Just a Pack | December 31st, 2014 | 2 Comments

10863585_10153009345922259_1902904035_n (2)2014 was the best year of our lives. We left New York on February 1st and have been on the road ever since, visiting one incredible country after another, and doing so on a minimal budget.

We have taken 10 planes, 7 trains, and 36 buses on our journey through 19 countries. We launched Just a Pack from a hostel kitchen in Cozumel, poured countless hours into it, and watched it grow. We are both incredibly grateful for having the opportunity to travel this year, for the inspiring people we have met along the way, and for the support of our friends, family, and followers.

Our year has been filled with countless wonderful experiences but there are a few that stand out more than others. Here is our list of favorites from our travels in 2014.

24553f84b0e436acdf87646d5e0e649dOne of the many magnificent sunsets in Phuket, Thailand

Our Favorite View

Randi – Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. The massive limestone cliffs cropping up out of the water and shooting into the sky like verdant giants are absolutely breathtaking.

Michael – Sunsets in Phuket. I’ve borne witness to so many incredible views this past year that I fear I might be getting a little spoiled. The rolling hills of Tuscany, sunsets in southern Thailand, arid plains in Spain, or the rooftops of Prague,  it’s almost fool hardy to try and pick a favorite. Gun to my head, the brilliant bleeding sky that is a sunset in Phuket takes the prize.

59838a66ef4f7a5c43f27c7a9636dae7Stunning Prague, Czech Republic

Favorite City

RandiPrague – I’ve wanted to visit Prague for ten years and finally got to do so this summer.  It was even better than I had imagined it might be.  Prague has everything a great city should have; night life, beautiful architecture, cool people, great food, and it’s cheap in comparison to a lot of places in Europe.  I loved every minute there.

Michael – I very much enjoyed visiting Paris, Barcelona, and Seville for the first time ever this year. However, like Randi, I’m picking Prague. I don’t think I’ve ever visited a city I enjoyed as much. Old Town Prague feels like a living breathing modern fairy tale. The city oozes ambiance and begs exploration.

494a7f3bd0ce890fb8cb662a552c37e2Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Favorite Country

Randi – Cambodia.  I have felt a pull to Cambodia ever since I decided to go to southeast Asia.  It is the country I wanted to visit the most and it’s the one that left the biggest impression on me.  The people, the poverty, the natural beauty, Angkor Wat…it was a moving and emotional time there.  It’s a special place for me.

Michael – Cambodia as well. I didn’t know what to expect from Cambodia, to be honest, and was surprised by how much I ended up loving it. The country possess a grace that is hard to describe. Stunning natural beauty and a resilient population juxtaposed onto a recent history filled to the brim with atrocity. I was fascinated and awestruck. I am doubtlessly returning to Cambodia in the near future. ​

b2f7c3fd1a0095e72e72fa79f2c0af98Beach in Tulum, Mexico

Best Beach

Randi –  Bocas del Torro, Panama had the best selection of beaches.  Zapatilla Island in particular is the winner.  The sand is white and soft, the water is clear, calm, and warm, and there is so much colorful marine life to see there.  I can remember standing half immersed in the water and thinking to myself that it can’t get any better than this.

MichaelTulum Beach, Mexico. White sands, crystal blue water, and ancient Mayan ruins. Spectacular.  I also very much enjoyed the peaceful tranquility of Star Fish Beach, located on the northern end of Bocas Island in Panama.

51f04285833d545c763fa91e3ed89679San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico

Biggest Surprise

Randi – San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque.  My image of Mexico before this trip was beaches and deserts so these two places really surprised me.  To see rainforests in Palenque and discover the chilly, European-feeling town of San Cristobal was rfreshing and interesting.

Michael – The aforementioned Cambodia, and my love affair with it, is probably the biggest surprise of the year for me.

