Our A-Z of highlights (A short list of nearly everything)

Without further ado, here’s a shortlist of some of the things we loved on our trip around the world in 389 days.

Ascending the Tokyo Skytree for sunset over Mount Fuji ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต

We went up a lot of high things. This was undoubtedly top of the pile!

๐Ÿ“‹ Tokyo, revisited (part I)

Braving the snow in Astana ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฟ

The coldest (and coolest) city we visited on the whole trip. So glad we made the journey up to 51 degrees north.

๐Ÿ“‹ Journeying to Astana – the ‘Singapore of the Steppe’
๐Ÿ“‹ Astana: So good they named it six times

Cycling the temples of Angkor ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ญ

So. much. cycling. And so. many. temples! But beating the crowds and experiencing sunrise alone in Angkor Wat was a genuine life highlight.

๐Ÿ“‹ Sunrise at Angkor Wat (but without the crowds)

Driving around the South Island in our little camper van ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฟ

What an incredible place – we just loved NZ so much.

๐Ÿ“‹ Ridiculously good views from the summit of Te Tapu-nui, Queenstown
๐Ÿ“‹ The roadtrip begins! Cruising on Milford Sound, the eighth wonder of the world
๐Ÿ“‹ Joining the Great Coast Road
๐Ÿ“‹ Glaciers and gold on NZโ€™s west coast
๐Ÿ“‹ Pedalling the West Coast Wilderness Trail
๐Ÿ“‹ Driving to the very end of the road (Punakaiki and Kohaihai) ๐ŸŒด
๐Ÿ“‹ Dophins and waterslides (not dolphins on waterslides!)

Escaping to the desert island paradise of Ko Adang ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ญ

Just like The Beach, except with far fewer drugs and murders.

๐Ÿ“‹ All of our desert island fantasies fulfilled on Ko Adang

Floating above the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท

Expensive, nervewracking and very, very cool.

๐Ÿ“‹ Flying high above Cappadocia

Going To The Sun in Glacier National Park ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

Over a million acres of beautiful mountains, lakes and bears beginning in a remote corner of Montana and stretching all the way up into Canada, accessible on the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road.

๐Ÿ“‹ Eating like a grizzly in Glacier National Park ๐Ÿ—ป๐Ÿป๐Ÿฅง

Hiking in the Cinque Terre ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น

Not exactly niche, but definitely worth the hype.

๐Ÿ“‹ Hiking in Cinque Terre

Ice skating on the world’s highest rink in Almaty ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฟ

Kazakhstan in general was a lot of fun and as always, watching people wobble around on ice skates didn’t disappoint, but this was also a truly spectacular setting in the mountains above Almaty.

๐Ÿ“‹ Almaty, our final stop in Central Asia

Joining the Silk Road in Khiva ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฟ

Our first taste of Uzbekistan’s section of the Silk Road had the biggest impact on us.

๐Ÿ“‹ Rejoining the Silk Road in Khiva

Kayaking in Lan Ha Bay ๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ณ

Paddling (somewhat) serenely through one of Vietnam’s most iconic and otherworldly seascapes.

๐Ÿ“‹ Kayaking between the limestone mountains of Hแบก Long Bay

Living like a monk on a Korean temple stay ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท

Probably the most baffling 24 hours of our entire trip, but we wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.

๐Ÿ“‹ A Secret Diary of a Temple Stay, by Sara aged 13 ยพ

Meeting the hiking dogs of the Caucasus ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ช

Making friends with some gentle giants while hiking in the spectacular mountains of northern Georgia.

๐Ÿ“‹ Scrambling in Svaneti

Night skiing in Niseko ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต

Genuinely the most (and best) snow we’ve ever seen. SO GOOD!

๐Ÿ“‹ Chasing the powder in Niseko

Observing the New Year festivities at the Hokkaidล Shrine ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต

A very different New Year for us, but we loved embracing Japanese traditions and learning our fortunes for the year.

๐Ÿ“‹ New Year in snowy Sapporo

Paddling through the rice paddies of Luang Prabang ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฆ

Making friends with Susan the water buffalo and learning how to grow sticky rice. Who knew it could be so fascinating?!

๐Ÿ“‹ Ten steps to the perfect Lao sticky rice

Quaffing wine in the vineyards of Marlborough ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฟ

Gorgeous weather and a whole day of NZ wine. Perfection!

๐Ÿ“‹ Marlborough by tandem, fuelled by wine

Riding the Otago Central Rail Trail on two wheels ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฟ

Four days of spectacular cycling through a wild, arid and sparsely populated corner of NZ’s South Island.

๐Ÿ“‹ We actually finished something! Cycling the Otago Central Rail Trail

Soaking in a snowy onsen in Tazawako ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต

Bathing in the forest while surrounded by deep snow drifts was a magical experience.

๐Ÿ“‹ Beef tongue and snowy onsens in Honshu
๐Ÿ“‹ Japan in 12 hot baths

Taking the slow boat down the Mekong river ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฆ

An incredibly peaceful few days drifting along the Mekong River through Laos.

๐Ÿ“‹ Messing about on the Mekong

Urb-exing the sanatoria of Tskaltubo ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ช

An afternoon exploring a spa town full of crumbling sanatoria near to Georgia’s second city, Kutaisi. Fascinating and unnerving in equal measure, and totally different to anything else we did on this trip.

๐Ÿ“‹ Urbexing the abandoned sanatoria of Tskaltubo

Visiting Meteora’s mountaintop monasteries ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ท

We loved exploring these precariously-perched monasteries in mainland Greece. The area is apparently one of Greece’s biggest tourist destinations (except that no one seems to have heard of it!).

