2 Years and 26 Countries

Close to three years ago I finished a two year journey around the world. I traveled from city to city telecommuting for work and spending generally a month or two in each city except for the last few months where I made a mad dash to the end through several cities.

I wanted to learn another language, find a place to eventually live, investigate places to launch a business, travel and see what it would be like to live in various different places around the world. I faithfully wrote several posts documenting the first six months of my trip but then quickly fell behind and eventually stopped all together.

This post is an attempt at summarizing the 26 countries I visited or lived in from January 2005 to December 2006.

South America

My last entry dated over four years ago left me in Colombia. No I haven’t been in Colombia since then although I was very tempted to stay and still consider it one of my favorite countries in the world.

My Colombian Parents Pilar and Fernando in Bogotá

My Colombian Parents Pilar and Fernando in Bogotá

Colombia is beautiful, untouched, and has some of the most friendly people that I’ve ever met. When I arrived I was essentially adopted by a wonderful family that took me in and treated me as if I were one of them. I miss my Colombian brothers sisters, parents, grandparents, and cousins and I’ll definitely find my way back someday to visit my Colombian family and their beautiful country.

After Colombia I spent just over three weeks in Lima, Perú with a short break during the long Thanksgiving weekend to see Machu Pichu. Machu Pichu is definitely in my top 5 places that I’ve ever visited. I haven’t been everywhere in Latin America but Perú probably has the most varied, interesting, and yes I dare say best food in Latin America. From the ceviche to the anticuchos de corazón, wonderful spices and even guinea pig on a skewer, I was more than satisfied.

At Machu Pichu with my Swiss travel partner Karin

Rainy day at Machu Pichu with my Swiss travel partner Karin

That's my guinea pig... hmm

That's my guinea pig... mmm

From Perú, I flew to Argentina, unpacked, relaxed for a few weeks and then flew to the States for the holidays and to stock up on tech gear. At the end of 2005,  laptops went for about triple the cost in the US. The amount I saved on the laptop covered the round trip flight.

Back in Buenos Aires, it was nice to return to a familiar place where I worked hard, ate out almost every night, and just enjoyed staying in one location for a while. I also spent a few weeks in Córdoba to see if I could consider living and setting up a business there but it just didn’t compare with the cosmopolitan and vibrant life that Buenos Aires offered.

Next up Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio is surrounded by mountains, jungle, islands, and of course beaches. The locals known as cariocas say that god spent six days creating the world and the seventh day on Rio. After spending a month in the city I think the statement can be justified.

God spent the 7th day on Rio

God spent the 7th day on Rio

I found Rio to be the most difficult place to work from because there are so many tempting things to do outside. It’s tough to return to work when everybody else is headed to the beach.

The most shocking thing about Brazil, at least from my very little taste of Rio, is that everybody appears to be exceedingly happy. Compared to Buenos Aires, where very few people make eye contact or smile at least when in public areas by themselves, everybody in Rio smiles all of the time. The people always seem to be in a good mood, easy going, and enjoying life.

Hang gliding over Rio

Hang gliding over Rio

I studied Portuguese for three weeks after arriving and was surprised at how fluent I became in such a short period of time. The language sounds nothing at all like Spanish but is very similar grammatically. At first I didn’t like the sound of it at all but after studying for a day or two I completely fell in love with the way the Cariocas speak and the song like nature and tone of the language.

Europe

It was turning into winter 2006 in the southern hemisphere so I decided to do some traveling in Europe. My first stop was Munich and I arrived on a nice sunny spring day where everything in the world strangely seemed to work and people actually obeyed traffic laws to the point of not even jaywalking. I had definitely left South America.

Relaxing in Berlin

Roughing it in Berlin

My brother Chris lives about 45 minutes from Nuremberg and I used his place as a base. I spent a few months in total in Germany while traveling back and forth to Austria, Hungary, Poland, Belgium, and Holland. I then realized it would be too difficult to see Europe before winter if I were to continue telecommuting so I let my client know that I was going to take a break for a while to focus on traveling.

I spent the next six months bouncing from city to city spending weeks here and there and made a nice swath from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea.

Enjoying a Little Mud on Corfu Island in Greece

Enjoying a Little Mud with Some Travel Friends on Corfu Island in Greece

I spent a little time in Eastern Europe investigating whether to live and setup a business there but the winters were a little too cold for my taste. I also had the feeling that Eastern Europe was still a bit too much of a risk compared to Argentina or Panamá which were my two top choices at the time.

When I made it to Paris my roommate Sophie who I lived with in Panamá invited me to stay with her and her boyfriend for a few weeks in Paris. I tried to talk her out of hosting me but she insisted. I am very grateful to her, her boyfriend and her parents who also invited me their place close to La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast.

