Jon and Carolyn’s Top 10 Lists and Photos


We love answering questions about our World Tour. The vast variety of questions we’ve received have helped us to reflect upon our time abroad and how it impacted our lives. Many people are interested in our “tops” and “favorites”. It is honestly extremely challenging to categorize our experiences in this way and we often just answer with the first thing that pops into our heads. We probably shouldn’t even attempt to come up with our “tops” in a thoughtful manner as I’m sure five seconds after posting this, I will think of twenty new items to add to each list, but what the heck! Here we go…

PS- no, there are not only 10 items on this list and yes, you can totally still ask us these questions in person…we can elaborate I promise!  😉

Drum roll please! Jon and Carolyn’s Top 10 Lists

10. Top Places:

  •    Oaxaca City and Coast (Mexico)
  •    San Cristobal (Mexico)
  •    Yorkshire area and Lakes District (England)
  •    Southern France

Concert at the stadium in Oaxaca City

9. Top Food:IMG_7493

  •    Oaxacan cuisine – marinated pork, dried beef, spicy mole sauce.
  •    Street food in Mexico City – tacos, tlayudas
  •    Cheese in France – every kind, can’t remember the names
  •    Wine in Italy and France – all of the cheap ones were delicious!

8. Top things we will miss about World Tour:

  •    Having so much time just the two of us
  •    Experiencing so many vibrant cultures
  •    Speaking Spanish often

7. Top items we packed

  •    Laptop and iphone (duh)
  •    Space saving bags
  •    Charles Schwab debit card (four words: No ATM fees..anywhere)
  •    Umbrella- great for shade and surprise rainstorms
  •    Hat
  •    Ear plugs
  •    Ear bud splitter which allowed us both to listen to the same device at the same time (thanks Lauren and Scott!)
  •    Rechargeable USB battery pack thingy (thanks Sam!)

(Most useless items packed: Quick dry towel (we did Airbnb a lot and usually towels were provided), Pad lock, Clothes line, Ipod, inflatable neck pillows)

6. Top Lessons Learned:

  •     Slow travel is our preferred way to travel. It is more enjoyable and affordable.
  •     We didn’t “change” as people, but we became more aware and confident in who we are. We learned to embrace many aspects of ourselves, instead of trying to change them. For example: I learned that I am more introverted than I thought and need quiet time to have sufficient energy. Jon needs water for energy- ocean, lakes, rivers, ponds, etc.
  •     Planning ahead (and being less spontaneous) is often cheaper, less stressful, and more fun! Who woulda thunk!?
  •     “The most fulfilling work involves the 3 H’s – Head, Heart, and Hands” (Thank you Linda from Oaxaca for these wise words you heard from someone). We had the first two H’s nailed, but we want to work more on the third and do more creating with our hands.
  •    Working/volunteering/helping abroad is a great way integrate yourself into the community and feel more like an “insider” rather than an outsider or tourist. and have tons of opportunities for you to live with a local family, contribute to the family and/or community, and receive free food and accommodations! These websites were probably one of our favorite resources for staying on budget, gaining new skills, and having fun and real experiences abroad.IMG_1358

5. Top Ways in Which We’ve Grown

  •    Carolyn- I think my writing skills and confidence have grown immensely. I haven’t written much since college and even then it was mostly research papers. Now I love to write creatively and have received some very kind words about how I’ve grown in this area. I also gained a stronger trust in my instincts. We had to make a lot of quick decisions and at first I defaulted to Jon to lead the way. But slowly I began chiming in more and asserting my opinion and towards the end I had to actually reign in my instincts a little and let Jon drive…now and then. This was a big way in which I have grown since I am notorious for being indecisive and doubting my instincts and desires.
  •    Jon- I think the biggest growth I experienced was in gaining control of my (and our) finances. Before World Tour, I relied on other people to figure it out and I just trusted in the “system” to make decisions about my money, retirement,  savings, etc. In Zipolite, I spent hours every day for weeks researching the topic of financial independence. Now I feel much more confident in making these decisions myself. I am no expert, but I at least have a better understanding of it which is very empowering.

4. Top Things that surprised us:

  •    How much we enjoyed bus travel and loathed plane travelIMG_4005
  •    How much our Spanish improved
  •    How much we would want to return towards the end
  •    That most Latin American and European countries want “proof of onward travel”. Read the blog post for details on how we dealt with it.
  •    How nice the streets are in Mexico (everyone said they had truck-size pot holes everywhere!)
  •    How different England felt from the USA. For some reason we thought it would feel the same.

