In 2012 I set out to travel around to the world — visiting 6 continents and 24 countries between April 6 and July 17th. Below is a digitized version of the notebook I kept while traveling.
Total trip: 102 days in three parts — (1) USA Road Trip, (2) World Trip, (3) Europe Trip
### Part 1: USA Road Trip – 45 days, ~10,000 miles (204 hrs or 4.3 hrs traveling per day)
4.27 Portland, Seattle, Hwy 101, Astoria
This is the first entry in my new BBWT travel notebook. Why do I have a new notebook you ask? … Well, my van got broken into while we were at the Seattle Space Needle two days ago and they took both our bags, GPS, iPods, and computers. In my bag was my notebook, my passport, and other meaningful objects, such as the bullet from the Penn and Teller bullet trick. Fuck man. Dad just overnight shipped my birth certificate so I can go on Monday to the Seattle passport office to get my new passport expedited before I must leave for the overseas part of the trip that starts in just 19 days.
I still need to get a visa for China in about 10 days. Kind of nervous that something might get messed up… On with the story. We called the police and filed a report. Not expecting anything to come up. We ended up staying with a friend in Seattle that night and decided to drive down the coast of Washington yesterday. It was very pretty and I’m glad we got to do it considering the circumstances. We hit a pretty stressful snag at the end of the day. We drove out on this beach with the van to get some sunset pictures of the ocean and we got stuck in the sand. We were trying to dig ourselves out for over an hour before a guy in a truck drove by and pulled us out with a chain. After that, we were both tired and said screw Portland that night. We got a hotel just past the border in Oregon called Astoria. We will check out the area a bit later today. I guess I will go back and write a little bit about what we saw and did during the trip up to this point since all those entrees are lost along with the notebook. I had been writing an entry every three days, about 1-2 pages in length.
4.9 St. Louis, Denver, Colorado Springs
Start of the road trip out west. We left from home and drive 6 hours to St. Louis to stay with Chris and Julie. We had a great time as usual. It’s always good to visit with them. We set off early the next morning. We stayed with two of James’ friends in Denver both nights. We drove out to see the mountains and we reached 12,000 feet a new high elevation for me. The tallest peak in Colorado is around 14,000 feet. We explored downtown Denver that night. On our way to Denver (14-hour drive), we stopped off in KC to get lunch with one of James’ friends. We got five guys burgers just north of KC downtown. We continued to Denver and stayed for two nights. The next day we drove to Colorado Springs to visit a friend Britney. She took us to the old side of the city. I got to drink out of an active spring. It was a major people watching area. We played a bunch of games (skeeball, pinball) got some lunch, and we set off.
4.12 Durango, Great Sand Dunes NP, Four Corners, Mesa Verde, Grand Canyon
Next, we went to Great Sand Dunes NP. It was impressive and mind-blowing. The area was so isolated as well. The stars were awesome at night. The park was just completely open, you could just go wherever you wanted. We hiked for over an hour and made it nowhere near the top. We stayed the next night in a hostel in Durango which was cool. The next day we went to Mesa Verde NP. The drive into the park was half the fun.
The canyons there were what we thought was amazing, that is until we saw the Grand Canyon. I cannot emphasize this enough – The Grand Canyon is completely mind-blowing. The pictures and video do not capture the scale of it at all. An absolute must see in person. Before arriving at the Grand Canyon, we stopped off at the Four Corner so that we could technically be four places at once. We got caught in the middle of a sandstorm. James’ camera got part-way broken because of it; sand got trapped in between the lens and makes the pictures out of focus. For most of our drive, the road was completely sand covered. I had to follow GIS and hope I was still driving on a road.
4.15 Page, Zion NP, Bryce NP, Hoover Dam
Our next stop was in a town in northern Arizona called Page. There we got to see the third tallest concrete damn in the US – Glen Canyon. Then James and I randomly hiked up this large orange rock/hill to see the view from up there. Good decision, so beautiful. We then drove into southern Utah to see Bryce Canyon NP and Zion NP. It snowed 4 inches the morning we were set to visit Bryce Canyon, which was turned benefit as the snows rested atop the canyon piece making cool photos. We got to see Zion both during the day and night. In the park, you are essentially driving through a canyon and then along the bottom looking up at these high Canyon walls. Not to mention a mile-long tunnel through a mountain that was completed in the 1930’s! Next, we made our way to Vegas but first made a stop at Hoover Dam. The best part about the dam from my perspective is the art deco design all around. But given I love art deco, it easy to see why this was my favorite part. And of course, yes, the sheer size of the dam is impressive, but Glen Canyon dam is basically the exact same size.
