OUR (ALMOST) YEARLONG HONEYMOON – WHERE, WHAT AND HOW MUCH
I’m guessing you noticed the word ’almost’, haven’t you? Damn, and I was hoping you’d miss that one.
So, if it wasn’t a year-long, what was it then?
Well, to be precise, it was a 328 days long honeymoon.
Not bad either, huh? 😊
So it’s like really kinda sorta maybe almost a year long. Let’s just call it a year long, for the sake of this blog post, ok? Cuz it sounds so much cooler, that’s why!
It’s true that we have returned home already at the end of September, but for the past three months, we have been Couchsurfing at Bojan’s parents’ house (lucky bastards, that’s what we are, since we always have a place to crash back home) and did a few trips already.
For instance, we went on a short Italian road trip immediately after we returned, and we have spent most of December visiting Christmas markets in Croatia, Austria and Switzerland (Try to guess who’s a sucker for Christmas markets?! Spoiler: me, obviously. Bojan’s just so nice that he keeps with my “jingle bells BS” from the middle of November well into January).
Anyhow, got a little carried away here. The point is, we were still here and there, our boxes with stuff from our previous apartment were still unpacked and we were just a “let me pack my bag in 5 minutes” away from perhaps buying another plane ticket and doing it all over again.
But reality struck.
You know, the one in the shape of an empty bank account.
Yikes, that one hurts. Can somebody please explain to me why that thing called money keeps disappearing faster than a snowman in a desert?
So, Bojan got a “real job” that he is actually pretty enthusiastic about (That’s what my parents call it, cuz, “blogging isn’t a job obviously”, mind you. Also my parents’ words.). If you haven’t figured it out by now, here it is: He likes to travel – especially when some kind of adventure is involved – but he loves Slovenia even more.
So, after a year of non-stop travel, it was time to get a “base”, cuz, you know – relationships are about compromises and all that (sighs). Instead of scrapping a few thousand bucks and hitting the road again (yes, yes, that’d be my dream, you guessed it), we rented a place and have just moved in. We have finally unpacked everything and kind of settled in.
And this (at least to me) somewhat feels like the “real end” of the amazing year we’d had. I’m not too miserable (says when she secretly wipes her nose with a sleeve) cuz I am looking forward to new adventures which lay ahead (like this blog, duh!). And to top it off, Bojan will travel due to work quite a lot, which I find as a great bonus since we can join him with our dog on his business trips.
Travel AND money? Ok, perhaps that’s a win-win, really. 😀
And by the way, I am still secretly plotting to repeat this adventure once we buy a van somewhen in the future. Will let you know guys, when I manage to achieve that he’ll think it was actually all his idea in the first place. 😉
Now, where were we? Yes, at our yearlong honeymoon, which has officially ended.
And now, perhaps, it is finally time to look back and put together a few (ok, hundreds) of memories and certain numbers (For the ones wondering, yes, we have spent more than we anticipated we would. But we’ll come to that later.).
Now, are you ready? Ok, cool. Let me tell you a thing or ten about our yearlong honeymoon.
By the way, make yourself cozy, this article is another in a series of a-glass-of-wine-long ones.
SOME QUICK STATS FOT THE NUMBER-OBSESSED GEEKS
Days on the road: 328
Continents we’ve been to: 3 (South America, Oceania, Asia)
Countries we’ve been to (including just for transit): 16 (Cuba, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia)
Countries we actually explored: 13
Maximum days we have stayed in one country: 105 (Chile)
Places we have been to: 136 (Damn, didn’t know there were so many!)
Countries we now have a place to crash in since we made friends from there: 6 (Yaaass! Super important.)
Means of transport: 8 (rental car, bus, plane, chicken bus, minibus a.k.a. collectivo, truck, van, motorcycle)
Flights we took: 11 (Happy that number is so low! Besides the fact that they aren’t super eco-friendly, I really don’t like flying. It’s simple. I don’t mind dying one day, I’d just prefer not to be there when it happens.)
Types of accommodation we stayed in: 6 (casas particulares, Airbnb apartments, hostels, hotels, cottages, van)
Border crossings (overland): 18 (with Chile-Argentina border being a winner with 9 crossings. Yep, we are kinda experts on it.)
