Best.Year.EVER.

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Best.Year.EVER.

70, 467 miles traveled, 345 days, 97 temporary homes, 56 flights, 23 countries, 6 continents, and carry-on backpacks.

 

We are going home. TODAY. We won’t be blogging about our lives after this, since our lives will consist of ‘finding jobs’ and not holding koalas. This has been the BEST thing we have ever done. We’ve learned a lot about the world, about each other, about our limits, about how to spend a lot of money in a short amount of time, and how it was totally worth it. Here are our top 15 experiences from this past year. Jason made a video and I put together some of our favorite photo memories.

 

15 Holding Lawson the koala

14 Knifemaking in Luang Prabang

13 Being the first people to the top of the Eiffel Tower

12 Volunteering with the elephants in Cambodia

11 Angkor temple complex

10 Egyptian pyramids/temples  

9 Soccer game in Argentina

8 Watching the Bagan sunset in Myanmar

7 Hiking on glacier in Patagonia

6 Clouds parting over Machu Picchu

5 Cage diving with Great White sharks  

4 High plains in Bolivia and the Uyuni Salt Flats

3 Hot air balloon Cappadocia

2 Diving on the Great Barrier Reef

1 Safari in South Africa

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How great are these places!?!

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How great are these places!?!

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of different places and experiences. After leaving Peru, we ditched the cool weather gear for flip-flops and sunscreen on the Colombian island of San Andres. Fun fact: San Andres is nowhere near Colombia. It sits 470 miles north of mainland Colombia and is a great destination for scuba diving, which is how we spent the majority of our time there. We went on 11 dives, including our first night dive! We saw an incredible amount of underwater life including sharks, a sea turtle, loads of fish and coral, moray eels and stingrays. We met some wonderful people, including our German dive instructor who signaled the time to get our scuba gear on by lighting his “two minute warning cigarette”.

 San Andres Island

San Andres Island

 Reef shark in San Andres 

Reef shark in San Andres 

 Sting ray and lionfish in San Andres 

Sting ray and lionfish in San Andres 

 This little guy landed on our boat in the middle of the sea when we were diving. He took a little rest and then flew back to land. 

This little guy landed on our boat in the middle of the sea when we were diving. He took a little rest and then flew back to land. 

 Moray eel! She was a big girl.

Moray eel! She was a big girl.

 Barracudas swimming above us and a beautiful boxfish. 

Barracudas swimming above us and a beautiful boxfish. 

 Beers in paradise.

Beers in paradise.

We left San Andres to meet Peg and Jimmy in Cartagena! Heads turned all over the airport from Linsey’s high-pitched squeals as she spotted her parents in the terminal. We packed ourselves into our tiny rental car and navigated our way through the no-rules streets of Cartagena to an amazing apartment on the beach for a solid week of relaxation and hanging out. At her 39th birthday dinner, Peggy found a cocktail that she really liked, so I learned to replicate the gin basil smash for our evenings by the pool and euchre tournaments. Also, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen Peggy even the slightest bit “giddy”, so it’s a recipe to remember. It was a super-relaxing week, spent roaming the old walled city, trying new restaurants, taking a private boat ride to the islands, walking on the beach and cooling off in the pool. 

 Celebrating Peg's 39th birthday. 

Celebrating Peg's 39th birthday. 

 This kid was selling beers in the old city in Cartagena. 

This kid was selling beers in the old city in Cartagena. 

 Peg's birthday present- rented our own private boat! 

Peg's birthday present- rented our own private boat! 

 Jimmy started by not wanting this woman to touch him....he changed his mind in the time that these two pictures were taken (three seconds, give or take?).

Jimmy started by not wanting this woman to touch him....he changed his mind in the time that these two pictures were taken (three seconds, give or take?).

 Enjoying some Cubans and Colombian beers on the porch. 

Enjoying some Cubans and Colombian beers on the porch. 

 Gin lime smashes. BEST. COCKTAIL. EVER. 

Gin lime smashes. BEST. COCKTAIL. EVER. 

At the end of a week gone by all too fast, we said goodbye to Peg and Jimmy and flew to Bogota. One of Linsey’s friends, Tulsi, lives and teaches in the city and graciously invited us to stay in her sweet apartment in a great section of Bogota. Thankfully we didn’t rent a car because the traffic there is soul crushing. They have road space rationing, meaning that you are not allowed to drive on certain days of the week during rush hour depending on whether your license plate ends in an even or odd number. Thankfully Uber is super cheap, so it’s not as bad spending 45 minutes in a car to go 5 miles when it only costs $2. We soaked up some culture in museums and on a street art tour, and even more culture by playing a game called Tejo. Basically you are given a hockey puck sized piece of solid metal, toss it underhand at a large square target packed with clay, in the middle of which are small pink triangles that explode and/or burst into flames if you hit them. Oh, and it’s free as long as you’re drinking. We love Colombia.

 Gold Museum in Bogota, Colombia!

Gold Museum in Bogota, Colombia!

 Street art tour in Bogota. 

Street art tour in Bogota. 