4.18 Las Vegas, Tijuana, San Diego
I used my H-Honors points with Hilton to get a deal on a hotel for two nights on the Vegas strip. We had such a great time highlights: James won $330 dollars the first night, the next I got called on stage during Penn and Teller’s famous magic bullet trick – I even got to keep the bullet (eventually got stolen – thanks, Seattle). We got their autographs after the show (again stolen), James later that night made 5 dollars by playing guitar and singing on the strip. Next, we drove across the border into Mexico to Tijuana. You would think it being so close to the US that it would be close to the US in development/design, but no. As soon as you drive in your like wow, I’m really in Mexico now. Graffiti on literally every building, even churches. It was so prevalent I played a game called “Spot the building without graffiti on it”. It’s actually an incredibly difficult game. We got some Mexican food and $1 dollar Corona’s. Next, we meet a friend in San Diego and stopped off for a burger at HoDad’s, a beachfront burger joint. We drove the SD city a bit before heading off into LA. Or more accurately, we approached LA until we were slowed by the traffic orbital that surrounds the city.
4.21 Los Angeles, Big Sur, San Francisco, Muir Woods
We stayed with my old friend Eric in LA. I haven’t seen in over five years and it was great to catch up with him. The most striking things about LA is also the things it is well known for: the traffic and the smog. It just completely covers the whole city, the traffic, worst in the country. We spent a good amount of time at the Griffin Observatory and explored around the north and west LA areas. We drove up highway 1 all the way to the bay area. Eric was right, Big Sur is one of the prettiest sites I’ve seen. We spent the night parked next to the ocean going to sleep listening to the sound of the ocean waves. The next day on our drive we pulled off at a stopping point and James hiked back into the woods and found a waterfall. We eventually made it to San Francisco by evening, visiting the Golden Gate Bridge around sunset. We stayed in a hostel downtown that night. We went to Chinatown the next morning (the world’s largest) and then drove the city crossing through Height-Ashberry to do some people watching. We drove a little north across the bridge to Muir Wood in Marin County. Quite impressive. I’ve never seen trees that tall in my life!
4.24 Grands Pass, Portland
We stayed that night in a small Oregon town called Grants Pass before making our way up to Portland. We stayed with a family that James knew, and we spent the next two days exploring Portland and visiting the friends we knew in the area. I met up with my friend Johnny and saw the most impressive kids fort I’ve ever seen and most likely, will ever see in my life. It was a great stop and a good recovery as we then set off for Seattle. And then the next day, well, you know what happened the next day in Seattle – our car was broken into, things stolen, etc, etc. This entry has now caught me back up to the present date. From here on I will back on schedule in this notebook.
4.30 Cannon Beach, Multnomah Falls, Tacoma, Seattle
Leaving Austoria we drove south along the coast of Oregon. After stopping off at a Lewis Clark National Monument, we continued south to Cannon Beach. The weather was horrible; cold, rainy, very windy, but wow, the sites were amazing to see in person. Huge rocks sticking out of the ocean. We arrived back in Portland that night and stayed for two additional days. The next afternoon we visited Multnomah Falls – just an hour or so east of Portland. We also hiked along some trails running parallel to the Columbia River. It was nice weather for a change, so it was nice to be outside and enjoy it. We drove to Tacoma to explore the city a bit and the Glass Museum we happen to park by. It is a historic and pretty area. We stayed the night in Seattle and I got my expedited passport paperwork settled the next morning. It should be at my parent’s house by May 7th. I hope everything goes okay from here on… We drove 9 hours today to Nampa, Idaho (a small town near Boise) – just arrived here late tonight.
5.4 Boise, Shoshone Falls, Yellowstone NP, Crazy Horse, Mt. Rushmore, Badlands NP
I am writing this in my van as I am pulled off on the side of the highway. There is a tornado that has touched down near here (Lakefield, Minn.). I need to make an entry for the last couple of days, so I’ll jot something down now. We visited Boise State U. on our way out of Nampa. We visited the football stadium so I could see the blue turf (of course). We took a detour to see Shoshone Falls – great decision, it was beautiful to see. The mist from the waterfalls created a double rainbow.
