GreenAroundTheGlobe - Part 13

U.S. Road Trip Pictures

by Keith on August 16, 2010 · 0 comments

Now that we have finally caught the blog up to us arriving back in the United States be sure to check out the picture albums from the first part of our 4-week road trip across the U.S. here.   In there you will find impressive landscapes,

great tourist attractions,

and majestic wildlife.


Around the World Wrap Up

by Keith on August 13, 2010 · 3 comments

So all RTW blogs do some incarnation of this post when they get back: the wrap up.  One of the best I have seen is on GlobeDecker.  The amount of data they had is amazing and I give credit to Katie for sending me their wonderful budget file.  We shamelessly plagiarized it as a starting point for our own detailed budget file.  Their detailed wrap up statistics also provided the inspiration for us to think about what lists we wanted to keep along the way.   Keeping track of the relevant information as we went made this post possible.  I would highly recommend that anyone considering long term travel think about what information they want to gather and record as they travel.  Along with setting clear strategic goals for your trip before you leave, it is one most important things you can do and will help immensely as you return and look to summarize the trip to family, friends and even potential employers.

While we are still traveling in the U.S. and Canada, we thought it was worthwhile to quickly sum up some of the most frequent and thought provoking questions we have had since we have been home.   So here it goes.  To be clear the statistics below apply only to the non-North American portion of the trip.  If we missed something you want to know, leave a comment below and we will do our best.

Travel Statistics:

  • Countries Visited: 17; see our detailed route here.
  • Days on the Road Internationally: 255; October 6, 2009 – June 22, 2010.
  • Favorite Country: For Keith, it was Bhutan.  The scenery was stunning and the culture unique. For Amy, it was Japan.  She was won over by the delicious food, adorably polite people and the sparkling clean public restrooms.
  • Least Favorite Country: Egypt for both of us (excludes our 11 days in the Sinai, which was amazing).
  • Flight Segments: 14 international, 6 internal. And yes, Amy still hates to fly.
  • Modes of Transport: airplane, ocean ferry, bus, train, car, tuk-tuk, boat, motorbike, bicycle, horse, and last but not least (but definitely slowest) donkey cart.


  • Total average cost per day while traveling: $188.  This includes all expenses for lodging, food, transport, etc., but excludes pre-trip expenses like our clothes and immunizations.
  • Most expensive country per day: Bhutan ($490).
  • Least expensive country per day: Laos ($82).
  • Most expensive day: $720 on April 11, 2010 in Bhutan. This was our last day in Bhutan, so our expenses included tips to our driver and guide for the entire trip.
  • Least expensive day:  $9 on January 31, 2010 in Vietnam.  This is the beauty of an overnight train.
  • Most over-budget country: Australia (+42%).  We like to believe that we overshot our budget so completely because we were cramming 7 weeks of activities into 3 weeks of traveling. It could also be that Australia is just a lot more expensive than either of us anticipated.
  • Most under-budget country: Singapore (-26%).  How, you might ask, did we achieve being so far below budget in one of the most expensive places in Asia? It’s called having a very kind and generous friend who happens to be back home on holiday. Thanks again, Anand!

Other Frequent Questions

  • What was your worst experience on public transportation? For Keith, it was the overnight train in China in hard sleeper class while afflicted with a stomach bug, not pleasant for anyone.  For Amy, it was the four-hour bus ride from Siem Reap to Phnom Pehn on a bus with no air conditioning. She sweats just thinking about it!
  • Do you two still speak to each other after so much time together?  We do, in fact in many places there was no one else who spoke more than rudimentarily English, so if we didn’t talk to each other it would have been very lonely.
  • How often were you in touch with people back home? Through skype, email, facebook and of course this blog, we were able to keep up with nearly everyone on a regular basis.
  • Did you restrict what you ate?  No, we decided early on that we could not go that long without fresh vegetables so we carefully choose places to eat them.
  • So did you get sick?  We both had minor to moderate stomach bugs a couple times.  The worst was Amy’s 24-hour bug that hit on an overnight train in Egypt.  But it was never anything the antibiotics we were carrying couldn’t handle.
  • Did you experience any negativity as an American traveling abroad? Not ever at a personal level.  However, we did get lots of questions about the healthcare debate going on at home and why American’s did not want to provide access to healthcare to everyone.  That got tough to explain sometimes in less than an hour.


Finding an Australian Solar City

by Keith on August 9, 2010 · 4 comments

On Magnetic Island, just off the coast from Townsville in Queensland, Australia, there is plenty to do.  In fact it is where we met and held Barney the koala, swam at beautiful beaches and took in fabulous vistas on the Forts hike where we saw a koala in the wild.  What we did not expect as we were walking around was to come across a $30 million solar experiment that hopes to reduce carbon emissions on this beautiful island by 50,000 tonnes.

