On March 1st, 2008 we boarded a plane headed to Cairo, Egypt, the very first stop on our questionable new journey as “people without real jobs”. The original idea was for a 3-5 year pre-midlife crisis sojourn away from the real world, but here we are, exactly 10 years later, still just as shiftless and unmoored as then, still occasionally part of the workforce, just not in any traditional manner. Therefore, in lieu of any other pressing business, I decided to walk us back through the past decade of traipsing and travel, along with my thoughts and memories from our wide variety of journeys.

The Middle East (March – June 2008)

Route:

Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Paris

Highlights:

The Pyramids, the Blue Hole, Wadi Rum, Petra, Palmyra, Beirut, the Lycian Way, Blue Cruise, Istanbul, Goreme, everything about Paris.

Surprises:

How vividly green the grass seemed when we finally crossed into Turkey, and how exciting it was to see letters and numbers we recognized (even if the words themselves still made no sense). I never expected to like Paris as much as I did.

Things we learned:

Eventually a person gets tired of sand. Diving into the Dead Sea with your eyes open is a terrible idea.

Memorable moment:

In hindsight, it was spending more than two weeks in Syria blithely enjoying places that would eventually become horrific war zones. That, and sunset over the red rocks of Wadi Rum.

 

Southeast Asia (September – December 2008)

Route:

Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal

Highlights:

Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, Angkor Wat, Pattaya, Annapurna Circuit, Bhaktapur, Bangkok, Koh Lipe

Surprises:

Who knew so many older Western men had a thing for hot young Asian girls? What? Everyone? Yeah, I suppose you’re right. Also, the Himalayas.

Things we learned:

Sometimes when it is 39C and raining (Vietnam), I just don’t feel very fresh. The Himalayas are the coolest mountains on the planet.

Memorable moments:

It’s a tie between sunrise at Angkor Wat and my first plate of rat na (wide noodles with spicy gravy) on Khao San Road in Bangkok after a month in the frigid mountains of Nepal.

 

La Peñita, Mexico (January – April 2009)

Route:

Road trip – Saskatoon, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, the Baja, La Peñita

Highlights:

Snowstorm leaving Montana, Disneyland with Laynni’s family, camping along the Baja, the La Peñita rodeo

Surprises:

The huge Playa Chacala wave that almost swept our friend Steph’s toddler out of his dad’s arms and out to sea. How far off-course I smoked that drive on the fourth hole while golfing with Cam.

Things we learned:

Apparently I’m not great at riding Mexican mechanical bulls, at least not while drunk. Sometimes Mexican men fall asleep on the street.

Memorable moments:

Getting chased by a pack of angry dogs while biking the La Peñita backroads. My parents visiting from Puerto Vallarta and recklessly agreeing to eat in an actual Mexican restaurant.

 

South America (September – December 2009)

Route:

Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay

Highlights:

Macchu Picchu, Isla del Sol (Lake Titicaca), Uyuni Salt Flats, Iguazu Falls, Buenos Aires, Torres de Paine

Surprises:

Living to tell the tale of biking the Bolivian Death Road (turns out updating my will was a huge waste of time). The swarm of butterflies at Iguazu Falls.

Things we learned:

I look good riding a horse through the Bolivian badlands while wearing a bulbous pink helmet. Well, not “good”, per se, more of safe, but not very bright. Playing soccer at 4,000 metres above sea level on the first night of a 4-day trek is dumb.

Memorable moments:

One of Las Cholitas female wrestlers putting the smackdown on the woefully out of shape “Wolfman” when he tried sneaking up on her from behind brandishing an empty plastic 2-litre pop bottle. Sunrise over Macchu Picchu.

 

Central America (January – April 2010)

Route:

Mazatlán, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, New York

Highlights:

Post-World Junior final dance-off, Lake Atitlán, the giant radishes in Zunil, Easter in El Salvador, Little Corn Island, Granada, Central Park

Surprises:

Getting hit in the back by a discarded hot dog on a windy afternoon at Citi Field. Also, apparently scorpions really do travel in pairs.

