Our Year-Long Honeymoon: What Happened … & How Much It Cost

Our year long honeymoon is officially over. Really, it was officially over on July 11, 2017 – 1 year after we boarded a plane for Cartagena, Colombia to start our year-long journey.

But now it’s like,  officially over.

Yesterday, all of our belongings were finally delivered to our new apartment. That just makes it seem final, somehow. It’s really over. We’re not living out of our backpacks anymore.

Side note: I have no idea what we were thinking when we packed our belongings up for storage before our trip. Like, we saved the most useless stuff. I’m finding jar lids to old pasta jars that we threw away. There’s a dirty bath mat that I’ve had since college. Today we found a ziploc bag of ramen noodles. Why?! I want to throw like half of these boxes in the trash. Note to anyone planning a long term trip: throw everything you own away. Anyway.

We’ve settled back down in the San Francisco Bay Area. We have an apartment and we pay rent, like normal people. We’re doing things like learning to make bread from scratch and trying to grow a vegetable garden (cuz we’re low key granola). Our trip is starting to feel less like it just happened yesterday and more like this distant journey that we can barely even believe we took.

So before our amazing, shimmery trip fades into the recesses of our memories, I wanted to catalogue it. Everything that went wrong, everything that went right, and all of the juicy details about where we actually went, how much we ended up spending (hint:  too f***ing much), all of it. So here it is: our year long honeymoon in review!

Estimated Reading Time: 30 Minutes. So grab a coffee and settle in.

The Quilotoa Lake in Quilotoa, Ecuador, part of the Quilotoa Loop.
We had so many plans when we envisioned our trip. We planned to hike all the time and become superfit hiking experts and thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. What actually happened was that we fell off a bunch of mountains and got lost a lot and realized that hiking in California is good training for just about nothing other than hiking in California. The Quilotoa Lake in Quilotoa, Ecuador.

What We Planned to Do

We had big plans when we left for our trip.

We were going to spend 6 months in South America, with a month each in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. Then we thought we’d do a couple of months in Southeast Asia. And finally, because we figured by then we’d definitely both have Travel Bod™  and be SO in shape, we thought we’d casually thru-hike the entire Appalachian Trail.

I can hear those of you who read our Machu Picchu hiking disaster laughing at us from here.

But at the time, our plans didn’t sound so crazy. We worked out for a year before our trip, powerlifting 4x a week and hiking every weekend. We were in the best shape of our lives.

Our plan was to hike progressively harder hikes throughout our travels to “train” for the Appalachian Trail. We’d start with the Cuidad Perdida Trek and the Valle de Cocora in Colombia, then the 3-day Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador, then Laguna 69 and the Inca Trail in Peru, and finally the week long W Trek in Patagonia, Chile. By then we’d be so used to spending days hiking and backpacking that we’d be totally ready to spend 5 straight months doing it.
Of course, those of you who’ve been following along know that none of that actually panned out.

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How Much We Planned to Spend

Hearing about all our our adventures and mis-adventures this year is great and all, but I know what y’all Nosy Nancies at home are really curious about: how much does a year long trip cost?

Hey, no judgement from us. We were scouring the web for months before our trip trying to figure out what everyone else had paid for their long term travel, too. A year long honeymoon is a HUGE expense, and we needed to ensure we’d have enough saved up. Not to mention the fact that we were paying for a 2 in 1 punch: a wedding AND a ridiculous honeymoon.

So we’ll tell you exactly what we spent … in a bit. First, here’s what we THOUGHT we would spend.

After a lot of research, we set our initial budget for $15,000.

We budgeted for about $1k per month in South America, Southeast Asia, and the Appalachian Trail.  We figured we’d stick to a strict budget, stay in hostel dorms, cook our own meals, and splurge only when it was really worth it.

At the time, we had plenty of savings – I’d been saving up for this trip for 5 long years – but we wanted to have money left over after our trip. So we aimed for $15k and figured if we spent a little more, we’d be OK.

Spoilers: We spent a little more. OK, a lot more.


During our year of traveling the world, we took a LOT of couple travel photos, but probably 1/100 of them is even halfway decent. This one made the cut, barely. The gothic quarter in Barcelona, Spain.
During our year of traveling the world, we took a LOT of couple travel photos, but probably 1/100 of them is even halfway decent. This one made the cut, barely. The gothic quarter in Barcelona, Spain.

What We Actually Did

Our trip went completely off the rails and ended up looking nothing like we’d initially planned. We’ve never actually laid out exactly where we went – and looking through our Instagram, it’s a bit difficult to figure out.  That’s less because I was trying to cultivate an aura of mysteriousness and more because I’m lazy about posting in Instagram.

At one point, there was a several month period where we sort of just … went dark. Even our friends didn’t know exactly where in the world we were for a while.

So for the first time, I’m going to explain EXACTLY what actually happened.

Psst: There are a few affiliate links sprinkled below. They won’t cost you anything to use, but we’ll get a little bit of commission from your purchase, for which we’re DEEPLY thankful!

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Countries Visited

We visited 15 countries in total. Here is where we visited, in the order we visited them:

Cities Visited

Here is every destination where we spent at least 1 night, in the order that we visited them!

56 places! Wow, that’s a lot.

The bumpy Ranchero ride is an adventurous necessary evil to get from Ecuador to Peru via the La Balsa Border Crossing.
This is a Ranchero, aka Chicken Truck. We rode it to cross the border from Ecuador into Peru. It was the bumpiest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.