Next, we visited Creators of the Moon NM. What a strange place, it is seriously like you have been transported are on the moon. We spent the whole next day at Yellowstone. Wow. There is nothing like it in the world. Like you went to another planet! I didn’t think anything could top the Grand Canyon, but Yellowstone definitely did. Geysers, Hot springs, air vents, bubbling mud pots, steam vents – nowhere else in the world are they all in one location. Not to mention all the all the wildlife and bison roaming around and the ‘the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone’. This park is a must to see for everyone. The next day on the way to Mount Rushmore we stopped off to see the largest monument in the world (well, planned that is): Crazy Horse. It has been under construction for more than 60 years and only the head is done. This head alone is bigger than all of Mt. Rushmore. Great story behind Crazy Horse as well. Mt. Rushmore was the worst monument we saw on the whole trip. Even made us pay 11 dollars to go in. Crazy Horse is better in my opinion. It sucks that we didn’t get to see more of the Badlands. Second strangest place on the trip behind Yellowstone. So beautiful, rainbow-colored hills. Need to go back to see during the day.
5.6 Rochester, Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago
We stayed with one of James’ friends in Rochester, MN. We drove to downtown Minneapolis before driving to see James’ old roommate from college. Both MN cities had a lot of overpasses. Madison was a very pretty city, especially U of W campus. It is also right on the water next to a large lake. Milwaukee had a ton of beautiful historic buildings. It was home to the world’s largest building in 1895. The main reason for the stop off was to see the Milwaukee Art Museum. Very beautiful architecture. Just made it into Chicago tonight. This makes my fifth time to the windy city (04,07,10,10,12). Just drove and walked the city tonight. Planning to explore during the day tomorrow before heading home.
5.9 Chicago, Cincinnati, Ohio
We explored Chicago as best we could with the limited time we had. The weather was horrible. It rained all day constantly and clouds covered the tops of the tallest buildings. We went to Millennium Park, Chicago Public Library, walked the city, and got dinner in the Willis Tower. We got a late start leaving downtown which resulted in James getting home late and getting in trouble. We have been at my parents’ house for the last two days doing needed tasks: Chinese visa paperwork, laundry, oil change, repacking, etc. We head out for NYC later tonight.
5.15 New York City
Just returned back from NYC last night after driving with James all through the day for 12 hours. I had to cancel my original plan from Baltimore and DC on the way home because I had to remain in NYC to get my VISA on Monday. The Chinese embassy stopped doing one-day turnarounds for passports so the fastest I could get it was 2 business days, Friday, Monday. It worked out because I then had more time to explore the city for the weekend. We had great weather the whole time which was great. Got to see the top of the Empire State building, the 9-11 Memorial, a Broadway show, visit with Aaron, go to the UN headquarters, explore Wall Street, Central Park, and Korea town. Next, part 2!
### Part 2: World – 18 days, ~26,000 miles (64 hours or 3.5 hours traveling per day)
5.20 Cincinnati, Miami, Lima
Just arrived at my gate in Cincinnati’s airport. My flight departs in about 2 hours with the ultimate destination of Peru, stop 1 of the overseas part of BBWT. I’m kind of nervous about setting up train rides to Machu Picchu, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out once I’m there. All has been well on my travels thus far and I’m ready for chapter 2 to begin. I should be writing next from South America.
5.21 Lima, Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Peru
Let the adventure begin. Just settling in for the night here in Machu Picchu, it is already pitch-black outside (7pm) as they are in late fall in the southern hemisphere. It has been a long two days of traveling: 2.5-hour flight, then 4.5-hour flight, then 6-hour layover, 2-hour flight, 2-hour bus ride, 2-hour train ride. No question the most isolated place I have ever been to. Right on the edge of where the Amazon rainforest begins. I will be exploring MP for the next two days, then the long travel back to Lima with a day in Cuzco in between. I met a French guy today who has been traveling the continent for the last 3 months. Always nice to meet fellow travelers. I hope it’s not too cold/rainy tomorrow (as forecasts indicate).
5.24 Machu Picchu, Cuzco, Lima
I am writing this after arriving back in Lima, I fly out tomorrow heading for Australia. Picking up where I left off last: MP was amazing. It was sort of chilly and rainy in the morning but cleared up by mid-day. I was at the top of the mountain from about 9:30 am until around 2:00 pm. I hiked back down the mountain (~550 steps). It was so beautiful up there. I can’t imagine how amazing it must have been to be the first explorer to set eyes on it (first discovered by Europeans in 1911). Once you are up in the city, it is sort of like a maze, you don’t know the right path to get back out. I spent a good half hour at the highest point overlooking MP and trying my best just to take it all in. The next day I explored the small town at the base of the mountains (Aguas Calientes) and went to check out the Hot Spring just north. That night, I was back on a train to Cuzco and on a flight the next morning to Lima. Cuzco is South America’s oldest city. I explored Lima today (S.A.’s 4th largest city) after checking in at the Hilton Double Tree I got for free with H-Honors points (thanks US Navy). The city must have a crazy amount of crime with all the security I see around the buildings. It is a very pretty city of some 9 million people. Observations: Natural gas-powered cars, gas stations on the side of the road, huge US influence in business, reminds me a lot of Miami except twice the size, amazing waves, and a large coastline elevated 100 ft above the water. Way better road rules compared to that of Cuzco.
