Posted by: Tommy | July 6, 2011

9 months on the road

Nine months ago today (October 6th, 2010), we set out for our grand adventure.  We had a
“Top 10” list of places we wanted to see, 5 flights pre-purchased and 3
shirts apiece.  After surviving our first day (barely – we briefly talked about flying home when our ATM cards wouldn’t work in Moscow), we’ve had a lot of ups and downs.  Reflecting on the past 9 months today, we decided to try and quantify our experiences so far.  We occasionally write about something being a “top 5” experience on our trip (or sometimes a bottom 5) so today we’re sharing 9 months of Top 5 lists.  For the experiences that have their own blog post, they’ll be linked.

Top Five Meals (all of these lists are in no particular order):
Palak Chicken in Mysore – I ate Palak chicken 30+ times in India and Mysore was the best spot for it.
Uzbeki restaurant with Ruslan Kim – delicious and great company.
Birthday sandwiches – Anna and Johnson scoured Jo’burg and found all the ingredients to make my favorite sandwich on my birthday.  Delicious, thick fresh bread, avocado, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mustard, mayo and a fried egg.  MMMM.
Laksa for breakfast in Singaporethis was our first breakfast in Asia and really was a great introduction to the single best food city of the trip.
Sushi in Cape Town with Anita – hilarious menu, delicious food.

5 Worst Nights:
Kerala boat trip – we paid extra for an A/C room – but the power was out, so there was no A/C.  We opened the windows to get some air, and swarms of mosquitoes came in.  In the end, we slept in our tent on the bed.  Anna threw up in the middle of the night because she got too hot.  That’s a bad night.
Egyptian train – standing for hours, then getting hassled by the police, then finding a seat at 3am and falling asleep, only to have a railway employee sit next to us at 4am and start an Islamic sermon at full volume.  Still the gold-standard for bad travel experiences.
Sleeping in the Land Cruiser in the Kalahari – perhaps if we’d showered after the first stuck-in-the-mud ordeal, this would have been better.  But there were no lions, so I guess it could have been worse.
Dec. 30 at John’s Place – you know it’s a bad night when you abandon the bed you’ve already paid for and opt instead to sleep on the ground in a parking lot.
Xai Xai beacha small hut filled with mosquitoes?  What’s not to love.  Anna slept a grand total of 0 minutes.  Tommy slept fine, but then had to hear about how Anna slept 0 minutes for the entire day, so it qualifies.

Tommy’s Top 5 Coolest Sites:

Ta Prohm
Taj Mahal

Anna’s Top 5 Coolest Sites:

Stations of the Cross
Corrigidor Island
Angkor Wat

Five Most Disappointing Things:

Asian Food – We thought that India was the beginning of 6 straight months of delicious food.  But Asian food has been largely one note (and a mediocre note at that).  Singapore was amazing, food-wise.  Vietnam had pho (a good thing).  Otherwise, disappointing.

Prices in Africa – Unlike SE Asia and India, Africa is not budget-friendly.  We thought we’d be getting a break after Russia and Israel, but we quickly had to adjust our expectations.

Performance of our condo management company – Let’s just say this will be a one-year arrangement.

Thailand – Thailand had the distinction of being the place that, jointly, we were most excited about visiting.  Due to bad luck and bad decision making, we didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as we thought we would.

Anna’s willingness to wear 3 shirts for a year – a recurring theme in our pictures: Me wearing either a grey or orange Longhorn t-shirt.  Another recurring theme – Anna wearing something you’ve never seen before.  She has a total of 1 piece of non-underwear clothing left from her original packing.  I’ve added 2 shirts (both free) and 1 pair of pants (we lost the zip-off pant leg for the original pair).

Top 5 Experiences:
Accidentally walking into a sunrise mass at Jesus’s tomb.
Being surrounded by lions at Kruger National Park.
Diving the Islands in Dahab – they still stand out as the best dives we’ve done.
Elephant riding in Laos and Thorung La Pass day at Annapurna (Tommy).
The week at the Indian’s ashram and Udaipur cooking class (Anna).

Top 5 Countries We’d Recommend for a 2-week vacation:
Israel – it’s a tiny country, so you can see most everything in 2 weeks.  Nothing can match it’s history.
Thailand – while we were disappointed by it, it does have pretty much everything you could ask for in a vacation destination.  It’s cheap, it has amazing beaches, great nightlife in Bangkok, tons of culture and history in Chiang Mai.
Vietnam – As an American, I’d skip the war stuff.  But the food is great, Ho Chi Minh was a surprisingly enjoyable city and you’d have time to get your own burnt orange jacket!
South Africa – my personal favorite.  A week at Kruger viewing lions, leopards and elephants, followed by a week in and around Cape Town visiting wineries and eating at 5-star restaurants sounds like a pretty excellent vacation, no?
India – it’s huge, so it has something for everyone.  Whether you want beautiful beaches (Goa), animal safari (Ranthambore), culture and history (Rajasthan) or amazing food (everywhere), India’s a great option.


  1. I would agree that South Africa is a most amazing and beautiful place. the varying landscapes are beautiful! Going on Safari is fabulous! The food is excellent and they have very good wines.

  2. You guys have packed an amazing amount of adventure in 9 months- I have really enjoyed it through your eyes!

    Love you guys,

    Aunt Sandy

  3. I am sure you knew I would love this post! 😉

    I can’t believe it has been 9 months; that is so amazing. And I am glad to see the Kerala boat night is still in the top 5 worst. I would be worried if you surpassed it! (Too bad you weren’t jetlagged like me….)

  4. Really insightful. What I learned is that Tommy doesn’t know Anna very well — 3 shirts for 12 months. Did you really think that was going to happen? What I also learned is that you two have no foodie credibility — how can Asian food be bad and Indian good? That you have a weird idea of a good time — stuck in a car all night bad but stuck in a car surrounded by lions good? I also learned that there are no bad interactions with animals even if they are lions, 3 foot monkeys or great white sharks. And I learned that you cannot seem to avoid the heat or mosquitos.

  5. TRIGGERFISH! Gotta be top 5 something….

  6. Happy to be directly part of two of these, one positive the other negative

  7. So true about prices in Africa. It’s freakin’ expensive here, especially when you’re a tourist.

  8. Hi guys, I know this is totally random, but I saw your post on the Indo lonely planet forums. I live in Bali on a sailboat w/ my boyfriend. We will be heading to the Malukus in August, sailing around there (Raja Ampat too), then heading back to Bali end of Nov. We are looking for crew for part of the trip. We split fuel and food costs, but we’re just looking for good company and hard workers to help lighten the load. We have dive gear and a compressor onboard too. You can read about us at, and please email me at megagirl24 at yahoo if you want more info. Happy travels!!

  9. I have enjoyed ALL of your blogs…some made me worry a bit, but that’s just my nature. To be able to make a list such as this is something very few travlers could even come close to compiling. What amazing adventures! Stay safe and God bless you. XOXOXO, Kita

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