Last Guest Post by James (for awhile): Sri Lanka


Here’s one more guest post from 8-year-old James’ private blog. I thought he needed one more nice one after the India post. As before, my Instagram posts and country counter are below his work.

To start, everyone LOVED Sri Lanka! After India, we flew to Colombo, Sri Lanka, where we stayed at a not-a-very-nice place but it offered airport transportation in a huge bus. Luckily, breakfast at the hotel was delicious and had really, really good bread and butter. There was some fruit, but the mango and passion fruit looked identical so each bite was a fun surprise, sometimes not a good surprise.

From the hotel, we visited Colombo’s fort area for the afternoon and ate lunch. We immediately took a beautiful train ride to Kandy. When we exited the train station, there were loud bats everywhere! We all really liked it because we like bats. We walked up a huge hill to our hotel, which was really nice (the hotel, not the walk!). They served us ginger tea and biscuits and then we went to bed.

On our first whole day in Kandy, we had a really good breakfast with jackfruit and delicious coconut honey pancakes. (The pancakes were my favorite food in Sri Lanka.) The hotel overlooked Bogambara Lake, which we walked around. On our walk, we saw a GIGANTIC lizard! (It was about as tall as me!)

giant lizard
photogenic duck

We saw tons of birds and ducks, and we ate at a restaurant called the Hideout Lounge. We also visited the Temple of the Tooth, which has the Buddha’s tooth and a very boring museum on world religions.

The best part of Kandy (other than the food), was the Kandian dance, which had nine parts including firewalking. The dancers did tons of backflips and acrobatics and had extreme balancing skills. The firewalking was the best part. People somehow stuck the fire on their tongues and juggled flaming torches.

On our last night in Kandy, we took three-hour long cooking class. We cooked 14 meals, including 10 curries and an excellently spiced chicken. We could only eat a fifth of it. I didn’t really like it because it was too long and too much food and I don’t really like curries. The host family was really nice though.

After Kandy, we took another beautiful train back to Colombo (the train was at 6 am!

Because it was dark and my bag was heavy, I fell down and got a massive, bleeding cut on my knee. It bugged me for three months afterwards but I don’t have a scar anymore). We visited a museum and walked around Colombo, in the burning heat. The best part was that we ate lunch at a very fancy restaurant. The chefs are brothers and both used to run Michelin starred restaurants in France. I don’t remember what I ordered, but I did get chocolate mousse for dessert! It was delicious.

We took a train after lunch to Galle, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. We stayed in a small hotel but there were tons of mosquitos everywhere that only swarmed me. I lost a lot of blood to mosquitos that week! From our hotel deck, we saw monkeys, peacocks, and kingfishers. Every single restaurant in Galle was closed until 10 am! We walked around the old fort and a man offered to jump off a cliff for money, but we said no. My family went swimming in the ocean, but I didn’t because of my knee. I also pet a lot of stray dogs.

After Galle, we got a taxi to Colombo and flew back to Delhi, India for one night. When we arrived in Dehli, we had the worst immigration experience ever! It took over one and half hours, even though we already had our Indian visas! Mom and Dad still get angry whenever they think about it. But then we stayed in a very nice hotel for one night before flying to Nepal. There were cows on the road outside the hotel.

Here are my Instagram posts with the country counter after:

As a bonus, here’s my Instagram post commemorating the first 6 months of the trip, which is a mark we hit right before coming to Sri Lanka:

Country counter after Sri Lanka:

  • 31st country of our trip
  • Me: 69 countries (including 40 eating McDonald’s)
  • Karen: 69 countries
  • Henry: 44 countries
  • Charlie: 40 countries
  • James: 37 countries

Guest post by James: India, Kochi

India: 11/29/22-12/10/22

Lest you start to think that all of James’ posts are long and lovely, I’m including this one that he wrote while angry that we assigned him blogging for English homework. (The topic didn’t help much either.) I’m leaving it unedited as he submitted it to us.

Before I start I will say that I have stoped doing blog posts in order now so I will only do the big hits. We flew to India at 2am and went to bed then, 38 hours after we landed I threw up 3 times. 20 mins later, I threw up 3 times again and it happed every 20 mins for 2 hours and 40 mins. Then, the next day was a school day and and so was the next for a week total.

ps. mom and dad open up the door in the hostal and look down [This was a picture he drew for us, not a bag of poop, when we were in our hostal in Hiroshima.]

