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World Travel: Making It Your Own

There isn’t much we’re more passionate about than traveling. Besides our dogs. And close family and friends. And music… okay, we’re passionate about at least a few things. But nothing enriches the soul like world travel!

Our Travel Background

Stephen and Andie on either side of the equator in Ecuador, one of our first adventures in world travel as a couple
Stephen and Andie on either side of the equator in Ecuador

Between us we’ve been to 6 of the 7 continents. Which sounds like we’re just one tick away from some form of completion. Make no mistake, we do have Antarctica very high on our list, but that seventh tick is far from our final goal. In reality, we’ve only just begun. The world is obviously a very big place and we’re curious to explore as much of it as humanly possible. 

Aside from vacations, Andie has lived overseas and studied abroad, while Stephen has traveled to other countries as a touring musician. So, we’re willing to exploit every reason possible to go someplace new. It also means we have friends and acquaintances all over the world. 


How We Plan Our International Travels

view of the Naples coastline and wing of an airplane from an airplane window
©Andie Mills

We get so much of our info and inspiration from YouTube and our favorite travel vloggers’ channels. YouTube has been an immensely useful resource for us to learn more about places on our list. It also gives us inspo for places we hadn’t yet considered. We get to learn about destinations, how to best travel to and within them, local cultures, foods, what to expect, what to see and what not to see while visiting, and so much more. 

Be sure to check out our list of travel vloggers to watch – these are the best we’ve found on YouTube, and they provide endless inspiration. It’s also fun to watch new vloggers as they find their way in their travels and filming journey. These are our favorite up-and-comers in 2021. They may even inspire you to start making videos of your own travels!

For more information on planning your next trip, including our top tips and resources, check out How To Plan A Trip: A Guide To Travel Planning.


Below are some of our favorite places, foods and experiences from our world travels thus far:

Our 48 Hours In London 

various images from London, including Tower Bridge, Camden, Buckingham Palace, and Abbey Road
photos ©Andie and Stephen Mills

We’re not hating on things like the London Eye, but we’re more likely to check it out from up on the Westminster Bridge, without paying the hefty admission fee to actually ride it (with what we’re sure is a breathtaking view aside). Instead, we opted for views with drinks in Sky Garden, which is free (entrance is free. drinks were priced for tourists), then grabbing some fish and chips at a 17th century pub like Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. We got to cover a lot of ground by booking ourselves a private Rock n Roll walking tour of London, where we spent spent a few hours exploring the music history of Soho, and rode the tube up to St. John’s Wood, as gawking at and crossing Abbey Road was high on our must-do list (Stephen’s a MASSIVE Beatles fan). We also found time to see Buckingham Palace and grab lunch at Camden Market. We have a separate post you should see on this: Our Perfect 48 Hours In London.

Hiking To A Waterfall In a Cloud Forest In Ecuador

Mindo cloud forest in Ecuador
©Andie Mills

This is one of our favorite world travel experiences so far. We took a guided birdwatching hike way up in the cloud forest to a waterfall in Mindo, Ecuador. The smells, the sounds, the lush colors… it was truly like being in another world. We also tried zip lining for the first time, across the canopy, which was literally breathtaking and worth every white-knuckled moment! Neither of us are big dare devils or extreme thrill seekers, but this was one of those instances where we knew if we were ever to zip line, this was the time. Mindo is one of the most popular day or weekend trips to take from Quito, and here are many of the reasons why: The Best Things to Do and See In Mindo, Ecuador.

UPDATE: Since this post’s original 2020 publish date, we visited Ecuador again – in 2022 –  and wow, did we top our first trip there! The Amazon, Galapagos Islands – see below.

Ecuador Revisited: 2022 vs. 2020

© Stephen & Andie

As valid as the above entry was at the time I wrote it in 2020, it’s so interesting to re-read from the perspective of having revisited the country and done those activities again, but now having new “favorite experiences.” Our new favorite Ecuador experience is probably horseback riding the base of Cotopaxi – Ecuador’s second-largest active volcano! It was one of the day trips we took from Quito, so you can read all about it here: Quito Itinerary: 7 Essential Thngs To Do and See. And while you’re at it,  Quito is a high altitude destination, so you’re going to want to read How To Prep for high Altitude Destinations.

