Teaching Cards Against Humanity to new Argentine friends in the middle of nowhere We were in the middle of a four-day trek outside of Bariloche and one of the Refugios had Cards Against Humanity. A group of local Argentines asked if we knew how to play and would teach them, so of course we obliged. The funniest part was having to define so many of the cards, things I never really wanted to have to explain to anyone. But we all laughed for hours!
Attempting to trout fish in Cajon de Azul We didn’t catch anything, but it was such a beautiful place. It was a good thing that Refugio Cajon de Azul had a lamb dinner for us! It was the most beautiful refugio we went to, I could have stayed there for three or four days.
Surviving the Haupi Nahuel Traverse Our most technical and mentally exhausting hike to date. It involved rock climbing 50m up a narrow rock shoot on the side of a mountain with a 1,000ft drop below us (probably shoulda had a harness and rope) and 4 hours of ridgeline rock scrambling, followed by 3 more hours of tough hiking.
Experiencing a real asado We stayed in a small guesthouse owned by a sweet family who immediately took us in. After a lot of trekking, and then camping our first night we went to “the locals’ butcher” picked up half of a lamb and learned how you make the perfect asado on your parilla.
The hippie market of El Bolson We just hung out there for hours. Great people watching, good artenseal beer, organic produce. I also scored some feather earrings. El Bolson is Boulder, CO’s long lost twin sister.
Sunrise at Refugio Frey The granite peaks in the background turned bright pink and orange and the lake reflected it beautifully.
Stopping to pick wild blackberries In the middle of our search for a hostel in El Bolson we came across a huge patch of wild blackberries and just stopped for 30 minutes to pick them and eat all we could. They were so sweet, I think I ate a couple of pints there on the side of the road.
Staying in The Penthouse with a view over Bariloche Best view from a hostel room we’ve ever had
After 6 full months of travel here are 6 highlights of what I’ve learned about my beautiful bride, Liz:
1) Girl Can Eat an Apple
She has the most amazing ability to methodically eat every last edible bit of an apple. Quite quickly too, she can turn a perfectly whole Honeycrisp to into nothing but seeds and stem in under a minute. I knew she liked apples going into this trip but had no idea she had such a scientific approach to eating them. I was also unaware of how gracious she’s been with sharing bits with me over the years; my bits clearly didn’t fit into her scientific approach, and were never in the right spot, or the right size. She’s since shared her approach with me and shown me how the appropriate time to ask and take a bit of someone’s apple who uses the Liz method is at the very beginning, that way they can work with and correct your incompetent bites.
2) She is a Terrible Hitchhiker
So recently we tried to hitchhike. Liz was gung-ho about it and thought it would be a huge boost to our budget. I on the other hand wasn’t real optimistic about the our possibility of our success considering we were looking at a 1500km journey, but thought it would be fun to try and a great experience if we succeeded in getting picked up. I knew it could possibly be boring just standing on the side of the road waiting for a ride, but what I wasn’t counting on was how quickly Liz would be over it. Maybe it was the cold. Maybe the wind. Maybe it was that there was nothing we could really do to be “better” at it. Maybe it was the ADD. We lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes before one of us threw in the towel. Maybe we’ll try again down the road.
3) She is the Perfect Date
I kinda knew this about Liz but it’s been on display a lot in the last 6 months. She can fit in any situation. Black tie gala? She’ll be joking with the celebrity Emcee by dinner. Hostel Kitchen? She’ll have a family style barbeque planned for dinner with a bunch of gap-years kids she just met. Fine dinning? She’ll be the one whispering which fork to use (Thanks Cotillion). Ska-Punk Halloween Concert in Bangkok? She’s in the front row singing along. Boardroom? Trust me, you want her on your side. Knife-edge of a mountain ridge in the remote backcountry? She can find a trail.
