The end of the line

United Kingdom
Sunday, December 15, 2013

It's been 2 months since we posted our last blog and boy has it been a busy time. In that time we finished our epic trip, found a new house sitter, packed everything up (again) and jumped back on another plane to the other side of the world to pursue a job opportunity.

Somehow it seems fitting to write our final blog so far away from the UK even though we are sitting at a desk, and not writing it whilst chugging through the countryside in a sweaty, sticky railway carriage or rattling along on a bus.

The final leg of the final leg

We ended the trip like we started with an action packed day of jumping on and off trains. During our entire trip we tried to avoid having to make connections, and in the few places we had to, if we liked the look of the place we normally got off for a few days to stretch our legs. However we well and truly went against the norm on the final journey home by having 4 connections!

Admittedly we didn't take the most direct route home as when we booked our Eurostar tickets, the tickets for Madrid to Barcelona weren't on sale. Therefore instead of waiting and risk not being able to get something at a reasonable price and thus jeopardising our Eurostar and final tickets home, we decided to take a less direct route. Although in theory we could get from Madrid to London in one day, we couldn't comfortably make the final leg home on the same evening, which would have either meant a stopover in London or Paris, if we decided to break up the journey before the Eurostar. Our route involved an overnighter on the train so we could arrive in Paris early in the morning for the onward Eurostar journey. This saved us paying for a night in Paris and the train was cheaper too. That was the good news but it meant we had a longer trip home combined with the most, and the tightest connections in our entire trip! Sounds stupid and looking back we would have to agree.

But luck was on our side and every train arrived bang on time. In fact thinking about it, apart from some terrible journeys in Thailand, every train we took in our entire trip has been punctual, even when we had to 'detrain' back in the Rockies and wait for ages for a bus, we still arrived earlier by road than we were supposed to by rail!

As we awoke on the final day and sat up in our sleeper bed, it suddenly dawned on us that the journey was nearly over. No more rickety beds or squeaky carriages to contend with because the next time we got into bed we would be at home. Not once in the entire trip have either of us really thought about 'our bed' but at this very moment in time it seemed like the greatest thing on Earth and the best way to end an amazing ten months on the road.

We stepped off the train into a dark, damp and very unromantic Paris and pulled our bags across the Siene to head for the Eurostar. Now just a reminder it always pays to do your homework, and if in doubt, check and check again. This was our philosophy for the entire trip so why we just took somebody's word on the internet that it was an easy connection 'just over the river' we will never know. But after dragging our bags through the dark streets, we arrived at a grand station to find out there wasn't a Eurostar in sight. We could have caught a Metro to Guard De Nord but instead we decided to walk as it didn't look far on the map. Wrong! After an hour of quickly marching across the city we were relieved to finally find Guard De Nord and almost be in touching distance of good old Blighty.

It is difficult to choose the 'best' train journey on the entire trip because nearly every one of them was special in some way or another. A few of the journeys were just about getting from A to B but every one of them was a small part of a big chain which took us round the world. However if we had to choose the most prominent journey it would have to be the Eurostar as it was the way we left the UK with joy and excitement and the way we returned with memories that will last a lifetime. Also apart from the small section of line in Thailand where we traversed between Bangkok and Ayuthaya the Eurostar was the only time in our entire trip we crossed our path.

We arrived into St Pancras with just an hour to make our connection. Which included picking up our tickets, grabbing some photos and a beer in the pub where it all started 10 months and 7 days ago. We were the second and third people off the train and thanks to the wonderful man in Seat61 we benefited from his inside knowledge that the seat diagrams on the Eurostar's website are incorrect and we managed to get off the train right at the top of the escalator so we were in the main station in less than 5 minutes.

After a quick dash to collect our tickets we were queuing up at the bar to enjoy one last beer of the journey, before catching the last train of our epic journey. We ordered and Ross passed over payment and the bar man replied 'Cheers Mate' and that was the reality check we both needed. We couldn't have had a more English welcome... we were home, and we had made it round the world! Only in good old Blighty do people say 'Cheers' and if you don't believe us try saying it in America and see what dumfounded looks you get.

The hour flew by and before we knew it, we were on the last train home reflecting on the different train journeys we had embarked upon, from the frozen depths of Siberia to the hot and sticky journeys throughout Asia. We thoroughly enjoyed travelling by train and we saw so much more of the world than we would have done from 35,000ft. If you have the time we would recommend it over flying any day and that is saying something as we all know Ross loves flying.

We ended the trip exactly how we started it, in 1st class but unfortunately for us we didn't receive anything that resembled a 1st class service! In fact we wouldn't be lying if we said we received the worst customer service in our entire trip on the very last train. Admittedly we usually travelled in second or even third class so we weren't expecting a 'service' but when you have paid extra to get something you expect to get what you have paid for. We were in 1st class on a Friday afternoon surrounded by business men and women in suits so we were subjected to a miserable train manager who seemed to resent the fact that we were in first class in our slacks with our backpacks. It wasn't the way we wanted to end the journey, but hey we are still chuckling about it now.

