We’re writing this two years since we left our apartment in Brooklyn, NY to embark on a year-long trip around the world. We honestly can’t believe it was that long ago. We wrote the first draft of this post of our around the world itinerary from memory without referring to any of our (copious) travel planning spreadsheets or notes and got 95% of it right.
Traveling for so long to so many places sticks with you. We will always remember how we held each other’s hands in nervous excitement as that first plane took off, looking at each other not really believing what we had planned for so long was actually happening. It truly was the best year of our lives and we wholeheartedly recommend doing something like this to anyone who has the desire and opportunity.
If you’re looking for inspiration for your own trip around the world itinerary or are just curious about our journey, read on! And don’t miss our summary of things we would have changed at the end of the post.
An overview of our trip around the world
Here’s a snapshot of our trip to give you a general feel for what we did:
- Trip duration: ~13 months (386 days)
- Countries visited: 27
- Continents visited: Europe, Asia, Australia
- Number of flights: 30
- Types of international border crossings: plane, train, bus, boat, bike, foot
Our around the world itinerary
June 2016 (Sweden, Czech Republic)
On June 17, 2016 we boarded a plane at JFK and flew to Stockholm, Sweden. We were headed to Prague in the Czech Republic, but couldn’t fly direct so enjoyed a one-night layover in Stockholm. We had been before, so it was a low-stress place to kick off the trip, and we got to enjoy Swedish meatballs at our favorite spot in the city.
The rest of the month was spent in the Czech Republic. After three days in Prague, we took a train to Brno, where we spent four extremely hot days, happy to have a hotel room with good air conditioning. We then took a bus to Olomouc, where we spent three days. There we thoroughly enjoyed the first completely unique food on our trip: a pungent, garlicky cheese called olomoucké tvarůžky.
July 2016 (Poland, Germany, Scotland)
We then took an even longer train from Warsaw to Berlin, Germany, where we spent 12 days. Berlin is one of our favorite cities and we were psyched to be able to spend a much longer time there than ever before.
From Berlin, we flew to Edinburgh, Scotland. It was our first time in that part of the UK. We spent one week in Edinburgh and really felt like we explored it well.
August 2016 (Scotland, Faroe Islands, Netherlands)
From Edinburgh, we took the train to Glasgow, where we spent five days and ate one of the greatest Indian feasts we’ve ever had. We picked up a car in Glasgow and drove north to a small village called Dornie. We spent a blissful week there in a cottage overlooking Eilean Donan Castle, from which we also explored the Isle of Skye. From there, we drove to Inverness where we spent two days. It was short but we packed a lot in, including the Highland Derby.
We dropped the car back at the Edinburgh airport and flew to the Faroe Islands, where we spent four nights in Torshavn. From there, we flew to Amsterdam and (arriving late) spent one night at Schipol Airport before taking the train to Rotterdam the next day.
September 2016 (Netherlands, New York)
Finishing up the rest of our time in the Netherlands, we spent four days in Nijmegen and eight days in Amsterdam. We’d been before, but we stayed in a totally different neighborhood near Westerpark and enjoyed getting to know a new part of the city. We then flew home to New York to go to a wedding, take part in a fantasy league draft, and say hi to family and friends.
October 2016 (Japan, South Korea)
We boarded a plane once again (this time with a little less stuff) and flew to Dallas for a one-night layover before a long flight to Tokyo, Japan. This was our second trip to Tokyo, but we were so excited to be back and see more of this massive city. We spent a week in Tokyo eating cheaply but deliciously, and Sarah had the honor of speaking at a Japanese LAM conference there. We then set off to explore more of the country – all new destinations for us – by train. We spent four days in Kanazawa, and then six days in Kyoto, where Justin tested out Japan’s dental services. During our time in Kyoto, we took a day trip to Nara and were charmed by the deer. We then continued on and spent two nights in Osaka, three in Hiroshima, and three in Fukuoka. After a final bowl of ramen, we took a ferry from Japan to South Korea and spent three nights in Busan.
November 2016 (South Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand)
We took the super fast train from Busan to Seoul, where we spent five days. During that time, we took one day trip by bus to the DMZ and spent about two minutes in North Korea. It definitely was not enough time in Seoul, so we hope to return one day. We then flew to Hong Kong, where we also spent five days. From there we flew to Hanoi, Vietnam. We spent a relaxing nine days in Hanoi exploring the city and eating the most delicious food. We then flew to Luang Prabang, Laos, where we spent six days. We celebrated Thanksgiving there and then flew to Bangkok, Thailand, where we spent five, along with one of our good friends!
December 2016 (Germany, New York)
We flew from Bangkok to Frankfurt and then hopped on a train to Düsseldorf, Germany. We spent four days there, getting our hockey fix with friends. We then took the train to Cologne, where we spent two whole weeks going to Christmas Markets and pretending to be locals. We then took the train to Frankfurt and flew back to New York once again for the holidays.
