Two years on the road and going strong - the highlights of the past 12 months

April 5th 2010
Published: April 2nd 2010
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(Day 731 on the road)Well, who would have thought? Two years on the road, two years of Living the Dream - and going strong. When I made the rather impulsive decision in 2008 to quit my job to do something else with my life before it was too late, I sure didn't imagine any of this. I can't even begin to understand just how much I have seen and experienced or how many people I have met that had a profound impact on my life.

And how long is two years of travelling anyway? Here is one way to look at it: In my old job I had five weeks of holiday each year. Assuming that I would spend the full five weeks travelling every year (and not stay at home or with friends and family), it would take me 21 years to see as much of the world as I have seen in the past two years.

One year ago to the day, I published a blog about the highlights of my first year on the road, and I have decided to stick to the same format. Not only does it offer a nice overview of my journey, it also forces me to sit down and really look back at the past year. Sometimes I find myself so engulfed in travelling that I don't stop often enough to reflect on the past; this is the perfect time to do just that. It also helps me to remember just how privileged I am to be able to venture this far and for this long.

Let me start off though with a few statistics I have put together, some mundane, some rather interesting I hope. To answer the question first that so many people keep asking me: So far, in two years and really keeping costs down (sleeping in hostels, utilising local transport, eating street food or cooking myself), I have spent a total of 22.500 Euros, or 900 Euros a month, or 30 Euros a day - with the cheapest month being in Malaysia (450 Euros, March 2009) and the dearest one in New Zealand (1510 Euros, January 2010).

I have visited 23 countries in those 24 months (16 in the first year, and only 7 in the second year, so I am slowing down considerably); on average that equals about a month for every country. The actual time I spend in a place differs greatly of course. For instance, I spent a total of 154 days (over five months) in Malaysia (mainly due to the sheer beauty of the country and the amazing friendliness of the people, partly due to a long sickness), but only four days in the tiny sultanate of Brunei Darussalam.

I have taken and subsequently uploaded over 5500 pictures to my flickr account (including 150 panorama shots and 155 video clips) that have been viewed over 250.000. To accompany the photos, I have authored 150 blog entries that have been read 60.000 times by people from 158 nations, with most visitors coming from the USA (8100), the UK (4200) and Germany (3800) - as opposed to one single visitor each from countries like Zimbabwe, Tajikistan or Papua New Guinea. And if I just connect the main points of my route, I have travelled over 74.000km as the crow flies, and much much more if I were able to calculate my actual route.

As for the highlights of the past year (have a look here for a summary of my first year on the road), it has once again been incredibly difficult to compile this list. Last year I wrote that "it was remarkably hard to include certain experiences…and to exclude others" and that "I was amazed to find just how much has happened, and how distant yet at the same time how vivid some of my memories are". Well, the same holds true this year, so let me just get on with the highlights of the past 12 months:

Most beautiful beach: The stunning and deserted Kecil Beach at Bako National Park, Borneo, Malaysia

Most unreal sunset: A blood-red sensation that was out of this world, also at Bako National Park, Borneo, Malaysia

Most annoying place: The constant and never-ending hassle by aggressive touts in Bali and Lombok, Indonesia

Greatest single day: Trekking the volcanic Tongariro Alpine Crossing on New Zealand‘s rugged North Island

Longest time spent in one place: Voluntarily I spent two weeks in relaxed Kuching (Borneo, Malaysia) - and involuntarily I spent a month and a half in Kota Kinabalu (also in Borneo, Malaysia) after I fell sick

Absolute low point: Nine days of hospitalisation after an ear infection that caused me to completely loose my sense of balance and part of my hearing, followed by being grounded for another month of recovery (Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia)

Smallest country visited: The tiny sultanate of Brunei Darussalam, with its pleasant and sleepy capital Bandar Seri Begawan

Longest continuous time spent in a country: Experiencing the true New Zealand by driving around the country for almost four months in my great camper van

Friendliest people: I would have to say Malaysians, for their sheer amazing friendliness and helpfulness - time and time again

Happiest reunion: With my old university friends Henry and Carmen in Sydney, Australia

Greatest road trip: Cruising the gorgeous Great Ocean Road between Adelaide and Melbourne in Australia