Looking backwards for the first time in months

After spending the better part of a year trotting the globe and experiencing new cultures, it was only when we got back to the UK that we actually had the chance to stop and reflect about the places we've visited and the experiences we've had along the way. This was the most surprising aspect for us because we always assumed that we would have all the time in the world and we didn't realise how fast paced the journey would be.

The days seemed to blur into one another and a typical day would consist of exploring our surroundings whilst trying to juggle writing the blog and doing mundane things such as cooking, washing and of course planning the next places on our itinerary. This took up a lot of time and because we were constantly busy, it was hard to take in the magnitude of what we were doing. Composing the blog might have been a time consuming task but it was the best thing we could have possibly done because when we flick back through our many blogs the memories come flooding back.

We've had the most amazing time on this trip of a life time and we're so glad that we spent so much time planning our own itinerary because this is what has made our trip so special. It was like we had stepped onto our very own yellow brick road and although we knew that it would eventually lead us home, we also knew that we were going to have a lot of adventures along the way.

We always assumed that we would be heartbroken when the trip came to an end so we were really surprised by the lack of tears when the journey was finally over. As we mentioned before when we got to Madrid we knew the next place on the itinerary was home, so home we went. It just felt like the natural thing to do. We can only assume it's because we had the most amazing time and experienced so much that we were simply happy to come home and see our friends and family again.

We feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to see so much of the world and we are certain that in the years to come we will be telling our friends and family about many of these experiences. It's been said that we could write a book about our adventures and as we spent a great deal of time and effort writing the blog we have decided to do just that... and here it is!

The best bits

The best thing about travelling on the rails is the delightful people you get to meet along the way. We only have to think back to a particular journey for us to think of at least one eccentric person we met. These colourful characters have now become embedded in our memories of these journeys and it brings back some lovely memories for us to laugh at or simply reminisce about. This is why we are so glad that we chose to travel round the world by land where practical and we are 100% certain that we wouldn't have come across so many different people if we had chosen to fly instead.

We finally arrived back to where we started and we were greeted by two smiling faces and although we had exchanged many video calls with Mum and Dad over the course of our travels it was so nice to see them in person, without the dodgy internet reception that we sometimes experienced along the way. After lots of cuddles it was time to go home. This was a very surreal moment and it's hard to explain just how strange it was to see our home again after ten months of being on the road but it didn't take us long to settle in.

We thought that we might miss seeing so many different places and being constantly on the move but actually we were more than happy to be back in the UK. We certainly didn't miss the constant unpacking and then repacking. In fact Sonya was like a kid in a sweet shop when she opened her wardrobe and had so many different choices of clothes to wear!

We have loved being on the road and we've seen some beautiful places on our journey but where was our favourite places? It's hard to choose a so called 'Top 10' places as we enjoyed all of the places we've visited, it's easy to see which places we liked the most from the blogs we have written. Our month in China was an eye opener for us and we are so thankful that we did all of the research by looking at other peoples blogs because in our humble opinion we got to see the 'real' China. We didn't want to just visit the major cities of China, we also wanted to visit the small towns in the countryside too and we are so glad that we did because we managed to stumble across some of the most beautiful sights in the world.

We bustled our way through the crowded streets of Shanghai in the pouring rain and had to contend with the sharp elbows of the older population, but we also took long bike rides in the countryside with great views of the karst mountains and rice paddy fields in Yangshou. There was such a contrast between the city and the countryside and we simply loved our time in China. We also loved New Zealand for many of the same reasons, the cities were action packed but the countryside was simply mind blowing and had so many hidden gems. When we say that our blog for the South Island was 10,000 words long we think it sums up how much fun we had and how much we loved writing about our time in New Zealand.

We could be here for hours telling you about every experience we had but for those of you who spent the time reading our blogs you know about them already ;-) We would like to say a big thank you to everyone for following us and if we've managed to inspire just one person to get out there and see the world then we are happy. There are so many amazing places in this world that we still haven't seen but we can only be thankful for the places we have seen.

Over the course of our trip we have been following the blogs of another couple from the UK who are so hard-core they've been on the road for nearly 4 years which we find truly amazing! They have a website called Never Ending Voyage and they live by their strapline 'because life is short and the world is large' We couldn't agree more, although we could have stayed on the road for a lot longer if we wanted to, we are more than happy with what we managed to fit into ten months but we take our hats off to their adventurous spirits.

