Coming Full Circle

It’s been a while since we’ve made time to update everyone with the happenings on the Achen front. It’s been a roller coaster to say the least. However, we figured it was time to let you in on what’s happened since the last time we posted. I know this is a travel blog temporarily turned fertility blog. I promise to get back to posting about travel soon, so hang in there.

In the fall of 2016 we wrote about the direction our family was headed and our quest to grow our family. We knew it wasn’t possible for me to carry another baby, but we knew that having someone else be a gestational carrier for us might be an option. We weren’t sure how or when we would find someone, but we decided to do what we could do to start the process on our end. We reached out to the nearest fertility specialist at the time in El Paso, TX, only to be told that the doctor would not even talk to us because he didn’t “deal” with surrogacy. So we started looking at options in Albuquerque. We had received a referral to an older doctor in Albuquerque, so we gave them a call and our call was not answered. So finally, I reached out to a friend I knew had successfully done IVF (in vitro fertilization) who highly recommended a different doctor in Albuquerque, who turned out to be amazing and the only board certified fertility specialist in the state of New Mexico.


Liam in 2016 asking for a baby.

We made the three hour trip up to Albuquerque to meet with Dr. Lee Caperton at the Caperton Fertility Institute. We weren’t sure what he would have to say or if I’d even be a candidate for IVF. We knew that I still had ovaries, but we weren’t sure if there would be too much damage from all of the previous issues I’d faced (see previous blog post). However, Dr. C walked into that waiting room where we had been nervously waiting, confidently shook our hands and walked us back into his office where we talked about options and after a quick exam were told that we were good to go! Woo hoo! So we did.

The egg retrieval part of the IVF process was a little taxing, involving giving myself injections (not a fan of needles) or Scott giving me injections (if you know clumsy Scott, you feel my pain). We decided to spend the two weeks leading up to the egg retrieval in a hotel up in Albuquerque to make getting to doctor appointments easier and because we like to travel. 🙂


One of many injections administered throughout the process. Ouch!

Side note: Funny Story. So our first night in Albuquerque we checked into the hotel fairly late at night only to realize we had brought everything except all of the syringes to do my injections. So as Scott is frantically calling local pharmacies trying to get needles, Liam randomly projectile vomits all over me, himself and his bed in the hotel room. Needless to say, we were off to a rough start. I’m pretty sure I was crying cleaning up the mess while Scott was driving to every 24 hour pharmacy in the middle of the night trying to get needles within the time frame that I had to have my shot. It was terrible when it happened, but really funny now looking back on it. Liam was fine the next morning, we got the needle, and everything worked out.


Liam feeling perfectly fantastic the morning after the first night fiasco!

We went in on egg retrieval day praying for the best, but I knew it was going to all work out when Dr. C put some Patsy Cline on for me to listen to during the procedure. Scott got to watch a screen in the room next door of the embryologist doing her magic.


The next few days, weeks, and months were a waiting game. Waiting to find out how many of our eggs fertilized, how many made it to blastocysts, how many embryos were genetically healthy. Then it turned into a waiting game of when will we find the right person to carry our baby.

Immediately after the last post was made we were overwhelmed with offers of people who were willing to carry a baby for us. Some were genuine, some were not, some were good intentions that couldn’t be fulfilled, and some were just a little weird (including nude photos…long story). People we hadn’t seen in years, people we hardly knew, people we didn’t know at all, and people we knew too well reached out to us. We went through several months of up and down heart wrenching trials of trying to find the right person. We had people offer who weren’t serious at all…frustrating. We had people lie to us about their medical history, which luckily was caught in a medical screening…frustrating. We had people whom we love dearly want so badly to help us out, but ultimately changed their mind…heart wrenching. When we finally thought we had found the perfect person to carry our baby and started the process, only to have them change their mind, we were devastated. In their defense, it is a really big commitment and we understood but were still heartbroken. Just when we felt like giving up hope, God sent us the perfect person at the perfect time. She came to us and had been praying about it, done her research, and gave it plenty of thought. She had an excellent husband on board as a support system and was fully invested in helping us out of the goodness of her heart. You don’t come across people that selfless everyday. We were overjoyed.


Meet Ashley!  Wearing our good luck pineapple pants on transfer day.

Then started the long journey to having a baby. The following months were filled with blood, sweat, and tears…literally…BLOOD, SWEAT, AND TEARS. We put countless hours in at the gym to be the healthiest for the best chance at making a baby. We put hundreds of miles on my car and so many hours of road tripping up to see Dr. C in preparation of an embryo transfer. Late nights driving across town to stick my sweet friend with a needle when she couldn’t reach or didn’t have it in her to stick herself with a giant needle one more time. We laughed really hard. We cried really hard. We ultimately built a bond that I never could have imagined.



Our first picture of our embryo on transfer day!

We weren’t sure the transfer would be successful, but we had faith in Dr. Caperton’s abilities and ultimately we had faith in God. A couple weeks later when we got the call that it had worked, we were in church and literally dropped to our knees weeping. It was one of the happiest days of our lives.




The following months would be no less of a trial. We had a few scares, a few ER visits, and countless sleepless nights. A few days before Christmas we had a scare where we thought there may have been a miscarriage. Dr. Caperton drove all the way from Albuquerque to his newly opened El Paso office on a snowy morning just to meet us and make sure everything was okay…and it was. Again, another one of the happiest days of our lives. You see a trend here? 🙂



Well, after 9 long months of waiting, we finally got the call that our sweet baby girl was ready to meet us. We spent 21 LONG hours of pacing the halls of the labor and delivery ward of the hospital until the moment came. We gowned up and headed into the delivery room where I got to help deliver our sweet baby girl and Scott got to cut the cord, and at 6 o’clock on a Sunday evening, we finally got to hold that sweet 7lbs 11oz baby in our arms! We instantly fell in love with Mila Jolie Achen. We immediately began bonding to make up for the nine months that I didn’t get to hold her. It was especially wonderful thanks to the beauty of induced lactation (shout out to Kim Smetzer at Mountain View Hospital for her expertise on this matter) which took lots of work leading up to that moment, but totally worth every minute. Over the next few days we bonded with our little Mila Jolie in the hospital (coincidentally in the same room we spent weeks in during the whole ordeal after Liam was born) while a few doors down Mila’s womb-mate recovered. The L&D nurses at Mountain View were absolutely amazing. We were all so well taken care of.


