This week marks the fifth anniversary of the launching of our travel blog. Our first post happened before we even left for our honeymoon and was just a link to a news article about one of the first stops on our trip. At that point, we hadn’t even figured out the general format or tone for the site, nor really what we were doing.
In the following days, we started to figure out what we wanted to write about, how we were going to write it, and what kinds and numbers of pictures we would post to go along with the text. On the honeymoon (the original Super Awesome Mega Trip) we always seemed to be a day or two behind in posting, and we were often limited to how much we could include based on our limited and expensive internet access. Hence the frequent typos, grammar mistakes, and smaller pictures. Once we got on the cruise ship and had some days-at-sea, or rest days, would we catch up. Today we try not to fall behind in posting daily blogs, because we know we’ll never catch up otherwise. These trips are supposed to be a vacation after all!
We eventually settled into a rhythm where Ryan would write the first draft of the day’s post, Rachel would add accompanying pictures and correct Ryan’s awful hastily typed mistakes. Then we’d together proof it one last time before posting it for everyone to read. On the honeymoon, the entire process could take anywhere from 30-120 minutes per post, usually closer to the latter. Today we need around 30-75 minutes per post, and its usually around 45 minutes.
We’ve accomplished a lot in these last five years. We’ve been to every continent, touched every ocean. Seen a volcanic eruption, fled from tsunamis, swam with sea lions and penguins, dove with great whites, played with dolphins, went on safaris, hiked rain forests, deserts, lava fields, and glaciers, saw dozens of waterfalls, and marveled at aurora and total eclipses.
We’ve blogged about thirteen different trips in the last five years.
- Super Awesome Mega Trip, aka the honeymoon to Hawai’i, South Pacific, and Australia
- First Anniversary Trip to Las Vegas and nearby parks
- The South America and Antarctica Trip
- The Rome and Mediterranean Cruise
- The Second Anniversary Trip to San Diego
- Iceland Partial Eclipse Trip
- July Oasis of the Seas Cruise
- Southern Africa Trip
- The First December Discount Cruise
- Alaska Cruise and Pacific Northwest Trip
- The Second December Discount Cruise aka the sorta Panama Canal Cruise
- The Great American National Park and Eclipse Road Trip
- The Galapagos Cruise
In the past we’ve put together a top five list for each of our major trips. So in celebration of our fifth anniversary post, here’s our Top TEN favorite destinations and sights from the last five years.
#10 Hobbiton (Matamata, New Zealand)
This is the only non-nature related item on our list. If we could only visit one movie set from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it would have been Hobbiton. As luck would have it, this was the only set people could visit during our time in New Zealand. This was just a fun and cool place to visit.
#9 Antarctica (Paradise Bay, Antarctic Peninsula)
Of course Antarctica would make the top ten list. We didn’t get to spend much time here, nor even get off the ship, but the scenic cruising was breathtaking. Everywhere we looked we saw beautiful virgin land, untouched by anything without wings for a very long time, completely unspoiled by civilization. Penguins, sea lions, and whales were all over the place. We got to see icebergs and blue ice from the continental ice shelf. Our time here was cut short when a blizzard rolled in, but led to a snowball fight on the sundeck that we’ll never forget. We hope to return in the future!
#8 Iceland and the Northern Lights (Iceland)
What’s not to love about Iceland (except for the climate). We couldn’t really identify any one particular thing about the long weekend getaway that was awesome by itself, but when we combine the aurora, glacial hikes, geysers, columnar jointing, waterfalls, and snorkeling between continental plates in near frozen water, it becomes one super memorable trip. Every so often we look at the prices for a quick weekend getaway for a second trip.
A safe trip to see the world’s most active volcano? Yes please! We hiked on lava fields and inside lava tubes and saw red lava sloshing around and bubbling in one of the cones from a helicopter. It was even where we sought shelter when a tsunami hit the big island.
