Some standouts from our roaming year:

Top Stop
Top Surprises
Top Scenic Places
Best Food
Top “Take Your Backpackers to Work” Tours
Most Memorable Impressions
Best Service
Worst Service
Top Travel Gear


Top Stop

1. New Zealand/Thailand
We just can’t decide. Each country is absolutely phenomenal.

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Top Surprises

1. Cajun Country, Louisiana
The People! The Food! The Music! That Pepper Sauce! Hooooo-eeeeee!

2. White Sands, New Mexico
300 square miles of sand dunes and a missile testing site. Camp it if you dare

3. Hanoi, Vietnam
Beautiful and livable, the Paris of the East

4. Jaisalmer, India
Arabian Nights come to life

5. Northern California State Park System
Camping in the Pacific Ocean sand dunes

6. Angkor Wat
Nothing can prepare you for the remote vastness and beauty of this lost civilization in the Cambodian Jungle

7. Branson, Missouri
Not exactly a favorite, but certainly surprising. This is where the Osmonds sing on…and on…in two theaters

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Top Scenic Places

1. Queenstown, New Zealand
2. San Gimignano, Italy
3. Similan Islands, Thailand
4. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
5. Positano, Italy
6. Donegal, Ireland
7. Karingon Island, Sweden
8. Grand Canyon, Arizona
9. Pacific Coast Highway, California
10. Jaisalmer, India
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Best Food

1. Tuscan Farmhouse Dinner, Borgo Montauto, Montauto, Italy
Rabbit, homemade pasta, pastries, vin santo bottled in the back yard—heaven!

2. Charbroiled Oysters, Richard’s, Abbeville, Louisiana
A proper Cajun seafood shack. Remember, it’s pronounced “Reeee-charz”

3. Mercury Bay Scallops, Mercury Bay, New Zealand

4. Thai Yellow Curry, Arun Restaurant, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Our morning ritual for three weeks in Chiang Mai

5. Steamed Banana Cakes, Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School
Not bad if we do say so ourselves

6. Guinness, Dublin, Ireland
Not sure Will can ever touch the stuff again, but it went down like ambrosia

7. Ulster Fry-Up, Magherafelt, Northern Ireland
A morning artery stopper to soak up every drop of last night’s Guinness

8. Les Religieuse - Paris Patisseries

9. Tandoori Chicken Pizza, Pizza Hut, New Delhi, India
Sometimes you just need a taste of home…with a local twist

10. Italian Gelati

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Top “Take Your Backpackers to Work” Tours

Stops we made along the way to see how others work and live; and to satisfy some of Will’s business curiosities:

1. Cirque Du Soleil, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
An under-the-stage and above-the-trampoline tour of the most surreal show on earth; courtesy of the dear man who married us, David Shultz.

2. Poultry Processing Plants, Simmons Foods, Arkansas
Not for the squeamish, but such remarkable use of “Willy Wonka Meets the Marquis De Sade” automation. Many thanks to Will’s b-school pal Seth Kaufman for sticking his neck out to give us a tour.

3. Chiang Mai Umbrella Factory, Chiang Mai, Thailand
An assembly line gig to die for. Sitting on a bamboo mat soaking up the Asian sun. These beautiful umbrellas are made the old fashioned way, with a paint brush and a machete.

4. Tabasco Factory, Avery Island, Louisiana
After a visit here, you’ll pass on the salt and pepper and go straight for that little bottle of red sauce at every meal. Thank you, Andy Ringle, for the fine hospitality and friendship. We will always have Richard’s.

5. Queenstown Heli-Hikes, Queenstown, New Zealand
Bunjee Shmunjee. Graeme Buxton shows you the true attraction of “The Adventure Capital of the World”—a panoramic view of Queenstown’s astonishing beauty by foot and by helicopter. Afterwards, as you nurse your beer and your sore legs with Graeme in the shadow of the peak you just conquered, you’ll know you earned it.