4) She is Super Thoughtful
Over the last 6 months I learned often just how much she puts me before herself. She’s always thinking about me. She is constantly concerned with my preferences and making decisions in light of what she thinks I would like. It is amazing to be loved like that.
5) She is a Loser
Not that kind! She loses stuff. Surprisingly often, especially for how few things we have with us now. She’s not allowed to hold anything important for more than a minute or two. She gets her passport from me when we walk up to the counter then it goes back in my pocket. She’s gotten better lately, but it is still funny because she still thinks she losses stuff all the time and will get so upset with herself when she just forgot which pocket she put something in.
6) Her Attitude is Weather Dependent
If it’s overcast or rainy you can pretty much count on Liz to be a bit of a grump, or at least fighting off the urge. Blue sky and she as happy as can be. This was a bit of a challenge in Patagonia where the weather changes every 10 minutes. And there is almost nothing you can do to change her attitude in bad weather… except putting her on a horse.
After spending almost every second of the last 179 days with Liz I can’t imagine spending a day without her.
That is absolutely NOT to say that I didn’t trust him before! I definitely did. Maybe it’s just that given more opportunities to put more trust in someone, you build even more trust? I don’t know. But my trust in Rick’s abilities and intentions has grown ten fold on this trip. Rick can figure out and take care of anything thrown at him. And he is always looking for how to put me first. He’s incredibly diligent and dedicated to making sure we’re all taken care of – from doing all of the visa research and logistics, to the biggest challenge, managing our trip budget! Which brings me to my second thing….
2) The Man Can Rock a Budget
If you knew us before the trip, and especially before we were married, you may be laughing or in shock right now. But it’s true! The first week of the trip in Nepal, Rick told me I had to stop worrying about the budget and our daily tracking, it was taking too much of my energy and enjoyment away, he was going to be in charge of it from then on out. I was reluctant (me being the saver, and him the spender). But it has turned out to be the best thing he could have done. He is meticulous! Every dollar (or rupee, baht, dong, euro) is tracked, tallied, averaged, analyzed. He stops us when we’re over spending. He manages to balance out the spending when we have a big unexpected expense (hello, $80 cab ride to Krabi!!). He reworks the big budget to compensate for us going rouge and going to four countries we never planned to, two of which were more expensive countries than where we’d plan to be. And six months in, we are EXACTLY on budget. I’ve managed $100 Million+ marketing budgets, and I have to say, this travel budget is just as complicated, if not more so! (“hmm what category do we put bribes in? and do we spread that over the month long budget for this country?”)
3) He Doesn’t Know All of the Words to Any Song… Or Joke
But he’ll repeat the few he does know OVER and OVER. I think he hopes that the other words will hear their cohorts and magically fall out of the sky. It doesn’t ever happen and it kinda drives me nuts. But after six months of 24/7 together, it’s become oddly endearing.
4) He Loves to Challenge Himself
…just for the sake of taking on the challenge. If there is something to be climbed up and balanced on, he’ll find it. Which is not something that comes naturally to me… I require a reward, something to make it worthwhile to take on the challenge. I’ll climb the mountain if there’s going to be a really awesome view from there, or it’s a pretty trail. I’m constantly asking “why? Is it worth it?”, infamously asking “is the juice worth the squeeze?”. Rick climbs the mountain because it’s going to be a hard mountain to climb, even if it’s not pretty or interesting or has a good view. This is true for just about everything we do. I love that he loves to take on big challenges… maybe that’s why he married me?
5) He is a Magnet for the Most Diverse Set of People
As we’ve traveled I’ve gotten to watch all kinds of people become enamored with my husband, and it has been so cool! He doesn’t just get along with everyone, but seems to draw them in. And they immediately become Rick Fans, just like me.
6) He makes up the best goofy voices and characters
…to get me out of a bad mood, up a tough mountain or through a cold night of sleeping in a tent or 30+ hour bus ride. There’s Kurt the Turtle, the ferret collector from Craigslist, the guanaco (pictured above)… the list goes on. It probably sounds weird, but it makes me so happy and brightens my mood even when we’re in the crappiest of moments. And the fact that he’s in the middle of the storm with me and takes the energy and creativity to come up with something to make me smile means even more.