As you can see from the above, James (a) didn’t spend more than 5 minutes on this post and (b) did not really enjoy his time in India much. He and everyone else in my family got sick there multiple times, so I suppose he has his reasons. We had a tour guide in Nepal who said that NEPAL stands for “Never Ending Peace and Love” and INDIA stands for “I’ll Never Do It Again.” I’m sorry to say, that’s probably how the rest of my family feels about it. (Karen adds that our cooking instructor in Sri Lanka remarked when we said we were in India, “oh, but India is so dirty!” As you’ll see in the next post, we loved Sri Lanka, which had much of the charm of India, while being a little tidier around the edges.)

In fact, we were originally planning to spend another week in India, but the recurring illnesses led us to move onwards to Nepal (and then Thailand) earlier than originally planned.

Although this post is very negative, I still really like India, but sadly doubt I’ll be returning there with my family anytime soon, if at all. (Note, however, that I didn’t get sick there during this trip, which wasn’t my experience in previous trips!)

All that said, here are my Instagram posts from India, with country counter at the end:

Country counter after India:

  • 30th country of our trip
  • Me: 68 countries (including 40 eating McDonald’s)
  • Karen: 68 countries
  • Henry: 43 countries
  • Charlie: 39 countries
  • James: 36 countries

The end of the road (one year later)

We’re home! One year ago today, we landed in Stockholm for the very start of our trip and 3 1/2 weeks ago we left Colombia to return back to the states. We stopped at my parents in St Louis, but have now spent the last two weeks in Chicago slowly unpacking things into our house after 343 days of travel.

Here’s an overview of our trip by the numbers:

  • 51 COUNTRIES TOTAL! From the onset, we were hoping to maybe get to 40, but the Eurail pass in the beginning kind of set the tone and we moved around quickly. Eventually, I’ll have the map on the landing page of this site link to posts from each country. It’s about halfway there now.
  • 126 hotels/Airbnb’s/family & friend stays! That includes staying with family in Bergen, Norway and Betzdorf, Germany. It also includes staying at friends’ places in Zurich, Switzerland, La Paz, Bolivia, and Chicago. That’s also basically the count of the number of cities we visited. Lodging was 31% of the cost of the entire trip. We stayed almost exclusively in Airbnbs in Europe and then hotels booked through almost everywhere else. (Hotels were usually of the quirky local variety, although we had a handful of lovely lodges, especially in Uganda.)
  • 91 trains! 65 of those trains were in Europe, so the first 3.5 months were definitely more train heavy than the rest of our time.
  • 48 planes! Almost all of our flights were direct, but there are a handful of connections baked into that number. Airfare was 16% of the cost of our entire trip. (It probably would have been about 30-40% higher but we generated A LOT of travel points on our credit cards during the year. Also, the free food at airport lounges that came as part of that credit card was worth several thousand dollars across all of those flights!)
  • 14 car rentals and 10 ferries! If you count Israel & Jordan as Asia (which is technically where they slot in the 7 continents), in the past year, I’ve driven on every continent but Antarctica. Along with the rail travel and a number of buses (not counted), ground transportation accounted for 12% of our total expenses for the entire trip.
  • To round out expenses, food was 24% of what we spent for the year, and the rest (basically activities but also things like taxis) was 17%. My budget tracking spreadsheet has 1,657 rows in it and it would be bigger, but Karen wouldn’t let me count souvenirs, which are “off budget.” (Technically they’re simply transfers from cash assets to physical ones, not expenses, so she’s not wrong! Also, maybe I should stop with the accounting content?)
  • 26 SIM cards purchased for my phone! We started the trip with “unlimited international roaming” on GoogleFi. It turns out that didn’t really mean unlimited and they cut us off after 3.5 months. I am now very proficient at buying new data plans upon arrival in a foreign country. If you happen to be traveling abroad soon, getting roaming with your carrier is definitely the most convenient, but what we did is quite cheap–data for me, Karen, and Henry cost us less than $100/month. If you compare it to “International” data plans you can buy separately, those usually cost about $10/GB and buying local plans was usually only several GB per dollar! (GoogleFi kept our phone calls and texts active, so all those bank login texts still came where they needed to.)
  • 20% of Henry’s math curriculum covered in the past week. We tried our best, but the kids will end up spending some of their summer weeks finishing our homeschool plans. Henry is 80% of the way done with Advanced Algebra now and we’re hoping to finish in the next two weeks. This past week was a little intense for both of us!

