We just got back from an AMAZING trip to Greece! It was absolutely beautiful and a perfect, relaxing vacation. We hiked, walked around town exploring the awesome & unique Greek architecture, chilled on our Airbnb porch, ate a lot of tomatoes, cucumbers, and Greek fava, & loaded Ryker up with so much sunscreen haha. Great trip! More details in the captions below!
Definitely a trip to remember! I highly recommend a Santorini vacation! :)
The time has come for us to leave Koh Tao, nooo! This is the first place that I was really sad to leave, its no wonder why a big chunk of the island population is 30 year old ex-pats that travelled there, found a job and never left…the island sucks you in!
What will we miss? Daily beach visits, jungle hikes, delicious food, friendly Thai locals, awesome other backpackers, amazing scuba diving, and many cool cafes and bars right on the beach.
Plus, we both treated our 3 1/2 week on Koh Tao as a “mini fitness retreat” haha. No doubt we’ve been active nearly everyday while traveling, but it’s just not the same as getting tough workouts in. So we both joined gyms and whipped our own butts into shape, successfully! Eric did a lot of Muy Thai (sometimes two training sessions in one day!) and lifted at the gym. I joined a crossfit gym and ran. We also did several steep hikes. Plus, it’s soo humid here, we were just constantly sweating haha. It was fun and we both reached our goals, yipee!
We’ve got the chill island, laid back vibe going on and it’s not bad :) I highly recommend Koh Tao if you’re planning a trip to Thailand anytime in the future. Next up? A quick day in Bangkok, then a night train up to Chaing Mai, in northern Thailand. We’ll keep you posted!
So 9 days later and we are still on the island of Koh Tao! We originally were planning on staying here for only 5 days, but the night before our ferry off the island (my birthday) we didn’t want to leave – this place is too amazing! So we decided to stay an extra three weeks here! :) Here’s what we’ve been up to and why we are loving Koh Tao…
The island life is so relaxing. This is the happiest and most relaxed I’ve felt all trip! (The same for Eric as well)
It is beautiful and hot here, I mean look at these pictures!
The hiking is great! Steep and very very sweaty
The snorkeling is amazing – best I’ve ever seen
…Which is what lead us to getting scuba diving certified! You’re looking at (reading about) two officially certified divers as of today!
Koh Tao is one of the best diving locations in the world, we can’t wait to get in a few more dives while we are here – there are SO many different dive sights all around the island!
The Thai culture is neat and the Thai people are so nice
The tourists here are also a great group of people. Koh Tao is a hard island to get to, so it really attracts what I would call “dedicated travelers and backpackers”, people who are here for the adventure. Almost all of the tourists here, or the ex-pats that are living or temporarily living here, are age 20-35, super adventurous, very chill & down to earth, and are up to join you for a hike, swim or dive followed by a few drinks on the beach.
You have to (GET TO!) take of your shoes before entering any store, restaurant, hostel, dive shop, or home as it is a sign of respect. It’s quite free-ing to be barefoot all the time :)
The Thai food is DELICIOUS!!! Our go to restaurant is Su Chili’s, we go there about every other night now because nothing else beats it. Best street food = pad thai, fried chicken over rice, or a fresh fruit and muesli bowl. We have amazing fruit smoothies every day, and sometimes grab a peanut butter banana Thai “pancake” for dessert. Yum!
Many, many beach bars to grab a drink at and watch the beautiful sunset
There are also many cool coffee shops and cafes for us to duck into midday to beat the heat and work a bit (I’m still working on my fitness certification & Eric still has some contracting he is doing)
IT IS CHEAP. Very Cheap. $8/hour Thai massage cheap. Less than $2 pad thai cheap. Really nice dinner for two = $12…
We made it to and through the Middle East! It was awesome having a 24 hour layover on Emirates Air in Dubai. We did our 24 hours pretty big!
