2019 Travel Review

2019 was our first year of full-time travel. We started the year as complete rookies in our new travel lifestyle and we definitely learned a lot. It took time to learn how to slow down and figure out that we don’t need to see all the sites. We had to get familiar with our ever changing neighborhoods, figure out how to turn each new place into our home, and build a routine that we could adapt to any location so we could settle in and stay grounded. Everyday we looked around whatever place we were in and reminded ourselves that was where we lived for the moment. No matter where we are, we are at home.

In 2019 we spent time in 13 countries within Asia, Europe, and the Americas. We had 61 nights at housesits (7 in Phuket, 14 in Koh Samui, 6 in Panama City, and 34 in Boquete). We also spent 45 nights back in the US staying with family and friends.

2019 Objective – Find Places We Love

As full-time travelers we imagine our perfect year would include a series of 3 month stays in different regions around the world, with at least one month in every city we visit. With that goal in mind we spent 2019 making a list of places we would enjoy returning to for longer stays in the future.

The added challenge is matching our interest in places with the duration we are allowed to stay as US citizens, either with simple tourist Visas or better yet with Visa-free stays. As US citizens, we are really lucky and privileged with our duration allowances in most countries compared to people from other places who are not allowed as much freedom to roam. We can also apply for extensions and other types of Visas to lengthen our durations in certain locations, but for the most part we want to stick with the standard tourist allowances we have in each place.

Region 1 – Southeast Asia (January to April)

When we arrived in SE Asia we still felt like we were on vacation, and when that started to change we felt a bit homeless and disoriented. Travel days when we moved from one place to another were super stressful in addition to being physically tiring since we were carrying 2 backpacks each. I wish we could repeat this entire 4 month trip in SE Asia now since we are so much better at being nomads today!

Singapore (8 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days in Singapore
Our trip to Singapore was fantastic. We were definitely still completely in vacation mode since this was our first stop as full-time travelers. We stayed in a hotel using points and took advice about where to go and what to see from hotel staff and Grab drivers. What we liked most is that this city is full of parks, temples, free activities, and amazing food. We loved the botanic garden and the wetland reserve we visited, and we barely had time to explore the amazing street food markets. The challenges were expensive housing and the heat and humidity. We would definitely return for a longer stay in the future, and assume that would have to be done through housesitting.

Kuala Lumpur (8 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? NO
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days in Malaysia
Our visit to KL was full of mistakes. We were in a hotel where the free breakfast of Malay food wasn’t our favorite. We were in a neighborhood (Chow Kit) that wasn’t the best fit for us and when we went out exploring we had trouble finding food we loved, though we finally found a great night market 45 minutes from our hotel on our last day in town. KL is a very large, loud, traffic-packed city and because it’s so urban the heat and humidity were tough to cope with. The transit system doesn’t connect all the dots, so even though trains went by just across the street from our hotel there were no light rail or monorail stations close to us. We would visit again for a short stay to experience a better neighborhood, but at this point KL isn’t on our list for a longer stay.

Penang Island/Georgetown (9 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days in Malaysia
We were on Penang Island when we stopped feeling like we were on vacation. We had an apartment where we could cook with a convenience store downstairs, a big grocery store within a 15 minute walk, and a night market with great street food 10 minutes away. We liked the Jelutong neighborhood and we loved the small town feel on the island. We enjoyed visiting the main historic areas in George Town, and especially Penang Hill and the botanic garden. We would definitely like to return for a longer stay in the future.

Phuket (11 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? NO
Visa allowance for US citizens: 60 days in Thailand
We didn’t initially plan to be in Phuket but we found a housesit there that worked in our schedule so we rerouted ourselves for that. We met some wonderful people, including travelers and Thai people, and they were the best part of our experience. While we were housesitting we really liked the community we were in, and we loved our housesitting experience. But the general “party at the beach for cheap” vibe on Phuket does not appeal to us at all. We would return to housesit for our friend again but we wouldn’t return to Phuket just to stay on our own.