#6 Devil’s Pool (Livingstone, Zambia)
Our only full day visiting Victoria Falls was pretty cool. Views from the very wet Zimbabwe side, and the drier Zambia side, seeing a rain forest micro-climate, and river cruise in the evening along the Mighty Zambezi River for our defacto last game drive. But the highlight of the day was swimming in the Devil’s Pool. This natural pot sits on the edge of Victoria Falls. The rush from looking over the edge of one of the earth’s greatest waterfalls in an experience we’ll never forget.
#5 Kenai Fjords (Seward, Alaska)
This was almost an entire Alaskan cruise combined into a single day. What made this tour so memorable was probably a stroke of luck. Perfect weather combined with the arrival of numerous orca pods for mating season made for perfect scenario of seeing an overabundance of wildlife combined with Alaska’s natural beauty. We saw hundreds of orcas, lots of puffins, dozens of sea lions, a breaching humpback and a few glaciers up close. Easily the highlight of the Alaska trip.
#4 South African Safari (Hoedspruit, South Africa)
We spent about three days in the Thornybush Private Game Preserve outside of Kruger National Park. We had two game drives a day where we got to see the big five (Elephants, lions, leopards, water buffalo, black and white rhino) amongst many other great animals like hippo, warthogs, giraffes, and zebra. There was no one game drive that really stood out since they were pretty all great.
#3 Galapagos (Galapagos, Ecuador)
Much like the African safari in #4 above, there was no particular location that stood out during our recent Galapagos trip. Since there weren’t any natural land based predators in the archipelago, the animals were completely comfortable around us and each other. The entire vacation was fantastic and a truly amazing experience. We snorkeled with sea lions and penguins. Got up close with tortoises, blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, marine iguanas, and herons. We hiked a lava field that rivaled Hawai’i. One thing we never mentioned in our earlier blog posts was just how great the Xpedition crew performed. We were used to great service on Celebrity ships, but these guys were a step above.
#2 Volunteer Beach Penguin Colony (Volunteer Point, Falkland Islands)
This was the highlight of the Antarctic trip. We walked around with thousands of penguins that day! King, Gentoo, and Magellanic penguins were everywhere. The sand on the beach was so white that it looked like fresh snow. The temperature was cool but not cold, so it was quite comfortable to hang out and observe the penguins in something that looked like their natural habitat. We only had 90 minutes here, and it was the most expensive excursion we’ve ever gone on, but it was totally worth it. We don’t know if we’ll ever be able to make it back to the Falklands, but if we do we know where were going to spend our first day.
#1 Total Eclipses
Of course total eclipses were going to be #1. We’re eclipse chasers! We plan our trips around spending time in the moon’s shadow. Our first eclipse was on the honeymoon somewhere between Fiji and New Zealand. The second total eclipse was in Rigby, Idaho.
- By water: ~22709 nautical miles
- By air: 95674 miles
- By car: ~9000 miles
- By train: 345 miles
- steps: 955,948 plus whatever we walked on the honeymoon, south america and Antarctica, Galapagos, and Vegas trips.
- Total distance traveled: >131,152 mi
For reference the circumference of the Earth is 24,901 mi
- Total watercraft traveled upon: 1 ship and 9 boats
- Cruise ships: 6 (Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Equinox, Oasis of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Celebrity Xpedition)
- Total aircraft: 51 jets and 1 helicopter
- Total airports: 43 (IAD, IAH, LAX, ITO, KOA, HNL, SYD, MEL, AYQ, CNS, GUM, NRT, EWR, DEN, LAS, PHX, GRU, GIG, EZE, FCO, SAN, REY, KEF, BWI, FLL, DKR, JNB, CPT, HDS, LVI, DCA, PBI, SEA, ANC, SCC, BRW, YVR, DFW, CLT, SLC, SAL, GYE, GPS)
- Total hotels: 33
- Total rental cars: 5
