I was looking forward to writing this post for a long time.
Our 2-year trip around the world was a dream come true. And even though I share a lot of travel tips and itineraries from the countries we’ve visited, I thought I would share a different side of our trip as well.
You may think that long term travel is all about lying on the beach sipping coconuts, climbing mountains, meeting locals and immersing yourself in a new culture in the most exciting and fun way. And most of the time, it is.
But in 2 years, there was no way everything would work out perfectly, no matter how much planning and researching we put into it. That’s what long term travel is all about – the fun part is all about experiencing new things, meeting new people and enjoying life to the fullest.
The other part is about dealing with insecurities, challenges, language barriers, different local customs, and adjusting to the new norm that life on the road creates.
This post is a fun summary of our trip around the world. It includes the good and the bad – stories about being robbed, getting sick, the funniest animal we’ve seen, surprising jungle journey, how we’ve been hitchhiking through the mountains, the most dangerous countries we’ve visited and where we’ve met the friendliest locals.
A reflection of moments from the road to show you how long term travel can look like.
Starting with the most asked question: How many countries we’ve visited on our trip around the world.
Believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve counted the countries. The number has never been an important figure for me, but since so many people are asking, here’s your answer. We’ve visited
21 countries in 2 years:
- North America – Mexico
- Central America – Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama
- South America – Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina
- Oceania – New Zealand
- Asia – Indonesia, India
- Europe – Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Scotland, England
2x long stops – 7 months in New Zealand to work and top up our travel budget & 3 months in Slovakia (our home country) to visit friends and family
The longest flight: 13 hours from Santiago, Chile to Auckland, New Zealand
The most beautiful flight: Canaima National Park, Venezuela
The most terrifying flight: from Big Corn Island to Managua in Nicaragua
It was quite an experience flying in a tiny eight-passenger airplane while trying to avoid a storm.
Bolivia – from Oruro to Uyuni to see the famous Salt Flats
I’m pretty sure we were the only foreigners on the train. Just the way we like it. We’ve spent the whole 7-hour train journey observing local life, endless fields of quinoa and Bolivian altiplano located in elevation over 3,700 meters above sea level.
The changing landscape and llamas were just a few highlights of our scenic train journey to Uyuni.
Slovakia – travelling from capital Bratislava to our hometown Trencin brought back a lot of memories when we used travel home for weekends while studying at the University
15x open water (sea/ocean) ferries
The most memorable ferry rides:
- El Salvador to Nicaragua through former pirate waters
- Excursion through Panama Canal
- A 33-hour ferry ride to Puerto Williams, the southernmost city in the world (if you’re interested to see the fjords along the Chilean coastline, the Land of Fire, and the city at the end of the world, check out our blog post about Puerto Williams)
The longest bus ride: 23 hours from San Pedro de Atacama to Santiago, Chile
The scariest bus ride: Dharamshala to Manali, India
The most enjoyable bus journey: Huaraz to Lima, Peru
From snow-capped mountains of Peruvian Andes 3,000 m above sea level to sand dunes of coastal capital Lima. The change in landscape and climate was staggering.
20 days with 13 cars through the mountains of Patagonia in Chile and Argentina
Many kind travellers gave us a ride in their cars, RV or back of pick-up trucks. They were from Chile, Netherlands, Australia, and France.
The longest ride with one car: 675 km with a Dutch couple and their cutest son
The funniest hitchhiking ride: sitting in the bed of a pick-up truck with Chilean workers. We were passing herds of llamas speeding through the countryside and laughing wide while the sand from dirt road filled our mouths.
Minivan/car camping: 40 nights in New Zealand where Michal converted our minivan into a fantastic campervan &13 nights through European Alps in Slovenia, Italy, and Austria
Camping: 44 nights in a tent while trekking in Guatemala, Venezuela, Peru, Indonesia, New Zealand and random camping while hitchhiking through Chile (19 nights) & Argentina (1 night)
Best Airbnb accommodation: Room in a tall apartment building with security guard.
