Do You Enjoy Travel Stories?

This website chronicles our trip around the world in 2006. It has lots of photos, videos and stories. We invite you to come in, relax and enjoy the scenery.

~Lee and Sachi LeFever

To see what we're up to now, check or

Our Recent Dispatches Are Below. RSS

A Dispatch is a report from our trip. Browse via keywords or global map.

Holland: Surely the Bike Capital of the World

By: leelefever on October 17, 2006 - 1:57am

The bicycle is a part of the Dutch national identity and the degree to which Dutch people ride bikes is truly astounding. One of the interesting things about the bikes is they all appear to be "old-timey" - from another age. 


In fact, this style has roots in the Nazi occupation of Holland.  During that time, the Nazis tried to confiscate the bikes from the locals.  Those bikes that were left became symbols of the resistance and even today, many of the bikes on the street either date back to that era or are reproductions of the same bikes.


And as locals described to us, the style is practical.  You site upright on the seat in such a way that it is easy to carry groceries or kids, or dogs or whatever.  However, what we found is that this is true in a flat country like Holland.  Don't try to go uphill on a Dutch bike.

On a recommendation from TwinF member cwolz, we took a day and took a train from Amsterdam to Gouda and then rode bikes from Gouda to Oudewater and back.  He was right - biking in the countryside is a trip into the real Holland.  We highly recommend it.



Seattle People Unite!

By: leelefever on October 17, 2006 - 1:20am

One of the things we miss about being on the road is contact with our friends and family and even a little contact with fellow Americans.  Sachi was saying yesterday that she has gotten so used to English with an accent now that it sounds normal.

Luckily, we’ve had a few occasions to hang out with friends from Seattle to get our fix.  What has made this extra special is that we never made specific plans to meet anyone – it was purely good timing. We both want to give a quick shout-out to a few folks that made the effort to meet us along the way…

A few days before arriving in Hong Kong, our friend Christi realized that we would be there at the same time as our mutual friend Kerry.  Sure enough, we were there at almost the exact same time and spent a day and night together, including a little karaoke.

After that we heard from our friend Jake Ludington that he would be in Beijing for a conference and sight seeing and sure enough – the dates coincided nearly perfectly.  We ate Peking Duck, drank beer over the Forbidden City (below) and in a couple of neighborhoods around Beijing.

With both Kerry and Jake, meeting them really made us feel like we made new friends.  We knew them both before, but not very well.  Now though, having shared international experiences together, we have great new friends.

Lastly is our friends in Amsterdam and The Netherlands.  Betty and Josh got married months ago and planned an Amsterdam honeymoon.  Once their date was set, so was ours and Amsterdam become a far off date for us to make. As it worked out, we had a great time with them over a few days, including a Heineken Experience.


I’m lumping Lilia and Robert into the Seattle people because Lilia lived there for a while last year.  This is the same Lilia that also met us in Moscow.  She and her Dutch husband Robert opened their home to us in the town of Enschede, Holland and we got a chance to meet their friends at a party for Lilia’s birthday. Their friends also included Ton Zylstra, a blogger that I’ve known online for a long time and finally got to meet in person.  It was such a great experience to see a glimpse of their normal lives in Holland.

Sachi, Lilia and Ton at Bad Bentheim Castle near Enschede...


 Our hospitable hosts, Lilia and Robert...


For the next couple of months we’ll be in Europe – so if anyone out there is visiting and would like to hook-up, please do contact us – we’d love to meet you…

Avoiding Reverse Culture Shock

By: leelefever on October 14, 2006 - 9:40am

Our friends Kathy and Sharon have finally reached home in the UK after 420 days, 60 weeks and 60,000 miles and 50 countries.  In a recent post they were concerned about "reverse culture shock" from coming home and suggest these treatments (edited for length):


... brushing teeth out of a cup; drinking warm water out of large bottles; mixing up tuna mayonnaise in the tin and continue to use plastic plates and share cutlery; hide money upon our persons; wear clothing with lots of pockets; take photos of random images and people in the street; dry ourselves using our travel towels; not use a hair dryer; hand wash underwear each night; wash up any cooking utensils before eating a hot meal; buy a bus ticket & see where it takes you; talk to strangers and ask them how long they have been travelling for;  sleep in a bunk bed with ear plugs in; etc.

 These totally identify with us and we have a few additions:

We may continue to...

  • Shower with flip-flops or sandals
  • Share deodorant
  • Never plan for more than a week into the future
  • Wash laundry in the sink
  • Communicate using the metric system
  • Wear a shirt too many times before a wash 
  • Randomly give shopkeepers incorrect change
  • Communicate in only "hello", "yes" and "thank you"
  • Blog and video everything

And finally... continue to use only three pairs of underwear. 

Filed Under: | | | |

Sex and Drugs in Liberal Holland

By: leelefever on October 14, 2006 - 3:58am

I described Amsterdam to my Mom as "A bastion of hedonism".  Sure, it has beautiful canals, nice people, amazing sights, about a billion bicycles and a ton of charm, but what is truly impressive about Amsterdam and what differentiates it on a worldwide scale is the liberal policies of the Dutch government concerning drugs and prostitution.