5.27 Santiago, Chile, Sydney
Just arrived in Australia tonight after a 13-hour flight, the second longest I have ever taken (this after an 8-hour trip plus layover before boarding). I left at noon on the 26th and landed at 6:00 pm on the 27th. Most of the 25th day was lost due to crossing the international date line. I got to explore Santiago the day before with a local 22-year-old girl who had lived in the US during her high school years and was able to speak English very well. It is a shame the amount of graffiti that literally covers every building/business/church/everything that doesn’t have a security guard posted in front of it and fencing around it. I was shocked, this coming from the country with the highest GDP per capita in all of Latin America (~15k). I got to visit the President’s Palace, see the city center, and ride the subway, which was actually quite good. Somewhere in the process of my South American travels, I seem to have developed traveler’s diarrhea. Great. I had to go to the restroom four times on the plane flight to Sydney. Hopefully, it will subside in the next couple of days as I am now back in a developed country. I will explore Sydney today doing all the touristy things and will meet up with someone I arranged to couch surf with later tonight. So far, Sydney is even more Asian than I expected. Literally feels like some 80% of people I saw out last night were Asian.
5.30 Sydney, Hornsby, Australia
I will be leaving Sydney today in route for Hong Kong. The flight leaves at 2 pm should be in HK at 9:30 pm. My travel sickness got better yesterday after I threw up. I explored Sydney all day on the 28th: Hyde Park, Sydney Tower, Opera House, OH inside tour. Later, I took a train 40 minutes north to a suburb called Hornsby to stay with the guy I couch surfed with (Darian). He had a German girl staying with him as well. I stayed with his family that night and went back to Sydney the next day. I explored with the German girl that day and we later met with Darian and his Vietnamese friend. Yesterday I explored the Botanical Gardens, the Rocks, the Sydney Tower outdoor skywalk, and saw the light show festival going at the harbor. It only happens 10 days a year, which was luckily during the time I was visiting! Overall, Sydney is a very pretty city, clean, green, and almost too artsy. This is my number 2 “people watching” city (behind Portland (3) and NYC (1)).
6.3 Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen, China
So, HK is amazing. It was the “most looked forward to” place of my trip and it delivered. Easy at least twice as impressive as NYC. Greater population, taller buildings, more history, more natural beauty – mountains all around. It’s about the same temperature level as Miami, advanced infrastructure, Disney World, etc, etc. I was here for longer than any stop of my trip and don’t feel like I got to see nearly everything that the place has to offer. Things done in HK: The Peak, HK park, Big Bus tour, Stanley Market, Floating restaurant, Victoria Park, ICC, Big Buddha.
I went to Macau on the third day here to check it out. 70% of government revenue of the country comes from gambling. A country of only 5 million but attracts 25 million annually and has larger gambling revenue than Vegas since 2006. The Portuguese ruins and old churches there are very cool to see. I just missed getting to see Panda’s as the park closed 5 minutes after I got there. I went into mainland China on day four to the city of Shenzhen. It literally didn’t exist 30 years ago and now it is greater than the size of LA (China’s 4th largest city). I happened to meet a guy from Singapore as I went through immigration and he took care of me during my time there. In most parts, literally no English around and not many can speak it or try to. I would have been completely lost without some sort of translator. I got to visit the business district, the city’s largest library and park, walk along an outdoor mall, have a traditional Chinese meal (had to improve my chopstick skills quickly). Later, for dinner, we ate at an upscale restaurant in a newer built area of the city. At some points, I felt as though I had time traveled to the future. The infrastructure of the city and the architecture of the newest buildings can only be compared to the newest cities in the world, such as Dubai. I was greatly impressed with the quality of life I observed of people living in the city considering I had not heard of that many great things about the city (from This American Life podcast and liberals).