How We Traveled

We went to a LOT of places and traveled in a LOT of ways. Here are all of the methods of transportation we used to get around over the past year:

  • Bus: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Denmark, Germany, Belgium
  • Chicken Bus: Crossing the border from Ecuador into Peru (read the full story)
  • Colectivo: Colombia, Mexico
  • Mototaxi: Minca, Colombia
  • Willy: Salento, Colombia (what’s a Willy? We were confused, too.)
  • Flights: Bogota to Quito, Lima to Santiago, Brussels to Nice, Nice to Barcelona, Mexico City to Cancun
  • Rental Car: France, Tulum. Both times filled with regret.
  • Train: You’d think we would have done some train trips in Europe, but no. They were super expensive compared to taking the bus, and the one train trip Jeremy did manage to book for a decent price, Lia accidentally booked an overlapping flight. The flight was nonrefundable. So no trains for us. 🙁
  • Uber/Lyft: All of Europe,  the USA, and Mexico – thanks to TMobile in Europe and Verizon & ATT in Mexico for their awesome travel data plans!
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Types of Accommodation We Stayed In

  • Hostels: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Denmark, Germany, Belgium. We always use Hostelworld to book our hostels.
  • Luxury Tents: Ok, technically our ~luxury tents were still part of hostels, but compared to your typical dorm or private, they certainly felt different! We glamped in Salento, Colombia at La Serrana and in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, and slept in hammocks Minca, Colombia.
  • Hotels: We don’t stay in hotels very often! The only hotels we stayed in were in Cuenca,  Ecuador and Tulum, Mexico.
  • AirBnB: Lima, Peru; Barcelona, Spain (on the DL, as it’s illegal there – which made us super uncomfortable! We didn’t realize. AirBnb, why you shady like that??) and all of France. Also Hermosa Beach, Louisville, and Oakland. Psst: Here’s a free $40 credit for AirbnB.
  • House Sitting: Puebla, Mexico and here in the San Francisco Bay Area. We didn’t start using Trusted House Sitters until the tail end of our trip, but if I could go back I’d get on it ASAP. It is INCREDIBLE how much money you can save with even 1 house sit! It’s like free AirBnB + pets. AKA everything I’ve ever wanted.
Our rooster friend and fellow passenger on the La Balsa Border Crossing from Ecuador to Peru.
Jeremy eating ice cream next to the world’s most chill rooster while crossing the border from Ecuador into Peru. 5 minutes later, the rooster would be casually sitting next to us in the van like this was its normal everyday commute. Also, those are Jeremy’s lost hiking pants. RIP.

Stuff We Lost

We lost so many things. Here is an homage to the ones that we were the most upset about:

  • We lost Jeremy’s prescription sunglasses a mere 2 weeks into our trip. They were the first thing we lost, and the most expensive. We aren’t sure whether they fell out of our bag or were stolen, but we saw them last in a taxi in Colombia. Jeremy had to squint for the rest of our year. RIP, sunglasses.
  • I left my Kindle Fire on an overnight bus in Peru. I went back to the station to try to recover it to no avail. It was just gone. I hope you enjoy reading every Harry Potter book in English, lucky new owner of my Kindle.
  • Our hostel lost Jeremy’s beloved hiking pants the night before we went to hike the Inca Trail. This was really an omen that we should have listened to. We had sent them to the laundry and retrieved our laundry the day before our hike, with one crucial absence: Jeremy’s PraNa Zion hiking pants. He lived in those pants. Pantsless, he had to hike the Inca Trail in a pair of leggings a European had given us in Peru and his waterproof pants. No wonder we didn’t make it.
Tito the Llama at Llullu Llama hostel in Insinlivi on the Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador.
Tito is the resident llama at Llullu Llama on the Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador. We almost became friends when I gave him a few handfuls of grass. But then I ran out and he lost interest.

Animal Friends We Made

We LOVE animals. Like, all of them. So rest assured, we have a MASSIVE folder of cute animal photos that we haven’t even cracked into yet. Here are some of our favorite and most memorable animal friends over the past year.

  • A cat in our hostel in Cartagena that cuddled in our bed every night
  • Some cows on the Valle de Cocora hike (here’s a picture)
  • Lupe the Sea Lion, who hangs out at the fish market each day in Puerto Ayora. Also, several sea lions and spitting marine iguanas in The Galapagos
  • Alfredo the Pelican in the Galapagos, who kept coming dangerously close to us and eating sticks like a weirdo. We still don’t know why he was eating sticks. Also, pelicans are ENORMOUS close up.
  • Baloo, a giant St. Bernard who lives at Llullu Llama on the Quilotoa Loop
  • Tito, a llama that also lives at Llullu Llama on the Quilotoa Loop (yes, they’re friends)
  • Several pigs along the Quilotoa Loop hike (yes, there’s a picture)
  • A really feisty kitten living in the doorway of a restaurant in Banos, Ecuador
  • 3 very serious business guard llamas in Cotopaxi, Ecuador. We also befriended 2 dogs that lived in The Secret Garden Cotopaxi hostel. And Jeremy made a horse friend there, too.
  • A self-entitled rooster that sat next to Jeremy while we crossed the border from Ecuador into Peru. The entire colectivo full of people was screaming at the driver to slow down as we careened at 100MPH through the mountains, and everything was chaos… except for this chill AF rooster, sitting on his owner’s lap just getting petted and giving 0 f***s. Here’s a picture of him.
  • A tiny baby kitty in Huanchacho, Peru that  2 of our hostel mates found starving outside. They took it in, wrapped her in blankets, fed her some milk, and nursed her back to health along with the help of the entire hostel. When they had to leave, we took over the duties of caring for the kitten. Thankfully, she was quickly adopted by a local, or we would have definitely taken her with us!
  • Caila, the resident Boxer at Arequipa Backpacker’s Hostel in Peru. The only thing better than taking care of a cute puppy is getting a discount for taking care of a cute puppy!
  • A bunch of sassy alpacas and llamas at Machu Picchu that we tried to selfie with
  • A pack of alpacas that worked at a winery in Chile. There was also a group of chickens, too.  Here are a bunch of pictures.
  • A tiny baby pug puppy wearing a Santa outfit in Bruges, Belgium. He had the saddest face but he was actually really sweet and very warm in his little Santa costume! There’s a picture below!
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# Times We Were Robbed

Actually only once! I count us incredibly lucky on that front.

