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A year abroad: my international adventure

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by binary visions, Jan 7, 2017.

  1. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Last December, Jenn graduated with her doctorate, I quit my job, and we packed up the belongings that we didn't give to charity into a storage unit. We spent the holidays with family, and then boarded a one-way flight to New Zealand with a couple backpacks, a budget, and a promise to our families that we'd be back to celebrate the following Christmas.



    We had only a loose itinerary: a month in New Zealand, two months in Australia, and then heading to Thailand to explore Asia. Eventually, we hoped to travel up through Russia and into Europe, but honestly, neither of us had ever done anything like this before and we had no idea if how long our budget would last or if we'd quickly get tired of living our of our backpacks and long for some quiet time back home.

    We're home now, and kept a diligent blog of our travels as we went. If you like to read, feel free to pile through it, but I thought I'd distill some of it over the next few weeks into a thread so anyone who's interested can see some highlights!

    https://splendorthroughtheglass.com/
     
    #1 -   Jan 7, 2017
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  2. boostindoubles

    boostindoubles Nacho Libre

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    I see you have travelled much. Seim Reap is a cool place to visit. What place are you saying, gotta get back?
     
    #2 -   Jan 7, 2017
  3. Dirtrider

    Dirtrider Monkey

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    Awesome. Just started reading
     
    #3 -   Jan 7, 2017
  4. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    New Zealand

    We started off arriving in Christchurch, NZ and renting a camper van for 28 days to explore. It was a glorious 50 square feet of living space, containing a small sink, refrigerator, gas stove and a bed, where we hoped we wouldn't kill each other after being trapped together 24/7.



    Our jouney through New Zealand was spectacular. It's a pretty amazing place for hikers: tons of trails, well-kept infrastructure, and campgrounds around every corner. Clearly New Zealand understands where their tourist dollars come from, because we encountered pit toilets in campgrounds that were spotlessly clean and even smelled good. It was absurd.

    Mt. Cook looming over Lake Pukaki:



    Hooker Lake along the Hooker Valley trek, with Mt. Cook in the distance:



    The Moeraki Peninsula was beautiful, where we were treated to a glimpse of the world's rarest penguin, the yellow-eyed penguin, nested with babies. We snuck around, quietly snapping photos with our telephoto lens, so as not to perturb the endangered birds.





    The peninsula is also known for the Moeraki Boulders, a series of spherical rocks that are actually solidified sediment from 60 million year-old sea beds.



    We also spent some time on Shag Point, and got to watch rafts of tiny blue penguins come ashore at night to their nesting sites:



     
    #4 -   Jan 7, 2017
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  5. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    I'd go back to a ton of places, but to narrow it down to a few... I was taken aback by how incredible Mongolia was and would love to explore more of that amazing country. Lord Howe Island off the coast of Australia was also a spectacular place where I would happily live. I also found the Isle of Skye in Scotland to be breathtaking.

    I'd happily volunteer at Elephant Nature Park in Thailand for a year... hike in New Zealand for a year... :monkeydance:
     
    #5 -   Jan 7, 2017
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  6. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    We spent a lot of time wandering the coastline of New Zealand, of course. Nugget Point lighthouse overlooks huge cliffs and craggy rocks jutting up out of blue-green waters.





    Of course, we did a lot of hiking. We didn't do any of the multi-day hikes, but got in plenty of epic views, like doing the first 10.5 miles of the Kepler Track, for an exhausting day of 21 miles and over 4,000 feet of total elevation gain.



    Or the steep Roy's Peak Track which gave us another 4,200+ feet of gain on less than 5 miles of ascent.



    Ben Lomond rewarded us with some amazing views as well, but we earned them on nearly 5,000 feet of elevation gain over the 10 mile out-and-back.

     
    #6 -   Jan 7, 2017
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  7. rideit

    rideit Bob the Builder

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    How did you do your admin duties on here on the road?
     
    #7 -   Jan 7, 2017
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  8. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Google Fi provided me smartphone connectivity in almost every country we visited, and we had Wi-Fi in many places as well. We traveled with a laptop for editing photos and getting online.
     
    #8 -   Jan 7, 2017
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  9. AngryMetalsmith

    AngryMetalsmith Business is good, thanks for asking

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    Very impressive indeed.
     
    #9 -   Jan 7, 2017
  10. I Are Baboon

    I Are Baboon Run, Forrest, Run!

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    Good stuff! I'll definitely be taking a look at that blog. Not right now though because football is on. :monkey:

    Welcome back to RM. I kept the Russian hackers out. You're welcome.
     
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  11. jdcamb

    jdcamb Tool Time!

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    I see that you skipped Portugal. Cool stuff....
     
