Where to begin? Or end? Jet lag still haunts us. Chris had “minor” surgery on his hand two days ago. We are temporarily homeless and jobless. Our tanned skin is rapidly fading. But after 12 months of travel, we are home. Sure, we are frustrated with some things (like all the rules we have here), we miss surfing every day and we have complete sticker shock when purchasing anything (like a $12 salad). But, overall, we are feeling pretty good about our return. Caveats: We are still in the celebrity stage where our friends and family really want to hang out with us AND the weather is ridiculously pleasant right now. These two things are helping. We haven't had much time to reflect and think about our experiences, but we have figured out what we spent and put together a “best of” list.
What did it take for us to have a year off work and twelve months of surfing? $26,089
This figure includes: our daily expenses both in Mexico and in Asia, our travel health insurance, truck insurance for Mexico, the remainder of our mortgage that we had to cover that our renters were not paying, our flights within Asia, Dozer's expenses in Mexico (mostly kibble), things we bought on the road in Asia (new surfboard, new camera, clothes, etc), and medical expenses while traveling. Basically any money that left our hands from the day we left Oregon to the day we returned is included.
This figure DOES NOT include: our flights to and from Asia (we used Alaska Air miles to get us there and back), truck camper costs, new surfboards, other gear and clothing purchases, medical costs before the trip (vaccinations, prescriptions, etc.), and basically any costs that we incurred to prepare for the trip.
We found we could spend very little money in Mexico and the bulk of our expenses were diesel and food. Because we cooked most of our meals in the camper, daily food expenses were very cheap. Obviously since we were camping, accomodation cost very little, typically between $0 and $12 a night. Our daily expenses were roughly $36 day in Mexico, for a total of $6606 for six months. Wow! That is cheap, even for us dirtbags!
Planning for the Asia leg of the trip was harder and we didn't really know what we would spend. Daily costs such as meals and accomodation are very, very cheap in Asia, but add on extra purchases and tours and sightseeing, and the cost comes up a bit. We also purchased all of our flights within Asia, eight total, as we went, so those costs are included in the numbers. Our daily expenses in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia for five months cost us $85 day, for a total of $12,750 for five months. That includes everything!
We candidly share this information because we aren't independently wealthy and we had to work really hard to do this. We did our best to plan and budget. We spent money as thoughtfully as we could while still having a trip of a lifetime. We are still amazed that we pulled it off; we now know that we can do anything if we put our minds to it.
Hottest We've Ever Been In Our Entire Lives:
- Bemo ride in Krui, Sumatra. 18 people in one tiny minivan. Slowest driver ever.
- First day hiking the Temples of Angkor. Perhaps the hottest place on earth, at least we thought so.
- Our last day in Kuala Lumpur when we went to Batu Caves. The locals were sweating.
- Pushing our tuk tuk up a dirt road in Sri lanka after the clutch went out. I had to push and run along side the tuk tuk while Chris steered.
- Sitting on the train in the station in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The power went out, the fans turned off, I had at least seven people touching me. Curry odors were emanating out of every pore.
- The “taxi driver road rage” night in Sumatra. After our driver took us to his “friends” restaurant where we proceeded to get totally taken, he decided to really scare us by driving like an insane person while we begged and pleaded for him to slow down.
- Ojek (motorbike taxi) ride in Bangkok. It was three of us on the tiny motorbike trying to pull our knees in tight enough so they wouldn't hit cars as we wove through Bangkok traffic at high speed.
- Driving Highway 1 in Baja, near El Rosario. This section of highway is so, so narrow with big trucks, cows, and giant potholes.
- The flight from Jakarta, Indonesia to Colombo, Sri Lanka when the four traditionally dressed Arab men stormed the front of the plane before we hit the runway to land, and the flight attendant screamed at them to sit down. Apparently they just wanted to be the first in line to get off the plane.
- The descent through the Ella Gap in Sri Lanka on a packed bus. The driver was hopped up on betel leaves and was careening down the road, one hand on the wheel, the other on the horn.
Top Five Medical Emergencies:
- Getting stitches in my face in Guerrero Negro, Baja. The only English the doctor knew was The Eagles and Rolling Stones songs. He did a fabulous job sewing me up and was a pretty good singer, too!
- Chris going to a government hospital in Akkaraipattu, Sri Lanka with a fractured hand. This one is hard to describe, but to give you an idea, Chris had to argue for a while to get the radiologist to put the lead apron on him while he was getting an X-ray. The tech tried to explain that it's the same amount of radiation that we get from the sun. The argument ensued, with Chris replying “yeah, but I'm not standing on the sun!”. He eventually gave him the apron.
- Stingray wound infection in Baja. A few weeks after it happened, Chris foot swelled up like a balloon, so off we went to a clinic, to try to explain everything in Spanish.
- Finally going to a hospital in Bangkok after eight days of stomach woes and fever. After two days of shopping at Chatuchak Market and (literally) holding it together while walking by the giant dried fish vendor, it was time to see a doctor.
- With only five days left, I came down with a sever sore throat and fever in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka. AT THE SAME TIME, the chickens at our guesthouse were dying. I was convinced I had Avian Flu until I went to a clinic in Pottuvil and got antibiotics for a throat infection. Ah, the perils of travel.
Best Wildlife Encounters
- Elephants, elephants, elephants. Sri Lanka was amazing for elephant sightings! Elephant Nature Park in Thailand was an incredible place to learn more about the complex life of a pachyderm.
- Ocean and desert wildlife in Baja, Mexico. The intersection of rugged desert with the Pacific Ocean created a surprisingly vibrant ecosystem. We saw coyotes, snakes, osprey, herons, tons of migratory birds, whales (almost every day), dolphins, sharks, seals, fish, and more.