While on the trail Liz and I have a lot of time to think and talk. We play silly games and come up with all the awesome blog content that never gets written. And occasionally we actually make a note or two about what we’ve talked about that we think might actually be an interesting blog post. This is one such blog post that, fortunately, actually got written.
Top 11 places we’ve stayed (so far…)
There are a few caveats to this list:
It couldn’t be someone’s actual home, we’ve stayed at a number of peoples houses and they are all the best, and would easily trump anything on this list, so if we’ve spent time in you’re home, know that it was better than anything on this list and thus wasn’t allowed to compete. It just wouldn’t be far.
In the same vain of “playing fair” major hotel brands/resorts or anything paid for with “points” or gift cards wasn’t allowed to be included either. It had to be a hostel, small hotel, rental property, AirBNB, etc.. i.e. something we’d normally consider as a backpacker/traveler. Again level playing field.
We decided to open it up beyond our current big voyage. We’ve stayed at a lot of backpacker places over the years and some are part of the reason we decided take the big plunge and travel extensively for a while.
Koh Lanta, Thailand – This is the Thailand experience we expected. Cute, cheap, and clean, bungalows right off the beach with a hammock to lounge in while the sunsets. We only got a couple of nights there because they were completely booked with repeat customers.
Neels Gap, Georgia – The hostel that started it all for us. Way back when Liz worked for Arby’s we went on a backpacking trip up Blood Mountain and at the end found Pirate and his the Hostel on the AT. It was the first hostel experience for either of us. We found a warm place to sleep, a cool vibe and great people. This is the first place we got our trail names. For various reasons at lot of people that through hike the AT (or any other long trek) use trail names, basically nicknames, only cooler. Pirate ran the hostel, we meet Virgin at a waterfall and Cool Breeze gave us a ride back to our car in the hippy shuttle.
Moshi, Tanzania – We stumbled onto this one after the place we found online (but didn’t book) was full when we arrived. It’s run by some awesome Spaniards and proceeds from the hostel go to a local school they started. They’re hard working and focused on the environment; while we were there Sam, the owner, was building a swimming pool by hand to soak the locally sourced bamboo they were going to use for another building project. Industrious to say the least. Sam was extremely helpful in booking our Kilimanjaro trek and very transparent about the whole guiding industry in Tanzania. If you’re ever in Moshi, this is the place to stay.
8. Lub d Surf
Bangkok, Thailand – This is the only one on the list that may no longer be in operation as a hostel. Lub d has a number of hostels in Bangkok and we had a great time our first time in Bangkok staying at Lub d and hand a great time on Halloween there. So the next time we were moving through Bangkok we cashed in the free night at Lub d Surf we had and it was pretty cool. It wouldn’t call it homey or particularly friendly, but it did have a giant artificial wave, It’s located at FlowRide in Bangkok and it was pretty cool to have a pool and wave for entertainment.
San Raphael, Costa Rica – When we reached out to Esteban of Centaura stables a few years ago about budget accommodations near his place where we could ride he said he had a room in the barn. Liz was in heaven. It was simple room with just a bed, no internet, no TV, just a bed in a room next to a bunch horses. I was slightly annoyed by the horse that decided to play with the rake that was leaning up against it’s fence… clank, clank… clank, clank, clank, all night long, but was it warm and cozy and seeing Liz so happy was totally worth it.
Pokhara, Nepal – Clean and tiny (4 rooms total) at the end of Lakeside in Pokhara site Banyan Tree our home away from home in Nepal. The rooms were economical to say the least <20% of the going rate at the other end of town. Clean, hot water, wifi and a great view, what more do you need? The staff was nice even letting us borrow a couple of glasses for the celebratory wine we had brought with us from the states – thanks to Gavin Davis!!
