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Updates and Announcements!

With the one year anniversary of our big trip this past week, we wanted to let you know that The World at Your Feet is not dead! We are still here and ready to bring you more! We apologize for being MIA lately. Here’s an update with some of our highlights from this past year.

1. We both graduated from Elmhurst College (Magna Cum Laude!)

2. Keeping with our travel interests, Coley snagged a travel writing internship with Premier Tourism Marketing and Kim interned at Hostelling International in Chicago. Coley was even lucky enough to have a few of her pieces published. Yep, that’s right, we’ve got a real published travel writer amongst us.

3. While we haven’t been out of the country since we’ve been back, we’ve managed to fuel our itchy feet with mini-trips in the US. Coley traveled to Boston and Cape Cod while Kim visited Philadelphia. We also spent countless weekends in Chicago exploring new foods and neighborhoods, wandering around resale shops and bakeries, organizing coffee shop crawls, learning about Chicago’s rich history and architecture, exposing Coley’s sister Dana to her very first hostel experience, and attempting to be “tourists in our own city.”

4. In December, we were excited to host our Australian friends, Adam and Freya, while they visited Chicago during their trip across the United States. We had a lot of fun playing tour guides and taking them to the iconic Chicago attractions as well as our favorite spots in the city. I’m pretty sure Adam is still talking about Chicago deep dish pizza to this very day. Sometimes its good to take a step back from your own culture and realize that ice hockey, snow, and free refills in restaurants aren’t “normal” things to everyone. Also, Adam was an awesome host while we visited Brisbane, Australia on our trip, so it was nice to repay the favor. Travel karma.

5. In October, we were honored to be featured as Lost Girls of the Week on The Lost Girls website. The Lost Girls (Amanda, Jen, and Holly) are basically our travel idols, so this was super exciting for us!

6. Our friends at Magic Bus New Zealand featured some of our travel photos and blog posts on their website and Facebook. Sweet as.

Magic Bus Promotion

And finally, the big announcements!

1. For the coming year, Coley will be working for her sorority, Phi Mu, as a traveling chapter consultant. This job will bring her to Texas for National Convention in July, Georgia for training later that month, and then off to California where she’ll be temporarily living for a few months as she works to found a new chapter at California State University Northridge. After that, she will be traveling around the country spreading Phi Mu sparkle.

2. In September, Kim will be moving to Thailand to teach English for a year. She’ll be living on the island of Phuket for a month while she earns her TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate and then she’ll begin her teaching job in a school in the Bangkok area shortly after.

On the long journey over to Thailand, Kim is also looking forward to making a few pit stops. First, she’ll stop in Southern California to visit Coley (of course) and our good friend Erik in San Diego. Then, she’ll be jetting off to Taipei, Taiwan to visit another good friend Tz Shun (well, we just call him Alan). After Alan bluntly told us in a hostel kitchen that we made our rice completely wrong, we befriended him during our adventures and travels in New Zealand on The Magic Bus. Every single time we speak to Alan he asks us, “When you visit Taiwan?” so when offered a flight with a stopover in Taipei, Kim knew it was the perfect opportunity. Hopefully some of those Mandarin Chinese phrases he taught us on the bus will come to good use!

3. In 2013, The World at Your Feet will be back in full swing! What exactly does that mean? It means Kim and Coley will be dusting off their backpacks and traveling together again and of course keeping you updated along the way. Coley is planning to visit Kim in Thailand and let’s just say that we’re hoping to cross a few more places (and possibly countries…) off our list! That’s all we can say for now. Stay tuned.

Do any of these updates and announcements surprise you? Let us know what you think!

What Are You Waiting For?

Meet the Feet: Post-trip Interview

Well, it’s hard to believe but our trip has finally come to an end. Now it’s time to take a look back and reflect on the last 7 weeks.

Trip Recap: 

Countries: 4

Flights: 9

Hostels/guesthouses: 23

Motels/hotels: 3

Homestays: 2

Minor injuries: 3

Lost items: 2

Stolen items: 0

Means of transport: 18

Favorite Airline?

Coley: Emirates. Great food and fabulous flight attendant outfits.

Kim: I really enjoyed flying on Thai Airways, but Emirates definitely had the best food. Air New Zealand and Quantas were nice too….I can’t decide.

Favorite hostel or place you stayed?

Coley:  This is the hardest question!

Favorite hostel/guesthouse: Charlies—a charming little guesthouse in Chiang Khong, Thailand with a pool, bikes for cruising around town, and homemade pancakes in the morning!

Favorite hotel: Aiyara Palace. Its modern design and amenities made for a luxurious night’s stay right in the heart of Pattaya.

Favorite home stays: Tan’s family in Thailand and the Hutchinson residence in Australia. Both families spoiled us beyond belief and showed us around their amazing cities.