We were in a bus station in Ica, Peru waiting for our overnight bus when someone swooped in and grabbed our little day bag, where we stored all of our electronics. We had made the giant mistake of taking our eyes off of it for about half of a second.

Luckily, Jeremy immediately realized what had happened and took off  in pursuit of the thief. Turns out the guy had a partner, who attempted to distract Jeremy while the 1st thief ditched our bag behind a trash can and took off through a crowd. But my husband has eagle eyes and cat-like reflexes – except when he’s trying to do something like walk, in which case he is the clumsiest human being alive other than me – and he was able to recover our belongings unharmed. What a freaking hero!

How Often We Got Sick/Injured

Ugh. We’re so accident prone. While I was more prone to stomach sickness and other internal illnesses during our trip, poor Jeremy kept doing things like tripping and falling and injuring himself, or bumping his giant head on everything. We are both the clumsiest people alive and I’m genuinely concerned about our future offspring.

Jeremy

  • Burned a giant hole in his ankle trying to get onto a Mototaxi in Minca
  • Fell and injured his wrist on the Valle de Cocora hike
  • Slipped and cut open his leg on a lava rock in The Galapagos
  • Severely injured his knee on the Quilotoa Loop hike
  • Surfed directly into a rock and injured his (other) knee in Huanchacho, Peru
  • Stomach sickness in Banos, Ecuador
  • Bumped his head on every single bunk bed in every single hostel all year long

Lia

  • Altitude sickness in Huaraz, Peru
  • Permanent nausea on every bus ride in Peru
  • Severe stomach sickness after coming back to the US
  • Overnight stomach sickness from the depths of hell after swimming in a cenote in Tulum, Mexico
  • Ear infection after white water rafting in Costa Rica
White water rafting on class IV rapids in the adventure town of Baños, Ecuador!
White water rafting on class IV rapids in the adventure town of Baños, Ecuador!

Adventure Sports We Tried

During our trip, Jeremy discovered an absolute love for high-octane adrenaline sports. Lia, meanwhile, discovered the exact opposite.

Jeremy

  • Minca, Colombia: Cliff diving
  • San Gil, Colombia: White water rafting, waterfall rappelling, canyoning, paragliding
  • The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador: Snorkeling
  • Cotopaxi, Ecuador: Horseback riding
  • Banos, EcuadorCanyoning, white water rafting, ziplining
  • Vilcabamba, Ecuador: Horseback riding
  • Huanchacho, Peru: Surfing
  • Huacachina, Peru: Sandboarding and dune buggying
  • Arequipa, Peru: White water rafting
  • Mendoza, Argentina: White water rafting
  • Hermosa Beach, CA: Surfing
  • lsla Mujeres, Mexico: Snorkeling
  • Tulum, Mexico: Cliff diving
  • La Fortuna, Costa Rica: Canyoning, cliff diving, white water rafting

Lia

  • San Gil, Colombia: White water rafting, paragliding, Waterfall rappelling (had to get rescued)
  • The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador: Snorkeling
  • Banos, Ecuador: Ziplining (had a panic attack)
  • Vilcabamba, Ecuador: Horseback riding (horse possibly tried to kill me)
  • Isla Mujeres, Mexico: Snorkeling
  • La Fortuna, Costa Rica: White water rafting (got an ear infection)
This is a pug puppy wearing a Santa costume in a horse drawn carriage in Bruges, Belgium. So you can see why Belgium was one of our favorite destinations during our year-long trip.
This is a pug puppy wearing a Santa costume in a horse drawn carriage in Bruges, Belgium. So you can see why Belgium was one of our favorite destinations during our year-long trip.

Our 3 Favorite Places

We fell in love with so many places! But a few really stood out to us as faves.

  • Colombia. Just, all of it. We love everything about Colombia, and it’s not just because it was the first country we visited on our trip! It’s the people, it’s the food, it’s the diversity of things to do, it’s the scenery, it’s the history, it’s tranquilo, it’s the music, it’s the dance. It’s everything! We absolutely love Colombia. We definitely plan to return! Read more about our amazing month in Colombia here.
  • The Galapagos Islands.  We loved our week in the Galapagos so much. It was filled with critters and swimming and more critters and more swimming and we just had an amazing time. We definitely plan to return to the Galapagos as well – and we’ll be trying to convince our family to come with us! We would DIE watching our little niece flipping her sh** over the sea lions and spitting lizards. Oh my god. How adorable. Read more about how to visit The Galapagos on a budget here.
  • Belgium. 2 words, you guys: chocolate and beer. And waffles. Ok, 3 words. Oh, and fries. 4 words. Oh, and then those spicy little cookies, Speculoos. Are you getting the picture yet?! Other than being filled with the most delicious food, we were totally taken by surprise by how much we fell in love with Belgium! From our hilarious tour guides in Brussels who shared all of the ridiculous history and sense of humor that Belgians have developed over the years, to the insanely adorable and romantic town of Bruges, to one of our favorite hostels  in Europe (there were chickens!), to the most ridiculous museums we’d ever heard of, Belgium surprised and delighted us. We spent longer in Belgium than any other country in Europe, and we’d go back in a heartbeat. Read more about Belgium here.
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2 Places We Wouldn’t Revisit

When you’re traveling for a full year, you can’t expect to fall in love with everywhere you go. And there were a couple of places that we just didn’t vibe with.

Northern Peru

We spent a full month exploring Northern Peru. I’m not sure if it was just the exhaustion of our 3rd straight month of traveling from place to place every 5 days, or the nausea-inducing overnight bus rights through the Andes, or the altitude sickness – or all 3 – but we just didn’t vibe with Northern Peru. Particularly, Chachapoyas and Cajamarca. Things improved vastly in Huanchaco, an adorable coastal town which we really enjoyed. But in Huaraz only 1 of us was able to appreciate the beauty of the Cordillera Blancas on an epic glacier lake hike while the other one of us was sick as a dog in bed with altitude sickness. (Note to self: never ascend overnight  to 10k feet after a week on the beach, even if you’re taking altitude sickness pills, even if you’ve spent a lot of time recently at altitude in Ecuador. It is a  very bad idea.).