Nights we have slept in our van: around 80 (less than we’d want, due to cold and rainy weather in Patagonia and not-so-safe city wild camping in Bolivia and Peru)
Unpleasant experience: 3 (Nothing serious though, and NO robberies!)
Bribes we had to pay: 1
Visits to the mechanic: 6 (including the one before we hit the road with our beloved Pisco and when we sold it)
Times we got sick (not counting all the not-so-firm poop in Bolivia & Peru):
Bojan – at least 6 times a sore throat/coughing/runny nose, 2 times mild food poisoning
Sandra – 1 severe food poisoning (ER visit and all that), 2 times mild food poisoning, 2 times sore throat
Fun fact: every time we returned to Santiago, we got slightly sick. I guess air pollution is a thing there.
Average number of showers per week while overlanding: 2
Ruins we have visited: Enough that we were ruined out.
Dives we did: 9 (Not nearly enough! Not happy with that stat. But we did dive in one of the top ten wrecks in the world in Bali so that counts for something.)
Lakes that we have seen: I stopped counting at 27.
Times I’ve felt something is overpriced: Every day for 10 months until we went to Asia. 😀
Amount of pasta we ate: I’m afraid to even think about it. Hello, talking to a pasta monster here.
Stray dogs cuddled cuz we missed Nano: Hundreds. Countless. Hostel/Airbnb having a pet was a real game-winner.
WHAT WE HAVE BEEN DOING THESE 328 DAYS?
Sure, we kept you updated on Facebook and Instagram (more or less successfully), but we stopped writing blog posts around 4 months into our yearlong honeymoon, cuz, well… we have been writing the bilingual blog and it was just F***ING too much.
It wasn’t fun anymore.
Searching for internet most of the days, endlessly worrying how to balance work-play time…Ah-ah. It was our honeymoon, after all.
So, we have decided to just keep our family and friends posted by our mildly-entertaining adventures and failures and throw a useful blog post or two in between. All in Slovenian. (I can imagine no one would want to read Google-translated articles. I mean, Google, no offence, you’re my man, but translating… Well, you’ve got some room for improvement there.)
Buuut…we did make some vlogs! Feel free to check our Youtube channel. (Please, check it out!! You’ll make Bojan happy and when he is happy, I get plane tickets, so…please, help me?!)
So, that’s what our yearlong honeymoon looked like:
OUR YEARLONG HONEYMOON: A “SHORT” SUMMARY
It all started with all kinds of one-way tickets. Namely, with the first ones we »purchased« when Bojan popped the question, and then one-way plane tickets to Cuba just a few months after that.
We knew we wanted to focus on Latin America so we did what all backpackers do – we waited to find the best deal. And it came for sure, thank Skyscanner-god. We managed to find direct plane tickets from Milano to Cuba for 250$ each!
Now, the fact that on the first day of our honeymoon we nearly didn’t make it to Cuba, is… well, very us.
ACT 1/4: Backpacking
We mistakenly thought CUBA is also great for a first stop since it’s in the Caribbean and therefore sounds like a real honeymoon destination.
Man, how wrong we were.
In the end, we spent only two days in Varadero and even regretted it since it was so different from the other – for us much better – parts of Cuba. Instead, we spent days exploring the charming city of Havana, horse-riding around Vinales, learning salsa in Trinidad and above all, spent long evenings without internet (yes, such places in the world exist), sitting in rocking chairs on squeaky porches of Casas particulares, wolfing down enormous amounts of home-made food and chatting with locals about life. And that’s why we fell in love with Cuba. Cuz of its amazing people.
Since there was so much talk about how expensive Cuba is, we only planned two weeks there. And since you need a visa and an ongoing ticket out of Cuba to enter the country at all, we couldn’t just prolong it, so we continued to Mexico.
By the way, that was about all we considered for our “yearlong honeymoon planning”. Two plane tickets and then… we’ll see what happens. 😀
Fun fact: Cuba was one of the countries where we spent the least money.
We also started blogging at that time and looking back on those posts… Er, let’s just say some serious editing needs to be done. Young and enthusiastic and without a clue. 🙂
Ah, MEXICO! Besides seeing (too many) ruins and realizing that a Slovenian taco is a completely different thing than a Mexican one (for starters, no intestines and brains in Slovenian ones), we discovered delicious mezcal (tequila, go home, mezcal is our friend now!), learned to surf in Puerto Escondido and got our PADI certificate in Cozumel!