We did a super fun “desert safari” which included getting picked up from our slightly ghetto hotel in a Land Rover, driving 45 minutes into the dessert and then the fun began! We got to ride a camel! It was really tall and slightly terrifying when it stands up and down – like a living roller coaster.
Then, we went “dune bashing” which was 50x more fun than I expected. I’ve driven my old Jeep through sand dunes quite a bit, but this guy was a PRO. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Amanda giggle and scream more, it was a blast. We dipped, slid, and thankfully didn’t roll all over the dunes.
The last part of the “safari” was sand boarding down a huge dune standing or sitting on a snow board. It was pretty fun and fast! Amanda and I both ate it pretty good. We’re two feet athletes… not the best with our feet tied together.
World biggest _______
We walked through the world’s biggest mall and saw a cool water fountain show in front of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, which is an awe inspiring 828 meters tall.
Dubai does it big. They have lots of money it seems and they like to have the biggest of things. At one point on our safari tour, the driver pointed out a big hill with a flat top. They are making their own mountain so they can turn it into a wild animal park on a mountain… why not?
Architecture and Bling
The architecture in Dubai is absolutely fascinating and amazing. It’s certainly the place with the most unique and magnificent buildings we’ve ever been. It’s insane and definitely worth visiting just for this alone.
They also like bright lights, shiny things, fancy cars, etc. It’s like Las Vegas but not as depressing and gross (and probably literally 20 times bigger).
A few interesting notes:
Dubai is one of seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates
Only about 15% of Dubai’s population are from the UAE. It’s something like 40% asian, 20% Indian, 20% Pakistani
We just took off from Nerja and said goodbye to our simple, quite apartment on Calle Málaga right in the heart of town.
Some quick things to note:
We really enjoyed this slow section of our trip! Amanda and I did a lot of the planning, talking, dreaming, etc. that we wanted to come on this epic journey for. Together we talked about tons of stuff from where we want to come home to, what we want to do for work, what we’d like our lives to be like in the future (including a fun night discussing “what is our life like when we’re 65”), and more! I know we’re planning nerds, but that’s what we do :)
Amanda did yoga every single day in Nerja to complete her goal and made serious improvement. She’s basically the queen of yoga now.
I accomplished my goal and swam 1500m in the ocean in middle/back of the pack time for an average olympic length triathlon. I had never swam for exercise in the ocean before and couldn’t swim more than a lap or two without having to stop and gasp for air, but with a lot of coaching and getting beat up by waves I did 1500m in 38 minutes, which I’m happy with for a starting point!
We made two sets of good friends that stayed in our building. Mark and Morgan are a young adventurous couple from Arkansas that remind us a ton of our friends Quinn and Zach back home. Paul and Barbara are a super nice, interesting, and hilarious couple from Rugby, England who retired early and are traveling indefinitely on a budget now. We met up with Paul and Barbara again in Málaga where we are now as I write this. We learned a lot already from both sets of friends and plan to keep in touch!
We’ll miss Nerja and the quiet, peaceful days at the beach and fun nights enjoying tapas, but we’re ready for the next adventure! I feel reinvigorated after the time there and can’t wait to not only explore more on the trip, but also to attack setting up our new life in the states when the time comes.
Amanda and I have been living in Nerja, Spain for two and a half weeks now. It’s been amazing. It was the slow down we needed after about a month and a half of pretty fast paced travel. This experience of “living” in another country is also what we both have looked forward to the most on our trip.
Since we’ve settled down in our apartment for the month of November it’s been a lot of laying on the beach, swimming, yoga, tapas, cooking dinners in, reading, working and learning in our quiet apartment, and workouts on our roofdeck or at the beach. I’m sure this doesn’t sound bad to anyone but it’s our ideal way to spend time :) A balanced life between physical health, learning, fun together, and experiencing a unique culture.
Being way more productive than the Spanish
Amanda is keeping in touch with her clients and is even keeping some of them on track from afar by sending them fitness plans. She is also working on a new fitness certification, doing an online course to become and EXOS Performance Specialist. She’s learning a lot of fitness knowledge she can apply with her clients. I’m often her test subject for odd movements and tests! She works on it about an hour a day watching videos, taking notes and moving into pretty hilarious poses with her headphones in (she’s even doing one right now while I write this on the tablet!)
