Around the World in 2022

2022 was a whirlwind of travel for us!

We spent only eight weeks at home all year, not consecutively. We set a goal to travel as much as possible before settling down and having kids soon, and we really cashed in on that goal in 2022. We spent the first two weeks of the year on a road trip in Florida. In February, we set out for our Latin America trip which took us first to Texas for a conference, followed by ten weeks throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, and Costa Rica. Immediately after returning from Latin America, we set off on a road trip through Canada to get to Alaska, where we spent the whole summer, followed by a longer road trip back through Canada and the Midwest US. Right after that, we spent a week in Las Vegas for the Traveler’s Conference, followed by a week at a resort with family in Mexico. As if all of this travel wasn’t enough, we were determined to check some more places off our bucket list internationally before the end of the year!

Planning Our 2022 End of Year Trip

When we first started thinking about our end of the year travels, we decided we would go visit some places we hadn’t been yet in Europe, including Greece, which has been a bucket list destination for us for a long time. So, we found a good airline point redemption to use for a one-way flight from home to Greece and booked that. We loosely were planning to go to some locations along the Mediterranean like Albania, Montenegro, Slovenia, etc. as well as potentially hop over to Switzerland where we’d been wanting to travel for a long time.

After booking our one-way flight to Greece sometime in the late summer, life got busy (that’s an understatement clearly as evidenced by my above synopsis of the year, haha) and we didn’t plan or book anything further for a while. A month or so later, we realized we really needed to get down to some planning as the Greece flight was quickly approaching. Around this time, we heard that Australia and New Zealand had reopened their borders, and it got us thinking that we should really travel to this region if possible before starting a family. We realized that we could much more easily go back to Europe with kids or possibly when I’m pregnant, but that wouldn’t be so easy with Australia/New Zealand.

So, suddenly, what was supposed to be a Europe trip, turned into planning a trip all around the world, with the first stop being in Greece, and the destination being on the other side of the world in Oceana!

To break up the trip, we decided to pick a few cool places along the way to stop instead of flying directly from Greece to Australia. First on the list was Egypt to see the pyramids! From there, Jared had always wanted to go to Dubai, so we picked the UAE. From there, we were basically just looking at where made sense as a stopover as far as flying between the UAE and Australia and/or New Zealand. We really wanted to see if we could make Japan work, as they also had recently reopened their borders. But unfortunately it was just too far off the route to squeeze in as a stop. Instead, we picked Singapore which is somewhere in Asia we’d never been.

During our planning, we also came to the realization that we would be very close to the island of American Samoa in the Pacific Ocean, and we still needed to make it to the National Park of American Samoa on our quest to go to all of the US National Parks. So, we were determined to find a way to make it there on this trip since we were going to be so close! This ended up being a lot more of a headache than we realized, because there are only certain locations that fly into American Samoa. We later found out that it would have been a lot easier to get there if going from Hawaii, even though both Australia and New Zealand are very close to it, due to lack of direct flights as well as change in time/date at the international date line. I plan to write an entire separate article about our experience in American Samoa, including the debacle of getting there! But for now let’s just say it was a struggle to plan, but we DID make it there!

A lot of the above planning actually happened while we were already on the trip. When we left home at the end of October, all we had booked were our stops in Greece, and our flights to Cairo and Dubai. But we had a general outline of where we wanted to go, and we were able to book the rest along the way. In the past this would’ve scared us to leave without everything booked, but we have traveled abroad enough now that we’re more comfortable planning on the fly.

Trip Itinerary

Here’s what our final itinerary ended up looking like:

  • Greece (Naxos, Santorini, Athens) – 2 weeks
  • Egypt (Cairo, Giza) – 5 days
  • United Arab Emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi) – 5 days
  • Singapore – 5 days
  • Australia – 10 days
  • Samoa – 1 day
  • American Samoa – 4 days
  • New Zealand – almost 3 weeks


Our first destination was Greece, and it absolutely lived up to all of the hype. We totally fell in love with Greece and were kicking ourselves for not traveling there sooner.