Koh Samui (17 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? NO
Visa allowance for US citizens: 60 days in Thailand
Koh Samui was another place we didn’t plan to visit, but we found a housesit that appealed to us so we changed our plans. The house had amazing views and the guys also let us use their truck while we were there. There was a big grocery store 25 minutes from the house and we cooked every day. We didn’t spend much time exploring the island since we were so comfortable at the house and the dogs we were taking care of couldn’t be left alone for more than a couple of hours. The island is beautiful and we would love to return to housesit for those guys again, though we probably wouldn’t return just to stay there on our own.

Chiang Mai (21 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 60 days in Thailand
We were excited to visit Chiang Mai. The city is packed with historic charm and green spaces, as well as great restaurants, markets, and street food. We were in a nice building in the Mueang district and we met tons of fabulous people during our stay. We also had good medical and dental tourism experiences. And all of the street food and restaurants we tried were fabulous. We look forward to returning for a longer stay in the future, just not during burning season!

Siem Reap (6 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? NO
Visa allowance for US citizens: 30 days in Cambodia
Visiting Siem Reap was really a vacation rather than trying to feel at home. Visiting the Angkor temples was truly a bucket list experience. We only saw 3 of the temples during our visit since we try to take it slow rather than racing through as many sites as possible. Our hotel was great, we met lots of local Cambodians and really appreciated our conversations with them. And all of the food we tried was outstanding. Siem Reap isn’t a location we would try to live in for a full month, but we would love to visit the temples again.

Ho Chi Minh City (6 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 30 days in Vietnam
We had been saying that big cities aren’t our thing, but then we visited HCMC and really enjoyed our time there. Our neighborhood in District 1 was cute and quiet even though it was just steps off a busy main street. Every time we tried a random restaurant or street food stall we loved what we tasted. And despite the insane traffic we did just fine taking long walks around town. Best of all we have friends in HCMC and that makes a huge difference for us. We are really looking forward to returning for a longer stay in the future.

Hoi An (14 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 30 days in Vietnam
We loved Hoi An! It seems crazy to say we could feel at home in a place that is as small and touristy as Hoi An, but we felt at home there almost immediately. We met wonderful local people who helped us get a better sense for the area and see past the touristy elements. Hoi An is packed with history and charm, and it’s walkable. The food was better than almost everywhere else we visited in SE Asia. The only complication was that we wanted to be in an apartment with a kitchen but there were more hotels and homestays, and relatively few apartments to rent in the central area. We would definitely return for a longer stay in the future if can find an apartment to rent.

Hanoi (7 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? NO
Visa allowance for US citizens: 30 days in Vietnam
For our stay in Hanoi I chose a great apartment in the Old Quarter, thinking that area would be charming and fascinating. The apartment was great, but the area we were in was pretty rough. We didn’t find any restaurant or street food that appealed to us near our apartment, and there were no functioning ATM machines near our place. The sidewalks in our area were generally occupied by cars, scooters, hawkers, or being used as toilets. We had to go pretty far on foot or by taxi to reach a nice walking area and a grocery store. We aren’t including Hanoi on our list for a longer stay in the future but we will likely return briefly on our way to other parts of northern Vietnam and I’m sure we’d do better if we try staying in a different part of town. What we loved most about this trip was a one night excursion to Ha Long Bay. That was a bucket list experience!

Region 2 – Japan (April to May)

Japan was a shocking change after being in SE Asia for 4 months. The places we visited seemed so modern, clean and easy to navigate with one of the world’s best transit systems. We were better at coping with constant surprises and at adapting to new processes by the time we reached Japan which also made everything feel better. Travel days when we moved from one place to another were still stressful since we tended to feel lost and confused in addition to being physically tired from carrying all of our stuff. But we really appreciated the way there always seemed to be people on point to greet travelers like us, smile and make us feel welcome, and then help us find our way.

