Saturday, November 12, 2016

103 Things - 47.6% Update

Once upon a time, I lived in Seattle.  And once upon a time I left Seattle to move to Sydney.  It was a big move, and one of the main drivers for it was that I’d get more vacation time living in another country.  While I had travelled a bit before, I hadn’t had the opportunity to travel nearly as much as I wanted to.  I started thinking and thought it would be a good idea to compile a list of things I’d like to do around the world.  It wasn’t a bucket list per se, but it was sort of similar.  My plan was to accomplish the 100 things on the list before I turn 40.  Or maybe when I’m 40.  Either way.  It took me a while to research and compile the actual list, and during that time, I crossed off 3 of the things I added.  I wanted to start from an even 100 things undone, so I added 3 more to the list for a grand total of 103 Things.  I posted the list to my blog about a year later when I finally finished putting it together.  You can read more here:

So, the question is, particularly after this big year of travel, how are my 103 Things tracking?  I’m pleased to report that I’m just about half way there – 49 things checked off the list since leaving Seattle nearly 7 years ago (47.6%).  That puts me only slightly behind the rate I’d need to be going to actually finish all this off before 40.  Unfortunately, the half that remains includes some of the more difficult ones to check off, such as things in expensive Antarctica, far away Greenland, not-so-touristy Gabon, and recently war-torn Mali.  Political situations can change rapidly in countries, and hopefully I’ll make enough money one day to take the expensive trips.  I’ll get there – whether by 40 or not.

One important thing to note is that my travel plans aren’t dictated by this list.  While many of my trips have centered around checking off one or more of these items, that’s more because those things were ones that I’ve always wanted to do or places I’ve wanted to go.  I’ve taken plenty of trips that didn’t involve any of my 103 Things, including many domestic trips in Australia and even Myanmar in 2014.  On my gap year, I visited Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Rodrigues, Nepal, Malaysia, Cuba, Ecuador, Paraguay, Easter Island, and plenty more places which aren’t on the list.  People have asked me in the past “Why isn’t ___ on your list?”  The answer:  my list is set in *stone but my travel plans aren’t.  (*stone = spreadsheet)

Here’s a little recap of my 103 Things and a few statistics just for fun!

103 Things by Continent:
-  Europe:  26 (25.2%);  4 completed (15.4% of Europe;  8.2% of total done)
-  North America:  23 (22.3%);  10 completed (43.5% of N. America;  20.4% of total done)
-  Asia:  21 (20.4%);  16 completed (76.2% of Asia;  32.7% of total done)
-  Oceania:  11 (10.7%);  9 completed (81.8% of Oceania;  18.4% of total done)
-  Africa:  11 (10.7%);  5 completed (45.5% of Africa;  10.2% of total done)
-  South America:  10 (9.7%);  5 completed (50.0% of S. America;  10.2% of total done)
-  Antarctica:  1 (1.0%);  0 completed (0%)

103 Things by Regions (mostly defined by the UN Geoscheme):
-  Northern America:  13 total;  5 done
-  Northern Europe:  12 total;  4 done
-  South America:  10 total;  5 done
-  Australasia:  9 total;  all 9 done – yay!
-  Eastern Asia:  7 total;  all 7 done – yay!
-  Southeastern Asia:  7 total;  6 done
-  Southern Europe:  7 total;  0 done
-  Caribbean:  6 total;  1 done
-  Western Asia:  5 total;  1 done
-  Central America:  4 total;  all 4 done – yay!
-  Eastern Europe:  4 total;  1 done
-  Southern Africa:  3 total;  all 3 done – yay!
-  Eastern Africa:  3 total;  2 done
-  Western Europe:  3 total;  0 done
-  Northern Africa:  2 total;  0 done
-  Western Africa:  2 total;  0 done
-  Southern Asia:  1 total;  all 1 done – yay!
-  Central Africa:  1 total;  0 done
-  Central Asia:  1 total;  0 done
-  Melanesia:  1 total;  0 done
-  Polynesia:  1 total;  0 done
-  Antarctica:  1 total;  0 done
-  Micronesia:  0 total;  all 0 done - boo!

