This is the End. And the Beginning.

We are sitting in our last airport of the trip waiting for our flight. Our last plane ride for the foreseeable future. And of course, because we are heading home to New York in the middle of the coldest winter in recent history, we are delayed by weather. Possibly our first flight delay on our whole 6 month trip. Weird.

And weird is exactly how I feel about it. Being so extremely happy and sad at the same time is strange. I know that a few hours from now when we are descending into New York City I will be crying. New York is family to me. It is the place I was born and the place I have chosen to spend my life. It holds many of my dear family and friends.

But this trip has really changed a lot for me. I am so lucky now to get to say that I have wonderful friends all over the world, and I have seen so many beautiful and interesting places. Somehow, loving all of the destinations and people I have met makes me love New York even more. I’m hoping all of this travel experience leads to a few things. Post-trip resolutions, you could say:

  1. I hope that I appreciate and take advantage of all of the amazing activities New York City has to offer, the way I made sure to take advantage of all of the interesting places and events in all of the cities we visited around the world.
  2. I hope – and plan to – keep in touch with all of the wonderful people I met around the world. Having friends around the world makes the world seem smaller and kinder. I also feel much more in tune with what is happening outside of my American bubble now.
  3. Along those lines, I hope to spend as much time as possible with my friends and family. Yes, we did miss them while we were gone, but more than that we want to make sure they all know how much we appreciate them! Good friends are precious and I want my friends to know that they are precious to me.
  4. I plan to share with everyone how doable long term travel is. It involves sacrifices, but if you want to travel and see the world, they are sacrifices worth making! This is especially true for vegan travelers.
  5. Lastly, I plan to be happy. It sounds a bit dumb, and the cynical New Yorker in me is cringing a bit, but I came to understand while on this trip that happiness is a choice. There are many things that make being happy easier – surrounding yourself with happy people, loving what you do, letting things slide off your back more easily – and I plan to try and do the things that make me happy. The cynical New Yorker in me says to remember this one when someone is holding the subway door making me late to somewhere!

So those are my post-trip resolutions. I think many of them can convert to anyone living anywhere. Even if you haven’t traveled. We tend to take for granted what we have around us, but there is always something new to see and explore in your own backyard. So have an adventure at home, if an adventure far away is out of reach right now. And keep an eye out here as we will continue to share travel stories and tips for the foreseeable future. I think 6 months of travel gave us enough fodder to fill the gap until our next big adventure. But we also promise New York City sights (and vegan food!) along the way, as I want to share what makes my city so special as well.

Okay, time to board. Talk to you all on the flipside!

What We Packed For Our Six-Month ‘Round-the-World Trip

We should really just dive right into this, as it’s going to be a long, bullet-pointed travel packing list. Many (MANY!) people have asked us what we brought on our 6-month journey around the world. Particularly once they find out we have less than 10kg of stuff to each of our names. Obviously it’s pretty much just the essentials. But what are the essentials for a round-the-world trip covering many different climates? Here is what got us through:

***Before I dive into what we brought, I want to put in a disclaimer here. All the links below that link to products on Amazon.com are affiliate links. This means if you buy something after clicking through our links we get a very small commission. I just wanted to be upfront about it! We are hoping it pays back the cost of running this site (eventually). We certainly aren’t making a living doing this. And we would never link to anything we didn’t truly love and use constantly on this trip. We just wanted you to know!***

Molly’s clothes:

Molly's clothes

Molly’s clothes

  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • 5 pairs of socks (these are the best socks ever. No blisters! I use them at home too)
  • 3 bras (2 regular, one sports)
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 1 pair of pants (that zip into capris)
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 dress
  • 1 skirt
  • 5 long sleeved garments (one heavy fleece, one button up light jacket, 3 long sleeved shirts. The fleece was a later addition on a freezing day where I forgot a sweater. I think 4 long sleeved garments are likely enough.)
  • 4 t-shirts
  • 5 tank tops (including an older version of this one from the amazing Vaute Couture)
  • 1 sarong (all-purpose. It can be a towel, a skirt, pretty much anything.)
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 t-shirt for sleeping in (a super-comfy t-shirt.)
  • 1 pair of athletic shorts for sleeping in
  • Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It 2 Sided Cube (Everything except the heaviest outerwear fits in here)
  • Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Mesh Stuffer Bag (I used this as my dirty laundry bag)

Dan’s clothes:

Dan's clothes. Artfully arranged by Dan!

Dan’s clothes. Artfully arranged by Dan!

Miscellaneous things:

medical and toiletry products, games, and some miscellaneous things.

medical and toiletry products, games, and some miscellaneous things.