๐Ÿ“‹ Walking the mountains of Meteora

Wading through the travertines of Pamukkale ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท

A weird and wonderful landscape unlike anything we’d seen before.

๐Ÿ“‹ Wallowing in the Cotton Castle

eXploring Singapore by night ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ

(Please forgive the shoehorning of the letter X in here – if only we’d had the foresight to do some xylophoning on our trip.) We do love a free activity and Singapore’s supertree light show didn’t disappoint.

๐Ÿ“‹ Celebrating the finale of our Southeast Asian leg in Singapore

Yodelling our way around Salzburg ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น

Salzburg way exceeded our expectations – another city to add to our list of places we’d happily live.

๐Ÿ“‹ ๐ŸŽถ The hills are alive with the sound ofโ€ฆbeer halls ๐Ÿป

Zooming across Japan on a bullet train ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต

Japanโ€™s rail network has got to be the best in the world, and boarding a Shinkansen felt more like getting on an aeroplane than a train. What a way to travel!

๐Ÿ“‹ Getting buried alive in Ibusuki
๐Ÿ“‹ Christmas in Hiroshima and Osaka
๐Ÿ“‹ Four together again in Tokyo
๐Ÿ“‹ New Year in snowy Sapporo
๐Ÿ“‹ Itโ€™s called Hakodate, mate*
๐Ÿ“‹ Beef tongue and snowy onsens in Honshu
๐Ÿ“‹ Memoirs of a geezer (in Kyoto)

We realised two things writing this post:

  1. We experienced way, way more than 26 highlights during our nearly 13 months away
  2. Fitting even 26 highlights neatly into alphabetical order was really quite difficult!

But you might also notice that there’s very little mention of food here – we had to make this a rule, or else all 26 entries would have been about what we ate! We might just have to write a food highlights post too. It’s making me hungry just thinking about it…

Europe 2010 carbon audit

Our route

In 2010, we took a short break between finishing our Masterโ€™s degrees and starting our PhDs to spend 25 days interrailing through Europe.  We flew from London to Berlin, then headed south on trains, local buses, long-distance coaches, ferries, metros and trams through Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia and into Croatia.  We ended our trip in Pula on the Istrian Peninsula and flew back to London.

We decided to calculate the emissions resulting from our travels in order to offset them and to see if thereโ€™s anything we could have done differently. Although weโ€™ve taken many trips since 2010, this trip closely represents how weโ€™d like to travel in the future; we journeyed from Germany to Croatia entirely by public transport and we recorded each dayโ€™s activities on a blog.  You can read the blog series here if you go back far enough (though cut us some slack, weโ€™re not quite so clueless these days).  Weโ€™re still arguing over whether we ate butter or cheese in the Serbian restaurant in Ljubljana, and we still sing the Budapest metro song all the time.

We started by creating a log of every journey we had taken (including every last tram, bus and metro), capturing both the mode of transport and the distance travelled.  Itโ€™s been more than ten years since our trip, so this took quite a bit of detective work.  We then looked up the carbon emissions per kilometre for each mode of transport. The results were pretty stark.

The two flights at the start and end of the trip accounted for 80% of our transport emissions. We knew flying was carbon-intensive, but we didnโ€™t realise there was such a big gulf between it and other modes of transport. To make matters worse, weโ€™d actually covered a similar distance by air as we did by rail.  We were responsible for more carbon emissions during our four hours in the air than during nearly four weeks of travel through Europe!

Emissions by mode of transport during our trip

We could have reduced our transport emissions by 61% by avoiding flying. This calculation is based on travelling by rail and bus from London to Berlin and from Pula back to London. These journeys would obviously have taken longer, and also would likely have cost more money too.

While it makes most sense not to emit the carbon in the first place (particularly on avoidable short flights in Europe), we canโ€™t travel back in time to change our decisions. Instead, we’ve offset our emissions via Gold Standard’s Climate+ Portfolio, and you can find the retired carbon credit in the Gold Standard Impact Registry. This means that as much CO2 has been prevented from entering the atmosphere as was emitted as a result of our travel. The Climate+ Portfolio achieves this by supporting a variety of emissions reductions projects – from clean cooking solutions and household bio-gas to renewable energy, like wind and solar.

If we were to do this trip again, would we do anything differently? Absolutely. In future, weโ€™ll need to make the most of travelling slowly (and accept that weโ€™ll sometimes pay more) if we want to commit to low-carbon travel. Definitely food for thought.

Day 25/25 (Completed it, mate)

There was an enormous storm overnight which kept Sara awake, although Oli slept blissfully through the whole thing much to Saraโ€™s disgust!  We woke up to a very wet Pula, but thankfully the rain soon eased off, which was lucky as breakfast was served across the road.  However, no sooner had we packed up and left the hotel, the rain returned with a vengeance and we got pretty wet walking to the bus station.  We reached the bus station in plenty of time for our (once daily) bus to the airport and made the journey without a problem.  When we were collecting our bags the friendly bus driver asked us where we were from and where we were going, but looked very confused and slightly concerned at our reply.  He turned and pointed at the only plane on the tarmac and asked doubtfully if it was ours (it wasnโ€™t), so at this point we were pretty worried that we were at the wrong Pula – thankfully, we were not!  As soon as we had got through security we heard a last call for our flight even though it was over an hour until takeoff, which had us worried again.  We rushed to the gate, but there was still no sign of the plane.  After about 10 minutes we saw it land…thanks, Ryanair!  After a quick turnaround we were finally on our way home.

We had a fantastic trip ๐Ÿ™‚