The Galapagos? We could have NEVER imagined we’d be able to visit there so soon, but with a pandemic in the not-so-distant past, it was relatively affordable compared to what it usually would cost. The highlight of our time in the Galapagos would have to be swimming with sea lions! If you’re eyeballing a trip to the Galapagos, Santa Cruz is the perfect place to stay. Read this to help you plan: Santa Cruz Galapagos Travel Guide: What You Need To Know.

The Amazon Rainforest? YES! As soon as we knew we were going to Ecuador again we knew we had to really branch out this time. Right up there with the Galapagos was the Amazon. Only 2% of it is in Ecuador, and there was no way we were leaving it out of our itinerary. To say it was an experience like nothing we’ve had before is an understatement. We recommend you try to fit it into your Ecuador travels, too, and you should definitely read up on 13 Packing Essentials For a Trip To the Amazon before you go. 

This trip came about first, because we saw a ridiulously low fare on FareDrop, and coincidentally, we’d become friendly with a Quito-based, eco-conscious travel agent on Instagram. So, we reached out with a budget and some activities in mind – like staying in the Amazon jungle and visiting the Galapagos. They came back not only ticking off all of our wishlist items – within budget – but also recommending a thing or two we wouldn’t have known about. Remember our “new favorite Ecuador experience,” horsebacking at Cotopaxi National Park? Our travel agent came up with that! Since we normally plan all of our own travels, we wouldn’t have considered using a travel agent. But it happened organically and we are so thankful, because we learned how valuable a travel agent can actually be. Not convinced? Read and consider this: Why Use a Travel Agent? One Reason Is Surprising.

The Best Places To See Cherry Blossoms In Japan

a view of boaters on a river surrounded by cherry blossom trees nd the city of Tokyo in the distance
Photo by Yu Kato on Unsplash

Cherry blossom season in Japan is one of the most stunning experiences and an opportunity not to be missed. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting between mid-March through mid-April, try some of these most popular places to admire Sakura, the Japanese Cherry Blossom tree. A few of the most popular are Yoyogi Park, Takato Castle Ruins Park, Hirosaki Castle, Yoshinoyama, or Shinjuku Gyoen. The canal in Nakameguro in Tokyo becomes a magical waterway with the reflections of the blossoms and the illuminated lanterns shimmering like something from a fairy tale. 

Do Locals Really Celebrate Oktoberfest In Munich?

two men with steins of beer in a biergarten in Munich, Germany
©Andie Mills

Good question! And the answer is “Ja!” While the celebration has been adopted and commercialized worldwide over the years, it’s still a serious celebration in its region of origin. Andie lived in Munich for a few years and can confirm that it’s indeed a favorite event. Surprisingly, and despite Oktoberfest being a magnet for tourists, the majority of those in attendance is still purportedly Bavarian. Here are a few tips to appear less like a tourist: it’s a very social environment and you’ll likely be sharing a table with 6-10 celebratory strangers. Be sure to look your neighbors in the eye so as to not be perceived as rude, clink your bier stein with theirs before taking a drink – and clink at the bottom of the glasses not the top, to avoid spillage and cracking. Let out a hearty “Prost!” and drink up. When ordering your next bier, ask for a “mass,” which is German for “measure.” You might score a few bonus points for that one. 


The Best Pizza In Naples 

Stephen with a margherita pizza at Sorbillo in Naples, Italy
©Andie Mills

On our trip to Italy, we set out to determine once and for all what the best pizza in Naples is. We tried quite a few spots, and they all were completely delightful. We concluded that our top 3 are: 1.) Sorbillo, 2.) L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, and on a last-minute whim on our last day in Naples, we decided to walk far out of our way to squeeze in one more pizzeria from our list, and we were so glad we did: 3.) Pizzeria Starita came along and brazenly stole our 3rd place slot from El Presidente. In Naples, there are such strict and specific standards and measurements of ingredients that must be met to be called Neapolitan pizza, that it’s hard to believe there could be any difference in flavor from one to the he next. But somehow there is, and we tasted it in these three. Click here to see the list of our Top 7 Must-Try Pizzerias in Naples!

Amalfi Coast Wine

purple grapes hanging on the vine, illuminated by the sun. taken at an organic winery on the Amalfi Coast.