6. “Chaos City” Punk Bar and Tattoo Parlor, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Will’s cousin Sophie has filled a unique niche: an intimate, graffiti-covered haven for Thai punks and for foreigners missing the familiar, comforting mohawks of home. Get a tattoo on the second floor and then take the firepole back downstairs to the bar, where anyone can slide into the DJ booth and spin punk until the wee hours. Our tour of Chaos City lasted about three weeks.

7. Outdoor Life Network, Auckland, New Zealand
We stopped in often to hang out with Will’s dad, John Rousmaniere, who was in Auckland as the technical consultant to OLN for their television coverage of the challenger races for the America’s Cup. We shadowed him to production meetings, squeezed into cramped editing trailers, and stopped every ten steps of the Auckland waterfront as he ran into yet another sailing luminary and they swapped stories. We left him in Auckland as he was sitting down with Dennis Conner for a swan song interview. No matter how well you know your parents, meet up with them in their element on the other side of the world and you will see a side you never saw before.

8. Merchant Marine Cargo Ships, Wilmington, North Carolina
Into the belly of the supply ships that will deliver anything, anytime, to the military around the world. These sailors travel around the world for a living—six lonely months at sea at a time. Many thanks to: Captain Walter Purio; Will’s Uncle, Chief Mate Jonathan Hall; and Chief Mate Joy Baetge.

9. Albany Medical Center - Neuroscience Institute, Albany, New York
For those who wonder how great ideas are brought to fruition. For Dr. Earl Zimmerman, a friendly chat with another father at the school bus stop led to the establishment of the Neurosciences Advanced Imaging Research Center, a cutting edge research facility focusing on Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Earl, who is Will’s stepfather, was the new Chair of Neurology at Albany Med. The other father at the bus stop was an engineer at GE Global Research. A conversation about the weather turned to neuroscience research and, 24 months later, a new facility was opened with a full complement of Albany Med clinicans, GE scientists, and a state of the art MRI contributed by GE. Walking with Earl through the halls of his brainchild was inspiration enough to make a difference.

10. The Wrekin - Cattle, Sheep, Olive, and Grape Farm, Blenheim, New Zealand.
Imagine giving up the 9 to 5 and working your own farm. The inspirational Johns family did. Unfortunately, they had to work the farm a little harder than usual the day Will managed to herd the sheep in 10 different directions.

11. Buckley Systems, Auckland, New Zealand
New Zealand’s largest, and most eclectic, machine shop. Native Maoris wrap copper around two-ton magnets for the global computer chip industry; keels and sailing widgets are secretly fashioned for the America’s Cup; and High Performance Motorcycles are carefully crafted and test-driven around the parking lot—guests are warned to look both ways. Many thanks to Bill Buckley.

12. Los Angeles Fire Department
Who wants to be a fireman when they grow up? If so, you could do worse than the very friendly and serious firefighters of fire station #120, in Diamond Bar. Many thanks to fire knob, Pete Ramirez, our host in the Chino Hills outside of Los Angeles. However, we had to go to a punk bar in Thailand to actually slide down a fire pole.

13. Experience Music Project, Seattle WA
The Paul Allen funded “Jimi Hendrix Museum” at the base of the Space Needle does attract controversy, but it also has some lively exhibits, including a hands-on music studio and disco dance floor, which now sports the Rousmanieres' footprints. Many thanks to our dear Taiya Minott for the tour of her place of work.
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Most Memorable Impressions

1. Grand Canyon, Arizona
Reaching Plateau Point as the ravens soared above us in the noon sun

2. Kaikoura, New Zealand
Napping with sea lions on the rocks

3. Montauto, Italy
Feasting and farting by a Tuscan farmhouse fire à la Tom Jones. (Dana would like to clarify that only one person was doing the farting, and he did a fine enough job for two)

4. Jaipur Train Station, India
Conductors beating crowds off of midnight trains with sticks

5. Killing Fields, Cambodia
Naked children innocently swimming and playing in the Killing Fields

6. Jaisalmer, Western Rajasthan, India
Indian children hugging and serenading us with “Frère Jacques" as the sun set over the Jaisalmer fortress and the lice visibly danced on their matted heads

7. Great Mercury Island, New Zealand
Kayaking with a school of dolphins from cove to cove, morning to night

8. Athens, Greece
Fighter jets flying over us on the Acropolis the day before the war as every neck in Athens craned upwards…wondering...