Kim: Accents on the Park hostel in Nelson, New Zealand felt more like a home than a hostel. It was clean, comfortable, and the owner Royce was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They even had heated floors in the bathroom!? Talk about luxury hostel.

Favorite place you visited?

Coley: Thailand. I really just loved everything we experienced here from elephant rides to the floating market. It is just an incredible country filled with the nicest people imaginable.

Kim: I think it’s difficult to pick a favorite country because each one is so different that they’re too hard to compare. So instead, I’ll tell you my favorite place in each country: Wellington, New Zealand, Melbourne, Australia, Chiang Mai, Thailand, and Luang Prabang, Laos.

Favorite adventure activity?

Coley: Ziplining in Chiang Mai—a definite thrill without the scare factor

Kim: Ziplining in Chiang Mai definitely wins, but zorbing in Rotorua, New Zealand would come in second place.

Favorite moment?

Coley: Dancing in the rain while tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos

Kim Teaching a newly ex-monk how to dance for the very first time in his life in Vientiane, Laos

Favorite food you tried?

Coley: I had some rocking crab curry at a beachside restaurant in Pattaya, Thailand.

Kim: I had the most amazing chicken parcels meal in Ashburton, New Zealand. I’d also like to give honorable mentions to Fergburger in Queenstown, New Zealand, the banana chocolate roti from a random street vendor in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Pancake Manor in Brisbane, Australia, and the homemade stir fry our friend Allan made us in a hostel one night.

Least favorite food you tried?

Coley: These crazy little pork balls with beans in the middle that we had at a restaurant near Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

Kim: Squid is absolutely disgusting.

Favorite drink you tried?

Coley: Most definitely Thai iced tea. Seriously, that sweet little concoction is addicting.

Kim: Thai iced tea is the bomb.

Favorite dessert you tried?

Coley: Gelato from Kaffe Eis in Wellington, New Zealand. My personal favorite was coconut in a cone. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Kim: It’s a tie between the cookies from Cookie Time in Queenstown, New Zealand and the Chai gelato from Kaffe Eis in Wellington, New Zealand.

Best purchase?

Coley: Scarves from markets in Thailand and Laos. My family and friends loved them…wish I had bought more!

Kim: I bought a prosperity cat on the street in Bangkok, Thailand and within a week of having it I won $50. Hopefully it keeps working!

Favorite quality about your travel partner?

Coley: Her ambitious nature—if there’s a way for us to see the best parts of a city in only one night, she will find way to do it.

Kim: I love that Coley just totally goes with the flow in any situation. She also doesn’t get easily annoyed or frustrated like I sometimes can.

What will you miss most about traveling?

Coley: No responsibilities except waking up to catch your bus!

Kim: I honestly just love living the backpacker lifestyle. Backpacking is really a culture of its own and you get to meet so many interesting and like-minded people. I’m also going to miss never knowing what day of the week or what time it was, and it not really mattering.

What skills did you acquire on the road?

Coley: Making PBJs with inadequate utensils, being super quiet getting ready in the morning as not to wake hostel roommates, and just going with the flow.

Kim: Distinguishing where people are from based on their accent, grocery shopping in Australia and New Zealand without spending more than $3 on any single item, using chopsticks, mixing and matching outfits to make it appear like I owned more clothes than I actually did, learning how to properly cook rice, and learning how to speak some basic Mandarin Chinese.

If you were to go back and plan your trip again knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?

Coley: I would want to explore more of Southeast Asia because the culture is fascinating and cost of living is ridiculously cheap.

Kim: I would visit less countries and stay for longer amounts of time. Because we tried to fit so much in in 7 weeks, we didn’t have much flexibility in our schedules. There were a few cities that we really loved and wished we could have stayed longer to explore them further. It is also quite exhausting to be traveling for a minimum of 4 hours almost every single day.

How many items did you cross off your life list on this trip?

Coley: Too many to count.

Kim: 28

What were some of the best items you packed?

Coley: Flashlight, green zip-up hoodie, and mini speakers. Best items I didn’t pack? Warm socks and green oil.

Kim: Columbia fleece jacket, padlock, and the UV filter on my camera lens (see Q&A #5).

What advice would you give to someone thinking about planning a trip like yours?

Coley: Do it! Pick where you want to go and start saving.

Kim: If traveling has always been a dream of yours, then it’s up to you to create the opportunity and make it happen. Save your money, buy a plane ticket, and go. No excuses.

Sum up 3 things that you learned on the trip?

Coley: 

  1. American backpackers are the minority among travelers. We heard from several people that we were some of the first backpackers from the U.S. they’d met so far on their trip. Let’s change that!
  2. Living out of a backpack is easier than expected. We had plenty of wardrobe choices, and having everything in one spot was nice
  3. If you need help with something, just ask. Most people are super willing to help travelers. They’ll recommend great places to eat, give directions, and genuinely hope you have a fantastic time exploring their country.