Our next destination was El Salvador. For those who may not know, Linsey lived in this small country for two years, from 2008 through 2010, as a volunteer in the Peace Corps. This is her first time returning since then, and my first time visiting. We picked up another tiny rental car (as it turns out this was a mistake because the roads in El Salvador have the largest potholes I’ve ever seen) and made our way to her village of Perquín on the border of Honduras. We spent hours hanging out, drinking coffee, and basically being force-fed tortillas and assorted baked goods as we caught up on the lives of people who absolutely adore Linsey. It was such a great experience to see this part of Linsey’s life and where her passion for teaching first started.  We had a great stay at the hotel Perkin Lenca hanging with Ron (Linsey’s friend and the hotel owner) and his wonderful family, visited the school that Ron started, and hung out with Linsey’s friend Elda. Her family graciously drove us around to a few sites, since our dinky little Kia Picanto wasn’t exactly an off-road vehicle. Side note about Perquin: it was the capital of the guerrilla resistance against the government forces during the civil war in the 80's and 90's. They have an impressive little war museum that is just down the street from the house where Linsey lived for most of her time in El Salvador.

 The kids are giving their end of the year project presentations. This project was about growing tomatoes in the greenhouse that they have on site at the school. 

The kids are giving their end of the year project presentations. This project was about growing tomatoes in the greenhouse that they have on site at the school. 

 Giving a presentation about the history of horses! 

Giving a presentation about the history of horses! 

 These kids were talking about ecosystems! 

These kids were talking about ecosystems! 

 Paper mache piñatas!

Paper mache piñatas!

 Jason trying his first Salvadoran milkshake at the entrepreneur tables at the school. 

Jason trying his first Salvadoran milkshake at the entrepreneur tables at the school. 

 Inside the green house! The kids are eating the food grown here and they are also responsible for growing some of it!

Inside the green house! The kids are eating the food grown here and they are also responsible for growing some of it!

 The kids at the school eat tilapia three times a week- sometimes they catch their own!

The kids at the school eat tilapia three times a week- sometimes they catch their own!

 At the site of the El Mozote massacre- where over a thousand people were killed at the hands of the government forces during the Salvadoran civil war throughout the 80s and early 90s. 

At the site of the El Mozote massacre- where over a thousand people were killed at the hands of the government forces during the Salvadoran civil war throughout the 80s and early 90s. 

 Linseys' Salvadoran family in Perquin!

Linseys' Salvadoran family in Perquin!

 Catholic church in Perquin. 

Catholic church in Perquin. 

 Revolutionary Museum in Perquin that chronicles the guerilla resistance in the Perquin area. 

Revolutionary Museum in Perquin that chronicles the guerilla resistance in the Perquin area. 

 Linsey's old room and her old mode of transport! 

Linsey's old room and her old mode of transport! 

 Making tortillas. 

Making tortillas. 

 Roasting coffee!

Roasting coffee!

On the way to the coast we swung by San Vicente to have lunch with Linsey’s first host family in El Salvador. It was really fun to watch them laugh and reminisce as I tried my best to follow the conversation in Spanish. After a delicious meal where we were instructed to eat every bite, we made our way to El Tunco. This little beach town is a surfer’s paradise, with good waves something like 300 days per year. The surf was a little big for our comfort, so we busied ourselves with cocktails as we watched the incredible surfers put on a show. After two days on the beach we made our way back to the mountains, spending a few days in the towns of Concepcion de Ataco and Juayua, where we went on a “buggy” tour, ziplining, and stuffed our faces at a food festival. Overall El Salvador has been an amazing place to visit. This tiny country, known as El Pulgarcito (the little thumb), is home to the friendliest people I’ve ever met. It holds a special place in Linsey’s heart, and now mine as well. Tomorrow we head to Mexico for two week of relaxing on the beach, trying to convince people to hire us, and thinking about this amazing adventure that is coming to an end. 

 Linsey and her first host family!

Linsey and her first host family!

 El Tunco-surfer's paradise

El Tunco-surfer's paradise

 We bought pineapple tarts from Rosie, who then proceeded to tell us the entire history of El Tunco.

We bought pineapple tarts from Rosie, who then proceeded to tell us the entire history of El Tunco.

 Jason rescued this kitten, gave her to a lady who gave it to her friend who left for San Salvador, and the first lady was then angrily confronted by a gringo vegan blogger about this kitten that she rescued a week earlier and couldn't understand how it got off her balcony and wanted it back. She did not get it back.

Jason rescued this kitten, gave her to a lady who gave it to her friend who left for San Salvador, and the first lady was then angrily confronted by a gringo vegan blogger about this kitten that she rescued a week earlier and couldn't understand how it got off her balcony and wanted it back. She did not get it back.

 Ataco and the Ruta de las Flores

Ataco and the Ruta de las Flores

 We didn't know how to say 'snowman' in Spanish and we asked the guide. He didn't know either- he just said "es un Frozen".

We didn't know how to say 'snowman' in Spanish and we asked the guide. He didn't know either- he just said "es un Frozen".