The moment she arrived!



Since we’ve been home, we are adjusting well and Liam is super excited to have his “little, tiny baby” as he likes to call her. There is a sense of completeness in our house and in our hearts and Scott has already started planning our first few trips as a family of four!


Together at last!

Thanks to Brittany Miller Photography for capturing amazing images of our beautiful babies and our family of four!


“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.”
1 Samuel 1:27

The Hardest Adventure

(Just a heads up, parts of this post may be a little graphic but worth the read.)

Hi friends, family, and followers,

We are embarking on a new adventure, but this time it’s going to be a little different than our last big adventure.  It’s definitely been a while since we’ve shared a blog post…February of 2014 to be exact.  To say the least, we’ve been busy.

What I’m about to share with you, is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to put into words.  It’s very personal, somewhat heartbreaking, and joyful at the same time.  We contemplated how, when, and whom we would share this with, but now seemed like the right time.  So please bear with the long post and we just ask for your prayers, support, and any kind thoughts.  However, in order for you to understand the path we’re headed down, we first have to explain a little (or a lot) about the past and what we’ve been through since our last post in 2014.

In 2013 we decided we wanted a different lifestyle, one that would allow us to travel, explore, and most importantly allow us to grow our family when we were ready.  So if you’ve followed the blog, you’ve read and seen all of the adventures that our trip around the world took us on.  What you didn’t see was what happened when we came home at the end of our trip.

Just a couple weeks after we returned home from our big adventure, we found out that I was pregnant.  We were going to be a family of 3! We were both over the moon and terrified at the same time.  The first couple months of the pregnancy were easier than we anticipated with just a little morning sickness and lots of naps…and that’s where the easy part ended.  From three months on, my pregnancy turned into a nightmare including lots of complications; placenta previa, a terrifying trip to the emergency room where we thought we miscarried, a bicornuate uterus that lead to lots and lots of trips to the emergency room in the middle of the night to get shots and medications to stop me from going into pre-term labor.  It was not an easy pregnancy by any means, but it didn’t matter, because we were so blessed to be having a baby.


The day finally came when I woke up at 4:00 in the morning and went into full on labor.  I labored for about 12 hours with coupled contractions and after 3 hours of pushing, we were rushed into a C-section because the baby was face up and there was meconium in the amniotic fluid.  On September 8th of 2014 at 4:33PM, Liam Bradley Achen made his first appearance weighing in at a whopping 8lbs 9.8oz and 22 inches long!  He was perfect and healthy and Scott got to watch the entire operation (I don’t know how he watched it all, but he did).  We were so blessed to finally be able to hold this little miracle!

Shortly after the c-section I spiked a fever and had indications of an infection.  I was so happy, yet so miserable at the same time.  Scott got to escort Liam to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to be checked out while I got sewn back together.  That first night in the hospital was miserable…joyful, but miserable.


We spent a couple days in the hospital and then we were on our way home with our new baby boy.  The first couple weeks at home were rough and we didn’t get much sleep and I was in a lot of pain from the c-section, but we thought it was to be expected.

When Liam was 10 days old, we took him to have newborn pictures taken by our good friend Kathy at Brooks Photography.  I didn’t feel well that day.  I felt exhausted and still in a lot of discomfort, but we were so excited to be getting these photographs taken. I toughed through that whole day.

That night, the baby was fast asleep in his crib and so was Scott.  I woke up and just didn’t feel right.  I got up to go to the bathroom and started to bleed profusely.  Scott rushed us to the emergency room in the middle of the night, where I continued to hemorrhage for over 4 hours in an emergency room bed until we were seen by a doctor.  By the time the doctor came to see us, I had lost so much blood that I was in need of a transfusion and was admitted.  At first the doctors thought it was due to the infection I had experienced just after Liam’s birth, so I was put on antibiotics for a couple days.  It didn’t work.  I began to hemorrhage again…and again.  I was taken into surgery to try to remove what they thought were placental fragments left behind from the c-section, which should solve the bleeding…and it did…for a little while.  I hadn’t had any bleeding for a couple days, so they decided I could go home.  We were home for about 10 hours and it happened again, this time worse than the last and I was in unbearable pain!  Back to the emergency room.  We were admitted again where the doctors tried different medications and injections, and to be honest, were a little stumped at why this was happening.  At this point, I was at 13 units of blood that had been transfused and the doctor’s were running out of options.

The doctors came in to have the discussion we were dreading throughout this entire nightmare.  They said at this point there was only one option left…a hysterectomy.  I was at a point where my body could only handle one more blood transfusion before it would start shutting down.  It was my life or my ability to have more babies.  At this point I was in denial and in such a fog (probably Fentanyl induced).  I was trying to grasp for any way to not have to go that route, but both Scott and the rest of my family knew that it was the only way for them not to lose me…baby Liam needed me…they needed me.

So on September 25th, our fourth wedding anniversary, I was wheeled into the operating room one more time.  They re-opened my c-section incision and removed my uterus.  I received that 14th unit of blood during the surgery (at this point my entire body’s blood volume had been replaced), and I escaped with my life.