951f51d047b101d6ee389e0a384653d3Delicious dishes from Thailand

Country With the Best Food

Randi – As far as local food goes Mexico was my favorite but the food in Prague wins because there were so many vegan restaurants to choose from.  After spending a few months in countries with very limited options I was suddenly able to get vegan versions of any cuisine I could imagine.  This was a huge surprise considering traditional Czech dishes usually involve roasted meats and dumplings filled with animal products.

​Michael – While I’m not the foodie that Randi is, I’m going with Thailand. Amazing stir fry, I think I could eat chicken with cashews and hot peppers with jasmine rice every single day.  Vietnam’s Pho comes a close second.

Yummiest Street Food

Randi – Probably the veggie pot stickers I had in Pai, Thailand.  I didn’t expect much but they were little pockets of deliciousness.​

Michael – Mexico. I can eat those street tacos every day. Just hold the lettuce and load the up with chili peppers please! Delicious.​

025421ff022b1d6917927488d833647eMad Monkey Hostel – Kampot, Cambodia

Our Favorite Hostel

RandiOasis Hostel in Seville, Spain.  The hostel and rooms are beautiful, the kitchen is great for someone who wants to cook for themselves often, there are so many organized activities to choose from, the staff is super friendly, and the atmosphere couldn’t be better.  I had a lot of fun there.​

MichaelMad Monkey Hostel in Kampot, Cambodia. We spent a lot of time at the Mad Monkey in Siem Reap and loved their bar and their staff, but the Kampot Mad Monkey is probably the best hostel I have ever stayed in. Brand new building, awesome swimming pool, super staff, great restaurant/bar. What more can you ask for out of a hostel?

Best Night Life

Randi –  Barcelona, Spain.  I got to experience a night club in Barcelona that had my favorite kind of music to dance to.  It was the first time in my life that I literally danced the night away.​

MichaelPrague, Czech Republic. Not so much for the bars and clubs, even though there are certainly some really cool ones, but for the ambiance of the city at night. I loved walking around old town Prague, beer in hand, and soaking in the architecture. Charles Bridge is also great at night. Barcelona is a close second.

2aa219d610ac7c4a8f9ac4bb55114796Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Tourist Attraction Which Most Lived Up to the Hype

Randi – Angkor Wat in Cambodia.  It lived up to the reputation and the trees of Ta Prohm were as incredible as I imagined them to be.​

Michael – Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.  Probably one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

9900ce3d697efa399d466fc8074a3f50Costa Rica to Panama Border Crossing

Best Border Crossing

Randi – Costa Rica to Panama. It was a long day crossing the border from Costa Rica to Panama but when we finally got past immigration we walked over an old rickety and rusty bridge with broken boards, exposed nails, and gaping holes in the pedestrian pathway.  When we got to the other side I felt like I had accomplished something and the walk prepared me for what I was about to experience in Panama.​

Michael – Belize to Guatemala. Easiest border crossing I’ve ever done. Took about 20 minutes.

Well, that wraps up our first ever Best of the Year column. We hope to write many more. 2015 is set to be another epic year. After a month in New York City we will set out for South America in February, starting with Colombia. After that we have plans for Europe and a return to Southeast Asia. We hope to see you all on the road. Happy New Year and may 2015 be filled with amazing travel experiences for all of you!

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2 thoughts on “The Best of 2014

  1. Michael i have wonderful memories of my trip to Vietnam and Cambodia and the stay at “MAD MONKEY HOSTEL” in Siem Reap.Too cool and excellent with its small swimming pool and exotic roof-top bar.Envy your tour of 19 Country’s in 2014.Its definitely fun travelling as a couple and could you disclose your average travelling budget/year ? Its definitely not cheap !

    1. Rudolph, Glad you had a great time at Mad Monkey! We did as well, and we love all of their socially responsible business practices. For the most part my budget is about $35 USD per day. Randi and I are traveling as partners, now as a couple. It makes our entire trip even more unique, because everyone always thinks we are a couple when they first meet us! We are in the process of writing our “origin story” and how we ended up traveling together, we hope you come back to read it next week =)

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