 Buggy ride in Apaneca

Buggy ride in Apaneca

 Zipline over the coffee fileds in Apaneca

Zipline over the coffee fileds in Apaneca

 Halftime show of the soccer game, the guy on the left serenaded us with Frank Sinatra and Lionel Richie. Dude could sing

Halftime show of the soccer game, the guy on the left serenaded us with Frank Sinatra and Lionel Richie. Dude could sing

 One of the many chuchos, or stray dogs, to be found all over El Salvador

One of the many chuchos, or stray dogs, to be found all over El Salvador

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Bolivian jail, anyone?

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Bolivian jail, anyone?

We cruised through immigration out of Argentina and into Bolivia, where we waited for over an hour for that one guy who gives out visas to Americans. He gives us our visas and we walk across the border and take a two-hour taxi to our hotel. Around ten o’clock we get a knock at our door. “The Bolivian customs police are here,” says our disinterested hotel manager.  There are five serious-looking Bolivian men who inform us that we have not paid the $320 visa fee to enter the country and they have tracked us down to get it. True enough, we thought we paid, realized we didn’t, and were happy not to end up in a Bolivian prison. Handshakes, slaps on the back, apologies were throw from both sides and Jason and I were out of that town the next day for a four day/three night adventure through the Bolivian high plains.  

 Welcome to Bolivia!

Welcome to Bolivia!

The Bolivian high plains left us literally and figuratively breathless. At some points we were over 16,500 feet and could barely march up a few steps without huffing and puffing like 84 year-old obese smokers. However, we saw spectacular scenery, a red lagoon filled with flamingos, lagoons filled with arsenic, geysers, lots of llamas, rocks in the desert, a hilarious rabbit-squirrel, a now desert that used to be underwater, gigantic cacti, a cemetery for old trains, and, finally, the salt flats of Bolivia! The salt flats formed somewhere between 30,000 and 42,000 years ago when a giant lake dried up and left a desert of salt. This area is important and significant for many reasons, which have already been supplied on Wikipedia. The main reason they are essential to us is because the pictures are ridiculous. The salt flat of Uyuni is over 4000 square miles, and it was really lovely watching the sun come up over the desert and pretending to squish Jason with my foot. We made great new friends, had not-so-good food, “slept” in some negative star rooms with our entire tour group, and didn't shower for a few days. 

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 I actually cannot help myself- every time we pass a school, I MUST peek inside. 

I actually cannot help myself- every time we pass a school, I MUST peek inside. 

 Our land cruiser on the 4 day/3 night Bolivian tour. 

Our land cruiser on the 4 day/3 night Bolivian tour. 

 Llama!

Llama!

 Llama who didn't get braces 

Llama who didn't get braces 

 Salvador Dali desert

Salvador Dali desert

 Laguna verde is so green because of all dat arsenic... no swimming allowed. 

Laguna verde is so green because of all dat arsenic... no swimming allowed. 

 Thermal geysers. When asked if we could go close to them our guide said, "In Bolivia everything is possible, but nothing is safe." So we walked trepidatiously.  

Thermal geysers. When asked if we could go close to them our guide said, "In Bolivia everything is possible, but nothing is safe." So we walked trepidatiously.  

 Laguna Colorada- 'cause it is a weird red color in the afternoon sun. 

Laguna Colorada- 'cause it is a weird red color in the afternoon sun. 

 Thousands of flamingos eat their breaky, lunch, and dinner here (which consists almost entirely of plankton, as it turns out.)

Thousands of flamingos eat their breaky, lunch, and dinner here (which consists almost entirely of plankton, as it turns out.)

 I had never seen a no peeing sign that had a woman squatting. Who knew Bolivia was so gender egalitarian?

I had never seen a no peeing sign that had a woman squatting. Who knew Bolivia was so gender egalitarian?

 Llamas getting their morning water. 

Llamas getting their morning water. 

 Rando rocks in the Bolivian altiplano (there is probably an explanation that is definitely not random, wind, erosion, sandstone, something science-y)

Rando rocks in the Bolivian altiplano (there is probably an explanation that is definitely not random, wind, erosion, sandstone, something science-y)

 The viscacha, also known by only me as the Bolivian rabbit squirrel. 

The viscacha, also known by only me as the Bolivian rabbit squirrel. 

 Dust devils and train tracks in the altiplano. 

Dust devils and train tracks in the altiplano. 

 Our guides!

Our guides!

 SOOOO, this used to be all underwater before those tectonic plates decided to make the Andes. It was a whole desert of coral and plants. 

SOOOO, this used to be all underwater before those tectonic plates decided to make the Andes. It was a whole desert of coral and plants. 

 Watching the sunrise from an island on the salt flats. 

Watching the sunrise from an island on the salt flats. 

 Salt flats! My six inch vertical is amazing. 

Salt flats! My six inch vertical is amazing. 

 Fighting and jumping with Valentin and Maeva, our amazing, fun, lovely, smart and interesting car/tour mates.

Fighting and jumping with Valentin and Maeva, our amazing, fun, lovely, smart and interesting car/tour mates.

 'Murica

'Murica

 Just a cemetery for trains. 

Just a cemetery for trains. 

