The Big Adventure

Last June, after my brother’s wedding, we took a week off to drive from Salt Lake City to Spokane, so that we could visit the National Parks along the way. The wedding was emotional, and we were a little burnt out from work at the time, so setting aside those days in advance was a stroke of genius. It became our recovery week.

I don’t know where it was, maybe driving into Grand Teton National Park, or somewhere on US-287 between Yellowstone and Glacier, but we started wondering aloud, what if we could do this for longer? Where “this” was some combination of moving through the landscape, travel, being away, having time, and stimulating the senses with new sights.

It wasn’t the first time we’d talked about the possibility of some longer-term travel, but it was the start of it becoming serious. After many conversations (and some back of the envelope calculations), we agreed to give ourselves a year. Time to save, time to plan, and time to roll the idea around in our heads.

Now here we are. One year later. And we’re ready.

On or around September 7th, Stephanie and I are going to board a container ship, the Cap Cleveland, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, bound for Auckland, New Zealand. There will be port stops in Savannah, Georgia and Cartagena, Colombia, before we transit the Panama Canal. All told we’ll be on the boat for 28 days—the longest stretch at sea being 18 days between Panama and New Zealand.

Cap Cleveland container ship westbound transit of the Panama Canal, © Knut Helge Schistad
Cap Cleveland photo © Knut Helge Schistad

The voyage is certainly an adventure in and of itself, but it’s only the beginning of a larger trip around the world. We have no plans after we disembark in Auckland, besides backpacking and maybe visiting some cheesemakers. After New Zealand, there are several other countries that pique our curiosity, including Australia, Cambodia, Nepal, Kenya, and Turkey, but we don’t have anything even remotely resembling an itinerary. Just a strong desire to see where the global road takes us.

Who knows, we could end up somewhere, fall in love with the place, and never leave. Or we could grow tired of life on the road and fly back to the US after two months. That’s really the best part. We’re completely open to all possibilities. And we’re ready.


Stephanie’s version in French is here: La grande adventure

Kim, no need to be sad (or feel selfish) we’ll always be reachable via blogs, email, even Facebook and Twitter. You can pretend we’re just on the other side of the building, instead of the other side of the world.

Anton, most definitely. We’ve being telling ourselves for a long time this isn’t a vacation, it’s going to be hard work. But we’re really looking forward to the challenge of getting out of our comfort zones.

Geli, even though most people don’t take this leap, we’ve definitely been inspired by other people going on similar adventures. It’s our hope that our leap will inspire others in turn to make their dreams into reality. Whether it’s travel or something else.

Nick, if it wasn’t for the blog, I’m not sure we’d be doing this. Even Kevin Kelly had a dream of publishing a book one day. Half the fun is being able to share with others along the way. And like I said to Kim, we’ll always be an email, IM, or Skype call away—except for those 18 days between Panama and New Zealand.

Ryan, actually we haven’t seen “Grounded”. Looks interesting. Though we’ll make it from SF to NZ sans airplane, it’s definitely not a hard rule for the whole trip. Not sure we could afford it either.

Danny, the container ship is something I’ve been thinking about for a few years. Once Stephanie “got on board”, it became a foregone conclusion. We’ve been saving for this for the past year. Our goal was to save enough to sustain us (at the budget travel level: ~$50/person/day) for about a year, with enough money left over to land softly. We may volunteer along the way, and I suppose if we get bored, we could freelance, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. And no, we can’t work our way across the Pacific. We’re just human cargo. I’ll probably blog more about some of these fun details in a few days.


Holy crap! You’re really doing it?! Unbelievable. Amazing!

Thank goodness it’s not April 1st. Yep, this is for real.


So very excited for you!!! (and selfishly, a teensy bit sad)

Wonderful. Adventure together will be fun – stressful at times, too, no doubt – and I look forward to your chronicling the circumnavigation.

A lot of people want to do this – not every person is able to satisfy this wish… and most of the people are NOT courageous enough. – In the moment i read this – it stirs my blood ;-)) feel happy for you !!!
Congrats to this desire . I look forward to read storrys from your trip – and perhaps..on the way back – from turkey to france..there is germany – every time you are welcome..


Well Justin, it certainly sounds like an amazing adventure. Not so sure about the container bit myself but everything else sounds great. Hope you will be able to find connectivity periodically along the way and share both stories and photos on the blog :) If ever you need something along the way and I can somehow help just give me a shout. Enjoy this glorious world of ours, I’m going to miss you guys!