Osaka (9 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days in Japan
This city is fairly huge, urban, and modern. We stuck to the areas with historic charm and green spaces, and avoided the sky scrapers and shopping areas. We stayed in Nishinari-ku in an apartment with 2 actual beds in bedrooms with doors that closed since we had a friend staying with us. We were within walking distance of a big grocery store and a bunch of different train stations on various lines, so we could get anywhere easily. Best of all, Osaka is a spectacular foodie city! We tried lots of restaurants and street food and really enjoyed the amazing curries and okonomiyaki. Osaka is high on our list of cities we would love to return to for longer stays in the future.

Hiroshima (9 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days in Japan
While we were in Hiroshima we thought a lot about the US atomic bomb attack that devastated the city and its entire population during WWII, which made our visit feel quite personal and emotional. The city is stunningly green and beautiful, walkable, and charming. We had a tiny 100 sq ft apartment overlooking the Tenma River, and cooked lots of meals there. We loved the Naka ward neighborhood and being able to walk 10 minutes to Peace Park. We also had a streetcar stop in front of our door. The people we met were warm and very welcoming. And the regional food was amazing, especially the oysters, anago, and local version of okonomiyaki. Hiroshima is a city of peace, gardens, and rivers. What’s not to love? We would gladly return for a longer stay in the future.

Kyoto (12 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days in Japan
Kyoto is gushing with charm and history so of course we loved it. Our apartment was in a great spot in Fushimi-ku with a grocery store across the street and stations for two different train lines within a short walk. And we were just a few minutes from two different rivers so we took walks along one of the rivers every day. We were also within walking distance of Fushimi Inari, which was fabulous. All of the food we tried was delicious, and we really enjoyed a traditional tea ceremony there as well. We definitely plan to return to Kyoto for a longer stay in the future.

Tokyo (4 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? MAYBE
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days in Japan
Tokyo is a gigantic modern city that’s completely packed with people and is very busy. It’s one of those places where we took walks within crowds most of the time, and we usually felt like everyone we saw was rushing to or from work looking preoccupied. Tokyo is also very expensive. I couldn’t find a single apartment within the city that was in our price range and met our needs, so I ended up using up a lot of our hotel points to get us a room in the Minato ward. We found beautiful parks, temples and shrines to visit, and we really enjoyed the restaurants and street food we tried. I’m sure we will return for short stays on our way to other cities in Japan, and I’ll look for housesits for longer stays as well. But Tokyo isn’t high on our list for long stays.

Region 3 – Europe (June to September)

Our trip to Europe was different from the rest of our travels last year since it was designed as time with family. Before we started traveling full-time Alison’s Mom spent her summers with us in Seattle and our new plan is to have Mom join us on our travels. Since Mom was 80 years old last year we decided to keep our travels very slow while still introducing a few exciting and inspiring new experiences. We looked for more comfortable homes with plenty of space for everyone to stretch out in since we all like time to work on our projects and be independent.

Paris (10 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days within a 180-day period, in the EU’s Schengen Area
Our first stop with Mom was Paris. We were focused on being tourists there since it’s such a bucket list city. We had a great apartment in the 5th arrondissement with a bunch of markets and bakeries very close by. We had a fabulous visit full of art, culture, history, parks, and cafes. We drank tons of French wine with baguettes, pates, and cheeses. Paris is a world class city that Alison and I feel very comfortable in after our 3 visits so we’d love to be there for longer stays in the future. 

Beaune (9 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days within a 180-day period, in the EU’s Schengen Area
Alison and I loved Beaune the first time we visited and we were excited to take Mom back with us. The home we found was just a 5 minute walk from the ramparts with a great bakery just one block away. We feasted on Burgundy wines, cheeses, pates, mustards, and escargot during our stay. We enjoyed lots of picnics in different places around town and also tried some fabulous restaurants. Beaune is definitely one of the places Alison and I plan to return to for longer stays.