We started the trip on the island of Naxos, which was a beautiful and quaint island. We ventured around the island, going to various beaches, visiting ancient ruins, taking an ATV up to different mountainside villages, hiking, drinking wine, and eating delicious food. We could’ve spent a month or more on that amazing island, and we would absolutely love to go back!

Next, we went to the famous island of Santorini. We used Hyatt points to stay at a classic, cave-style hotel on the edge of the caldera, looking down at the iconic Santorini view. This stay cost us a lot of our points, but it was completely worth it. It felt like a honeymoon. We loved having breakfast every morning on our private terrace looking out at the views, and drinking wine there at night. We walked all over the island, including doing the iconic Fira to Oia hike along the Caldera rim, going through various villages. We also enjoyed a lot of delicious food and wine here. We definitely ate our weight in Greek Salads!

After visiting the islands, it was time to go take in the history of Ancient Athens. We were in awe at visiting the Acropolis and other ancient ruins. We opted to do a ‘free walking tour’ of many of the historic sites and the city itself. These tours are tip based instead of a set price, and we have done them in cities all around the world. Then for the Acropolis and other archeological sites themselves, we bought tickets on our own and used Rick Steves Audio Guides to do a self guided walking tour through the ruins rather than hiring an in-person tour guide. This worked out great for us and gave us all the historical info we needed. I would highly recommend checking out the free guides Rick Steves has for Athens and other famous locations like in Rome.

Speaking of Rome, while the historic ruins of Rome are hard to beat, overall we liked Athens much better than Rome. We found the people to be a lot nicer, the streets much cleaner, and the prices much more affordable. We could definitely see ourselves spending more time in Greece in the future!


After almost two weeks exploring Greece, it was time to head to Egypt! We had been a little bit nervous about safety in Egypt, but after recently talking to some other travelers who had visited and had nothing but great things to say, we felt more at ease. We decided to stay right in Giza, at an Airbnb overlooking the Great Pyramids of Giza. The view we had overlooking the pyramids from our place was priceless (actually, the price was only $35/night at the Airbnb, haha). We felt completely safe right there in Giza near the pyramids. When we did venture into Cairo, we could see that some other areas felt less safe, but where we were was fairly touristy and everyone was very nice.

Our Airbnb host helped set us up with a tour guide for two different days of tours. The first day, the tour guide took us into Cairo where we visited the Egypt Museum of Antiquities. This is the original Egypt Museum that’s been there for decades. They were almost finished building the new and improved Egypt Museum, but unfortunately it was not open yet when we were there. But nonetheless we were completely amazed at the antiquities at this museum. It’s so difficult to fathom looking at artifacts from thousands of years ago. This was a great start to our visit before going to the pyramids.

The next day, our guide took us to several different pyramid locations, including Saqqara, Dahshur, and then finishing with the Great Pyramids of Giza. It was fascinating to see and learn about some of the other, lesser known pyramids, including their history and different styles. We went inside of the Pyramid of Unas and the Bent Pyramid, which were very interesting. Finally we got to see the main attraction, the pyramids of Giza. We did go inside the Great Pyramid, but after having been in the other two, we really should have skipped this one. It was the most cramped out of the three with a very small passageway, and it was much more crowded. Aside from that, it was remarkable to stand among these great pyramids. We also saw the Sphinx up close and were shocked at how huge it actually is in person. Our guide was very knowledgeable and taught us so much history and gave so much more meaning to what we saw. We are still baffled at understanding the history of the pyramids, and we definitely feel there’s still a mystery there that may never be solved as to exactly how old they are and how they were constructed.

On our last day, we actually went back to the pyramids on our own to spend a little more time walking around by ourselves and get some more amazing photos. It was nice to have a day on our own there without the guide, but we definitely valued having his expertise the first day. If you go, I would recommend getting a guide for the pyramids because it really helps bring more meaning to the sites. It also helps decrease people hassling you, because the local guide will talk to them for you, and often they’re less likely to hassle you if they see you’re already with a guide. But nevertheless, you will get hassled at least a little bit no matter what, haha.