6.6 Dubai airport, Cairo
I’m sitting at Cairo airport as I write this, about to head to Turkey and then to London late tomorrow night. My two days in Cairo: the pyramids, inside the third pyramid, papyrus paintings, lotus flower perfume, pyramid light show, Cairo museum, Tahrir Square, the oldest mosque in Africa (600 AD), oldest church in Cairo (1 AD), Nile river cruise, market, wow what a crazy time in Cairo… Observations: the dirtiest city I’ve ever been to, worst traffic no question; way worse than LA (not even in the same category), most pushy sales people ever; just won’t stop ever, the poorest country I’ve been to (6k per capita). But wow, so much history — the pyramids are completely mind-blowing, so large they have to be seen with your own eyes! I went inside the third pyramid (60 ft down), such an amazing experience. Before I get going too much, I have to explain why this is all possible. I ran into this Egypt tour company just out of the airport and they hooked me up with a great two-day tour and two great guides: Mustafa and Ahmid. They were able to take me to all the best spots, avoid the tourist traps, and take care of me so well. I would have only seen a fraction of these spots on my own.
### Part 3: Europe – 37 days, ~9600 miles (102 hours or 2.8 hours traveling per day)
6.9 Turkey, Belgium, Netherlands
Just left the Netherlands (Amsterdam) this morning on route to Berlin. Where I left off, I was in the airport in Cairo about to head off to Istanbul, Turkey. I had a long layover there, so I went out to explore the city a bit. It has so much history and is very pretty, the weather was great that day as well. I met a local girl and she was able to show me around the city more effectively than me alone. I got to see one of the 7 Medieval Wonders of the World (Haga Sopha). It was quite amazing. I have no clue how they were able to build something so large and beautiful at the time. I got to visit the Blue Mosque, a few others, got some food, have a Turkish rug demonstration (she was trying to sell me a rug), and relax in the park. I had 5 hours before returning to the airport. Next was a four-hour flight to London and a cab to my hotel in Greenwich. The tour started the next morning at 6:30am. I have been hanging out with two South African guys and two girls from Toronto. We crossed the English Channel by boat (fairy) and had a short stop off in a pretty little town called Bruges, Belgium. I got a local beer and walked most of the streets nearby before returning to the bus.
The next stop was Amsterdam. The city has more bikes than people. The Netherlands is a very socially liberal country with universal healthcare, legal marijuana, and the first in the world to legalize gay marriage. The red-light district was pretty unique to experience. I didn’t try any edibles this time. I went on a canal curse the next day, which was really cool – the city is just amazing, the Venice of the north. We also got to see how old wooden shoes (clogs) were made and some of the oldest windmills in the country.
6.12 Berlin, Dresden, Germany
I left off the night I was leaving Amsterdam heading for Berlin. We arrived there in the evening, I went for a walk along the Berlin Wall near our hotel with some Australian girls. It is the largest outdoor art exhibit: 118 artists from 21 different countries have contributed. The next morning, we got a walking tour of the city. So much history has taken place in the city. It is right on the fault line of east and west in Europe. It was involved in major events in WWI, WWII, and the Cold War. The walking tour took us to the “Murdered Jews of Europe” memorial where Hitler’s underground bunkers were, the “victory over France” statue, and the most amazing art I’ve ever seen inside a bank. Others highlights: Nazi government offices, Checkpoint Charlie, and the wall (at various sections). I explored on my own first, then met up with SA friends later. Nothing can compete with Amsterdam so far, but Berlin had a lot of great things – good metro and infrastructure, great beer, pretty English friendly, and so much history to see.
6.15 Prague, Bratislava, Vienna, Ljubljana
We got to explore Prague for two days. It was a very medieval city with castles, churches, and architecture. It is also the first country we visited so far that doesn’t use the Euro. Things I did: Astrological Clock, walked across their most famous bridge, visited the old town square, the Prague castle, largest church, the 5-story night club (largest in central Europe), Jewish graveyard, and cubic restaurant. Prague is still a pretty rough city. Czech has been occupied for virtually the last 1000 years by one empire or another. There is a lot of graffiti around the city and reminded me of Latin America in this regard. We stopped off in Bratislava for about 3 hours to explore. The city has about a half million people and had a totally different feel than Czech. Highlights: Alien looking bridge, Danube river, street art, concert hall where Mozart performed, and “floating” street performers (some Asian dads were stunned). I met a Palestinian guy when getting lunch. We made a quick stop off at Vienna for the night – it has a lot to see! Very clean and pretty city, but expensive. Got to see: beautiful historic buildings, the location where Hitler gave his speech to annex Austria, and a large gothic style church. Next, we had a short stop off in a small city called Ljubljana. The city was very small, only about 200 thousand people; the entire country itself has only 2 million people. Honestly, there was not much to see. They had a downtown market, a “Triple Bridge”, and dragon statues all around (the city symbol) along with other strange looking street art.
