Where we have been
Our travels, jointly and individually, all started well before the Internet and social media were born. We took our first overseas trips to
- the Cook Islands in 1986: Paul spent a month on Rarotonga during his days in the New Zealand Armed Forces (he even ran around the island).
- Czechia, Slovakia and Hungary in 1987: Sandra traveled there with her parents, choosing an overseas trip over a big party to celebrate her coming of age.
While we documented our first joint long term travel adventure in 2012, it wasn’t until 2016 that we started this website in earnest. Find out below what destinations we’ve visited and have written about.
USA and Canada
From October 2016 until January 2017, we were in the United States of America and Canada. After reading about travelling across the US by train, we decided to give it a go. We started in San Francisco – five family members on an adventure with no Wi-Fi, limited cellular coverage and a lot of time on our hands. We made it to New York in time for Paul, his son Ben and Sandra’s brother Tobi to run the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon.
By global standards, the USA is not a cheap country to visit, and we realised that very quickly. Neither of us had been to Canada before, so we decided, since we were so close, we would spend a few weeks visiting some key cities. Knowing that we had 16 nights in Canada, we decided to split them pretty evenly between Montreal, Quebec City and Toronto.
After experiencing Canada in November, we needed some warmth and sunshine. We explored New Orleans and fell in love with the city and its people. There’s really no other place like it with its mixture of Caribbean, French, Spanish, West African, and Native American influences.
Venturing northwards, we learnt a lot about Slavery and the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South. Sadly, over 50 years after Dr Martin Luther King’s death, his dream is still not fully reality. Our final stop was back in New York for New Year’s Eve at Times Square – a bucket list item for Paul.
As North America descended into winter, we headed to Ecuador, exploring this beautiful country from January to March 2017. South America is considered to be one of the most affordable continents for travellers. But how did Ecuador travel costs stack up, given it uses the USD?
Mindo and Papallacta are two popular tourist spots near Quito, for good reason. We experienced true Ecuadorean life in Loja, enjoyed some cool hikes in Vilcabamba and practised Spanish in gorgeous Cuenca, home to many North-American ex-pats.
After Ecuador, we explored the Caribbean from March to July 2017, knowing that we wanted to leave before the hurricane season started. We managed to visit eleven amazing, diverse Caribbean countries and territories:
- Curacao – A ten-day visit to Curaçao kicked off our journey around the Caribbean. Find out what adventures we got up to.
- Trinidad and Tobago – These twin islands are closer to Venezuela than its next Caribbean neighbor. Would you like to come and visit?
- Barbados – Did you know that Barbados (the bearded ones) was named after the long, aerial roots of the fig trees prevalent on the island?
- Grenada – As our Caribbean adventure continued, we headed to the small island nation of Grenada.
- St Vincent and the Grenadines – Did you know that the exotically named archipelago of St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean is made up of 32 islands and cays?
- Dominica – How much do you know about Dominica? We explored the island for three weeks. Does the ‘Nature Isle’ of the Caribbean deserve its name?
- Antigua and Barbuda (we stayed overnight, one could almost call it a very long transfer).
- Jamaica – Jamaica is synonymous with reggae and beautiful nature but sadly also with ganja (marijuana) and gang violence.
- Cayman Islands (we cleared customs and stepped outside the airport, as is the common procedure here, but we didn’t get to see anything else).
- Cuba – This was Paul’s third (and Sandra’s second) visit to our favourite Caribbean nation.
If you too want to explore the Caribbean independently and affordably check out this article.
We left the Caribbean Islands in early July 2017 and travelled through Central America, starting in Mexico, which turned out to be so much more than tacos, sombreros and mariachi bands. Find out what we learned as we explored the Yucatan Peninsula and Mexico City.
Dive aficionados get starry-eyed when they hear Belize. But the only English-speaking country in Central America has a lot more to offer than great dives.
Guatemala has impressive archaeological sites, stunning natural beauty and is rich in Mayan culture and traditions.
We spent the remainder of 2017, the whole of 2018 and the first few months of 2019 in New Zealand.
Buying (and refitting) a 20-year-old campervan (which we named MJ… as in Minimalist Journeys not Michael Jackson) allowed us to explore the whole country. It also helped us find, purchase and renovate Tirohanga Lodge, our guest accommodation business in Queenstown.
Europe and Middle East
After attending the ITB travel show in Berlin and spending a week with family in Germany in March 2019, we headed to Portugal. We spent some time in Lisbon, Sintra and Porto before starting the Camino de Santiago in early April.
After a few days of rest and recuperation in Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona, we continued to the Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in May 2019. In June, we traveled around Slovenia for a week, before we had to say goodbye to the Schengen area as Paul’s visa came to an end.
The Balkan countries became our home for the following three months:
- We first explored Croatia, from Zagreb to Plitvice Lakes and along the Dalmatian coast all the way to Dubrovnik.
- In July, we headed to Montenegro, exploring the Bay of Kotor, the old capital Cetinje, and Skadar Lake, before an epic rail journey took us to the majestic mountains and Durmitor National Park.
- After Montenegro, we decided to pay Bosnia and Herzegovina a visit. We had heard such great things about this country and its people, and it didn’t disappoint.
- In August, we spend time in the capital cities of Bosnia, Serbia and Albania to take a break from the travel and get some work done.
We were in travel mode again in September, exploring Puglia in the south of Italy and Cinque Terre in the north. We also managed to catch up with Paul’s son Ben and his wife Miky in Florence, and our dear friends in Mantova, before heading once again to Germany to spend some time with Sandra’s family and friends (and for Paul to have his first Oktoberfest experience).
October 2019 gave us the opportunity to explore Mykonos and Santorini without the tourist crowds and the Greek capital, Athens (plus store some summer sun), before heading to wintry Norway and Iceland to chase the Northern Lights and explore the country’s famous ring road in a campervan.
We kicked off November 2019 with another travel show: the World Travel Market (WTM) in London. We then flew to Lake Geneva for a week on the French side (working) and another week on the Swiss side (house sitting).
With Christmas fast approaching, we made our way slowly back up north, catching up with friends, ex-work colleagues and relatives in Switzerland, Belgium and Germany, before spending Christmas with family and New Year house sitting in Munich.
January 2020 found us in London (again house sitting). We spent the last 6 weeks at this side of the globe in Antalya, Turkey (to get some dental treatments and website work done) and eventually in Doha, Qatar.
We returned down under on the last day of February 2020 – just as the world started to wake up to what would become the COVID-19 pandemic. We were looking forward to catching up with old friends and family on both sides of the Tasman over the next few months and explore more of the region from July onward.
But as with many parts of the world, we went into lock-down, doing much-needed maintenance work at our guesthouse in Queenstown. We didn’t know what the future will bring, but we were hopeful that we will defeat the virus and we all will be able to travel again in the not too distant future.
After restrictions were eased, we spent some time in Nelson housesitting before rushing to Auckland in July to support Matthew, Paul’s son, who had suffered a collapsed lung and subsequently received a double lung transplant. We remain in Auckland for the foreseeable future.