When you decide to travel long-term, many wonderful experiences lay before you, but you must also be willing to leave behind the comforts of home and loved ones. We enjoy seeing what everyone is up to on Facebook and scheduling calls with friends and family, but the absolute best treat is hosting friends while traveling abroad. We love it when people come to visit.

People choose to travel for a number of reasons, but it often includes a desire to expose oneself to new experiences and cultures. It gives us an opportunity to grow and learn. To us, it’s what makes travel such a rich and worthwhile venture. However, putting yourself in unfamiliar situations, where you don’t always know the language, can sometimes cause stress and frustration. In fact, travel challenges are guaranteed. How you handle that stress and frustration will determine your success as a traveler and the satisfaction you get from traveling.

We visited Ljubljana in mid-November. We were happy to find that the city was every bit as charming as we’d expected it to be, even more so. The fact that it was cold and rainy wasn’t a problem, because we were expecting that, so we came prepared with warm coats and umbrellas. However, there was one surprise that we weren’t expecting. The Ljubljana Market. And, what a pleasant surprise.

It was a rainy November day and before we’d even found a parking spot in Ljubljana (pronounced “lyoob-lya-nah”) we were already enamored. This picturesque capital of Slovenia is situated about halfway between Vienna and Venice and is often compared to Prague for to its outstanding architectural beauty. In fact, Jože Plečnik, the great Slovenian architect and urban planner, designed numerous architectural masterpieces in both cities, so the comparison is apt. Although, Ljubljana can be seen as a cheaper, smaller, and less-crowded alternative to Prague.

Pula is situated at the southern tip of Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula and is the area’s largest city. Like all of Istria it offers gorgeous beaches, stunning natural beauty, and gourmet delights. The city boast 3,000 years of history. However, the Roman Ruins in Pula don’t reflect it’s earliest origins. The immediate surroundings are actually much older. Prehistoric artifacts dating to 1 million years ago has been found in the cave of Šandalja near Pula. There’s also been evidence of Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements.

Like most people on the planet, we’ve always dreamed of visiting Venice.  Just thinking about Venice conjures up a sense of romance. The photos you’ve all seen are achingly beautiful. It’s hard not to imagine yourself strolling through the narrow streets, perhaps with a Classical soundtrack, and of course, at some point, you find yourself in a gondola. But what should you do if you only have 24 Hours in Venice?

Family travel let’s you be there for your kids’ milestones. The big ones, and the little ones. There are more “teachable moments” than you can shake a stick at.

One day we realized that our 9-year-old son did not know how to blow bubbles and we decided that it was time to remedy the situation. Up to this point, we weren’t purposely limiting his access to gum, but for whatever reason he’d rarely ever had it. Maybe 3 or 4 times in his life.

The path through the coastal forest is covered in crunchy limestone gravel, making a pleasant sound as we pedal our bikes. Everything about the experience is perfect. The weather is perfect, the bike paths are groomed and well-planned. The views idyllic. A perfect day for a bike ride in Rovinj.

During one of our easy hour-long rides we encounter rocky beaches with unbelievably clear water, limestone cliffs, Roman pillars, verdant forests, wide-open green spaces, and even a camping resort.

It’s not hard to understand why we love London. It’s one of the most exciting and diverse cities in the world. Some come for the theatre, some for the Royal Family, some for the vibrant nightlife, and others for the shopping. For us, it was the history and the world-class museums. Walking through the streets of London, you will encounter over 2,000 years of history. What seems even more amazing is that it’s all in such close proximity. Within a few minutes time you can be within eyesight of Roman, Medieval, Elizabethan, Victorian, Mid-Century, and Modern sites. All blending (mostly) harmoniously into the cityscape.

When you are traveling, every once in a while you are struck by little cultural differences abroad. For instance, while driving from Croatia to Italy we noticed that there were (to us) an unusual and surprising number of red trucks on the road. Within a 4 hour drive we counted at least 40 of them. Semi-trucks, vans, delivery trucks, you name it. You may ask why this caught our attention and why it is worth mentioning. Well, we had plenty of time to think about it during our drive.

Our third day in Angkor Archaeological Park, we are early to rise once again. Leaving the hotel with breakfast boxes in hand. We make the dusty, bumpy ride out to the park along back roads, entering the west gate, right next to Angkor Wat. Winding our way through the blissful, cool forest, the sun sprinkles us with its early morning glow. Ta Keo Temple, the sandstone temple-mountain, greets the morning sun as it’s done for almost 1100 years, since being started by Jayavarman V in 975.