If we did things over again, we’d opt to fly from Quito straight down to Lima and only head north briefly for Huanchacho, and we’d cut our time in Peru down to 1 month instead of 2, and we’d only recommend Cajamarca or Chachapoyas to visitors who specifically wanted to visit the attractions there, such as the Kuelap Ruins and Gocta Falls.

Jeremy from Practical Wanderlust on the beach in Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
This is Jeremy in his the country of his people: you guys, this white ginger dude is Mexican. Crazy, right?! I honestly think this is the most tan my husband has EVER been. In Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

Tulum, Mexico

Oh, Tulum. Our feelings about Tulum deserve their own post, but we haven’t been able to convey our feelings in a way that feels both fair and honest. To put it very briefly: Tulum i every bit as gorgeous as you see on Instagram … if you can afford to stay in an all-inclusive beach resort. It is not Cancun, but is NOT the budget backpacker dream destination of the last generation.

But that’s not what we didn’t like about Tulum (although it didn’t help). What we REALLY didn’t like about Tulum was the animal abuse that we witnessed firsthand for the purpose of entertaining and attracting tourists. There was SO MUCH animal abuse! From the sea turtles in cenotes growing mold on their backs in the fresh water, to the toucans in cages at those same cenotes, to the baby turtles being fed by snorkelers in hundreds of tour boats, to attractions where monkeys are trained to come and climb on you, to wild dolphins kept in tiny cages subjected to a petting zoo at the hands of tourists, to a tour guide at the Tulum ruins feeding and tickling a wild Coati – and then encouraging the crowds to do the same. It was heartbreaking, particularly in comparison to animal-friendly locations like the Galapagos and Costa Rica.

We are firmly against animal abuse, and I want this message to ring out loud and clear: never, EVER, EVER!!! Touch a wild animal. Don’t feed it, don’t touch it, don’t invade it’s private space. If someone is encouraging you to do this, ignore it. You could hurt or even inadvertently kill this animal, or permanently impact its living conditions or habitat. It is NOT worth the Instagram picture and it is NOT OK.

It wasn’t the scams we were subject to in Tulum; it wasn’t the insane price gouging or the blatant poverty we witnessed being suffered by local residents while ex-pat hotel owners struck it rich; it wasn’t because of the in-authenticity or the extreme partying (by gringos, of course) that was the nail in the coffin for us for Tulum. Sure, they bothered us too. But the animal abuse? Unforgivable. Not OK. We wouldn’t revisit Tulum unless they aggressively cracked down on human/animal interaction.

Ajiaco soup, sanchocho, and a giant Colombian tamale with a fluffy arepa!
Ajiaco soup, sanchocho, and a giant Colombian tamale with a fluffy arepa! Soup is the BEST food in Colombia, and Ajiaco is one of the stars of the show!

The 3 Best Foods We Ate

If we’re being honest, pretty much what we did for the past year was eat. And have travel disasters. But mostly eat. It is truly difficult to choose a top 3, but here are our favorite foods from our year-long trip.

  1. Soup in Colombia, specifically Sopa de Pescado from Restaurante La Casa de Socorro. Colombian food is absolutely incredible, and the soup was our favorite every single meal! Read more about the best food in Colombia here.
  2. Foie Gras in Bordeaux, which is everywhere and relatively cheap. Although  we think that Boulangerie Bordelais had the best. Yes, it’s questionably ethical – although in France, the ducks aren’t being force fed so much as just served a never ending dish of their favorite food, which is a problem I can definitely empathize with. But ethics aside, oh my goodness it is so good. They fry it so that it’s crispy on the outside and soft and spreadable ion the inside, like butter. Yummmm!
  3. The Shepherd’s Pie sort of thing from Billie’s Beer Kafeteria in Antwerp. It had beef, potatoes, cheese, gravy, and CHERRIES!? Yes. It was delicious and very Belgian.

Honorable Mention: Any El Pastor tacos we had in Puebla, Mexico. Holy sh**.

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The 3 Worst Travel Disasters

As you know, we are insanely accident and disaster prone, so our honeymoon was rewally like a year long series of screw-ups and near misses. We don’t even bother writing about all of the flights we accidentally double-book, or the dates we got totally wrong, or the destinations we visited in weird orders because we looked at distance on a map instead of thinking about the GIANT MOUNTAIN RANGE in between 2 places, or all the times we get lost … those are just daily happenings for us. But sometimes even we’re surprised at our own bad luck. Here are our 3 worst travel failures from our year long trip.

  • Juan Curi Waterfall in San Gil, Colombia: San Gil was our first adventure town on our trip, and we hadn’t yet realized that Lia is NOT an adventurous person. Sometimes you just don’t know those htings until you’re 200 feet up clinging to a rock face for dear life while several tons of ice cold water drown out your screams. Here’s the full story of the time I had to get rescued off of a waterfall.
  • The French Road Trip:  In a nutshell, the entire thing was a disaster. We got a ~free upgrade~ to a fancy BMW, which was AWESOME! … for about 5 minutes, until we realized our BMW was about a zillion times too big for EVERYTHING IN FRANCE. Long story short (and I promise I’ll write a post about this soon), we smashed the taillight within 20 minutes, panicked for 2 weeks straight, and at one point, accidentally drove into – and got stuck in – a medieval castle.
Gazing at the sunset over the desert dunes in Huacachina, Peru.
Gazing at the sunset over the desert dunes in Huacachina, Peru.

The Full Story of Our Trip

But a list of places is much more meaningful with a story to go along with them – don’t you think? So here’s the full story of our trip.

Stop 1: South America

One of our very first plans when we arrived in Colombia was to hike the multi-day Cuidad Perdida trek from Minca, Colombia.

What we didn’t anticipate was that we’d be completely knocked over by how freaking hot it was. We were in the Caribbean in mid-July, and we’d spent the past 5 years in the permanent fall weather of San Francisco.