Amboise (10 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days within a 180-day period, in the EU’s Schengen Area
We stayed in a very historic house with the royal chateau 5 minutes down the road on our street, and Da Vinci’s house 5 minutes up the road on our street. Every day we found more Loire wines, goat cheeses, fresh mushrooms, fruits and vegetables to try. We really enjoyed the local markets, restaurants, bakeries, and ice cream places. The town was a perfect home base for exploring the Loire valley chateaux, and we had a bonus with Alison’s sister joining us for a week. We would gladly return for a longer stay in the future.

Quimper (7 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days within a 180-day period, in the EU’s Schengen Area
Quimper was a new experience for all 3 of us. We found a house that was very walkable into the city center and also a good location for exploring more of the Brittany region. We enjoyed taking walks in the old quarter, visiting museums and the cathedral. Meals out included oysters, mussels, and scallops with cider. We even found some good French whiskey to try. Quimper is definitely on the list of places we might return to for longer stays.

Dinan (4 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days within a 180-day period, in the EU’s Schengen Area
Alison and I visited the area once before as a quick stopover and we knew it would be inspiring for Alison’s Mom. I found a funny little apartment for us that was basically a castle tower in the middle of town. We loved walking from the ramparts to the port and visiting the local cheese shops, bakeries, and butchers. We enjoyed a lot of cider, crêpes, and yummy apple deserts and ice cream. And of course lots of baguettes and local washed rind cheeses as well. We think it would be fun to try staying in this small town for a longer time in the future.

Le Mont Saint Michel (1 night)

Would we return for a longer stay? NO
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days within a 180-day period, in the EU’s Schengen Area
Le Mont is a bucket list experience that we think is most satisfying at dawn and sunset so we booked one night for this trip. It was a bit challenging for Mom because of the number of stairs you have to climb to see the ancient abbey and ramparts. The fact that the real population of residents is something like 33 people is shocking, and it’s so touristy that it takes some effort to see past that and enjoy this historic place, but it’s worth it. There are only a few hotels and most of the restaurants are now serving the exact same menu, but we didn’t go there for the food. This is definitely not a place we could stay for a longer period, but we could return again for a third overnight visit at some point.

Rouen (7 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? NO
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days within a 180-day period, in the EU’s Schengen Area
We needed a place in Normandy to wrap up our trip to France and I picked Rouen because it’s a pilgrimage site for Joan of Arc fans like me and Alison. Rouen was a great home base for day trips exploring more of the region. We enjoyed the local cheeses like Camembert, Pont l’Évêque, and Neufchâtel with plenty of ciders and apple tarts. I’m glad we visited Rouen but beyond the historic old town, the truly stunning Notre Dame cathedral, and the Joan of Arc monuments we actually weren’t enamored by the larger city itself. So on future trips I think Alison and I would be more interested in some of the smaller towns in Normandy rather than returning to stay in busy Rouen proper again.

Glasgow (2 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 6 months in the United Kingdom
Glasgow is one of those great cities we keep skipping over because we are so excited to get to other places. On this short visit we got to visit with friends and walk around town a few times while we were there. We also made it to a museum that Mom was excited about. I’m sure we could be really happy staying there for a longer time since this lowland city has great architecture and a really vibrant art and music scene. Within 3 blocks of our apartment we had a grocery store and a bunch of Scottish pubs. We would love to return for a longer stay in this city. We just need to be patient instead of leaving immediately for other places!

Fort William (2 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? NO
Visa allowance for US citizens: 6 months in the United Kingdom
This area is quite beautiful with Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain in view. This is also the town at the end of the West Highland Trail which means it’s fairly crowded with hikers and adventure seekers. The local Ben Nevis whisky didn’t appeal to us so that’s one demerit. The real issue was that I couldn’t find a decent place for the 3 of us to stay even though we have a rather healthy summer budget for housing options. We did enjoy the local pubs we tried and of course we did some great site seeing in the area. But we are not adding Fort William to our list for longer stays.

