A year in the life of the Jill and Richard

So when we started this leg of the journey, we set off from Brisbane on the 6th of December 2022. We have now ticked over a full year away and it seems like a good time to reflect on what we have done in this time away.

To start with, lets look at where we slept during those 365 days:

We were lucky enough to be able to stay with family and friends for a bit over a month of the time away, while two months were spent on cruise ships of various types. There were 83 hotels or hostels that housed us for 253 days. The remainder was spent in typically uncomfortable trains or on overnight flights.

In moving about to see stuff we travelled around on planes, trains and automobiles. Ignoring the little commute stuff around town we travelled enough by plane to almost circle the earth 3 times, we sat on trains enough to cross America ( or Australia and a bit eat to west), and we rode buses for almost the entire length of the east coast of Australia.

Having done this we then move on to what we saw along the way. We were able to visit 56 different countries or territories and visited or slept in 127 different cities. To do this we needed to access and use 33 different currencies.

The first thing that we did was to leave Brisbane and head to Sydney where we joined up with the cruising crew and took an Australian cruise that saw us in Sydney, Hobart and Adelaide with a side trip up the hills to Hahndorf. From here we headed to Perth (via Melbourne) and up to our block of land at Jurien Bay (I had bought it and Jill never even saw it so we went for a looky loo).

Leaving Australia we transited through Kuala Lumpur on our way to a leisurely month spent kicking Back in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Here we climbed up and down temples and just generally relaxed while Jill got destressed after her year of working.

After my time in Emu Park, I was already pretty chill.

Keeping up the relaxed pace we headed to Thailand for a general poke around. Having done southern Thailand and the beaches before we decided to head up north into the mountains.

From here we went to the Philippines for another month. It was our first port of call when we took off last time but we really only saw Manila and the Taal Volcano. So this time we thought we would do it properly, bouncing around several of the islands and taking in many of the sights. What our month in the Philippines told us was that we need to come back and we need more time.

From the Philippines we headed to Vietnam for a yet another month where we took in the cities of Ho Chi Minh, Danang, Cham Island, Hanoi, Cat Ba Island and of course Ha Long Bay. We caught up with old friends, met new ones and revisited some old favourites and got to share our love for the place to some who had never been before.

The next thing was a quick 4 day cruise around Asia, leaving from Singapore and touching upon Penang in Malaysia and Phuket in Thailand before returning back to Singapore. Doing an Asian cruise was a very new experience for us. Usually the bars and pool decks are packed but not on an Asian cruise. The Casino on the other hand is standing room only.

Our next stop along the way was the Maldives. Oh my lord, what an amazing place to be. The colours of the ocean were truly awesome and the swimming and snorkelling was something to behold. Our trip saw us here during Ramadan so we had an alcohol free fortnight. Importantly, this was the place that saw my stupid ass jump in the water with about 25-30 sharks with the biggest one being around 3.5 meters.

Malaysia was next. This is a regular transit point for us and Penang is one of my favourite cities on the planet. But this time around we got off the beaten path and explored a little more widely than usual. This broader exploration saw us taking in Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Tioman Island, Kuantan, Jerteh, Pulua Perhentian, and Kuala Besut.

We swam, we snorkelled, we ate amazing Malaysian food and had a very leisurely month kicking back. It is a good thing that we did as this marked the end of our relaxation. We popped home briefly (to satisfy a travel insurance requirement) and we entered into the whirlwind that was to be our European leg.

A monster flight took us from Australia to the Greek capital of Athens where we took in the sights for about a week before hitting the Greek islands of Syros, Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, Santorini, and Crete. Our month in Greece was amazing taking in the history, scenery and food. Sadly, the usual tourist spots (Mykonos and Santorini) were our least favourite. Granted they are beautiful, but the volume of ignorant tourists (yes I see the irony) are ruining them.

Next was the Czech Republic, a place I had been to before and thought Jill would love. And I was not wrong. We spent a fantastic week wandering around the city of Prague taking in the castles, churches and the huge abundance of statues. Not to mention being able to sample some of the best beers on the planet.