From the salt flats, we headed to the capital where we rested after the tour and had power and Internet again. Of course, there was a party outside our hotel, lasting all weekend. So naturally, we joined in the festivities. We drank beer with Alberto on the street, watched the parades, I got pulled into the parade, and then we said adios to Bolivia and headed to Peru. 

 That time in La Paz when you accidentally become part of a parade. 

That time in La Paz when you accidentally become part of a parade. 

 Alberto! Our new friend we met whilst drinking beers during the parade. 

Alberto! Our new friend we met whilst drinking beers during the parade. 

Lake Titicaca is hilarious to every fourth grader who learns about this highest navigable lake in the world. Go ahead and say it aloud to yourself. You can’t help but laugh. Jason was sick for the tour and I couldn’t waste a ticket, so I left for the day on a boat bound for a couple of the islands on the lake. The first visit was to the Uros floating islands. These islands are made out of reeds that the Uro people collect from the lake.  The Uro are a pre-Incan people and started living on the islands as a defensive strategy. The reed islands float on the water, the boats are made of reeds, the homes are made of reeds, and it is now a big tourist attraction. It was absolutely different from anything that I had ever seen before! 

 Visiting Uros Islands. The islands are all made of reeds (so are the boats, and houses, and lots of other things!)

Visiting Uros Islands. The islands are all made of reeds (so are the boats, and houses, and lots of other things!)

 Uros islanders eat the ducks on Lake Titicaca- they dry them and eat them in soups. 

Uros islanders eat the ducks on Lake Titicaca- they dry them and eat them in soups. 

 Just riding on Lake Titicaca. 

Just riding on Lake Titicaca. 

 A pano from the top of a very shaky reed tower showing the floating islands (and the tour boat!).

A pano from the top of a very shaky reed tower showing the floating islands (and the tour boat!).

After Titicaca, we headed to Cusco, our base to start the Machu Picchu adventure. Though we didn’t hike the Inca trail (cause I might have died, or my complaints would have forced Jason to kill me), we took a train to Machu Picchu town and did a three-hour hike up a mountain. When we arrived at Machu Picchu, we were greeted by dense fog. All the way up the mountain where I grumbled, flailed a little bit, took my (and everyone else’s) fair share of breaks, and generally struggled with basic physical fitness, we could not see anything. It brought back eerie memories of New Zealand, when Jason made me hike 18.5 kilometers to see a glacier, only to reach the top and see fog fog fog fog and a little more fog. When we finally and miraculously reached the top of the mountain, the fog cleared, revealing our first glimpse of the truly spectacular Machu Picchu. On the hike down, I was cheerfully reporting to other hikers how beautiful the top was and giving them encouragement, while secretly and gleefully thinking to myself HA HA HA HA the rest of this hike is terrible, I’m so glad I’m done.

From Machu Picchu, we spent some relaxing time in Lima, where we got a personal tour of some pre-Incan ruins by my friend and former student teacher’s grandmother (small world!). We go to Colombia tomorrow and will be ridding ourselves of our sweaters and long sleeved shirts, to trade them for bathing suits and glorious island weather. My parents come to meet us in Cartagena in a little over a week! WEEEEE!!!!!

 

 'OH MY FREAKING FOG. We aren't going to see anything are we Jason? You made me climb up this dumb mountain for no reason. Ugh, I'm so mad.' -Me

'OH MY FREAKING FOG. We aren't going to see anything are we Jason? You made me climb up this dumb mountain for no reason. Ugh, I'm so mad.' -Me

 Oh yes, this is much more like it. This hike was totes worth it, right babe? 

Oh yes, this is much more like it. This hike was totes worth it, right babe? 

 I'm only smiling because we are off that dreadful mountainside. 

I'm only smiling because we are off that dreadful mountainside. 

 Cause sometimes, people dress as monkeys and have parades. 

Cause sometimes, people dress as monkeys and have parades. 

 We are honoring the Virgin Mary and also honoring beer. 

We are honoring the Virgin Mary and also honoring beer. 

 Pre-Incan ruins outside of Lima. 

Pre-Incan ruins outside of Lima. 

 Lima street art and also a friar mannequin in a window. 

Lima street art and also a friar mannequin in a window. 

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Why are my feet so itchy?

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Why are my feet so itchy?

        Our time in Buenos Aires was a welcome change to the hectic travel schedule we had been keeping. We realized at the end of our time there that we had done almost no touristy activities. It seems like we mostly ate, drank, made new friends, ate and drank with our new friends, and took Spanish classes. "Spanish classes?" you ask with incredulity. "But Linsey already speaks Spanish," you remind me. This is true, but she wanted to be able to construct grammatically correct complex sentences like "If I will have wanted to have done something, then you might have not had wished..." and other such nonsense. Now she can have enlightened cocktail chatter with the elite of Buenos Aires and use the Spanish equivalent of words like "henceforth". I wanted to be able to ask the grocer if the eggplant is fresh, and also learn the word for eggplant. Berenjena. Nailed it.
   One of the great things about traveling is getting to meet new people and make friends. On most of our journey, we have gotten to share a great afternoon or evening, but then we/they would move on to the next destination. Being in Buenos Aires for so long allowed us to hang out with people multiple times and get to know them better. Mikey, Tamara, Will, Susanna, Vasco- cannot wait until we can meet again. We also had the chance to become friends with some Porteños (what people from Buenos Aires call themselves). Alejandro and Laura were our gym buddies, and we had an amazing time with them and their families. They opened their homes to us, threw us a goodbye lunch, were extremely patient with us, took us to local spots around the city and were all around wonderful. Besitos Laura and Ale! 