Struan, Isle of Skye (7 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 6 months in the United Kingdom
We had an amazing experience staying on the Isle of Skye. We avoided Portree since that’s where most tourists are crowded in. We found a fabulous house in rural Struan on the west coast with magnificent views out over the sea, as well as the Cuillins to the south and Macleod’s Tables to the north. We were about 45 minutes from a real grocery store, completely out on our own, and that was perfect for us. We did tons of cooking and gazing out at the sea. We had sheep on the front shoreline every morning and fabulous Hairy Coos in the back fields behind the house every afternoon. Talisker is one of my favorite whiskies and I was thrilled to visit that distillery. We also visited some awe inspiring sites along with a few local artists and crafts people around the island. All 3 of us loved our stay so much that we agreed to return in 2020 for a full month together. This area is at the top of our list of places we’d love to stay in for longer periods of time.

North Kessock (10 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 6 months in the United Kingdom
We found a good cottage to stay in on the Black Isle where we could do tons of cooking and take long walks along the little one lane road up into the hills. Our spot made day trips to other areas very easy so we could show Mom some of the northern sites we most enjoyed. Alison and I also got to visit some of our favorite Scotch distilleries between Speyside and the Highlands. As much as we enjoy Inverness we decided staying on the Black Isle suited us more so we’d love to return for a longer stay in the future.

Edinburgh (10 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 6 months in the United Kingdom
We found a really fun apartment for exploring Scotland’s beautiful capital city. We enjoyed taking walks along the cobbled streets, admiring the old stone buildings and gardens. It was easy to find grocery stores so we could cook at home, and we also enjoyed trying a bunch of local pubs. We explored the historic sites, monuments and a couple of museums. And we had a fabulous bonus since one of our nephews joined us there for a week, so it was a treat to climb Arthur’s Seat with him to catch the fabulous views from the top. We’d love to stay in Edinburgh for a month or two someday.

London (3 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 6 months in the United Kingdom
We had all been to London before so we didn’t feel a need to see the city on this trip, but we scheduled a few extra days in the area just to visit with some good friends before heading home. We stayed in the Greenwich borough in a fun maritime neighborhood just 3 blocks from the waterfront. We were there long enough to shop for groceries and host our friends at the house one day. We also took a few walks to enjoy the views and some sites nearby. Alison and I definitely think it would be fun to stay somewhere in London for a longer time at some point.

Region 4 – Americas (October to December)

After we took Mom home and had a quick visit with family, Alison and I repacked our bags again and then we were right back out for our next trip. Since we have spent so much of our lives on the west coast of the US and Canada, we were excited to spend some real time in other parts of the Americas.

Quito (27 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? NO
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days in Ecuador
The reason we picked Quito was to attend a chautauqua retreat with others in the FIRE community. Our original plan was to fly in a few days early and then spend a week housesitting, then we were going to leave town and visit other areas in Ecuador before the retreat started. But the day we arrived was the start of nationwide protests which lasted for 11 days in Quito with a lot of roads closed and flights canceled. So we decided to hunker down and shelter in place. In the meantime we also built a network of friends and people we trusted, and our overall experience was very positive. We spent our first night at a hotel on points. We were supposed to move to a hostal in the Centro Histórico after that, but since it was right next to the Presidential palace and the seat of Ecuador’s government we couldn’t get there and wouldn’t want to be there during the protests anyway. We moved a bit north to a hostal near La Carolina Parque for a couple nights, and then to our housesit in El Batan. After the housesit we stayed in an apartment in the same area. We loved having a view of Pichincha from our housesit and apartment. We took an Ecuadorian cooking class, socialized with travelers and local people, and took lots of walks to parks and markets. The only real issue we had was the extreme elevation at 9,300 feet. The elevation caused issues with my asthma and reactive airways, and it caused blood pressure spikes and headaches for Alison. So even though we seriously loved Quito, we decided to avoid high altitudes in the future.