DaLat, Vietnam – Yes, it’s really called The Wolfpack. This was another super homey hostel, completely with an optional family diner. The owner was an ex tour guide and really understood hospitality. He arranged great tours for us at great prices and event rented us his scooter for a couple of days. Constantly going out of his way to be helpful, on his way back from dropping another guest off at the bus station he saw me walking to the ATM, he pulled over asked me where I was going and told me to hop on as he drove me to the ATM and back to the hostel. Above and Beyond.
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada – We took a practice trip, of sorts, last July to BC, staying only at hostels, camping, AirBNB, etc, and trying not to book anything more than a couple of days in advance. Basically a practice run of our life on the Big Trip in a country that speaks English and is pretty easy. After a few days camping in Garibaldi Park outside of Whistler, we ready for a warm shower and figured we’d try and score a deal on HotelTonight. HotelTonight is an app that lets you find last minute deals on hotels, but only allowed you to book the same day of your arrival, perfect for us. (They’ve since expanded it to a few days in advance, which is great). We saw a great place for a great price with a hot tub, I was sold out (if anyone knows me at all they know that if a hotel has a hot tub it jumps to the top of the list for me).It was late as we had hiked into town that day and so after book on HT we were checking it a little after 9:30pm. The guy at the registration desk was a little flustered as it was a super busy day, and he was the only one working, he hadn’t had dinner and his system wasn’t cooperating with the HT system. He said he didn’t actually have the room we had booked on HT but he had another one that was equivalent. We told him it was great we just wanted to get in the hot tub before it closed at 10pm. Liz ran to the car to get our bags while I completed the registration process. After putting on our swimsuits we heard that all to recognizable beep of a smoke detector with a low battery. Another beep and I found it… on the ceiling; the vaulted ceiling over 15 feet up. No worries we’ll tell the guy on the way to hot tub and it’ll be fixed when we get back. While we tell the guy Liz asks him if he had gotten any dinner yet and he says no, so she gives him an apple and a Cliff bar from our rations. He was grateful.
We enjoyed the hot tub and some hockey talk (what else would one talk about in a hot tub in Canada) and upon our return our friend at the registration desk was apologetic, he hadn’t been able to fix the smoke detector but he had another room for us. He gave us the keys and mentioned, the hot tub doesn’t close, as long as you’re quiet. Our new room is unbelievable, kitchen and living room on the first floor, bathroom on the second floor, and bedroom on the third floor. Oh, and a private hot tub on the balcony overlooking Whistlers Main Street. Out of curiosity the next day I looked to see if I could find the normal price for the room we had… let’s just say it was WAYYYY out of our price range. It makes the list not only for the amazing room but the extremely generous and help registration desk guy.
While we can’t guarantee you that kind of deal we can give you our coupon code for $25 off you’re first booking with HotelTonight and well get credit towards a future booking as well. Just use the promo code RAGOSTIN when you register.
Annapurna Circuit, Nepal – I’m pretty sure we were the first people to sleep on the mattresses at The New Guest House. The rooms still smelled of fresh cut timber and the views were out of this world. The hosts made our stay extra special by graciously invited us into the kitchen while they prepared dinner, this is extremely UNcommon in Nepal as kitchens are typically very private places for the family and the occasional guide or porter. We got to warm ourselves by the oven and watch the goat meat dry overhead. It was pretty magical.
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile – This is the place we almost never left. Bill, Kit and the crew made us feel so welcome from the moment we walked in the door. Helpful and easy going clean and homely; It’s what every hostel should feel like. A well equipped kitchen that we actually enjoyed cooking in, cozy common areas, an amazing included breakfast, and caring helpful staff.
We will be back! And Finally the Number one place…We’ve stayed…Drum roll…………
1. The next place
Somewhere, Out there – We’re drawn to new places and new adventures, and often the best place we’ve stayed is the place we’re at right now or the place we’re looking forward to next. Got a hostel or AirBnB we should check out? Know a small hotel that we’d just love? Let us know and we’ll try and check it out somewhere down the road.
