180 Little Stories After Traveling the World for 18 Months
Post from March 13, 2015 (↻ January 10, 2019), filed under Adventure.
The story of my 18 months of travel around the world, including this and other articles, is available as a big but humble e-book: Journey of J.
It’s over. A couple of weeks ago I came to a halt, after traveling the world for what now feels like a lifetime. Here’s one way to tell the story. The way that also outlined my time at Google and in the United States.
- I visited 6 (of 7) continents.
- I visited 48 countries.
- I visited 32 countries I had not set a foot on before.
- (TripAdvisor says that overall, I’ve now traveled 1,069,267 miles, and 43% of the world.)
- I declared special friendship to Mexico, Chile, Turkey, South Africa, Armenia, Nepal, and Taiwan.
- I’m not sure what to think of the unfriendliness of Panama and South Korea.
- I visited 12 megacities (Delhi, Seoul, Mumbai, Mexico City, São Paulo, Jakarta, Osaka, Manila, Buenos Aires, Bangkok, Istanbul, and Shenzhen).
- I visited 6 cities twice (San Francisco, Istanbul, Bangkok, Taipei, Auckland, and Osaka). Probably more.
- I visited 2 cities thrice (Sydney and Dubai).
- I missed visiting the Antarctica (too cold for my gear, too expensive for my mode of traveling, too late on my South America leg).
- I traveled for 18 months.
- I traveled for 557 days.
- I took around 20 intercity trains.
- I took around 60 intercity buses.
- I took 2 international boat trips.
- I took 47 international flights.
- Qatar Airways and AirAsia were two of the worst airlines I’ve (ever) taken.
- Air New Zealand was one of the nicest.
- I stayed at 75 hotels and hostels.
- Of which 1 was a capsule hotel, which I had tried to avoid.
- I stayed in 52 private homes. (I love Airbnb. Check them out if you haven’t yet.)
- I stayed at 7 friends.
- I used no guide books.
- I used no fora.
- I did use (and then contribute to) Wikitravel.
- I used a homemade country intel spreadsheet.
- I got up to 4,900 meters above sea level (somewhere in Bolivia).
- I got down to 427 meters below sea level (in Jordan).
- I saw active volcanoes.
- I saw inactive volcanoes.
- I didn’t see volcanoes because of dense fog.
- I saw geysers.
- I saw salt deserts.
- I saw normal deserts.
- I saw green water.
- I saw red water.
- I saw yellow water (water).
- I saw llamas.
- I saw alpacas.
- I saw flamingos.
- I saw monkeys, different types.
- I saw lions.
- I saw cheetahs.
- I saw leopards.
- I saw elephants.
- I saw hippopotamuses.
- I saw buffaloes.
- I saw dromedaries.
- I saw gnus.
- I saw topis.
- I saw impalas.
- I saw elands.
- I saw giraffes.
- I saw crocodiles.
- I saw ostriches.
- I saw tortoises.
- I saw butterflies, scores of.
- I saw bats, hundreds of.
- I saw penguins, African.
- …all free, in their natural habitats.
- I saw places with lots of dogs.
- I saw places with lots of dogs in bad shape, limping and with red eyes and what not.
- I saw places with lots of dogs in good shape, well-fed and taken care of.
- I saw places with lots of cats.
- I turned into a dog/cat person hybrid (thanks 😊).
- I went on safari.
- I flew through the Himalayas.
- I saw Teotihuacan.
- I saw Ephesus.
- I saw Petra.
- I saw much more (so lazy).
- I went up Burj Khalifa.
- I went up Taipei 101.
- I went up the Petronas Towers.
- I went up Busan Tower 😊
- I went up Frankfurt’s Main Tower.
- I heard less sirens in one year of traveling than in one week anywhere in the United States (and that wasn’t for lack of sirens).
- I saw no police.
- I saw little police (Brazil).
- I saw lots of police (Ecuador, Chile, Turkey).
- I saw armored vehicles with water cannons.
- I saw no violence nor terror.
- I only saw states pretending to turn against terror to really turn against their people.
- I learned that there’s always something to discover.
- I discovered even when I didn’t set out to discover.
- I learned that people are great everywhere.
- I learned that people are great everywhere except in Panama, where they’re so rude you can’t but laugh about it all—together.
- In South Korea, then, no one laughs except for my two hosts 😐
- I learned that we are all the same.
- I learned to more appreciate others.
- I learned.
- I learned not to be afraid.
- I learned to be afraid.
- I learned to be vulnerable.
- I learned to be nice to myself.
- I learned, or internalized, not to look for deals (the effort alone has a price, especially in less developed places).
- I learned that everything comes in phases (the urge to write, or read, or study, or explore, or).
- I learned to roll with the phases.
- I studied, diligently.
- I thought, critically.
- I struggled, occasionally.
- I became resourceful.
- I used natural oil for sun protection, learning (by doing) that most of the time that’s enough.
- I made my own perfumes.
- I repaired my clothes and my gear.
- I pretty much only replaced.
- I had about 25 different pieces of wardrobe. Including belt, sneakers, flip flops.
- I had bought or swapped maybe 5 of these pieces.
