2021: the year in review – how we traveled to 16 countries during a global pandemic

Another year of travel is coming to a close, never in our wildest dream did we ever imagine that this would have been possible but here we are trying to remember every country we visited and realizing that,

we visited more countries in 2021 then ever before, 16 countries in 4 different continents!

In this post you will read about all the countries we visited in 2021 and why we went back to the US for 3 months, with some of our favorite photos.

Hope you enjoy …

  1. Dahab, Egypt
  2. Florida, USA
  3. Croatia
  4. Lake Bled, Slovenia
  5. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  6. Kotor, Montenegro
  7. Tirana, Albania
  8. Corfu, Greece
  9. Rome and Naples, Italy
  10. Paris, France
  11. Brussels, Belgium
  12. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  13. Düsserldorf, Germany
  14. Portugal
  15. Morocco
  16. Thailand

How is this lifestyle even possible when there is so many restrictions?

We certainly didn’t start the year by saying to ourselves, hey let’s see how many countries we can visit this year? Things just happened, as many of you have learned, planning ahead has become almost impossible during the covid pandemic, especially when it comes to travel. So basically, we just go with the flow and see how things develop in addition to reading tons of travel related news, country specific facebook groups and websites, talking directly with other travelers and following the rules in place, in each country.

I don’t think this would be possible for most short term travelers but since we have no time restrictions besides what is allowed on our tourist visas, for each country or region, we are very flexible and we don’t commit to anything longer than a month at a time.

Since there is a lot less travelers, it has been easier for us to visit places like Paris, Rome and Amsterdam without the usual summer crowds and a hell of lot cheaper. Being able to see the Vatican Museum and the Colosseum in Rome by booking the day before was unheard of pre-covid, just like walking in the Louvre Museum in Paris without a reservation or finding a last minute hotel room in the center of Dubrovnik in the middle of summer.

Being informed, flexible, adventurous and lucky has paid off and most important has kept us safe, while enjoying all these wonderful countries.

We feel incredibly lucky and are full of gratitude for our nomadic life which is certainly an “out of the box” lifestyle and not for everyone, but after almost 7 years we can’t imagine living any other way.

The year in review:

Egypt

January 1 – February 28, 2021

We welcomed 2021 in the Sinai Peninsula where we ended up staying for 2 months in the little boho coastal town of Dahab.

You can read the Dahab blog by clicking here.

What an unexpected joy it turned out to be. We fell in love with this funky little village located between desert mountains and the Red Sea, inhabited by bedouins, divers, yogis, old hippies, expats and word travelers.

USA

February 28 – June 4, 2021

While in Egypt, we learned that Covid vaccines were being offered to the 65 years old and above in the US. For us, getting the vaccine was very important to continue traveling and for doing our part to help stop the pandemic.

After 6 months abroad, 3 in Turkey and 3 in Egypt, it was time to come home. Since we don’t have a house anymore we are very lucky to have a home base with Joe’s son in Davie, Florida. Thank you Jason.

Last day in Egypt … ready to go home

Catching up with friends and family is always something we look forward to. We celebrated easter and a few birthdays with our loved ones, had our favorite foods and got our affairs in order … after 3 months we were ready to get back on the road.

Covid vaccines

After just a few days back in Florida Joe got his first dose of the Moderna vaccine and I got mine a few weeks later. We both received our 2 doses in Florida and 3 days ago we received our Pfizer booster shots here in Thailand. Thanks to our friend Stephanie who was able to locate this service at a regional office in Koh Lanta.

Pretty much all the countries in the world now have a QR code or app on their phones to show proof of vaccination but as Americans we only have our CDC paper card, which so far as been accepted everywhere but I have to say that it’s a bit embarrassing to show when you come from one of the most “advanced” countries! It is kept preciously with our passports.

Being vaccinated is a given if you want to travel and we feel a lot safer.

Hip Replacement

The other reason we wanted to come back to Florida was for Joe to get a hip replacement, pain had started to be unbearable and was limiting his mobility.

With the help of his son Jason, Joe was very lucky to get an appointment immediately after we completed our 14 day self quarantine.

After hearing Joe’s stories about our travels, the Dr. decided to schedule him on Good Friday April 2nd, 2021, he said: “I know my staff will be mad at me but we have to get this man back on the road”. His regular calendar would have been sometime in June.

