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Around The World in 60 Days

In 2019 we circumnavigated planet Earth. Here are some of the incredible things we experienced, and a few important lessons that were learned along the way.

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Photo: Sorasak

2019 was a year of transition and travel for us.

It was a year of transition in the sense that we spent the majority of our time building and launching Publish.

And it was a year of travel in the sense that my wife and I completed our first around the world trip, circumnavigating planet Earth over the course of two months.  

The Impulse Buy

At the beginning of 2019, I booked us two around the world tickets with All Nippon Airways (ANA).   

When I learned that this program existed, my initial reaction was something along the lines of... “Can you imagine planning a trip of that scale? How is that even possible?”

A week later we bought the tickets.  

These tickets allowed us to fly completely around the world and make up to eight stops with airlines in Star Alliance. When booking the flights, there were certain rules we needed to follow but ANA was surprisingly flexible and accommodating. 

For example, flights need to either be all eastbound or westbound, meaning that you can’t backtrack (unless it’s to a hub for a connecting flight), and you need to complete your trip within six months. 

We technically started the trip in Seattle, Washington and from there we visited Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Portugal (briefly). 

Packing for this trip was particularly challenging as we traveled through just about every climate, with the exception of desert and arctic tundra. We went from 90+ degree days on the beach in Thailand to snow in the Alps of Switzerland.  Japan was hot and humid; Amsterdam was cool and rainy.  

Despite the climate hopping, we actuall made it around the world with just one carry-on bag each

Into the Typhoon

The trip itself went off without a hitch, minus arriving in Tokyo hours after a major Typhoon hit and having to wait a few hours for the train from the airport to resume service. I joke that if that had happened in the U.S. we would still be waiting...

We were in Japan for about a week, visiting Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. All of these regions were beautiful and unique and honestly we could have spent a week or two in each without getting too comfortable. 

In Tokyo we explored the various districts, like Shinjuku and Shibuya, which are essentially cities within a city. We met a pillow-shaped seal named Yuki at the Osaka Aquarium. Our time is Kyoto was spent trekking through a serene bamboo grove and discovering a park full of free-roaming Japanese macaque (snow monkeys) that enjoy intermingling with their guests.  

What really surprised me as a foreigner in Japan, were the small, everyday challenges created by technology and in some cases, the lack thereof. Japan is heavily reliant on cash and alternative forms of payment (like transit cards) and this was the source of confusion during our first few days exploring Tokyo. 

Once we learned about the glorious 7-11 and SEVEN bank, and ditched the credit cards for a week, we became much more productive members of Japanese society.  

We also spent a night in a Capsule Hotel, which was less of pod that looked like it could sustain you through interstellar travel, and more of a millennial-infused co-working / co-habitation space.

From Japan we flew to Hong Kong, which up until this point had remained the biggest question mark on our itinerary.  At the time, the situation on the ground there seemed to change on a daily basis with active protests sweeping the city.

It was even less comforting to receive an email from our hotel with precautions that should be taken to avoid tear gas.  

However this is a place unlike any other, and we were determined to see and experience it first hand.

While the news painted an apocalyptic portrait of the city, upon arriving we found things to be fairly quiet, minus a few extra security checkpoints around the airport. 

Hong Kong is a city straight out of a Ridley Scott movie. It's a cyberpunk mecca. A place that you've seen or read about in science fiction, yet it exists here in the real world. And the food is awesome.  

Cyberpunk Hong Kong

We stayed in Causeway Bay on Hong Kong island. This is where many of the large protests you see in the news take place. We didn't see anything out of the ordinary while we were there, but then again, this was a new place and Hong Kong is just a bit overwhelming to begin with....

I have a feeling that this was also partly due to timing on our part. We visited i the middle of the week and many of the protests and seemed to happen on weekends. After all, many of those protesting are just normal people with regular jobs and bills to pay.

 After returning home, I was disappointed to learn that the app we used to stay safe and avoid protests and tear gas was shut down by Apple at the direction of the Chinese government.  

After our brief stay in Hong Kong, we headed to Thailand.