It was a very long recovery, both physical and emotional.  It was traumatizing, humiliating and very hard to talk about.  Only some of our closest friends and family even knew that we had been in the hospital for almost a month, let alone that I had almost died.  Our hopes of having a big family, to have more babies was gone.

So we decided to focus all of our love and attention on the one BIG blessing that we got from all of this, and that was that we had our beautiful, healthy Liam Bradley and we had each other.

Since then, we’ve traveled a lot with our family of three.  Liam has been to Dallas, Phoenix, Denver, all over New Mexico, Boston, Baltimore, Hawaii, Paris, London, and Disney World 5 times! He has his own passport and is already collecting stamps.  He is a little traveler by nature (may be a genetic trait…just saying). The hardest part of our trips now, is that he gets lonely.  He wants to play with other kids.  He doesn’t have a partner in crime to experience being a kid with.  He has cousins and he has friends, but at the end of the day, when it’s just us at home, we can tell he is lonely and it’s heartbreaking.

Now a couple years down the road, Liam is starting to ask that question that hurts to hear, “Mama, Liam have it baby sister?” (He repeatedly tells us he wants a baby sister named pants!  He is very definite about it too.  Lol!) We’ve had the baby itch for a while and it’s hard to watch all of our friends having more babies.  To be honest, we are constantly surrounded by new babies and bombarded with social media posts of friends that are expecting.  It is so hard, because we are happy for them yet our hearts are aching at the same time.

After a lot of thought, we have decided that Liam NEEDS a baby brother or sister and we are determined to give him that.  We’ve discussed adoption, but we just aren’t there yet.  We truly believe that it is a calling to be adoptive parents and to be honest, we haven’t felt called to do that.  We get the “why don’t you adopt?” question A LOT from people who know our situation, and to be honest, right now it’s just not in our hearts.  It’s also very expensive and can be a VERY LONG process, especially if you want to adopt a baby.  This may be hard for some people to understand.  Maybe we will get there someday, but maybe not.

So we’ve started exploring other options, and fortunately, when the doctor’s performed my hysterectomy, they left my beautiful ovaries behind.  Which means, that we still have all of the ingredients to make another beautiful baby, we just don’t have the oven!

We have met with a wonderful fertility specialist in Albuquerque and are moving forward with the in vitro fertilization process to create our next baby.  Which brings us to the hardest part of our journey moving forward, the oven part.  We are actively looking for a loving woman to carry our next baby.  If you know anything about the IVF process, you know that it is not a cheap process…and if you know anything about the gestational carrier (surrogacy) process (and most people don’t), you know that it can be an outrageous financial and emotional burden.  We have had a few people that have considered carrying our baby, but ultimately decided that they couldn’t do it, which is understandable.  It’s not an easy decision with a lot of complexities involved and it is A LOT to ask of somebody.

So, we have been praying that God would send us the right person to give us the biggest blessing that we could receive by being a carrier of our baby.  We know that it is a huge undertaking for someone to commit to and it is also requires a lot of faith on our part to trust someone else with caring for our unborn baby.


This is where we are at in the process, and we just ask that you please keep us in your thoughts and prayers and maybe sometime soon Liam will get to be a big brother.


Steph, Scott, & Liam Achen

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”                                                                                                     2 Corinthians 12:9

New Zealand, The Best Souvenir Ever, and Our Next Big Adventure!

We flew from Melbourne, Australia to Aukland, New Zealand. Going to New Zealand was not originally on our itinerary, however, since we decided to leave Southeast Asia early we decided to give it a go. Since it was a last minute add, we really didn't know what to expect.

While we were on our road trip in Australia, we had met a really nice Kiwi that had told us about a hop- on hop-off bus tour company called Stray that came highly recommended. We figured we'd had enough driving, so a bus tour would be a hassle free way to get around and a way to meet other travelers.

We spent the first day wandering around Aukland and getting ready for the bus tour that would be taking us all over the North island. We weren't super impressed with Aukland, but we did have really delicious burgers at a place called Velvet Burger.

The next morning we had to be up bright and early to catch our bus. When the bus pulled up, the driver stepped off to help us load our bags. He had a huge smile on his face, long dreadlocks, and no shoes. He introduced himself as “Splash.” From that point on we knew the tour would be awesome!

Our first stop was at this amazing hot water beach (Hahei). Everyone digs holes in the sand that fill up with really hot water. It was like having a natural hot tub with a killer view. After we left the beach we went for a hike down to Cathedral Cove. It was beautiful. That night we had a big barbecue at the hostel and got to know some of the other people from our bus.

The next morning we were up bright and early headed for a little town called Raglan which is known for amazing surfing beaches. Unfortunately, when we arrived the surf was flat and it started to rain. So instead of paying to rent surf gear we decided to hike down to an awesome waterfall.

That night we stayed at a place called Solescape. It was up in a forest area with a funky vibe. The room we stayed in was an old train caboose car. However, the room didn't exactly keep the bugs out, so we had a couple visits from some critters throughout the night, but luckily escaped unharmed.

The next morning we were in for one of the best adventures we've had on our trip. Some friends of ours, Beth and Steve from back home, had told us that we absolutely had to go black water rafting. We had been looking forward to it since it was one of the options on our tour. The Waitomo caves in New Zealand have water that run through them and also have lots of glow worms that light up the insides of the caves like stars. So, we signed up for the rafting which basically consist of floating through the caves in the dark on some tubes and looking at glowworms. Well, it would be our luck that it rained the entire night before flooding out the cave used for tubing. However, the company offered us another option to do a repelling/caving/rock climbing adventure in another cave filled with waterfalls. We were a little nervous at first since neither one of us had ever done any of the previously mentioned activities, and they warned that it could involve crawling through some pretty small places (I would not recommend this activity to people afraid of heights or claustrophobia). It turned out to be a blast and we only had a couple minor hiccups with some small spaces.