After 9 months, I’m very happy to report that the surgery was a success, Joe feels 100% better, no limitations and no pain. Thanks to Dr. Kevin Wang and his staff at the Holy Cross Orthopedic Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Passport renewal

And finally the third reason for our return was to renew my US passport. Good thing we had plenty of time because I learned that renewing a passport can be a long process during a pandemic (up to 18 weeks in some cases) but good news on the horizon, an executive order was signed on December 13, 2021, which will allow for the whole process to soon be available online!!!

Terrible loss …

While we were home we lost our beloved German Sheppard, Spencer. He died suddenly at only 6 years old. It was a terrible loss for the whole family. He will live in our hearts forever.

European summer starting with the Balkan Peninsula

When deciding where we would go next, Croatia came up as one of the very few countries welcoming Americans. It seemed like the perfect place to spend the summer and it was also the best way to enter Europe since, at the time, not to many countries allowed US passport holders, but coming from another European country was ok.

After more research and seeing photos of beautiful villages with crystal clear water, Croatia was it!

Since our departure date coincided with the end of the school year we decided to take our 2 oldest grand children with us to Croatia for 6 weeks. It was quite a stressful departure until the very end because we had to fill out a bunch of forms and Noah’s new passport was delivered the day of our departure!!! Thank god our flight was in the evening.

Eva and Noah are definitely our best travel partners. They have traveled with us in many countries over the years.

Fun times in Zadar

They are very well accustomed to our slow pace of travel and we just enjoy each others company. One of our greatest pleasure is to be able to share our life with our grandchildren.

Croatia

June 5 – July 14, 2021

We spent 6 weeks driving from the Capital, Zagreb, to the Adriatic Sea where we enjoyed many of the coastal towns Rovinj, Pula, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik and the islands of Ugljan, Hvar and Vis.

We all fell under the European summer spell. Swimming in the blue sea, eating the best food, drinking the best wine, sitting at cafés for hours, sleeping late, ice cream every day, coffee and croissants, walking through tiny cobble stone alleys, lots of stairs, exploring UNESCO historical sites, riding bikes, boat rides and lazy days …

Croatia is a small country easy to get around and it offers spectacular attractions.

Inland, we visited 2 incredible National Parks, Krka and Plitvice, the birth place of Nikola Tesla and 2 side trips to 2 neighboring countries.

The little town of Rovinj was one of our favs
Another favorite was the island of Hvar

After 4 weeks, Eva and Noah’s father, Jason, joined us for 2 more weeks before they all flew back home to Florida.

Fun city tour in Zagreb on eScooters
Dubrovnik, the Pearl of the Adriatic

Slovenia

June 9 – 10, 2021

A nice side trip when touring around Croatia, is the magnificent Lake Bled, we only spent one night but it was well worth the detour.

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Bosnia and Herzegovina

July 9 – 10, 2021

While driving from Split to Dubrovnik we made a detour to Mostar, the town is famous for its medieval arched old bridge (Stari Most).

Montenegro

July 14 – 24, 2021

The grand kids and Jason flew home to Florida from Dubrovnik on July 14. After returning our rental car, Joe and I took a 2 hour bus ride to Montenegro. We spend a week in beautiful Kotor and 4 nights in Stevi Stefan a little further south down the Adriatic Sea.

Already missing you

Our time in Montenegro corresponded with the start of a heatwave that really never stopped until the end of August. With temperatures in the 40 to 45°C (105-115°F) it became very hard for us to enjoy all the beautiful places we were seeing.

We would definitely like to come back to this part of the Balkans to explore, possibly with a home on wheels when the world reopens its borders.

Little town of Perast in the Bay of Kotor

Albania

July 24 – 29, 2021

We only stayed 5 days in the budget friendly Capital City of Tirana, which is definitely a City on the rise, we were surprised to find great accommodations and wonderful restaurants. Many of our friends have toured Albania in RVs and love it.

We thought we would spend a lot more time in Albania but because of the heat, we decided to change plans. We wanted to fly to Italy from Albania but at the last minute found out that Albania was not on the list of countries from where people can fly to Italy for tourism because of covid restrictions.

It took me a few days to rethink our itinerary. We cancelled our flight, took a bus to the coastal town of Sarandë then a ferry to the Greek island of Corfu, hoping they would let us in.