9. Cambodia
The endless number of limbless land mine victims begging in the streets

10. Bangkok, Thailand
Elephants in the street outside our hotel room, our first night in Southeast Asia

11. Mercury Bay, New Zealand
Returning from our night sea rescue, plowing through the phosphorescence, setting the bay aglow under the southern cross. For Will, that night cast Dana in a whole new light
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Where we took an unplanned right or left, or just put our heads down and trod on lightly

1. Bali
As we hit the road, Bali was at the top of our list of places to go. After the bombing we wondered whether lightning could possibly strike twice. We played it safe and didn’t go, but met travelers who told stories of a very quiet and tranquil tourist-free Bali, giving us pangs of regret

2. Washington Sniper
Passing through Baltimore and Washington with our heads down as the sniper kept everyone in fear and held our imaginations hostage

3. Tornado - North Carolina
“Gee, the sky sure looks funny.” We unwittingly drove through an active tornado area. When we learned of this near miss in the paper the next day, we gave up on our romantic idea of “tuning out” and tuned in to local news every half hour for the next nine months

4. Sydney Brush Fires
Two weeks before we landed in Sydney, these brush fires raged out of control on the city's outskirts

5. Cambodians Burn Down the Thai Embassy
This was huge news in Southeast Asia. A riot and senseless destruction in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, were set in motion by remarks supposedly made by a Thai soap opera star (she didn’t make them). Borders were closed, flights cancelled, and we were in Thailand with two weeks to decide whether, and how, to get to our next stop—Phnom Penh. Our backup plan to go to Laos looked even less attractive (see below). In the end, tempers cooled, borders opened, and we went to Cambodia

6. Laos Bandits
Because of the Thai/Cambodia border closings, we came up with a backup plan to go to Laos. Then, just before we left for Laos, roadside bandits struck a bus on the main Laos road, killing two tourists. As with Bali, we painfully deliberated again, would lightning strike twice? Again, we played it safe(-ish) and headed to Cambodia. The Laos bandits did strike and kill again, and continue to do so. However, as with Bali, we have met travelers who went to Laos undaunted and had remarkable and safe journeys. You just never know. You can only take educated risks and travel within your comfort zone

7. SARS - Hanoi
Poor flight scheduling limited our stay in Vietnam. Luckily so; another couple weeks in Hanoi and we would have spent our remaining world travel in customs quarantines during the SARS crisis

8. War - Sneaking out of Athens Before Dawn as the War Began
It was just eerie. We checked out of our hotel in the middle of the night as the first air strikes were broadcast on CNN. The airport bus passed the U.S. Embassy in the dark, where people were already gathering, and armored buses were lining up in front; both sides mustering for the large scale protest that would erupt that afternoon in Athens and across the continent. As we settled into the Amalfi coast in Italy later that day we felt guilty but were tempted to say “what war?”

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Best Service

Where going out of your way is just how you do business.

1. Tailor Shop, Phuket, Thailand
The comically droll Thai tailor never stopped rolling his eyes as he measured Will for an “emergency” tuxedo fitting. But less than 24 hours later, Will was wearing a wonderful tailor-made tuxedo for $100!

