All the Details From My 2008 Yearlong Trip Around the World

This blog started as a travelogue detailing my one-year traveling around the world. During that year, I backpacked through 15 countries. Nearly a decade later, I’m still on the road. Since that initial journey, this site has morphed into quite a bit more. It’s a community. It’s a resource, with tens of thousands of words dedicated to  planning round the world travels and for finding inspiration for responsible tourism. My initial journey is buried deep into the site’s archives, but it’s still one of the most profound experiences I have ever undertaken. I traveled solo for 11 months and landed back home changed. This page details everything about my yearlong round the world trip.

Since that trip, I have visited dozens more countries. I have even lived in a few. I’ve traveled with my niece. And then with my nephews. It’s been a long road. Let’s jump back to that initial year. And I’ll share everything from what it took to plan to where I went each step of the way.

The Nitty-Gritties: Where Did I Go on My RTW Trip?

I spent exactly 11 months traveling around the world. My route route was to fly to Australia and then work my way back home.

Australia (two months). Thailand/Laos/Cambodia (six weeks). India (seven weeks). Nepal (seven weeks). Italy (three weeks). Croatia/Bosnia/Slovenia (five weeks). Czech Republic (two weeks). Netherlands (two weeks). England and Scotland (four weeks). Ireland (three weeks).

Part 1: Australia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia
Part 2: India, Nepal, Italy
Part 3: Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Czech, Netherlands, England, Scotland, Ireland
Useful Resources to Plan Your RTW Travels

Part 1: Australia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia

It’s really hard to believe that this week exactly a year ago I was well into my around the world trip and diving on the Great Barrier Reef – and right now, a year later the RTW trip is over. Instead, I’m plopped on my bed in my childhood home working hard to save up the cash I’ll need for Central America in February.

With a new travel plans in the works, for posterity’s sake let’s recap my RTW travel route and some of the more interesting adventures. We’ll do it in three parts and cover some of my around the world highlights :-)

November ’08: US Departure and Exploring Australia

My RTW travels started with a long trek across the Pacific on November 4, 2008 and I found out as I boarded my plane that Obama won the election – woo-hoo. As a complete newbie to round the world travel I landed in Sydney without a single friend and a little lonely. Luckily backpackers are a friendly lot so I explored the Opera House, the Toronga Zoo, and the gardens. I really loved hiking in the Blue Mountains – and my apparent penchant for getting incredibly lost reared its head all over the Blue Mountains…and Sydney, and Melbourne… Um, yeah, I get lost a lot. With that in mind I meandered down the coast of New South Wales(kangaroos!) to Melbourne and couchsurfed for a week with my buddy Row – I hit up the truly breathtaking Great Ocean Rd and saw a parade of the world’s smallest penguins on Phillip Island!

December ‘08: Australia’s Popular East Coast: Diving, Surfing, and Sailing

A quick flight brought me to Alice Springs where I explored the Australian outback and visited Uluru (where it rained and rained and rained!).  Then I jumped a flight over the Cairns for diving the Great Barrier Reef and exploring the World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest.  Down the east coast of Oz taking in the Whitsunday Islands for Christmas and Fraser Island (for my 25th birthday) was great fun, and I topped it off with New Years in Noosa and some surf lessons (I was moderately terrible!) in the waaay alternative and hippie town of Byron Bay.

January ‘09: The Backpacker Trail in Laos and Volunteering in Cambodia

The first week of this month focused on recovering from the previous week (Christmas, my birthday, and New Years – always a bit much on the “revelry” and fun).  I made my way back to Sydney to catch a flight to Southeast Asia. Thailand here I come! Except for I almost not because of a visa issue. But I did manage to convince them to let me on the flight and for the next six weeks I circled around Southeast Asia specifically hitting Laos and Cambodia. Between tubing in Laos, living in a tree house and zip-lining through the forest as a part of the Gibbon Experience, and elephant trekking through rural Laos, this was one of my favorite stops on the trip: gorgeous waterfalls and  rock climbing how could I not want to come back to SEA…well except for that part when I got so sick I almost died…but I don’t hold it against the country!

And although SEA is big on the backpacker route, I stepped off of it for a week for an amazing volunteering experience at FLOW orphanage in Cambodia. Oh, and naturally Angkor Wat, Cambodia was on the list, how could I not!

That was the first three weeks! Now I’m getting all nostalgic just thinking about it. Stay tuned tomorrow for more of the route and little recaps of the around the world adventures :-)

Part 2: India, Nepal, Italy

My trip around the world started in November 2009 and for the first three months I traveled through Australia, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia – check out the first three months of my round the world travels, and then come back here for this installment and end with the final leg of the RTW route!

February ‘09: Goodbye SEA and Welcome to India

I was incredibly sad to say goodbye to Southeast Asia and could have easily spent several more  months here instead of just the six weeks I had. But my travels SEA had a deadline because I flew into Mumbai, India to meet up with Cousin H. I landed with no plans and Cousin H and I opted to head north for seven weeks. Hitting up Ahmedabad, which was so anti-climatic and uninspriring it hurts a little to think back to the city – the city’s one saving grace is Gandhi’s ashram – which was then aborted when we got mobbed for pictures.

Udaipur is an incredibly charming city while Pushkar was incredibly “backpacker-y” but had much more of the small town vibe, camel safaris, failed henna lessons and viciously nasty attacking monkeys.

