Midway through Mid-Career Break: A Look Back

Midway through Mid-Career Break: A Look Back

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We just passed the halfway point of our honeymoon so I thought I would do a quick update and answer some questions people may have.  We’ve been traveling for over 200 days and it’s still pretty surreal. There’s been a lot of ups, and some downs, but we’ve learned a lot about each other and couldn’t be happier. We just finished up Europe and are starting the portion of the trip where we’re visiting places that we’ve both never seen before. Most of our travels up till now have been really Western culture places so we’re both excited to see and experience really different and more exotic places. We’ve just finished with Egypt, Jordan, and Israel and have been really impressed so far and can’t wait for the rest of it!

Below are some answers to the most common questions we’ve gotten about our trip so far.

Beautiful ceiling of the Sagrada Familia
Beautiful ceiling of the Sagrada Familia

Favorite site/experience: Really tough one, but I’d have to say 1. The hikes we did in Norway (see here for the post) were absolutely gorgeous; 2. The Fo Guan Shan Buddha Memorial outside of Kaohsiung (see here for the post and the profile); and 3. The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, even though it was my second time seeing it (after 15 years) it was jaw-dropping, especially the interior. Honorable Mention to the Pyramids of Giza and Petra both of which we just recently saw and had incredible visits.

Worst/Disappointing Experience: We’ve been very lucky on our trip so far and we haven’t had many bad experiences but I’d have to say that Matsushima in Japan was definitely disappointing. It is supposed to be one of the Scenic Views of Japan and didn’t compare at all to the other 2 views. Also, Macau (see below).

Hong Kong at night
Hong Kong at night

Favorite City: 1. Hong Kong: the tall skyscrapers, the delicious food, and the beautiful views made this the city I really want to go back to; 2. Budapest: I was a little worried the city would let me down the second time we visited it but I could run along the Danube and stare at the Parliament Building, Buda Castle, Chain Bridge, and Fishman’s Bastion all day long. Not to mention Margaret Island, the City Park with the Vajdahunyad Castle, and the Szechenyi Thermal Bath. The food is also some of the best I’ve had and is really cheap for Europe. 3. Rome: even though we spent less than 24 hours in Rome this time around we visited it in 2009 and had an amazing time. I love Roman history and running through the city is like running back in time. Honorable mention to Berlin, which probably surprised me the most out of the cities I had previously visited. A lot of the memorials and museums we visited were not there the first time I saw it in 2001.

Least Favorite City: Macau, China: Maybe if we had a couple of grand to blow it would have been a different experience but it was a pain to get to, a really hot day out, and the food we had there was terrible. The casinos were nice but the least expensive table games were about $50 USD a hand, no free drinks, and they only had a couple of table games that I recognized.

Favorite Country:  For me, it’s Spain hands down. I love the culture there, the food is delicious, and it helps that I speak the language. I was surprised with how much I loved Norway though but we were only there in the summer so I don’t know if I would have the same answer when it is colder.

Least Favorite Country: Hard to say we have a least favorite because we’ve enjoyed every country but I’d say the country that didn’t really stand out to me was Finland. I just feel like Norway and Sweden have more beautiful capital cities and more beautiful nature. Granted, we didn’t visit the north of Finland or the archipelagos and I hear it is a great place to see the Northern Lights in the wintertime.

San Sebastian Pintxos
San Sebastian Pintxos

City with the best food: It’s probably better to consult Diem but she and I have some different tastes. She really enjoys Asian cuisine and while I like it too, the following are the cities that really stood out to me: 1. Budapest: Not only is the goose liver at Comme Chez Soi one of the best bites of food I’ve had, but we also really enjoyed Zeller Bistro and there are a number of good spots at the market and other really reasonably priced restaurants. Ironically, the worst meal we’ve had in Budapest was the most expensive one at the 2 Michelin star Onyx (still a sore spot for me L). 2. San Sebastian: Really delicious tapas (pintxos) for really reasonable prices. They go down easier with tasty sangria, Basque cider, or delicious Spanish house wine. 3. Hualien, Taiwan: Amazing street food, lots of variety for a great price.

City with the worst food: Diem has done such a good job of finding great places to eat wherever we go so we really haven’t eaten too many bad meals. For my taste though, I may have to say Ireland in general. The food was a lot of meat and potatoes which was nice but nothing stood out.

Biggest regret: Not planning ahead enough to do the Trolltunga hike in Norway. We were so close but yet so far away.

What place are you most looking forward to? South Africa. Not only for the great white shark cage diving but we also start our 26 day Safari there too.

How’s the budget going? If you look at our current budget, we are a little over budget right now. We started our trip going to the most expensive countries first (Japan, Scandinavia, Europe) so I’m hoping we can make up the difference in Africa and Asia.

Any Travel or Airbnb horror stories? Diem’s done a good job of making sure our Airbnb places have good reviews but our place in Gyeongju, Korea turned out to be a “love hotel” with a nice gift of condoms in the room. We also got a sweet 4 AM wake-up break-in from a small old Korean lady yelling at us in Korean telling us to pay money. We had to show her our Airbnb reservation and she left without much of an apology.

Our trip from Budapest to Kotor was probably the worst travel experience we had. We had an overnight train from Budapest to Belgrade where the cabin was nice but we were woken up at 1 AM and again at 2 AM for passport control. Belgrade train station and the surrounding area is pretty ghetto with buildings half destroyed. The train from Belgrade to Podgorica, Montenegro was really ghetto and we had a cabin to ourselves at first but eventually were packed in with other people and a bunch of kids for the last 3 hours. Then we had another 2 hour bus ride in a 12 person van where we had to stand in the aisle (Diem sat in the aisle) the entire time.

What do you miss the most? Our family, friends, and our dogs, in some order :P. Also, sleeping in our own bed and cooking in a fully stocked kitchen.

When are you coming back? We are still on track to come back in June 2017. We’re hoping the election doesn’t have a Brexit effect on the dollar but we’ll have to play it by ear.

If you have any more questions send us a comment here or on social media, love to hear from you!

To see an updated map and list of places we visited please click here.

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Paul is a lawyer taking a mid-career break focused on capturing all his adventures during his yearlong honeymoon around the world.

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2 Responses

  1. John Carson

    Nice report of the best and worst. And for the regular reports that tell us the good, bad and the ugly. Having kept safe and not getting sick of being together 24/7 for so long is IMHO a near miracle. I wish you both godspeed on the final half of your trip.

    • Mid-Career Break

      Thanks so much John! It hasn’t always been easy but it’s been great. Hope all is well with you and everyone at Knobbe!

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