As we were walking up Horseshoe Bay Road on our way to the Forts hike we walked by the sign below.

With peaked curiosity we walked over to see what this was all about.  Unfortunately, when we tried to find our way in, all of the doors were locked.  Just as we were about to give up and head out a woman came around the corner and introduced herself as Julie.  We mentioned that we were hoping to learn more about the project and while she did not have the keys to the building with her, she called someone to swing by with a set so that we could have a look around inside.

The Solar City project is a consortium of the Australian and Queensland governments in partnership with private industry led by Ergon Energy, the local utility.  The focus of the project is to invest in renewable energy sources and capacity while working with residents of Magnetic Island to improve energy and water efficiency in their homes.  Water efficiency is critical on Magnetic Island as all fresh water has to be piped over from the mainland and this process is very energy intensive.

Ergon Energy leads the consortium and has responsibility for the delivery of the project.  Julie, our guide at the center, was an Ergon employee.  One of the key aspects to the project is the goal to install one megawatt of photovoltaic (PV) capacity on the homes of Magnetic Island at no cost to the residents.   At first I was very intrigued by this.   The utility company is willing to pay for and install PV panels on its customers roofs?   The catch is that the resident does not derive any direct economic benefit from the PV panels.  They do get the benefit of being the first consumer able to use the renewable electricity generated by the panels (excess then flows into the grid), but they do not receive a reduced electric rate or any compensation for letting Ergon Energy use their roof space.   While symbols are important in getting people to adopt more environmentally sustainable products and services, I was curious as to how many people would be willing to offer up their roofs for PV panel installation with no direct economic benefit.  The Kyocera Australia PV panels on the roof of the Solar City building were not the most attractive.  However, Julie informed us that they are ahead of schedule on residential installations to meet their one megawatt goal.

What do you think?  If your local utility offered free PV panels, but no direct economic benefit to you, would the “doing the right thing” feeling be enough to let them install panels on your roof?


Townsville: Queensland Solar City Facts


Project cost
Approximately $30 million

Project time frame
2007 – 2013 (approximately)

Australian Government contribution
Up to $15 million

Consortium contribution
Approximately $15 million (including $5 million from the Queensland Government through the Department of Mines and Energy)

Project locations
Magnetic Island, Rocky Springs, Riverway and a Townsville CBD commercial building. The whole project is supported and enhanced by the Townsville City Council’s Citisolar community capacity building and education program.

Magnetic Island Solar Suburb
A solar energy and efficiency trial on Magnetic Island will be the focus of the Townsville: Queensland Solar City project.  Ergon Energy considers Magnetic Island to be an ideal trial location because of its clear physical demographic and electricity network boundaries. This supports a robust measurement and monitoring program.
Ergon Energy will be able to measure the impact of the trial on the island’s energy consumption through the installation of:

  • up to 500 solar PV systems (approximately one megawatt of solar power) across selected residential and business premises, at no cost to the owner; and
  • smart meters and in-house energy displays in up to 1700 premises to give householders and business owners more information about the use and cost of their electricity.

Environmental Benefits
When fully implemented, it is estimated that greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced (from the combined Townsville: Queensland Solar City initiatives) by about 50,000 tonnes – the same benefit as taking 1,700 cars off the road for the seven years.

Community benefits

  • national and possibly international recognition of the initiative and the city involved;
  • more environmentally friendly power for customers involved in the program at no additional cost;
  • potential for customers involved in the energy efficiency element to improve their comfort levels, reduce their power consumption and therefore their bills and their environmental impact;
  • active support for Townsville City Council’s Citisolar Program, therefore making the region a more attractive place to live, work and visit;
  • increased awareness across Queensland and Australia of renewable energy options; and
  • an opportunity for Ergon Energy to develop business models that may ultimately support solar generation on a much larger scale.

Consortium members
Ergon Energy leads the consortium and has responsibility for the delivery of the project.
Other consortium members are:

  • Townsville City Council
  • Delfin Lend Lease
  • Honeycombes Property Group
  • Cafalo Pty Ltd

The Queensland Government, through the Department of Mines and Energy has contributed $5 million to the project.
Key supporters are:

  • Ampy Metering (smart meter supplier)
  • Kyocera Australia (solar PV supplier)
  • Thuringowa City Council
  • Townsville Port Authority
  • Townsville Enterprise Limited
  • James Cook University
  • Centre for Excellence in Tropical Design (Sustainability and Innovation)