Top left. It goes into that blue flowery bag:

  • Pads and tampons (these are the necessities of life…)
  • Small glass nail file (borrowed from my mom) and travel nail clippers
  • Tweezers
  • 2 eye masks and earplugs taken from an airplane flight (rarely used, but good for the occasional loud or bright hostel)
  • Hair ties and a brush
  • 2 packages of dry laundry soap sheets (essential!)
  • Dan’s extra glasses and my glasses

Top middle 3 ziplock bags:

  • The left one is our shower stuff. It contains a plastic container with dry conditioner (purchased at Lush), a plastic container with a bar of soap in it, a small container of shampoo (under 3 oz), a tiny bottle of face wash for my pimply face, and a few razors.
  • The two right ziplocks are our liquids bags (when we are flying the shampoo and face wash get added to these). At this point in the trip they are getting pretty empty. But I will tell you that when we left I brought 5 containers of vegan contact solution, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, face cream, hand lotion, a stain stick and maybe a few other travel-sized liquids. The bags were very full. Your liquids needs will vary, and change with time over the course of your travels just like ours did.

Top right:

Middle left. Fits in the quart-sized ziplock bag:

  • Small travel medical kit. We added things to a pre-made kit. We added extra bandaids and neosporin.
  • Temperature-stable, vegan probiotics. These were purchased on the road. Sometimes eating out all the time gets to my stomach. These help.
  • Medical tape
  • Moleskin
  • A small container of ibuprophen and a small container of pepto-bismol
  • Anti-diarrhea medicine and antibiotics (we have never had to use these, but we figured better to have it just in case! My doctor prescribed the antibiotics for me specifically for the trip before I left. Just in case!)

Bottom left in the ziplock bag: Dan’s electric razor with its accessories, and Dan’s contacts.

Bottom left corner: Games! Hive Pocket, Struggle For Catan – the Settlers of Catan card game, and a deck of cards.

Bottom right side:

Electronics, rain gear, and miscellaneous stuff.

Electronics, rain gear, and miscellaneous stuff.

  • Shoes! 1 pair sneakers, 1 pair water sandals, 1 pair flip flops for each of us.
  • 1 lightweight umbrella
  • 1 waterproof raincoat each (essential!)
  • 1 fleece sleeping bag each (essential!)
  • Cords for all of our electronics
  • The electronics: 1 Chromebook, 1 iPhone 4s, 1 iPhone 3gs as a backup, 1 knockoff Nokia Lumia 925 purchased in Cambodia, 2 Kindles (one old and one new), 1 Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS19 (great camera, but a bit of dust got stuck between the lenses about 3 months into our travels), 1 Fujifilm FinePix XP60 (our camera for the final 3 months of our trip. Great for the underwater photography we did at the Great Barrier Reef!), 1 iPod nano, 1 64GB usb stick.
  • The outlet adapters. Yes, we had a different one for each country, but these adapters are so good and reliable, I thought they were worth it. They do not convert voltage (those would be transformers), but if your electronics are relatively modern a transformer is not necessary. We didn’t need one for any of our electronics.
  • A loop lock
  • The best travel power strip ever.
  • A mesh bag for all the cords.
  • Sunglasses
  • A microfiber travel towel.
  • A bandana.
  • A visor.
  • A blanket/skirt. (purchased in Thailand so Dan could get into a Wat, but then he really liked using it as a blanket so he kept it.)
  • A daypack with all of the things in the bottom left corner of the picture in the top pocket of the backpack (lip balm with spf, headphones, a headphone splitter, earplugs, B12 pills, house keys, a pen and pencil, probiotics and ibuprofen, our expenses notebook and Dan’s notebook. The water bottle goes in the backpack side pocket.
  • Not shown are our computer case that the Chromebook goes in, and the money belt that comes with us everywhere.

This is what it looks like all packed up:

All of our stuff all packed up for our 6-month trip.

All of our stuff all packed up for our 6-month trip.

Was everything above used on this trip? Nope. We haven’t touched the duct tape once and almost the entire medical ziplock bag has gone unused. But am I glad we have those things just in case? Yup! The biggest surprise of the trip was how much we used that little hand-crank flashlight.

If any women out there are looking for a new backpacking backpack, I highly recommend mine: The Gregory Sage 45 backpack. I’m 5’3″ and I wear a size small backpack. It’s comfortable, a good size and shape, and fits in overhead bins. Don’t ask about Dan’s bag, though. It’s a knock-off he bought in Cambodia!

Okay, I think that’s a long enough packing list for you. For the record, this stuff we brought covered us over 3 continents and from temperatures of 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Please let us know if you have any questions about what we packed or how we packed it in the comments and we will be sure to answer them!

The Beauty of Traveling Light

Two days ago was Dan and my 6-month-traveliversary. Wow. I can’t believe we have really been traveling the world for 6 months. 6 months has lead me to reflect a lot on our biggest successes of the trip. It has also made me miss home a whole lot, but that may just be because we are heading home in about 2 weeks. I can’t believe this adventure is coming to an end! Don’t worry, there is so much we didn’t have a chance to share on our lovely blog while it was happening, so the posts will continue long after we are back in our freezing cold home, New York City.