While we loved the capital and the colonial towns Oaxaca and San Cristobal and jumped in as many cenotes as we could, Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun left a meek impression. It’s not that it was bad, it’s just we aren’t made for mass tourism with enormous hotels, loud beach clubs and Instagram stars posing with their 20$ (I can’t believe it is so cheap, she giggled) smoothie.
Just before New Year, we left Mexico (read more about the ghastly border crossing tax scam here!), went through Belize to GUATEMALA, another country that we want to return to one day. Jungle forests and a sort of magical lake Atitlan, where we simply relaxed for a week were great, but Antigua is the one that won our hearts! Not to mention we saw lava with our own eyes in Guatemala for the first time in our lives! (Here’s our 2-week itinerary if you are interested.)
I think I was more excited than an over-excited puppy who gets a treat AND a toy at the same time. Thank god I didn’t pee myself as well.
We only spent a week in EL SALVADOR, mostly to figure out what to do next and drink all the smoothies in the surfer town of El Tunco.
By that time we had already decided that we wanted our own car to explore South America so we tried to do some planning.
Better late than never, right?
Loving the freedom a rental/your own vehicle gives you, we rented a car to explore NICARAGUA. Oh, what a cute tiny green bug that was. Like a “Cucaracha”. We named it Fernando. Fernando took us from the hot white Leon (where we went sand-boarding down the ACTIVE volcano!) to the lovely (but half-deserted of tourists) Granada. We peeked into the Masaya volcano crater to be almost face-to-face with the growling and bubbling lava and drove along the tiny roads where only cows were mooing hellos. An hour-long ferry ride to the Ometepe island seemed like an eternity and gave us a series of mini heart-attacks when Fernando was squeezed between two trucks on a tiny wannabe-ferry and with each incline of the deck trucks almost fell on it.
All we did in that hour was count if we’d have enough money to return home if we’d have to pay to replace the rental car. But Fernando made it without a scratch! And days in a tiny treehouse at the island, chatting with locals about what happened in Nicaragua last year (sad, sad story, …) were one of our favourites, once again. (Heading to Nicaragua? Check our travel tips .)
A quick stop in San Jose, capital of COSTA RICA and then a new adventure was waiting for us, way more south…
ACT 2/4: Vanlife
We landed in Santiago (CHILE) where we spent a month in a cute Airbnb apartment, lucky enough to pet-sit the owner’s Frenchie from time to time, and I worked on our (Slovenian) blog almost every day. We were waiting for our van to come back from Patagonia and then the process of buying a car in Chile took two weeks. We named it Pisco.
But after that, Pisco was ready to hit the road!
It was already the middle of the March, so we knew autumn (read: occasional rain and a lot of cold weather) was waiting for us, but we were extremely excited nonetheless!
Our first stops were National park Siete Tazas in Chile and the lake district. After a successful first border crossing, we were left in awe of the beauty of Ruta de 7 Lagos and the city of Bariloche. But we had to continue south, through the hippy town of Bolson and eventually all the way to the other side of ARGENTINA. Near the Atlantic coast, we were hanging out with thousands of penguins and sea lions (for free, that is!) and met a couple from the USA (traveling in the same type of van as Pisco!). They became our best travel companions in the following months.
At the beginning of April, we reached the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia. Oh, we had so much fun there! We even got caught in a snowstorm during a hike (er – nope, it didn’t seem so much fun to me then :D). Since we were frozen and totally soaked, this was the first time that we rented a cottage and our Pisco waited for us outside. Imagine – warm wooden cottage, crackling fire in the fireplace and good company. Needless to say, we did repeat this quite a few times during our time in Patagonia. 😉
We explored Chilean Tierra del Fuego, where wind and abandoned ghost towns dominated the scenery and visited Punta Arenas where I couldn’t believe half of the things were connected to Croatia and its immigrants (if you’re wondering where Croatia is, it is our neighbour country).