6.18 Venice, Rome, Vatican City
Rome has been, without question, the best stop of the entire trip. Italy has 40% of the world heritage sites and was the birthplace of the Renaissance. In keeping with the order of the trip, I will start by talking about Venice. We took a walking tour and got the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. I walked the entire city (it’s not that big) and took a nap in the park (*after pizza). Venice is such a beautiful and unique city, a must visit for sure. We arrived in Rome later the next day and went on our walking tour. We saw the Spanish stairs, Rome’s largest fountain, the Pantheon, stairways designed by Michelangelo, Old Roman ruins, and the Coliseum. Today I explored the Roman ruins a bit more and then entered the Coliseum. This is my third wonder of the world on this trip. It was so impressive. It took only 8 years to build and could sit up to 60,000 people. It is in ruins today because in medieval times when Rome was poor, people removed the metal rods to sell and later when an earthquake happened nearby it caused part of the stadium to collapse.
I randomly discovered the best church I have ever visited; I even put money in the donation box (25 Euro) – It was called the Santa Maria. I could go on and on about it, but I won’t here. Yesterday we explored the Vatican. I split off from the group after our walking tour and literally spent 8 hours there. I walked the entire country front to back and spent about 40 minutes alone looking at the Sistine Chapel — painted by Michelangelo in only 4 years! (by himself). It is the most beautiful piece of art I have ever seen in my life. The painting of some angles seriously looks like statues. They almost bend off the walls — so detailed, large, and colorful. No words for it, my eyes can’t even take it all in. Rome is an amazing and historic city, just so much to take in. Vatican museums, Mary holding Jesus, Pope vehicles over the years, Sphere within a sphere artwork, Roman/Greek/Egyptian artifacts, statues of Caesar, an unwrapped mummy, School of Athens painting, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica… I could on and on. I will return again in the future to see more. The second half of the trip officially starts tomorrow.
6.22 Florence, Pisa, French Rivera, Monaco
We left Rome and made our way to Florence. It is a small city but the traffic there is horrible, people buzzing around you on motorbikes. On the walking tour, we saw recreations of Michelangelo’s David and other statues of important people. I spent almost all my free time in the Galileo Museum. Outside of the Vatican, the best museum I’ve been in. There are so many early scientific inventions on display from the 1600s-1800s. The highlights were Galileo’s telescopes, his ramp with bells, and other early Galileo scientific displays from the period. I spent about 40 minutes in that room alone! We had a short stop off in Pisa on our way to the French Rivera the next day. It is pretty much in the middle of no-where. We just had time to get some pictures. The tower has a 15-degree lean and has been that way for about 1000 years and will eventually fall (due to gravity over time). It’s not that impressive of a “Wonder of the World” when compared to the Pyramids or the Coliseum. We made it to our location in the evening, Minton, which is about 10 minutes from Monaco by train. It is the most beautiful place of the trip (natural beauty wise). It had great weather both days. I went out to the beach and just relaxed for the first half of the first day. I swam in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time. It was colder than I thought and really salty. In the evening, I went to Monaco by train (the second smallest country in the world). While there I did some gambling and ended up losing 10 Euro. I couldn’t get into the Monto Carlo because I was wearing shorts. I was looking forward to seeing inside…
6.24 Arles, Barcelona
We stopped off on our way to Spain in a small city called Arles. It has a small Roman amphitheater located near the city center. There really wasn’t too much to see otherwise, I just sat in the main square and listened to podcast while people watching. The first night in Barcelona we went out to explore really late. We left the hotel at midnight and didn’t get back until nearly 5 am. Our hotel is the furthest away from downtown of any city on the trip. There was some celebration going on and there were tons of fireworks going off at close range near us. I saw a girl have a firework explode right next to her ear. She fell down on the ground in pain. A little kid kept throwing firecrackers at our feet as we walked by. It made me feel like I was back in a developing country with no control or regulation. I slept in and explored the next afternoon on my own. The infrastructure is new and good. The metro is easy to navigate and is the best I have ridden on since Hong Kong. I checked out some of the government buildings and then went to see Sagrada Familia. It is such a complex and pretty church. I plan to go back tomorrow so I can go inside… Update: I couldn’t get inside, the lines were too long, so I decided to see other things around the city. I saw the Egg-looking business building, Barcelona beach, Gaudi Park, Olympic Park, and Olympic Stadium. I was able to explore quite a bit of Barcelona in the past two days.