It was in a beautiful Miraflores neighbourhood in Lima, Peru, with an ocean view. It only cost 20 USD per night for both of us, and after spending cold nights in a tent or hostel in high altitudes of Peruvian Andes, this was a treat where we felt like living in a 5-star hotel.
Worst accommodation: Hotel Piramide in Huaraz, Peru (I found out weeks later that a maid from the hotel made a few phone calls from my phone – the only time I forgot to take it with me when leaving the hotel)
The most adventurous accommodation: sleeping in hammocks in a jungle close to Angel Falls, Venezuela
Border crossing on foot
100 km Chile – Argentina border crossing
Anything but traditional border crossing involves a bus ride, boat ride, walking 20 km through the middle of nowhere carrying all our belongings, another boat ride and a hitched ride.
It’s one of the most remote and wild border crossings, which took us two days to complete. Silver lining: it’s from a glacier’s fairyland Villa O’Higgins in Chile to trekking paradise El Chalten in Argentina.
WHAT STUCK IN OUR MEMORIES
Dirtiest country: Guatemala
The only place with tap drinking water (from Mexico to Colombia): Bogota, Colombia
The prettiest place for city life: Lima, Peru
The sketchiest city in Central America: San Jose, Costa Rica
The most beautiful city in Central America: Panama City
The worst public transport & the biggest amount of scammers: Guatemala
Prettiest Caribbean destination: Little Corn Island
The weirdest town with unaccommodating locals: Puerto Montt, Chile
Where we’ve seen more soldiers than regular citizens: Kashmir, India
- Tajumulco volcano in Guatemala, the highest mountain in Central America (4,220 m)
- San Pedro, Guatemala
- Santa Ana volcano, El Salvador (active volcano)
- Cosiguina volcano, Nicaragua
- Cerro Negro, Nicaragua for the popular activity of sledding down an active volcano
- Masaya volcano, Nicaragua (drove up to see the lava flow)
- Maderas volcano, Nicaragua (active volcano)
- Mount Rinjani volcano, Lombok, Indonesia (active volcano)
New activities we tried:
- Multi-day trekking – the most challenging trek without using porters was W trek in Torres del Paine, Chile
- Volcano sledding in Nicaragua
- Mountaineering in Peru
- Triathlon in Whakatane, New Zealand
- Gaelic football with our Irish work colleagues in New Zealand
- Surfing in Puerto Escondido in Mexico, Jiquilillo in Nicaragua, Lima in Peru, TanjungAan in Indonesia, Whakatane in New Zealand
- Horseback riding in the Colombian countryside
Countless fears conquered:
- Biking through Canon del Pato in Peru, one of the most dangerous roads in the world (watch our YouTube video for a dose of adrenalin)
- Mountaineering in Peru where Michal conquered his fear of heights
- Getting off the beaten path in El Salvador, a country many travellers are scared to visit (therefore I’ve written about what it’s really like)
- Tarantula encounter in Venezuela where a kid almost put a giant spider on my head
- Visiting a high conflict zone in Kashmir (this deserves a post on its own which I’ll write soon)
- Cliff jumping in Bali (watch our YouTube video)
The weirdest experience: becoming millionaires in Venezuela
Due to an extremely high devaluation of Venezuelan Bolivar, the exchange rate was over the roof. In the below picture, we exchanged 100 USD for 200,000 Bolivars on the black market (in December 2016). That meant we literally carried a backpack full of money because the highest note was a 100 Bolivar bill.
The most over-hyped destination: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua (it’s just a surfing tourist hub with lots of drinking parties where all activities are twice more expensive than in the rest of Nicaragua)
The most demanding physical experience: High altitude running at Lake Titicaca, Bolivia. At 3,812 m above sea level, it’s hard to breathe while walking, let alone running. Even though it was very short, this was the hardest run of my life.
The most immersive cultural experience: Living with local Mayan family while learning Spanish at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (this deserves a post on its own which I’ll write soon)
NOT EVERYDAY IS YOUR LUCKY DAY
- Guatemala – while travelling with all of our backpacks on a chicken bus, one lucky bastard cut through our “slash-proof” bag (which we bought, ironically, because of these situations). Despite reading many stories from other travellers about this common practice, it happened to us as well. To warn others and make sure this doesn’t happen to more travellers, I’m writing a detailed blog post about it to explain the whole situation.