And then Torres del Paine! I was slightly reluctant to go since it is so popular and I don’t like super popular places, but in autumn there really weren’t any crowds! We made it to the Base de las Torres and did a bunch of short hikes and we loved it – even us, who definitely prefer going downhill with bikes.
The Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina left us speechless with its vastness (a note to other glaciers: Sorry, you stand no chance now.) and El Chalten served with a few more dandy hikes.
After that, it was time for a special adventure – driving the famous Carretera Austral! A more-than-not unpaved road that stretches along 1000 miles of Chilean Patagonia. Stunning raw nature – fjords, woods, lakes, mountains, steppes, tropical forests… and a lot of rain, drinking nights in vans and one serious food poisoning. 😀 This was one damn good trip! Except for that week on the toilet. Duh.
Going back to Santiago, Valdivia (the beer capital of Chile!) was a pleasant surprise and long stretches of sandy Pacific beaches reminded us why we wanted to buy a van in the first place – to sit by the ocean on a warm day and perfect the art of doing nothing.
But we’ve got plans! A plane from Santiago took us to my ultimate bucket list destination – Easter Island. 6 days there literally felt like paradise.
After that, we crossed the Andes again and drowned our sorrow of leaving the paradise island in many glasses of Malbec in Mendoza. I can now pompously declare we have found our new favourite sort of wine. (Btw, did you know wine is incredibly cheap in Chile and Argentina? Maybe I should move there.)
The journey through northern Argentina was full of oohs-and-aahs, since we’ve never seen anything like that before! You know the Grand Canyon in the USA? Well, then you’ll understand. Couple that with a wine route, national parks with dinosaurs’ fossils, colonial Salta and rainbow mountains and you’ll quickly understand why this part of Argentina became our favourite place in South America. And due to juicy steaks, Bojan is all in for going back again!
The first days of BOLIVIA served us with police threating to imprison us, food poisoning and Pisco stuck in the middle of a river. Basically, she showed us she is not the country to be fooled around with. 😀 But as soon as we overcame this warm hello (er, actually it was below-zero), the real beauty unfolded in front of us. A starry sky with the bright Milky Way stretching from one to the other horizon, the endless whiteness of Salar de Uyuni (where we spent three days perfecting that doing-nothing thing) and herds of fluffy alpacas. That’s what we were here for!
And despite a shocking experience inside the operating silver mines in Potosi (you know, when dynamite is being casually exploded a hundred yards away) and countless bags of coca leaves we had to chew to overcome altitude sickness (who am I kidding – we didn’t really overcome it, like, ever) we enjoyed the Bolivian Altiplano to the fullest!
Cheap meals, white streets of (finally warm!) Sucre, the thrill of speeding down the Death Road (finally on our bikes, yey!) and TWO (!!) Harry Potter-themed cafes in La Paz made us almost forget that it is difficult to breathe even when laying down. Oh, but La Paz helped extra with this by having one of the coolest public transport systems in the world – a bunch of funiculars going all around the enormous basin in which millions of buildings are squeezed next to each other. Chillaxin’ at Copacabana perfectly rounded up a month in a country that has so much to offer if you care to look under its rough surface.
At this point we already knew that our original idea to go all the way to Colombia and back in 6 months was, to put it mildly, overly optimistic. And we missed hot weather, swimsuits and nasi goreng. Therefore, we crossed the border to Peru where it was time to say goodbye see you later to our friends and Pisco’s brother-from-another-mother, Furgonito. The USA may be a long way from Slovenia, but this won’t stop us! (if all goes as planned, we will see each other again soon 😉).
Then I dragged Bojan to the charming Islas Flotantes near Puno (in PERU) to show him what I loved about them 10 years ago (My first big travel was 2 months in Peru which nearly gave my mum a heart attack).
The clock was ticking, so we finally left the high altitudes and bags of coca leaves behind and we descended once again to the Pacific coast. We crossed the border for the last time with Pisco and drove along Northern Chile where we slept every night at a new (and even more stunning than the previous one) sandy beach with a million-dollar view.
Sadly, we ran out of time to visit San Pedro de Atacama (but we did see a lot of similar landscapes in those months) and observatories near Selena were closed for a few days in a row while we were there (now I have to go back, to cross this off my bucket list. How terrible, right? 😉). Our last stop before returning once again to Santiago was Elqui Valley including a village called Pisco Elqui.