Worst city: Jakarta in Indonesia - polluted, over-crowded, noisy, chaotic

Most awesome place overall: Malaysian Borneo, hands down the most amazing place with the friendliest people

Best diving: Diving with massive turtles off the island of Sipadan in Borneo, Malaysia

Best snorkelling: Drift-snorkelling with a massive turtle and armies of colourful fish in the crystal-clear waters off the beautiful island of Gili Trawangan, Lombok, Indonesia

Best place to get stuck in: Punan Bah, a tiny river settlement deep in the Borneo jungle, where we got stranded after the river levels dropped so low they were expecting the next boat only three weeks later

Mightiest caves explored: The great Mulu Caves in the national park of the same name, which also houses the Sarawak Chamber, the biggest cave chamber in the world (Borneo, Malaysia)

Best supermarket visited: The Jungle Supermarket - read: Collecting our own dinner from whatever grew in the jungle - deep in the remote Kelabit Highlands, accessible only by tiny Twin Otter plane (Borneo, Malaysia)

Best city visited: Not easy, but I guess cosmopolitan Sydney with its gorgeous harbour did it for me

Highest mountain climbed: Mt. Ruapehu in New Zealand, an active volcano with a stunning emerald-coloured crater-lake at the summit

Toughest hike: Trekking far off the marked trails near Lake Mavis in Arthur's Pass National Park, New Zealand

Longest time spent with a good friend: My old university-friend Suzanne, who came to travel with me around New Zealand’s South Island for two wonderful weeks

Most overhyped tourist attraction: Bali, Indonesia - full of drunk Australians, with the locals screwing and ripping you off at every turn. Definitely not paradise

Mightiest view savoured: The fantastic scenery of the Cascade Saddle in New Zealand‘s Mt. Aspiring National Park had me telling about it for weeks afterwards

Funniest English accent encountered: French ("it is 'orribly 'ot today, no?")

Most annoying English accent encountered: Like, American ("I was like, totally like cool with it")

Best accommodation: Pitching my tent right on the cliff-edge on a mountain opposite imposing Mt. Cook in New Zealand

Single most expensive item bought: My own campervan (my “mattress on wheels”) to explore New Zealand with for almost four months

Cleanest yet most sterile city: Singapore, with its strange, authoritarian laws that seriously curb everybody's freedom

Most inconsiderate people: Israelis, time and again so completely inconsiderate of others that is was almost beyond believe

Most disturbing experience: Visiting a number of mass graves in Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, the biggest of which holds 15.000 unidentified corpses from the devastating boxing day tsunami in 2004

Most unusual food eaten in a Muslim country: Munching on chewy dog meat at Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia

Best wildlife encounter: Playing with the Orang Utans in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia

Most memorable moment: Swimming in the open ocean from a tiny boat, with Krakatau volcano erupting behind me in force (Sumatra, Indonesia)

Most savoured food: Gado-gado, a mix of freshly cooked vegetables topped with a rich peanut sauce (mainly in Indonesia, but also found in Malaysia or Singapore)

Most imposing man-made monument: The mighty temple of Borobudur in Java, Indonesia

Most imposing natural monument: Ayer’s Rock - it was worth the effort to get to this remote place smack bang in the middle of the Australian outback

Most hostile behaviour encountered towards tourists: By numerous people in New Zealand, who made no secret about what they thought about tourists in their country

Fastest and most widely available Internet: Taiwan - free wireless Internet every single time I switched my laptop on, and considerably faster than anywhere else

Most impossible scenery: The mesmerising Bacuit Archipelago on the island of Palawan in the Philippines had me lost for words more than once - pictures simply cannot do this place any justice

Saddest place: Angeles City in The Philippines, often said to be the sex capital of the world, with around 20.000 prostitutes working in the town

Most unusual accommodation: In a disabled toilet at Jakarta Airport in Indonesia - after arriving in the middle of the night, with no transport, luggage storage or a safe place to sleep to be found anywhere

Best soak in a hot spring: The officially closed and thus wonderfully peaceful Wenshan hot springs that flow into an ice-cold river (so you can regulate the temperature yourself), right in the stunning Taroko Gorge in Taiwan