 The colorful streets of Buenos Aires, where you can see someone selling a bunch of balloons and someone else walking a bunch of dogs. We saw one guy walking 13 dogs at once!

The colorful streets of Buenos Aires, where you can see someone selling a bunch of balloons and someone else walking a bunch of dogs. We saw one guy walking 13 dogs at once!

 19 floors up gives an incredible view over the city

19 floors up gives an incredible view over the city

 Alejandro and Laura, los extrañamos!

Alejandro and Laura, los extrañamos!

 Lunch with Mikey and Tamara. We found a Mexican place that served micheladas out of penguins. Solid combo

Lunch with Mikey and Tamara. We found a Mexican place that served micheladas out of penguins. Solid combo

 Our first taste of Argentinian steak with Will, Mikey and Tamara.

Our first taste of Argentinian steak with Will, Mikey and Tamara.

 Linsey was upset that no one ever shot glitter bombs when she played volleyball.

Linsey was upset that no one ever shot glitter bombs when she played volleyball.

 Volleyball game with Alejandro. As you can see, they take their volleyball very serious

Volleyball game with Alejandro. As you can see, they take their volleyball very serious

 One of the only tourist destinations we visited, the tomb of Evita

One of the only tourist destinations we visited, the tomb of Evita

 Linsey almost got kicked out for making duckface next to this sign. 

Linsey almost got kicked out for making duckface next to this sign. 

A highlight of our time in the city was getting to go to a proper South American soccer game. As our friend Jonathan so aptly put it, “Nothing beats an Argentine soccer game. The creative cursing alone is worth the price of admission.” We learned some really interesting new ways to use bad words, tailgated with locals, stuffed ourselves with Budweiser and sausages, and painted our faces red and white to show our support for the home team, Independiente. Also, apparently face/beard painting isn't really a thing here, so I got a lot of strange but excited stares and plenty of people calling me "la barba roja" which means the red beard. They really really love their soccer here. Also they love colored smoke bombs, which are certain to enhance any game experience as well as cases of asthma.

 Pre-gaming like a champ

Pre-gaming like a champ

 A lyrics sheet would have been really helpful for the chants. We shouted along the obvious parts, like when you haven't quite learned that new song on the radio

A lyrics sheet would have been really helpful for the chants. We shouted along the obvious parts, like when you haven't quite learned that new song on the radio

 When getting local currency makes you look like a baller.

When getting local currency makes you look like a baller.

One big event that happened while we were in Buenos Aires is the birth of Linsey's niece. Linsey's sister, Katelyn, delivered a beautiful little girl named #sweetlylajames. Linsey keeps telling me her name is just Lyla, but all her pictures say otherwise. Our new ritual is calling over FaceTime multiple times per day so Linsey can demand to see #sweetlylajames and ask her questions about her day. Linsey is totally in love and acts like a proper lunatic. I'd probably be the same way if I ever got to see her, but Linsey snarls at me if I try to take the phone. It's like trying to take food from a hungry animal.

 #sweetlylajames

#sweetlylajames

 PoPo and PegPeg loving their new roles as grandparents.

PoPo and PegPeg loving their new roles as grandparents.

After about three weeks in one location, Linsey and I both started to get a feeling. Turns out it was itchy feet. As much fun and we had and as great as it was to settle in, cook our own food and make some good friends, we were ready to get back on the road. We flew south to Patagonia and went on a fantastic glacier hike. Hiking to and then on a glacier was a truly stunning experience. The weather could not have been more perfect, and our guide even told us they usually only get 5-10 days like that in an entire year. After tripping a few times in her clunky boots and naming herself baby giraffe (skinny legs and lack of coordination), Linsey was pretty worried about falling into a crevasse. However she did a great job and told our guide that she would soon be taking over his job (confidence is everything, right?). At the end of the hike we graciously allowed him to keep his position, mostly because our feet felt like they had been beaten with hammers. Old rented boots and crampons are not a great combination.
     The final amazingly beautiful destination in Argentina is.....the inside of our hotel room, surrounded by tissues as we both cough and sneeze. This is the less glamorous side of travel. We'll spare you the pictures. Anyway, we're willing ourselves to better health because tomorrow we start making our way to Bolivia!

 Patagonian lamb and red wine makes for a great meal. This was before I got the meat sweats.

Patagonian lamb and red wine makes for a great meal. This was before I got the meat sweats.

 The terminus of the Perito Moreno glacier. It's one of only three Patagonia glaciers that isn't retreating.

The terminus of the Perito Moreno glacier. It's one of only three Patagonia glaciers that isn't retreating.

 45 minute hike to get to where we can walk onto the ice

45 minute hike to get to where we can walk onto the ice

 We didn't have to bring much water, as there were plenty of ice cold glacier melt streams to fill our bottles.