Greece

July 29 – August 2, 2021

We arrived in Corfu during the worst of the heatwave. Joe didn’t even want to leave the air conditioned hotel room, we went out for dinner at 10pm and even then we were sweating! But we did get a glimpse at the incredible Greek hospitality and beauty of the popular island. I had been to Corfu in 1984 before it got overrun by mass tourism it was a totally different place.

We were so happy to have made it into the Schengen zone and have our Greek stamp in our Passport, that meant we could go anywhere in Europe.

Italy

August 2 – 16, 2021

1 week in Rome

Since we couldn’t fly from Albania, we took an overnight ferry from Corfu Greece to Bari Italy followed by a train to Rome.

It was pretty hot but not as bad as Greece and Albania.

What a magical place, it’s not called the Eternal City for nothing. We were so lucky to see all the sites with just a fraction of the usual visitors. We stayed in a beautiful little apartment in the Trastevere neighborhood from where we could walk to most of the attractions and dine at incredible restaurants. I can’t even count how many Cacio e Pepe pasta plates we had.

1 week in Naples

After Rome we took a train to Naples where we stayed in a pension hosted by the most incredible woman named Valeria.

While in Naples we enjoyed the best Pizza in the world, after all it’s here that the Margherita pizza was created. We tasted the best ever buffalo mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes, learned about DOP and limoncello.

We took a day trip to the ruins of Pompeii and wine tasting at the foot of Mount Vesuvius and a whole day of boating and discovering the island of Capri.

We spent our last weekend in Italy with our fiends Jenna and Josh, two Americans we met during our overlanding days. They now live in Naples and they invited us for to their beautiful home outside the City. What a treat that was!

We had so much fun reminiscing about our PanAm adventures, learning about their new life in Italy, going out to dinner or just staying home enjoying Josh’s amazing cocktails.

It is such a privilege to have friends all over the world, it’s one of the reasons why we enjoy our lifestyle so much. It really gives us a different perspective on the country we are visiting.

The island of Capri

France

August 16 – 21, 2021

5 days in Paris

From Naples we flew to Paris to meet my long time Canadian friend Linda and her French husband Jean, we had the best time visiting the sites and eating and drinking at the best restaurants and we were finally able to enjoy some more pleasant temperatures.

Paris is always a good idea, with friends it’s magical!

We walked all day every day through the different neighborhoods, stopping for coffee, apéro and dinner. We took a short Seine river cruise, a relaxing way to see Paris from another point of view.

Belgium

August 21 – 24, 2021

3 day in Brussels

A short train ride from Paris, our next stop on our grand European tour was the City of Brussels, our least favorite or maybe we were just getting burned out after Rome, Naples and Paris.

Nonetheless, we enjoyed the Belgian fries, the Belgian waffles, chocolate, beer and the best moules frites.

Netherlands

August 24 – 29, 2021

5 days in Amsterdam

A first for both Joe and I, Amsterdam was everything we hoped it would be and so much more!

We had so much fun … the place has such a good vibe and everybody is cool. We did a lot of sightseeing but our favorite was the time we spent with our friends Lisa and Rolland and their adorable daughter Isabella. We even got invited to their neighborhood’s block party!

We discovered the city from the many canals with a boat tour but also a whole day with our friends in their little boat was an unforgettable experience.

And yes, Joe visited one of the many coffee shops!

Germany

August 29 – September 2, 2021

3 days in Düsseldorf

We came to Düsseldorf to attend the Caravan Salon which is one of the largest Recreational Vehicle trade show in Europe.

After selling Silver, our expedition vehicle, in July 2020, we have been looking for the perfect European vehicle for our next journey when the world reopens its borders and overland travel is not so complicated.

We saw many different types and we now have a better idea of what we want. Our ideal home on wheels would be a Hymer ML-T 580 or something similar.

Portugal

September 2 – October 25, 2021

1 month in Porto

After this grand European tour we were more than ready to settle down for a while. Portugal was the perfect country and reading all the great things about Porto that’s where we decided to rent an apartment for a month. What a good choice!

The weather in September was perfect. We rested, did a lot of walking, took the train to nearby towns and did an overnight trip to the beautiful Douro Valley.

No wonder Portugal has received so much press lately, it is number one on many lists of places for retirement and expat living. It has so much to offer and the cost of living is still very affordable for Europe. But hurry it won’t last for ever … the secret is out!