Pisco came to Pisco. Now, who could imagine a better finish for this grand adventure?
I didn’t cry at all (Yeah, right.) when Pisco got new owners, an amiable Japanese couple.
ACT 3/4: Around the World
We had an idea to go all around the Blue Marble, right? So, here we were, finally changing continents. We thought to go directly to Asia at first but quickly realized that all planes go through Australia or NEW ZELAND. Since the latter was on our bucket list for a long time, we went into a “f*** it, we’ll find the money somehow” mode and decided to see at least the Northern Island this time.
We landed in Auckland where we were joined by my brother (who came to New Zealand two weeks earlier and explored the Southern Island) and once again hit the road. This time with a rented car.
I gotta tell you, at this point, I am super proud of myself – from being a person, disastrous at planning ANYTHING in advance, this yearlong honeymoon taught me that SOMETIMES it is good to plan at least a bit. And I got slightly better at it (In theory I like to think a lot better, but for real…slightly). So, we did see a lot and went to many places in our 12-day Northern Island road trip.
And I finally got to go to Hobbitland and It was great! But really, I am still Harry Potter’s number one fan. Read all the books during this trip. For the, er, let’s say 5th time. (No, I won’t give you an actual number, you may not come back again.)
ACT 4/4: The Real Honeymoon
Wait, you went on a yearlong honeymoon and you are telling me you haven’t really been on one?
Well, kind of. 😛 I mean, it has all been a real honeymoon(s), but – with carrying backpacks, sleeping in hostels and bushes, counting dollars more than a few times, eating pasta, …and all that.
So, we saved the “honeymoon destination” for the grand finale.
I was in BALI 6 years ago and I fell for it badly. Like tens of thousands of other people. Not for the roaring Kuta and not for the cheesy Sanur but for Ubud, for culture, for rice fields and for food. And I said then (not knowing Bojan yet), if I ever marry, I wanna go back to Gili Meno for a honeymoon.
Didn’t really think for real that one would turn out so well. 😀
So, the last month of our yearlong honeymoon we spent in the swimming pool of our tiny villa in the midsts of rice fields, wolfing down delicious food and hipster-looking-coffees too many times per day, getting tons of massages, exploring less-known spots with a motorbike, diving in Ahmed and basically did what tourists usually do. We even celebrated our first wedding anniversary there! (Now, that has a cool ring to it – already celebrating our 1st anniversary and still on the honeymoon 😀 )
Funny, Gili Meno turned out to be a slight disappointment in the end since the island is almost deserted (and spooky to some extent) due to an earthquake in 2018 (another sad, sad story). Instead, Gili Air became my new favourite out of these 3 little brothers.
Also, I cried. I cried a lot. On a honeymoon, can you imagine? 😀 I am such a sucker for Bali, I can easily imagine living there a couple of months per year.
But we promised ourselves when we left, that we would return by Nano’s next birthday. So, we had to say DEFINITELY see you later to Bali and made a last stop for a few days in Kuala Lumpur. To see MALAYSIA once more, to get the Island of Gods out of our minds (duh, like this is possible at all) and because it was cheaper than flying home straight from Bali. Remember, we are supposed to be budget travelers. 😉
After 328 days we landed in Vienna. We circled the Blue Marble.
Now, are you still with me?? I can’t believe it.
I do think you deserve another glass of wine now.
HOW MUCH DID OUR YEARLONG HONEYMOON COST?
Straight back to reality. It’s all about money in the end.
So, how much did our yearlong honeymoon cost?
It wasn’t that expensive, but it wasn’t that cheap either.
Mind you, Bojan proposed in April 2018 and we got married in August, then left Slovenia at the beginning of November. This means, besides starting to save every penny after we decided to go on a yearlong honeymoon, we also had to pay for a wedding. We planned to have a modest and simple wedding anyway, but we wanted to throw one hell of a party. So, I spent most of my afternoons in those months on eBay and on DIY projects. 😛
But we did come up with a clever idea. We asked our guests; instead of bringing us sets of towels and plates (which we couldn’t put in a non-existent house/apartment anyway), to contribute to our honeymoon. It was a very clever idea. 😉
After that, we simply calculated how much money we had in our savings account and sold one car to add some extra. We decided that when we returned, we should have enough savings to live comfortably for 6 months or so.
