Today is a fun coincidence for us. It’s our 9 year anniversary and it’s our 9 month – and last – anniversary on the road. In 12 short days we’ll be boarding a plane back to Chicago. Although we originally planned to travel for a year, due to some family issues, our time will be better spent at home than it will be on the road. It’s a shorter time spent exploring the world but it’s nothing we are disappointed about. For the last few weeks we have been reflecting about all the fun we have had during the past 9 months and have come up with a fun list of some of our favorite memories. In honor of our 9 year anniversary, this list will focus on memories we have shared together. We hope you enjoy reading about them as much as we enjoyed experiencing them.
In chronological order, here are 9 of our favorite memories.
1. Tested by a 7-Year-Old
Waaaay back in November, after a couple of weeks of Spanish school, we returned to our homestay and took a pop quiz administered by our 7-year-old “little sister.” We had to draw animals, translate from Spanish to English, and identify caterpillars. One of us passed, but both of us got a huge kick out of it. It was probably the single highlight of our very memorable three-week stay with our host family, although we do still crave Abuela’s cooking.
2. Toasting Machu Picchu
Our whole Machu Picchu hike was memorable, but one small moment stands out. After three tough days of hiking our guide our porters surprised us with a fruited tea drink to which we added some whiskey for a delicious hot toddy-ish drink. That we were able to enjoy this treat on ancient Inca ruins while watching the sun set was just the icing on the cake. This just beat out watching the clouds part above Machu Picchu which lets you know just how perfect that nightcap was.
3. Feliz Navidad
During our trip we were fortunate to get visits from friends and family from home. The first visitors showed up exactly when we most needed it and long before we assumed it would be necessary. In Salta, Argentina, we teared up at Christmas carols. In Cordoba, Argentina, we looked through damp eyes at Christmas displays. In Buenos Aires, we got my parents as a gift. It was the perfect timing. We hit a travel wall early and their visit pushed us through it. We got to make a full Christmas dinner for the first time in the tiniest kitchen imaginable. Beef tenderloin, empanadas, guacamole, tomato and cucumber salad, and spinach squares. It was a true feast. It even included great games – especially a game of Heads Up that will live in infamy.
4. Lunch on a Glacier
During our hiking binge in Patagonia we ate lunch in some impossibly beautiful places, but nothing beats our lunch on the middle of Perito Moreno glacier. We lucked out with a spectacularly clear, pleasant day to frolic on a glacier and didn’t waste a second. Fake ice pick fights, jumping over glacier rivers in our crampons, seeing sinkholes full of immaculate water, and peeking into glacier caves. Having our traditional hike lunch of salami sandwiches and apples sitting on the edge of a glacier lake looking up at jagged, snow-capped mountains was the unquestioned highlight, though.
5. A Friendly Ranger, A Delicious Meal, and a Rain Storm
Hiking the W in Torres del Paine was probably our favorite activity of the whole 9 months, so picking one moment from that hike was tough. Don’t worry, we managed. When we arrived at our second campsite, Italiano, we were greeted by a ranger who offered us hot chocolate in exchange for some English practice. Obviously, we accepted immediately and had a nice conversation with him with us speaking Spanish and him speaking English. Afterward, I made us a dinner that we ended up thoroughly enjoying: pasta with canned tuna and green Tabasco sauce and glacier water to drink. Glacier water! We still fantasize about it today. That night, we huddled together in our tiny little tent while it got pelted with rain and woke up in a huge mud pit. And we still loved it!
6. Elite 8
Anna’s parents made a Herculean effort to come visit us in late March/early April with two of her aunts and a cousin. We had an amazing time showing them around Buenos Aires, translating menus, digging up ice cream places, and generally introducing them to the city. As it happened, during their stay our alma mater, Dayton, made an incredibly improbable and hugely enjoyable run to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament. We followed the first game on an iPhone when they beat Ohio State. When they beat Syracuse, we had just finished a delicious asado and hugged each other to celebrate. Thanks to Anna’s parents and relatives collective support we got to watch Dayton thump Stanford in the Sweet 16 at an expat bar in Buenos Aires.
For their Elite 8 game against Florida we rigged the tv at Anna’s parents’ apartment to show the game that we found streaming online and ordered pizza and empanadas. Although Dayton lost we had a blast watching the game with supportive family and good food. If your team is going to go on an incredible basketball run I highly recommend having family around to share it with you.
7. Last Meal in Argentina
We spent nearly 3 months in Argentina and it seems to have seeped into our blood. Since we left in mid-April we have found ourselves missing Argentina (and Buenos Aires specifically) surprisingly often. On our last night in Buenos Aires we ate a meal that perfectly encapsulated much of what we enjoyed about staying in that wonderful city. We prepared the meal ourselves in our rented apartment, which was a wonderful way to travel in Buenos Aires. We spent most of our month in Buenos Aires in rented apartments and it lent our stay a much more local-feeling flavor. We got to know our butcher, which cafés and restaurants we favored, how to shop for groceries in the various kiosks and supermarkets, and how to navigate such a sprawling city. We ate steak and potatoes and drank Argentinian wine and shared the table with our good luck charm, Piggy. It was the perfect way to talk about everything we experienced in South America and what we were hoping to experience in South Africa. Sometimes a simple thing can create a strong memory.
8. Baby Elephant Walk
Our safari would be the only activity that might top our W Trek. We knew it would be a special experience right away, as our first game drive landed us in the middle of a herd of elephants. Our guide spotted some elephants off to one side and immediately swung our vehicle in the opposite direction. While we were stuttering confusedly about the sudden and odd change of direction, we cleared a treeline and were surrounded by elephants of all ages, including one baby they estimated to be only a couple of days old! One elephant objected to our presence by staring us down and then a couple of days later charging at us, but aside from him it was a peaceful group. A memorable start to an incredible experience.
9. Cooking Class in Hoi An
Our first morning in Hoi An, Vietnam was boring enough. We got up and chatted a bit. We sat down for breakfast at our homestay. Our host mother told us that she was teaching a cooking class starting with a market trip at 9:30 a.m. Were we interested? Sure! A couple hours later we had visited the local market, purchased rice paper, shrimp, veggies, and fruit. Lucky for us our co-chefs were our host mothers’ friends/sisters/relatives (they were running a guesthouse because they wanted to take care of people after the son went to university), and terrific cooks. We made spring rolls that would melt your mouth with a British couple who we got along with immediately. Now we know how to make spring rolls and how to use fish sauce correctly. Wins all around!