The best (and worst) of everything (since last time)
When we compiled a list of the best and worst of everything on our trip to date, 1000 days of travel seemed like an extraordinary amount of time, a milestone we never imagined possible when we set out.
Well now we’ve doubled it.
So, in celebration of 2000 days as digital nomads, here are a few provisos and addenda to our previous bests and worsts.
Where we stayed
Best View: Split (unchanged)
Runner up: Kotor
Kotor↗ is the jewel of Montenegro, and dethrones our first visit to Yerevan↗ as the second-best vista of our trip. It has some similarities to not-too-distant Dubrovnik, but where Croatia’s pearl offers stunning cliffs and a picturesque fortress, Kotor unites those attractions into one – draping its castle walls over the cliffside like a glittering necklace.
Worst View: Novi Sad
We previously used this award to talk about the wildfires that greeted us in Santiago↗, but a string of bad Airbnbs reached its nadir in Novi Sad↗ when we ended up in what could only be described as a dungeon. What few windows it had looked up to a parking lot and some dumpsters. Oh, and they didn’t lock. Add in some roaches and we set a new record for arrival-to-nope-out.
Best Location: Tallinn
Previous winner Zagreb↗ scored points for proximity to Christmas markets, but the apartment we had on our second trip to Tallinn↗ topped it without any holiday bonus. Perfectly situated between the iconic Old Town and walkable waterfront, and just across the street from top grocery stores and drinks distributors. What’s more, our rooftop seating gave us a perfect vantage point to watch sunsets, changing seasons, and the comings and goings of Tallinn’s ferry fleet.
Runners up: Hvar and Chișinău
Like Gozo↗, Hvar gave us a great view of a Mediterranean harbor in sun and storm, a small vacation town all to ourselves in the offseason, an accessible island brimming with walking and hiking opportunities. But this time the distant container ships were replaced by much more charming local fishing boats flanked by clouds of gulls, and a ferry back to civilization (or whatever you call Split) was always just steps from our door.
Meanwhile, the capital of Moldova↗ was the best place to earn bragging rights. Where else could we have the privilege of living around the corner from the Presidential Palace? Or visit the unrecognized/breakaway region of Transnistria↗?
Best Kitchen: Québec
Look at those granite countertops↗!
Most Livable: Vilnius (unchanged)
Runner up: Eskilstuna
We spent a month living in a tiny cabin, biking miles to get groceries (or anywhere else, for that matter). It was paradise. Life is easier in Eskilstuna↗, more relaxed, and yet still flush with modern conveniences we missed having at our fingertips.
What we did
Best Museum: Museum of Flight
The best museum in Seattle↗ and one of the best anywhere. Trace the history of aviation from Boeing’s Red Barn though the Space Age. The Great Gallery, WWI and II wings, and the Airpark – where guests can tour the inside of the first jet-powered Air Force One, a Concorde, and more – are highlights.
Runner up: KUMU
The Art Museum of Estonia↗ isn’t the biggest, flashiest, or freest museum we’ve ever been to. But it’s striking, memorable, and packed with interesting sights on every floor.
Best Waterfront: Hvar
We spent four months walking the same few kilometers in, around, up and down from Hvar town. And it never got old.
Runner up: Tallinn
Likewise, our months strolling the sidewalks and sands of Estonia’s↗ north shore were glorious. But we only got two of them to Hvar’s four. Second place.
Best Old Town: Tallinn (unchanged)
Runner up: Vannes
Prague↗ is great and all, but its old town is a relatively small part of its appeal. We swapped it for Vannes↗ on our list, a gorgeous little town in the Brittany region of France.
Best Festival: Song (Lithuania) (unchanged)
Runner up: Advent (Zagreb)
Zagreb celebrates Christmas so nice↗ we did it twice↗!
Food & Drink
Worst Food Item: Canned bear meat
We’ve had a lot of good food on this trip. We’ve also had some very bad food on this trip. None was more revolting than canned bear meat from Estonia↗.
Worst Beer: Georgia
We’re honorarily removing Armenia↗ from the Worst Beer category. Not because the macrobrews has improved – they have not – but the craft scene is developing and takeaway growlers from Dargett were a lifesaver during lockdown.