6.28 Avignon, Geneva, Swiss Alps, Interlaken
After leaving Barcelona we headed north to see the Roman aqueduct built in 18 BC near a town named Avignon. It’s impressive architecture once again by the Romans. Avignon is a small town surrounded completely by a stone wall. And they have… a half bridge. The next morning, we made a stop off at Geneva. It is only a city of 200,000 people. Honestly not much to see. We have now arrived in the Swiss Alps. Yesterday I explored the town and found a place to do laundry near a beautiful clear river. Today I walked across town to my laundry and later hiked up the mountain (partway) to get a view of Interlaken (the town we are staying in). At 4 pm, I was picked up at my hotel to go bungee jumping in a canyon nearby. The jump is from a platform 270 feet above the rushing water below two canyon walls. It was pretty intense! 4 seconds of free fall time. The water in the Swiss Alps is crystal clear. So beautiful. Just got back from the casino in town, I won $56!
6.30 Liechtenstein, Munich, Dachau, St. Goar, Boppard
Driving through the northern part of the Swiss Alps was so beautiful. Like the Rocky Mountains with clear freshwater rivers and lakes. Partway into our journey through the mountains, we stopped off at Liechtenstein – one of the smallest countries in the world. It only has 35,000 people and their largest “city” has 5000 people. I got a beer there and pretty much walked the entire city. There are a bunch of banks, real estate agencies, and finance firms in the town. Another small European city/state that is used as a tax haven similar to Andorra, Monaco, Luxemburg, San Marino, and the small British islands that surround the UK. Each powerful European country has one of these micronations next to it. Continuing on our journey, the next stop was Munich. I stupidly got involved in a drinking game at the Beer Haus with John and Zach (the two South African’s in our group). By my calculation, we each drank more than a gallon of beer in like a three-hour time window. I was lucky to navigate back to my hotel and basically pass out immediately. I didn’t get to see much of Munich, but I did notice there was a large Muslim population, mostly from Turkey, based in the city. Also, yes, the beer is excellent.
Before entering Munich, we stopped off at Dachau. It was one of the largest and most known Nazi concentration camps. It was another chilling experience, just like the one when I was last in Germany. I stood at attention (as I used to do in the military) on the campgrounds where they lined up in formation with all the prisoners only 70 years ago. Very chilling. Today we went on a Rhine river cruise from a small town called St. Goar down the river to Boppard. It has one of the highest concentrations of castles in the world, all along the banks of the river as we cruised north. It was a cool sight to see.
7.3 Luxembourg, Paris
Just arrived in London. I am staying in a hostel just north of Hyde Park for the next couple of days. The Expat Explore tour has come to an end. We were all dropped off at the underground a few hours ago. It’s kind of sad, but it also has its upside because at times I was getting sick of being part of a group for everything – having to be places at certain times, social events, etc. But it was nice to have a group to travel with at times, but it certainly changes/affects the experience compared to solo travel. We left Boppard on route for Paris a few days ago stopping off in Luxembourg for a bit before traveling on. Luxembourg was a pretty city, especially the valley/park that the main downtown overlooked. It was a Sunday, so everything was closed. There was almost no traffic and it was rainy. I tried to see what I could with the limited time we had. We arrived in Paris that night and instead of going to see the Euro 2012 final on the projection screen in downtown Paris, I decided to walk up the Eiffel Tower. It was a great view of the city, just as the sun was setting. The most impressive thing to me about the Eiffel Tower is its size. I guess it’s one of those “growing up in Cincinnati” things. My whole life I was exposed to the 1/3 size replica Eiffel Tower at King’s Island. When seeing the real thing it seems huge to me. I went to each level of the tower: 1, 2, and 3. Thanks to Paris’ metro system closing early I had to take a cab home and didn’t make it back until 2 am. I didn’t like Paris’ metro, so old and dirty. The next day I went to the Louvre, Notre Dame, Opera House, Eiffel Tower (second time), and just walked the city center. I spent about 4 hours in the Louvre. It’s impressive! Highlights: Venus, Mona Lisa, and Napoleon’s quarters. I had Paris underrated. It is such a beautiful city with so much to see and do. I probably could have used another two days there at least. From Paris, we took the ferry back across the channel to England.