From Prague we did one of what would be many stops into the Netherlands (more specifically Amsterdam) as this became our European transit hub. The reason for the first visit was to board a cruise ship to Iceland that would also take in Northern Ireland, England, Ireland and deliver us back in the Netherlands.

Coming from Australia, Iceland is possibly the most different place that you can visit, which was the attraction. Waterfalls, glaciers, volcanos, the Northern lights…why would you not want to come here. And we loved it. Apart from being brutally expensive, the place was fantastic and we are both so glad that we made it.

The other stops on the cruise took us to Northern Ireland, England (Liverpool) and Ireland (Cork/Cobh). They were not our main goals but we still got to see some iconic tourist attractions that included popping in to the Giants Causeway.

After the cruise it was back to Amsterdam to transit to journey on to Hamburg Germany to catch up with family. This was an amazing time catching up with my cousins and spending quality time together.

Sadly, my cousin Uwe was taken by cancer a few weeks later, but our memories are of a great fortnight hanging, laughing, eating and seeing the sights of northern Germany. Our arrival saw the whole family getting together and spending quality time with Uwe in his last month. If nothing else, our memory of him was great times, fun and laughter. And we are both glad we got to spend this time with him.

And just as importantly, the rest of the family could not have been more welcoming, friendly or generous. A great time was had. We even got to do a day trip up to Denmark taking in two more cities and adding a tick box to my countries visited list.

At this point, we did the inconceivable and flew almost 7,700 kilometres from Europe to Vancouver in Canada.

The reason for this was to meet up for Claudia’s 50th birthday celebration. This celebration would involve great friends taking a cruise from Alaska down to Vancouver in Canada.

But if we were here, we were going to see as much as we could. So Vancouver was first. This is one of the world’s best harbour cities. Even taking in the Sydney example, Vancouver offers at least as much and possibly even more. We met new friends and were treated to some views of the city from the water thanks to Paul and Francesca.

From Vancouver it was up to Anchorage Alaska where we would spend a few days before training on to Seward to catch the cruise ship back to Vancouver. Once on the ship we headed to and stopped at the Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, Skagway, Haines, Icy Straight Point, Ketchikan, and the Inside Passage before being delivered back in Vancouver.

On this cruise, in Alaska and the various ports we for to see moose, bears, and eagles at almost every turn. Add to this the stunning scenery, rivers, lakes, glaciers, mountains and harbours. You are virtually guaranteed to have good time, and having done on of these trips, we would both happily do another.

After the cruise was a few more days in Vancouver seeing the bits that we missed and then another 7,700km flight back to Amsterdam to begin what was to be the biggest whirlwind trip that we have ever done. Starting in the EU we raced through eastern Europe at a pace that left us and our poor readers heads spinning.

In the 44 days from 19 July to 31 August we were to go to 20 different countries, visiting 29 different cities. It started on trains until they ran out and we then found ourselves on buses and just generally making a mess of the map and my poor little mind while I tried to work out where I was and where I had been.

In this period we went to:

The Netherlands – Amsterdam

Belgium – Ghent and Bruges

Luxembourg – Luxembourg

Switzerland – Zurich and Sargens

Lichtenstein – Vaduz and Balzers

Austria – Vienna

Slovakia – Bratislava

Hungary – Budapest

Slovenia – Ljubljana

Croatia – Zagreb, Knin, Split and Dubrovnik

Bosnia and Herzegovina – Jablanica and Sarajevo

Serbia – Belgrade

Romania – Bucharest

Moldova – Chisinau

Bulgaria – Sofia

North Macedonia – Skopje

Kosovo  – Pristina

Montenegro – Podgorica, Kotor and Budva

Albania – Tirana

Greece – Athens

While we saw all of the tourist sights, we saw them at a pace that made it almost impossible to keep track of what it was that we saw and often even where we were.

We saw thousands of years of European history and evolution. We wandered in and out of various Old Towns around the continent and observed the remnants of the flow of conquering civilisations and the effects that they had on the landscapes, cultures and food across the region.