That evening we were in for a cultural experience. We got to visit a Maori family that hosts stray groups on their Madi(home). They performed some traditional songs and dances for us as we'll as taught all the men the Haka and the women a song and Dance. Dinner was followed by storytelling and a giant slumber party in their traditional meeting room. It was a fun time. They especially loved Scott and insisted on calling him “Alan” because they thought he looked like the guy from the Hangover. They also took about fifty pictures with him.

The next day we headed to a fun town Roturua, where we decided to hop off the bus and stay a couple days. This is where we said our goodbyes to our new buddy Splash. We thought it would also be goodbye to the friends we met on the bus, but it turns out we would end up meeting back up with everyone further on the tour.

Roturua was a lively town. We enjoyed going to a mud bath and sulphur spa. The only downside was smelling like sulphur for a couple days, but it felt great to relax in the tub. We also took a tour of Hobbiton, which is where The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed. The hobbit hole doors were meticulously decorated and we got to have a beer in the pub after the tour. It was definitely worth going to for the scenery.

After a couple days in Roturua, we hopped on the next Stray bus that came through town. Our second Stray driver, Weeman, ended up being our best buddy by the end of our trip.

We headed to a lodge that sits on the edge of a beautiful lake, where we were hosted by another wonderful Maori family. It was a very peaceful place. I got to learn how to make Maori fry bread. We were served a huge Hangi feast that had been cooked in a fire pit. After dinner Scott went eel fishing.

The next day we headed to a mountain lodge called Blue Duck Lodge (Whakahoro). I opted to do a three hour horse trek up a mountain, while Scott opted for skeet shooting and axe throwing. The scenery was amazing!

The next day we headed to a National Park, where we made a trek across the Tongariro Crossing. It was a 20k, 7 hour trek up a volcano and down the other side. We were sore, but felt accomplished when it was over.

The next day we headed down to Wellington for a last night of fun with our friends from Stray.

The next day we flew down to Queenstown where spent the last few days in New Zealand. We stayed in a beautiful hotel right on the lake. We spent a lot of time unwinding, and also enjoying Fergburgers. Yum!

Our time in New Zealand was amazing, but not quite as amazing as the souvenir we brought home with us!

Baby Achen Coming September 2014!

2014 will definitely be our next big adventure!


Melbourne and The Great Ocean Road

We were excited to land in Melbourne after a long couple of weeks driving up the coast. We had only planned on spending a couple days in the city before heading out for the Great Ocean Road.

We spent a couple days wandering the city on foot. We had a wonderful time exploring the narrow alleyways that contained random graffiti art and lots of delicious little sidewalk restaurants. If you don't know where to look, you could walk right by these food streets. Luckily for us we stumbled upon them and were grateful we did.

View of Melbourne from the bridge

One of many graffiti alleys

Restaurants galore!

Delicious lunch

We also strolled around Federation Square and even jammed out with some buskers putting on a little show.

Playing the bongos with some buskers

Pig dog?

When Thanksgiving rolled around, we were feeling a little homesick. We found a TGIFridays that was serving a full traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. It wasn't the best Thanksgiving dinner we'd had, but it did the trick and it was a nice way to celebrate all of the things we were thankful for. After dinner we got absolutely drenched by a rainstorm while walking back to our hotel. It was definitely a Thanksgiving we will never forget.

After our three days in Melbourne, we hiked our way to the rental car office and hoped for a better start than our last road trip. We headed towards the Great Ocean Road. It was really cloudy and rainy for the first couple hours of the drive, but luckily the rain stopped and the clouds made for some pretty pictures.

We decided to stop and stay the night after driving for a few hours.

The next morning we grabbed some breakfast at a local bakery and hit the road again. We stopped a few times to take some pictures on the way to the Twelve Apostles. When we got there, the weather was beautiful and we spent some time walking along the little trail along the coast to get some pictures and enjoy the sunshine.

Maps are a must.

Roo crossing

After we left the Twelve Apostles, we headed back towards Melbourne on a different route. We stopped in the small town of Colac, where we met up with our friends Clay and Amy that we met while traveling in Ireland. We had a nice lunch catching up with them and even got a little tour of their town before heading back to Melbourne.

The Great Ocean Road drive was gorgeous. We wished we would have planned more time for the drive. However, we were super excited about our next destination, New Zealand!


The Great Road Trip Adventure

The Car

On the fifth day we were in Sydney, we packed up our stuff and headed for the rental car office to pick up our car for our road trip up the East coast of Australia. To be honest we were a little nervous to be driving on the opposite side of what we're used to. Also, when we booked our car, we requested a manual car since it was much cheaper than an automatic. So shifting with the left hand would be an added complication. When we got there to pick up our car, we lucked out. The rental car company happened to be out of manual cars, so we ended up getting an automatic for the lower rate. We also declined the insurance since it costed an additional twenty-some dollars a day. Those of you who know Scott would know that this is taking a huge risk, but we promised each other we would be extremely careful.

So we got in our miniature Hyundai hatchback, got buckled in, took a deep breath and put it in drive. As we pulled out of the parking garage, Scott decided to pull over to the side of the road to make sure he was situated to drive. And have it be our luck…sssssccccrrrraaaape! That was the sound of the front passenger rim scraping and scratching up against the curb! We looked at each other and started laughing hysterically! We got out to look at the damage and sure enough the hub cap was bent to hell. Oh well. We would just have to hope that they didn't notice it when we returned the car, but at least we hopefully got the only damage over within the first two minutes of the road trip.

Ready to go!

We put our first destination into our Google maps and hit the road. We drove across the Harbour Bridge headed towards Port Macquarie, which would be our first stop of the trip. On the way we saw signs for kangaroo crossings and even saw a koala hanging out on the side of the road. When we got to Port Macquarie we checked in to the Ozzie Pozzie hostel, which turned out to be a fun little hostel. We walked down to the water and checked out the painted rocks on the trail and then joined some other hostelers for some pizza for dinner.