Nanegalito (6 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? MAYBE
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days in Ecuador
During the protests and riots, one of our contacts in the area went out of her way to be a friend and resource for us. Eventually she talked us into spending a week with her at her farm near Nanegalito which was amazing. It was wonderful to get out of the big city and see some smaller towns. The elevation at 5,000 feet was much more comfortable for us and we really enjoyed the weather and beautiful clouds. We visited a bird habitat and a butterfly farm, explored Mindo, and saw some Yumbo ruins. Best of all we got to know our friend much better and since she was determined to make us fall in love with that area, we did. It would be a bit more complicated to stay around there for a longer time because it’s so rural, but we would gladly return again for a month as long as we had a car of our own to use.

Otavalo (6 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? NO
Visa allowance for US citizens: 90 days in Ecuador
Our chautauqua retreat was based in Otavalao, and for that week most of our time was planned for us. We enjoyed visiting Otavalo and the excursions we had in the area. Though the elevation at 8,400 feet was still a bit too high for us and some of the excursions, including Lake Cuicocha, were way too high at over 10,000 feet. We were so entertained by the people in our chautauqua group and the new friends we were making that we were less focused on the location itself. We absolutely loved the chautauqua retreat experience, but haven’t considered returning to Otavalo on our own.

Panama City (14 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? NO
Visa allowance for US citizens: 6 months in Panama
The moment we arrived we remembered that being at the equator at sea level is way too hot for us. We saw some fabulous sights during our stay, particularly the Panama Canal. We also loved taking walks along the Amador Causeway. This city seemed dirtier than most of the places we visited last year with big piles of trash on the streets. For the first week we had a nice apartment downtown and then we moved to a housesit outside the central area. But the house was… not well maintained so we weren’t very comfortable there. The bigger problem on this trip was that Alison had blood pressure issues resulting from dropping too quickly from 9,300 feet to sea level in less than two hours after being at a high altitude in Ecuador. Though the good news was that we got excellent medical care in Panama City at fabulous prices (I’m sure we’ll write a separate post about that eventually). We would like to return to see the canal and giant ships again, but with the outrageous heat in Panama City we won’t be planning to stay for a longer time.

Boquete (34 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 6 months in Panama
Our entire stay in Boquete was a housesit and a fabulous one, with a very sweet dog to keep us company. The people who invited us to take care of their home and dog for a month while they were gone on their travels did an excellent job of introducing us to the town they loved and their community as well. Finding good markets and restaurants in Boquete was easy. We loved the weather and the elevation at around 4,000 feet, and took lots of walks and hikes. We enjoyed getting to know our fellow US citizens and travelers, and especially local Panameños. Most of all we appreciated learning from our new local friends about their community and Panamanian culture and history. That trip was very eye opening for us, and though we are not looking for places to settle in permanently we can certainly see why people are so happy in Boquete. We look forward to returning for another month or even a few months in the future.

Mexico City (6 nights)

Would we return for a longer stay? YES
Visa allowance for US citizens: 6 months in Mexico
We spent 6 nights in Mexico City at the very end of 2019, and within 24 hours we really loved that city. Being there inspired a great genealogy project for me to discover more about my Mexican and Spanish roots. We were completely at home and comfortable spending time in the Zona Rosa, Roma Norte, and La Condesa neighborhoods. This is a world class city with outstanding food from Mexico and all over the world. There are beautiful parks and charming neighborhoods to walk through, and tons of great museums and historic sites to visit. We loved the local people we met and we also bumped into a lot of our fellow travelers who were fun to hang out with there as well. We would definitely like to return for a month or even a few months at a time in the future.

Lessons From Our Travels in 2019

After settling into our routine as travelers we realized that we do like to keep moving, so this full-time travel lifestyle works well for us for now. And for now, we are not trying to fall in love with one location and move there permanently. The biggest lesson we learned in 2019 is – we are incredibly lucky to be able to travel so freely.

