Last year, Sydney-siders Meg and Nick Wall made a momentous decision – to travel the world for all of 2017. That’s 35 countries, five continents and 365 days. They saved and sacrificed, sold their stuff, packed up their lives and left their jobs.
“We found responsibility and work constraints were really hindering the amount of time we could spend in places, so we agreed a 12-month trip would be best,” says Meg, a high school teacher.
“We committed to sacrificing our normal life to see as much of the world as possible, which was actually a lot harder of a decision than it may seem.”
Making things easier was Flight Centre Warriewood travel expert Jamie Anderson, who introduced the couple to the concept of a round-the-world ticket and helped fine-tune their holiday.
Jamie says it’s a pleasure working with the couple.
“It was not your everyday round-the-world trip. It took a bit of time but it was very satisfying doing it, and I was kind of reliving my own past travels and experiences,” he says.
“I’ve been in the industry for 20 years, and I’ve travelled to 70-odd countries. I love all the adventure stuff and off-the-beaten track countries. It was an absolute pleasure putting all their dreams together.”
We caught up with Meg, who is now nearly halfway through their epic trip, to find out how their ‘Wall-ies World Tour’ is going.
What made you decide to travel around the world for all of 2017?
We decided to see as many places as possible in 2017 to fulfil our lifelong love and passion for travel.
How did you prepare?
We made a list of all the places we’d ever wanted to go and cut it down to an achievable amount given our available time and budget. We spent hours reading blogs, travel magazines and talking to like-minded people.
Along with this research came a serious saving plan, including downsizing our rental apartment and going without a lot of the luxuries we’d gotten used to when we graduated uni. We also had to mentally prepare to live out of a bag, not see our family and friends for a year and put our careers on hold.
What is your itinerary?
Our itinerary is split into five continents. We started in Canada – Montreal with friends for Christmas – before flying to Colombia, sailing up through the San Blas Islands and backpacking through all of Central America, including Cuba.
We then fly from London to Egypt to explore Egypt and Jordan on a tour. We then free-style through Israel before flying to Sri Lanka.
After a fortnight of island life, we go to China and Hong Kong before heading home to Sydney on December 19.
What do you pack?
Packing for four seasons and an entire year of diverse cultural expectations was one of the most challenging parts of preparing for this trip. Nick chucked three pairs of boardies and six shirts in his bag and was ready. In saying that, Nick also carries all of our electronics, of which there is quite a lot.
Meanwhile, I tediously laboured over the co-ordination of trendy clothing combined with comfortable, travel-suitable clothing. I ended up going basic with the knowledge that before the Middle East I can swap out my central American/Mediterranean clothing for maxi dresses from home when my parents visit us in Croatia.
My packing list is pretty extensive, albeit plain and boring – but I did squeeze luxury items into my bag: my favourite cleanser (a couple of bottles) from home and also some pretty dresses and skirts that take up a fair amount of room. I still find myself largely under-dressed everywhere we go – it consistently puzzles me how so many people manage such trendy styles when travelling, RESPECT!
Do you buy any souvenirs? What kind?
I tend to avoid souvenirs, even before our year-long trip. However, if I find something quirky or cool I will buy it. This time I have a beautiful Guatemalan pillowcase that was given to me as a gift and a gorgeous, handcrafted handbag from a Mayan cultural support group co-op.
I also bought some jade and silver from Mexico and El Salvador. I also have a shell bracelet from Nicaragua. I tend to buy things that I can wear and don’t have to carry.
Mostly, I’m saving my souvenir shopping for Marrakesh and Turkey, where I have strategically planned to buy a floor mat and some crockery for home. It has been really hard to leave behind the gorgeous Mexican textiles that are sold everywhere! I will be ordering some online, for sure.
You’re nearly halfway through – what have you learned so far?
I think the most valuable lesson that travel teaches anyone is an appreciation and gratitude for life beyond owning stuff and things particularly at home. I’ve also learned the value of deep and meaningful relationships, including Nick and mine. Letting go of pent-up things that are out of my control has also been a difficult but meaningful learning curve for me.
What has been the best experience so far?
Wow, the great variety of experiences makes it so difficult for me to choose just one. So I have selected six! Haha – did I mention I’m indecisive?! Sailing from Cartagena to Panama though the San Blas Islands was seriously freeing and amazing – we also met 12 of the coolest people we could have ever hoped to meet.
