2014 has been an awesome journey for us; it's our first time backpacking together as a couple - We've been travelling for almost one year straight from Hanoi, Vietnam, via India and the UK, to Peru; we volunteered for 5 weeks in Ollantaytambo, Cuzco; rented our 2-bedroom apartment and started working (teaching English and starting our own Ayurveda Massage business) for 3 months in Arequipa, Peru; and now we're travelling again until March 2015!
We've traveled and lived on three continents - Asia, Europe and South America (India for three months, Maldives for one week, the UK for three weeks, Peru for six months, two weeks in Bolivia), more than a hundred Cities, multiple overnight buses and trains and 11 flights! Here's our 2014 backpacking route (1st leg).
So here's the highlight of our adventures and misadventures of 2014!
Highlight: We started our year with Kach hunting frogs for a reality TV Show in Hanoi, Vietnam. We also did a weekend motorbike trip to Ninh Binh province during the Vietnamese New Year.
YAY! Kach won the Reality TV show! The prize was for her to travel around Vietnam (and eventually Asia) with the TV crew to shoot and eat more different disgusting food!
NAY! Nope, we refused the reward as we'd already decided to travel to India by the end of February.
Highlight: We finally booked all of our flights for 2014 (Hanoi-Singapore-India-Maldives-India-UK- Peru) and all for only $1500/ person! We left Vietnam last February 26 to fly to Chennai, India but with a two-day layover in Singapore! We're lucky to have some relatives and friends in Singapore who hosted us while we were there. My uncle had a car and was able to take us around different tourist attractions!
YAY! We bought our first shared gadget- Go Pro Hero 3!
NAY! Our backpacks were over-baggage as we only booked a hand carries flight, so we ended up paying for that expensive penalty!
Highlight: We finally arrived in India! Had a week in Agonda, Goa where we found a job in a restaurant which helped us saved money as they gave us free food & drinks in exchange for 4 hours work every night!
We then started our Tantra Yoga Teacher's Training in Galgibaga, Goa, had our bungalow by the beach and even rented a big motorbike! We had a short trip to Karnataka, another province South of Goa.
YAY! We were probably the healthiest we've ever been; swimming, yoga, meditation, ayurvedic diet. We made new friends for life and became certified yoga teachers!
NAY! We slept and stayed in Chennai Airport for 12 hours while everything was still closed! We were scammed by a fake Ayurveda Doctor - asked us to pay about $100 for various medicines (which is only worth $10)! We bribed a policeman in Karnataka because Jon didn't have an international license to drive the motorbike in India! (This could be a Yay!)
Highlight: We finally booked all of our train tickets around India! We got our Tantra Yoga Teacher Certification! Woop!! Oh yeah...and a week of Holiday (from traveling!) in the MALDIVES!
YAY! Jon's younger sister Holly came to visit us in India, and we traveled around for two weeks together until she had to fly home again.
NAY! There really isn't much to NAY! about here. I suppose we tried to see too much of India in too short time, but it's a lesson learned for next time!
Highlight: We traveled around the north of India, including Darjeeling, Gangtok, Rishikesh, and Dharamsala. This was by far our favorite time in India. It was in Rishikesh that we trained and became certified as Ayurveda massage therapists.After that, we went paragliding in the North Indian mountains and hiked up a mountain to the Himalayas. We even met up with one of Jon's best friends from uni, who he hadn't seen in about three years!
YAY! Seeing HRH, The Dalai Lama arrive back to the Namgyal Monastery in Dharamsala, where we also met up with a monk friend we knew from Bodh Gaya.
NAY! We missed our connecting flight from Riyadh to London, which almost left us in Saudi Arabia with no visa and cost us $1000 USD to book a new flight. Oops!
Highlight: We spent three weeks in the UK, staying with Jon's parents, traveling around the country(yes), visiting friends and famous places, like Stonehenge, Buckingham Palace, Edinburgh and The Lake District. I got to meet all of Jon's immediate family and his grandparents too! After our visit, we flew to Lima, Peru, (via three other countries) and found ourselves a volunteering job in Ollantaytambo for five weeks.
YAY! The best part of the UK for me (apart from meeting the family of course!) was Edinburgh. It's the most beautiful city I've ever seen, with incredible ancient buildings at every turn and an indescribable vibe that puts you in a good mood no matter what the weather. We also couch surfed with an awesome guy called Grant, who helped us out loads and introduced us to whiskey-casked cider. Ahhhh....Cider!
NAY! Our flight from London to Lima took 24 hours and flew via three other countries, so we got to visit five airports in one day...lucky us! We'd also spent most of our remaining cash in the UK and on the emergency connecting flight from Riyadh to London, so we arrived in Peru with very little left.