We did only have a short time in Egypt, but after we were there a couple days, we wished we had planned longer. We learned about some other areas that would’ve been very interesting to see, such as Alexandria, and the Red Sea. We’d definitely consider going back in the future to explore more places.


Next we headed to Dubai where we used hotel points to stay at a Hyatt hotel. We spent one or two days getting caught up on work, exercise, laundry, etc. while we were there. But we packed in a lot of adventures as well. We went on our own to the World’s Largest Mall, the Dubai Mall, as well as going to the top of the World’s Tallest Building, the Burj Khalifa.

Next, we went on a guided day tour to see some of the top tourist sights in Dubai, including the Palm Jumeriah island (a man made island designed to look like a palm tree from above), the Burj Al Arab (the world’s only “7 Star Hotel”), the historic site of “Old Dubai,” plus the Gold and Spice Souks (markets).

We also took a guided day tour to Abu Dhabi to visit the famous Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Here they had a very strict dress code especially for women where you had to be covered completely from head to ankle and wrists. This was tough in the hot weather, but luckily this was the only place that required it, as the rest of the UAE is pretty relaxed as far as dress code, since it’s a very international culture. But nonetheless visiting the mosque was a cool experience! It was so ornate!

There are a million other adventures for adrenaline-junkies to experience in Dubai that we did not do, such as skydiving, waterparks, amusement parks, dune-buggying, racetracks, boat tours and more. But we felt like we got a good taste of the modern metropolis, and we were glad we visited.


Next, we were off to Singapore, with a short layover in India which was interesting since we’ve never been to India. We don’t count a layover at the airport as really having visited the country of course, but it was neat to “be” there just briefly.

Singapore is another modern metropolis, and it’s very interesting because it’s a small island which is just one country, one state, and one city all combined. It’s also somewhat of a melting pot like the UAE, so we saw a mix of a lot of different cultures. There’s definitely a strong Chinese culture there, and we ate a lot of Asian street food and went to some Chinese temples. We decided to do a very touristy hop on hop off bus tour to get a feel for the city, including viewing a lot of the modern architecture. We got to see the famous Marina Bay Sands building, which looks like a boat on the top of two towers (if you’ve seen the movie Crazy Rich Asians, the building is featured in that movie). We were also pleasantly surprised at how much green space they had in the city, and we learned that this is by design.

To our surprise, we actually ended up being in Singapore at the same time as two of our Travel PT friends. We overlapped with them by just one day, so it was cool to get to meet up with them just briefly. Together we went to a cool light show with these magical, fake trees at the “Gardens by the Bay Supertrees.”


After all the amazing variety we experienced from Greece, to Egypt, to Dubai, to Singapore, it was time to head to the more “western” cultures of Australia and New Zealand! While we knew we were headed to more familiar cultures, we were very excited about the natural wonders of these countries.

When it came time to plan this part of the trip, we were bummed we really only had about 4 weeks to spend between Australia and New Zealand, because we knew we could easily spend several months there and still not see everything. Ultimately, even though Australia is a bigger country, we knew we really wanted more time to explore New Zealand, so we only allocated about 10 days to Australia while allowing over 2.5 weeks in New Zealand.

With only 10 days for Australia, we decided to divide our time in three major cities: Sydney, Cairns, and Brisbane. First we went to Sydney, where we got to experience a Wildlife Park, tour the downtown, walk along one of the coastal walks, and take a day trip to a national park. We were amazed to see koalas and kangaroos up close at the Wildlife Park, as well as learn about a variety of other animals unique to the continent. We loved the city of Sydney, where we did a walking tour to learn more about the history of the city and the country itself, as well as see the iconic Sydney Opera House. We loved taking in the beautiful views walking along the coast and going to the Blue Mountains National Park. We learned there are over 600 national parks in Australia, so it would take years to visit them all!

Next we flew to the city of Cairns, which is closer to the equator and has a much more tropical climate. Here we were able to take a snorkeling tour to the Great Barrier Reef which was awesome. We also took a guided day trip to the Daintree Rainforest and explored the coast.