Amazing dinner with Sophie and her family

Amazing dinner with Sophie and her family

I thought the French, even the Parisians, were very friendly and polite which ran counter to several negative comments I previously heard from friends and others who have visited France. I’m sure my love of French food and respect for their appreciation of life to even the smallest detail helped us start off on the right foot but I’m still shocked how many people have said they’ve had bad experiences with the French whereas I fell in love with the people.

By November I’d seen enough churches to last a lifetime and it was also getting too cold for my blood so I bought a ticket to Bangkok and bid farewell to Europe. There were many places I wanted to see in Asia but after two years on the road I decided to focus on figuring out where to settle and setup a business.

South East Asia

I spent a few weeks in Bangkok writing a business plan and looking into the feasibility of bootstrapping a business there or somewhere in Vietnam. I had been to Thailand before and love the food, culture, and of course the beaches. Regardless, I came to the conclusion that due to costs, language issues, and availability of software engineers that the Philippines would be better from a business perspective so I packed up after a few weeks and headed off to Manila.

On my way there I stopped over in Phuket to relax for few days and enjoy the beaches which was a nice break from Bangkok and then stopped in Singapore for a few days on my next layover.

Short Touristy Break on Ko Phi Phi Beach from The Beach

Short Touristy Break on Ko Phi Phi Beach From the Movie "The Beach"

I’ve never made it faster through customs and immigrations than in Singapore. My seatmate who was an expat living in Singapore commented that even with his electronic ID, which allowed him to walk straight through immigrations without stopping, could never get to baggage claim before his baggage arrived. It took me took about 10 minutes to get through customs and immigration to my baggage claim from the plane and of course my luggage was there waiting for me. I wish other airports could copy how the Singaporeans manage an airport.

Singapore is a nice city but too perfect and cookie cutter for my tastes. I can see why it attracts so many expat retirees. You could consider it the Florida of Asia. I only stayed two nights so I’m sure there is a lot more to Singapore than what I saw. I did manage to catch up with Henrik an old friend I met years before in Thailand who ended up making Singapore his home. He showed me around a bit and we enjoyed some great food before I left for Manila.

Catching up with Henrik in Singapore before Christmas

Catching up with Henrik in Singapore before Christmas

Manila was completely opposite of Singapore. They definitely didn’t win any speed records for getting people through immigration or customs. It was also completely insane getting downtown. There was so much traffic on the highway that kids came by knocking on the doors asking for money and street vendors peddled their wares through the traffic on the major highways. Ahh, a little bit more reminiscent of South America.

Manila is not pretty by any means but I had a great time and it’s not too far away from beaches. I don’t know if I could live there but I definitely think there could be some very nice places to live in the Philippines and it has a fairly friendly business environment.

After a few days I left for Puerto Galera to take a class to get certified as an advanced open water diver. There is some great diving there and it was an amazing place to get certified. My favorite dive was a drift dive where we were swept quickly along for several kilometers along the side of a coral cliff.

Final Advanced Open Water Test (US vs. UK)

Advanced Open Water Diver Final Exam - USA vs. UK

Once I finished my advanced open water certification I headed back to Manila for a day or two and then finished my trip flying back to the States for the holidays and to make one of the biggest decisions of my life. Where to settle and setup my business.

In this quick recap I left out many great locations, friendships and interesting anecdotes from my two year trip but I don’t think I would ever finish this post if I tried to mention them all. It was an amazing experience and one that’s changed my life in many ways. I never imagined I would see so many places or meet so many great people. It was a trip of a lifetime.

Below are all of the countries I entered into or exited from during the course of my trip.

CountryEntry DateDeparture Date
Argentina1/30/20054/3/2005
Uruguay4/3/20054/3/2005
Argentina4/3/20054/20/2005
United States4/21/20055/4/2005
Costa Rica5/4/20057/11/2005
Panama7/11/20058/11/2005
Colombia8/11/200511/18/2005
Peru11/18/200512/6/2005
Argentina12/7/200512/23/2005
United States12/24/20051/8/2006
Argentina1/9/20064/7/2006
Brazil4/7/20065/10/2006
Germany5/11/20067/2/2006
Austria6/23/20067/2/2006
Hungary7/2/20067/7/2006
Poland7/7/20067/21/2006
Germany7/21/20068/1/2006
Belgium8/1/20068/4/2006
Holland8/4/20068/6/2009
Germany8/8/20068/10/2006
Czech Republic8/10/20068/11/2006
Bulgaria8/11/20068/27/2006
Greece8/27/20069/6/2006
Italy9/6/20069/14/2006
Germany9/15/20069/23/2006
Switzerland9/23/20069/25/2006
France9/25/200610/10/2006
Spain10/10/200610/27/2006
Portugal10/27/200611/2/2006
Spain11/3/200611/3/2006
Germany11/3/200611/11/2006
Thailand11/12/200612/6/2006
Singapore12/6/200612/8/2006
Philippines12/8/200612/19/2006
United States12/19/20061/13/2007
Argentina1/14/2007