March ‘09: Holi Festival in India and McLeod Ganj for Tibet

Still in India we made our way to Jaipur for India’s arguably most colorful holiday, Holi, or the Festival of Colors. The Hindu festival celebrates the triumph of “good” versus “evil” and involves throwing large quantities of colored powered and water on everyone within reach – Cousin H was on the same page and we were pink for a week! We were so pink in fact that if you look closely at the photos of me at the Taj Mahal the next day…I’m pink!

After the Taj we overnight trained it up to Amritsar to see the Sikh’s holy Golden Temple and then a bus deposited Cousin H and me in McLeod Ganj. The Tibetan government runs its government-in-exile out of the city and it was amazing to spend a week in the Tibetan community and hiking in the gorgeous mountains, and learning how to cook Tibetan momos. And with just a week before our volunteer program we headed to Rishikesh for rafting on the sacred Ganges and fun/intense yoga classes.

April ‘09:Volunteering in Pharping, Nepal

An absolute highlight, hands-down, of the trip was my two month volunteer program in Nepal teaching English to young Buddhist monks who came from the poorest regions all over Nepal to learn the faith, but more importantly, obtain an education. I really enjoyed the teaching, and, as is often the case, learned just as much myself as I was able to teach my young monks.

May ‘09: Vipassana Meditation and a Cloudy Hike

We wrapped up our time at the monastery and ended the quiet life in Pharping (an hour + outside of Kathmandu and where our volunteer monastery was located), took a trip down to Chitwan National Park and then headed to Pokhara for a 10-day Vipassana meditation course – an incredibly intense experience that was mind-expanding and amazing…and also something I’m not likely to do again any time soon. Pokhara is also the gateway to any of the Annapurna and Himilaya treks, so H, Cara and I booked a guide and porter and hiked to Poon Hill for five  days.

The Maoists began protesting heavily around this time and it was pretty ideal that, after some
major drama with the Indian Embassy, I flew out of the developing world and welcomed my reeeeally good friend Jenn to the RTW trip in Milan, Italy.

We spent a couple of weeks gorging on gelato, hiking through Cinque Terre,  supporting the Leaning Tower of Pisa, biking around Tuscany, snapping highly illegal photos of the David (yes, he is that gorgeous), wandering the Bobali Gardens and the Uffizi and meandering the streets of Assisi, Italy.

Part 3: Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Czech, Netherlands, England, Scotland, Ireland

My nearly year of traveling around the world had to end at some point – check out the first installment of my RTW route through Australia, Thailand Laos and Cambodia, the second installment through India, Nepal and Italy before tuning in for stories and an outline of the last four months around the world:

June ‘09: Croatia’s Parks to Bosnia’s Quiet Charm & Slovenia’s Theatre

June started off with a few transportation problems on the way to Croatia, but all of that was forgiven as we camped out in a rented cottage on the island of Brac, Milna more specifically, and relaxed for a week. Then explored the Krka waterfalls and amazing Plitvice Lakes National Park before the train into Sarajevo, Bosnia. We couchsurfed in Bosnia and Sarajevo made my top capital cities list – it’s small and consumable with the right touch of fun. I had some major food problems as a vegetarian – and some non-issues with the Bosnia deserts! Mostar still has a lot of visible war damage and the city’s cobbled streets and history are a more sobering look at Bosnia’s war-riddled recent past.

Bosnia was added in at the last minute between Croatia and Slovenia –we couchsurfed in Slovenia as well and again loved the sidewalk café culture in the region. Rafting the Soĉa River was a Slovenia highlight as was the Street Theatre Summer Festival – complete with half-naked pink men.

July ‘09: Exploring Czech and Resting/House-Sitting in Amsterdam

Leaving Slovenia, I trained my way up through Czech Republic to weigh-in my opinion on whether Prague is worth a visit before spending an entire week camped out in the incredibly cute town of Cesky Krumlov. After Czech I finished out the month house-sitting in Amsterdam for two weeks (for free!!) and loved biking around Amsterdam, the museums, and more.

August ‘09: Briefly England before Busing Scotland to Edinburgh Fringe

An all-day bus out of Amsterdam put me crashing on a couch in London, meeting up with friends met along the way, and then heading through the UK for the rest of the month. Highlights include the Lakes District, Stirling (of the William Wallace fame), then to the Isle of Skye (and the Old Man hike), Fort Augustus (for some Nessie the Loch Ness Monster spotting), hitchhiking in the Cairngorns and landing in Edinburgh. I loved Edinburgh. A tweetup connected me with locals in between watching more than a dozen shows at the annual Fringe Festival. This was a pivotal “point” on the timeline for my RTW trip and all of Europe was structured around making it to Edinburgh in August for the Festival.

September ‘09 : Wholly the Emerald Ireland and Fantastic Irish Hospitality

This is the last leg of the RTW trip…and I was sad. But I boosted my morale with a rental car (a HUGE splurge) once I got to Ireland. This last month was spent on the tourist path and well off of that path. Kissing the Blarney Stone and the Cliffs of Moher are arguably some of the “musts” in Ireland, while Dingle’s Slea Head drive and the Aran Islands are less touristy (though still touristy). I finished up with a week in Connemara hiking around the National Park and then a couple of days relaxing in the Wicklow mountains before ending with a day in Dublin – and all with amazing live music for the tourists.

The trip ended when I stepped onto a flight home, had a couple of layovers but arrived safely in Florida. At this point, I was a little used to traveling and encountered some serious after-travel blues…lasted a couple of months but shook it off when I started planning my next adventure!

Useful Resources to Plan Your RTW Travels

A bit here.