Kim: 

  1. While I loved Australia and New Zealand, you can travel much longer and much more comfortably if you pick a cheaper destination like Southeast Asia. For example, in Laos, we got an hour long full body massage, herbal sauna, bungalow suite accommodation, and three meals (including drinks and desserts), all for less than the price of one nights accommodation in New Zealand.
  2. We’re extremely lucky to grow up as native English speakers. I really admired the motivation and determination people have to learn and practice the English language.
  3. The best experiences are a) the unexpected ones b) the ones that require you to step out of your comfort zone

Lattes & Laneways

Over the past few days, Coley and I have dedicated a good amount of our time to simply exploring Melbourne, Australia. Our favorite discovery of the city is the unique and charming laneways where we passed the hours drinking lattes and people watching in this intimate atmosphere. Melbourne’s laneways are basically narrow enclaves winding in all directions throughout the city which are filled with one-off boutiques, street performers, graffiti art, distinctive galleries, tiny cafes, and hidden bars. The best word to describe the culture of laneways is “artsy.” These laneways are hidden gems in a big bustling city. You can be walking down busy Elizabeth Street and turn into an alley way and BAM it’s like you’re in a whole other world. It’s an interesting experience to be so relaxed, sipping a latte while hundreds of people pass you by only inches away. Today while returning to our favorite laneway in Center Place, we stumbled upon a high fashion photo shoot in session. You just never know what you’ll find in the laneways.

They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are elegant and enclosed, some trendy and alternative, and others are adorned with the most stunning and creative graffiti art one could imagine. Instead of trying to ban urban graffiti, the Melbourne city council has actually allocated a few specific laneways with a street art permit where artists can just go crazy. This is best showcased on Hosier Lane, our absolute favorite bluestone cobbled laneway, completely covered in stencil work, light boxes, graffiti, and hole-in-the-wall cafes. Even the garbage cans and dumpsters are decked out in graffiti. We spent hours wandering through this alley and admiring the art. So whether you go for a coffee or to check out the high quality graffiti art, Melbourne’s laneways cannot be missed.

Q&A #2

Livin’ La Vida Hostel

Hostel. For some reason, the “s” nestled into the conventional word “hotel” sends shivers up people’s spines. It’s like the “s” of hostel stands for sketchy, shady, or scary. This may be because the only experience most people have with hostels is what they saw in the gruesome horror flick from 2007. So far on our trip, we’ve stayed in a different hostel in a different city almost every night and have really enjoyed the hostel lifestyle. However, it seems like some of our family and friends have expressed confusion about where we’d be staying during the majority our trip; so for those of you who aren’t completely sure what the deal is with hostels, we’ll break it down for you:

What’s the difference between a hostel and a hotel?

The main difference is that hostels provide a budget oriented, community based, social environment for travelers. Hostels also create an environment perfect for fostering new friendships. The shared living style provides many opportunities to connect with interesting folks from around the world. For example, if you’re brushing your teeth in the bathroom, you can awkwardly say hi when someone walks in (only if they can decipher toothbrush talk). Or if you’re hanging out in the kitchen area, you can strike up a convo about what your fellow backpacker is cooking for dinner. Bonus: they let you sample the dish. Because of the social atmosphere, we’ve had the opportunity to learn about the cultural quirks of numerous countries and even learned to speak some Chinese from our new friends.

What is the setup? 

There are a tremendous amount of variations between hostels and locations, but we can speak best to ones in Australia and New Zealand. Typically, you have the option to book a private room or a dormitory bed. The private rooms come with either a double bed or two single beds. The dormitory rooms are generally a room with bunk beds, and the sizes can vary greatly. “The more the merrier” in hostel world translates loosely into “the more the cheaper.” For example, the pricing could go something like this: 12 bed dorm – $22, 10 bed – $24, 8 bed dorm – $26, 6 bed dorm – $28, and you get the idea. When I was in Fiji I even stayed in a 180-bed dorm room, but that is extremely rare. For most backpackers like us, the dorm room is definitely the budget option and therefore, the most popular choice.

The general hostel setup is comparable to a college dorm because there are usually community bathrooms, common lounge areas, and laundry rooms. Some hostels even resemble a big house divided into individual rooms. Hostel services can include: bar or cafe, book exchange, breakfast, desktop computers, Wifi, DVD movie selection, organized activities, hair dryers, pool tables, bike hire, hot tubs, pools, saunas, luggage storage, tour desk, or transportation booking. What more could you possibly need?

Do you have to eat out every meal?  