Speaking of Italy, if you’re headed to Naples we’d highly recommend you carve out a couple days to pop over to the Amalfi Coast and sample some of the finest wine in the world. Don’t worry, that doesn’t necessarily translate into tossing around mega-bucks in Positano like a celeb. We spent a few days in a local fishing village, Cetara, and had an amazing time. One of the highlights was making a day trip from Cetara to Vietri Sul Mar, to celebrate our wedding anniversary at Le Vigne Di Raito. This Woman-Owned Boutique Organic Winery On the Amalfi Coast offers such a wonderful, personalized experience. You can join one of their group tours if you prefer, but we splurged for a private tour – which included the vineyard, wine cellar, and concluded with a home-cooked lunch (including an abundance of wine sampling) on the terrace of the family’s house – which, naturally, overlooks the Mediterranean. The food was truly to die for, as is their wine, and we literally will never forget this experience.

The Best Ceviche We’ve Ever Had 

shrimp ceviche with popcorn, plantains, and a beer in Quito, Ecuador
©Andie Mills

Ecuador had a wide array of foods from all over the world, with a surprisingly shorter list of local/regional foods than we expected. Our favorites were simple, yet incredible. Adventurous as we are, we passed on trying the guinea pig dish known as cuy, but we did check out some other street food called Chanco Hornado (roasted pig, whole), while exploring one of the local open markets. Llapingachos – potato patties stuffed with cheese – were outstanding. But the highlight for us was the ceviche we had in Quito, which is still to this day the best we’ve had anywhere. We can only attribute it to some kind of magic fairy dust being sprinkled over the top. Or maybe it was the popcorn and plantains they served with it. If you’re planning to visit Quito, we cover a few more must-try foods (plsu a lot more!) in our post Quito Itinerary: 7 Essential Things to Do and See.

The Best Japanese Cuisine

overview of a table in a restaurant in Tokyo with fish, tempura, rice, and sushi
©Andie Mills

Japan has no shortage of mind blowing food. Obviously sushi comes to mind, and just about any seafood in any of Japan’s prefectures is to die for. Other fave dishes include: katsudon, takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and beef bowls – preferably certified Kobe beef, while in Kobe. And let the record reflect that the Yoshinoya fast food chain in Japan is far superior to Yoshinoya in the states. But we digress. If we had to mention one dish we don’t dig, shiokara gets a hard pass in our book (lol!). It is worth trying once or twice, especially if you can do so in different prefectures to really get a deeper sense of whether or not you like it. Shiokara in Tokyo was very unpleasant to me (Stephen), but in Sapporo, not bad at all! And while Japan is known for often putting their own funky spins on non-Japanese cuisine, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that we’ve also had legit Italian, Indian, and – though we keep it at the bottom of our food options list while in other countries – American food there. For more Japanese food check out 11 Must-Try Foods In Japan (That Aren’t Sushi). And just for fun (O/T), we think you’ll enjoy Only In Japan: 8 Unusual Things That Are Totally Common In  Japan.

Favorite Foods In Germany

a meat market in Munich, Germany
©Andie Mills

Sauerbraten, rouladen, and of course, bratwurst are at the top of the list for our faves in Germany. Wait, how was wiener schnitzel not the first to fly from my fingers onto the keyboard? But it’s not all about meat in Germany. In keeping more aligned with our current vegetarian diet, we LOVE the spaetzle, red cabbage, and German potato salad. And of course there are the pretzels. Don’t sleep on ‘em. They’re not “just pretzels” – they’re as a pretzel should be. Wash them down with a stein of bier and now you’re eating like a German! Like any country,  you’ll find different dishes or variations of the same dishes from region to region. We look forward to exploring a lot more of Germany in the future, but for now we’re most familiar with Bavaria. So, if you’re considering a trip there, be sure to check out our 12 Must-Try Foods in Bavaria before you go! 

Travel (Like A) Local

We talk of traveling abroad, but we should add that this isn’t the only way to do “world travel.” It doesn’t have to be international at all!  

a woman and two dogs standing in front of a giant sequoia tree in Sequoia National Forest
©Andie Mills

If you’re not able to grab your passport and book a flight, scratch your world travel itch locally! The biggest part of the travel experience is experiencing new things. Even if you’re staying local, you can still spend time checking out things that you always put off. For us that was Joshua Tree and Sequoia National Forest! Carve out that time! Indulge yourself and let yourself explore. You might be surprised at how many interesting hidden hometown gems have been right under your nose all along.

So are you ready to venture out and find your own travel style? Get more inspiration and ideas, check out a spot you’re considering visiting, and more via our  list of 20 Travel Instagram Accounts To Inspire Wanderlust, and be sure to tag us in your own posts so we can follow your world travel journeys! 

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