Most peaceful inner-city oasis: The wonderful and immaculate botanic gardens in Bogor, Java, Indonesia

Shortest commercial flight taken: The 12-minute flight on a tiny Pacific Air 8-seater plane from Mana Island on Fiji back to the main island of Viti Levu

Most annoying insects: The omnipresent swarms of aggressive sand flies all over New Zealand, which made spending time outside all but impossible in many places

Country I didn’t do justice too because I stayed way too short: The Philippines - I have only seen a tiny fraction of this amazing place

Let me close however with my favourite statistic of them all: Despite how much I have travelled on this trip and during previous journeys in my life, I have still seen only 24%!o(MISSING)f all the countries in the world (63 out of a total of 263 nations to be exact). How long will I have to keep going to see half of the planet? 75%!?(MISSING)? 100%!?(MISSING)?? It sure is a big world out there...

Next stop: Viti Levu Island (Fiji).

To view my photos, have a look at And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon (and most other online book shops).

Additional photos below
Photos: 10, Displayed: 10


3rd April 2010

It truly is an amazing world and your travels so far have been extremely insightful. I hope that your third year on the road is as enjoyable as your previous two.
3rd April 2010

American English
Hi Ben, Great blog! But please -- come to the USA during year 3 so that you can see that not all of us say "like" every other word! :) Jim
3rd April 2010

Keep Living The Dream!
3rd April 2010

Wow, it's really been two years?
can't believe it's been two years! really envy you for having been to so many places i've been dreaming to visit... and thanks for the math, seems like still need 20 sth years waiting for me~~
3rd April 2010

Another great blog, keep up the good work, happy travels. (p.s the comment about the Isrealis made me laugh out loud, so true)
3rd April 2010

Gratulation for being two years on the road !
Gratulation also to your more than 12 000 subscribers! A figure I find unbelievable! I wish I had at least 1 % of yours. Can you not lent me some ? Ha,Ha. On our way back home from Vietnam we had to stay 10 hours in Kuala Lumpur. Even in this short time we noticed how well developed the city is and how friendly the people are. What a big difference to Vietnam ! Their kindness made me curious to see more of Malaysia. I start to like the idea to come back and have a closer look to this county. Happy travelling ! Walter
3rd April 2010

Yes, we agree on: best beach and best dive. And yes, our campervan was the most expensive buy on our trip. Good to see your still enjoying. Making our photo albums at the moment and planning our next trip. Probably not 14 months.
3rd April 2010

congratulations :) i wish you more fun/safe travels
3rd April 2010

Really enjoyed reviewing your travels!
Thanks for sharing your experiences and enjoy Fiji! :-D
4th April 2010

Thank you
In 2007, my husband and I sold our house, put everything in storage. We traveled the US for two months visiting family and friends, 3 months in SE asia, 1 month in NZ, 2 months in Australia and a couple of weeks in Europe on our way back. We continually think about how and when we will go on another journey. It was wonderful reading your blog - we were able to relive some memories and think about some new places to go!! Thanks for sharing.
4th April 2010

Thanks for putting the time in...
Brilliant post Ben. It's great to see some contemplation of your travelling - I find it's difficult to do when "in the moment" - so appreciate your reflections. Where next? Oh, most randomness/coincidence involving people? There's always some great anecdotes involving people you meet who are dating/married to the girl next door to you when you were growing up.
4th April 2010

Way to live the dream!
My name is Dave Neal and I just read you blog and it is amazing...i wish i could be doing what you are doing at the moment. I am studying in Northern Ireland at the moment and have a blog on here, but it comes no where close to be as good as yours. Your pictures are amazing as well. Hopefully one day I will be able to do what you are doing. Keep living the dream, it is the only way to do it!
4th April 2010

make friend with u
hi,i had scaned your blog. i think you have free life i glod to make friend with u
4th April 2010

