Where We’ve Been

As we near the end of this first expat journey, I want to recap all the places we have been so far so we can look back on this moment for years to come.  When we started down this path over four years ago, we did so with the goal of visiting 30 countries before we turned 30 – a goal that we exceeded with 3 years to spare.  Some of these places we have visited more than once, but I will only list the year of the first visit.  Here is where we’ve been so far:

  1. USA – 1991IMG_0044
  2. France – 20095116_107584356659_504141659_2833515_4519609_n
  3. Spain – 2009DSC_0063
  4. Paraguay – 2013 (Sadly, no photos)
  5. Iceland – 201410347547_1504545873093609_8899424320537876548_n
  6. Turkey – 201512074588_1667618120119716_36044510800056699_n (1)
  7. The Netherlands – 201512274306_1676022422612619_3590003824024621316_n
  8. Hungary – 2016BudapestLift3
  9. Slovakia – 2016DSCF3990
  10. Czechia – 2016DSCF4059 (1)
  11. Austria  – 2016 (Bad experience. Didn’t keep the photos)
  12. Greece – 2016DSC_0452[1]
  13. Sweden – 201613096107_1724698541078340_7433953853444923562_n
  14. Bosnia & Herzegovina – 2016DSC_0083 (2)
  15. Italy – 2016dsc_0168
  16. Norway – 2016dsc_0169
  17. Scotland – 2016dsc_0173
  18. Georgia – 2016dsc_0159
  19. The Maldives – 2017dsc_0095
  20. Sri Lanka – 2017dsc_0247
  21. Switzerland – 2017DSC_0065
  22. Slovenia – 2017DSC_0035
  23. Albania – 2017IMG_1188
  24. Belgium – 201720171120_144155
  25. Israel – 201820180121_154233
  26. Jordan – 2018IMG_3158.jpg
  27. N. Cyprus – 201820180403_163706.jpg
  28. Germany – 201820180422_161503.jpg
  29. Kosovo – 201820180526_131557
  30. England – 2018IMG-20180823-WA0005
  31. Ukraine – 2018img_4919
  32. Egypt – 2018IMG_20190126_202502_195

33. Denmark – 2019

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I’m anxious to see where life takes us on our next adventure.

Tissamaharama and Yala National Park

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The last leg of our Sri Lankan journey was Tissamaharama, a city in the Southern part of Sri Lanka known for its diverse wildlife.  We went there specifically for the early morning safari tour at Yala National Park, where we hoped to see some exciting animals.

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What we weren’t expecting was to see so many strange creatures wondering around the town like it was no big deal.  On our first day there, we decided to take a walk around the lakes near our hotel, and got our first glimpse of a land monitor.  At first, we thought it might be a baby crocodile (not hard to find in those lakes), but once it got closer, we realized it was a very big lizard.  They are similar to komodo dragons.

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This place gave me some serious nostalgia from my World of Warcraft days.

We woke up at 4:30 the following morning to get ready for our tour, which is really saying something about how excited I was about the safari because I despise mornings.  I had just enough time to chug some hot tea before hopping in the jeep.  I still felt pretty dead inside, but I loved driving under the stars with nobody else on the roads.

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We watched the sun rise and entered the park, eager to spot something special.  Our first sighting?  A bunch of cows hanging out in the water.

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Next, we saw a peacock dancing his ass off, trying to impress a couple of lady peacocks, neither of whom seemed very interested.

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The first few hours passed by pretty uneventfully.  We were starting to worry that we’d made a huge mistake going on the safari and wouldn’t see anything at all.  And then…

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This cute guy burst right through the trees in front of us!

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Sadly, we didn’t spot any leopards.  Our driver said it was most likely due to the heavy rainfall they had been having.

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We did, however, see this adorable family of wild pigs.

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The babies!!!

I wish we would have had a luckier day, but it was still an enjoyable morning.  It will definitely not be our last safari.

Among Mountains in Ella

DSC_0240.JPGI have mentioned recently that I love visiting beaches, oceans, and seas after having spent the majority life without easy access to such places.  Well, I am equally impressed by mountains since in addition to being water-less, Kansas is also literally flatter than a pancake.

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We arrived in Ella after an epic train journey in the middle of the pouring rain.  We could barely see where we were going as we rushed down narrow, rocky stairs to our hotel room, but once we reached shelter and were able to look at our surroundings, we knew we were in for something special. Our room was literally on the edge of a cliff with a crystal clear mountain view.

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That view, ya!

We decided to take things a bit slower in Ella since we had been rushing so much everywhere else in Sri Lanka.  We had a couple of good days with no planes, trains, or buses to catch and we took advantage of them.  The best part of each day there was waking up next to the emerald green mountains and enjoying a leisurely breakfast.

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The town itself is basically built for tourism, but not necessarily in a bad way.  It’s no surprise that such a beautiful place would attract a lot of visitors, and other than the disappointingly bland food designed to cater to the Western palate, guests and locals alike seem to enjoy Ella’s laid back vibes.

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The main item on our Ella agenda was to do some hiking.  We decided to hike Little Adam’s Peak as it seemed the most reasonable given the amount of time we had on our hands. Luck was on our side that day as it was one of the few days it did not rain while we were in Sri Lanka.  As for the hike itself…I’ll let the photos do the talking

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Moving Through Tea Country

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The central highlands of Sri Lanka are mainly famous for one thing: tea.  The frequent rainfall provides the perfect climate for production and the stunning green hills have started to draw the attention of travelers, particularly hikers and backpackers.

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We began our journey through tea country in Kandy.  Our original plan was to take the scenic train ride from Kandy down to Ella, but once we learned it would entail over eight hours on a packed train, we decided to change our plans.  Instead, we hired a driver to take us to Nuwara Eliya and then hopped on the train for the last three hours of the epic train route.

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Though it is more expensive to hire a driver than it is to go by train (about $30 vs. $1), it was well worth the extra cash for us to have a comfortable amount of space and the ability to stop along the way.  Our first stop was at a tea factory, where we were able to sea how all of the different kinds of tea are sorted and processed.  Then, we were able to do a taste testing of the teas, and of course, buy some tea to take home.  Our favorite was the strong brew of the Broken Orange Pekoe (especially with a little milk and sugar!).  We also made several stops to stroll through various tea fields and to see some waterfalls.

DSC_0141.JPGWe arrived at the Nuwara Eliya train station just in time for the 3 PM train; it was everything we’d hoped for.  We lucked out and were able to sit by one of the doorways…certainly not the safest spot, but definitely the most picturesque!  The pictures will never do it justice.  Every curve along the rail revealed a breathtaking new scene.

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When I was first doing my research for this trip, so many people talked up the long Kandy to Ella train.  Personally, I couldn’t imagine myself enjoying something like that for eight or nine hours, unless I’d booked way in advance and gotten a good seat and brought along a healthy supply of books (and snacks!).  If you want to experience the great views, but don’t want to spend all day on a slow, crowded train, definitely consider the Nuwara Eliya to Ella route.

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