Things we learned:

Whenever Laynni goes to a baseball game and sees Tim Lincecum pitch the SF Giants win the World Series (has happened twice now, and Laynni has seen 3 games in her life). I have no business being in a dance-off.

Memorable moments:

Paying $6 for a hotel room in San Pedro after the Super Bowl, and receiving a tiny single mattress with no sheets for my trouble. Pacífico by the bucket.

 

East Africa (September – December 2010)

Route:

London, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Malawi

Highlights:

Lake Kivu, Gorillas and a volcano in DRC, Lake Bunyoni, white-water rafting on the White Nile, the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Zanzibar, Lake Malawi, Mount Mulanje

Surprises:

That a troop of mountain gorillas and a well-intentioned Malawian compost toilet can smell quite similar. That Congolese border officials don’t particularly mind being bribed.

Things we learned:

The Congolese couldn’t care less how close dumb foreigners get to the crumbling crater edge of an active volcano. In the scheme of ways to lose your wedding ring, having it slide off your finger into the White Nile while rafting is among the least suspicious.

Memorable moments:

Watching lions feed on a freshly killed buffalo in Ngorongo. Or the 2,000 pound rhino still breast-feeding.

The Subcontinent (January – April 2011)

Route:

India, Nepal, Scotland, London

Highlights:

Varkala Beach, Taj Mahal, Varanasi, Annapurna Base Camp, Bhaktapur, West Highland Way

Surprises:

Indian spiders are occasionally bigger than a Prius. The fact that even watching dead bodies burned and dumped in the Ganges can eventually become boring.

Things we learned:

No matter how many dozens of times you wash your hands throughout the day, you’ll probably still end up with Delhi Belly at some point. Huge, greasy Scottish breakfasts were not invented with long days of hiking in mind.

Memorable moments:

The massive afternoon snowstorm after a warm, sunny morning at Annapurna Base Camp. Also, the massive portion of linguini I had in Pokhara when we returned from our trek.

 

Guatemala (September – December 2011)

Route:

Guatemala, Mexico

Highlights:

Nebaj, Lake Atitlán, climbing Volcán San Pedro, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Palenque, Chichen Itza, Valladolid

Surprises:

Finding the Atitlán water level up 3 metres from the year before and continuing to rise. Learning by the sounds coming through the walls that our elderly married neighbours were embroiled in a decades-long lesbian affair.

Things we learned:

Tropical Depression 12E is a pretty weak name for a huge storm. Homemade tortillas are the shit.

Memorable moments:

Returning to my favourite sports bar, La Playa, and finding it half-submerged underwater. Dean Johnston, Scorpion-Killer.

 

Central America (January – April 2012)

Route:

Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala

Highlights:

Isla Mujeres, Tulum, Caye Caulker, Roatán, Lake Atitlán, visits from Andie/Mark and Stone/Wendy, Semana Santa

Surprises:

Isla Mujeres, the “Island of Women”, has only about the same amount of women as anywhere else. At least they all wear bikinis, though. The fact that anyone could sweat as much as my brother-in-law Mark did while climbing San Pedro and not suddenly turn to dust like the bad guy after he drinks from the wrong chalice at the end of the Temple of Doom.

Things we learned:

Even though lobster in Belize is both fresh from the ocean and incredibly cheap, I’d still take a good pizza any day. My friend Stone, while only moderately tall, was still easily the tallest person in the entire city of Sololá.

Memorable moments:

The New York football Giants winning their fourth Super Bowl while I pranced irritatingly in Dory’s Roatán living room. Changing Pasaj-Cap apartments from #4 to #3. Gasp.

Camino Francés (September – December 2012)

Route:

Belgium, Croatia, Italy, Spain, Madeira

Highlights:

Bruges, Dubrovnik, Cinque Terre, Venice, hiking the Camino Francés

Surprises:

In the movie, In Bruges, there is a dog in the window along the canal – turns out that’s a real dog, and he’s always in that window. I shit you not. All old Italian women seem to believe everyone understands Italian, as long as it is spoken really fast.