I am severely kicking myself for not ensuring that my 103 Things covered every region of the world.  I’m so sorry, Micronesia.  I promise I’ll visit you anyway one day!  Guam has all those studly military men so obviously I want to go there.

Obligatory Map:
Of course I made a map of my 103 Things and everything is colour coded and numbered by order completed.  Click to enlarge.

49 Things Completed (in order of completion):
2009 (2 done):
78. USA – Grand Canyon (AZ)
81. USA – Paula Deen’s Restaurant (Savannah, GA)

2010 (1 done):
88. AUSTRALIA – Sydney Opera House (NSW)

2011 (7 done):
89. AUSTRALIA – Tree Top Walk (Walpole, WA)
83. AUSTRALIA – Barossa Valley Wineries (SA)
86. AUSTRALIA – Penguin Parade (Phillip Island, VIC)
90. AUSTRALIA – Uluru (NT)
15. CHINA – Great Wall of China
16. HONG KONG – Star Ferry to Kowloon
23. MACAU – Casino Lisboa

2012 (4 done):
87. AUSTRALIA – Port Arthur Historic Site (TAS)
62. CANADA – Beaudry Street Metro Station (Montreal, QC)
63. CANADA – CN Tower (Toronto, ON)
74. USA – Ancona Pizzeria (Valley Stream, NY)

2013 (7 done):
85. AUSTRALIA – Parliament House (Canberra, ACT)
84. AUSTRALIA – Great Barrier Reef (QLD)
42. ESTONIA – Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Tallinn)
44. FINLAND – Temppeliaukio Rock Church (Helsinki)
27. RUSSIA – Trans-Siberian Railway
24. *MONGOLIA – Museum of Natural History (Ulaanbaatar)
29. SOUTH KOREA – Demilitarized Zone

2014 (1 done):
91. NEW ZEALAND – Rotorua

2015 (14 done):
18. INDONESIA – Uluwatu Temple (Bali)
28. SINGAPORE – Singapore Zoo Night Safari
11. ZAMBIA – Victoria Falls
1. BOTSWANA – Chobe National Park
6. NAMIBIA – Quivertree Forest
8. SOUTH AFRICA – Table Mountain (Cape Town)
5. MAURITIUS – Dodo Bird Exhibit at the National History Museum
32. UAE – Burj Khalifa (Dubai)
17. INDIA – Taj Mahal (Agra)
22. LAOS – Nam Song River Tubing (Vang Vieng)
33. VIETNAM – Halong Bay
31. THAILAND – Full Moon Party (Ko Pha-Ngan)
14. CAMBODIA – Angkor Wat
30. TAIWAN – National Palace Museum (Taipei)

2016 (13 done):
20. JAPAN – Todai-Ji Buddhist Temple Complex (Nara)
40. ENGLAND – Harrod’s Food Hall (London)
67. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Catedral Primada de America
69. MEXICO – Teotihuacan
65. COSTA RICA – Monteverde Cloud Forest Zip Line
70. NICARAGUA – Isla de Ometepe
71. PANAMA – Panama Canal Locks
100. COLOMBIA – Museo de Oro (Bogota)
103. URUGUAY – Plaza Independencia (Montevideo)
94. ARGENTINA – Cementerio de la Recoleta (Buenos Aires)
99. CHILE – La Piojera (Santigo)
102. PERU – Machu Picchu
41. ENGLAND – Lloyd’s of London Building

*The worst thing ever: sometime in between booking my trip and arriving in Mongolia, the Natural History Museum was condemned.  That didn’t stop me:  I walked straight inside, got yelled at in Mongolian, and promptly left.  But I went inside and that’s the key thing, though I didn’t quite see the dinosaur exhibit that I really wanted to see there.  I’ll probably go back one day.  Until then, I’m counting it.

