It all started with a comment at a bar. Amidst a conversation about traveling, my now-husband, Mike, turned to me and said, "When I get married, I want to travel the world for a year." (We’d only been dating for a month, but I already knew where it was going.) And thus, the seed was planted.
Cut to four years later, he proposed and we started planning our adventure (oh, and a wedding, too!). Being a travel writer certainly helped make the fantasy of traveling for a year a reality. I didn’t have to report to an office and could basically frame the entire experience as research. My husband decided to take a year off from his job. Between saving up for the trip, not having to pay rent on our New York apartment, and registering for all sorts of travel stuff—from suitcases to Airbnb gift cards and airline credits—on Zola, the financial side of things came together relatively easily.
One day, Mike came home with a whiteboard and two markers—black for countries we definitely wanted to go and blue for maybe places. We quickly came to a consensus and I put all of our destinations into a spreadsheet, which evolved into our roadmap for the year ahead.
We flew from New York to Lisbon on May 19, 2019, and so began our year-long honeymoon. The trip really started off on a high note because Portugal ended up being one of our favorite places in all of Europe. From Lisbon and Porto to Comporta and Sintra, you truly can’t beat the food, wine, warm hospitality, and jaw-droppingly beautiful architecture. Plus, it’s super affordable. We also fell madly in love with the Spanish cities of Valencia and Palma.
Stockholm, Copenhagen, Bergen, Oslo—there wasn't a single place in Scandinavia we didn’t adore. Oh, and, the midnight sun is even more magical than advertised.
The fairytale quality and romance of Prague can’t be overstated. While Berlin is an exuberant, enigmatic, sprawling city that you could return to a hundred times (I hope to be so lucky!) and never even scratch the surface.
Due to the 90/180 Schengen rule (please Google it before planning a lengthy jaunt to Europe), we had to cut Greece and ended up spending over a month in Croatia. Let this be a lesson that sometimes the best-laid plans going astray can actually turn into something pretty great. We wouldn’t otherwise have had time to relish the many charms of Rovinj, Motovan, Vrbnik, Zadar, Trogir, Split, Bol, Komiza, Hvar (shout out to Palace Elizabeth!), Korčula, and Dubrovnik.
I studied abroad in Florence so it was incredible to go back with Mike (my parents also met us there) and experience the places that were so dear to me with the people I love most. Also, it’s impossible not to be overwhelmed by the magic of the city when you’re staying in a suite with spellbinding views of the Duomo at the Hotel Savoy on the Piazza della Repubblica.
After Italy, we spent a week in Tel Aviv. Not only did we fall for the vibrant, sizzling beachside city, but it was even more fun because two of our dear friends met us there, too.
South Africa was another major standout. We were enamored by the food, culture, and natural beauty of Cape Town. Outside the city, the beautiful wine region of Stellenbosh took our breath away. We worked with Scott Dunn to plan the most epic safari at Saseka Tented Camp and it was without question one of the highlights of our trip.
Our first stop in Asia, Seoul, really set the tone. It’s a vibrant, enigmatic, and sprawling metropolis that blends the past and present like few other cities. My love for Japan knows no bounds and Tokyo is hands-down my favorite city in the world. (I cried when we left!) On this trip, we also got to discover Kanazawa, which in my opinion is an overlooked gem, as well as the deliciousness of Osaka. Book a club-level room at the InterContinental Osaka and thank me later.)
I can’t quite articulate our excitement over the prospect of visiting Taipei. The mix of towering skyscrapers, centuries-old traditions, and incredible food—it certainly lived up to our expectations and then some. We also ventured to the cinematic town of Jiufen, which was remarkable even during a rainstorm.
Not a week goes by that my husband and I don’t bring up our adventures in Vietnam.
Not a week goes by that my husband and I don’t bring up our adventures in Vietnam. We reminisce about devouring crispy bánh xèo and exploring the seafood stands at the night market in Da Nang, gobbling up most delicious $3 bowls of cao lau in Hội An and drinking a refreshing passion fruit juice to stay cool as the sun beat down on us in Ho Chi Minh City.
Luang Prabang had the most beautiful light I’ve ever seen. That may sound like a weird thing to note, but when you see the morning sun reflecting off the gilded temples, it just takes your breath away. We volunteered to help teens and young adults practice English at Big Brother Mouse, which was one of the most enriching experiences of the trip. Plus, it’s hard to pass up a 60-minute couples massage with aromatherapy oil for $30.
We were in Thailand when news of COVID started to spread across Asia so Mike and I decided to skip Bangkok and head to Bali four days earlier instead. I’m so glad that we made that difficult (but what seemed safer) decision because our time doing yoga (Radiantly Alive offers the best classes and workshops on the planet), eating smoothie bowls and nasi goreng, walking through terraced rice paddies, and running through torrential downpours in Ubud is something I’ll always treasure.
While in Canggu, I was tracking the rising COVID cases in Singapore, and since the numbers in Bali remained low (or, at least, that’s what the government was reporting at the time), we decided to extend our trip another week. That gave us the opportunity to stay at the dreamy COMO Uma Canggu and go on a scooter excursion to Uluwatu Temple. We’ll get to Bangkok and Singapore eventually.
Bondi Beach was our first stop in Australia. Between the chic shops, restaurants, postcard-worthy beach, and coastal walk to Coogee, neither of us felt the need to leave. But, of course, we did and the road trip up the coast was epic. Bryon Bay ranks as another standout destination on the Aussie leg of our travels.
I remember sitting at the bar at Ovolo The Valley in Brisbane when we got a news alert that New Zealand had closed its borders. That was supposed to be the next stop on our itinerary. We turned to each other and half-jokingly said, "Well, I guess we live in Australia now." And that’s pretty much what happened: This was mid-March 2020 and all of a sudden the coronavirus went from being classified as an epidemic to a pandemic.
Mike is my person and anywhere can feel like home as long as we’re together.
We drove up to Noosa a few days later and booked an Airbnb for the next month—figured we’d see how things were in April. It’s no secret that Australia, and Queensland in particular, handled the pandemic really well, hence why we applied for a visa extension and became temporary Aussies. Over the next few months, life in our little beach town remained relatively normal. We were still cautious but did decide to do a bit of local travel. We stole away to Maleny, a quaint country town about an hour inland, for the weekend and woke to the sounds of cows mooing outside our little cabin.
In August 2020, we drove up to Harvey Bay and went whale watching—an utterly indescribable experience that I can’t recommend enough. That September, we headed to the Whitsundays for an early babymoon (did I mention I got pregnant in Australia?). If you ever get the chance to fly in a helicopter above the Great Barrier Reef, do not pass it up! We capped off our time in Australia with two weeks on the Gold Coast. None of this was planned from the onset of our trip, obviously, but I’m so grateful that we had the opportunity to live in Noosa and visit so much of Queensland as a couple.
Weird (and maybe corny) as it may sound, this trip didn’t actually teach me anything new about our relationship. It simply reaffirmed what I already knew to be true: that Mike is my person and anywhere can feel like home as long as we’re together.