Things we learned:

800 kilometres is a long way to walk in one go. After a few billion tourists have come and gone, well, it seems like Rome might be just mailing it in at this point.

Memorable moments:

Walking into the square in Santiago de Compostela and realizing we were actually done. Then having no idea what to do next. Turns out the answer was “get super drunk”. Standing in the very spot Colin Farrell first met the racist dwarf.

 

Morocco (January – April 2013)

Route:

Madeira, Lisbon, Morocco, Barcelona, Gozo, England, Ireland

Highlights:

Funchal Carnaval, Marrakech, Dades Gorge, Tafraoute, Taghazoute, Barcelona, Azure Window, Ta’Cenc, Southwest Coast Path, Connemara, Cliffs of Moher,

Surprises:

The tastefulness of the thong bikinis in the Madeiran Carnaval parade. Gozo! Just in general.

Things we learned:

To master the Gozitan bus system. Once you lose one glove, what good is the other one? Most Moroccan town names start with a “T”. Who knew so many people in Ireland still speak Irish?

Memorable moments:

Actually catching a wave off the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Our visit to Gozo’s Azure Window just a few years before it abruptly crashed into the sea.

 

Guatemala (September – December 2013)

Route:

Guatemala

Highlights:

Guatemalan stuff, a relatively successful soccer season in San Juan, a visit from Lyle/Nadine

Surprises:

The rain. My waning cardio.

Things we learned:

Scorpions really do travel in pairs. “Para” and “por” are not exactly the same thing.

Memorable moments:

The couple goals I actually managed to score. My impressive front crawl.

 

South America II (January – April 2014)

Route:

Argentina, Antarctica, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia

Highlights:

Buenos Aires, one million Antarctic penguins (mas o menos), Bariloche, Galapagos Islands, Volcán Cotopaxi, Cartagena, Barichara

Surprises:

Two hammerhead sharks gliding past near Kicker Rock in the Galapagos. Sharing a zodiac in Paradise Bay, Antarctica with author Marian Keys, and ignoring her.

Things we learned:

Chileans have no interest in pronouncing the second half of words. Cartagena has a really big wall.

Memorable moments:

Watching a pod of killer whales feed on a pilot whale in Antarctica. Following some random guy into a sketchy building in Buenos Aires in order to facilitate an even sketchier black market currency transaction.

 

Guatemala (October – December 2014)

Route:

Guatemala

Highlights:

Lake Atitlán

Surprises:

Friends being cast on House Hunters International, with Pasaj-Cap one of the three choices (despite the fact they were already living there).

Things we learned:

No matter how hard you try it is impossible to kill every single fly. House Hunters International is pretty darn scripted.

Memorable moments:

Trinette’s cat pissing on the shirt she was required to continue wearing for continuity on the show. The one morning the neighbour’s rooster did not wake me up.

 

Australasia (January – April 2015)

Route:

Bali, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines

Highlights:

Our Penestanan rice-paddy villa, Queenstown, Tongariro Crossing, Great Ocean Road, Palawan, Tao Expeditions island-hopping cruise, snorkelling with whale sharks in Donsol

Surprises:

It is possible to walk through Mordor as a day-hike. The suspiciously well-behaved koala conveniently posing in the tree right outside the Koala Café.

Things we learned:

For two grand you can rent something resembling a palace in Bali. Most Kiwis feel the length of a fair-sized dog is plenty of space to leave between cars on the highway.

Memorable moments:

The group bucket shower during our Tao cruise. Ubud’s top Thai restaurant.

 

Asian Adventure (September – December 2015)

Route:

Mongolia, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand, Myanmar, Hong Kong

Highlights:

Altaii Mountains, Gobi Desert, Beijing, Great Wall of China, Everest Base Camp trek, Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Druk Path, Bangkok, Koh Lanta, Bagan, Inle Lake

Surprises:

Bhutan’s Happiness Index is actually somewhat difficult to quantify. I liked Beijing.