Painted rocks

Sunset in Port Macquarie

Massive birds

The next day we drove up to Byron Bay, stopping in Coffs Harbour for a dleicious lunch at a little sidewalk cafe. When we arrived in Byron Bay we were told almost all of the accommodations in the town were booked up for “Schoolies,” which is the equivalent of Spring Break in the U.S. Luckily we were able to get into a hostel, but it was a ten bed mixed dorm. After we checked in we went for a walk on the beach, had some hamburgers for dinner, and explored the town. Later that evening we spent some time talking with a Kiwi who happened to work at the hostel. He was able to give us some great advice for our New Zealand trip. When it was finally time to hit the hay, we headed to our dorm room. Well come to find out, I was the only component that made it a “mixed” dorm, being the only girl in the entire room. Luckily one side of the room was filled with some shy, pre-pubescent looking German boys, so that's the side I slept on, while Scott shared his side of the room with some drunk, rowdy Aussies, including the weird, random, old dude. Add the smell of 9 guys and no air conditioner in one room in the Tropics, and it made for one bad night's sleep.

Lunch stop

Say cheese!

One of the monstrous critters we came across in Australia.

We left Byron Bay and headed further North. We made a stop in Coolangatta around lunchtime. We luckily came across a bunch of elaborate kites that were being flown on the beach. We spent some time walking along the beach looking at all of the colorful kites. We also grabbed some delicious pastries at a little bakery across the street from the beach.

We got caught in a horrible rainstorm.

After having a pretty bad night of sleep the night before we were very relieved when we got to our next destination, Brisbane. We booked a private room at The Kookaburra Inn for the next three nights. The inn was nice and quiet and not too far from all the fun areas in Brisbane.

Scott had done some research and found that Australia has a pro baseball league. Our first night in Brisbane, the Brisbane Bandits happened to be playing the Sydney Blue Sox. The game was fairly close to our hostel and the tickets were very inexpensive online, so we decided to go check it out. We put the address to the stadium in our google maps and headed out. When our Google Maps said we were less than one minute away and we were in a residential area we started to wonder if we were being misled by Google again. There was not a stadium in sight. We just getting ready to turn around and head back to the main road when we saw a parking sign for the Brisbane Bandits game. So we followed the signs and to our surprise we arrived at what looked like a little league game. We turned out to be at the right place, it just turns out that the pro team plays on a field that was smaller than a high school stadium in the U.S. We decided to stay and watch for a while, but were not thoroughly impressed and end up leaving the game early.

Scott's new Brisbane Bandits hat.

We spent the next couple of days in Brisbane checking out the city. We browsed the shops, came across a suitcase rummage sale, and checked out a fun little market near the river.

Rummage sale

On our last day in Brisbane, we headed to the Australia Zoo that was made known for the infamous croc hunter Steve Irwin. It was a little expensive to get in, but was worth the fun.

We met this little fellow on the sidewalk

Up close and personal koala time

The next morning we continued up the coast stopping along the way at lots of little beach towns, stopping and staying the night here and there including the little towns of Hervey Bay, Yeppoon, Airlie Beach, and Townsville.

The pier at Hervey Bay

Townsville at night

Finally after eleven days on the road, we reached our destination of Cairns, where we spent the next three days. In cairns we took a day trip to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef followed by an authentic Aussie barbecue back at our hostel.

Cairns Harbour

Delicious seafood lunch.

On the ferry to the reef.

Getting ready to snorkel the reef!

Scott enjoying some sunshine

Sausage, Kangaroo, Crocodile, and Emu

Didgeridoo lessons at the BBQ

At the end of three days in Cairns, we hopped on a flight to Melbourne.


Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!

We took a red eye flight from Bali direct to Sydney, Australia. When we landed it was a little bit of a relief. This was the closest feeling to being home that we'd had in a very long time. It's a little ironic considering how far we actually were from home, but nonetheless, it felt very similar to landing in the U.S., but everyone had accents.

We chose to stay at the Wakeup hostel, which turned out to be a great location for getting around the city, and neither of us had ever been so excited to do laundry, which the hostel also had available.

Excited to have some clean clothes!

We were also very excited to see some familiar faces. After we checked in to our hostel, our Aussie friends Rob and Emma picked us up to show us around the city. We had met Rob and Emma during our tour in Ireland back in July, and had all become pretty good mates (as the Australians would say).

With our friends Rob and Emma

They took us on a drive to some of the best beach spots, showed us some of the fun neighborhoods near our hostel, and then we went to have dinner and drinks to finish off the night. We had a wonderful time and are so grateful to have met them in our earlier travels.

Cerveza time!

We love these two!

Unfortunately, our second day in Sydney, the weather was horrible. We decided to explore the city on foot and got blasted by wind and rain. We did however get to see Darling Harbour in the evening after the weather had calmed down a bit.

Scott getting some good use of his rain jacket.

When the hot Australian sun finally decided to come out, we joined a group of people from our hostel for a walk from Coogee beach all the way to Bondi beach. We found that Sydney had a unique vibe that felt kind of like San Francisco and San Diego's love child. Later that evening we met up with our friend Rob and his girlfriend at a local pub to have drinks and play trivia. We weren't so great at some of the Aussie trivia, but nonetheless we won a free pitcher of some pretty terrible beer, but it was all good fun.

Bondi Beach

We also walked down to the Harbour to see the iconic Harbour bridge and the Sydney Opera House. We didn't get to make it out to Manly Beach, which is supposed to be amazing. However, we plan on checking it out when we return to Sydney for a couple days at the end of our journey.