- Total US States: 18 (Maryland, Virginia, Texas, California, Hawai’i, New Jersey, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, California, Florida, Washington, Alaska, North Caroling, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming)
- Total US Territories: 4 (American Samoa, Guam, Washington DC, US Virgin Islands)
- Total Countries: 33 (US, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Falklands, Chile, Uruguay, Italy, Vatican City, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Malta, Iceland, Bahamas, Sint Marteen, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico, Canada, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, San Salvador, Ecuador )
- Total Continents: 7 (North America, Australia, Asia, South America, Antarctica, Europe, Africa)
- Total Oceans: 5 (North and South Pacific, Indian, North and South Atlantic, Southern, Arctic)
- Total Hemispheres: All 4
- Total Equator Crossings: 10
- Total Time Zones: 25 (EDT, CDT, PDT, HST, GDT, NZDT, EADT, CAST, EAT, JST, EST, BRT/UYST, ART/AQ-Rothera, FKST/CLST, CST, CEDT, TRDT, PST, GMT, AST, SAST, AKDT, COT, ECT, GALT)
- Highest Elevation: 13,796 ft (Muana Kea)
- Lowest Elevation: -20 ft (Great Barrier Reef)
- Farthest Point South: Paradise Bay, Antarctica (64°51’18.8″S )
- Farthest point East: Thornybush Game Preserve (31°11′ 50″ E)
- Farthest Point West: near Yulura, Northern Territory, Australia (~130°57′ E)
- Farthest Point North: below Point Barrow, Alaska (71°21′26″ N)
- Total Penguin Species Observed in the Wild: 7 (Little Blue, King, Gentoo, Magellanic, Chinstrap, African, Galapagos)
- Total Penguin Species Observed in Captivity: 6 (Emperor, Adelie, Humboldt, Southern Rockhopper, Macaroni, Northern Rockhopper)
- Total Penguin Species we have yet to see: 5 (Fiorland, Snares, Erect-crested, royal, yellow eyed) All of these species can be found on or in the vicinity of the South Island of New Zealand.
- Total Cetaceans: 7 (Humpback. beluga, Dall’s porpoise, orca, harbor porpoise, southern right whale, bottlenose dolphin)
- Total Pinnipeds: 10 (South American Sea Lion, Antarctic Fur Seal, South American Fur Seal, Galapagos Sea Lion, Galapagos Fur Seal, stellar sea lion, river otter, sea otter, harbor seal, cape seal)
- Total Primates: 5 (humans, marmosets, baboon, vervet monkey, lesser bushbaby)
- Total Sula: 5 (australian gannet, cape gannet, blue-footed booby, nazca booby, red-footed booby)
- Total sharks: 3 (great white, black tipped reef shark, white tipped reef shark)
- Other notable land animals: Elephants, lions, leopards, water buffalo, black and white rhino, hippo, warthogs, giraffes, zebra, moose, brown bear, black bear
Meteorology and Astronomy
- Total Eclipses Viewed: 2
- Total minutes spent in the moon’s shadow: 5 minutes 48 seconds
- Total Partial Eclipses: 1
- Highest Temperature we experienced: 99°F (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
- Lowest Temperature we experienced: 24°F (Southern Ocean near Antarctica)
- Roughest Surf: 14 ft (Southern Ocean near Elephant Island, Antarctica)
- Strongest Wind Gust: 65 kts (Elephant Island, Antarctica)
- Highest Kp when we were actually able to see the aurora: 2.7
- Aurora colors observed: 5 (green, red, purple, blue, pink)
- Total Pictures Taken: ~42,500
- Total Honeymoon Word Drops: 50
- Total Ugly Americans Encountered: 8
- Total Volcanic Eruptions Observed: 2
- Total Royal Flushes at a Table Game: 2
- Odds of Getting a Royal Flush in 7 Card Poker: 1 in 30,941
- Total Snowball fights: 1
- Vaccinations and medications required: 4
- Total national park passport cancellations stamps: 51
- Total Days: 188 (includes partial travel days)
- Longest day: 39 hrs (Dec 3, 2012 with a convenient dateline crossing)
- Shortest day: 0 hrs (Nov 11, 2012 skipped by crossing the international dateline skip)
- posts: 181 (including this one)
- views: 12,216
- countries: 97
- regular followers: 133
- Most visits in a year: 2015
Join us again in the spring as we go on another Caribbean cruise.
It’s been an amazing five years! Who knows what the next five will bring.
Post script: After reviewing our Galapagos photos, we discovered that we did see the Phillie Phanatic after all!