54 Things Still To-Do:
2. EGYPT – Pyramids at Giza
3. GABON – Loango National Park
4. MALI – Great Mosque of Djenne
7. SENEGAL – House of Slaves Museum (Dakar)
9. TANZANIA – Stone Town (Zanzibar)
10. TUNISIA – Ruins of Carthage
12. ANTARCTICA – The Antarctic Peninsula
13. ARMENIA – Tsitsernakaberd Memorial (Yerevan)
19. ISRAEL – Yad Vashem (Jerusalem)
21. KAZAKHSTAN – Bayterek (Astana)
25. PHILIPPINES – White Beach (Boracay)
26. QATAR – Al-Corniche Promenade (Doha)
34. ANDORRA – Caldea Spa
35. BELARUS – Town of Pruzhany
36. BOSNIA – Mostar Bridge
37. CROATIA – Diocletian’s Palace (Split)
38. CROATIA – Dubrovnik City Walls
39. DENMARK – Carlsberg Brewery (Copenhagen)
43. FAROE ISLANDS – Vestmanna Bird Cliffs
45. FRANCE – Palace of Versailles
46. GERMANY – Neuschwanstein Castle
47. ICELAND – Blue Lagoon
48. IRELAND – Blarney Stone
49. ITALY – Grand Canal (Venice)
50. NORWAY – Mack Brewery (Tromso)
51. NORWAY – Viking Museum (Oslo)
52. POLAND – Auschwitz
53. ROMANIA – Bran Castle
54. SCOTLAND – Loch Ness
55. SLOVENIA – Lake Bled
56. SPAIN – Guggenheim (Bilbao)
57. SWEDEN – Volvo Museum (Goteborg)
58. SWITZERLAND – Matterhorn
59. TURKEY – Hagia Sophia (Istanbul)
60. BAHAMAS – Atlantis Paradise Island Resort
61. BARBADOS – Andromeda Botanical Gardens
64. CANADA – West Edmonton Wall (Edmonton, AB)
66. CURACAO – Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue
68. GREENLAND – Air Greenland Helicopter Ride
72. ST LUCIA – Castries Public Market
73. ST MAARTEN – Princess Juliana International Airport
75. USA – Biltmore Estate (Asheville, NC)
76. USA – Carlsbad Caverns (NM)
77. USA – Gateway Arch (St Louis, MO)
79. USA – Grand Ole Opry House (Nashville, TN)
80. USA – Hot Air Balloon Ride (Albuquerque, NM)
82. USA – Wall Drug (SD)
92. USA – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
93. VANUATU – Mt Yasur Volcano
95. ARGENTINA – Perito Moreno Glacier
96. BOLIVIA – Salar de Uyuni
97. BRAZIL – Avenida Paulista (Sao Paulo)
98. BRAZIL – Christ the Redeemer (Rio de Janeiro)
101. FALKLAND ISLANDS – Falkland Islands Museum (Stanley)

Who wants to come along?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Full Year Recap: Final Lists & Maps

I made up a few more random lists but couldn’t really fit them into any of the other blogs.  These are the last lists of the gap year… noooo!

Best Beaches:
1.  Pointe Coton (Rodrigues, Mauritius; Indian Ocean):  Every beach on Rodrigues seemed abandoned.  I went to several beaches where I was the only person there… crazy.  The beach at Pointe Coton did have a couple and a family of three further down the beach, but I barely noticed them since they were quite far away.  The sand was soft and the water was gorgeous.  It was my favourite of the trip!
2.  An Bang (Hoi An, Vietnam; South China Sea):  The Vietnamese beaches are surprisingly gorgeous.  My friends and I sat down on some lounge chairs and had waiters to attend to our food and drink desires.
3.  Anakena (Easter Island, Chile; Pacific Ocean):  The water was cold but swimming with the moai behind me on the beach was pretty frickin’ fantastic.
4.  Cayo Jutias (near Viñales, Cuba; Gulf of Mexico):  This gorgeous semi-island has a stunning strip of white sand along its northern edge.  The water was fairly temperate and comfortable if I recall correctly.
5.  Playa Negra (Floreana Island, Galapagos, Ecuador; Pacific Ocean):  This was the first time I’d swam off a black sand beach.  Because of the dark sand, the water wasn’t translucent like at other beaches, which gave it a bit of a creepy feeling, but the sunsets were gorgeous so that brings it back on the list.

Best Internet:
1.  Taiwan:  Wherever I went, the internet just seemed to be instantaneous.  I’m sure it’s partly because I had been in Africa and Asia for so long and became accustomed to slow, but it was such a treat.
2.  Japan:  Japan actually seemed slower than Taiwan, I think mainly because many of my Airbnb accommodations had these portable wifi connections which were very popular there.
3.  New York:  My friends in New York seemed to have much faster wifi than other parts of the US.  Maybe it’s because Manhattan gets special treatment or because my friends are rich.  Either way, it was good.

