Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Where are we now??

Well, we made it back to the States without much trouble and to be honest, we actually had a little reverse culture shock when we arrived at LAX.  However, once we got to DFW, we left the airport and went straight to a BBQ joint near by and felt right at home. Matt was sooo happy!

We then hit the ground full speed:  seeing family, taking megabus between Dallas and Houston, going to a great friend's wedding, searching for cars/apartments/jobs, and regaining our bearings.

In order of progression:

While we were away, Kristin was actually offered her old job at EXCO and it was a no brainer to come back and take it.  Luckily, she had about a month and a half of free time to adjust back to life before she went back to work.  She spent most of that time enjoying being around family, seeing friends, looking for a car, and looking for an apartment.

Matt acted swiftly and got his dream car;  an electric blue 2009 Toyota Corolla, what more could a boy want?

Soon after, Kristin found her a deal on a Honda CR-V (we are practical people).

After that, Matt emailed, called, visited, interviewed, and more for his job search.  After it was all said and done, he chose to go to Dallas Samuell High School to teach Algebra I and coach Football.  He's looking forward to continuing his career in education!

We felt like we were really back to reality once we found our apartment.  We lucked out and ended up in a great location by White Rock lake, a part of Dallas we really enjoy, and it's smack dab in the middle of both our jobs (we got the apartment before we knew where Matt's job would be).

After we returned to our normal routines, what could possibly come next to add to the adventure?

Well, we got engaged!!! :-) On July 24th, Matt popped the question and Kristin said YES!! Part of his proposal involved this awesome collage he made of pictures from our trip!

This is Texans in Transit's last blog post, so we wanted to take a minute to say THANK YOU to all of our family, friends, and blog readers.  It meant the world to us to know that people back home were sending us their thoughts, well wishes, prayers, encouragement, and love.  We both feel incredibly blessed to have gone on this life-changing trip with each other :-).  It was more than we could've imagined.  Thank you again for reading, and please don't hesitate to contact us with questions or comments about anything! 
- Matt and Kristin

BTW, one more thing.... We forgot to include this on the World Recap, so we'll just have to include it here.
We wanted to let y'all know that thanks to everyone's prayers and thoughts we were blessed during our trip with no mishaps.  We were lucky enough to: not have ANYTHING stolen, no electronics broke, nothing was lost (passports, credit cards, etc), no bed bugs, NO injuries, no sicknesses (cold, flu, or serious stomach issues), no missed flights, no lost luggage, no accidents while on modes of transportation, no malaria, and lastly we didn't run out of money ;-).  Thanks again for all the love!!!!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

World Recap 7/8/12 - 4/29/13

Recap of Texans in Transit's World Trip:

Time traveling:  10 months (July 8, 2012 - April 29, 2013)

Money spent: $20,700 USD each.  Includes pre-trip costs such as vaccinations, storage costs for 11 months, netbook, etc. as well as ALL of our costs while we were gone!  Not too bad given that we estimated a budget of $20,000 each....even if that budget was for 11-12 months ;-).  

This was definitely one of our favorite parts about the whole trip (well, food and meeting people).  If we had to choose favorite places for food, we'd say Thailand was at the top, and the Argentine beef (and wine) was a close second.  Here is a jumbled collection of dishes we had around the world:

Grilled fish, fried fish, rice, beans, salads, "meat sticks", cinnabon, arepa con queso, sausages, guinea pig, llama steaks, various potatoes, pastas, great pizza, good pizza, very bad pizza, churascarrias, steaks (various cuts), empanadas, chimchurri sauce, choripan, McD's, fried chicken, BBQ chicken, griled chicken, lamb, pastries, bread, wines, beer, meat pies, kangaroo steak, fish 'n chips, gummy shark, sushi, dumplings, oysters, soups, noodles, ramen, pancit bihon, dosai, naan, red curry, green curry, yellow curry, papaya salad, roti, satay, laksa, pad thai, mee goreng, fried rice, banana pancakes, ice cream, coconut rice, shrimp, pork, avacados, crackers, trail mix, egg noodles, spring rolls, pho, coffee, tea, cocoa leaves, salami, cheese, warm yogurt, passion fruit, watermelon, mangoes, pineapples, thai tea, fruit smoothies, salads (only in NZ), fresh coffee, etc.

Of course, BEER:Aguila, Bogota Brewery, Poker, Pilsen, Club Colombia, Pilsener, Cusquena, Cristal, Pacena, Skol, Bavaria, Antarctica, Brahma, Bohemia, Quilmes, Andes, Patagonia, Victoria Bitter, Cooper's, Carlton, Speights, Tui, Monteith's, micro brews, Tiger, Anchor, Singha, Chang, Leo, San Miguel, Red Horse, Beerlao, Angkor, Klang, Saigon, Hanoi, home-made, etc.

Countries Visited (in order):  Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and then back home to TEXAS!