For instance, we stayed in a guesthouse in the Red Light District and within two blocks of our guesthouse, anyone with the money can legally buy "soft drugs" like marijuana, mushrooms and hashish in small quantities and sexual services from a host of licensed prostitutes who display their wares in large windows under red lights.  I suppose you could also see some music and complete the hedonists triumverate of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll.

The view from our place:


Coming from George W.'s America, this all seems quite surreal. Surely these things must be causing all sorts of social ills. As it turns out, the Dutch policy is quite calculated and appears to be surprisingly healthy for the country compared to other EU countries. 

From wikipedia:

Most policymakers in the Netherlands believe that if a problem has proved to be unsolvable, it is better to try controlling it instead of continuing to enforce laws with mixed results.This means that the sale of sex and drugs are regulated and taxed, ensuring as much safety as possible and that the government can benefit from the revenue.  Further, it means that the government can exert control when it is needed. But, what about drug abuse?  Doesn't the availability increase the instances of abuse?  

Apparently not.  Through studies completed across the EU since 2000, The Netherlands ranks 7th in the use of marijuana - after Cyprus Spain, the UK, France, Germany and Italy.  The prevalance is similar for other types of drugs.

For the visitor to Amsterdam, these elements of the city can be surprising and intimidating - we talked to some people who would not step foot into the Red Light District. However, I think it is more surprising that the city doesn't have the overall feel of a "bad neighborhood" with a high frequency of drugs, sex shops and prostitutes.  There is a ragged and depressing element to the Red Light District, but I don't think it is much different than any other city - it is just that tourists are exposed and invited to participate in activities that would otherwise be managed in dark alleys and controlled by criminals instead of government agencies.

The Dutch policy seems based on the idea that people are going to do what they are going to do, regardless of the government or the potential for punishment.  And if this is true, their only tools are regulation, taxation and tolerance.  It makes sense to me and the Dutch folks we talked to about it.

Filed Under: | | | | |

Me, MySpace and iPod: Delightfully Geeky

By: leelefever on October 12, 2006 - 8:17am

I knew it would be interesting at least- a standup/improv comedy troupe called Boom Chicago doing a show called "Me, MySpace and iPod".  As it turned out, it was completely up my alley and I was very impressed.

It was the first I had seen a comedy routine integrated with technology and social networking - something very close to my job when I'm not traveling. 

For instance, they asked the audience who had a page on and someone was chosen for the skit. They went to the live site during the show to check out the guy's page and asked him about some friends on his friend's list.  Then, later in the show they did a whole routine that brought his MySpace friends to life based on his descriptions.  So freaking funny - and for the skit to work every night they have to find someone in the audience with a MySpace page - in Amsterdam. This goes to show how huge MySpace is.

They also did a skit based on Wikipedia, which is an online encyclopedia that a very large community of people manage by editing pages.  Wikipedia works, but is also famous for disagreements about how an entry should be written.  In the skit, they ask for an object, in this case a pineapple and they take turns describing it in encyclopedic style.  When one performer disagrees, they yell "EDIT!" and it becomes their turn to create the "real" definition.  Wiki-based humor, wow.

Being that we are in Amsterdam, they also parodied Anne Frank and showed a YouTube style video blog that was done by Anne Frank back on the 1940's [watch the video].  It was a take-off of the now-famous LonelyGirl15 on You Tube.

I was in awe. It was funny yes, but what really blew me away was that these websites and ideas were too geeky for prime time only a couple of years ago and now, suddenly, it is mainstream enough to become fodder for an entire comedy show.  If I was running a technology conference, I would hire Boom Chicago in a second.

Rounding Third

By: leelefever on October 8, 2006 - 10:58pm

With this post I'm adding a new tag to the "filed under" list:  "goinghome". Our thoughts are increasingly looking to the end of the trip.  We still have a couple of months which is a lot of time, but it really feels like home is just around the corner.  The inevitable transition into a normal working life has been a big topic of discussion and one that we wish could wait another 6 months.  We've also been considering what to do with this web site when we're finished. We're considering coming to a hard stop at the end of the year so we don't just fade away.

Two friends that we met on the Trans-Siberian train are at the very end of a mammoth 400+ days across 40+ countries.  Kathy and Sharon are back in the UK and only days away from home.  They remind us of the mix of excitement and sadness of going home.  Check out their site- a truly incredible trip.

 Alas we have a lot to think about now - like making it to Amsterdam today and meeting our Seattle friends Josh and Betty.  Yup - mainland Europe and hopefully a respite from the ridiculous prices we've found in Scandinavia.  Sachi has never been to Europe, so I think the last phase of the trip will be some of the European basics - and some rest.  We've been moving constantly - every 2 days for weeks and it'll be nice to settle in for a week or so and regroup for the final push.  

Besides the whole city being sold out of hotel rooms thanks to a soccer match, Copenhagen was awesome.  One of the most interesting things to us is how diverse the populations are becoming as we move into mainland Europe.  For most of the trip we've been in mostly homogenous societies (at least in appearance) - India, SE Asia, China, Japan, Russia, Scandinavia; everyone looks the same.  Suddenly, it seems strange to see such diversity - and a little more like home.  Did I mention home again?