Highlight: We spent five weeks living in Ollantaytambo, Cusco, where we volunteered in a hostel in exchange for food and a bed. It's one of the most beautiful places we've ever seen, with countless Pre-Inca buildings everywhere and ancient waters flowing through every street. At the end of our stay there we did our 30km hike to Machu Picchu. Then we caught an overnight bus to Arequipa, where we met our Great 'Guruji' Karn Shah, who taught us how to live like real expats. Oh yeah, I turned 26 too!
YAY! Living in such a magnificent place that most people only get to see for a day is something we'll always be grateful for, but the best part of July was our DIY trek to Machu Picchu. It was by far the longest I have ever walked, and by the end, I couldn't even move my legs, but I did it!
NAY! This was another month where it's hard to think of any negative experiences at all. The most I can come up with is having to sleep in a tent in the middle of the freezing Andean winter because the hostel was fully booked up. It was a whole new level of cold, but on the plus side, it was a hardening experience!
Highlight: Our blog took a back seat as we began to set ourselves up with our new lives in Arequipa. We both got teaching jobs straight away, but I quit to freelance instead. We set up Om Yoga and Massage, partnered with an organic coconut oil company, bought a massage bed and even conducted our first Ayurveda Walking Massage workshop. We signed a year contract on an apartment and met loads of cool new friends!
YAY! I loved signing the contract on our new apartment, because even though we both love to travel and not be tied down, having a base in another country to travel from gives us that comfort that we still want in between trips.
NAY! We had to put the blog on hold for a while because we were both working as many hours as possible to establish ourselves in Arequipa - Two Monkeys would be dormant until the first week of October...
Highlight: We founded the What's on Arequipa website and started attracting local businesses to sign up to advertise on the site and had new business cards and stickers made. We were featured on a Hola TV Unsa for the first time, demonstrating our Walking Ayurveda Massage therapy. I finally got my refund from my apartment in the Philippines (Bonus cash!), and we officially became ambassadors for South America Backpacker Magazine!
YAY! Becoming ambassadors for South America Backpacker was exactly the boost we needed to get us back into blogging again and our first article on our DIY trek to Machu Picchu was published with loads of positive comments.
NAY! Aside from being a lot of hard work, there's nothing bad to say about September; productive and full of great new opportunities.
Highlight: We finally launched our new website with a brand new domain on Wordpress.org - finally, we were off the Blogger wagon! I had my first article published in Rappler: Work or Travel - Why not choose both? We paid off all of our debts and even bought a new laptop and digital camera! We partnered with Arequipa Tours and stayed in the Colca Lodge in Colca Valley, with it's own outdoor volcanic hot springs!
YAY! Getting the new website set up was amazing, it felt like we had taken the jump up to the next level and could start putting more creative efforts into our writing.
NAY! Unfortunately, Jon had to fly back to the UK for a family emergency. It was the first time we had to deal with one of the negative realities of living so far away from home when something goes wrong.
Highlight: Jon flew back to Peru after two weeks away, and he even had a 12-hour daytime stopover in Mexico City, so he went to a new country without me! Jon had an article published in Rappler - Lessons I've Learned Dating a Filipino Woman, which went completely viral overnight and even spread from the Philippines to the US. With our success starting to grow and page-views rising steadily, we decided to join Travel Blog Success, which has proved to be a great decision. Towards the end of the month, we took part in an Ayahuasca ceremony in Arequipa. It was an interesting experience!
YAY! Our second viral article was exciting and brought us a lot more traffic on the new site, and we saw things start to take off!
NAY! Nothing to NAY! About!
Highlight: This December was the start of our latest trip around South America; we took our first VIP bus from Arequipa to Lima, kind of like business class on a plane! We traveled from Lima to Cusco with Peru Hop, stopping in Paracas and Huacachina for some beach time and sand boarding action.
We got to work with Kokopelli which was awesome as well the incredible Adventure Brew Hostel in La Paz, Bolivia. We've just arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, after an awesome three-day tour of Salar de Uyuni with Expediciones Huracan. We're staying here for New Years, before heading down to Santiago, then on to Patagonia. Good luck 2015, you've got some work to do!
YAY! Our 4x4 tour through the Bolivian salt flats is probably the most awesome tour we've been on. We don't often go on organized tours, but we had a great group and a brilliant driver, Hipotole, so it's felt much more like a big group of friends on a crazy road trip into a desert!
NAY! We decided that it might just be time to give up our beautiful apartment in Arequipa. But, every ending is a new beginning; we're thinking about moving to Mancora so that we can live on a beach, do massage and write for income, practice Yoga and Jon can surf every day!
How about you? How was your 2014?
Update: While reading this in 2016, I just can't believe that we've been through a lot of these experiences! You can even see that we didn't have the gadget nor money to start blogging! Dreams do come true indeed!
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