Random Thoughts:
Transportation: Planes, trains, automobiles...AND bicycles, LOTS of walking, hiking, tuk-tuks, "tuk-truck", moto-taxis, motorbikes, taxis, scooters, busses, pangas, boats, ferries, jeepneys, kayaks, speed boats, go-kart buggies.

Landscapes: Waterfalls, beaches, palm trees, jungles, forests, caves, coral reefs, oceans, bays, lakes, rivers, salt flat, islands, mountains, glaciers, fjords, canyons, hills, farms, country side, cities, cliffs, karsts, valleys

Animals: Tigers, kangaroos, koalas, llamas, yacare caiman (Brazillian crocodiles), sea turtles, starfish, angel fish, trigger fish, king fish, clown fish, barracuda, golden dorado, parrot fish, eels, sea snakes, pink dolphins, whale sharks, red deer, sheep, wallabees, seals, nurse sharks, elephants, monkeys, rabbits, cattle, blue footed boobies, humpback whales, penguins, toucans, parrots, rats, lots of stray dogs, cats, roaches, goats, chickens, pigs, and of course we couldn't forget the roosters that woke us up bright and early in many countries.

Lodging: Hostels, guest-houses, hammocks, campgrounds, holiday parks, friends' homes, trains, buses, planes, airports, hotels, tents

Activities: Scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking, bike tours, self-guided tours, museums, city tours, markets, jumping off bridges, river sledging, island hopping boat tours, dune buggies, hot springs, kayaking, swimming, biking, zorbing, food/cooking classes, zoo, shopping, talking, eating, drinking, researching, relaxing with friends, and although there's more we're leaving out...last but not least, pictures and BLOGGING!

Nationalities of friends we made along the way: British, Australian (Aussie), American, Swiss, German, Swedish, Dutch, New Zealander (Kiwi), Italian, Israeli, South African, Brazilian, Canadian, Singaporean, Filipino, Malaysian, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, French, and Irish.

In addition to the "random thought" lists, we thought we'd throw in a couple of the most commonly asked questions once we returned.

"What was your favorite place?"

It was way too hard for us to choose one favorite place because of the many various factors to consider such as food, weather, people we were with, activities, etc.  Having said that, Colombia, Argentina, Thailand, and New Zealand were a few of our favorites because of the amazing scenery in those countries and delicious food in Thailand and Argentina!

"Besides family and friends, what did you miss the most?"
Matt: Barbeque, mexican food, and quality micro-brewed beers
Kristin: Salads, fresh vegetables, cooking, taking showers without flip-flops on, and clean sheets

"Where will your next trip be?"
Most likely, a road trip to the mountains of our very own American West.  Sure, it's a place we have been and know, but there are still plenty of new places to see and perhaps there is a quaint village with our name on it that takes us back to memories of Patagonia and/or the South Island of NZ.

"What did you learn or take-away from your trip?"
We've learned so much about ourselves, each other, the world, and life, that it's hard to put it into words.  A few key things though: 

Keep life simple and enjoy each and every day you can with people you love; before you know it, it'll be gone.  
Be thankful and aware of all that you have, materially speaking it is way more than most.  
Love is the universal language: treat others as you want to be treated.  Respect everyone.  
Get outside your comfort zone and experience new things! 

Travel is the only thing you can buy that will make you richer!!

We apologize for being so delayed in writing this post.  We got caught up with life once we got back.  Thanks for being patient!  We have one more post, so stay tuned....

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Vietnam Recap 4/15/13 - 4/28/13

Recap of Vietnam:

Time in country:  14 days
Money spent: approximately $700 USD each
Currency:  Vietnam Dong
Conversion Rate:  21,000 VND to 1 USD

The food in general was pretty tasty and made with herbs, spices, and vegetables.  A relief after Cambodia!

Their biggest and most well known dish is Pho (pronounced f-uh).  It contains a broth, rice noodles, herbs, and usually beef or pork.  We loved it.

We also loved the spring rolls which were available either fried or fresh.  Both very tasty, but the fresh ones were great.

Coffee was usually great here when done right.  We liked it with condensed milk and over ice.

Places Visited (in order):  Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho, Hoi An, Hanoi, Halong Bay

Random Thoughts:
There are millions upon millions of motorbikes.  You may have heard about this as we had, but it is hard to fathom until you actually experience it.

Women aren't afraid to wear hoodies, jeans, socks with their sandals, and masks to cover themselves head to toe in order to avoid the sun and prevent from darkening their skin.  It was hard to find women's deoderant in Asia that did not have whitening in it!    

The cities and most of what we saw was very developed.  There wasn't the filth and poor infrastructure like we saw in Cambodia.

Hanoi and Halong Bay 4/23/13 - 4/28/13

On our train ride from Hoi An, one of the stops was where our good friend Evan, who we met in the Philippines, was boarding to carry on with a few of his friends to Hanoi.  We randomly ended up in the same train car a few doors down.  It was cool how our paths crossed again.  We met up with him and his friends the next evening for some Vietnamese food and cheap draft beer.