Here are a couple of photos from Copenhagen...

 This is "Nyhavn" - quite touristy, but also very  cool.

 One more from there...

 Copenhagen has great cobblestone pedestrian walkways throughout the old city.


Norway's Lofoten Islands

By: leelefever on October 6, 2006 - 7:47am

Put simply, Norway's Lofoten Islands are surely the most stunning mountain scenery we've ever experienced. I'll let the pictures and a few anecdotes tell the story...

We stayed in a tiny fishing village called Henningsvaer,or Henningsvær, if you want to be accurate.  Our lodging for three nights was a "rorbu", which is a fisherman's cabin redone for visitors.  It was low season, so we got it for half price for three nights (USD$80 per night). It had a kitchen, a view over the water, four beds and low doorways - as my head would tell you.  Our expectations were exceeded from the start.

 Having a kitchen was nice because Norway is obscenely expensive: $8 dollars to rent a DVD, $10 for a pint of beer at a restaurant.  We ate meatballs and noodles at "home".  Speaking of home, this was the view out of the back.

 and from the side...

 The little town of Henningsvær, is called "the Venice of the Lofotens". I think every country has a "Venice of" and "Paris of".  It is an incredibly charming place.

Here's a closer look at the mountains in the back...

However, the real sights, the real drama and the reason we took two days to arrive were the mountains that seemed to go on and on and provide a perfect backdrop for quaint arctic dioramas.



The Lofotens only get about 280,000 tourists a year, likey thanks to being so far out of the way. When we were there, it was low season and the place was empty - closed for the season and preparing for weeks of darkness. We would both like to experience an arctic winter some day.  We've done an Asian summer - why not an arctic winter?


 Did you know?  Fjords are fjords because they are by the sea and are formed by glaciers.  That is why you find them in places like Norway and New Zealand - places where giant glaciers existed.

 Despite all the focus on sealife and catching cod - we saw little wildlife, but I made friends with a jellyfish that liked to pose for the camera in the unbelievably crystal clear water...



 In the end though, it was the glaciar-carved mountains in the rural artic settings that really peeled our scalp back, as our friend Tom would say.




2 Flights for the Price of 3 (I am an Idiot)

By: leelefever on October 6, 2006 - 7:18am

The little countdown gizmo on this site tells me that we’ve been on the road for 299 days as of today.  You’d think that in that time I would have travel arrangement down to a science.  Apparently not.

We were in Narvik, Norway and needed to fly to Oslo.  Before taking off to the Lofotens, I volunteered to get tickets on Norwegian Airlines.  Somehow, I managed to get a single ticket for myself and zero for Sachi.  To make up for it, I speedily got another ticket and we were set to fly in four days.  Upon returning to Narvik and our trusty wireless Internet connection, we checked email to verify our flight time and found that something was amiss.  Apparently, in my haste, I got Sachi a ticket for a flight that left at 12:30 that day instead of my flight at 9:15 that night. Of course, we discovered this too late at about 2:30. Despite my pleas with the Norwegian customer service, we were forced to buy another ticket, this time with Sachi on the same flight as me. 

I was humiliated and embarrassed – how could I be so careless?  Apparently it was easy, because when I got the third ticket, I purchased it under my name instead of Sachi’s, creating two Lee LeFevers on same flight.  Ugghhh.   

This was further proof that Sachi and I make a great team and my part of the team needs to stay away from airline reservations for a while. Luckily though, we have a killer jump shot and lots of team spirit.

Video: The Lofotens - Norway's Northern Fjordlands

By: leelefever on October 5, 2006 - 6:30am

It's funny how things tend to work out. Sometimes a tiny bit of information can turn into something wonderful. Without this helpful post, it's likely that we would have made other plans and not gone north at all. As it turned out, our decision to keep moving northward turned into a highlight of the whole trip. Thank you Internet!

Our overland trip across Scandinavia...

This video is from two days of exploring the Lofoten Islands via car. Despite being a couple of hundred miles into the Arctic Circle, it is quite mild thanks to the gulf stream current. A stunningly beautiful place our jaws are still on the floor. Pictures and more info coming soon...

Narvik of Northen Norway

By: leelefever on October 1, 2006 - 10:50pm

 It took us 4 busses and 3 trains to do it, but we have finally arrived in Narvik, Norway, from Helsinki, Finland - the starting point for exploring the Lofoten Islands and fjords via rental car over the next few days. Narvik is a cool little town that has the northernmost train station (and supposedly disco) in the world. It is a few hours north of the Arctic Circle by train.

This completes our overland trek from Beijing - from the Pacific to the Atlantic across Eurasia. Going from Asia to Norway seems like traversing planets instead of the same land mass. What a contrast.

On the  way through we stopped at Rovaniemi, which is known for being so close to the Arctic Circle and having Santa's "official" residence.  Surprise, surprise - it was a giant gift shop!

I wasn't really upset - i just love making stupid faces in these contraptions.

 We did cross the Arctic Circle for the first time there though... we can check that one off the list.