year apart in 2016, I truly loved every minute with Kay while traveling. I couldn’t soak up or get enough of this boy, and I gladly followed him up mountains and down to 40m where the sharks roam. Thanks for all the time you spent driving on the left side of the road and carrying far more camping gear than I could. I’m still not sure how I survived a whole month in that rented truck camper in Southern Africa with you. That’s commitment.

Culture overload:
Thirty countries and thirty cultures, and for the first time ever, Kay and I were both truly in culture shock when we landed in Tokyo, unable to do more than stare at the bright lights, flashing ads, and wander around slowly listening to the multitude of sounds.

One of my favorite things about meeting locals everywhere was having someone explain different customs and traditions in their country. Whether it was learning how to pray at a Japanese temple or get your fortune told, that the thanaka in Myanmar that we originally thought was religious was really a cosmetic and SPF protection made out of tree bark, or listening to our Swazi guide regale us with stories of how rhinoceros poop is used as an eco and budget friendly floor sealant in Swaziland, there was always something to learn.

The hard part is not the language barrier. You find ways to communicate with people from all sorts of backgrounds and we found generous, welcoming people in every country. The hard part is seeing the disparity of wealth and education. It was difficult to see all the trash and landfills lining the beaches and towns in the Philippines and even the pristine Maldives, but harder yet was India, where you know there are no jobs for the homeless that line the streets, with no access to even toilets. Guilt plagues you when you see others with so little, whether it was the child monks in Myanmar sent to the monastery because their parents couldn’t afford to feed them or the little children in Dehli who would knock on our car windows and ask for food. It made us happy to help those we could, but sad for the many many others.

Animal encounters:
From diving to safaris and jungle walks, this was a year for animals. Highlights in the underwater world were thresher sharks at 5am in Malapascua, a whale shark in Thailand, the sardine ball in Moalboal, jackfish schools in El Nido, manta ray, flock of eagle ray, stingrays, cuttlefish (which I LOVE), electric clams, morays of all sizes and shapes, the friendliest trumpet fish you ever met, googly-eyed puffer fish, baby sharks swimming at shore, and my old favorite, clownfish.

We seemed to see baby fish and animals everywhere! I couldn’t get over the sweet baby kittens and puppies in Myanmar, the baby sea lions in New Zealand, the troublesome weka birds that tried to steal my toiletries and eat my camp meals, and the amazing orangutans we spotted up-close on our jungle walks in North Sumatra.

Our safari time in South Africa was the icing on the cake. Baby elephants, a 1 month old baby giraffe, baby zebras, a 2 month old baby rhino, baby hyenas… babies everywhere! And countless incredible sightings, including some elusive lions that walked right in front of our car as I hastily rolled my window up. Hippos, elephants, wildebeest, black and white rhinos, water buffalo, we were only missing leopards from the big 5, which I suppose means we need to go back some day.

Fantastic food:Food. Possibly my favorite part of the whole trip, even while dealing with celiac disease and language barriers as I communicated what was safe for me to eat. We started out with fantastic Brazilian food, from fresh fruits to pão de queijo and mouthwatering churassco meat, served fresh from the family grill. Endless caipirinhas, obviously.

In Argentina and Chile, we drank Malbec every single night and had huge steaks any time we were in town after hiking. Highlights were when we bought a bag of 40 pão de queijos and took them hiking and on our 24h bus ride. Much better than that baby rice food with copious amounts of dolce de leche.  And who could forget drinking whiskey on 1000yr old glacier ice that Kay fished out of the lake?

In New Zealand we found amazing bio vegan wine and the best GF sliced bread I’ve ever had, with a yummy poppyseed peanut butter. Japan provided endless sushi trains and while it was one of the most difficult countries to eat as a celiac, it had some of the best food, from GF ramen noodles and my last GF beer for months, to our Kobe and Waygu beef night in Kobe. Let’s not forget the day it rained and we went on a sake brewery tour.

Myanmar held the best food in South East Asia for us, with fermented green tea salad being our favorite. Thailand had the best, sweetest coconuts, India had the richest curries, Dubai had amazing Lebanese. Egg coffee from Vietnam was interesting, but it was pho that stole my heart. Ethiopia has incredibly delicious food, including their GF teff flatbread. Local Maldivian food is actually way better than everything they serve in a 5-star hotel, and that includes the unlimited drinks.

Bad decisions included buying (and eating) multiple cans of chakalaka in South Africa, that chili crab in the Philippines that gave me horrible food poisoning, and that stupid idea I had that glutinous rice donuts from Dunkin Donuts in South Korea would somehow actually be GF. (They were not…)

So, that’s 2017 in a wrap. And if I’ll be honest, after writing about all that delicious food, I need to go have dinner! Happy New Year folks!