After all of that, here’s our final country counter:

  • 51 countries in our trip.
  • Me: 74 countries lifetime, including 46 eating McDonald’s. Do you think McDonald’s is interested in giving me some kind of award or recognition? Lifetime Big Macs, maybe?
  • Karen: 79 countries lifetime. She blew past me in the Phillipines and I’ll likely never catch up again as she’s got Swaziland, Montenegro, Latvia, Lithuania, and Turkey on me. We’ll almost certainly go to Turkey sooner vs. later, but Swaziland is not high on our current list.
  • Henry: 62 countries lifetime. (That’s more than I had at the start of this trip as a 45-year-old! He just turned 15!)
  • Charlie: 60 countries lifetime. (He needs to get to Uruguay and China if he wants to match Henry’s list. He’ll be 12 in a couple of weeks.)
  • James: 57 countries lifetime. (That’s ALSO more than my 55 country count at the start. He’s still EIGHT-years-old until July, by the way.) James is getting pretty fluent with multiplication nowadays, so could probably tell you that he’s averaging more than 6 countries per year. He’s missing Spain, Portugal, and Morocco if he wants to catch up with Charlie.


Here’s my Instagram post with my favorite all-family pictures from the second half of the trip:

And here’s the “halfway through” post I did with similar pictures from the first half of the trip. I think the boys are bigger!

Also, although we’re home and busy reconstructing our lives here, not to worry, I’ll continue to post about the trip! I’ve got a few more blog posts from James and I also plan to write more from my perspective. Stay tuned!

Guest Post by James: Jordan


Here’s another post, shared with permission, from 8-year-old James’ private blog. My Instagram posts appear below James’ writing. (Besides the Instagram posts, picture credits are all to James as well.)

Jordan was another big hit in our family, and we enjoyed it very much. Dad liked the inexpensive cost of travel, Mom liked the cardamon coffee, Charlie and I loved Wadi Rum (more on that later), and Henry liked looking at his phone all day.

First, we walked over the border of Israel to Jordan with our heavy backpacks like true travelers. After a short taxi, we stayed in Aqaba, a city on the Red Sea, for a few days. We stayed in a small hotel and watched “The Mummy” one night. We ate at a restaurant that only served chicken and rice, which I thought was strange and confusing. We swam in the Red Sea for a few hours, and we tried to find colorful fish with our new goggles.

After Aqaba, we rented a car and drove to Wadi Rum for a desert experience and camel rides. Wadi Rum, also known as “The Valley of the Moon,” is the largest valley in Jordan and is near Saudi Arabia. It is also a desert with tons of mountains and canyons, and we spent at least seven hours exploring them. Our open-air jeep made six stops in Wadi Rum. The first one was to climb up a steep, rocky mountain to see a really good view of the valley (I didn’t climb up). We also climbed up a lot of super awesome sand dunes; one of them had a big rocky hill on top.

We also walked one kilometer through a sandy canyon and went sandsurfing at the massive sandhill at the top!

full screen view

The most important stop was lunch! Our jeep drivers cooked an incredible chili-tomato-feta dish that was delicious. (It was like shakshuka but with feta cheese instead of eggs.) The next stop was a natural rock arch, which we could climb up. To end the day, we drank tea on top of a hill and watched the sun set. We spent the night in a beautiful Bedouin tent, but it was freezing outside.

After a buffet breakfast the next morning, we took a two hour camel ride through Wadi Rum back to the village where we started.

that’s a camel

Mom and I had to share a camel and I was super crushed. About one kilometer from the village, I got off the camel and my legs felt wobbly and weird! It was really hard to walk at first, but I perservered! Because the Bedouin breakfast was sad, we ate a second breakfast in the village. The second breakfast was also sad, but two sad breakfasts equals one decent breakfast. It’s just math, people!

After Wadi Rum, we drove to the city of Petra. The actual city of Petra was terrible. It was really hilly and driving was awful. We couldn’t find good food, but I ate decent mac & cheese at a place called Meat on Fire.