Our last stop in Australia was in Brisbane, where we actually got to meet up with more of our Travel PT friends. We knew in advance that they would be there because they’d been traveling around Australia on a road trip celebrating their honeymoon for a couple months. We planned to go to Brisbane together and share an Airbnb so we could spend a few days exploring together. Our favorite part of this area was taking a day trip via ferry to North Stradbroke Island. Here we were able to see koalas and a ton of kangaroos out in the wild. This was absolutely incredible to see these amazing creatures in the wild. We were really shocked we were able to find koalas hidden up in the trees, with a little guidance from locals on where to look. The kangaroos were surprisingly used to people and hung out very close to us. The best was seeing a mama with a joey (baby kangaroo) in her pouch! This was a truly unforgettable experience. Besides the animals, the island itself was really beautiful, and it was an awesome day spent with our good friends. Aside from that, we did a little walking around in Brisbane, but admittedly we were all feeling a bit tired and lazy during our last full day there, so we mostly chilled at the Airbnb before we all had to head out on the next part of our adventures.

Samoa/American Samoa

Next we started our journey to get to the National Park of American Samoa. After much hassle, the best way we were able to make it work was traveling from Australia, to the island nation of Samoa, then to the US territory of American Samoa which is a separate island, then from there back to Samoa, then on to New Zealand from there.

Again, I plan to write an entire separate blog post all about this experience, so stay tuned for that to learn more!

Even though it was a hassle to plan, we had a great time in Samoa and American Samoa. Both are very beautiful islands in the middle of the Pacific. We were so excited to make it to the National Park of American Samoa, which was our 60th National Park, out of a total of 63! We hope to finish visiting all 63 by the summer of 2023! While in American Samoa, we also made some friends and enjoyed touring the island and hanging out with them for a few days!

New Zealand

Our final country for this trip was New Zealand! This felt like its own trip entirely, and it required a lot of planning and logistics. We decided that the best way to explore the island was going to be to rent some type of vehicle and make it a road trip. Campervan travel is very popular in NZ and Australia, so we did look into renting a van, but after comparing prices and considering the logistics of camping vs. staying at Airbnbs/hotels, we ultimately decided just to rent a car and find accommodations along the way.

There was so much we wanted to see on both the North and South Islands of NZ. I googled a ton of “two week New Zealand road trip” blogs and found a lot of suggested itineraries, and from those I pieced together a route that hit a lot of the major sights.

We started in the north in Auckland and rented a one-way car to be dropped off 14 days later in Christchurch on the South Island. We then booked a one-way flight from Christchurch back to Auckland to catch our return flight home from Auckland to Virginia.

Here’s an overview of the major stops along our New Zealand Road Trip:

  • Auckland
  • Rotorua
  • Ohakune (Tongariro National Park)
  • Wellington
  • Nelson Lakes/St. Arnaud
  • Franz Josef
  • Queenstown
  • Te Anau (Milford Sound)
  • Twizel (Mt. Cook)
  • Christchurch

New Zealand: North Island

As I mentioned, we started in Auckland, where we stayed two nights at an Airbnb before picking up our rental car. We went into the city center and did a free walking tour to see the highlights. We also very briefly crossed paths with yet another Travel Therapist couple (PT/OT) who were on their honeymoon in NZ! Then we rested, caught up on work, did our laundry, and stocked up on some snacks before picking up our rental car and heading out to start our road trip!

We began our drive south headed toward the Rotorua area. Our first stop was a tour of the Hobbiton movie set which was so fun! The Hobbiton (Shire) film set was actually built on an active sheep and cattle farm, and the land is just absolutely breathtaking. We’re not exactly huge Lord of The Rings/Hobbit fanatics, but we loved visiting this amazing location! I thought the little village set with the Hobbit Holes was so adorable!

We stayed two nights at an Airbnb in the Rotorua area. Unfortunately it was pretty rainy during these couple days, but we still got out and saw a few things. We went to the thermal features in the town at Kuirau Park. This whole area is very geothermally active with lots of natural hot springs, mud pools, etc. Most of these are way too hot to touch! Think: Yellowstone National Park. We also explored the Redwood forest here.