After a magical visit to Banteay Srei, it’s difficult to write about Banteay Samre Temple. Not because it is any lesser, but because the earlier experience was so magical. We finally tore ourselves away from Banteay Srei as more people were showing up and the heat was steadily increasing. The tuk-tuk ride was welcome relief as we got to enjoy some more of the gorgeous countryside and some welcome early morning breeze. As we traversed the countryside, schoolyards were filling with playing children, while others walked or rode bikes along the road, all in their immaculate uniforms.

After an enjoyable day off from temple visits, we’re up early again – 4:30am – to visit Banteay Srei Temple, also known as the Lady Temple. After devouring the breakfast boxes that the hotel was kind enough to prepare for us, we are greeted by Mr. Sim’s big, bright smile in the early morning darkness. He’s been our tuk-tuk driver throughout our visit. It’s going to be a good day. We pull out of our quiet Siem Reap neighborhood and wind our way out of town, the dusty streets rolling out before us. Bleary-eyed as we bump along the potholed streets, we smile at each other. The morning coolness, the faintest hint of gray light on the Cambodian horizon, the smell of woodsmoke as breakfast kitchens awaken – it feels like a dream.

We only know we’ve arrived at Ta Prohm Temple, the next destination on our visit to the Angkor Archaeological Park, when we see the empty expanse of gravel out before us and realize that it is a parking lot – with no cars in it. Along one side are the usual vendor stalls with a few vendors milling about and a crowd of children playing. Mr. Sim, our tuk-tuk driver, points and tells us “go in through the east gate. I pick you up at the west”.

After our beautiful, early morning visit at Angkor Wat, we hopped into our tuk-tuk. Our driver, Mr. Sim, whisked us away to our next destination, Bayon Temple, before the bulk of tourists had emerged from their walk around Angkor Wat. We all had big grins on our faces as we drove through the Angkor forest, enjoying its coolness and the wind on our faces. Mr. Sim pulled over as we approached the south gate of Angkor Thom, allowing us to take a quick family picture.

When most people think of a tropical beach vacation in Southeast Asia, they generally think Thailand. More specifically, they think Phuket or its neighbor Krabi. To be sure, they are both drop-dead gorgeous, but they are also incredibly popular… and crowded. In fact, over 5.3 million tourists flock to Phuket each year. If you are looking to people-watch, party, or shop, then Phuket is a great choice. If you’re dreaming of a peaceful island getaway, then you may want to choose another destination. Why not consider Langkawi, Malaysia?

There are many beautiful Chinese temples in Penang. They tend to be a mix of both Taoist and Buddhist religions. As such it is not surprising to see images of Taoist deities alongside the Bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism, all within the same temple. Many temples were erected and are maintained by Chinese family clans that immigrated to Penang.

They are beautiful to look at and we love to slip in for a quick visit as we are passing by. Here are a few that we enjoyed.

We arrived in Penang, Malaysia just in time for the George Town Heritage Celebration, which is geared toward honoring the unique multicultural charms of this heritage rich city. This years event was themed “Living Legacies”. A number of events, open houses, displays, and markets were set up to showcase traditional cuisine and crafts that have been lovingly practiced and passed down through generations.

Malaysian Batik, and batik in general, is a textile art and craft with ancient origins. Designs are created on cloth by first applying wax and then fabric dyes. There is some debate about the exact origins of batik, but it can be traced back at least 1,500 years to Egypt and the Middle East. Samples have also been found in Turkey, India, China, Japan and West Africa from past centuries. Some of the most well-known batik traditions are to be found in Malaysia and Indonesia.

When we were planning to set off on our year-long travel adventure, we knew that we were going to take a lot of photos. We debated whether or not to purchase a “real” digital camera or simply rely on our iPhones. With our limited luggage space and tight budget to consider, we decided to stick with the iPhones and purchase a few accessories to maximize their usability. We are four months into our trip we’ve learned a bit of “iPhoneography” and we have no regrets.

Each morning, just before dawn, I hear the day’s first Adhan calling George Town’s Muslims to prayer. It’s coming from the nearby Kapitan Keling Mosque, the oldest in Penang. As I’m waking, the lyrical and hauntingly beautiful sound reminds me  that I’m in Malaysia, where Islam is the official religion. Not being Muslim or from a place where the call to prayer is commonly heard, it seems equally exotic and comforting. It’s easy to be enchanted by it.