We didn't have to bring much water, as there were plenty of ice cold glacier melt streams to fill our bottles.

 Crampons are awesome. It's like having 4WD for your feet.

Crampons are awesome. It's like having 4WD for your feet.

 Channeling Jason Statham. I'm pitching an idea that all his future fight scenes should be performed in crampons.

Channeling Jason Statham. I'm pitching an idea that all his future fight scenes should be performed in crampons.

 We see, she breaks, I drink. 

We see, she breaks, I drink. 

 Lunch on the ice. Backpack smashed ham sandwiches never tasted so good.

Lunch on the ice. Backpack smashed ham sandwiches never tasted so good.

 All my future whiskey drinks must also be chilled with glacier ice. 

All my future whiskey drinks must also be chilled with glacier ice. 

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Wait, they are building towers out of people?

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Wait, they are building towers out of people?

For two people who were set on not coming to Europe, because we had both ‘done’ Europe before, we managed to spend about six glorious weeks there. From Rome, we were going to go to Morocco for eight days and then planned to head to Spain, where we would catch our flight to Buenos Aires. However, our friend Bobby had the brilliant idea to spend the weekend in Marrakesh and then move on to Paris, since he had never been. Since we had already bought tickets from Morocco, I hesitated until he threw in two tickets and three free nights in Paris and I was easily persuaded that Paris for a week was a really nice alternative to the sweltering heat of Morocco. In Morocco, we took a great cooking class, where I was tested on the spices I knew, and I told him that the only ones I knew were salt and pepper, but the chef insisted on trying to teach me anyway. I totally feigned interest, knowing all the while that the only reason I set foot in the kitchen is to get more wine. 

 Just some spices and cow feet you can get in Marrakesh. 

Just some spices and cow feet you can get in Marrakesh. 

Then we went to Paris! We spent the first few days in Paris with Bobby but before bidding him adieu we climbed the Arc de Triomphe, we were the first people (FIRST PEOPLE!) on top of the Eiffel Tower one morning, saw Notre Dame and Quasimodo, visited that stealthy lady Mona and her friends in the Louvre, and we explored the beautiful area around Montemartre and the Sacre Coeur. When Bobby left, Jason and I were forced out of the beautiful hotel that Bobby’s years of credit card point earning had let us luxuriate in, and moved on to an apartment across the Seine. We went to what is probably my favorite museum ever, the Musee d'Orsay, which houses some of the most incredible art in the world. I was totally that girl taking pictures of priceless art, as if a picture could represent the true beauty and mastery of these works. For the rest of the week in France, Jason and I drank a lot of wine (sometimes we drank wine on the lawn by the Eiffel Tower), ate a lot of cheese, walked along the Seine, and I waited on the couch of our bomb apartment while Jason prepared charcuterie plates for me. 

 Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

 This lady on top of the Arc is a little confused on the purpose of a selfie stick

This lady on top of the Arc is a little confused on the purpose of a selfie stick

 Eiffel Tower! 

Eiffel Tower! 

 Exploring along the Seine, working on our tetherball skills

Exploring along the Seine, working on our tetherball skills

 Notre Dame

Notre Dame

 Jason feeling artistic

Jason feeling artistic

 Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and  Winged Victory of Samothrace

Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory of Samothrace

 Degas and Monet

Degas and Monet

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 Inside the Musee d'Orsay (it used to be a train station!)

Inside the Musee d'Orsay (it used to be a train station!)

 Van Gogh, straight killin it. 

Van Gogh, straight killin it. 

 The French gave us this lady, and she's displayed at the Orsay and along the Seine

The French gave us this lady, and she's displayed at the Orsay and along the Seine

 The view from our apartment

The view from our apartment

We flew to Barcelona after that where celebrated with the locals at the Festa Major de Gracia. Though our Catalan (the language spoken in Barcelona) is rusty (read: nonexistent), we managed to gather that this festival takes place every year. There are street decorating competitions. A group of people practice and then build towers out of humans. There is music in every plaza. There was a kissing competition that we happened upon. The end of festa parade consists of a lot of fireworks going off into a crowd and people dressed up as devils. Also, they serve a lot of beer and wine on the street and people stay up all night.

Though we mostly didn’t know what was happening, we knew and that it was a wonderful display of community and tradition and we were lucky to have been there. Aside from the Festa de Gracia, we strolled along La Rambla, saw Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, and most unremarkably, I turned 30.

We said bye to Barca and then flew two hours back to Rome and then 14 hours to Buenos Aires. We sat next to Maria, an 80-year-old Italian woman who had been living in Buenos Aires for 50 years, but who insisted on speaking to me in rapid fire Italian for the flight. She could not buckle and unbuckle her seatbelt, so I also had that honor for the short 14 hours that we were together. Also, there was turbulence from Rome, over Africa, and well into the Atlantic Ocean, so it felt like a fourth grader was shaking us by the shoulders for a solid six hours. We’ve landed in Buenos Aires, where we rented a furnished apartment. So far, we’ve managed to accidentally order coffee with alcohol in it, which wouldn’t ordinarily be an issue, but it was 10 in the morning, so that gave us a weird kick start/suppressed start to the day and then I immediately had to pee.