Worst Wine: Armenia
We were a little hard on Chile↗ last time. Following the likes of Argentina↗ was never going to be easy, and we were mostly let down by how uninspired the mass-market stuff was. But overall, their wine was perfectly nice.
Armenia↗, on the other hand, we gave chance after chance and just could not find something that clicked. Stick to the brandy or (craft) beer.
Best Fast Food: USA
We’ve called out Balkan treats like burek and cevapi, pierogis from Poland, and other goodies. But nobody does a cheeseburger like the good ol’ US of A↗.
Best Markets: Santiago & Vilnius
Vilnius↗, the former runner-up, is promoted to co-winner with Santiago↗. They’re each perfect in different ways; we love them both equally and can’t live without either of them.
Runner up: Rijeka
Croatia can be hit or miss with markets. Zagreb’s Dolac is always a treat, but Split and Dubrovnik are much less reliable. Rijeka↗ surprised us by being the best of the bunch and then some. Amazing produce and fish at their main market. A smaller farmer’s market just under our apartment for everyday needs. It was enough that we hardly noticed the lack of larger supermarkets downtown.
Best Transit: Chișinău
The buses in Chisinau↗ aren’t always the most modern, but tickets cost just 10¢ US.
Best Airport: Tallinn (unchanged)
Runner up: Corfu
Where else but Corfu↗ can you watch your jet arrive just a few hundred feet overhead?
Best Flight: Split to Dubrovnik by seaplane (unchanged)
Runner up: Belgrade to London
We were on the first (and last) flight of the Serbia-UK flight corridor before Serbia↗ was removed from the green list. Fortunately we squeaked in and enjoyed two weeks of freedom in London↗ – masked & socially distanced, but luckily not locked in quarantine.
Stuff of interest
Best Experience: Hiking Torres del Paine
So many of our experiences were things we never imagined we’d get to do in our lives. Hiking the premier national park↗ at the bottom of the world is just one of them, but it’s the one where it finally clicked for us that nothing was off-limits.
Runner up: Connecting with family roots
From Danielle making genealogical discoveries about her family↗ to meeting them in person in Scotland↗, to discovering the surprising ubiquity of Kevin’s last name in Poland↗, to visiting the place his grandfather, a first-generation immigrant, was born in Rijeka↗ and where his great-uncle and aunt were married in Trieste↗, this trip has been a wonder for exploring family connections.
Worst Experience: Surgery in Moldova
We can probably generalize this to “getting healthcare as a full-time traveler,” but going under the knife in a foreign country – with all the language barriers, cultural differences, and hospital food that entails – is stress and loneliness on a whole other level.
Runner up: COVID-19 Pandemic
Moving to a new country every month is always a bit of a challenge, but we got through with plenty of planning. COVID-19 burned those plans to the ground and raised the difficulty level to 11. Closed borders, quarantine, travel restrictions, rules and requirements that were constantly changing – sometimes overnight. We might have gone home to ride it out, if we had one.
Best Place to Digital Nomad: Estonia
lifetime this trip ago, we valued human companionship and community and nominated Budapest↗ and Prague↗ as top nomad destinations based on their strength in those categories. In the pandemic era, we just want a nice place where we can work, feed ourselves, walk around without encountering too many sick people, and basically just stay alive. Tallinn↗ has that in spades (or did when we were there).
Runner up: Croatia
Bureaucratic Croatia stunned the world with its quick turnaround implementing a digital nomad visa. What’s more, the terms and conditions are surprisingly accessible. It still comes with a few hurdles – the apostilled background check from your home country being a chief complaint we see from other nomads. But it’s generally a small price to pay for some stability while the world is still pretty unfriendly for travel-minded folk.
What we learned
Most Surprisingly Appealing: Chișinău
Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, isn’t high on most people’s travel lists. Clearly, as it’s also the least touristed. But we found Chisinau↗ utterly charming. How can anyone not love a place with puns like these.
Just Deserts for Being So Judgy: Silly selfies
As one more “celebration” of the 2000 days milestone, we’ve assembled a collection of our favorite dumb pictures↗ of ourselves over the last few years. Enjoy.