If that isn’t enough Amanda is also taking a 2 hour Spanish course five days per week. She’s making a ton of improvement and is getting around Nerja with her Spanish just fine!
I’m keeping busy working 10 to 15 hours a week contracting with Aquila. It’s interesting work with a familiar team so I’m happy doing it. It’s also a nice way to fund our travels. I’m still pushing some on Spectafy and I’m actually going to a conference in Barcelona Wednesday about Smart Cities to meet with some interesting people.
For fun I’m also researching more and more about self driving cars (I think that’s going to happen sooner rather than later and will be a primary method of transportation for a few decades). I got a couple little microprocessors and I’m getting them talking to each other and reading sensors for a fun project I’m tinkering on.
Besides that Amanda and I both made challenges for the month that we’re doing a darn good job sticking with. She is doing an hour of yoga every day and I’m swimming in the ocean every day. I can’t swim very well so I think Amanda comes to the beach with me for amusement and to make sure I don’t drown (the warm sun probably doesn’t hurt).
Getting familiar with the community
We really like a lot of the Spanish culture. It’s a fantastic place to vacation or live for a while.
Amanda has her favorite fruteria (super fresh fruit and veggies here, TONS of agriculture), panaderia (bakery), supermercado, tienda de zumo (juice/smoothie shop), and much more! I have my favorite cafe for WiFi, green tea, and sometimes toast with tomato and olive oil (local staple) or bacon sandwiches (yum!).
We have our favorite tapas spots (Redondo, La Puntilla, El Pulguilla, El Chispa, La Marina – roughly in that order). We’ve become regulars at some of them! You just can’t beat mingling with super friendly locals over 1.40€ drinks that each come with free snacks about half the size of a typical American appetizer. Our favorite tapas are paella, chorizo, pil pil, carne con tomate, grilled squid (Amanda likes this, I’m not that into that one), and prawns grilled with the shell on (my go to when Amanda gets gnarly squid).
The Spanish schedule has taken some getting used to, but we’re doing it! Wake up around 8, don’t go to bed before 11:30, have two small breakfasts, a big lunch around 2, tapas around 7 and dinner about 9pm.
We’re having an unbelievable time here, really enjoying our time together and our time to better ourselves all while soaking in a new culture. The best part… we still have 2 weeks here and then… well, who knows! :)
The Basque region! The northeast part of Spain is known as Basque country. It’s a beautiful region know for it’s “amazing” food (more on that below), dramatic coastline, and they have their own language! Everybody also speaks Spanish, but it was quite confusing looking at signs, menus etc. when they were written in Basque but we thought we were looking at Spanish haha.
First we went to Bilbao (picture above) – it was a cool city! Bigger than we expected and surrounded by green hills. After 2 days there, we ventured via bus to San Sebastian: a cute beach town!
Both places are famous for their pintxos. Going out for Pintxos – like tapas – is a fun experience where you hop from bar to bar and pick small things to eat. The interesting thing is although the concept and experience is super fun – the food, in general, is not good – I mean worse than microwaved bagel bites. There are exceptions! We did find two places that were great! They were recommended to us by our airbnb host. I definitely think you need to get recomendations in order to try the world renowned and highly saught after pintxos. These good spots were fantastic! You have to make it to La Cepa and La Cuchara de San Telmo. Because if you don’t, the rest are just cold, fried foods, all stacked on a piece of bread. We were both so confused… these are the talked about pintxos?? Haha :) I guess we are more the german brats and pretzels type rather than the squid ink croquette and french fry and mayonnaise sandwich type.
Regardless of the interesting food experience we had a great time in both of these cities! We did some swimming and hiking in San Sebastian, explored the awesome cobblestone old town areas, and had our fair share of “vino tinto” (red wine). Here are some pics!