Worst Internet:
1.  Lesotho and Swaziland:  These are the only two countries where I did not have access to the internet.
2.  Cuba:  I was actually surprised that I could get access to the internet in Cuba, but it was a process.  It’s super rare that a home or accommodation will have internet access so you have to buy an internet card which gets you an hour of internet time.  Then you can sit in the main plaza of whatever town/city you’re in and there’s usually one wifi hotspot which everyone is connected to, so it’s not super fast.  I think the internet cards cost about $3 for the hour if I recall correctly.  That’s a reasonable price for tourists, but keep in mind that the average wage in Cuba is $19 per month.  One hour of internet time can take the place of quite a few meals.  Plus, you have to have an internet capable device, which most people wouldn’t have.
3.  United Arab Emirates:  Internet wasn’t slow, but it was pretty terrible with respect to censorship.  They are watching everything and it’s really unnerving.  Facebook and other social media sites are monitored for profanity, and if they see something they don’t like, they take it down and warn you.  Anything gay-related is blocked.  And Wikipedia appeared to be blocked as well (WTF?)  It’s not really a free place by any definition, despite what that guy at the cultural centre tried to tell me.

Countries I was saddest to leave:
1.  Colombia:  I had such a nice time here and met some amazing people.  I was all pouty at the airport when I had to go and I wish I had the chance to stay a bit longer and explore more.
2.  Taiwan:  Did I mention that I love Taiwan?  Of course I was sad to go, especially because my short time in Taipei just wasn’t sufficient.
3.  Argentina:  Taiwan was my favourite country, but Buenos Aires was definitely my favourite city.  It was another reluctant trip to the airport for me…
4.  South Africa:  I had such a nice time in Africa, and the camping part wasn’t nearly as rough as I was expecting.  Leaving the continent and saying goodbye to my travel buddy was a sad morning for me, especially when I realized I’d be heading to Mauritius with no tour, no friends, and no hostel scene to meet other travellers in.
5.  Japan:  I had such a nice stay with my friend Elcid, and everything about the country was beautiful.  The hour-long train journey to the airport and the prospect of 30+ hour journey to my destination made me very sad to go.
6.  Costa Rica:  Costa Rica was fabulous and with a great travel buddy with me for nearly all of it, I was so sad to see my time in the country end.

Countries I was happiest to leave:
1.  Thailand:  After experiencing the dark side of Thailand on Koh Phagnan, I was ready to GTFO.
2.  United Arab Emirates:  There’s just something unnerving about being in the UAE.  It’s actually a really safe country but it just feels so unsafe in so many ways.
3.  Cambodia:  I loved Cambodia.  I really did.  But it was so fucking hot – especially after being in the heat of the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia for around 11 weeks.  I was ready to get to Taiwan where the climate was to be more tolerable.
4.  India:  It’s dirty, loud, and everybody is out to get you.  Get me out! 
5.  Cuba:  Creature comforts aren’t a thing in Cuba.  In fact, many things aren’t a thing in Cuba.  I was definitely ready for some civilization.

That’s a wrap, folks.  I hope you’ve enjoyed following me on this trip around the world!  Here are a few more maps to see me out.  Click to enlarge any map!

Here are the passport stamps I’ve received.  I’ve never received a stamp for the same country in two different passports.  The US no longer stamps US passports so my newer US passport doesn’t contain a stamp from its home country.  Similarly, Australia and New Zealand don’t stamp Aussie passports – it’s all automated and I can use the self-service machine.

Here are the countries where I’ve driven – both cars and motorbikes.

When I couldn’t drive, here’s a map of the countries where I’ve used Uber.  I was surprised at just how many countries they are actually in!

Thirsty?  Here’s a map of where I’ve had Starbucks.

Finally, here’s a map of the asshole countries that have given me food poisoning.  I’m not talking about a little upset tummy – I mean a proper case of food poisoning including fever, terrible bathroom episodes, and – usually – vomiting.  The list is actually a bit surprising and makes me feel like my stomach is stronger than I think it is.