I assume you guys have seen this:


Very Cool! Looking forward to living vicariously through your experiences.

Danny D

Wow. Wow.

So many questions: how did you get from “let’s go travel” to “here is a container ship we will board for a month”? How will finances work? Do you intend to find employment during part of your trip to subsidize? Are you deck hands?how much of your savings do you intend/expect to eat through?

And yeah: wow. A combination of awe, congrats, and envy.

Danny D

Well, I was going to say Neat! We can track you, but it appears the data is months out of date.

…ah, this position is only out of date by 11 days, so perhaps we can get some idea. :)


agree with Geli.. Many talk about this, few have the courage to execute…Congrats guys.


Woah! Thats INTENSE! You guys are in for the trip of your lives. It takes guts to stop everything get up and just go. I wish you a tres bon voyage!

OMG, Justin and Stephanie! Wow! Will miss you but am definitely looking forward to traveling vicariously through you!

Danny D

How does one find a container ship? Are there container ship personals? What are accommodations like? Do you get to live in a decked-out container? I suppose if it’s in the middle of the stack insulations shouldn’t be too much of a problem, and boarding and debarking by crane could be fun.


Sure you know about this already, but there are some amazing artisanal cheesemakers in New Zealand (I spend half my year on the south island now…). Katherine Mowbray’s classes are especially fun and worthwhile…

Congrats you two! Remember to write the WP posts-by-mail plugin ahead of time for the shipbound days.

Danny, so there’s this search engine called Google ;)

But seriously—there are several container ship “travel agents” out there. I already have a “why container ship” post in the works, which will probably provide you yet more fodder for questions (and hopefully a few more answers). And as far as our accommodations—we’re not traveling in a container, we’ll actually have a room (or rooms) in the white “superstructure” that you see poking up above the containers about in the back.

Roberta, thanks for the awesome tips. I just got an email from Sara Vivenzio (who runs the Cheese School of San Francisco) telling me about the New Zealand Cheese School in Putaruru. Sure enough that’s where Katherine Mowbray teaches. Not sure if that’s where you bumped into her. If you have any other info, feel free to send me an email. Stephanie’s going to love this!

JS, I wonder if there’s a market for wp-post-by-containership plugin?


Mu dear justin, my love will follow you even if I don’t where you will be ! Bon voyage ! You do the right thing for you and for stéphanie.
Many kisses from moumounette

Justin, what a cool adventure! I’ve read several blog posts from people who have taken container ships. It sounds like a lot of fun, and will make for great stories. From what I’ve read, you will learn a lot, not only about the ship itself, but also about the captain and crew. Look forward to hearing about your adventures!


We obviously will miss you both, but this sounds fun and exciting! I am happy for you both! Enjoy and safe travels!

Hoping you both fall in love with North Carolina and stay here. Looking forward to meeting Stephanie soon. :)

Very happy for you, Justin! What a fantastic adventure ahead. Looking forward to your posts on it. Have fun!

You two never cease to inspire. I trust you’ll do it from afar as well. Keep me on your list of ways to land back in the Bay Area softly on your feet.


Wow Justin, I just came across your plans and…wow, it sounds amazing. I’d love to do that myself. And remember if you do return through Europe , you can have a bed in Berlin.

Enda, thanks for the offer. If we make it out that way, we’ll definitely take you up on it.


Your adventurous spirit never ceases to amaze me. Have a wonderful time and keep writing, my friend.

Dropped you gmail, so hit me up for any hints/tips for the NZ portion of this adventure. I’m so vicariously excited for you both!

Craig, you know I will (keep writing).

Sauj, thanks saw it, just haven’t had a chance to respond.


See you on September 7th. It ought to be a beautiful trip. I am taking the ride both ways. Regards.

Noah, wow, what are the chances (that you’d find me)? Both ways, eh? Nonstop? We were kind of thinking 28 days one-way was a little insane. Looking forward to meeting you in a few days.

Cartagena reminds me of the 80s movie, ‘Romancing the Stone’. Kathleen Turner had to travel there to save her sister from the evil likes of Danny DeVito. Good stuff!

Mark, that’s exactly what Stephanie says it brings to mind for her.

Guoliang Li

Amazing! I would like to travel by cargo ship to Canada and Austrialia from China. Looking fowards to have such journey like what you did from US to Newzealand!

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