But back to our successes. This may not be an impressive or spectacular choice as our biggest success of the trip, but I am sticking with it: Our biggest success of the trip is keeping our luggage under 10 kilos. That’s under 22 pounds to our American readers.

Weighing our bags at the Auckland airport. Mine was 8kg and Dan's was 9kg. Plus that small daypack I'm holding that has our computer in it, I get to around 10kg.

Weighing our bags at the Auckland airport before dawn (and ticket-counter opening). Mine was 8kg and Dan’s was 9kg. Plus that small daypack I’m holding that has our computer in it, I get to around 10kg.

10 kilos means that we have never checked a bag on this entire trip. Big plane or small, those backpacks fit in the overhead compartment! Think of all the money in checked baggage fees we have saved! This means, for all you future travelers who want to attempt the same thing, you cannot get a 70 liter bag. It will not fit in the overhead, plus if you fill it it will definitely weigh too much. And you will fill it. It’s human nature to fill the bag to the brim! For reference, my bag is 45 liters. Dan’s is 50 liters. This seems to be a good size for keeping your bag under 10 kilos, unless you plan on carrying rocks. Then you will have a problem, no matter the size of your bag!

For the lovely cheapskate airlines that have lowered their carry on weight to 7 kilograms (and 7 kilos is the lowest we have seen), we had a plan: Wear all of your heavy clothes and stuff some heavy stuff into your pockets. We did this with much success in Malaysia when flying Air Asia. They are the biggest cheapskates of any airline we have flown. They won’t even give you water on the plane without charging! So before we went to that ticket counter, we put on our long pants (I wore my leggings underneath), short-sleeved shirt, long-sleeved shirt, and our sweatshirts. I put on my scarf, too, which covered my sweatshirt pockets which I then stuffed our two liquids bags into. Dan also stuffed some things into his pants pockets. We did all of this before going to the ticket counter. When we got there, no problems! After we had our tickets, we just put the extra stuff back into the bags.

See, here’s the thing. They weigh your bag just to be able to charge you extra if it’s over their threshold, whatever that number happens to be. But they don’t weigh you! It doesn’t matter that I’m a small person, my bag can’t weigh more than X-number of kilos. It’s a money-making sceme, really, so we decided to beat it. And we have on every flight. But the key is keeping your bags near the threshold so you aren’t struggling to hide the weight on your person.

Now that we are nearing the end of our trip, I can say that traveling light is getting more difficult to stick to. For most of our trip, our only gifts to ourselves were pictures and memories, but now that we are so close to home we have been buying things here and there. Nothing crazy, but every purchase adds up to more weight! For the budget traveler, though, I highly recommend sticking with the plan of only taking pictures. They cost nothing (assuming they are digital), weight nothing, but will allow you to look back fondly on everything you have done. And my memory alone certainly isn’t good enough to do that!

So we wish you luck on packing light and saving some of your cash and sanity (no bags lost in transit!). To help you do this, Dan and I will soon be posting our packing list for a 6 month trip around the world (UPDATE! See the packing list HERE!). Be prepared, you will be wearing the same clothes over and over again!

All Hail Lord Fry!

Dan and I spent 10 days in Melbourne. That may seem like a long time to spend in Australia’s second biggest city, but it turned out to be such a pleasure. Melbourne is really fun and they have a killer vegan scene. After 3 weeks in New Zealand, cooking 90% of our own food, it was time to indulge. And we fell hard for the least healthy, but incredibly tasty, Lord of the Fries.

Thank you, Lord Fry!

Thank you, Lord Fry!

Lord of the Fries (or LotF for short) is an entirely vegetarian burger and fries fast food joint. Note that I did say vegetarian and not vegan. They can make 99% of all their options vegan, but there are cow-milk cheese and dairy and mayo-based sauces available, and used as the standard. If you don’t already know, here is why you shouldn’t eat dairy and here is why you shouldn’t eat eggs. For the animals! Everything you will see in the post below are vegan versions that we ordered when we went to LotF. Equally delicious, but 100% cruelty free!

This small qualm aside, Lord of the Fries makes amazing burgers and fries. They have 7 locations in Melbourne and one in Sydney. Dan and I ate there 5 times over our 10 day stay in Melbourne (and once more at their only location here in Sydney) as LotF was always conveniently located and obviously tasty. Here are some of the best pictures of  (some of) our eats from Lord of the Fries:

Our first LotF burger - the Parma Burger

Our first LotF burger – the Parma Burger

Parma Burger innards.

Parma Burger innards. They gave us two patties! By mistake I think. Win for us!