After a miserable 2-hour slog to Parque Tayrona, we decided a difficult multi-day hike in the heat of the jungle was not for us. We skipped La Cuidad Perdida. And that was just the first of many, many hiking failures.

By the time we got to Machu Picchu, we were officially completely over our dreams of thru-hiking anything, much less the Appalachian trail.

So, we weren’t the outdoorsy super-fit adventure lovers that we wanted to be. I guess we both hoped, deep down inside, that somehow long term travel would reveal our inner selves, and our inner selves would be the types of people who woke up at like 5am, did yoga or meditated or journalled (or all 3), had ~adventures~ all day, and then read books at night before turning in early, excited for the next day’s activities.

Instead, our inner selves were exactly who we already knew we were. We’re the type of people who sleep until 9, drag ourselves out of bed and head directly towards coffee. Around noon, once we’re caffeinated, we do some adventuring … unless we’re exhausted because we’ve been adventuring every day for months and decide to sit in the hostel and work instead. Around 7, we turn on Netflix and veg out until like 12am somehow, when we finally go to bed. Yup. No surprises there.

Honestly, we really loved our time in South America. But 4 months in, we were ready to leave a good 2 months ahead of schedule. So we left South America early.

At the Rozenhoedkaai in Brugges, Belgium in the winter during our grown up gap year.
Midway through our trip, we finally figured out how to take cute pictures of ourselves. At the Rozenhoedkaai in Bruges, Belgium.

Stop 2: Europe, Suddenly

We accepted a generous plane ticket home to see our family for Thanksgiving, which was much needed. Spending a couple of weeks with family was the most amazing and comforting thing in the world after 4 months of travel.

Plans entirely scrapped, we quickly cobbled together something. Flights to Europe were, to our delight, insanely cheap. So we hopped over to Copenhagen to start a European adventure. We went from the heat of Argentina in the summer to the freezing cold of Europe in December!

You guys: Europe in the winter was AMAZING. We drank all of the gluhwein and  visited Christmas Markets every day. It was heaven. We celebrated Christmas in Bruges and then flew to France after New Years to embark on a 2-week long road trip.

And that’s when things started going downhill again.

It all started with a disastrous road trip that I haven’t yet had a chance to write about (I know, I’m about 10 months late).

Suffice to say, we ran a BMW into a castle. Not our finest moment.

Still, I celebrated my 27th birthday drinking wine and eating truffle pasta with foie gras in Bordeaux, so it wasn’t all bad.

But even as we drank our way through the French countryside, we were changing our plans yet again.

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Family Emergency Trip Interruption

We were about to board a plane from Nice to Barcelona when we got news from home that my 93-year-old grandfather was not well.

He was in the hospital. He needed help. There was no family nearby to take care of him. And nobody knew how much longer he would have.

Concerned about my grandfather – and being the only members of my family able to spend an extended period of time taking care of him – we decided to fly back to California immediately.

We cancelled the rest our European trip.  (HUGE thanks to World Nomads, who picked up the tab for our interrupted trip! Travel insurance is AMAZING.) We’d planned to road trip through both Spain and northern Scotlanditineraries which we still have saved for some future date.

We booked a plane ticket to Los Angeles, where my grandfather lives, from Barcelona. In Barcelona, we spent one last amazing night drinking wine in the Gothic Quarter, feeling surreal. Was it really ending, so soon?

The Hermosa Beach Pier boardwalk in South Bay, Los Angeles, just off the Strand.
The Hermosa Beach Pier boardwalk on a foggy yet beautiful day.  Staying in Hermosa Beach was the best part of an otherwise incredibly stressful and emotionally draining month spent taking care of my ailing grandfather.

Last Minute Trip to Southern California

Before we had a chance to really digest it – and I mean that literally, as in, we showed up at the airport in Barcelona at 5am still slightly drunk from the night before –  we were back in the USA.

Except instead of a comforting homecoming, we found ourselves up to our ears in paperwork, visiting hospitals, researching nursing homes, and finding caregivers. We spent weeks trying to navigate our way through the complex world of insurance, long term care, and the legal protections that exist to prevent a financial takeover of the elderly. When we weren’t at the hospital with my grandfather, we were sorting through my grandfather’s house trying to find the paperwork we needed to legally help him.

For all of our 6 months of travel to totally foreign places, we had never felt more out of our element.

Finally, we found a comfortable place for my grandfather to live. We left him smiling (or, more accurately, shouting angrily) at the enormous TV we’d picked up for him, watching his favorite football team. He kissed us both on the cheeks and thanked us for all of our help, and we drove to the airport feeling an overwhelming relief.

My grandfather was OK. He was in a place that was going to take good care of him, and he was happy. That chapter of our lives, we thought, was over.

How wrong we were.

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Visiting Family in Florida

We boarded a plane to my mom’s house in Florida and treated ourselves to a trip we’d planned for ourselves ages ago: Disney World.

The plan, of course, was that after 6 months in South America, a trip to Disney World would be the perfect way to ease back into life in the USA.

Except we’d been back in the USA for a month by now. But no matter. We had a blast at Disney World. My sister, brother in law, and adorable little niece flew to Florida to meet us. It was amazing to be back with family, and we started to think about what on earth we would do with the remaining 5 months of our year-long honeymoon.

… And then, another call. My grandfather, who we’d just left a week ago, was definitely on the way out. Like, for real dying this time. Definitely.

Travel Couple in Los Osos, California
Soaking up the sun in our home state. Los Osos, California.

Last Minute Trip to Southern California #2

We immediately boarded a plane yet again (for those of you counting at home, we accepted family help for these last minute plane tickets to take care of my grandfather. They are NOT cheap).

My grandfather was on hospice at his home. We entered quietly, expecting hushed voices, dim lights, a beeping monitor or two, and the overwhelming gloom of death.