We are spending an entire month here (!) where Jason will cook me food, we will lose 11 pounds (that’s not going to happen, they eat dinner at 10 and it is all red meat and red wine), and take Spanish classes so we don’t order alcohol in the morning.

 Festa Major de Gracia street decorating competition 

Festa Major de Gracia street decorating competition 

 AWWW! NYC in BARCA! 

AWWW! NYC in BARCA! 

 I nerded out a little over this street.

I nerded out a little over this street.

 Just building towers out of people. NBD. 

Just building towers out of people. NBD. 

 Dred mullet=drullet? 

Dred mullet=drullet? 

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 Totes acceptable to light things on fire near lots of people. 

Totes acceptable to light things on fire near lots of people. 

 Inside Gaudi's Sagrada Familia. 

Inside Gaudi's Sagrada Familia. 

 Sagrada Familia! 

Sagrada Familia! 

   Palau de musica catalana

  Palau de musica catalana

2 Comments

Do you mean Rodney Dangerfield?

3 Comments

Do you mean Rodney Dangerfield?

We flew into Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, and felt like the country was going to be some mix of paradisiacal romance novel and young adult dystopian fantasy set in a Cold War-esque landscape. Thankfully Zagreb presented the only glimpse of what would certainly be an entertaining teen novel, and Croatia turned out to be mostly paradise. Our first stop after leaving the capital was a national park called Plitvice (pronounced plit-vit-za), home to an amazing display of waterfalls and turquoise lakes. It offered a great opportunity for us to dust off our walking shoes and put in a few hours of hiking. 

 Overview of some of the lakes and waterfalls at Plitvice National Park

Overview of some of the lakes and waterfalls at Plitvice National Park

Imagine the finest wine, the rarest steak, the sleekest of predators, and then think of the car that would be the combination of all of those things. Then think of the opposite. That was our car: the Renault Twingo. At the end of the day, she took us from point A to B, with serious issue on any hill steeper than a wheelchair ramp, engine screaming at a top speed of 70mph. The Twingo took us next to Split, on the coast and the gateway to the islands. We got a room on Airbnb, and had another fantastic experience with some locals who rented us the apartment. Ivan, his wife and her sister invited us to a music festival in Split, and then walked us all over the old city. They introduced us to grappa, local music, and had us sitting on a wall eating local cuisine like true Croatians.

We visited two islands in Croatia, Hvar and Vis. Hvar is more of a party town, and it was overrun with all the beautiful people living it up for yacht week. We celebrated our one-year anniversary with a fantastic dinner, and had to stumble back to our room because of all the free drinks they kept giving us for our special night. Vis was a little more of the speed we were looking for in an island. It was quaint, charming and very relaxing. After leaving the car ferry, we called the hotel and were told to look out for the “blonde teenager” who would lead us to our hotel. It turns out the hotel is run by an older Croatian couple, and their grandsons Alan and Rocco are from Los Angeles and spending the summer on the island. They were able to give us some great suggestions for beaches and activities including a trip to the blue cave. Getting to the blue cave involved a 30 minute boat ride through a raging thunderstorm (which Linsey was obviously super delighted about, given her love of all things boat-related), but it was worth it after the skies cleared and we were able to experience a sea cave with light shining up from below, offering a serene, ethereal experience.

 One good beard pose deserves another. Split, Croatia

One good beard pose deserves another. Split, Croatia

 Stiniva Beach on Vis, Croatia

Stiniva Beach on Vis, Croatia

 Blue Cave

Blue Cave

 Hvar offers a wide range of beauties, including the bespeedoed variety

Hvar offers a wide range of beauties, including the bespeedoed variety

Our last stop in Croatia was Dubrovnik. The drive to this city was stunningly beautiful and slightly terrifying at times, as we sped around unguarded cliffs in our matchbox car. The old city of Dubrovnik is definitely the most crowded place we’ve visited so far, as several cruise ships per day send thousands of tourists descending on the city like an invading force armed with selfie sticks. As has become our custom with cities, we entered just after dawn so we could stroll the streets relatively alone for a few hours before the marauding hordes inevitably arrived. However, we couldn’t resist a Game of Thrones walking tour since a fair portion of the show was filmed here. We were able to simultaneously visit the historical structures as well as areas included in the show, which often coincided. Plus, I was given the opportunity to sit on the Iron Throne and hold a sword, which, obviously I’m going to do. 

 The walled city of Dubrovnik, also known as King's Landing

The walled city of Dubrovnik, also known as King's Landing

 Part of our GoT tour. you can see the scene from the show in the picture

Part of our GoT tour. you can see the scene from the show in the picture

 Linsey doing her best Cersei impersonation on the walk of shame

Linsey doing her best Cersei impersonation on the walk of shame

Our next flight took us to the island of Santorini in Greece. There’s not much to say about Santorini that hasn’t already been said. It’s beautiful, the food is great, the views are amazing, and why can’t I live there? We decided we should do something other than just stuff our faces and lie on the beach, so we spent one day kayaking around the southern part of the island. We swam in the crystal clear Aegean waters, paddled around and through towering rock formations, and did some cliff jumping (which Linsey wisely abstained from this time). After back flipping off the cliff our guide started yelling “Triple Lindy! Triple Lindy! From Back to School! What’s his name?” “Rodney Dangerfield?” I replied. “YES!” And then he only referred to me as Triple Lindy. Travel is strange sometimes.