While the city of Petra was a bust, the ancient city of Petra was incredible! We woke up before dawn to see the sun rise over the mountains and avoid other tourists. To get to the famous Treasury, we walked one mile through a very narrow canyon (parts were only one meter wide) that was full of water because of the recent rains. At the end of the canyon was the Treasury and it was stunning. We kept walking through the ancient city and saw the old theater.

NOT the old theater

We also saw a few hills and dogs.

I like taking photos of dogs in famous places (p.s sorry about my finger in the photo)

To get to the Monastery, we had to hike over a mountain because it was on top. The mountain was as tall as a sixty story building! While there were steps carved into the sandstone, it was very hard to walk up; Mom even fell hard on her way down! At the Monastery, there was a snack area and we really needed the rest. While the Treasury and Monastery were incredible, the best part of the day was the view from the mountains!

After Petra, we drove the King’s Highway to Madaba and Amman. In Madaba, we stayed at The Black Iris and I wish we stayed there longer. Because it rained all day, I stayed in the hotel with Henry and Charlie while Mom and Dad saw the ancient Roman mosaics and a bunch of churches. We then drove to Amman, where we visited the Jordan Museum. The museum had interactive games in the kids section and a lot of other things about Jordan. We also visited Rainbow Street, drank hot chocolate at a cafe, and bought cookies from a bake sale that was raising money for Syrian refugees.

From Amman, we flew to India and got really sick.

In case you’re wondering, I’ll do at least one more James guest post so you can read about that last part. Here are my Instagram posts with the country counter after:

Country counter after Jordan:

  • 29th country of our trip
  • Me: 68 countries (including 40 eating McDonald’s)
  • Karen: 68 countries
  • Henry: 42 countries
  • Charlie: 38 countries
  • James: 35 countries

How much risk is too much? Uganda and Rwanda (with a happy ending)


“Cough, cough, oh no, I have Ebola diarrhea!”

That was my unfortunate joke to the kids as we discussed what we might say to discourage other travelers from entering our closed cabin on the train from Poland to the Czech Republic. I probably shouldn’t ever joke about a deadly disease that kills roughly half of those infected–I was going for absurd, but sometimes my humor is a little off in that way. I few weeks later, I found myself clarifying to the kids that they should never, ever, joke about Ebola.

Risks and the US State Department

A few months ago (when I started this post!), if you went to, you’d see this at the very top of the page:

Just in case you haven’t been following world news for the past 15 months. As an aside, we saw a lot of Russian tourists in Thailand. One of them concurred with our State Department advice: “Oh yeah, don’t go to Russia, it’s a mess there right now.”

Russia is maybe the most extreme example of what the US State Department classifies as “Level 4: Do Not Travel”. Others with that distinction include rather obviously North Korea, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, Myanmar, Ukraine, and Belarus. (The remaining countries might be more or less obvious depending on how closely you follow the news: Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Haiti, Venezuela, Mali, Central African Republic, Somalia, and Burkina Faso.)

Generally, Karen and I are in complete agreement with the State Department about these Level 4 countries. For our aborted 2020 trip around the world, we were planning to visit Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and Myanmar, but there weren’t wars to worry about in those places back then. (We were a week or two away from buying our very expensive Russian visas when COVID hit, so lucky timing on that!)

The next tier of warning, “Level 3: Reconsider Travel”, is a little murkier. It currently contains 31 countries. We’ve visited two (Egypt & Uganda), are planning to go to two others (Colombia & Peru), and went to another that was Level 3 at the time (Tunisia). We also considered and decided against going to three others–Ethiopia, Indonesia, & Madagascar. (The latter, like Tunisia, is back down to “Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution”.)

Assessing Risks

In most cases, these risks are more nuanced–for all the countries we’ve gone to or are planning to go to, they are some combination of high risks of crime or terrorism, but almost always specific to geographic regions of the country we could avoid: in Tunisia within 20 kilometers of the border with Algeria (we were about 30 away), in Peru and Columbia more remote parts that struggle with drug trafficking and terrorism.

In Uganda, there were warnings for regions we were planning to visit, but our mode of travel–driving our own car between resort hotels during the day–mitigated those risks substantially. Having always wanted to visit the “Pearl of Africa”, we felt confident enough to transfer several thousand dollars for our 4×4 rental and hotel stays to Road Trip Uganda for a non-refundable deposit.