Thailand means "Land of the Free" and "Land of the Tai". 
I was surprised to learn that Thailand is one of the few areas in southeast Asia that managed to remain independent from the Western powers throughout history. So the name has a double meaning in the sense that it reflects the country's history of independence along with the Tai people.

Thailand was... well Thailand. There is nothing quite like speeding through Bangkok in the back of a Tuk Tuk while hanging on for dear life.  

We spent a week decompressing from our Tuk Tuk adventures on the serene island of Samui in the gulf of Thailand. 

After successfully navigating Japanese society, exploring Hong Kong (while aware that a large protest could shut down the city at any minute), and surviving a late night Tuk Tuk ride in Bangkok, it was nice to be able to sit back and relax on a beautiful, tropical beach paradise.  

The beaches of Ko Samui

Recharged, full of pad thai, and ready for the second half of our journey, we then tackled the longest flight of our trip - a 14 hour flight from Bangkok to Zurich, Switzerland. 

This flight offered amazing views of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey. 

Switzerland reminded me of a Disney Park in the sense that while it's expensive, it's so magical and unforgettable that you are willing to buy a ticket regardless of the price. You can spend hours upon hours just staring at the beautiful vistas around each and every corner. 

Who cares if Mickey is in the back stacking bricks of $100s? In this case however, the beauty isn't crafted by the hands of "imagineers".  

Exploring the Swiss Alps

Time and money well spent!

I also appreciate how environmentally conscious the Swiss are. It was inspiring to see a small country making such large commitments to protect the environment. When you are surrounded by that level of natural beauty on a daily basis, I suppose you’re easily reminded at how much we have to lose from inaction.  

There is definitely a larger sense of environmental awareness and urgency throughout Europe than here in the States. 

After flying into Amsterdam, Amanda arranged a taxi to pick us up.  However it wasn’t just any ordinary taxi... it was a Tesla taxi. A Model X to be specific. Amsterdam, and many other cities in Europe, are moving towards making these adjustments to make big environmental impacts.

Amsterdam was fun and this was probably Amanda’s favorite stop on our world tour. I’m sure this had nothing to do with the fact that I booked a hotel that had a lobby filled with thousands of books :)

Ambassade Hotel in Amsterdam. Photo Credit

With ~50 miles of canals, ~90 islands, ~1500 bridges, more beer than coffee at 11 am, the world's best cookies, and an incredible food scene, what more could you ask for?

The most unfortunate thing about our time in The Netherlands was that there wasn’t enough of it! 

Initially this was planned as just a stopover before Brussels, but little did we know how much we would enjoy this region of the world. So this is now at the top of our list of places to revisit. 

In Brussels, we stayed in a cool Airbnb that overlooked the city. At the base of our 20-story apartment building was a farm? In the middle of the city. 

Every morning we would wake up to a wonderful melody of sounds provided by an orchestra of donkeys, roosters, and other miscellaneous farm animals. This is in stark contrast to the sound of taxi horns and sirens that you would expect from a city of this size. 

In many ways, I think this experience perfectly describes Brussels as a whole. It’s essentially the European version of Austin, Texas. And I love that. 

Stay weird, Brussels.

From Brussels we flew back to the U.S. with a short stopover in Lisbon, Portugal. Although I had to admire the beautiful beaches from the window of our plane, we were heading back to the land of beaches and endless summer, so we couldn't be too sad to return home.

My main takeaway from this trip is that Earth is small and people are kind. You can reach almost anywhere on the planet in less than 18 hours. Regardless of where you end up, most people will go out of their way to help you.  

Places that you hear only hear about on the news and seem so far away, are much closer than to home than you think or some people would like to believe.

Flying over the Registan Desert, Afghanistan

I recently read about a common experience that astronauts have while looking down at the earth from space. 

There is a realization that all of humanity is contained within this small sphere, in the vastness of space. Everything we have ever known, all of human history, is contained on the surface of a ping pong ball, floating in an ocean that extends into near infinity.

This is what I experienced, albeit from a viewpoint that is a bit closer to the ground. Personally, I can't wait for our next trip around this ping pong ball.  

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