After leaving the train station and settling into our hotel we had booked, we researched and figured out the best option for us to take a Halong Bay tour.  The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles scattered amongst the very calm, blue/green water.  It's one of the New 7 Wonder of Nature.  The usual way to tour the area is by small cruise boats.  We had heard great things about Halong Bay and its mystique.  We heard it was similar to the limestone cliffs of Thailand but with a darker, mysterious feel.

We opted for what was called the "Luxury" edition with a company called Alova Gold Cruise. Our package provided us 2 nights sleeping on the boat and activities such as kayaking, swimming, cooking class, and tons of eating.  We actually sought out and found the Travel Asia agency directly and were able to obtain a discount so that we could afford this option (otherwise, tourists pay premiums because the fees are split between the boat company, agency, and usually hotel).  Since this was our last stop of the trip we decided to splurge and spend more on the cruise than we otherwise would have.  We're glad we did because it was totally worth it!

First day of the tour consisted of taking a 4 hour van ride north of Hanoi to Halong Bay, meeting our boat mates (other tourists), and then we started off with a slow cruise after lunch taking in the sights.  It was stunning!! We were extremely lucky because the weather was beautiful with clear skies.  Part of what gives Halong Bay the mysterious feel is the fact that it's usually rainy or foggy.  Not the case for the first day of our cruise.

The boat took us to an island that allowed us to climb up hundreds of stairs for an impressive panoramic view of a part of the bay and enjoy a wonderful picture opportunity of the cliffs, blue water, and all the boats.  Afterwards, we spent the next hour or so kayaking through a cave into a hideout lagoon which was nice for playing and swimming.  We couldn't get over the incredible views and the awesome powers of nature!

At night, we had "cooking lessons" which were actually more of learning how to roll food into rice paper for fried spring rolls.  They were delicious though once the cooks fried them up.  We were full off the spring rolls alone, yet, there was still so much good food to eat at dinner.  Crab, shrimp, vegetables, etc.  We were impressed with the quality and quantity of the food on the boat.

Matt then tired himself out playing with the 5 year old girl on board, Gia.  Chase, throwing, catching, charades;  there was lots of games played.  There were only about 15 people on our boat cruise, and we really enjoyed getting to spend time with everyone and learning their stories.

On our second day we went to big cave with all of our new friends from the boat.  The cave was pretty impressive, it was huge!!  On the way back from the cave we were transferred to a smaller boat with two others.  We then proceeded to pick up about 4 others along the way.  It was our boat for the day while the "one nighters" made their way back to shore.  We delved a little deeper into the isles and went kayaking through some more caves and lagoons.  It wasn't too strenuous, but it was so great to see the sights in such an up close and serene setting.  After kayaking we hung out on the roof of the boat, ate a big, tasty lunch, and then went to a pearl farm.  We weren't expecting much from the pearl farm, but we both actually learned a few things from the farm and were glad we went in.

We were taken back to our original boat to shower up and meet the new "one nighters".  Of course Matt met his new best friend, the 6 year old girl from Italy, Livia.  After rolling spring rolls, although this time they were fresh rolls and were edible immediately (delicious!!), we had another amazing dinner.  Of course the night ended with play time with Livia.  She and her parents were such a sweet family and fun to get to know.

The tour was very well planned and stuck to a detailed schedule, which was fine by us because after 10 months we were tired of making choices ;-).  After returning to shore and eating lunch, the van took us all back to our hotels and we had time to relax and walk through the city some more.

In our final days, Kristin finally got a trim and had a few layers put in (she liked the $15 - $20 range that it cost in Vietnam compared to home).  Thank goodness she wasn't getting anything fancy because the stylists knew very little English.  Matt bought a few leather belts at the market on the cheap, but came up short in finding a back pack at the price he wanted.  Crazy enough though, Matt randomly found a Texas A&M hat in a store along one of our walks.  He could not pass up getting a Texas A&M hat in Vietnam (for $4!!!).

We also met up with Dave, a Canadian that is teaching English in Hanoi.  We originally met him in the Philippines and he graciously offered to show us a bit of the city once we made it there.  It was cool to get the "local" tour and chat with him as we caught up about the rest of each others travels and adventures.  He took us to one of his favorite restaurants, which on top of being delicious, was right on one of the many lakes in Hanoi.  Great setting.

That night we went threw our bags and left what we didn't want anymore (Matt left more than Kristin ;-) ).

The time really did fly by and we couldn't believe our trip was coming to an end :-(.  The next day Kristin researched quite a bit trying to find a good/ clean place to get a pedicure, after the bad experience in the Philippines.  She managed to find an awesome place where she got a spa pedicure with a leg rub for $13!  We spend the last few hours blogging and talking before we had our last meal in Vietnam.  And just like that, our time in Vietnam was over and we were in a cab on our way to the airport.  We had a midnight flight to Narita, Japan with a 9 hour layover.  And then to LAX before getting to DFW.  30 hours and 3 flights later we would be back in Texas!