3.5 Top Funny experience:

  • The owner at our hostel in Panama told us they would be painting the floors soon. The next morning we stepped out of our rooms and our sandals stuck to the floor which was covered in a fresh coat of green paint. The intense humidity had prevented it from drying overnight. No one could leave their rooms without getting green sticky soles. Luckily all of the guests had a good sense of humor about the whole ordeal, that’s the Panama way!
  • We met a farmer in Italy who didn’t like tomatoes, vegetables, or wine and his farm mainly consisted of a large vegetable garden, vineyard, and goats. At least he liked ricotta cheese from the goats! He was also very animated and funny.
  • Oh and then there was the very first 5 minutes of World Tour where we paid the cab driver in Tijuana and he could barely breathe from laughing so hard and even brought the airport security guards over to laugh. He told us the money we tried to pay with expired 20 years ago. It was super embarrassing in the moment, but now we just laugh at our 1 year ago selves.

3. Top Annoying experiences:

  •    The night we slept at a party hostel where the party took place outside of our room until 4am. We left as soon as we could the next morning and didn’t bother requesting our money back for the following night that we had already paid for. That’s how bad it was.
  • (Carolyn) Crying after Spanish class because I felt completely overwhelmed by the materials I was learning. My teacher at the time didn’t help either as he would get annoyed when I asked questions.
  •  (Jon) Getting laughed at by an entire family at a girl’s birthday party in Guatemala because of how much I looked like their crazy uncle Pablo with his big mustache. Everyone spoke an indigenous language that I couldn’t understand, pointed and laughed at me…the entire time! My childhood fears of public humiliation came rushing back to me. I tried to act cool, but inside I just wanted to get the heck outta there and I did!

2. Top Failures:

  •    Not exercising at all when we were in cities
  •    Eating waaaay too many tamales and cream sauce one night. And paying for it sorely that night. (Jon)
  •    Getting ripped off by taxi drivers multiple times because of forgetting to establish the cost before getting in. “Oh, I am an executive class taxi driver, that is why the price is so high” (insert expletive here).

1. Top successes:

  •    Learning Spanish, sufficiently to hold a conversationIMG_3187
  •    Staying on budget
  •    Learning new skills such as farming and gardening
  •    Getting a grip on our finances
  •    Writing over 50 blog posts and averaging 1 per week
  •    Returning home safe, without getting locked up abroad
  •    Being abroad for exactly 1 year
  •    Following through on our goal to purchase items from Latin America and bring them back to the US to share and sell
  •    Never missing a flight, bus or train!

0.5. Top Memories (well, some of them)

  • Feeling the ocean breeze as we sat in the cabana on the top of a cliff in Zipolite, eating our home made quesadillas and a glass of beer with lime.
  • Watching a turtle lay eggs next to our tent
  • Breathing in the cool air of the countryside after a long day of hard farm work. The cool, quiet, serene, green, and calm environment of these small farm towns was perfection after so many months spent in humidity and blaring heat.
  • Getting excited over crazy business ideas and new career ideas. We would often talk for hours and hours about what we might do when we returned. No idea was too crazy to consider.
  • Getting tapas in Spain with our classmates from Delengua Spanish School and talking about anything and everything…in Spanish! And realizing we had reached a new level in our language development.
  • Drinking wine and eating buffalo mozzarella with the Colosseum behind us.
  • Swimming in beautiful light blue waterfalls that were the perfect refreshingly cool temperature.
  • Seeing people we met on World Tour, a second time!
  • Getting the keys to a new apartment
  • Zipping along the waters of Panama with friends on a speed boat at sunset. Just perfect.
  • Saying YES! to Jon 🙂
  • Spending time with our family and friends who visited us and shared in the adventures!



…phew, that was hard! And I just thought of 20 more things to add to these lists.

And now- Top Scenic Photos:

Special THANK YOU to our friends Danielle and Chris for giving us a fantastic camera in which to capture the beauty of the places we visited.


Coast of Zipolite



Sun peering out behind the mountains of Monte Alban



Do you see the animal in this photo? May take a minute.



Cool lookin’ spider outside our cabana in Zipolite



Cool flowers on the coast of Oaxaca



Streets of Oaxaca



Sunrise over Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. This shot was taken from our apartment terrace.



Dusk at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala



Tuk-Tuks around Lake Atitlan, Guatemala



Isla Bastimentos, Panama



Panama City, Panama



Parrots on Isla Bastimentos, Panama



Sloth sighting in Bocas del Toro, Panama



Ants along our jungle walk on Isla Bastimentos, Panama



Beautiful tree on Isla Bastimentos, Panama



Snorkeling boat ride in Panama


Bendy palm tree



Two forms of flight. Isla Bastimentos, Panama



Dock on Isla Bastimentos, Panama



Sunset in Panama



Sunset in Santa Marta, Colombia



Hostalets, Spain



Cows in Hostalets, Spain




Beautiful trees along our hike in Hostalets, Spain



Wildflowers in Catalonia, Spain



Lake in Spain (I forget the name of the town)




View of the Alhambra from San Miguel Church



Tuscany, Italy



The Colosseum in Rome, Italy




Venice, Italy



The Forum, Rome, Italy



Amalfi Coast, Italy



Lavender fields in Vinsobre, France



Lakes District, England



Lakes District, England



Moonrise in Zipolite, Oaxaca. Good Night.