Additionally, while we were in Rotorua, we had the opportunity to meet up with a Physiotherapist who owns a chain of PT clinics in NZ. They had contacted us online about international locum opportunities in NZ, and it just so happened we were going to be in NZ ourselves, so we arranged a meeting in person. They educated us more about the healthcare system in NZ and Australia, as well as how physiotherapy operates there. We discusses travel therapy opportunities in the US compared with their locums abroad. We decided to partner on a guest post where they educated our audience about the services they provide to those wanting to work in NZ or Australia as a PT or OT. You can read the post here if you’re interested.

From Rotorua, we continued south, stopping in the Waiotapu region at a hot spring river that you could actually get in. This was probably our favorite hot springs experience ever. It was so magical, and there was an area like a natural hot tub in the river! We also visited the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, which has a lot of different geothermal features, including spectacularly colored hot pools (not the type you can get in). From there we made a stop at the beautiful, turquoise waters of Huka Falls. We stopped for lunch in Taupo and found another hot springs area where you can get in, but this one wasn’t as warm or nice as the first one of the day. Then we made our way down to the Airbnb where we were staying for two nights in Ohakune.

We planned to hike the famous Tongariro Crossing in Tongariro National Park the next day, but the weather was really bad which would have made for a miserable hike without being able to see the fantastic views. Fortunately, the weather was looking much better the next day, so we decided to push our hike back one day. This wasn’t the most convenient, because we had already booked our next few stays along the trip, and it meant we would have to hike the approximately seven hour hike, then drive four hours to our next stop in the same day. Even though this made for a long day, it was 1000% worth it. The weather ended up being absolutely perfect the next day. Even the local guides kept saying it was the best day possible to hike it and that we all were so lucky to have the beautiful weather. The hike was a fairly strenuous twelve miles, but the views were absolutely incredible. We’ve done hikes of similar difficulty before so we were tired but it was totally doable. Thank goodness the weather was on our side, because with rain and wind it would’ve made for a very different experience, crossing over volcanoes and through valleys. We were so glad we got to do this spectacular hike and had excellent weather and views the whole way! Many people say this is the best day hike in all of New Zealand, and some even claim it to be the best day hike anywhere in the world. Highly recommend if you are up for the challenge and get a chance to go!

Our last stop on the North Island was the capital city of Wellington. We stayed here two nights at an Airbnb as well. We took a guided walking tour to see the major sights. Wellington was a very beautiful city on the waterfront. We happened to come across a rally for the NZ Women’s Rugby team who had just won the rugby world cup! And the then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was speaking at the rally, so that was really interesting to stumble upon. We also visited the Te Papa museum of New Zealand which featured some cool history and artwork.

New Zealand: South Island

We took the car ferry from Wellington on the North Island to cross over to the South Island via Picton. This was a cool experience on a very nice, huge ferry. We saw some gorgeous views going through the inner passages of land to get to the port in Picton. Then we had a short drive to get to our stop for the night in a small area called Nelson Lakes, St. Arnaud. Some parts of the South Island area very rural, so Airbnb options were very limited. On this part of the trip we stayed at a lot of local motels. These are like the old “motor lodges” in the US where it’s a private unit on a single level that you drive right up to and park your car out front. This was very convenient for a couple of quick stops along our route.

The next day we began the gorgeous drive down the western coast of the South Island. We stopped at some beautiful view points including Cape Foulwind and the Punakaiki “pancake rocks.” Unfortunately we failed to realize just how rural some of these areas were, and we didn’t plan our gas (“petrol”) stops very well. We found ourselves low on gas and uncertain if we would be able to make it to the next town to get to the gas station. We asked around with some locals and ended up finding a campground that had a very expensive can of petrol we could buy in order to tide us over to the next town. We were annoyed at having to pay so much, but relieved we found some gas to avoid a much bigger debacle with a breakdown!

We stayed one night at a motel in Franz Josef and briefly saw the Franz Josef glacier from afar, before continuing our drive down the coast. We stopped at some more beautiful places including Lake Matheson, Roaring Billy Falls, Thunder Creek Falls, and the Blue Pools. We drove by the gorgeous Lake Wanaka, then stopped to eat in the town of Wanaka. We took the scenic route over the Crown Range Road to get to our next destination in Queenstown. The entire drive all through the west coast of the South Island was stunning. We took about two days but could’ve easily spent a week or more along this drive!