 Sunset over Santorini

Sunset over Santorini

 Blue moon over Santorini

Blue moon over Santorini

From Santorini we took the ferry to Athens. With the recent Greek debt crisis and protests, we were unsure how it was going to be in the city. We were pleasantly surprised to find that, other than Athens being the most graffiti-festooned city I’ve ever seen, it was totally calm and riot free. We visited the Acropolis and Parthenon, and went on a wonderful walking tour of the city, which included sneaking into the site of the first modern Olympic games.

 Greek guards with fancy shoes

Greek guards with fancy shoes

 Linsey sneaking into the Olympic stadium

Linsey sneaking into the Olympic stadium

 Parthenon!

Parthenon!

 I tried to get naked for a really authentic picture, but security was all "no, you can't do that" or whatever

I tried to get naked for a really authentic picture, but security was all "no, you can't do that" or whatever

Rome was the next stop on our trip, and we were able to meet up with my friend Bobby and have a fantastic time catching up and exploring the city for a few days. Rome is such a great city for wandering. We spent hours walking all over the place, stopping at cafes and restaurants to refuel our bodies and try to catch a quick respite from the heat. We were awed by the history of the Coliseum, imagining the crowd of over 50,000 people packed in to see gladiators battle. We saw only a small portion of the Vatican museum, realizing after two hours that we had barely progressed out of sight of the entrance, and that we needed to skip ahead to the Sistine Chapel or we would never get there before the end of the day. The ceiling of the chapel is one of those great works of art that you could stare at for hours, if someone would only provide a place to lie down, because staring at ceilings is no fun. Another reason I love Rome is the food. Linsey is a big fan of “what if” scenarios, and when she asks “What if you could only have the same meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?” “Pizza!” I yell out without thinking, and then yell out again after thinking about it. And then Linsey refuses to answer her own question because it’s unfair and she needs more food choices.

Now the three of us are in Terminal 2 of Rome’s airport, a cavernous room struggling to fend off the heat from outside, enjoying the sweet music of sirens blaring because someone opened the wrong door, the sights of a cleaning lady pushing a floor Zamboni over the same area over and over, and the scent of ham sandwiches and unwashed bodies. Travel isn’t always glamorous, but for now I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Next stop: Morocco!  

 The Pantheon in Rome

The Pantheon in Rome

 Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

 Bobby at the Colosseum

Bobby at the Colosseum

 St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City

 La Pieta, the only sculpture Michelangelo signed

La Pieta, the only sculpture Michelangelo signed

 Swiss Guard giving me the stank eye

Swiss Guard giving me the stank eye

 A tale of Greco-Roman beards. From left to right: bifurcated curly beard, chin strap beard, the full figured beard

A tale of Greco-Roman beards. From left to right: bifurcated curly beard, chin strap beard, the full figured beard

 Curly neck beard, close-cropped chubby George Clooney beard, wavy head hair beard

Curly neck beard, close-cropped chubby George Clooney beard, wavy head hair beard

 Overpowering mustache beard, carefree beard, Liev Schreiber beard (credit Bobby for noticing the resemblance)

Overpowering mustache beard, carefree beard, Liev Schreiber beard (credit Bobby for noticing the resemblance)

 Face tentacle beard, ringlet beard, muttonchops beard, Is This My Hair Or My Beard beard

Face tentacle beard, ringlet beard, muttonchops beard, Is This My Hair Or My Beard beard

3 Comments

Does this thing have reverse?

3 Comments

Does this thing have reverse?

Jason and I arrived into Cairo after a long night on Egypt Air. Turns out, Egypt Air is a dry airline, and pretty much the most fun thing about being in the air for nine hours at a time is being able to have a few cocktails before the inevitable long night of tossing, turning, listening to other people snore, and the smell of feet. We arrived into Cairo and we were collected there by our driver, turned guide, turned friend, Mohamed. He stayed with us for a couple days, and our experience would have been very different without his advice, guidance, and his ability to have never met a stranger. He was basically the Egyptian Jimmy Hackett. We saw pyramids, smoked a shisha, visited mosques, experienced a sandstorm and an earthquake in the same day, went on a boat, where we broke the Ramadan fast with 250 hungry Egyptians, were paraded around in front of said Egyptians and made to dance, bargained in the markets, and flew to Luxor, where we met up with Jason’s parents. 

 The Sphinx at the Giza Pyramids

The Sphinx at the Giza Pyramids

 Mohamed Ali mosque (not the boxer!)

Mohamed Ali mosque (not the boxer!)

 Smoking shisha at the Khan al Khalili market! 

Smoking shisha at the Khan al Khalili market! 

 Sandstorm in Cairo

Sandstorm in Cairo