There is no way to put into one post all the things we learned on this trip but here are some of the things we discovered, figured out, were grateful to have brought/done, etc…

  1. “THE SYSTEM” – just use one. We started calling it “the system” early on. I essentially created a Google doc (viewable offline) that contained a section of ALL our flight info (times, confirmation #s, baggage allowance, etc.) and ALL our lodging info (addresses & phone numbers in the local language, check-in times, etc.) and ALL our rental car/booked activity info. We would delete them one at a time as we successfully boarded a flight or checked into a hotel but this was a GODSEND when it came to organization and ease of travel. Use whatever system you like but just have a system. Once our email started filling up with confirmations from hotels, Airbnbs and booking sites, and we knew searching thru email to find what we needed would NEVER work.
  2. Priority Pass lounge access was a lifesaver. We made sure to sign up for a travel rewards credit card before the trip that gave us free Priority Pass access and it really saved our lives multiple times – a 4 hour layover in Kiev and needing dinner…15 minutes to grab food in Zurich before our 12 hour flight back to the U.S. for Jon’s wedding…Not all airports had them but when they did, we were sure to be fed and hydrated before our flight. They always had fairly reliable WiFi, much needed liquids (water & caffeine options), and some kind of food to sustain us until the next stop. Not all the lounges wowed us but having that available at almost every airport saved us time, money and mostly stress and we’d recommend it to anyone doing this type of trip in the future.
  3. It is DIFFICULT to maintain a healthy lifestyle when traveling for so long. Whether it was the constant travel (too tired to workout), the lack of access to gyms or the simple desire to avoid missing out on experiences and good food (hello wine in France, noodle dishes all over Southeast Asia or pasta in Italy) … we came to a point where we just accepted that we would workout when we could, stay active, eat healthy when given good options and enjoy ourselves. Don’t get us wrong – we intentionally booked some of our stays at places with gyms (and we actually used them!) and we downloaded fitness apps to do at home workouts…but our normal level of exercise just wasn’t possible for us during this length of long term travel. Plenty of gym time once we’re home 🙂
  4. Don’t underestimate the importance of access to laundry. Trust me – spend the $8 and buy online travel laundry sheets on Amazon. At many of the places we stayed, we either had NO access to laundry or there was a really expensive laundry service – you want to pay almost $100 to do a basic bag of laundry? We sure didn’t. Even if you just need to wash a few pairs of underwear and socks in the sink, travel laundry sheets were a lifesaver for us. Also, going back to #1 (“the system”) – this was one of the things I made sure to note under each hotel – that way we knew how long we had between available laundry spots! If possible, try to intentionally book some hotels and Airbnbs that have laundry included or at the very least, a paid/coin-op facility on site. Thank me later.
  5. Packing smart is critical but it can get stressful when you’re tight on weight & space. BUT…you probably need a lot less than you think. We ended up sending home a lot of stuff with people that we didn’t need. Get bags with lots of compartments and bring packing cubes or vac sealed bags!!
  6. Travel how you WANT, not how you “should.” This is a mantra we came up with and kept coming back to…you’re in one country and everyone says you “should” visit a certain place, but you don’t want to…then DON’T. It’s ok! Have a week in one spot where you feel like you “should” keep eating all the local food but you’re *really* craving a pizza + Netflix? DO IT. You’ll enjoy your trip so much more if you do the things you WANT and avoid forcing yourself to see or do things that don’t appeal to you.
  7. GEAR – research it! This is almost impossible to get 100% right, even with good research. We Type A researched the hell out of almost everything we bought but when you’re IN it, traveling, the practical and the theoretical don’t always match up. We brought many things we had researched and then never used and then, in spite of our best research, certain things weren’t needed, became burdensome or didn’t last.
  8. Strategically plan (if possible) to have people bring things to you or take things home for you. We truly could not have made this trip (and our luggage space) work had we not done this. This included everything from getting more DayQuil we ran out of to sending home clothing items we were done with. Major shout outs to Christine (twice!!), Richard, Rachel, Bob – who smuggled some French champagne home for us!! – Michelle, Stef and Chantal.
  9. Try to avoid getting hangry. Just pack some protein bars and “restock” when you run low. You’ll thank us later. No one functions well when they’re hangry. Also don’t be shocked if protein bars (or something comparable) aren’t available everywhere – we assumed we could replenish in Nepal (hello Everest trekkers!) and we couldn’t find one damn protein bar in the entire country. Pick up stuff like trail mix, nuts, beef jerky, etc.
  10. Credit cards are pretty usable everywhere in the world – even places you don’t expect like India or Nepal. Get a credit card with no international transaction fees before you leave! Same with access to ATMs – don’t bring too much cash in U.S. dollars, instead, get a debit card with no ATM fees/refunded ATM fees (we use Schwab) and only get out what you need! The only countries we got money in advance at our bank were euros (because we spent so long in that area), Vietnamese dong and Nepalese rupees (because we read that the airport was nuts and only had 1 ATM).
  11. Cell access around the world was better than we expected. We use T-Mobile which has free international data and texting and had at least usable internet/phone access just about everywhere we went. Nepal was the only exception but there was still lots of Wifi available so it was manageable. China was the only obvious exception on everything even if T-Mobile said we had access. China was a dead zone for us communication wise.
  12. Don’t go anywhere expecting you’ll be able to easily find specific items…we couldn’t find Dayquil when we needed it and we hit a few stops in a row where we couldn’t find cough drops. We assumed in multiple places that we could find protein bars to “re-stock”…bottom line – if it’s crucial, bring it with you or buy it if and when you see it anywhere, even if you don’t need it right then. Eventually, we got better at planning for this and started stocking things like toiletries we preferred, contact lens solution, etc.
  13. Know the Visa rules for every country – we had to get visas for 5 countries and others had length of stay rules that we needed to be wary of…just research every country you’ll hit. China was our toughest visa to get. And if you’re taking a long trip, double check they haven’t added or changed requirements – New Zealand (our last stop) had added a new e-visa requirement a few months before we went and if we hadn’t double checked, we wouldn’t have been allowed in!!
  14. Expect to lose or destroy things. We lost or destroyed (among other things): blades for the drone, umbrellas at restaurants, converters, random clothing, socks, etc. If it’s CRITICAL to your trip and/or it’s your fave item, have one spot in your bags that it ALWAYS, ALWAYS goes and check that spot every single time you pack and are ready to leave that place!
  15. It’s worth the “hassle” of checking luggage. We started the trip with a plan to check nothing and each have a carry-on plus a backpack. That changed within the first 2 months of our trip when we realized things like full-size toiletries, avoiding back problems and flexibility of space and weight were important to our trip success. We realized that either way – checking or not checking a bag – would contain its own version of a hassle and asked ourselves which hassle would be worse…even at the end of our trip, we are so glad we went the way of checking bags. More often than not, it doesn’t really add time to your travels – traveling internationally, we had to check in at the counter for almost all flights just to get our ticket and check our travel documents so you might as well give them your heavy bags while you’re there 🙂

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