    #11 -   Jan 7, 2017
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  12. jimmydean

    jimmydean The Official Meat of Ridemonkey

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    :clapping:

    Wow, nice work. Nice work indeed.
     
  13. DaveW

    DaveW Space Monkey

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    I see you found my fave local bar when you passed through Wellington.
    Hashigo's a great bar and has the best pies!
     
  14. JohnE

    JohnE filthy rascist

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    Definitely the most worthwhile thing I have read here so far...will stumble through the rest of it eventually. First I must cure myself of my envy. Well done BV and Mrs!
     
  15. Pesqueeb

    Pesqueeb bicycle in airplane hangar

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    Awesome thread is awesome, but somehow i feel like you have nobody but yourself to blame for this:
     
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  16. Serial Midget

    Serial Midget Al Bundy

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    You and your wife have been very fortunate, nice. :thumb:
     
  17. Nick

    Nick My name is Nick

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  18. Nick

    Nick My name is Nick

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    Covered.

    This should stickied for a while, IMO.
     
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  19. mandown

    mandown Poopdeck Repost

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    A dozen snarky responses in my head, but really a genuine statement of congratulations is the only thing that's fitting. Bravo.
     
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  20. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    In addition to hiking a lot, we explored a lot of the other things that New Zealand has to offer.

    We each took a ride in a WWII "Tigermoth" biplane, which was pretty awesome. After getting into the air and watching the beautiful scenery float by, we did some aerobatics, including a loop-the-loop over the lake.





    We explored some of the local alcoholic offerings, too. New Zealand is home to the Central Otago wine valley, the Nelson hop region, and plenty of small distillers. The wines were mostly unremarkable, but the beers were outstanding and Liquid Alchemy (a small gin distillery in Nelson where they make several varieties with local hops) was a pretty amazing little shop.







    Before heading to the North Island, we stopped at Abel Tasman, a really gorgeous national park along the South Island's northern shore. We didn't really know much about the park prior to heading there, just a strong recommendation from the guy who rented us our camper van, but we ended up really loving it there. It was peaceful and beautiful, with colorful starfish filling every beach and birds everywhere.

    Our hike on the Abel Tasman Coast Track proved to be awesome, a 17-mile tramp over relatively flat terrain that wound along a beautiful coastline. We ended at Te Pukatea, an isolated, peaceful, crescent shaped beach washed by green waters and brilliant sunshine.









    Eventually, we crossed over to the North Island on the Cook Strait. There we explored Bushy Park, a wonderful, 243-acre bird sanctuary that protects a number of endangered species. We showed up and met the owner, who promptly told us to park anywhere and since we were the only guests, he was going into town for the night, leaving us alone in the sanctuary for the night.



    Of course, we were hardly done hiking so we tackled the beautiful Tongariro Alpine Crossing. We hiked through the shadow of Mt. Doom (actually Mount Ngauruhoe), and past the vivid Emerald Lakes.





    Further north

    Before leaving New Zealand, we headed far north to Urupukapuka island, where we had virtually the entire island to ourselves, as the rest of our boat seemed content to sit on the landing beach and drink at the beachside bar. We did a circuit of the entire island and saw maybe 2 people during the entire walk.







    NEXT UP: AUSTRALIA
     
    #20 -   Jan 8, 2017
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  21. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    P.S. thanks for the positive comments, guys. It was amazing and I'm incredibly lucky to have experienced such an amazing year.

    We didn't eat there, but it was an awesome little bar - we loved it.
     
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  22. DaveW

    DaveW Space Monkey

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    Should have given me a heads up, could have given you a heap of tips on places to go...... Oh and Liquid Alchemy are a couple of my mates, I'll pass on your review I think they'll love it. :)
     
  23. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Jurgen was awesome, we must have spent almost three hours there. He showed me his whole setup, opened up a special cask that he said he had been saving (his wife said, in disbelief, "you opened that one??"), took me in the back and showed me where he orders his distilling parts, pulled out some samples from the stuff he was distilling... it was amazing. We got sample after sample after sample. I think he just liked that we were interested and that I wanted to chat about gear.

    I only wish we weren't traveling and could have found space for more of the gin than the couple little bottles we walked away with. We sent some back home and our family back in the US loved their gin as well.
     
    #23 -   Jan 8, 2017
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  24. Westy

    Westy the teste

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    Misread the title. First thought BV spent a year wearing Jen's skinsuit. Looks like he just dragged it around the world for a year.

    Should still be an interesting read, look forward to doing so when I get the chance.
     
  25. mandown

    mandown Poopdeck Repost

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    Binary Bill
     
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  26. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Australia

    We started off in Cairns, where we spent some time poking through the downtown, enjoying the raucous, energetic trees full of flying foxes. The locals hate them, since they poop all over everything, but we found them quite charming and fun to watch. There are incredible numbers of these megabats, and the spectacle of them flying as the twilight comes in is something that you don't quickly forget.