Instead, we found my 93 year old grandfather shouting demands at the top of his lungs, screaming orders at anyone who would listen to him in his extremely loud Brooklyn Jew accented voice: “I want a COLD BEER and bring me CHIPS AHOY, the ones in the BLUE package. And I want JACK IN THE BOX but make sure the fries are EXTRA CRISPY.  EXTRA! CRISP!. Where’s my blanket? It’s FREEZING in here! Close the door! No, not THAT ONE. The OTHER ONE – JEREMY, IS THAT YOU????? THANK GOODNESS. Tell him I wanted THE OTHER BLANKET. The OTHER BLANKET!”

It was not your typical hospice.

For 3 days, we ran around like crazy people getting my grandfather everything he wanted – mostly junk food and booze. Whenever we suggested maybe not eating a diet consisting entirely of junk food and booze, we got the world’s biggest guilt trip.

“I’m dying,” he’d say, giving us the kind of helpless old man look could bring tears to your eyes. “It’s my last meal,” he’d whisper, voice wavering.

But this motherf***er was not dying at all.

You guys. All respect to my grandfather. He is a WWII veteran. He worked for NASA on the early Apollo missions. He’s super intelligent and a total badass.

But he’s also my flesh and blood. He has shaped who I am in so many ways – together, that side of my family could write an entire series of books on how to craft the perfect guilt trip.

So it is with love and affection that I put his a** on blast: he cried wolf on his own death so that he could hang out at home and eat junk food while everyone waited on him hand and foot.

3 days into our family sob-fest at his bedside, he fessed up. “I’m 93,” he said. “Who’s to say I’m NOT dying?”

A team of doctors and hospice workers, for one.

As of today, my grandfather is still being waited on hand and foot by a team of 24/7 caregivers. He’s not dying anytime soon. He may actually be immortal. We can probably assume that the alcohol and junk food are serving to preserve his body, so he may in fact outlive us all.

For a few months, I was pissed. My entire family dropped everything to come be by his side. We were given the Jewish Grandfather Guilt Trip of a century every time we tried to say no to his requests.

But I’ve forgiven him. Really, it’s hilarious. It’s so quintessentially him. It’s so quintessentially my ridiculous family. And when my grandfather does finally go, I know deep down that we did everything we could to make him comfortable and happy. Guilt trips or not.

Travel couple at Carizzo Plain superbloom in California, USA
Just cozying up in a field of flowers, like you do. We got to catch the superbloom in Carizzo Plain, California.

Back to the whole travelling thing ….

So, we turned our attention back to our year-long honeymoon. It had now been 3 months that we’d been just hanging around in the States with no real plans to speak of.

We spent a couple of weeks visiting our friends here in the San Francisco Bay Area, which was by far the most expensive 2 weeks of our entire trip.

We crashed at my parent’s house, my sister’s house, Jeremy’s mom’s house, Jeremy’s best friend’s house – anywhere we could stay for free, but never long enough to outstay our welcome (we hope). The generosity of our family and friends was incredible.

It took us a few more months to figure out our next move. With our plans disrupted, we were left scrambling. Last minute plane tickets were too expensive to afford, so we had to book in advance and hole up with anyone who’d let us while we waited.  

While we spun our wheels and bounced from couch to couch, we remained productive: I worked incessantly on the blog, and Jeremy was busy debating whether to settle down in New York or San Francisco after our trip.

That’s right, you guys: during our year-long honeymoon, my incredibly talented husband applied and was accepted into New York University for a Masters in Education program.

Of course, as you know, we didn’t end up taking it. But STILL! The fact that he was accepted was huge, and we were at a pivotal life decision moment.

 So while Jeremy waged an internal battle with himself about our future, I literally worked from morning until night. I launched a Pinterest consultation business and worked on sponsored campaigns, hustling hard to re-earn some of the money we were hemorrhaging during our trip.

Until finally, it was time to leave for our very last adventure: Mexico & Costa Rica.

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One Last Hurrah in Central America

A fellow travel blogger had graciously invited us to dog sit at her home in Puebla, Mexico. So we spent 3 amazing weeks taking care of 2 adorable puppies in a beautiful 4-bedroom home.

Honestly, we were just happy to be stationed in 1 place, particularly in another country, with delicious food, where we could practice our Spanish again. It was the most settled we’d felt in 9 long months.

I continued my working frenzy while Jeremy shopped at Mercados and perfected some of his family’s recipes (for those who can’t tell by looking at his white a**, he’s actually Mexican. Our married last name is Garcia! And yes: that makes my married name Lia Garcia. Yes, like Carmen Sandiego. I’m slowly embracing it).

After our time in Puebla, we spent a few days in Mexico City before catching a cheap flight to the Riviera Maya. We soaked up the sun for a couple of weeks in Isla Mujeres and Tulum.

Then, we flew from Cancun to Costa Rica for our final 2 weeks. And they were an amazing 2 weeks! We saw so many critters. We fell in love with sloths (THEY ARE SO ADORABLE AND WEIRD LOOKING). We went White Water Rafting, which I hated just as much as I hated Waterfall Rappelling (literally just 3 hours of thinking I was going to die). We explored the jungle canopy on hanging bridges and hiked through the jungle to pristine beaches.

And then, of course – because it’s us – one last travel disaster.

I got an ear infection. I’m convinced it was from white water rafting. I was in SEVERE pain, and we had a flight home in 3 days.

Cue one more last-minute scramble. A trip to a doctor, a trip to the hospital, a bunch of pills, and the world’s most painful shot in the butt later, I was good to go. We had to push our flight back and book an extra few nights in our hostel (again, World Nomads to the rescue! You guys, GET TRAVEL INSURANCE. I can’t say it enough) but thanks to the incredibly fast and effective Costa Rican medical system, I was home safe soon enough.

And then … it was time to move.

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Cross-Country USA Road Trip

We packed up our car, road tripped across the country (with a pit stop in Memphis, Tennessee for one of my favorite sponsored campaigns!) and arrived back home in San Francisco.

