My 2014 RTW Adventure: 6 Months In


As of now I’m well over six months into my RTW trip – I’m more like eight months in, in fact. But true to form, I’m a couple months behind on the blog, so my 6M summary is only now in the works.

As I mentioned in my 3M update, I can’t believe how fast time has flown. That applies now more than ever, after someone asked me the other day how far in I am. The last time I remember being asked that was in Peru, my first stop and within a couple weeks of a year-long adventure. These three months possibly went by even faster because I moved around a lot more than in my first three months.

Here are the places I visited in months 3 to 6:

Continents: 4 (Africa, Asia, Europe and a brief, unexpected stint in North America)
Countries: 11 (South Africa, Seychelles, UAE, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Morocco, USA, UK (England and Scotland), Ireland)
Cities: 22 (Cape Town, Victoria, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kigali, Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Hawassa, Lalibela, Gondar, Denver, New York, Casablanca, Marrakesh, Rabat, Chefchaouen, Fez, London, Dublin, Edinburgh)
Airport route: CPT-JNB-NBO-SEZ-DXB-NBO-KGL-DAR-NBO-ADD-LLI-GDQ-ADD-NBO-DXB-CMN-CDG-JFK-DEN-JFK-CDG-CMN-FEZ-STN-SEN-DUB-EDI
Animal close encounters: camels, horses, fish (too many kinds to list), octopi, nurse shark, manta rays, crabs, lobsters, sea turtles, land turtles, cats, geckos, crocodiles, cows, sheep, goats, iguanas, wildebeest, lions, giraffes, black rhinos, elephants, hyenas, hippos, buffaloes, zebras, gazelles, ostriches, baboons, leopard, rabbits, endless birds

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Here’s what I got up to:

I made it out of Africa in one piece. This was the single most intimidating part of my trip and reiterated what I already knew about the benefits of travel: it teaches you that the world is only scary when it’s a faraway prospect. Provided you’re not in a war zone, it’s not nearly as terrifying once you see it for yourself. That’s not to say there aren’t dangerous parts of Africa – there certainly are. But just as in the US or almost any country in the world, there are places you should avoid, and places you’ll probably be fine in. I love the confidence I get from knowing that I faced a fear and traveled on my own through parts of the world many people would be too afraid to go even with companions.

Some of the kindest people in the world are in Africa.

Some of the kindest people I’ve met on my travels were in Africa.

In May I traveled back to Denver, my home town, to help my mom out after she had to have foot surgery. It wasn’t anything serious, I just figured she could use an extra hand around the house since she was confined to a recliner for several weeks. My mom being my mom, she insisted that I continue my trip and that there was no need to go home. Not only did I not mind, but I wanted to help out. She’s an incredible woman and a major inspiration to me and I wanted her to know I was there for her, and that it didn’t even have to be a life-or-death emergency. And to be honest, I enjoyed having a break from the unfamiliar to spend some time with the people most important to me. I also guilt-tripped my friend Dana into picking me up from the airport so I could sneak in some QT with her, and also got to hang out with two friends, Leo and Lev, on my 12-hour layover in New York before heading back to Africa.

An unexpected chance to see friends in New York

An unexpected chance to see friends in New York

My trip to Denver shifted my plans a bit – instead of spending the latter half of May in Morocco and all of June in Spain, I moved my Morocco trip to a much warmer (but still bearable) first half of June and cut Spain out of the itinerary entirely when a work trip popped up in London. Because who wouldn’t want to fly up north to spend two days hearing about credit derivatives and the equity and bond markets??? It wasn’t the most exciting topic, but the presenter actually gave the course in a way that kept us from nodding off about 95% of the time. That’s a win in my book. It also helped with my understanding of the world of finance, which is absolutely critical knowledge to have when I’m translating.

Since my schedule was already out of whack, when Chris came out we decided to stay in the British Isles and Ireland. We spent a weekend in Dublin catching up with friends, then checked out Edinburgh – a city I had never seen before despite at least ten trips to the UK. I LOVED the place – it’s up there among my favorites in the world.

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As for Morocco, it was a challenging place, but also one of my more memorable stops. More on that in my upcoming posts on the country.