Lake Mutanda at twilight
Lake Mutanda at twilight
Lake Mbara National Park
Lake Mbara National Park

Ebola in Uganda

As bad luck would have it, about two weeks after I made that big deposit and only a few weeks before we planned to arrive, I got this news alert:

Uganda declares Ebola Virus Disease outbreak

If you’re like me, 2+ years of a COVID pandemic leaves you a little more nervous about other potential pandemics. Many other tourists cancelled their travel plans immediately, but (a) doing so would have cost us roughly our travel budget for an entire month, (b) Ebola doesn’t spread particularly easily, (c) the alert for Ebola specifically was only Level 2. We decided to risk it, and I made an even bigger final payment for what we’d planned to be the most expensive month of our trip. I did, however start checking Uganda Ebola news on twitter so frequently that my Google recommended articles became entirely about Uganda and the Ugandan government.

We felt pretty good about that approach until this story popped up a couple of days after we arrived:

Ebola in Uganda: Three-week lockdown announced for two districts

It was two districts we weren’t planning to travel to, except for driving straight through, and again the risk of contracting Ebola for tourists was very low. We mostly started worrying about airport lockdowns that could get us stuck without the ability to move on to another country. After seeing this news, we briefly considered how we might abandon the rental car in Rwanda (after we’d crossed that border) and fly onwards to Egypt without coming back to Uganda. It wasn’t practical, though, so we continued onwards.

Henry is constantly judging us. Teenagers, right?

A Great Time in Uganda and Rwanda

Luckily, this story worked out just fine, both for us and the Ugandans. Here is a happy headline from early January:

Ebola Outbreak Over in Uganda

I’m also happy to report that Google has finally stopped giving me recommended articles about Uganda, now favoring endless posts about cell phones, although that’s probably the subject of a whole other post.

In the end, we had an OK time in Rwanda and a wonderful time in Uganda–certainly one of the top countries of our trip and a place I’d recommend to everyone. To recap, here are our Instagram posts from those days.

Country counter after Uganda and Rwanda:

  • 25th & 26th countries of our trip
  • Me: 65 countries (including 37 eating McDonald’s)
  • Karen: 65 countries
  • Henry: 39 countries
  • Charlie: 35 countries
  • James: 32 countries

Guest Post by James: Egypt


For something a little different, in the next few posts I’m going to share (with his permission) what 8-year-old James wrote in his private blog. My Instagram posts appear below James’ writing.

After weeks of safaris, fancy lodges, national parks, and gentle but wild animals, we needed a little bit of chaos! We flew from Entebbe, Uganda to Cairo, Egypt. Rather than dodging monkeys on the streets, we dodged motorcycles and street vendors. Our favorite street vendor in Cairo was a guy selling sushi on his bike! Rules of the road did not exist and our cab once drove across a sidewalk to make a U-turn, and walking across streets was almost impossible.

In Cairo, we stayed at a massive, amazing apartment, mostly because we all had our own rooms (mom edit: and a washing machine!) Besides the huge living room with a the huge TV (where we watched Gorillas in the Mist), I loved the second-floor deck that overlooked the (busy, busy) street. On our first day, Dad bought too many donuts and we ate them on the deck; we snacked on those donuts for days. Other than the pyramids at Giza (I wrote a post about that already), we went to the Egyptian Museum, where we saw King Tut’s golden burial mask and a bunch of mummies.

After a few days in Cairo, I took my first overnight train (1st class!) to Aswan, a lovely city on the Nile and home to many Egyptian archeological sites. On the train, I also discovered my love of spagetti-rice: rice cooked with bay leaves and vermicelli noodles. We arrived very early in the morning and walked 2 kilometers with our heavy backpacks and had to take a ferry across the Nile River to get to our hotel on Elephantine Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its Nubian villages. While I did homework, Mom and Dad walked to the museum and some ancient Egyptian ruins. We also took a ferry to see the ancient city of Philae, which is an island with a bunch of temples. We saw a square where people discussed politics in ancient Egyptian times.

The main reason we visited Aswan was because it was the only way to see Abu Shimel, the Tomb of Ramses II. We had to leave at 4 am for a 3.5-4 hour drive to Abu Shimel. It is a complex made up of two temples and was HUGE. The Egyptians, in 1968, had to move the entire complex away from its original spot to the current location because of water rising in Lake Nasser. Lake Nasser is also the largest artificial lake the world. Because of the heat, we could stay for 2 hours and we had to drive 3.5-4 hours back to Aswan.

outside the temple

The next day, we took a 3-4 hour train to Luxor, Egypt and then another public ferry to our hotel on the other side of the Nile. We visited Valley of the Kings and saw three tombs, but it was also very hot. On our last day, we saw Luxor Temple, but it was at the end of our time in Egypt so we didn’t really care anymore.