2. Ashoka Travels, New Delhi, India
We never expected that getting a refund from a travel agency in India would be so easy. We bought two sets of Eurail passes from Ashoka just before leaving New Delhi for Europe. When the war started, we changed plans again and had to cancel one set of Eurail passes. We traded emails with the helpful and friendly agency, we sent them our tickets, they credited our credit card. Easy, pleasant. The Star Alliance and Citibank should send their customer service employees to New Delhi to learn a thing from Ashoka

3. Borgo Montauto, San Gimignano, Italy
Marinella, our hostess at this Farm Stay guest house in the hilly country side three kilometers from San Gimignano, could not have made our stay more wonderful. Because we were backpacking she picked us up at the bus station, she drove us to town every morning and then, when she felt we needed a break from our nightly stroll into town for dinner, she suspended her “Breakfast Only” policy and cooked us an extraordinary farmhouse dinner that we still dream about

4. Golden Fern Guest House, Chiang Mai, Thailand
When Will caught bronchitis for a week in Chiang Mai, the Thai cooks at this wonderful guest house brought him American style chicken soup in bed every day. The luckiest place in the world to get sick, the friendliest staff, the coolest lobby, and a home away from home

5. The Smallest Bar In Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
This tiny little landmark was closed for renovations. But when we knocked on the door, the architect invited us in and spent the next two hours teaching Will how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness

6. Ivano’s, Venice, Italy
The charming and clever Ivano gave us a cheap room, lots of sherry, and free lunches in his canal-side restaurant. The trade off was that he got to use us as bait to lure in the tourists, and we somehow forgot to try any other restaurants in Venice but his. But Dana was a sucker for the roses he gave her. Thanks to Ivano we had a wonderful, romantic stay in Venice

7. Thai Airways, Southeast Asia
The best food to be had in the air, and Dana got more flowers

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Worst Service

1. Citibank
After we’ve had a couple years to cool off, we may write a separate travelogue just about our absurd experiences with this disorganized collection of fingerpointing fiefdoms. Suffice it to say that the simple process of setting up a Citibank checking account online led us on a near-comical detour to the Citibank call center in the Texas desert, and then to Las Vegas to finally open an account 2,500 miles away from our Internet connection. When all was said and done our credit card was cancelled in Southeast Asia because of another Citibank goof-up, and we spent the entire $50 “online signup bonus” calling home to Citibank to get it straightened out. But they sure do have a fine collection of ATM’s around the world…once you can use them

2. Citibank
3. Citibank
4. Citibank
5. Citibank
6. Citibank
7. Citibank
8. Citibank
9. Citibank
10. And, Citibank

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Top Travel Gear

1. Eagle Creek Travel Packs
Our homes away from home. These versatile backpacks zip up like luggage for minimal hassle at airport customs

2. Ekno
Lonely Planet’s phone card and web email service. In those places without Internet, you can even call local numbers and listen to your emails read to you by a computer

3. Star Alliance - Round the World Ticket
One of the most flexible (but slightly more expensive at $3,800 per person plus taxes) RTW tickets available. Dates and destinations can be changed at any time

4. Lonely Planet Guides
“The Bible” of travellers, which means their very good recommendations never stay off the beaten path for very long. Always reliable. But we made a point every day to go discover something that’s not quoted in the Bible

5. Cash Rebate Credit Cards
Money talks. No fees, 1.5% - 3.0% cash back on all your spending, which adds up on a world trip. And what a relief to have checks waiting for you when you return home penniless from your travels! We used the American Express Rebate card and the Citibank Rebate Master Card. No complaints about either of the cards. American Express is a better deal, but accepted in fewer places. However, we’re canceling the Citibank card based on our horrific banking experience with them. (see Worst Service rankings above)

6. Student ID’s
You can buy fake ones on Bangkok’s Khao San road. We didn’t, and regretted it when we got to Europe and started paying those hefty full-price museum admissions

7. Shoes—Merrell Reflexes
Wore these versatile shoes hiking into the Grand Canyon, climbing craggy peaks in New Zealand, falling from 12,000 feet out of an airplane, hashing in the jungles of Thailand, and covering six zillion square miles of Paris museums and Italian Duomos—and they still look and feel like new!

8. Bottled Water

9. Flexibility
Not gear per say, but you should carry a healthy dose of it wherever you travel

10. Weekends
Another intangible, but be sure you take at least a few for mental breaks along the way

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