- Gili Air, Indonesia – Warning for future travellers against Diyu Bungalow on Gili Air, where they stole our money directly from a backpack while cleaning the room.
1x broken bone
I broke my finger while playing Gaelic football with my colleagues in New Zealand. If you’ve never heard of Gaelic football before, it’s a funny mix between basketball and football. You’re allowed to kick the ball and also dribble. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but needless to say, I went all in.
Luckily, accident-related injuries are covered by New Zealand’s healthcare, and I didn’t have to use my travel insurance.
- Food poisoning in Lanquin, Guatemala
Both of us, including our American friends (and who knows how many others), got food poisoning from our hostel dinner. As you might expect, it involved a lot of visits to the toilet.
Unfortunately, we’ve been travelling across Guatemala right after for 7 hours, which made it very difficult for Michal. I got sick a day later, and we didn’t leave the hotel room for two days. Lady in the pharmacy wasn’t very helpful with medicine and only gave us probiotics. We were binge-watching Narcoswhile changing places in the bathroom for two days and emerged from the hotel dungeon as good as new 🙂
- Bronchitis in Peru
I noticed extreme shortness of breath while mountain biking with Michal in the Andes. The high altitude of Huaraz, where we’ve spent two weeks, was hard in terms of breathing for both of us.
We left Huaraz to coastal Lima right after the mountain biking trip where I’ve visited a private clinic and was diagnosed with bronchitis (which I must have caught while climbing up the Matteo mountain over 5,000 meters).
The doctor’s visit, medicine, and an inhaler were covered and reimbursed by my travel insurance. While we had a 10-day forced break in Lima, we weren’t complaining at all. The warm climate helped me heal while Michal improved his surfing skills.
- Stomach flu/food poisoning in Peru
Peru hasn’t been my luckiest country, but I love it so much I would return in a heartbeat.
While on a bus from Cusco to see the famous Rainbow Mountain, I got so sick that I puked right after I got off the bus. Local indigenous ladies saw me and ran to help me thinking it’s from the high altitude.
I couldn’t eat and barely walked but dreamt about hiking up the Rainbow Mountain for years. So I’ve rented a horse and was brought up the mountain. I’ve visited every outhouse along the trail and recovered completely two days later.
- Giardia or beaver fever in Chile
Despite the raving of Chileans how pristine and clean Torres del Paine National Park is, Michal caught giardia (a parasite commonly found in contaminated water with feces from humans or animals). This was the first time we didn’t use our LifeStraw water bottles with filters.
Michal wrote about his experience and how to avoid this parasite while travelling in this post. He developed symptoms weeks after he caught it when we were already in New Zealand. His travel insurance covered all medications and doctor’s visits.
- Stomach inflammation in Kashmir, India
Overeating of new food without proper movement resulted in inflammation in Michal’s digestion. We flew from India directly to Slovakia, where he was prescribed medication and put on a strict diet for a few weeks. Luckily, once again, he recovered quickly, and his travel insurance covered everything.
2x bit by animals
- Sealion in Peru – this was a funny one, check out this video to see what I mean
- Macaw parrot in the Venezuelan jungle
While walking through the village in Canaima National Park, we saw a parrot on a tree, and while we stopped to admire it, he climbed onto Michal’s finger. When he handed him over to me, that freaking parrot started to peck his beak into my hand and wouldn’t let go. The lady from a nearby hotel who treated my bleeding hand told us he just doesn’t like girls. Well, now I don’t like parrots.
1x road crash
- Motorcycle accident on Lombok
Luckily Michal was driving slowly while turning on a road. But it was too late when he noticed a chunk of asphalt missing, and while we both scratched the left side of our bodies, the motorcycle ended in a ditch. A random local passing by lead us to the nearest doctor. His wife told us he’s out of town, so she called him immediately and treated our wounds with her husband’s phone instructions.
When borders of Venezuela closed, our money expired overnight, and we weren’t allowed to check-in for a flight out of Venezuela. It was the most desperate situation we were in during the whole 2-year trip around the world. I’m going to explain the entire experience in a separate blog post.
