So, I know it’s been quite a while since I last posted here. But I refuse to give up on blogging our big trip! One of the goals I set on my birthday for the upcoming year was to finish writing about our trip, so little by little I will keep documenting. I’ve got several posts in the works to wrap up writing about our time in Vietnam, as well as a post about our 16-hours in Singapore. But first…One of my favorite things that I did as we traveled were these monthly summary posts, but I never did one for the final bit of our trip. So in the interest of completeness, here you go! If you want to look back, click here to see all of our monthly summary posts.
Our final month was not really a full month. I decided that I would count us as still traveling up until the day that we moved into our apartment back in Franklin, TN. So this summary and statistics encompasses about two and a half weeks, from October 10 through October 28 of 2016.
At the start of the month, we were wrapping up our time in Melbourne, Australia. We had lots of boring, adult-type tasks to accomplish during this time as we were preparing for our move back to the United States. (I actually have a to-do list in my journal from this time entitled “Grown Up Tasks.”) However, we also tried to make the most of our last few days in Melbourne by checking out the street art and laneways in the CBD, eating good food, and drinking more of Melbourne’s famous coffee.
From Melbourne, we hopped on a 3.5-hour flight to Cairns up in Queensland. I was the most excited about this part of our trip! We only had 3 days in Cairns, so we made the most of it by booking two different tours. (Bonus: We were able to book both tours with credit card points, so we paid absolutely nothing for them!) Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef was the highlight for sure.
From there, we began our circuitous journey home. (Our route was so crazy mainly because we had found an incredibly cheap (like under $400) flight home from Seoul to New York that allowed us to add a stopover in Beijing for free.) We flew from Cairns to Tokyo where we had a quick overnight layover at a hotel near the airport. The following morning we hopped back on a plane to head to Seoul, South Korea for two days. We loved Seoul, and we’re eager to go back and spend more time in South Korea.
The last major stop on our big adventure was two days in Beijing. I honestly never could get over the pollution. It was so much worse than I was even expecting. Still, it was a fascinating city, and walking on the Great Wall is an experience that will stick with me for a long time.
After one last loooong journey (Beijing–>New York–>DC–>Birmingham), we arrived home on October 20, 2016! We spent the next week catching up with family and friends. (Also, driving back and forth to Nashville in a day so I could get fingerprinted for work, dealing with a hospitalized grandparent, and packing.) Then on October 28, we moved into our brand new apartment in Franklin. I started back at my job a mere three days later.
- Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. This truly felt like a once in a lifetime kind of experience! (Although I would be thrilled to do it again and would love to take my future children to do it as well.) Looking down at the giant reef all around me, it honestly didn’t feel real. We saw lots of beautiful coral and tons of different types of fish as well! We had a lot of amazing experiences on our travels, but this one left me more in awe than almost any other.
- Unexpected upgrade. For our 14-hour flight from Beijing to JFK, we apparently did not have seats reserved in advance. That could have turned out really poorly with us having to sit separately for that super long flight. Instead we got a totally unexpected surprise. I guess all the Economy seats were full, so we got assigned to seats in Premium Economy. There was a package of various amenities (like a water bottle, slippers, etc.) waiting for us at our seats, we had several inches of extra legroom, and the seats also leaned back further and had a footrest. It was the most comfortable I’ve ever been on a plane! (And it could not have come at a better time since this was the longest flight of our entire trip.)
- Seeing our friends and family again! As wonderful as our travels were, we, of course, missed our friends and family tons while we were gone. It was so lovely to be reunited with each of them after six months away!
- Nearly missing our flight home. This was pretty stressful. We left our hotel in plenty of time and took the Beijing subway to a different station where we were supposed to switch to the train that goes to the airport. When we got to the station, we realized that the train tickets to the airport had to be paid for with cash, which we didn’t have enough of. No problem, we thought, because there are several ATMs in this train station…Well, it turned out to be a problem. Even though we had successfully withdrawn money from multiple ATMs over the previous two days in Beijing, for some reason, the ones at this train station were all denying the transaction. I ended up leaving Matthew down in the train station with our luggage while I ran around looking for an ATM that would work. There was a bus station next to the train station, and it had about 10 ATMs from 3 or 4 different banks. I went from machine to machine trying three different debit cards at each one and being denied over and over again as the time of our flight ticked nearer. I was becoming convinced that we would miss our flight and taking lots of deep breaths trying not to panic. I finally went back down to where Matthew was, at a loss for what to do next and knowing that if we didn’t get on the next train we would probably miss our flight. Suddenly, we realized that we had some US dollars with us and that if we could find an American they might trade us some Chinese Yuan for USD. We asked the first non-Chinese person we saw. I think he was British, but he was super nice and agreed to do it. (To be fair, I think we gave him $15 in exchange for about $5 worth of Yuan.) The long train ride was very stressful, but luckily we made it to the airport in time!
- A rough first week back in the country. Our first week back in the USA turned out to be a bit crazier than expected. It included my grandmother having to go to the emergency room after she stopped breathing during an outpatient medical procedure, and me getting flat tires on two different cars (my mother-in-law’s car AND my father-in-law’s car) in the same day.
- Saying goodbye to full-time travel. As happy as we were to be home and see our friends and family again, we also mourned the end of our trip. Very few people have the opportunity to travel full-time for six months, and we fully recognized how lucky we were.
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By the Numbers:
- Dates: October 10-October 28, 2016
- Continents: 3 – Oceania, Asia, North America
- Countries: 5 – Australia, Japan (briefly), South Korea, China, United States
- Cities: 10 – Melbourne, Cairns, Port Douglas, and Cape Tribulation, Australia; Narita, Japan; Seoul, South Korea; Beijing, China; Birmingham, AL, Franklin, TN, and Nashville, TN USA
- Currencies: 5 – Australian dollar, Japanese yen, South Korean won, Chinese yuan, U.S. dollar
- Languages: 4 – English, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin
- Distance Traveled: 15,028 miles
- # of Flights: 7 (totaling 14,136 miles)
- # of Tour Buses: 2 (261 miles)
- # of Boats: 1 (70 miles)
- # of Cars: 1 + 1 moving truck (561 miles)
- # of Places We Slept: 8 (including 3 apartments, 2 hotels, 1 plane, and 2 family members’ houses)
- # of UNESCO World Heritage Sites Visited: 4 (Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, Great Barrier Reef, Wet Tropics of Queensland, The Great Wall)
- # of Palaces Visited: 2 (1 in Seoul and 1in Beijing)
- # of Steps We Took in 2 days in Beijing: 45,743
- # of Different Types of Animals Seen in Australia: 7+ (sharks, moray eels, crocodiles, kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, cassowaries + countless varieties of fish and coral)
- # of Family Members Who Greeted Us at the Airport: 6
- # of Flat Tires: 2 (On the same day in two different cars…)