The Parma burger is a chick’n patty (their spelling, not mine), soy bacon, napoli sauce, cheese and onions. This was the only time we tried their chicken-style patty and I really liked it! Dan preferred the cow-style patty you will see below. But this burger, overall, was delicious. I don’t know what napoli sauce is, but it sure is tasty!

Nuggets and Rings Munch Box.

Nuggets and Rings Munch Box.

A standard purchase for us after this first time: a “munch box” is filled with LotF’s delicious twice-fried fries, onion rings, and awesome vegan chicken nuggets. It’s hard to tell from this picture, but the box is really big, too. It’s a pretty good value (in addition to being delicious), as food in Australia goes.

And that’s something to mention, too. Prepared food in Australia is expensive. The burgers here (except for the breakfast burgers) all go for about US$7.50 and the munch box for about US$9.25. Australia’s minimum wage is over US$15 an hour, so purchasing goods where a human was involved in the production has to be more expensive. This is great for Australians (and is part of the reason why they can afford to travel so much!), but tough on foreigners. It didn’t bother us too much, as long as we were spending our money on really delicious food!

Then we decided one day to make it to LotF before 11 so we could try the breakfast burgers. Australians call these “brekky buns”, as you can see in the sign below.

Breakfast! Only available in Melbourne.

Breakfast! Only available in the Melbourne locations.

Dan's beloved New York breakfast burger.

Dan’s beloved New York breakfast burger.

Dan got the New York: Hash brown, LotF patty, cheese, onion, mustard, and bbq sauce. And he fell in love. He probably mentions it once a day. Too bad they don’t do breakfast here in Sydney!

The Tibet breakfast tofu-burger.

The Tibet breakfast tofu-burger.

The Tibet is just the vegan version of the Melbourne. I wish they hadn’t renamed it. It would have been cuter if Dan and I had ordered the vegan New York and the vegan Melbourne. Regardless, the Tibet is two tofu eggs, cheese, mayo and mustard. This one is good and very breakfast-y. I’m not really a burger-before-11am kind of person, so this was nice to have instead.

On our last day in Melbourne Dan demanded a return to LotF one last time so he could get his New York breakfast burger again, but he also really wanted to try the Big Mark (can you guess what burger that one is modeled after??). Do they do non-breakfast burgers during breakfast hours? We were going to find out.

Good news! They do! So Dan got both, and kindly shared them with me. For your viewing pleasure, a double Big Mark Burger: 2 LotF patties, cheese, pickles, onions, lettuce, and special sauce.

A Double Big Mark burger. The cruelty free version!

A Double Big Mark burger. The cruelty free version!

This burger was huge and tasty. Seeing as I have never had “the real thing”, I had to ask Dan how it stood up and he was not disappointed. But for Dan, nothing could hold a candle to his favorite, the New York breakfast burger:

The New York a second time.

The New York a second time.

Okay, New York vegan scene, please begin work on a version of this burger so that when we get home Dan can get one, because I imagine he’ll never stop talking about it otherwise! Maybe Terri could add it to their new breakfast menu? You can call it the Dan Special. I think he’d be okay with it!

Anyway, there you have it. Our fav food spot in Melbourne. I won’t hold it against you if you come all the way down to Australia just for Lord of the Fries, but I promise that Melbourne will be able to keep you entertained between meals as well! We really enjoyed it all!

Happy New Year From Australia!

Happy New Year VeganHop readers! Molly and I celebrated the start of 2014 in the beautiful city of Melbourne in Australia. Being 10,000 miles away from home for the new year was a different experience. The particular brand of fireworks we witnessed were also quite different. See the big finale below.

Once you got over the shock of seeing buildings shooting out flame the show was quite beautiful.

The end/beginning of the year is a convenient time to pause and reflect. For me, 2013 was a year I will always remember fondly. I married Molly (my partner of over six years), left for an adventure around the world and began writing my first book.  My family and friends supported and encouraged me every step of the way. What could be better?

What made 2013 so beautiful was that I pushed myself to take calculated risks and focus on my core values. I am very cautious in many aspects of my life and I decided that it was the right time to take a leap and live my dream of seeing the world. One year, 14 countries, and 70+ gigabytes of photos later I still can’t believe have far I have come (literally and figuratively). I only had one chance to live 2013 and I genuinely feel I made the most of it.

I have already sat down and made a 2014 ‘to do’ list of the tasks I hope to complete by this time next year. My family and friends are near and dear to me and I want to spend the next 12 months making the most of my time with them.

Always remember that every day is an opportunity and you are the only person who can make the most of it. I try to remind myself of this fact every day and am thankful that I have such a supportive partner who reminds me when I forget. I hope 2014 will bring more unique and memorable experiences – and blog posts!

What are your goals for 2014?

Dan with Kangaroo, Australia

Dan with a sleepy Kangaroo at the Great Ocean Road Wildlife Sanctuary