After Luxor, we took a 10 hour train back to Cairo, but it was delayed for 5 hours so it was longer than we hoped.

He’s great, right? Karen helped some with the editing, but the content is all his. Here are my Instagram posts from Egypt along with a country counter at the end:

Country counter after Egypt:

  • 27th country of our trip
  • Me: 66 countries (including 38 eating McDonald’s)
  • Karen: 66 countries
  • Henry: 40 countries
  • Charlie: 36 countries
  • James: 33 countries

Guest Post by James: Israel


Here’s another sample of what 8-year-old James wrote in his private blog. My Instagram posts appear below James’ writing. (Besides the Instagram posts, picture credits are all to James as well.)

After our wonderful time in Egypt, we traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel. It was quite a change after two months of traveling in Africa (Tunisia, Egypt, Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya). We could finally drink the tap water, flush toilet paper down the toilet, and didn’t have to brush our teeth with a cup of bottled water. Also, we could finally eat raw fruits and vegetables.

We flew from Cairo to Tel Aviv, arriving at 11 pm on Shabat. Because of the timing, our taxi cost $70 to get to our Airbnb in Jaffa! When we woke up on Saturday morning, we realized that there was no wifi, so Dad got 100 GB of data for $9 so we ended up with a lot of wifi. We took a super fancy Shabat (free!) bus to Tel Aviv and saw Wakanda Forever. The next day, we planned to see Tel Aviv but the weather was too nice so we walked to the beach. Charlie and I made a sand turtle covered in shells and we named her SHELL-BY. The best part of Tel Aviv was a delicious falafel place with excellent pita; we went three times!

After Tel Aviv, we took a very short train to Jerusalem, which became one of my favorite cities. Not only did I develop my love of pomegranates, I also really liked the Mahane Yehuda Market. On our first full day, we took an excellent walking tour through Jerusalem’s Old Town and Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was built on the site where Jesus was crucified.

We learned about the various occupations of Jerusalem, Jesus’ crucifixion, and the different quarters of the city. When visiting the church, a lot of people kissed the stone where Jesus was crucified, but we didn’t. The next day, we walked the Via Dolorosa, which is the route Jesus took to his crucifixion. We saw the spots where he dropped the cross, he met his mother, and the other 12 stations (14 in all). We also saw the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount, but I mostly remember the view of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Finally, we went to the Western Wall and said a prayer. On our way out of the Dome of the Rock, we got freshly squeezed pomegranate juice in the Muslim Market for $1; the vendor gave us a free pomegranate because my mom told him that we don’t have them where we live. We ate it for dinner that night. One of my favorite parts of Jerusalem was dinner every night – Mom, Dad, and Charlie went to the market near our Airbnb and got fresh pita, veggies, and hummus. We ate little picnics in our apartment for dinner, but I mostly loved the pomegranates because the seeds had little bursts of juice when I chewed them.

We visited Masada, a place near the Dead Sea. We rode a huge cable car to the top of the mountain to see the ancient ruins where Jews lived and hid from the Romans. It was really hot and I saw some graffiti, which made me angry. We also visited the Ein Gedi Reserve, but I don’t remember it very well but there was a waterfall.

After Ein Gedi, we went swimming in the Dead Sea, which is like pure salt. The bottom of the Dead Sea was salt instead of sand! I floated and reached a point where I couldn’t even sit down on the bottom of sea! I had a small cut on my thumb and it hurt when I put it in the sea.