Thanks to the Romans and the Turks it is virtually impossible to find a nation that does not sell pizza, pasta and kebabs as one of their staple foods.

And statues, so many statues.

The sheer number of statues of all shapes and sizes, honouring every national hero or contributor to national identity.

They were everywhere and had us researching and reading about a bunch of people that we had never heard of before.

We saw so many castles, churches, forts, cathedrals, galleries, edifices and amazing architecture that our heads just swam. We walked through slums and palaces, inner city squares, parks and gardens.

After the whirlwind that was Europe we did a quick few stops in the Middle East stopping originally in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Here we sweated more than we had in months and got to experience the pure arrogance of Saudi Arabians. This is where we found that Saudi’s treat all other nationalities with absolute disdain, particularly if you have any form of south Asian heritage.

From here we popped into Qatar (Doha) and the UAE (Abu Dhabi and Dubai). Here we took in the sheer opulence of the Middle East where millions of dollars have been poured into the desert. It truly is an amazing example of what can be achieved when you have the will to achieve something and the funds to make it happen.

And despite all of the incredible things to be seen, it really did not appeal to us that greatly. The exception to this was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque which was truly incredible. We officially hit our highest ever temperature that we had been in (52 degrees centigrade) and found ourselves hiding from the heat most of the day. On the up side, we managed to get upgraded to a suite in almost every city.

Oman for us was the exception and standout for the middle east. It was actually genuine. Our foray into Muscat saw us eating local foods (not the US chain stuff that many of the others had on offer), visiting old fortresses, and palaces. It was more than a huge bucket of money that had been dumped in the desert.

Heading home (for our obligatory insurance check-in) we pulled into Sri Lanka and Malaysia on the way in. Sri Lanka was once again incredible and we were fantastically looked after by Ruwan and Dilani. Ruwan had been tracking our progress in the earlier adventures and had planned something completely different for us. So we found ourselves glamping in the middle of a national park and photographing wildlife like elephants and leopards.

This was our second foray into Sri Lanka which has left us looking forward to and trying to plan our third. Apart from the sheer ineptitude and corruption of the previous government, the rest of the place and the people are fantastic. It is a shame that the poor residents need to pay the price for governmental misuse.

A very short transit in Australia gave us the opportunity to catch up with friends and family and even meet the newest addition to the Pieper clan.

Family feasts, chats and fun before dashing off to Samoa, and Fiji the next places on the list.

To say that the Pacific Islands are beautiful is an understatement and in reality, is probably pretty redundant. But a couple of weeks each in Samoa and Fiji was a fantastic way to recharge the batteries, especially after the flurry that was Europe. The hospitality that we received from Fiame, Pam and all the others we met was incredible.

A quick pop back to central Queensland and we were off again. This time it was a flight from Brisbane to Rome for a few days before we commenced what would become the cruising leg of our journey. This started with a 13 night Trans-Atlantic crossing (stopping in the Canary Islands) before a back to back Caribbean adventure that would see us going from Miami to 10 of the island nations and back and even included a pop into Colombia in South America.

We went to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, St Kitts & Nevis , Barbados, Aruba, Martinique, St Maarten, Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Curacao.

But unlike Europe, we had the time between stops so that we could actually soak up the feel of each of the places. Our 12 month anniversary ticked up on the last day of the cruise as we rolled into Miami.

We met up with old friends and we made new friends, we shared good times and laughter, and all the time we kept seeing a little bit more of the world.

The year at a glance – by the numbers:

  • 56 countries
  • 127 cities
  • 33 different currencies used

How did we get around?

Flying – we took 44 flights with 19 different airlines travelling over 106,000 kilometers. Frighteningly we spent over 160 hours in the air getting between one place and the next.

Trains – we took 17 trains travelling 4710 kilometers including two overnight sleepers

Buses – 18 buses travelling 3181 kilometers

Oh and by the way, this may surprise some of you but…I managed to sample the odd beer or two from around the world as we travelled around.

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