    Once we left Cairns, we headed south to Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands. The Whitsundays are iconic for their shimmering, soft white sands and swirling blue currents. We spent a few days exploring the islands, taking a boat ride out and walking the white beaches.





    We also took a ride in a seaplane, a fun experience that gave us an aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef, coming into a gentle touchdown on the famous Whitehaven Beach.





    When we returned from the Whitsundays to Cairns, we took a boat ride out to do our very first real SCUBA diving on the Great Barrier Reef. We had gotten our certification before leaving for our adventure, but our diving had been limited to our certification dives in a cold, murky flooded quarry. This was a little better. My GoPro didn't operate down below about 8', so I don't have any real footage of the dives, but the ocean life was incredible. Such a diversity.

     
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  27. Pesqueeb

    Pesqueeb bicycle in airplane hangar

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    GAH!!! :panic:

     
  28. rideit

    rideit Bob the Builder

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    SUSHI!
     
  29. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    :rofl:

    That's Jenn's desktop background on the laptop. She loved feeding the fish on Lord Howe Island.
     
  30. Adventurous

    Adventurous Starshine Bro

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    Bookmarked for later!
     
  31. SkaredShtles

    SkaredShtles I love NEWCASTLE and will ONLY drink NEWCASTLE!!!!

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    This may be the Winner of the Internet.

    But you went to NZ and didn't visit davew?

     
  32. jonKranked

    jonKranked Press Button, Receive Stupid

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    so BV, how's getting back to reality?
     
  33. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Yeah, I definitely failed at trying to visit monkeys. We had so many things we wanted to see that I think I just couldn't process adding another goal into our trip.

    Fuckin' sucks. Television is weird and I don't really like it. Groups of people are harder for me to interact with. The priorities in this country are fucked.

    BUT, if this is the tradeoff for getting a year traveling, I guess I'll take it :D
     
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  34. jonKranked

    jonKranked Press Button, Receive Stupid

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    do you have a job yet?
     
  35. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    We took a few days to explore around Cairns, so we headed up to the Daintree rainforest. We had hoped to see a Cassowary but, despite lots of driving and looking, we came up empty. Daintree was beautiful, though, lush, green and full of bugs.





    Another day, we went west to the Tablelands. Fig trees are a fixture in Australia, and two famous ones are in the Tablelands - the Curtain Fig and Cathedral Fig. While the Cathedral Fig is enormous, the Curtain Fig is pretty amazing - the tree collapsed under the weight of the figs, but was caught up on neighboring trees, allowing the figs to drape along the inclined trunk.

    The birdlife in the Tablelands was great, listening to the hooting of the Kookaburras and chittering of finches.








    One of our favorite places on the whole trip was Lord Howe Island. Lord Howe is a tiny island about 400 miles east of Sydney. Only 6 miles long, they have strict regulations on tourism - only 400 tourists are allowed on the island at any time, ensuring a pleasant experience no matter when you go.

    The island is breathtaking. Every corner is gorgeous, the water sparkles like a gemstone, and the whole population of the island is friendly and cheerful. The head chef at your restaurant is likely to also be your taxi driver home at the end of the evening. Most doors have no locks, and hotels don't give out keys because there is no crime.

    There is no cell phone coverage, and internet access is slow and expensive.





    The snorkeling on the island is fantastic, and being an isolated island, the birding is great as well. One of the rarest birds in the world, the Lord Howe Woodhen, is endemic to the island.









    Lord Howe was just incredible, a place I would happily retire to.
     
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  36. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Working on it - I'm currently awaiting a call back on an interview.
     
  37. jimmydean

    jimmydean The Official Meat of Ridemonkey

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    Seriously, this is so awesome to hear. I got sucked into adulting way to early in life and there are now things I know I won't get to do. You guys rock for doing this. The wife and I will be able to do a little more soon, but unless my lotto numbers come in, blowing a year just isn't possible.

    I'm not sure I could go back to office life after such an adventure. :panic:

    <edit> I mean blowing in the best sense of the word. :rofl:
     
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  38. kazlx

    kazlx Patches O'Houlihan

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    Everything is awesome. Wife and I did 10 days on just south NZ for our honeymoon, but felt like it was nowhere near enough time. Her boss at the time was a dick and that's all we could swing. I would love to go back. So much awesome in this thread.
     
  39. AngryMetalsmith

    AngryMetalsmith Business is good, thanks for asking

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    Are you back in Nor Cack ?
     
  40. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    The call I'm waiting for is where I used to work. Depending on what they're offering we may end up back there.