We spent couple of months apartment hunting, job hunting, soul-searching, and crunching the numbers. And we’ve decided that as of January, I’ll be a full time travel blogger.

Like, officially officially.

I’m taking a contract position for a few months (you guys, we have no money anymore) but we’re actually making enough to get by. Which is amazing.

We are SO excited for our new opportunities.

Meet Lia & Jeremy, the intrepid travel couple behind Practical Wanderlust! Here we are at Machu Picchu, Peru, after a complete failure of a 4-day Inca Trail trek (we only made it 1.5 days).
Here we are after completely failing to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Piccu. As you can see, Jeremy is not wearing hiking pants. Because they were lost in the wash the night before the hike. Our trip in a nutshell, basically.

So, How Much Did We Spend?

Hahahahahahahaahahahahahahah oh god.

I don’t even want to say it, but I’m going to.  You guys deserve honesty.

Between July 11, 2016 and July 11, 2017 we spent about $35,000.

I excluded the pricey bits paid for by my family: the last minute plane trips we had to book to take care of my grandfather, the lodging while we were there taking care of him, the plane trip home for Thanksgiving, etc. If I included those, it would be a LOT higher.

In a nutshell: we spent everything I’d saved, and then some.

Ouch.

But honestly, considering how screwy our plans got and how much time we spent in pricey USA during our year abroad, plus that stint in Europe – where a night at a hostel is about 6x more than it is in South America – it could have been a LOT worse.

Not exactly a cheap honeymoon, but not the worst, either: it averaged out to about $50 per day for each of us.

We did manage to stick to our $1k/month budget for our months in Colombia and Ecuador… which I know, because I was meticulously tracking EVERY cash purchase on Mint. (You can’t use credit cards all the time in South America, which is my usual tracking move.)

We won’t talk about the lack of meticulousness from Peru onwards…

So, if you’re planning a year long trip, take note: give yourself a very large cushion. But try to keep a frugal mindset.

If your budget is TOO tight, you’ll be missing out on some stuff, and like … how often are you going to have the chance to take a year-long trip? YOLO hard and do those once in a lifetime adventures!

But if your budget is too loose, you’ll start spending like money grows on trees. One day, you’ll log into your bank account only to realize that the money is gone, and it’s going to hurt like a slap in the face.

We did a little bit of both, honestly. We definitely spent more than I’d have liked to, but hey: money is money, and experiences and memories last forever.


I hope we satisfied your curiosity! If there are any other things about our year-long trip that you’re deeply curious, drop us a comment below – we’re open books (as you can see by this 6,000 word novella)!

PS, because we don’t say it enough: thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to our wonderful, amazing, incredible readers. Thank you for leaving us encouraging comments. Thank you for letting us know when our blog has helped you on your own amazing adventures. Thank you for your emails. Thank you for sharing our posts with your friends. thank you for laughing with us (and sometimes at us). Thank you for being here.

This blog has grown in ways we never dreamed of over the past year, and it’s all because of you. So thank you. Truly.

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Our year long honeymoon is officially over! So ... what happened? And how much did it all cost? 1 year, 15 countries, 56 cities, and 1 faked death later ... Here's all the juicy details from our year long trip.

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26 Comment

  1. Ok so I would totally love to do something like this when I’m getting but would have no idea where to start so I’m glad you shared this! Sounds like you had such an epic adventures and thanks for sharing!!

  2. Haha we are thinking about having an extended period of time on the road and so far have about $20,000 dollars budgeted (for around 8-12 months around Asia and then some of Central America). Starting to consider we might need to add another 10,000 to that haha! Sounds like the most incredible year and definitely motivating me to plan it more!

  3. Hi,
    I really enjoyed reading this piece 🙂 I don’t think I would ever go on a year-long honeymoon like you did, but I would definitely love to see some of the places that you visited (Colombia being the main).

  4. Abby says: Reply

    The first thing I went to check was how many times you got robbed. 😉 Just one is really great. Love that you’ll took part in so many adventure. I’ve got so many of those still left on my bucket list. Great read!

  5. Rowena says: Reply

    I want to do this some day! Congrats and happy anniversary!

  6. Deea says: Reply

    You should write a book based on all this experience before it all fades off into memory 🙂 Love the little bits of funny random happenings (ran a BMW into a castle?! I want to know more about that!)! Definitely consider expanding this article into something much bigger 🙂

    1. Lia says: Reply

      You’re definitely not the first person to tell me that! … makes me think more about it …. hmmmmm!

  7. I loved reading this so much! Totally relate to the overspend, we are 10 months in to our 12 month trip and have a,ready had to top up the budget. Twice. We also lovvvvvved Colombia, but have a major soft-spot for Peru too. Shame you guys didn’t make it to SE Asia, I’m certain your calamities would have multiplied here – it is carnage. Enjoy ‘real life’ for a bit, and thanks for and sharing.

  8. “We are firmly against animal abuse, and I want this message to ring out loud and clear: never, EVER, EVER!!! Touch a wild animal. Don’t feed it, don’t touch it, don’t invade it’s private space.”

    Thank you. PREACH!!!
    (Is that too many exclamation marks?) I have had it with blog posts extolling the joys of “swimming with sharks/rays/fish/what have you” where the photos clearly show touching of said marine life. It’s not cool, people!! Apart from the excellent points you made, I’d also add that for marine animals in particular, they often have an antibacterial layer of mucous on their skin, and guess what happens when you touch it?

    Thanks for the heads-up re the animal abuse in Tulum – that is most definitely off my list until they get their act together.

    *gets off soapbox*

    You guys were really lucky on the robbery front – congrats on getting everything back! Sorry to hear about the many injuries 🙁 Hope everything healed up fine – and at least, it makes for a great story 😀

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Yesss I’m so glad you’re woke 😛 we signed up for a completely run-of-the-mill snorkeling tour one day in Tulum and to our horror, baby turtles were being fed off the boat. They were coming SO close to us that we had to dive out of the way to not touch them – and I guarantee you with the hundreds of other tourists in the water experiencing the same thing, they are definitely getting touched! Not to mention learning to come back to the same place for artificial feeding every year during breeding season, which is incredibly disruptive. It’s so sad 🙁 We had no idea it was so bad until we arrived but from now on we’ll definitely be doing more research about any animal-related attractions before we go!