- I had, over time, 6 different head covers: a baseball cap, an alpaca wool beanie, a bedouin headscarf, a beret, an improvised silk headscarf, another baseball cap.
- I went to 20 or so hairdressers and barbers.
- After leaving 19 or so of them I still had to do a control shave.
- At some point I gave up the comfort and just used the tiny shaver whose charger I had grilled in South America (wrong voltage), regularly changing the formerly rechargeable AA battery it had inside with a used 20-cent screwdriver I had bought in India.
- I missed wearing something other than the 25 different pieces of wardrobe that I had with me.
- I think I forgot something.
- Oh. I traveled light. (Meiert’s Law of Travel.)
- I was healthy.
- I made sure I stayed healthy.
- Yet I had 1 accident leading to be stitched up in a public hospital in South Africa.
- I was safe.
- I made sure I stayed safe.
- I had 0 incidents.
- I wasn’t vacationing.
- I was traveling.
- I read 171 books, averaging 9.5 a month.
- I collected 100s of pages of notes from these books.
- I took 261 pages of personal study notes.
- I wrote 166 diary pages.
- I worked.
- I launched 3 test projects (One Thousand Thank Yous, Animated Traffic, j9t).
- I prepared, scheduled, and then axed 5 other projects.
- I wrote 2 books (100 Things I Learned as an Everyday Adventurer and The Little Book of HTML/CSS Frameworks).
- I wrote 63 posts.
- I wrote other stuff.
- I will write a book about the journey.
- I missed having a home.
- I missed out.
- I ran into a lot of people.
- I met a lot of people.
- I met up with old friends: with Julia Tang, more than a friend, in Cabo San Lucas, Istanbul, and Hong Kong; with Sascha Hach and spouse in Buenos Aires; with Eren Kantarli in Istanbul; with Zulaikha in Singapore; with Hsiang-Yu in Taipei; with TingTing in Melbourne; —
- I had a life line of a few good friends. I love you.
- I realize that was great.
- I made a few new friends.
- I missed my friends.
- I was alone.
- I wasn’t doing well.
- I was doing well.
- I had times at which I felt… broken.
- I did… feel emotional.
- I did… deal with trauma.
- I was tempted.
- I was in a relationship.
- I wasn’t in a relationship.
- I was in a relationship.
- I barely tried new things (because, traveling).
- I did not take particular classes (I had contemplated to take dancing classes in South America and planned to take Filipino Martial Arts lessons on the Philippines).
- I did not travel by boat for an extended period of time (I had planned to work as crew on a boat, and also to cross either ocean with a freighter or such).
- I did not work for anyone other than myself (I had looked into doing some volunteer work).
- I barely tried new food (because, no TD again, thank you).
- But I did try new things and new food.
- I created a list of dishes to do once I settle: chilaquiles and bibimbap, for example.
- I shot around 70,000 photos.
- I shot around 60 videos.
- I had to improvise to cater for 74 GB of documentation.
- I stopped taking selfies.
- Except for 332 ones.
- I’ve begun to regret.
- That I should have seen more.
- That I should have done more.
- That I should have risked more.
- That I should have stayed longer at places.
- That I should have been more open.
- That I should have talked to and gotten to know more people.
- I’ve recognized how these regrets are also signs of development.
- That it’s okay.
- I decided to reveal my middle name.
- I decided to reveal (more of) myself.
- I decided to stop here.
- I’ve become more human.
- I had a blast.
- I’d do it again. Differently, but definitely.
Special thanks go to Julia Tang for her manifold support during these 18 months. Thanks to my friends and family for making it through long times of silence. Thanks to the Wikitravel community for the great work on Wikitravel. Thanks to all my hosts and their staff. Thanks to all the pilots and stewardesses, bus and taxi drivers, cooks and waiters, other people for their small but indispensable help in getting me around the world safe and sound. If only one had been as the carefully engineered official view of the world has it, I wouldn’t have been able to write this.
And now, another phase of my life.
Until we have something better.
- The travel map.
- The country photo reports.
- The other photos.
- Thoughts on quitting to travel.
- Thoughts on travel planning.
- Thoughts on travel safety.
- Thoughts on travel health.
- The gear.
- The video for which I took 332 grumpy selfies and the saddest music.
- The conclusion: here.
About the Author
Jens Oliver Meiert is a technical lead and author (sum.cumo, W3C, O’Reilly). He loves trying things, including in the realms of philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com he shares and generalizes and exaggerates some of his thoughts and experiences.
If you have any thoughts or questions (or recommendations) about what he writes, leave a comment or a message.
On March 14, 2015, 6:57 CET, Kat said:
An imagination-fuelling story. So, what’s next?
On March 14, 2015, 9:44 CET, Anonymous said:
Can you share how much the whole trip costs?
On March 14, 2015, 22:02 CET, felix said:
Wow. Soo much encounters, experiences and overall, knowing for a single person. I hope to get a chance as such. But with the people of panama, why do say they are unfriendly? More details will do me good. Lot of it.
And I thought I did well traveling Europe for almost two months last year. Impressive!!!
An Awesome Journey
Can you tell us how much it cost the whole trip?
On March 18, 2015, 0:48 CET, Om said:
A lot of “I”