January 2017 (Thailand, Cambodia)
We returned to Southeast Asia, flying back to Bangkok. We arrived not knowing our next steps, and ended up spending eight days in the city. During that time we got to know one of the city’s meccas of cheap eats at Terminal 21 really well. We then flew to Siem Reap, Cambodia and had five days there, three of which were spent exploring the temples of the Angkor Wat complex. We then boarded a plane once again and spent six days in Chiang Mai. We honestly would have spent longer, but it was Lunar New Year and we were limited by hotel availability. So we took a scenic bus to Chiang Rai, where we spent two nights.
February 2017 (Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia)
We flew from Chiang Rai to Krabi and then took a minibus to Ko Lanta, where we spent a full week relaxing on the beach (and Sarah in a hammock). To break up the journey from Thailand to Malaysia, we first took two vans from Ko Lanta to Hat Yai in Southern Thailand, where we spent one night.
The next day we took two trains and one ferry to George Town, Malaysia. We spent four days there eating everything in sight and then made our way via ferry and train to Kuala Lumpur. We spent three nights in KL before taking a very, very long bus to Singapore, where we spent three days.
We then flew to Melbourne, Australia where we spent a week. We picked up a car at the airport and drove to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road stopping for one night each in Apollo Bay, Warrnambool, and Penola.
March 2017 (Australia, New Zealand)
We spent three days in Adelaide and then flew to Auckland, New Zealand, where we also spent three nights. We then picked up a car and head out on our North Island road trip. We drove to Rotorua (one night), Taupo (two nights), Hawke’s Bay (two nights), Martinborough (one night), and Wellington, where we dropped off the car and spent three nights. We flew from Wellington to Christchurch, picked up a car, and started our South Island road trip. We drove to Oamaru (one night), the Otago Peninsula (two nights), Te Anau (a total of three nights), Milford Sound (the ultimate splurge, stuck in the middle of our time in Te Anau), Arrowtown (three nights), Twizel (one night), Lake Tekapo (two nights), and ended with two nights in Christchurch. You can read more about our New Zealand itinerary here.
April 2017 (Australia, Singapore, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria)
We flew from Christchurch to Sydney, Australia, where we spent six days. We then flew back to Singapore where we spent another four days – and celebrated Sarah’s birthday. We were definitely glad we returned to the city and got to see (and eat) more of it.
We then boarded a plane and flew to Milan, Italy and immediately took the train to Ferrara. We spent three days there and then took the train to Vicenza, where we spent another three. We took the train to Trieste and spent two there. We took a bus from Trieste to Ljubljana, Slovenia. During our eight days there, we took day trips to Lake Bled (by bus) and to Zagreb, Croatia (by train). Leaving Slovenia, we took a train to Salzburg, Austria and spent three days there.
May 2017 (Germany, Netherlands)
We took the train from Austria to Munich, Germany and spent three days there. We then took the train back to Rotterdam, the Netherlands and spent a whole month there. We needed a break from all the moving around and enjoyed every minute of it.
June 2017 (Belgium, France, Switzerland, Germany)
We took the train from Rotterdam to Antwerp, Belgium, where we met Sarah’s mom, and spent three days there. We then took the train to Paris and spent four days there. We met friends and saw the French Open. We then took the train to Lyon, and spent five nights there. Then we took a train to Nice, where we met Sarah’s dad. We spent two days in Nice, including a quick trip to Monaco, and then drove to Noves in Provence for two nights. We took a train to Dijon, where we spent three days and said au revoir to France. We took the train to Basel, Switzerland and spent four days there. We then took the train to Freiburg, Germany where we spent three days.
July 2017 (Germany, New York)
And now for the end (if you’ve made it this far congratulations and thanks for sticking around)… We took the train from Freiburg to Nuremberg, where we spent five days ogling how beautiful the city is. Then we took the train to Mainz, where we spent three days, including one spent on a delightful ferry cruise on the Rhine River. And then one final train trip to Frankfurt, where we sadly boarded a plane to fly back home to New York.
What would we have changed?
Looking back on our trip, we’re pretty pleased with how it all turned out, but of course there are things we would have done differently.
Our biggest takeaway was that we should have spent more time in Asia and Australia. Being based in the US, and having spent quite a bit of time traveling in Europe, we should have made the most of being on the other side of the world. This would have meant taking time from our European destinations, but that would have been fine. We desperately want to get back to places like Vietnam and South Korea and Australia, and of course it’s harder now that we’re not there. So our tip would be if you’re planning to go far away from where you’re currently based, make the most of it.
With regards to particular destinations, we should have planned our time in Australia and New Zealand sooner. We only figured that stuff out a few weeks out and were a bit restricted by availability of reasonably priced flights and accommodations. Had we planned that part of the trip three or four months in advance, we likely would have spent more time in those countries.
A bit more specific to our situation, we shouldn’t have gone home after the first leg of our trip. It would have meant making sacrifices to family and friends, but it was too soon. We definitely would have preferred to spend that time in (as mentioned above, Asia!) than in New York. Also, it required some logistical finagling. On the plus side, we could ditch a lot of the stuff we had packed unnecessarily.
There are of course so many places we would have spent more time (three days in Kuala Lumpur is a joke and basically every single place in Vietnam is calling our names), but we don’t regret going anywhere. This trip confirmed we’re pretty good at knowing what we like and how we like to travel. And we’d do it again in a heartbeat.