San Blas Islands in Panama are a Caribbean paradise. But only after a day spent on a tiny 200 meters long island, we had to be evacuated due to the incoming tropical storm Otto.
Lesson learned? Always have travel insurance. We were covered by Allianz in the beginning when we were robbed in Guatemala and weren’t reimbursed any costs – robbery wasn’t covered by their travel insurance.
Everything else was covered when we made the switch to World Nomads.
If you’re travelling soon, I highly recommend World Nomads travel insurance. Their prices are higher because they offer the best coverage (even our robbery would have been included).
BEST OF ALL
Best accommodation: Rancho Esperanza in Jiquilillo, Nicaragua
Most beautiful waterfall: Angel Falls in Venezuela, the tallest waterfall in the world hiding in the jungle
Best wildlife experience: releasing turtles in Nicaragua
Most enlightening experience: hitchhiking Carretera Austral, Chile
The most beautiful beach paradise: Little Corn Island
The most surprising event: engagement in Puerto Williams, Chile (literally at the end of the world)
Best jungle experience: visiting Warao Indians in Venezuelan jungle & an adventure-filled day in the jungle of Semuc Champey, Guatemala
Top 3 prettiest lakes:
- Lago di Sorapis, Italy (1,923 m)
- Laguna 69, Peru (4,628 m)
- Laguna Castillo, Chile (1,425 m)
Friendliest locals we’ve met in places that are often considered the most dangerous countries: El Salvador, Venezuela, Kashmir in India
WE LAUGHED A LOT
Funniest animal: llama (they look like they’re smiling ALL THE TIME)
Weirdest animal: capibara by Orinoco River, Venezuela
Never-ending amount of selfies given: India
I felt like a celebrity in India, it was very strange. Everyone was either staring, pointing or wanted to take a selfie with me. And every time I stopped for a selfie, a line of people formed.
As you can imagine, walking from one point to another took quite some time. Is it because I’m tall and blond? We’ve seen plenty of other foreigners, but for some reason, the lines formed only in front of me, LOL.
Most animals seen:
Every traveller will understand this. I don’t think I even put this in a proper category. I don’t remember laughing once when I saw a cockroach. No matter how fancy your accommodation is when you travel for a long time, you’re bound to meet cockroaches, they are everywhere, especially in Central America.
But we saw plenty of them on the cleanest beach walk in Lima, Peru as well. To avoid their visits to your room as much as possible, any trace of food or food crumbs need to be swept out of your room. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t.
- Llamas in South America – when you see a llama, you smile. Given the funny face of this animal, there’s nothing else you can do when you see them. Llamas are natural mood improvers.
Where is Slovakia? Everyone knew
The most asked question from locals was: Where are you from? When we replied Slovakia, few people asked if it’s Czechoslovakia, but mostly they didn’t have a clue. Their confused faces were trying to place it somewhere on a map but had no idea where.
The only place where everyone knew Slovakia was Venezuela. Our Slovak friend who runs a travel agency is bringing hundreds of Slovak travellers to admire Venezuelan nature and made a very good name for our home country. Hearing from strangers how much they love Slovak people is a very humble and proud moment.
Where we would like to return: to Peru, Venezuela, Chile, Italy (and probably even more places)
The most surprising thing about long term travel is – travelling more won’t get your travelling bug out of you. Quite the opposite, you learn about even more places you would like to visit.
*In the spirit of full disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, we receive a small commission at no extra costs to you. We appreciate your support!
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN MORE?
Read our breakdown of the trip around the World month by month. We shared detailed maps, budgets, highlights & low points of each month:
Month 1 & 2 recap of our RTW trip – Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador
Month 3 – El Salvador, Nicaragua
Month 4 – Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela
Month 5 – Venezuela, Colombia
Month 6 – Colombia, Peru
Month 7 – Peru, Bolivia
Month 8 – Bolivia, Chile, Argentina
Month 9– Chile, Argentina, New Zealand
Around the world in 2018 – New Zealand, Indonesia, India, EUROPE
Spread the word! PIN this to your Pinterest board.