We stayed in two other super cool places in Israel! The first was a Bedouin community in the desert. We slept in a huge tent, where we also had communal meals with the Bedouin family and another four Polish visitors. The meal was chicken and rice and it was delicious! Charlie drank 6 glasses of tea, but I didn’t really like it, but I loved the biscuits. The second super cool place we stayed was Kibbutz Lotan. We arrived in time for Shabat dinner, which was an also delicious buffet of chicken, pasta, bread, and juices. We sat with two teenage Kibbutz volunteers, serving for a year. (I would not like to volunteer there because I would have to wake up at 5 am every single morning and that is not very pleasant.) On our first morning, we had a ton of trouble finding the breakfast area, but it was another delicious buffet once we did. We took a tour of the kibbutz and learned about their jobs, kibbutz living and culture, and their commitment to sustainability. They make their own houses out of mud and hay! It was actually a pretty comfortable house! I think that they made their furniture out of wood and grow their own food. There was a tree called the Magic Tree and the leaves were super healthy and tasted like a spiced leaf. (It was disgusting).

After Kibbutz Lotan, we drove to the border of Jordan, returned the car, and walked over the border. I wrote a post of Jordan already.

Here are my Instagram posts from Israel along with a country counter at the end:

Country counter after Israel:

  • 28th country of our trip
  • Me: 67 countries (including 39 eating McDonald’s)
  • Karen: 67 countries
  • Henry: 41 countries
  • Charlie: 37 countries
  • James: 34 countries

Nosebleeds y nadie no habla en La Paz

Greetings from two miles above sea level in La Paz, Bolivia!

We landed here a couple of days ago and have collectively only suffered 6 nosebleeds from the altitude, which is thankfully a half mile lower than the airport. (“El Alto” is the highest airport in the world!) When we first arrived, walking up a very slight slope was a challenge and most of us had headaches. We’re beginning to adapt, though, and I hope to make an easy jog around town tomorrow morning.

No complaints, though: La Paz is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with skyscrapers nestled in a valley of mountains across the perimeter of the city. That beauty is one of several reasons why, at 12 days and 11 nights, this will be the longest stop of the trip.

The second reason is that I have great friends: Kim and Brian, who live in the Bay Area, own an apartment here they use when visiting Brian’s family and they were kind enough to offer it up for our use while here. After more than a few nights shared in a single “family” hostel room, we’ve all been overjoyed to spread out in this three-bedroom, three-bath refuge. The view of the city at the top of this post is from our master bedroom. Thanks Kim and Brian! (Kim was also instrumental in helping me secure my Bolivian visa by crafting a very nice letter in Spanish that helped the border guards believe I should be allowed into the country.)

Stopping for Studies

The final reason we’re staying so long in La Paz is that the boys need to do more schoolwork. They’ve been dutifully working through online lessons whenever we ask them to, but have frequently been foiled by slow Wi-Fi in many of the places we’ve tried to pause. Not a problem here! (I’m assuming the fact that Brian is a fellow electrical engineer has something to do with this.)

Each of them has been spending about three hours a day on online schoolwork, but that actually isn’t the main learning we’re prioritizing here. The “nadie no habla” in the title above means “no one does not speak” and is in reference to the fact that all three boys are studying Spanish here.

Henry is trying to replace the 3rd-year Spanish class he would have taken as a high school student, so is doing three hours per day one-on-one with Mery, the fantastic “maestra” I found here after a little bit of Googling and WhatsApping. James and Charlie had very little existing Spanish knowledge, so are doing two hours a day together, which Mery makes a lot of fun with explorations of household items and games like the one today where they had to run, jump, walk, or sit depending on what she said in Spanish.

Me speaking Spanish

I had the idea for in-person one-on-one instruction because it’s something I did when I visited Ecuador in 2002. You might think that the 3o hours of instruction Henry is getting over these two weeks wouldn’t compare to a year in the classroom, but I found that a similar amount of time was easily better than my year of community college Spanish lessons before my pre-business school trip to South America. I’m proud of the work the boys are putting in because “intensive” instruction really is intense, and they’re definitely earning their relaxation time at the end of every day. (I’m also proud of how independent they’re becoming from this whole “travel around the world” thing, but that probably deserves a whole new post.)

As I claim above, my Spanish skills were pretty good after those couple of weeks in Quito, but after over 20 years of almost no use, I’m frustratingly rusty. Pretty much no one speaks English anywhere we’ve been since we landed in Chile three weeks ago, so as the sole Spanish speaker in the family I’ve been gradually climbing back in the saddle. Reading is the easiest because context frequently lets me remember words I used to know, and I can ask for most things, sometimes with a quick Google Translate check to make sure I know the word. Understanding responses is the hardest, though, especially because pronounciations are “unusual” in Chile and Argentina. I’ve found it easier to understand people here in Bolivia, but that’s probably partially because I’ve been working on it for a few weeks.