Next we stayed two nights in an Airbnb in Queenstown. We were blessed with the most beautiful weather during our one full day in Queenstown. This was our favorite day of our entire time in New Zealand, maybe the entire trip! We visited several different lakefront locations around Queenstown, took the scenic drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy, and walked a trail in Glenorchy. Every direction we turned there were amazing views of the stunning mountains, gorgeous lake, and colorful lupins (flowers). We really fell in love with this area that day and were definitely ready to move there, haha.

From Queenstown we went to Te Anau, the gateway to get to the famous Milford Sound. We had more scenic driving and amazing views between Queenstown and Milford Sound. It was a little rainy and foggy on the day we toured Milford Sound, but they say that’s better for more waterfalls. It was definitely magical taking a boat tour out into the sound! It reminded us a lot of the fiords in Alaska. We stayed two nights at a motel in Te Anau.

Next we made our way back through Queenstown on our way to the Mt. Cook area. We stopped at a couple of wineries along the way and took in more scenic views. We stayed two nights in a motel in the town of Twizel and took a day trip to see Mt. Cook which was spectacular. We had more amazing views along the way, including the stunning Lake Pukaki. Mt. Cook itself, the highest mountain in New Zealand, was unbelievable. It was covered in massive glaciers, and we got amazing views of it up close while hiking the popular Hooker Valley Track. We also hiked to Tasman Lake for more amazing glacier views nearby.

Our last stop was Christchurch for a quick overnight stay, before returning our rental car and flying back to Auckland for one more overnight before our flight home.

Our road trip through New Zealand was absolutely epic! We would recommend it to anyone who wants to experience the spectacular natural beauty of New Zealand. We could easily go back and spend several months exploring more!

The Journey Back Home

The return flight home was a huge challenge to figure out. Unfortunately when we made the decision to wait to plan the rest of our trip on the fly, we failed to realize how limited and expensive the options would be from Australia or New Zealand back to the US, especially because it was very close to the holidays. We tried really hard to find flight options using points, which is what we have almost always done for international flights to/from the US. However there were no good point options, so we had to pay cash.

We ended up with our best option being on Christmas Eve, which allowed us to get home just in time before Christmas. Even though the trip was over 20 hours of total travel time, because we went back a day when crossing the international date line, we actually arrived home on Christmas Eve night. We got to have basically two Christmas Eve’s and were home just in time for Christmas!

We did have a delay with one of our connections, causing us to miss our next connection, which gave us a scare thinking we would not be able to get home in time for Christmas. But luckily they were able to put us on standby for the next flight and get us home a few hours later. Unfortunately, somewhere in the mix Jared’s suitcase got lost! This is one of the only times this has ever happened to us, and it’s a major reason we almost always try to NOT check bags when possible, but it figures it would happen this time since there was so much hectic holiday travel. Luckily we put AirTags in our luggage to have more peace of mind that we at least knew where the bag was. Fortunately, the bag arrived the very next day, and they delivered it right to our door at home, on Christmas! So he wasn’t without his luggage long and received it back as a nice Christmas present, ha!

Trip Summary

Overall this was probably our favorite international trip we’ve done! We saw some truly amazing, bucket list places, especially Greece, the Egyptian Pyramids, Australia, and New Zealand! We learned from experience over our years of traveling and worked in a lot more downtime throughout this trip so it wouldn’t be too hectic. Plus we found our new top favorite country (so far) which is New Zealand! We really fell in love with it there and were ready to move there permanently haha, although unfortunately it’s just too far from family to make that a reality for us right now.

Stay tuned for more of our international adventures, as we are planning to go to Europe in the Summer of 2023 for our Honeymoon!

And stay tuned for my full recap article talking all about our experience in American Samoa!

Have you ever been to any of these locations? What were some of your favorite memories? Would you like to take a trip to some of these places in the future? Any comments, questions or feedback welcome!

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