While we were in Sydney we also mapped out the rest of our trip which entails a two week road trip up the coast to the Great Barrier Reef, a trip to Melbourne, a drive down the Great Ocean Road, and sixteen days in New Zealand. So far we love Australia and couldn't be more excited about our trip to New Zealand, and we will be driving a right side drive car…so watch out Australia!

Just some Kanga-Bangas we saw at the grocery store:)


Now This Is The Life: Koh Samui and Bali

After our busy days in Bangkok and chaotic whirl wind of a trip to India, we decided to head to the beach for some much needed R&R. We flew back to Bangkok from New Delhi and then from Bangkok we took a short flight to the Thai island of Koh Samui.

Getting off the plane on the island was such a nice relaxed pace compared to the previous weeks. We were so grateful for this downtime. We took a shuttle to The Renaissance Hotel. We had booked the cheapest room available online weeks before, but when we arrived we immediately got upgraded to a garden bungalow with a private pool. (We strongly recommend that anyone who plans on traveling, becomes a rewards member for hotels and airlines. It really has made a huge difference for our trip).

Our private plunge pool

We spent three days lounging by the crystal clear water on Koh Samui.

Scott enjoying some Thai beer

Ready for some beach time!

There's always time for twirling in fun places!

From Koh Samui we hopped on a plane to Bali. We had a five hour layover in Singapore, but if you have to be stuck at an airport, Singapore is the place to be stuck. The airport in Singapore had free wifi, lounging areas galore, lots of dining options, indoor gardens, and even a swimming pool and movie theatre.

When we got to Bali we checked into the Conrad. The resort was absolutely amazing. It had the largest swimming pool either of us had ever seen, our room had an ocean view, the restaurants were delicious, and we had some of the best massages of our lives at the spa.

Bali airport

Happy to be in Bali

A piece of paradise

Going to the spa

Romantic beach dinner

Awkward dinner photo #1

Awkward dinner photo #2

Believe it or not, traveling for eight months can be extremely exhausting, and a good solid beach vacation was absolutely revitalizing. We left Bali completely re energized and ready to take on our next big adventure…Australia/New Zealand!


Namaste From India

Our trip to India was fascinating, yet an assault to the senses. We took in so much in such a short amount of time, it took us a few days after leaving India to be a able to process the things we had seen.

The experience started before we even landed in New Delhi. As our plane started to descend, we began entering the very thick, brown pollution layer that rests over the city. Like most large cities, it is not uncommon to have a smog layer that you drop through when landing, but usually it clears up once you pass through the layer. Not in India. The pollution was like a heavy blanket of filthy air that never cleared up when we landed.

As the pilot announced to prepare for landing, an announcement came on stating that a disinfectant spray would be dispersed through the air in the cabin and all people sensitive to the inhalation of the spray should cover their faces. This was definitely a first for us.

After we landed, getting through immigration and baggage claim was fairly routine and our hotel had arranged for a driver to transfer us to the hotel. As we pulled out of the airport onto the main road, we were shocked at what we saw on the sides of the road. We were prepared to see some poverty in India, and having grown up so close to the Mexican border, we figured it couldn't be that much worse than what we have seen before. However, it was much worse than what either of us had expected to see. There were lots of very thin, barefoot people (including children) sitting among heaps of trash on the sides of the dusty roads.

We arrived at the Imperial Hotel, which was more like a compound. There were huge walls and gates that surrounded the entire property which was heavily guarded by security. Our car was even fully searched before we were allowed into the parking lot. When we pulled up to the hotel lobby entrance two men with extremely impressive beards and mustaches opened our doors for us and welcomed us to the hotel. They both had fancy uniforms and turbines that coordinated.

We would stay the night in New Delhi and then head to Agra first thing in the morning. After the full day of traveling we decided to stay in and have dinner at one of the hotel restaurants. We were so warmly greeted at the restaurant and were the only people in the entire place. At first we were wondering why, and the waiter finally explained that most people don't eat until much later in the evening in India. It actually turned out to be awesome for us. It was kind of romantic and we had the entire restaurant staff catering to us alone. Our waiter was super friendly and was insistent on stuffing us with as much food as possible.

Enjoying some delicious roti

The most delicious dinner!

The next morning we met our driver who would be driving us three hours South to Agra. We had a nice chat with the driver for part of the drive. He talked with us about different types of produce that was being grown in all the fields we were passing, the wild monkeys we saw on the streets, and statistics of population/religion in India.

Passing a camel on our drive to Agra

On our way to Agra

Indian school bus

When we got to Agra, the poverty was much worse than what we had seen in Delhi. We pulled out the camera and tried to capture some of it as we drove through the streets. (A lot of these pictures were taken from our moving vehicle so they may not be the best quality, but we really wanted people to be able to see what we saw.)

We saw up to fifteen people piled into some of the rickshaws

The driver took us straight to the hotel we'd be staying at to get checked in and also so we could meet up with our guide who was going to take us on a tour of the Taj Mahal. The Oberoi Amarvilas was also heavily guarded, but once we passed through the gates, it was an oasis within the chaos. Every room in the entire hotel had a magnificent view of the Taj. We were upgraded to a beautiful suite.

Cows in the middle of the streets

Elephant at the entry of the Oberoi

The bell man carrying my daypack

Showing off our welcome dots

View of the pool at the Oberoi

After we got settled in, we went down to meet up with our guide who took us on a golf cart to the entrance of the Taj. We had to walk the last few minutes since carts were only allowed to a certain point. The second we got off the cart, we were bombarded by locals trying to sell us things and little kids trying to grab our arms. It was a little heartbreaking because we were told to completely ignore them because supporting that kind of activity only makes it worse.

On the cart going to the Taj

A goat walking on the street on the way to the Taj

The Taj was beautiful and from far looked like it was straight from a postcard. The smog made for beautiful pictures at sunset.