7.6 London, Stonehenge
I have spent the last few days in London exploring the sights. On day one I saw mostly tourist things: Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, Tower Bridge. I have been very impressed with the underground. It was clean, fast, and easy to use. My main complaint is it is quite expensive. The weather has been bad, as usual. On day two I took a bus tour to see Stonehenge. It takes about 2 hours to get there from London. I was impressed by the age and size of the stones. It was originally built about 4500 years ago. The largest stones weight about 45 tons! It is such a mystery to how they got the stones to the location and how/why the structure is designed the way it is. I got back to London that night around 7 pm and was able to walk through Hyde Park before sunset. Today it was rainy again, so I went to the Natural History Museum and Science Museum. I like the Science museum more because it had more engineering and physics things, but both museums were very good. It’s amazing they are all free! When the weather cleared up a bit, I took the tube down to Wimbledon. I was outside the stadium when Murry was playing. Earlier that day, Federer beat Djokovic to advance to the finals. I’m heading on the train north to Chester tomorrow.
7.10 Chester, Liverpool, Wales
I have been traveling around northwest England and Wales the last few days. I first arrived in Chester on the 7th where I meet up with Ray (McBurney’s father). He showed me around the town of Chester. It is a pretty little city. The walls were originally built by the Romans. Next, I visited Liverpool, home of the Beatles. On day one, I went on a sailing race with Ray and his sailing friends. Out of five teams, we were completive for third place but ended up finishing in fourth. I have never sailed before that and had to learn everything on the fly. When getting back I explored the Liverpool nightlife – it was a fun time! I explored a bunch of different museums the next day, most importantly the Beatles museum. It was really neat to see where they originated. Ray took me to see the music landmarks of Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane. It was one of the most memorable experiences of the whole Liverpool trip. I also went to the Maritime Museum and the International Slave Museum. I’m so glad I got to meet Ray on my trip north, he took me to see castles in Wales today. I got to hear and see the Welsh language, so bizarre. I also got a lesson in Welsh history as we drove the mountains route on our way back to Chester. Such a beautiful country up here.
I returned to London on the 11th and got checked into a different hostel near Kings Cross station. It is a very busy metro stop, I usually walked down the street to a different station because of all the people. It rained, once again, on my final three days in London. Due to this, I mostly spent time exploring museums and walking around the city. I visited the British Museum, Greenwich, the British Library, Science museum (again), and the National Gallery. There are so many historic documents and objects to see. I am currently at the airport waiting for my airlines to open up so I can get my ticket. It feels a bit weird returning back to the US after this long trip. I can definitely say I’m ready for some relaxing time, alone time, and some time in only one place. I leave for NYC in a few hours.
7.17 New York City, Philadelphia
I returned back to New York City and stayed with my brother in Queens. I went to the imagine memorial in Central Park. Dad came to meet us and drive back to Ohio with me. “It was great to have the father and his two oldest sons together again” (as Dad mentioned over and over again). We left NYC after a few days and headed south for Philadelphia. We stayed with Matt Simms the only night we were there. It was great to see him and his growing family again. They just recently had a baby; chubby cheeks! Ben Franklin is such an important person to my Dad and I thought it would be important for him to visit where he lived. Dad and I explored Philadelphia the next day. We saw: where Ben Franklin lived, worked, and is buried, the Ben Franklin Institute, the “Rocky stairs”, Independence Hall, and got the original Philly Cheese Steak at Pat’s. In the BF Institute, they had a special traveling display of the Dead Sea scrolls for a limited time. It was really cool to see them on the final day of the trip.
I have arrived “home” – successfully circumnavigating the planet. BBWT is at an end. Nearly 4 months of travel reaching all “corners” of the globe covering 25 countries, 26 US states, and 6 contents. The single biggest, longest, and most expensive journey I have ever taken and probably will ever take in my life. It is a bittersweet feeling. All the planning and excitement leading up to the trip are now over. I’ve made it home safely with all the important objects still okay, essentially: my wallet, iPhone, and backpack. There were high points and low points, but overall I was extremely happy that the trip went so well. I mean, I was traveling with no medical insurance or medical kit and anything could have happened in an isolated area. The next chapter of my life starts. A return back to school, now for my third time at my fourth university (in three different states). The state I’m moving to is where I was born and have spent the majority of my life. I have come “full circle” so to speak, not only on this journey around the planet but in personal growth. I have grown up more in the past 4 months than I have in the past few years. This was in many ways a solo journey. There were friends who traveled along with me (in parts), who influenced me in the time they spent with me and I with them, but for the majority of this experience, it was only me.
I suppose this is where my notebook (and this journey) ends. The next book and chapter begin now…