- Leopard sighting in Yala National Park in Sri Lanka. We were pretty excited to see this big cat in the wild. Kudos to Sri Lanka for their National Parks.
- Monkeys. We know, we know, lots of people don't care for monkeys. They are kind of like the squirrels of the tropics. But we have to admit they are pretty cool when you see them jumping from tree to tree.
- Cobra? While we didn't really WANT to see a cobra, it was kind of cool to see a cobra. Sri Lanka has the highest “death by snakebite” in the world. Yikes!
- Every fish that Chris caught in Mexico. Halibut, corvina, white sea bass, sierra. We cooked or made ceviche every way possible. Good eats!
- Thai cart food. Pad thai, satay, Penang curry, it's all delicious. I think Thais could cook tree bark and it would be delicious.
- Rotis with dhal and coconut sambol at blue ocean in Arugam bay. I ate this virtually every day. It is a very simple, but very satisfying and delicious meal. We had heard varying reports of Sri Lankan food, but found it to be fabulous!
- Baja fish tacos with a cold Mexican macrobrew. Tony's in Guerrero Negro and El Viejo in Los Barriles are at the top of the list.
- Banana, chocolate and coconut rotis at Okanda. There's just something about gorging on these after a four hour surf session that feels oh so good.
Best “Locals Only” Activities:
- Seeing Kelly Slater win the 2011 Hurley Pro at Trestles in California. Hanging out with the best surfers in the world was a great way to start a year long surf trip.
- Watching Indonesians clear big jumps at the 2012 Indonesian Motocross Championships on modified scooters. It was hysterical being the only “Bules” in a sea of thousands of Indonesians.
- Hiking in the jungle for an hour with Mexican teenagers to a surf break. Diego, Bernardo and Daniel were exceptional people, great surfers and just a joy to spend a day with. They also kinda made us feel old.
- Swerving around elephants while driving our tuk tuk in the pre-dawn hours. Driving our own tuk tuk in Sri Lanka was a complete blast and gave us the freedom to explore the east coast of the country.
- Going to a Mexian rodeo, complete with amateur bull riders taking shots of tequila before attempting to stay on a bull. Viva Mexico!
In a few days, we'll be back in the US, basking in the Pacific Northwest in our wool socks and puffy coats. As our Kiwi friend Tom said, “New Zealand is cold, quiet, green and epic”. We nodded in sync as our thoughts shifted to coming home to Oregon, which is also “cold, quiet, green and epic”. It's time to leave our quaint wood and cardboard shack on the beach, the mischievous resident puppy Rennie, the daily dahl, sambol and rotti meals and the warm waves.
Every day is an adventure, but here are a few highlights from the last two weeks:
- Two elephant encounters on the road. The first time, we had to swerve to miss an elephant running across the road while we were driving our tuk tuk to an early morning surf session. Yes it was dark out. And elephants are dark. And big. The second encounter was during our 10 hour taxi ride to the airport, with a very large elephant in the road, taking up a whole lane and then some. Our driver stopped, we waited…and waited…finally the driver decided to go for it. He approached, hit the gas, and whizzed by, just a few feet away. A bit of an adrenaline rush, I must say. Check out the video below.
- Driving our TukTuk down a dirt road and seeing a perhaps six foot (?) cobra slithering along side the road. What do you do? Well, we yell “cobra!”, stop the TukTuk and check it out. The sight of that hand sized hood will forever by imprinted in my brain.
- Running into David from Switzerland. We met David our second week in Indonesia, in April, and spent a week with him in southern Sumatra for our first intimidating surfing experiences on Indo reef. He was off to the Mentawais and who knows where else and we never expected to see him again. Then, four months later, he walks into a restaurant where we are having lunch in Sri Lanka. Small world.
- Surviving a very, very intense storm that produced at least one tornado, sending fishing boats into the air, downing trees and wreaking havoc on Arugam Bay. We huddled in our beach shack in the dark, listening to coconuts raining down on our thatched roof, thankful that we weren't in a tent.
We had one of our most amazing sessions one morning as we teamed up with our South African neighbor, now friend, Charl, and drove to a nearby point. For an hour, it was the three of us in the water, watching the sunrise, taking long, perfect shoulder to head high waves, and trying to pull into mini barrels. We caught so many waves that hour, that none of us were in the line up at the same time. Sure it's not Indo, it wasn't an epic swell by any means, blah, blah, blah. But it was magic and we still talk about it.
True to form, Chris is coming home broken, his right hand anyway. The story… We were surfing a nice morning session catching some mellow waves, just the two of us. Throughout the morning, the crowd was building, with many surfers with awful etiquette and poor skills. A bad combo, and we should have gotten out of the water like we usually do then. But no, with a week left we kept going. Chris was run over by another surfer and the end result was a broken metatarsal for Chris and a cracked and dented surfboard for the other guy. A trip to the local and very dodgy government hospital 45 minutes away confirmed in X-rays that it is a significant fracture. They “decided” not to cast it for some reason and we'll be coming home to help a Bend orthopedist send his kids to college. So we made it 11 months and 3 weeks, which is not too bad for a guy with a long history of breaking himself.
As we spend the next three days traveling home, we begin to reflect upon the last year. It's overwhelming and emotional. And mostly we are still shocked at times that we actually pulled it off! While we planned and worked hard and saved, there was always the fear that things would go completely sideways either before we could go or during our travels. Now we face the fears of the “after” – how to go back to living and working in the States, and NOT SURFING everyday. Of course we always have lots of ideas for future surf travel. Regardless, we are filled with gratitude for all that we have seen and done, people we have met, food we have eaten, animals we've encountered, and most importantly, waves we have surfed.
We did it!
Rennie, our resident puppy in our yard.
Chris killing it.
Katy killing it.
This family enjoyed an evening at the beach watching surfers.