At the entrance to the Taj

We had to wear booties in order to go inside

The colorful line of people waiting to go in to the Taj

After our tour at the Taj our guide stopped us by a local marble shop where all of the marble is hand carved by local artists.

That evening we had another wonderful meal where we met some new friends (a father and daughter) who were traveling through India. We had a nice chat with them while we enjoyed another Indian feast accompanied by live Indian music being played in the background.

Sporting my bindi for dinner

A guy playing live music at dinner

The next morning we headed back to New Delhi with our same driver. Only this time the trip took twice as long due to really bad traffic because of the Diwali Festival that was starting the next day. We barely made it back in time to meet up with a guide that would be taking us on a walking tour of Old Delhi.

We got photo bombed while walking the streets of Old Delhi

Colorful decorations for Diwali festivities

This was the most chaotic yet fascinating part of our time in India yet. We started our walk at the Red Fort. The architecture was beautiful and we got an in depth history lesson from our guide. From the Red Fort we walked out into the busy streets of Old Delhi. It was sheer chaos! We were dodging motor bikes and rickshaws left and right, bobbing and weaving to avoid being bonked on the head by the men carrying huge miscellaneous objects on their heads, and also trying to keep a tight grip on our belongings, to each other, and not lose our guide in the crowds. Scott was walking closely behind me fending off unwelcome stares from the local men. We had previously been warned that the men in India can be quite in appropriate towards foreign women, especially in crowded areas. It was a little uncomfortable to be receiving the unwanted attention, but luckily I escaped unscathed.

Red Fort

A really cool tree at the Red Fort

A lot of people carry things on their heads in the busy streets

Trying to keep up with our guide

The narrow streets of Old Delhi reminded us a little of our time in Marrakech, but more chaotic, if that's possible to fathom. We walked among the wondering cows, street monkeys, goats, people buying lots of festival items, and many beggars.

Being an electrical engineer, the sight of this made me cringe

Our guide also stopped us by a little shop where a local man makes hand embroidered cashmere products. Scott got to be pretty good buddies with the guy and took some fun pictures together.

Beautiful beaded sari in the market

On our way back out of Old Delhi we opted to ride a cycle-rickshaw out of the chaos instead of trying to navigate back through it in the dark. The ride in the rickshaw was one of our favorite things, although we did feel bad for our driver who had to cycle us and our guide uphill in the traffic.

Crazy traffic in Old Delhi

Rickshaw ride

The fellow who drove our rickshaw

A building decorated for Diwali

With our tour guide

After our walking tour we were pooped. We headed back to the hotel and called it a night. The next morning we would be catching a flight out of India. Our time in India was too short. It is definitely a place we will return to. The food was amazing, most of the people we met were so kind, and despite the poverty, India was beautiful in its own unique way.


Two Weeks in Bangkok

Our flight into Bangkok was entertaining, for a lack of better words. Scott had arranged for him to have an isle seat, and of course I would be stuck in a middle seat for the duration of the five hour flight. As we neared our seats, hoping nobody would be in the window seat, there was girl in the window seat wearing a long sleeve, ankle length dress that was covered in the brightest floral pattern known to man. As we got situated in our seats, the girl introduced herself and then proceeded to wipe down our entire row's armrests, tray tables, and window with disinfectant wipes. Then the dreaded “airplane talk” commenced. She started out by telling us all about her vacation plans, everything she ever read out of a Thailand guidebook, all about her Russian heritage, and an explanation of her flowery dress and all the others just like it that she had in different colors. When she had finally stopped talking long enough for us to escape by putting our headphones in, she taps me on the shoulder and proceeds by asking if I ever had thoughts of our plane crashing and burning. She even included the sound effects, “mmmnnnnn, swoosh, kaboom”. Then she said she got nervous on flights and maybe she should have taken some mushrooms to calm down. I leaned over and whispered to Scott that we might not want her standing in line next to us as we went through immigration when we landed in Thailand.

Glad to be off the airplane and in Bangkok!

After the plane landed we started gathering our backpacks to get off the plane, when the girl taps me on the shoulder again and asked if she could follow us to the immigration line because she was nervous and wasn't used to traveling abroad. We couldn't be rude and say no, so we said that was fine and got off the plane. We tried to walk fast enough to keep a little distance and made sure we went in a separate line and lost her at the baggage claim.

Having fun t the airport

We spent a few days in Bangkok before we flew up to Chang Mai. We stayed at the Hilton Millennium Hotel using some of the hotel points I had accumulated. The hotel was beautiful, and in a good location for activities on the Chao Praya river.

Millennium Hilton Hotel

Waiting on the hotel dock to cross the river

Rooftop swimming pool at the Millennium

Getting in some pool time after battling the Bangkok heat!

Scott taking the dreaded antimalarial pill

We took the orange line water taxi down the river and got off at the stop nearest to the Grand Palace and the Wat Pho that houses the Relaxing Buddah. We had to walk through a small outdoor food market to get to the street that was bustling with sidewalk peddlers and beeping tuk-tuks. It was alive and very colorful.

Scott on the water taxi

Boats on the Chao Phraya

River taxi dock.

More boats

Food market

Tuk tuks galore

A monk talks on his cell phone while shopping at a street vendor

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

At the a grand Palace

Scott with a palace guard.

We spent almost an entire day at the huge weekend market where we did some souvenir shopping. We took the sky train to the MBK shopping center and the high end Siam Paragon mall. We also took a stroll down Khao San Road and thanked God we were staying in a nice hotel instead of a hostel.

Walking to the market

Walking to the weekend market

At the weekend market.

The mango man

A boy busking at the market

Khao San Road

One night we walked Soi Cowboy, a street infamous for its nightlife containing bars, lady boys and old perverted men. It was a sight to see. We didn't stay too long, but it's one of those things that everyone who goes to Bangkok must see at least once.