The other really big lesson we learned in 2019 is that we aren’t obsessed with pinching pennies when we travel the way we thought we would be. Our monthly budget dropped when we sold our home in Seattle and for now we don’t have to pay property taxes, home insurance, utility bills and that sort of thing. We do have a budget and we need to stick to it. We do have a separate Spending Report for 2019, if you want to know more about what our travels cost and what our overall complete budget is like as well. The reality is that every place has its own cost of living, and some places can be a stretch on our budget. But most of the places we visit feel affordable for us.

We travel to optimize experiences, not just dollars. And if there’s a dual price system in place for locals and travelers, we think that makes a lot of sense. We are comfortable being charged more when there’s one price for locals and a higher price for visitors like us. That’s just part of the cost of tourism. We certainly appreciate when apartments offer a discount for extended stays that are already built into their price by our hosts, but we aren’t comfortable asking people to give us additional discounts beyond their listed price. And when apartments, food, or taxi rides seem unreasonably cheap for our budget, we always want to give something extra. As travelers (and human beings) we always want to feel like we are giving more than we are taking.

More Travels in 2020

As we start our second year of full-time travel we are reminding ourselves of why we are doing this. We travel to learn about other places and meet new people. We definitely do not want to stay in gated communities with expats and no locals. We want to get to know local people and live as humble guests in their communities.

We had a lot of great experiences in 2019, and also learned important lessons from the people we met and from our own mistakes as well. In some ways we are still terrible travelers, but after a full year as nomads we are much better at our full-time travel lifestyle. We are excited to return to places we love, and also keep exploring new places. We will also spend plenty of time back in the US with family and friends. We don’t know how long our full-time travels will continue, but we are excited to keep traveling in 2020 and see where life takes us!

13 comments

    • Thanks Kathy! Even though we don’t want to fall in love with just one place or move anywhere permanently right now, that way of thinking turned out to be a great way for us to enjoy our travels. I’m curious to see how our travels go in 2020 now that we are so much more comfortable living this way. I’m positive we will slow down even more this year than we did last year too!

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      • so where are you guys now? yes it will be fun to find out how your travels this year turns out. would be interesting also if you slow down even more, starts a routine and make local friends, etc

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        • We are in Mexico in San Miguel de Allende house sitting. It’s interesting how most house sits give us an instant community and routine through our host, and sometimes that is really nice.

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  1. Oh wow, I loved reading all of this so much. I have so many questions! But perhaps they’re fodder for a post at some point. Aside from the medical insurance question, I’m mainly wondering: how are your language skills? And, have you found good ways to meet locals or ex-pats wherever you go, or does it seem to vary by location?

    I spent 3 weeks in Scotland and Ireland a few years ago and intended to get to Oban, but ran out of vigor after being on the go constantly. It’s high on my list of places to visit if/when I’m in Scotland again, if you happen to make it there I’d love to hear a report. …but I just looked at a map and see it’s not terribly convenient to much 🙂

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    • Thanks Kelly! We are doing a lot of travel planning for the year right now. It’s hard to decide where to return and which new places to see in 2020. When we start dividing up the months between regions it seems like a year is not that much time!

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  2. […] We did a lot of traveling in 2019, and it felt slow and methodical just as I had hoped it would. We traveled to Asia, Europe, the Americas, and ended the year in Mexico City. We visited both our families in the US twice. We traveled with a friend in both Vietnam and Japan. We met up with other dear friends in London. We made new friends through one of my old coworkers in Vietnam. We met our first FIRE community friends in Chiang Mai and then saw them again in Glasgow. We took cooking classes in Chiang Mai and Quito. We attended a Chautauqua retreat and made a ton of new friends in our FIRE community. We had more picnics than I can count in France. We traveled with my mom in France and Scotland, and also had a visit with one of my sisters and one of our nephews on that trip. We marched my Mom to the top of Le Mont-Saint-Michel and then basked in the instantaneous weather changes on the Isle of Skye. We also housesat for 5 Dogs and 11 cats in 3 countries, accounting for 68 free nights staying in those places. […]

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