South Africa Part 1: St. Lucia to Storms River

As we began the next leg of our journey, we would be taken into the unique and infamous country of South Africa. A land whose recent history has been rife with conflict, from King Shaka and the conquering Zulu empire of the 19th century to the European invasion and the government propagated Apartheid racism of the 20th century. South Africa today embraces a wealth of cultures and a diversity seen few other places. With 11 official languages, modern South Africa combines European and Indian influences with more than a dozen indigenous groups creating a cultural melting pot that is only surpassed by the countries diverse natural beauty and unparalleled variety of wildlife. Continue reading

Day Number 300 Gear Update!

Well it has been 300 days on  the road and here is the latest on the gear we brought on our 400+ day Round The World journey. If you’re thinking about taking a long trip read these notes and hopefully they’ll be helpful. If you’re not but are curious what people take on trips of this magnitude, I hope you enjoy this as well and maybe it inspires you to get out there. If you have any questions feel free to post them in the comments. Continue reading

Road Wisdom: From Tourists to Travellers

It happened around six months in on this trip. We were somewhere around northern Argentina or southern Brazil. It happened to us both around the same time, which is significant I think, though we didn’t talk about it for another month or so. Something changed. It wasn’t a conscious decision we had made or a specific incident that changed us… we had changed. It’s hard to explain exactly, but it was at this point that we officially transformed from tourists to travellers in a much deeper sense than in just the name or the sense of the word. Heck, we had been calling ourselves “travellers” since the trip began, I mean we had more than a year of travel ahead of us after all, right?… But maybe that was just it. Ahead of us. Things had changed a lot in our first six months on the road. We’d learned to adapt our daily lives to rapidly and constantly changing conditions and were aware that each day our lives would be altered significantly by outside forces…and that was okay. The 3 sets of clothes in our backpacks WERE our wardrobe now and subconsciously we knew exactly what to wear each day based on what we would be (or might be) doing. In about 15 minutes upon our arrival at our new hotel room we would methodically transform it into our temporary “home” without even saying a word. It was part of the process. We had learned what things cost in the world and that haggling sometimes wasn’t worth our time. If someone says something is 5 dollars, we’d offer them 50 cents and walk away. 9 times out of 10 they’ll yell after us agreeing to our price, the other time we didn’t need it anyway. We’d stopped booking things ahead of time as we knew our plans would always change whether we wanted them to or not. We had developed all of these skills and tools, and so much more, from our months of intensive seasoning on the road. But something else happened at that six month mark which is what really changed who we were. We stopped thinking about home as a place back in California. THIS was our home now. Wherever we were that day. No longer did we compare things to our previous life. No longer did we start sentences with “when we get back”. No longer did we long for our house, our clothes, our cars, our nice stuff… because that is what it had become to us. Just stuff. We stopped thinking of this trip as a temporary vacation from our lives with a beginning and an end. This was our life now. It might sound simple enough but it really changed our whole perspective on what it was we were doing with our lives and where we were headed. We didn’t have to go back to how it was or where we were. Maybe we’d go back, maybe we wouldn’t. The whole world was open to us now and our path was anything but clear. A new sense of freedom, opportunity and uncertainty swept over us and redefined who we are. We’ve been on the road 299 days now and we still don’t have a return ticket purchased, and that is a wonderful thing.

The Amazing Kingdom of Swaziland

Crossing the big blue Atlantic ocean over night, we found ourselves early that morning setting foot on the third continent of our adventure and one we’d both dreamt about visiting for years… Africa. A captivating land known for its amazing wildlife, grandiose natural beauty, rich and diverse history, unique culture, traditional village life and unfortunately, patches of tremendous poverty. Our first stop would be the last remaining monarchy in Africa, the diminutive kingdom of Swaziland, and it would prove to be one of our favorite and most memorable stops on our journey so far. Continue reading

Road Wisdom: A Walk Through Time

It was very early in the morning as we wound our way through the hills away from Hampi, India. It was 5am in fact and the pre-dawn light glowed lovingly and blue on the temple ruins and palm jungles that lined our rickshaws route and surrounded us everywhere. The monsoon season air was cool and moist as it breezed against our open eyes and it smelled like fresh rain. In the twilight, dozens of wooden ox carts rolled past us on the road making their way to distant sugar cane fields for the days work, as they’d done for decades if not centuries. Their riders holding the reins and standing upright or sitting cross-legged on the wooden platforms, barely visible in the increasing glow of the morning sky. Rounding a bend we passed the stone ruins of a massive bazaar where 500 years ago traders hawked gold, silver and precious stones, fruits and vegetables and of course the all important spices, which India is still known for today. A columned temple looked down from a hill above. We had been in Hampi for four days now and had spent them walking amongst its other worldly boulder covered hills and exploring the seemingly endless ruins of this great lost civilization. The “Forgotten Empire” as they called it. Massive ornate temples rising out of the jungle, stone palaces, structures and aqueducts throughout the hills and giant monolithic carved sculptures of Ganesha and other Hindu god figures lined the swollen Tungabhadra river. The river that has brought fertility and life to this plateau for millenia. We took probably hundreds of pictures of the incredible ruins of the city and the massive temple complexes that dot the vivid landscape. However as we reviewed the photos in the evenings, a familiar feeling repeatedly crept over me. One which I had only felt after visiting Machu Picchu, Tikal and other ancient civilizations we’d visited on this journey. Pictures just cannot capture in the slightest bit what it feels like to actually visit these places. There is something unique about standing amongst the crumbling remains of a society that thrived long before my great great great great grandparents even existed on this Earth. Something very different than visiting any natural wonder, amazing landscape or historic active city, no matter how old. Your imagination is unlocked and set alight with day dreams of what could have been. It’s an amazing and visceral experience. As you look at what is left behind you can feel, hear, smell and see in glimpses what it must have been like in its time and things momentarily can somehow transform around you. You can feel the energy still permeating the places where so many people lived, felt and died. As we walked through the palace courtyards and past the empty public bath pools I had visions of the pools and moats filled with water and hundreds of people around us going about their daily lives. I could hear the frenetic sounds of countless conversations and the splashing of water. I could smell the royal elephants walking by on their way to the palace stables. As we walked through the massive stone bazaar complexes I could briefly see the bright colors of precious stones, fruits and textiles all around me. Hear the hawkers hawking. Smell the incense and spices everywhere. And as I entered the massive temples covered with carvings of gods, animals and the stories of these peoples past I could almost feel a divine presence, a sense of solemnity and the importance and reverence with which the people of this community must have looked upon their spirituality and these places. A photograph cannot capture that. Not even close. It’s a realization I’ve had so many times on our travels and it was at these times that I had to put down the camera to truly embrace our surroundings and the experience of the moment.  In this era where everything we own has or will eventually have a camera on it and people can “live” entire lives vicariously through YouTube and the internet,  it’s important to remember that there just is no substitute for the real thing. Experience. Photographs and videos capture such a small piece of the story of life. It’s so important to get out there explore and truly be a part of it. It’s interesting that it took a 500 year old dead society to fully teach me that.