Karen’s and my work

In addition to helping the boys with school–me mostly with Math, and Karen very patiently with James and his blog–we’ve also been taking advantage of the respite from constant motion and travel planning. Karen is going to spend some time on grad school plans while still pursuing her goal of reading 100 books this year. (My super cool wife is currently at 30 for the year! And she looks beautiful in her new reading glasses!)

I’m planning to spend more time thinking about and researching the kinds of work I’d like to do after we’re back home this summer. If you’re reading this and you have any great ideas or leads for me, please reach out and let me know! We’re on US East Coast time right now, so phone calls are pretty easy too.

Finally, I’m hoping to send out another blog post or two in the next couple of weeks after finding it very hard to squeeze into travel life. (That’s still a hope, so the best way to follow along with our current travels continues to be Instagram/Facebook, which you can see linked to this page.)

Happy Easter, or Semana Santa as they say here! Also, Chag Sameach! And Ramadan Mubarak! It’s a special time of year for many people around the world and my family is happy to be enjoying it from here in La Paz. Wherever you’re reading this espero que estés bien y disfrutando de la vida.

P.S. I cover that 2002 trip in my book, an excerpt of which you can find here.

Making like Phileas Fogg

Hello from New Zealand!

We won’t be here for long because in an hour or so, we’re boarding our flight from Auckland to Santiago, Chile. We’ve now been traveling 200 days longer than the 80 of the Jules Verne protagonist I mention in my title, but like him we’re about to experience the magic of the international dateline.

The kids are in fact very excited about the fact that, even though we’ll be on the plane almost 11 hours, we will land about 5 hours earlier than we depart, making March 15th the looooongest day of our trip.

As for our South American plans, after the better part of a week in Santiago, we’re planning to fly to Buenos Aires. We’ll probably head over to Uruguay for a day trip before flying a few days later to Cordoba and then traveling onwards from there to the Bolivian border and going to Santa Cruz. From Santa Cruz, we’ll go to La Paz, where we’ll stop for a couple of weeks for the kids to learn some Spanish. Then, we’ll head to Peru for about 10 days, before continuing on to Ecuador and Colombia. Our plan is to head from there back to the states during the last week of May.

After adding Australia and New Zealand to my last post from Japan, here’s our current count:

  • 45 countries so far, total
  • Me: 73 countries (including 44 eating McDonald’s)
  • Karen: 75 countries
  • Henry: 58 countries
  • Charlie: 54 countries
  • James: 51 countries

P.S. Charlie is going to pull to within one of Henry in the next few countries! Henry visited Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay as a one-year-old only child. Charlie will have to make his way to China if he wants to fully match Henry, though, since we took him there a few months before Argentina.

We’re Big in Japan


I’ve skipped a lot of countries since my last post about Kenya (posted from Nepal), but I thought it would be nice to make a quick one here from Tokyo since Japan will be our last country in Asia. What follows is mostly logistics, but I still plan to add some more narrative posts (including rollups of my Instagram posts) of the countries we’ve already left.

We arrived here a week ago, and after visiting Sapporo and Tokyo are heading tomorrow to Takayama. From there, we’ll continue onward to Hiroshima and Kyoto before catching a flight to Cairns, Australia in another 8 days or so. Then, we’ll have a week split between there and Melbourne before continuing onwards for two weeks in New Zealand.

Iconic backdrop, but the Sapporo Beer Museum was nothing to write home about. We sped through in order to grab some lunch.

After New Zealand, we fly to Chile, and will travel in South America until we fly back to the US, probably in late May.

That’s looking forward. Here are all of the countries I’ve skipped since that last post about Kenya:

  • Uganda
  • Rwanda
  • Egypt
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • UAE
    • India
    • Sri Lanka
    • Nepal
    • Thailand
    • Laos
    • Vietnam
    • Cambodia
    • Singapore
    • Malaysia
    • Brunei
    • Philippines
    • Taiwan

With that, our country count is as follows:

  • 43 countries so far, total
  • Me: 73 countries (including 44 eating McDonald’s)
  • Karen: 75 countries
  • Henry: 56 countries
  • Charlie: 52 countries
  • James: 49 countries

P.S. I was thinking of this song when I wrote that title, but maybe you prefer this other one.