Dog-sledding with our friends in -33C Quebec, Canada, was ridiculously surreal. Completing an overnight hike up Volcano Acatenango in Guatemala was difficult but worth it when we saw a lava explosion at midnight!
Snorkelling with grey nurse sharks on the Mayan reef off Caye Caulker, Belize, was breathtakingly beautiful; I never wanted that day to end. We spent a day partying at San Juan Del Sur in Nicaragua – a notorious pool/pub crawl Sunday Funday, and it was every bit as trashy and awesome as we’d hoped.
More recently, we rode horses through the tobacco fields in Vinales Cuba; it was a new experience for us but such a good way to experience the beauty of the Vinales Valley.
Again – suuuuch a difficult question! I would have to say the fish tacos at our hotel in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. We found so many organic cafes along the way serving a range of salads, juices and delicious foods.
Again – I could list around 20 different amazing fresh meals. But in complete contrast Latin America is all about ’dem empandas – amiright?!
We’ve stayed in a variety of accommodation. Our best hostel stay has definitely been the Matiox in Antigua, Guatemala – this space was very clean and well thought out in terms of privacy and merging partying and relaxing.
Our favourite alternative type of stay was glamping at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala called Free Cerveza – aside from the free beers (WOO) at dinner the view of this volcanic crater lake were breathtaking.
Our favourite hotel stay (aside from the Hilton in Quebec City) was definitely the Aqua Lounge Boutique Hotel in Puerto Escondido Mexico – we had kitchenette and privacy, plus the hotel boasts panoramic views of the Mexican Pipeline surf spot and a pool and restaurant. I also LOVED the casa home-stay-style accommodation in Cuba.
Hmmm… Colombia is the most amazing country, with beautiful, friendly people. I will also always have a soft spot for Montreal. We both love Los Angeles a lot purely for the familiarity of the sweet comforts of home.
But I think it’s a tie between Antigua, Guatemala, and Tulum, Mexico. Both stole my heart in terms of ‘having it all’ – good food, shopping, trendy cafes, historical ruins, natural beauty, great people and great weather. El Tunco in El Salvador was also such a rad little surf town.
Most surprising moment?
We have a lot of these every day, as our Spanish has not improved over the last four months. However, the most surprising moment was easily the first morning we woke up in Montreal to snow falling outside, we were super stoked.
We also did a fishing trip in Mexico only for the non-English-speaking guide to dive out of our boat and catch a huge turtle. That was a surprise.
Have you had any hiccups and how have you overcome them?
So many! Hiccups overseas tend to put big problems into perspective but they also mostly prove very costly. The most significant error we made was accidently booking a flight using my married surname rather than my maiden name (which is still on my passport).
We also had a situation on the border crossing from Nicaragua to El Salvador (via Honduras) where their computer system crashed, causing us to sit in a van for four hours in the middle of the night waiting for them to fix the problem. Not to mention the countless times ATMs have failed us!
Mostly, waiting and being patient and open-minded is enough to overcome hiccups – a smile also means help is easier to obtain – particularly in the land of ever-helpful Latin Americans.
How have you found travelling as a couple?
Honestly without sounding super corny and gross, it has been great for our relationship. Of course when times get tough (and they truly do) we bicker with each other. We also annoy each other immensely, especially when we’re bored – waiting for a plane or a train or a bus.
Mostly, though, we are an excellent team when travelling. Nick is very level-headed and rational while I can be quite emotional and empathetic. I am so grateful to have been able to have this experience with my husband and best friend.
How did Flight Centre Warriewood help?
We have booked all our travel over the past five years through Flight Centre Warriewood, specifically agent Jamie Anderson. He is the best!
While at first we were sceptical of travel agents, Jamie is a professional who has actually travelled extensively – his knowledge of places is unbeatable and he has always beaten what price we take to him. Jamie knows soooo much about the world and he never recommends anything he isn’t positive is awesome. I could not recommend his services more!
Jamie also introduced us to the concept of an around-the-world ticket, making this trip possible. And he spent countless hours with us fine-tuning our trip – he emails us regularly while we travel, keeping us updated and showing us he is tracking our movements. GO SEE HIM!
What is your best tip for like-minded travellers?
Just do it – take a weekend, a week, a fortnight, a month, a year. Do what you can to get a taste of this magnificent world we live in! If it feels right, why not?