Wonder how this turned out?
We spent all our budget and some more, of course. 😀
Hey, we bought a van in between, remember? 😛 And a few plane tickets were hideously expensive. Oh, and we just had to go to New Zealand, there was no other way around. And we did have some crazy spending days, like when we went skiing in the Andes for a day and spent 250$ for it. 😀
This, and probably hundreds of other little things summed up the final number, which was way over the planned one.
After all, we f***ed up already at the beginning, naively taking into calculation the average yearly budget for backpacking in Asia.
In Asia, man! As in Latin America would be anything like Asia (facepalm).
So, here it is…
Including all plane tickets, car expenses, regular expenses (like phones, bank accounts, etc) and everything else, we have spent … around 36.000$.
Now, for many, this wouldn’t be a lot. Actually, it’s probably even less than we normally spend in a year, traveling just now and then. But for us, this was 8000$ more than we anticipated at the beginning. 😀
After this, Bojan’s “real job” makes a lot of sense at the moment. 😛
Now, we did a budget breakdown for every country on our Slovenian blog, but here we only managed to write about the budget in Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua before we decided on the “vlog instead of blog” thing.
So, let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in a budget breakdown for a yearlong honeymoon or for other specific countries!
Your wish is my command (in an Aladdin’s Genie voice).
Lol, didn’t think I’d ever say this. I guess there are times and places in this world for my silly wannabe-jokes after all.
See, we didn’t miss his birthday!
Anyhow, let’s finish this super long post with something other than numbers…
TOP 5 EXPERIENCES FROM OUR YEARLONG HONEYMOON
Now, I have already said that I’m a sucker for Bali. So, however cliché it may be, I loved our time there. “Eat, Pray, SPA, Love”, yep, that’s my thing. There’s no such thing as one massage too much. And one can’t get enough of colorful Nemos and lush green rice fields. By one, I mean me, obviously.
After this, it gets harder! We have been to so many places, seen so many things, done a lot of crazy stuff and met so many amazing people!
And also, I have incredible difficulties with deciding about anything. (Ask Bojan. He dreads the moment when he asks me what I’d like to eat.)
But, for the sake of this post, here are 4 others…
Hiking Pacaya volcano in Guatemala, where we saw lava for the first time and even baked munchmallows in it.
Easter Island. The magic of the place itself.
The art of doing nothing at Salar de Uyuni.
Seeing mantas for the first time while diving in Mexico.
The headline of this part was originally “Top 3 experiences”. But, being me, I just couldn’t narrow it down to 3. 😀
Bojan, well, he doesn’t have problems with deciding.
What do you want to eat? Pizza.
Where do you want to go tomorrow? On that hill nearby with a bike.
What are your top 5 experiences from our yearlong honeymoon?
- Mountain biking in Oaxaca, Mexico
- Silver mine in Bolivia
- Salar de Uyuni
- Mountain biking Death Road
- Argentinian steak
(and that was shot out without thinking)
See, that’s how easy it was for him. Maybe it has something to do with him being a guy?!
(He says No, it has something to do with being you, Sandra. Oh, bummer. 😊)
Ok, I hope you enjoyed reading this short (ehm) summary of our yearlong honeymoon at least half as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
It did perhaps take me a bit more time (er, and a few glasses of wine more), but reminiscing about all those great memories is like reliving it all once again!
And if you now feel inspired to do something like this as well – I’d suggest you start with, let’s say, leaving a computer on with this post on display, so your better-half can’t miss it when they pass by.
Or just “casually” mention to them, while watching TV in the evening: I read this hilarious blog today about a couple who went on a yearlong honeymoon. How wild is that?? Ya know, strictly casual.
You never know, it just might happen that a year or two later you’ll be married, going on a yearlong honeymoon.
Trust me, I can tell you firsthand, the strategy works. 😉
Thanks again my darlings, for keeping up with us! New stories and travel itineraries from this yearlong honeymoon are coming live in the next few months and I sure do hope you’ll stick around. 😊
And for now, don’t forget to pin this for later…you know, for the “casual conversation moments”. 😛