Things we learned:

Mongolia is a big, amazing place. With big, amazing scenery. And big, amazing potholes. Mount Everest is nice to look at. Touring ancient Burmese ruins by electric scooter is the shit.

Memorable moments:

Posing like an idiot on the Great Wall. Sharing a bottle of cheap Russian vodka with friends on top of Khongoryn Els, the tallest sand dune in Mongolia. Definitely not our first night in Bangkok when we both got so drunk we don’t even remember getting back to our hotel.

 

Guatemala (January – April 2016)

Route:

Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala

Highlights:

Varadero, Havana, Trinidad, Tacos el Pastor at El Fogón, Xela to Atitlán trek, Semana Santa

Surprises:

Cuban cigars taste a lot like regular cigars. The amount of time and work that goes into making the intricate street “alfombras” for Easter, which the processions then destroy in mere hours.

Things we learned:

Cubans really have no freaking clue how to run a transportation system. Gay dudes that come all the way to Playa Del Carmen for a massive dance festival really know how to party.

Memorable moments:

Actually managing to log on to the internet in Cuba. Being sucked into playing soccer with local kids in a tiny basketball court in a tiny village in the Guatemalan highlands at the end of a long hiking day.

 

Europe II (September – December 2016)

Route:

Romania, Greece, Sicily, Budapest, Vienna, Czech Republic

Highlights:

Transylvania, Cyclades Islands, Cefalú, Erice, Siracusa, Budapest, Cesky Krumlov, Olomouc, Prague

Surprises:

The lewd sounds Laynni makes while eating real Greek salads. You don’t have to be a mythical Greek god to climb to the top of Mount Zeus. Interrupting the filming of a car chase scene in Budapest.

Things we learned:

It turns out Dracula is mostly fictional. Trying all 300 Czech beers in two weeks is perhaps too challenging.

Memorable moments:

Capturing a Ditto while playing Pokémon Go in Olomouc. Being joined on our Prague brewery tour by a man in a ram costume.

 

Guatemala (January – April 2017)

Route:

Mexico, Guatemala

Highlights:

Huatulco, Mazunte, 1st Annual Pasaj-cathlon

Surprises:

Getting handily out-drank by my dad on our one-week all-inclusive. Winning more soccer games than we lost.

Things we learned:

Some people are better than others at shaking tiny oranges out of a Kleenex box held against their taint. Nude yoga is not for everyone.

Memorable moments:

Our air-conditioned room in La Crucecita after 3 weeks in the Huatulco heat. The naked old man jogging toward us on the beach in Zipolite.

Camino del Norte (September – December 2017)

Route:

France, Spain, Germany, Canary Islands

Highlights:

Toulouse, San Sebastián, Camino del Norte, Camino Primitivo, Muxía, Madrid, Nuremberg, Mount Teide, La Gomera

Surprises:

Walking 800 kilometres a second time didn’t feel as dumb as we thought it might. Germany isn’t just about efficiency and Nazi stuff, they like their beer, too.

Things we learned:

My French still sucks. Bed bugs aren’t easily intimidated.

Memorable moments:

Crossing Los Hospitales route on the Primitivo. Our final ocean sunset in Muxía. Mount Teide from basically anywhere.

 

Guatemala (January – April 2018)

Route:

Guatemala. Still to come: Mexico, Las Vegas

Highlights:

Volcán Atitlán, Volcán Santiaguito, 2nd Annual Pasaj-Cathlon

Surprises:

It rained! In February! Once! Briefly! I shaved.

Things we learned:

A bit more Spanish. I am actually capable of hurting myself while rolling an avocado down a hill.

Memorable moments:

The view of ten different volcanoes from the top of Atitlán. Synchronized pool jumping at Pierre’s place.

I must say, when I boil it all down like this it is easier to see how ten years flew past so quickly. Certainly no time was wasted on noble pursuits or excessive personal growth. Still, a pretty enjoyable decade, enough to really make me look forward to getting started on the next. I’m looking in your direction, Vegas.