Right time, wrong place

On several occasions in our journey we were in the right place at the wrong time including the worst air conditions ever recorded in Beijing, the smog hazed KL, the horrible flooding's in Colorado, the shutdown of the American Government and last but not least the shooting in Washington. We seemed to have a strange knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time but these experiences all added to our amazing journey. We were also incredibly lucky to have worked our way around the world and not to have been in any of these places on a slightly different day as our trip could have been very different, our thoughts go out to those people affected by the truly horrific events of the earthquake that rocked Chengdu over a month after we left, those in the Philippines and most recently those affected by the cyclone that hit Bali. We had planned to visit the Philippines but at the 11th hour changed our minds to cut out a few weeks so Ross could pursue his job opportunity. We could have easily been in any of those locations when any of these natural disasters struck, fortunately for us we weren't, but we feel for those who have lost loved ones and had their lives turned upside down.

Final Statistics

278 days on the road/rail. We spent approximately 15% of the time travelling, sometimes the journey is the destination.

We stayed in 74 different hotels and campsites.

We covered just under 70,000km, in comparison the distance around the circumference of the Equator is approx. 40,000km

Mode Qty KM Miles % Hours:Minutes Days %
Train 40 35,303 21,936 50.4 525:00 21.9 75.6
Bus 18 3,592 2,232 5.1 78:47 3.3 11.3
Mini Bus 1 289 180 0.4 03:30 0.1 0.5
Car 4 7,835 4,868 11.2 - - -
Boat 9 542 337 0.8 29:50 1.2 4.3
Plane 7 22,424 13,934 32.0 32:10 1.3 4.6
Total 79 69,985 43,486 694:17 28.9


The three questions we routinely get asked is what is your favourite place, did you want to come home and how much did it cost?

I'm sure by now you know the answers to the first two.

Now to answer the big question.... or not!

Sorry folks.... we are not going to reveal how much we spent as a) we don't want to and b) we don't think it would help others to plan something similar. Because unless you are going to repeat exactly what we did step by step the costs would be pointless. Also we managed to bag some incredible deals on flights, car hire and hotels as we were travelling in the off peak season. There is no guarantee that any of these promotional deals we booked would be available again.

We can confirm it wasn't a cheap year by any stretch of the imagination but as we carefully planned everything we actually came in under budget. It doesn't matter how much you spend, as long as you achieve what you want to.

However we did closely monitor our spend so we made sure we had enough in the bank to get home! Whilst we were doing this we categorised our spend into three areas, transport, accommodation and everything else i.e. food and activities. As a guide the breakdown of spend by these areas is as follows:


27% of our total spend was on transport which didn't come to much more than a standard Round the World plane ticket. Which would have limited us to a set number of flights in each continent.


Came to 20% of our total spend, we were happy to stay in accommodation with shared facilities but we upgraded where we stayed for a longer period. Accommodation costs could have easily formed the largest part of our spend if we stayed in swanky hotels along the way. If you're looking for private accommodation with nice facilities, expect to spend dramatically more than what we did!

Everything Else

As the name suggests this included absolutely everything we didn't include in the other two categories. The total spend came to 52% of our total spend. We always planned on being active and doing as many activities as we possibly could fit in. We would have rather travelled for a shorter time and have action packed days than fill our days with lazy days on the beach. We always expected the lion's share of the costs to be on activities and we are glad it worked out that way in the end.

Our three travel tips

Take an interest in Geography/Geology and when we say Geography we don't mean knowing where China is on the map, but the wonders of Mother Nature such as volcanoes, glaciers and fault lines. Although you can still be awe inspired by these beautiful creations without knowing anything about them, their true beauty lies beneath. Knowing how they are formed and how they have formed the world around you can change your whole perspective and experiences.

Take an interest in recent history. Neither of us are historians but in our opinion there will never be another 100 or so years like the last. Throughout our entire trip we were reminded about how World War 1 and 2 have shaped the modern world we live in. If you want to step further back, take the time to explore the East India Company and the Opium Wars as these featured throughout our journey. We thought we knew a lot about recent history before we left, but we definitely know more now!

Finally our last tip would be to take the time to learn some basic photography. You don't need to be as good as the world famous paparazzi, but if you travel light like we did you can't buy souvenirs from everywhere you visit so your photos are both your souvenirs and your memories. You don't need a super flashy camera but you do need to know how to use it. If you only visit somewhere once you don't want a blurred photo as your only memory. We managed with a compact camera and although we would have liked something better at times, the convenience of its size and the relative unappealing design allowed us to fit into our surroundings. We wouldn't have wanted to lug a bulky SLR around for 10 months or walk around some fairly poor areas of the world with one swinging about on our necks.

So that's it, a once in a lifetime journey is over and it is already beginning to feel like a distant memory. We would love to say, until next time...

'That's all for now folks!'

But this is the end of the line. Thanks for following us, we have enjoyed every minute of it.

Sadly, goodbye once and for all.

Team Chip

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