Entrance to Soi Cowboy

The Jim Thomson House was also a very cool thing to see. Although, the silk shop that it houses was very expensive.

Silk thread

After our trip to Chang Mai and the flight fiasco in Vietnam and Laos, we decided to return to Bangkok until we could come up with a new plan. This time we opted to stay in a different area of Bangkok to be able to explore more of the city. We checked in to the Hilton Double Tree Suhkumvit. It was actually a fairly new, really nice hotel that had an awesome rooftop pool and gym. The free breakfast was delish, and the hotel was half the price of the Millennium. This would be our home for the next eight days. We were able to really take in the culture of the city, explore more of the markets, and we even got to watch a Muai Thai fight.

Climbing Wat Arun

Wednesday night Muay Thai fight night

Delicious Thai food

The flights to Cambodia were quadrupled in price, so we crossed out that idea and moved up our trip to India, allowing us to add more time in Australia and a couple weeks in New Zealand. We were bummed about missing out on Cambodia, but we know that we will definitely be back and we were super excited to be able to add New Zealand to our itinerary.


Vibrant Chang Mai and a Failure in Vietnam

From Tokyo we flew into Bangkok Thailand, but we'll be covering Bangkok in a different post. From Bangkok we flew to Chang Mai, a smaller Northern city in Thailand that's close to the Myanmar border.

The flight to Chang Mai was enjoyable as we got upgraded to first class. We also were entertained that the flight attendant kept insisting that Scott looked familiar and thought he was from the movie the Hangover.

Flight path from Bangkok to Chang Mai

When we landed in Chang Mai we got checked into our hotel and then walked a few blocks down the road to check out the night market. The streets were alive with all types of vendors selling food and other things.

Our hotel in Chang Mai

Colorful products at the night market

A woman trying to sell us bracelets

A kid getting a fish pedicure.

The next morning we were picked up for a cooking class. There were four of us taking the class, us and another couple. We hopped in the back of a little truck that toted us to a local produce market where we got a tour with our chef. We learned all about the local fruits and veggies and the different ingredients that are essential to the flavors of Thailand.

Scott in our ride to the market.

We all got cute shopping baskets to take to the market

Fresh produce at the market

Our chef teaching us about ingredients

The smaller, the hotter!

The market street

After the market tour, we headed over to the home of our chef where we spent the rest of the afternoon whipping up the most delicious Thai food we've ever had. We each made a total of six dishes. To say the least, we were stuffed when we left. The chef was amazing and even gave us signed copies of his recipe book. We definitely recommend this cooking class.

Dining area where final products were enjoyed.

Scott was ready to cook in his strawberry apron.

Our cooking group was awesome!

The master chef!

Making some Pad Thai

Fried bananas and ice cream.

Mango rice

On our way back to the hotel after a whole day of cooking

The following day in Chang Mai was definitely an interesting one. We had arranged for a private driver to take us around. First, we stopped off at an elephant camp, where we got to play with some elephants and watch them bathe in the river. It was so amazing to be so close to the magnificent creatures. However, if we were to do it over, we would have rather gone to the elephant sanctuary where the animals are treated less like circus animals.

Playing with the elephants

Scott getting hugs

Bath time fun!

After the elephant camp we drove out to a hill tribe refugee camp. It is a camp that is set up by the Thai government that houses Bermese tribal refugees that have escaped persecution from Myanmar. The people are allowed to live in huts like the ones they would live in in their normal setting. They are also taught essential survival skills such as farming, and children are allowed to go to school where they learn in their own tribal language. Spending time at this camp was very humbling and eye-opening to the genocide that occurs. While we were there, we were able to help out a very special little girl named Maria. Maria and her mother, along with most of the other women in the camp spend a lot of time hand weaving fabrics used to make their clothes and other items from the fabric. This was definitely a highlight of our time in Thailand.

The landscape was beautiful surrounding the camp

Refugee housing

Some of the colorful crafts made by the women of the hill tribes

A little girl named Maria

Maria and her mother

A girl wearing traditional neck rings showing me how she weaves

Some young girls wanted their picture with me

Some children at the camp showing us their school work

The small school house

A woman excited to show us how to crush rice

Two women doing dishes

After the refugee camp we stopped off at an orchid and butterfly sanctuary. It was a nice way to end the day.

The following morning we hopped on a flight to Hanoi, Vietnam. Initially, we had planned on flying to Luang Prabong, Laos, however the day before we were going to fly into Laos, there was a plane crash in Laos on the exact airline/plane we were supposed to fly on. Unfortunately, it was very tragic, with zero survivors. After the crash, we decided to pass on Laos and fly straight into Vietnam.

When we got to Hanoi, we didn't exactly recieve the friendliest welcome. We were hassled by immigration while trying to get our visas, and they made it very clear that they were not happy with the American tourists coming into Vietnam.

Once we stepped out of the airport, the streets were complete chaos! There were so many motorbikes driving all over the roads in all different directions. Our minds were blown by the number of scooters and motos that almost were run off the road. This would basically be the case for our entire time in Hanoi.

One of the less crowded streets

With the exception of the staff at our hotel, we were always recieved with unfriendly glares and it was nearly impossible to walk anywhere outside without almost being creamed by a motorbike.

This woman glared at us as we passed by, so I took her picture:)

View from our hotel room

After our not so great experience in Hanoi, we had planned on flying down to Ho Chi Minh. But as our bad luck streek would see to it, a huge tropical storm clobbered central Vietnam causing hundreds of cancelled flights. We figured a flight to the South part of Vietnam shouldn't be affected…wrong! Due to all of the cancelled flights from the storm all of the flights throughout Vietnam were either sold out, or the prices had skyrocketed.


So, back to Bangkok it is! We headed back into Thailand where we were greeted with the familiar smile, and we were very grateful to be back.