Love it!
Ben so loved your 2nd year round up.. something we've also been meaning to do since we go back but just can't bring ourselves to.. maybe because it will make life back in our home town even more depressing that it already is reliving those amazing memories of a wonderful world! Anyway yours is fantastic and totally agree with those places you mention that we too visited and also notes taken of those we didn't for next time around ;o) I sat here nodding at most of them, re-remembering others I'd forgotten about and some even made me quite emotional at just how wonderful some places are. Hope you are still having a fantastic time.. well you will be that goes without saying! So is it S America next then? We are really looking forward to your blogs on there as it will bring back wonderful memories of some of our most favourite countries we visited and just didn't spend enough time in. take care and keep on enjoying life on the road.. we miss it like hell :o( Sophie xx
5th April 2010

happy 2nd travel-birthday! And thanks for the statistics, I belong to those who were wondering what kind of budget it needs - I'd have guessed more, so it's very good to know. Definatley sounds like the best possible "investment" (a.k.a. best possible way to spend money and profiting from it). May the third year bring even more interesting encounters, beautiful sights, nice memories, great pictures, funny stories to remember and most importantly fun! I'll continue following your travels with a lot of jealousy, especially since I'm (still?) one of those 5-weeks-a-year-travellers :) Best regards and safe journey, Felix
6th April 2010

Hey,happy anniversary its been 2 years engaged to ur backpack,been together for good and ur bad time.too bad the witness of ur togetherness (ur sandal) is Only 1.5 years with u. Hehee....happy traveling ^_^
6th April 2010

Du bist schon so lange weg...
6th April 2010

Hi Ben, Du bist wirklich zu beneiden! Lass es Dir weiter gut gehen.
6th April 2010

Wie die Zeit vergeht... weiter alles Gute für Dich! Enjoy life!
6th April 2010

keep on living the dream! I'm heading to Europe fact in a few weeks time.I have 2 weeks with tour and one plus with just Mum. Plan: heading from Rome up to Den Haag in holland, then back to Rome. Any suggestions en route? was thinking Florence, Milan, Lyon, then Den haag.hmm...
6th April 2010

that's a really a nice blog, you are a very enthusiastic person, thanks for share this dream with us.... Have nice a nice trip ! Robson from Rio de Janeiro/Brazil .
6th April 2010

May the journey keep on going...
Typed a message in response to your latest blog, but it failed! I guess it's lost? The below message came up - don't know whether you can retrieve it? Well, loved your blog! Happy 2 year anniversary on your globe trotting adventure! Keep plodding along!
6th April 2010

Incredible Journey
Just came across your blog and read the whole thing in a day. It is truly inspiring! I am living the journey through you. I hope Africa is on your list and can't wait to read about your experiences there. Keep em coming!
7th April 2010

Third year?
Congratulations on reaching 2 years of travelling.......Enjoy your third year and beyond! Keep living the dream..... Happy travels, Dawn
9th April 2010

ben, thanks for your insightful entries. i know how difficult but also how satisfying it is to keep blogs up to date. just know that at the end of a long day at work i look forward to reading you tales. it's my dream to take off for a year and i'm hatching a plan to do so in a few years. i'm traveling to the philippines this june-july and i'm glad you enjoyed my homeland. i haven't been back in 15 years and excited to see all the changes. safe travels! garret
19th April 2010

Your travel stories are so inspiring and I alway look forward to your new photos or articles after a long day. If you run out of money, do consider setting up a donation page (eg, Paypal)! Good luck and continue to live the dream! - Isaac from the city you labelled "Cleanest yet most sterile" (no, you don't get caning for spitting gums on the streets!)
29th April 2010

Hi Ben, Glückwunsch zu den zwei Jahren!!! Andere Leute machen Weltreisen - was DU machst, ist einfach nur noch unglaublich. Ich frage mich ständig, ob ich im Leben alles richtig mache, oder ob ich nicht auch schon längst "on the road" sein sollte. Ich wünsche Dir auf jeden Fall noch ganz viele tolle Reisen, Menschen und Erlebnisse - und pass auf Dich auf!!! Beste Grüße aus Mainz von Lutz :o9
9th July 2010

Ein Wort.../ One word
fantastisch! amazing!
1st November 2012

Inspiring pics and stories. I was in the Philipines four years ago on Cebu, Bohol, Negros, Panay, Guimaras and Camotes, but wanted to go to Palawan. People told us it was dangerous to go there, due to the killing of tourists somewhere around 2001. How is it now?

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