  9. Sarah says: Reply

    Thanks for sharing all the good bad and hilarious about your trip. My husband and I just completed our own year of travel abroad so it’s fun to read about others’ adventures. Don’t worry we hadn’t our fair share of mishaps (dentist in Japan, urgent care in Australia) and went a bit over-budget too! But wouldn’t have changed being able to spend all that time together for anything. I’m impressed you did it right after getting married! We waited 7 years

  10. Here’s the thing, though: You would have easily spent that (more probably) living in the US for that year and THINK OF ALL THE MEMORIES YOU MADE. And, you know, trips to the hospital, but maybe forget that part 😉
    This was hilarious and I read every word. But really, I need to know what happened to the BMW.

  11. Kathi says: Reply

    Thank you sooooo much for this post! My partner and I are hoping to travel for a year after I finish my PhD – not as a honeymoon, but more to get a break from the UK for a bit… I have no idea how we will ever be able to save up money like this, but it’s good to get an idea of how much to budget and how much to have to fall back on!

    1. Lia says: Reply

      I’ve been thinking about writing up a post about how we paid for our trip, but the ability to save that kind of disposable income just varies so much from person to person. The best tip I can give you is START NOW. The minute you begin thinking about taking a long term trip is the minute you stop going to Starbucks every day, write yourself a budget, and attempt to turn yourself into one of those penny-pinching overly frugal people that you see on TLC shows who dumpster dive all of their meals and haven’t paid for new clothing in 3 decades. Short of dumpster diving, that’s pretty much how I did it over the 5 years that I was saving up. Also, having a dual income household is a HUGE advantage, so make sure your partner is saving up alongside you, too!

  12. Erica says: Reply

    ZOMG full-time blogger! I’m so excited for you. 😀

  13. “What actually happened was that we fell off a bunch of mountains and got lost a lot and realized that hiking in California is good training for just about nothing other than hiking in California.” I love how you entertain us and keep us laughing from the opening paragraphs of your posts. 🙂

    Love your candor, wit, and humor when describing your wins and your mishaps. Getting sick abroad sucks (it happened to me in China and was seriously scary), but I’m glad you were able to make it through and look back on things and laugh. Looking at your favorite destinations, I have to say I never really considered Colombia, but now it sounds really interesting to us. Plus, Brussels… I guess I’ll have to give it another chance. 🙂

    Sad that we won’t be neighbors in NYC any time soon, but congratulations on becoming a full-time blogger in January! And if you ever need a travel buddy slash blogger to go on trips with, you know where to find me! xx

  14. Rule #1: flexibility. Right??? I keep reminding myself of that as we’re about to head on our own crazy RTW with the munchkins. Hopefully we’re setting our ambitions low enough that we won’t have to change course quite as much, but I’m pretty sure that by the time we reach my BFF in Australia 3.5mo in we’ll be exhausted and ready to just hang out on the beach and drink beer together.

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Oh, definitely! We spent a good amount of time sitting around and doing nothing during the 2nd half of our trip 🙂 I’m sure by the time we have kiddos I’ll be itching to do another trip, so I’m paying close attention to your journey!!

  15. Janine beynon says: Reply

    I wouldn’t usually read every single word of a long post but I did with this one and I loved it! It was so great to read about your experiences and I love the format of this post. It has inspired me to write something like this about my 2 month South East Asia trip!

  16. Oh my goodness, I totally LOVED reading this! I love that you didn’t sugarcoat the fact that there were bad days because that’s the stuff most people don’t talk about because they want it to look like life is all peaches! Good luck with your new venture as a full time travel blogger – I’ll be following right along!

  17. ARIANA says: Reply

    Lots of mishaps and accidents, and yet you can laugh all about it now. Also you’ve learned a ton. 35,000 for 2 people for 1 year is not bad at all either considering all the places and things you did. It’s Important that you have really stayed authentically yourselves even through all of that. Ps.Your Husband does not look Mexican. and I want to house sit for your friend in Puebla with dogs . . . Loved this post. So much info for people who want to do something they will never forget, traveling for 1 year straight.

    1. Lia says: Reply

      He REALLY doesn’t look Mexican! It’s because his mom is German, and apparently that side of the gene pool won out in the looks department! His brother looks white AF too. But I’m just over here like so can we get your grandmother’s tamale recipe orrrrrr 😛

  18. I can’t stop laughing Lia. What an adventure! Can’t wait to hear more about the trip especially the BMW.

  19. Katie says: Reply

    I loved reading this post!! After working abroad for a few years, I want to travel for a year with the hubby and this has really opened my eyes to how much we will need! South America has always been on my bucket list so thank you for the tips and where and where not to go!! Hope your grandfather is ok too!

  20. Girl, I am always so stricken by how similar our experiences have been! My solo RTW trip last year was totally an endless string of food and mistakes, and I am definitely the non-5am person I’ve always known I am. Ready for the creepy part? I interrupted my trip about 3/4 of the way through to take care of my 90+ year old dying grandfather. Twilight Zone freaky! There are definitely differences (my grandfather did pass, and not to rub it in or anything but I made it through the Inca Trail), but overall… yes, this. Allll of this. This is 100% what it is like to take a year-long RTW trip. I may have to keep the similarities rolling and tweak this format some for my own trip summary. If I ever catch up on my gigantic content lag.

    1. Lia says: Reply

      OMG, twinsies! I’m sorry to hear about your grandfather 🙁 and congrats on the Inca Trail, you superhero, you! If you do write up a trip summary let me know, I’d love to read it! (And if you end up using my summary, I’d love a link back! #alwayshustlin ;))

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