Backpackers are a savvy breed of people. This means they know that eating out every meal adds up fast. This is why hostel goers often opt to cook their own meals in the community kitchen which is stocked with fridges, ovens, microwaves, and all the cooking equipment and dishes you might need.

Won’t your stuff get stolen?

If you create the opportunity, maybe. But in the words of Elmhurst College Campus Security, “Lock it, or lose it.” Most hostels provide lockers for you to store your precious valuables, and all you’ve got to bring is a padlock. No worries. For the hostels that don’t have private lockers, we’ve found that since everyone is in the same boat there’s usually no problem. If you wouldn’t want your stuff to be stolen then you probably wouldn’t steal from someone else. We did have a minor incident including a dairy theft. About a half a cup of our milk was stolen, but luckily no one on the scene was injured.  However, since almost every backpacker has a half-gallon of the same “home brand” milk, we think it’s quite possible it was an accident.

What type of people stay in hostels?

Again, it completely varies. It’s hard to pinpoint a specific demographic, but you are always surrounded by a group of likeminded travelers. It’s definitely most common for people age 18-35 to stay in hostels, but we’ve also seen families and older couples as well. We’ve found many of our hostel roommates to actually be quite helpful because they’ve often just come from a city or country that we’re going to and are more than happy to offer personal travel advice and suggestions. Don’t think that you have to travel abroad to experience a hostel. We stayed in one when we visited New York City, and they can be found in most other major cities in the world.

So answer this: why aren’t you livin’ la vida hostel?

Meet the Feet

Since you’ll be traveling with us for the next 7 weeks we thought you might like to get to know us a little bit better…

What country are you most excited for?

Coley: Thailand! I’m a sucker for markets. So just the fact that we’re going to a floating market, flower market, and street markets? SOLD!

Kim: Well obviously I’m excited for each country for different reasons, but if I HAD to pick one I’d say New Zealand because the scenery will be unbelievable and we have some pretty crazy adventures planned. Thailand is definitely a close second because it will be completely unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before.

What are your pet peeves of other travelers?

Coley: Living up to the “American travler” stereotype. For example: expecting everyone to speak English, being loud and obnoxious, high maintenance, etc.

Kim: Ughhh I cannot stand travelers who don’t appreciate culture or who are culturally insensitive. I just don’t see the point in going halfway around the world so you can just do everything exactly the same as at home.

What qualities make a good travel partner?

Coley: Kimmy Kimmy Cocoa Puff is a real go-getter. She is super adventurous and delightfully hilarious.

Kim: Coley Ravioli will be great because she’s pretty go-with-the-flow, has an uncanny ability sleep almost anywhere, and knows how to have a good time.

Do you think something will go wrong?

Coley: More than likely, but every misadventure is part of the experience.

Kim: Yes. That’s half the fun though right?

What is your favorite international dessert?

Coley: I’m a big fan of gelato, but since we’ll be quite a ways from Italy, I’m looking forward to trying pavlova!

Kim: I loved pavlova and Tim Tams from Australia. Also, I hear New Zealand has this awesome ice cream called Hokey Pokey, so I’m really looking forward to trying that.

Favorite accent?

Coley: To hear? English. To impersonate? Southern.

Kim: English!

Describe your travel style.

Coley: Low maintenance. Eager to learn. Ready to have a good time.

Kim: Organized but spontaneous at the same time. I try to do as much as I possibly can in the time that I have. I’d much rather go out, explore, and have an adventure than lay on the beach and relax.

What are 3 things you couldn’t leave home without?

Coley: Camera, chapstick, & comfy shoes

Kim: Camera, journal, and my favorite pair of jeans

If you could choose a celebrity to travel with, who would it be?

Coley: Danny DeVito (preferably as Frank from Always Sunny in Philadelphia)

Kim: Umm…does Jim from The Office count?

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten!?

Coley: Alligator

Kim:  Probably kangaroo…tastes like chicken 🙂

What’s your favorite place  you’ve been so far?

Coley: Innsbruck, Austria. It’s simply charming.

Kim: Melbourne, Australia is the perfect city in my opinion. I’m really excited we’ll be going back to spend 5 days in Melbourne so I can really explore it more. Ask me again after this trip and we’ll see if my answer changes.

What are you going to miss most about home?

Coley: My whole family! My nephew will be turning 1 in July, so I’ll be missing his birthday.

Kim: Mexican food, hot showers, and some privacy

What’s your favorite cereal? 

Coley: Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Kim: Hands down, Cinnamon Toast Crunch…a childhood favorite.

3 things you’re planning to cross off your bucket this list summer?

Coley: Ride an elephant in Thailand, go zorbing in New Zealand, and tubing in Laos

Kim: Bunjee jump in New Zealand, ride an elephant in Thailand, and blackwater raft