Super friendly people everywhere that just want to chat. To ask where you’re from, how long you’re here, tell you about their city, the culture. It was amazing – true genuine hospitality and friendliness. Everywhere!
It is the festival of lights and, boy, do they decorate accordingly! There are Christmas lights everywhere – it’s really festive and puts you in a fun mood. And while the strings of lights were cool, my favorite part were the little candle flames everywhere giving off this warm glow.
Rick is a celebrity. Photo ops!
We had a lot of folks asking to take photos with us. It was quite funny to us. And as soon as we would say okay to one guy, there were 10 more that appeared wanting pictures too! Like they were just waiting for the first brave guy to ask. We humored just about everyone that asked… even when it meant we were standing around for photos for 15 minutes. And we just get a picture with them too – because, why not? It’s fun… but the staring does get a little weird after a while. Crazy eyes!
We call them Party Cows – they were painted and decorated for Diwali and all over the streets. There were also Party Donkeys, Party Goats… pretty much if you could get it to stand still for long enough, it was painted!
“Party until the cows come home” – uh oh, I think the cows came home. Knock, knock.
Jaipur Shopping Festival.
In celebration of Diwali, Jaipur has a huge shopping festival. The stores decorate their store fronts with crazy elaborate scenes – it’s like NYC at Christmas. Popular Indian night club? Nope, just people waiting to get into the temple for Diwali.
Ok, I know that’s three things for Diwali, but it was so fun! Everyone was super friendly on the “big night” of Diwali Oct 23 when we were in Jairpur. Cheery people shouted down the street at us “Happy Diwali”… came out of houses to tell us “Happy Diwali”.There are also poo sculptures involved. Not so sure on what these mean or what they are for (or if it’s real poo), but all over the streets on the 24th there were little “gingerbread man” sculptures made of poop.
The best food we’ve had on the trip so far! Street food in India is delicious. From dahl and chapatis, to lassis, to samosas with curry flavors inside. We basically never really know what it is, but if it’s popular with the locals and there’s a line in front of the cart, we’re in! The flavors have been incredible.
We are in Delhi until this evening, so more street food is in our near future!
Absolutely stunning sunsets. Everyday. So the cause may not be so sexy… I think a lot of it has to do with the pollution, but the results are amazing.
Lots and lots of palaces. I think Udaipur had the best ones! We spent 4-5 days in Udaipur, it’s a beautiful city, said to be the most romantic city in India. I can see why, it’s set on a couple of lakes and has beautiful palaces surrounding the lake, and even in the middle of the lake.
The trains are awesome. You can get everywhere by train… and it’s like a moving hotel if you get an overnight one (awesome for us budget travelers!). And it’s a nice, comfy hotel – I think I got my best sleep on the trains in India. And you wake up and you’re in your next destination.
It really is beautiful how intricate the designs are.
Pretty impressive place.
Elephants and camels everywhere.
Tuk tuk rides.
Always an adventure – but far better than to be in one, than dodging them on the street, they can be ruthless.
Pay up, buddy! No free ride here!
“Everything is possible!” … and “it’s not possible”
We heard both. A LOT. We made a wonderful friend in Agra who took care of us at his rooftop restaurant every night we were there. The first time we walked in we were greeted warmly and told “what would make you happy? Everything is possible!”
On the flip side, when someone here wants to say no to your request (like “May I take a picture of your shop?” or “May I have another beer?” near closing time)… the answer is a very proper sounding “Not possible.” It’s very disarming…. We’ve come to find it kind of endearing and funny now. But there’s a little part of me that always wants to argue, “It’s not really that it’s ‘not possible’, sir. I think what you really mean is you don’t want to!”
We have one last day in India to enjoy the wonderful culture, people, sights and flavors.