1. The world is a very big place! Even after a fast-paced 6.5 months RTW trip, we have touched just a small piece of it.
2. Our trip is the craziest, most difficult, most adventurous, most memorable thing that we’ve ever done. I don’t think we’ll undertake anything as life alternating or special again (as a family unit), but we will continue to travel and find new experiences. We also will make a big effort to eat dinner together, even when life gets busy and the kids grow older.
3. We thought that Asia would be cheaper and Europe would be expensive. Though this was generally true, the gap was smaller than anticipated. In Asia, accommodation was more affordable, but eating out 2-3x a day added up. Also, there were more paid activities in Asia (rafting trips, guided hikes, zip lines, boat trips, etc). In Europe, we ate nearly all meals at home and many of our activities were free or cheap such as walking around town, scenic drives, nominal entrance fees to museums and spending time at the beach.
4. Bike rentals and tours are the best way to see the city sites and our guides were generally fun and knowledgeable. Being on a bike also appealed to our kids.
5. Almost everyone has a mobile phone. This included villagers in Africa that may not have electricity, rural settlers in Nepal that don’t have running water and Buddhist Monks in Myanmar that don’t appear to have any other possessions.
6. Having 6 socks, underwear and shirts each means that we can get by for almost a week without doing laundry. This was very helpful when we were moving frequently or didn’t have opportunities to wash clothes.
Bonus Point: T-shirts worn daily (like our sleep shirts) will be thread-bare, with holes, after 6 months
7. A good night’s sleep was hard to find. Between hard pillows, soft beds, thin curtains, barking dogs, loud music, crowing roosters, honking cars or all of them put together, slumber was often elusive.
8. Internet is universally available, nearly every place we stayed (free except for New Zealand) and can be accessed at many restaurants too. This was true even in third world countries.
9. Being English-speaking is incredibly useful. The vast majority of signs (road, museum, billboard, etc.) and tours that list a second language use English. English is increasingly taught in schools around the world.
10. Pizza, pasta, french fries and Coke are almost universally available menu items, but you generally won’t find things like mac and cheese, veggie burgers and quesadillas.
11. We were lucky to travel on an American passport, which offer easy entry, usually visa-free, to most countries. However, sadly, there are too few of our countrymen seeing the world. C’mon Americans, what are you waiting for?
12. Most of the time, we had the sites to ourselves! With only a few exceptions – Phuket, Vienna, Dubrovnik, Ephesus, Istanbul – we were away from large groups, tourist buses, cruise ships and the crush of other visitors. In Nepal, there were many independent travelers, but not a mass of people moving together.
13. Guidebooks are becoming irrelevant. Over the years I have owned dozens of Lonely Planet books and sought out few for pre-trip research. However, once on the road, I consulted Trip Advisor (TA) and online travel forums almost exclusively. Restaurants and guesthouses now rely on TA reviews.
14. We encountered no hostility anywhere toward Americans, but we did have a number of people express concern about the proliferation and use of guns in the USA. We have those same concerns.
Bonus Point: People were friendly and helpful everywhere we went
15. The world is a safe, more honest place that I give it credit for. We were generally caution – some would say paranoid – but we didn’t have anything stolen, nor did we ever feel unsafe or targeted.
16. Having survived with just a bag and day pack each, we can get by with very few things. Now that I’m home, I want to simplify and declutter.
17. The airlines of the world are doing a great job! We had no cancellations, no time changes, no significant delays (nothing over an hour in 31 flights), no bags lost and no bad experiences. We flew everything from local airlines to discount carriers to well regarded airlines like Emirates and Qatar.
18. We saw a lot of poor people, but few beggars anywhere, except occasionally people who were very old or handicapped. Even the economically-disadvantaged seemed to have food to eat and the kids appeared healthy. Several people in different countries said if you are willing to work hard (in many cases, that may mean working your own land to grow food), you will not go hungry.
19. Our children are brave, courageous, empathetic, aware, patient, creative, sometimes independent and increasingly worldly little people. Much of this is because of the trip. They can still fight like crazy, but they have also started to call each other BSF or Best Siblings Forever. A post specifically on the kids is coming soon.
20. It’s okay to have an occasional down day or to do something that isn’t sightseeing or furthering your travel experience. When you are traveling long term, you can not go full-steam every day. Don’t forget to make time for errands, laundry, food shopping, afternoon naps, movie nights and do-nothing days. Families traveling during the academic year may need to set aside quite a bit of time for home schooling. Also do things that are fun but may not be unique. For example, we loved our day at a water park in Dubai.
Bonus Point: There is no place like home!