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Some of the highlights of the second three months:

Being handed $100 in cash after Kenya Airways lost my bag for a day upon my arrival in the Seychelles (I wasn’t too put out since they said they’d deliver it the next day and I had put the most important item – a swimsuit – in my carry-on bag)

Diving in the Seychelles – the best diving I’ve done since I got certified two years ago

Spotting a leopard in the Serengeti – we weren’t sure if we’d see one

Eating actual Ethiopian food – even YUMMIER than in the US

Visiting Chefchaouen – the one Moroccan city I could say I loved

Getting silly with Chris at Camera Obscura in Edinburgh

Driving around Scotland – alone in the car with my thoughts, music and some inspiring scenery

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A 10-foot nurse shark napping in the Seychelles

Photo courtesy of Chris Hale

Photo courtesy of Chris Hale

One word: YUM.

One word: YUM.

In the blue city of Chefchaouen

In the blue city of Chefchaouen

Inside a tunnel of spinning lights that nearly made me lose my lunch

Camera Obscura in Edinburgh: inside a tunnel of spinning lights that nearly made me lose my lunch

Just me, some sheep and an open road

Just me, some sheep and an open road

And a few of the not-so-highlights:

Having to leave Cape Town – one of my favorite places in the world

Getting sick in Tanzania, after which I flew to Addis Ababa and was not able to really enjoy my first Ethiopian meal

Cockroaches in my hostel in Fez

All but about 20 minutes of my two-day jaunt into the Sahara Desert

Coming to grips with the reality of what humans are capable of at the Genocide Memorial in Rwanda

Nearly missing two flights – first in Nairobi on my way to the Seychelles when I rested my eyes at the gate, then when I exited my plane at some random airport in Ethiopia, not realizing there was a stop between Addis Ababa and Lalibela. Luckily I realized it and was able to get back on the plane before it left, so I narrowly avoided getting stuck in Middle of Nowhere, Ethiopia.

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Goodbye Cape Town… I will no doubt be back soon.

As for the goals I set for myself three months ago?

Be bolder in starting conversations with locals. I was better about this in some places, but not so much in others. Unfortunately, in places like Ethiopia and Morocco, the language barriers got in the way. And in places like London, Dublin and Edinburgh, it’s relatively easy because I’m familiar enough with the culture to know the people in those cities are very easy-going and open to having a chat.

See one new thing every day, take at least five pictures a day. I definitely saw more new things, but mostly because I moved around more. I didn’t have that idle feeling that I did in the first three months, having spent four weeks in Buenos Aires and five weeks in Cape Town. As for the pictures? Still a goal I need to work on.

Plan less – just show up. Success! I did this in a few places – Ethiopia, Morocco, and the UK. As a result, my schedule was more flexible and I did manage to do things more based on feel from the places once I got there.

Read one book on every country I go to. Nope. Not even close. Not the worst thing in the world, though; I feel like I’ll have more time to read up on places once I get home, plus there’s always more interest in learning about places after you’ve been to them and seen them with your own eyes.

Get more exercise. Aside from the endless walking and 35 kg of weight that I’m constantly lifting, I didn’t make much progress in the way of exercise. I did, however, start running in month 7, so my next update will be more positive in this regard!

Check in with my mom. Well, I visited, so that’s a pretty good form of checking in. I also checked in a lot from Ethiopia and Morocco.

My new goals for the remainder of my trip:
– Find more time for blogging. I’m disappointed that I haven’t caught up on the blog, mainly because I really like having this experience documented. I’ve found that going back over past posts is bringing back amazing memories.
– Call mom more often. This hasn’t been much of an issue because I’ve been in Europe the last couple months, and she doesn’t worry as much when Chris or a friend is with me. This will probably change once I leave for Asia next week.
– Run three times a week. I started a couple months ago but it might be hard to keep the discipline in the tropical heat of Southeast Asia. I’ve asked Chris to crack the whip, but he’s about as bad at disciplining me as I am at disciplining myself.
– Learn to cook one dish in every new region. ESPECIALLY since I’ll be heading to some yummy regions (Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia).

What kind of goals would you set if you were on a year-long trip?

Categories: Africa, Europe, Middle East, North AmericaTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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